Review: Charley’s First Night by Amy Hest

charleys first night

Charley’s First Night by Amy Hest, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Pure bliss, that’s what this book is.  This is the story of Henry who brings Charley, a new puppy, home.  When they get home, Henry makes sure to show Charley all around his new home, even showing him where his mother hides the birthday presents.  Henry’s parents inform him that he’s the one in charge of walking Charley and feeding Charley.  Henry is thrilled and can’t wait to do those things forever.  Then there’s the discussion of where Charley is going to sleep.  Henry knows that Charley wants to sleep in his room, but his parents want Charley to sleep in the kitchen.  Henry worries about Charley alone in the kitchen, but goes about setting up a pillow, a bear to keep him company, and a ticking clock for a heartbeat sound.  Henry stays with Charley until he falls asleep, but Charley doesn’t stay asleep for long.

Hest’s writing here is so dazzling.  She captures perfectly the swooning adoration of a child with a new puppy.  She shows the instant connection, the small memorable moments together, and the communication and understanding that flows.  Henry loves Charley with a purity that is piercing and Hest’s text makes it all the more real and true.  She uses quiet repetition and brings the reader into the intimacy of this new relationship, allowing them to notice the small things that Henry is seeing and feeling.

Oxenbury’s illustrations are classic and lovely.  They lift the story up, making it feel all the more timeless.  There is a beautiful warmth to her art that works particularly well for this subject.  The small images of Charley eating, romping and even making a mess will be sure to charm.

Two master picture book creators have come together to give readers a radiant book about the first love of child and puppy.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever! by Rebecca Rule

iciest diciest scariest sled ride ever

The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever! by Rebecca Rule, illustrated by Jennifer Thermes

Released November 9, 2012.

After sleet and snow have created a thick crust of ice on the ground, what are Lizzie and her friends going to do?  It’s almost impossible to even walk on the stuff!  They slide downhill on their backs and it was a lot of fun, but they wanted to really find a good place to slide.  Snow saucers just spun on the ice, and that’s when Lizzie remembered the sled with metal runners that her grandpa had, a travis sled with an extra long seat. Grandpa remembered his own childhood when they were able to sled down the roads on days like this.  He warned them to stay off the roads, stay safe, and not go too fast.  But when the children finally reach the summit of the huge hill, they wonder if they will be able to keep that promise!

Rule has created a book that captures the wildness and pure joy of sledding.  Growing up in Wisconsin, we had a sledding hill that we would build ramps on and have a great time.  My father also had his childhood runner sled that could only be used in perfectly icy conditions.  So this book took me right back to those childhood memories of days that were blistery cold and icy, but you were having too much fun to care.  Rule builds suspense really well here, having the children figure out what sled to use, where to get it, and then the puzzle of how to climb an icy hillside without all sliding back to the bottom. 

Thermes’ illustrations have a wonderful old-fashioned quality to them but also show modern sledding and a modern community.  The colors are bright and fun, the sky often adding a punch of coral to the white landscape.  There is also plenty of action and movement throughout, creating a perfect pacing along with the text.

Get this one on your shelves for the holidays and sledding season.  You may just see your breath in the air as you read it aloud.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Islandport Press.