Review: You Are Never Alone by Elin Kelsey

You Are Never Alone by Elin Kelsey

You Are Never Alone by Elin Kelsey, illustrated by Soyeon Kim (9781771473156)

The creators of You Are Stardust return with another book that demonstrates how interconnected we are. This time the focus is on the nature around all of us and how we are never alone in our environment. We can look into the eyes of a dog and feel love, we play in the mud and feel deep happiness thanks to microorganisms, we breathe oxygen that plants create. Nature is there in everything we do, everything we eat, and our connections can be as huge as a whale to as small as the organisms on our skin. We are never alone, because we are supported by this web of life that we too are a part of.

Kelsey’s words are poetic and moving. She points out immense connections to nature like the water cycle and oxygen cycle, then she moves to painting the personal connections to pets and also includes the smallest creatures we know of. It’s a beautiful way to view nature, as supportive and complex, something we must not only trust in but value enough to protect too.

The illustrations by Kim are spectacular. Done in multilayered paper collage, they seem lit from within and shine on the page. Kim plays with perspective and size in most of the illustrations, including fine line drawings, dancing paper leaves and branches, and children everywhere.

A gentle and inclusive look at nature and our world by two gifted children’s book creators. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Oink by David Elliot

Oink by David Elliot

Oink by David Elliot (9781776572144)

In this nearly wordless book, a little pig is getting ready for a nice calm bath all by himself. As he settles into the warm water, the door is opened by a sheep who brings a toy boat and climbs into the bath too. The next to enter is a cow, who asks the sheep if she can join and the sheep agrees. Cow brings a beach ball in, which bounces right off of the pig’s head. Then comes donkey who wears a floaty around his waist and hops into the bath too. The bath is noisy and crowded and not what pig wanted at all! What is a pig to do to find some peace?

The only words in this book are animal noises made by each of the critters. They use punctuation and emphasis to show what tone should be used when they are read aloud. It works very nicely. The book has a wonderful build up of frustration for the pig, as he gets more and more cross visually as the animals enter and the chaos increases. The humor of the solution is wonderfully timed and will have small children in stitches. Perhaps adding a little noise for that when sharing aloud would add to the fun.

A little fart of a book with lots of appeal. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Gecko Press.

Review: The Last Peach by Gus Gordon

The Last Peach by Gus Gordon

The Last Peach by Gus Gordon (9781626723504)

Released May 16, 2019.

Two bugs happen upon the last peach of the summer, still hanging high in the peach tree. The two agree that is is the most beautiful peach they have seen that year. They decide to eat it immediately, until a grasshopper mentions that it must be the last peach of the season. They once again decide to go ahead and eat it. Then another insect says that it is probably rotten inside. The two go back and forth about whether to eat it. Maybe just one little bite? Maybe they should share it with everyone else? Maybe they should just leave it? Or perhaps each of them just wants it for their own. In the end, the two walk away from the glorious peach. But is it a peach after all?

Gordon is an Australian author and illustrator. Writing solely in dialogue in this picture book, he captures what friendship looks like with its give and take. He also shows how small decisions can become major friction in a friendship and how not to navigate those issues, since our bug friends get in a brawl because of it. This picture book reads aloud beautifully and could quickly be turned into a reader’s theater. The illustrations are done in collage that skillfully uses a variety of different types of paper that pops against the white background. The result is a minimalist feel with great pops of green and peachy colors. The twist at the end, revealed only in the illustrations adds a sense of delight to the entire book.

A tantalizing peach of a book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Roaring Brook Press.

Review: When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (9781620148372)

At birth, everyone thought Aidan was a girl. But as Aidan grew up, he didn’t like his name, the way his room was decorated, or wearing girl clothes. Aidan cut his hair off, realizing that he was a boy. He told his parents, and they learned from other families what having a transgender child is all about. Aidan picked his new name, they changed his bedroom into one that felt right, and he liked his new clothes. Then Aidan’s mother got pregnant. Aidan loved helping pick clothes for the baby, paint colors for the nursery, and even the baby’s name. But when people asked Aidan if he wanted a little brother or little sister, Aidan didn’t know how to answer. As the big day approached, Aidan worried about being a good big brother. Happily, his mother was there to explain that no matter who the new baby turned out to be, they would be so lucky to have Aidan as a brother.

Lukoff has created an #ownvoices picture book that truly celebrates a child who deeply understands their gender identity to be different from the one they were assigned at birth. The reaction of the supportive parents is beautiful to see in a picture book format as they work with Aidan not only to be able to express himself fully but also to be able to work through natural fears with a new baby. Those fears and the inevitable discussions of gender of a baby are vital parts of the story and allow readers to realize how deeply ingrained gender is in so many parts of our lives.

The illustrations by Juanita are full of energy and show a child with a flair for fashion who expresses himself clearly as a boy. His facial expressions change from his deep unhappiness when he is being treated as a girl to delight at being able to express himself as the boy he truly is. The depiction of a loving family of color handling these intersectionality issues so lovingly is also great to see.

As the parent of a transgender person, this is exactly the sort of picture book our families need and other families must read. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Lee & Low Books.

Review: ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market by Raul the Third

Vamos Let's Go to the Market by Raul the Third

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market by Raul the Third (9781328557261)

The Pura Belpré Award-winning illustrator of Lowriders in Space returns with his first picture book. Little Lobo takes his dog Bernabe along as he delivers supplies around the market to different vendors. After Kooky Dooky wakes them up in the morning, the wagon is loaded and they head into town. Everyone there has a different job and on the bustling pages, readers can take a look at what different creatures in town are doing. As Little Lobo makes his way past the various stalls, readers get to see inside them even if they don’t have a delivery that day. There are vendors of comic books, puppets, hats, herbs, food and more. At the end of the day, Lobo delivers golden laces to the final vendor and discovers that his favorite luchadore is actually there!

Told in an engaging mix of Spanish and English, the picture book also has Spanish labels for different items in the picture and English translations to Spanish sentences at the bottom of the page. The entire book invites readers to try reading English and Spanish as they explore the market. The use of a strong structure like delivering packages allows the images to be more free flowing without losing the story line.

The pace of the book is brisk and yet readers will need to linger over the illustrations and explore them fully. They have the busy nature of a Richard Scarry with a modern feel. Exploring the various animals on the page is great fun as is looking at the smaller stories being told in images only as Lobo goes through the market.

A top pick for this year, every library should have this rich and vibrant book. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Night Bear by Ana and Thiago de Moraes

The Night Bear by Ana and Thiago de Moraes

The Night Bear by Ana and Thiago de Moraes (9781541555099)

At night, the Night Bear takes the night bus and heads out searching for his favorite nighttime meal, nightmares. Each type of nightmare tastes different from the others, but equally delicious. “Monsters with hideous eyes taste like burgers and fries.” “Scary pirates being mean taste like strawberries and cream.” On and on the Night Bear munches until he comes to one package of dreams he thinks is completely disgusting! It’s rainbows and unicorns, ick! So the Night Bear heads out to see if he can give it to a dreamer. He discovers a child who is awake in the middle of the night because of a bad dream and exchanges his awful unicorns for the child’s spiders and snakes (that taste like chocolate cake!)

The rhyming here is what makes the book a great success. It has a wonderful galloping pace as well as being filled with delicious surprises as each nightmare has a distinct and fully-described flavor. That pace nicely slows as the bear looks for a child to share the unicorns with and then picks up again at the end. The illustrations are filled with deep colors of night and vivid depictions of the various nightmares combined with the flavors they have.

Whether you find nightmares or rainbows delicious, this book is just the right flavor. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Andersen Press.

Review: The Hug by Eoin McLaughlin

The Hug by Eoin McLaughlin

The Hug by Eoin McLaughlin, illustrated by Polly Dunbar (9780571348756)

This picture book is written as a split picture book that flips over with each character telling their side of the story, literally. Two creatures are looking for a hug. Hedgehog wants a hug, but no one will hug them. They can’t figure out why until an owl offers the information that they are too spiky to be hugged by most animals. Tortoise wants a hug too. He asks various animals as well, but they all refuse. The same owl explains to Tortoise that he is too hard for most animals to want to hug him. Then though, Hedgehog and Tortoise meet in the center of the book!

Such a simple little book, this offers a great amount of pleasure when the two animals find one another. Even though readers will know that Hedgehog hugs Tortoise, the book is worth flipping over to read it from Tortoise’s point of view too. McLaughlin’s text is fresh and simple, much like Dunbar’s illustrations. One little element that adds to the fun is watching both Tortoise and Hedgehog get more and more grimy from the animals they meet, picking up bits of dirt and fuzz along their journeys. The hug though, the hug at the middle is pure bliss.

Perfect for when you need a hug, even if you are a bit prickly or too hard. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Faber & Faber.

Review: Monkey on the Run by Leo Timmers

Monkey on the Run by Leo Timmers

Monkey on the Run by Leo Timmers (9781776572502)

In this wordless picture book, Papa Monkey and his little monkey are heading home from school in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The two of them are aboard his banana-cycle with a sidecar for little monkey. But from the beginning, the little one is engaging with the other vehicles along the way. He leaps on to a firetruck that is fighting a fire on another vehicle while driving. He takes a piece of cake from a royal car with a mobile kitchen and waiters. He munches the cake in the crow’s nest of a boat with wheels. He dodges a rooster after seeing a police chase. He dangles above an ambulance, gets ice cream from an ice cream truck, and ends up with a perfect wrapped present for his mother along the way.

Timmers’ traffic filled with inventive vehicles will remind readers of Richard Scarry’s Busy Town. This art though is much more modern and the interaction between the vehicles is more robust. There is a lovely logic to each vehicle, a little story being told to the reader who slows down to explore each one. The bustle and rush of the traffic would seem to make a fast-paced book, but this is one to linger over and enjoy following the adventures of a little monkey through the wildness of the different modes of transportation.

If you have a little one obsessed with vehicles, the humor and wonder here is sure to entice them. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Gecko Press.

Review: Bikes for Sale by Carter Higgins

Bikes for Sale by Carter Higgins

Bikes for Sale by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Zachariah OHora (9781452159324)

Maurice has a bright yellow bicycle attached to his lemonade stand. He never lacks for customers even as he drives through town, into the park with best lemon trees, and then onward. Everyone wants to buy his lemonade. Lotta rides her red bicycle to gather sticks every day. She gave them away for free. The two of them never met, but one day Maurice’s bike crashed because of a stick and Lotta’s bike smashed because of some lemon peels. The two of them tried to move on past their ruined bicycles, but it wasn’t the same. Then one day, they both headed to the bike shop where they found a two-seated bike made from their two ruined ones. But can they share?

Higgins has written several books for children. This one is a dynamic story of two very similar and yet very different characters who both love riding bicycles for very different reasons. Still, one hopes through the story that they become friends. Their sadness at their lost bicycles mirrors one another and there is a chance for a lot of blame to ruin any chances they might have to be friends. But the love of bicycles shines through as the two of them come together to delight people in the parks once more.

OHora’s illustrations make this book a stand out. He uses an incredibly rich and saturated color palette filled with deep reds, gorgeous greens, lemon yellow and bright blues. The bicycles in the illustrations are wonderfully out sized for the characters, making them all the more important in the images.

A book built for two, or more. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.