Tag Archive: animals


Night Animals by Gianna Marino

Night Animals by Gianna Marino (InfoSoup)

When Skunk walks by, he notices that Possum is hiding and asks why. She’s hiding from “the night animals” and hushes Skunk. The two hide together in a hollow tree until Skunk hears Wolf coming. Wolf shouts for help and says that something big is chasing him. Meanwhile Skunk has gotten alarmed and released his scent which has Possum fainting. Bear arrives in a panic saying that something HUGE is following him! It must be a night animal. Logic is restored by a little bat who informs all of the animals that THEY are the night animals. So what could they be afraid of? You will see!

Marino captures the hectic pace of panic neatly in this picture book. It builds from one animal to the next until it reads at almost breakneck speed as the animals grow in both size and number. The text is very simple and lends itself to lots of voices and humor when read aloud. Children may realize that all of these are nocturnal animals right away, but the final twist of the book will have even those clued into the lack of reason for any panic laughing.

The illustrations add so much to this book. With backgrounds of the darkest black, the animals pop on the page with their light coloring. Speaking in speech bubbles, they are funny and frightened. The addition of Skunk’s overuse of his scent makes for an even funnier read, particularly with it being Possum who is always hit with it.

Funny and a delight to read aloud, this picture book is ideal for sleepovers and bedtime reading, particularly if done by flashlight. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking Books for Young Readers.

Binny in Secret by Hilary McKay

Binny in Secret by Hilary McKay (InfoSoup)

This second book in the series about Binny is another charmer. Binny has to start school in her new town now that summer is over. She doesn’t know anyone at all and the only child she has met she managed to knock into and spoil her mother’s birthday gifts while Binny was pursuing a butterfly. When a storm hits their small town, Binny and her family find that the roof of their house has caved in and they have to move to a rental house out in the country. At school, Binny is mercilessly bullied by the girl she knocked into and her friends. They call her “grockle” and make fun of the way she talks and acts. Binny finds herself taking solace in her family, helping her little brother James with his chickens. Then one of the chickens is taken by a “jagular” and Binny discovers a paw print that might lead her to figure out the puzzle of what animal took the hen. Tied together with Binny’s story is that of Clarry, a girl who lived in the house during World War I and who found herself drawn to the natural world in the same way that Binny does. It may just take the two of them together to solve the mysteries that Binny has discovered.

McKay has such a way of writing. It exudes warmth and humor. It’s rather like the cinnamon cake that appears in this book, something to be both savored and lingered over, but also one to be devoured with delight. If I could leave the house with a book like this tucked in my pocket to munch on each day, I’d be very happy indeed. The dual story lines of Binny and Clarry work particularly well. Clarry too is an intriguing character, a girl interested in an education in a time when that simply wasn’t done. Readers find out fairly soon in the book that Clarry lived to be 100 years old, but there are questions about how long others in her story lived which add to the mysteries of the book.

McKay creates characters who are their own people. There is Binny who is complicated both in the ones she loves and her own interests. She finds things on the fly and feels deeply about everything. Her younger brother James is also a delight. His way of greeting people, his vague general statements, his inquisitive nature. They all combine to one little boy with a huge personality. Clem, Binny’s older sister, has depths that are hinted at but not yet revealed. All of the characters are robust and personable. Those who seem one way upon first meeting them develop into intriguing full characters by the end of the book, and even the adults are treated this way.

Another wonderful read by the incredible Hilary McKay. I can’t wait to see what Binny gets up to next! Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Mr Postmouses Rounds by Marianne Dubuc

Mr. Postmouse’s Rounds by Marianne Dubuc

Released August 1, 2015.

On Monday morning, Mr. Postmouse loads up his wagon to delivery the mail. He goes from one home to the next, delivering packages that suit the needs of each recipient. There is a huge carrot-shaped package for the rabbits, nuts for Mr. Squirrel, a fancy shovel for Mrs. Mole, and some sweets for the ants. Each animal has a unique home from the long, long home filled with heat lamps for Mr. Snake to the watery home of the crocodiles and the underwater home of Mrs. Octopus. Each animal has a habitat and a space that is filled with details that children will love to take a close look at. This engaging look at the postal system is also a beginning way to talk about animals and their homes.

This French Canadian import has limited text, offering just enough to identify the animals and contents of some of their packages. The real delight here are the illustrations, filled with whimsy and detail, they offer a glimpse into a storybook world of animals and their homes. Drawn with fine lines, the illustrations have all of the detail of Richard Scarry with a modern feel. There are stories within the larger one, where a bird is wanted for theft, pigs are saving sheep from the wolf, and Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks appear.

