Category: Picture Books

Life by Cynthia Rylant

Life by Cynthia Rylant

Life by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel (9781481451628, Amazon)

Celebrate life with this picture book. Told in simple poetry, the book starts by looking at how small life is when it begins. It shows how life grows into large animals like elephants. How animals love their habitats, from sand to snow. Life always has wilderness-like moments in it but those times can be journeyed through and a fresh start can be found. There are animals to love and protect. Humans can turn to the wild to find their own path and their own place to see each morning begin and everything around them growing.

Rylant has written an expansive poem that embraces life big and small. She moves with assurance from the tiny start of life through to speaking about all of nature and then to nature’s importance to all of us as human beings. It is that look at wilderness and the wild that makes this book so much more than a poem on nature. It becomes a poem on us. There is a light touch to these deep subjects, allowing readers to think about the subject and wonder.

Wenzel’s illustrations add to that wonder that readers will find in this picture book. From elephants walking in sun and moon to whales lifting to the light. There is a sense of grace and expansiveness in the illustrations, demanding that readers enter the wilderness for themselves.

Beautiful and wild, this picture book invites readers to look deeply into themselves. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

 

Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt (9780374303822, Amazon)

Ethel is a cat who is old and fat. She is black and white and she has a routine to her days. She first surveys the land from her porch. Then she watches the weather. She chases insects and then explores the sidewalk where she has a favorite square where she likes to roll. But one day, someone has used chalk on the sidewalk square and when Ethel rolls on it, she becomes blue! The other cats look at her very strangely and Ethel runs home to hide. The next morning, Ethel feels blue and licks herself into blue stripes and white stripes. Another kitten is outside waiting for her and he is pink! The two together do Ethel’s routine with a colorful change at the end.

Reinhardt shows in this picture book that even old cats can learn colorful new tricks. Ethel is a wonderful look at the familiar routines turned on their heads. Her life is filled with simple pleasures that make her feel powerful and in charge. But that is all changed with one color. Still, Ethel also shows that while change may be hard, it isn’t impossible.

The illustrations are silly and quirky. The area that Ethel surveys each morning is filled with fake animals like deer, flamingos and one large rhino. It takes what we see as normal lawn ornaments one step farther into farce. Ethel herself is rather odd looking and therefore quite delightful as a character.

A look at colors, changes and resilience. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Don’t Blink by Tom Booth

Don't Blink by Tom Booth

Don’t Blink by Tom Booth (9781250117366, Amazon)

A little girl sits in the middle of the page, looking right at the reader. When a bird flies up and asks her what she is doing, she replies that she’s having a staring contest with the child reading the book. As the pages turn, more and more animals join the staring contest, until the page is crowded with an elephant, fox, frog, porcupine, owl, giraffe, monkey and many more. Even a slow-moving tortoise is heading to the game. But before the tortoise can get to the center of the page, everyone has blinked. Perhaps another try?

Booth’s playfulness is fully on display in this picture book. The book is entirely written in dialogue that is color-coded to the animal speaking with dotted lines to clarify who is saying something. With so many animals on the page, this book lends itself to lots of various voices which will also add to the fun. The illustrations are modern and friendly, even the alligator being more toothy than frightening. All of the animals looking directly at the reader is also very effective.

A great pick to share aloud and have children try to win the staring contest. Or maybe the next one! Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Welcome to My House by Gaia Stella

Welcome to My House by Gaia Stella

Welcome to My House by Gaia Stella (9781452157924, Amazon)

Olga, a friendly black cat, leads readers through her home. She shows all of the objects in the house in a variety of categories. There is everything for sitting that includes a stool, chairs, and even a stack of books. Everything that brightens has candles, lamps, and a window. The lists continue with images of each item and a name. Everything that passes the time includes games but also brother and sister. While this is a look at the objects in a home, it also speaks to the various roles that the people in a home can have.

Originally published in France, this picture book has a distinct European feel. Stella presents a simple premise of a book that becomes more complex as readers look more closely at the items included in each category. There are some lists that are unusual like everything that shows time passing and everything for warming up that include unlikely items. This picture book shows categorizing items and also teaches words so it has many uses for young readers.

