Archive for the ‘Picture Book Review’ Category

Review of A Piglet Named Mercy, by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Friday, May 31st, 2019

A Piglet Named Mercy

by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Candlewick Press, 2019. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Review written April 20, 2019, from a library book.

Here it is! A picture book that tells how a Mercy the Porcine Wonder came to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Watson just when they needed something a little less predictable in their lives.

When a baby piglet falls off a pig transport truck in the night, Mr. Watson discovers her next to his newspaper in the morning. They fall in love. Of course the next-door neighbor Eugenia Lincoln is horrified and her sister Baby Lincoln helpfully brings the piglet a bottle of warm milk.

It doesn’t take long before they learn that the little piglet loves buttered toast very much. She is a wish come true and a mercy, and that’s how she gets her name. (With Eugenia exclaiming in frustration.)

It helps, of course, to have met Mercy before, but it’s actually a wonderful and self-contained story of a couple adopting a piglet. I’m going to use it soon in storytime – which will perhaps entice those children into the longer beginning chapter books when they are ready to read on their own.

Delightful all by itself.

candlewick.com

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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 Fox on the Swing, by Evelina Diaciutè, illustrated by Aušra Kiudulaite

Saturday, May 4th, 2019

The Fox on the Swing

by Evelina Diaciutè
illustrated by Aušra Kiudulaite

Thames & Hudson, 2018. First published in the United Kingdom in 2018. Original edition published in Lithuania in 2016. 48 pages.
Starred Review
2019 Mildred L. Batchelder Award Winner

This picture book is completely bizarre and utterly delightful at the same time. The creators are from Lithuania, and I guessed a European origin before I looked it up, but even in Lithuania, a boy living in a tree and making friends with a fox who swings on a swing about once a week has got to be somewhat unusual.

When I read this, I happened to be gathering books for a story time of Strange Picture Books. This particular book is a little too long to use in story time, but I would love to sit down and read it with a precocious child. And it fits the category. What Strange Picture Books have in common is completely bizarre details accepted as the matter-of-fact truth. There are no real cues to tell the reader that this situation is unusual except the child’s own knowledge of the world.

In this book, a boy named Paul lives in a very large tree with his father and mother. His father is a helicopter pilot, taking off from a platform at the top of the tree. His mother makes orange pottery. And every day, Paul goes to the bakery to get three fresh bread rolls. (Ah! That’s one thing that tipped me off this book is from Europe.)

What Paul liked best was to take the shortest route to the bakery and the long way home. Walking the same way twice was a little bit boring, after all.

Much of the charm in this book is in the details and the illustrations. Here’s what happens on the way home:

Paul always kept his eyes wide open as he walked home. He didn’t want to miss a thing. He saw strangely shaped stones, fascinating twisted roots, fancy birds that had escaped from the zoo, and puddles that glistened on the ground.

That page shows many birds holding signs that say things like, “No to zoos!” “No to cages!” “Free the birds!” “Parrots for peace!” “Freedom!” and “No, no no!”

But the thing that Paul liked most of all was the old swing in the park. Not to swing on himself, but because there was a fox who liked to curl up and sleep on the seat of the swing. Paul didn’t see her there every day. Maybe about once a week.

Then one day, the fox is swinging on the swing!

Then she stopped, sniffed at the air, looked Paul in the eye and said: “Being generous is like an ocean. Would you like to be a drop in that ocean?”

Paul didn’t understand, but he nodded anyway.

“Then give me one of your rolls,” the fox said.

So begins the friendship of Paul and the fox on the swing. The fox had a grandmother who was a wise old fox, and she likes to tell strange stories and give wise advice. Sometimes the fox would be in a bad mood, and sometimes she would not.

One day, when the fox was in a very good mood, she said, “The best thing to do is just keep on swinging.”

Then she explained that the happiest things in the world are orange.

“Happiness is a fox on a swing and a big orange orange!” she yelled as the swing carried her high into the sky. “Happiness is carrot cake, goldfish, marmalade, and trees in autumn!”

But alas! The time comes when Paul’s father tells him that “soon they would be moving to an even bigger city, where they would live in an even taller tree in an even bigger park. And he would fly an even bigger helicopter.”

So Paul must cope with having to leave his best friend.

But this is not really a book about dealing with loss. Because, after some time, things turn out very nice indeed.

