Category: Book Reviews

Now by Antoinette Portis

Now by Antoinette Portis

Now by Antoinette Portis (9781626721371, Amazon)

This picture book celebrates living in the now as a little girl walks readers through her favorite things. Each of them is her favorite because it is the one she is interacting with right then. It is her favorite cloud because it’s the one she is watching. This is her favorite song because it’s the one she is singing.

The book is pure simplicity with its concept and the art. The concept is used throughout the book, the writing straight forward and also celebrating something deeper too. It’s about a connection to the present moment and a joy in just spending time doing exactly what you are doing and loving it.

The art of the picture book also speaks to the connection with the now. Done in thick lines and rich matte colors, the illustrations show the playful nature of simple pleasures in life.

Perfect for those of us who love the book we are reading right now most of all, this picture book is about simple pleasures and enjoying the current moment fully. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Here Comes Teacher Cat by Deborah Underwood

Here Comes Teacher Cat by Deborah Underwood

Here Comes Teacher Cat by Deborah Underwood (9780399539053, Amazon)

The latest in the long Here Comes Cat series, this picture book is just as charming and fun as the earlier ones in the series. In this book, Cat is asked to step in as a substitute teacher. He’s not happy about it at all, since he wants to nap. Plus, he’s not really comfortable around kittens. Cat attempts to get out of it several times, but finally is in front of the class. They try music first, but Cat’s rock and roll approach disturbs other classes. They build with blocks, which turns out brilliantly and offers a snack too! Art is next and it gets really messy just as the teacher returns to the class room. Can Cat and the kittens get everything cleaned up in time?

I love the way that Cat is always teetering just on the edge of disaster throughout the book. He also has is own style of approaching everything that adds to the chaos and the fun. Putting him in charge of a classroom is rather like putting a child in charge, since he react so much that way and the results play out in a similar fashion as Cat figures it all out on the fly.

Just as with the other Cat books, the book has minimal words and Cat communicates by holding up signs with pictures on them. It’s a trick that the kittens learn by the end of the book, which is a great way to end a long day of teaching.

Just right for early days of school, this picture book is silly fun. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

Forest World by Margarita Engle

Forest World by Margarita Engle

Forest World by Margarita Engle (9781481490573, Amazon)

Released August 29, 2017.

Edver isn’t pleased to be headed to Cuba to meet his father for the first time since he was a baby. Now that the laws have changed, families can once again be reunited with people who escaped to the United States from Cuba. Edver has to leave behind the Internet and his favorite video game and cope with power outages and a lack of transportation and other technology. When he gets to Cuba, Edver discovers that he has an older sister that he’d never known about. Luza had stayed with her father in Cuba, wondering why her mother left her behind. Both of their parents work to protect endangered species. Their father protects one special forest in Cuba while their mother travels the world to find newly rediscovered species. As Luza and Edver start to become siblings, they find that a poacher has come to Cuba, drawn by an email they sent to try to get their mother to come. Now it is up to them to protect the forest they both love.

Engle is a master of the verse novel, writing of difficult subjects and using the poetic format to dig deeper than prose would allow. She tells the story in alternating poems in the voices of Edver and Luza as they discover the poverty of Cuba, the wealth of America, and the fact that there are different types of wealth in life like parental attention, grandparents and a sense of home.

Engle explores the world of Lazarus animals and protecting endangered species in this novel. The subject works in a lovely parallel to Cuban Americans being reunited with their families. There is a sense of delicacy and care, a feeling of finding the right habitat suddenly, and a sense of exploration and discovery heightened with surprises.

Another adept verse novel from a true master, this is a book that explores home, habitat and family. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Atheneum.

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, illustrated by Man One (9780983661597, Amazon)

Roy Choi was born in Seoul, Korea and moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was two years old. His family owned restaurants and he grew up loving his mother’s cooking. When his family got successful, they moved into the suburbs where Roy didn’t fit in. He eventually found his way to being a chef and worked in prestigious kitchens until he lost his job. When a friend had the idea to open a food truck that served tacos, Roy agreed. Soon his food truck was a huge success. Still, Roy wanted to do more. He decided to open fast food restaurants in neighborhoods that needed them. Roy stayed in the neighborhoods where he felt most at home and where he was needed, and that’s exactly where you will find the very successful chef today.