This is a book to sit and pore over, enjoying the details and making up stories about the homes that you can see inside. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi

The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi

Released August 1, 2015.

Snow has fallen and Kikko wants to help her father clear her grandmother’s walk. He has already left but forgot to take the pie for her grandmother, so Kikko follows his footprints through the snow. She can see him ahead of her when she falls and crushes the pie. Still, she picks it all back up and continues on her way. But her father is heading into a huge building that Kikko has never seen before. As she approaches, she looks in the window and sees that the man she has been following is actually a bear in a coat. A little lamb comes up to her and asks her inside to join the tea party. Kikko is the only human there in a room filled with forest creatures. She quickly is welcomed to their tea party and spends a splendid time with them. When the time comes to continue on her way to her grandmother’s house, the animals replace the crushed pie with one made from different pieces of their own pies. Kikko is soon at her grandmother’s house where they are clearly delighted with the unusual pie.

Miyakoshi has created a story that is pure magic. She takes the traditional Little Riding Hood story of a girl heading through the woods to her grandmother’s house and turns it upside down in a most pleasant and unusual way. Once readers see that she is with wild animals, they will expect the story to take a darker turn. Instead they will discover a book that gets ever friendlier and more welcoming, a book filled with the warmth of new-found friends.

The illustrations are done with touches of color brightening the charcoal and pencil illustrations. Kikko is set apart immediately with her bright yellow hair and red hat and mittens. She is a burst of color against the white and the darkness. The illustrations of the animals are particularly effective. They are realistic and yet the animals are dressed in human attire, making it a lovely and whimsical book.

Gentle and friendly, this twist on Little Red Riding Hood is enchanting. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

Welcome Home Bear by Il Sung Na

Welcome Home, Bear: A Book of Animal Habitats by Il Sung Na (InfoSoup)

Bear has been waking up to the same old forest and blue sky day after day, so he decides that he may need to find a new home. He sets off first to climb up a tree to see Bird’s home, but it was too high. Mole’s underground tunnels were stuffy and full of dirt. Goat’s cliff was too dizzying. Octopus’ underwater home was too deep. Polar Bear’s icy home was too cold. Camel’s desert was too hot on his paws. There were more that were too wet and too muddy. Bear was very sad. Where could he live that was just right for him?

Told in humorous and short lines, this picture book explore animal habitats in a lighthearted way. Bear’s exploration shows the differences in the needs of the animals in a subtle way, focusing more on Bear’s reaction to the places in the world. Bear is a great protagonist for this, since readers know from the very first page where he should be living and how different it is from the many places he visits.

Bear’s discomfort with each new habitat is delightfully illustrated to create humorous moments. From being squirted by a surprised octopus to Bear’s evident hatred of deep mud, the book is fast-paced and funny. The illustrations though are far from just being silly. They are lovely too. The habitats are beautifully depicted from the golden desert sand to the lushness of the rain forest. Each page and the animals themselves are textured and have a depth of color that is gorgeous. The final page of the dejected Bear heading back home with his shadow long on the ground is particularly lovely.

A lighthearted and richly illustrated look at animals and their habitats all through the eyes of one adventurous bear. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Knopf Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

Wild About Shapes by Jeremie Fischer

Wild about Shapes by Jeremie Fischer (InfoSoup)

A wonderfully simple idea, this book features abstract patterns on each facing page. Turn the clear plastic page with its abstract design so that it overlaps the first page and suddenly an animal is revealed. While some of the animals can be guessed from the designs or from the short text, many of them are complete surprises. Children will have to be paying close attention to spot some of the animals like the fish made from the white space on the page and the octopus that floats on another.

Spiral bound, this book is printed on card stock that will stand up to little hands. Even the acetate pages are strong and thick, limiting the amount of tearing that libraries will see. The text is very limited in the book, giving full attention to the clever illustrations. They are entirely playful and fun, the book less of a guessing game and more of art that you get to experience.

Children will want to turn the pages themselves, so that they are able to look back and forth between the abstract and the tangible on the page. So it’s best for sharing with only a few children at a time. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Daylight Starlight Wildlife by Wendell Minor

Daylight Starlight Wildlife by Wendell Minor (InfoSoup)

Explore the world of animals in your own backyard that come out either in the day or at night. Shown in pairs, the various animals are awake at opposite ends of the day. Hawks fly the skies in the bright sunlight while owls glide the skies after dark. Rabbits and their babies are active in the fields and meadows in the day while opossum mothers and their babies come out and forage the same areas at night. Even the butterflies of day are replaced by the moths of night. The book moves from bright page to dark page, each equally lovely and equally celebrated. This is a nice beginning book that looks at animals of all sorts that can be spotted in backyards across the U.S.

