#IMWAYR: Picture Book Pandemonium, Part 14!

Hello everyone! It's great to be back to regularly blogging—my life has been a little chaotic the last few days (even without classes), so I haven't read as much as I hoped, but I thankfully read some lovely picture books last week that I'm excited to feature today! Let's dive in!

What book is it? Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle, written by Nina LaCour and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

Add it on Goodreads or preview the illustrations!

Who recommended it? Earl Dizon at The Chronicles of a Children's Book Writer, Linda Baie at TeacherDance, and Cheriee Weichel at Library Matters!

What does the publisher say? "For one little girl, there’s no place she’d rather be than sitting between Mama and Mommy. So when Mommy goes away on a work trip, it’s tricky to find a good place at the table. As the days go by, Mama brings her to the library, they watch movies, and all of them talk on the phone, but she still misses Mommy as deep as the ocean and as high as an astronaut up in the stars. As they pass by a beautiful garden, the girl gets an idea . . . but when Mommy finally comes home, it takes a minute to shake off the empty feeling she felt all week before leaning in for a kiss. Michael L. Printz Award winner Nina LaCour thoughtfully renders a familiar, touching story of a child who misses a parent, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, whose distinctive style brings charm and playfulness to this delightful family of three."

What stood out to me? There’s so much to love in this beautiful, sweet story! I was actually excited to see Nina LaCour’s name on it, because although I haven’t read her YA novels or adult debut, I do recall reading an essay by her in Real Simple, and it was fun to have my magazine reading life and my book reading life intersect!

This story of a young girl navigating life with her Mama while her Mommy is on a business trip is so relatable—as someone whose father sometimes goes on arduously long business trips, I know exactly the feeling of blechiness that our main character deals with!

LaCour’s writing perfectly captures the perspective of a child and doesn’t lose its luster amidst the illustrations, and the story’s plot is packed to the gills with sweetness—movies with Mama, supportive teachers, chores turned into fun for our protagonist, and beautiful little inside jokes for the family! I also appreciated the chance for our protagonist to feel her feelings when Mommy returns, since being without her for so long isn’t quite instantaneous to repair.

Also, the diversity in the story is simply wonderful—a biracial couple with two moms raises this delightful child! And yet, the diversity fades into the background to allow the story to take center stage.

And Kaylani Juanita’s beautiful illustrations seal the deal—the vibrant colors and satisfyingly intricate details are reminiscent of Gaby d’Alessandro’s amazing illustrations in The Cot in the Living Room, and they bring to life the story of this wonderful, loving family that distance cannot keep apart!

What’s my verdict? A beautiful story of love between a child and her parents, even long-distance—don’t miss this one!

What book is it? Apple and Magnolia, written by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Patricia Metola

Add it on Goodreads or preview the illustrations!

Who recommended it? Alex Baugh at Randomly Reading and Linda Baie at TeacherDance!

What does the publisher say? "Britta visits her two favorite trees, Apple and Magnolia, every day. Though she can't explain it, she's sure they are best friends! Then one day, Magnolia's branches start to droop. Is there anything Britta--or Apple--can do to help? After all, unusual friendships can be the most powerful of all.

With a lyrical story and vibrant art, Apple and Magnolia unveils the extraordinary connections between trees and the wondrous bonds between all living things. The book includes an author's note offering facts about how trees communicate with one another."

What stood out to me? This is yet another delightful story exploring a girl’s relationship with two trees—and perhaps their relationship with each other too!

The first thing you notice about this book is Patricia Metola’s illustrations, with a crayon-esque, almost childlike style that is perfect for a story of a child’s determination. And the colors of the illustrations are beautiful—vivid reds and pinks and blues, whites and browns, lights and darks all make for a truly radiant story.

And the plot is lovely too! It’s so uplifting to see a child like Britta who finds joy in nature (something we could all stand to do more of). And I appreciate the way that this story respects Britta’s ability to effect change in the world, even if she is just a kid—this book will resonate with any kid who feels like they’re too young to execute their grand plans (which is basically every kid!).

I did wish for a little more character development in Britta’s family—her Nana supports all of her endeavors, but her father and sister Bronwyn don’t budge from their disbelieving stance by the end of the book (even if her father is nice about it, and even if her sister still can’t quash Britta’s endless enthusiasm).

