Category: Book Reviews

Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis

Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis

Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis (InfoSoup)

Yelfred and Omek come from the planet Boborp where they have been best frints since they were little blobbies. They do everything together from eating yunch to playing eye ball. But sometimes even playing eye ball can lead to a long argument. For his birthday, Yelfred gets a space craft to ride around. He doesn’t want Omek to borrow it because he’s sure that Omek will crash it. When Omek takes it anyway and manages to shmackle it up, Yelfred uses his teef and not his words to express himself. Slowly, their friendship manages to repair itself just like they repair the space craft together.

The wordplay in this picture book is great fun. Portis takes English words and makes them just related enough and placed nicely into context so that the Boborp language can be understood. It makes the picture book a great pick for reading aloud. She also uses a lot of humor throughout the book, comparing the lovely behavior of Earthlings to the rather naughty behavior of those on planet Boborp, when actually the behavior is definitely seen here on Earth too. Children will love the language play and the laughter.

The illustrations are modern and bright with a vintage flair. The two aliens are delightfully friendly on the page, though their teef are quite sharp. The illustrations are critical in helping decode the language and in repairing the space craft and the friendship.

A laugh-out-loud picture book full of playfulness and fun. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat

Are We There Yet by Dan Santat

Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat (InfoSoup)

Caldecott Medalist Santat shows the beauty of a bored mind in his new picture book. On a long car ride to his grandmother’s house, a boy gazes out his window and his brain gets bored. Then time seems to stretch and slow down. The world shifts with the book turning entirely upside down! Suddenly the car is back in time. Next to a steam train with bandits and aboard a pirate ship. They make it to medieval times and then back to the building of the pyramids. Finally, they are all the way back to the time of the dinosaurs.Time can start to move again, too quickly and they find themselves in the future. Then suddenly, they are at Grandma’s house where the boy is all too willing to head back home.

Santat takes the classic dull car ride that every child has experienced and shows how imagination can change the entire trip, aided by a healthy dose of boredom. Told primarily in images, this story does have commentary by the boy and his parents as well as a framing narrative that speaks to the power of boredom. The flip of the book is cleverly done where you have to turn the pages backwards guided by the helpful arrows to remind you. It feels different and wild, adding to the experience.

It is the illustrations here that make the book so much fun. There are small touches like Beekle toys in the car that tie this to Santat’s other works. Watch the parents’ clothing change with each new time period as well as their over-the-top reactions to what they are seeing. The images change from comic-like frames to large double-page spreads. The space is used very intelligently, allowing for new reveals with page turns and creating tension as they move through time.

A great new picture book from a master author/illustrator, this picture book will have you looking forward to your next car ride. May it be filled with boredom. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Fish by Liam Francis Walsh

Fish by Liam Francis Walsh

Fish by Liam Francis Walsh (InfoSoup)

A boy and his dog head out onto the lake to fish one morning. Both boy and dog have their own fishing poles. They first catch the letter F. Then the letter I. The letter S is next. But beware the huge letter C that is circling the boat. When they hook a Q, it is thrown back into the water. Soon though they are caught in a whirlpool of letters, swept underwater among schools of them zigging and zagging. When the boy makes it back to the boat, he has the H under his arm, but loses it as the huge letter C reappears. Not to worry, his dog has saved the day with the H to complete FISH. But was that what they were trying to catch?

This wordless picture book depends on its wonderful illustrations to carry the story. And do they ever! Done with a limited color palette of pale blue and bright red, they shine on the page. Each character also shines with personality and energy. The ending of the book is very satisfying, especially since all readers will think that the goal was to catch FISH when actually it was to do something entirely different. It’s a great twist that is filled with jolly cheer.

A standout wordless picture book that illustrates how letters form words in the most energetic and playful of ways. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban

Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban

Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban, illustrated by Katie Kath (InfoSoup)

Max’s father has an apartment of his own now where Max spends weekends. On his first visit to the apartment, Max is amazed at how white and clean everything is. Everything except his bedroom which is filled with football things, even though Max doesn’t particularly care about football any more. He is much more into being a spy. So Max and his father spend their weekend getting to know his new neighborhood by dressing as spies, taking covert photographs, eating pancakes, and following a mysterious man. Following visits to his father’s apartment involve meeting the neighbors, walking dogs, doing some homework, having a friend over and buying a couch. As Max settles into his new weekend routines with his dad, he learns a lot about what makes a place a home.

