Books by John Butler

WHERE IS BABY? by Kathryn O. Galbraith
Released: Oct. 1, 2013

"Though baby animal books abound, this one's sweet framing device, simple but precise language and appealing illustrations will no doubt find it some fans. (Picture book. 3-6)"
This sweet, simple introduction to animal babies focuses on how they keep themselves safe by hiding. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2011

"This heartfelt, humane vignette provides just the right details to appeal to animal-loving children. (Picture book. 5-9)"
An elephant's lifelong journey from the island of Sumatra to an American traveling circus, a zoo and finally a sanctuary is recounted in this graceful and poignant story. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2011

Soft-focus illustrations in acrylic and colored pencil introduce Little Bunny as he and his young animal friends play at night in the forest. Little Bunny learns that the dark is not something scary but instead presents opportunities to dig in the dirt with Freddie the fox and play in the moonlight with a family of dormice. A friendly owl named Olive reminds Little Bunny that it isn't really safe for little rabbits to be out alone at night, and she leads him back to his burrow, where his parents are waiting for him. The plodding story is rather old-fashioned and definitely of the forest-fairy-tale subgenre, as predator and prey play together as friends, and the owl warns the bunny and leads him home rather than having him for dinner. The book's raison d'être is its changing-picture format, used for the cover illustration and for three spreads inside. The circular changing-picture inserts cleverly shift to a new picture by lifting a tree-shaped insert at the right-hand side of the page. Toddlers and younger preschoolers will be fascinated by this quick-change effect within the page, as the bunny and the squirrel transform into a fox, or the bunny and his mother change into the rabbit family asleep in their cozy burrow. Sweet but far from essential. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
WEE LITTLE BUNNY by Lauren Thompson
Released: Jan. 26, 2010

Joining Wee Little Chick (2008) and Wee Little Lamb (2009), a fuzzy bunny "all brand new" exuberantly hops out to explore a grassy meadow until Mama's call ("Story time!") brings him hurtling back home for a cozy recap of the day's small adventures. Butler crafts an idyllic, almost Stepfordian setting, all bright blue sky and soft green grasses, and adds to the animal cast a frisky chipmunk, an irritable porcupine and a watchful "chickadee-dee-dee" for bunny to encounter. To call this title and its companions "cute" is to vastly understate the case; it's hard to read such lines as, " ‘Chase me first!' called the bunny, / and—giggle, giggle, giggle!— / he dashed through the grass," without wondering if the formula's fizzed over the top. But there's no question author and illustrator know their audience: As with the other titles it's just the ticket for urging recent graduates of toddlerdom to check out their world's boundaries and then coaxing them back into the fold and mama's lap. (Picture book. 2-4) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2009

Following the format of the familiar "Over in the Meadow," this gently illustrated book is a calmer version of those that have recently been published. As the sun sets, a rhino settles her child down for sleep and a monkey makes a bed for her two babies. "It was bedtime in the jungle, / And beneath a shady tree / A leopard tucked her paws / Around her babies three. / ‘Snuggle,' said their mother. / ‘We'll snuggle,' said the three. / And they snuggled up together, beneath the shady tree." And so the counting continues, through wolf, tiger, peahen, wild pig, duck, crocodile and elephants. In contrast to the original, which encourages actions and participation, this lulls listeners with words like nestle, cuddle, hush, settle and snooze. Nicely paired with the soporific text are Butler's realistic acrylic-and-colored-pencil illustrations. Soft colors and subtle textures lure readers into the scenery. Easily fitting the original tune, this is sure to send many little ones off to dreamland. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
WEE LITTLE LAMB by Lauren Thompson
Released: Jan. 27, 2009

