Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator by Emma Bland Smith, illustrated by Jennifer M. Potter (9781632172693)
Claude hatched out of an egg in a Louisiana swamp with his siblings. Unlike them though, he was white rather than green. His different color made him easy prey for predators in the swamp and his siblings also were uneasy around him. The owner of the alligator farm gave the little alligator to a special zoo in Florida. At that zoo, he was safe but all alone. He lived that way for 13 years until a museum in California wanted him to come and live with them. They had another alligator name Bonnie, but Bonnie did not get along with Claude and bit him in the foot. Afterwards, Claude had to have surgery to remove one of his toes and took weeks to recover. When he returned, he was alone again in his pen except for the snapping turtles, and then something wonderful happened.
This nonfiction picture book tells the story of the beloved white alligator who charmed museum-goers in San Francisco at the California Academy of Sciences. The focus of the book is on Claude’s well-being and the care he received throughout his life to keep him safe. The need for him to have contact with other animals is also a feature as zookeepers struggle to provide that full life for him. Written in frank and simple language, this book nicely balances the amount of text per page, making it a book that can be shared aloud with preschoolers.
Potter’s illustrations offer a cartoon-like look at Claude and his life. Some pages like Bonnie eying up Claude before attacking him are menacing, while others are filled with a gentle joy as Claude finds animals he can live with. Claude pops on the page as a white creature, showing just how special and unique he was.
A friendly look at an interesting animal who found a home that was safe and supportive. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Little Bigfoot.
Egg by Kevin Henkes
Henkes returns with another winner of a picture book. This time he uses a graphic novel format ideal for preschool picture book fans. The book is utter simplicity, using repetition to show each of the four eggs: one pink, one yellow, one blue and one green. At first they are whole, then three begin to crack. Soon three chicks have emerged! Still, the green egg stays whole and quiet. There is lots of waiting and the three chicks return to help the final egg start cracking open. Then they are the ones who get a surprise when the egg hatches!
Simple and completely wonderful, this picture book graphic novel is great fun to read. Children can help by repeating the phrases the right number of times along with the adult reader. There is a lovely rhythm created by the repetition, almost swinging along with the beat. The limited vocabulary is also welcome for new readers.
The art by Henkes stays simple as well. With firm lines and soft pastel colors, the book is ideal for springtime (or those of us dreaming of spring). Even the illustrations get in on the repetition, using similar panels to repeat as the different eggs wait, hatch and then wait once more.
Clever and warm, this is a very welcome addition for emergent readers and springtime story times. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Alan’s Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis (InfoSoup)
Alan is known for the way that he is able to scare the other animals with his big scary teeth. He spends time each day caring for his teeth and practicing his scary faces in the mirror. Then he heads into the jungle, snapping, growling and declaring how scary his teeth are. The other animals are terrified. Then Alan goes home, relaxes and takes out his false teeth. One day, Barry the beaver discovers Alan’s teeth in their hiding place. He takes them away and leaves Alan without his teeth. Alan tries to scare the other animals, but they just laugh at his toothless threats. Alan was terribly sad, though the other animals were relieved not to be scared anymore. Maybe Alan can learn some skills beyond scaring others?
Jarvis writes in a very engaging way that is perfect for sharing aloud. The entire book gallops along at a fast pace with plenty of action and humor. The reveal of Alan having false teeth is nicely timed, so that the listening audience will be just as surprised as the animals are. The playful tone of the book is helped by the humor throughout with surprises adding to the fun.
Jarvis’ illustrations are childlike and bold. The backgrounds on the illustrations show jungle lushness without being overwhelming or dark. The illustrations have just as much charm as the story itself, creating funny moments and showing products like “Snap Snap Toothpaste.” The entire book works as a seamless package with the illustrations skillfully supporting the story.
This picture book is sure to get toothy grins from any audience you share it with. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller (InfoSoup)
Snappsy discovers his day taken over by a narrator in this picture book. The book begins with the narrator explaining that Snappsy was feeling “draggy” and even his skin was “baggy.” Meanwhile, Snappsy himself actually feels hungry. The narrator keeps talking about Snappsy’s every move, sometimes just describing what is happening in each image and other times adding too much drama. When Snappsy reaches the grocery store, the narrator focuses on the letter P too much. Snappsy decides to throw a party so there is something to do, and the narrator continues to cause mayhem as the story progresses.
Falatko’s writing is very funny. Her timing is wonderful, Snappsy often reacting just the way that the reader would, calling the narrator out for doing a bad job at times and other times getting snarky when the narrator has miscalled what is about to happen. The influence of the narrator’s voice on a story is shown very clearly here and is a great way to talk about the tone of writing and how that can change an entire book to read one way or another. That said, this book can also just be read for the giggles which is the perfect reason to pick up any picture book.
Miller’s illustrations have the feel of a vintage picture book, just right for this subject matter. They add to the humor from the expressions on Snappsy’s face to the homey aspects to the house that Snappsy lives in.
A smart, silly and richly funny picture book that is sure to have people laughing when it’s shared aloud. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Okay, Andy! by Maxwell Eaton III
The author of the Max and Pinky books returns with a new duo, Andy and Preston. Andy is an alligator and Preston is a young coyote. The two of them make an unlikely team but one that works incredibly well for humor. Preston often can’t figure out what is really going on. So when Andy is hunting a rabbit, Preston thinks it is a game of tag. In the next chapter, Preston wants to take every thing they find, though Andy holds onto a stick for himself. Andy is so distracted that he doesn’t see the cliff coming and then he lets loose his anger on Preston. Then it is up to Andy to make things right, if he can. In the final chapter, Andy is trying to sleep when Preston wants to have him guess what kind of animal noise Preston is making. This quickly descends into a merry chaos and then the book comes full circle back to the rabbit in a very satisfying ending.
This is a graphic novel perfect for beginning readers. Eaton tells the story in just a few words, letting the illustrations carry most of the story rather than the words. He uses repeating words too, making it even funnier and also making it easier for the youngest readers to decipher. Filled with silly action, the book does speak to the ins and outs of friendship. Eaton’s art is clear and clean, his thick black lines filled with simple colors. The result is a graphic novel that is simple, easy and cheerful.
A great pick for beginning readers, children will enjoy the graphic novel format and the humor. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Blue Apple Books.
Oliver and His Alligator by Paul Schmid
Oliver sometimes isn’t as brave as he’d like to be, and that is especially true on the first day of school. So he headed to the swamp and picked up an alligator, “just in case things got rough.” When Oliver got to school a woman who was not his mother greeted him and asked his name. In his panic, Oliver couldn’t remember his name, but he could say “munch, munch!” and the alligator ate the lady. A similar thing happened when a little girl in the class asked Oliver what he loved. Oliver wanted to answer and even had a great reply, but he found that he could only say “munch, munch!” and the alligator ate the girl. As Oliver steadily had his alligator munch his classmates, the classroom got much quieter and lonelier. But what is a boy to do when everyone has been eaten?
Schmid tells this story with a wonderful matter-of-fact tone that leaves readers shocked at first but then delighting in this clever answer to the worries of the first day of school. I guarantee a wonderful stunned moment if you share this book aloud, and then a rush of nervous but genuine glee at it all.
The book is cleanly designed with very simple lines that allow the humor of the situation to really shine. The simplicity is beautiful and entirely modern thanks to Oliver’s oversized sweater and mop of hair.
Beautiful, clever and a joy to share aloud, this book is riotously funny and oh so true. A great addition to starting-school shelves. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
John Jensen Feels Different by Henrik Hovland, illustrated by Torill Kove
John Jensen lives in Norway. He lives in an apartment, eats cereal for breakfast, brushes his teeth, and takes the bus to work. But he feels different than everyone else and knows that people are looking at him because he is different. He notices that no one else wears a bowtie, so he changes and wears a regular one. But he still feels different. John Jensen decides that the real problem is his tail, since no one else has a tail like his. So he ties it up and hides it, but all that results in is not being able to sit comfortably and losing his balance. In fact, he loses it so badly that he falls and has to go to the doctor. Thank goodness that Dr. Field turns out to be just what John Jensen needs, a friendly doctor who is also an elephant.
Told in a deadpan voice, this book is pure delight. John Jensen is obviously different, since he’s an alligator. But the book never gives that away except in the illustrations. Instead, it is told as if he is just another Norwegian on the bus. The tension leading to the realization builds and is only partly fixed by the appearance of the elephant towards the end. The book ends shortly thereafter with no sudden realization by John Jensen, just an acceptance that he truly is different. I loved the fact that there was no culminating event at the end, because it made the book really work as a vehicle to talk about all sorts of differences even if you are a human too.
Kove’s illustrations add to the deadpan humor of it all. There are marvelous touches like Camus’ The Stranger as bedtime reading, and the fact that absolutely no one on the bus is actually looking at John Jensen. The illustrations are a large part of what really create the strong Norwegian setting that permeates the book.
Translated from Norwegian, this is a striking picture book in so many ways. It will be one of those books that children shout at thanks to the deadpan nature and the lack of reveal, and I love sharing those books with kids. After all, we all feel different and even a bit green and scaly at times. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.