The Fly by Elise Gravel
The Worm by Elise Gravel
The first and second books in the new Disgusting Critters series of nonfiction picture books, these books take a humorous look at the biology of a specific creature. The first book deals with flies, specifically the common house fly. Inside are all sorts of interesting facts like the fly being covered in hair and information on eggs and maggots. More disgusting aspects are played up, which should appeal to young children, like the diet of flies and how germ filled they are and why. The second book is about worms and focuses on their unique anatomy, such as having no eyes and no limbs. There is also a focus on habitat, diet and reproduction. Throughout both books, humorous asides are offered, making this one of the most playful informational book series around.
Gravel combines both humor and facts in her book. She keeps the two clearly defined, with the animals themselves making comments that add the funniness to the books. The facts are presented in large fonts and the design of the book makes the facts clear and well defined. These books are designed for maximum child appeal and will work well in curriculums or just picked up by a browser in the library.
The art in the books, as you can see by the covers, is cartoonish and cute. The entire effect is a merry romp alongside these intriguing animals. I know some people believe that books about science for children should be purely factual, but Gravel’s titles show how well humor and touch of anthropomorphism can work with informational titles.
Information served with plenty of laughs, these science titles will be appreciated by children and teachers. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copies.
Cat Says Meow by Michael Arndt
A fresh new take on animal noises in a picture book, this is a clever and artistic reinvention. Blending animals with a typological representation of the animal and its noise, this book is pure font bliss. The book offers 25 animals that pop against the white background.
Simple in the extreme, this picture book explores the curves and zig zags of letters, turning them into tongues, feet, ears, whiskers and tails. The words are sometimes obvious in the drawings but others take a bit more squinting and thinking to make out. The art becomes a visual puzzle and makes the entire book a joy to explore and decrypt.
Get this into the hands of art teachers and writing teachers who will adore the creativity that it displays and the way it engages on many levels. Appropriate for ages 3-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
What’s Your Favorite Animal?
Eric Carle and many other well-known illustrators offer their personal favorite animals complete with a short piece about what animal they love and why. Turning the pages is rather like visiting a gallery of some of the top picture book illustrators working today. Turn the page and see Lane Smith’s choice of elephant, then Jon Klassen’s ode to his love for ducks, and Susan Jeffer’s beautiful look at horses. This work is fantastically lovely and personal to the illustrators. It is a pleasure to turn each page and take a journey through this book.
Readers may discover new authors and illustrators and seek out their work. But best of all, this is a wonderful look at well-known illustrators on a personal level. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Co.
Tippy and the Night Parade by Lilli Carre
Released February 11, 2014.
In the morning when she wakes up, Tippy’s room is a complete mess. But all Tippy remembers is falling asleep, how did this all happen? The next night, she goes to bed as usual after cleaning up her room. And then readers get to see exactly what happens when Tippy goes sleepwalking along a pier, across the garden, hopping on lily pads, lost in the fog and trees, down a hole, into the desert, up a mountain and back down to her window. Just to wake up the next morning again without knowing what happened.
Carre lets her images tell the majority of the story in her debut graphic novel. And the images are a smart mix of modern with a vintage flair. They have a flatness to them that adds a quirky quality to the book. They also have a great sense of humor as the parade builds in length and more animals are included. My particular favorite is the rotund bear. And what a parade it is, sharp-eyed readers will enjoy looking at the mess in her room and matching the animals that had joined her walk back home.
Funny and quirky, this parade is one worth marching along with. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Toon Books.
A Book of Babies by Il Sung Na
A duck takes readers on a tour of different sorts of animal babies. The duck heads around the world, visiting baby lions, baby lizards, baby polar bears, and baby kangaroos among many others. A trait of each baby is mentioned to distinguish them. Baby zebras walk right away. Fish are born with lots of brothers and sisters. Seahorse fathers carry their babies in a pouch. These small details add up to a kaleidoscope of different animals and offer lots of opportunities for parents to talk more about each animals as they share the book.
This author of The Book of Sleep always fills her books with rich illustrations. Here her gentle poem carries the duck from one place to the next, but it is the illustrations that make this such a special gem. Done in mixed media, they feature a variety of textured papers that become ice bergs, tree trunks and even the sky. He manages to make colors that seem to emit light, glowing on the page.
Perfect for toddler bedtimes, this book is radiant with baby animals. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.
Wild by Emily Hughes
When the baby girl was found in the woods by the animals, the entire woods took her in. Bird taught her to talk. Bear taught her to fish. Fox taught her how to play. Everything was good, until she met some people in the woods. They took her home with them. A famous psychiatrist took her in and tried to make her civilized. They combed her hair, tried to teach her to speak, frowned at her table manners and didn’t appreciate the way she played. Everything they did was wrong. The girl was not happy at all. But then one day, she found her wild once more.
Told only in brief sentences, Hughes lets her art tell much of the story here. And what a glorious story it is. It’s the story of a child perfectly at home in the wild and with the animals. She doesn’t long for society or civilization in any way. She’s the opposite of many classic book characters like Curious George. She rejects the rules and substitutes her own.
The art has a wonderful wild quality as well. It is lush and filled with details. The woods have a flowing green that is mesmerizing. Once the humans enter the story, things become more angular and rigid. The return to the woods is beautiful and completely satisfying.
Hughes has tapped into what every child dreams of, living in the woods with the animals and thriving. Everyone who reads this will want to be wild themselves. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Jumping Penguins by Marije Tolman and Jesse Goossens
This nonfiction book is filled with facts about different animals. And not just any facts! These are facts that are funny, amazing and memorable. For instance, did you know a giraffe has no vocal chords? That caterpillars throw their poop? That crocodiles are cannibals? That a flamingo can only swallow if its head is upside down? Fifty animals are shown here with whimsical illustrations by the award-winning Tolman.
Goossens masterfully selects facts that mix the incredible with the bizarre with the humorous. The book is a wonderful mix of fictional depictions of the animals and scientific facts. Due to the pile up of animals on the cover, I was expecting a fictional book rather than this page-turner of a book that gets you so intrigued that you have to keep on reading.
Tolman’s illustrations are beautiful. She has such a unique style and one that works particularly well with animals and their diverse habitats. With each, she seems to capture what makes them interesting and special. At the same time, she mixes in furniture, hats, sun glasses and more. So the animals look hip, silly or serious depending on the page.
Delightful, whimsical and a great choice for children who love animals, this book is appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Lemniscaat.
Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder
It’s the perfect day to go to the zoo and the whole family is excited. Well, maybe not the whole family. Little T certainly is not, in fact she is frightened of the zoo. But she can’t remember what in the zoo scares her. So her family set out to find out what might be scaring her. They start out at the beginning of the alphabet and acting out the animals. It’s not alligator, bat or camel. As they go on, the costumes they use become more and more elaborate and they all help act them out with plenty of laughter and silliness. They make it all the way to zebras and still Little T can’t remember why she is scared of the zoo. So they decide to go the next day. But there is something very frightening at the zoo, and her older sister might just find it a little too scary.
Heder does a superb job here of creating costumes out of boxes and ropes that look like they just might work in real life. As the costumes grow more and more outrageous and complex, they also get more beautiful. Along the way, Heder does not name any of the animals being portrayed, so the book has a guessing-game element to it as well. The ending is funny and satisfying.
Heder’s art really is the majority of the story here. The text is almost secondary to the full-page images that gallop and dash across the page. They are filled with motion, color and smiles. This is art that will inspire children to play with boxes and rope. Expect your living room to be strewn with cardboard and ideas.
Creative and a joy to read, this is much more fun than any visit I’ve had to the zoo. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Musk Ox Counts by Erin Cabatingan, illustrated by Matthew Myers
The characters from A is for Musk Ox return for a counting book this time. A counting book should be fairly straight forward, it’s counting after all. But Musk Ox has different ideas. Must to Zebra’s dismay, he doesn’t even make it to number one at the beginning of the book to be counted as one Musk Ox. Instead he is on the page with 2 yaks. Musk Ox offers to fix the problem on the page for number one, but still messes up the 2 yaks page. Zebra is beside himself and a sulky Musk Ox heads back to page one on his own. But he doesn’t stay there for long! Expect plenty of counting chaos throughout the book though there is also some easy addition thrown in too.
I enjoyed this book almost as much as the first one. This one has the joy of returning to two engaging characters. As with the first, you never know what is going to happen on the next page, making it very engaging reading. Cabatingan writes the two characters with zingy dialogue and the book is a must for reading aloud.
Myers’ illustrations add to the zany book. He manages to keep crowded pages from being confusing as the number mount. He also uses the effect of Musk Ox and Zebra peeking through from other pages very nicely.
The result is a counting book worth sharing aloud to a group of preschoolers, and there aren’t many counting books that you can say that about! Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
A Moose That Says Moo! by Jennifer Hamburg, illustrated by Sue Truesdell
Sitting near the laundry drying on the line, a little girl is reading books about animals. She starts to think about having a zoo of her very own and what sorts of animals it would have. It’s guaranteed that no other zoo has animals like hers! There is a moose that says “moo,” bears that drive cars, tigers that swing in the trees, and sharks that read books. At night, the animals have a big pillow fight that turns into one silly brawl with awakened goats, tap-dancing pigs that startle easily, tripping turtles, and even groundhogs that protest. It will take one smart young girl to get everything put back together again even in this imaginary zoo.
Written in a rollicking rhyme, this book really celebrates the ridiculous and the silly. Hamburg manages to create zoo animals with wild qualities that make the book a surprise on each page. The result is a book that dances on the edge of losing control, but the firm hand Hamburg takes with the rhyme and rhythm keeps it within control and makes for a book that begs to be shared aloud.
Truesdell does an amazing job of managing to take all of the wild chaotic silliness of the book and turn it into illustrations that help it all make sense. At the same time, she too revels in the silliness on the page and adds to it with small touches like a reading shark accidentally eating a book, the offer of many tissues to a sneezing tiger, and goggled bears in cars.
Pure silliness, this book could merrily be wedged into many storytime themes. Use it as a finisher since even antsy children will sit still for this wild ride. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.