Review: Betty Goes Bananas by Steve Antony

betty goes bananas

Betty Goes Bananas by Steve Antony

Released December 23, 2014.

Betty is a gorilla and being a gorilla, she loves bananas.  So when she finds one on the ground, she wants to eat it so much.  But she can’t open it, even with her teeth, or her feet!  So what is a little gorilla to do?  Well, Betty throws a fit and cries and screams.  Then she calms down and Mr. Toucan tells her that there is no need to act like that, he will show her how to peel the banana.  And he does.  But Betty had wanted to peel it herself.  And she starts once again to cry and scream and kick.  Mr. Toucan stays and waits for her to calm down again, telling her that she can peel the next banana she finds.  Betty is happy and is about to finally eat the banana.  When it breaks.  And I bet you can guess what she does next!

This is a rather merry book about the strong emotions that come with being a toddler.  Betty is a jolly little gorilla until she is disappointed, something that children and adults alike will recognize immediately.  The addition of Mr. Toucan as an adult figure works well here, and I appreciate that he allows Betty to calm down before simply telling her that there is no need for her to act that way.  The entire book is filled with humor, from the splendid temper tantrums that have a rhythm and repetition all their own, to the believability of the various things that set Betty off.  It’s well paced and nicely timed with gorgeous pauses built in before the tantrums.

Antony’s art adds much to the appeal of the book.  The bulk of the book is done with sunshine yellow backgrounds, while the tantrum sections are a bright red.  Little Betty does actually throw herself on the ground, kick her feet and scream!  Her emotions are clear and young readers will enjoy seeing her throw her tantrums and recover too.

Dynamic, funny and oh so appropriate for toddlers, this picture book will be enjoyed by those who throw tantrums as well as those who don’t.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.

Review: The King and the Magician by Jorge Bucay

king and the magician

The King and the Magician by Jorge Bucay, illustrated by Gusti

There once was a powerful king who asked his subjects who the most powerful man in the kingdom was, and they replied that he was, of course.  The one day, the King heard about a man who had a different power than he had, a humble magician who had the power to predict the future.  Even worse, the King discovered that the magician was well respected and beloved.  So the King called the Magician before him after devising an evil plan.  He would ask the Magician if he could really tell the future.  If the Magician answered “No” then he proved he had no power.  If he answered “Yes” then the King would ask him to predict his own death.  Either way, the King would immediately kill him.  But then a strange thing happened and the Magician declared that he could see the future and that he would die at the same time as the King.  Suddenly, the King’s plan meant nothing.  He could not kill the Magician without hurting himself.  So instead he started protecting the Magician.  Still, the Magician had much more to teach him, if the King would listen.

Bucay has created a picture book that has depths to it.  It is a fairy tale of a king and a magician but it is also about creating one’s fate, listening to wisdom and being willing to change.  It is a book that continues even after some may have ended it with the Magician ensconced in luxury and being protected by the King.  Happily, it doesn’t end there, because the more profound part of the story follows when the relationship between the two men burgeons into friendship and deep caring for one another.  It is a story of how enemies become friends, how power can be used for good.  In a word, it’s exceptional.

Gusti’s illustrations add to that feeling of a very rich and amazing read.  Using paint and collage, the illustrations have a still regal bearing.  There is a strength and solidity to them that grounds this story, making it more realistic.  There are also touches of whimsy, like the teddy bear that accompanies the powerful king everywhere. 

Strong, enchanting and profound, this picture book will start discussions about power, enemies and truth.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.