Month: November 2011

Review: My Rhinoceros by Jon Agee

my rhinoceros

My Rhinoceros by Jon Agee

At an exotic pet store, a boy picks out a rhinoceros as a pet.   But when he gets the rhinoceros home, he realizes that his pet really doesn’t do anything at all.    He won’t chase balls, or sticks, or frisbees.  He doesn’t roll over.  He keeps to himself and is very quiet.  So the boy asks a rhinoceros expert what the problem is.  She informs him that rhinos only do two things:  pop balloons and poke holes in kites.  The boy thinks that that is completely pathetic, but he decides to test it out.  He heads to the park where there was a balloon vendor.  Nothing.  Then they walk past children flying kites.  Nothing.  Maybe his rhinoceros is a clunker?  Until their walk back home, then suddenly his rhinoceros does amazing things, but you will have to read the book to see what they are!

Agee has a wonderful knack for taking a simple idea and running with it to the extreme.  Here the concept of buying a pet and figuring out that pet is taken to a wild and amazing place.   Agee allows the situation itself to provide the humor, making it more subtle and understated than many children’s books.  So while this is a wild and zany book about rhinos, it also has an air of sophistication about it.

Agee’s illustrations are also an important part of his books.  His unique style is done in thick black lines and washes of color.  The illustrations are almost like coloring books at times, if coloring books were cool and about pet rhinos.

Another winner from Agee, children who read this book may want to find their own exotic pet, probably a rhinoceros of their very own.  It’s also a perfect surprise addition to story times about pets.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.

Also reviewed by A Picture Book a Day.

Check out the book trailer with Jon Agee and his own pet rhinoceros:

Review: Stuck by Oliver Jeffers


Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Floyd’s kite gets stuck in tree and what is a boy to do?  Well, he tries to pull on the string and swing on it, but the kite stays stuck.  So he throws one of his shoes up to try and dislodge it.  His shoe got stuck too.  The other shoe didn’t work either.  Now what could he do?  Well, the cat was lingering nearby…  And so begins the wild and very funny story of a boy, a stuck kite, and a tree with an amazing propensity for keeping things stuck.  The story goes wild with what Floyd has thrown into it, never letting up on the joke.  In fact, at the end of the story, which I want you to experience for yourself, the humor is still just as strong as in the beginning and the joke stays true.

Jeffers is one of the kings of picture books.  His books love to stretch reality to almost breaking, creating new worlds that readers long to get lost in.  Here he takes getting a kite stuck in a tree to the extreme, resulting in a very funny book that will have young readers giggling along.  The book will also get readers thinking about what they would throw into a tree, so it becomes a great conversation and creativity piece.

Jeffers art is whimsical, funny, and adds a zany edge to the book.  He plays with colors throughout, with the character, objects and tree all changing colors as well as the background.  It makes for a dynamic read.

This would make a great final book for a storytime, because children will tune back in for the silliness.  I can also easily see it as a flannel board story or a jumping-off point for a creative project.  This is great fun combined with effortless storytelling and dynamic art.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Philomel Books.

Also reviewed by:

Take a look at the book trailer featuring Jeffers reading:

Review: Subway Story by Julia Sarcone-Roach


Subway Story by Julia Sarcone-Roach

Based on a true story, this picture book follows Jessie, a subway car, from her “birth” until her unusual ending.  Jessie was a New York City subway car that carried people and things around the city.  At first, she was new and shiny, but eventually she was covered in graffiti and then painted red.  She kept on working, running on tracks around the city.  Then she was used only in the winter because her fans could not keep up with the heat, and finally she wasn’t used any more.  But Jessie’s travels and adventures were far from over!  Whatever will happen to her when she is shipped by barge and taken far from land!

Sarcone-Roach has created a picture book that seems to be quiet and then takes a turn into the unexpected.  She begins with a true story and then personalizes it through the eyes of one specific subway car.  It works really well as a technique to make the subject very child friendly and to invite readers in to experience the story.  The writing is clear and Jessie’s perspective is strong and active. 

