Round Is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by John Parra
Explore shapes with two young members of a Mexican-American family. The book begins with circles as they are seen in nests, bells, and food. Readers will also get to find squares, rectangles, triangles, ovals, and stars. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the book and engagingly explained within the context. There is also a glossary at the end of the book to help. This is an engaging look at shapes with a charming Mexican vibe.
Done in rhyming couplets, the book has a strong lilting rhythm and reads aloud easily. The writing is strong and never suffers from the structure of the rhymes. Thong invites us into their home where we are made to feel welcome throughout the book. It is a warmly written book about shapes that has an additional dimension with the Spanish words.
Parra’s illustrations have a wonderful texture to them, often looking like traditional art and aging painted walls. They add even more warmth and character to this already rich book.
This is an enjoyable and simple look at shapes and Spanish that invites the reader to learn and to try new words. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
123 Si!: An Artistic Counting Book in English and Spanish by San Antonio Museum of Art
Colores Everywhere!: Colors in English and Spanish by San Antonio Museum of Art
Hello, Circulos!: Shapes in English and Spanish by San Antonio Museum of Art
The San Antonio Museum of Art, the San Antonio Library Foundation and Trinity Press have worked together to create a new series of books for children. The first book, 123 Si!, was published in 2011 and the next two books followed in 2012. There are plans for a series of 9 books with two more titles being added in the spring of 2013.
All three books combine art from the collections at the San Antonio Museum of Art with concepts that toddlers can relate to. The result are books that are bright and colorful but that offer a wonderful depth of subject matter too. The books are fully bilingual, giving terms for numbers, colors and shapes in both English and Spanish. Fully embracing early literacy, the books offer ideas for questions on each page, giving parents cues as to what to talk about in each picture. It is done in such a way that it’s simple, easy and non-threatening. Additional information on the art is available at the end of each book.
Three very successful board books that combine bilingual content, great art and basic concepts, these books belong at any library serving a Spanish-speaking population. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copies received from Trinity University Press.
Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff
Baby Bear wakes up next to his mother in the den. Sunlight peeks into the den, warming him and Baby Bear sees yellow. At the entrance to the den, the oak tree waves its leaves at him, and he sees green. The jays in the trees are blue. The trout in the stream is brown. The scent of the strawberries leads him to discover red. The tickle of a butterfly on his fur shows him orange. The storm clouds are gray, but then they leave behind a rainbow. Finally, at the end of his day, Baby Bear sees nothing but black.
Wolff has created a lush and rich picture book that truly celebrates colors in very natural way. All of the elements of color seem unforced and honest. She embraces cadences that roll off of the tongue, giving this book a wonderful rhythm. The patterns create a book that will be loved by toddlers who will enjoy exploring colors alongside Baby Bear.
What makes this book really work are the illustrations that are linoleum block prints painted by hand with watercolor. This creates a combination of strong black line and foundation and then colors that have light and glow on the page.
A top pick for color concepts, this book is a work of art that has plenty of toddler appeal. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
This color concept book introduces young readers to Islam and the many gorgeous colors of that religion and culture. So when the red of the prayer rug is talked about, so is praying five times a day. There is the blue of her mother’s hijab, used to cover her hair. Orange is the color of henna. Yellow is the box for Eid gifts for those in need. Green is the color of the Quran. In each instance and others, the culture is woven into the colors in a beautiful and effortless way. This is a look at Islam that is lovely, welcoming and filled with light and color.
Khan’s writing is very simply done. The colors are natural fits with their objects in Islam, none of them seem forced at all. She explains each color and object in only a few lines, leaving the bulk of the book for the beauty of the illustrations. Amini’s work has a wonderful richness to it where she dedicates the entire two-page spread to one specific color, changing the background too. She also uses textures throughout and a softness that makes it all the more inviting.
A beautiful tribute to Islam, this book will fill a niche in many public libraries. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Hippopposites by Janik Coat
This clever board book takes a hippo and runs through a variety of opposite pairs with him. There are light and dark hippos, dotted and striped hippos, soft and rough hippos, small and large hippos. Then there are the more intriguing opposites like opaque and transparent, positive and negative, clear and blurry. My favorite opposite pairing is the front and side, which made me laugh out loud with surprise. Something that rarely happens with board books! This is truly a modern, hip board book that will be enjoyed not only by young children but also their parents.
Coat makes this book dynamic and modern with her very solid graphic skills. She has a wonderful quirky sense of humor that is on display throughout the book and that combined with the strength of the simple illustrations makes this book a winner. I also like the limited color palette and the simplicity of the page design, which will work particularly well with infants.
Have a cool friend expecting a baby? This book would make an ideal gift. It will also be a great addition to the myriad of pastel board books on library shelves. Appropriate for ages birth-2.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Appleseed.
More by I. C. Springman, illustrated by Brian Lies
The book opens with a dejected magpie who has nothing at all. Then a mouse gives him a marble that he takes to his nest. Soon the marble is joined by a few other toys. Then more and more, until there are so many things that the magpie has filled all sorts of nests in the tree with them. Finally, the magpie adds one little penny to a nest and the branch cracks. He has much too much now! Everything tumbles to the ground, burying the poor magpie in his treasures. The mice appear to dig him free and the pile becomes less and less as they work. In the end, the magpie selects a few items to keep and lets the rest go, leaving with just enough.
This book is written in very spare language with only a few words per page. They are all concept words, moving from nothing to everything to enough. In between, there are terms like more, much, and less. The dynamic illustrations really carry the story. The magpie’s facial expressions range from greed to shock to satisfaction, all playing out nicely just in the shine of an eye and the curve of a bill. Space is also played with in the images, speaking to the freedom of having just enough and the clutter of having too much.
This picture book deals directly with the idea of downsizing or having just enough toys and not too many, something that many children struggle with. It is also a creative concept book that will work to teach those concepts through humor. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Wow. That could be my entire review, just WOW.
Let me try to do better than that though. Seeger looks at the different sorts of green that surround us. There is sea green, shown with a turtle gliding through not only green but purples, reds, oranges and yellows too. Lime green, pea green, faded green and fern green. There are odd sorts of green too like wacky green, slow green and even no green at all. The book is written simply with only a couple of words per page, making the focus of the book the illustrations. And what illustrations they are. This is my pick for the Caldecott winner so far this year.
The illustrations are paintings that are done with plenty of thick paint, the brushstrokes visible making the pictures tactile. They have a great depth of color and maintain a playful lightness that speaks to the young audience. Turn the first page and you will be astonished to find die cuts in the page, done so smoothly and carefully that they don’t ever look like holes in the page until the page is turned.
The book is a delight of surprises, new perspectives, and just speaks to everything that this format can be for children. It is an unrivaled success as a concept book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
Up, Tall and High by Ethan Long
A group of birds talk about who is tall, who is high in the air, and who is up in a tree in a series of very short chapters. Birds compare their height by insisting that they are the tall one. The ending of that story comes with a short bird who is definitely not small. The high in the air story is about a bird who can fly and a penguin who can’t, but a solution is found. Up in a tree is a story about a little bird who is up in a tree and a larger bird who decides to join him there. Each of the stories is short, clever and has a lot of humor.
The book is endearingly simple with bold lines and bright colors. There are only a few words per page and many pages have no words at all. Definitely designed with toddlers in mind, these three short stories are filled with a cheerful attitude.
Ideal for small children, these are stories that have the color, friendliness and humor to be a hit. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Penguin Group.