Review of The Three Billy Goats Gruff, retold by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

retold by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Jon Klassen

Orchard Books (Scholastic), 2022. 48 pages.
Review written December 19, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

Hooray! Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have done my favorite fairy tale — the book I didn’t know I needed!

I’m not quite sure why, but “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” has long been one of my favorite fairy tales to retell to children — since before I had kids of my own, when I would sometimes tell stories to entertain my many younger siblings. (And I mean many — I’m third of thirteen kids.) But after I had kids, this storytelling (and the fun part is the big mean troll’s voice, “WHO’S THAT STOMPING OVER MY BRIDGE?”) became a family game. You see, we lived in Germany for ten years. And one of our favorite nearby castles had a bridge over, well, not a moat but a ditch. And the kids thought it was tremendous fun for one of us to pretend to be the troll and the others to go over the bridge.

Now, the only problem with this book is that here the troll says:

“Who seeks to reach the grassy ridge?
Who dares to walk across my bridge?”

But hey, we could work with it! And it’s very fun that after the goat answers, the troll describes with rhyming couplets the ways he likes to dine on goat.

After the first goat gets by by telling the troll his bigger brother is coming, the troll chuckles to himself:

“I can’t believe I tricked that goat
into telling me about his big brother.
I’m so smart!
And fun and handsome.”

This gives you an idea of how this pair adds to the character of the troll, who’d been subsisting on his own earwax and belly button lint.

You probably know the story — the first two goats get by after telling the troll to wait for their bigger brother. In this book, the biggest billy goat gruff is so big, only his legs show on the page. And yes, he does away with the troll.

So much fun! Now thousands more families will find out about this fairy tale, a wonderful one about the little guy making his way.

scholastic.com

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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 Monsters in the Fog, by Ali Bahrampour

Monsters in the Fog

by Ali Bahrampour

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2022. 32 pages.
Review written December 23, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

Oh, this book is exactly what I love in a picture! A sweet story full of surprises with a great message and a twist at the end. This is one of those picture books that makes me sad I’m not doing storytimes any more.

The main character is Hakim, a donkey. He reminds me of Sylvester, from Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. The beginning pages set the stage:

It’s hard to knit a sweater with your hooves,
but Hakim somehow did it.
It was a present for his friend Daisy,
who lived on top of the mountain.

He packed the sweater in his saddlebag.
“She’ll love it,” he thought. “It gets cold up there.”

It was a foggy morning.
Hakim could barely see the end of his nose.

Then Hakim starts encountering others on the narrow, winding trail. The first one appears out of nowhere and warns Hakim to turn around because there are monsters up the mountain!

And then Hakim starts seeing frightening shapes in the fog. But when he gets closer, they turn out to be other frightened travelers. My favorite one is the shape like a screaming skull that turns out to be a bear on a runaway tricycle.

Each animal Hakim encounters ends up joining the group climbing the mountain, with help carrying things in Hakim’s saddlebags. The last shape in the fog they encounter ends up being a wonderful surprise.

At the end, Hakim gives his friend her present and the other animals go on their way in the sunshine on the other side of the mountain.

But I love Hakim’s wise words first:

“Everything looks like a monster in the fog,” said Hakim.
“But the closer you get, the less scary it becomes.”

This is a picture book that’s destined to become a classic.

alibahrampourbooks.com

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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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2022 Sonderbooks Stand-outs — Books for Kids

Tonight I’m going to post my third and final batch of 2022 Sonderbooks Stand-outs — with Children’s Fiction and Nonfiction and Picture Books.

Sonderbooks Stand-outs are my personal favorite books from those I read this year. I’m not judging by literary merit, but simply by fondness. How much did these books warm my heart?

The ranking is very subjective, and I make multiple categories when it’s hard to decide. I split Children’s Fiction into Speculative Fiction and everything else, and I split Picture Books into Silly Fun and everything else. It seems like an awful lot of books, but I read even more.

All of these books are highly recommended and much loved:

Children’s Speculative Fiction

  1. Little Monarchs, by Jonathan Case
  2. The Ogress and the Orphans, by Kelly Barnhill
  3. Garlic and the Vampire, by Bree Paulsen
  4. The Last Mapmaker, by Christina Soontornvat
  5. Amari and the Night Brothers, by B. B. Alston

More Children’s Fiction

  1. The Secret Battle of Evan Pao, by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
  2. Merci Suárez Plays It Cool, by Meg Medina
  3. The Boys in the Back Row, by Mike Jung
  4. Those Kids from Fawn Creek, by Erin Entrada Kelly
  5. Different Kinds of Fruit, by Kyle Lukoff
  6. Answers in the Pages, by David Levithan
  7. Attack of the Black Rectangles, by Amy Sarig King
  8. Stuntboy #1: In the Meantime, by Jason Reynolds and Raúl the Third
  9. Premeditated Myrtle, by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Children’s Nonfiction

  1. Marshmallow Clouds, by Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek, illustrated by Richard Jones
  2. Before Music, by Annette Bay Pimentel, illustrated by Madison Safer
  3. Bake Infinite Pie with X + Y, by Eugenia Cheng, illustrated by Amber Ren
  4. Washed Ashore, by Kelly Crull
  5. The Tide Pool Waits, by Candace Fleming, pictures by Amy Hevron
  6. Molly and the Mathematical Mysteries, by Eugenia Cheng, illustrated by Aleksandra Artymowska
  7. Galloping Gertie, by Amanda Abler, illustrated by Levi Hastings
  8. Sylvie, by Sylvie Kantorovitz
  9. Make Way for Animals!, by Meeg Pincus, illustrated by Bao Luu
  10. Blips on a Screen, by Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Silly Fun Picture Books

  1. Monsters in the Fog, by Ali Bahrampour
  2. A Spoonful of Frogs, by Vera Brosgol
  3. This Book Is Not For You!, by Shannon Hale, illustrated by Tracy Subisak
  4. How to Be Cooler Than Cool, by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien
  5. The Three Billy Goats Gruff, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
  6. Zero Zebras, by Bruce Goldstone, illustrated by Julien Chang
  7. The Legend of Iron Purl, by Tao Nyeu
  8. How to Be on the Moon, by Viviane Schwarz
  9. Too Many Pigs and One Big Bad Wolf, by Davide Cali, illustrated by Marianna Balducci
  10. Here We Come!, by Janna Matthies, illustrated by Christine Davenier

More Picture Books

  1. Berry Song, by Michaela Goade
  2. Like, by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Leo Espinosa
  3. A Seed Grows, by Antoinette Portis
  4. I’ll Go and Come Back, by Rajani LaRocca, illustrated by Sara Palacios
  5. Gibberish, by Young Vo

I’ll post all the missing reviews as soon as I can. I hope you get a chance to try some of these books!

And here’s my permanent webpage for all my 2022 Sonderbooks Stand-outs!

Happy Reading!

Review of Like, by Annie Barrows and Leo Espinosa

Like

written by Annie Barrows
illustrated by Leo Espinosa

Chronicle Books, 2022. 40 pages.
Review written November 10, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

This picture book delighted me so much, I immediately found someone in the office to show it to. (This isn’t as easy as when I worked in a branch with other youth services staff, but it can still be done.) The book is bright and colorful, surprising and funny, and it has a great message.

Here’s how the book begins:

Hello.

You are you, and I am I. We are people.
Also known as humans. This makes us
different from most of the things on Earth.

For instance, tin cans.

We are not at all like tin cans.
We are not shaped like tin cans.
We cannot hold tomato sauce like tin cans.

If you open up our lids, nothing good happens.

We are not at all like tin cans.

The kid-narrator goes on to compare us with a swimming pool. We are a little more like a swimming pool, since we have water and chemicals and dirt inside us. But there are some big differences.

The book goes on to compare the reader with a mushroom, an excavator, and a hyena.

There are a lot of ways we are like hyenas, and those are listed in fun ways. But I like the page that talks about how we are different from hyenas:

They don’t know when their birthday is,
and if you invited a hyena over to your house next Thursday, it wouldn’t come.
Hyenas don’t make plans.

Which is fine, because if a hyena did come to your house, it might try to eat your baby brother.

So we are like hyenas in some ways,
but if you were a hyena,
you wouldn’t be like you are now.
And I would run away if I saw you.

But the rest of the book talks about how much humans are alike. We’re not exactly alike, but we’re much more alike than other things on earth.

Even if I eat raspberry Jell-O with bananas in it,
and you would never ever eat that in a million years,
I am more like you than a mushroom.

Even if you speak a language I don’t speak
you are more like me than a hyena.

And the book winds up by pointing out lots of people of different ages and shapes and looks and points out that we are all very much alike.

I am more like you than I am like most of the things on Earth.

I’m glad.

I’d rather be like you than like a mushroom.

An utterly wonderful book.

anniebarrows.com
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.

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 The Little House of Hope, by Terry Catasús Jennings, illustrations by Raúl Colón

The Little House of Hope

by Terry Catasús Jennings
illustrations by Raúl Colón

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2022. 32 pages.
Review written September 30, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

This inspiring book made me proud to be an American, as well as blown away by a family’s joyful hospitality.

The author bases the story of Esperanza, a girl from Cuba, on her own story of her family coming from Cuba in 1961. Here’s how the book begins:

It was a little house. Una casita.

When Esperanza and Manolo and Mami and Papi
came to the United States from Cuba,
they looked and looked
for a place where they could live
that didn’t cost too much money.

And then they found it.

It was small.
It smelled like old, wet socks.
It had rickety, tattered furniture
from a church basement.

