I love Marisabina Russo's down-to-earth view of family life: kids are cute, they're full of imagination and life -- they're also a little vexing and they tend to get into trouble. She's done some great stories about siblings, and I like her collage-like art style. Here's a quick look at some of her books...!






Marisibina Russo Bibliography
Books By Author | Books By Title | Main Index




"The Line-Up Book"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1987)

This is an adorable story -- the first children's book written by illustrator Marisabina Russo (also known for her work with The New Yorker magazine). When a little boy named Sam (who's maybe three or four years old?) gets called to lunch, he's in the middle of a "big project" and keeps procrastinating until Mom starts to count, "ONE.... TWO...." Sam starts with his blocks, lining them up to the edge of his room, then he gets some bath toys and adds them to the line, then some toy trucks, then some shoes... until finally the line stretches all the way from his bedroom to the kitchen door. Mom, who was getting kind of grumpy, yelling for him to come and eat, melts when she sees what Sam has been up to... As do we! This is a lovely, simple story that perfectly captures the intensity and introversion with which little kids can gets into their made-up games, and also shows how the adult world and the kid world have to negotiate a little to let each one work. This one's a favorite! (A+)


"Only Six More Days"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Puffin, 1988)

The emotional life of little children is explored again in this tale of an older sister who gets grumpy about the excitement surrounding her little brother's upcoming birthday. Might be too negative in tone for some parents, but the emotions it depicts are real enough to want to grapple with. Ah, sibling rivalry! (B-)


"Where Is Ben?"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1990)

A really sweet little story about a game of hide-and-seek that takes place while a mellow mom is trying to bake an apple pie. Her boy, Ben, keeps calling "Mama, come find me!" as she peels the apples, gets the oven ready, etc. A lovely picture of a playful parent-child relationship, with Russo's trademark artwork... A nice book with no dark side to it, and a story that little kids will really enjoy reading... Recommended! (A)


"Alex Is My Friend"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1992)

(-)


"Time To Wake Up!"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1994)

A very cute book wherein Sam and his mother play a teasing wake-up game when he tries to stay cuddled under the covers and she tries to get him up and ready for school. A good-humored portrait of a tender, loving mother-son relationship, with little shared jokes and friendly, genuine warmth between then two. Appealling, cartoonish pictures and funny back-and-forth dialogue which will draw in young readers and weary parents alike. (This could also be interpreted as a single-parenting book, since no Daddy is in sight...) Recommended! (A-)


"I Don't Want To Go Back To School"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1994)

A little boy named Ben doesn't want to go to school because of first-day jitters... We haven't read this one yet, because it's not an issue with us, and I don't want to introduce the idea that school is something to be avoided. (-)


"Grandpa Abe"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1996)

This one's kinda heavy... You'll probably only want to read it if you need to. A young girl named Sarah recalls how she met her "Grandpa" Abe, her grandmother's second husband who is there, year after year in her life, being a great guy... Until he abruptly dies, and then the family remembers and honors him and his gracious spirit. If you haven't dealt with death and dying yet, you'll probably want to steer clear of this volume, but if the death of a grandparent is an issue in your family, I can't imagine a better book to help deal with the shock and surprise of it all. As with many of Russo's books, this has a beautiful emotional core, and deals with sorrow and grief in a really touching, moving way. Recommended. (A)


"Under The Table"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1997)

Remember when you were little and could play underneath tables and chairs? And how you could hide things down there, or even draw little pictures on the undersides of furniture, and none of the grownups would ever even see it? Ah, yes... I see the smiles of recognition. Well, that's the story here, and everything goes fine until the day when Mom and Dad turn the table over while moving some stuff around and realize just what their little girl has been up to...! They don't flip out, though, and simply direct the girl towards more appropriate artistic outlets, such as pads of paper and the like. Another nice book by Russo that deals with real-life childrearing problems, but with a knowing nod and a wink of compassion and understanding. An ideal text to read if this sort of off-road artmaking becomes an issue in your house. (B+)


"Hannah's Baby Sister"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1998)

(-)


"When Mama Gets Home"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1998)

A young girl with two older siblings waits for her mother to return home from work... The children all have chores to do to help prepare for supper, and when mom gets back, she finishes the meal and they all sit down together and talk about their day. Then the mother puts the little girl to bed. A simple, engaging narrative, with a warm, subtle, unapologetic look at single parenting... No mention of the mom being single is even made -- it's just how things are, and it's not presented as a problem. A cheerful family book that shows a complicated, real life situation without making too big a deal of it. Recommended! (B)


"Mama Talks Too Much"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1999)

(-)


"The Big Brown Box"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 2000)

Two brothers, Sam and Ben, get into a big conflict when Dad gives Sam a big cardboard refrigerator box to play with, and Sam is mean and refuses to share his new house/cave/boat plaything with the toddler, Ben. When Ben cries, their parents try to intervene, but Sam just gets meaner, until finally they give little Ben a box of his own, and then things mellow out. Sam, who had exhausted the possibilities of solo play, decides to let Ben play make-believe with him, after all, and the two have a great time blasting off to the moon and back in their brown cardboard space ships. A realistic look at "parallel play" and how kids often have a hard time sharing. The way the theme plays out might be a little upsetting to littler kids (or even give them the wrong idea about what message the book is trying to impart...) But for children who are old enough to have a good discussion about sharing with and having empathy for other kids, this is a great book. Good strong narrative, too, just in terms of it engaging and holding reader's attention. Recommended! (A)


"Come Back, Hannah!"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 2001)

Hannah's learned to crawl, and Mom is having a hard time keeping up with her inquisitive little girl. Sound familiar to any of the parents out there? Yeah, I thought so. Cute book, very basic story, and situations that many of us will instantly recognize from our own lives. (B+)


"The Trouble With Baby"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 2003)

Sam and Hannah are close siblings, with lots of games that they play together and secrets they share, but when Hannah gets a new doll for her birthday and starts doing everything with "Baby," Sam feels left out. His jealousy escalates until finally the two children stop talking to each other. Of course, in the end, they make up and each kid adjusts a bit to make the other happy... This story is similar to Katherine's Doll, by Elizabeth Winthrop, with emotional notes that ring true throughout. I wouldn't recommend a steady diet of this story, but if you're exploring these sort of negative emotions or having a similar problem in your family, you might like this book. Recommended. (A)


"Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War Two"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Atheneum, 2005)

(-)


"The Bunnies Are Not In Their Beds"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Random House/Schwartz & Wade, 2007)

A delightful bedtime book about a trio of young bunnies who keep getting out of bed to play with their toys and march around, even though lights-out took place a loooooong time ago. The mommy and daddy rabbits keep coming back upstairs to see what all the noise is about, and though they play it cool at the beginning, after the fifth or sixth trip, they start to lose their tempers. This is one of those rare books, like Where The Wild Things Are, where minxy little children more or less win and get away with their misbehavior, and that's just fine, really: it's what makes the story so delicious. An interesting departure for Russo, whose earlier books also show kids in their natural state, but tend to be more reality-oriented (ie, no cute animals) She's got a feel for fantasy, and knows little kids pretty well... A winner around our household (and constantly requested at bedtime, of course...!) (B+)




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