Wanted! Criminals of the Animal Kingdom by Heather Tekavec, illustrated by Susan Batori (9781525300240)
Take a look at the thirteen most wanted creatures in the animal kingdom. Their crimes are all unique to them and their names indicate what they have done. There is Big Bad Mama, Bubbles, Queenie the Meanie, and the Backyard Burglar. Each animal has its own rap sheet, complete with what they are wanted for, their aliases, distinguishing features, life span, sightings, witnesses and even previous arrests and gang affiliations. The various crimes are things like faking their own death for a frog, assault for spitting llamas, and traffic violations for crabs who cross the road in a huge crowd.
Done with a broad sense of humor, the book also offers factual information within the laughter. The criminal activity part of their rap sheet offers a paragraph about the animal and its problematic behavior. Some of the animals may be familiar to children but others will be a delight to discover. The art works seamlessly with the text to create a full rap sheet with loose paperclips, file folders, photographs and much more.
Humor combines with science and police records to create a funny and dynamic animal picture book. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kids Can Press.
All the Dear Little Animals by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Eva Eriksson, translated by Julia Marshall (9781776572892)
Originally published in 2009, this award-winning Swedish import is written by the author of the Detective Gordon series. One summer day, Esther found a dead bumblebee and decided to give it a burial ceremony. The narrator of the story, a little boy, helps her by writing a poem about death. The two head out to the secret clearing to dig a grave and plant seeds. Then they set out to find more dead creatures with the help of Puttie, who was a very good crier. They form a business called Funerals, Ltd. and spend their day doing a variety of funerals for animals of all sorts, all in their secret clearing. The final funeral of their day comes when a blackbird hits a window and dies in front of them. They all felt the sadness of that death. And then the next day, they did something different.
I adore Nilsson’s approach to children’s book with his deep understanding of the way that children think and act. This book feels like my childhood, dealing with deep and serious thought one day and moving on. It offers a skillful balance of morose, serious sadness with a sunny summer day, a business idea, and time spent with friends. It’s that juxtaposition and the frank approach of the children toward death that makes this book work so well.
The illustrations by Eriksson really add to the mix of sorrow and sunshine. They are dappled green and gold. Children will appreciate that the dead animals are shown to the reader, tucked into their boxes or on their way to being buried. The final pages with all of the headstones and graves are both humorous and touching.
Funny and serious, just like childhood. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Gecko Press.
Bedtime for Sweet Creatures by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (9781492638322)
A small child does not want to go to bed in this poetic look at bedtime struggles. The book begins with the word “no” being chanted like a drum beat. The child asks “who” like an owl as if there is someone else heading to bed. Their mother takes the teddy bear and heads off towards the bedroom. Once in bed, there is growling like a bear, hissing like a snake due to monsters, and even roaring like a lion to check beneath the bed. Fawns and squirrels appear as a storybook is shared. The child hugs like a koala for a final kiss. Then there is water to drink and the bathroom to use before the child may or may not head to their own bed and sleep.
Grimes takes the battles of bedtime and turns them into a menagerie of animals who fill the pages with the reactions. The process of bedtime negotiations is rather like lions and snakes for parents at times. I appreciate that the process is imperfect and at times filled with the child’s strong emotions. As always, Grimes’ writing is marvelous. Her words are energetic and the combination of behavior and animals is clever.
The art by Zunon is done in vibrant mix of collage and painting. The character’s faces are detailed and expressive, while the various animals are done in a colorful and stylized format. The child could be any gender, which makes this book all the more inclusive in addition to having an African-American family of characters.
A poetic and animal-filled bedtime story about bedtime. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.
What Does an Anteater Eat? by Ross Collins (9781536205916)
Anteater wakes up hungry, but he can’t figure out what anteaters eat. He tries asking the other animals that he encounters. Sloth is too busy to answer his question. Snake offers advice on chewing food. Toucan is certain that anteaters eat watermelon, but the melon doesn’t fit in Anteater’s mouth. Other animals are too busy eating their own meals or considering Anteater for their next meal. So Anteater ends up asking the ants. Anteater has figured it out! Or has he?
This is one of those picture books that simply must be shared aloud to get its full impact. From the very clueless anteater to the unhelpful other animals to the twist at the end, the book is full of silliness and giggles. Young listeners will love being in on the entire joke from the beginning and watching the humor play out. The illustrations are large and bold, just right for sharing aloud with a group. Done in watercolor and charcoal, the images are full of deep colors and add to the humor of the text.
A great book for closing out a storytime with laughter. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Nosy Crow.
Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys by Mike Unwin, illustrated by Jenni Desmond (9781547600977)
Explore the many animals who migrate each year from all over the world in this nonfiction picture book. The book focuses on each animal’s amazing journey and provides a wide look at migration in general, the various types of animals who migrate, and the specific story of each animal. The animals include birds like the emperor penguin, the Arctic tern, the swallow, and the ruby-throated hummingbird. It also tells the story of mammals like the whales, elephants and caribou. Then there are surprising stories of migrations of crabs, dragonflies, and bats.
