Archive for the ‘Picture Book Review’ Category

Review of Apples and Robins, by Lucie Felix

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

Apples and Robins

by Lucie Felix

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2016. First published in France in 2013. 52 pages.

Here’s a simple picture book by a graphic designer. I was surprised by the high page count when I counted the pages – there are only a few words on each page, so it goes quickly. The point of the book is the art, not the words.

This book is done with simple shapes and cut-outs and bright colors. It shows how simple shapes can make recognizable things.

The book begins, “All you need for apples are circles and the color red.” On a red page, there are three white circles, but two of those circles are made from cut-outs. When you turn the page, the circles become red apples in a tree, with leaves and stems.

The next interesting transformation is this one:

All you need for a ladder are six rectangles: five short and one long.

When you turn the page, sure enough, the long rectangle cut-out turns the short rectangles into the spaces between the rungs of a ladder.

And the shapes and cut-outs get more complicated. My favorite is the robin, made from a circle cut-out placed around “three bright triangles like the robin’s whistle and a red oval like its round red breast.”

We’ve got a little bit of drama with a storm blowing down the bird house and later the arrival of Spring. But the point of this book is the fascinating transformations.

It will get kids thinking, seeing things from a new perspective, and perhaps trying out this kind of art themselves. This is a lovely and surprising picture book.

chroniclekids.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 Follow Me! by Ellie Sandall

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

Follow Me!

by Ellie Sandall

Margaret K. McElderry Books, New York, 2016. First published in Great Britain in 2015. 32 pages.

I’m going to use this book in Toddler Storytime this week. It’s got lilting, simple language with not a lot of text on each page.

The pictures show lots of lemurs, exploring with their striped tails high in the air.

It’s time to wake up!
Come down from the tree.
Follow me,
follow me,
follow me! . . .

Things to hunt,
things to chase,
things to scare,
things to race.
Follow me,
follow me,
follow me!

When their explorations bring them face-to-face with a crocodile, all the lemurs quickly follow the leader the other direction, back to the tree.

This is a fun story with lots to look at. It ends with a cozy pile of sleeping lemurs.

simonandschuster.com/kids

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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.

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Review of Home at Last, by Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

Home at Last

by Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka

Greenwillow Books, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written in 2016

I read about the creation of this book in Horn Book Magazine, so I was predisposed to like it. Vera Williams wrote the text many years ago, but set it aside until last year, when she felt the time was right. But she knew she was at the end of her life, so she’d need some help to finish the book, and she asked Chris Raschka. The result was that they collaborated on the book, and Chris completed it after she died on October 16, 2015.

The story might have been trite – an orphan child living in a home is being adopted – but this particular story is told with depth and warmth and love that makes it anything but typical. It’s also a long text for a picture book, so it’s not exactly a storytime selection, unless it’s for an elementary school classroom, but it would make lovely cozy family reading.

The book opens as Lester is waiting eagerly for the arrival of Daddy Albert, Daddy Rich, and their dog Wincka, who are going to finally adopt him.

When Lester moves in with them, they give him his own room. Lester needs his suitcase filled with action figures to protect him.

But every night, Lester wakes up in the night and stands by his daddies’ big bed, with Wincka sleeping at the foot. Every night, they wake to see him standing over them.

What Lester wanted was to climb into his parents’ bed, too. More than anything, he longed to wriggle right into the middle of that bed, with Daddy Rich on one side and Daddy Albert on the other side and fat old Wincka at his feet, and to have his action figures in their blue suitcase right on the floor beside them. That way he knew he would be safe from everything bad in the whole world.

Lester never told Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert about this. But every night, as though he had an alarm clock ringing in his belly, he grabbed his suitcase and made his expedition down the hall and through the door to the side of the bed.

Lester’s daddies have trouble with this. I appreciated the paragraph that expressed their thinking.

Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert had decided, long before they finished adopting Lester, that it was important for their new little boy to have his own room and his own bed. They had spent many weekends painting the room and finding the right bed for the boy who was coming to live with them. And they surely knew, from living with Wincka, how impossible it was to get a creature out of your bed once you have let that creature in, if only in an emergency . . . if only for a few nights.

