Escargot by Dashka Slater

Escargot by Dashka Slater

Escargot by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Sydney Hanson (9780374302818, Amazon)

Escargot is a small snail who has one big plan. He has to get to the salad at the end of the book. Along the way, Escargot tries to convince the young reader that snails should be their favorite animal. They will have to ignore the trails of slime on the page and focus on how very brave snails are and maybe how fast? The reader helps Escargot along the way, testing out ferocious faces, given him a little push, and offering kisses too. By the time Escargot reaches the salad, he will have won their hearts, just in time to try a new vegetable together.

Slater cleverly combines several themes in this picture book and melds them in such a way that they work seamlessly with one another. There is the interactive piece of the book that ask the child to participate and impact the story. There is the favorite animal part that is engaging and funny, filled with enough action and interaction to keep even restless children busy. The final aspect is the bravery piece, trying something new and being a friend.

Hanson’s illustrations add to the appeal of the book. Escargot wears a jaunty striped shirt, red scarf tied at his neck and a beret. He oozes French appeal and confidence even as he is willing to ask for help. He is expressive with his wide eyes and tilting antennae that he uses to gesture.

A stellar if slimy little hero that will wend his way onto your favorite animal list in no time, this picture book will work best with a small group or one-on-one. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus Giroux.

Mine! by Jeff Mack

Mine! by Jeff Mack

Mine! by Jeff Mack (9781452152349, Amazon)

Two mice discover a large rock that they both want to own. What ensues is a one-word argument back and forth between them and an ever-escalating battle of dominance. The mice use cheese to tempt each other along with wrapped gifts. Other rocks also play a role and pile around the bigger rock. There are walls of rock, knocked down by a wrecking ball. Finally, the two mice are together on the rock, arguing with one another. That’s when the ending takes a great twist.

Mack has a delightful sense of humor and timing in this picture book. The writing could not be simpler, with only one word being used in the entire book. The illustrations work particularly well with their limited palette and bright colors. They have the feel of the vintage Spy vs. Spy, with the two mice in their distinct colors battling one another. There are sneaky attacks and all out blasts. It’s a wild look at the hazards of not sharing.

Great for toddlers learning about sharing, reading this aloud will have you shouting “Mine!” in all sorts of tones. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

The Song from Somewhere Else by A. F. Harrold

The Song from Somewhere Else by A. F. Harrold.jpg

The Song from Somewhere Else by A. F. Harrold, illustrated by Levi Pinfold (9781681194011, Amazon)

Released July 4, 2017.

This novel for middle grades combines fantasy with a touch of horror. Frank’s best friends are away for most of the summer, so she doesn’t have much to do. Her father is always sending her out of the house to play, unaware that she has been targeted by a group of boys and is being bullied. When they toss her backpack into a patch of nettles, another boy steps in. Nick has always been teased at school and doesn’t have any friends. He’s bigger than the other kids and talks almost like an adult. Frank isn’t sure she wants to be friends with Nick, but when she visits his home she hears strange music that makes her feel stronger and better. Frank snoops enough to find out Nick’s secret, one that is dangerous and puts them both at risk.

Harrold’s writing is exceptional. He writes about bullying with deep perception and understanding. The bullying scenes are intense and underscore the feeling of powerlessness combined with cruelty. Harrold also captures the way that one can think one thing in the gut in another in the head. Frank has a lot of difficult choices to make in the book, ones that put her own well-being before that of others. It’s particularly nice that Frank is not a great heroine. She manages to betray people, think of deserting them, wonder whether she should just walk away, and yet in the end is exactly the heroine that we all need to be. She is often not really likable either, and that makes the book work particularly well somehow.

Pinfold’s illustrations are swirls of darkness and shadow on the page. They menace and threaten, just like the bullies in the neighborhood. There’s an aspect of danger to all of them. They manage to be both intimate and distant, a dance of being the victim or the observer.

A novel that combines horror and fantasy into one dark summer, this book is simply amazing. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Bloomsbury.

Take Your Time by Eva Furrow

Take Your Time by Eva Furrow

Take Your Time: A Tale of Harriet, the Galapagos Tortoise by Eva Furrow and Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Laurel Molk (9780805095210, Amazon)

Harriet lives on the Galapagos Islands. She spends her day slowing going about her routine of eating and sleeping. The other animals on the island want her to start moving faster and explain that she should head out to see the world. Harriet gets curious and decides to set off, she heads off to see the penguin parade on a neighboring island, swimming slowly and steadily. She makes it in time to see the penguins, then takes some iguanas for a ride on her shell, and builds a pool for the sea lions. All of this takes a lot of time, since she does it so slowly. She heads back home finally, slowly swimming in the sea until she meets some dolphins who show her how to go fast. But Harriet is much happier moving at her own pace and getting to see everything she wants.

Based on a Galapagos Tortoise who lived in an Australian zoo, this picture book celebrates both the endangered tortoises themselves and the idea of going slow through life. Children will love the depictions of the various animals and the extreme slowness of Harriet herself. The pacing of the book does not drag, instead showing all of the details that Harriet sees and that others miss. It is about the journey and savoring it all.

Molk’s illustrations show the beauty of Harriet’s world. Done in block prints with watercolor and then enhanced digitally, the illustrations have a timeless feel that works well with the subject matter. They have a great organic quality to them with the deep black lines and the swirls of watercolor for the skies and seas.

A celebration of slow, this picture book is a dynamic look taking your time. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt & Co.

This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe

This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe

This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe (9781452150185, Amazon)

The lives of seven children from around the world are documented in this engaging nonfiction picture book. A child each from Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Russia and Uganda share their daily lives. They talk about what they eat, where they live, their schools, how they play and where they sleep. This is an intimate look at these children and their lifestyles that offers a way to look at how cultures are different but also how certain things are universal as well.

Lamothe worked with seven real families to create the book, showing photographs of them at the end of the book. The focus on concrete things that make up our lives offers a tangible way for children to see cultures and explore differences and similarities. It’s a clever way to invite children to explore and learn.

The illustrations are phenomenal and with their fine details offer the same sort of window as photographs. While it is great to see the photographs at the end, they offer a sort of confirmation that the illustrations truly have captured the lives of these children. These are illustrations to pore over and enjoy, allowing them to transport you around the globe.

Wonderful for classrooms and libraries, this nonfiction picture book is exceptional. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

 

The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall

The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall

The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe (9781592702145, Amazon)

Spring has returned to the forest, filling the woods with all colors of green. In the midst of the new growth, something special sparkled. It was a gold leaf, unique and different. All of the animals wanted to have it. A bird got it first, planning to use it to line its nest. Soon though, other animals grab it and take it for themselves until finally it lays in tatters on the ground and then is swept away by the wind. The animals are so dismayed at what they have done. The seasons change and fall and winter arrive and go. It is spring once again, green and lush. Will the gold leaf return?

Hall dazzles with her prose, offering so many colors of green in a single sentence that it is almost like being in a woods and noting each color. She uses very dynamic pacing in this picture book from the frenzy over the gold leaf itself as it is torn apart to the sadness afterwards and the slow turn of the seasons. That slow consideration continues as the animals wait to see if the gold leaf will ever return to them.

The illustrations take Hall’s considerable list of green colors and convey them to the page. The images are lush and filled with rich colors that have dapples of sunlight, deep shadows and animals that glow against the background. The use of goldleaf for leaf itself is very effectively done, particularly as it is ripped apart and each little piece continues to brighten the page.

A book about wonder, patience and sharing, this picture book is particularly golden. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion.