Archive for the ‘Picture Book Review’ Category

Review of Sunny, by Celia Krampien

Saturday, September 12th, 2020

Sunny

by Cecilia Krampien

Roaring Brook Press, 2020. 36 pages.
Review written July 11, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

This little picture book is in the tradition of tall tales of bad luck followed by good luck followed by bad luck followed by good luck. In this case, there’s a sequence of apparently terribly bad things that happen to a little girl named Sunny – but she sees the bright side. And has some really good luck to offset the bad luck.

It starts with just a dreary day, windy and rainy, with kids trudging through the rain on the way to school. Most people would say that’s a bad day.

But not Sunny.
Sunny thought this day was the perfect day to use her big yellow umbrella. And it was.

But then the wind catches the umbrella and Sunny’s flying through the air. Most people would say that’s a bad situation, but not Sunny. Not even when she gets blown out to sea and stranded in a little boat and washed up on a lonely big rock.

When things finally get so very dreary that even Sunny starts to cry – that’s when there’s a dramatic, lovely, and perhaps slightly unlikely rescue.

So, sure, she’s a little bit late to school, but she has a mighty good story to tell.

This fun picture book gives readers a chance to think about looking at the bright side with a story whose unlikeliness makes it all the more enjoyable.

And hmmm. Perhaps I liked it all the more because I read it during 2020, when a successive series of unlikely bad events have happened. I wonder if I can find good sides like Sunny?

mackids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a 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 I Can Be Anything, by Shinsuke Yoshitake

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

I Can Be Anything

by Shinsuke Yoshitake

Chronicle Books, 2020. Originally published in Japan in 2016. 52 pages.
Review written July 8, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

When I saw this book, I expected a trite message trying to be inspirational about how a child can be anything they want to be. That’s not what this book is about.

No, this is a story of an imaginative little girl putting off bedtime despite her very tired mother.

As the book begins, we see the girl jumping up and down.

Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!

I have a really good idea!

Oh, really? It’s time to go to sleep.

I’ll pretend to be something and you’ll guess what it is!

OK . . . Now don’t get angry if I make a mistake.

The little girl proceeds to pretend to be various things. From a pot and a clothespin to a overcooked broccoli and various kinds of aliens. The mother doesn’t get any of them right. And the choices are so random, and the drawings of the little girl so silly, they make me laugh.

The mother doesn’t get even one of her guesses right, and the girl does eventually get cross about it.
How does it end? The girl falls asleep while pretending to be something. We never do find out what she was that time.

This is a delightfully particular story completely the opposite of the generalized pablum I expected from that title. It might just kick off a game with your own imaginative preschooler, and at least the mother in the book gives you cover if you’re not very good at guessing.

chroniclekids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a 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 Madame Badobedah, by Sophie Dahl, illustrated by Lauren O’Hara

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

Madame Badobedah

by Sophie Dahl
illustrated by Lauren O’Hara

Walker Books, 2020. First published in the United Kingdom in 2019. 52 pages.
Review written August 8, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Madame Badobedah (rhymes with ooh-la-la) is a picture book, but it’s on the long side and has three parts, so it’s more for young elementary school students than the usual preschool picture book crowd. Those who can settle into the story will be completely charmed, as I was.

Our narrator, a little girl named Mabel, lives in a Bed and Breakfast, the Mermaid Hotel. The book begins on a day when they get a new guest, an old lady who comes with two dogs, two cats, a tortoise on a cushion, and 32 suitcases. She gets installed in the Mermaid suite on the top floor.

Mabel, who likes to do a little spying, quickly determines that Madame Badobedah (the name Mabel has for her) is a villainess on the run after her jewel heists. After all, the bag Mabel carried for her was so heavy, she knew it contained gold bars. Madame Badobedah doesn’t go out much, and Mabel does some surveillance through the keyhole.

But one day, Madame Badobedah invites Mabel in, and they have tea together. These visits become more common, until Mabel is even willing to share the secret of the Mermaid Room.

We end up with a charming and imaginative story about an intergenerational friendship, one which brings joy to both participants.

walkerbooksus.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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 Lift, by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

Lift

by Minh Lê
illustrated by Dan Santat

Disney Hyperion, 2020. 52 pages.
Review written July 17, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s a wonderful picture book told in comic book format with not a lot of words and with fabulous richly colored illustrations.

The book begins with a small family getting into an apartment building elevator. We focus in on the little girl. She says:

Hi, my name is Iris.
When I’m feeling a bit down, there’s one thing that always cheers me up:
PUSHING ELEVATOR BUTTONS.

