Three Little Peas by Marine Rivoal
Two little peas jump down from their pea plant to get some air. They head out on an adventure across the garden. They visit a cat, some snails, and even try out how it feels to be a flower or a different kind of plant. They go high and low, exploring together. But when they reach a frightening part of the garden filled with insects and animals, they try to run away. Then they find a safe place in the warm soil where they hide. Only to become a large pea plant of their own the next spring, and then one little pea jumps free, making it three little peas.
The story here is simple enough for a toddler to enjoy and they will love going on an adventure along with two charming green peas. The peas pop in their green on the page where everything else is black and white. But oh my, what a black and white world it is! Rivoal does her art using etching and the effect is beautifully layered, almost crystalline forms. The illustrations show below ground as well with rocks and other objects hidden there. Even the blades of grass are lovely in the attention to detail and their grace.
Stunningly lovely and unique illustrations elevate this simple picture book to something magnificent. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Oliver and His Egg by Paul Schmid
Oliver from Oliver and His Alligator returns in a second book. While on the playground, Oliver finds an egg, really a large smooth rock, that he imagines will hatch into a big orange-polka-dotted dinosaur. He would have a new friend and they would go on adventures together. As Oliver dreams of their adventures, the other children find that he is sitting on the “egg” waiting for it to hatch. So he tells them of his enormous dinosaur-sized dream and they all have to find eggs of their own.
Schmid’s picture book is simple and cheery. Oliver is a creative little boy, inventing his own worlds. The book also shows that all children can be creative and use their imaginations. Just as in the first book, the text is minimal, offering less than a sentence on each page. It suits a book that is about imagination to have so much left unsaid.
The illustrations are simple too. Clearly drawn characters are done in simple lines with small touches of color. They are combined with the rock “eggs” that are photographed stones, giving them a weight that the light illustrations don’t have. It’s a dynamic combination on the page.
A cheerful follow-up picture book, this second outing for Oliver is great fun for toddlers. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Little Green Peas: A Big Book of Color by Keith Baker
The peas return for their third book, this time focusing on colors. Peas play on each page, surrounded by a specific color that also shows up in huge letters across the double page spread. Told in rhyme, the colors are named and objects that are that color are named too. Young readers can find those objects on the page. Turn to the next and you get to see even more little green peas enjoying themselves with that color. Then on to the next. This colorful read has a great playfulness to it that will keep the youngest readers giggling as they learn their colors.
Baker knows just when his rhyme and structure have reached their limit and then turns it just slightly to make it fresh again. His little peas are doing all sorts of things on the page and part of the fun of the book is lingering and just seeing what is happening to each little pea. The illustrations are big and bold, the colors deep and strong. Yet the little peas and their detailed big fun make this a book best shared one on one.
A great pick for learning colors, children will enjoy the little peas on each page. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
Tickly Toes by Susan Hood, illustrated by Stephane Barroux
This playful board book looks at infants’ interest in their own toes, whether it is when they are being tickled by someone else, or when they see them in the bubbly bath water. Written as if a parent is addressing the baby directly, this book will read aloud well to the smallest of listeners. With illustrations that invite counting, this book is also an invitation to count baby’s own toes right now.
Hood avoids being too sing-songy in her rhyme, instead keeping it jaunty. Even when baby pulls of his booties and flings them away, the tone remains entirely positive and encouraging as baby finds his feet all on his own. The illustrations by Barroux are bright and large. They show the ten toes on many pages as well as a loving family environment around him.
Get your toes wiggling with this bright and bouncy board book. Appropriate for ages birth to 2.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Kids Can Press and NetGalley.
I’ve got some great new board books perfect for little hands to explore and even little gums to gnaw on.
Countablock by Christopher Franceschelli, art by Peskimo
The author of Alphablock returns with a counting book this time. With thick board pages that are die cut into the shapes of the numbers, the book gives each number two pages where first you are given a number of objects and then what those objects become. So three boxes become three forts and eight bananas become eight banana peels with the help of some monkeys. After number ten, the book starts to count by tens and eventually reaches 100.
Mini Myths: Be Patient, Pandora! by Joan Holub and Leslie Patricelli
Mini Myths: Play Nice, Hercules! by Joan Holub and Leslie Patricelli
These two first books in the new Mini Myths series are a cheerful mix of mythology and toddlerhood. Pandora explores the temptation of a wrapped present and how hard it can be to wait to open it. Pandora is told to leave the present alone, but just can’t seem to stop herself from touching it, leaning on it, and accidentally opening it. Hercules is told to play nice with his little sister, but Hercules is much more interested in knocking things down than being nice. In the end of both books, the myth becomes more about manners and how to be with others.
All reviewed from copies received from Abrams Appleseed.
Big Bug by Henry Cole
Start with a close up of a ladybug in this picture book and then everything is put into perspective. If you step back, the big bug on the first pages is not so big compared to the big leaf it is sitting on. That leaf turns small when seen as just a part of a flower. Then a big dog appears only to be dwarfed by the big cow on the next page. This continues until the reader is looking at the big sky. Then the book reverses and the perspective gets closer and tighter, returning in the end to that same dog now sleeping inside.
