Good Night, Knight by Betsy Lewin
When Horse and Knight are falling asleep, Knight has a dream about golden cookies. So he wakes up Horse and sets off on a quest to find the golden cookies. They search everywhere, in hollow tree trunks and under water and in the bushes, riding from one place to the next at a brisk trot. It isn’t until they return home and Knight has collapsed from exhaustion that Knight realizes that the cookies were right in their castle all along. The two have a golden cookie feast and then go to bed, but it’s not long before Horse has a golden dream of his own!
Written for emerging readers, this picture book is written with a limited vocabulary and words that repeat on the page and from one section of the story to another. The picture book format will invite reluctant readers to give reading a try. Lewin also wisely incorporates plenty of humor and galloping around, giving the reader reasons to turn the page to see what will happen next. It’s a good mix of action and silliness.
Lewin’s illustrations break the text into nice readable chunks appropriate for beginning readers. Plenty of attention is paid to the illustrations, offering humor beyond the text itself. For example, Knight never removes his armor, even to sleep! The art is simple, funny and inviting.
Head out on a quest with your beginning reader and this simple picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Holiday House.
The New Small Person by Lauren Child
The creator of Charlie and Lola returns with a new picture book sibling pair. Elmore Green has always been an only child. He has his own room, no one moves his toys around, and no one eats his jelly beans. But suddenly a new baby enters the picture and soon Elmore finds himself sharing a room, unable to leave any of his toys unattended, and no one pays him attention. Perhaps worst of all, his jelly bean collection is licked by his little brother! Just as all seems to be falling apart, Elmore discovers that there are some parts of having a new sibling that aren’t so bad after all like laughing at TV shows together, sharing toys, and even sharing jelly beans (maybe).
Child has a wonderful way of understanding what children are thinking. While other new sibling books have more focus on the loss of parental attention, Child shows exactly how a small sibling can bother an older one. She merrily skips quickly past the baby stage and directly to toddlerhood where the most disruption can take place. Young readers will enjoy a book that has plenty of humor but also is realistic too.
Child’s art is done in her signature style. Her collage work incorporates pieces of cloth and patterned paper. I appreciate that her new family are people of color and also that it is not a focus of the book but just a visual component, natural and not remarked upon.
Perfect for Charlie & Lola fans and also for older siblings experiencing their own toddlers at home. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
Used to just dropping their baskets when they wore out, people in Njau, Gambia did the same thing with their plastic bags, but the plastic bags decayed like the baskets would. They also didn’t last nearly as long. Torn bags can’t be mended or used at all, so one by one, then ten by ten, and thousands by thousands they were thrown to the side of the road. They accumulated in heaps, poisoning the goats that tried to eat the garbage around them. Water pooled in them and brought more mosquitoes and diseases. Burying and burning them weren’t the solution either. Then Isatou Ceesay found a way to recycle the plastic bags and get jobs for her community by transforming them into something new.
This book speaks to the power that one person can have to change things, both for themselves and their entire community. The prose here is straight-forward but also has moments of poetry thrown in, showing the devastation the plastic bags were creating in the Gambia. The book also shows the way that an idea is born, comes to fruition, passes through being scorned and is finally embraced.
The illustrations by Zunon are remarkable. Using collage, they bring together the textures of the weaving and baskets as well as the plastic bags from photographs. The textiles of the Gambia are also incorporated and vibrate on the page. They are combined with painting and other more playful textures to create the natural setting and the people.
Strong writing and superb illustrations combine to tell the true story of how one woman transformed pollution. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Vegetables in Underwear by Jared Chapman
Released April 7, 2015.
All different sorts of vegetables demonstrate the joys of wearing big-kid underwear in all sorts of colors and styles. Never taking the subject too seriously, this book celebrates an often under-appreciated piece of clothing. One after another vegetables show the different sorts of underwear from dirty to clean, big to small, and serious to funny. But there is one sort of kid who doesn’t wear underwear, since babies wear diapers. Suitable giggle-worthy, these grinning vegetables invite young children to join the underwear ranks.
Chapman has written this book in an infectious rhyme that is jaunty and adds much to the fun of reading this book aloud. One never quite knows what is on the next page, except that it will be friendly and fun. The book ends with a silly reminder that you should have your clothes on top of your underwear before you leave the house, something that will have preschoolers laughing along.
Chapmas has created an entire garden of smiling vegetables here. Using whitespace very nicely, they pop on the page in all of their colorfulness. The vegetables are friendly, approachable and entirely silly. Children will immediately get the joke of vegetables being the ones to show humans how to wear undies.
Funny and friendly, this is a great pick for potty training giggles. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.