Luckily, that’s my job. Up or down, our floor or the lobby,
I always get to push the button.

But then one day, her baby brother pushes the button. And her parents are happy! Betrayal! In her rebellion, Iris pushes ALL the buttons.

Later, one of the elevators is out of order. Iris sees the repairman throw an old elevator call button into the trash. She fishes it out and later tapes it to the wall in her room so she has a button to push.

And it’s then that her adventures begin. For when she pushes the button, to her surprise it gives a Ding and lights up. And when she opens her closet door, she discovers magical worlds to explore.

Now pushing the button gives her a lift in a whole new way.

There’s some more family dynamics in the rest of this book, a wonderful celebration of adventure and imagination and family and small things that give you a lift.

And Dan Santat is so wonderful at making imagination come to life in his pictures. Another perfect pairing of author and illustrator.

minhlebooks.com
dantat.com
DisneyBooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a 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 In My Garden, by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Philip Stead

Friday, July 10th, 2020

In My Garden

by Charlotte Zolotow
illustrated by Philip Stead

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2020. Text first published in 1960. 40 pages.
Review written April 21, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s a perfect storytime book about changing seasons, beginning with Spring. The text is simple but lyrical, and I found myself reading it out loud, even though I was at home by myself. When the library starts doing story times again, I’m going to find a time to use this book.

The idea is simple. For each season, the girl speaking tells us what she loves best in her garden, and what she loves most to do.

The fun part, though, is that every time after she says what she loves best, she tells about other things she loves in that season.

Here’s one example:

In the fall what I love most to do is rake leaves.

Of course there are other things I like to do in the fall – buy new sweaters and skirts and pencil boxes for school, and pick the ripe golden pears from my tree.

But what I love most to do in the fall is rake leaves and jump in the big crackly golden piles of them.

Of course the natural thing to do after reading this book is talk about what you love best about the season you’re in.

charlottezolotow.com
philipstead.com
HolidayHouse.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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 We Are Water Protectors, by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade

Saturday, June 20th, 2020

We Are Water Protectors

written by Carole Lindstrom
illustrated by Michaela Goade

Roaring Brook Press, 2020. 40 pages.
Review written April 21, 2020, from a library book

The Author’s Note at the back of this picture book does tell us that her motivation to write it came from April 2016 when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protested against a pipeline going through their sacred lands and were joined by more than five hundred Indigenous Nations. But the text is universal – about standing on behalf of water and the earth.

The paintings on the large spreads in this book are colorful, lush, and gorgeous. We see a Native American girl repeating to the reader what she’s been told about the importance of water. We come from water – from our mother’s womb to the nourishment of water on the earth.

We also hear of a prophecy of a black snake that would come and poison the water, plants, and animals.

Now the black snake is here.
Its venom burns the land.
Courses through the water,
Making it unfit to drink.

Our protagonist declares she’s going to fight the black snake, and here the book is beautifully inspiring.

We fight for those
Who cannot fight for themselves:
The winged ones,
The crawling ones,
The four-legged,
The two-legged,
The plants, trees, rivers, lakes,
The Earth.

We are all related.

The language is simple and the pictures are beautiful. The reader will learn about Native American culture in a way that invites them also to contribute to protecting the water.

At the very back of the book, there’s a pledge to be a steward of the Earth and a protector of the water, and to treat all beings on the Earth with kindness and respect.

www.mackids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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 Bedtime Bonnet, by Nancy Redd, illustrated by Nneka Myers

Friday, June 5th, 2020

Bedtime Bonnet

by Nancy Redd
illustrated by Nneka Myers

Random House, 2020. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written June 5, 2020, from a library book

Here’s a delightful family story about an young African American girl and her family – and how they do their hair at night.

The first line is,

In my family, when the sun goes down, our hair goes up!

The girl introduces us to all the family members, who all do their hair a different way. Her brother “twists and tightens each of his locs.” Her sister, mother, father, and grandma all have a different hair routine, and then Mommy braids the girl’s hair. But Grandpa doesn’t do anything to his hair, because he doesn’t have any.

There’s one problem, though. When her braids are all set and it’s time for bed, she can’t find her bedtime bonnet.

I need it to protect my hair from tangles and lint while I sleep.

She searches high and low for it and asks everyone in the family. We notice that all the other members of the family have a way of protecting their own hair at night.

When the hiding place of the bonnet is discovered, everyone gets to laugh.

At the end of the book, we get to see the family setting out in the morning with everyone’s hair looking great.

