Archive for the ‘Picture Book Review’ Category

Review of Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

Thank You, Omu!

by Oge Mora

Little, Brown and Company, 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 3, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Picture Books – Silly Fun
2019 Caldecott Honor Book

Here’s a contemporary story with a folk tale feel about a friendly elderly lady who makes a delicious big fat pot of thick red stew and shares with everyone who asks. A note at the front tells us that “Omu” is the Igbo term for “queen.”

As the thick red stew simmered on the stove, its scrumptious scent wafted out the window and out the door, down the hall, toward the street, and around the block, until –

KNOCK!

Someone was at the door.

Here’s the first encounter, with a little boy:

“Little boy!” Omu exclaimed. “What brings you to my home?”

“I was playing with my race car down the hall when I smelled the most delicious smell,” the little boy replied. “What is it?”

“Thick red stew.”

“MMMMM, STEW!” He sighed. “That sure sounds yummy.”

Omu thought for a moment. She was saving her stew for dinner, but she had made quite a bit. It would not hurt to share. “Would you like some?”

The little boy nodded.

And so Omu spooned out some thick red stew from the big fat pot for her nice evening meal.

“THANK YOU, OMU!” the little boy said, and went on his way.

A progression of people show up at Omu’s door, smelling the delicious stew. She gives to all – and then when she’s ready for her delicious dinner, there is nothing left!

But that is not the end of the story. Everyone who received from Omu that day comes back in the evening with something in return – and there’s a happy celebration.

I’m going to try to use this one in storytime and get the kids to call out “Thank you, Omu!” every time a character says that. This is a happy story about the joy of sharing.

ogemora.com
lbyr.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/thank_you_omu.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 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 Gittel’s Journey, by Lesléa Newman, pictures by Amy June Bates

Monday, March 9th, 2020

Gittel’s Journey

An Ellis Island Story

story by Lesléa Newman
pictures by Amy June Bates

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 44 pages.
Starred Review
2020 Sidney Taylor Picture Book Award Honor

Gittel’s Journey is the story of a young girl traveling by herself to America from Poland with her mother’s Sabbath candlesticks. The story is based on the true stories of the author’s grandmother and adopted aunt.

Gittel had set out with her mother, but her mother is turned away because of an eye infection. She tells Gittel to go on without her and gives her the address of her cousin. But when Gittel arrives in America after a long journey, the ink has worn off the paper because she has kept such tight hold of it.

Fortunately, Gittel finds kind helpers in America for a happy ending.

The story is simple, but catches the reader’s imagination with the idea of a young girl crossing an ocean alone. The beautiful water color illustrations and loving care taken in the book’s construction make this book a work of art with a classic feel.

amybates.com
abramsyoungreaders.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 Penny and Her Sled

Sunday, February 9th, 2020

Penny and Her Sled

by Kevin Henkes

Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), 2019. 56 pages.
Starred Review
Review written November 4, 2019, from a library book
2019 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #7 in Picture Books

Another Penny book by Kevin Henkes! Huzzah! These are all beginning chapter books with plenty of pictures and concerns that mirror those of other young mice or children.

In this one, Penny is waiting for snow because she can’t wait to use her new sled. But – Spoiler Alert! – she waits all winter and it does not come.

Now, there may not be too many parts of the country where this really happens, but I had a special connection to Penny, because the last winter I lived in the Seattle area, when I was five years old, the winter before our family moved to California – it didn’t snow at all except for briefly when I was supposed to be taking a nap but was instead looking out the window at the falling snow that was gone by the time I got to go outside.

You see how it traumatized me?

So I have nothing but sympathy for poor Penny, waiting and waiting for snow!

[Alas! I’m posting this with winter winding down — and this year in the DC area, very little snow has fallen. Would be a great choice here this year.]

Penny finds things to do with her sled while she’s waiting.

And eventually, Mama suggests Penny might wait for snowdrops instead of waiting for snow.

“What if the snowdrops are like the snow?” said Penny. “What if the snowdrops do not come up this year?”

“They will,” said Mama.

“That is what you said about the snow,” said Penny.

Mama was quiet for a moment.

“I remember a few years when it did not snow,” Mama said. “But I do not remember a year without snowdrops.”

I do love how Penny responds when the snowdrops finally do come up. She makes sure that her sled is involved.

This is great for beginning readers. There are five chapters and pictures on every page. And it talks about a universal concern – waiting.

KevinHenkes.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 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 One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller, by Kate Read

Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

One Fox

A Counting Book Thriller

by Kate Read

Peachtree, 2019. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Review written December 9, 2019, from a library book
2019 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 in Picture Books

I always enjoy counting books. Nothing helps a kid learn numbers better. But it’s nice when the book adds a little something to make it more interesting than just the numbers. This “Counting Book Thriller” actually tells an exciting story.

It’s all simple – and will give little ones so much to talk about to tell the adult reader about all the subtext. You can even think of this as a wordless picture book – with numbers, though there are a few words. But the story is in the pictures.

The first numbers are:

One famished fox

Two sly eyes

Three plump hens

Four padding paws

Five snug eggs

Oh, but the pictures! There’s nothing routine about them.

