What happened to December... and January?

My mother is 90. In early December she crossed the Atlantic to visit us, and stayed till last week. December and January were a wonderful time of reconnecting, with Mum and with friends; of hanging out with family who came to see her; of shopping as mothers and daughters do when there aren't thousands of miles between them; of cooking and remembering she doesn't like spices, cooked tomatoes, garlic, fruit... of eating elk burger as a treat with her grandsons because we don't have elk burgers in England...

But now she's gone home. The blue chair is empty. The bedroom carries only a lingering memory of her scent. Only one set of towels in the bathroom. No competition for the shower...

And now I get back to real life, overdue book reviews, editing, maybe even writing if I'm lucky. Mum wants me to be lucky. She wants to see me succeed as an author, so I try to tell myself we still have plenty of time... plenty of time... and I try not to remember that slightly haunted look of "will I see you again" as they wheeled her chair down the passageway to the plane.

Maybe it's fitting, since Mum is 90, if I start 2019's book reviews at the other end of age, with children's picture books. Enjoy, and drink coffee!

First is Esther’s Gragger by Martha Sief Simpson, illustrated by D. Yael Bernhard. It's a sweet timeless tale of children, toys and bullies, of a girl who stands up for herself (like the Esther of Purim), and of religious festival and celebration. The blend of intriguing cultural information with neat storytelling and bright pictures is very enticing--a well-balanced book for parents and kids, and for well-balanced three-star coffee.

With simpler, more modern illustrations, Because I wanted to play with you by Tamiko Pettee tells the very up-to-date story of friends separated by the arrival of an electronic device. In this case the friends are hedgehogs, but they're not very prickly, and the resolution of their problem is swift and pleasing. Enjoy with some lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Finally there's The Windstorm and Big B by Ofra Peled. It's part of an alphabet series, or even of a larger series that ranges as far as economics and business for kids! The illustrations mix a pale old-fashioned feel with occasional bright colors, and series introduces the shapes of letters, with bubbles for b. The child characters promise to a fun, eclectic bunch, in interests and appearances. Enjoy with some mild crisp one-star coffee.

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