Archive for the ‘Picture Book Review’ Category

Review of Outside, Inside, by LeUyen Pham

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Outside, Inside

by LeUyen Pham

Roaring Brook Press, 2021. 44 pages.
Review written January 28, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

It gives me pause that the pandemic has been going on long enough for a top-quality illustrator to have a wonderful book about it published.

Here’s the text for the first several spreads:

Something strange happened on an unremarkable day just before the season changed.

Everybody who was OUTSIDE . . .

. . . went INSIDE.

Everyone.
Everywhere.
All over the WORLD.

There are lovely spreads about the people inside and outside hospitals, as well as talk about the empty parks, playgrounds, and schools, and the animals that came out to play.

It talks about the many things we did inside while waiting.

It talks about WHY we did this. “But mostly because everyone knew it was the right thing to do.” According to the Author’s Note, the images on this page are of actual people who died of Covid-19, along with people who love them.

I got to hear the author speak about this book at ALA Virtual Midwinter meeting, and she couldn’t talk about the hospital pages without crying. Though the book itself comes across as full of hope. There’s a black cat on each page, leading the reader through the book – the perfect choice, because cats can go anywhere.

I love the spreads at the end that bring it home:

On the OUTSIDE,
we are all different.
[Here the image is of many homes, in architectural styles from all over the world, and children from all ethnicities looking out the windows.]

But on the INSIDE,
we are all the same.
[Now the sun is setting and the silhouetted, happy children all have red hearts radiating out from them.]

The final metaphor is that Spring will come soon. There’s a wonderful spread of people outdoors, close to each other, and featuring a child giving an older relative a huge hug.

May that day come soon indeed.

This is a lovely book about hard things that fills the reader with hope. There’s lots to talk about, but the actual text is simple enough for a very young child. The book feels universal, featuring people all over the world, and it will still make for lovely reading even when this pandemic is long past.

leuyenpham.com
mackids.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 Passover Guest, by Susan Kusel, illustrated by Sean Rubin

Sunday, February 21st, 2021

The Passover Guest

by Susan Kusel
illustrated by Sean Rubin

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2021. 36 pages.
Review written January 27, 2021, from my own copy, signed to me by the author
Starred Review

I’ll be honest right up front: The author of this book is a friend of mine. I met her at KidLitCon in 2008 (I think) when she had been accepted to attend the William Morris Seminar to learn about book evaluation, but my application had not been accepted. But I joined her monthly book club talking about children’s books. In 2012 was my turn to attend the seminar. Then I got on the ballot for the Newbery Committee the same year Susan was on the ballot for the Caldecott committee. Susan got elected to the committee, but I missed it by 15 votes. Well, a few years later, my turn did come along and I served on the 2019 Newbery committee. So I’m getting to where I delight in Susan’s successes, as she shows how these things are possible! Oh, and that reminds me – Susan took obvious, joyful delight in each of those successes in a way that spreads the joy to those who see it. Her joyous posts on Facebook about signing copies of the new book ordered through a local independent bookstore prompted me to order a copy of my own.

And the book – with all that build-up, I wasn’t surprised to find it wonderful. It’s a retelling of The Magician, by I. L. Peretz, about a mysterious and magical person showing up at Passover time. Susan sets this story in 1933 in the middle of the Great Depression in Washington, D.C., which is so beautiful in the Springtime. (And she researched that peak cherry blossoms that year hit the first night of Passover.) The illustrator did a wonderful job showing the beauty and grandeur of the monuments among the cherry trees – and then the poverty and plainness of a poor Jewish family with the father out of work.

A miracle happens, and we see the whole thing through the eyes of a little girl named Muriel who sees more than most. Ultimately, the whole community comes together and shares in the traditional celebration.

A lovely story of magic and blessing.

HolidayHouse.com

Order a signed copy from One More Page Books

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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 Seven Golden Rings, by Rajani LaRocca, illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Seven Golden Rings

A Tale of Music and Math

by Rajani LaRocca
illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan

Lee & Low Books, 2020. 40 pages.
Review written February 6, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2021 Mathical Book Prize Winner, ages 8-10

I recently did a class about books for all ages that include fun math ideas, and discovered this book a day too late to include it, but this is a fun story that tells about the binary number system in a clever way.

In ancient India, Bhagat is going to the capital to audition for the royal troupe, but all he has for the journey is one rupee and a chain of seven golden rings, the last of his mother’s wedding necklace.

He finds a place to stay in the capital city, and they will charge him one gold ring for a night’s stay. Bhagat doesn’t know how many days it will take him to be called to audition for the king. He doesn’t want to pay all seven rings if he gets called sooner.

Then he finds a goldsmith who will break a ring for him to separate it from the chain – but he will charge one rupee to break one link, and Bhagat only has one rupee.

The clever solution is that he has the goldsmith break the third link in the chain. Then that ring is separate, and he’s left with two chains, one with two links and the other with four. He is able to get the exact amount owed each day from one to seven days.

There’s an unexpected end to the story, and then an Author’s note explaining the binary number system and how it relates to the story.