Her art is also very successful.  The colors are deep and jewel-like, showing the beauty of the city as well as the subway lines.  She plays with perspective throughout, stacking the subway lines like shelves, showing both the outside and inside of the subway cars, and always showing Jessie with her smiling headlights and chains. 

This is a lovely book that works well on many levels.  Use it for an unexpected take on recycling, add to your transportation stories, or just share it to see the children guessing where Jessie is headed on that barge.  They are sure to be entranced by the answer.  I certainly was!  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf.

Also reviewed by:

Review: Acorns and Stew, Too by Ruth Orbach

acrorns and stew too

Acorns and Stew, Too by Ruth Orbach

First published 25 years ago, this book has a classic feel combined with a great story.  Lenore loved a lot about her life, but most of all she loved the ducks who lived near the lake.  She visited them every day and fed them bread and other food.  But winter was approaching, so Lenore knew that soon the ducks were going to fly south.  She made them little houses to live in, fed them on stew and acorns, even made winter coats for them.  In the end, the ducks did not fly south.  They stayed with Lenore.

I love the ending of this book, where the ducks stay for the winter.  So often, children in stories are infinitely creative and resourceful, but they don’t create real change.  Here the universe shifted a bit to make room for Lenore and her dreams.  Orbach writes with real joy.  She delights in the small moments of creation that Lenore has, the attachment of the ducks to Lenore is evident too.  She has created a book where emotions are tangible and hard work really makes a difference.

Orbach’s art has a vintage feel.  The illustrations are done in ink on white and then colored with wild bursts of color.  The yellow is warm, the red pops, the pink is beyond bright, and the yellow is neon.  It all makes for an eye-poppingly bright book.  At the same time, the illustrations have a whimsical feel.  The bright colors and the whimsy make for an interesting contrast with one another.

I hadn’t read this years ago, so I’m very happy to find it now.  Here is a sweet, clever and empowering story for children.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Kane Miller.

Review: Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown


Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra

Inspired by a true story, this picture book shows the power of books and reading.  Ana is a small girl who lives in Colombia and adores books.  Her village is very remote though, so there is no library to go to.  Ana has just one book, given to her by her teacher, and she has read it over and over again.  Ana makes up her own stories that she tells her little brother at bedtime.  Then one day a man with two burros comes to their village.  The burros carry a library of books and he invites all of the children to select books to keep until he returns.  As she waits for the librarian to return, Ana creates her own book about him, his burros and his books.

Brown has created a book that is gentle and beautifully written.  Ana’s life is shown as loving and filled with blessings.  It will contrast vividly for American children with their own lifestyle.  Brown also focuses clearly on books and the power of reading and stories.  The story here is told clearly and warmly with sprinklings of Spanish throughout.

Parra’s illustrations have a lovely folk art feel to them.  Done in acrylics on board, they have a texture adds another dimension to the book.  The colors are bright, the storytelling portions filled with wild and amazing creatures, and the entire work makes a complete and unified package.

The entire book sings, revealing a different culture and the power of words (and librarians.)  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Tricycle Press.

Also reviewed by:

You can also check out the book trailer:

The New York Times Notable Children’s Books of 2011

On Monday, The New York Times released their list of Notable Children’s Books for the year.  Their list moves from young adult through middle grades to picture books.

Here are the books they feature:



Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (my review)

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang (my review)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (my review)

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater




Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say (my review)

Everything on It by Shel Silverstein

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman by Meg Wolitzer


Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt (my review)

Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg (my review)


Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck

Seriously, Norman! by Chris Raschka

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (my review)




Blackout by John Rocco (my review)

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (my review)


I Must Have Bobo! by Eileen Rosenthal (my review)

Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell (my review)

Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story by Thomas F. Yezerski (my review)

My Name Is Elizabeth! by Annika Dunklee (my review)


Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

Pomelo Begins to Grow by Ramona Bodescu

Samantha on a Roll by Linda Ashman