Red Hat by Lita Judge
This picture book is a companion to Red Sled. It features that same red hat that was in the first book, but here it is no longer winter and the hat is washed and hung up to dry on the line. That’s when it is spotted by an eager bear, who snatches it off the line and runs off with it. But he is not alone, as he dashes, other animals pull and tug, freeing the white pompom and unraveling the bright red yarn as they play. They leave the mass of yarn hung on the line in place of the hat! But don’t worry, a happy ending can be knit from the most tangled yarn.
Told almost entirely in sounds rather than words, this book is filled with a wonderful silliness that makes it hard not to giggle from the first longing glance of the bear to the final pages where the animals are pretending innocence at what happened. The center of the book is a wild chase scene as the hat unravels, adding a great rush of fast pacing into the story.
A great book, even better when read with the first one too. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
How to Be a Cat by Nikki McClure
Small Kitten follows the lead of Big Cat as they go through their day in this very simple picture book. With just one word per page, the story is told more in the images than in the words. The little kitten practices how to clean himself, how to hunt bugs and butterflies, and how to listen. As the two of them explore the house and garden, the book shows a day filled with exploration and learning.
Told through dynamic cut-paper art, this simple book has a powerful sense of style. The images are black and white, cut from a single piece of paper with just a touch of blue at times. Thanks to this, the images pop and would work well for sharing with groups of children.
Ideal for toddlers, this is a clear and beautiful look at feline fun. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
Bella Loves Bunny by David McPhail
Ben Loves Bear by David McPhail
A pair of charming board books from veteran author and illustrator McPhail, these casebound books closely echo picture book structure but have sturdy board pages that will stand up to toddler use. The stories mirror each other, following the child from waking up for a day of play through to bedtime.
Bella’s story feels more passive than Ben’s, but I think that is because Bunny is not depicted as energetically as Bear is. Children who have favorite stuffed animals who accompany them throughout their day will find kindred spirits on these pages. The stuffed animals are living and breathing here, the story filled with a quiet imagination. As always, McPhail’s illustrations have a wonderful depth of color and fine lines. They manage to be dreamy but realistic at the same time.
Good additions to library board book collections, these are books that are gentle and joyful. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Bella Loves Bunny was received from Abrams for review. Ben Loves Bear was reviewed from library copy.
Polar Bear Morning by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Stephen Savage
Following the picture book Polar Bear Night, this second book continues the story of the little polar bear cub. The cub wakes up and peeks out at the day and snow outside her warm den. As she starts to explore, she discovers another little cub out playing too, sliding down a little snow hill. The two of them immediately start playing together, running towards the sea and eventually jumping into the icy water side by side. The two little friends end up together on an ice berg surrounded by family, seals and whales.
Perfect for toddlers, this book speaks to the speed at which small children can find playmates and make friends. As the two polar cubs run together, they pass different arctic animals like seals, walrus, seagulls and whales. The text is brief and clearly sets the story in the arctic, the cold, the ice and the warmth of friendship.
Savage once again has amazing illustrations that are filled with chunky shapes, deep textures and shading that makes it stand out. My favorite page in the book has the two small cubs nose to nose, one with a plop of snow on his head.
A nice morning read aloud, this book be a good fit with bear story times or wintry tales. Appropriate for ages 1-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic Press.
Flight 1-2-3 by Maria van Lieshout
Take a ride on a plane in this follow-up to Backseat A-B-See! The trip begins with a cab ride to the airport and asks readers what they see. There is 1 airport, 2 luggage carts, 3 check-in desks, and the book progresses to very large numbers, like 100 passengers and 33,000 feet. Van Lieshout uses all of the official signage you see around the airport to inspire her art. Those signs are on each page, right next to the numbers to help with counting. The characters too have a graphic, sign-like quality to them, though the main family has its own quirks like yellow tennis shoes and hair in a black ponytail.
With minimal text and art that is a playful look at official signage, this counting book will appeal to kids who love planes and also to those heading out on their first plane trip. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Apple by Nikki McClure
Follow the life stages of an apple from the time it falls from the tree, ripe and red, to its return to the soil. Written in single words, the story is told primarily through the images that are done in exquisite cut paper. In each image, red is used solely to illuminate the apple with the rest of the image in black and white. This serves to not only highlight the apple as the focus, but also makes for a dynamic minimalist style.
The simplicity and minimalism really work here. It is a stunning book both in the strength of the illustrations and the focus on life stages. This is a book I would suggest for parents reading to infants, because it has that strong contrast of black, white and red that infants’ brains respond to. Even better, it’s a book that adults will enjoy reading again and again.
Appropriate for ages 0-3.
Hide & Seek by Il Sung Na
The author of several lovely picture books returns with another beautiful book. This time readers are part of a game of hide and seek with jungle animals. Elephant offers to seek while the others hide. There is a slow count from one to ten as the animals search for places to hide. Giraffe opts for a tree to hide behind. Gorilla stands atop Tortoise’s shell like a statue. Elephant searches for everyone and one-by-one he finds them all, except for Chameleon. All of the animals finally have to give up and Chameleon reveals himself. Young readers can search for chameleon throughout the bright illustrations, participating in the game themselves.
The text here is fairly basic, allowing the game to create the pacing and story. The counting from one to ten creates an effective counting book that is nicely married to a hide and seek game that will challenge young children.
It is really the art that is special here, glowing with light from within and filled with bright colors. None of the animals are colored as expected. The elephant has vibrant ears in red with hearts. The giraffe is a fiery yellow with red. Tortoise is a rainbow of pattern and color. The trees themselves are topped with colorful clouds of leaves. It all creates a very dynamic and fanciful world.
Colorful counting and a game to play make this a great pick for lap sharing with your favorite toddler or preschooler. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.
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.
Demolition by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock
There has been a movement recently to create some very original and fresh construction and truck books. Before that, it was a bit of a desert of naming big trucks, telling how they work, and leaving it at that. This book is one of the best of those new, fresh books about construction vehicles. In rhyming lines, it tells the story of the demolition of a building. It begins with the people getting ready, moves to the wrecking ball, then the excavator and its tearing jaws. There are stone crushers and wood shredders. Trucks are loaded and clear the site, then they start to build something. Something with slides, monkey bars, and plenty of fun.
The rhyme and rhythm of this picture book really make it work. It has a bouncy rhythm that makes the book ideal for toddlers. The rhyming lines finish on each set of pages with noisy words that bring the work site to life. Add to that the appeal of knocking something down and then building something new, and you have brought a toddler dream to life. The illustrations have a great texture to them that evokes the dust and dirt of demolition. They avoid being too cartoon-like and instead use different vistas on the project to allow young readers to see more than they could of in real life.
One of the most appealing construction or destruction books around, this belongs in every library collection. It will also be appreciated by librarians and teachers who have long been looking for construction books worth sharing in a story time setting. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Beach Feet by Kiyomi Konagaya, illustrated by Masamitsu Saito
Released June 12, 2012.
This picture book is a trip to the beach along with a very exuberant little boy. There are salty breezes, hot sand, cool water, and plenty of sun. The little boy races to get to the water, surprised by the heat captured in the hot sand. That quickly turns to relief upon reaching the cool, wet sand. Then the waves come in, cold and big, tickling around toes as the water recedes again. It leaves behind a revealed shell, something for the boy’s toes to find. Then there are more waves, floating in the ocean, and even more sun.
Konagaya’s very short text is a delight. The translation from the Japanese is successful, keeping the quiet yet excited mood of exploring a beach. It offers just enough context to share the pleasures of the ocean without getting in the way at all, making it ideal for very young listeners.
The illustrations by Saito are rich and deep. They move from playful exuberance to quieter moments. The bright yellow of the sunshine, the cool grey of wet sand, the blue of the waves. This art captures the beach perfectly. It has a wonderful fluidity to it, captured most effectively in the skin of the child that flows from oranges and pinks.
A successful look at a day at the beach that is perfect to share with toddlers, this book should come along with a shovel and pail. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.