The problem goes on though. The daddies try to help. They do lovely things together with Lester. They look forward to him settling in to school and feeling at home in the neighborhood. They do have some setbacks as well, but it’s clear they love Lester and want to do what’s best for him.

Finally, the solution – and a lovely one – comes from Wincka.

And I like the way the book doesn’t end with that solution – that’s only a part of Lester feeling at home. First, it talks about Sunday mornings when things are relaxed and everyone cuddles in the big bed and sleeps late and has pancakes together. The final spread goes further:

But he also loved when his new cousins – all four of them – stayed over on Saturday nights. They laughed and jumped around and played and played so much that they hardly slept a wink.

And at first light, they piled right on top of Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert.

“Help! We’re being attacked!” the daddies shouted, dashing through the house chased by cousins and Lester and Wincka and even Silver. And then it was pancakes for everyone. And then an entire day of more games and walks and snacks and fun together.

Lester was truly home at last.

Here’s a lovely warm book about a little lonely boy who needs a family – and finds one. I like the way it tackles head-on that he needs extra reassurance, and it isn’t easy – but he does find a home. And that reassurance.

This book is a lovely legacy for an outstanding picture book creator. I also love the way the pictures are a wonderful blend of her style with Chris Raschka’s, creating something new.

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.

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.

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Review of The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Friday, December 28th, 2018

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

by Michelle Cuevas
illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin), 2016. 40 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a lovely and poetical picture book. The story is simple, about the Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, who lives by the sea.

He had a job of the utmost importance. It was his task to open any bottles found at sea and make sure they were delivered.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles often has to travel far to deliver the messages.

Sometimes the messages were very old, crunchy like leaves in the fall.

Sometimes the messages were written by a quill dipped in sadness.

But most of the time they made people quite happy, for a letter can hold the treasure of a clam-hugged pearl.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles does wish a message would come for him. Then one day a very peculiar message comes.

I’m not sure you will get this in time, but I am having a party.
Tomorrow, evening tide, at the seashore.
Will you please come?

He asks many people about the letter, if they recognize the script, but he is unable to deliver it. The first time he hasn’t been able to deliver a note.

As he fell asleep that night, the Uncorker decided to go to the seashore the next day. He would go, and apologize to the writer of the note.

Well, when he arrives, all the people he asked about the message have come, too.

They have quite a party by the seashore.

He decides to try to deliver the message again tomorrow.

Mind you, this is a picture book about which I have to let go of my logical objections. But it is so beautiful! Erin Stead’s art work is so peaceful and profound, and the language so lyrical and lovely. (“the waves tipped their white postman hats…”) It’s such a joyful experience, I’m not going to let little logical questions get in the way of my enjoyment, and I strongly suspect children won’t either.

Like most picture books, I recommend trying this book out to see for yourself the whole effect of the words plus the pictures. I suspect that you will be glad you did.

michellecuevas.com
www.penguin.com/youngreaders

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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.

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Review of It Is Not Time for Sleeping, by Lisa Graff and Lauren Castillo

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

It Is Not Time for Sleeping

(A Bedtime Story)

by Lisa Graff
illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Oh, such a sweet and cozy bedtime tale!

This is a cumulative tale of a boy going through his bedtime routine. The book begins as they finish dinner:

When I’ve munched and crunched my last three carrots
(except for one I fed to Jasper), Mom takes my plate.
“It’s been a good day,” she says.
“It is a good day,” I tell her.
Because the day’s not finished yet.

And it is not time for sleeping.

We get little scenes as the evening continues on, but after each scene, it is still not time for sleeping.

Telling what happens accumulates, and the words have a gentle rhythm. I like the way the boy yawns and stretches even as he affirms that it’s not time for sleeping. Each scene is cozy with getting-ready-for-bed things.

Finally, the last scene begins the same way the others have, but going one step further:

When dinner is over and the dishes are scrubbed and
I’m squeaky-squeak clean and zipped up to my chin and
my teeth are shiny and I’ve said good night to Jasper and
I’m tucked tight in my bed and the story is done, Mom turns off the lights.
All I can see is the glow from the hall.

There is one more thing the boy needs, something Mom and Dad will never forget – a tight bedtime hug.

