Archive for the ‘Animal Characters’ Category

Review of Rabbit & Bear: The Pest in the Nest, by Julian Gough & Jim Field

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Rabbit & Bear
The Pest in the Nest

story by Julian Gough
illustrations by Jim Field

Silver Dolphin Press, 2018. First published in Great Britain in 2017. 102 pages.
Starred Review
Review written May 30, 2019, from a library book

This second book about Rabbit and Bear finds continued humor in Rabbit’s grumpiness – and even has some practical lessons about finding peace.

The situation Rabbit finds himself in might make anyone grumpy – there’s a woodpecker building a nest in a tree nearby, making a huge racket.

After Rabbit tells Bear that Woodpecker is driving him crazy, and then that Tortoise is driving him crazy, too, they have this exchange:

Bear thought about this. “So noisy, happy things drive you crazy?”

“Yes!” replied Rabbit.

“And quiet, sad things drive you crazy?”

“Yes! Yes!” said Rabbit.

“Bear thought about this some more. “But … the only thing those things have in common,” she said, scratching her head, “… is you.”

Rabbit gave Bear a Look. “So?”

“Well,” said Bear, “I think the creature that is driving you crazy isn’t Woodpecker. And it isn’t Tortoise. It’s …”

Hmmm. Bear didn’t want to say it. Rabbit had a FIERCE temper.

“It’s YOU, isn’t it Bear?” said Rabbit, and raised his right foot to kick Bear.

“Er, no,” said Bear. “It’s you.

But Bear thinks of a way to help Rabbit see the situation differently, and they end up making a new friend while they’re at it.

This book is the length of a beginning chapter book without actually having chapters. But young readers will enjoy being able to read it themselves, with plenty of pictures and lots of humor to speed them on their way. And they may pick up a little wisdom and ideas of things to do when they’re feeling grumpy.

I’m looking forward to more adventures with Rabbit and Bear.

silverdolphinbooks.com

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

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Review of 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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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 Truman, by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Friday, August 16th, 2019

Truman

written by Jean Reidy
illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. 48 pages.
Starred Review
Review written August 9, 2019, from a library book

Here’s a sweet story of a tortoise and his Sarah.

Truman loves his Sarah. They are well-suited; both are peaceful and pensive. Truman’s tank is by the window where he can look down on the street with honking taxis, growling trash trucks, shrieking cars, and the number 11 bus, which traveled south.

But one day, Sarah does some new things. She has an extra big breakfast, wears new clothes, and straps on a big backpack.

Sarah placed seven green beans in Truman’s dish –
two more than usual!

She kissed her finger and touched it to his shell and whispered,
“Be brave.”
Then she left.

Not to worry.
She’d left before.
And she’d always returned.

But this time
that backpack was particularly big.
And Sarah looked particularly pensive.
And that banana,
and that bow, and –
let’s not forget about those extra beans!

That’s when Truman saw something
he’d never seen before:

Sarah boarding the number 11 bus going south.

The bus roared away.

Truman tries to be patient. But eventually, Truman knows he must go after his Sarah!

What follows is brave and bold and adventurous and extraordinary – for a tortoise.

Don’t worry – the book has a happy ending. Meanwhile, children get the position of knowing what’s going on while someone smaller waits and wonders and learns to trust.

The pictures turn this story into something utterly charming. I don’t think anyone could read this book without falling in love with small, pensive Truman the tortoise.

jeanreidy.com
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.

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 Maybe Tomorrow? by Charlotte Agell, illustrated by Ana Ramírez González

Friday, July 26th, 2019

Maybe Tomorrow?

by Charlotte Agell
illustrated by Ana Ramírez González

Scholastic Press, 2019. 40 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 5, 2019, from a library book

Oh, this is a wonderful, joyous, and tender book about grief and about sharing burdens in friendship. I wish I could show the bright and joyful pictures. The editor here did the perfect match of illustrator to words.

