Review of This Book Is Not for You! by Shannon Hale, illustrated by Tracy Subisak

This Book Is Not for You!

by Shannon Hale
illustrated by Tracy Subisak

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2022. 40 pages.
Review written May 3, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

Oh, this book is wonderful! Don’t tell, but this is a message book — for the adults.

Shannon Hale has written many magnificent books, but several of them have “Princess” in the title, including her Newbery Honor book Princess Academy and her beginning chapter book series The Princess in Black. She’s been frustrated when adults tell little boys that her princess books are not for them, even though the Princess in Black has a secret identity and fights monsters. So this picture book points out how ludicrous that attitude is.

As the book opens, a boy named Stanley is happily biking to the bookmobile.

A book called The Mysterious Sandwich sat up tall on the display shelf. Stanley liked mysteries, and he liked sandwiches. Perfect.

But when he asks the librarian if he can check it out, a very old man is there in her place. (I appreciate this touch that the role of mean gatekeeper is not played by an actual librarian.) The old man looks at the back of the book and finds out it’s about a girl and tells Stanley he wouldn’t want to read it.

Stanley really did want to read it, but now he felt embarrassed.

His friend Valeria comes along, and she does get to read the book.

But things start getting silly when the old man finds a cat book but won’t let Stanley check it out. Instead, he gives it to a cat! And when Stanley asks for a robot book, he’s told only robots can read books about robots — and a robot rolls up and checks it out.

After another attempt to read an interesting book that has a girl as a main character, the old man gives Stanley a book to try and he goes over to the field where everyone who got a book is reading.

After that, some secretive trading happens, not only between Stanley and Valeria, but between the cat and the robot as well.

But as they are quietly enjoying books that were not authorized, the ground shakes because a dinosaur is walking to the bookmobile. The dinosaur wants to read a book about ponies. When the old man doesn’t dare deny the dinosaur’s request, Stanley gains the ability to speak up as well.

It’s all silly and delightful and shows how ridiculous it is to insist that boys read books about boys and girls read books about girls. Because who’s going to tell a dinosaur she can’t read about ponies?

shannonhale.com
tracysubisak.com
penguin.com/kids

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Review of How to Be Cooler Than Cool, by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien

How to be Cooler Than Cool

by Sean Taylor
illustrated by Jean Jullien

Candlewick Press, 2021. 36 pages.
Review written April 8, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

I’ve got a whole category of Delightfully Silly picture books, and this book fits right in with a story that makes my heart smile. I was already a big fan of these creators from their book Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise, and this book is equally quirky and wonderful.

As the book opens, Cat finds a pair of sunglasses. And they bring a revelation:

“You know what,” she said.
“I’m not just any old cat at the playground.
I’m a real cool cat who can glide backward down the slide, looking cooler than cool . . .
WITH EXTRA COOL ON TOP!”

But gliding down the slide doesn’t go as Cat had hoped, and among other things, the sunglasses go flying off her face.

Cockatoo finds them.

“You know what,” he said.
“I’m not just any old cockatoo.
I’m a supercool cockatoo
who can dance coolly along the seesaw,
doing the supercool cockatoo boogaloo!”

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But Cockatoo’s antics, too, don’t end up as cool as he’d hoped.

Some more animals get into the act, and the book finishes up with a wonderful message that it’s not about trying to be cool — it’s all about having fun.

But the fun part to this book is of course how it gets there — the expressive faces in the pictures, the comments in speech bubbles, and yes, seeing animals who think they’re cool having a downfall.

This book is more for Kindergarten through first graders than preschoolers, and if I were booktalking in schools this year, this would be on top of my list. It would also work great for family storytimes — or, okay, anyone who has five minutes to read it. Yes, this is the sort of book I push on my coworkers to make them smile.

Read this book! You’ll be cooler than cool if you do!

candlewick.com

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Friday Night Wrestlefest, by J. F. Fox, illustrated by Micah Player

Friday Night Wrestlefest

by J. F. Fox
illustrated by Micah Player

Roaring Brook Press, 2020. 48 pages.
Review written March 31, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

I met the author of this book at the Highlights Foundation Retreat Center, doing a writers’ retreat. I found the book on our library shelves and was completely charmed.

The picture book shows us a Friday night tradition. After a pizza dinner, there’s a blocked off “Arena” with lots of cushions and pillows and blankets. A banner declares “FRIDAY NIGHT WRESTLEFEST” with a sign saying “Main Event: Battle to the Bedtime.”

In this corner it’s — DANGEROUS DADDOO!

He’s mad. He’s bad.
He’s DAD.

Over on the kid crew we have — THE TAG TEAM TWINS. Featuring tthe nutty-by-nature PEANUT BROTHER and the wriggly-giggly JELLYFISH

*with special guest star* . . . BIG BALD BABY!

