An amusing visual riff on the frequent refrain “nothing ever happens to me.”
Delia recounts the details of her incredibly dull yesterday. While her words describe a pedestrian day from breakfast to bedtime, the illustrations tell a completely different story. While Delia’s eyes are either trained down on her cereal or a handheld device or looking straight ahead, lots of interesting things are happening around her. Delia complains, “NOTHING happened during my breakfast, except I spilled some milk.” As she struggles with the milk, two elephants parade unseen down her hallway. Later, wildly shaped hot-air balloons float by while she checks her phone and waits for the bus. A pirate rides to school with her, and an astronaut floats by her math-class window while Delia doodles. The droll, first-person point of view carries the sarcastic, bored tone to its humorous extreme. The message could not be clearer: Look up and see the interesting world around you! This lesson is delivered in such a winning, funny package that it hardly seems like a lesson at all. Closer to Where’s Waldo in their invitation to look closely than a pat lesson on awareness, these lively, cartoony illustrations offer many chortles per page and invite amused readers to return to find more “boring” details in Delia’s life.
Young readers will chuckle at Delia’s cluelessness—and maybe think twice about their own assumptions.
(Picture book. 4-9)
With text that begs to be read aloud and sumptuous illustrations made by a master printmaker, this picture book reads like an instant classic.
Jacket art populated by several animals that appear in the story establishes the Asian jungle setting: A toothsome tiger lurks, while a loris, mouse and frog cower on front and back boards. The palette is rich with shades of brown, green, orange and bluish-gray, and the cover’s scene carries over on to endpapers that show Tiger stalking Frog. The chase continues across frontmatter pages until the first spread reads: “Frog fell into a deep, deep hole. Ribbit-oops! Ribbit-oops!” Dramatic visual perspective captures Frog’s fall, and the following spread shows Tiger settling in for his next move on his prey. As Tiger waits, a speech balloon heralds the titular cry, “Oh, no!” Clearly, Frog is in trouble, and on ensuing pages, several animals make rescue attempts, only to fall into the hole as well. Finally, a trumpeting, stomping elephant arrives and uses its trunk to save almost all of the trapped animals: Tiger (who had tried to get to the animals with dinner rather than rescue on his mind), falls into the hole on a prior spread, and after the elephant’s valiant rescue, they all cry “Oh, no!” when he cries for help.
Oh, yes! This is a terrific new picture book.
(Picture book. 2-6)
Hall cleverly plays with homophones in this diverting word adventure.
Three curious cats, propelled by their imaginations, bring books to life as they traverse spacious, white spreads. Together they “flee a steer,” “steer a plane,” “plane a board” and “board a train.” Each sentence or scenario offers hints of what’s to come. Discerning compositions and a rhyming text further drive the momentum until, alas! The words’ many meanings confound these friendly felines. Humorous permutations ensue as the kitties try to untangle their tales. After they successfully "shoo a truly naughty gnu," (it's munching shoes—truly naughty indeed!), things go sadly awry. "They use their paws to rock a squashberry! Rock a squashberry?" Once back on track, they befriend a bear, sail a whale and ultimately find comfort and contentment in words. Digitally collaged illustrations with appealing characters pop from the page. The artwork, simple in its appearance yet interwoven with the text with utmost sophistication, playfully offers the easiest and funniest lesson on homophones possible, inviting repeat readings and likely inspiring continuing silliness.
Smart and accessible, charming and witty, this is one for educators and adventurers alike.
(Picture book. 3-5)
Star light, star bright…a child takes a lyrical journey to the heavens and discovers she’s a star—in the best possible way.