But even though they were far from home,
the family was together.
They were safe.
They were happy in la casita.

As the story goes on, we see each parent working two jobs and the children making their own breakfasts, helping with chores, and helping fix up la casita. They all work hard and begin learning English. They eat food in la casita that reminds them of Cuba.

The pictures are happy and hopeful. Since Esperanza’s name in English is “Hope,” she makes a collage with her name in both languages, and “Hope” represents what they’ve found in their new home.

And they spread that hope to others! Mami’s sister Conchita joins them, with her baby. She takes care of other people’s children during the day in la casita, and Esperanza gets to tend the baby.

Then they make room in the garage for a family who’ve made a tough trip from Mexico while they’re getting settled.

Even though there wasn’t much room,
everyone was happy in la casita.

As the book continues, we see the family happily sharing their space. Papi gets a job as an accountant, like he had back in Cuba, and Mami teaches high school Spanish. More people come through on their way to getting homes of their own.

The pictures in this book make it especially wonderful — on many spreads we see large, happy groups of people, enjoying one another.

And for everyone who comes through la casita and then goes on to their own place, Esperanza sends them on their way with a collage, which we see in the illustrations. The collage features “Esperanza” and “Hope,” and “Hope” is done in the colors of the American flag.

It wasn’t until my second time through the book that I noticed the Author’s Note at the front, which is more for the adult reader than for kids:

This book was written in anger, but with pride. Anger at a realtor who told me he never rented to Hispanics because they lived four families to a house and always destroyed the properties where they lived. In 1961, when my family first came from Cuba to the United States, we lived in una casita. Three families lived there, twelve of us during the week and fourteen on weekends when my uncle’s two sons came to stay with him. We came to the United States to regain our freedom, and in the case of my father, to avoid being jailed again. We landed with $50 for our family of four. In time we all became gainfully employed, each family finding a home of its own. And we all became citizens. From anger, I hope this book brings healing. It is dedicated with unwavering gratitude to the country that took us in, and to all immigrants who come to the United States in search of hope.

The lovely thing is that the picture book part of this book completely communicates that gratitude and hope. I didn’t know any anger was involved until I read the note — and what an effective answer this book is to that anger! She shows a family helping others out with love and joy, and no deprivation whatsoever, but only that overwhelming gratitude and hope.

HolidayHouse.com

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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 Charlie & Mouse Are Magic, by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

Charlie & Mouse Are Magic

by Laurel Snyder
illustrated by Emily Hughes

Chronicle Books, 2022. 38 pages.
Review written September 30, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

I love the Charlie & Mouse series! These books are easy readers with four short chapters, lots of white space on the page, and pictures on every page — pictures that include lots of expressions and lots of joy. The books are about two young brothers, Charlie and Mouse, and the things they get up to together.

In this book, we start out with Mouse mixing up a magic potion while Mom is making dinner. After he finishes making the potion, he puts a drop on his nose and makes a wish. I love what happens next:

“Mouse,” said Mom.
“I would really like to finish dinner. Do you think if I gave you a cookie, you could wait in the other room?”

“Mom!” shouted Mouse. “Wow! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!”

“What?” said Mom. “What can’t you believe?”

“A cookie is EXACTLY what I was wishing for.
Isn’t that amazing? My potion works!”

“Amazing!” said Mom. “Now scram.”

And that’s only the beginning. As things continue, Charlie and Mouse go outside and try being invisible with the potion. (There is some joyful naked dancing in the rain with strategically placed plants.) And Mom apologizes for being grumpy. And all the animals share dinner with them. And at the end, Dad gets his wish.

It’s all a bunch of gentle and imaginative good fun. And will keep both beginning readers and their parents entertained.

I always love what it says in Laurel Snyder’s bio, where she mentions her two sons: “She would like to state for the record that while none of these stories are exactly true, none of them are exactly untrue either.”

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.

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?

Review of A Seed Grows, by Antoinette Portis

A Seed Grows

by Antoinette Portis

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2022. 36 pages.
Review written August 30, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

As I write this review, I’m still deciding whether to put it on my Picture Books page or my Children’s Nonfiction page as an example of beginning nonfiction for the very very youngest listeners. I think I will put it on the Picture Books page, because this is the kind of book I’d love to use in a story time or to read to a small child on my lap, and I don’t usually look on the Nonfiction page for such books.

In fact, for years, I’ve kept my eyes open for picture books with very few words on a page to use for Toddler story times and their shorter attention spans. Even though I’m not doing story times any more (with my new awesome job as Youth Materials Selector), I have to point out that this book would be perfect for that — and it teaches little ones about the life cycle of plants in a way they can understand, so it would also work for a STEM story time.

