The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Laszlo is scared of the dark. You know, that darkness that is always there, hiding in corners and behind the shower curtain, and especially the dark that lives down in the basement. At night the dark would spread around the entire old creaky house and all of its staircases, but in the day it retreated to the basement. Laszlo would visit the dark every morning, from the top of the steps into the black basement. He would say hi, thinking that maybe then the dark wouldn’t feel the need to visit him in his room at night anymore. But that didn’t work, the dark still came at night. Luckily Laszlo slept with a flashlight on his pillow and a nightlight on the wall, so the dark stayed away. That is until one night when his nightlight burned out and the dark started talking to Laszlo.
I can’t think of a stronger author and illustrator match than this one. Snicket turns on the creep factor in this book in a way that will have children leaning in closer, cuddling tighter, and listening to every single word. There are the noises of the house, the scary basement, and the series of staircases. But mostly there is the darkness itself, a second character in the book and written about with almost poetic phrasing. This is one beautifully written book.
Klassen plays so much with light and shadow here. He uses the darkness beautifully as both a frame for his images but also as the thick lines of objects. Then there are the pictures of the cool daylight and the fierce warmth of the nightlight that burns almost like a flame. This is one beautifully illustrated book.
One of my favorite picture books of the year, this book reads aloud perfectly, the tension growing and growing until it’s almost explosive. One can almost hear the dark chuckling along. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Jo MacDonald Had a Garden by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant
Celebrate gardening with this cheery picture book that features Old MacDonald’s granddaughter, Jo MacDonald. The verses here are set to the same music as the original, except this time it’s all about planting a garden rather than the animals on a farm. In the garden there is some sun, some soil, a worm, seeds, water, animals, plants, and then food! Watching the illustrations, children will see the garden take shape and then watch the plants grow until they are ready to be harvested.
Quattlebaum has cleverly written verses that can be acted out by preschoolers as the book is shared. At times, the children in the illustrations show the movements that could be done, and at other times they would be easily figured out by a savvy teacher or librarian. I can see lots of children this spring enjoying planting imaginary gardens all together.
Bryant’s illustrations have a wonderful sense of detail to them. Each page has animals to glimpse in the garden, including a cardinal and a butterfly that are on almost every page. This is a book that children will enjoy looking at and exploring.
Get your voice warmed up and be ready to wiggle like a worm with this new version of Old MacDonald! Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Dawn Publications.
It’s a Tiger by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard
The story starts in the jungle filled with vines and trees. You can look at the monkeys swinging around, but wait! That’s not a monkey. It looks like… a tiger! Run! Whew. Now we are safe inside a cave. You’ll have to watch for bats and duck your head. Wait, some of those shadows look like… a tiger! Run! The escapade continues through the jungle with snakes, but then you head on a boat to a deserted island. Sure you are safe there. Right? Roar!
This fast-paced race through the jungle is exactly what squirmy toddlers need at the end of a story time. The book has a great sense of timing and plenty of action. The repetition of the tiger appearing over and over again, will have children merrily joining in and shouting along. This is not a quiet book for contemplative reading, but instead a jolly book that will have children making plenty of noise.
Tankard’s art is a huge part of the appeal here. The thick-lined, orange ferocity of the tiger plays against the finer lines and subtler colors of the background. The little boy who joins you in your trek through the jungle is also drawn in the thicker lines and pops on the page. There is a feeling of motion and action throughout the book that brings the story even more fully to life.
A great pick for toddler story time, this is one book to have in your pile for when kids get restless. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.