Minor provides brief comments on each of the animals that he highlights. He smartly chooses not to make the pairings rhyme, creating instead a natural flow with his prose that makes the book easy to share aloud and a pleasure to explore. His use of only backyard animals makes for an accessible read for young children who will delight in recognizing many of the daylight animals and may be very surprised by some of the nighttime ones.

As always, Minor’s artwork is stunningly lovely. He captures both the sun yellow of the daylight pages but also the glowing blues of night. Both are presented with loving detail and care, each page as lovely as the next. Thanks to his art, this book reads as a celebration of these animals and of the different times of day. Minor’s skill with light and shadow are on full display in this book.

A beautiful look at everyday animals that are active either in the day or the night, this picture book will inspire visits to dark backyards and sunlit ones. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.

Ambush of Tigers by Betsy Rosenthal

An Ambush of Tigers: A Wild Gathering of Collective Nouns by Betsy R. Rosenthal, illustrated by Jago (InfoSoup)

Using wordplay and clever illustrations, this book celebrates the unique and fascinating world of collective nouns used for groups of animals. From a leap of leopards jumping through the trees near a tower of giraffes to a labor of moles working alongside a business of flies, the animals and their respective collective nouns are matched up to maximize both understanding and humor. Children will enjoy exploring these words and will puzzle over why certain animals are referred to in specific ways.

Rosenthal has carefully chosen the collective nouns she highlights in her book. She also has managed to pair them with interesting imagery in her poetry, such as a troop of kangaroos selling cookies and collecting money in their pouches. She uses rhyming couplets to make the book even more fast-paced and jaunty. The result is a book that is both fascinating and educational but also great fun.

The art by Jago takes the imagery from Rosenthal’s rhymes and turns it into pictures which add to the inherent humor. The sleuth of bears is hot on the heels of the murder of crows. His paintings make the collective nouns tangible and real, creating scenarios that are memorable.

A nice addition to the Ruth Heller books that are in most libraries, this book has a fresh tone and lots of humor. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Wild! Board Books

wild bathtime wild bedtime

wild mealtime wild playtime

Wild! Bathtime by Courtney Dicmas

Wild! Bedtime by Courtney Dicmas

Wild! Mealtime by Courtney Dicmas

Wild! Playtime by Courtney Dicmas

Romping animal babies and zany humor combine to make this series a great pick for toddlers and infants.

Bathtime shows all sorts of different animals taking baths, cleaning faces and other parts of the body. The humor comes at the end with a mother pig looking dejectedly at her sleeping piglets who are all clean while she is dirty.

Bedtime invites everyone to curl up to sleep but some of the little animals are not quite ready yet. Grabbing your teddy has a different meaning here as does turning out the light. Clever little touches make this one that you will read again and again.

Mealtime has animals acting very much like toddlers. They want more to eat, eat too quickly, and even try to hide their peas. Once again clever matching of animals to phrases makes for fun reading.

Playtime is the ultimate romp of a book, showing lots of wrestling and movement. And the parents are all in for the fun, mostly.

This series will be appreciated by children who love animals and also little ones who may need an excuse to slow down and read a bit. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copies received from Child’s Play.

sand swimmers

Sand Swimmers: The Secret Life of Australia’s Desert Wilderness by Narelle Oliver

Set in the ferocious center of Australia, this book looks at one of the harshest climates in the world and the animals that not only survive there but thrive there. The “Dead Heart” of Australia can appear completely uninhabited at first, but this book has us look closer and see what the Aboriginal people have known for thousands of years. The huge salt lake has lizards, shrimp and frogs if you know where to look. The mulga scrublands have tangled timber but that is also shelter for spiders, ants, geckos, and birds. Down deep under the earth, there are even more animals sheltering. Even the oceans of rock and sand have animals living there. Explore an amazing ecosystem along with early explorers of Australia who failed to see the creatures hiding around them.

Oliver takes readers on an amazing journey through various regions of the center of Australia. Even the rocks and sand and plants themselves are wild and different from other parts of the world. Everything seems to combine to make the most uninhabitable ecosystem in the world, but that’s not true if you look deeper. Oliver takes readers deeper into the desert and readers will discover the beauty and life hidden in this desolate landscape.

Oliver’s illustrations combine line drawings of the creatures with smudged drawings of the early explorers. The combination of the crisp line drawings with the more smudged ones is very successful, giving readers a taste of both the animals themselves and the history.

A brilliant look at a fascinating habitat, this book goes far beyond the stereotypical kangaroos and koala bears of Australia. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

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