Review: One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo

one cool friend

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by David Small

Elliot was a very proper boy, dressed in his tuxedo and bow tie.  When his father asked if he wanted to go to the aquarium one day, he went along despite worries about loud kids.  When they got to the aquarium, his father sat down to read and sent Elliot off to have some fun.  Elliot went past the jellyfish, the saltwater display, and the hands-on tide pool and discovered the penguins!  He immediately connected with the birds and then asked his father if he could have one.  His father glanced at a poster for plush penguins and agreed.  But Elliot did not have a plush penguin in mind.  Instead, he brought home a real penguin.  Once back home, Elliot wasted no time in creating a perfect penguin habitat.  But after days of happy living, what in the world would his father say when he discovered the penguin?

This book has its own wonderful feel.  From the dapper lad in the lead role to his couch-loving, slow-moving father, it has the feel of a classic book but also one that is delightfully modern as well.  Buzzeo’s writing is fresh and funny, creating a book that is both inviting and compelling.  It also has great twists throughout where you never know what will happen next.  In other words, it’s a stellar read.

Small’s art is what provides a large part of the feel of the book.  His tuxedo wearing kid, the splash of green that is the father, and the busts of other colors throughout.  The use of primarily blacks and whites to tell the story pays homage to its subject and also gives it the marvelous stylized feel that works so well.

The great librarian character at one point doesn’t hurt the book one smidge either!  This is a dapper, dazzling read that is creative, funny and a delight.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

Review: Secrets of the Garden by Kathleen Zoehfeld

secrets of the garden

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

Alice loves it when spring arrives and they can start planting the garden.  Her dad gets the soil ready for planting and then she and her brother start putting the seeds in.  It seems like a long time before the seeds finally sprout.  Then other seedlings are transplanted from pots and potatoes are sown.  Lettuce and radishes are ready to eat first, and Alice spots a rabbit munching on them too.  She also thinks a mouse might be eating the fallen corn.  Hawks hunt in the garden and there are plenty of insects too.  Autumn nears and harvest begins, and the food cycle of the garden is complete for another year.  Throughout the book, the chickens offer commentary about the cycle itself with information about herbivores and carnivores, compost, worms and much more. 

This is an outstanding example an information book for children.  The chickens give the book a lighter tone, even though they are the ones offering the hard science.  The story celebrates gardening, the food cycle, and having a place connects one with nature.  Zoehfeld’s writing is breezy and cheerful, setting just the right tone of exploration, wonder and science.

Lamont’s illustrations add to the delight.  They have a similar feel to Michael Rosen’s with the friendly characters.  The colors tend towards the subtler side, inviting close inspection and learning.

This is a choice book for units on the food cycle or for children looking for information that they will enjoy learning.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf.