Category: Picture Books

You Belong Here by M.H. Clark

You Belong Here by MH Clark

You Belong Here by M.H. Clark (InfoSoup)

This poetic picture book celebrates both nature and the child themselves. The book opens with the text talking right to the child, telling them that just as the moon and stars belong so do they belong right with the person reading the book. It then moves on to talk about different animals and how they belong too either deep in the sea, in the woods, or in a nest. Then the book returns to the child and it continues to move back and forth between nature and child, demonstrating how much that child simply belongs to the world as well.

Told in rhyme, this picture book’s poetry is very well done with none of the rhymes feeling forced. In fact, the text almost dances particularly as it moves between child and nature, each of those transitions feeling a little like a graceful twirl to bring to back around in a circle. There is attention throughout too to ecosystems and showing how each animal or plant has a place that is important and vital to that place. It’s a book that creates both warmth and the opportunity for conversation as well.

The illustrations by Arsenault are subtly colored and almost ethereal. They show the intertwining nature of the world with buildings and homes interspersed with natural scenes of animals and plants. The creatures on the page are almost lit from within, white against the watercolor backgrounds.

A beautiful celebration of home and the world that all sorts of families will find welcoming and heart warming. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Pinocchio: The Origin Story by Alessandro Sanna

Pinocchio The Origin Story by Alessandro Sanna

Pinocchio: The Origin Story by Alessandro Sanna (InfoSoup)

Wordless except for a few lines of text at the beginning and end, this graphic novel picture book is a blazing wonder. It shows the epic beginning of the wood that will one day become Pinocchio. A young tree is hit by a bolt of lightning and a branch falls off, a branch with clear limbs, body and head. The branch runs and is joined by a cat and fox. The three travel together to a snowy woods where there is also fire and now the branch is alight. As the story continues, a snake eats the fiery branch then spits it out. A dove flies with it, and drops it into the water. The branch sinks and is eaten by a shark. Image after image flies past, each with a story to tell and only a few moments to tell it. Finally, spring arrives and the branch sprouts leaves and roots, becoming a full tree itself, and the story of Pinocchio begins.

Unique and wondrous, this picture book is something entirely special. It is an origin story about far more than Pinocchio himself, showing that we all originate from a certain spark. Then along the way we are filled with fire, discover companions, take adventures, grow into our own, and our story at that point is just beginning.

The illustrations are spectacular. Done in watercolor that flows on the page, creating light and energy. There is also clever detailed use of the paint with leaves flowing to create characters and allowing space for almost mythical moments to take place on the page. There are deep colors of undersea and the dark of sky against snow.

Beautiful, raw and filled with innate energy, this picture book is something very special. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, illustrated by Julia Kuo (InfoSoup)

Yoshio heads out of his house and into the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. He hears all sorts of things, like splashing puddles and rain on his umbrella. Then he hears the sound of a woman playing a koto and visits with her. He asks her what her favorite sound is and she replies that it is the sound of silence. Yoshio spent the rest of the day looking for silence. But there was always some kind of sound, others talking, the breeze in the bamboo, traffic and trains. He couldn’t find silence anywhere, not in the bath where water dripped or in bed where he could hear a radio playing far away. He went to school early the next day, still seeking silence and then for one moment, he heard it. Even inside he was still. He discovered it was in between all of the other sounds, just waiting for him there.

Goldsaito has written a beautiful contemplative picture book where seeking the sound of silence is a search for finding your own inner place of peace. Even as the book looks towards silence, it celebrates the other sounds of a bustling city, a busy school and a family at home. As the sounds grow quieter, the book slows too allowing readers to see the way towards silence as they move through the book.

Kuo’s illustrations are gorgeous with their fine lines and details. They capture a city with many inhabitants walking together, traffic moving, and plenty of action. They also show the beauty of the bamboo garden, the loving family eating together and then Yoshio eager to find the solution to hearing silence. Readers will hear silence on many of the pages thanks to the beauty of the illustrations and the moment it takes to really look at them.

A very special picture book that will speak to many readers in our busy modern world who are themselves looking for a peaceful break in their day. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Storyteller by Evan Turk

The Storyteller by Evan Turk

The Storyteller by Evan Turk (InfoSoup)

When the Kingdom of Morocco formed many years ago, it was built around fresh water sources and filled with storytellers. Then people lost their fear of the desert and the water fountains dried up and the storytellers left. A thirsty boy walked the city looking for water but found none. An old man called him closer and offered to tell him a story that would quench his thirst. At the end of his story, the little boy’s water cup was full. The story continued from one day to the next, each day resulting in water. Meanwhile, in the desert, a storm is forming created by a djinn looking to destroy Morocco. When the djinn arrives though, there is a way to battle it and bring water to the entire city. It just takes a young storyteller.

