Books by Neal Layton

LOOK! I WROTE A BOOK! by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Released: July 23, 2019

"Not really enough of a story for telling a story about storytelling. (Picture book. 4-8)"
From inspiration to finished tome, a child author demystifies the process. Read full book review >
Released: May 2, 2017

"Hyperbole, verbal and visual, reigns in this zany world. (Picture book. 4-8)"
How does a boy drink up the whole sea? Read full book review >
THE TREE by Neal Layton
by Neal Layton, illustrated by Neal Layton
Released: Feb. 7, 2017

"A feather-light tribute to finding common ground—or make that common air space. (Picture book. 2-5)"
A tree in a deep rural clearing proves to be a small village in jeopardy. Read full book review >
Released: March 12, 2013

"Easily digestible, if not particularly nutritious. (index, glossary) (Nonfiction. 7-9)"
Davies (Talk, Talk, Squawk!, 2011) rips viciously into another popular topic with this gallery of animals "decked out for killing"—from tiny venomous spiders to big cats for whom humans are just slow-moving "meals-on-legs." Read full book review >
GO WILD WITH... DESIGNS by Neal Layton
Released: June 1, 2012

"Overall, this colorful concept connects the right dots for a toddler audience. (Board book. 1-3)"
Single-word labels highlight a creative range of designs. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2012

"Curiously uninvolving, but it may get children to thinking about stuff and maybe inventing some gizmos of their own. (Pop-up/nonfiction. 5-7)"
Early humans about 3 million years ago had "no things," and Layton wants to show us how they—we—got them. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2011

"Something to crow about. (index, glossary) (Nonfiction. 8-12)"
Having explored poop and parasites, survival techniques and size, Davies and Layton turn to animal communication, describing how animals send and receive messages by sound, sight, smell and touch, for a variety of purposes. Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2009

The pair behind such child-friendly explorations as Poop and What's Eating You? (2004, 2007) deliver a similarly windily subtitled discussion of size in the animal kingdom. The pair begins by describing how the doubling of a creature's length increases its surface area and cross-section (and therefore muscle power) by a factor of four and its weight and volume by a factor of eight—leading to such conclusions as, "That's how ants can be stronger than humans!" They go on to explore how increasing the size of a creature necessitates increasing complexity, explaining how single-celled organisms can get by with osmosis but mammals require respiratory and digestive systems. The tongue-in-cheek tone, concrete examples and Layton's undeniably appealing cartoons will go a long way with kids, as will the compact trim and one-topic-per-spread organization. But as a science book, it flirts with oversimplification. While evolution is mentioned multiple times, for instance, the concept of survival of the fittest is given short shrift, leaving unqualified such teleological assertions that gibbons attained their modern, house-cat size because "having a nice, light little body was very useful." A shame. (Nonfiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2008

Scribbly illustrations dominating nearly every spread, Layton's latest plunks fledgling readers down amidst a student body of typical types who—atypically—happen to be mammoths, saber toothed tigers, ground sloths, cave bears and other early mammals. Unjustly blamed for stealing oranges from the pantry, woolly mammoth and indifferent student Oscar sets out to nail the real culprits: the nasty, brutish humans about whom the teachers have been warning everyone. As it turns out, those very humans are massing up in the snowy mountains for an attack on the Academy—but a wild careen down the mountainside aboard his newly invented skateboard scatters the invaders and restores Oscar's good name. The decision by Oscar's new friend Fox to go unwashed as long as possible leads to all sorts of stinky humor that fits right in to this second-tier series opener. (Fantasy. 8-10) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2007

Emily Brown and her rabbit, Stanley, suffer multiple intrusions into their fantastical adventures. The queen, who covets "Bunnywunny," sends successive interlopers—the Chief Footman, the army, the navy and the air force—who offer increasingly numerous toys in trade. Emily won't bite, of course, but "special commandos" steal Stanley in the dead of night. The determined girl arrives at the palace to find that the young queen has laundered Stanley pink in the royal washing machine, and royal dressmakers have rendered him overstuffed and unsmiling. Retrieving Stanley, Emily sagely advises the queen on how to make a toy her own: "You take that brand-new teddy bear and you play with him all day . . . Hold him very tight and be sure to have lots of adventures." <\b>Cowell's text is a well-structured delight, rife with repeated "rat-a-tat-tats." While Layton's playful mixed-media illustrations evoke Ludwig Bemelmans and John Burningham, they're fresh and funny, providing plenty to pore over. This empathetic yet rollicking treatment will ring true with kids, making this a great candidate for family read-alouds. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
EXTREME ANIMALS by Nicola Davies
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