In simple, poetic prose, a young girl soars into the night sky and discovers the origin of stars. Eons ago a star got hotter and hotter until it exploded. The resulting bits came to settle on what is now Earth and thus became a part of everything on the planet, including humans. The language is clear and directly addresses readers (“Are you okay? Yes? Good”). Imagine children’s delight in learning they were born from and are made up of stardust, even down to the grooves of their fingertips. Sweet and captivating illustrations, created from multiple media and often set against vintage-looking maps of constellations, are the stars here, too. They work perfectly with the text to demonstrate for youngsters how their bodies and all living things came to be imbued with pieces of stars. The book is intended to make nighttime less frightening—after all, the sky isn’t really dark with all those stars up there—but it also allows children to think larger, deeper thoughts about how marvelously they and their whole universe are connected. No wonder the lucky “star” sleeps so contentedly on the final page.
A twinkling delight for bedtime and storytime.
(Picture book. 4-8)
Hilltop neighbors Rabbit and Owl nearly destroy their friendship when envy and one-upmanship take hold in this appealing story that reads much like a folk tale.
First, gardener Rabbit’s autumnal veggies block Owl’s forest view. Then, Owl’s remodel diminishes light for Rabbit’s garden. So it goes, until “soon they had / the tallest houses in the world.” When a windstorm assists in toppling their teetering, untenable abodes, the animals land in a pile of dirt, strewn vegetables and broken twigs. Their shared plight engenders renewed cooperation and friendship: “Alone they had nothing / but together they had all they needed… / to build one small house.” Marino’s full-bleed pencil-and-gouache illustrations beautifully capture the pair’s harmonious play, mounting rift and oh-so-satisfying reconciliation. The marvelously dizzying perspective and visual depiction of emotions mesh, in pictures that preschoolers can “read” with absorption. During their estrangement, Owl and Rabbit appear on opposite ends of double-page spreads or glare across the sky-high gap between their absurd towers. The well-turned, dialogue-rich narrative complements the sunny visuals, making this an excellent choice for one-on-one or group read-alouds. Smart design details include a tall trim size, the choice of an elegantly readable typeface and end pages that pictorially encapsulate the story arc.
Another winner for rising star Marino.
(Picture book. 3-6)
As in Stewart and Small’s previous The Gardener (1997) and The Journey (2001), letters to a loved one become the vehicle for a girl to explore what she sees, feels and comes to understand upon leaving home for the first time.
In this title, a family of four is moving from Mexico to America in 1957. Their poignant, pre-dawn departure starts on the endpapers. Small’s imaginative use of color and masterful variation of line combine to focus attention on Isabel’s expressive face while developing other characters and creating a convincing period with Formica countertops and big-finned cars. Silent spreads allow readers time to ponder her predicament and imagine their own reactions. As the epistles to Auntie Lupita chronicle Isabel’s encounter with snow, feelings about her new teacher and time spent at the children’s parties her mother caters, they also indirectly portray a family sensitive to a child’s well-being. When Isabel requests the big boxes left over from the parties, her family supports her special sanctuary as needed; decorated with paint, origami and cardboard rainspouts reminiscent of the clay gutters back home, her quiet place turns into a panorama of festivities on her birthday, when a double gatefold reveals many new friends.
A warm, gentle portrait of an immigrant’s isolation and the ways that creativity and a loving family can offer both a safe haven and a bridge. (Picture book. 4-8)
A beautifully made picture book presents the story of the Galápagos Islands for young readers.
It’s not easy to present the story of island formation, species colonization and evolution in a picture book, but Chin succeeds admirably, challenging intelligent young readers with sophisticated concepts but presenting them in a way that will allow readers not only to understand them, but to marvel at them, as well. As in Chin’s previous volumes, Redwoods (2009) and Coral Reefs (2011), gorgeous watercolor illustrations lure readers into the scientific story. Chin is careful to point out in his author’s note the necessity of speculation and educated guesses, given how far in the past the story takes place. But the work is top-notch narrative nonfiction, based on the best current scientific research. An eye-catching variety of horizontal panels, thumbnails and full-bleed pages makes science visual. Especially effective is the discussion of how species change over time: The finches’ beaks become larger, tortoises’ shells change shape, and cormorants’ wings shrink. In the epilogue, after millions of years of evolution, a ship appears, and a man comes ashore, pen and notebook in hand. It’s Charles Darwin, as explained in the backmatter, where his theory of evolution by natural selection is explained and further information on the Galápagos Islands and their indigenous species is presented.