This is a very simple book that is superbly done. Cole plays nicely with perspective and with concepts. The book can easily be used as a way to show the differences between big and small, but I think the real treat is showing children that perspective is important and understanding size is too. With only a couple of words on each page, the book is imminently readable, especially by a child just starting to read on their own.
Cole’s art is clear and lovely. The perspective changes are done vividly and the page where you linger with the big big sky for a moment is particularly lovely with its little farm and little tree. It also serves as a very clear pivot point in the book thanks to the design of the page.
Show this one to art teachers, preschool teachers, and kids who enjoy a huge insect. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Little Simon.
Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt, illustratedc by Joyce Wan
Head out on a journey in the night to find out where different creatures are sleeping. Each one is tucked into the space they like best at bedtime. There is the bear in his cave, the otter rocking back in the water, the pig in the hay, and many more. Then the owl is on the page, not sleepy at all. The book then turns to the house and the pets sleeping, but the little human bed is empty! Where can that last little sleepyhead be? Safe asleep in Mama’s arms.
Simple and beautiful, this book has a gentle rhyme that soothes also with a rhythm that is like rocking to sleep. Young listeners will get to identify the different animals as the pages turn, since the book leaves that up to the reader. The quiet mystery of where the last sleepyhead is found is a wonderful little twist at the end, just right as children snuggle down to their own beds.
Wan’s art is dark and beautiful. The night is lit with fireflies and the moon, the darkness deep and velvety but not frightening at all. As the reader visits each dark page, there is always a source of light beyond that in the sky so that the characters themselves shine on the page.
A wonderful bedtime read, this one shines with moonlight and dreams. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
Swim, Duck, Swim! by Susan Lurie, illustrated by Murray Head
Told in rhyme, this picture book illustrated with large photographs explores one day in the life of a duckling who just won’t get into the water. His parents are with him, encouraging him to try and so are all of the other fuzzy ducklings that are already swimming around. But he is not sure that swimming is for him. He might sink! He hates to be wet! And this might just be the perfect time for a nap. But with his parents encouraging him to keep on trying, there is suddenly a splash and he is swimming around merry and proud.
Lurie’s rhymes have just the right amount of bounce and energy. She captures the obstinate toddler who just won’t do what his parents are pushing him to try. Children and parents alike will relate to this battle of wills where patient and positive parenting wins out in the end. The text is simple and jaunty, keeping the duckling clearly an animal but giving words and emotions to his actions.
I’m a huge fan of photographs in children’s picture books. Particularly when they are done as beautifully as Head’s. The large format of all of the illustrations works beautifully, and I appreciate that they run all the way to the edge of the page rather than being framed in white. The effect is an expansive one, these are pictures that pull you in until you too are pond-side and cheering on the duckling.
A great pick for kids heading to their first swimming lessons, this book would also make a nice addition to story times on ducks or trying something new. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Pom and Pim by Lena and Olaf Landstrom
When Pom heads outside, the sun is shining and the day is beautiful. Pim, a stuffed toy, goes out too. But the day isn’t completely full of good luck, in fact Pom and Pim experience a lot of bad luck along the way. Somehow though, these bad moments turn into good ones. So when Pom falls down, there is money on the sidewalk and they get to have ice cream! The ice cream gives Pom a tummy ache, but then there is a balloon in the room. The balloon pops when Pom takes it outside, but it’s just in time to make a raincoat for Pim before the rain comes. Then it’s a lovely rainy day.
Landstrom plays with optimism in this book. Pom goes from merry to dejected in moments, just like any toddler, bouncing right back again with the next new distraction or change. The story is very simply told with the illustrations telling much of Pom’s reaction to the described situations. Pom is never given a gender, making this a book that will speak to all genders equally and children will see themselves reflected on the page.
The illustrations clearly reflect Pom’s emotions, as Pom changes moods from one page to the next. They are also wonderfully simple which fits into this story very nicely. The result is a book for toddlers that they will understand and relate to.
Grab this one when looking at emotions with toddlers, its everyday events will be something that any child has probably experienced. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Count on the Subway by Paul Dubois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
Told in a bouncy rhyme, this picture book counts its way through a trip on the New York City subway. It starts with a mother and daughter heading down the steps into the subway and counting their one MetroCard. They go down 2 flights and catch the 3. Onward the story goes, merrily counting the turnstiles, the people, seats and stops. Once the book reaches ten, it counts its way right back down again, ending when the pair climb there way up into the one and only Union Station.
The rhyme here is completely infectious. It bounces along, skips and dances. It appears effortless and free and is very readable. In fact, it is hard not to read it aloud. The illustrations by Yaccarino show the main characters in full color while the others are one solid color and a black outline or just a colored outline. It makes for a book that is bright and bold.
Perfectly paced and brightly rhythmic, this counting book will be enjoyed by all sorts of children, not just the ones who have taken a subway before. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.