I love this simple and visual approach to teaching binary! The story that goes with it will make it all the more memorable, and I love that the author set up a situation where this idea really did solve a problem.

rajanilarocca.com
archanasreenivasan.com
leeandlow.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 Swashby and the Sea, by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Monday, February 1st, 2021

Swashby and the Sea

by Beth Ferry
illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 32 pages.
Review written July 7, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Standout:
#8 Fiction Picture Books

Swashby and the Sea is a charming story of an old sea captain who likes living alone, by his friend the sea. His little boat is even called El Recluso. But when neighbors move in, a little girl and her granny, the girl doesn’t respect Swashby’s boundaries. She climbs on his deck and spreads out on the beach near his house.

Swashby knows what to do.

Swashby battened down the hatches,
hid when the doorbell rang, and fed their oatmeal cookies to the gulls.
He didn’t need neighbors.
He didn’t want neighbors.
Neighbors were nosy, a nuisance, annoying.
So, in return, he left a message written clearly in the sand,
NO TRESPASSING
which the sea fiddled with, just a little bit.

“SING,” the girl read.
And did just that.
She sang every song she knew while dancing up and down Swashby’s deck.

There are more messages in the sand, and the sea keeps fiddling with them. Something I like about this book is that I didn’t figure out how the sea would transform the message – but then when I saw it, it was perfect.

There’s maybe a predictable adventure that gets Swashby finally truly committed to friendship, but the whole thing is a charming story of an old crusty sailor and a little Black girl bubbling with joy. I should add that the pictures are consistently wonderful and convey the characters’ personalities and the magic of the sea.

bethferry.com
juanamartinezneal.com
hmhbooks.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 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 Blue House, by Phoebe Wahl

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

The Blue House

by Phoebe Wahl

Alfred A. Knopf, 2020. 36 pages.
Review written September 9, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Standout:
#8 Fiction Picture Books

Here’s a picture book about having to move from a much loved house. It’s done with sensitivity and particularity that’s just lovely.

We meet Leo and his Dad. I like that Leo is a boy with long hair. They live in an old blue house with leaks and creaks. They like to dance and make music together.

Leo loved the blue house in winter, with its hiding places and cozy spaces.

When the old heater broke, they would bake a pie just to warm up the kitchen.

But the neighborhood is changing. Leo’s dad tells him that their house is going to be torn down and they will have to move.

Leo doesn’t respond well at first. But eventually, they use music to express their anger.

They shredded on guitar, and Leo did a special scream solo. It made both of them a little less mad.

They do further things to adjust, like painting on the walls of the empty house before it’s torn down. Even after they’ve moved, they find ways to remember the old blue house. And ways to make their new house feel more and more like home.

This is a lovely story of a small family dealing with something hard and making a new home together.

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 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 Every Color of Light, by Hiroshi Osada, illustrated by Ryoji Arai

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

Every Color of Light

by Hiroshi Osada
illustrated by Ryoji Arai
translated from the Japanese by David Boyd

Enchanted Lion Books, 2020. First published in Japan in 2011.
Review written November 9, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Standout:
#6 Picture Books

This simple and beautiful picture book shows a landscape with lots of sky on every spread. From the first line – “Look, it’s raining.” – to the ending page – “We’re all falling falling soundly soundly asleep asleep…” – the book shows us every color of light that shows up in the sky.

First, during the rain storm we get the world darkening, then lit up by thunder and lightning. After the sun comes out, the sky brightens through sunset and twilight and the stars and moon coming out.

It’s all simple and beautiful. It gets children – and adults – thinking about the colors of the light outside. Here’s an example from a couple of spreads:

Slowly, the air clears.
Slowly, all becomes bright.

Raindrops drip from leaves.
Sparkling like crystals, they fall to the ground.

Of course, the striking part is the pictures, which I can’t reproduce for you here. Check out this book and see for yourself. I’m picturing this book not so much for storytime as for reading to a child on your lap and talking about the book and about the world.

enchantedlion.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 Rita and Ralph’s Rotten Day, by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Pete Oswald

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Rita & Ralph’s Rotten Day

by Carmen Agra Deedy
illustrated by Pete Oswald

Scholastic Press, 2020. 48 pages.
Review written March 5, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

I want to read this book in a storytime! I recognized some elements from stories I’ve heard before, and sure enough, an Author’s Note at the back explains that the story is adapted from “the classic hand game, ‘Mr. Wiggle & Mr. Waggle,” and explains the hand motions you can use as you read the book. I think I would want to prop the book up and do just that.

But the story goes beyond that. It’s also a story of hurt feelings and reconciliation.

Here’s how the book begins:

In two little houses,
on two little hills,
lived two best friends.

Every morning, Rita and Ralph would
open their doors,
step outside,
close their doors,
and run . . .

. . . down the hill,
and up the hill,
and down the hill,
and up the hill.

They’d meet under the apple tree and high-five,
pinkie-shake,
do a cha-cha-cha,
play zombie tag,
and make daisy chains.

But one day, they try a new game, “Sticks and Stones,” and Rita gets hurt.

They don’t handle it well to start (running away) and feelings get hurt.

What follows is a tale of reconciliation. But that reconciliation involves a whole lot of going down the hill and up the hill and down the hill and up the hill.

And I think it’s going to be tremendous fun to read aloud. The story is enhanced by the long thin format showing all the hills between the two houses.

carmenagradeedy.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 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 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

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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 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 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

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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 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 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

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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?