Archive for the ‘Picture Book Review’ Category

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

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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.

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

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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 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

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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 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

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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 Crash, Splash, or Moo! by Bob Shea

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

Crash, Splash, or Moo!

by Bob Shea

Little, Brown and Company, 2018. 44 pages.
Starred Review
Review written September 25, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out #7 in Picture Books – Silly Fun

Okay, this one’s just incredibly silly. But I can’t wait to booktalk it in the elementary schools next summer.

On the endpapers in front, Mr. McMonkey asks the reader:

Do you like action?
Are you a good guesser?
Then get ready to play…

CRASH, SPLASH, or MOO!

And the book begins:

Fearless daredevils perform amazing stunts, and YOU guess what happens.

Will they CRASH?
Will they SPLASH?
Or will they MOO?

Guess right, and win a delicious banana!

The team members are Action Clam, “America’s favorite splashin’, crashin’ stunt clam,” and a cow “who does cow stuff.”

There are five stunts. Let’s just say that it’s pretty easy to guess what will happen. In the first one, for example, Action Clam races in a car toward a big tower of blocks.

Raise your hand if you guess CRASH!
Raise your hand if you guess SPLASH!
Raise your hand if you guess MOO!

When a dramatic CRASH happens, if you guessed right, “You just won your first banana!”

And I simply can’t express with a description how very silly this book is. For example, after the second stunt, Mr. McMonkey throws in the line, “Okay, Frankie Two-Bananas, let’s see if you can guess the next one.”

Did I mention the results are easy to guess?

But oh, how much fun!

Check this book out the next time you’re feeling silly.

Addendum: This book was indeed hugely fun to read aloud to younger elementary-age kids. So much joy comes out of these pages!

bobshea.com
lbyr.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 Julián Is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Julián Is a Mermaid

by Jessica Love

Candlewick Press, 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written May 24, 2018, from a library book
2019 Stonewall Children’s Literature Award Winner
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #6 Other Picture Books

Julián Is a Mermaid is a wonderful story told with magnificent illustrations. On the front end papers we see a young boy swimming underwater while his abuela looks on. Abuela and her four friends – all approximately Abuela’s age and body type – are in the pool, too, wearing swim caps and holding onto the edge.

The book still hasn’t started. On the title spread, we see Julián and Abuela walking to the train station, with three tall, beautiful women flamboyantly dressed as mermaids walking behind them.

The book officially begins on the train. The mermaids get on the train, too. The text reads:

This is a boy named Julián. And this is his abuela.
And those are some mermaids.

Julián LOVES mermaids.

One of the mermaids waves to Julián. We can tell that the big book he’s reading has a picture of a mermaid inside.

The next spreads show Julián’s imagination. He’s in the water. He kicks off all his clothes but his underwear. A swarm of fish sweeps past – and Julián has a tail! He’s a mermaid! Another big fish gives him a necklace.

But he’s pulled out of the dream when the train reaches their stop. The mermaids wave good-by.

At home, while Abuela is taking a bath, Julián wants to live in his imagination a little longer. He takes off his clothes except his underwear, makes a mermaid crown with plants and flowers (this part is all shown with pictures), puts on lipstick – and uses the fluffy lace curtain from the window to make a beautiful tail. Julián stands triumphant in the same pose as in the picture on the cover.

When Abuela comes out, she doesn’t exactly look happy. We can see Julián considering what he has done.

And then, Abuela, all dressed now, gives Julián a bead necklace to complete his outfit. They go out the door together.

We aren’t sure where they’re going – but as they walk, we see many people, all dressed as sea creatures.

“Mermaids,” whispers Julián.

“Like you, mijo. Let’s join them.

And Julián and Abuela end up walking along the beach as part of a long ocean parade, all sorts of people in wonderful costumes – and the mermaids from the train right in front of them.

On the back endpapers, we’ve got Abuela’s swim group again, but this time they’re all underwater and they have all grown tails. Julián the mermaid is swimming beneath them.

The first lovely thing about this book is the illustrations. They are exquisitely and beautifully done. (In fact, I would be so happy if this book won the Caldecott.) All the people are distinct characters, and the art carries the story in most of the book.

