Category: Picture Books

Funny Bones by Duncan Tonatiuh

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh (InfoSoup)

Award-winning author and illustrator, Tonatiuh brilliantly tells the story of Jose Guadalupe Posada. Called Lupe by his family, he showed artistic promise early in life. At age 18, he went to work in a print shop where he learned lithography and engraving. Lupe starting doing drawings for the small local paper, including political cartoons. Lupe eventually opened his own print shop and starting to create illustrations for books and pamphlets. After his shop was ruined in a flood, he moved with his family to Mexico City where he opened a new shop. Lupe began creating broadsides and that is where he started creating his calaveras or skeletons. Some have specific meanings while others are unknown, many of them make political commentary on Mexican society. Lupe was soon recognized for these prints more than any of the rest of his work. Posada continues to be known for these images thanks to other Mexican artists like Diego Rivera who investigated who had drawn the etchings.

Tonatiuh does a great job of telling the story of the full life of Posada while focusing on making it accessible to children and also making it a compelling tale. Readers will recognize some of the images in the book, creating a firm connection between the artist and the images. The story of Posada’s life is a mix of tragedy and accomplishment, rather like the images he created. The Author’s Note at the end of the book adds details to the story of Posada and his art.

Tonatiuh’s art is as unique and marvelous as ever. He uses his stylized characters, usually shown in profile. They have a wonderful folk-art feel to them and work very nicely with Posada’s own skeletons. His illustrations are a rich mix of collage and line drawings, mixing textures and colors very effectively.

A great book to share for Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead, this will be a welcome addition to all public library collections, but particularly those serving Hispanic populations. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Scritch Scratch Scraww Plop by Kitty Crowther

Scritch Scratch Scraww Plop! by Kitty Crowther

Jeremy doesn’t like the dark. So when bedtime comes, he is just fine as he gets ready for bed. He’s happy when his father reads him a bedtime story and his mother comes in for a final hug and kiss. But once he is left alone in the dark in bed, he hears something. It’s a “scritch scratch scraww plop” and Jeremy is fairly sure that it is some sort of monster in his room. He goes to tell his father, but his father just moves him back to bed. Eventually after being unable to sleep after several tries, Jeremy climbs in bed with his parents. His father can’t sleep then, and goes to sleep in Jeremy’s room. And that is when he hears a “scritch scratch scraww plop!” He heads back to get Jeremy and the two of them go outside together to figure out what is making that noise.

Crowther takes a universal situation of being scared of the dark and places a lovely natural twist at the end. The fact that Jeremy is not making up or imagining the scary noise he is hearing is central to the story. Reading this book aloud is a treat with the “scritch scratch scraww plop” offering a great opportunity to add a little shiver into the room. The design of the book is old-fashioned and warm. I immediately thought of Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter when I opened the book. The clear celebration of nature at the end of the book is a strong way to finish on a high note.

Crowther’s art is done in discrete panels on each page adding to the vintage feel. The art itself is jaunty and friendly. The pools of water on the floor that make up their carpet is funny and the real darkness on the page done in black is deep and adds to the scary feel when Jeremy is alone.

This import from Belgium will be welcomed as a bedtime story for those who have their own monsters and scary noises to deal with at night. It may also invite exploration out into yards and gardens to discover what is making those noises. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Waiting by Kevin Henkes

Waiting by Kevin Henkes (InfoSoup)

The award-winning Kevin Henkes returns with a new picture book about waiting. Five toys wait on a windowsill, looking outside. The owl waits for the moon, the pig waits for rain, the bear waits for wind, the dog waits for snow and the rabbit waits because he enjoys waiting and watching out the window. Seeing what they are waiting for makes each of them happy and so do new objects and visitors. Some visitors stay for only a short time while others stay longer. They all wait together. When a cat joins them, she too is waiting but for something very specific and it will be a wonderful surprise for everyone when it comes.

This is such a quiet and marvelous book. Do not read it expecting action and adventure, rather this is a book about waiting and patience. It is a book that shows the beauty of just being, of mindfulness, of acceptance of your day. Yet it is also a book about the tug of wanting and wishing, about time passing and about being friends in the most quiet and yet deep way. There is a silence about the book too that is compelling and superbly done. This is a philosophical book, one that quietly sneaks up on the reader how deep it actually is.

Henkes’ illustrations are done in a limited color palette. They have a quiet tone all their own in their pastels. The objects themselves have an old-fashioned feel, one of timelessness which is quite appropriate here. There are sections of the book done just in pictures, which allow the reader to see the relationships between the characters as well as the patience it takes to wait.

A gem of a picture book, this one is difficult to explain well but such a great read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

I Am Yoga by Susan Verde

I Am Yoga by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (InfoSoup)

A girl explains how yoga helps her in her day. When she is feeling the world is moving too quickly and that her thoughts are racing, she uses yoga to slow her mind, stop her heart from racing, and make room for creativity and ideas. The book then moves into the girl doing yoga positions which she describes in terms of the way that they make her feel. They make her shine like a star, feel like she is dancing with the moon, seeing far and wide, and sailing on the sea. She also talks about what those moves do, like make her more focused, open her heart, and be more playful. Basically, it is a book that celebrates yoga and the many ways that it can impact your day and make you more mindful.

