Archive for the ‘Picture Book Review’ Category

Review of Three Little Kittens, by Barbara McClintock

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

Three Little Kittens

by Barbara McClintock

Scholastic Press, 2020. 32 pages.
Review written June 12, 2020, from a library book

This book really made me smile. It’s from the song “The Three Little Kittens,” and I think I love the book because I had a record of the song when I was a little girl and played it over and over.

The book uses pictures with speech bubbles to tell the story in the song. You couldn’t exactly sing at the pace of the book – since there’s plenty of extras – but all the lines are there.

The kittens are adorable and full of energy, and some mysteries are solved. Why did the kittens soil their mittens? Because the pie was hot, and they used the mittens to eat it and made a mess. When they wash the mittens, they also make a mess, but do clean it up.

And at the end when they smell a mouse close by? It turns out there’s plenty of pie for all, so they invite him to join them.

Maybe I mostly enjoyed this book because it makes me nostalgic, but the happy, exuberant kittens (and their messily eating pie with mittens) and their forbearing mother made me smile.

scholastic.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/3_little_kittens.html

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 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?

Review of Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away, by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away

by Meg Medina
illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

Candlewick Press, 2020. 32 pages.
Review written September 23, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Full disclosure: I was privileged to be on the Newbery committee that chose Meg Medina’s book Merci Suarez Changes Gears as our winner and thus changed her life forever. After an amazing dinner with her and with the rest of the committee and our big celebrations together, she has a special place in my heart and I will always think of her as a friend. So I was predisposed to love this book.

Though at the same time, I have read a zillion picture books about a child moving away or arriving in a new place, so I wasn’t completely sure this one would stand out. And since I only review a small percentage of the picture books I read, I thought I could just quietly enjoy this book and let it go by without notice.

But this book is marvelous. I am confident I would love it even if I didn’t already love the author. And let me also add that the illustrations are stunning – and I have no connection to the illustrator, so there’s clearly no bias there. I’ve read the book a few times, and each time the words and pictures go straight to my heart.

Here’s how the book begins:

Evelyn Del Rey is my mejor amiga, my número uno best friend.

“Come play, Daniela,” she says, just like she always does.

Just like today is any other day.

The two girls are pictured with different shades of dark skin. Evelyn is peeking in the window of the apartment. On the next page, we see a big truck with boxes ready to go inside surrounded by bright orange and yellow fall leaves – still on the trees, but also on the street and on the sidewalk. Some of the items ready for the truck are named in the text – “Evelyn’s mirror with the stickers around the edge, her easel for painting on rainy days, and the sofa that we bounce on to get to the moon.”

The painting is so evocative of a dark and damp day in late Autumn, still with dazzling leaves, and Daniela has lonely eyes as she looks at Evelyn’s things, ready to go.

But that changes when she gets inside, with Evelyn waiting for her. We see the girls running upstairs with grins on their faces.

We learn that the girls’ apartments are mostly the same except for things like the color of paint and the furniture, just like the girls are mostly the same. But as Daniela talks about what a great friend Evelyn is, we see packing going on behind them and around them.

We find a still-empty box near the door. In no time, I am a bus driver steering us all over the city. We play until the tables that were bus stops are gone and the beds that were skyscrapers have vanished, too.

When we look around, everything has disappeared except us.

They make plans to talk every day after school, to visit in the summer, but Daniela knows it won’t be the same.

And it turns out not everything is gone. Daniela sees some sparkly stickers in a corner, and they wear them on their cheeks as they say good-by.

Finally as the actual good-by happens, the girls’ faces crumple. Their mothers try to comfort them, though Daniela knows that Evelyn will always be “my first mejor amiga, my número uno best friend…”

And where tears came to my own eyes was when I turned to the last page and saw a much older adult Daniela smiling and looking through a box of letters containing a picture of Evelyn, with the words:

the one I will always know by heart.

My own best friend moved away after sixth grade. And yes, we are still best friends today. In fact, when I was 42 years old, I moved to the town where she lives, on the other side of the country from where we were friends as children.

I’ve read quite a few books lately about kids who have moved to a new town and have to face that their old friendships have dissolved. So I actually wasn’t prepared to see in this story a friendship like the ones I’ve been privileged to have – friendship that sustains you for your entire life.

Here’s to friends we know by heart.

candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/evelyn_del_rey_is_moving_away.html

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 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?

Review of Sunny, by Celia Krampien

Saturday, September 12th, 2020

Sunny

by Cecilia Krampien

Roaring Brook Press, 2020. 36 pages.
Review written July 11, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

This little picture book is in the tradition of tall tales of bad luck followed by good luck followed by bad luck followed by good luck. In this case, there’s a sequence of apparently terribly bad things that happen to a little girl named Sunny – but she sees the bright side. And has some really good luck to offset the bad luck.

It starts with just a dreary day, windy and rainy, with kids trudging through the rain on the way to school. Most people would say that’s a bad day.

But not Sunny.
Sunny thought this day was the perfect day to use her big yellow umbrella. And it was.