Another superb contribution to scientific literature by Chin.
(Informational picture book. 8-12)
Audiences thrilled to his mesmerizing performances, in which he spoke through his expressive body without uttering a single word.
Marceau was the world’s most popular and beloved mime. Born in France, he grew up watching and imitating Charlie Chaplin, star of silent films. World War II intruded and turned the Jewish teen into a war hero. At war’s end, he created Bip, his alter ego, who with makeup and costume “walks against the wind, but there is no wind.” Schubert’s spare text is both poetic and dramatic. DuBois’s oil paintings are brilliantly executed and saturated, with textured nuances. Images of Marceau fly across the page, delighting the eye, while close-ups highlight his extraordinary facial expressions. Ordinary paper morphs into stage settings as Marceau dances against white or black backgrounds. One double-page spread depicts a costumed fish with sinuously expressive hands and feet. Another presents seven views of Marceau in movement, updating a series of views of Marceau as a child. The pages set during World War II, in contrast, are a somber palette. Don’t turn the pages too quickly; rather stop and feel the joie de vivre with which the master filled people of all ages all over the world.
An exceptional life; a stunning achievement.
(afterword, source notes, further reading)
(Picture book biography. 4-10)
Cousin Clara, who may or may not be related to the rest of the family, knits horrid sweaters at a breakneck speed.
Clara, her tiny hat perched on her impossibly oval head, an innocent-looking basket of knitting in hand, arrives ready to recover from an unfortunate crocodile attack. So begins this over-the-top story of lost-and-found collections, journals of “Suspicious Stuff Starting with C” and fantastic sweaters. Clara does not knit run-of-the-mill ordinary cardigans and pullovers. Starting with a “less-than-pleasant yellow and smothered with purple pom-poms” hooded number, Clara insists on cranking out one absurd creation after another. Wearing these monstrosities to school proves embarrassing for Lester. After each humiliating day, the sweater of the day ends up shrunken, shredded, unraveled, pecked to pieces or stolen. Each colored-pencil illustration cranks up the dark humor, culminating with Lester covered in dripping red yarn, scissors in hand, while Clara wickedly smiles at the crime scene. Each detailed spread is filled with creepy shadowing and fabulous eye contact among the many characters. Lively writing is peppered with clever alliteration and wordplay. Lucky for Lester, a troupe of clowns appreciates Clara’s creations.
Children forced to wear horrid clothing made by well-meaning relatives will laugh in sympathy with Lester. If Edward Gorey and Polly Horvath had a literary love child, this would be it.
(Picture book. 5-9)
Hooray for the launch of a new nonfiction series for newly fledged readers!
Macaulay’s compact, clear and engagingly illustrated explanation of how a castle is built to thwart potential intruders (you, the reader, in this case) is the right length and depth for readers who have progressed beyond beginner books. His trademark pen-and-ink lines reveal the structural purpose of each part of the medieval stone fortress, while color wash adds appeal. Clearly among the first of a series, this title is labeled "Level 4," and the sentences are just complex enough: “Beneath the ground floor is the dark, damp dungeon.” The narrative is well supported by the illustration—and vice versa: An intriguing drawing has the essential details mentioned in the accompanying passage. Readers will encounter new challenges with text set against dark backgrounds on a few pages, but the font size and line spacing are just right. The length of the book—32 pages, including glossary—seems thoughtfully calculated to bestow a sense of accomplishment. The basics get covered here in fascinating detail: the guard who stops to use the toilet; a cross section of a battering ram. Added riches: a glossary, an index and a list of resources for further study, in small type but nicely focused.
And will a young scholar read it again and look for more? You bet—it’s great fuel for the imagination.
