Archive for the ‘Picture Book Review’ Category

Review of Samson in the Snow, by Philip C. Stead

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Samson in the Snow

by Philip C. Stead

A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press), 2016. 40 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a quiet book about friendship. This isn’t an action book for keeping a class distracted, but a cozy book to look at closely and share in a lap or with a friend. The beautiful paintings add to the experience, though the scenes don’t change a lot – dandelions or snow.

Samson the wooly mammoth tends his dandelion patch on sunny days, hoping for a friend to come along. One day, a little red bird comes and takes some flowers for her friend, who is having a bad day. The friend’s favorite color is yellow.

After the bird flies away, Samson falls asleep. While he is sleeping, the weather changes, and everything gets covered with snow.

When Samson sees everything all covered with snow, he worries about the little red bird, and sets off to look for her.

As he walks around, he finds a little mouse. The mouse is having a bad day, but is looking for his friend. She is small like him, and he’s worried that she’s covered up by the snow.

The mouse gets warm in Samson’s wooly fur, and together they keep searching. Samson sees something yellow, and it turns out the mouse’s favorite color is yellow, too.

When Samson goes to the yellow spot, it turns out to be the little red bird, very cold in the snow.

Samson takes the mouse and the bird to a warm cave and they all recover and talk about their adventures in the snow.

If it seems a little unlikely that Samson would find the bird’s friend on his walk, well, I like the way it’s left to the reader to figure that out. We see friends caring for each other and Samson, who was waiting for a friend, finds two.

www.mackids.com

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Source: This review is based on a book I received at an ALA conference and had signed by the author.

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 Small Thing . . . but Big, by Tony Johnston, pictures by Hadley Hooper

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

A Small Thing . . .

but Big

by Tony Johnston
pictures by Hadley Hooper

A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press), 2016. 40 pages.
Starred Review

This is a quiet picture book with a gentle story — and utterly charming. I was scared of dogs when I was a kid, so I relate to Lizzie.

The book opens, with Lizzie walking into the park with her mother. The park reminds me of parks in Paris, with an ironwork fence and a fountain and flowers. She begins exuberant play — until she comes close to a dog, being walked by an old man.

The pace is leisurely, and the language is delightful. This covers several pages toward the beginning:

“Do not be worried,” said the old man of the dog timidly.

“Does she bark?” asked Lizzie with worry anyway.

“Not at little children,” said the old man.

“Does she bite?” asked Lizzie anxiously.

“Only her food,” said the old man, a bit anxious also, but with sparkle.

“Go ahead, give Cecile a pat.”

Feeling reassured, carefully, oh carefully, Lizzie patted Cecile.

Cecile sat soft and still. She seemed to enjoy those pattings.

“I patted a dog,” Lizzie said quietly.

“A small thing, but big,” said the old man, quietly too.

“Shall we walk Cecile?” he ventured in his quiet way.

Lizzie felt uneasy.

“Do not be worried,” said the old man. “Cecile will adore walking with a child.”

“She is quite adoring being with you,” the old man said shyly.

“How springingly she walks.”

Lizzie walked springingly too.

It continues, with progressively more steps that are small things, but big.

The artwork is what puts this book over the top. They’re in one park the whole book, so you might think it would be lacking in variety. But we get different angles and different scenes in each spread, and wonderful close-ups on Lizzie and on Cecile. I love where they are shown walking springingly, for example.

Lizzie’s face and bearing slowly gain confidence and joy as the book progresses.

The overall effect is light and airy and makes you feel like going for a walk in the park.

So lovely!

mackids.com

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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 Buddy and Earl Go Exploring, by Maureen Fergus and Carey Sookocheff

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Buddy and Earl Go Exploring

by Maureen Fergus
pictures by Carey Sookocheff

Groundwood Books, 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Buddy and Earl Go Exploring is a picture book in the grand tradition of animals-don’t-understand-human-things-with-hilarious-results such as Minerva Louise, The Adventures of Cow, and Paul Meets Bernadette. The child hearing this story will delight in being smarter than the animals.

In this case, we have a dog named Buddy, who is a little more savvy about human things, and an adventurous hedgehog named Earl. Earl is new to the family.