This is the third book about chefs and food people by Martin. As with the previous two books, she captures the essence of this person with skill. Her prose is shown as poetry on the page and often reads that way too. Her take on things so succinct and focused, she uses only the necessary words to tell the story. Her collaborator, Lee dances poems on the page that have the feel of modern lyrics.

The illustrations are entirely unique. Done with backgrounds of spray-paint on large canvases that were then photographed, there is a wild energy to them. The play of music and food on the page is apparent, the graffiti inspired art ties to the urban setting and the poorer neighborhoods.

Strong and successful, this picture book captures a modern master of food. Appropriate for ages 6-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

What’s Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle and Friends

What's Your Favorite Color by Eric Carle and Friends

What’s Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle and Friends (9780805096149, Amazon)

Eric Carle and fifteen other well-known illustrators offer their favorite colors and why they love them. Carle’s bright yellow pick on the first pages shows the skill needed to handle some colors well. Others like Brian Collier select colors that reflect their personal lives. The late Anna Dewdney tells of her love of purple as a small child. Philip Stead takes a whimsical look at green and elephants. Yuyi Morales ties her hot pink to the bougainvillea flowers of Mexico. Each is a person story of life and art intertwined into color.

Turning the pages in this collection is a treat. Each page is dedicated to a specific color. Then each is drawn by a different illustrator. The result are a series of lovely surprises, some subtle and gray other vivid and bright. The book ends with Uri Shulevitz’s selection of all colors as his favorites, tying the entire book together nicely. The book finishes with information on each of the illustrators who contributed.

A rich and lovely look at color that will lead readers to discover new illustrators and seek out their work in all colors. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh (9780062430083, Amazon)

Harper and her family have moved to Washington DC after she was injured during her stay at a hospital. Harper has no memory of how her injuries happened, but they may be the key to understanding the family’s new house. Harper’s little brother has been acting strangely since they moved in, speaking to an imaginary friend and then becoming almost another person. As Harper makes a new friend in the neighborhood, the two of them start researching what happened in the house in the past and discovering that the threatening presence that Harper feels in the house may be a ghost! In fact, Harper may be one of the special people who can sense ghosts in the world, but she has to figure out how to do so safely and who to trust with her secret.

Oh is the founder of We Need Diverse Books. She has crafted here a middle grade novel that has Korean-American main characters and uses their culture skillfully as an important part of the story and the solution to their haunting issues. She has also created a book that is pure scary fun. This is not a serious book about diversity and modern society, but instead a romp of delightful scares that make the book real fun to read.

The lightness of the book will have young readers loving it. Oh allows the young protagonist and her siblings and friends to be the real heroes of the book, even as the dangers they face grow in size. The pace of the book is key to its success as well, as Oh allows it to pick up pace towards the ending, controlling it just enough but also allowing it to get wild and zany.

A great pick for fans of Ghostbusters or scary stories, I look forward to more adventures with these characters. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Super Slug of Doom by Matty Long

Super Slug of Doom by Matty Long

Super Slug of Doom by Matty Long (9781338054354, Amazon)

This is the second picture book in the Super Happy Magic Forest series. This book has the same tongue-in-cheek humor as the first as it once again laughs at fantasy tropes. In this second book, our heroes (the same ones as in the first book: a unicorn, gnome, centaur, fairy and mushroom) must face a new danger. Zorgoth, an evil slug who has been trapped under a rock (and accidentally released by one of our heroes), heads out to destroy the forest by drinking the Potion of Power. Our heroes must journey through different fantasy landscapes and eventually defeat Zorgoth, who is munching his way across them leaving a trail of slime. How can our hapless heroes succeed?

Long’s writing is over the top and great fun. He frames the book with a Prophecy at the beginning that predicts Zorgoth’s emergence and ends it with what has become the Legend of the heroes, which doesn’t quite match what the reader just saw happen. Throughout the book, there is humor sprinkled everywhere. Speech bubbles and labels add to the fun, mixing modern-day with fantasy world in a gloriously haphazard way.

The illustrations are bright and colorful. Entire worlds of fantasy are depicted in double-page spreads that contrast with one another. There is a dragon world of fire (filled with fire puns), underground chambers of jewels where readers can try to find the missing rainbow jewel, and ogres doing yoga and trying to eat our heroes too.

This is another wild and very successful romp through fantasy in a picture book. Share it with individual kids or very small groups so that the pictures can be searched for small details. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.