Archive for the ‘Picture Book Review’ Category

Review of Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, by Deborah Hopkinson

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig

By Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Schwartz & Wade Books, New York, 2016. 40 pages.
Starred Review

This charming picture book tells a slightly fictionalized account of what happened when Beatrix Potter borrowed a neighbor’s prized guinea pig in order to paint it. The main fictionalization is that the author changed Beatrix Potter’s age to be a child when this incident happened, rather than the 26-year-old she actually was.

But the story is based on truth – Beatrix Potter kept many different animals as pets – and sad fates befell many of them. And when Beatrix borrowed a guinea pig named Queen Elizabeth from her neighbor, it did feast on blotting paper and string, writing paper and paste – and died.

Deborah Hopkinson shows Beatrix giving her neighbor a painting of the guinea pig as compensation. She says she hopes she kept it because in 2011, a painting Beatrix Potter made of a guinea pig – probably painted the same year as the unfortunate borrowing – sold for more than $85,000.

The book is styled as a letter to the reader, which is appropriate since Beatrix Potter’s first stories appeared in letters. The words and watercolors are charming.

“I would love to draw Queen Elizabeth,” declared Beatrix. “She is truly magnificent.”

Her friend beamed. “Her family is indeed impeccable. Queen Elizabeth comes from a long line of distinguished guinea pigs. She is the daughter of Titwillow the Second, and a descendant of the Sultan of Zanzibar and the Light of Asia.”

You might well think the young ladies were discussing royalty, not rodents. In the end, Miss Paget was so flattered by Miss Potter’s appreciation of the merits of Queen Elizabeth that she eagerly fetched the squealing creature.

“Thank you,” said Beatrix. “I will return her – unharmed – in the morning.”

Alas, it was an empty promise.

I’m not quite sure how Deborah Hopkinson has made a story about animals dying so utterly delightful, but she has managed it!

deborahhopkinson.com
randomhousekids.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 Sam Sorts, by Marthe Jocelyn

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

Sam Sorts

(One Hundred Favorite Things)

by Marthe Jocelyn

Tundra Books, 2017. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a wonderful picture book full of early math concepts that can be used in many different ways. It’s also good as a story (Well, a little bit – a story about a boy tidying up), and for those children who enjoy super-detailed illustrations (like I Spy and Where’s Waldo).

Mainly, it’s about Sam’s quirky collection of one hundred favorite things and the many different ways they can be sorted and counted.

After a page declaring that his things are in a heap and need to be tidied up, Sam starts in:

First he finds Obo the robot, one of a kind. Then two snarling dinosaurs, three little boxes, and four fake foods. How many things is that?

Sam gathers many things in various groupings. I like the page that shows a Venn diagram with three circles made of string.

Spider Rock joins the other rocks. Sam’s favorite rock is the round one. He looks for more round things. Two of the buttons are exactly the same. What else comes in twos?

The Venn diagram shows rocks in the first set, then round things, then things that come in twos. There are things in both intersections. There are things that don’t fit any of those categories on the outsides.

Things continue to be sorted in various ways.

Another way Sam makes a pair is by finding a rhyme.

Some things match because they have stripes. A few have dots or holes. Only one has checks. The snake is striped AND green . . .

On another page, the things are sorted onto a rainbow by color. Then many other categories are shown. (“Soft,” “Noisy,” “Pointy,” . . .)

Sam gets overly exuberant after putting out all his “guys.” “Look out, guys . . . The animals are coming!”

Once things are in a heap again, Sam decides to tidy up again. The next page has all the things laid out, separated by a striped background. The text asks, “How many categories? How many things?” There are ten categories with ten things each, so here is a great exercise in counting to one hundred. (One little problem with that page is that for at least a couple categories, it’s hard to figure out what the category might be.)

But if nothing else, this introduces the concept of sorting and sets and looking at things in different ways. This is a wonderful early math activity, and I love the playful approach.

www.penguinrandomhouse.ca

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Life on Mars, by Jon Agee

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

Life on Mars

by Jon Agee

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. 32 pages.

I love the silliness that comes from the mind of Jon Agee. In his latest picture book, a boy has come to Mars to find life. He’s bearing a gift of chocolate cupcakes. He’s sure there’s life on Mars, even though other people don’t think so.

But alas! All he finds when he looks around are rocks and dirt. There’s no life on Mars after all!

Meanwhile, children will see the large monster-shaped Martian following the kid around. The boy even climbs on “this mountain” (the creature’s belly) to find where he left his spaceship.

