Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt, illustratedc by Joyce Wan
Head out on a journey in the night to find out where different creatures are sleeping. Each one is tucked into the space they like best at bedtime. There is the bear in his cave, the otter rocking back in the water, the pig in the hay, and many more. Then the owl is on the page, not sleepy at all. The book then turns to the house and the pets sleeping, but the little human bed is empty! Where can that last little sleepyhead be? Safe asleep in Mama’s arms.
Simple and beautiful, this book has a gentle rhyme that soothes also with a rhythm that is like rocking to sleep. Young listeners will get to identify the different animals as the pages turn, since the book leaves that up to the reader. The quiet mystery of where the last sleepyhead is found is a wonderful little twist at the end, just right as children snuggle down to their own beds.
Wan’s art is dark and beautiful. The night is lit with fireflies and the moon, the darkness deep and velvety but not frightening at all. As the reader visits each dark page, there is always a source of light beyond that in the sky so that the characters themselves shine on the page.
A wonderful bedtime read, this one shines with moonlight and dreams. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by CaTia Chien
This is a stellar autobiographical picture book written by and about a wildlife conservationist. Alan was a boy who could not speak clearly. He battled stuttering all of the time except when he talked with animals. When he visited the great cat house at the Bronx Zoo, he could whisper fluently into the ears of the cats. He also spent a lot of time with his pets at home, speaking to them and telling them that if he ever found his own voice, he would serve as their voice since they had none and would keep them from harm. Alan became the first person to study jaguars. In Belize he felt at home in the jungle. He worked to protect the jaguars and eventually had to speak for them in front of the President of Belize, hoping to save their habitat from destruction. But can he speak clearly in the short 15 minutes he’s been given?
This book is made all the more compelling by the fact that it is true. It gives readers a glimpse into the world of a child struggling with a disability, one that mars every verbal interaction he has. And thanks to his ability with animals, readers quickly see beyond the stutter to the boy himself and to the gifts that he has to offer. Even better, once Alan becomes an adult, readers get to see a man who is taking advantage of his uniqueness to make a difference in the world and for the animals he cares for so much.
Chien’s art is rich and varied. She moves from backgrounds of wine red to brilliant yellow to the deep greens of the Belize jungles. She shows an isolated boy, alone that contrasts beautifully with the man working happily alone in the jungle – so similar and yet so very different.
An extraordinary autobiography, this book shows readers not to judge anyone by how they speak but rather by what they do. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins
Explore different types of animal eyes in this gorgeous nonfiction picture book by the amazing Steve Jenkins. In this book, Jenkins not only talks about the different kinds of animals eyes, explaining them in just the right amount of detail, but also looks at specific animals and their unique eyes. Jenkins shares lots of facts, carefully chosen to be fascinating and fun. One never knows what will be found on the next page and whether it will be looking right at you.
Jenkins makes sure that children will learn about evolution in this picture book. His emphasis throughout is on the evolution from simple light-sensitive eyespots to the complex camera eyes of humans and hawks. As always, his information is well-chosen and interesting. It is accompanied by large-format images that are paired with smaller images that show the animals entire body. This is science information at its best.
The eyes have it! This is a book that belongs in all public libraries. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
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.