But then the wind catches the umbrella and Sunny’s flying through the air. Most people would say that’s a bad situation, but not Sunny. Not even when she gets blown out to sea and stranded in a little boat and washed up on a lonely big rock.

When things finally get so very dreary that even Sunny starts to cry – that’s when there’s a dramatic, lovely, and perhaps slightly unlikely rescue.

So, sure, she’s a little bit late to school, but she has a mighty good story to tell.

This fun picture book gives readers a chance to think about looking at the bright side with a story whose unlikeliness makes it all the more enjoyable.

And hmmm. Perhaps I liked it all the more because I read it during 2020, when a successive series of unlikely bad events have happened. I wonder if I can find good sides like Sunny?

mackids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/sunny.html

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 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?

Review of I Can Be Anything, by Shinsuke Yoshitake

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

I Can Be Anything

by Shinsuke Yoshitake

Chronicle Books, 2020. Originally published in Japan in 2016. 52 pages.
Review written July 8, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

When I saw this book, I expected a trite message trying to be inspirational about how a child can be anything they want to be. That’s not what this book is about.

No, this is a story of an imaginative little girl putting off bedtime despite her very tired mother.

As the book begins, we see the girl jumping up and down.

Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!

I have a really good idea!

Oh, really? It’s time to go to sleep.

I’ll pretend to be something and you’ll guess what it is!

OK . . . Now don’t get angry if I make a mistake.

The little girl proceeds to pretend to be various things. From a pot and a clothespin to a overcooked broccoli and various kinds of aliens. The mother doesn’t get any of them right. And the choices are so random, and the drawings of the little girl so silly, they make me laugh.

The mother doesn’t get even one of her guesses right, and the girl does eventually get cross about it.
How does it end? The girl falls asleep while pretending to be something. We never do find out what she was that time.

This is a delightfully particular story completely the opposite of the generalized pablum I expected from that title. It might just kick off a game with your own imaginative preschooler, and at least the mother in the book gives you cover if you’re not very good at guessing.

chroniclekids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/i_can_be_anything.html

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 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?

Review of Madame Badobedah, by Sophie Dahl, illustrated by Lauren O’Hara

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

Madame Badobedah

by Sophie Dahl
illustrated by Lauren O’Hara

Walker Books, 2020. First published in the United Kingdom in 2019. 52 pages.
Review written August 8, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Madame Badobedah (rhymes with ooh-la-la) is a picture book, but it’s on the long side and has three parts, so it’s more for young elementary school students than the usual preschool picture book crowd. Those who can settle into the story will be completely charmed, as I was.

Our narrator, a little girl named Mabel, lives in a Bed and Breakfast, the Mermaid Hotel. The book begins on a day when they get a new guest, an old lady who comes with two dogs, two cats, a tortoise on a cushion, and 32 suitcases. She gets installed in the Mermaid suite on the top floor.

Mabel, who likes to do a little spying, quickly determines that Madame Badobedah (the name Mabel has for her) is a villainess on the run after her jewel heists. After all, the bag Mabel carried for her was so heavy, she knew it contained gold bars. Madame Badobedah doesn’t go out much, and Mabel does some surveillance through the keyhole.

But one day, Madame Badobedah invites Mabel in, and they have tea together. These visits become more common, until Mabel is even willing to share the secret of the Mermaid Room.

We end up with a charming and imaginative story about an intergenerational friendship, one which brings joy to both participants.

walkerbooksus.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/madame_badobedah.html

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 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?

Review of Lift, by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

Lift

by Minh Lê
illustrated by Dan Santat

Disney Hyperion, 2020. 52 pages.
Review written July 17, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s a wonderful picture book told in comic book format with not a lot of words and with fabulous richly colored illustrations.

The book begins with a small family getting into an apartment building elevator. We focus in on the little girl. She says:

Hi, my name is Iris.
When I’m feeling a bit down, there’s one thing that always cheers me up:
PUSHING ELEVATOR BUTTONS.

Luckily, that’s my job. Up or down, our floor or the lobby,
I always get to push the button.

But then one day, her baby brother pushes the button. And her parents are happy! Betrayal! In her rebellion, Iris pushes ALL the buttons.

Later, one of the elevators is out of order. Iris sees the repairman throw an old elevator call button into the trash. She fishes it out and later tapes it to the wall in her room so she has a button to push.

And it’s then that her adventures begin. For when she pushes the button, to her surprise it gives a Ding and lights up. And when she opens her closet door, she discovers magical worlds to explore.

Now pushing the button gives her a lift in a whole new way.

There’s some more family dynamics in the rest of this book, a wonderful celebration of adventure and imagination and family and small things that give you a lift.

And Dan Santat is so wonderful at making imagination come to life in his pictures. Another perfect pairing of author and illustrator.

minhlebooks.com
dantat.com
DisneyBooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/lift.html

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 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?

Review of In My Garden, by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Philip Stead

Friday, July 10th, 2020

In My Garden

by Charlotte Zolotow
illustrated by Philip Stead

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2020. Text first published in 1960. 40 pages.
Review written April 21, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s a perfect storytime book about changing seasons, beginning with Spring. The text is simple but lyrical, and I found myself reading it out loud, even though I was at home by myself. When the library starts doing story times again, I’m going to find a time to use this book.