Verde’s words are ones of joy and cheer. She captures the zing of the busy day and the distractions that come with it. Then comes the centering and slowing and the yoga, that are quieter and even more joyful. The focus is on the beauty of those moments, the way they transform a person and the feeling that you are left with afterwards. The mindful piece is clearly there, though yoga and its movements takes center stage.

Reynolds uses simple images to convey the feelings of the various movements. Awash with watercolors, the line drawings glow on the page. Some pages have just one color while others have sunsets of oranges, yellows and purples. The use of the bright colors makes the book a rainbow to read, moving from one feeling to the next and guided by the colors themselves.

A vivid and lovely look at yoga and its power to transform, the book ends with a guide to the yoga positions seen in the book. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Black Cat White Cat by Silvia Borando

Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando (InfoSoup)

Black Cat is entirely black, from his ears to his tail. White Cat is entirely white. Black Cat only goes out during the day when he can see swallows flying, White Cat only goes out at night when the stars are out. Then one day, Black Cat decides to see the night. And that is how Black Cat and White Cat meet. The two decide to explore day and night together. The night has fireflies while the day has bumblebees. The day has daisies, birds and butterflies while the night has snakes, bats and mice. The two cats become best friends, and eventually have kittens of their own. And you will never guess what color they are!

Borando is an Italian author. Here she uses lovely simple language to convey the wonder of both night and day as seen through a fresh set of eyes. The budding friendship of the two cats is captured in a lively way on the page, each of them sharing their world with the other. The illustrations and design of the book is what makes it special. The use of just the two colors on the page, black and white is done with a subtle humor. Borando creates scenarios where the black cat provides the dark background for the white cat to appear against in the day time and then reverses it. These clever little twists are a joy.

Graphically interesting and beautifully designed, this picture book even has a surprise ending to enjoy. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Maple and Willow Apart by Lori Nichols

Maple & Willow Apart by Lori Nichols (InfoSoup)

Maple and Willow love playing together but what is going to happen when Maple goes off to kindergarten for the first time. On the first day, Maple came back from school and talked all about it. Willow had spent her day with a new friend, Pip, a friendly acorn she met. The next day Willow explored outside and Maple once again had lots of stories about her day when she returned home. Each day, Maple has stories about school but Willow also has stories about her day with Pip and all of the things they did together. Soon Maple is rather regretful about heading off to school, but the girls soon figure out a way that their days can still keep them in touch with one another.

This third book about Maple and her sister Willow delicately captures the experience of both the sister being left behind at home and the sister going off to school. There is the excitement of a new adventure for the older sister, the feeling of abandonment for the younger. There is the pull of wanting to be together for both of them, especially when the games at home seem so much fun. Nichols nicely figures out a way that works perfectly in the story for the girls to be connected and for their stories and experiences to continue on together in unison.

The art in all of the Maple and Willow books shines. Done in pencil on Mylar and digitally colored, the illustrations have a lightness that is captivating. The use of big colorful maple leaves is also very effective, and adds a distinct fall flavor to the entire read.

A great pick for families with children heading off to school for the first time and also for those left behind too. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.

Scarecrow Magic by Ed Masessa

Scarecrow Magic by Ed Masessa, illustrated by Matt Myers (InfoSoup)

A shivery and wonderfully strange autumn read, this picture book explores what happens on the night of a full moon. It all starts with the moon bright in the sky and a scarecrow that starts to move. Magic is building all around, and creatures begin to emerge from the ground and the shadows. As the others arrive, the scarecrow unties himself, removes his clothes and then his skin! As a skeleton, he dashes around ready to play. He jumps rope with a vine, takes a dip in the pond, bowls with pumpkins, plays hide-and-seek. At snack time they all feast on worms and slug balls. By the time the sun rises, it’s all tidied up and Scarecrow is back to work on his post.

This picture book is not sweet and quiet, rather it’s a wild raucous picture book that has some darkness mixed in. So it may not be for every child and may not be ideal for right before bed. There is joy in a picture book that takes a autumn figure like a scarecrow and unveils the skeleton underneath. The magic at play all around in a rural area is also a treat to see come alive. The book is written in rhyme that bounces and dashes along, carrying this zingy story forward even faster. Halloween is not mentioned at all, but this would be a great pick for a read aloud at a Halloween event where scary darkness is to be expected and embraced.

Myers sets a great tone with his illustrations, creating a wonderful glow of the moon and a deep darkness of night. The skeleton’s white bones pop on the page as he gallivants around. The dark purples, blues and greens capture nighttime in the country. Against that backdrop, the strange creatures who come from the shadows and the ground are a mix of friendly and fearsome that works very well. They are just enough to be creepy but not really frightening.