When the kid gets back in the spaceship headed home, he decides he deserves a treat. But who ate the chocolate cupcakes?

This is a child’s first taste of an unreliable narrator, and they’ll love knowing what he doesn’t. It’s an exercise in perspective, too, as you can talk about why the boy doesn’t see the Martian, but we do.

jonagee.com
penguin.com/children

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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 Imagine! by Raúl Colón

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Imagine!

by Raúl Colón

A Paula Wiseman Book (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), 2018. 44 pages.
Starred Review

Look! A 2018 picture book that I can review!

Why can I review it? Well, I’m on the 2019 Newbery committee, but the Newbery Medal is given for the text of a book – and this book has no words. So it can’t win. (The Caldecott Medal is another story, by the way.) And I can review it.

In this book, a boy leaves his house on a skateboard and crosses a bridge to go into the city. He enters the Museum of Modern Art and checks his skateboard at the checkroom.

But when he looks at the paintings, some of the characters come out and join him! The first one, from Matisse’s Icarus, dances with him, and they climb into Picasso’s Three Musicians and get the musicians to come along, too. Next they round up a lion and another musician from Rousseau’s Sleeping Gypsy. Now they practically have a band!

The happy throng goes out of the museum, exchanging instruments along the way. They have joyful adventures around New York City. They finish up in Central Park with songs, balloons, and bubbles.

When the adventures are done, it’s back to their paintings, and then the boy rides his skateboard back home. And he finishes by drawing a mural of his day with his friends.

This is a beautiful and joyous book. I feel confident that children will find more in its pages every time they go through it.

simonandschuster.com/kids

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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 Under the Sabbath Lamp, by Michael Herman

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Under the Sabbath Lamp

by Michael Herman
illustrated by Alida Massari

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2017. 32 pages.

Here’s a lovely story about inheritance and traditions. A group of neighbors has a tradition of hosting each other for Shabbat dinner. The first time Izzy and Olivia Bloom host, the children notice there are no Shabbat candles. Then Izzy shows them the Sabbath lamp that burns oil and has been in his family for one hundred fifty years.

There’s a story-within-a-story as Izzy tells about how his great-great-grandfather Isaac moved to America for a better life. But they couldn’t afford for his whole family to come.

As Isaac packed his belongings, Rachel handed him the drip pan from the Sabbath lamp.

“Take this with you,” she told him. “Just as this part is separated from the rest of the lamp, we will be separated from you. When we come to join you, we will bring the other parts, and the lamp will be whole again. Just like our family.”

One by one, the children and his wife joined Isaac in America, and when they were all together, they lit the Sabbath lamp.

When Izzy and Olivia got married, his father entrusted the lamp to them.

I like the way the book brings the tradition into the present with Izzy and Olivia enjoying the Sabbath lamp together with their friends.

karben.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.

Review of Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring, by Rebecca Bond

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

Pig & Goose

and the First Day of Spring

by Rebecca Bond

Charlesbridge, 2017. 48 pages.
Starred Review

This is a beginning reader in the classic “two friends” tradition. We learn how Pig meets Goose on the first day of Spring.

Here’s the start of the book and the story “A Spring Morning”:

It was spring at last.
Pig was in a good mood.
“The sun is shining!” said Pig.
“The sky is blue!” said Pig.
“Goody gumdrops!” said Pig.
“I am going to have a picnic by the pond.”

Pig is anthropomorphic, wearing a dress and gathering things from her cozy home into a picnic basket. On the way to the pond, Goose lands beside her. She admires how well Goose flies, so Goose offers to teach her.

You can figure out how the flying lesson will end up! But I like the way they collapse into a pile of good-hearted laughter after they try it. And then they go together to eat the picnic by the pond.

The second story is “A Picnic Lunch.” They share lunch and talk about how spring is the best season but then agree that all the other seasons are best, too. Pig naps in the sunshine and dreams of flying like Goose. When she wakes up, she learns that Goose can also swim. What an amazing new friend she has!

That story ends with Pig inviting Goose to the party she’s having that evening, her First-Day-of-Spring Party.

The final story is about the party. Pig introduces Goose to her many friends. Pig made wonderful food to eat, tells delightful stories and jokes, and laughs and dances with her friends.

After the party, Goose tells Pig how wonderful she is – and I like that the author doesn’t have to explain to the reader why that is, they’ve already seen how delightful she is. Even her exuberant cry (repeated often) of “Goody Gumdrops!” tells us how enthusiastic she is about her joys.

