This Is Gus by Chris Chatterton (9780593097366)
Gus is the sort of dog that doesn’t like much. He doesn’t like being petted, going on walks, playing fetch, or making friends. He doesn’t like birthdays either. Then a little dog enters his life. The little dog explains that once he arrived, Gus started liking all sorts of things like baths together and hugs. But the one thing that Gus really loves is sausages. He loves everything about sausages. So does the little dog! But Gus doesn’t like to share. But there just might be one thing that Gus likes more than sausages.
Chatteron’s humor is marvelously deadpan. His timing is impeccable throughout the book, particularly the reveals. At first the book seems to not have a specific narrator but that reveal of the little, perky dog speaking about Gus is a delight. The ending too has a well-timed and touching moment that is simple but perfection.
The text is very simple, so the illustrations carry much of the story. They are particularly important to capture the neutrality of Gus with his natural frown. Big and bold, the illustrations work well for sharing the book aloud.
Hilarious and just as satisfying as a sausage feast. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Penguin Workshop.
Tad by Benji Davies (9780062563590)
Tad was a very small tadpole, smaller that all of her tadsiblings. The others warned her that if she couldn’t keep up with them, she would be eaten by Big Blub, the huge nasty fish at the bottom of their pond. So Tad swam twice as hard to keep up with everyone and kept to the shallow parts of the pond. Gradually, the other tadpoles started to change, growing legs and losing their tales. But Tad still had her tail and steadily the other tadpoles disappeared. Eventually, she was the only one still left in the water, hiding from Big Blub. Then one day, Big Blub appeared. Now Tad had one choice, leap out of the water or be eaten!
Davies has written a deep and marvelous picture book about being a late bloomer and then having change thrust upon you. Tad faces her challenges with lots of grit and determination, but eventually that isn’t quite enough as she is left behind by the others. Still, it is her courage that saves her in the end, allowing her to figure out what happened to her siblings after all.
The art here is great, filled with murky pond greens, deep seaweed teals, the blackness around Big Blub, and the moonlit blue of water at night. Tad has a glowing yellow eye, different from her siblings that lets readers find her even in a school of tadpoles.
A grand story sure to make your heart leap. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins.
A New Green Day by Antoinette Portis (9780823444885)
Welcome to your new day. The sun invites you to play when you wake up, creating a square on your pillow. Creatures are up and moving, snails scribbling across the sidewalk, inchworms measuring out their paths, and tadpoles punctuating the streams. There are things to find: leaves with paths imprinted on them, pebbles smoothed by the water. Then a storm arrives with lightning and thunder, rain pounding down. Mud is created to wriggle your toes in. Long shadows capture the approaching evening until night falls with a sky of stars and the voice of a cricket thrumming you to sleep.
Portis creates quite an invitation to head outside and experience nature with all of your senses from touching stones and leaves to feeling the rain to hearing the thunder and seeing the stars. It is all an immersive experience for the reader. Portis’ text is deceptively short and simple. Yet within each four-line verse she creates almost haiku moments of discovery.
The art was done in brush and sumi ink, leaf prints, and vine charcoal with the lettering done by hand. The illustrations are large and bold, offering a book that will work well shared with a group. They have a wonderful natural feel to them, tactile and warm.
Ideal for a summer day. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Neal Porter Books.
The Word for Friend by Aidan Cassie (9780374310462)
Kemala, the pangolin, loved everything that was new and different when they moved. There were new foods, new smells, new clothing to admire. But there was also a new language to learn. When Kemala headed to school, she realized that no one could understand her. So she curled into a ball in dismay. She stayed that way until recess, when she climbed high in a tree to get away from everyone. She sat on a branch cutting animals out of leaves, until Ana found her there. Kemala showed Ana how to cut leaves too, and Ana loved it even though she made a big mess. While Kemala didn’t want to go back to school at all, she steadily found herself learning a new language with Ana’s help, particularly through animals they cut out. Until finally, Kemala is brave enough to try talking to the entire class.
Cassie has written a universal book about friendship, belonging and learning a new language. She wisely chose Esperanto as Kemala’s new language in the book. Esperanto is not associated with a specific country, so Kemala could be moving anywhere in the world. Cassie gives the entire story room to breathe a bit, offering time for Kemala to relax and start to learn in a very believable way. The connection with one specific kind friend is also great to see, as well as a tactile way for them to connect with one another without speaking at first.