Also, I loved but was also concerned by the connections to science in the story. On one hand, I had no idea that trees can actually support each other in the real world, passing nutrients to each other via fungi and even communicating via airborne gases, so I’m glad the author’s note informed me of this! On the other hand, the actual story itself is more “inspired by” this science than based in it, and there is something slightly off-putting about Britta’s certainty in her beliefs when they’re not exactly scientific. Then again, Britta’s certainty is what drives her love and excitement, and in the end, it’s probably far more important that she maintain her love and excitement regarding nature and the world at large!

What’s my verdict? A story of a child’s determination and two trees’ potential friendship, complete with delightful illustrations and loosely based on science—it’s worth checking out!

What book is it? Love, Violet, written by Charlotte Sullivan Wild and illustrated by Charlene Chua

Add it on Goodreads or preview the illustrations!

What does the publisher say? "There's only one person in Violet's class she wants to go on adventures with: Mira, the girl with the cheeriest laugh and who races like the wind. So Violet has made Mira a very special Valentine.

Because Mira is magnificent.

But what if she thinks Violet isn't? Violet is afraid that Mira won't want to go on adventures together, and in order to share her feelings, she must overcome her fears—and maybe a snow flurry or two—to tell Mira how she truly feels, and ask, Want to go on an adventure?"

What stood out to me? This is the sweetest story ever! And it’s quietly revolutionary—all of the people who dislike queerness in the world go on and on about how it’s an adult topic and needs to be kept away from kids. And we all know why they’re actually saying it (because they want queer kids to be alone and confused and in pain), but what’s funny is that their argument doesn’t even make sense—because it’s not like crushes don’t start happening for virtually everyone when they're very young! (I personally remember having one in kindergarten.) So of course kids might be having crushes on other kids of the same gender even when they’re very young, and of course those kids need representation too—and that’s what Love, Violet is bringing to the table!!

And wow, it does a good job, too. Violet is the sweetest protagonist—she’s shy around her crush Mira and wonders how she’ll respond, but she also cares about her deeply, imagines going on adventures with her, and prepares a beautiful valentine to give her! And Mira is lovely as well, but I won’t give away all the details about her—just trust that they’re in the story.

Violet encounters many hurdles (internal and external) as she attempts to connect with Mira, but as we see later in the story, she’s an adventurer, and there’s nothing that can stop her!

And Charlene Chua’s illustrations are warm, vibrant, and gleeful, with adorable faces, lovely yellows and whites for the sky and snow, and plenty of color scattered throughout. They’re the perfect vehicle for this delightful story!

What’s my verdict? The book young queer kids need, and a perfect look at childhood crushes and childhood sweetness regardless of orientation—don’t miss it!


That's what I've got for this week! I hope you found a new book to enjoy—I'll see you back next week for more bookish shenanigans!

My favorite book of the week: Love, Violet (although all three are close!)


  1. These sound great! I'm excited that Nina LaCour has a picture book, I love her young adult novels. I'm also going to get a copy of Love, Violet from the library for my daughter. It sounds like it has a great message.

    1. I should put Nina LaCour's YA novels on my reading list, because I definitely get the sense she can write! And I'm so glad I was able to spread Love, Violet to you and your daughter—I hope you all enjoy it! Thanks so much for stopping by, Wendi!

  2. Well, you know that I love the first two & now I so enjoyed your own ideas about them. Love, Violet is new to me & sounds lovely & loving, so needed! Thanks, Max. Have a great week ahead!

    1. Thank you again for recommending those books, Linda! And I'm glad Love, Violet sounds good to you as well. Thanks so much for stopping by, and have a great week as well!

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful responses to these books. I'm glad you enjoyed Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle. Nina LaCour’s adult novels are pretty impressive too! I'm waiting for Apple and Magnolia to arrive at my library and have now added Love, Violet to the list.

    1. I'll definitely need to make note of Nina LaCour's other books! And I hope you enjoy Apple and Magnolia and Love, Violet when you get a chance to read them. Thanks so much for stopping by, Cheriee!

  4. Love, Violet sounds really sweet. Love the cover!

    1. It's definitely really sweet, and the cover is great (as are all of the illustrations)! Thanks so much for stopping by, Lisa!

  5. Great reviews! I shared a review Apple and Magnolia a few weeks ago. but the other two bools are new to me. Thanks!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed Apple and Magnolia, and I'm glad I could introduce you to the other two books! Thanks so much for stopping by, Laura!


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