Betty Goes Bananas by Steve Antony
Released December 23, 2014.
Betty is a gorilla and being a gorilla, she loves bananas. So when she finds one on the ground, she wants to eat it so much. But she can’t open it, even with her teeth, or her feet! So what is a little gorilla to do? Well, Betty throws a fit and cries and screams. Then she calms down and Mr. Toucan tells her that there is no need to act like that, he will show her how to peel the banana. And he does. But Betty had wanted to peel it herself. And she starts once again to cry and scream and kick. Mr. Toucan stays and waits for her to calm down again, telling her that she can peel the next banana she finds. Betty is happy and is about to finally eat the banana. When it breaks. And I bet you can guess what she does next!
This is a rather merry book about the strong emotions that come with being a toddler. Betty is a jolly little gorilla until she is disappointed, something that children and adults alike will recognize immediately. The addition of Mr. Toucan as an adult figure works well here, and I appreciate that he allows Betty to calm down before simply telling her that there is no need for her to act that way. The entire book is filled with humor, from the splendid temper tantrums that have a rhythm and repetition all their own, to the believability of the various things that set Betty off. It’s well paced and nicely timed with gorgeous pauses built in before the tantrums.
Antony’s art adds much to the appeal of the book. The bulk of the book is done with sunshine yellow backgrounds, while the tantrum sections are a bright red. Little Betty does actually throw herself on the ground, kick her feet and scream! Her emotions are clear and young readers will enjoy seeing her throw her tantrums and recover too.
Dynamic, funny and oh so appropriate for toddlers, this picture book will be enjoyed by those who throw tantrums as well as those who don’t. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.
Here Comes Destructosaurus! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard
Destructosaurus enters town tipping buildings over as he rushes in. His feet are filthy from seaweed and fish. He is angry and shoots flames from his mouth, doesn’t he know he needs to burp quietly and keep his mouth closed? Destructosaurus gets grumpier and starts to show attitude, throwing buildings around and generally throwing a temper tantrum too. But then he finds what he was looking for the whole time and settles down, but he won’t stay to help clean up the mess. Maybe someone else will?
Told in an adult voice scolding Destructosaurus for his lack of manners and his tantrum, this picture book is a blast to share aloud. Children will immediately recognize the tone of the voice and will delight in it being focused on a rampaging monster. The humor here is wonderfully broad and right in your face. It will appeal to toddlers who have their own tantrums and older children who will enjoy the play of monster movie and parent.
Tankard’s illustrations are bight colored and loud. They zing with energy as the monster enters the city and destroys it. The monster is done in thick strokes that set him apart from the landscape, allowing him to pop and seem even larger than the surrounding buildings.
A zany and fun look at tantrums, this book will be appreciated by parents and children alike. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly, illustrated by Lisa Brown
An intriguing mix of subjects, this picture book combines art with divorce and it works gorgeously. Emily really likes the work of Picasso and the way that he put body parts in odd places in his cubist work. It reflects the way that Emily feels about her own family life, with her father now living in a different home than the rest of them. Emily tries to help her father pick out furniture for his new home, but it’s not easy and her little brother quickly becomes problematic at the store and has to be carried out. Even art becomes less fun for Emily. She feels blue a lot of the time and not like using any other colors. Then her art teacher shows her about collage, and Emily finds a way to express her feelings through her art and depict her family in their own unique style.
Told in short chapters, this picture book is just right for elementary students. The unique combination of subjects works particularly well, each supporting the other and allowing them to be explored in more depth. Daly manages to use art to show the emotions of children experiencing a divorce and the divorce to show the importance of art in expressing yourself when you can’t find the words.
Brown’s art is light-handed and friendly. She captures Picasso’s art with that same light touch and creates Emily’s blue time with plenty of blue but no darkness. The result is a book that is filled with light, despite it’s more somber subjects. It keeps the book from being too serious and allows the emotions to surface nicely.
