Follow Me by Ellie Sandall (InfoSoup)
A lemur leads his extended family on a journey in this picture book. First he wakes them up and they climb down from the tree encouraged by his “Follow me, follow me, follow me!” They have a lot to do with things to chase after, discover and scare. They climb scrawny trees, munch on cactus for lunch. But when they are crossing the river, they get quite a surprise that has them moving a lot faster! They return to the safety of their tree after that, the book becoming almost sleepy in the end.
Sandall has written a rhyming book that works really nicely thanks to its simplicity. The “follow me” refrain creates a strong structure for the book. She uses the refrain in a variety of ways, from encouragement to warning to eventual dozing sleep. This change in tone is key to the book working so well since it adds dimension and changes in pace as the book moves along.
The illustrations are large and bright, perfect for using with a group of children. Backgrounds are kept simple and geometric with branches, leaves, and plants. The lemurs themselves shine on the page with their ringed tails and round orange eyes.
A simple and fun picture book with plenty of zing. This is one to follow! Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry.
How to Be a Hero by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Chruck Groenink (InfoSoup)
Gideon is a boy who knows exactly what he wants and that is to be a hero. So he reads a lot about heroes and looks forward to having his picture in the newspaper. At first he thinks that in order to be a hero you need to be strong, brave and clever. But then as he reads more stories, he realizes that a lot of heroes just happen to be in the right place at the right time. So Gideon starts walking around looking for opportunities to simply step in and be the hero. One day at the grocery store, Gideon is shopping for candy when something happens. Will Gideon be the hero he hopes to be?
There is something delightfully irreverent about this picture book. It shows glimpses of fairy tale heroes and princes who all become heroes via no skills of their own. Then there is Gideon, a boy in search of fame and acclaim. He is not driven at all by hopes of helping someone, making his search for heroism all the more cynical. As readers watch the opportunity for real heroism literally pass Gideon by, they will realize that it is those who are not searching for fame who are the real heroes. Still, Gideon gets his own taste of fame in the end.
Groenink’s illustrations add to the story. He has small touches in the book that add real life and dimension. While the real life images are more muted, the heroes in the stories are boldly colored and fill the page. That same feel is echoed again in real life when heroism happens at the grocery store. Breaking that moment into steps allows the readers to mistake what is happening at first, deepening the truth about heroism.
A mix of fairy tale heroes, one hero in waiting and one true hero, this picture book is impressive for its tone and attitude, setting it apart on the crowded library shelves. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.