Look! by Jeff Mack (InfoSoup)
A little boy won’t look away from the TV even with a very active gorilla in the room. The gorilla tries wearing books as a hat and then starts balancing them on his nose. The little boy just pushes him to the side. The gorilla ties to balance on three books set end to end, managing to knock the TV over. The boy kicks him out of the room. But the gorilla returns juggling books and riding a tricycle. When he falls over, the TV is broken and smoking on the floor. The boy is furious and kicks the gorilla out. But then a book captures his attention and soon the two are looking at stories together.
Told in just two words, Mack masterfully takes those two words and makes them work in a variety of ways. “Look” and “out” pair up over and over again, creating moments where the gorilla is demanding the boy look, times when the boy throws the gorilla out the door, and other times when disaster is about to happen. It’s a clever use of just the pair of words and the concept really works well.
The art is particularly interesting. The gorilla is a puff of watercolor where his fur is almost touchable on the page. The backgrounds of some of the pages are book covers, used both subtly and to strong effect. The page where the boy is truly angry is filled with ripped paper and jagged edges.
A celebration of books and words, this simple picture book will have new readers and young listeners alike enjoying the interplay of the two characters. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from ARC received from Philomel Books.
Voyage by Billy Collins, illustrated by Karen Romagna
The former US Poet Laureate wrote this poem in honor of John Cole who is the Director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. The poem celebrates reading and books, and the voyage of discovery that writing and words can take us on. In the book, a young boy gets on a boat and travels across the open sea. When he can no longer see land, the boat turns into a book which he starts to read. When he finishes the book, he becomes the book. The moon looks down as the boy returns to shore with his boat and his book.
Collins offers children a book that truly introduces them to poetry. This is a book that asks children to stretch and understand that there is more to the story than is right on the page in the words. The poem is about reading, about journeys, about wonder and the way that books can inspire and change us. That is not there on the page, and yet it is there if you look for it. This is a great book to introduce children to deeper poetry and how it too is dazzling.
Romagna’s illustrations take a literal look at the poem, offering images of what the words are depicting and also hinting at the depths behind them as well. Filled with moments of whimsy with a friendly moon and a blowing cloud with a face, the illustrations are friendly and celebratory.
A poetic picture book that will make a great gift for book lovers, those who enjoy Billy Collins, and children who are ready for their own voyage into poetry. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
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.
Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Ruth Hearson
A follow-up to the wonderful Lola series, this new book aims for a slightly younger audience. It focuses on Lola’s little brother, Leo. Leo loves going to Baby Time at the public library. He gets to play games, sing lots of songs, play with animals and make friends. The book also focuses on Leo getting ready to go. He has breakfast, sits in his stroller and heads to the library. Families who go to similar programs at their public library will enjoy seeing the familiar games and songs here. Those who haven’t tried it yet, may be inspired to climb into their strollers and head on over.
As someone who works in a library, McQuinn clearly understands how programs for babies work. She highlights all of the positive things that the programs do. She also limits the words on the page to make this book ideal for very young children who are just heading to their first library programs. Hearson’s illustrations have a cheery warmth to them that really capture children interacting in a program and connecting with one another too.
Printed on sturdy pages, this book is safe to hand to very small children who are progressing past board books. It would also be a great one to use with families just starting to use libraries in your community. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.
The Children Who Loved Books by Peter Carnavas
This celebration of reading and books features a family that depends on their books for all sorts of things. Lucy and Angus’ family is poor without a TV or a car, but they find everything they really need in books. But there can be too much of a good thing as they find out when their little trailer home just won’t hold any more. So they get rid of all of the books and clear out their tiny home. But things aren’t the same. The books that had taken up so much space also made the space between the family members smaller. Then one day, a book falls out of Lucy’s backpack and the magic of reading happens all over again.
There is no move to hide that this book is purely about the joy of books in one’s life and the positive impact that reading together can have on a family. Carnavas lets his message stand strong, which has positive and negative results. A more subtle approach would have been more satisfying, yet the bold message lets you use the book with younger children.
Carnavas’ illustrations are filled with stacks and piles of bright colored books. The family is clearly poor, but also clearly functional. The morning after they return to reading, the family is stacked on top of one another in a tiny couch. The quintessential image of a family coming closer together from reading.
Warm and cheerful, this Australian import will have book lovers smiling. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Kane Miller Publishing.
