Review of Mina, by Matthew Forsythe

Mina

by Matthew Forsythe

Paula Wiseman Books (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), 2022. 64 pages.
Review written May 20, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

This picture book made me laugh out loud in several places.

Mina is a little mouse who loves to read. She’s always pictured with her head in a book or using art supplies. She lives with her father in a piece of wood in the forest.

On the first page, we’re introduced to her this way:

Mina lived in her own little world where nothing ever bothered her.

Except one thing.

We’re told that one thing is not her father, even though you’d think his ambitious projects would disturb her concentration. But no, we always see Mina lost in her book, doing her own thing.

However, Mina started to worry when her father brought home a big surprise. He says it’s a squirrel, since squirrels are bigger than mice and have long, bushy tails. But the reader can see what the mice don’t understand — the animal her father brought home is a cat.

Mina’s father keeps telling her not to worry. He knits a sweater for the squirrel. When the squirrel doesn’t eat and he thinks it might be lonely, he finds it two more friends.

How does this situation resolve? I’m not going to give it away, because it’s way too much fun to read yourself. I can confidently promise that you’re going to be surprised.

This is one I’ll be urging my coworkers to take a few minutes and read. Please do that yourself! I guarantee it will bring a smile.

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Review of This Book Is Not for You! by Shannon Hale, illustrated by Tracy Subisak

This Book Is Not for You!

by Shannon Hale
illustrated by Tracy Subisak

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2022. 40 pages.
Review written May 3, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

Oh, this book is wonderful! Don’t tell, but this is a message book — for the adults.

Shannon Hale has written many magnificent books, but several of them have “Princess” in the title, including her Newbery Honor book Princess Academy and her beginning chapter book series The Princess in Black. She’s been frustrated when adults tell little boys that her princess books are not for them, even though the Princess in Black has a secret identity and fights monsters. So this picture book points out how ludicrous that attitude is.

As the book opens, a boy named Stanley is happily biking to the bookmobile.

A book called The Mysterious Sandwich sat up tall on the display shelf. Stanley liked mysteries, and he liked sandwiches. Perfect.

But when he asks the librarian if he can check it out, a very old man is there in her place. (I appreciate this touch that the role of mean gatekeeper is not played by an actual librarian.) The old man looks at the back of the book and finds out it’s about a girl and tells Stanley he wouldn’t want to read it.

Stanley really did want to read it, but now he felt embarrassed.

His friend Valeria comes along, and she does get to read the book.

But things start getting silly when the old man finds a cat book but won’t let Stanley check it out. Instead, he gives it to a cat! And when Stanley asks for a robot book, he’s told only robots can read books about robots — and a robot rolls up and checks it out.

After another attempt to read an interesting book that has a girl as a main character, the old man gives Stanley a book to try and he goes over to the field where everyone who got a book is reading.

After that, some secretive trading happens, not only between Stanley and Valeria, but between the cat and the robot as well.

But as they are quietly enjoying books that were not authorized, the ground shakes because a dinosaur is walking to the bookmobile. The dinosaur wants to read a book about ponies. When the old man doesn’t dare deny the dinosaur’s request, Stanley gains the ability to speak up as well.

It’s all silly and delightful and shows how ridiculous it is to insist that boys read books about boys and girls read books about girls. Because who’s going to tell a dinosaur she can’t read about ponies?

shannonhale.com
tracysubisak.com
penguin.com/kids

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Review of Otto: A Palindrama, Jon Agee

Otto

A Palindrama

by Jon Agee

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021. 144 pages.
Review written April 23, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

This book is just so silly. But it’s irresistible if you like palindromes at all. I was sitting and chuckling over it in my office, and had to bring it out and share, which got my coworkers laughing, too.

This is a kid’s full-length graphic novel — in which the only printed text that appears are entirely palindromes. The result is very silly — but it all actually makes sense!

Here are some of the 200 palindromes that appear:

Was it a rat I saw?

No, Son.

Nate Bittnagel, elegant Tibetan.

[In a museum] Gustav Klimt milk vats? Ug!

[On a tombstone] Evil, atonal, racy Carla. Not alive.

Eva, can I stab bats in a cave?

No, Don.

I’m Al, a slob. My symbol: Salami!

Too hot to hoot.

This all happens while Otto is looking for his dog, Pip. And of course it’s the pictures that make it all make sense. It’s all extremely silly, but a whole lot of fun.

We’ll have some more Palindrome Days in March 2023, so this may be the perfect book to pull out for a program.

JonAgee.com
penguinrandomhouse.com

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Review of How to Be Cooler Than Cool, by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien

How to be Cooler Than Cool

by Sean Taylor
illustrated by Jean Jullien

Candlewick Press, 2021. 36 pages.
Review written April 8, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

I’ve got a whole category of Delightfully Silly picture books, and this book fits right in with a story that makes my heart smile. I was already a big fan of these creators from their book Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise, and this book is equally quirky and wonderful.