And then the Wrestlefest begins! All the participants have homemade costumes and specially named moves appropriate to them. (Daddoo’s may involve tickling and kissing.) There’s a twist in the action coming from MAMA-RAMAAAAAA doing a Flying Mom Bomb. And it all wraps up with a surprise offensive from Big Bald Baby.

And then, like all the best picture books, the story ends with the kids tucked into bed. I like the way the bedtime routine gets wrestle move names, too, like Brush-n-Flush and Book-n-Tuck. The wrestlefest becomes a nestlefest.

It’s all got simple language, fun pictures, and big, dramatic action.

What especially made the book fun for me was hearing from the author that this Friday Night Wrestlefest was based on actual Friday nights in their home. Perhaps readers can start their own Friday night tradition!

jffox.com

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Review of We Wait for the Sun, by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe, pictures by Raissa Figueroa

We Wait for the Sun

The Story of Young Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Her Grandmother’s Enduring Love

by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe
pictures by Raissa Figueroa

Roaring Brook Press, 2021. 36 pages.
Review written April 7, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2022 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book

We Wait for the Sun is not a traditional picture book biography, but it is a lovely picture book story about a little girl going berry-picking with her grandmother and friends before the sun comes up. The illustrations catch the dawning light so beautifully. The text gives you the feeling of fresh, sweet, juicy berries in your mouth.

But then the wonderful part, in both text and illustrations, is when the sun comes up. Grandma stops everything and watches the sun rise with Dovey Mae.

Again and again, Grandma reaches low or stands tiptoe to pluck berries. And then, suddenly, in the middle of her rush, she stops.

“Look, Dovey Mae,” she whispers. “Over yonder.”

Slowly, slowly, the horizon pinkens.

“Here she comes!” Grandma whispers. She draws me to her, and together we watch the pink turn to red, the red to gold.

Then, all at once, as if at my grandmother’s command, the orange ball that is the sun shows its face.

It rises up over the edge of the world, and as it does, Grandma rises, too, and stands, just looking, her face shining in the light.

It’s a beautiful story of community, family, and sweetness. Then at the back in a four-page author’s note, we learn about Dovey Johnson Roundtree and the remarkable life she lived, breaking boundaries in the military, law, and the ministry. This story came from the autobiography she wrote with the help of Katie McCabe before she died.

It’s a lovely story for children that comes from a remarkable woman who spent her life shining like the sun.

rizzyfig.com
mackids.com

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Review of Look, Grandma! Ni, Elisi!, by Art Coulson, illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight

Look, Grandma!
Ni, Elisi!

by Art Coulson
illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight

Storytelling Math (Charlesbridge), 2021. 32 pages.
Review written December 29, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s another book from the amazingly good Storytelling Math series. All of them present math concepts in a real-life setting that will appeal to children. All of them also present cultural information, not presented as “other” or “exotic” or “different,” but from the perspective of a child within that culture, excited and proud and enjoying things their family does.

In this book, Bo is working on large colorful stone marbles for the Cherokee National Holiday coming up. The marbles are used in the game Cherokee marbles, digadayosdi, and Bo wants to sell them in his family’s booth at the festival.

Bo has a lot of marbles, and he wants to display them at the booth. But when he finds a nice tray to use to display them, Grandma tells him that the tray is too big. Their booth is small and he can display the marbles in the booth, but whatever he uses needs to fit on a small mat she shows him.

So it’s a volume problem. Bo is trying to find a container with a base as small as the mat that will still display the marbles well. And not so tall that it’s hard to reach inside.

After Bo finds the perfect container (which takes lots of tries), they show him happily displaying them in his family’s booth — and then playing Cherokee marbles together to get a break.

The book weaves in some Cherokee words, and there’s a glossary at the back along with the feature at the back of every Storytelling Math book called “Exploring the Math.” In this book, that section gives ideas of activities to help kids explore volume and area. I love the way these stories are jumping-off places for more learning.

artcoulson.com
madelyngoodnight.com
terc.edu
charlesbridge.com

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Review of What Will Fit? by Grace Lin

What Will Fit?

by Grace Lin

Charlesbridge, 2020. 16 pages.
Review written September 30, 2021, from my own copy ordered via Amazon.com
Starred Review

What Will Fit? is a board book in Charlesbridge’s wonderful “Storytelling Math” series.

This one is perfect – exploring spatial relationships in a way that is vitally interesting to the toddlers it’s written for.

The story is board-book simple. We’ve got a little girl going to the farmer’s market with a basket. She wants to find something that fits just right in her basket. She looks at a beet, an apple, a zucchini (turned both ways), and an eggplant.

Finally, she finds a pumpkin just the right size and celebrates.

On the back spread are notes to parents with playful ways you can build your child’s spatial sense.