One night, Earl announces he’s going on a trip and travels for some time on his hamster wheel.

After a long time, he stopped and looked around.

“This place looks eerily similar to the place I just left,” whispered Earl.

“Maybe that is because it is the place you just left,” whispered Buddy.

When he heard Buddy’s voice, Earl was so startled that he jumped and made a funny popping sound.

“I ran faster than the wind!” he cried. “How did you manage to keep up with me, Buddy?”

“I am not sure,” said Buddy uncertainly.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here,” declared Earl. “Exploring is always more fun if you do it with a friend.”

As they explore this place (the kitchen), first Earl sees a silvery lake in the shadow of a great mountain. Buddy knows it’s his water dish in the shadow of the garbage pail, but he gets carried away in Earl’s enthusiasm. When he knocks over the garbage can, at first he feels terrible.

Then he noticed some of yesterday’s meatloaf and forgot all about feeling terrible.

Next, Earl sees a lovely lady hedgehog trapped in the jaws of a monster. Buddy knows it’s Mom’s hairbrush in her purse, but soon is convinced to help Earl save his friend.

Then they have an encounter with the vacuum cleaner before settling down for the night. The last picture shows the two happily asleep – with the results of their exploring strewn all around the kitchen, and Dad’s foot coming into the kitchen the next morning.

The story is simple enough, but the characters make it wonderful – with Earl’s wild imagination, and Buddy’s simple friendly doggy enthusiasm. Kids will enjoy being in the know and delight in the good-hearted adventures of these two friends.

groundwoodbooks.com

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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 Henry & Leo, by Pamela Zagarenski

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

Henry & Leo

by Pamela Zagarenski

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Pamela Zagarenski’s lush and detailed illustrations have taken some time to grow on me, but by now I love them. She’s consistent with some interesting quirks – characters so often wear a crown, sometimes hovering over their heads as if imaginary. I think of the characters as regal that way.

This is a story of a boy, Henry, and his stuffed lion, Leo.

Henry could never say exactly what it was that made Leo different. Perhaps it was his glass button eyes, which made him look as if he knew secret things. Or maybe it was his jointed and movable parts. I guess we can never really know what makes one particular toy more special than another. But from the moment Leo was given to Henry on his second birthday, the two were inseparable.

Henry’s sister thinks Leo isn’t real, but Henry knows better. When his family goes for a walk in the woods, Henry gets tired and accidentally leaves Leo behind. They don’t discover he’s missing until nightfall.

Henry insists they leave a light on for Leo, even though his mama explains that Leo is not real.

Then we see several wordless spreads of what happens that night in the woods. Many forest animals (all with crowns above their heads) including a large bear help Leo find his way home.

In the morning, Henry finds Leo close to the path right outside the front door. His sister and father looked there the night before, but Henry knows how Leo got there.

It’s a lovely warm book about friendship, with so much to notice and wonder about in the illustrations.

www.sacredbee.com
hmhco.com

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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 Snow, by Sam Usher

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

Snow

by Sam Usher

Templar Books (Candlewick Press), 2015. 36 pages.
Starred Review

This is a sweet grandson-grandfather story about snow and about getting ready and about waiting. There’s a dose of imagination thrown in as well – or maybe just good plain fun.

The book begins with a boy waking up to snow! He can’t wait to get to the park. He gets ready quickly – but Granddad is still getting ready. So they’re not the first ones.

Granddad reminds the boy about a few things – his scarf, then his hat. But more people are ahead of them, getting to the park. The snow in front of their house is no longer untrampled.

Granddad was taking forever.
So I shouted,
“HURRY UP, GRANDDAD!”

And he said, “It’s OK, we’re not going to miss the fun.”

But we were! I told him all the cats and dogs were out there.

Granddad laughed and said the whole zoo was probably out there.

And then I saw something. . . .

I like the way, when they finally get to the park, there really are a bunch of zoo animals having a grand snowball fight with the kids. They all have a wonderful time, and the boy and his granddad agree that some things are worth waiting for.

I like the nice touch that the boys stuffed toys in the house before they leave are the same animals as we see later in the snow. So was it all his imagination?