The idea is simple. For each season, the girl speaking tells us what she loves best in her garden, and what she loves most to do.

The fun part, though, is that every time after she says what she loves best, she tells about other things she loves in that season.

Here’s one example:

In the fall what I love most to do is rake leaves.

Of course there are other things I like to do in the fall – buy new sweaters and skirts and pencil boxes for school, and pick the ripe golden pears from my tree.

But what I love most to do in the fall is rake leaves and jump in the big crackly golden piles of them.

Of course the natural thing to do after reading this book is talk about what you love best about the season you’re in.

charlottezolotow.com
philipstead.com
HolidayHouse.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/in_my_garden.html

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 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?

Review of We Are Water Protectors, by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade

Saturday, June 20th, 2020

We Are Water Protectors

written by Carole Lindstrom
illustrated by Michaela Goade

Roaring Brook Press, 2020. 40 pages.
Review written April 21, 2020, from a library book

The Author’s Note at the back of this picture book does tell us that her motivation to write it came from April 2016 when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protested against a pipeline going through their sacred lands and were joined by more than five hundred Indigenous Nations. But the text is universal – about standing on behalf of water and the earth.

The paintings on the large spreads in this book are colorful, lush, and gorgeous. We see a Native American girl repeating to the reader what she’s been told about the importance of water. We come from water – from our mother’s womb to the nourishment of water on the earth.

We also hear of a prophecy of a black snake that would come and poison the water, plants, and animals.

Now the black snake is here.
Its venom burns the land.
Courses through the water,
Making it unfit to drink.

Our protagonist declares she’s going to fight the black snake, and here the book is beautifully inspiring.

We fight for those
Who cannot fight for themselves:
The winged ones,
The crawling ones,
The four-legged,
The two-legged,
The plants, trees, rivers, lakes,
The Earth.

We are all related.

The language is simple and the pictures are beautiful. The reader will learn about Native American culture in a way that invites them also to contribute to protecting the water.

At the very back of the book, there’s a pledge to be a steward of the Earth and a protector of the water, and to treat all beings on the Earth with kindness and respect.

www.mackids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/we_are_water_protectors.html

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 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?

Review of Bedtime Bonnet, by Nancy Redd, illustrated by Nneka Myers

Friday, June 5th, 2020

Bedtime Bonnet

by Nancy Redd
illustrated by Nneka Myers

Random House, 2020. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written June 5, 2020, from a library book

Here’s a delightful family story about an young African American girl and her family – and how they do their hair at night.

The first line is,

In my family, when the sun goes down, our hair goes up!

The girl introduces us to all the family members, who all do their hair a different way. Her brother “twists and tightens each of his locs.” Her sister, mother, father, and grandma all have a different hair routine, and then Mommy braids the girl’s hair. But Grandpa doesn’t do anything to his hair, because he doesn’t have any.

There’s one problem, though. When her braids are all set and it’s time for bed, she can’t find her bedtime bonnet.

I need it to protect my hair from tangles and lint while I sleep.

She searches high and low for it and asks everyone in the family. We notice that all the other members of the family have a way of protecting their own hair at night.

When the hiding place of the bonnet is discovered, everyone gets to laugh.

At the end of the book, we get to see the family setting out in the morning with everyone’s hair looking great.

Yes, this book works as a window into something I didn’t know much about – how to care for African American hair. Yes, this book will be nice as a mirror for kids who are familiar with this kind of routine. But if that were all it did, I’d skip writing a review.

Bedtime Bonnet offers a just plain delightful story for preschool and early elementary readers. There are colorful, warm pictures of a loving family, complete with a silly Grandpa. There’s a situation of something important lost, and then found in a funny way. I was just completely charmed by this delightful picture book. When I finally get to do in-person storytimes again, I’d like to try out this book with an audience.

nancyredd.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/bedtime_bonnet.html

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 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?

Review of Drawn Together, by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

Friday, May 29th, 2020

Drawn Together

by Minh Lê
illustrated by Dan Santat

Disney Hyperion, 2018. 36 pages.
Review written in 2018 from a library book.
Starred Review
2019 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Picture Book Winner
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #7 Other Picture Books

This almost wordless picture book tells about a boy and his grandfather – who doesn’t speak English.

The boy has been dropped off at his grandfather’s house. They eat together – different foods, and they watch TV together but like different shows. They can’t talk together.

But then the boy gets out his markers and starts to draw. The grandfather sees and his face lights up. He brings over his sketchbook, ink, and brushes.

And they begin to draw – together.

Now, after years of searching for the right words, we find ourselves happily…

Speechless.

I have not discussed this with the Newbery committee, but my personal opinion is that it would be a stretch to give a Newbery award to a nearly wordless book. However, after my first reading, I would not be surprised if this book is seriously discussed by the Caldecott committee. The art is wonderful – using one style for the boy and another for his grandfather, as well as portraying their imaginary battles by each other’s side.

Added later: I was so happy when this was announced as the Asian/Pacific American Literature Award Winner for Picture Books.

minhlebooks.com
dantat.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/drawn_together.html

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 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?