Archive for the ‘Picture Book Review’ Category

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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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.

What did you think of this book?

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

What did you think of this book?

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.

Review of Next to You, by Lori Haskins Houran and Sydney Hanson

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

Next to You

A Book of Adorableness

by Lori Haskins Houran
pictures by Sydney Hanson

Albert Whitman & Company, Chicago, 2016. 32 pages.

I was recently asked what would make a good baby shower gift, if you didn’t want to buy a pink fluffy outfit. Naturally, being a librarian, I suggested a book.

Next time I’m on the spot like that, I will think of this book. Yes, it’s designed to be a gift book and has a place for an inscription at the front. It’s designed to be read by a parent or doting relative to a small child.

I’m resistant to such blatant design lures. But even I have to admit – this book is utterly adorable!

Here’s how it begins:

Next to you,
the softest puppy in the world
is only kind of cute.

Two kittens with a ball of yarn?

A line of fuzzy yellow ducklings?

A squirrel eating a doughnut
with his tiny hands?

Adorable, sure.
But next to you?
Meh. Just OK.

Naturally, there are big-eyed, sweet pictures to accompany this catalog of cute creatures. At the end, after saying all these critters are nothing next to you, the reader emphasizes that where they like to be is next to you, and we’ve got a cozy picture of all the adorable animals cuddled up next to each other.

Grandmas, do you have the cutest grandchild ever? This book will be a lovely welcoming gift to read to them over and over again.

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

Review of A Year of Borrowed Men, by Michelle Barker

Friday, January 18th, 2019

A Year of Borrowed Men

by Michelle Barker
illustrated by Renné Benoit

Pajamapress, 2016. First published in Canada in 2015. 40 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a picture book for older readers that’s based on a true story from wartime Germany. The author used a story her mother told her.

Here’s how the book begins:

I was seven when the French prisoners of war arrived at our house.

It was 1944. Mummy told us the government had sent them because all our men were gone to war, and someone needed to keep the farms running. She said we were just borrowing the French men. When the war was over, we would give them back.

The French men do work on the farm. The family is supposed to treat them like prisoners. When they slip up one cold night and let the borrowed men eat with the family, the next day the mother is taken in for questioning and warned that if there is any repeat, she will go to prison.

So they have to keep their distance – but this story is how friendship builds between them, anyway.

And it’s lovely. I like the scenes where they speak to each other in their own languages. Gerda (the narrator) shows them her Christmas doll. They learn that eine Puppe in German is very close to une poupée in French.

Old photographs at the back of the book emphasize the truth of this story.

It’s always inspiring when those who are told to be enemies make friends.

pajamapress.ca

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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.

What did you think of this book?