And you can’t ask for a better way to end a bedtime book, over several dark pages:

“Good night, sweet darling,” they whisper. “We love you.”

I stretch out comfy in my bed. “I love you, too,”
I whisper back. “Good night.” And I close my eyes.

Because now . . .

Now . . .

Now it is time . . .

for sleeping.

This book makes me sleepy just talking about it! The danger is that your child will realize it’s sleepy-making and will not want to read it at bedtime. But I’m hoping that the title, which says it is NOT time for sleeping, will help.

The pictures are so gentle and warm, matching the text. I love the boy’s footed pajamas, and the picture of the Dad holding him upside-down by his ankles while he brushes his teeth. (Be ready to decide if you’re willing to act out that part or not!)

But this follows the rule of the best bedtime books: A child is sleeping at the end.

hmhco.com

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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.

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Review of Refuge, by Anne Booth & Sam Usher

Monday, December 24th, 2018

Refuge

The Timeless Story of Christmas

by Anne Booth & Sam Usher

Little, Brown and Company, 2016. Originally published in the United Kingdom in 2015. 28 pages.
Starred Review
Review written in 2017

Yes, this is based on the Christmas story, but it focuses on Jesus’ family as refugees when they traveled to Egypt. You don’t have to know anything about Christmas to appreciate this book. And it seems timely whether during the Christmas season or not.

The narrator of the tale is the donkey who carried the family. It tells briefly about traveling to Bethlehem where the baby was born and visitors came.

When the last king left, the scent of frankincense lingering in the air, we all slept and the man had a dream.

A dream of danger.

He woke long before the sun rose and told the woman. She took the baby and kissed him. She smelled his sweet baby breath, and felt his soft, warm baby skin and how his lashes tickled her cheek as he sleepily nuzzled her neck.

“Time to go,” she said.

Here’s how the book ends, over several pages:

And I kept walking, carrying my precious load,
and the woman held the baby close to her heart,
and she and the man talked, about journeys,
and dreams and warnings,
and the love of a baby,
and the kindness of strangers.

And when we rested,
and they were frightened,
they took hope from each other,
and from the baby’s tiny first smile.

And we entered into Egypt . . .

. . . and we found refuge.

The illustrations are water colors with a simple palette – mostly purply-black and white and gold, but with a little blue for Mary. The story is simple and haunting, and presents a way of looking at the Christmas story that had never even crossed my mind.

In addition, the cover of the book informs us that for each book purchased in the United States through September 2017, the publisher donated a dollar to the UN Refugee Agency.

A simple way to talk with your children about refugees and to open your own heart. Yes, all with a simple and beautiful picture book.

UNrefugees.org
lb-kids.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 You Belong Here, by M. H. Clark, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

You Belong Here

by M. H. Clark
illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Compendium, 2016. 32 pages.

I was ready to dismiss this book as a fluffy book to make parents feel good – but the more I read it, the more it won me over.

The poetry is lyrical. The first page sets the tone:

The stars belong in the deep night sky
and the moon belongs there too,
and the winds belong in each place they blow by
and I belong here with you.

The book talks about where various things in nature belong – whales, fishes, waves, dunes, trees, deer, birds, frogs, lilies, turtles, otters, cattails, carp, and more.

Here’s an example:

The pines belong on the mountainsides,
tucked under their blankets of snow
and the bears belong in the caves where they hide
whenever the storms start to blow.

Some creatures were made for the land, or the air,
and others were made for the sea;
each creature is perfectly home right there
in the place it belongs to be.

After two spreads about things in nature, the book always comes back to a picture of a house with a lighted window and a page of poetry about how you belong with me.

Now, my children are adults, and my youngest is actively looking for a job and plans to move away. So I was a little bit resistant to lines like this:

And no matter what places you travel to,
what wonders you choose to see,
I will always belong right here with you,
and you’ll always belong with me.

But if I shift gears and think about a little one, cozying up with Mom or Dad – isn’t that a wonderful message to convey? You belong here. You are loved, and you belong. And yes, even when you’re grown up and wander far, you will always have a place in my heart, I will always feel at home when I am with you.

www.live-inspired.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 A Child of Books, by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

A Child of Books

by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Candlewick Press, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Picture books that try to convey the magic of reading don’t often come close. This one, with powerful and imaginative text-based art gets across the feeling of the world that books create – and thus achieves success.