Whatever it was, it’s lots of fun.

candlewick.com

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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 The Cookie Fiasco, by Dan Santat

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

The Cookie Fiasco

by Dan Santat

Hyperion Books for Children, 2016. 60 pages.
Starred Review

First, let me talk about the new series this book introduces: Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie Like Reading. There are four pages at the front and four pages at the back where our beloved Gerald and Piggie talk about reading the book. The title page has a picture of Gerald holding the very book, ready to open it up and read it.

Now I’m not crazy about this frame – Just a little bit of Elephant and Piggie is not enough! Fortunately, they did choose excellent authors for the books-within-a-book, so this wasn’t a way to pass off any old thing and sell it with the Mo Willems brand. The Pigeon is even hiding on the back end papers, just as he does in the regular Elephant and Piggie books.

But what I love about The Cookie Fiasco are the mathematical implications! This book reminds me of the classic The Doorbell Rang, by Pat Hutchens. Like that book, it’s a simple story that small children can enjoy – but you can pull it out later when they’re learning about fractions and make multiple applications and elucidations.

The story is simple: Hippo, Croc, and two Squirrels have three cookies. Four animals, three cookies.

They discuss how to share the cookies, but nothing seems fair. While they are discussing the options, Hippo nervously starts breaking the cookies in half.

Then they have six cookie pieces, but still four friends. It’s still not fair. While they continue to discuss, Hippo continues to break the pieces. After a while they have twelve pieces, and realize that each one can have three pieces. Problem solved! Equal cookies for all!

There is a grand page of munching cookies – and then a cow shows up with three glasses of milk. Uh-oh!

The only thing wrong with this book is the one Gerald points out in the frame at the end – It may make you hungry for cookies.

It’s a simple, silly story. You don’t need to talk about the math behind it at all. But someday, when a child is learning to divide three by four, you can use this as a lovely illustration. And similar fractions. There’s even room for talking about common denominators. I’d love for this book to get a mention in the next set of Mathical Awards, I liked it so much.

dantat.com
pigeonpresents.com
www.hyperionbooksforchildren.com

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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 They All Saw a Cat, by Brendan Wenzel

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

They All Saw a Cat

by Brendan Wenzel

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2017 Caldecott Honor Book

This picture book is a clever way to introduce children to the idea that other people – and creatures – have different perspectives.

We’ve got an ongoing refrain:

The cat walked through the world,
with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . .

Then we’re told that different creatures saw A CAT – beginning with a child, and then a dog, a fox, a fish, a mouse, a bee, a bird, a flea, and other things.

But the pictures give us a fanciful image of how each creature sees the cat. The mouse, for example, sees a frightening and fierce monster. The fish sees something large staring through the walls of the fishbowl. The bee sees something multifaceted with its multifaceted eyes. And the flea sees a forest of fur.

The language is simple and lilting, and the images are striking. But what’s absolutely brilliant is how much space it makes for conversation.

This is a lovely book presenting an important idea: Not everyone sees the world the same way. Yet it expresses this idea in a way even a child can understand, while also provoking further thought. Brilliant!

brendanwenzel.info
chroniclebooks.com

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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 Sophie’s Squash Go to School, by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf

Friday, November 30th, 2018

Sophie’s Squash Go to School

by Pat Zietlow Miller
illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review

I so love Sophie of Sophie’s Squash! Sophie is a girl who adopted a squash as her best friend, Bernice. At the end of the first book, Sophie was delighted by the “birth” of Bernice’s children, Bonnie and Baxter.

The start of this book doesn’t explain all that. It shows Sophie walking into a classroom, hugging her two squash, with happy faces drawn on them. It’s not clear if the classroom is preschool or Kindergarten, though I suspect preschool. Sophie’s parents tell her she’s going to have lots of fun and make lots of friends.

But Sophie didn’t.
The chairs were uncomfortable.
The milk tasted funny.
And no one appreciated her two best friends, Bonnie and Baxter.

“Are those toys?” asked Liam.
“Do they bounce?” asked Roshmi.
“Can we EAT them?” asked Noreen.