Oozing verbal and visual glucose on every page, this parent-child episode will draw timorous toddlers like flies to marshmallow creme—just make sure they brush their teeth afterward. "All brand-new," a shy lamb rejects in turn the friendly overtures of a "flouncy pouncy rabbit," a "cheery crickety cricket," a "jolly robin redbreast" and a "swooping old hoot owl." Keeping his illustrations as simple as the text, Butler supplies for all shiny black eyes and, for the sheep, plushy fleeces, and places the creatures in a sunny meadow in which poppies float like little red hearts. A "bitty little mouse peeking round her bitty mama!" finally breaks down the lamb's fear of strangers, and together the two new friends gambol—still "right beside their mamas!" "What fun!" Thompson concludes. Yes, let the wild rumpus start. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
A MAMA FOR OWEN by Marion Dane Bauer
Released: March 27, 2007

The story of the baby hippopotamus named Owen who adopted Mzee, a century-old tortoise, as his mother, caught the world's imagination after the tsunami of 2004. Here, veteran author Bauer makes a sentimentalized version of the tale. Owen loves to play hide-and-seek with his mama, but the tsunami washes away all he knows and all those who know him. When he sees the giant tortoise, which seems to be the same color as his mama, Owen snuggles down next to him. He follows Mzee, swims, eats and plays hide-and-seek with him. Butler's acrylics-and-colored-pencil pictures are awash in pale and shadowy or rosy and golden tones, and the pictures give the animals soft and human expressions without quite anthropomorphizing them. The story is dramatized more fully, although with almost no words, in Jeanette Winter's Mama (2006), and told with photographs and a fine narrative text in Owen & Mzee (2006), by Craig Hatkoff and his daughter Isabella. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
TEN IN THE DEN by John Butler
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

This adorable offering remakes the traditional counting song, but with a new twist on the ending. Butler pictures ten woodland animals snuggled cozily in a den—until the little mouse squeaks, "Roll over! Roll over!" One by one, the friends roll over and find themselves tumbling right out of the den and gently down the hill: "Rabbit fell out. Floppetty, hoppetty, bump!" Mole, beaver, badger, porcupine, raccoon, fox, squirrel and bear all follow suit. But when the mouse finally finds himself with all the room in the den, he realizes that he misses his friends. So he scampers down the hill and joins them as they all snuggle together and fall asleep. Sweet, softly colored illustrations make this a perfect bedtime book, especially since the animals are reminiscent of beloved stuffed toys. A familiar song made into an enchanting tale of friendship. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
IF YOU SEE A KITTEN by John Butler
Released: March 1, 2003

Butler (Hush, Little Ones, 2002, etc.) leads young readers on an alliterative tour of creatures. From pudgy swines to enormous proboscideans, Butler covers critters big and small. The repetitive rhythm of the tale is ideal for young readers, simply naming an animal and describing a response. "If you see a prickly porcupine . . . say, ‘Ouch!' " Starting with only the most adorable of creatures, the tale begins with a heavy dose of cuteness in which curious kittens romp while petite door mice slumber. Savvy readers will soon realize that surprises are in store as Butler slyly interjects some of the less savory members of the species, with "slimy slugs" slipping past a "pretty peacock." The fun culminates in the arrival of a cantankerous crocodile, to which readers are prompted to shriek (what else of course) "HELP!" The final page depicts all of the animals along with the appropriate exclamation. The delicately detailed illustrations are quite wonderful, though a little unrealistic in some cases. Situated against a plain creamy background, each intricately drawn creature is an exquisite naturalistic rendering, requiring no extra fanfare. Perfect for preschoolers and younger, Butler's tale easily lends itself to group read aloud settings, with each successive reading sure to become more riotous as the children become familiar with their responses. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
HUSH, LITTLE ONES by John Butler
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

Never has the power of suggestion been more irresistible, as Butler (Whose Baby Am I?, 2001, etc.) offers a series of drowsy animal parents and their young nestling down together for the night. Paired to one large-type couplet each—"Hush, little penguin, go to sleep, / nestled between your fathers feet"—the snoozers are rendered in astonishingly lifelike close-ups, on oversized, double-paged full-bleed spreads, every downy feather or tuft of fur, every bright eye carefully limned. Butler intensifies the coziness of it all even further by giving every joey, colt, chick, cub, and pup a subtle smile; children will be smiling too as they drift off to dreamland on the wings of this sonorous beddy-bye rhyme. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
WHOSE BABY AM I? by John Butler
Released: May 1, 2001