I’m going to save this book for a preschool storytime. You want the kids to be interested in the counting and also be able to infer what the famished fox wants with those plump hens.

There is a surprise ending, and a note at the book reassures us: “No hens or foxes were harmed in the making of this book.”

kateread.co.uk
peachtree-online.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/one_fox.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 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 Saturday, by Oge Mora

Friday, January 24th, 2020

Saturday

by Oge Mora

Little, Brown and Company, 2019. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 29, 2019, from a library book
2019 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2 in Picture Books

Oge Mora won a Caldecott Honor with her first book, Thank You, Omu! This second book is a delightful story of a girl and her mother trying to have a special Saturday. She knows how to insert just the right amount of repetition and anticipation, and her collage illustrations are fun to look at.

The book begins:

This morning Ava and her mother were all smiles.
It was Saturday!

Because Ava’s mother worked
Sunday,
Monday,
Tuesday,
Wednesday,
Thursday,
and Friday,
Saturday was the day they cherished.

We learn their plans for the day – the library for storytime, the salon for a hairdo, the park for a picnic, and the theater for a special one-night-only puppet show.

As they prepare for each event, we’re assured:

The day would be special.
The day would be splendid.
The day was SATURDAY!

But with each item on their agenda, something goes wrong.

The first three times, what happens after they are stymied is similar:

They paused, closed their eyes,
and — whew! — let out a deep breath.

“Don’t worry, Ava,” her mother reassured her.
“Today will be special.
Today will be splendid.
Today is SATURDAY!”

But when they don’t have the tickets for the puppet show, it’s Ava’s turn to be reassuring.

And they come up with a wonderful solution – together – for a beautiful Saturday.

This book reads aloud well, and it’s a modern story with a working, single mother. But the repetition gives it overtones of a folk tale, and it’s got a whole lot of love.

ogemora.com
lbyr.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/saturday.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 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 Give Me Back My Bones! by Kim Norman, illustrated by Bob Kolar

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

Give Me Back My Bones!

by Kim Norman
illustrated by Bob Kolar

Candlewick Press, 2019. 36 pages.
Review written October 29, 2019, from a library book

Here’s a fun picture book that teaches kids the scientific names of the large bones in their bodies. It’s framed as the story of a skeleton pirate whose bones got scattered.

It’s silly, and the story is thin, but the rhymes are a lot of fun, and it actually works. I used it in a storytime this morning and the preschoolers enjoyed it and learned a few big words along the way.

Here are some examples:

Give me back my breastbone
the center-of-my-chest bone
the hold-my-ribs-the-best bone –
return my sturdy sternum….

Find my upper arm bone,
the shield-my-face-from-harm bone,
that armpit-of-alarm bone –
I hanker for my humerus.

He’s got a pegleg in place of one tibia and fibula set. As the skeleton finds his bones, we see him take shape until he’s ready to captain an undersea pirate ship.

A playful way to learn about bones.

kimnormanbooks.com
bobkolarbooks.com
candlewick.com

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

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Once Upon a Goat, by Dan Richards, illustrated by Eric Barclay

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

Once Upon a Goat

by Dan Richards
pictures by Eric Barclay

Alfred A. Knopf, 2019. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Review written September 10, 2019, from a library book

Here’s a silly twist on a fairy tale pulled off with just the right humorous touch.

The book opens with a king and queen who wish for a child.

“Yes, but where would we put it?” asked the king.
“Next to the vase on the hearth, naturally,” replied the queen.
“Or beside the roses in the garden,” the king added.
“Oh, yes. Perfect,” agreed the queen.

When their fairy godmother shows up, they tell her about their wishes.

“We’re not particular,” said the queen. “Glowing skin, bright eyes, and hair like ocean waves should do.”

“Hmm . . . ,” said their fairy godmother.
“A boy would be great,” added the king. “But any kid will do.”
“Of course,” answered their fairy godmother. “Look on your doorstep when the moon is full.”

At the next full moon, they eagerly look outside – and a little goat is sitting there! The king realizes he shouldn’t have said that any kid would do. They try to send the goat away, but it’s a blustery night, and they bring him in for just one night… and the night turns into many more.

The illustrations are a huge part of the fun as the little kid enjoys the run of the palace and the palace guards keep their faces stoic. And we’ve got more to the story when the fairy godmother comes back.

I can’t read this book without smiling.

danrichardsbooks.com
ericbarclay.com
rhcbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/once_upon_a_goat.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 Baby Monkey, Private Eye, by Brian Selznick and David Serlin

Saturday, September 7th, 2019

Baby Monkey, Private Eye

story by Brian Selznick and David Serlin
pictures by Brian Selznick

Scholastic Press, 2018. 192 pages.
Starred Review
Review written March 5, 2018, from a library book.
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out #2 in Picture Books – Silly Fun

Baby Monkey, Private Eye is the sort of book I hand to co-workers and insist that they read immediately. As The Invention of Hugo Cabret was something new in a children’s novel by telling much of the story with pictures, so Baby Monkey, Private Eye is something new in a book for beginning readers — by telling much of the story with pictures.

