Tag: parents

Review: Ask Me by Bernard Waber

Ask Me by Bernard Waber

Ask Me by Bernard Waber, illustrated by Suzy Lee (InfoSoup)

A little girl and her father take a walk through their neighborhood. Along the way, the girl asks her father to ask her questions like “Ask me what I like?” and he does, question after question. She finds a lot of nature along the walk to enjoy, from frogs to geese in the air and in the water, bugs, beetles, and flowers. She asks him to ask if she likes ice cream cones and they both happily walk away with cones after she announces how much she loves them. The two talk about trips they have taken together, favorite colors like the red balloon, stories, birds, and much more. Once back home, it’s time to think about her upcoming birthday and then time for bed.

Waber adeptly creates a realistic relationship between father and daughter here on the page. The use of her questions is particularly clever as it gives the book a repeating structure that feels natural and unforced. Parents will also recognize the way children want to be asked questions and have them answered. It is very effective to have this sort of relationship where the girl is saying what she wants out of their conversation and the father is happily agreeing. The entire day spent together is blissful and lovely and is entirely about their relationship with one another. Gorgeously structured and written.

Lee’s art is done in pencil. It dances along with gentle colors until suddenly fall bursts on the page. The deep rich colors don’t seem like pencil until you see the drawing lines on the page. The illustrations celebrate the closeness of this father and his daughter, playing with perspectives and celebrating their day outside in nature together.

Gorgeous illustrations and writing combine into one special picture book that is a dazzling book to share aloud. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Dad’s First Day by Mike Wohnoutka

Dads First Day by Mike Wohnoutka

Dad’s First Day by Mike Wohnoutka (InfoSoup)

Oliver and his dad have had a great summer together, playing and doing so much. Now it’s time for Oliver to start school for the first time. Oliver is all ready and excited to go. But that first morning, Dad’s stomach starts to hurt. He’s nervous and when it’s time to leave the house he even hides from Oliver. But Oliver manages to get his dad to the car, though he drives to school very slowly. Once there, Oliver happily joins the class but his father starts to cry when it’s time for him to leave Oliver in school. Back home, Dad thinks a lot about Oliver and heads off to school to check on him. Through the door, he sees Oliver happily participating in class and realizes that they are both ready for school after all.

Wohnoutka takes the first day of school jitters and turns them on their head with this cheery picture book. The father in the book acts just like a child at times, adding to the broad humor in the book. Most of the time though parents will recognize their own feelings about a child entering school for the first time. It’s a great title to have conversations about how you and your child are feeling about school and the fact that you will both miss one another even when you are both ready to start school.

The illustrations are approachable and have a cartoony appeal. Dad in particular is a wonderful rendition of a middle-aged father. There is cause for celebration when you have a back-to-school book focused on a father who takes care of his child and then also cares so emotionally as well. The illustrations amp up the emotions and then take a humorous approach to keep the book sunny and silly.

A back-to-school book for the entire family, parents too, this picture book will have families laughing even as the first day of school approaches. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Bloomsbury.

Review: Little Red Henry by Linda Urban

Little Red Henry by Linda Urban

Little Red Henry by Linda Urban, illustrated by Madeline Valentine (InfoSoup)

Henry’s family does way too much for him. They dress him. They feed him. They bring him anything he needs. But they haven’t noticed that Henry is getting much more independent and wants to start doing things himself. So Henry starts to insist on doing things entirely on his own. Henry feeds himself. Henry brushes his own teeth. He gets himself dressed, refusing all of their suggestions for things to wear. Then he headed next door to his friend’s house to play. His worried family peers at him from behind trees and other objects, but Henry does just fine on his own. At first Henry’s family doesn’t know what to do with themselves with no Henry to take care of. Slowly though, they start to find their own way again. When bedtime comes, Henry gets himself ready for bed, but he just might still need some help going to sleep.

A perfect story for children in the age of helicopter parenting and a reminder for parents to give their children the space and opportunities they need, this picture book has a snappy tone that is great fun to read aloud. It plays homage of course to The Little Red Hen who asks for help and gets none. Nicely, this book is the reverse and echoes the flip at the end of the traditional story with one of their own as well. It’s a great riff on a beloved tale, modernizing it and changing it so that young readers may not even realize the connection.

Valentine’s illustrations add to the pizzazz of the book. The worried and overbearing family is filled with doting love. Henry is vividly independent, standing on chairs and being entirely himself. There are great moments of activity where Henry tries on different outfits and where the family tries out new activities. This echoing of each other adds to the pleasure of the read.

A modern riff on a classic tale, this picture book is sure to support independent kids and send helicopter parents spinning. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Everlasting Embrace by Gabrielle Emanuel

everlasting embrace

The Everlasting Embrace by Gabrielle Emanuel, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

A toddler spends her day in Mali strapped to her mother’s back.  Told from her point of view, this picture book celebrates the strong bond that occurs between mother and child as they spend their entire day together.  The little one is bound to her back and they move as one.  She is there as her mother beats millet with a pestle.  There when her mother carries it back home in a basket balanced on her head.  During the day, her mother tickles her, reaching behind to touch her little girl.  They dance together, the rhythms of their day lulling the baby to sleep at times.  They shelter together in the shade the big basket of mangoes makes when her mother carries it.  When they return home, the little girl carries her teddy bear bound to her back.  These days together are precious as the little girl will soon be too big to carry all day.  But the bond they have formed together will never go away.

