Nibbles the Book Monster by Emma Yarlett
Nibbles is a monster who eats his way through all sorts of things, but his favorites are books. Soon Nibbles has left this picture book entirely and chewed his way right into a fairy tale instead. There he meets Goldilocks who desperately tries to explain the huge damage Nibbles leaves behind to the three angry bears. Nibbles next moves on to Little Red Riding Hood where Little Red is entirely shut out of the story and Nibbles saves Grandma from the wolf. Next comes Jack and the Beanstalk where Nibbles bites a bit of giant rump and steals the golden goose. The goose drops Nibbles back into his cage but wait, could it be that he is nibbling once again?
Yarlett very successfully combines a hungry little yellow monster with fractured fairy tales in this dynamic picture book. She keeps the menu lean and focused, just enough of a glimpse of each of the stories to understand the story clearly and then Nibbles messes everything up and dashes off. The story books are built into the pages as flaps to turn, adding to the appeal of the book. The same is true of Nibbles’ cage where children both release him in the beginning and capture him again at the end.
The artwork is filled with humor and the flaps add a level of participation to the book. Yarlett’s art really works well in the small story books themselves where her style changes as one enters each book. There is the playful cartoon of Goldilocks, the muted black-and-white colors with pops of red for Little Red Riding Hood, and a more vintage feel for Jack and the Beanstalk. These changes in the artistic style really make each book feel unique and as if they really have just been discovered in a pile.
Cleverly designed and immensely appealing, this picture book is worth a nibble or two. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Kane Miller.
Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki (InfoSoup)
Montgomery has two best friends who are the reason that she can make it through high school at all. They have a Mystery Club at school where they are the only members and they explore the mysteries of the universe. Thomas loves to talk about superheroes and Naoki focuses on crystals. With Monty’s two moms and Thomas being bullied for being gay, Monty knows there is hate in the world, something made even clearer when a preacher arrives in town putting up signs against people who are gay. When Monty buys The Eye of Know online, she doesn’t expect it to work any better than their other experiments, but soon the Eye seems to be channeling Monty’s personal anger and exacting revenge.
Tamaki captures the anger of a teenager with precision here. It all feels deeply organic, often not being logical at all, lashing out at those she loves, and withdrawing into her room. The issues that Monty is furious about are so tangible both in her life and in her friendships, yet she goes much farther than those who love her would want her to. There is a sense of her reaching a cliff of anger and having to make a choice of how she is going to be in the world. It’s a powerful place to set a YA novel and works well.
The magical realism in the book is done well too. It strikes a balance between being entirely believable but also allowing readers to see it as something that could be unrelated too. Readers will get to see what their own opinions of mysteries of the universe are in this well-written novel.
A novel about anger and its positive and negative sides, this book will speak to young teens navigating their own issues. Appropriate for ages 12-14.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt (InfoSoup)
This picture book is a wonderful piece of word play. On each page, animals act out the version of their names as verbs. Quails quail in fear. Fish fish with lines and hooks trying to catch other fish. Bats swing bats at baseballs. Slugs wear boxing gloves and try to slug one another. The book goes on and on, each one funnier than the last. The book nicely offers the definition of the verb because some of them can be unusual for young readers. The book ends appropriately with kids kidding.
Park’s writing is simplicity itself, just the two words next to each other, noun and verb and then the definition of the verb. She also offers a chart of the words at the back of the book that explains the origins of both the nouns and verbs so young readers interested in language can explore the words more deeply.
The illustrations by Reinhardt are so important to this book, allowing young readers to immediately understand what is happening even in the more esoteric words. She makes them all work clearly and well, even quailing, craning and badgering. It’s a very impressive feat and one that makes this book full of appeal.
Grand wordplay, this book offers a fun look at word pairs. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski (InfoSoup)
This is the third and final book in the Winner’s Trilogy. Arin is now fighting to keep his country from once again falling into the hands of the Valorians. He has a new alliance with the Dacran queen who has sent her brother to monitor the war and Arin. Arin is trying to convince himself that he doesn’t love Kestrel anymore after she rejected him so clearly. Kestrel is being sent to a work camp where no one knows who she is. She mines sulfur by day, her strength increased by a drug in the food and water. At night, another drug allows her to sleep without thinking of what she has lost. Even drugged though, Kestrel cannot help but try to escape. When news comes of Kestrel’s death from disease in a remote area, Arin refuses to believe it. Then he gets a whisper of her true circumstances and sets off to find her. But it may be far too late for them.
Rutkoski has managed to keep this romantic fantasy trilogy entirely engaging and powerful through the entire series. In this third book, readers will once again discover her skill in writing battles and fight scenes which do not scrimp on blood, sweat and emotions. She is also highly skilled in creating a world that feels real with the various kingdoms at war and two people caught between them.
And then there is the romance as well. Here readers who adore Arin and Kestrel get to watch them reconnect and rebuild what was stolen from them. It is a romance of timid and tender beginnings, false starts and sudden flares of passion. It is written with a delicacy that is beautiful, particularly against the backdrop of war, personal risk and sacrifice.