(Nonfiction early reader. 4-8)
Following Penny and Her Song (2012), Henkes delivers an even stronger slice of anthropomorphic mouse life for beginning readers.
The story opens with Penny chatting amicably with her mother in the garden. Penny smells the roses while Mama weeds, and then the mailman delivers a package from Gram. Inside is a doll for Penny, with a note reading, “I saw this doll when I was shopping. I thought you would love her. I hope you will.” And, she does. The fly in the ointment is Penny's struggle to name the doll. Her parents make suggestions, but none seem right, and they reassure her, “Try not to think too hard…Then maybe a name will come to you.” Sure enough, after taking her doll on a tour of the house and then into the garden, the perfect name arises: “[T]his is Rose!” she announces. Henkes always excels at choosing just-right names for his characters (see Chester, Wilson, Lilly, Sheila Rae and, of course, Chrysanthemum and her “absolutely perfect” moniker), so this story seems particularly at home in his oeuvre. The familiarity of Henkes’ mouse world, as well as expertly paced and controlled storytelling for new readers, mark this as a new classic, earning Penny a firm place alongside the not-so-creatively-named Frog, Toad, Little Bear and that celebrated Cat in the Hat.
The inspiring story of an early-19th-century woman who supported her family, made a name for herself and gave us all an opportunity to give thanks each November.
Allegra’s debut opens with Gardner's watercolor-and-pencil illustration of a family of six gathered around a turkey-laden table, hands joined, faces reflecting their sorrow: They had just buried their father, yet their mother, Sarah Josepha Hale, insisted on giving thanks for their blessings. Amusing and perfectly chosen anecdotes highlight the qualities that made Hale such a success—curiosity, thirst for knowledge and determination. Her husband, David, encouraged her writing, which would become the family’s means of support after his death in 1822. The writer of the first anti-slavery novel as well as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” she became a household name as “editress” of two ladies’ magazines. Hale used the magazines to encourage women to think. Soon, she became someone whose opinions were taken seriously by her readership, including those about celebrating Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Four presidents refused her yearly requests, but Abraham Lincoln and a country embroiled in a Civil War needed to take a day to count blessings, and so Thanksgiving was made official. Gardner nicely combines vignettes and double-page spreads, his colors reflecting mood, while lots of period (and humorous) details will bring readers back for another perusal.
Readers will look forward to more from this talented author, who has penned a perfectly paced, rousing biography.
(author’s note, selected sources)
(Picture books/biography. 5-10)
We are made of earth and water and air and stardust, and we are more related to animals and plants than we ever imagined.
Everything about us is found in the natural world. Our atoms are from ancient stardust, and the water and salt that flow within us are part of the unchanging cycle that goes back to the beginning of time. We breathe pollen that, when released, may actually create a plant. We grow at night and seasonally shed and grow hair, in similar fashion to animals. We are also a living planet for millions of microorganisms. Kelsey doesn’t lecture or overcomplicate the information. She speaks directly to readers in a way that opens minds to big ideas and paves the way for thoughtful questions of their own. The litany of facts comes alive in vivid, descriptive language, lending a philosophical, elegant and mystical aura to current scientific findings. Kim’s incredibly unusual illustrations are sublime. Employing varied painting techniques, vivid colors, multidimensional cutouts, unexpected materials and unusual textures, she creates a view of nature that is at once real and otherworldly. This is a work that demands to be read and reread, studied and examined, and thoroughly digested. It is perfect for sparking adult and child conversations about our place in the universe.
Exquisite design coupled with evocative illustrations enrich this charming tale of a little bat taking his first solo flight and how he learns to “see” with his “goodsense,” otherwise known as echolocation.
