Archive for the ‘Picture Book Review’ Category

Review of Julián at the Wedding, by Jessica Love

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

Julián at the Wedding

by Jessica Love

Candlewick Press, 2020. 36 pages.
Review written 10/20/2020 from a library book
Starred Review

It’s another picture book about gender-nonconforming Julián, from the lovely book Julián Is a Mermaid. What I love about both books is that this is a story about Julián and his vivid imagination. He happens to enjoy pretending in ways that don’t strictly follow gender norms. That’s who he is, and that’s celebrated – but the point of the book is Julián and his imagination, not his gender-nonconforming.

In this book, Julián and his abuela are going to a wedding, and Julián is in the wedding, dressed in a snazzy purple suit that isn’t strictly masculine or feminine. Two women are joyfully getting married, and we’re told, “A wedding is a party for love.”

At the dinner after the ceremony, Julián makes friends with Marisol, the flower girl. They go to play in the “fairy house” made by the leaves of a weeping willow tree. When Marisol plays with a dog and gets her dress all dirty, Julián has a solution, and both kids get to pretend to be fairies.

In both books, I love the way the adults appreciate Julián’s and now Marisol’s antics, rather than scolding. It’s another celebration of the power of imagination.

candlewick.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 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 Sticks and Stones, by Patricia Polacco

Friday, June 4th, 2021

Sticks and Stones

by Patricia Polacco

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. 48 pages.
Review written January 27, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Patricia Polacco’s books are long for picture books. Lots of pages, and lots of words on each page. These are not for the preschool storytime crowd, but they are for young elementary school proficient readers or for elementary school classrooms, people who appreciate pictures to go with the thoughtful text.

It’s a story of bullying. But also a story of friendship. As in many of her books, Patricia tells a story from her childhood in first person. One year, she spent the school year with her father in Michigan instead of with her mother in California. But her summer friends abandoned her, and the boy who was nice to the new girl was called Sissy Boy by the bully. The bully called Patricia, Cootie, and their other friend, Her Ugliness.

But the book shows the beauty of their friendship. Continued bullying, but fast friends. It turns out that Sissy Boy secretly takes ballet classes and loves ballet, and Her Ugliness makes beautiful kites and costumes from hand-painted silk.

The book tells the story of their friendship and culminates in a stunning ballet performance by Patricia’s friend Thom. But what really packed a punch for me was the author’s note at the back saying that now, more than fifty years later, Thom has retired as the artistic director of the American School of Ballet, and Ravanne (“Her Ugliness”) lives in Paris and has retired after an incredible career as a fashion designer.

I love the message this gives to kids that so often, bullies are just plain wrong.

PatriciaPolacco.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 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 Zonia’s Rain Forest, by Juana Martinez-Neal

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

Zonia’s Rain Forest

by Juana Martinez-Neal

Candlewick Press, 2021. 40 pages.
Review written May 18, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Zonia’s Rain Forest tells about a young Asháninka girl who lives in the rain forest with those she loves. (Her mother and infant brother are pictured.) It’s a simple story. Every day, Zonia likes to go greet her friends, and we see beautiful active paintings of Zonia with various creatures found in the rain forest (with a guide in the back as to what they are), with a blue morpho butterfly accompanying her on every page.

Some of the animals, such as the jaguar and the spectacled caiman look dangerous to this mom for a little girl to be cavorting with them, but it’s a child’s fantasy adventure, and Zonia is friends with the rain forest and with its inhabitants. I love the way Zonia is pictured always happily in motion.

The book ends with a frightening bare patch in the forest. Encouraged by her mother, Zonia purposes to answer the forest’s call to help. The final words of the book are, “We all must answer.”

In this beautiful and inviting book, every reader will feel Zonia’s kinship with the rain forest.

The five pages of back matter include, besides an identification of the animals pictured, a translation of the text into Asháninka, some facts about the Amazon, and a list of threats to the Amazon. It’s a call to protect the world given in a way that children can understand.

juanamartinezneal.com/zonia
candlewick.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 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 Farmer and the Monkey, by Marla Frazee

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

The Farmer and the Monkey

by Marla Frazee

Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster), 2020. 32 pages.
Review written February 6, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

The Farmer and the Monkey is the sequel to The Farmer and the Clown, both wordless books picturing an old and plainly dressed farmer with an unusual visitor who has fallen off the circus train.