The package all adds up to a sweet little story for short attention spans that will springboard into conversations that will help children learn an important concept fundamental to mathematical understanding. And all in a way that is interesting to them.

gracelin.com
charlesbridge.com/storytellingmath

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Review of Mel Fell, by Corey R. Tabor

Mel Fell

by Corey R. Tabor

Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins), 2021. 40 pages.
Review written July 10, 2021, from a library book
2022 Caldecott Honor Book

Mel Fell is a simple picture book with pizzazz. I love the way it plays with the format of the picture book to catch interest.

The book begins in an unusual position. You open the book with the spine up. Then we get a tale of a baby kingfisher named Mel who decides it’s time to fly. But when she stepped off the branch, instead of flying, Mel fell.

We’re zoomed in on Mel and see various creatures try to catch her – squirrels, bees, a spider – all to no avail. Then there’s a big “Oh no!” and Mel’s eyes that were serenely closed pop open.

But on the next page, there’s a big splash. Then we see underwater, where Mel catches a fish in her beak, and we’re cleverly asked to turn the book.

The rest of the book has Mel flying triumphantly out of the water (now with the spine of the book below the pages we’re turning) and up and up, past the creatures we saw on the way down, back to her nest.

It’s all fun and simple, with only a little text on each page, but a dramatic and easy-to-follow story.

An author’s note at the back explains that kingfishers dive into the water from trees. “A young kingfisher probably doesn’t catch a fish the first time they leave the nest. But then, Mel is a very special bird.”

coreyrtabor.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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Review of 1 Smile 10 Toes, by Nelleke Verhoeff

1 Smile 10 Toes

by Nelleke Verhoeff

Barefoot Books, 2021. 24 pages.
Review written December 10, 2021, from my own copy, purchased via amazon.com
Starred Review
2022 Mathical Book Prize Winner, PreK

1 Smile 10 Toes is now one of my favorite board books. As with many board books, this one is part toy. All the pages except the last one are split in two, featuring a friendly imaginary animal all the same width in the middle. So you can turn parts of pages to mix and match the tops and bottoms and create many different kinds of creatures.

But the learning part is that each half-page has something to count. The only text is a numeral with the body part being featured. Some examples on top are 8 Feathers, 7 Curls, 3 Beaks, 5 Eyelashes, 4 Ears, 10 Spikes. Some examples on the bottom are 8 Toes, 9 Claws, 4 Feathers, 10 Hooves, 2 Thighs, 9 Fingers.

You can tell from the examples, the author didn’t worry about being conventional. I imagine that adults will get tired of counting things for kids long before a child will get tired of looking at these pages. I remember as a small child being fascinated with mix-and-match books, and this one has the additional bonus of teaching counting.

There’s no order to the number of things featured – all the numbers between 1 and 10 are featured, but in random order, which works well with the mix-and-match theme. You might want to wait to use it with a kid who knows that having 4 ears is silly.

No matter what, it’s a lovely way to give a small child endless things to count.

barefootbooks.com

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Review of Skywatcher, by Jamie Hogan

Skywatcher

by Jamie Hogan

Tilbury House, 2021. 36 pages.
Review written January 14, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s a simple picture book about a kid who loves a comic book series about a space traveler named Skywatcher — but he’s never seen the stars, because he lives in a city with lights that are too bright. So he and his mother go camping in a dark place. He sees constellations he’s read about, and after the moon sets, he sees the Milky Way.

The story is simple, but the artwork makes this book extra special. The yellow lights of the city and the stars shine by contrast with the purple night.

Several constellations are shown on the endpapers, after the mother points out a few in the text of the book. The back matter includes background on some facts that came up, tells how YOU can be a Skywatcher, and lists Dark-sky preserves in the U. S. and Canada. Oh, and there’s a comic page as drawn by the main character with tips how the reader can defend the dark and not contribute to light pollution.

So besides a lovely story, there are some great resources here. I was charmed.

tilburyhouse.com

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Review of A New Green Day, by Antoinette Portis

A New Green Day

by Antoinette Portis

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2020. 32 pages.
Review written July 6, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

This book is a series of poetic riddles about things in nature a girl encounters as she goes through her day. They aren’t posed as riddles, but as a description, and then you turn the page to find out what is talking.

Here are a few:

“Morning lays me on your pillow,
an invitation, square and warm.
Come out and play!”

says sunlight.

“I am cool pudding
on a muggy day.
Let your toes
have a taste!”

says mud.

“I race up the hill
while lying at your feet.
Wave at me
and I’ll wave at you,”

says shadow.

The pictures that go with the riddles are quiet, joyful, and evocative, with a palette of mainly greens and browns, appropriate for a day mainly spent outdoors in the summertime.

It’s a simple book, perfect for celebrating simple pleasures in nature.

antoinetteportis.com
HolidayHouse.com

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