Book review: Night Windows, by Ziggy Hanaor, illustrations by Aart-Jan Venema

Hanaor, Ziggy. Night Windows. Illus. by Aart-Jan Venema. Cicada. 2019. $16.95. unp. ISBN 978-1-908714-56-5. Ages 4-7. P9Q9

Lonely after his family’s move to a city, a boy seeks solace from what he perceives as an angry place by sitting outside his apartment building. At first, he thinks about running away but starts watching the people through the windows and sees “A writer, a cook, five kids/And – look! Here cats, a net/A sparkling chest, a girl who sews….” Each night he returns to his bench and sees more and more. His sojourn becomes less lonely as a cat perches on the back of the bench and the writer joins him to talk about his writer’s block. The boy’s surroundings become occupied by more people, and he ends up organizing a party. Highly detailed and quirky colorful illustrations come from the adventures of the illustrator from his everyday life in The Hague, Netherlands.

Verdict: Excellent pacing begins with a young person lost in new surroundings who makes a home for himself by observing and accepting the diversity of people around him. Following the action from one two-page spread to another can give hours of delight.

April 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Flying Colors: A Guide to Flags from around the World, by Robert G. Fresson

Fresson, Robert G. Flying Colors: A Guide to Flags from around the World. Cicada, 2017. $22.95. 109p. ISBN 978-1-908714-46-6. Ages 8-12. P5Q9

History and culture of different countries are highlighted in this vexillology—a study of flags—that groups these emblems of different countries by color, elements, or design, i.e., tribands, crescent moons, stars, and red, white, and blue. The glossary at the beginning of the book, after a brief history of flag development, makes for easy reference, for example if the reader forgets the definition of fimbriation. Six whimsical creatures, each dressed in a different color, help provide explanations of the flags’ designs. The colorful vintage digitized illustrations provide landscapes across the bottom of the page in a few instances. Nine maps at the end of the book show all the countries of the world.

Verdict: The clarity of the text adds to the fascination of these facts, for example Afghanistan changing its flag 21 times, more than any other country. Although the book lacks an index, the table of contents lists the primary countries listed under each chapter. This is a book that people will pore over, learning new information with each reading. Highly recommended.

December 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Raising a Forest, by Thibaud Hérem

Hérem, Thibaud. Raising a Forest. Cicada, 2018. £9.95. 44p. ISBN 978-1-908714-52-7. Ages 9+. P4Q9

The French artist known for his architectural illustrations displays his passion for cultivating trees from seeds in his London apartment through this how-to explanation accompanied by a brief rationale and an annotation of The Man Who Planted Trees that inspired him. He explained that the book began as a diary about his early experiences of growing trees and then evolved into this small volume. Two-page spreads show the tree garden in four different seasons, and eleven types of trees each have two-page spreads.

Verdict: The hand-lettered text is sometimes hard to read, but the delicate detailed illustrations of trees, leaves, tools, and instructions have great charm. The text shows the almost obsessive pride Hérem takes in his work. The specialized title will have appeal to a small group of young readers, but it is memorable.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.