Although picture books about bats abound, small Chiro will capture readers’ hearts immediately. When the bat-mother tells her child it is time for him to fly alone, the little one shares his fears about the darkness and his inability to see. His mother instructs him on what to do—“sing out into the world, and [listen to] the song the world sings back to you. Sing, and the world will answer. That is how you’ll see.” Up to this point, Long, utilizing acrylics and graphite, features the two creatures up close in toasty browns against a textured dark background. When the mother lets Chiro go, the page turn reveals an emotional change in perspective. No longer is the young bat cuddly and large on the page; now he appears tiny and vulnerable in the immense black spread. Talented storytelling features rich yet concrete language to describe and to build suspense during the bat’s nocturnal trip. Vague but frightening shapes in the dark become defined as trees, bugs, geese and ocean waves in the bluish-green tones used to render a visual of the bat’s echolocation.
Young ones will relate to Chiro and cheer as he gains confidence with his newfound skill and will be deeply satisfied flying along on his sensory-rich journey.
(Picture book. 4-7)
Squish, a tiny rabbit, lives with towering fears: of storms, chickens and the dark.
Adorable, sensitive, and squish-ably vulnerable, this bunny cowers and covers his eyes when confronted by these worrisome scenarios. Nebulous, sometimes untraceable fears haunt little heads, and Battersby’s simple story of confrontation will help many young readers subdue their own anxieties. It takes a rescue mission (where’s Squish’s best buddy Twitch?) for Squish to muster the courage to face lightning, feathers and night. The critters’ rounded figures, rendered in thick, fluid black lines, bestow them with an irresistibly cuddly cuteness—even though they appear as flat as one-dimensional pancakes. Battersby incorporates surprising multimedia accents throughout (gold foil lightning bolts, chickens constructed entirely out of yellow feathers, textured papers, patterned fabrics) that give children the chance to hunt for the unexpected. Squish’s search for Twitch, however, and the subsequent systematic dismantling of each phobia, feel quite familiar. Luckily, notes of persistently sweet, quirky humor save this book from predictability. The animals sleep in socks pinned to a clothesline; Twitch writes a note in a paw-print script utterly indecipherable to Squish; their acorn and carrot snacks appear laughably gargantuan; and don’t even get started giggling about how chickens could possibly raise goose bumps!
A little humor that goes a long way toward conquering big fears.
(Picture book. 2-5)
Into a family’s device-dominated existence, Cordell inserts this tribute to the realms of nature and the imagination.
Lydia, bored with gadgets that fail to activate or stimulate, turns to parents and a brother too immersed in their own digital miasmas to look up. An open door and a fluttering leaf beckon, and Lydia, once outside, encounters a bug, a field of flowers and—leaping from the natural to the fantastic—a horse who greets her by name. In ensuing double-page spreads, the galloping girl is joined by an increasingly exotic horde of animals—from bison to gorilla, T. rex to blue whale. With her cellphone’s “RING RING RING,” it all comes to a screeching halt, as both parents call her home. Now nature’s ambassador, Lydia—always depicted in color against the tonal gray-washes of her home and family—exchanges Mom’s laptop for a leaf, Dad’s PDA for a flower and brother Bob’s tablet for the ladybug that’s clung to her dress throughout her adventure. Inked letters toggle between a digital look (for the device-obsessive scenes) and a brushy, casually penned script for the wider world. In the charming penultimate spread, the family (with that ladybug now clinging to Bob) admires the falling leaves; in the last, all four ride careening (or swimming) animals.
This wry object lesson blends clever design and a sincere, never-preachy delivery. Terrific! (Picture book. 3-7)
In this splendid retelling of Aesop’s familiar fable, a country mouse leaves his bucolic existence to sample the glitz and glam of the city, only to discover there’s absolutely no place like home.
Country mouse “live[s] a quiet life among the seasons.” He is perfectly content until his “fine, sleek” town cousin comes to visit, criticizes the mud and dangerous wildlife (a sleeping fawn, in the illustration), and boasts about the city’s “rich, exotic foods.” Urging his cousin to see the wonders of the city for himself, town mouse departs, leaving country mouse discontent and with “a longing for new sights and sounds.” Country mouse hitches a ride to the city, where he discovers electric lights and towers of glass and stone. His cousin’s apartment is indeed luxurious and the food delicious, but country mouse soon yearns for the simple pleasures of home. The elegant, simple text contrasts the natural beauty of the countryside with the artificiality of the city. Sumptuous watercolor illustrations enhance the rural/urban juxtaposition with luminous close-ups of country mouse immersed in the seasonal flora and fauna of the English countryside and overwhelmed by the “noise and bustle and hum” of a 1930s-era city at Christmas. The richly detailed illustrations invite and reward close inspection.
An unexpected history of a very famous intersection.
Millions of people begin each new year mesmerized by the ball drop atop One Times Square. But before all the glitz and flashing lights, Times Square was filled with carriages, livery stables and coal yards. It is a stark contrast that’s difficult to imagine. McKendry (Beneath the Streets of Boston: Building America’s First Subway, 2005) takes readers on a journey through 100 years of shifts and changes to this well-known New York City landscape. Beginning in 1904 when the New York Times headquarters was built and forever changed the name of this small plot of land, McKendry accompanies the text with a spectacular painting of the Square from a specific point of view. This same perspective is used repeatedly throughout the narrative, simultaneously grounding readers and letting them watch in awe as buildings and technology sprout and change. Interspersed with the Square’s history—during both thriving years and sordid ones—are fascinating tidbits such as the inner workings of billboards, the arrival of the Motograph News Bulletin (or the “Zipper”) and, of course, the exact number of light bulbs found in the 2000 Millennium ball. Cross sections, diagrams and stunning double-page spreads show how these few tiny streets have changed in very large ways.
Just like Times Square itself, the pages are filled to the brim.
A merchant stops to free a tiger stuck in a hole by lowering a tree trunk to it, and what does he get for his trouble? A growl and a show of sharp teeth from the hungry tiger, who is planning to make a meal of him! Taken aback, the merchant protests that this is not fair. At first, the tiger says, “I don’t want to be fair. I only want to be full!” But he finally agrees to a test, if only to quiet the merchant down so he can be eaten up. Colorful, energetic acrylics work together with the carefully selected vocabulary, lucid text and generous repetition to make this Korean folk tale a strong choice for early readers. In the end, the deciding vote is left to a hare, who seems confused by the quandary and asks that the two show him what happened, so the tiger gets back in the hole. The hare advises the merchant to leave immediately, and as to whether a good deed should follow a good deed, the hare says, “That all depends on who you help!” Young readers will be drawn in by the measured suspense and leave with a chuckle.
An excellent addition to both the folk tale genre and the early-reader shelf.
(Folk tale/early reader. 4-7)
Birds of a feather (along with a cantankerous gentleman and his pesky squirrels) flock together at this tropical destination.
Old Man Fookwire dips into a depression when his beloved feathered companions fly south. His impish squirrels take to the sky in makeshift machines (utilizing, in part, a pine cone and soda bottle) and follow the birds. After the squirrels call collect, Fookwire putters down the highway (at 12 mph) to join the birds and the pests. Once in Santa Vaca, he discovers the fiery coco, kiki and caramba birds and starts to paint them. Forgetting sunscreen and forgoing water, Mr. Fookwire turns tomato-red and suffers from heatstroke. The squirrels perform triage, fanning him with palm branches and dumping fluids into his parched mouth, before piling him into his sports car and driving him back north at record speeds. Fookwire's “Thooooooose daaaaaaarn squirrrrrels!” says it all about their love-hate relationship. Visual slapstick and a deadpan text combine with trademark Fookwire expressions (“great googly-moogly!”) to make this third Darn Squirrels outing a winner. Watercolor, gouache and colored-pencil spreads pepper the beach with individual grains of sand. The birds' flamboyance (one a bird-sized replica of the ornery old man) is the perfect complement to the sweltering heat.
Tiny Grouch, Grump and Gloom ’n’ Doom (who has two heads) continually bicker about who is the most impressive monster. When the solution they come up with turns out to be different from what they expected, a surprising but welcome lesson is eventually learned.
