Archive for the ‘Picture Book Review’ Category

Review of Crown, by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

Crown

An Ode to the Fresh Cut

by Derrick Barnes
illustrated by Gordon C. James

Bolden Books (Agate Publishing), Chicago, 2017. 32 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Newbery Honor Book
2018 Caldecott Honor Book
2018 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
2018 Capitol Choices selection

It’s not often that a picture book wins Newbery Honor. Because the Newbery is given specifically for the text. In this case, we can’t write it off as a fluke, because not only did the 2018 Newbery committee think the text of this book was worthy of honor, the 2018 Coretta Scott King committee singled it out for the author’s work. Mind you, it also got honor from the 2018 Caldecott committee and from the 2018 Coretta Scott King committee for the illustrator’s work. So this picture book garnered a truly amazing four Honor awards.

This book is about a black boy getting a haircut. But also about a black boy feeling great about himself.

Here’s what the author says he was trying to do in a note in the back:

Mr. Tony was my barber in the sixth grade. To get to his chair, I rode the Prospect southbound Metro bus to 63rd St. every Thursday, the day of the week my mother would leave eight dollars on the kitchen table so that I could get my hair cut. Walking out of that shop, I never felt like the same kid that went in. I couldn’t wait for Friday morning so that Carmella Swift, my girlfriend, could see how perfect my box was shaped up. I knew she’d bug out about the two parts on the right side of my head, which, in my mind, made me look like Big Daddy Kane. There was no way she’d resist my ruler-straight hairline, a precise frame for my smiling, brown, 11-year-old face. That fresh cut made you more handsome. It made you smarter, more visible, and more aware of every great thing that could happen in your world.

With this offering, I wanted to capture that moment when black and brown boys all over America visit “the shop” and hop out of the chair filled with a higher self-esteem, with self-pride, with confidence, and an overall elevated view of who they are. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins. It’s how we develop swagger, and when we begin to care about how we present ourselves to the world. It’s also the time when most of us become privy to the conversations and company of hardworking black men from all walks of life. We learn to mimic their tone, inflections, sense of humor, and verbal combative skills when discussing politics, women, sports, our community, and our future. And really, other than the church, the experience of getting a haircut is pretty much the only place in the black community where a black boy is “tended to” – treated like royalty.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut focuses on the humanity, the beautiful, raw, smart, perceptive, assured humanity of black boys/sons/brothers/nephews/grandsons, and how they see themselves when they highly approve of their reflections in the mirror. Deep down inside, they wish that everyone could see what they see: a real life, breathing, compassionate, thoughtful, brilliant, limitless soul that matters – that desperately matters. We’ve always mattered.

All the honor this book earned is testimony that the author and illustrator pulled this off with flair.

Every person in the shop will rise to their feet
and give you a round of applause
for being so FLY!
Not really . . . but they’ll look like they want to.

You’ll see it in their eyes.

The first time I read this book, I wasn’t sure who I’d recommend it to besides black and brown boys. But this book is a celebration! It’s going to uplift anyone who reads it. And I, for one, am now in a position where it’s just a little easier to see that kid coming up to the information desk as the living, breathing, compassionate, thoughtful, brilliant, and limitless soul he is.

As with all picture books I review, you really need to check out this book yourself and enjoy the pictures to get the full experience. This one’s highly recommended.

agatepublishing.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 I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. 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 When a Wolf Is Hungry, by Christine Naumann-Villemin, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

When a Wolf Is Hungry

by Christine Naumann-Villemin
illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers, 2017. 32 pages.

I have a thing for books where someone gets eaten – or eating gets thwarted. When a Wolf Is Hungry falls into the latter category.

This is a book for sophisticated readers – more for elementary school readers than preschoolers. What’s going on is subtle, and a lot of fun when we finally see what’s happening. Here’s how it begins:

One Sunday morning, Edmond Bigsnout, lone wolf, left his home in the woods with a great big knife in his paw.

Edmond had a hankering for some rabbit.

Not just any ordinary cottontail, though. What he craved was a grain-fed, silky-haired rabbit, one with just a hint of sweetness. A city bunny.

So Edmond heads into the city.

He stopped in front of a tall apartment building.
He checked the names next to the buzzers and found exactly what he was looking for:
Max Omatose, miniature rabbit
5th floor

Oh, Edmond was so happy!
With the point of his knife,
he pressed the button for the elevator.
Ding!

Inside the elevator, he set down the knife and adjusted his bow tie.
(Just because a wolf is hungry, that doesn’t mean he can’t be fashionable.)

But of course, he forgot his knife in the elevator.

A turkey finds the knife in the elevator and says it’s just what she needs to cut this cake. So when Edmond comes back, it’s gone.

So he returns to try again with a chainsaw – and a bear asks to borrow it to trim a hedge on the roof. Similar fate befalls a rope, a big pot, and his barbecue grill. That one is borrowed by a lovely young wolf who thinks he’s a new neighbor.

When he’s had too much and decides to just eat the rabbit with some mustard, there’s a note on the rabbit’s door saying “I’m on the roof.” When the wolf reaches the roof, he finds all the apartment residents he encountered before, including the lovely young wolf. He finds out why they wanted to borrow his things – and let’s just say he makes some new life choices.

This one isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s understated and lovely and a happy ending for everyone.

krisdigiacomo.com
Eerdmans.com/youngreaders

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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 I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. 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 ABCs from Space, by Adam Voiland

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

ABCs from Space

A Discovered Alphabet

by Adam Voiland

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. 40 pages.

The author of this book is a science writer for a website called NASA Earth Observatory. He found the shapes of all the letters of the alphabet – in satellite images of the earth!

Some of the images look more like the letters than others. This would be an excellent book for a child who already knows their letters, but might be more difficult for one just learning the shapes.

But there’s more fun at the end. He gives details at the back of where and when each picture was taken and what type of image was used, whether Natural-color or false-color. A map shows the locations on earth that are covered. There are FAQs about the images and about the science (weather and geology, especially) at the back.

Mostly, I couldn’t stop looking at this book because it’s gorgeous and amazing. We have a beautiful planet!

adamvoiland.com
earthexplorer.usgs.gov
earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/FalseColor/
science.nasa.gov/ems
earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/ColorImage/
simonandschuster.com/kids

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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 I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. 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 Dad and the Dinosaur, by Gennifer Choldenko, illustrated by Dan Santat

Friday, March 16th, 2018

Dad and the Dinosaur

by Gennifer Choldenko
illustrated by Dan Santat

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Nick wants to be brave like his dad. And people think that he is when he goes rock climbing and faces down a big, tough goalie on the soccer field.

But what other people don’t know is that the reason Nick can be brave is because of his companion, a toy dinosaur that goes with him everywhere. The dinosaur gives Nick the courage of a dinosaur.

So when the dinosaur falls out during a soccer game, Nick loses all his courage.

But it turns out that Dad knows exactly what to do.

This is a charming story of a kid who admires his father and wants to be like him – and a father who knows how to treat his son’s feelings with deep respect.

The illustrations are perfect. While Nick is holding his dinosaur, we see a shadowy dinosaur in the background, big and bold and brave. When Nick has lost the dinosaur, the world is a scarier place, with tentacles coming up from under a manhole cover ready to pull him down.

Together the story and illustrations hit just the right note. We see a kid who’s brave like his amazing dad, with the help of his friend the dinosaur.

gennifercholdenko.com
dantat.com
penguin.com/children

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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 I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. 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 The Thank You Dish, by Trace Balla

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

The Thank You Dish

by Trace Balla

Kane Miller (EDC Publishing), 2017. 28 pages.

This is a sweet little story of a dinnertime conversation between a girl and her mother.

It starts when Mama says thanks to the rain, the soil, and the sunshine. Grace follows up:

“And thank you, kangaroos,” said Grace.

(Yes, this book was originally published in Australia.)