Jaunty rhyme, a spooky night and one wild skeleton make for a treat of a book for a Halloween read. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko

A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko

Released September 29, 2015.

Mini and her mother almost hit a dog on their way home from Mini’s grandparents’ home. Mini’s mother hops out of the car and discovers that the dog is wearing bright yellow shoes. It doesn’t have a collar and there is no owner in sight, so they take the dog home with them. There, the dog starts to howl until they head out to the park together after purchasing a leash and collar. They get the attention of all of the dog owners at the park and the dog shows all of her tricks to everyone. Mini is very proud to be her owner. But when she tries to have the dog fetch a stick, the dog runs away. Now Mini knows that if she can find the dog again, she also has to find their original owner.

This book has such a marvelous sense of humor right from the beginning. If you only read the text, it is very simple and straight forward. Combined with the illustrations, it creates a rich humor that allows the text to be the straight man up againt the wild antics of the pictures. The book embraces the emotions of finding a stray animal, realizing that it probably has owners who are missing it, and then getting your own pet who actually suits you even better. The emotions are honest on the page, creating real heart in a book that could have been simply a lighter funny read.

I received an online version of this book for review and all I needed to see was the first few images to realize that this was a special book. From the boredom on Mini’s face as she rides home in the car to the dizzying range of emotions she shows throughout the day, the book is zingy and zany. It’s done entirely in black and white except for the pops of yellow for the dog’s shoes and the red of the leash and collar. All of the art is filled with personality and wit.

A wonderful read-aloud, this glowing picture book is a special find. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.

When Sophies Feelings Are Really Really Hurt by Molly Bang

When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt by Molly Bang

Released September 29, 2015.

Sophie and her class at school are given an assignment to paint a tree from real life. Sophie has a favorite tree, the big beech tree where she goes when she is feeling sad. When she visits it, she sees how it glows in the sun, how its branches are formed. But when she tries to paint it, she realizes that its gray trunk actually looks sad in the painting, it’s the opposite of how she feels about the tree. So she changes the bark color to a vivid blue, the sky is orange and the leaves are chartreuse and ringed in yellow to make them glow. Sophie is very happy with her painting until the other children start to tease her about it not being realistic at all. Sophie’s feelings get very hurt until her teacher comes over and they talk about what Sophie was showing in her painting of the tree. Sophie also gets the chance to see the trees that everyone in the class painted and to see how they conveyed what they were feeling too.

This second book about Sophie follows the very popular When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry, which received a Caldecott Honor. This book focuses on feelings and emotions once again and wisely takes on emotions through the lens of art. Bang makes sure to explain exactly how Sophie is feeling throughout the book, focusing on the emotions from how the tree makes her feel to the way that the teasing at school feels down to her physical reactions as well. These clear looks at emotions will allow a discussion of feelings that is manageable and one that can embrace art as well.

Bang’s illustrations are exceptional. They glow with a light from within. The beech tree is fabulous and one can immediately see the connection between Bang’s art and Sophie’s. Both are playful, colorful and show deep emotion. I particularly love the image when Sophie is upset that looks at her gazing down at her feet, so that the reader is almost seeing things from Sophie’s perspective. It captures the feeling of self-doubt and even shame that teasing can create. The entire book has moments like this.

Another winning title from Molly Bang, this second Sophie book deserves to be in every library right alongside the first. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC received from The Blue Sky Press.

Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook by Anne Vittur Kennedy

Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook by Anne Vittur Kennedy (InfoSoup)

Ragweed is an experience farm dog and he is willing to offer the reader his advice on how to be the best farm dog. First thing to know is not to wake the farmer in the early morning. That is the rooster’s job. Of course, if you do happen to wake the farmer, you would get a biscuit when been thrown out of the house. Pigs can be tricky too. It is not your job to roll in the mud, that is the pigs’ job. In fact, if you do get muddy you end up getting a bath, which is not fun. Of course, there is the biscuit you get afterwards. Ragweed has advice on chickens, sheep, and cows. Each time he offers firm advice, proceeds to ignore it himself and then manages to earn a treat along the way. Readers will get the humor immediately and will love this scrappy little dog who always manages to work everything out to his own advantage: biscuits!

Kennedy writes a clever take on a handbook here. There are other books that have unreliable lead characters who then do the opposite of what they are saying, but the addition of the treats to the equation makes this book all the more fun. The writing is wonderfully conversational and loose. It uses the voice of Ragweed to tell the story, offering an eager and bouncy tone that suits the book perfectly.

Kennedy’s art is bright and sunny. Ragweed pops on the page against the green grass of the farm. His tail almost seems to wag on the page and his eagerness and joy shine. His energy carries through all of the art, from the cows who look at him very skeptically (and with reason) to the panicked sheep to the dazed hens.

This wild romp of a book will be embraced as a read-aloud for farm and dog stories. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.


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