Predator and Prey by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Bert Kitchen (9780763695330)
In poems for two voices, this book shows the cunning, evolution and beauty of predators and their prey. From bats to frogs to snakes to hawks to spiders, the poems feature all sorts of animals. Engagingly, often it is sometimes the obvious predator who is actually going to be the prey. That is certainly true in the example of the spider at the center of her web who is being preyed upon by the assassin bug. After each of the poems, there is a section about the animals in nonfiction prose that illuminates the relationship of the two species more clearly.
I was amazed to discover that this is biologist Buhrman-Deever’s first book for children. Her two-voice poems are very effective and could easily be used in classroom activities to be shared aloud by pairs of children who will enjoy being predators and prey since so many of the animals featured are very fascinating. She gives voice to the animals in her poems and then allows scientific information to be shared as well. The end of the book has a lengthy bibliography which is greatly appreciated.
The illustrations by Kitchen are exceptional as well, showing the reader the relationship between the two animals being discussed. They are realistic and dramatic as the animals stand off on the page. Several of the pages also have large gated pages that open to reveal the poem beneath them, allowing Kitchen’s full imagery to be appreciated without words blocking it.
A very successful mix of poetry and science, this one is sure to be preyed upon by hungry readers in classrooms and activities. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market by Raul the Third (9781328557261)
The Pura Belpré Award-winning illustrator of Lowriders in Space returns with his first picture book. Little Lobo takes his dog Bernabe along as he delivers supplies around the market to different vendors. After Kooky Dooky wakes them up in the morning, the wagon is loaded and they head into town. Everyone there has a different job and on the bustling pages, readers can take a look at what different creatures in town are doing. As Little Lobo makes his way past the various stalls, readers get to see inside them even if they don’t have a delivery that day. There are vendors of comic books, puppets, hats, herbs, food and more. At the end of the day, Lobo delivers golden laces to the final vendor and discovers that his favorite luchadore is actually there!
Told in an engaging mix of Spanish and English, the picture book also has Spanish labels for different items in the picture and English translations to Spanish sentences at the bottom of the page. The entire book invites readers to try reading English and Spanish as they explore the market. The use of a strong structure like delivering packages allows the images to be more free flowing without losing the story line.
The pace of the book is brisk and yet readers will need to linger over the illustrations and explore them fully. They have the busy nature of a Richard Scarry with a modern feel. Exploring the various animals on the page is great fun as is looking at the smaller stories being told in images only as Lobo goes through the market.
A top pick for this year, every library should have this rich and vibrant book. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Monkey on the Run by Leo Timmers (9781776572502)
In this wordless picture book, Papa Monkey and his little monkey are heading home from school in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The two of them are aboard his banana-cycle with a sidecar for little monkey. But from the beginning, the little one is engaging with the other vehicles along the way. He leaps on to a firetruck that is fighting a fire on another vehicle while driving. He takes a piece of cake from a royal car with a mobile kitchen and waiters. He munches the cake in the crow’s nest of a boat with wheels. He dodges a rooster after seeing a police chase. He dangles above an ambulance, gets ice cream from an ice cream truck, and ends up with a perfect wrapped present for his mother along the way.
Timmers’ traffic filled with inventive vehicles will remind readers of Richard Scarry’s Busy Town. This art though is much more modern and the interaction between the vehicles is more robust. There is a lovely logic to each vehicle, a little story being told to the reader who slows down to explore each one. The bustle and rush of the traffic would seem to make a fast-paced book, but this is one to linger over and enjoy following the adventures of a little monkey through the wildness of the different modes of transportation.
If you have a little one obsessed with vehicles, the humor and wonder here is sure to entice them. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Gecko Press.
The Great Indoors by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Ruth Chan (9781368000833)
When the humans head out on vacation, the animals move in for their own holiday time. The beavers head to the kitchen to make plenty of snacks for everyone. The deer set up a dance party. A teen bear takes over the bathroom to curl her hair. The skunks used their cell phones. The bears used the humans’ tools to build things. Now there was no peace and quiet, no lack of screen time, and everything the indoor life had to offer. But as the week goes on, the parties and life of ease turn into one big mess. At the end of the week, it is clear that the animals are looking forward to returning to the peace of the outdoors. But what happens when the humans get home?
Told with a broad sense of humor, this picture book turns a lens on our own lifestyles and vacations. The joy of the animals at their return to the ease of electricity, TVs, cell phones and more is a great start to the book. As the vacation goes on though, the toll those options take is clear. Yet the book is not a lecture on modern convenience as the tone is kept light and humorous.