When Mama asks why Grace would thank kangaroos, she answers, “Well, I’m thanking the kangaroos for not eating all the carrots.”

So begins a progression of people and animals to thank for the various parts of their meal.

For example, an alpaca is thanked for providing the wool that Auntie Amber used to knit a scarf that kept Uncle Fred from freezing when he caught the fish they’re eating.

Road workers are thanked for fixing the path so they could ride their bikes along the creek all the way to Suki’s stand to buy some corn and kale.

And so it goes.

The result is a warm and cozy reminder of how many people and animals helped bring them their delicious meal.

And the book just might provoke a new dinnertime game of long involved thank yous. And what could be better than that?

Thank you, Trace Balla, for writing such a warm and joyful book!

kanemiller.com
edcpub.com
usbornebooksandmore.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 I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. 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 Read the Book, Lemmings! by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

Read the Book, Lemmings!

by Ame Dyckman
illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Little, Brown and Company, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

This book simply makes me laugh. Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora know exactly how to hit my funny bone.

The end papers at the front of this book set us up. We’re in the Arctic, with several icebergs in view. A small one in front has a big sign, which says:

lemmings: small, fuzzy, illiterate rodents who share the icy North with arctic foxes and polar bears. People used to think lemmings jumped off cliffs. Now we know they don’t.

High on top of a nearby icy cliff, we see three little furry creatures. One is jumping off and saying, “Wonder what that says.”

The next is saying, “Me too!”

And the third is saying, “Ditto!”

The first page gets us right into the action. We see a ship made out of a big black whale. On its deck are a polar bear and an arctic fox, dressed as captain and crew of the ship. The three lemmings are now on deck, too, close to the edge.

Foxy found a quiet spot to read his book about lemmings. “Huh!” Foxy said. “Says here, lemmings don’t jump off cliffs.

“Jump? I’ll jump!” said a lemming.

“Me too!” said a second.

“Ditto!” said a third.

The next page shows them jumping: GERONIMO-O-O-O-O!

And that’s what the book is about. Foxy saves them after they jump into the water. He tries to get them to read the book about lemmings. But any time someone says, “Jump” – they do.

Finally, Foxy and Captain PB figure out that the lemmings don’t know how to read, although Ditto can burp the alphabet. So Foxy teaches the lemmings to read, and they learn that lemmings don’t jump off cliffs!

Of course, they do find a new way to get into trouble.

The fun of this book is the slapstick humor of the lemmings flinging themselves off cliffs and Foxy continuing to save them. The illustrations give us lots of humor and lots of variety – turning sideways at times to show us how far they’re falling. Of course, the endpapers at the back feature that same sign – modified.

I do love the Author’s Note at the back:

When I was little, I saw a movie that showed lemmings jumping off cliffs. Years later, I learned that, except in very rare cases, lemmings DON’T jump off cliffs. My first thought was, “OH NO! DID ANYONE TELL THE LEMMINGS?!” So, we made this book. You’re welcome, lemmings.

Good, silly fun.

zohora.com
lb-kids.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 I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. 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 Welcome, by Mo Willems

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

Welcome

A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals

by Mo Willems

Disney Book Group, 2017. 28 pages.
Starred Review

Yay! I have been invited to a baby shower, so I have a reason to purchase this book! I actually read it last year when visiting my newborn niece, but I didn’t have a chance to write a review. Now I’ve been enjoying the book before I wrap it up….

What I need to do is simply urge you to read this book. It’s brilliant. You will enjoy it.

I’ll say a little bit about it. It’s written as a sort of travel guide for a new baby, telling them what to expect. The illustrations are essentially icons, as found in manuals. It’s funny and charming.

A wonderful touch is that most pages end with the words “while we read this book together.”

Here’s a nice page at the start:

PLEASE ENJOY YOUR STAY

Many activities are available for you to enjoy,
including, but not limited to:

SLEEPING and WAKING,
EATING and BURPING,
POOPING and MORE POOPING.
[All the capitalized words have icons on the facing page.]

