Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder
It’s the perfect day to go to the zoo and the whole family is excited. Well, maybe not the whole family. Little T certainly is not, in fact she is frightened of the zoo. But she can’t remember what in the zoo scares her. So her family set out to find out what might be scaring her. They start out at the beginning of the alphabet and acting out the animals. It’s not alligator, bat or camel. As they go on, the costumes they use become more and more elaborate and they all help act them out with plenty of laughter and silliness. They make it all the way to zebras and still Little T can’t remember why she is scared of the zoo. So they decide to go the next day. But there is something very frightening at the zoo, and her older sister might just find it a little too scary.
Heder does a superb job here of creating costumes out of boxes and ropes that look like they just might work in real life. As the costumes grow more and more outrageous and complex, they also get more beautiful. Along the way, Heder does not name any of the animals being portrayed, so the book has a guessing-game element to it as well. The ending is funny and satisfying.
Heder’s art really is the majority of the story here. The text is almost secondary to the full-page images that gallop and dash across the page. They are filled with motion, color and smiles. This is art that will inspire children to play with boxes and rope. Expect your living room to be strewn with cardboard and ideas.
Creative and a joy to read, this is much more fun than any visit I’ve had to the zoo. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Train by Elisha Cooper
Join the trains as they cross the United States in this fast-moving picture book. Start on the platform with the conductors and passengers. Then the doors whoosh shut and “All aboard” and we are off. First the train is near the city, then it’s quickly out into the countryside. The Commuter Train stops at the next station. Then the story switches to a Passenger Train with an enormous engine and readers get to see inside the engineer’s cab with all of the levers. The train crosses the countryside and then the book turns to a Freight Train that goes so slowly. It is passed by an Overnight Train that curves up into the Rocky Mountains. People head to their cabins to sleep and wake for breakfast in the dining car. Their train is then passed by a High-Speed Train that blurs and finally glides into the station. Your journey has ended, unless you read it again.
Perfect for young train lovers, they will learn about the different types of trains and terrain along this railroad clacking journey. They also get tantalizing glimpses into the trains and their cars. There are long images of rows of seats filled with people and curving rails ahead of the engine. Young readers will also enjoy seeing how you sleep on a train and where you eat. Cooper reaches beyond these details though and really captures the rhythm of train travel and the way they are so huge yet so dwarfed by the landscape.
Cooper’s illustrations are done in his signature loose style. This works particularly well with landscapes and crowded train yards. Children used to seeing exacting details on machinery will quickly get used to this less precise art style. Instead of details, Cooper manages to capture atmosphere and feel in his illustrations. This lets his trains race across the landscape showing the feel of that movement and speed.
Another magnificent picture book from Cooper, get this into the hands of young train fans or families heading on a train trip. All aboard! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Orchard Books.
School Library Journal has released an incredible collection of articles that address diversity in children’s and teen literature. They have broken the collection into sections like Collection Development, Interviews, News Articles, and blog posts. They also point you towards recommended sites that focus on diversity.