Caldecott Honor winner McDonnell (Me…Jane, 2011) produces a special tale that seamlessly blends an engaging text, gentle humor and skillful illustrations that readers of all ages can appreciate. The monstrous trio smash, crash and bash about, and a black cloud literally hangs over the castle where they live. A coordinated stroke of genius leads them to “make a MONSTER monster. The biggest, baddest monster EVER!” “[S]ome tape, tacks, staples, and glue…some gunk, gauze, and gobs of goo… [and] bolts, wire and a smelly old shoe” form a huge creature that comes to life via lightning strike. But instead of making a scary, intimidating monster, they have brought to life a sweet, polite, life-loving being whose first words are “Dank you!” Soon, the small threesome finds they cannot change their creation’s pleasant nature—he repeatedly blurts out his favorite phrase—and learns that respectful, mannerly companionship can lead to fulfilling and sunny results…like watching the sunrise at the beach while sharing jelly doughnuts. The story charms, but it is the overall thoughtful design that makes this a frightfully amazing book to read.
Make time to share with young monsters everywhere.
(Picture book. 3-6)
Valentine's violin teacher says he's doing very well, but the effect of his playing on others is dramatic in a different sense.
Dutch illustrator Hopman, known for his collaborations (Tom the Tamer, written by Tjibbe Veldkamp, 2011), proves he can solo as well in this entertaining riff on the sounds of a beginning violinist, published here in lively, colloquial translation. In the text, the small boy tries out various well-known pieces such as Ode to Joy, Water Music and Marche Militaire. The pictures show the result: People scatter; horses leap; a constipated wolf produces an enormous poop; a dragon flees; an army retreats. Hopman’s engaging paintings are set with a narrow white border on double-page spreads. Loose-lined pen-and-ink drawings with pastel watercolor wash include intriguing details. There’s a high-ceilinged music studio full of art, a walled city with canals reminiscent of Venice and a castle besieged by an army that uses both elephants and Viking boats. This medieval fairy-tale world adds to the absurdity of the story, which seems to end well, as Valentine’s talent wins him the opportunity to perform in court. Or perhaps it doesn’t. The final endpapers show birds flying away from his concert for the king and queen.
Delightful whether or not you’ve ever attempted to play a stringed instrument.
(Picture book. 5-9)
Silliness abounds as a not-very-bright, not-very-brave cowboy croons his cows to sleep.
Once again, Thomas, a master at working nonsensical mayhem with her characters, succeeds in this variation of a goodnight story. A guitar-strumming cowboy has the best of intentions when he begins his lullaby to two sleepy cows. Alas, he is too easily frightened by visions of spiders, snakes and bears, but the cows reassure him. When real danger approaches in the shape of a wolf, the clueless cowboy thinks it is just a bunny rabbit. The cows know better—or do they? Thomas uses her signature style of digitally rendered comic art to create a passel of endearing characters. Their very expressive faces, outlined in bold strokes of black, stand out against the intense blues and purples of the desert background. Speech bubbles with exploding type add to the bedlam. Don’t save this for bedtime to share.
A terrific story to read and sing, with a most satisfying finale.
(Picture book. 2-6)
Winston, a boy in Trinidad, wishes that he could play in a band and win free rotis, the delicious island specialty prepared by the Roti King and presented to the best performers at Carnival.
In the weeks before Carnival, the people of the Caribbean island are busy sewing costumes, and bands are busy rehearsing with their gourds, bamboo sticks, bottles-and-spoons and drums. Winston hears the sounds that his mango pit makes when he chucks it into a junkyard. Inspired, he tries out different cans and tins, listening carefully to their different notes. More experimentation follows, and soon, he is performing for his neighbors. Friends join him to form a band made up of “pots and pans, tins and cans in a rainbow of colors.” The sounds are winningly irresistible, and Winston and his fellow musicians soon enjoy their “folded pancakes filled with chicken and secret herbs and spices.” Greenwood’s story is based on the childhood of Winston Simon, the 20th-century musician credited with the invention of the steel drum. The text is filled with a cacophony of musical words that are fun and challenging to read aloud. Lessac’s gouache paintings pulsate with sun-drenched island colors and often resemble a folk-art quilt.
