Tag Archive: owls


little owls orange scarf

Little Owl’s Orange Scarf by Tatyana Feeney

Little Owl lived with his mother on the edge of Central Park.  He loved lots of things like ice cream and riding his scooter, but he did not like his new scarf.  First of all, it was orange.  Second, it was itchy.  Third, it was way too long.  So Little Owl avoided wearing it whenever he could, but his mother kept on finding it and having him wear it anyway.  Nothing worked!  Then Little Owl took a class trip to the zoo and came back without his scarf.  It was lost for good this time.  So Little Owl helped his mother make his new scarf.  He loved it.  First of all, it was blue.  Second, it was soft.  Third, it was just the right size.  It was even perfect for visits to the zoo.

Feeney has struck just the right tone with this picture book.  Happily, it does not come off as whining but as a child who just does not like an article of clothing.  His attempts to lose the scarf or at least give it away are clever and cute.  The working together with his parent to create a new scarf is a smart turn in the story that leads to satisfaction for everyone.  When the little twist at the end is revealed, the story is entirely satisfying.

The art is kept very minimal and simple.  I must mention that the orange in the hardcover version I have is much more bright and intense than the cover above shows.  The entire book is done in black lines, orange and teal, making the colors very important.  The black lines are done with curls and playfulness that add to the light touch of the story as a whole.

Light and fun, this is a book that will work well at toddler story times, especially on winter days with scarves of their own.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.

bright lights starry nights

Owly & Wormy, Bright Lights and Starry Nights by Andy Runton

When the first Owly book came out years ago, I made sure to get it into the hands of my own reluctant reader.  Unburdened by the need to read words, he immediately took to both Owly and Wormy.  I’m happy to say that the series has continued to be just as good as that first book.  Runton has started to do more picture book versions as well and this is one of those.  In this book, Owly and Wormy go on a trek out of the woods and up to a hill where they will be able to view the stars better.  Along the way, they get caught in a rainstorm and take refuge in a cave.  There are strange and frightening noises and their telescope has disappeared!  It will take real bravery and no fear of the dark to figure out what happened.

This wordless picture book relies on its illustrations to succeed.  Happily, Owly and Wormy have a warm friendship that is evident from the very first page.  Add the dash of darkness, the storm and a really dark cave and you have a real adventure.  All of the content is ideal for the youngest independent pre-readers who will enjoy having a graphic novel of their very own. 

Runton takes fear of the dark and the unknown and turns it into a chance to make new friends and see new things in this strong addition to a great series.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

too tall houses

Too Tall Houses by Gianna Marino

Rabbit and Owl live right next door to one another at the top of a hill in separate small houses.  Rabbit likes growing vegetables and Owl likes the view of the forest.  They were good friends.  Until one day, Rabbit’s vegetables got so tall that they blocked Owl’s view of the forest.  Rabbit refused to cut his vegetables down, so Owl built his house taller.  Then Owl’s house was blocking the sun from reaching Rabbit’s garden, so Rabbit built a taller house and put his garden on the roof.   So started the competition to have the tallest house.  And my, do the houses ever get taller and taller! 

Marino does a great job of telling a story that has the heart and soul of a classic folktale.  The friendship and competition between the two animals carries a subtle lesson that is masked effectively in humor.  She doesn’t back away from carrying the tale to its very funny extreme ending.  The story is kept simple, allowing the illustrations to carry much of the story forward.

Marino’s illustrations have the colors of fall and warmth.  From the orange branches Owl uses to create his home to the terra cotta bricks of Rabbit’s, the colors are bright and autumnal.  As the houses grow into the sky, the colors are cooler, emphasizing that they are leaving the comfort of their warm homes and creating homes simply to beat someone else. 

This is a funny, warm and memorable read that will get your audience laughing.  Perfect for reading aloud any time of year.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.

rocket writes a story

Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills

This sequel to How Rocket Learned to Read has the same irresistible charm of the first.  While the first book inspired new readers on their way to proficiency, this book will inspire young writers to try their hand at the craft.  Rocket loved books like they were his friends.  He loved words too and used his nose to find new words to add to his collection.  Eventually, Rocket had so many words, he just had to do something with them.  So he decided to write his own story.  But when he was faced with the blank page, he couldn’t think of a thing to write.  The little yellow bird who was his teacher advised him to write about something that inspired him, that excited him.  Now Rocket just needs to find that perfect inspiration for a story.  It just might be much closer than he’d ever have expected.

Hills has taken the wonderful cheer of his original Rocket book and his Duck & Goose stories and transformed it into a book that will lead young authors through the thicket of writing their first story.  This is a shining example of a book that will inspire rather than lecture young artists as they strive to create.  Rocket has a wonderful combination of confidence and openness that makes him a great protagonist.  Children will be happy to learn to write a book alongside Rocket.

The art in the book is done in Hills’ signature style.  It is simple, bright colored, and joyful.  Hills plays with perspective, turns the idea of a classroom inside out, and rejoices in reading and writing. 

A must-have book for all public libraries, this will also find a welcome home in school libraries and classrooms.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.

redknitcapgirl

Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop

Red Knit Cap Girl finds that when she is in the forest, she has time to think about all sorts of things.  In particular, she thinks about the moon and how she can get close enough to speak with her.  She tries reaching the moon with a branch, finding her in the reflection in the water, but nothing works.  Hedgehog recommends that she find Owl and ask about how to reach the moon.  So she does, and Owl tells her that there is no way to reach the moon, but she will bend down to listen.  So Red Knit Cap Girl heads out to find a way to get the moon to listen.  She decides to have a party for the moon and all of her friends help.  Bear and Squirrel hang lanterns in the trees that she has folded.   But moon does not appear.  What can they do to get moon to listen?

Stoop’s book is eye-catching and gorgeous.  Painted on plywood, the grain of the wood becomes a large part of the images.  The grain becomes clouds in the sky, patterns on the shore, and darkness in the deep forest.  It also works tremendously well with the subject of a girl in a forest.  The colors are deep and beautiful, so rich that they are almost wet in places.  The reds glow, the blues haunt, and the deep browns are real shadows.  Against these rich colors, the simple lines of the drawings pop.  The animals and Red Knit Cap Girl ground the book with their distinctive charm.

The writing is equally lovely with moments that catch the breath.  From the opening line, I knew I was going to love this book: “In the forest, there is time to wonder about everything.”  Isn’t that just the way you feel when you venture into the woods, like time has stopped and there are moments of eternity just to think? 

A shining picture book that has a richness and beauty that does not negate its inherent child appeal.  Add this to your next story time on moons or forests.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

sleep-tight-a-book-about-bedtime letsplayhouse 

puddlejumping yummy-ice-cream-a-book-about-sharing

Good Night, Sleep Tight by Emma Quay and Anna Walker

Let’s Play House by Emma Quay and Anna Walker

Puddle Jumping by Emma Quay and Anna Walker

Yummy Ice Cream by Emma Quay and Anna Walker

Four new board books welcome the youngest readers into a group of three friends.  There is Panda, Sheep and Owl, who are all different, enjoy different things, but manage to be the best of friends despite that.  The series has warm illustrations that are done with a mix of paint and fabric.  This lends a real richness and friendliness to them.  The text of the books is brief, humorous and engaging.  These are stories that are simple and great fun.

Good Night, Sleep Tight is a bedtime story.  The three friends decide to go camping in their sleeping bags.  They all settle in, but both Owl and Sheep are uncomfortable.  Only Panda is cozy, so the other two decide to join Panda in the one sleeping bag.

Let’s Play House has the friends building a play house together out of a blanket and some chairs.  But the house doesn’t work out so well, especially after Panda stands up to leave, taking the roof with him.  But all is not lost, as a new game is invented.

Puddle Jumping is about bravery.  Owl and Panda have great fun jumping over a big puddle the three friends discover.  But Sheep is scared to try, scared she will fall on her bottom and get hurt.  Eventually Sheep does try to jump the puddle, and she ends up having a lot of fun in an unexpected way.

Yummy Ice Cream is about sharing.  Sheep and Panda both have ice cream cones that are very yummy.  But Owl doesn’t have any.  The three friends find a very inventive way of making two ice cream cones into more.

As you can see, children will recognize their own play and activities in these books.  These are modern, stylish board books for the youngest of children.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copies received from Penguin Books.

Whoo Goes There?

Whoo Goes There? by Jennifer A. Ericsson, illustrated by Bert Kitchen

Everything was dark and quiet.  Owl sat alone on a branch in a tall tree, waiting and watching.  Whenever something rustled, thumped or squeaked, Owl wondered, “Whoo goes there?”  He hoped it was something just right for his dinner.  But each time it was not a fat mouse or squirrel, it was a cat, a skunk or a bat.  Finally, Owl knew it WAS a mouse, and he headed into the darkness to try to catch it.

This book based on a simple premise offers more depth than most repetitive stories.  Here we see nature in action, tension builds with each creature that isn’t edible, and the ending is perfectly satisfying with a touch of humor.  Ericsson’s prose uses the repetition nicely, never becoming sing-songy or dull, but using it instead to create a vivid mood.  Combined with Kitchen’s incredibly lifelike illustrations, this book offers a book that will give children a tingle with no real fear.  Kitchen’s art is beautifully rendered.  He shows the detail of the bark of a tree contrasted with the spines of a porcupine in just one of his masterful images.  Each one is a window into nature and into that creature.

Highly recommended, this is an ideal book for story times with toddlers.  I would consider it for Halloween story times where the children are a bit young for monster books but want a little thrill still.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

A Book of Sleep

A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na

The simple prose of this night-time picture book is made magnificent by its illustrations.  Owl is awake alone all night and watches all sorts of beasts sleep through the darkness.  Every creature sleeps differently even though they are all asleep at night.  Then when dawn comes, everyone else wakes up while owl falls asleep. 

According to the blurb in the book, the illustrations are a combination of handmade painterly textures with digitally generated layers compiled in Adobe Photoshop.  The result is complex and lovely.  The illustrations are filled with repeating motifs, patterns used as shadows, grass and skies.  They are large and while not bright-colored, they will project well for use with a group of children. 

Inspiring art in a simple picture book, this book is perfect bedtime reading for toddlers where the adults will enjoy lingering on each page just as much as the child.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

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