[I used to like to say “Goody Gumdrops!” when I was a kid. Made me wonder if Rebecca Bond is the same age as me. Well, she’s 8 years younger, but that’s not too far off. Do kids today say “Goody Gumdrops!”? Maybe now they will.]

This is a picture book about friendship and about simple joys. And I like the way it shows us that each friend has something of their own to offer.

I’m glad we can peek in on the start of this beautiful friendship.

[Note: I was looking up Rebecca Bond’s website and discovered, sadly, that she died August 2, 2017, at 45 years old. So the friendship of Pig and Goose will only be developing in our imaginations.]

charlesbridge.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 Prince Ribbit, by Jonathan Emmett

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

Prince Ribbit

written by Jonathan Emmett
illustrated by Poly Bernatene

Peachtree, 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a fun twist on the Frog Prince fairy tale. Three princesses live in a castle. The two older ones love fairy tales and argue about who would treat a frog prince better.

Princess Martha rolled her eyes. She liked facts more than fairy tales and real frogs more than enchanted ones.

But a clever frog has been listening to the princesses talk. He figures out a clever scheme for getting the princesses to let him sleep in a soft bed and eat fine foods. Just tell them he’s a prince!

The two older princesses fall for it! They treat the frog like the prince he claims to be.

Martha has more insight. And she brings the story to a surprising conclusion that left me with a big smile.

A very fun story. And remember: Just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean it’s true!

scribblestreet.co.uk
polybernatene.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 The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat, by Julia Donaldson

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat

by Julia Donaldson
illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Candlewick Press, 2017. First published in the United Kingdom in 2013. 32 pages.
Starred Review

I’m a little perplexed how much I like this book. I don’t really consider myself a fan of The Owl and the Pussycat. And yet, just opening this book got the original poem singing in my brain.

And this one does the same thing – It sings inside your head. The story may be a little more slender. Rather than getting married, the owl and the pussycat are looking for their lost ring. But hey, it’s all nonsense. And it does end happily.

Juliet Donaldson works in some other Edward Lear characters, like the Pobble Who Has No Toes.

The story is not weighty at all – but it sings, with the very same lilt as The Owl and the Pussycat. I find I simply must read this book to a group of children – expect to hear it soon at a Storytime in Old Town Square.

And if you have a child who will listen to nonsense, try this out! The lilt of the language is a delight!

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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 Which Is Round? Which Is Bigger? by Mineko Mamada

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Which Is Round?
Which Is Bigger?

by Mineko Mamada

Kids Can Press, 2013. First published in Japan in 2010. 28 pages.
Starred Review

I thought this was going to be a ho-hum concept book. But it surprised me.

The first spread asks the question, “Which one is round?” We see an apple and an armadillo. The answer seems obvious.

But when we turn the page, the apple has been eaten down to the core, and the armadillo has curled into a circle. Now the page asks, “Which one is round? What do you think?”

We get similar questions – and shifts – with questions about which one is bigger, longer, faster, higher, and red (an apple versus a watermelon – outside and inside).

It’s a simple book, and very short. But I love the question after each shift, “What do you think?” What a wonderful opening for interesting conversations with your children! And what a lovely way to get them to think critically and look again.

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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 The Giant Jumperee, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

The Giant Jumperee

by Julia Donaldson
illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. 32 pages.

This extra large picture book with warm and friendly pictures would be perfect for a Toddler Storytime. There aren’t too many words on a page, and the situation is a little tiny bit scary – with a happy payoff.

The beginning page shows Rabbit standing on his two hind legs and looking at his burrow with surprise.

Rabbit was hopping home one day when he heard a loud voice coming from inside his burrow.

“I’m the GIANT JUMPEREE and I’m scary as can be!”

Rabbit goes to Cat for help, who promises to slink inside and pounce on the Giant Jumperee.

But the Giant Jumperee shouts, “I’m the GIANT JUMPEREE and I’ll squash you like a flea!”

Next Bear and then Elephant are likewise frightened away by a loud voice making scary threats.

But Mama Frog is undaunted, even though all the animals warn her what the Giant Jumperee told them. Savvy readers will not be surprised that the Giant Jumperee is not so giant when he comes out.

The animals aren’t angry to be fooled. They’re all pictured laughing heartily. And Mama Frog tells the Giant Jumperee that now he’s coming home for tea.

And it looks like Rabbit, Cat, Bear, and Elephant will join them.

This is a happy book with just that little taste of a small critter trying for power. I wouldn’t be surprised if little ones would want to try acting this out themselves.

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.

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?