Other options are available upon request
and will be updated on a regular basis.

Of our current offerings, I can personally recommend
your being right here with me . . .

while we read this book together.

And here’s a nice page at the end:

CONDITIONS MAY VARY

We will strive to make your stay
as comfortable as possible. However . . .

There will be TURBULENCE.
There will be UNEXPECTED EVENTS.
There will be HUMAN ERROR.

Fortunately, we are happy to provide you LOVE

At no extra cost.

A warm and delightful book that tells newcomer what they can expect out of life, and that they have people standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide Love.

May this book get many chances to be read child and parent together.

pigeonpresents.com
hyperionbooksforchildren.com

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Source: This review is based on a book I purchased via Amazon.com to give away.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. 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 The Snowbear, by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Claire Alexander

Friday, January 26th, 2018

The Snowbear

by Sean Taylor
illustrated by Claire Alexander

words & pictures (Quarto Publishing), Lake Forest, CA, 2017. 28 pages.
Starred Review

Charming, sweet, and simple – this would be a great pick for a winter storytime. It’s from the point of view of two small children, and the words and pictures are realistically childlike.

When Iggy and Martina wake up to snow, they go out to play. Their mother warns them to be careful of the hill, because it’s too steep and slippery. So they make a snowman – but it ends up looking more like a snowbear.

“He looks happy to be made,” said Martina.

And it was true.

Then Iggy wants to slide down the hill on their sled. Oops! It really is too steep and slippery. They slide on and on, into the deep dark woods.

There’s lots of atmosphere:

Nothing moved except for one grey pigeon.

“I want to go home,” said Martina.

“So do I,” said Iggy.

He got off the sledge and tried to pull it back the way they’d come.

But Mom was right.
It was too steep and slippery.

Next, there’s a wolf staring at them through the trees. It’s a scary moment. But they hear something, and an entire spread is their open-mouthed faces staring in amazement.

The snowbear has come lolloping down the hill toward them! The wolf leaves, and without a word, the snowbear picks them up and carries them home. Then it goes back to where they’d made it, keeping its friendly smile all along.

The ending is nice and open ended. Mom says it’s a lovely snowbear, but only the kids understand what really happened.

The pictures and text work together beautifully in this tale with child-sized drama and danger – and wonderful coziness.

QuartoKnows.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 I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. 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 The Pink Umbrella, by Amélie Callot, pictures by Geneviève Godbout

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

The Pink Umbrella

by Amélie Callot
pictures by Geneviève Godbout

Tundra Books, Penguin Random House, 2018. Originally published in French in 2016 in Canada. 76 pages.
Starred Review

Ah! A wonderful 2018 children’s book for which I can post a review! Why? Because it’s translated from French and was originally published in Canada in 2016 – so it’s not eligible for the 2019 Newbery. I probably wouldn’t have read it, but it’s a picture book. I’m glad I did because I was enchanted.

The Pink Umbrella is the story of Adele, who runs a café called The Polka-Dot Apron in a small village next to the sea.

For the villagers, the café is a refuge,
a small lantern always lit.

It’s where everyone meets. Where they cry, laugh, yell, argue and love. The café is the heart of the village.

And Adele is the heart of the café. She is the village’s sun – lively, sweet and sparkling.

Adele is known for gathering people together. And her friend Lucas helps by supplying the café. But there’s something else Adele is known for:

The thing everyone knows about Adele is that she doesn’t like the rain.

When the weather is nice, she smiles, she whistles, she sings at the top of her lungs, she throws open the windows and props open the door….

But when it rains, Adele stays inside.
She can’t help it; she loses her spirit.
The rain is gray, cold and dreary.

However, one beautiful market day on Wednesday (the café has many uses besides being a café and Wednesday is market day), someone leaves behind two bright pink rubber boots with suns carved into the soles. They are just Adele’s size! She asks all week, but no one claims them.

The next week, someone leaves behind a bright pink raincoat. It, too, fits Adele perfectly.

