Tag: elephants

Review: Small Elephant’s Bathtime by Tatyana Feeney

small elephants bathtime

Small Elephant’s Bathtime by Tatyana Feeney

While Small Elephant is happy to play in water or drink it, he doesn’t like taking a bath at all. His mother tries all sorts of thing to entice him into the bathtub. She fills it with plenty of toys. She blows bubbles in the air. But nothing works. Small Elephant tries to be too busy to take a bath and gets very mad when his mother insists on a bath. He has a tantrum and then hides from the bath. Then his father gets involved and makes Small Elephant giggle enough to try out the bath after all. But who will be able to get him out when he discovers how much fun he is having?

The author of Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket and other picture books has a winner with this title. Just the right playful tone is set here for toddlers who are also reluctant to stop what they are doing to take baths. The gentle approach of both parents is great to see, offering options towards tantrums and reluctance that are inventive and filled with humor.

As always Feeney’s art has a refreshing looseness about it. Line drawings with splashes of watercolor color, the book has an aesthetic that will appeal to children and adults alike. It uses limited colors to great effect, creating a cohesive and playful feel.

Soapy, sudsy, bubbly fun for small children who will relate to the emotions Small Elephant feels.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

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

Review: Special Delivery by Philip C. Stead

special delivery

Special Delivery by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Sadie knows that you can’t just put an elephant in the mailbox, instead you have to go to the post office. So she heads there to see how many stamps it will take to send the elephant to her Great-Aunt Josephine who lives alone and could use the company. It takes far too many stamps and too much money to mail the elephant, so Sadie looks for another solution and decides to fly. But elephants are heavy and the plane sputters out and crashes before they reach their destination. Sadie asks a nearby alligator to guide them down the river and then jumps aboard a train where a group of monkey bandits armed with bananas try to rob them. Sadie and elephant join them and have a great time until they tire of eating beans for every meal. Finally, they board an ice cream truck after purchasing ice cream sandwiches for the bandits and arrive at Great-Aunt Josephine’s. However, she may not be as lonely as Sadie thought!

Stead has written a rich imaginative tale that takes readers on a wild journey. Sadie is undaunted by adversity, simply figuring out what to do next to get them closer to their destination. The entire book is unhindered by logic like pilot licenses and the thought of mailing an elephant.  Instead the world in this picture book is filled with an off-center zing that means each of Sadie’s original ideas are embraced by everyone. It’s a refreshing and fun approach to the story.

Cordell’s illustrations are wonderfully scribbly and loose. They capture the wild spirit of the book, the silliness and the move from one awesome idea to the next. I particularly enjoyed the illustrations of the post office and the great-aunt’s home. Both are simply people standing underneath trees that are shedding their leaves. This cheery openness and connection to nature immediately will have every reader knowing that this is an unconventional book.

A terrific picture book that offers up a cheery, silly and fun-filled journey with an elephant as a companion. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

Review: Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato

little eliot big city

Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato

Eliot loved living in the big city, but sometimes it was hard being such a small elephant in such a huge place.  He had to watch out so he didn’t get stepped on, doorknobs could be too high, and he could never catch a cab.  Even at home, Eliot had to find a way to make everyday things work.  Eliot also loved cupcakes, though when he tried to buy  one in a shop he couldn’t get noticed by the person at the counter.  He felt very small and invisible then, but on the way home he discovered a mouse trying to reach some food and found that even though he may be small he can make a big difference.  Even better, he can make friends!

Curato uses only a few words to tell his story, making the most of the illustrations to show the ways that Eliot solves his height issues at home as well as how the new friends solve the cupcake buying problem.  Children will enjoy reading about this little polka-dotted elephant who faces the same issues that they do in life.  They will easily relate to the sadness of being ignored too. 

The illustrations in this book are filled with charm.  Eliot himself is a wonderfully unusual little fellow, shining on the page.  The images of the city are mostly done in a dark and subtle color palette.  The entire book has a fifties vibe to it and some of the images are pulled right out of an Edward Hopper painting.  It’s a courageous choice that works particularly well.

A charmer of a protagonist and an urban landscape make this one delicious cupcake of a picture book.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt & Co.

Review: Oliver’s Tree by Kit Chase

oliver's tree

Oliver’s Tree by Kit Chase

Oliver, Charlie and Lulu are three best friends who love to play together outside.  When they play hide-and-seek though, Oliver doesn’t have as much fun as the others.  Lulu is a bird who loves to hide in the trees and Charlie the rabbit does too.  But Oliver is an elephant, and he doesn’t like trees at all, since he can’t climb them.  So the three friends set out to find a tree that will work for Oliver.  The low trees are too small for him.  Trees with big branches are too tall.  When they finally find a big low branch, Oliver is thrilled.  But then the branch breaks.  Oliver has had enough and runs off to be on his own.  He settles down on a huge tree stump and dozes off.  That’s when his friends have one great idea that saves the day and creates a tree that even an elephant can love!

