Book Review: I’m a Shark by Bob Shea


I’m a Shark by Bob Shea

Shark knows that he is completely awesome.  He’s very brave!  He never cries when he gets a shark (sort of).  He can watch scary movies without closing his eyes, mostly.  He’s not scared of dinosaurs at all, in fact they should be afraid of him.  But even brave shark is scared of something.  Not bears.  Not a giant squid.  Not the dark.  You might be surprised what has Shark so scared!

Shea seems to write effortlessly for toddlers and preschoolers.  His books have a simplicity that is evident in both their illustrations and their words.  Here the book is written in the form of a conversation between Shark and his fish and crab friends.  Shea has used fonts, colors and placement to make the book work beautifully.  Shark is written with such a big personality that his voice is strong and sure.

The illustrations are thick-lined and bold.  They will work very well with a group of children because they will project so well from afar.  Great humorous touches are included in the book, like the scary movie the fish are watching.

Highly recommended, this book about even the most brave having fears will be a welcome treat.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

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Book Review: Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly


Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly, illustrated by Stephen Michael King

Prudence wants a pet badly, but her parents tell her that pets cost too much and make too much noise.  So Prudence gets a pet: a branch.  She drags it to school with her so it gets plenty of exercise.  Branch doesn’t eat or drink much at all.  But when her Dad trips on Branch for the eighth time, he breaks branch into smaller bits and throws them on the woodpile.  Now Prudence has a new pet, Twig.  Twig is pocket-sized and doesn’t have to live out on the porch and trip people.  But Twig got lost in the wash and no one responded to Prudence’s lost pet sign.  Prudence gets a new pet, an old shoe named Formal Footwear because that’s what it says on its tag.  Formal Footwear can do tricks and goes for walks, but eventually Prudence gets tired of dragging him around and frees him back into the wild.  Prudence then tries keeping her baby brother as a pet, but he gets ill eating leaves.  The car tire doesn’t work either, too heavy and too unpopular with the neighbors.  As her parents watch her, they start to reconsider.  But just what pet will Prudence get?

Prudence is a young lady who will not give up on her dream.  In fact, she tries to create options again and again.  She’s creative and inventive, making for a book that is wry and funny.  There are lovely small touches throughout the book: the lost pet poster for Twig, the name of her pet shoe, the pink bow on her baby brother’s head, and the “pulp” that are the sea buddies. 

King’s art adds a lot to the picture book with his cartoon-like characters that have a modern feel.  Prudence’s hair alone tells part of the story, drooping in despair, perky with hope, curled in contentment.  King isn’t afraid to push a little, giving one big eye, showing little brother Milo a putrid shade of green after eating the grass.  The humor of the art matches the humor of the story well, complementing each other without one overpowering the other.

The elements here add up to a very wonderful read.  The quirky illustrations, the creative protagonist, the silly humor: all create a marvelous book that I’d be happy to read again and again to any young pet lover.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

Also reviewed by Jen Robinson’s Book Page.

Book Review: Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker


Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker & Tom Lichtenheld

This is an ideal bedtime book for all those truck-loving toddlers and preschoolers!  The book starts with the trucks all working hard during the day, then it’s sunset and time for the trucks to end their work days.  Each truck has its work explained and then its bedtime ritual too.  Crane Truck folds his boom in, holds his teddy, and dangles a nightlight.  Cement Mixer takes a bath then falls asleep under a blanket dreaming of twirling again.  Bulldozer curls into his soft dirt bed.  The book ends with a drowsy, quiet tone that is perfect for getting children’s wheels to stop turning.

Told in rhyming verse, the book has two tones that work well together.  There is the daytime activity part for each truck that bustles along.  Then that changes as they ready for bed to a quieter, slower tone.  The rhymes and rhythm are done skillfully so they read aloud really well.

The illustrations have a great friendliness to them and a humor that adds a great touch to the book.  Often the small touches are not mentioned in the text, like Crane’s teddy bear.  But these are the moments that will draw children even further into the story, softening the harshness of trucks into a bedtime story.

If there’s a truck fan in your family, this is a great pick for a bedtime story.  Drive it to the top of your pile of story time truck reads as well.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by

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Book Review: Mine by Shutta Crum


Mine! by Shutta Crum, illustrated by Patrice Barton

One of only two words used in this picture book about sharing is “mine” and it is said again and again.   A toddler is visited by a baby, and carefully gathers up his toys before the littler one can get her hands on them.  With each grab, he announces “mine.”  His arms fill up with toys, so the baby grabs the last toy on the floor, forcing the toddler to drop all of the others.  Now the puppy gets in on the game, grabbing and chewing on a ball that bounces his way.  While the toddler tries to get the ball away from the dog, the baby tosses her toy into the dog’s water dish.  Just when the story seems poised for a tantrum, the joy of playing in water together saves the day.

This adorable little book has a great sense of playfulness.  Even when the little boy is gathering his toys up, there is no sense of malice in his actions.  I appreciated that the story does have parents hovering at the edge of the story, but they are uninvolved in the action and the sharing in the end.  Instead, this is a resolution entirely reached by the children themselves.

Baron’s art has a soft color palette that adds warmth and ease to the story.  She captures facial expressions particularly well, on both the children and the puppy.  There is a sense of absolute joy at times, often juxtaposed with amazement on the face of another character.  She also renders toddlers and babies well, with their rounded features and limbs looking particularly plump and adorable.  The action is readily followed with the dotted lines that show the motion of toys from one person or place to the next.

A charming book about sharing that doesn’t have any lecture built in at all, this one is a winner for toddlers.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from library copy.

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Book Review: The Loopycoop Hens by Janet Morgan Stoeke


The Loopycoop Hens by Janet Morgan Stoeke

The author of the Minerva Louise series returns with another chicken book.  In this book, three hens named Midge, Pip and Dot watch Rooster Sam with both love and envy.  While they love their Rooster Sam, they wish that they could fly the way he does up onto the roof of the barn.  They try and try and try again, but they just can’t fly.  Even moths can fly, but despite their big wings, the hens can’t fly.  So the hens come up with a plan to spy on Rooster Sam to see how he flies in the hopes that they can copy his flying technique.  But when they spy on Rooster Sam, they discover something they were not expecting!

Stoeke has a knack for creating simple picture books that read aloud well and even though they are simple, tell a complete story.  This makes for a very satisfying read.  Add Stoeke’s humor to the mix and you have a charming picture book filled with giggles.

Stoeke’s illustrations are just as successful as her text.  They have great lines, bold colors, and a friendly feel.  Somehow even with beaks, her chickens smile, show emotions, and relate to one another.  The cocky Rooster Sam with his flopping comb falling over one eye is handsome in a bird kind of way.  The various attempts at flying are very funny.

A fun, simple book that will be a welcome addition to story times about farms and chickens.  Plus, unlike the hens, it’s sure to fly off your shelves.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dutton Children’s Books.

Book Review: Tink by Bodil Bredsdorff


Tink by Bodil Bredsdorff

This is the third book in The Children of Crow Cove series.  This book focuses mostly on Tink, who is growing into a young man now.  The people of Crow Cove are facing difficult times as food dwindles at the end of the winter.  They are down to just eating potatoes.  Tink, blaming himself for their hunger, decides to leave Crow Cove, but on his way discovers a man lying at the side of the road.  It turns out to be Burd, the abusive man whom Foula and Eidi ran away from.  Tink returns to the cove with him, bringing into their family both danger and hope.

There is something so special about this series.  Each book is short and yet has depth in it.  There are detailed looks at how the people live.  In this book, there are many details about the wildlife at Crow Cove and how fishing works and storing the catch happens.  These small details create a living, breathing world in the book.

The characters here are ones that readers of the series will recognize.  Villains from previous books return again, displaying complex reactions and roles.  No character here is written simply, rather they are complicated and require compassion from the reader and others in the story. 

This third book is a great addition to the series, displaying the same strengths as the other books.  I am hoping for more books as change comes again to Crow Cove at the end of this book, and I just have to know what happens to my beloved characters.  Appropriate for ages 11-13.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus & Giroux.

Book Review: This Plus That by Amy Krouse Rosenthal


This Plus That: Life’s Little Equations by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace

This book starts with 1 + 1 but it doesn’t equal 2.  Instead the answer is “us”.  Start with that charming beginning and you then enter a book filled with a variety of equations that surprise, delight and cause laughter.  There are equations for colors that result in a rainbow.  There are equations for city and country.  Very different things add up to equal school vs. birthday, as one might expect.  This is a book that celebrates the little things in life all through equations that reveal the small pieces of what make up the special things. 

My favorite equation in the book is “cozy + smell of pancakes – alarm clock = weekend” which shows just how simple yet profound these little equations can be.  Can’t you smell the pancakes?  A big key to the success of the book is the clever nature of the equations.  They are different and interesting enough to keep the reader enjoying them throughout the book.  Even better, they inspire you to start thinking about your life in equations too.

Corace’s illustrations add to the charm of the book with their bright colors and modern lines.  Her round-faced, merry children add a zest to the book.  Happily, the illustrations have a vintage feel as well, especially when adults are depicted. 

This book inspires thinking in equations, so a great activity might be for children to write their own life equations.  Maybe even about their class or the library?  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by A Reading Year.

Book Review: Fortune Cookies by Albert Bitterman


Fortune Cookies by Albert Bitterman, illustrations by Chris Raschka

One day, a young girl gets a package in the mail that contains seven fortune cookies.  She opens one cookie each day.  The fortunes are done as pull tabs in the book, nicely mimicking the pleasure of cracking open a cookie and the surprise of the fortune.  Each fortune moves the story forward a bit.  The first talks about losing something you don’t need, and she loses her tooth.  The next about money being like the wind, and she finds a dollar under her pillow and buys a kite.  The next fortune is more vague, about finding the good with the bad.  Here the girl loses her kite, but finds a cat and takes her home.  As the days pass, more fortunes are read, the cat is lost and later found in the fort the girl has built.  But one last surprise awaits that makes for a very satisfying fortune indeed.

Librarians will be very pleased with the tabs here, because they will stand up nicely to public use.  There are only seven of them and they are sturdy and move easily back and forth.  Equally pleasing is that the tabs make sense here.  They are not an afterthought of the story, but an integral pleasure of the book and fortune cookies themselves.  The story is intriguing with its mix of fortunes, straight-forward action, and then the satisfying resolution.  It makes for a book that is great fun to read, because one is never sure what will happen next, though you have been given a clue in the fortune.

Raschka’s art adds another dimension here.  His splashing watercolors are very pleasing on the white background.  Combining this free-feeling art with the dimension of the tabs creates a book that is not only unusual in its artistry but a joy to explore and read.

A fortunate pick for any reader, this book is appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

Also reviewed by:

Book Review: Loon Baby by Molly Beth Griffin


Loon Baby by Molly Beth Griffin, illustrated by Anne Hunter

Loon Baby lives happily with his mother in the northern woods.  His mother dives under the water for Baby’s dinner but he is too little to follow her underwater.  Loon Baby waited, floating and paddling.  At first he is sure that his mother will return just as she always had.  But she stays away and he begins to wonder if something has happened to her.  He tries to dive down into the water, but keeps bobbing back to the surface.  After diving so many times, Loon Baby can’t remember where home is anymore.  Everything looks the same to him on the banks of the pond.  Loon Baby has had enough and wails a cry that wavers and sinks.  His mother pops up by his side, his dinner in her mouth.  In his happiness, Loon Baby dives deep into the water, discovering that he can indeed dive just like his mother.

Griffin tells this story in prose that reads like poetry.  It is spare, simple and ideal for young children.  The story speaks to the panic a lost child can feel when their mother disappears, gently guiding children to the parallels between Loon Baby and themselves. 

Hunter’s illustrations are a lovely mix of watercolors and lines that crosshatch and offer details.  The green and blue colors evoke the northern woods.  Pulling back to a larger view, they emphasize the lone Loon Baby as he seeks his mother. 

A lovely book for preschoolers about being lost and being found again.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Katie’s (Little Ones) Learning Lounge.