Stop, Go, Yes, No! by Mike Twohy (9780062469335)
The author of Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run! brings his fast-paced dog to a new concept book this time. In this new title, opposites are the focus. A dog and cat character demonstrate each set of opposites. The cat is asleep, the dog is awake. A chase ensues when the dog wakes the cat up, sending then over and under, smiling and frowning, high and low, hiding and seeking. Along the way the cat gets wet, a mess is made, and finally a compromise is reluctantly agreed to.
Twohy has a great sense of dynamics in this picture book, creating moments of humor and hijinx while still giving readers a compelling story arc. He uses his art to tell the tale, the only words being the pairs of opposites that are shown on the page. The emotions of both the cat and dog are clear and add to the funny nature of the story. Expect plenty of giggles.
An outstanding opposites picture book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from libray copy.
Here are some of the tweets I shared this week:
Meg Medina Revisits Middle School in New Novel
New novels from three of today’s most beloved children’s authors – https://t.co/6iHXF2yhFX
A voice of truth in children’s literature – Kate Dicamillo – AMNY
Wizards, Moomins and pirates: the magic and mystery of literary maps – https://t.co/oolKOF4veb
Author Ibi Zoboi Calls Out Racism and Classism in The Wall Street Journal Book Review
Four Questions with Marie Lu
Good Morning, Neighbor by Davide Cali, illustrated by Maria Dek (9781616896997)
One morning, Mouse wakes up and wants an omelet for breakfast. The trouble is, he doesn’t have an egg. So he asks the blackbird for an egg. Blackbird has flour, but no egg perhaps they could make a cake instead! The two set off to find an egg, and along the way, they gather more and more animals and ingredients. The dormouse has butter. Mole has sugar. Hedgehog has apples. Raccoon has cinnamon. Lizard has raisins. And finally, Bat has an egg! Owl lets them bake the cake in her oven. But when the divvying up of the cake comes into question, does Mouse get anything? After all, she didn’t really contribute something. Or did she?
This book is a clever riff on Stone Soup where everyone’s contributions come together to make something much more special. It uses repetition very nicely to give it a distinct folklore flavor. The final question of whether Mouse gets a slice of cake for initiating the idea and the entire process is an interesting one. The end will satisfy everyone except maybe hungry children who will want some apple cake themselves.
The illustrations add to the folklore appeal with their friendly animals and forest setting that is whimsically depicted. Each animal has their own personality and feel thanks to the illustrations and the way they appear on the page.
A great read-aloud choice that would pair well with autumn stories about apples and baking. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World by Gary Golio (9781627795128)
Carlos Santana was born into a musical family with a father who was a popular mariachi performer. Carlos started learning to read music at age five and to play the violin at age six. But his father is often gone, playing musical gigs around Mexico. His father sends money home to the family, and eventually Carlos’ mother decides to head to America with the children. Carlos earns money playing music for the tourists, but his heart isn’t in it. It isn’t until he hears American blues music for the first time that he discovers his own kind of music. Carlos tries to play with his father’s band but it does not go well. Eventually, his father realizes that his son needs a new instrument, one that goes with his own blend of Latin and blues.
Golio tells a story of Santana’s childhood, focusing on the impact that music had throughout his early days but also the importance of finding his own musical voice that is entirely unique. The relationship between father and son is a critical one in this picture book biography, resonating throughout Santana’s childhood. Golio tells a complex story and yet keeps it straightforward for a young audience.
The illustrations are done in mixed media of torn paper, acrylics and printed inks. They are layered and deep, the colors swirling on the page. The faces of the various family members and Santana are particularly arresting. The art has a great vibrancy and a feel of freedom around it.
A great pick for libraries looking for quality biographies of musicians. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy provided by Henry Holt & Co.
The Little Barbarian by Renato Moriconi (9780802855091)
In this wordless picture book, a barbarian mounts his horse and proceeds across a series of challenges and obstacles. They leap a crevasse, are attacked by a flock of birds, jump a pit of snakes, dodge arrows, avoid orcs and much more. Page after page is a new obstacle and the little barbarian blithely marching, leaping or galloping across the page. Children who enjoy fantasy creatures will love this barbarian who faces the challenges with his eyes closed and sword and shield raised. When the truth is revealed at the end of the book, everyone will want another ride.
There is plenty of space for young imaginations to fill in the stories. That is probably the best part of this. I don’t expect the book to read particularly quickly with small children, who will want to supply monster noises, sword crashes and heroic details to the tale. Still, the oblivious way the barbarian crosses the pages is quite funny. The high and low paths the barbarian takes make perfect sense at the end of the book with the twist. The illustrations are humorous, colorful and filled with imagination, making the book entirely compelling.
