Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall by Anne Sibley O’Brien, illustrated by Susan Gal (InfoSoup)
The second seasonal book by this author and illustrator duo welcomes autumn. A series of hinged pages open to reveal the magic of this season. Right before each gatefold is opened, there is a magical word that punctuates the book, “Open Sesame” and “Shazam!” As each page opens a moment in fall is revealed from the cloud-filled milkweed to changing leaf colors to pumpkins becoming jack-o-lanterns. It is all a dazzling magical show of seasonal change and joy.
O’Brien captures classic autumn moments in this book that all children will relate to. There are apples, pumpkins, and animals preparing for the approaching winter. School buses arrive, cranberries are harvested, and leaves blanket the ground. It is all captured with a smile and a nod, no fear or worry at the changing seasons here, just a pleasure in the wonder of nature around us.
Gal’s illustrations share that same delight in the transformation of fall. She shows parts of autumn that are not mentioned in the text, making it all the more fun to explore the illustrations. Children will enjoy the many small details in the images as well as opening the pages to reveal the magic inside. This is very intelligently designed.
A delightfully warm and magical look at autumn and the pleasures of the season. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.
A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young (InfoSoup)
When Lucy sends away for her 25 cent unicorn, she has big dreams of what it’s going to look like. It is sure to be blue with a pink tail and pink mane. She will ride on him and name him Sparkle. But when the box finally arrives, Sparkle is not what she expected at all. He does love cupcakes, but that’s not all he loves to eat. He also eats underwear, his flower necklace and the tutu Lucy puts on him. She can’t ride him at all and he doesn’t behave at show-and-tell. Lucy decides to return Sparkle, but the man can’t come and get him until the next day. In the meantime, Sparkle turns out to be scared of storms, butterflies love him, and he makes Lucy laugh. Perhaps it’s not important to be the perfect unicorn after all.
I must admit that I expected this book to be overly sweet, rather too sparkly and filled with too much princess and unicorn fluff. However, it’s not that kind of a picture book at all and I can’t resist a book that surprises me this much. Even better, it’s a unicorn book with a “unicorn” that farts, smells and has fleas. In fact, it’s a unicorn book about a goat and a girl who learns to love him. And in the end, I think readers are going to fall for Sparkle too and realize that the idealized unicorn may be very dull compared to one very active goat.
Young’s illustrations are very appealing. She does a mix of large format pages and then more detailed ones that show all of the trouble that Sparkle manages to get into. Lucy imagines herself as a princess, but throughout is clearly a colorful little girl who loves to pretend and imagine. Readers will immediately know that Sparkle is not a unicorn, but will love the fact that he’s a goat with a heart-shaped mark on his side.
A sparkling and clever story about new friends that defy expectations. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.