Fresh from their dive into Poop: A Natural History of the Unmentionable (2004), Davies and Layton introduce a menagerie of survivors who have adapted to the worst conditions that nature can dish out. With plenty of Layton's daffy, digitally colored cartoons to add both detail and flights of fancy ("Live Naked" proclaims a polar bear's signboard), Davies conveys readers from the Arctic's far-below-zero temperatures to the 200-plus degree heat near a volcano's rim, from sunless "black smokers" on the sea bottom to harsh deserts. She not only identifies denizens of each clime, but also explains how, for instance, Emperor penguins keep their feet warm, wood frogs can survive being frozen and thawed and camels prevent their sensitive brains from overheating. In the end, the author presents persuasive reasons for awarding the "Truly Toughest Extreme Animal" trophy not to humans ("We humans are such a bunch of wimps!"), but to the lowly water bear. Fine fare for younger naturalists. (index, glossary) (Nonfiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
Released: July 15, 2006

First U.S. edition of a UK prizewinner, this brief tale sends a kindhearted bear and a short-lived crane flying off to the Big City. Having always been mildly curious about the glow just visible at the edge of his wilderness haunts, Bartholomew is moved to depart from his comfortable routine when a hyper insect, desperate to reach the bright lights, bumps into his nose. Though the sojourn turns out to be far longer than expected, and first impressions rather disappointing as they arrive in daytime, once the sun goes down and the lights come up, it's Party time with a capital "P." Layton pairs occasionally errant lines of text, and exclamatory comments in balloons, to scribbly illustrations that underscore the amusing contrasts between the lumbering bear and his tiny, frantic companion. Having seen the bug and a lady friend flit off into ecstatic electrocution after a night of good times, Bartholomew returns to his woodland retreat with both fond memories and a new taste for the occasional fling. A lighthearted take on mortality, as well as the old truth that travel is a broadening experience. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
POOP by Nicola Davies
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

Dropping pellets of fact about its nature, production, variety, and manifold uses, Davies builds a good case for the idea that dung is "probably the most useful stuff on the planet." He analyzes styles, sizes, uses, and smells in fascinating chapters that cover the territory. Though Layton's crudely drawn cartoon illustrations provide more jocular side commentary than actual information, this breezy introduction will give young readers with a certain tolerance for (or attraction to) the yuckier side of natural history the scoop on poop—at least in the animal kingdom. For more on the human side, pair this with Susan Goodman's The Truth About Poop, illustrated by Elwood H. Smith (p. 393). (Nonfiction. 7-9)Read full book review >
HOT HOT HOT by Neal Layton
Released: May 1, 2004

Two woolly mammoths come up with a palliative for summer's heat in this high-energy import. Weary of suffering through the short but intense Ice Age summer, Oscar and Arabella try several ineffective cooling strategies, then at last just give each other major haircuts. Their relief is so palpable that soon all the other furred and hairy creatures are lining up for trims of their own. Layton illustrates with wild, sketchy pen strokes over splashes of somewhat subdued color; the effect ranges from pleasantly messy, to frenetic in more crowded scenes. Happily, when winter comes again, the animals regain their pelts—except for the human figure who's been capering about in the background all this time, naked bum and all. Layton caps this brief, breezy, faintly scandalous episode with the admission that there probably were no scissors, mirrors, or combs in the Ice Ages; he just made that part up. Shocking. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
HOWLER by Michael Rosen
by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Neal Layton
Released: May 1, 2004

A dog's-eye view of family changes. Having looked on tolerantly as one of his human pets, Cindy "started getting bigger outwards" and eventually brings home a small, loud addition he dubs "Howler," the canine narrator is dismayed to discover that he's no longer the center of attention. So he gets friendly with Ruff Ruff, the pooch next door, and soon he's the father of five "Rufflets"—"I thought they all ought to be called Small Me, but I wasn't asked." Still, his bruised ego is soothed when the humans all leave Howler snoozing peacefully, and come running to "bark" excitedly over the puppies. Layton's quick brushwork and scribbly lines further brighten this lively, equally droll follow-up to Rover (1999). (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
MUCKY DUCK by Sally Grindley
Released: June 1, 2003

