My Neighbor Is a Dog by Isabel Minhos Martins, illustrated by Madalena Matoso
Originally published in Portugal, this book is a charming import. It is the story of a young girl who gets a new neighbor who just happens to be a dog. The dog is very friendly and kind, but the girl’s parents are not impressed, thinking that he would quickly start acting like the dog he was. Soon after that, more new neighbors arrived, this time a pair of elephants. The girl’s parents complained about them too, but the girl thought they were very nice. Finally, a crocodile moved in. That proved to be too much for her parents and they moved away. But before they did, the little girl finds out that her parents are considered the odd ones in the neighborhood. The final clever twist at the end shows exactly why.
Martins writing is just as vibrant as the bold illustrations. She tells the story with wonderful little touches like the elephants helping with washing cars and the crocodile giving purses and shoes as Christmas gifts. All of these details add to the world that she cleverly building and that wonderful surprise twist at the end. Done in vibrant colors, the illustrations are created in hot pinks, deep blues and bright reds. It is a modern world, with the pop colors adding to that feel.
A look at acceptance and diversity through the eyes of a child, this book will speak to all children about preconceptions and tolerance. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Waterloo & Trafalgar by Olivier Tallec
Released October 22, 2012.
In this wordless picture book, two men watch one another over neighboring walls, separated only by a thin line of grass dotted with flowers. Both sides of the wall are very similar, both men have spyglasses, drinks and umbrellas. Their days are filled with boredom and suspicion, broken only by the appearance of a snail who visits them both and moments where they bother one another with music and loud noises. It isn’t until a bird arrives and lays an egg that hatches and runs away that the truth of the conflict is revealed. Tallec has managed in no words at all to show the fallacy of conflict and the way to peace.
Tallec uses humor here to bridge any divide. It is mostly physical humor that will have children laughing, successfully mocking the conflict without any words at all. The snail is a particularly inspired piece of humor that is sure to surprise and please. So much of this book is about the surprises that life brings with the ending of the book providing the biggest and best surprise of all. There is a great playfulness that invites readers into this serious situation to a degree that without it would not have been possible. The wordless nature of the book also makes it particularly suited to a subject of crossing barriers. I can see using this with people who speak different languages, allowing a depth of discussion that would be unusual with other wordless books.
This book is outstanding. It speaks to peace without any preaching, allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions. It is a striking and vibrant example of what can be achieved with no words at all. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Mrs. Noodlekugel by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Adam Stower
Siblings Nick and Maxine have just moved into an apartment building where they live on an upper floor. Soon after they moved in, they discovered a tiny house behind their apartment building, but they could not figure out how to get there. They decided to ask the janitor of the building who told them they had to go through the boiler room. But their parents told them not to bother the woman who lived in the house and not to visit. Of course, the two children just had to meet her. So they traveled through the dark, pipe-filled boiler room and off to the sweet little house where they met Mrs. Noodlekugel and her talking cat, Mr. Fuzzface. She fed them apple cookies (baked by Mr. Fuzzface) and tea. She insisted that the four mice be invited to the tea, because you can’t have tea without mice. And that was just the first time that the children came to visit!
Pinkwater has created a jolly book for beginning readers here. It has the wonderful charm of an old-fashioned story filled with baked goods, talking animals and more than a touch of magic. At the same time, it takes place in an urban setting of apartment buildings and the city. Pinkwater’s writing is as solid as ever, creating a strong foundation for the story.
Stower’s art adds to that feeling of the juxtaposition of vintage and new. There are full-page illustrations and then others that offer just small images on the page. The illustrations have a wonderful sweetness to them, especially as the magic starts.
A cheery book for new readers, this is a confection of a book for children starting to read chapter books on their own. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Say Hello! by Rachel Isadora
On her way to her Abuela Rose’s house, Carmelita greets her neighbors and learns how they say hello in their different languages. Carmelita’s dog Manny is happy to greet everyone with a friendly “Woof” that translates easily into every language. The book is set in a diverse urban neighborhood filled with friendly faces in a variety of skin tones. How do you say hello in your family or neighborhood?
Isadora has again created a book for very young readers that is inviting and fresh. The urban setting is depicted as colorful and friendly, something that young readers may not see in many picture books. Isadora includes just enough text to keep the story moving with most of the book focusing on the various greetings in each language. Her illustrations are done in cut-paper collage. They have an interesting mix of painted papers and printed ones that come together in a dynamic way. Signature Isadora style!
Recommended for toddler story times, this book will work well with young children who will be eager to repeat the unfamiliar greetings and to share those from their homes as well. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Putnam.
Librarians here in Wisconsin know just how lucky we are to have the CCBC in our state. The CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center) offers insight into new books with a great eye for multicultural gems and great children’s poetry books.
They have started a new service for librarians called CCBC Shorts which are book recommendations via Blip.tv. Wisconsin librarians can watch the webinars live (here is the upcoming schedule) and everyone out of state can watch the programs once they are launched on Blip. The first Short covers titles for Halloween and new books of note from 2009.
Dear Vampa by Ross Collins
When the Wolfsons move in next door to the Pires, the differences are clear. The Pires are amazed when their neighbors stay up all day and complain when there is noise at night. The pets of the two families don’t get along at all. And when the Pires take to the sky as bats, the Wolfsons shoot them out of the sky. That’s was it. The Pires moved away much to the surprise of the Wolfsons who just may not be as normal as readers may have thought.
Collins’ art is wonderful. You can see more of it on the Harper Collins website where several of the pages are available. The use of black, white and red for the Pire family is striking against the full-color world of the Wolfsons. The stylized colors are carried throughout the book to great effect, especially on the pages with both families in the same room. Collins has a knack for humor both in his understated and brief prose and in his illustrations which really tell the full story.
This is a great addition to any Halloween story time. It has vampires but is much more about the neighbors than about any scary aspects. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.