Tag: readalouds

Review: I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty

i dont want to be a frog

I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt

A little frog has decided that he doesn’t want to be a frog. He’d much rather be a… cat! Why? Because frogs are too wet. But a bigger frog explains that there is no way he can be a cat, because he’s a frog. Then he decides he wants to be a rabbit, since he can already jump and because frogs are too slimy. But he’s missing the long ears. Maybe a pig? But then you have to eat garbage. How about an owl? Nope, he can’t turn his head all the way around. Finally, a wolf comes along and gives the little frog a perfect reason to be happy to be a frog.

This debut picture book makes for a great read aloud. The two voices of the pair of frogs form the entire story, creating a great dynamic together. The story may be very silly, and it certainly is, but at the heart it is a child questioning if it might be better to be something entirely different, something furry or something that flies. It’s a classic case of identity crisis and one that children will relate to even while they giggle about it.

Boldt’s illustrations play up the humorous aspect of the story. The expressions on the frogs’ faces are well drawn and convey the emotions they are feeling very clearly. The use of speech bubbles and hand lettering makes for a book that has the feel of a comic book. Combined with the silly story, the illustrations make it even more funny.

Get this in the hands of Mo Willems fans who will completely fall for this loud little frog with big ideas. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Doubleday Books for Young Readers.

Review: The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak

book with no pictures

The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak

No pictures?  In a picture book?  Is it still a picture book?  Is it still for preschoolers?  The answer is a resounding yes!  And even better, this is a book filled with words and no images that preschoolers will delight in.  First, the audience is told that the rule with reading a book aloud is that the reader has to say everything that is on the page, whether they like it or not.  Even if the words are nonsense, even if they have to be sung, even if they insult themselves.  Completely silly, this picture book is filled with funny things the reader has to say aloud and then clever asides about what the reader is thinking to themselves.

Novak understands child humor wonderfully.  Reading this book to a group of preschoolers will be a delight, particularly when they realize that the author has you under their control.  Play up your dismay at having to be silly and you will have the children rolling with laughter.  Novak walks the line perfectly here, never taking the joke too far into being mean, but keeping it just naughty enough to intrigue youngsters to listen closely. 

This is one of those picture books that you save to end a story time, since it is guaranteed to keep the attention of the entire group of children.  It’s a winner!  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

Review: Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?

have you seen my new blue socks

Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier

Duck has lost his new blue socks.  He searches in his box, but they aren’t there.  He asks his friend Fox who hasn’t seen them either.  Perhaps Ox knows where his socks are?  Ox remembers seeing some socks down by the rocks.  But those socks are purple, not blue socks, and they aren’t new either.  Finally, Duck asks a group of peacocks about his socks.  And they do know where his socks are!  It turns out they are in a most surprising place!

Bunting has written a picture book in rhyme that dances along to a jaunty beat.  The rhymes are merrily done, done in a humorous way.  She makes it all look so easy and effortless, but rhyming picture books are some of the most difficult to do well.  Kudos to Bunting for maintaining the joy in simple rhymes.  Her words read aloud well and are also simple enough for beginning readers to tackle.

Ruzzier’s illustrations are the key to young readers spotting the blue socks which are slowly revealed as the book progresses.  Expect eagle-eyed children to figure out the answer even before the adults.  Ruzzier fills Duck’s world with lots of clutter from starfish to soccer balls to underwear.  Done in ink and watercolor, the colors are bright and add to the surreal nature of the story itself.

Socks lost and then found, rhymes and rhythms, and a delight of a read aloud to share, this book has it all!  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: What Animals Really Like by Fiona Robinson

what animals really like

What Animals Really Like by Fiona Robinson

Mr. Herbert Timberteeth is happy to present his new song that he composed, “What Animals Like Most.”  He will also be conducting it, just open the red curtains and… There are groups of animals on stage who flatly deliver, “We are lions, and we like to prowl.  We are wolves, and we like to howl.  We are pigeons, and we like to coo.  We are cows and we like to…”  Turn the page to have the chaos begin as the cows change the obvious rhyme into something else entirely.  Best of all, you can tell from the animals’ faces that they are up to something.  They are the only ones on stage grinning.  The same is true of the next grouping.  Children will get the joke immediately when the first rhyme is missed. Finally, Herbert, now bedraggled, allows them to sing the new and non-rhyming version of the song.  He hates it, but the audience has a very different reaction.

Robinson has tapped into a kind of humor that children enjoy.  The unexpected happening when you think you have the structure pegged.  Children will be relaxed and ready for the rhyme to come next.  In fact, they will probably announce that first rhyme before you get the page turned.  Their reaction will be that much better if they do!  The unexpectedness of this entire book is a great treat.