Simple text introduces young children to an array of animal babies. An over-sized drawing of a juvenile wild animal is accompanied by the question "Whose baby am I?" Readers turn the page to discover a portrait of baby and parent, along with the statement "I am an owl baby" or "I am an elephant baby" This basic format is repeated throughout. Nine infants make up Butler's menagerie, including penguin chicks, panda cubs, koala joeys, and more familiar creatures, such as a zebra foal and a giraffe calf. The colored pencil-and-acrylic illustrations are irresistibly cute. Each portrait rests on a sheer pastel background that changes from picture to picture in a subtle range of hues. Remarkably life-like, the carefully drawn animals are finely detailed—from the wrinkled hide of the elephant to long, feathery lashes framing the soft brown eyes of the zebra. For older children, the final two-page spread contains a matching challenge where they can pair the offspring with their respective parents. Also included at the end is an illustration of all the animal babies, each labeled with its appropriate name—e.g., "owlet" instead of owl baby. Ideal for the smallest explorer, Butler's book of cuddlesome creatures is enchanting. (Picture book. 1-4)Read full book review >
PI-SHU by John Butler
Released: March 1, 2001

It's difficult to resist the universal appeal of pandas, and this slight tale of a young one and his mother is no exception. Pi-shu, whose name, readers learn from the notes, is an ancient Chinese word for panda and means "brave," has a tiny tail when he is born and is barely the size of one of his mother's eye patches. But he does grow quickly and learns to eat bamboo, climb trees, and observe other animals, like bamboo rats and golden monkeys. Then men encroach upon the forest, chopping trees for their own use, causing Pi-shu and his mother to search for a more remote, safer locale. Butler's prose is somewhat overwrought, with every noun carrying the weight of an adjective, and sometimes two. The pictures are pretty, with the roly-poly pandas in their black and white furriness contrasting with the misty mountains, lush greenery, and snowy hills. Not of the caliber of the venerable Panda of Susan Bonners (1978), and rather heavy-footed in its ecological message, but—oh!—those faces. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
BASHI, ELEPHANT BABY by Theresa Radcliffe
Released: Jan. 1, 1998

Characteristic of this British team's earlier collaborations (The Snow Leopard, 1994, not reviewed, etc.), danger in the wild lurks in the form of predators until safety can be restored, but this time a slight story takes a backseat to lifelike, illustrated, natural-history dioramas about an endangered baby elephant. Bashi's first day of life finds him bogged down in the slurpy mud banks of an African watering hole, surrounded by hungry lionesses eager to make a meal of him. Bashi's mother, Neo, tries to lift the young calf with her trunk so that he does not remain a defenseless target. The threat of three lionesses provides the sole suspense as other elephant herd members attempt to aid Neo in freeing young Bashi. Sandy colors light up a sky awash in a tangerine-colored sunrise; a Mount Rushmore of lioness faces peers out of golden grasses. Butler's highly delineated wildlife studies lend a realism to each scene leading up to the rescue of Bashi, who is soon enveloped again in the comforting protection of the herd. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
APES by Tess Lemmon
by Tess Lemmon, illustrated by John Butler
Released: Aug. 1, 1993

In handsome oversize format, a look at gibbons, gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans. The descriptive text explores habits, anatomy, and life cycle; beautifully detailed paintings—creatively intermixed with the text without the welter of sidebars, boxes, and so forth that frequently disfigure nonfiction—show apes leaping, climbing, sleeping, playing, or nursing in their forest habitats. There's a brief section on conservation, plus capsule reports on three people who have worked to protect these endangered animals. While relating much that's of interest, the text is not especially precise or detailed: ``The siamang [gibbon] is bigger than any of the others, and almost twice as heavy''—but how big? How heavy? ``Big ears help chimpanzees to hear well,'' but orangutans are shown with small ears—is their hearing poor? Lemmon doesn't say. An attractive purchase, nonetheless, for nature browsers. An endpaper world map shows the apes' limited ranges. (Nonfiction. 7- 10) Read full book review >