A delight of a wordless read, this is one that children with their own toy swords will love. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith (9781534422209)
Cager’s best friend Billy and caretaker Rowan have taken him to his father’s huge cruise-liner spaceship orbiting the moon in order to break his drug habit. It was meant to be for a short period of time but while they are up in the ship, the earth with its thirty wars burns up. Now Billy, Rowan and Cager are the three last humans left alive with thousands of cogs (robots) around them to serve their every need. The cogs usually have one dominant personality trait and unfortunately that can be anger, glee, talkativeness or being constantly horny. As Billy and Cager explore the ship, they find that something strange is going on. Cager is certain that there are human girls aboard the ship because he can smell them. But even more interesting and perplexing, the cogs have started eating one another!
Wow. I fell hard for this wild and zany science fiction novel. It can be read as a rather sexual romp in space with horny robots and aliens intent on destroying the cogs. But Smith uses that tantalizing premise to really ask some deeper questions about humanity, about robots that are so close to being human that it may not matter any more, about love and about survival of a species that may be in its final version. Smith avoids becoming too didactic by continuing to have frantic and funny moments throughout from a tiger-eating giraffe with a French accent to Parker, the perpetually horny personal servant.
It is incredible that Smith keeps enough rein on this book as it strains to break free and become a farce at any moment. Yet he does, partly thanks to Cager, the lead character, who though he is spoiled and beyond wealthy, also has a straight-forward take on life whether beating a cog to death with a shoe or hanging cogs by the neck to save them.
A deep book hidden in farts, horniness and space, this is one incredible teen novel. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Simon & Schuster.
Hammering for Freedom by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by John Holyfield (9781600609695)
Born into slavery in 1810, Bill Lewis grew up on a plantation in Tennessee. There, he was taught to be a blacksmith and soon earned so much money that his owner, Colonel Lewis, allowed him to keep some money for himself. Bill worked for years saving his coins, determined to purchase freedom for himself and his family. Eventually he asked Colonel Lewis if he could rent himself out. The Colonel agreed and charged Bill $350 a year for his limited freedom. Bill purchased a blacksmith shop in Chattanooga and became the first African-American blacksmith in the city. He worked long hours and eventually paid for his wife’s freedom, ensuring that all future children would be born free. He then purchased his own freedom and that of his one son born into slavery. But Bill Lewis was not done yet and keep on working hard until he freed every member of his family, including his siblings and mother.
The determination and tenacity of Bill Lewis is indescribable. In a society designed to hold him down, he managed to find a way forward to freedom. Hubbard makes sure that readers understand how unusual this arrangement was and how gifted Lewis was as a blacksmith. The text keeps the story of Lewis’ life focused and well paced. It is a very readable biography.
The illustrations are rich and luminous. The sharing of emotions and holding emotions back play visibly on the page, demonstrating how much had to be hidden and not disclosed in order to purchase freedom. It also shows in a very clear way how limited that freedom was.
A great addition to nonfiction picture book shelves. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Lee & Low Books.
A Bunch of Punctuation selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Serge Bloch (9781590789940)
This poetry anthology celebrates the various forms of punctuation. It begins with a poem that looks at the range of different punctuation and then moves on to poems about specific types of punctuation. The exclamation point is a superhero in a poem with lots of sounds and naturally, exclamations. The dash gives one a bit of pause. The hyphen creates new combinations. The period is a traffic officer demanding a full stop. The popular apostrophe works hard to show possession and create contractions. One after another, these forms of punctuation are given their own voice and uses it to explain what they do with humor.
Anytime you pick up an anthology by Hopkins, you know you are in for a treat. He has a knack for creating poetry books for children that have child-friendly poetry but also have an arc that gets pages turning. Here the punctuation poems follow one after another in a way that displays their full range and results in a journey rather than a simple series of poetry.
The illustrations by Bloch use punctuation to create bodies for the various characters. He also uses words to create them too. They have the loose feel of doodles, which creates a look at that adds to the friendliness of the book.
Another winner of an anthology from Hopkins. This one will be useful in the classroom and will be enjoyed as a full anthology by readers. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Visitor by Antje Damm (9781776571888)
Elise never leaves her house. She is scared of everything, including spiders, trees and people. But she does like to open her windows to let in fresh air. One day, a paper airplane flies through the open window and into her house. She immediately scooped it into the fire, but she had nightmares about paper planes all night. The next day a boy knocked on Elise’s front door and asked about his plane. He also asked to use the bathroom. Elise let him in. As the boy came down the stairs, he asked about some pictures on the wall, looked at Elise’s collection of books, and asked to be read to. They played together too and had a snack. That night, Elise knew just what to do and made a new paper airplane.
Originally published in Germany, this picture book has a distinct European feel to it. Damm’s text is simple and concise, offering a straight explanation of what is going on. Along the way, the book reveals how limited Elise’s world has become and the courage it takes for her to open the door to a child. It is a book that captures loneliness and agorophobia in a clear way.
It is the illustrations that truly make this book special. Done in cut paper dioramas, the illustrations play with light and color. At first, Elise’s world is dark and gray. As the boy enters the house though, light and bright color come with him. He stays longer and soon the entire room is awash in splashes of bright colors. This more than anything shows the transformation taking place for Elise as she dares to make a new connection.
Great illustrations lift a book about empathy and community. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.