Turk beautifully weaves two stories together into one remarkable tale. The stories intertwine, showing the power of storytelling and its ability to refresh and quench thirsts. It is also about community and the vitality of shared stories and their power to change society. Beautifully, it is also about a boy learning a skill and a master storyteller showing his craft, plus it’s about a great story at its heart. There is attention to the flow of the tales here, how they work together, how repetition and rhythm are part of oral storytelling.

The illustrations are impressive, creating borders on the page that add richness. They also have a looseness to the images that is imaginative and allows the reader to fill in the blanks visually themselves. Even the text plays a visual role with different characters having differently colored fonts.

The power of story is brought to life in this rich picture book. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

 

Quit Calling Me a Monster by Jory John

Quit Calling Me a Monster by Jory John

Quit Calling Me a Monster by Jory John, illustrated by Bob Shea (InfoSoup)

The main character in this book does not want people to just call him a monster. Sure, he may look like a monster. He may sound like a monster. He may live in your closet or under your bed. But how would you feel if everywhere you went people screamed and called you “monster.” After all, he doesn’t go around calling humans names like “little meat snack” does he? He’s a very well behaved and polite monster. Wait, OK, so he IS a monster, but he’d much rather you call him Floyd Peterson instead. Can you do that?

Two picture book masters come together for their best collaboration yet in this very funny picture book that speaks directly to how stereotyping and labels make someone feel. The text is gorgeously written and works beautifully when shared aloud, particularly by someone willing to go full out on the voicing of Floyd. The twist at the end is wonderful as well.

Shea’s art is incredibly playful with Floyd blending into darkness and also disappearing against furry backgrounds. Shea has created a rather friendly and polite monster but also one that has a scary side too, the perfect mix.

Funny and smart, this picture book looks at how names hurt even if you are a monster. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Random House Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Plants Can't Sit Still by Rebecca Hirsch

Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch, illustrated by Mia Posada (InfoSoup)

Plants can’t walk or run or even fly, but they don’t stay still either! This jaunty picture book captures the many ways that plants manage to move, even though they are rooted to the ground. They squirm out of the soil. They turn towards the sun. They creep underground and spring up in new places. They can climb walls and even eat bugs. Some fold shut at night while others open only in the moonlight. Then there are the seeds that use all sorts of tricks to move to new places to grow. That’s where they start to move all over again.

As a person with a native garden that overtakes the entire front of house this time of year, I am very aware of plants being able to move! I love the dynamic quality of this book as well as the surprise factor where children will wonder about how plants in their lives are moving since they don’t appear to be doing much at all. Hirsch selects plants that children will experience in their normal lives: milkweed, strawberries, tulips, morning glories, and maple trees. She uses simple language to explain how the plants move and grow, making this a science book that preschoolers will enjoy. Those looking for more detail can turn to a section in the back of the book.

Posada’s illustrations beautifully enhance this picture book and its fresh look at plants. The illustrations are done with cut paper collage and watercolor. They fill the pages with bursts of color, zings of green and plenty of earthiness too. The colors are perfectly chosen to evoke the real nature of the plants like the changing colors of the maple leaves and the burst of fuzz from a dandelion.

A great new book on plants and the surprising ways they move, this is a fascinating read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith (InfoSoup)

This riff on the Little Red Riding Hood story is filled with humor and twists that will delight. Little Red’s auntie has woken up with spots and so Little Red must cross the Savannah to bring her some medicine and some doughnuts. Little Red makes it past all sorts of animals until she stops in the shad of a tree. That’s when the Very Hungry Lion appears. When he asks Little Red where she is off to, the Lion hatches a plan that involves pretending to be her auntie and then eating both Little Red and her aunt. Little Red though is not fooled at all. So when she sees the Lion in her auntie’s clothes and in her bed, Little Red launches into action. Soon the Lion has a new hairstyle, has brushed his teeth and changed into a ruffled dress. The Lion though has had enough and roars. Little Red does not back down and soon a friendship is starting, with some strict rules in place.

Little Red is a great heroine. She is smart and fearless, facing down a hungry lion with stern warnings. It is also the humor of this book that works so well. The braiding of the Lion’s hair is a wonderful moment as is his changing clothes once again at Little Red’s insistence. It is in those moments that story becomes something new and fresh and where the audience will understand that this is a very different Little Red Riding Hood than in the original tale.

Smith’s art is zany and bright. The look on the Lion’s face is lovely, particularly when Little Red is forcing him to do things. Little Red pops on the page with her red dress and arching braids. She is particularly small next to the huge lion and still manages to hold her own on each page. Filled with humor and color, these are images that will work with groups of children very well.

One to roar about, add this to your twists on well-known tales or in any story time about lions. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.