The main text is simple:

I am a child of books.

I come from a world of stories
and upon my imagination I float.

I have sailed across a sea of words
to ask if you will come away with me.

Then the girl (the child of books) and the boy she invites go off and have adventures, which include mountains of make-believe, treasure in the darkness, forests of fairy tales, and monsters in enchanted castles.

Our house is a home of invention
where anyone at all can come
for imagination is free.

I have to confess – my personal favorite page is the one with the words “Some people have forgotten where I live.” That page shows a man reading a newspaper. His glasses show the reflection of a bunch of numbers. But if you read the small print on the newspaper he’s reading, the articles are hilarious. The headlines include, “BUSINESS,” “IMPORTANT THINGS,” “SERIOUS STUFF,” and “THE FACTS.”

Here’s the first paragraph of the article on “THE FACTS”:

Scientists have discovered a new fact. In one test, nearly half the subjects proved the fact, it was revealed. The findings, which came from first watching people and then quizzing them, have attracted criticism from some other scientists.

Okay, that’s not enough! The final visible part of the article says this:

Their work began with several trials involving people who were shut in a small room and tested. After 6, 12, or 15 minutes, they were asked if they had discovered this fact. On average, their answers were near the middle of a nine-point scale.

(Excuse me while I laugh about that and the other Serious and Important articles.)

Where was I? Oh, part of what makes this book so special is that it uses the text of classic children’s books in the art. The “mountains of make-believe” are formed from tiny print of words taken from Peter Pan and Wendy. The initial invitation to leave to the world of books is given on a road paved with words from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The sea of words that the child of books arrives on is made of text from Gulliver’s Travels, The Swiss Family Robinson, and The Adventures of Pinocchio.

In fact, looking more closely at the monster made of dark words that seem to come particularly from Dracula and Frankenstein, I see that his horns and nose are made of sinister phrases and his claws are the words “Abhorred,” “monster!” “Fiend,” “Wretched,” “creature,” and “devil!” The children escape the monster by climbing down a rope made of words from Rapunzel.

The Forest of Fairy Tales has trees whose trunks are the page end of books and whose branches are words from various fairy tales.

And the art is lovely throughout. Words, unfittingly, can’t do it justice. There is much use of photographed elements (like the books in the fairy tale forest) mixed with cartoon art mixed with well-placed words.

Usually when the main text of a picture book isn’t long (I count 122 words.), it seems good for a toddler audience. Not this one. This book will be treasured more by a child who has already experienced some of the magic of reading and who will enjoy reading the fine print and catching some of the references. In fact, such a child might be lured into discovering new treasures they haven’t encountered before.

oliverjeffers.com
samwinston.com
www.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 A Bike Like Sergio’s, by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

A Bike Like Sergio’s

by Maribeth Boelts
illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Candlewick Press, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Every kid except Ruben has a bike. His best friend Sergio tells him to ask for one for his birthday, forgetting there’s a difference between their birthdays.

At the grocery store, Sergio buys a pack of football cards, and Ruben buys bread for his mother. Then a dollar falls out of a lady’s purse. Sergio doesn’t run after her because it’s just a dollar. But when he gets home, he discovers it’s actually a hundred-dollar bill. Which is enough money to buy a bike.

So – it’s a story about making the hard decision to give back found money. It’s very well done, showing the range of emotions – dreaming about the bike, but not looking at his parents. He watches his mother cross things off her shopping list because they can’t afford them. There’s a part where he thinks the money is gone, and all the emotions that brings.

When he finally gets up the nerve to give the money back, I like that the woman doesn’t offer to buy him a prize. She thanks him and tells him he’s blessed her.

When Ruben tells his parents the whole story, they tell him they’re so proud. And Ruben is proud of himself, too.

This book has a message – but the message is palatable because it tells a good story, a story about a boy who feels real and whose reactions are true to life. I do hope Ruben gets a bike some day! And for kids who’ve never had to do without, this book may be eye-opening, too.

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 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 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?