There are few words on a page and they’re short and sweet, and the bright, colorful illustrations use simple shapes. Here’s how the book starts out:

A seed falls

[That’s on a white background. The facing page shows one striped sunflower seed falling against a blue background.]

and settles into the soil

[Now we see the same blue background with a stripe of brown at the bottom and the seed sitting on top of that.]

and the sun shines

[Now the facing picture is a big round sun.]

and the rain comes down

[Now the picture side has raindrops filling the page.]

and the seed sprouts

I think by now you get the idea. Very simple language and simple, colorful pictures show the entire process of a sunflower growing. When it grows to its full height, the page folds upward to show how tall it gets.

After the sunflower blooms, it makes seeds which birds take to their nests. Eventually, to end the book, a seed falls. And we’re back to where we started.

Three pages at the back give more information for readers a little bit older, including a diagram of the life cycle of a sunflower plant.

This book is simple, but the bright blue and yellow colors leave me smiling.

antoinetteportis.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.

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 A Spoonful of Frogs, by Casey Lyall, illustrated by Vera Brosgol

A Spoonful of Frogs

written by Casey Lyall
illustrated by Vera Brosgol

Greenwillow Books, 2022. 36 pages.
Review written September 21, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

I’m a big fan of the art of Caldecott Honor illustrator Vera Brosgol, and this picture book is full of her signature humor and charm.

In the set-up, we’ve got a nicely-dressed witch appearing on a cooking show, “Bewitching Kitchen,” demonstrating how to make “a witch’s favorite treat” — Frog Soup. After all the other ingredients go into the cauldron:

The last and most important ingredient is a spoonful of frogs.

This will add a kick of flavor and a pop of color.

But it turns out that getting frogs to stay on a spoon is not an easy task. And that’s what the majority of the book is about — chasing frogs, trying to get them on the spoon, with the frogs hopping every which way. When she thinks she finally has them — well, things don’t work out.

And it’s all good silly fun. Lots and lots of opportunities for Vera Brosgol to insert her wonderful visual humor.

Even though I don’t work in a library branch any more, I still look at a book like this and see wonderful opportunities for story time. I predict this will get a roomful of preschoolers or Kindergartners laughing.

Like Frog Soup, I recommend that you enjoy this book with friends.

caseylyall.com
verabee.com
harpercollinschildrens.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.

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 The Legend of Iron Purl, by Tao Nyeu

The Legend of Iron Purl

by Tao Nyeu

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2022. 48 pages.
Review written September 7, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

Okay, how can I possibly resist a picture book about a knitting superhero? Especially one packed full with Tao Nyeu’s adorably cute fuzzy animals?

In this book, Granny Fuzz (a mole), tells stories to a bunch of little furries about the amazing Iron Purl, who singlehandedly fixed the wrongdoing of the outlaw Bandit Bob.

And Iron Purl does it with super fast knitting! She knits the bad bats into cocoons, stopping their plundering, and talks them into making a farm of their own. When there’s a fire at the carnival in a tree, soggy yarn balls put it out, and yarn helps rescue a little one in trouble, with knitted nets for anyone who needs to jump. Every time Bandit Bob tries to make mischief, Iron Purl’s knitting always saves the day.

But then comes the showdown!

Much to Iron Purl’s surprise, Bandit Bob was also skilled in the yarn arts. She had met her match, and she welcomed the challenge.

Of course there’s a happy resolution. But it’s all such silly good fun!

Every home that includes a knitter and children needs this book.

taonyeu.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.

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?

Review of I’ll Go and Come Back, by Rajani LaRocca, illustrated by Sara Palacios

I’ll Go and Come Back

by Rajani LaRocca
illustrated by Sara Palacios

Candlewick Press, 2022. 36 pages.
Review written April 23, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

I’ll Go and Come Back is a lovely picture book telling two parallel stories. First, a girl and her parents fly across the world to India “to see aunties and uncles, cousin-brothers and cousin-sisters, and Sita Pati.”

At first, she feels lonely when her cousins are in school. It’s all so different. She wants to go home.

But even though they don’t speak the same language, she and her Sita Pati do fun things together, filling the time with love and joy.

When it was time to go home, I didn’t want to. I held Pati’s hand with its soft, soft skin. Her sari rustled and smelled of silk. “Goodbye,” I said.

“Poitu variya?” asked Sita Pati. “Will you go and come?”

And I remembered that no one in India just said “goodbye.” “I’ll go and come back,” I said. “Poitu varen.”

Then it’s Sita Pati’s turn to visit. The next summer, she visits the family in America. She, too, seems lonely at first.

But the girl and her Sita Pati find parallel things to do together. As before, they spend their days playing and reading and cooking.

And when it’s time for Sita Pati to go back to India the words of farewell are again, “I’ll go and come back.”

This picture book will resonate with anyone who has loved ones who live far away.

rajanilarocca.com
candlewick.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/ill_go_and_come_back.html

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.

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?