Brand New Water-Splashed Picture Books!

I’m excited to review several new picture books generously provided and published by Candlewick Press. These beauties all share a summertime theme and take place in or by the water. Having dabbled in illustration, I have an appreciation for how difficult it can be to paint natural-appearing water, be it pond, lake, or ocean, but you’ll find these four illustrators have definitely mastered their techniques. So, slather on your sunblock, sit back and enjoy!

First, we have: Lily Leads the Way, for ages 4-8, written by Margi Preus and illustrated by Matt Myers.

Lily, a small sturdy sailboat, doesn’t have a loud booming voice like the big boats on Lake Superior. How will she ever let the lift bridge know the tall ships are coming? A charming story about persistence and finding your voice. Matt’s vibrant pictures were painted in oil on illustration board. An author’s note shares more information about boats and bridges.

Margi Preus has written numerous award-winning titles, including Newbery honor book, Heart of a Samurai. Along with picture books, she enjoys writing historical fiction and mysteries for ages 10 and up. After many adventures, she now resides in Minnesota where she grew up. Here, she talks about what inspired her to write Lily Leads the Way.

Matt Myers has illustrated over thirty books including Hum and Swish which he also authored. He majored in graphic and fine arts at the Museum Art School in Portland. His career as an award-winning art director in advertising took him from Seattle to New York. He now lives in North Carolina.

Next up: Big Truck Little Island, for ages 3-7, written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.

One peek at the gorgeous illustrations, created in gouache, and it’s no surprise to discover this book has earned several starred reviews already. His clever pitch-perfect rhyming tale and whimsical artwork are delightful for classroom story-times. Big Truck Little Island incorporates a lovely theme of kindness and problem-solving. An interesting note from Chris tells how the inspiration for this story came about from a true event that happened on Vinalhaven, Maine.

Chris Van Dusen has written and illustrated eleven wonderful picture books for children including The Circus Ship. He has also illustrated for other authors, such as the Mercy Watson books by Kate DiCamillo. He studied fine art at The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and lives on the coast of Maine.

Third up: A Day for Sandcastles, for ages 4-8, written by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Qin Leng.

Filled with elaborate ink and watercolor illustrations, this book garnered a bunch of starred reviews from major sources. To be honest, my preference is usually for picture books to have words along with the pictures, but I certainly discovered how fun it can be (especially with a young one on your lap) to follow all the characters and figure out what they are up to on their special beach day. Perhaps it’s due to the omission of words, but you can almost smell the sea air and feel the sand between your toes. A family of five arrives by bus for their day at the beach. Three determined siblings create a sandcastle and each time their masterpiece falls into ruin, they begin building again, bigger and better.

JonArno Lawson is an award-winning poet (four-time winner of the Lion and Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Children’s Poetry) and is the author of many books for children and adults including the highly acclaimed Sidewalk Flowers. He lives in Toronto with his family.

Qin Leng is a designer and illustrator of books for young people. She has received numerous awards for her animated short films and artwork. She and JonArno also collaborated on another popular wordless picture book titled Over the Shop. Qin Leng was born in Shanghai, and later moved to France then Montreal. She now lives in Toronto with her family.

Last but not least: At the Pond, for ages 3-7, was written by David Elliott and illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford.

I had to add one more beautiful picture book to this post, one that I’ve already raved about on my own blog. This, too, is a new release from Candlewick and is absolutely gorgeous. The lyrical words and beautiful illustrations bring equal brilliance to this mellifluous picture book. Some of the words will be new to young readers but this brings even more to the experience of hearing the story read aloud while exploring the detailed pictures—produced in mixed media and finished digitally. There are additional notes about all the plants and animals in the back matter. Highly recommended for library purchases!

David Elliott is the author of over twenty-five books for children including others in this same poetry series (In the Woods, In the Past, On the Wing, In the Sea, In the Wild, and On the Farm). After living far and wide, he now lives in NH with his family. Not only a poet, but he sings and yodels, too!

Amy Schimler-Safford has been a designer and illustrator of apparel design, stationery, textiles, wall décor and more for over twenty years and is now excelling at illustrating children’s books. She enjoys the beautiful colors that surround her daily in her cabin in the woods of Georgia.

That’s a wrap, hope you enjoy your own summertime fun and let us know what your favorite water activity is while you’re at it. 🙂 Thanks for reading!


    1. And I forgot to say that my son, now age 18, used to read Chris Van Dusen’s books when he was small. If I Built a Car and the books with Mr. McGee and his little dog Dee were read nonstop. Glad to see he’s still going strong!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The water activity I do most often is swimming, but I really, really enjoy standup paddle boarding (SUP)! Thank you for sharing these fun summertime reads with us 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marcia, thank you for sharing these beautiful, summertime picture books! As a huge Mercy Watson fan, I adore Chris Van Dusen’s artwork, and I absolutely love the collage-style artwork of Amy Schimler-Stafford!

    Liked by 1 person

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