“No!” said Sophie.
“No, no, no! I grew them in my garden. They’re my FRIENDS.”

As the book goes on, Sophie resists making human friends. They just don’t get it. But one boy named Steven is persistently interested and kind.

I like the way in the illustrations, Bonnie and Baxter slowly begin becoming spotty.

Still, Sophie knew Bonnie and Baxter wouldn’t last forever.

She starts thinking about doing things with actual people.

At the end of the book, after Bonnie and Baxter have been bedded down in the earth for the winter, an idea from Steven prompts Sophie to help show the whole class how to grow plant-friends.

I like the scene at the end:

But before too long, tiny shoots appeared.

Sophie and Steven did a new-plant dance and invited everyone to join in.

“See?” Sophie told Steven. “Sometimes growing a friend just takes time.”

This book doesn’t have the “instant classic” feel of the first. But Sophie still has the same firm (not to say stubborn) personality, deciding for herself who her friends will be. And it feels true to the character that she would grow up to be this way. In fact, she still reminds me of my young niece – who doesn’t necessarily make friends easily and believes she knows how things should be, but is ever so lovable because of (not in spite of) her quirks.

patzietlowmiller.com
randomhousekids.com

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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 I Will Not Eat You, by Adam Lehrhaupt and Scott Magoon

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

I Will Not Eat You

by Adam Lehrhaupt & Scott Magoon

A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Despite the title and look, this is not, actually, a Jon Klassen book. It is a whole lot of fun!

As the book opens we see a big dark cave with two red eyes peering out.

Theodore lived in a cave.
It was a quiet cave,
and that’s the way he liked it.

One morning, a bird flew up to the cave.
It tweeted and squawked at Theodore.

Theodore thought,
Does it want me to eat it?

But Theodore wasn’t hungry.

“Go away, silly bird,”
he whispered.
“I will not eat you.”

The bird flew away.

The same pattern repeats with slight variations as the day progresses with a wolf and a tiger.

That evening, a boy wearing a suit of armor gallops up to the cave and roars.

Seriously? thought Theodore.
I should eat it.

Theodore was getting hungry.

The boy doesn’t back down, and Theodore emerges from the cave. We finally see that he’s an enormous red dragon. He chases the boy!

Things could get pretty grim, but in a surprise for everyone, the two end up sharing a laugh and becoming friends.

I’m not sure it’s a healthy situation for the boy, but by the end of the book, they play together regularly.

I can always eat him later,
thought Theodore.

This book would be a hit with preschoolers. There aren’t a lot of words on each page. I think the hint of danger could be thrilling. There are certainly plenty of things to talk about after the story is done. Would you play with Theodore?

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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 Goodnight, Numbers, by Danica McKellar

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Goodnight, Numbers

by Danica McKellar
illustrated by Alicia Padrón

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017. 28 pages.
Starred Review

Yes! This is the very best sort of counting book – with multiple things to count on each page.

For example, on the page for Four, the text says,

4
FOUR
Goodnight, four paws.
Goodnight, kitty cat.
Goodnight, four froggies
on the bathroom mat.

In the picture we do see four paws on the kitty cat, but also four stripes on its tail. We see four froggies on the bathroom mat, and we also see four rubber duckies in the room.

There are four shampoo bottles on the side of the tub, four toy turtles, four rolled-up towels, four stripes on the towel the dad is holding, four dots on the stool, and four bubbles in a framed picture (with framed spaces for ten things – this is consistent on each page).

Mind you, the rhyming text is simply nice, not stellar. But it’s not glaringly bad, either, which is an accomplishment with rhyming text!

The pictures are soft and sweet – and so many things to count! Another example on the Five page is the Mom has a necklace with five daisies, and each daisy has five petals.

The back of the book has a note to the parent/grandparent/caregiver reading the book. It points out the educational value, in case they missed it, and gives more ideas for bringing numbers into children’s lives.

This book would pair well with the bedtimemath.org website and app. They recommend doing math problems with your child at bedtime, as well as bedtime stories. This book is both!

This is a great way to talk about numbers and counting in a cozy and friendly way. It’s never too early to show your children that math is all around them.

McKellarMath.com
randomhousekids.com

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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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