Now, I’m writing this before I’ve talked with anyone on the Newbery committee about the book, so this is only my opinion. So much of the brilliance of this book depends on the pictures, I doubt that it’s really a Newbery prospect. (Who knows, maybe I will be convinced later.) In fact, the pictures and text work so beautifully together, I’m already hoping this book will be next year’s Geisel Award winner – for books for beginning readers. That award can consider illustrations and text and how they work together to help kids read. [*Note added later*: I learned that alas, the Geisel Award has a page limit — so exactly what makes this book most distinguished — a long book beginning readers can read themselves — is the thing that makes it ineligible.]

If you wrote out the text of this book, I think it would be about the same as many other books for beginning readers. But Baby Monkey, Private Eye takes up far more pages with the same amount of text – spacing out the words, and providing more pictures.

Here’s the first chapter, coming after we’ve already met Baby Monkey, who is a baby and a monkey who has a job.

First, we see Baby Monkey sitting on the couch in his office, reading Famous Jewel Crimes. An opera singer bursts in.

Baby Monkey! Someone has stolen my jewels!

Baby Monkey can help!

Baby Monkey looks for clues.

Baby Monkey writes notes.

Baby Monkey eats a snack. [Mmm.]

Baby Monkey puts on his pants. [9 pages of pictures.]

Now Baby Monkey is ready!

[Aha!] Baby Monkey solves the case!

Zebra!

Hooray for Baby Monkey!

Every sentence above has its own 2-page spread, and some have extra pages of pictures in between.

This wouldn’t be extra-special if this relatively short chapter were just printed on a few pages. But it actually takes up 35 pages. And that’s where it’s brilliant.

See what I mean about the text not necessarily being distinguished all by itself? But when you put this with the pictures, including many things to find on repeated readings – the result is utter brilliance. Come on, this is one you’re going to have to check out and see for yourself!

By the way, this same format repeats in chapters two and three, so then we appreciate how it changes in chapters four and five when we are reminded that Baby Monkey is actually a baby.

Why has no one done this before? Why do people always stick to the standard beginning-reader format?

Well, no one else is Brian Selznick, illustrator extraordinaire, who routinely breaks out of standard formats.

The end result is that young beginning readers will get to read a big fat book! Oh, the sense of accomplishment when they finish reading all five chapters!

In even more fun, the authors have put an Index and Bibliography at the back. The Index has entries like “Carrots, baby (see also Snacks).” The Bibliography includes all the books Baby Monkey has been reading, and additional invented titles such as Predators Who Eat Pizza.

Baby Monkey is something very special. You don’t even have to have a beginning reader in the house to enjoy this book. But if you do, go out and buy a copy today!

scholastic.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 Flubby Will NOT Play with That, by J. E. Morris

Friday, August 30th, 2019

Flubby

Flubby Will NOT Play with That

by J. E. Morris

Penguin Workshop, 2019. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Review written August 9, 2019, from a library book

The cover of this book made me laugh. It shows a cat looking dubiously at a fish toy on a string. The picture says it all. Who of us doesn’t know a cat (or a child) who isn’t remotely interested in the flashy toy purchased for them?

This book is a beginning reader about this universal experience. Flubby’s owner (of indeterminate gender) has purchased four different toys for Flubby, each more elaborate than the one before. Flubby isn’t at all interested.

The owner walks away, saying there are no more toys, but leaves the paper bag on the floor that the toys came in. You can guess what happens next.

The storyline is simple but relatable. The words used are realistically simple and easy to read. The pictures reinforce the story and add plenty of personality and humor. It’s all you could wish for in a book for a child to confidently read to themselves. There’s a punchline you’ll see coming but still enjoy.

Good news is this seems to be part of a new series about Flubby.

penguin.com/youngreaders

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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 A Mouse Called Julian, by Joe Todd-Stanton

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

A Mouse Called Julian

by Joe Todd-Stanton

Flying Eye Books, 2019. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written August 9, 2019, from a library book

This book reminded me a tiny bit of William Steig’s classic Doctor DeSoto, only instead of outsmarting the fox, the little mouse (called Julian) befriends the fox who wants to eat him.

It’s not out of nobility, though. Julian lives alone and likes it that way. His solitary home is underground, between the roots of a big tree. One day, a fox smashes through his front window, planning to eat him – and gets completely stuck!

The image of the giant (compared to Julian) head of the fox, with a mouth full of teeth, filling the upper portion of Julian’s home is truly startling. The image of his back end sticking out of the hole is comical.

But now the fox is at Julian’s mercy. He doesn’t want to stay there. And since Julian doesn’t want the fox’s head in his home, he tries to help – but without success.

When it got to dinner time, Julian couldn’t bear to watch the fox’s sad hungry eyes.

So he shared what he had and they talked and ate long into the night.

The fox realized it was much nicer to eat dinner with Julian than to eat Julian for dinner.

And Julian realized that having a guest wasn’t so terrible.

That’s not the end of the story. Julian does eventually get the fox free, and their friendship has some consequences, consequences that add some humor to the tale.

I’m looking forward to reading this book in storytime. It’s a friendship story with a twist, and it leaves me smiling.

flyingeyebooks.com

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