Books by Vincent Nguyen

CREATURE COUNT by Brenda Huante
Released: July 3, 2012

"Little hatchlings will likewise stretch, hoot and snuggle down cozily as they listen. (Picture book. 2-5)"
A jaunty prehistoric version of "Over in the Meadow" with a cast of particularly happy-looking dinos and extinct mammals. Read full book review >
BUZZ by Eileen Spinelli
Released: July 6, 2010

Buzz , a busy little bee, enjoys flying around chatting with her friends about the latest town news. One day she comes across a newspaper on a park bench and learns some terrible news: A professor has declared that bees can't fly. Half of the newspaper article is torn away, and readers are led to believe the rest is about the miraculous fact that bees actually can fly, even though their bodies are too big for their wings. But Buzz just reads the first part—and suddenly she can't fly anymore. As she's lamenting this to her friend Snail, they notice Old Owl's tree on fire. Luckily, instinct takes over, and Buzz manages to get airborne; Owl is rescued, and so is Buzz. Spinelli's story moves nicely, and Buzz is a sympathetic character with a clear message. The plot turns, however, feel somewhat contrived and disconnected. Nguyen's Photoshopped oils give Buzz a high-tech yet painterly feel and a smooth commercial sensibility. Entertaining enough, but heavy handed. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
BANDIT’S SURPRISE by Karen Rostoker-Gruber
Released: March 1, 2010

Rostoker-Gruber and Nguyen give Bandit a new sibling in this sequel to Bandit (2008), in which he got a new home. Bandit the tomcat is excited when his owner Michelle packs up his cat carrier and promises to be home soon with a surprise. But when Michelle returns, Bandit says, "Who in cat-nation is that?" as a gray kitten pops her head out of the carrier. Mitzy wants to play, but Bandit's not interested. Things get worse when the kitten eats and drinks out of his dish and uses his cat box. Bandit can take no more when Mitzy plays with his furry mouse! He runs away after a scolding, but when rain begins to fall, he turns around—only to find the house shut up tight. Mitzy alerts Michelle to Bandit at the backdoor, and he begins to think that maybe Mitzy isn't all that bad. An overabundance of cat-puns wears thin quickly ("mew-monia," anyone?), as might the unnecessary layer of Photoshopped dots, perhaps added to mimic old-style newsprint on the distressingly static comics-style panels. There are plenty better new-kitty/new-sibling books out there. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

Macomber, a bestselling author for adults, and Carney join forces for an amusing story about a boy who receives a handmade, striped sweater as a birthday gift from his grandmother. Cameron hates the sweater with a passion due to its vibrant colors and large buttons. He tries to put his sweater on the dog, hide it, give it away and ruin it with stains, but finally he has to wear it when Grandma comes to visit. She explains that she chose each color for a specific memory of her grandson, and Cameron changes his mind and decides the sweater looks fine after all. This resulting change of heart seems awfully adult for an opinionated little boy, and his grandmother's explanation of her color choices will be a bit too sticky-sweet for many kids (and some parents). Nguyen's illustrations have a surrealistic feeling, with a dark, moody palette, shadowy backgrounds and oddly robotic eyes for the characters. Final pages include instructions for knitting and a pattern for the striped sweater. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
GORILLA GARAGE by Mark Shulman
Released: March 1, 2009

A boy and his dad are out for a drive when their car breaks down. A tow truck happens by…driven by a gorilla! Back at the gorilla garage, the humans wait with chimps while gorillas fix their car. When Kong the movie actor causes a scene, the boy slips out and spies orangutans and baboons before the gorillas put him behind the wheel of the car. Dad tries to intervene, but the mechanic says the "really expensive" repair will be free—if the boy drives home. Shulman's tale is too often slave to its rhyme and not nearly as much fun as the premise might promise. The boy's surprised to discover the gorilla garage exists, but then he reports, "That's where I found an orangutan crew, / pumping the gas as orangutans do"—how could he know? There's no reason for the gorillas to insist the boy drive, and the terms ape and monkey are used interchangeably. Nguyen's Photoshop-colored pen-and-ink illustrations are by far the best feature. This only warrants purchase where simian stories are in high demand. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2008