But what’s especially lovely is that nowhere at all is Julián told that a little boy shouldn’t imagine being a mermaid. Abuela looks askance at him for taking down her lovely lace curtain – but even that she goes with.

And I love, love, love the way she encourages his imagination by letting him join the parade of others dressed as he is.

And nobody puts any restrictions on this boy’s 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.

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 Niblet and Ralph, by Zachariah OHora

Friday, May 1st, 2020

Niblet & Ralph

by Zachariah OHora

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written June 7, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out #6 in Picture Books – Silly Fun

Niblet and Ralph are cats that look almost exactly alike. They’ve got a pattern of calico colors that are almost mirror images of each other.

As the book opens, we meet Ralph and his owner Gemma and Niblet and his owner Dilla. We see them side by side, so we can see that the cats look a lot – but not exactly – alike.

They all live in the same building.
Two of them know this, but two do not.

Can you guess who does know?

That’s right! Niblet and Ralph are good friends, who talk on the phone every day. But their owners (as sometimes happens with neighbors in apartments) have no idea the other exists.

But one day, Niblet figures out how to go visit Ralph. Unfortunately, at the exact same time, Ralph figures out how to go visit Niblet.

When they get home from school, the kids know that something is up, but their parents don’t believe it.

Eventually, the owners discover that each is looking for the cat who looks like their cat. The mystery is solved and the neighbors become friends – as their cats already were.

This is a simple story with the fun of the reader knowing what’s going on when the characters don’t.

zohora.com
penguin.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.

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 Sea Prayer, by Khaled Hosseini

Sunday, April 26th, 2020

Sea Prayer

by Khaled Hosseini
illustrated by Dan Williams

Riverhead Books, 2018. 48 pages.
Starred Review
Review written November 29, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Other Picture Books

Our library has this picture book in the adult fiction section – a decision I question. However, it’s difficult – this is a serious enough topic, you don’t want a happy preschool child running across it with their parents. Why not juvenile fiction? I’m not sure.

It’s actually the note at the very back that makes this so serious:

Sea Prayer was inspired by the story of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach safety in Europe in 2015.

In the year after Alan’s death, 4,176 others died or went missing attempting the same journey.

The book itself contains no such tragedy. It is the letter of a father to his son – being written from a moonlit beach.

Both the language and the pictures in this book are gorgeous.

Here’s the beginning:

My dear Marwan,
in the long summers of childhood,
when I was a boy the age you are now,
your uncles and I
spread our mattress on the roof
of your grandfather’s farmhouse
outside of Homs.

We woke in the mornings
to the stirring of olive trees in the breeze,
to the bleating of your grandmother’s goat,
the clanking of her cooking pots,
the air cool and the sun
a pale rim of persimmon to the east.

He reminisces about when they visited, wishes his son could remember.

But that life, that time,
seems like a dream now,
even to me,
like some long-dissolved rumor.

He talks about how the city changed. The many deaths. The things his son knows about living during wartime.

You have learned
dark blood is better news
than bright.

It gets especially poignant when the letter moves to the present.

Your mother is here tonight, Marwan,
with us, on this cold and moonlit beach,
among the crying babies and
the women worrying
in tongues we don’t speak.
Afghans and Somalis and Iraqis and
Eritreans and Syrians.
All of us impatient for sunrise,
all of us in dread of it.
All of us in search of home.

I have heard it said we are the uninvited.
We are the unwelcome.
We should take our misfortune elsewhere.

But I hear your mother’s voice,
over the tide,
and she whispers in my ear,
“Oh, but if they saw, my darling.
Even half of what you have.
If only they saw.
They would say kinder things, surely.”

He finishes with a prayer:

Pray God steers the vessel true,
when the shores slip out of eyeshot
and we are a flyspeck
in the heaving waters, pitching and tilting,
easily swallowed.

Because you,
you are precious cargo, Marwan,
the most precious there ever was.

I pray the sea knows this.
Inshallah.

How I pray the sea knows this.

There’s more than what I quoted here, about twice as much, and the pictures are equally beautiful.