I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt
A little frog has decided that he doesn’t want to be a frog. He’d much rather be a… cat! Why? Because frogs are too wet. But a bigger frog explains that there is no way he can be a cat, because he’s a frog. Then he decides he wants to be a rabbit, since he can already jump and because frogs are too slimy. But he’s missing the long ears. Maybe a pig? But then you have to eat garbage. How about an owl? Nope, he can’t turn his head all the way around. Finally, a wolf comes along and gives the little frog a perfect reason to be happy to be a frog.
This debut picture book makes for a great read aloud. The two voices of the pair of frogs form the entire story, creating a great dynamic together. The story may be very silly, and it certainly is, but at the heart it is a child questioning if it might be better to be something entirely different, something furry or something that flies. It’s a classic case of identity crisis and one that children will relate to even while they giggle about it.
Boldt’s illustrations play up the humorous aspect of the story. The expressions on the frogs’ faces are well drawn and convey the emotions they are feeling very clearly. The use of speech bubbles and hand lettering makes for a book that has the feel of a comic book. Combined with the silly story, the illustrations make it even more funny.
Get this in the hands of Mo Willems fans who will completely fall for this loud little frog with big ideas. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Doubleday Books for Young Readers.
Little Bird Takes a Bath by Marisabina Russo
Little Bird hates the rain and it was raining on his nest high above the city. The next morning though, the rain was gone and it was a lovely day. It was the perfect day for a bath! But the trouble was finding the right puddle. Some puddles were too big, some too small, and others were too crowded with other bathers. Then Little Bird found just the right puddle on a path in the park. But over and over again he got interrupted during his bathing. There was a bouncing ball, a little girl in flip flops, and a dog. By the time they had all gone through his puddle, it was far too small to bathe in. Little Bird flew up above the city, then spotted a fountain that looked like it was just the right size for a little bird.
Russo’s picture book is gentle and echoes traditional stories. She incorporates repetition and the mirroring of Goldilocks finding things that were “just right” adds much to the story. As the different things interrupt Little Bird’s bath, they are shown by the noise they make and then the reader turns the page to see what is making that noise. This little touch makes the book more dynamic and interactive for young listeners.
Russo’s art is just as inviting as the story she weaves. She makes sure that readers know that this is a city bird both in the text and the illustrations. Her images move from close ups of Little Bird to most distant images of the cityscape and how Little Bird flies across it. This change of scale makes the book interesting and children will enjoy seeing the path of Little Bird as he locates puddles and fountains in the city.
A great pick for rainy read alouds, this book will be welcome at toddler and preschool story times. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.
Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jamey Christoph
Gordon Parks had a rough beginning to his life from being born almost stillborn to losing his mother at age 14. He was told by his white teacher that he and the rest of his all-black class would end up as either porters or waiters. Parks did do those jobs, but then he purchased a used camera and everything changed. He started photographing models and then turned his camera towards the struggling families in Chicago and Washington DC. He is pointed towards one specific subject who will create his most famous image, American Gothic, the picture of an African-American cleaning woman standing in front of the American flag with her mop in hand. Parks managed to show racism with a clarity thanks to just picking up a camera at first.
Weatherford keeps this book very friendly with a minimal amount of text in the bulk of the book. She does include an author’s note at the end that fills in more of the extensive career of Parks as a film director and Renaissance man. The focus here in this picture book biography is Parks’ photographic work and the impact he had on exposing racism and poverty in the inner city, showing hard working people who were still in poverty. Make sure to turn to the end of the book to see his photographs and their intense message.
Christoph’s illustrations are stellar. Using a subtle color palette, the images echo the photographs that Park took, but not too closely. Instead they build upon them, showing Parks taking the images and embracing the dark beauty of the back streets of urban spaces. He also beautifully captures emotions and the humanity of Parks’ subjects that also shines in his photographs.
An important picture book biography, this book shows how one person can make a difference and have a voice. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang
Released March 24, 2015.
In rhythmic rhyme, this picture book celebrates each and every kind of family there is. Starting with families with lots of siblings, the book quickly moves to embrace only children, families with gay and lesbian parents, single parent families, and children who live with extended family. Then the book moves into other differences like step families, adoption, and parents who may or may not be married. Towards the end, the book gains momentum and speed and rushes merrily through silly types of differences in families, that underline how the most important thing in each of these different sorts of families is the love that is there.
The rhyming text has a friendly bounce to it and that ramping up of speed at the end of the book is a great twist and a grand way to reach the loving finale. The book maintains a great sense of humor throughout, both in its words and its illustrations.
The illustrations are done with cartoon cut outs placed on photographic backgrounds and then mounted as pictures in a photo album. The use of both cartoons and photographs gives this book a fresh approach. The illustrations also use animals instead of people, making it all the more friendly and approachable for small children who will enjoy finding their own kind of family on the page, probably more than once!
Funny, friendly and embracing everyone, this picture book is all about the love within families and acceptance for all. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Random House.