Precious Home and TanTan Publishing


The premise of Precious Home by Ji Hyun Lee (illustrated by Jin Hwa Kim; TanTan Publishing, 2017) is that houses might look different around the world--they're built from locally-sourced, usually sustainable materials, and designed to suit the climate and customs of the people who live in them--but each is someone's "precious home." Readers learn a little about five different kinds of houses (six, including the narrator's fairly generic one):

  • a house built on wooden poles in Thailand
  • a mud house in Togo
  • a tent house (ger) in Mongolia
  • a log house in Russia
  • and an ice house (igloo) in Greenland.

Each house gets two double-page spreads, one for the outside and another for a cutaway of the inside, accompanied by snippets of explanatory text. I love a good cutaway, so I spent a lot of time flipping back and forth between Jin Hwa Kim's lively cartoon and collage illustrations of each house (the Russian log house was my favorite), and comparing them to the photographs of the houses on the back endpapers as well. Precious Home is appropriate for ages 3-7.

Something about the title and the cover design of Precious Home suggested that it was originally published in another language (Dong-hwi Kim holds the copyright for the English edition). It was published in the US by TanTan Publishing in their Knowledge series. Our library holds two more of their 2017 picture books (Kikuchi's Sushi and Grandpa Max's Wurst, possibly part of the Icook series? Will check them out). TanTan also has a well-defined Math Story series, including Math in the Art Museum (2015). They're a relatively new publisher of international children's books that I'm happy to add to my list.

NYT/NYPL Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2017

When the New York Times' list of the Best Illustrated Children's Books of the year comes out in November, I know it's time for me to start thinking about our house Mock Caldecott. But because the Best Illustrated books list doesn't have the same eligibility criteria as the Caldecott (namely, American-ness), there are always a few titles we can't consider. This year, two of my favorites on the NYT list are On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna (HarperCollins) and Town is by the Sea, written by Joanne Schwartz and illustrated by Sydney Smith (Groundwood); neither is eligible (Alemagna is Italian; Smith, Canadian).

frida and her animalitos.jpg

Thank goodness, then, for Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra (NorthSouth). This book was a delightful surprise (to me, not to the NYT list)--I wasn't expecting Brown to use the characteristics of Kahlo's pets to illuminate the artist's own personality ("Frida was independent, like a cat!"), but it's an insightful and child-friendly approach. And Parra's acrylic on board illustrations are totally charming. I've read and reviewed a number of picture book biographies of Kahlo, and this one is my new favorite. It was also my Cybils nominee in the Elementary Nonfiction category. Congratulations to Monica and John, and to all of the authors and illustrators on this year's list!

frida animalitos cat.jpg