Review: What Does an Anteater Eat? by Ross Collins

What Does an Anteater Eat by Ross Collins

What Does an Anteater Eat? by Ross Collins (9781536205916)

Anteater wakes up hungry, but he can’t figure out what anteaters eat. He tries asking the other animals that he encounters. Sloth is too busy to answer his question. Snake offers advice on chewing food. Toucan is certain that anteaters eat watermelon, but the melon doesn’t fit in Anteater’s mouth. Other animals are too busy eating their own meals or considering Anteater for their next meal. So Anteater ends up asking the ants. Anteater has figured it out! Or has he?

This is one of those picture books that simply must be shared aloud to get its full impact. From the very clueless anteater to the unhelpful other animals to the twist at the end, the book is full of silliness and giggles. Young listeners will love being in on the entire joke from the beginning and watching the humor play out. The illustrations are large and bold, just right for sharing aloud with a group. Done in watercolor and charcoal, the images are full of deep colors and add to the humor of the text.

A great book for closing out a storytime with laughter. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Nosy Crow.

Review: Fly! by Mark Teague

Fly! by Mark Teague

Fly! by Mark Teague (9781534451285)

Baby Bird has spent his time having worms delivered right to him in the nest by Mama Bird. So when Mama Bird coaxes him out onto the branch, he throws a bit of a fit. It’s a tantrum big enough to get him out of the nest finally, but it also makes him fall down down down to the ground. Mama Bird encourages him to try to fly back up, but Baby Bird has other ideas. Maybe Mama could carry him or perhaps a hot air balloon? Mama bird warns him that he won’t be able to come along when they migrate to Florida if he can’t fly. Baby Bird thinks that maybe a bike, skateboard, car or train might work even better than flying. Mama Bird next tried to scare baby into flying by talking about dogs, cats, and owls. Owls! Mama Bird may just have convinced her silly Baby Bird to take flight.

Teague’s wordless book is a joy. He cleverly uses speech balloons on the page but fills them with images so that children can “read” this themselves very easily. The conversations between mother and baby are clear and very funny. In particular, Baby Bird’s ideas and jokes will have little ones giggling along. The frustration of Mama Bird is also very clear on the page, her motherly glare is one that most children will recognize from personal experience. Full of great illustrations that tell a complete and compelling story.

A great wordless book that really takes flight. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.

Review: Spencer’s New Pet by Jessie Sima

Spencer's New Pet by Jessie Sima

Spencer’s New Pet by Jessie Sima (9781534418776

A boy leaves a circus tent with a pet dog made from a red balloon. The dog walks on a leash, does tricks, and begs for treats. The two read books and sleep together, the dog snuggled under the covers. When they head to the vet, the boy notices a sharp quill on a hedgehog in the waiting room and quickly moves away. The boy and dog head to the park where the dog plays with the other dogs, chasing a Frisbee, but they leave when the boy notices the sharp teeth of a large dog. The wind catches the dog, carrying him through the park and into a birthday party. The party is full of potential threats to a balloon, like burning candles and the pinata. When the dog gets lost in with other balloon animals though, the boy stops paying attention to sharp things. And that’s when the book gets all the more interesting!

Sima has created a book where one thinks they know what the story is, but it is something else entirely. The joy of discovering the real story will make readers demand to hear the book again and explore that new story fully. Sima’s book is wordless, the images done in grays and blacks with the red balloon dog serving as the only color on the page. There is a grand sense of drama throughout, as readers see the dangers alongside the boy.

Clever and with an ending that reinvents the entire book, this one is amazing. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

Review: I Want a Dog by Jon Agee

I Want a Dog by Jon Agee

I Want a Dog by Jon Agee (9780525555469)

A little girl heads to the Happydale Animal Shelter to get a dog. The man there agrees that a dog makes an excellent pet, but keeps on offering the girl different animals. Perhaps an awesome anteater? A python? A baboon? Maybe a frog that barks and hides bones? Except frogs can’t do that. How about a lizard dressed up as a dog? It turns out that Happydale Animal Shelter doesn’t have a dog, so the man asks the girl why she wants a dog. Based on her list, he offers her a seal. And you know what? It’s just the right pet for her.

Agee has such a great way of incorporating the surreal with the normal in his books. In this one, we have the normal process of adopting a pet entirely sidetracked with wild animals that would make horrible pets. Readers will love seeing each of the interesting animals and not knowing what is coming next. Agee merrily breaks his series of animals with a dead goldfish and then with the final twist of the seal as the right pet. Agee’s art is his signature watercolor with thick black lines and subdued colors.

A great pick for dog storytimes, even if it doesn’t actually have a dog. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Dial Books for Young Readers.

Review: Free Lunch by Rex Ogle

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle (9781324003601)

Rex is starting sixth grade hungry and with a black eye. At school, he has an English teacher who dislikes him on sight. He isn’t in any classes with his best friends either, since he is in high level ones that they make fun of. He also is on free lunch, which he has to announce to a school worker every day. His home life though is even worse. Living with almost no furniture, no bed, and with a mother who is verbally and physically abusive, Rex struggles to find any moments of safety. His mother’s boyfriend beats her up regularly, something that Rex feels responsible for as well as helpless to stop. Still, this book does have hope that things can improve and change, but there is no magic bullet out of poverty and abuse.

Ogle writes of his own childhood in this very personal book. He doesn’t shrink away from any of the tough subjects, showing the layers of anger and abuse that a family can have, the variety of triggers and the inability to make it stop. He writes of a grandmother who served as a place of hope and refuge, but also was a person who angered his mother. Ogle tells of hunger in a way that only someone who has experienced it can speak of it, hunger for food but also hunger for love and understanding in his family.

There is a rawness to Ogle’s writing, an honesty that shines on the page. His weaving in of hope makes reading this book possible, not leaving the reader to languish in the haunting and horrible world he writes of. That hope is vital for the character of Rex too, it keeps him making new friends, finding a way forward, and being willing to change himself to make his family better.

Profoundly honest and full of heart, this book is one that all teachers and librarians need to read to understand the children they serve. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Norton Young Readers.

Review: Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Why by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (9780823441730)

A little white rabbit is full of questions for a bear who valiantly tries to answer them all. After each “why?” comes a wise answer about wind, gravity, honey, stars, plants and much more. Finally though, the bear has had enough and heads off home. The little rabbit asks him not to go and now it is Bear’s turn to ask “why” of the rabbit. Rabbit rises to the question and answers it with the same wisdom and patience that Bear has shown all along.

Seeger takes the questions of a toddler and turns it into an engaging picture book. Parents and children alike will recognize the endless questions and the patience it takes to answer them. The turn around at the end of the book adds exactly the right ending to the story. Throughout the book has a pitch perfect tone that makes rabbit’s questions interesting rather than bothersome.

Seeger’s art is lush and lovely. One can almost sink into her greens and blues, they are so deeply colored. She manages to create a friendship from two animals without anthropomorphizing them along the way.

Simple and just right for toddlers and their questions. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.

Review: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (9780525647072)

Jam lives in Lucille, a place cleansed of monsters by the angels who still live among them. There are no monsters in Lucille any more. But just as Jam is learning about the original angels, who looked more like monsters than humans, she accidentally releases a creature from her mother’s painting. The creature is Pet, who has crossed dimensions to hunt a monster. Pet reveals that the monster is living in Jam’s best friend, Redemption’s house. Now Jam must figure out how to enlist Redemption’s help without accusing his family of doing something terrible and harboring a monster. Or perhaps Pet is the real monster as he hunts without remorse? Jam must learn the truth and then get others to believe her.

Wow. What a book! The voice here is what hits you first, unique and strong, it speaks in a Nigerian-laced rhythm that creates its own magic immediately. Add in the power of Jam herself, a black, trans girl who often chooses not to speak aloud but with sign language. Then you have the amazement of Pet, the nightmare creature who hunts for monsters but also explains the importance of not hiding from the truth. Surround it all with families who love and care and are wonderfully different from one another.

Emezi leads readers through this wonder of a book, filled with LGBTQIA+ moments that are so normal they become something very special. They insist that you understand what is meant by a monster and by an angel, that one can be disguised as another, that monsters are normal people, but must not be tolerated. It’s a book about abuse, about standing up, about angels and demons, and about humans.

An incredible middle-grade fantasy full of power, monsters and beauty. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Make Me a World.

Review: What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold

What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold

What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold, illustrated by Linda Davick (9781481472609)

Riley loves to dress for every occasion. Riley wore a bunny costume on the first day of school, even though no one else worse a costume. At the dentist’s office Riley wore a superhero outfit for bravery. Riley wore a ballgown to dinner with Oma and Otto because they went to a fancy restaurant. Space pajamas were just right for Universe Day at school. A hard hat was ideal for a visit to the hardware store. Some days at home were perfect not to wear anything at all. When Riley wore a complicated outfit to the park, Riley was asked if they were a boy or a girl. Riley answered by talking about her outfit’s roles and joined in playing with everyone.

Arnold writes with such skill here that it is only partway through the book that readers may notice that there are no pronouns or genders shared about Riley. Every child can see themselves in Riley and be dazzled by Riley’s costumes and outfits along the way. There is a sense of merriment in all of the things Riley wears and a strong expression of identity as well.

Davick’s illustrations are filled with bright colors and a celebration of Riley’s sense of style. The mixed costumes are complicated and Davick captures them beautifully, showing exactly what Riley was trying to convey.

Ideal for kids of every gender and every way of expressing themselves through clothing. Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane.

Review: Stormy by Guojing

Stormy by Guojing

Stormy by Guojing (9781524771768)

The author of the award-winning The Only Child returns with another lovely picture book. In this wordless picture book done in graphic-novel format, a woman discovers a puppy sleeping under a bench at the top of a hill. When she tries to approach the dog, he runs away, returning to hide under the bench after she leaves. On her next visit, the woman brings a ball for the dog, then pretends to ignore him. He slowly moves out from behind the nearby tree and sniffs at the ball, picking it up but not returning to the woman. The third visit has the two of them beginning to play fetch together. This time, the dog follows the woman home, but she doesn’t see him. When a huge storm appears, she heads into the deluge to save him but he isn’t where she thinks he will be.

If you look at the lighting and beauty of that cover, you will have a sense of the incredible illustrations throughout this book. Guojing beautifully paces her story, showing the patience and time it takes to create a sense of safety and trust between the woman and the stray dog. There are achingly lonely moments at night, the dog alone, the dog with just his ball, the dog outside her window. Guojing gives those moments space in the book to just be there, haunting and lovely.

A great wordless picture book about building trust and finding a home. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade Books.