A striking combination of art and real life, this picture book truly shows the power of art in one’s life. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won
Elephant wakes up very grumpy until he finds a present waiting for him on the doorstep and it has one amazing hat inside. He puts it on and heads off to show Zebra, but Zebra is grumpy too, so Elephant gives Zebra one of his hats. Soon they have helped Turtle and Owl be less grumpy too by sharing hats with them as well. They came to Lion who was feeling sad and giving him a hat didn’t help because he was worried that Giraffe was feeling sick. So they all came up with a great plan to help Giraffe feel better. I bet you can guess that it involves…hats!
Won has created an entirely jolly book that shows just how small things can change a person’s mood or emotions. The book is very simply written and repeats nicely as each animal is introduced. This makes it a great pick for toddlers who will enjoy the repetition as well as the different animals in the book. It is also a nice book to talk with the smallest children about feeling grumpy and also how important sharing things can be.
Won’s art focuses on the animals themselves with only touches of backgrounds or even ground around and underneath them. The colors pop when the hats enter the pages, bright and vibrantly different, they are all a hoot.
Cheery and friendly, this book is a happy look at changing emotions and sharing good fortune. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Swim, Duck, Swim! by Susan Lurie, illustrated by Murray Head
Told in rhyme, this picture book illustrated with large photographs explores one day in the life of a duckling who just won’t get into the water. His parents are with him, encouraging him to try and so are all of the other fuzzy ducklings that are already swimming around. But he is not sure that swimming is for him. He might sink! He hates to be wet! And this might just be the perfect time for a nap. But with his parents encouraging him to keep on trying, there is suddenly a splash and he is swimming around merry and proud.
Lurie’s rhymes have just the right amount of bounce and energy. She captures the obstinate toddler who just won’t do what his parents are pushing him to try. Children and parents alike will relate to this battle of wills where patient and positive parenting wins out in the end. The text is simple and jaunty, keeping the duckling clearly an animal but giving words and emotions to his actions.
I’m a huge fan of photographs in children’s picture books. Particularly when they are done as beautifully as Head’s. The large format of all of the illustrations works beautifully, and I appreciate that they run all the way to the edge of the page rather than being framed in white. The effect is an expansive one, these are pictures that pull you in until you too are pond-side and cheering on the duckling.
A great pick for kids heading to their first swimming lessons, this book would also make a nice addition to story times on ducks or trying something new. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Pom and Pim by Lena and Olaf Landstrom
When Pom heads outside, the sun is shining and the day is beautiful. Pim, a stuffed toy, goes out too. But the day isn’t completely full of good luck, in fact Pom and Pim experience a lot of bad luck along the way. Somehow though, these bad moments turn into good ones. So when Pom falls down, there is money on the sidewalk and they get to have ice cream! The ice cream gives Pom a tummy ache, but then there is a balloon in the room. The balloon pops when Pom takes it outside, but it’s just in time to make a raincoat for Pim before the rain comes. Then it’s a lovely rainy day.
Landstrom plays with optimism in this book. Pom goes from merry to dejected in moments, just like any toddler, bouncing right back again with the next new distraction or change. The story is very simply told with the illustrations telling much of Pom’s reaction to the described situations. Pom is never given a gender, making this a book that will speak to all genders equally and children will see themselves reflected on the page.
The illustrations clearly reflect Pom’s emotions, as Pom changes moods from one page to the next. They are also wonderfully simple which fits into this story very nicely. The result is a book for toddlers that they will understand and relate to.
Grab this one when looking at emotions with toddlers, its everyday events will be something that any child has probably experienced. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
How to Cheer Up Dad by Fred Koehler
Little Jumbo’s dad is having a very bad day, but Little Jumbo can’t figure out why. When Little Jumbo spits his raisins at the ceiling, his dad should have remembered not to put them in his oatmeal since Little Jumbo doesn’t like them. His dad also should have remembered that Little Jumbo doesn’t like his brown overalls, but he didn’t so Little Jumbo ran out of the house naked. Little Jumbo had to figure out how to cheer up dad, especially after getting a time out when it seemed like Dad needed one himself. So Little Jumbo sets out to make the perfect cheering-up afternoon with Dad, and it works. Maybe.