The text of the book offers real details of the animal’s lives and their migrations. The book ends with a map of all of the different migration paths shared in the book, nicely covering much of the globe with their travels. The information provided is fascinating and just enough to discover whether you want to learn more about that animal or not.
The illustrations are done in full-page color where the animals take center stage against their various habitats. From the Christmas crabs filling the street with their red color to the beauty of a mother whale and her calf to the woods filled with monarch wings, each of them are unique and just as interesting to explore as the text.
A fascinating and scientific look at migration and the creatures who do it year after year. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.
Can I Keep It? by Lisa Jobe (9781624146961)
A little boy finds animals in his backyard and wonders if he can keep them as pets when they “follow” him home. His mother addresses each type of animal by asking her son where he would want to live if he was that animal. When the boy catches a squirrel, his mother points out that squirrels like to climb trees and gather acorns. She helps him realize that the squirrel belongs outside. The frog he catches next likes splashing in water, so the boy releases him too after thinking about how he loves to swim. The bird likes to fly in the sky rather than live in a cage. The boy thinks about swinging high and how much he loves that. Happily, the next animal the boy finds is a stray cat who may just find living with a little boy exactly the right place to live.
Jobe uses a droll sense of humor in this picture book. The little boy says to his mother that the animals are following him home while he is actually trapping them in a variety of ways in the yard. The mother’s responses are clever and thoughtful without being heavy handed at all, allowing the child to figure things out on his own. The rhythm of the book is lovely, with the boy capturing a creature and each dialogue following a pattern.
Jobe’s art is bright and filled with motion. Done in watercolor, gouache, pastel and then digitally collaged, the illustrations are large enough to use nicely with a group of children. In every scenario with an animal’s preferred place to live, the little boy thinks about how he feels when he swings or swims or climbs trees. This is shown through illustrations and works very well.
A great picture book about respecting animals, engaging with nature, and finding the perfect pet. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Page Street Kids.
Even More Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown (9781338349610)
Released July 30, 2019.
Brown returns with another look at wildlife that never get featured in children’s book about animals. Each of these animals is fascinating and Brown offers really interesting facts and tidbits about each of them. The book includes a kangaroo that lives in trees and can jump down over 60 feet without getting hurt. It also has beaked whales with peculiar teeth that hunt fish and squid. There are giant colorful squirrels from India, a killer marten from Afghanistan who can hunt deer, and a Chinese deer with fangs who can leap into trees. Page after page has an unusual animal that demonstrate that we are still learning about wildlife on Earth and that there are more animals than tigers, lions and giraffes to discover.
As with his first book, it is Martin’s writing that makes this such a pleasure to read. I find it impossible to read this book without sharing the information and humor with those around me. The facts shared are interesting and told with plenty of attitude and aside comments that make it great fun to keep learning. Each animal has data points too, such as size, what they eat, where they live, and status. Size in particular is done very nicely, using comparisons like dogs, cats and humans. Brown’s art gives each of the animals rather googly eyes and they often seem to be looking directly at the reader. They are shown in their habitat and often in motion. Other details are called out in images as well and are embedded in the text.
Smart, funny and sure to teach you something new. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from ARC provided by David Fickling Books.
Beastly Puzzles by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler (9781771389136)
So many guessing game books about animals are for very young children, but this one will challenge those in elementary school as well. Taking cues from historical descriptions of animals that were based on known animal elements, this book is devilishly difficult even with the extra hint provided. One might expect the animals to be unusual, but they are well-known animals like ostriches, polar bears, frogs, and kangaroos! Open the gate fold and discover how that animal can be described as made from all sorts of bits and pieces.
Poliquin’s description of each animal in terms of their elements is profoundly and delightfully confusing. A kangaroo for example is described as made up of enormous feet, an extra leg (for going slow), boxing gloves, rabbit ears, a peanut, a secret compartment, and a springboard! A large part of the joy of the book is being entirely befuddled by the clues and then learning how they all fit together. It’s not frustrating at all to be confused, but part of the fun.
The art has a great vintage vibe to it that suits the old-fashioned descriptions of the animals. It is modernized by the use of bright colors and a vibrant image of each of the animals on the reveal page. Cleverly designed with gate folds that add to the suspense too.
Fun and frustrating at the same time, much to everyone’s delight. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
If I Was the Sunshine by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Loren Long (9781481472432)
Two master picture book creators collaborate on this lovely book filled with metaphors and using opposites as more than just a concept. On sun-drenched pages, children and animals explore relationships to one another. Using “If I was…” statements, each of the verses delicately explore the inter-connective nature of the world around us. The book moves throughout a day, from morning through to bedtime. It shows various seasons as the book continues too, filling the pages with autumn apples, frozen lakes, and fireflies in the summer.
It is the combination of the art and the words that makes this picture book exceptional. Fogliano’s words are written with such skill. The verses rhyme without any forcing of the meter or the words, made even more difficult by the relationships embedded in each verse. The play of words is so deftly done, each combination is a surprise and a joy as the pages turn.
Long’s paintings are filled with light, whether it is the spark of a firefly or the gold of summer sun. He shows the relationships with various perspectives and cleverly juxtaposes the characters in double-page spreads that one can almost sink into.
A grand picture book that celebrates our world. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.