Emanuel lived in Mali for a year after graduating from college.  While she was there, she shared stories aloud with a little girl, but found that there were no picture books that she could read her about her own country and lifestyle.  So Emanuel created this one.  It is a very strong debut picture book with writing that is confident and a point of view that is unique.  Told from the view of the little girl on her mother’s back, one never worries that she is being neglected or ignored as the mother goes through her day.  Rather one quickly realizes that she is content, cared for and completely part of her mother’s daily life.

Lewis is an extraordinary illustrator.  He captures life in Mali clearly on the page, showing the mother and daughter together at home, walking through the markets, doing chores and spending time together even when the mother is busy doing other things.  There is a joy in his images, a dedication to truly capture this country and its way of life on the page.

Strong, beautiful and unique, this picture book takes children on a journey to Mali where they will see life lived differently and warmly.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.

Review: Loula and the Sister Recipe by Anne Villeneuve

loula and the sister recipe

Loula and the Sister Recipe by Anne Villeneuve

The inventive Loula returns for her second outing in this picture book.  Here she is sick and tired of her three brothers who refuse to play with her.  So Loula decides that what she needs is a little sister, one who is just like her.  So she goes to her parents and requests that they get her one.  Her father explains that making a sister is a lot like baking a cake and needs special ingredients like a papa and a mama, butterflies in the stomach, a full moon, a candlelight supper, kisses and hugs, and chocolate.  So Loula sets off to shop for those things with her ever-helpful chauffeur Gilbert.  In the end, it all comes together in one amazing evening filled with candlelight, moonlight, and a sister surprise.

This second picture book about Loula again shows her determination and ability to look at a problem positively as something to solve.  Infused with humor, young readers will know that her plan is probably not going to work out the way she thinks, yet few will expect the twist at the end when it comes.  Having adored Gilbert the chauffeur in the first book, I was very pleased that this second book has much the same structure with Gilbert helping Loula gather everything she needs, including live butterflies.

The illustrations in this book have a loose flowing quality that has lots of motion and energy.  Done in ink and watercolor, they vary from small illustrations with white backgrounds to two-page spreads filled with color.  My favorite is the leaping Gilbert attempting to catch a butterfly in a net.

A strong young heroine with plenty of chutzpah combines with plenty of humor in this picture book series.  Make sure to read both of the books because it’s even more time to spend with the amazing Loula!  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

Review: Knock Knock by Daniel Beaty

knock knock

Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Every morning a young boy plays a game with his father.  His father knock knocks at the door and the boy pretends to be asleep until his dad is right next to him and they give each other a huge hug.  But then one day, his father isn’t there to play the game any more.  His father isn’t there to get him ready for school either.  Morning pass with no father.  The boy thinks that maybe his father is just there when the boy is at school, so he writes him a letter about how much he misses his dad and how much he expected to learn from him.  The boy waits for months and nothing happens, then one day he gets a letter from his father.  A letter that speaks to their separation but also one that encourages him to continue to live and knock on new doors.

Beaty’s text is deep hearted and searingly honest.  As his author’s note says, he had an incarcerated father who had been his primary caregiver as a young child.  So Beaty has revealed much in this picture book about the gaping hole left from a missing parent.  Yet the genius of this book is that it will work for any child missing a parent for any reason.  And I adore a book with such a strong connection between father and child.  Beaty manages to convey that in a few pages, leaving the rest of the book to reveal the mourning and grief of loss but also a hope that shines on each page.

Collier’s illustrations shine as well. Done in a rich mix of paint and collage, they are filled with light as it plays across faces, dances against buildings, and reveals emotions.  His illustrations are poetry, filled with elephants, showing the boy growing into a man, and the man turning into a father.  They are illustrations that tell so much and are worth exploring again after finishing the book.

This book belongs in my top picks for 2013.  It is beautifully done both in writing and illustrations.  I’m hoping it is honored by the Coretta Scott King awards and I’d love to see a Caldecott as well.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Little Chick and Mommy Cat by Marta Zafrilla

little chick and mommy cat

Little Chick and Mommy Cat by Marta Zafrilla, illustrated by Nora Hilb

Little Chick has been raised by Mommy Cat since she was still in an egg.  When Little Chick was very small, he thought that he was a cat too.  He tried to be a cat, but it didn’t work.  He couldn’t meow, or lick his paws or flick his tail.  His mother explained to him that he was not a cat, but a chick and his real mother was a hen. When the two of them would go out, others would stare at them because they were different.  His mother told him that it’s not bad to be different, what is bad is to want to be like everyone else.  His mother also made sure to give him time to be with other chicks by taking him to the Bird School so he could learn everything he needed to about being a chicken. The other chicks asked him all sorts of questions because his mother was so different from the others.  Little Chick though is happy to be part of his different but very loving family.

This picture book speaks directly to the issues of diversity and different types of families.  It will also be happily embraced by families who have adopted children, because it manages to explain clearly and with no hesitation the basic love and acceptance of diversity in adoptive families.  Small children will respond to the animal characters but easily also draw connections to themselves.

Zafrilla’s text is straight forward, tackling larger issues and bringing them to a level that small children will easily understand.  She builds an unlikely family and happily shows the love and attachment between a cat and a chick.  This is a book that is unlikely to be read as a straight animal story, because the connection to adoption is so clear.  That said, the clarity and honesty here is what makes it shine.

Hilb’s illustrations add a colorful touch to the story.  The colored pencil illustrations use delicate lines and soft colors to tell the story.  The feathers and fur beg to be petted with their textures. Hilb maintains the size difference throughout the story, further emphasizing the differences between the cat and her chick. 

This picture book focuses on diversity, love and the many forms it can come in.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Independent Publishers Group.