Elba is a pink hippo-like creature (reminds me of a Moomin) with downcast eyes and Norris is a crocodile who walks upright. They live in a bright, springlike landscape. Here’s how the book begins:

Elba had a big block.
She’d been dragging it around for a long time.

It made her walk slowly.
It made her think darkly.
It was heavy.

Norris danced everywhere he went, even uphill.

One day, Elba was sitting on her block in the park, like she usually did.

Along came Norris in a cloud of butterflies.
At first Elba couldn’t see him in all that shininess.

Norris tries to get Elba to go on a picnic with him, but she wants to sit on her block, like she usually does. (The block is the one dark thing in the pictures.)

Norris stays and talks with Elba. He feels something sad in the block that wants to come out, but they don’t know how. By the end of the day, they say, “Maybe tomorrow.”

The next day, it’s raining, and Norris brings tea to Elba. “They had good, quiet tea with rain in it.”

The next day, Norris shows up again.

Tomorrow didn’t come, but another today did.
“It’s really time,” said Norris, “because I want you to come to the ocean with me.”
“Okay, I’ll just take my block,” said Elba, surprising herself.
“But it’s too heavy,” she added. “Right?”
“My butterflies and I will help you,” said Norris.

Indeed, the butterflies carry the block for Elba, slowly, all the way to the ocean. We learn what’s causing Elba’s sorrow as she tells about her friend Little Bird, whom she misses so much.

And after that, Elba’s block is smaller and lighter.

I hope I’m not giving too much away, and you really do need to read this book yourself, but I especially love this page at almost the end:

Together they stood and faced the roaring sea.
“I’ll always have this block, you know,” said Elba.
“Yes, maybe you will,” said Norris.
“But I will help you carry it sometimes.”

One lovely thing about this book is that you don’t have to be an Elba to appreciate it. If you’re a Norris, you can learn from his sweet, listening spirit, and his generosity with his butterflies.

It’s a friendship story and works as a friendship story. If there’s a big dark block of grief in your life, it will resonate all the more, but you don’t need that to love this book.

charlotteagell.com
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.

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 Sweety, by Andrea Zuill

Monday, April 1st, 2019

Sweety

by Andrea Zuill

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2019. 32 pages.

Sweety is a picture book about Sweety, a naked mole rat (who wears clothes) with unconventional habits and preferences. She’s an oddball and has trouble making friends.

I wasn’t crazy about it, not being particularly taken with the art, and sure I’ve heard this story before.

But then, a scene resonated! I realized: This is a picture book for people who have tried online dating!

Here are the pages that spoke to me, though the art does add so much:

Aunt Ruth said that being different was one of the best things about her life, and that if you stayed true to yourself, you’d find your people.

That made Sweety think.

Were there really people out there for her? How would they recognize her? How would she recognize them? Was there a secret handshake she’d have to learn?

She really hoped there was a secret handshake.

Sweety wondered how many times she’d been close to one of her people and not known it.

What if she stepped it up a notch? Would her people be able to spot her more easily?

[Shouting through a bullhorn:] My name is Sweety. I like dancing, mushrooms, and rainy days. You too? Need to find your people? Maybe we’re a match! Flyers are available.

[Picture of Sweety leading a parade of wagons with pictures of herself and her favorite activities.]

[Picture of Sweety in a mushroom costume dancing with fireworks.] Or would she just seem desperate?

For now, she’d trust Aunt Ruth, continue to do her favorite things, and be herself.

And maybe she’d try a couple of new hobbies just for fun.

After all, being Sweety wasn’t so bad.

The book does end with Sweety meeting a fellow mushroom-lover and making a secret handshake.

But I now have a go-to book for those times when I feel like “my people” just aren’t noticing me. A picture book for online dating!

I’m going to continue to do my favorite things and be myself.

And, okay, kids can get a nice message out of it, too.

andreazuill.org
rhcbooks.com

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

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

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

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Review of Monkey Time, by Michael Hall

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Monkey Time

by Michael Hall

Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), 2019. 48 pages.
Starred Review
Review written March 9, 2019, from a library book

Here’s what I like about this picture book: You can use it in multiple ways.