Yes, this book works as a window into something I didn’t know much about – how to care for African American hair. Yes, this book will be nice as a mirror for kids who are familiar with this kind of routine. But if that were all it did, I’d skip writing a review.

Bedtime Bonnet offers a just plain delightful story for preschool and early elementary readers. There are colorful, warm pictures of a loving family, complete with a silly Grandpa. There’s a situation of something important lost, and then found in a funny way. I was just completely charmed by this delightful picture book. When I finally get to do in-person storytimes again, I’d like to try out this book with an audience.

nancyredd.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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 Drawn Together, by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

Friday, May 29th, 2020

Drawn Together

by Minh Lê
illustrated by Dan Santat

Disney Hyperion, 2018. 36 pages.
Review written in 2018 from a library book.
Starred Review
2019 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Picture Book Winner
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #7 Other Picture Books

This almost wordless picture book tells about a boy and his grandfather – who doesn’t speak English.

The boy has been dropped off at his grandfather’s house. They eat together – different foods, and they watch TV together but like different shows. They can’t talk together.

But then the boy gets out his markers and starts to draw. The grandfather sees and his face lights up. He brings over his sketchbook, ink, and brushes.

And they begin to draw – together.

Now, after years of searching for the right words, we find ourselves happily…

Speechless.

I have not discussed this with the Newbery committee, but my personal opinion is that it would be a stretch to give a Newbery award to a nearly wordless book. However, after my first reading, I would not be surprised if this book is seriously discussed by the Caldecott committee. The art is wonderful – using one style for the boy and another for his grandfather, as well as portraying their imaginary battles by each other’s side.

Added later: I was so happy when this was announced as the Asian/Pacific American Literature Award Winner for Picture Books.

minhlebooks.com
dantat.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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 Crash, Splash, or Moo! by Bob Shea

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

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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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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 Julián Is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Julián Is a Mermaid

by Jessica Love

Candlewick Press, 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written May 24, 2018, from a library book
2019 Stonewall Children’s Literature Award Winner
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #6 Other Picture Books

Julián Is a Mermaid is a wonderful story told with magnificent illustrations. On the front end papers we see a young boy swimming underwater while his abuela looks on. Abuela and her four friends – all approximately Abuela’s age and body type – are in the pool, too, wearing swim caps and holding onto the edge.

The book still hasn’t started. On the title spread, we see Julián and Abuela walking to the train station, with three tall, beautiful women flamboyantly dressed as mermaids walking behind them.

The book officially begins on the train. The mermaids get on the train, too. The text reads:

This is a boy named Julián. And this is his abuela.
And those are some mermaids.

Julián LOVES mermaids.

One of the mermaids waves to Julián. We can tell that the big book he’s reading has a picture of a mermaid inside.

The next spreads show Julián’s imagination. He’s in the water. He kicks off all his clothes but his underwear. A swarm of fish sweeps past – and Julián has a tail! He’s a mermaid! Another big fish gives him a necklace.

But he’s pulled out of the dream when the train reaches their stop. The mermaids wave good-by.

At home, while Abuela is taking a bath, Julián wants to live in his imagination a little longer. He takes off his clothes except his underwear, makes a mermaid crown with plants and flowers (this part is all shown with pictures), puts on lipstick – and uses the fluffy lace curtain from the window to make a beautiful tail. Julián stands triumphant in the same pose as in the picture on the cover.

When Abuela comes out, she doesn’t exactly look happy. We can see Julián considering what he has done.

And then, Abuela, all dressed now, gives Julián a bead necklace to complete his outfit. They go out the door together.

We aren’t sure where they’re going – but as they walk, we see many people, all dressed as sea creatures.

“Mermaids,” whispers Julián.

“Like you, mijo. Let’s join them.

And Julián and Abuela end up walking along the beach as part of a long ocean parade, all sorts of people in wonderful costumes – and the mermaids from the train right in front of them.

On the back endpapers, we’ve got Abuela’s swim group again, but this time they’re all underwater and they have all grown tails. Julián the mermaid is swimming beneath them.

The first lovely thing about this book is the illustrations. They are exquisitely and beautifully done. (In fact, I would be so happy if this book won the Caldecott.) All the people are distinct characters, and the art carries the story in most of the book.

But what’s especially lovely is that nowhere at all is Julián told that a little boy shouldn’t imagine being a mermaid. Abuela looks askance at him for taking down her lovely lace curtain – but even that she goes with.

And I love, love, love the way she encourages his imagination by letting him join the parade of others dressed as he is.

And nobody puts any restrictions on this boy’s imagination.

candlewick.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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.

What did you think of this book?