Again! by Emily Gravett
It’s nearly bedtime and that means a bedtime story. Mama dragon and little dragon curl up together to share the story of the bright, red dragon Cedric who has never gone to bed. When they finish, the little dragon asks for it “Again?” Mama dragon agrees and readers will see another full page of the book that tells more about Cedric and his not sleeping. Mama reads it one more time before falling asleep herself. Readers will notice the little dragon getting redder and redder just as Cedric in the story is turning back to green. But this little dragon has a burning desire for one more story that leads to a fiery ending.
Gravett cleverly reaves two parallel stories together here. There is the main story of the little dragon who wants to be read to over and over again. Then there is the story of Cedric in the book that Mama dragon reads. The two play off of one another, with tension in one ebbing as the other picks up.
The art is just as clever. Towards the end, the little dragon shakes the book in disgust and the characters take a tumble across the pages. This leads to the surprise of the ending, which is sure to delight young readers.
A perfect ending for a story time, this book is one that young children (and dragons) will want to read AGAIN! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
From even before she was born, it had been decided that Emily’s destiny was to be a poet. Named after Emily Dickinson when her mother was inspired at a bookstore, Emily’s entire 11-year life has been documented in the margins of a first edition copy of Dickinson’s poems. When Emily discovers that her mother wrote her father’s name in the margin of one of the poems, she rushes to read the book but a mishap sends it off to be donated to Goodwill. This begins a search of several used book stores for the book and it quickly becomes apparent that destinies will not be rushed and that there is no way to force them. But along the way, new friends are made, great books to read are found, and destiny is eventually changed.
Fitzmaurice writes with a wonderful mix of light tone and richness. She carefully builds her story, creating additional storylines that serve as different strings in the story that are tied together by the end. Another source of the richness is the way she describes things in the story. Chapter 4 begins with “So I headed down the hall that Saturday morning with a hopeful feeling that came only on days I was opening a new box of Cheerios…” This is such a universal image and universal feeling. The Cheerios play into more of the story along with the prizes in their box.
Emily is an engaging character who struggles with learning patience and the frustration of being so close to the truth and then unable to grasp it. She comes off as a multidimensional person, again thanks to the richness of the world that Fitzmaurice paints for the reader. The secondary characters are also well drawn and solidly written. It is a pleasure to also see poems by Dickinson and her life tied so closely to the lives of modern-day children and families.
Fresh and joyful, this is a novel where storylines click into place like a puzzle. It will delight children who enjoy reading. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth, illustrated by Jeffery Ebbeler
When a boy is left in the care of his big sister, all he wants her to do is read his book to him. But she’s too busy reading her own book. He tries to read his book on his own, but it isn’t the same. She just keeps ignoring him until he asks for lunch. Then she heats up some soup and gives him a bowl. That’s when the action starts and a tiger comes out of the soup. The boy battles him, stabbing him with a spoon and chasing him around the kitchen. His sister continues to read, ignoring all of the ruckus. It isn’t until the tiger is chased back into the soup that she agrees to read the book to him. But wait, this book has a final toothy surprise.
Sheth has created a loving older sister who is just too caught up in her own book to have any time to spend with her younger brother. It makes me very happy to see two siblings arguing over which book to read right then. I also enjoyed the boy trying to read to himself, turning the book this way and that and even trying with his eyes closed. Throughout the book there is a wonderful sense of playfulness.
Ebbeler’s illustrations are just as playful. He plays with perspective especially in the outdoor scenes. Then when the tiger arrives, he is wonderfully real, his fur stands on end, his claws threaten and his teeth gleam. The action scenes are rivetingly fun, the escapades daring.
Jaunty and devoted to reading, this book is a compelling mix of stories and action. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Peachtree Publishers.
Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier, illustrated by Suzy Lee
Open the full-sized picture book and inside you find a series of nesting books, each smaller than the one before. The stories in the books also nest with one another. First the reader opens the Little Red Book and discovers ladybug who is opening the Little Green Book where frog is the character. On and on it goes, until the story reaches a little twist in the little books. Then the stories unwind as the books are closed one by one. It’s impossible to not be charmed by the design and concept.
Debut author, Klausmeier has created a seamless partnership with illustrator Lee. The book is so much a marriage of their work that one might think it was done entirely by one artist. The story is simple yet fully engaging. The problem you may have with little listeners is having them slow down opening the next book in time to read the words on the page. Lee’s illustrations add to the charm, hearkening back to vintage picture books but still carrying a modern vibe. The scale of the books is perfection, like opening a Russian nesting doll.
Engaging, interactive and oh so much fun, this book looks at colors, sequence and a love of reading. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.