The illustrations are also fun.  Keep an eye out for all of the small touches.  My favorite is where the show is lit by glowworms, and if you look closely one of them has fallen asleep and is no longer lit.  But there are many to enjoy, making this a book that can be read again and again.

This is a definite read-aloud pick for any preschool story time.  It would make a great final book that is sure to keep wiggly children interested and listening.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Book Review: Rapunzel and the Seven Dwarfs by Willy Claflin


Rapunzel and the Seven Dwarfs by Willy Claflin, illustrated by James Stimson

This book is a Maynard Moose tale just like The Uglified Duckling.  This fractured fairy tale takes Rapunzel and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and mixes them wildly together into quite a story.  Readers who know both stories will enjoy this most, because of the silliness of the mash up.  Here Rapunzel is a girl who has trouble keeping her long tresses clean, so a helpful witch puts her in a tower.  She is discovered by a portly knight who attempts to climb her hair, but instead due to his bulk, launches her out of the tower and into a pond.  Enter the seven dwarfs, who rescue her from the water and solver her hair issues by shaving her head bald.  Meanwhile, the witch heads to the home of the dwarfs dressed as a kindly rhinoceros (yes, you read that right) and tempts her to each poisoned watermelon.  I’ll leave the final twists of the tale for you to discover, and my there are plenty of twists!

When I first started reading this book, I tried it silently to myself.  Told by Maynard Moose, the story has some odd language twists in it and some words that are new but will make sense.  The book doesn’t work read silently.  Happily, I tried it aloud and the elements all fell into place.  If you are wondering as someone who will read it aloud how to do it, there is a CD with the book where you can hear Maynard’s voice. 

The humor here is broad and great fun.  There are particular lines that had me laughing out loud.  I enjoyed the “eight or nine seven dwarfs” and the series of misunderstandings as the prince calls out to Rapunzel to lower her hair.  It all adds to the zaniness of the story.  The writing is crafted to be read aloud, giving any reader plenty of opportunity to shine.

Stimson’s art plays along with the humor of the book.  The homemade rhino costume, the Sleeping Punzel Museum, the rotund little prince, and the issues of long hair.  The art is computer smooth and sleek.

This will read aloud well to older elementary-age children who will really enjoy the humor.  Recommended for ages 7-9, though completely appropriate for younger listeners.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by

What the Ladybug Heard


What the Ladybug Heard by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Lydia Monks

All of the animals on the farm make their own type of noise, except for the little ladybug.  She never says anything at all.  That is until she hears two robbers planning how to steal the farm’s prize cow.  They know just where each animal on the farm sits and what noises they make so that they can find their way in the dark without alerting the farmer.  So the ladybug heads to the farm, tells the animals about the robbers, and comes up with a cunning plan to foil them.  Told in a wonderful romping rhyme and rhythm, this book has immediate appeal.

Donaldson has a great ear for rhythm and rhyme, never pushing it too far to become annoying.  She weaves in humor effortlessly.  The premise for the book is very clever, mixing animal noises with a barnyard mystery and a silent witness.  Monks’ illustrations are done in mixed media which makes them visually interesting.  The painted sheep has a wooly coat that is a photograph of wool.  The bushes around the farm are either photographs of leaves or fabric.  There is just enough of the mixed media to still have a very cohesive feel. 

Get this into your farm storytime and also for any insect unit or story time.  It is a winner of a read, just be prepared for plenty of animal noises and ask the audience to help!  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt.

Also reviewed by Pied Piper Picks.

Soup Day

Soup Day by Melissa Iwai

Today is soup day, so a little girl and her mother head to the store through the snowy streets.  There they buy the ingredients for their soup, careful to choose the vegetables with the brightest colors.  They pick out green celery, yellow onions, orange carrots, white mushrooms and more.  Back at home, they wash the vegetables and cut them into little pieces.  The little girl gets to help with a plastic knife and the softer veggies.  After sautéing the vegetables, broth is added and the soup cooks.  The mother and child play together as the smell of soup fills the house.  Finally spices and pasta are added and then they sit down to dinner with Daddy. 

Iwai has captured cooking from a child’s point of view.  The selection of vegetables mentioning their colors is done with a gentle tone, and most children will not notice that colors are being reviewed in that part of the story.  The focus on what the little girl is able to do is charming and affirming for children.  Seeing her pride and involvement is a large part of the story. 

Iwai’s illustrations are done with acrylics and collage and Photoshop.  They mix the textures of textiles with the crispness of photos and the brushstrokes of painting.  The result is a rich blend that makes for engaging illustrations.  The book is printed on nice heavy pages, making it welcoming for toddler hands.

This book is as warm and welcoming as a big bowl of homemade soup.  Add it to your recipe for a great story time or a unit on soup or food.  It would be ideal paired with a version of Stone Soup.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Macmillan.