Would you give this book to a child? Even though children are the ones living it? What do you think?

dan-williams.net
penguinrandomhouse.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 Fry Bread, written by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Friday, April 17th, 2020

Fry Bread

A Native American Family Story

written by Kevin Noble Maillard
illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Roaring Brook Press, 2019. 44 pages.
Starred Review
Review written February 11, 2020, from a library book
2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Winner
2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor

Since this book won the Sibert Award, I’m going to list it on my Children’s Nonfiction page, but this book is really two things – a picture book with simple text and an informational book when you read the detailed eleven-page Author’s Note (with a recipe) at the back.

The picture book part is lovely. These spreads all begin with a caption “Fry Bread Is….” Fry bread is food, shape, sound, color, flavor, time, art, history place, nation, everything, us, and you. The pictures show a loving and joyful intergenerational group of American Indians making fry bread together. They’re a diverse group in appearance and skin tone, and have parents and elders guiding them and telling stories.

The pictures are joyful and evocative. I like the picture on the page “Fry Bread Is Sound” where you can almost hear the dough frying. The words are simple and could work in a story time.

Fry Bread Is Time

On weekdays and holidays
Supper or dinner
Powwows and festivals
Moments together
With family and friends

The Author’s Note brings it all together and explains the background and significance of the carefully-chosen details in the illustrations.

He begins the Author’s Note like this:

The story of fry bread is the story of American Indians: embracing community and culture in the face of opposition. It is commonly believed that the Navajo (Diné) were the first to make fry bread over 150 years ago. The basic ingredients may appear simple – flour, salt, water, and yeast – yet the history behind this community anchor is anything but.

Despite colonial efforts throughout American history to weaken tribal governments, fracture Indigenous communities, and forcibly take ancestral lands, Indian culture has proven resilient. In strange, unfamiliar lands, exiled Natives strived to retain those old traditions and they created new ones, especially for food. Survival meant adapting, and those ancestors, isolated from familiar meats, fruits, and vegetables, got by with what they had. Without the familiar indigenous crop of corn, historic farming practices and dietary traditions drastically changed.

Many tribes trace the origin of modern Indian cooking to this government-caused deprivation. From federal rations of powdered, canned, and other dry, government-issued foods, fry bread was born.

Then the note goes page by page, and along the way we learn that different tribes and different regions have different recipes and different traditions for fry bread.

Fry bread reflects the vast, deep diversity of Indian Country and there is no single way of making this special food. But it brings diverse Indigenous communities together through a shared culinary and cultural experience. That’s the beauty of fry bread.

There’s so much in this picture book. A story to enjoy combined with so much to learn about and celebrate.

kevinmaillard.com
juanamartinezneal.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.

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 We Are Brothers, by Yves Nadon, illustrated by Jean Claverie

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

We Are Brothers

by Yves Nadon
illustrated by Jean Claverie

Creative Editions, Mankato, MN, 2018. 32 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 Other Picture Books

This picture book tells a simple story of two brothers who go to a swimming hole every summer. The big brother jumps off the big rock into the water. He tells the little brother it’s his turn this year.

The pictures are what make this wonderful. We see the rock from the little brother’s perspective, and it’s simply enormous, towering overhead.

Then, when it’s his turn, he climbs the rock like a cat. When he gets to the top –

Legs shaking, turning around, the water seems so far away. Too far. A breeze makes me shiver.

How does the illustrator manage to portray him standing there, shivering? There are no motion lines, but you see him hunched into himself, his legs looking thin and small and his eyes looking huge. He looks cold and small and afraid. The next spread pulls back and shows his big brother a tiny head and arms in the water below.

Then the jump.

And then, I am yelling, my arms circling, my legs running in the air. My hands stretch for the sky, while my feet call for water. My eyes find my brother’s.

I am bird.

Then the water, where he becomes fish.

And the book finishes with the brothers doing it all again – together.

What’s wonderful about this book is the way it immerses you in the amazing and memorable moments of a boy’s first chance to do the great big thing – just like his brother. Time stops and starts as you read, and you’re right there.

So lovely.

thecreativecompany.us

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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.

What did you think of this book?