As the book opens, Cat finds a pair of sunglasses. And they bring a revelation:

“You know what,” she said.
“I’m not just any old cat at the playground.
I’m a real cool cat who can glide backward down the slide, looking cooler than cool . . .
WITH EXTRA COOL ON TOP!”

But gliding down the slide doesn’t go as Cat had hoped, and among other things, the sunglasses go flying off her face.

Cockatoo finds them.

“You know what,” he said.
“I’m not just any old cockatoo.
I’m a supercool cockatoo
who can dance coolly along the seesaw,
doing the supercool cockatoo boogaloo!”

>

But Cockatoo’s antics, too, don’t end up as cool as he’d hoped.

Some more animals get into the act, and the book finishes up with a wonderful message that it’s not about trying to be cool — it’s all about having fun.

But the fun part to this book is of course how it gets there — the expressive faces in the pictures, the comments in speech bubbles, and yes, seeing animals who think they’re cool having a downfall.

This book is more for Kindergarten through first graders than preschoolers, and if I were booktalking in schools this year, this would be on top of my list. It would also work great for family storytimes — or, okay, anyone who has five minutes to read it. Yes, this is the sort of book I push on my coworkers to make them smile.

Read this book! You’ll be cooler than cool if you do!

candlewick.com

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Review of Fred Gets Dressed, by Peter Brown

Fred Gets Dressed

by Peter Brown

Little, Brown and Company, 2021. 44 pages.
Review written September 29, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Fred Gets Dressed is a book that’s playful about an everyday activity: getting dressed.

As the book opens, Fred is running around his house naked while his parents read books and let him romp. We do see his bottom, but he’s happily positioned not to reveal anything else. His expression and demeanor are sheer joy as he celebrates being “naked and wild and free.”

But then he runs into Mom and Dad’s bedroom and looks in the mirror on the inside of their open closet door. We see his big smile. Then he starts looking at the clothes in their closet.

Fred looks at Dad’s side of the closet.

He thinks about the way Dad dresses.

It might be fun to dress like Dad.
So Fred carefully picks out a shirt and a tie and a pair of shoes.

But he has trouble putting them on.

Then Fred thinks about the way Mom dresses. He finds an outfit from Mom’s side of the closet that he can put on. Then he decides to go to her dresser and try the jewelry and makeup.

Just as he’s smeared some lipstick on his face, Mom and Dad walk in. There’s a spread where they see him, and then a spread when everyone smiles at each other.

After that, the whole family joins in! Mom shows Fred how to put on some makeup, but Dad and even the dog get involved, too.

I love the way the parents aren’t shocked by Fred’s play – either when he’s romping naked or when he’s dressed up like Mom. And better yet, they join the fun.

I’m not going to say this is a book for gender nonconforming kids, though they will enjoy it. Don’t all kids love to play dress-up? I love the way this book doesn’t teach that this has to be limited by gender, and that even grown-ups can play, too.

And after reading the author’s blog post about the book, I like it even better. When he was a child who loved to play with paint, he was interested in what his mother used to paint her face. One day his mother found him with lipstick on his face, and his mother responded as Fred’s mom does, teaching him how to put it on. The author says he felt unconditional love when his mother responded by encouraging his curiosity rather than scolding.

Good silly fun with a playful message. And a wonderful example of affirming parenting.

peterbrownstudio.com
lbyr.com

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Review of Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf, by Sam Wedelich

Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf

by Sam Wedelich

Scholastic Press, Spring 2021. 40 pages.
Review written March 8, 2021, from an advance reader copy sent by the publisher
Starred Review

In this book, Chicken Little, who is well known for leaping to conclusions, is knocked down by a wolf jogging by. It must be the Big, Bad Wolf! He’s certainly big anyway.

And when Chicken Little tells another chicken about it, the whole flock is all aflutter. What should their reaction be, fight or flight? And will either one work for a bunch of chickens?

While the flock is laying plans, Chicken Little decides to bravely investigate. She asks the wolf, “Are you bad?”

And the wolf answers:

Me? I don’t think so. I suppose we all have light and dark in us. . . but I try to make good choices if that’s what you mean.

It turns out that the wolf is a vegetarian, which made it hard for him to fit in with other wolves. After Chicken Little convinces the flock, they think of a way to make him feel at home.

It all adds up to a delightfully silly story about not jumping to conclusions and being willing to make others feel welcome.

scholastic.com

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Review of Crash, Splash, or Moo! by Bob Shea

Crash, Splash, or Moo!

by Bob Shea

Little, Brown and Company, 2018. 44 pages.
Starred Review
Review written September 25, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out #7 in Picture Books – Silly Fun

Okay, this one’s just incredibly silly. But I can’t wait to booktalk it in the elementary schools next summer.

On the endpapers in front, Mr. McMonkey asks the reader:

Do you like action?
Are you a good guesser?
Then get ready to play…

CRASH, SPLASH, or MOO!

And the book begins:

Fearless daredevils perform amazing stunts, and YOU guess what happens.

Will they CRASH?
Will they SPLASH?
Or will they MOO?

Guess right, and win a delicious banana!

The team members are Action Clam, “America’s favorite splashin’, crashin’ stunt clam,” and a cow “who does cow stuff.”