On the highest level, you can use it to teach children to tell time. There are “minutes” lined up around the tree like a clock. Diagrams in the back show what it looks like for all the multiples of 10 minutes up to 60. Twelve branches on the tree are positioned like the numbers on an analog clock.

There are also some rain forest animals pictured. They are named at the back.

You can also use this book to practice counting – all the way to 60. Or to count by tens.

But I’ve got a Mother Goose Storytime for babies on Pi Day this year – and I think I’m going to use this book on the very simplest level – as words that are fun to say. It will introduce them to the idea of a clock while I’m at it.

Here’s how the book begins (over several pages):

Psst! Wake up, Monkey!
It’s time to play.

Wheee! I bet you can’t
catch a minute, Monkey.

Chase me over.
Chase me down.
Chase me all the way around.
Faster, Monkey, faster.

Hop! Pop!
Ha-ha. You missed me.

Little round “minutes” keep running around the tree, and Monkey keeps trying to catch them. The tree fills up when sixty minutes have come out. (Don’t worry, the text doesn’t closely follow all sixty minutes.)

This clever little picture book reminds me of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by personifying a concept and making a story with them that’s fun to say.

A simple and fun way to introduce the concept of telling time.

michaelhallstudio.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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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 Harold & Hog Pretend For Real! by Dan Santat

Monday, January 28th, 2019

Harold & Hog
Pretend for Real!

by Dan Santat

Hyperion Books for Children, May 7, 2019. 64 pages.
Starred Review
Review written January 27, 2019, from an advance reader copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

This is another book in the series Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!. Mo Willems’ Gerald and Piggie characters appear at the beginning and end to introduce a book written by someone else. This one is delightfully meta, because the book they’re introducing features an elephant and a pig – Harold & Hog – who want to pretend to be Gerald and Piggie.

Harold and Hog are drawn by Dan Santat, much more realistically than the cartoonish Gerald and Piggie. They have glasses to pretend to be Gerald and a cartoon nose to pretend to be Piggie.

But there’s a problem when they try to carry it out. Because Gerald is always very careful – but Harold has trouble with that. And Piggie is always very carefree – but Hog has trouble with that. Their efforts in that direction are tremendously fun.

I’m writing this in my Seattle hotel room while at ALA Midwinter Meeting. We chose our Newbery winners last night but don’t announce them to the world until tomorrow morning. I’m feeling a little giddy ever since I realized that I can write a review of this book – a 2019 publication – and post it this very day!

Of course, the book won’t be published until May, but this is one to watch for! Watch book characters pretend to be each other! Too much fun!

dantat.com
pigeonpresents.com
hyperionbooksforchildren.com

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

Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I picked up at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

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

Review of Flora and the Peacocks, by Molly Idle

Friday, January 11th, 2019

Flora and the Peacocks

by Molly Idle

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2016. 32 pages.

Flora’s back! She’s dancing with a new kind of bird – this time not one, but two peacocks!

Flora looks a little more sophisticated this time, with flowers in her hair and holding a fan. She’s still got her child-sized round body shape.

Again, Flora dances with the birds, using the fan to mirror the peacocks’ tails.

Besides the beauty of the illustrations, the fun and motion of the flaps, and the way the child and birds mirror each other’s movements, Molly Idle always puts in a surprising amount of story in her books, even without words.

In this case, the fact that there are two birds means that a rivalry springs up. Jealousy threatens to destroy the dance – but then they come together in the biggest fold-out section of all.

Will the book and the huge fold-out hold up to library usage? That remains to be seen. It also makes me think it would be difficult to use in a storytime. But one on one, or with a few children at a time, I can easily imagine children reading this book again and again, enjoying the beauty and telling you all they notice about the characters, the feelings involved, and the ultimate happy ending. Without printed words, children will take pride in reading this book long before they can decode print. And what a wonderful way to introduce them to story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

chroniclekids.com

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

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

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

What did you think of this book?