Review: Naked! by Michael Ian Black


Naked! by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

A little boy streaks naked through his house, followed closely by his mother holding a towel.  He leaves a trail of bubbles and puddles behind, shouting “I’m naked!” as he runs.  He even manages to snag a cookie and eat it naked as his mother towels him off.  Then he has a great idea!  He could just dress this way all the time: at school, on the playground, dancing…  But wait!  Capes are cool too.  So then he wears just a cape and manages to be mostly naked but also caped as he runs around.  Finally, he catches a chill and agrees because he is so cold to put on pants, a top, even slippers, though he keeps the cape on.  And it is off to bed, dressed and warm.

This book perfectly captures the joy of a young child in being entirely naked and running around.  Parents will immediately recognize the stage and children will giggle along as the child in the book dreams of all of the places he can go naked.  Perhaps best of all in the book is the mother’s response which is acceptance and then managing to get the little boy dressed without tears or tantrums.  She respects his enthusiasm but also gets him dressed in the end.

Ohi’s illustrations are vibrant and joyous.  She fills the page with the running little boy, moving across the page celebrating just how naked he is.  The illustrations are cute, clear and large format, so they will work with a group.  Beware though, reading this too a group of preschoolers could have wild results!

Silly, happy and great fun, this naked romp is one that fans of No, David! will enjoy.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Review: Brother Hugo and the Bear by Katy Beebe

brother hugo and the bear

Brother Hugo and the Bear by Katy Beebe, illustrated by S. D. Schindler

Brother Hugo’s library book is due, but he can’t return it because it was eaten by a bear!  So Brother Hugo is instructed that he must create a new copy of the book.  First, Brother Hugo has to go to the monastery of the Grand Chartreuse where they have a copy of the book.  On the way, he can hear the bear snuffling behind him, but manages to reach the monastery and safety in time.  On his return to his own monastery, he can hear the bear snoring in his sleep, so he hurries back.  Then the real work begins, but he has the help of his fellow monks.  They must get a sheepskin, stretch it and scrape it, get parchment paper, and get them ready to write upon.  Then comes making the pens and inks that will be required.  Finally, Brother Hugo must sit and copy the book word for word.  Finally, the book has to be bound.  As he worked, Brother Hugo could hear the bear and the snuffling.  When the book was completed, the monks offered Brother Hugo a clever way to get to Grand Chartreuse safely despite the word-hungry bear, but even with their help Hugo finds himself face-to-face again with the great beast looking for books.

In this book, Beebe has created a fascinating look at the treasure and value of books and the efforts that it once took to create them by hand.  By inserting the question of the bear into the book, the story moves ahead very effectively, offering a nice plot point in what could have been a much quieter tale of book making.  The bear also offers a touch of humor into the story, for even those of us who agree that books and words are as sweet as honey will be amazed at this bear’s appetite for books.

Schindler’s art incorporates word art that hearkens back to illuminated texts such as the one that Brother Hugo recreates in the book.  Done in fine lines and with precision, the art is detailed and adds much to the story.  I particularly enjoy the scenes of Brother Hugo crossing the countryside, because they clearly evoke a different time and place.

This historical fiction nicely incorporates how books were once made into a tale filled with gentle humor and one hungry bear.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.