A glorious end to a remarkable fantasy romance trilogy, fans will need to know how the story ends. Now we can look forward to what is next from the talented author. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo (InfoSoup)
When a puppy comes to live with his new cat mother, he is scared. But his mother reassures him. He tries to give himself stripes so he looks more like her, but she says there is no need to change at all. She likes that they are different and the puppy does too. His new mom takes care of him and plays with him. Not all days are perfect, but his mother tells him that they can do better next time and that it is OK. This is a portrait of a newly formed family finding their way together.
Galindo captures the emotions of a newly adopted child in this picture book. She tells the story with a frank simplicity that really works, not trying to explain away the emotions but allowing them to show in their messiness as a reassurance that such emotions will not undo a new adoption. Galindo also shows the connection building and love that an adoptive family feels. Her decision to use a single parent is one that is not always seen in picture books about adoption.
The art is very effective. Large on the page, it is done in a limited palette of oranges, yellows and grays. The differences between cat mother and dog child are beautifully clear and the part where the puppy paints stripes on himself is a visual reminder of the desire to be a solid family unit. Just the use of a dog and cat as the characters was a brilliant choice. It is clear to children that they are very different and could even have points of view that are opposites.
A simple and strong new picture book about adoption from the child’s point of view. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:
11 Children’s Books That Pass The Bechdel Test
in children’s books goes deeper than race
How One Woman Is Helping Black Kids See Themselves In Books
I Ate Like My Favorite Children’s Book Characters
PJ Lynch is Ireland’s new children’s laureate
Sorry, Junie B.: Early Chapter Book Characters I Actually Like – GeekDad
Behind Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Success May Surprise You
This could become the most expensive ever children’s book if it sells for £2m
Books are back. Only the technodazzled thought they would go away | Simon Jenkins
Dems Try To Stop Republicans From Making Library of Congress Use Term ‘Illegal Alien’
Newfoundland To Shutter More than Half its Libraries
San Jose council might put off library changes to ‘explore’ new partnership
The Bell in the Bridge by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Barry Root (InfoSoup)
Stuck at his dull grandparents’ house in the summer, Charlie is left alone most of the time. He spends time down by the stream collecting tadpoles, using his weed-whacking stick, and dropping stones from the iron bridge that crosses the stream. One day, he discovers that when he hits the bridge with a stone, it rings like a bell and echoes down the valley. He does this again and again and sometimes there seems to be a faint third “bong” that sounds. His grandmother explains that that is just how echoes work, but Charlie is sure that there is another person on a similar iron bridge ringing it too in response. Before he is able to solve the mystery, Charlie returns home, but not before readers discover the answer.
Poet Ted Kooser has turned his poetic writing to another book for children with another grand result. Kooser invites readers into Charlie’s world, weaving slow days of summer carefully with his words. He shows the beauty of these slow days, the potential for discovery of things that would otherwise be unnoticed in the fast pace of video games and TV. These are old-fashioned summer days but ones that modern children can discover too if they are willing to head outside, collect their own jars of creatures and sticks, and hit things with stones.
Root’s illustrations are filled with golden summer sun. Even the cool shade near the stream is dappled with it. The bridge across the stream is structural and one can clearly understand how it rings like a bell. The countryside is filled with greens and yellow oranges, showing open fields bordered with stream and trees. It’s a world to explore.
A gorgeous picture book that shows the luminous nature of summer days spent outside with a good mystery to keep you occupied. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Bob Shea (InfoSoup)
Haiku poetry is turned into a guessing game in this delightful picture book. One animal after another is described in haiku format and then the reader is asked to guess what animal it is. The answer is revealed with a turn of the page. This simple idea is engaging for youngsters learning about poetry and also works as a more basic picture book for younger listeners. It is that ease of use that makes this book so engaging for various age levels.
Caswell’s haiku are exceptional in the way they offer clues that children can understand and yet conform to the strict haiku format rules. They also read as haiku and real poems, each one working as a stand-alone haiku as well as a clue in the game of the book. This takes real skill, particularly since it looks so very effortless on the page.
Shea’s illustrations are loud, dynamic and funny. From the almost round bumblebee and the grinning flower to the googly-eyed frog , they are simple and also capture the essence of the animal they are depicting. They are filled with energy and life, making the book all the more fun.
This is the ideal book to introduce children to haiku since it makes the experience completely engaging and game-like. Appropriate for ages 3-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.
Rain Fish by Lois Ehlert (InfoSoup)
Rain fish only appear when it rains, coming out of the debris in the gutters. Formed of lost receipts, bottle caps, feathers, socks, leaves and more. They swim down the streets, along the gutters and on the sidewalks. You have to look fast, because they disappear quickly. These are fish who swim off to different seas, unable to be caught by fishermen.
This picture book encourages children to look at debris and discarded items in a different way, seeing forms in them and wonder as well. The book’s text is simple, single lines of text on double page spreads which create rain fish that are larger than life. The end pages feature the various objects not made into fish with the objects labeled at the end of the book. This is a gorgeous book, playful and filled with artistic fun.
As always, the illustrations in Ehlert’s books are the treat. Here she captures the fluidity of fish, their forms and fins with a series of objects. The youngest of children may want to name the objects the fish are made of, making this art very accessible and an opportunity to talk about the illustrations. It is also a great introduction to collages and classes or groups could do their own fish or other animals.
Another solid and striking book from a masterful book maker, this picture book is another winner for Ehlert. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.