There are five stunts. Let’s just say that it’s pretty easy to guess what will happen. In the first one, for example, Action Clam races in a car toward a big tower of blocks.

Raise your hand if you guess CRASH!
Raise your hand if you guess SPLASH!
Raise your hand if you guess MOO!

When a dramatic CRASH happens, if you guessed right, “You just won your first banana!”

And I simply can’t express with a description how very silly this book is. For example, after the second stunt, Mr. McMonkey throws in the line, “Okay, Frankie Two-Bananas, let’s see if you can guess the next one.”

Did I mention the results are easy to guess?

But oh, how much fun!

Check this book out the next time you’re feeling silly.

Addendum: This book was indeed hugely fun to read aloud to younger elementary-age kids. So much joy comes out of these pages!

bobshea.com
lbyr.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Niblet and Ralph, by Zachariah OHora

Niblet & Ralph

by Zachariah OHora

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written June 7, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out #6 in Picture Books – Silly Fun

Niblet and Ralph are cats that look almost exactly alike. They’ve got a pattern of calico colors that are almost mirror images of each other.

As the book opens, we meet Ralph and his owner Gemma and Niblet and his owner Dilla. We see them side by side, so we can see that the cats look a lot – but not exactly – alike.

They all live in the same building.
Two of them know this, but two do not.

Can you guess who does know?

That’s right! Niblet and Ralph are good friends, who talk on the phone every day. But their owners (as sometimes happens with neighbors in apartments) have no idea the other exists.

But one day, Niblet figures out how to go visit Ralph. Unfortunately, at the exact same time, Ralph figures out how to go visit Niblet.

When they get home from school, the kids know that something is up, but their parents don’t believe it.

Eventually, the owners discover that each is looking for the cat who looks like their cat. The mystery is solved and the neighbors become friends – as their cats already were.

This is a simple story with the fun of the reader knowing what’s going on when the characters don’t.

zohora.com
penguin.com/kids

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

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Review of Poe Won’t Go, by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Poe Won’t Go

by Kelly DiPucchio
illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Disney Hyperion, 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 20, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out #5 in Picture Books – Silly Fun

Sometimes children’s picture books preach more effective sermons than anything else.

In this case, we’ve got a whole town wanting an elephant to move. It takes a little girl to finally think of asking the elephant what he wants.

Here’s how the book begins:

One morning, the good people of Prickly Valley awoke to find an elephant sitting smack-dab in the middle of the only road in town.

How he got there was a mystery. His name was Poe.

It didn’t take long for a traffic jam to form around the uninvited elephant. Horns honked. People yelled from their cars. A policeman wrote him a ticket.

But Poe wouldn’t go.

The townspeople’s efforts to get Poe to leave get more and more entertaining. I especially like it when the mayor gets involved.

“We do not tolerate parked pachyderms in Prickly Valley!” she proclaimed.

The mayor formed committees and councils.
They hatched plans. Drew diagrams.
And drank coffee from Styrofoam cups.

The little girl who finally suggests asking Poe what he wants is delightful. I love that she’s wearing a headscarf and has dark skin. The mayor laughs and says they don’t speak elephant.

“Well, anyone can speak elephant if they just listen hard enough,” said Marigold, who was fluent in both kitten and hedgehog.

And when she finds out what Poe wants, his problem is solved, and he goes on about his business.

My co-worker pointed out that this book demonstrates an important principle of negotiation. Find out what the other party wants.

As with all picture books, you really do need to check this book out and see the charming illustrations for yourself. My summary doesn’t begin to do this wonderful book justice.

kellydipucchio.com
zohora.com
DisneyBooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

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Review of Once Upon a Goat, by Dan Richards, illustrated by Eric Barclay

Once Upon a Goat

by Dan Richards
pictures by Eric Barclay

Alfred A. Knopf, 2019. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Review written September 10, 2019, from a library book

Here’s a silly twist on a fairy tale pulled off with just the right humorous touch.

The book opens with a king and queen who wish for a child.

“Yes, but where would we put it?” asked the king.
“Next to the vase on the hearth, naturally,” replied the queen.
“Or beside the roses in the garden,” the king added.
“Oh, yes. Perfect,” agreed the queen.

When their fairy godmother shows up, they tell her about their wishes.

“We’re not particular,” said the queen. “Glowing skin, bright eyes, and hair like ocean waves should do.”

“Hmm . . . ,” said their fairy godmother.
“A boy would be great,” added the king. “But any kid will do.”
“Of course,” answered their fairy godmother. “Look on your doorstep when the moon is full.”

At the next full moon, they eagerly look outside – and a little goat is sitting there! The king realizes he shouldn’t have said that any kid would do. They try to send the goat away, but it’s a blustery night, and they bring him in for just one night… and the night turns into many more.

The illustrations are a huge part of the fun as the little kid enjoys the run of the palace and the palace guards keep their faces stoic. And we’ve got more to the story when the fairy godmother comes back.

I can’t read this book without smiling.

danrichardsbooks.com
ericbarclay.com
rhcbooks.com

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