This book reminds me of The Little Prince with its philosophy and childlike matter-of-factness about bizarre details. And a wise fox! It would be a delight to read this book with a child. (I’m sure they will notice many things in the illustrations.) And it certainly helps anyone who reads it notice things around them that bring happiness.

thamesandhudsonusa.com

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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 Gondra’s Treasure, by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019

Gondra’s Treasure

by Linda Sue Park
illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2019. 40 pages.

This picture book is a delightful way to approach the topic of liminal spaces – being neither here nor there – trying to figure out where you belong if you come from a mixed-culture marriage. In this case, Gondra is a little dragon. Her mom is an Western Dragon, and her dad is an Eastern Dragon.

“In the West, dragons breathe fire,” Mom said.
“Isn’t that dangerous?” I asked.
“That’s what I said, when we first met,” Dad said. “In the East, dragons breathe mist.”

Mom shrugged. “Compared to fire, it seems . . . um . . . pretty boring.”
Dad frowned,. “What did you say?”
Mom cleared her throat and spoke loudly. “I said ‘pretty.’ Mist is pretty.”

We learn more about differences between dragons of the East and the West, including how they fly, how they look, where they live, and how they feel about treasure. And Gondra is proud to have some characteristics from each of her parents, but also to be entirely herself.

I like it when an author uses fantasy to present a situation many different readers can relate to, rather than looking at one specific human instance of a mixed marriage – they can see how a dragon mixed marriage relates to them.

lspark.com
hmhco.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 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 Sweety, by Andrea Zuill

Monday, April 1st, 2019

Sweety

by Andrea Zuill

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2019. 32 pages.

Sweety is a picture book about Sweety, a naked mole rat (who wears clothes) with unconventional habits and preferences. She’s an oddball and has trouble making friends.

I wasn’t crazy about it, not being particularly taken with the art, and sure I’ve heard this story before.

But then, a scene resonated! I realized: This is a picture book for people who have tried online dating!

Here are the pages that spoke to me, though the art does add so much:

Aunt Ruth said that being different was one of the best things about her life, and that if you stayed true to yourself, you’d find your people.

That made Sweety think.

Were there really people out there for her? How would they recognize her? How would she recognize them? Was there a secret handshake she’d have to learn?

She really hoped there was a secret handshake.

Sweety wondered how many times she’d been close to one of her people and not known it.

What if she stepped it up a notch? Would her people be able to spot her more easily?

[Shouting through a bullhorn:] My name is Sweety. I like dancing, mushrooms, and rainy days. You too? Need to find your people? Maybe we’re a match! Flyers are available.

[Picture of Sweety leading a parade of wagons with pictures of herself and her favorite activities.]

[Picture of Sweety in a mushroom costume dancing with fireworks.] Or would she just seem desperate?

For now, she’d trust Aunt Ruth, continue to do her favorite things, and be herself.

And maybe she’d try a couple of new hobbies just for fun.

After all, being Sweety wasn’t so bad.

The book does end with Sweety meeting a fellow mushroom-lover and making a secret handshake.

But I now have a go-to book for those times when I feel like “my people” just aren’t noticing me. A picture book for online dating!

I’m going to continue to do my favorite things and be myself.

And, okay, kids can get a nice message out of it, too.

andreazuill.org
rhcbooks.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 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 Circle, by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Circle

by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Candlewick Press, 2019. 52 pages.
Review written March 12, 2019, from a library book

This is the third book in a Shapes trilogy by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, where the characters are large shapes with eyes. I wasn’t crazy about the first two, and thought Triangle was just plain mean-spirited, but I’m really taken with Circle.

The story is simple. Circle’s planning a game of hide-and-seek with Square and Triangle. Circle tells them the rules, and the main one is no hiding behind the waterfall because it’s dark back there.

Well, when Circle opens her eyes, Square is just standing there, pointing. Triangle broke the rule and went behind the waterfall.

Then their adventures begin.

This one’s fun. I love the look of the pages, especially the lovely misty waterfall contrasting with the distinct shapes. And then it plays with the dark shapes – and bright eyes – in the dark behind the waterfall.

The final line asks the reader an imaginative question, and I’m going to use this book in a storytime just to find out what kids will say.

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.