A duck who likes to get dirty stars in Grindley's latest. Cooking, playing soccer, and painting are among Ducky's favorite activities, and he goes at them with gusto. Layton's boisterous spreads show Ducky dousing himself with strawberry jam, diving into a mud puddle, and stepping in paint. "Oh you Mucky Duck!" exclaims his human friend Oliver Dunkley. Ducky's frenetic energy is well-represented in Layton's busy illustrations. Childlike scribbles, bold colors, and pictures drawn on cut paper, then incorporated into the larger spread, perfectly match his personality. Bath-phobic youngsters will identify with Ducky, and perhaps be persuaded by Grindley's good-natured humor to clean up their act. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2003

A case of unrequited love makes a young boy cringe until the source of adulation moves away. A typical scamp, the protagonist curls his toes in embarrassment as his desk-mate Jennifer Jones showers him with unwanted affection. Love notes and whispered endearments are the modus operandi of this pint-sized femme fatale. However, her unrequited adoration causes her would-be swain plenty of teasing in the play yard. Unexpectedly, the boy's fervent wish that Jennifer Jones would go away—to live with the monkeys in the trees or maybe even the moon—suddenly comes true. However, once Jennifer has left his side, her jilted beau longs for her return. Wishinsky's (What's the Matter with Albert, not reviewed, etc.) rhyming verses maintain a cheery tone, wryly capturing those prickly, poignant pangs of first crushes; Jennifer's amorous advances are coquettishly innocent while the boy's response is all that would be expected from someone still interested in frogs and puppy dog tails. Layton's (The Sunday Blues, p. 884, etc.) cartoon-style illustrations have a free-spirited feel to them. The full-bleed illustrations contribute to the tale's impish tone with a mix of haphazard sketches and zany collage art featuring some hilarious insertions and comical depictions. A valentine tale that will keep readers, both the lovelorn and ardently pursued, in stitches. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2002

If ever there was a case to argue for "living in the moment"—this is it. You can almost hear Fats Domino singing in the background as, inexplicably, Steve has a pretty passable Sunday while preoccupied with loathing Monday morning. In fact, Steve's parents provide him with all the opportunities for great outdoor fun, transportation, and Sunday dinner with French fries and ice cream. But even on a visit to his favorite Auntie Vera, Steve comes back to reminding himself that blue Monday is just an overnight away. Ironically, in the end, when being dropped off at school, Steve remembers all his happy friends and their shared interests, and he is left in the moment of excitement starting a new week at school. More interesting than the humorous storytelling perhaps are the graphic techniques employed, incorporating crayon, collage, and lots of computer-generated backgrounds and scans that are the real sources of fun and hilarity here. Layton's bright, eclectic illustration style should be reprised soon, while he is developing better storytelling ideas. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2001

Ostrich is not the best at anything, or is he? All the other animals seem to be bigger, older, faster, stronger, and cleverer than Ostrich and they waste no time in pointing it out to him. Unfortunately as they demonstrate their superiority, they do not seem to notice all the other animals they are stepping on, hitting with logs, knocking out of trees, and running over. Ostrich manages to catch the koala and the baby birds as they are knocked from the trees and offers aid to the injured monkey, mice, and flamingo. After all the teasing, Ostrich is feeling pretty low until all the rescued animals point out that while he might not be faster than the cheetah or stronger than the elephant, he is certainly the kindest of all the animals. While the concept that everyone is good at something is clear, the illustrations that are needed to support the story are not. Loosely drawn, the illustrations are sometimes little more than doodles. It is also unclear why Owl states that two plus two is five if he is actually cleverer. Fun, but not a standout. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1999

Layton's zany alien family comes to Earth in search of humans, but with only guidebook descriptions of what people look like, it's easy to make mistakes—especially when their flying saucer lands at the zoo! "They don't have tails and they mostly stand on two feet," reads the father, effectively ruling out kangaroos and tigers as potential people. The smallest alien is anxious to snap a picture of penguins, but it turns out they aren't human—people don't have wings. After searching the "entire planet" (that is, within the confines of the zoo walls), the aliens finally do find a creature to match their guidebook's description perfectly, and to make Darwin smile. The goofy illustrations deploy a childlike sense of fun; the aliens are pleasant creatures with round patchwork bodies and eyes on stalks, and the gregarious zoo animals will ring true for the animal cracker set. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >