Review: Larf by Ashley Spires


Larf by Ashley Spires

Larf is a sasquatch who is left entirely alone because no one believes he exists.  He’s pretty sure that he’s the only sasquatch in the world, since he has never met another one.  He lives a very quiet life in the woods, alone with his pet bunny, Eric.  So when Larf hears that a sasquatch is to appear in the nearby city of Hunderfitz, he is astounded.  After all, he wasn’t planning an appearance.  Larf then realizes that he might not be the only sasquatch in the world.  Larf disguises himself as a human and heads off to the city by bus.  But when he gets there, he finds that the sasquatch is actually a guy in a costume.  The give-away was the zipper and the small feet.  Never fear though, Larf is in for one more big surprise.

Spires has written a picture book that is clever, full of little touches that add to the humor, and a delight to read.  As with all of her books, this one reads aloud beautifully, thanks to her light touch in the writing and the pleasure of the pacing.   The setting is firmly modern, but Larf’s life is rustic and warm, with the added touch of his vegetarian lifestyle.

The illustrations with their friendly depiction of a big, hairy sasquatch are also filled with fun.  They too carry small touches that add to the fun.  I love the disguise that Larf wears to the city, particularly the front bunny carrier that he has on. 

Perfect for a not-scary-at-all monster story time, this book is a big-hearted, enormous success.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

2012 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize

The overall winner of the 2012 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize has been announced.  The overall winner was selected from among the top book in each of three age categories: picture book, 5-12 and teen. 

And the winner is:

The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter and Pinterest accounts that you might find interesting:

Did your child have 1000 hours of one-on-one reading by first grade? | Momania: #reading #kidlit

Five questions with author Judith Viorst | Detroit Free Press | #kidlit

Great Heroines For Boys » GeekMom #kidlit

Hachette acquires worldwide rights in Enid Blyton – IBNLive #kidlit

Jennifer Lawrence’s body: not skinny enough to play Katniss? What idiocy!

‘The Little House’ and ‘Brown Bear’ chalk up big anniversaries | Seattle Times Newspaper #kidlit

Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Very Disappointed – and frankly don’t read books carefully enough – #yalit #hungergames

Rare ’70s Electronic Music Is Hidden in The Hunger Games |

Reading is not frivolous, it’s vital. #kidlit #reading

The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss | Brain Pickings #kidlit

Upcoming Dystopian Teen Sci-Fi Novel ‘The Loners’ Headed to the Big Screen | #yalit

Review: Piggy Bunny by Rachel Vail

piggy bunny

Piggy Bunny by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard

Liam does not want to be a pig when he grows up, even though he’s a piglet.  Instead, Liam wants to be the Easter Bunny.  Liam even practiced his bunny skills: hopping, eating salad, and delivering eggs.  But they didn’t work out too well.  His family thought that he should just admit he was a pig and move on.  But then his grandmother said that they didn’t have the imagination to see him as a rabbit and that he needed a bunny suit to have them see it.  Unfortunately, the bunny suit doesn’t fit quite right, one ear doesn’t stand up straight, and it itches.  But when Liam looks in the mirror, all of that is forgotten, because he sees — the Easter Bunny!

Vail has created an Easter book that will have appeal far beyond that holiday.  It’s a book about a child with a dream that others can’t even visualize and that child creating it in a way that lets others share his vision.  That solid message is packaged in a very friendly, light-hearted package with lots of appeal.  Her writing is sprightly and fun-filled, inviting children to put on costumes and try new identities.

A large part of the appeal of the book are the illustrations.  Done in thick lines and bright, candy-colored backgrounds, the illustrations are filled with energy and humor. 

A pig in a bunny suit that is as cute as this one will have this book off of library shelves in no time.  Add in the solid storyline and you have a winning Easter book.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel and Friends.

Review: Step Gently Out by Helen Frost

step gently out

Step Gently Out by Helen Frost, illustrated by Rick Lieder

This picture book celebrates looking closely at the small things in the world around us.  Through a poem that focuses on the insects that you can notice if you slow down and take the time, Frost quietly reminds us all that there is another world beside our own that we often ignore.  Ants are climbing up stems, honeybees buzz past, crickets leap and spiders spin webs.  Children will get to see these insects up close, larger than life in the gorgeous photography that accompanies the poem.  It’s a perfect invitation to take a closer look.

Focusing on the more common insects in our gardens, the poem celebrates the ants, bees and moths that surround us.  Frost speaks about them very poetically, bathed in golden light or shining with stardust. 

Her gentle poem pairs beautifully with the artistic photography that features close ups of the insects in the poem.  The images are stunning and lovely, each focusing closely on an insect.  The morning dew image alone is a breathtaking photograph, but there is one after another that are exceptional.

Combining nature and poetry, this book celebrates both.  It also inspires mindfulness and a slower pace, so that children can make discoveries like this of their own.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Just Behave Pablo Picasso! by Jonah Winter


Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Pablo Picasso started out painting just like everyone else, but when he started to paint his moods in colors, things started to change.  The gallery owners wanted more pictures in just the same style, and suddenly Picasso became wealthy and well know.  But Picasso was not interested in painting the same rose colored paintings again and again.  Instead, he becomes inspired by African masks and does a new painting that breaks all of the rules.  When it is unveiled, the reaction is strongly negative and it is called “ugly” by the critics.  When the entire world starts doubting him, Picasso works even harder, coming out with another painting that is the birth of modernism.  This book displays the strength needed to stay true to yourself all through the lens of the incredible Pablo Picasso.

Winter has not written a conventional picture book biography here.  Instead, he plays with the format.  He uses comic book techniques like BLAM! and has pages that range from just a sentence or two to ones that are lengthier and provide more information and insight into Picasso.  This biography is less about the details of his life and much more about his art and its inspiration and evolving style.  We learn nothing of his family, but much about his process and his drive.

Hawkes’ illustrations carry that same playful feeling forward.  He toys with perspective, enjoys depicting the close quarters in Paris with see-through walls.  It takes a certain amount of playfulness to take on a book about Picasso and not imitate his style in the illustrations.  Hawkes’ style remains true to himself, underlining the overall message of the book by doing so.

A creative and fun picture book biography about a vibrant and rebellious artist, this book should find a place in children’s nonfiction collections.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Mooshka, a Quilt Story by Julie Paschkis


Mooshka, a Quilt Story by Julie Paschkis

Karla loved her quilt that her grandmother had made for her from scraps.   Karla had named the quilt Mooshka.  Mooshka kept her warm at night and smelled just right.  But the most special thing that Mooska could do was talk.  Mooshka would wish Karla sweet dreams and in the morning invite her to pancakes.  If Karla couldn’t sleep at night, Mooshka would tell her the story of any patch on the quilt.  There were playful stories from tablecloth scraps, romantic stories from a bandana, exciting stories from a red scrap.  When baby Hannah moved into Karla’s room, Karla was upset.  She tried to get Mooshka to soothe her with a story, but Mooshka would not speak.  Then when Hannah woke up crying and could not be settled, Karla found that Mooshka might be able to share stories with other people too.

Paschkis has created a book that speaks to the power of story and family.  There is a wonderful spirit of discovery and sharing throughout the book as family stories are shared.  The book has a circular feel, coming to a satisfying close that makes the circle complete.  This sense of place, history and story brings a richness to the book.

What is most distinctive about the book is its art.  Done in ink and gouache, each page is bordered in patchwork, giving the entire book a warm and cozy feel.  The patterns also offer a lot of color, making a feast for the eyes as each page is turned. 

A warm book about quilts, family and stories, this book is ideal for reading under your own quilt and sharing your family stories there.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Peachtree Publishers.

The 2012 Carnegie Medal Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2012 Carnegie Medal has been announced.  The UK Carnegie Medal is awarded each year for outstanding writing in a children’s book. 

Here are the titles on the shortlist:


Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Septys

Everybody Jam by Ali Lewis

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness


The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett

My Name is Mina by David Almond

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher


Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans

Trash by Andy Mulligan

The 2012 Kate Greenaway Medal Shortlist

The Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist for 2012 has been announced.  The UK medal is awarded annually for outstanding illustration in books for children and young people.

Here are the titles:


Can We Save the Tiger? by Vicky White

The Gift by Rob Ryan, text by Carol Anne Duffy

A Monster Calls by Jim Kay, text by Patrick Ness


Puffin Peter by Petr Horáček

Slog’s Dad by Dave McKean, text by David Almond

Solomon Crocodile by Catherine Rayner


There Are No Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwarz

Wolf Won’t Bite by Emily Gravett