Chase sets a pitch-perfect tone here for young children.  It’s a pleasure to see three children playing together in a picture book that is not about jealousy.  This instead is a book that celebrates differences and has children who work together to solve a problem in a creative way.  The result is a jolly book that has a fast pace and a cheery personality.

Chase’s illustrations have the same bounce as the text of the book.  They have a friendly quality that children will immediately respond to as well as a sweet humor that is cheerful.

It’s perfect tree climbing season right now, even if you are an elephant!  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Putnam.

Review: Hide & Seek by Il Sung Na

hide and seek

Hide & Seek by Il Sung Na

The author of several lovely picture books returns with another beautiful book.  This time readers are part of a game of hide and seek with jungle animals.  Elephant offers to seek while the others hide.  There is a slow count from one to ten as the animals search for places to hide.  Giraffe opts for a tree to hide behind.  Gorilla stands atop Tortoise’s shell like a statue.  Elephant searches for everyone and one-by-one he finds them all, except for Chameleon.  All of the animals finally have to give up and Chameleon reveals himself.  Young readers can search for chameleon throughout the bright illustrations, participating in the game themselves.

The text here is fairly basic, allowing the game to create the pacing and story.  The counting from one to ten creates an effective counting book that is nicely married to a hide and seek game that will challenge young children. 

It is really the art that is special here, glowing with light from within and filled with bright colors.  None of the animals are colored as expected.  The elephant has vibrant ears in red with hearts.  The giraffe is a fiery yellow with red.  Tortoise is a rainbow of pattern and color.  The trees themselves are topped with colorful clouds of leaves.  It all creates a very dynamic and fanciful world.

Colorful counting and a game to play make this a great pick for lap sharing with your favorite toddler or preschooler.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Review: Vote for Me by Ben Clanton

vote for me

Vote for Me by Ben Clanton

This picture-book look at the campaigning process takes young readers through a comical look at politics.  The donkey and elephant represent Democrats and Republicans only superficially.  They make no claims that match the party platforms at all.  Instead, it is about how cute elephant is, whether you will accept candy or peanuts as a bribe for your vote, and lots of grandstanding.  Soon the two are completely at odds with one another and slinging actual mud along with their bitter words.  The insults they use are harsh but humorous, just right for the picture book crowd.  Soon both of them have said things they regret and they agree to get along.  But it just might be too late for either of them to win the election!

This book is not an in-depth look at voting or politics.  Instead Clanton has created a light-hearted look at arguments and fighting through the lens of an election.  Adults will enjoy the clear ties to modern American elections while children will be engaged by the humor. 

The illustrations have a great vintage feel with a modern edge.  The pages are dappled like old paper that has just begun to mildew.  The two characters show lots of emotion throughout the book and it is clearly conveyed by their body language and facial expressions.

A chance to laugh a bit at the cantankerous campaign ahead of us, this book would work for discussions about arguments as well as a light-hearted look at elections.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

one and only ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is the gorilla that is part of the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.  The big billboard outside the mall shows Ivan as a ferocious beast, but he’s really a very easygoing guy.  He doesn’t remember anything about his life before he came to live with humans.  He was raised in Mack’s house as long as he was little and cute, but when he got bigger he was put into his domain: a glassed-in room.  He watches TV, lots of Westerns, and hangs out with his friends: an old elephant named Stella and a stray dog named Bob.  He also does art, scribbles that Mack sells in the mall gift shop.  Things change at the circus as money gets tighter until Mack purchases a baby elephant for the Big Top.  Ruby has been taken from her family and is full of lots of questions.  She makes Ivan look at his small, enclosed world more closely and inspires him to make promises that he will probably never be able to keep. 

I read this book in one long gulp, unable to get Ivan and his tiny, limited world out of my head.  The book is written from Ivan’s point of view, one that is distinctly gorilla and wonderfully familiar and foreign at the same time.  Applegate manages to give us a taste of being animal while never imbuing Ivan with human sensibilities, yet he is entirely relatable for readers.

The use of art to bridge the language gap between humans and gorillas is equally effective.  Ivan’s ruminations about art and how to capture taste and feel on paper is lovely.  Ivan’s world may be small and enclosed, but through art and his relationships with others, it grows larger and larger. 

This is a book that captivates.  It is compelling readers, bubbling with humor, yet addresses issues that are deep and complex.  It is a book that is memorable, rich and simply marvelous.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.