Urban writes with a gentleness about this new circumstance in Max’s life. Max is refreshingly unburdened by guilt in his parent’s divorce. The focus instead is on the new place to live, figuring out the different relationship, and realizing that a person can happily have two homes. Throughout the book, real love and devotion is shown by both Max and his father. There is a beautiful flexibility from both of them in each story and also a willingness to listen and learn from one another. Each also takes care of the other emotionally, not wanting to hurt one another. Which is also a very nice change from children lashing out in books about divorce.

The illustrations by Kath make this book very approachable for young readers. They nicely break up the text, plus add to the humor. Readers can see Max’s father in his full spy disguise as well as enjoying the finished school project and the furry fun of two basset hounds. The pictures add to the warmth and love that exude from this book.

A loving book about father and son relationships after a divorce, this novel for young readers demonstrates that life and love continues. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Lion Lessons by Jon Agee

Lion Lessons by Jon Agee

Lion Lessons by Jon Agee (InfoSoup)

A boy heads into a shop to take lessons in being a lion. First he has to don the appropriate outfit, complete with mane. His instructor is a professional and informs him that there are seven steps to becoming a lion. First though they have to stretch. The first step is looking fierce, but the boy’s poses don’t impress his teacher. The second step is roaring, but the he wasn’t loud enough. The third step was what to eat and the boy only wanted spaghetti, not the various animals. Prowling Around came next but the boy kept forgetting his tail. Sprinting had the boy running far up a hill and exhausted by the end. Pouncing didn’t work at all. Looking Out for Your Friends though suddenly had the boy acting a lot more lion-like than ever before!

I love Agee’s surreal picture book and his absurd look at life. This picture book is a delight with the farcical attempts of a boy trying to act like a lion alongside the stern professorial lion himself. The pairing of the two of them is wonderfully funny. Children will relate easily to the joy of pretending to be an animal and will see the humor in this much more formal way to learn something that is usually done so casually.

Agee’s illustrations are done in his signature style that is minimalist and effective. The illustrations are simple and will work well with a group thanks to their large format. There is plenty of humor in the illustrations as well, from the lion stretches as yoga poses to the glower of the lion himself. It is all filled with lovely timing too, all designed for maximum joy.

A great and surprising pick for back-to-school, this picture book will have them roaring with laughter. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

City Shapes by Diana Murray

City Shapes by Diana Murray

City Shapes by Diana Murray, illustrated by Brian Collier (InfoSoup)

Various shapes are shown in a vibrant urban city in this picture book. A young girl walks through the city, takes public transportation and notices shapes as she goes. There are the squares of boxes and trucks. Rectangles form glass on the skyscrapers, windows and benches. Triangles are flags and sails. Wheels are circles along with manhole covers. Musical instruments in a band show oval shapes in their drums and lights. Diamonds fly as kites and stars fill the night sky. The girl returns home to bed, just as the pigeon who took flight on the first page returns to her nest, both listening to the noises of the city around them.

This dynamic picture book celebrates the beauty of urban life, the movement and rush of it all, the variety you find there. Seen through the lens of finding shapes in real life, this picture book would be a great way to look outside your own windows and see shapes there too. The bright friendliness of the city streets makes for a refreshing picture book. The text reads as a poem, filled with rhymes and rhythms that match the city setting.

Collier’s illustrations are a gorgeous mix of media, incorporating collage in a way that makes the shapes stand out but also fit into the setting too. It’s very cleverly done. The little girl in the book is based on Collier’s own young daughter. Her face is filled with enthusiasm throughout the book, her attitude wonderfully contagious.

A beautiful, colorful and shape-ly book that celebrates urban life. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti

The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti

The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti

When there is an explosion on Mount Kazoo someone must investigate. So King Cornelius who is quite vain and rather scattered and his magic-wielding daughter, Bing, set off with the royal inventor Torq to see what has happened. They take Torq’s latest invention the “gonkless carriage” to get there. As they discover a deserted village at the top of the mountain, the three realize that something much bigger than a natural phenomenon is going on. As they solve the mystery of the explosion, it will take all of their scientific and magic know-how to battle a villainous wizard who is risking the future of the entire kingdom.

This graphic novel has a zany appeal. It is filled with lots of action, plenty of one-liner jokes and three very appealing main characters. From the clueless king with his pride on full display to the two plucky companions, they all have lots of personality to move the story forward. The tension between magic and science also adds energy to the storyline of the book, creating a book where both wizard fans and science fans will find happiness.

The art casts all of the characters as rabbits with their ears high alongside hats and crowns. The art has a cartoon style with subtle coloring that makes the entire world rich with detail. The art and story work well together with the dialogue moving the story along nicely. Pacing is also done well with a rip-roaring and wild pace that will appeal to young readers.

Science, magic and mystery all in one graphic novel! Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.