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 Monkey Time, by Michael Hall

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Monkey Time

by Michael Hall

Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), 2019. 48 pages.
Starred Review
Review written March 9, 2019, from a library book

Here’s what I like about this picture book: You can use it in multiple ways.

On the highest level, you can use it to teach children to tell time. There are “minutes” lined up around the tree like a clock. Diagrams in the back show what it looks like for all the multiples of 10 minutes up to 60. Twelve branches on the tree are positioned like the numbers on an analog clock.

There are also some rain forest animals pictured. They are named at the back.

You can also use this book to practice counting – all the way to 60. Or to count by tens.

But I’ve got a Mother Goose Storytime for babies on Pi Day this year – and I think I’m going to use this book on the very simplest level – as words that are fun to say. It will introduce them to the idea of a clock while I’m at it.

Here’s how the book begins (over several pages):

Psst! Wake up, Monkey!
It’s time to play.

Wheee! I bet you can’t
catch a minute, Monkey.

Chase me over.
Chase me down.
Chase me all the way around.
Faster, Monkey, faster.

Hop! Pop!
Ha-ha. You missed me.

Little round “minutes” keep running around the tree, and Monkey keeps trying to catch them. The tree fills up when sixty minutes have come out. (Don’t worry, the text doesn’t closely follow all sixty minutes.)

This clever little picture book reminds me of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by personifying a concept and making a story with them that’s fun to say.

A simple and fun way to introduce the concept of telling time.

michaelhallstudio.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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

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 Stuff of Stars, by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

The Stuff of Stars

by Marion Dane Bauer
illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Candlewick Press, 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written September 25, 2018, from a library book
2019 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#2 General Picture Books

The Stuff of Stars is a gorgeous and glorious book.

The book is an extra large square, so it’s got a weighty presence. All the pages use marbled papers in swirly patterns. The front cover has the title in gold-sparkled lettering like star clusters.

Here’s how the book begins, on black paper with other dark swirled colors and one white dot:

In the dark,
in the dark,
in the deep, deep dark,
a speck floated,
invisible as thought,
weighty as God.
There was yet no time,
there was yet no space.
No up,
no down,
no edge,
no center.

It goes on to poetically talk about the Big Bang on the third spread. And slowly how the stars and worlds formed. Christians, there’s plenty of room to explain to your child that God’s responsible for that Big Bang.

I like when it talks about what isn’t there yet:

And throughout the cosmos
stars caught fire.
Trillions of stars,
but still no planets
to attend those stars.
And if no planets,
then no oceans,
no mountains,
no hippopotami.
No violets blooming
in a shady wood,
no crickets singing
to the night.
No day,
no night.

Next, planets are formed, and even Earth, “one lucky planet, a fragile blue ball.” And it talks about the creatures that were formed on earth, from mitochondria to sharks, daisies, and galloping horses.

And then there’s a shift of gears:

Then one day . . .
in the dark,
in the dark,
in the deep, deep dark,
another speck floated,
invisible as dreams,
special as Love.

Waiting,
waiting,
dividing,
changing,
growing.
Until at last,
YOU burst into the world.

And it builds to the cozy image of two people cuddling together, the same as on the cover.

The random list of earth’s creatures combined with the glorious swirling images is a perfect pairing.

You
and the velvet moss,
the caterpillars,
the lions.

You and the singing whales,
the larks,
the frogs.

You,
and me
loving you.
All of us
the stuff of stars.

A marvelous and wondrous book.

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.

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 We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, by Ryan T. Higgins

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

by Ryan T. Higgins

Disney Hyperion, 2018. 40 pages.
Starred Review
Review written June 20, 2018 from library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 Picture Books – Silly Fun

Before I looked at the copy of this book that had come to the library for me, I heard my co-worker laughing over it in the next cubicle. We ended up getting everyone else in that section of the office to read it. The tone and pictures are brilliant.

I’ll give a little taste, though you really need to check this book out to see the pictures that go with it. By the way, there’s a picture of Penelope on the title page saying, “Hey kids! You will never be eaten by a T. rex. They are extinct. I promise!”

The book begins:

Penelope Rex was nervous. It’s not every day a little T. rex starts school.

She’s worried whether her classmates will be nice and how many teeth they will have. But when she gets to school:

Penelope Rex was very surprised to find out that all of her classmates were CHILDREN!

So she ate them.