The illustrations are done in a simple and bold style that offers just enough detail to identify objects clearly but avoids being fussy or too crowded on the page. Readers will enjoy discovering that Olga is a cat, something that explains the sorts of things that make her list and are distinctly from a cat’s point of view.

A book that will have readers exploring the pages closely and inventing their own categories in their homes. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle.

 

Raymond by Yann & Gwendal Le Bec

Raymond by Yann & Gwendal Le Bec

Raymond by Yann & Gwendal Le Bec (9780763689506, Amazon)

Raymond was just a regular family dog, adored by his family. Then he thought one day about joining the family at the table as they ate. Raymond was soon walking on two legs and becoming more and more human. He got a job at DOGUE magazine, being a reporter and soon became an anchor on a dog news show on TV. Raymond didn’t have time for his family anymore and they only got to see him on his show when they tuned in. Finally, his family persuaded him to take some time off. Can Raymond find a way back to being more of a dog and less of a workaholic?

This witty book shows how even a family dog can be drawn into the work life too deeply. Using a family dog as the main character is a smart choice, playing against the typical dog roles. Throughout the book, there is a criticism of our modern work culture that is presented at a level that children will understand. Adults and children alike will cheer when Raymond rediscovers his love for life and ear scratches.

The illustrations have a zing to them as well. From the cover with Raymond carrying a to-go coffee. There is a lovely parallel world of dogs and humans in the images, showing a rich world that Raymond gets caught up in. For their modern touches, the illustrations still have a vintage appeal to them in their flat colors and lines.

A modern fable of the balance of life and work and the joy of chasing balls and spending quiet time together. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Around the World in a Bathtub by Wade Bradford

Around the World in a Bathtub by Wade Bradford

Around the World in a Bathtub by Wade Bradford, illustrated by Micha Archer (9781580895446, Amazon)

This nonfiction picture book looks at various ways of bathing from around the world. Americans will be familiar with the first way, a bathtub with rubber duckies and a little one refusing to bathe. The book then moves to Japan with washing before entering the square tub to soak. People bathe from oldest to youngest. Turkey is next with bathhouses and scrubbing by attendants then a sauna with mud masks. Indians take baths in the river. Yup’ik families in Alaska sweat in a wooden cabin surrounded by snow. There are many ways and places to bathe around the world, but one thing holds constant across them all: children want to avoid baths!

Bradford uses information on bathing habits with touches of humor to lighten the book. Touches of each language are shown on the page from the names of the baths to the parents saying “yes” and the child saying “no”. The illustrations by Archer are oils and collage that create bright colorful scenes of the various places around the world. In all of them, there is an inviting feel and children escaping too. The images use the same humorous moments to enliven the book.

A bright and interesting look at baths, this is one worth submerging yourself into. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

 

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham (9780763692698, Amazon)

Francie and her mother are headed home from Grandma’s house. It rains and rains. It rains enough that a big truck washes their car into a picnic area. Nearby, the rain hits rabbits, mice and a hawk. It rains on fishermen and ducks. Francie and her mother wait in the car, the windows steaming up. Francie writes their names on the windows. She asks her mother what her new baby sister’s name will be when she arrives, but her mother doesn’t know yet. They eat a picnic in the car together and then they pull back onto the road and continue home. When they stop to get gas, Francie’s mother decides on her little sister’s name and the sun returns to light their way home.

Graham has written a lovely picture book that is more complicated than it seems. It is the story of a little red car heading home. It’s the story of a family about to get one person bigger. It is the story of names and inspiration. It’s the story of rain and water and weather. Graham ties all of these elements together into one precious rain-soaked bundle that really works. It is bursting with the love of family on every page.

Graham’s illustrations are done in his signature style. The characters are people of color and their car becomes a haven and a busy room filled with small details. The book then pulls away to the countryside and their small car seen from above. The rain sweeps the pages and the animals appear. The play of close comfort in the car with wide scenery captures the wildness of the storm and strengthens the intimacy of the family.

A special book that looks at those delicate moments before the birth of a new baby, this picture book celebrates family and storms. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.