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.
The Reader by Amy Hest, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
A young boy walks through the snow with his dog and a suitcase in his hand. He gets his red sled with runners and heads out. They climb a large hill, leaving straight lines in the snow from the sled as the dog bounds ahead. Once at the top, they stop for a snack of toast and warm drinks. Around them the snow continues to fall. Finally, the suitcase is opened. The boy pulls out a book to share with his dog, about friendship. He reads it aloud, the two of them together at the top of a snowy hill. When they are done, they pack everything back up and climb on the sled for the ride back down the hill. Together.
Hest has written a book that is filled with falling snow but also warmed by the friendship of a boy and his dog. Though the title gives a hint at what is in the case, readers will still be surprised to have them read it out in the falling snow. Hest incorporates beautiful little details: the sound of crunching and sipping, the sound of the boy reading at the top of the hill, the hard work of getting up the high hill. These all create a feeling of time, moments that are to be treasured because they are so beautiful.
Castillo’s illustrations are done in pen and ink and watercolor. Against the white of the snow, all of the colors pop. The brown of the dog, the red boots, the smears of color on the suitcase: all are cheery bright against the white countryside. The illustrations have a wonderful jaunty feel to them, celebrating this close friendship and reading books.
A wonderful mix of snow and story, this book is a rich winter delight. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Bear in the Book by Kate Banks, illustrated by Georg Hallensleben
A little boy sits in bed reading a book with his mother. It’s a book about a bear getting ready to sleep for the winter. The boy and his mother share the story together, talking about the pictures and the bear. The bear eats and eats, getting ready to hibernate until he finally curls up and falls asleep. Then the snow comes, and the little boy can almost feel the cold from the page of the book. He looks closely at the pictures and finds hidden animals in the snowy landscape. The snow continues and the boy snuggles in closer, the bear sleeps on. As spring nears, the boy gets sleepy. Just as the bear is about to wake up, the boy falls asleep for the night. Now it’s his turn to sleep long and deep in a cozy bed.
This book is pure joy. It celebrates both the written word and the art of the picture book. Even more so though, it celebrates the connection built by sharing a book right before bed. Just as the boy could feel the winter emanating from the page, here you can feel the warmth and coziness. With my librarian hat on, I am delighted to see a book that models what reading aloud to a small child should look like. There should be conversations about the pictures, questions and answers about what is happening in the story, looking at the colors on the page, finding hidden animals, and much more activity than simply reading a story aloud.
Hallensleben’s illustrations have a gorgeous rough texture to them. The paint is lovely and thick, resulting in rich colors that add to that feeling of warmth and home. They also bridge the connection between the book and the family reading together, flowing seamlessly back and forth, uniting as an entire story.
Highly recommended, this is a book that will have you curled up and sharing it with your own little one immediately. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Lonely Book by Kate Bernheimer, illustrated by Chris Sheban
When the book first arrived at the library, it was shiny and new. It was placed on display and a long list of children waited to read it. Then the book was moved to the regular children’s shelves with other books that were not so new too. It was still happy, since it got checked out often. But as the book grew older, it got checked out less and less. It had a tear and was missing its last page. Then one day, a girl found the book, read it and loved it. She took it home, carried it to school with her, and even shared it at show and tell. The book felt loved again. But the next story time, the girl chose a different book and forgot the special book. She remembered when she got home, but the library was already closed. Then when she got to the library a week later, the book was gone, withdrawn and meant for the book sale. This is a sentimental but gorgeous book that every person who has ever loved a book will enjoy.
When I started this book, I was not a fan. I worried that it would tip into the saccharine and overly sweet. It is sentimental, as I mentioned above, but it never tips too far into that mode. Instead I found myself reading a book that brought me back to the joy of discovering books as a child and finding myself closely attached to them. I still can’t have a logical discussion of the Little House on the Prairie series, since I read them to tatters as a little girl. I love this book for bringing me back to that.
Sheban’s art is soft and dreamy. There are often books that glow with the wonder inside of them, something that book lovers will really appreciate. This is a quiet book, and the art supports that, depicting quiet time reading and bonding with a story.
A great gift for any book-loving child, I think this book will speak most to adults who look fondly back on the books of their childhood. Perhaps a holiday gift for your favorite librarian or reading teacher. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.
Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra
Inspired by a true story, this picture book shows the power of books and reading. Ana is a small girl who lives in Colombia and adores books. Her village is very remote though, so there is no library to go to. Ana has just one book, given to her by her teacher, and she has read it over and over again. Ana makes up her own stories that she tells her little brother at bedtime. Then one day a man with two burros comes to their village. The burros carry a library of books and he invites all of the children to select books to keep until he returns. As she waits for the librarian to return, Ana creates her own book about him, his burros and his books.
Brown has created a book that is gentle and beautifully written. Ana’s life is shown as loving and filled with blessings. It will contrast vividly for American children with their own lifestyle. Brown also focuses clearly on books and the power of reading and stories. The story here is told clearly and warmly with sprinklings of Spanish throughout.
Parra’s illustrations have a lovely folk art feel to them. Done in acrylics on board, they have a texture adds another dimension to the book. The colors are bright, the storytelling portions filled with wild and amazing creatures, and the entire work makes a complete and unified package.
The entire book sings, revealing a different culture and the power of words (and librarians.) Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Tricycle Press.
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Read to Tiger by S. J. Fore, illustrated by R. W. Alley
Turn on the light, curl up on the couch, open your book, you are ready to read. But what’s that noise?! A tiger is behind the couch chomping on gum! This little boy has one naughty tiger to deal with just as he is settling in for a great read. After the tiger stops chewing him gum loudly, the tiger growls pretending to be a bear. Then the tiger starts practicing his karate, with great yells and high kicks. The tiger then choo-choos past on a train. And finally picks up the couch itself to look for his whistle. Finally, the little boy has had enough but just then, the tiger gets a glimpse of the book the boy has been trying to read and its picture of a tiger. Which may finally be what it takes to keep tiger quiet: a great story shared with a friend.
The humor of this book is evident from the very first encounter with the tiger. Wonderfully, the zaniness increases as the story goes on, and children are definitely going to be laughing out loud by the time Karate Tiger leaps onto the page. Fore has tapped into the glee that readers feel when they see the humor in a situation before the narrator in the book does. They will delight in it. Fore also has a wonderful pacing to the book with the tiger doing something disruptive, the boy correcting him, and then settling again to read his book, only to have the tiger do something even more outrageous.
Alley’s illustrations add to the action and wild abandon of the book. Alley’s use of subtle colors next to bright allows readers to feel the snuggly reading time and then to be jolted in turn by tiger and his red and yellow coat in full action. So much of the humor is visual here, and very successfully so.
If you are looking for a book about the pleasures of reading that is funny and filled with plenty of action, this is it. Even better, it is the sort of book that itself proves exactly why reading is fun. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Viking.