Koehler tells one story with his words and another in the pictures. This makes for great fun especially with his dead-on sense of timing for humor. The story is told in Little Jumbo’s voice, but the images show the point of view of the father quite clearly and the mishaps that Little Jumbo has all morning long. The blissful afternoon together makes this book a little deeper and less madcap, much to the book’s credit. But the final twist at the end brings the laughter right back again.
Koehler’s art will appeal to fans of Mo Willems with its clear lines, silly humor and a strong relationship between the two characters. Little Jumbo and his father are two charming characters who related together with a mix of frustration and love.
Filled with laughs, this is sure to cheer up bedtime at any house but particularly if shared by a dad. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial.
Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Jonathan Bean
On a rainy day, a boy and his family are packing up the moving van and heading to live in a new town. The little boy pulls at the boxes, tugs at the movers, and cries as they drive away leaving a friend behind. As they head to their new home, gray clouds clear from the sky and the sun comes out. Maps are pulled out, naps are taken, and the day brightens. Night is spent at a motel with a pool and then the next evening they pull into their new town. Everything is different and new, a new room with new views. But there’s also a new kid, fireflies and the stars are out too.
In only the briefest of rhyming couplets, Underwood paints a clear picture of the fear of moving and the emotional upheaval for children. In their long drive though, the mood shifts to one of possibilities rather than grief. Even the journey itself is a form of coping and healing that makes the happy ending feel like a natural result of the entire process.
Bean’s art works so well here. He uses a translucent feel to evoke the dreary rainy misty day that they move on. But that same effect is used for the fumes of the traffic on the road, the speeding truck on a steep downhill slope, and the bluesy evening that they arrive. The effect offers a lot of depth to the images, creating layers to explore visually.
A book on moving that shows that moving on with your life is also part of a major family move. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Little Monkey Calms Down by Michael Dahl, illustrated by Oriol Vidal
This is the latest in the Hello Genius series and is a nice addition. Little Monkey is having a very bad day. He has an ice cream cone, but it drops on the floor. Little Monkey throws a tantrum but then uses some coping techniques to calm back down. First, he lets himself cry a bit, then snuggles with a blanket. He takes deep breaths, sings quietly and is still and relaxed. Once he feels calmer, his parents give him lots of loving attention and they are set to have a good day.
This book handles toddler tantrums in a very positive and child-centered way. It offers ideas for even the youngest children to model. The narrator voice sounds like a parental voice, so its advice is offered lovingly. I particularly appreciate a book that tells a child it is fine to cry after a disappointment. The entire book exudes warmth and love for this little monkey.
Vidal’s illustrations are invitingly cartoon-styled. Little Monkey’s tantrum is really something to behold but so is his final quiet time where the page shines with bliss.
A great pick for toddlers, this book will be appreciated by parents using gentler parenting techniques with their children as well as schools and parents looking for mindful books for young children. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Hello Genius and NetGalley.
When Lions Roar by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Chris Raschka
The author of It’s Perfectly Normal joins forces with a Caldecott Medalist to create this picture book. It is the story of a young boy who is overwhelmed by a visit to the zoo with all of the animal noises. He also gets scared of a thunder storm, sirens and mommy and daddy shouting. When it all becomes too frightening, the boy sits down, shuts his eyes and tells the scary to go away. And it does. Then he can hear the quiet again and he stands back up and opens his eyes. He is off to run in the sunshine, look at nature and hear the softer sounds around him.
This is a simple picture book with lines that don’t rhyme but a rhythm that ties them all together into almost verse. Harris captures the feeling of a child overwhelmed by noise but also by negative things happening. I appreciate that the child solves the issue on his own by becoming introspective and mindful and not by having a tantrum. It is a book about centering oneself and calming down even in a loud environment. The return to being able to hear the softer things and enjoy your surroundings again is particularly effective.
Rashka’s art is his signature style with loose sweeps of paint in bright colors. His images are swirls of movement that work very well with the subject matter. From the noises in the air to the quieter moments, the boy’s entire body language changes as he gives in to the overwhelming feelings first and then recovers from them.
A strong book, this is one that will encourage children to center themselves and be in charge of their own reactions to overstimulation. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Orchard Books.