The art is welcoming and friendly with all sorts of unusual animals in the class that Kemala joins. The choice of pangolin as a main character works particularly well, both her connection with her mother but also when she gets overwhelmed, the ability to just curl up protectively.
A great book to talk about language learners and welcoming new students to school. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.
Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (9780525555568)
Ellie and her family were forced to move to Echo Mountain a few years ago after losing everything in the Great Depression. The life is rough and much wilder than living in town, but it’s a life that Ellie thrives in. However, the dangers are larger too. When Ellie’s father is injured while felling a tree and left in a coma, Ellie must start taking new responsibilities for herself, her mother, her older sister and her younger brother. She even takes the blame for the accident, unwilling to let her siblings know the roles they played that day. Ellie decides that she must figure out a way to bring her father back, though her family doesn’t approve. She heads up the mountain to seek help from “the hag” who lives there, but discovers someone in dire need there too. As Ellie makes new friends and builds new connections, new chances and opportunities are revealed.
One never knows what world will be revealed by a new Wolk novel, but readers can always be confident in a book that is extremely well written, robustly researched, and filled with unforgettable characters. Wolk also always includes settings that are fascinating and unusual, here it is Echo Mountain, wild and dangerous but also beautiful and sustaining. It’s a setting to fall in love with just as Ellie has.
The characters here are amazingly well crafted. From Ellie as the protagonist all the way through even her rather prickly sister and her demanding younger brother. Everyone makes sense at a deep level, reacting to the situation they are in and doing their best with what they have. The entire book resonates with our current times of job loss, economic downturn, and resilience.
Evocative and powerful, this is one of Wolk’s best and that’s certainly saying something! Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from library copy.
What Could That Be? by Reza Dalvand (9781338530193)
On a beautiful day, something small lay in the middle of a clearing in the forest. The thing glittered red and green. The leopard believes it is one of her spots that has fallen off and runs off to warn the others. The crow thinks it is part of a star and that the entire sky may be collapsing. The fox and bear thought it might be something that would bring humans into the forest. The owl was certain it was a dragon’s egg. The cat thought it might be poop and covered it up. Throughout the forest confusion rang out, but that was a long time ago. The thing is still there. What could it be?
This picture book is a delightful mix of Chicken Little fears and an unsolvable mystery for the reader. The book is filled with the theories from different creatures in the woods, almost all of them leading to a sense of panic, even though they really don’t know what the object is. Readers will expect to have the question solved by the end of the story, but this Swiss import has a more European twist. It leaves the question still open, ready for readers to fill in the blank.
The illustrations are done in oil and crayons. They depict a rainbow-colored forest filled with animals of many colors, some of them just as bright and varied as the trees themselves. The bright colors add to the imaginative feel of the tale, tying it nicely to folklore.
One enigma offers plenty of solutions, do you have one? Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Scholastic.
13 Stories about Harris by Amy Schwartz (9780823442492)
Harris is a little boy who lives with his parents in his urban neighborhood. In the thirteen (quite short) stories in this book, he is very busy. He draws a huge dragon on the sidewalk, helps in the kitchen, goes on a windy walk, attends his first birthday party, and heads to preschool for the first time. On Thanksgiving, Harris was a truck all day. On other days, he goes to the beach or takes care of a friend’s hamster. There is a lot to do!
Schwartz once again captures the activities and essence of being a preschooler. Harris is wonderfully open to all of his small adventures, experiencing a lot of them for the first time. The book exudes warmth and a family that allows their small child the space to explore and make mistakes but are also always attentive and around to help. The charm of these thirteen stories is remarkable, showing children that they are right where they need to be and that many of these experiences are universal to all small children.
The illustrations show a dynamic and diverse urban neighborhood where Harris is living. The illustrations have plenty of white space, the city streets sometimes taking over with their brick buildings and sidewalks.
Gorgeous preschool vignettes that show the delights of this age. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Holiday House.
The winners of the 2020 Eisner Awards have been announced. However, questions remain about their online voting process and personal information being revealed, as covered by The Hollywood Reporter. Here are the winners for the youth categories as well as general categories won by amazing folks who create youth comics:
BEST PUBLICATION FOR EARLY READERS
Comics: Easy as ABC by Ivan Brunetti
BEST PUBLICATION FOR KIDS
Guts by Raina Telgemeier
BEST PUBLICATION FOR TEENS
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me