Except If: A Puzzle of a Book


Except If by Jim Averbeck

Follow this twisting, turning puzzle of a book that has you thinking one thing and then transforming it into another.  It all starts with an egg that is cracking open.  It will become a bird “except if” it becomes a baby snake.  That snake will slither on the floor “except if” it is actually a lizard.  The lizard is actually a dinosaur, which is actually a fossil, which shelters a nest, where a familiar blue egg is resting.  What will be in the egg this time?

This book is pure fun.  The reader puts themselves into the author’s hands, unable to predict where this book will take them.  The fossil piece was one that I was happily surprised by, not expecting the book to head in that direction.  Averbeck’s use of spare language to great effect makes this a book that will read aloud well.  Its straightforward text is the perfect foil to the twists of the story line.

Averbeck’s illustrations are bright and bold.  The thick black lines and flat color evoke children’s coloring books, giving it immense child appeal.

Add this to any story time on dinosaurs or as the ideal ending book for any general story time.  It’s sure to be requested again and again.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

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Chicks Run Wild: A Silly Bedtime Book


Chicks Run Wild by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Ward Jenkins

Mama Hen tucks each of her five little chicks into bed with fluffed up pillows and kisses.   But when she leaves the room, the chicks run wild!  They jump, play, dance.  Even though they try to hide what they are doing from their mama, she figures it out.  Again, she tries to tuck them into bed, but again they run wild when she leaves.  Finally, she catches them in a wild pillow fight and that is when her response surprises the chicks.  She offers to play with them!  Now all of them go wild with dancing.  The chicks get tired and beg to return to bed, so now is mama’s turn to continue the wild evening in her own way.

Bardhan has written the book in a rollicking rhyme that is ideal for reading aloud.  At times the rhythm of the verse can be clunky and the rhymes may be a stretch, but the attitude of the book more than makes up for these small issues.   Her ultimately flexible parenting model in the book reminds all of us that sometimes rules are meant to be bent and broken. 

Jenkins’ illustrations are large and vibrant.  They will work well with groups of children who will also enjoy their frenetic energy.  The illustrations, done in pencil and painted digitally, have a great modern and cartoon feel that will appeal to young readers. 

This book will wake up bedtime stories or it can be used to enliven spring story times.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

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