When it’s a monkey, the farmer initially wants nothing to do with him. But even the farmer doesn’t want to leave the monkey out in deep snow.

And then we get to see the farmer loosen up and gain affection for the monkey, despite some chaos that follows after him.

The ending is similar, when they see the circus train coming back.

But the flap copy tells us this is going to be a trilogy! I’ll be watching for The Farmer and the Circus.

What makes these books so much fun is how much is told through pictures alone. I look forward to the day I can use this in a storytime, because it would be so much fun to hear what kids see in these wonderful pictures.

marlafrazee.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 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 Little Red Fort, by Brenda Maier, pictures by Sonia Sánchez

Friday, May 7th, 2021

The Little Red Fort

by Brenda Maier
pictures by Sonia Sánchez

Scholastic Press, 2018. 40 pages.
Review written March 15, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

I recently read and loved the new picture book The Little Blue Bridge, which is loosely based on the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. So when I discovered the author and illustrator pair had an earlier picture book out about the same irrepressible little girl with three big brothers, I immediately put it on hold.

The Little Red Fort is a picture book based on “The Little Red Hen.” Instead of animals, we’ve got a feisty little girl called Ruby, who has three big brothers. Instead of making bread, she wants to make a fort.

Both books begin the same way: “Ruby’s mind was always full of ideas.”

In this book, Ruby found some old boards and asks her brothers for help to build something.

Oscar Lee pretended not to hear her.
Rodrigo gave her a look that could melt Popsicles.
José almost fell off the fence.
“You don’t know how to build anything,” they said.

Ruby shrugged. “Then I’ll learn.”

And she did.

Ruby draws plans and gathers supplies. I was a little alarmed when I saw her carting supplies and spotted a saw in the box. But even though Ruby’s brothers won’t help her cut the boards, we see in the picture that Ruby’s mother is the one doing the actual cutting, while Ruby looks on behind safety goggles. And when it comes to hammering the nails, although Ruby is undoubtedly very helpful and overseeing where to put the nails, we see her grandma holding the hammer.

Yes, like the little red hen, since Ruby built the fort, she decides to play in it by herself. But I like the happy ending, as the brothers win their way in with some improvements and additions, including painting the fort red.

There’s a note at the end that this book celebrates the hundredth anniversary of the first picture book version of The Little Red Hen.

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 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 How Big Is Zagnodd? by Sandra Boynton

Sunday, May 2nd, 2021

How Big Is Zagnodd?

by Sandra Boynton

Little Simon, 2020. 16 pages.
Review written December 4, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

This is the very first time I’m reviewing a board book. But it’s a new Sandra Boynton board book!

Honestly? I don’t often even notice the board books that come into the library because you can’t put them on hold so I can’t look them over as they come in. But today I was pulling a bag of board books for a customer (we’ve had them on an ask-for-a-bag basis during the pandemic so they don’t collect drool), and saw this one, read it and was utterly charmed.

Spoiler alert: Zagnodd is SO big!

And then we’re asked more questions about other aliens. “How long is Boknuk?”, “How fuzzy are Fleeb, Fleeeb, & Fleeeeb?”, and “How bright is Igwak?”

But the place where I laugh out loud is, “How dancey are the nimble Klorggix of Planet 9?” And after that, we see one earthling named Steve who is SO lost.

If you delight in reading nonsense words, obviously this is the board book for your family.

Sandra Boynton’s genius is in making books that are short and sweet but delight little ones and adults alike. My own 32-year-old daughter had a set of Boynton board books and I swear her first word was “Fffff!” when reading the book called Doggies that had a WOOF! on each page. How Big Is Zagnodd? is a worthy addition to her offerings.

sandraboynton.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 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 Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf, by Sam Wedelich

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf

by Sam Wedelich

Scholastic Press, Spring 2021. 40 pages.
Review written March 8, 2021, from an advance reader copy sent by the publisher
Starred Review

In this book, Chicken Little, who is well known for leaping to conclusions, is knocked down by a wolf jogging by. It must be the Big, Bad Wolf! He’s certainly big anyway.

And when Chicken Little tells another chicken about it, the whole flock is all aflutter. What should their reaction be, fight or flight? And will either one work for a bunch of chickens?

While the flock is laying plans, Chicken Little decides to bravely investigate. She asks the wolf, “Are you bad?”

And the wolf answers:

Me? I don’t think so. I suppose we all have light and dark in us. . . but I try to make good choices if that’s what you mean.

It turns out that the wolf is a vegetarian, which made it hard for him to fit in with other wolves. After Chicken Little convinces the flock, they think of a way to make him feel at home.

It all adds up to a delightfully silly story about not jumping to conclusions and being willing to make others feel welcome.

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 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 Watercress, by Andrea Wang, pictures by Jason Chin

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

Watercress

by Andrea Wang
pictures by Jason Chin

Neal Porter Books, 2021. 36 pages.
Review written April 17, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

I knew that any picture book illustrated by Jason Chin would be stunningly beautiful, but I didn’t know how much this story would haunt me.

We see that we’ve gone back in time to a girl sitting in the back seat of an old red Pontiac. Her parents excitedly stop the car when they see watercress by the side of the road, in a muddy ditch next to a corn field.

In her stance, in her expression, you can see the girl is not happy about this stop. The whole family gets out and gathers watercress in paper bags. She gets wet and muddy, and her brother makes it worse. When a car passes, she ducks and hopes it’s not anyone she knows.

When they get home, the watercress is prepared for dinner, with garlic and sesame seeds. The girl doesn’t want anything to do with it.

Mom and Dad press me to try some.
“It is fresh,” Dad says.
“It is free,” Mom says.
I shake my head.

Free is bad.
Free is
hand-me-down clothes and
roadside trash-heap furniture and
now,
dinner from a ditch.

It takes a memory, and a photo, from the girl’s mother to change her attitude, with new appreciation for memories and family and watercress.

This is indeed a beautiful book, with emotions clearly shown in the pictures, with more subdued tones for memories. The text, too, is beautiful. Simple and spare, but saying so much.

An exquisite story about feeling like an outsider, and about family and memory.

HolidayHouse.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 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 Little Blue Bridge, by Brenda Maier, pictures by Sonia Sanchez

Friday, April 16th, 2021

The Little Blue Bridge

by Brenda Maier
pictures by Sonia Sanchez

Scholastic Press, Spring 2021. 40 pages.
Review written March 8, 2021, from an advance reader copy sent by the publisher
Starred Review

The Little Blue Bridge takes the pattern from the Norwegian folk tale, The Billy Goats Gruff, and puts a maker twist on it.

Ruby is always full of ideas. When she sees blueberries across the creek, she suggests to her brothers that they go across to pick some and make blueberry pie. But they leave without her.

However, the only way across the creek is a plank bridge that a bully, Santiago built. He tells the brothers they can’t cross unless they give him a snack, but one by one they promise better snacks in the sibling to come.

Ruby doesn’t have any snacks, so Santiago won’t let her cross. But she’s prepared for that! Ruby competently builds a much better bridge with blue planks.

And the story ties up in a delightful way, with the small sister getting her due and showing up everyone with her ingenuity.

The pictures are full of exuberant action and it all adds up to an utterly delightful story I hope to get to use in story time some day.

brendamaier.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 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 Nesting, by Henry Cole

Friday, April 9th, 2021

Nesting

by Henry Cole

Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins), 2020. 36 pages.
Review written April 21, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

We’ve got this in picture books in our library, and the story is slightly fictionalized, but you can also think of this book as a child’s very first nonfiction book about robins.

The story is simple – a robin couple meets, builds a nest, lays eggs, and cares for them. The story is accompanied by Henry Cole’s lovely and detailed illustrations, mostly black and white, but with accents of robin’s egg blue.

There’s a bit of gentle drama in the middle:

Down below, a snake sees the robins’ nest. The snake is hungry, too, and climbs the apple tree.

The robins fight back! They dive and swoop!

They don’t give up until they drive the snake away.

We see the baby robins leave the nest and get ready to start their own home.

It’s simple science for young kids – and it’s soothing and peaceful to see a robin’s life cycle all laid out for you. Henry Cole’s wonderful art makes this book something special.

henrycole.net

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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 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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