Because children are delicious.

“Penelope Rex!” said Mrs. Noodleman,
“WE DON’T EAT OUR CLASSMATES! Please spit them out at once.”

So she did.

The picture of the angry children covered in drool and digestive juices is delightfully disgusting.

More pictures as Penelope tries to make friends show things like waiting at the bottom of the slide – with her mouth open. Penelope starts to notice that the other kids don’t want to get near her.

No problems-at-school book would be complete without a conversation with the parents.

When she got home, her dad asked about her first day of school.

“I didn’t make any friends!” Penelope cried. “None of the children wanted to play with me!”

“Penelope Rex,” her father asked, “did you eat your classmates?”

“Well . . . maybe sort of just a little bit.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to make friends,” said her dad. “Especially if you eat them.”

“You see, Penelope, children are the same as us on the inside. Just tastier.”

The next day, a lesson comes for Penelope in an unexpected way.

This book is too much fun! In fact, I’m sad that it came in one week after we finished booktalking this year. It’s already going on my list for next year. Very silly. Very fun. There’s nothing quite like a picture book that makes you laugh out loud.

ryanthiggins.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 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 Dreamers, by Yuyi Morales

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Dreamers

by Yuyi Morales

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2018. 40 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 6, 2018, from an advance F & G.
2019 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Winner
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 General Picture Books

Oh, this is such a gorgeous and timely book.

Mixing English and Spanish (without a glossary), Yuyi Morales tells her immigration story with glorious paintings and collages loaded with symbolism. A note at the back fills in the details.

She came to America with her baby, to get married. She felt bewildered and an outsider. She didn’t understand the language.

But almost the very center spread of the book is the place that changed both her and her child’s lives – the public library.

We see specific books on the shelves, but also wonders pouring out of the books she opens. All the rest of the spreads are about libraries and the wonders of books.

Thousands and thousands of steps
we took around this land,
until the day we found . . .

a place we had
never seen before.
Suspicious.
Improbable.

Unbelievable.
Surprising.

Unimaginable.

Where we didn’t need to speak,
we only needed to trust.
And we did!

Books became our language.
Books became our home.
Books became our lives.

We learned to read,
to speak,
to write,
and
to make
our voices heard.

The text alone doesn’t do this book justice. The joy of the mother and child as the world and imagination opens up is glorious to behold.

In the note, where she fills in details of her story, she explains that her child was not a Dreamer in the political way the word is used today, about undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

Kelly and I were Dreamers in the sense that all immigrants, regardless of our status, are Dreamers: we enter a new country carried by hopes and dreams, and carrying our own special gifts, to build a better future. Dreamers and Dreamers of the world, migrantes soñadores.

Now I have told you my story. What’s yours?

She includes a list of books that inspired her at the back.

Oh, such a lovely book! And it doesn’t hurt that it’s a song of thanks to libraries.

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 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 Harold & Hog Pretend For Real! by Dan Santat

Monday, January 28th, 2019

Harold & Hog
Pretend for Real!

by Dan Santat

Hyperion Books for Children, May 7, 2019. 64 pages.
Starred Review
Review written January 27, 2019, from an advance reader copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

This is another book in the series Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!. Mo Willems’ Gerald and Piggie characters appear at the beginning and end to introduce a book written by someone else. This one is delightfully meta, because the book they’re introducing features an elephant and a pig – Harold & Hog – who want to pretend to be Gerald and Piggie.

Harold and Hog are drawn by Dan Santat, much more realistically than the cartoonish Gerald and Piggie. They have glasses to pretend to be Gerald and a cartoon nose to pretend to be Piggie.

But there’s a problem when they try to carry it out. Because Gerald is always very careful – but Harold has trouble with that. And Piggie is always very carefree – but Hog has trouble with that. Their efforts in that direction are tremendously fun.

I’m writing this in my Seattle hotel room while at ALA Midwinter Meeting. We chose our Newbery winners last night but don’t announce them to the world until tomorrow morning. I’m feeling a little giddy ever since I realized that I can write a review of this book – a 2019 publication – and post it this very day!

Of course, the book won’t be published until May, but this is one to watch for! Watch book characters pretend to be each other! Too much fun!

dantat.com
pigeonpresents.com
hyperionbooksforchildren.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 an Advance Reader Copy I picked up at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

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.