Category: Picture Books

Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin

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Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin (9780553537895)

In this wordless graphic novel, a little girl brings her stuffed toy fox to school for show-and-tell and it is taken from the playground by a real fox! The girl and her friend chase after the fox, stopping to ask directions when they find a small door in a tree. The squirrel who lives there points them in the right direction. Meanwhile, a weasel tries to steal the toy from the little fox, but a bear steps in and sorts it out. The children arrive at a town where animals live together and they enlist the help of the entire area to search for the fox. Soon they discover the little fox and his stolen toy, but what will they do then?

Graegin tells a really wonderful story solely through images. Using white space to frame her images into a graphic novel format, the story is told with rich details. It clearly establishes the little girl’s long attachment to the stuffed fox and her desire to share it with her class. Then the story becomes a chase sequence and a mystery of where the fox has gone. It then enters a lovely fantasy where the entire animal town comes to life, shown in a wide panorama that makes one want to wander the streets.

One special device used through the book is that the children are shown in black, grays and whites. The color enters the book subtly at first with the little fox and a red bird who watches from above. The children maintain their more somber color palette even as the world around them is vibrant color. Yet these worlds can touch and cross, much to the joy of the reader.

This genre bending graphic-novel picture book is beautiful, rich and worthy of journeying through time and again. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz and Wade.

 

Strange Fruit by Gary Golio

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Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song by Gary Golio, illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb

Billie Holiday had survived a rough childhood that saw her jailed at age 14 and become a successful jazz singer. Despite her success though, she was still forbidden to do things that her white band members were allowed. She had to hide in rooms, take freight elevators and pretend to be someone different in order to stay in hotels and not sleep on the tour bus. This was all dangerous and eventually she quit. She found a new place to sing in Cafe Society, the first jazz club that welcomed African-American audience members. It was there that she was given the song, Strange Fruit, a song that would become her best-known work. A song that was so powerful that it was met with silence the first time she sang it. A song that would come to speak to a new generation as they stand together today.

Golio has taken a song that is about lynching and turned it into a picture book. It’s a daring subject for a book for young readers, yet he makes it entirely understandable. He uses notes at the end of the book to continue Holiday’s story and also speak about lynching and its history in the United States. The bulk of the picture book is about Holiday’s struggles in the 1930s with pervasive racism and the way that this song spoke to her personal experience and that of all African-Americans.

The illustrations are deep and powerful. They show the pain of racism, the power of song, the energy of a performance and the drama of silence and darkness. Done in acrylic paint and tissue collage, they have a wild freedom of line that works well with the intense subject matter.

An important picture book about a song that has transcended generations and speaks to the struggles of today and yesterday. Appropriate for ages 7-11.

Reviewed from e-galley received from NetGalley and Lerner Publishing Group.

A Cat Named Swan by Holly Hobbie

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A Cat Named Swan by Holly Hobbie (9780553537444)

This is the story of a small kitten, who was suddenly alone on the city streets. He learned a lot about the dangers, scavenged for food, and survived. Until one day, he was taken off of the streets and put into a cage. There was plenty of food there though and no one was mean to him. Soon afterwards, he was adopted. And that is where his life changed. It became a series of perfect days. Days that started with breakfast, were filled with exploring the garden, had visits and naps, and ended with everyone returning home in the evening. Each day became night with him curled on a pillow fast asleep.

This picture book shows the harrowing life of a small kitten alone outside. Then it becomes a rescue and adoption story, one that is pure joy after the rescue takes place. The kitten learns about his new family, the dog, and the garden and house that are his too. There are small adventures, plenty of pleasures like just being with one another and bumblebees. It’s a picture book about small joys and the wonder of having a pet.

Hobbie’s illustrations are filled with energy and carry emotions clearly. The image of the kitten being lifted by his family for the first time is pure sunshine and blue sky. Readers know right then and there not to worry any longer. When they see the gardens and land, they realize that Swan has landed in kitten nirvana.

A testament to the power of animal adoption and the joy of a life well lived. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

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

 

10 Great Picture Books about Love

Valentines Day is tomorrow and so I thought it would be nice to focus on some picture books about  all kinds of love to add some warm fuzzies to your cold February.

A Family Is a Family Is a Family Hammer and Nails

A Family Is a Family Is a Family by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Qin Leng

Hammer and Nails by Josh Bledsoe, illustrated by Jessica Warrick

Heart to Heart Hector and Hummingbird

Heart to Heart by Lois Ehlert

Hector and Hummingbird by Nicholas John Frith

 Home at Last

Home at Last by Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka

Henry in Love by Peter McCarty

In Plain Sight My New Mom & Me

In Plain Sight by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo

Ten Things I Love About You Worm Loves Worm

Ten Things I Love about You by Daniel Kirk

Worm Loves Worm by JJ Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato

Frederick Douglass by Walter Dean Myers

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Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

The late Walter Dean Myers shows readers the upbringing of American hero, Frederick Douglass. Douglass was born a slave in Maryland. He was first taught about reading by the mistress of the house, but she soon stopped teaching him. Frederick grew up helping to care for the family who owned him and learned from the children of the family how to speak clearly. He also learned the differences between his life as a slave and their plans for happy futures. So Douglass taught himself to read. He was hired out to work in the shipyards where he met sailors who were free black men. He fell in love with a free woman and made his way North to freedom, posing as a sailor. Once free in the North, he started to speak out against slavery, becoming the legendary orator he is famous for being.

Myers draws a complete picture of Douglass here. He shows readers the differences between slavery and freedom with a clarity that is vastly helpful. He doesn’t linger on the violence of slavery but it is also not lessened or ignored. He strikes just the right balance for a young audience. As the book continues, one sees Douglass grow up, learn many things and then not only head to freedom himself but argue that slavery should be abolished. There is real courage on these pages, risks taken for a real life, and an understanding that Douglass himself was an incredible individual.

The illustrations by award-willing Cooper are exceptional. Done with erasers and oils on board, they have a beautiful texture to them, almost hazy with the historical significance of what they are depicting. There are images of love, others of violence, others of freedom newly found. As Douglass grows up on the pages he becomes more and more the icon visually as well.

Strong and important, this picture book biography is inspiring. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

One Proud Penny by Randy Siegel

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One Proud Penny by Randy Siegel, illustrated by Serge Bloch

Told in the voice of the penny itself, this picture book follows the life of a penny in public circulation. With a humorous tone, the book explains that pennies are often ignored or lost and then whisked back into use again. The metals that modern pennies are made of are compared with older pennies who would have been this penny’s parents and grandparents. Throughout the book, the journey of being spent and then being spent again and again is told. It’s enough to make all of us value the humble penny much more.

Siegel’s text is filled with humor and wonderful moments. Like the mourning of being sucked into vacuum cleaners multiple times or the pride of knowing that even though pennies are worth less than dollar bills, they are much stronger and last longer. There is a great flow to the book, moving from one place to the next in a series of hops and jumps that work to set a nice pace. The tone is one of information mixed with simple life lessons making this very readable.

Bloch’s illustrations are almost comic format but without the framing. He has dynamic loose line that creates characters who pass through the penny’s life quickly. Real pennies and other currency are used in the illustrations.

Funny and informative: that’s my 2 cents. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

Rabbit Magic by Meg McLaren

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Rabbit Magic by Meg McLaren

The key to a great magic show is picking the right assistant. Houdini, the white rabbit, was the perfect assistant until an unfortunate magical accident which turned the magician, M. Lapin, into a rabbit. Now it was up to Houdini to carry on with the show and he got so good at it that he became a real star. But even as he created more and more elaborate magic tricks, he realized that the magician was never happy being a rabbit. It may be time for Houdini’s greatest trick of all,  giving someone else a turn in the spotlight. Literally.

McLaren uses words very judiciously here, creating a picture book that is marvelously approachable for preschool audiences. The text is used just enough to keep the story flowing forward and to keep the pacing as brisk as any good magic show. There is also plenty of humor throughout the book, keeping readers entertained with rabbit antics and plenty of magic.

The illustrations are such a part of this book. Words appear sometimes as part of the pictures and other times the illustrations are telling the full story. The magic is shown with stars filling the page and transformations are depicted in stages. The style has a wonderful vintage cartoon feel that is warm and nostalgic.

A funny bunny picture book with enough action and magic to keep everyone happy. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.