Kimmel's latest retells Little Black Sambo with a Southwestern flavor. As Little Britches saddles her pony and heads out to a calf-roping contest, she decides to take a shortcut through the dry gulch. When her journey is interrupted several times by rattlesnakes who threaten to "s-s-swaller" her up, the quick-thinking, pint-sized cowgirl offers up her doeskin vest, chaps, red boots and other attire in exchange for permission to mosey along. While the little girl hides her feelings behind understated facial expressions, the vibrantly colored snakes, ridiculously tricked-out in Little Britches's clothing, stand out against the pale background in Nguyen's digitally enhanced graphite-and-watercolor illustrations. As in the original story, the vain rattlers' argument over the best outfit leads to a mad, circular, ultimately fatal chase (although there's no rattlesnake-butter at the end, readers may be relieved to discover). Can this adaptation, thoroughly divorced from its origins by complete lack of mention in any note, cool off children's literature's hottest potato? Maybe—for a blissfully ignorant audience, it's a rattling fun tale. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 28, 2006

Hilary is a tea party connoisseur. She knows how to make invitations, plan the seating and make the rules. Unfortunately, her rules are too strict; though she always makes four invitations, only she, her teddy bear and her strong man doll, Mr. Big Arms, typically attend. But Hilary has a plan; she leaves an invitation by the bus stop and a trail of cookies to her house. A chameleon arrives as a result, but he rejects her rules and departs, taking the cookies and Mr. Strong Arms with him. Hilary's teddy bear joins them. The new friends decide to have their own tea party, but lucky for Hilary, they've set a place for her, too. While it's refreshing to see an ethnic heroine—Hilary is probably half-Asian—some may object to her inviting a stranger in, though the book's absurdist quality essentially negates any real parallel. Quirky and appealing illustrations accompany this tale of a girl who learns a lesson about bossiness and flexibility. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

A boy is late to school, but he has an explanation: It was the wind! Needless to say, his teacher doesn't believe him, but the boy elaborates nonetheless. First, the wind snatched all of his mother's laundry, and he had to collect it. Then the wind blew dandelions into a mountain, and he had to climb it. Next, the wind opened the doors to a hat store, and the hats went everywhere. Of course, the hats had to be gathered up. Then traffic signs were flying! Stray cats and dogs were being deposited into grocery bags! Chickens and roosters were floating in air! Next, some fog blew in, and the boy got lost. When the fog cleared, the wind seized the boy and brought him down at the school. By this point, the boy's teacher has had enough. She'll take a look outside and find out just what's going on. But maybe that isn't such a good idea. . . . Lively charcoal-and-acrylic illustrations and sprightly text portray this adventurous young student on a most unusual day. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
LOUIS AND THE DODO by Mark Shulman
Released: Jan. 30, 2006

A poster child for outsiders everywhere takes flight—literally and figuratively—in this dreamy, oddball episode. "Those kids don't want to play with me," Louis tells his parents. "I'm not like them." Very true: In Nguyen's polished, surreal illustrations, Louis dresses in a birdlike, red-and-turquoise superhero outfit, and hangs out in trees to keep songbirds safe from cats. Learning that a local circus is mistreating a dodo chick, Louis and his feathered friends fly to the rescue and thence to a secret island bird refuge that, to his delight, magically connects to the back of his bedroom closet. Sporting yellow goggles beneath a big bird's-head cap, Louis cuts a small but intrepid figure among his brightly colored allies, particularly when facing a gang of scary clowns. Young readers will pull for him, and, who knows, may regard their less conventional peers with more tolerance afterwards. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
STELLA THE STAR by Mark Shulman
Released: April 1, 2004

Shulman's wry comedy of errors sends up over-eager parents. Stella's parents are in a tizzy over a note from her teacher declaring Stella will be a star in the school play. Suddenly Stella is caught up in a whirl of parental frenzy, as they set out to acquire only the best accoutrements for their little star. Although comedic, the subtext of Shulman's tale is achingly poignant; as her parents crow about her accomplishments, Stella consistently responds, "I want you to be proud." The punch line of the tale is, of course, that Stella is a star not the star. Commendably, Stella's parents rise to the occasion, sincerely—if a bit red-faced—lauding her achievement. Nguyen's full-bleed oil paintings function as a droll foil for the text; featuring an adorably doe-eyed Stella as she acts entirely appropriate to her age—doodling with the makeup at the salon, etc. More a satire, this tale is best appreciated by an older reader, as the nuances of the parental expectations versus the reality of the situation will be lost on a younger, more traditional picture-book audience. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >