Category: Uncategorized

How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett


How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex (InfoSoup)

How is a book made? Well this book was made in the regular way with an author making many drafts, and editor offering firm advice, an illustrator taking a long time to create the art, and it being printed halfway around the world. But it is also an amazing story and one that will surprise when the tiger keeps reappearing, the pirates raid the slow boat full of books, and the news that there is one last important piece to the book really being A BOOK. You will just have to read this book to see what that is.

Any book by Barnett and Rex is going to be wonderfully surprising and funny. This book is no exception. Barnett immediately makes sure that this book is not taken too seriously by starting it with him arm wrestling a tiger. The tiger then returns at important moments in the book, sometimes to be scared off and other times with a posse. The editor’s role is also depicted in the book with a lot of tongue-in-cheek but also honesty too. Throughout there is real information on how books get made with plenty of imagination added as well. Just like any book.

Rex’s illustrations are done with pencil on paper combined with photography. Some of the illustrations have cotton clouds and others are 3-d objects or 2-d objects photographed. This gives a great sense of space and distance, shadows lengthening across the page. Throughout the art is as clever as the words, which is a compliment to both.

A funny and imaginative look at the making of this book, both unique to this book and universal to the process. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King


Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King (InfoSoup)

Sarah has stopped going to high school after an event that she doesn’t want to talk about or even think about. Sarah is a master at not thinking about certain things, like what she witnessed on vacation in Mexico with her family. Instead Sarah thinks about things like doing something original and what art is. She spends her days on the streets of Philadelphia, visiting a derelict school building, speaking with past and future versions of herself, and wondering about art and how to start creating again. She isn’t able to continue keeping the secrets deep inside hidden even from herself. So she begins to work through her thoughts, ideas and what she has seen. She contacts the brother that she hasn’t seen since the Mexico trip six years before and begins to wake up to the problems that have always been there in her family.

My goodness, this book is impossible to explain in a single paragraph. It is multilayered book that shifts and grows and builds underneath the reader as Sarah’s memories are revealed. It is wild and powerful, the tornado in the title an apt image for the rawness of this book. King depicts the dangers of living lies, whether they are built by those who say they love you or yourself. The force of those lies, the determination it takes to keep them hidden, and the emptiness of the world shaped by those lies make for a landscape that filled with traps and danger. King is a master at allowing a character to tell her own story at her own pace while making sure that the book continues to move forward, building tension upward and showing the deep humanity inside.

Sarah is an exquisite character. She is an enigma for the first part of the book, since she is determined to keep the lies spinning and not allow the truth to escape into the world. She is the epitome of an unreliable narrator, one that becomes more reliable as the book continues. Yet even as she is unreliable, she is completely relatable. Her pain is tangible on the page, her loneliness is palpable. It is in hiding her real truth and living the lie that she becomes most human.

A powerful novel filled with pain, lies, guilt and searing truth. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dutton Books for Young Readers.


My Friend Maggie by Hannah E. Harrison


My Friend Maggie by Hannah E. Harrison (InfoSoup)

Maggie and Paula have been friends since they were babies. Maggie, an elephant, is great at a lot of things like splashing in puddles and reaching apples on the tree. But when Veronica tells Paula that she thinks Maggie is too big, Paula starts to notice things about Maggie. She sees that Maggie is clumsy, can’t hide during games, and her clothes are snug. Paula knows that she should stand up for Maggie, but instead Paula starts to pretend she doesn’t see Maggie at all, something that is particularly hard with an elephant. When Veronica starts to pick on Paula for her teeth and the way they stick out, Maggie is the first to defend her, showing exactly how a friend should act.

Harrison tells the story of a little problem in a strong friendship, a situation that will be very familiar for young children who are just figuring out how to be friends and what that means. Children will feel for Maggie and the way she is shunned but thanks to Harrison having the voice of Paula tell the story, they will also understand Paula’s point of view and even see how they themselves could make the same choice.

Harrison’s art shines as always. Her detailed artwork shows Maggie in all of her size and also captures her friendly spirit as well. Throughout the book, you can tangibly feel the emotions of the characters. Maggie’s ears alone do a great job of conveying how very sad and hurt she is by the way she is being treated. And look out when Maggie is angry!

This is a beautiful picture book about a cherished friendship that stumbles and then rights itself. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books.


Who Broke the Teapot? by Bill Slavin


Who Broke the Teapot? by Bill Slavin (InfoSoup)

Thanks to Fuse #8 for bringing this one to my attention!

Mom is furious when she discovers the teapot broken on the floor. Who could have broken it? Each family member denies it being them. It wasn’t Sister who is busy eating just like Bowser the dog. It wasn’t Kitty who is so tangled in her wool that she can barely move. It wasn’t Brother who is stuck up on the fan by his overalls. It wasn’t Dad who is still reading the newspaper in his underwear. So who could it have been? Luckily, readers get to watch it all happen when time is rolled back to five minutes earlier. But even then, will they know exactly who broke the teapot?

Slavin has written a book that gallops along. It has a wonderfully brisk pace that suits the high emotions of the book perfectly. There is rhythm and rhyme aplenty, adding to the rollicking feel of the title. The text is filled with dialogue as well, creating a book that is a gleeful readaloud, one that almost reads itself and will have young listeners entirely entranced. Just leave enough time to potentially read it more than once!

Slavin’s illustrations are a strong mix of cartoon characters against textural backgrounds that add real depth. There are other elements with texture like Kitty’s string as well. As the action really gets going, Slavin plays with the colors of the background, revving them up to oranges from the greens and blues. Sounds words are also added, creating a comic book zaniness.

Grab this one and use it in your next story time. Giggles and guffaws are guaranteed! Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.


Follow Me by Ellie Sandall


Follow Me by Ellie Sandall (InfoSoup)

A lemur leads his extended family on a journey in this picture book. First he wakes them up and they climb down from the tree encouraged by his “Follow me, follow me, follow me!” They have a lot to do with things to chase after, discover and scare. They climb scrawny trees, munch on cactus for lunch. But when they are crossing the river, they get quite a surprise that has them moving a lot faster! They return to the safety of their tree after that, the book becoming almost sleepy in the end.

Sandall has written a rhyming book that works really nicely thanks to its simplicity. The “follow me” refrain creates a strong structure for the book. She uses the refrain in a variety of ways, from encouragement to warning to eventual dozing sleep. This change in tone is key to the book working so well since it adds dimension and changes in pace as the book moves along.

The illustrations are large and bright, perfect for using with a group of children. Backgrounds are kept simple and geometric with branches, leaves, and plants. The lemurs themselves shine on the page with their ringed tails and round orange eyes.

A simple and fun picture book with plenty of zing. This is one to follow! Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry.


Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari


Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (InfoSoup)

Coyote wakes and heads out of her den to find food for her pups. She walks the roads past houses and fences. She finds a mouse but doesn’t manage to catch it. There are geese on the golf course, but Coyote can’t get close enough to steal an egg without the geese attacking her. There is a rabbit on a lawn, but the rabbit is faster than Coyote. Soon dawn arrives and Coyote still has not caught any food for her family. Then there are turkeys walking nearby and Coyote manages to capture one. She heads home but not before a child spies her from a window when Coyote stops to sing to the morning.

This book is a beautiful dance between illustrations and text. Gianferrari’s prose is extremely poetic, using phrasing that almost turns it into verse particularly when read aloud. The pacing of the book is dynamic and picks up with a sense of near desperation as one prey animal after another escapes. Sympathy for the coyotes, which may not have been high in the beginning of the book, is skillfully built throughout the story until readers will be near cheering when the turkey is caught. The book finishes with information on coyotes.

Ibatoulline’s illustrations are incredibly detailed. Dark and light play on the page, from the electric outdoor lights from human buildings to the moonlight shining on fur. The darkness has dimension, subtle colors, and textures. There is a sense of near hyper-realism as well as readers get closer to these animals in the illustrations than they ever could in life.

This picture book blends nonfiction with great writing to create a realistic view of urban coyotes. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.