Tag Archive: concepts


you are not small

You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

An orange bear declares to a smaller blue bear that the shorter one is “small.”  The little one says that that is not true, rather the orange bear is “big.”  The orange bear shows that he has other big creatures just like him and just his size, but so does the blue bear.  The two groups start to argue and fight about whether they are big or small.  Then another creature arrives and another one yet that help put size into perspective for everyone. 

This very simple book has a great sense of humor throughout.  The creatures that seem like bears to me are fuzzy and friendly.  Against the white background, the bears pop on the page.  With only a few lines per page, this book will be enjoyed by small children learning about concepts like big and small.  The humor makes the entire lesson in size and relativity completely enjoyable and it will be a book that children will ask to be read again.  There is even a great little (or big) twist at the end.

Weyant’s illustrations are a large part of the appeal of the book.  The New Yorker cartoonist has created fuzzy creatures that are loveable and cute as can be, no matter what size they are.  Weyant has clearly loved playing with the differences in sizes, creating characters who live large on the page.

Bold illustrations, charming characters and funny situations make this a winning picture book for the smallest (and largest) among us.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from ARC received from Two Lions.

Two by Tullet

Herve Tullet is one of the most innovative picture book authors around today.  I look forward to his books to see what he will come up with.  This year, we have two new books by him.

help we need a title

Help! We Need a Title! by Herve Tullet

This first book is not quite ready to be read yet.  In fact, the characters inside are still getting ready.  There isn’t really a story, though they are looking for one.  And the characters themselves are rough sketches rather than lovely images.  In fact, the entire inside of the book is a mess.  Perhaps if we found an author?  But even that doesn’t help much, especially when the characters are disappointed in the story he creates for them.  Yet in the end, it is a book, with a story, some funny moments, and it even manages to tell readers how a book is created and what its elements are.

Quite clever, once you get past the rough illustrations and embrace them as part of the concept.  Tullet himself appears in the book, his photographed head and shoulders plunked onto a drawn body.  The entire book feel unfinished, but that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to feel.  This is a clever way to introduce young children to authors, writing, and how stories are crafted.

mix it up

Mix It Up! by Herve Tullet

Released September 16, 2014.

Following his clever Press Here, this book invites readers to touch the pages once again.  Except in this book, readers are mixing colors, mashing things together, combining things, and having a marvelous messy time.  Tullet excels at creating books that are immensely participatory despite having no flaps or pop ups.  It’s all in the readers’ imaginations and that’s such a wonderful thing.

I consider this one of the best picture books about color that I have ever seen.  Thanks to the feel of mixing the paints yourself, readers are left with a deeper understanding of color.  They will get to add white to colors and see what happens, and black as well.  They create secondary colors from primary ones and leave their own hands on the page too.  Clever, interactive and wildly imaginative, this is another winner from Tullet.

Both books are appropriate for ages 3-5 and both will be embraced by readers of all ages.

big bug

Big Bug by Henry Cole

Start with a close up of a ladybug in this picture book and then everything is put into perspective.  If you step back, the big bug on the first pages is not so big compared to the big leaf it is sitting on.  That leaf turns small when seen as just a part of a flower.  Then a big dog appears only to be dwarfed by the big cow on the next page.  This continues until the reader is looking at the big sky.  Then the book reverses and the perspective gets closer and tighter, returning in the end to that same dog now sleeping inside. 

This is a very simple book that is superbly done.  Cole plays nicely with perspective and with concepts.  The book can easily be used as a way to show the differences between big and small, but I think the real treat is showing children that perspective is important and understanding size is too.  With only a couple of words on each page, the book is imminently readable, especially by a child just starting to read on their own.

Cole’s art is clear and lovely.  The perspective changes are done vividly and the page where you linger with the big big sky for a moment is particularly lovely with its little farm and little tree.  It also serves as a very clear pivot point in the book thanks to the design of the page. 

Show this one to art teachers, preschool teachers, and kids who enjoy a huge insect.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Little Simon.

my blue is happy

My Blue Is Happy by Jessica Young, illustrated by Catia Chien

Colors can be seen in many different ways and the little girl in this picture book tends to see them very differently than her family and friends.  Her sister says that blue is sad, but for her blue is happy like favorite jeans or the swimming pool.  Her mother says yellow is cheery, but for her yellow is worried like a wilting flower.  Her father says brown is ordinary, but it is also the color of chocolate syrup so it’s special too.  Useful for color identifying, this book takes it a level deeper to the feelings that colors evoke in each of us.

Young has created something of a poem here in her prose.  She uses a format with repetitive structures, each new person and their reactions to colors a stanza and also a set of pages.  Within this strong format, the exploration of feelings is done with a confidence that will allow young readers to voice their own.  Young takes unusual reactions to colors and makes them concrete with her examples too. 

Chien’s illustrations have a wonderful softness to them that frees the imagination.  Filled with the color that is being discussed, the illustrations celebrate each color and invite thoughts from children listening to the book. 

A lovely take on colors, this picture book will lead to plenty of discussion and would be a great jumping off point for craft and art projects.  Appropriate for ages 4-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

is it big

Is It Big or Is It Little? by Claudia Rueda

Explore opposites and perspective in this little book.  It is the story of a mouse and a cat, who chase across the pages, changing the perspective the reader sees from on each page.  Is the ball of yarn big as seen by the mouse?  Or is it little when seen by the cat?  Deep water for the mouse becomes shallow when the cat heads in.  Light objects for the mouse are heavy for ants.  And even the most scary creature can also be scared themselves. 

Rueda’s text is done in simple questions that show the opposite concepts clearly.  The real draw of this book are the illustrations which have a minimalism that is very appealing.  Done entirely in grays, black and orange, the illustrations have a pop edge to them that is both graphically pleasing and has great touches of humor.

Bright and bold, this book approaches opposites and perspective with a clever storyline and elegant illustrations.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

i am blop

I Am Blop! by Herve Tullet

The author of Press Here returns with another simple and charming book.  Here the entire book is based around the shape of a “blop” which is something like a four-leafed clover, or a flower, or a butterfly.  With just a few words on each page, the youngest readers will discover a world of blops between these covers.  There are blops of different sizes, different colors, and they do a variety of things too.  Concepts are taught cleverly, such as mixing colors, what appears in a mirror, and opposites. 

While there are punch-out pages at the end of the book, this would still make a great pick for libraries to circulate.  I was particularly pleased with the mirror page and color mixing pages that add a special twist and fun to the book. 

Another great pick from Tullet, this book belongs in library collections and would make a great toddler read.  Expect to be drawing and seeing blops afterwards!  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from library copy.

round is a tortilla

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.

Arte Kids Book Series

123 Si!: An Artistic Counting Book in English and Spanish Colores Everywhere!: Colors in English and Spanish Hello, Circulos!: Shapes in English and Spanish

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

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

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.

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