A joy to read. Play calypso music and celebrate! (author’s note, glossary and pronunciation guide, author’s sources) (Picture book/biography. 3-8)
A beautifully realized labor of love and affection brings to life one of our brightest founding fathers.
Ben Franklin’s multiple geniuses might be too large to be contained in a simple narrative, but Byrd finds a way to convey with warmth and enthusiasm an appreciation for the long and influential life that Franklin lived as printer, inventor and statesman. Byrd’s sparkling marriage of text and illustration lowers the barriers to comprehending the brilliance, energy, passion and inventiveness of this early American phenom. Four generously wide columns across each opening offer a space for the straightforward, clear-voiced narrative accompanied by full-color, captioned artwork—sometimes several illustrations on a page—along with charming, brief inset quotations from Franklin’s writings. The design evokes the two-columned early newspapers that Franklin might have known. Byrd’s prose is respectful of his young readers and sophisticated at the same time, providing historical and cultural context for events and significant moments in Franklin’s life and selecting from a very big life the stories that best convey a sense of the personality and character of the man. The artwork and distinctive design must stand as markers for readers who want to return to specific places in the text, as there are neither page numbers nor an index. However, a comprehensive timeline and bibliography will serve young scholars well, and the author’s notes add to an understanding of both Franklin and the historical record about him.
A work of breadth and energy, just like its subject; engaging and brimming with appeal for a wide audience.
There's wondrous art in the service of little brothers in this follow-up to A Few Blocks (2011).
Viola has made lunch for her little brother Ferdie: broccoli, carrot sticks, ravioli. Ferdie is consumed with the desire to find a missing toy part, but Viola promises to help him find it after he eats. Ferdie does not want this lunch. But then Viola launches into a brilliant saga of dinosaurs who could climb mountains and scale volcanoes so long as they ate 5,000 broccolis a day. This plays out in full color around the delicate little black-and-white sketches of brother and sister, fabulous paper sculptures of the children, dinosaurs, mountains and forests overlaying the original domestic scene. Ferdie eats three bites. Then he balks at the carrot sticks. Viola begins again, with aliens and their Orange Power Sticks, and after the second explosion of color, line and story, he eats them all up. But the ravioli is cold now, and although Viola launches a wild and splendid story—fish this time—she falters at the end. The images return to black and white, and Viola plugs in her earphones. She’s done. But Ferdie has an idea, in color, and it works out very well indeed.
A good story and thoroughly engaging art that flows organically from it; two attractive siblings in a recognizable setting; a winner.
(Picture book. 4-8)
Everyone seeks the magic of the little brown rabbit, but what exactly is it?
All the creatures in the forest have heard of Wazzyjump, the most mysterious creature who lives there. His magic is legendary, but no one seems able to describe it. Lion cannot stand the idea that any animal is more powerful than himself, and he vows to catch Wazzyjump and question him. Learning of this plan, the clever fox decides to search as well...for himself. He happens upon the sleeping rabbit, and the duo ends up laughing and playing all afternoon. The other animals get wind of this and decide to follow the fox the next day. At last, they will have their answer. When they find the rabbit and the fox, the lion tries to pounce on Wazzyjump, again and again, but the rabbit is too quick for him. The lion becomes frustrated beyond roaring, and the only thing that's left to do...is laugh! Soon everyone in the forest is laughing and playing together; and when the lion asks Wazzyjump to explain his magic, the quick little rabbit replies, "What magic?" Moniz's animals have a childlike quality and a soft focus that support his valuable message, which is presented with an admirably light touch. The visual transformation of both the lion and the fox from predator to playmate borders on...the magical.