But the next market day the weather is bad. Lucas and Adele are taking care of the market stall, but few customers come, so Lucas leaves early.

When the truck disappeared from view, Adele turned around to close the café, roll herself up in her quilt and wait for the sun to take the place of the clouds . . .

But she stopped short, stunned! In the entrance, under the coatrack, was an adorable umbrella.
It was pink . . . with polka dots!

And only one person could have left it there.

Adele smiled.

Because the day was done, because she wanted to, and because opening an umbrella inside is bad luck . . . Adele put on the boots and the raincoat and, on the doorstep, opened the pink polka-dotted umbrella.

There was only one step to take, and she took it with joy. She turned the key in the lock and went for a walk in the rain.

It really wasn’t so bad. The air smelled wonderfully of damp grass, and the rain played a pretty melody as it fell on the umbrella.

And yes, she sees her friend Lucas as she goes on her walk.

I probably shouldn’t have quoted as much from this book as I did, lest you think that’s all there is to it. I wanted to convey the charming language used. But the marvelous old-fashioned pictures are what completely win your heart. They are large and beautiful, cartoon-like but filled with atmosphere. Adele is beautiful and like a ray of sunshine indeed – but all the more so when she’s all dressed in pink, brightening up a gray day.

At first, I liked the book so much, I thought it was really written more for adults than for children. But then I thought about how very much fun it would be to read the book to my four- and five-year-old nieces. It’s a book about joy, and a book about love, and a book about getting out in the rain, and a book about the joys of wearing pink!

If I were doing a preschool storytime in February, I would enjoy using this book for a book with a theme of love where it’s not overtly stated. Yes, it’s on the long side – but even though there are many pages, most don’t have a lot of words, and the big beautiful pictures will keep their interest. But of course, more fun would be sitting down with a child who loves pink, or a child who loves wearing rubber boots in the rain – and reading it together.

penguinrandomhouse.ca

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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 I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. 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 The Antlered Ship, by Dashka Slater, illustrated by The Fan Brothers

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

The Antlered Ship

by Dashka Slater
illustrated by The Fan Brothers

Beach Lane Books, 2017. 44 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a picture book adventure story featuring animals. I expected trite, corny, or hokey. What I found was charming and marvelous.

The book begins by introducing us to a fox who asks philosophical questions:

The day the antlered ship arrived, Marco wondered about the wide world.

He had so many questions.
Why do some songs make you happy and others make you sad?
Why don’t trees ever talk?
How deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea?

But when he posed these questions to the other foxes, they grew silent.
“What does that have to do with chicken stew?” they asked.

Marco goes to the harbor to see the ship and learns that the crew of deer onboard are lost. They hope to hire better sailors. Marco signs on, in hopes of finding other foxes who know the answers to his questions. A flock of pigeons, led by Victor, signs on, hoping to have adventures. The original deer crew, led by the captain Sylvia, are looking for an island with tall, sweet grass and short, sweet trees.

But first, they find adventures. The crew gets discouraged by the difficulties they face. This is my favorite page:

“We should have stayed in the woods,” Sylvia said. “Deer aren’t supposed to go to sea.”
“We should have stayed in the park,” added Victor. “Pigeons aren’t supposed to do hard labor.”
Marco eyed the deer and the pigeons. “Foxes aren’t supposed to be vegetarian,” he said. “Still, we must do the best we can.”

No, Marco doesn’t eat the crew. He makes a warm and reviving stew of vegetables and revives his friends to continue their quest.

Marco continues to pour forth philosophical questions throughout the book. Things like: “Do islands like being alone? Do waves look more like horses or swans?” But the question for which he finds the best answers is “What’s the best way to find a friend you can talk to?”

And though the others’ initial quests are satisfied, the friends decide that they want to travel on….

The beautiful illustrations by Terry Fan and Eric Fan add just the right touch to give the animals’ efforts seriousness. At the same time, their naïve ideas are child-sized. Children will delight to share the adventure.

dashkaslater.com
thefanbrothers.com
simonandschuster.com/kids

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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 I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. 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?