Chan’s art is marvelous, playing up the humor of the situation. From the tower of ice cream buckets arriving to the final mess of the house, the illustrations add so much to this picture book. Butter-licking deer, broken beds, nacho cheese in a toaster and more add to the final chaos.
A giggle of a book, this is a good one to share. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Disney Hyperion.
Awâsis And The World-Famous Bannock by Dallas Hunt, illustrated by Amanda Strong (9781553797791)
When Awâsis accidentally loses her grandmother’s world-famous bannock as she is taking them to a relative, she starts to cry. When a duck hears her crying, the duck offers to help and gives her some tohtosapopimehkan or butter. A rabbit in the woods offers her some flour or askipahkwesikan. As Awâsis walks on, more animals offer her ingredients to make the bannock again. Readers will see a bear lingering nearby and wonder about what he is up to. When Awâsis returns home to her grandmother, she is still missing one key ingredient for the perfect bannock. Who will provide it?
Hunt skillfully integrates Cree words into his tale about a Cree girl, her grandmother and the animals who help her. In the author’s note, he also mentions that the story celebrates traditional indigenous storytelling methods and readers will notice the strong structure of the story and the way it reads aloud beautifully. A pronunciation guide and glossary of Cree words is provided as well as the recipe for world-famous bannock. The illustrations have a lovely softness to them that invites readers into a forest filled with helpful animals.
A marvelous picture book celebrating the Cree language, storytelling and food. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Highwater Press.
Sweet Dreamers by Isabelle Simler (9780802855176)
Enter the dreams of creatures around the world in this picture book. The dreams of the animals can be surprising like the sloth dreaming of racing and moving fast without moving at all. They can also be more logical, like the ant who dreams of dots marching in single file. Other animals are shown in their habitat and their unique way of sleeping like the swallow who sleeps while flying, the flamingo who has pink dreams, or the frog who sleeps in the mud. Each animal is given a short poem about their slumber, creating a book that is ideal for bedtime but fascinating enough to return to again and again.
Simler’s writing is exquisite. By using different approaches to the various animals, she creates a book that explores the wide variety of creatures in our world while focusing specifically on how they sleep. There are the animals who are prey that sleep looking for security and safety while the predators like the lion with a full belly don’t need to worry about that. The illustrations in the picture book are equally successful with their touches of neon orange illuminating the night. Done in fine lines, the pages use their mostly black backgrounds very successfully as the creatures shine against it.
A delightful mix bedtime and beasts. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy provided by Eerdmans.
Love You Head to Toe by Ashley Barron (9781771473040)
On each page of this book, human babies are compared with animal babies in their activities throughout the day. Baby wakes up like a sea star in the sun. They play like a kitten batting at a butterfly. Baby toddles like a bear cub. They bundle up like a penguin. They eat like a chipmunk, filling their cheeks with food. The book contains many similes and metaphors and even the smallest child will enjoy looking at the animals and the ways that they are just the same.
The text is simple and straight-forward, showing the direct comparisons between baby and animal in a charming way. Activities like crawling, diaper changes, hopping, and toddling make this book accessible to all children. The illustrations show a diverse group of babies, ranging in age from around six months to one year. Done in collage, they are simple enough for little ones and delightful as well.
A winning book for infants and toddlers. Here’s hoping it comes out as a board book soon. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Owlkids.
Animalphabet by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Sharon King-Chai (9780525554158)
Immediately upon opening this book, young listeners are presented with flaps to lift. It invites them to explore and find out what is going to happen. The book is an alphabet book presented as a guessing game where flaps and page turns reveal the answers. The book begins with ant for A and moves all the way through the alphabet using animals for each letter, ending with the logical zebra. As each animal enters, the book asks a question of the reader. Moving on from ant, the text asks “Who is fancier than an ant?” The answer of butterfly is hidden by a bouquet of flowers that has tantalizing cut outs.
The book is a journey and a quest, from the answering of the questions with animals that start with a specific letter to the turning of each page to reveal a new creature. The questions are helpful at times, jumping high cues the kangaroo’s entrance, for example. Other times, readers will need to think a bit before guessing. The book forms an entire circle, moving from zebra right to ant as the answer for the final question in the book.
The illustrations play a huge role in the pleasure of this book. They are filled with peep holes, flaps to lift, pages to open and much more. The illustrations are full of bright colors, entire habitats, and jaunty animal figures. The joy here is a tactile and mental one combined, making it a very successful and never-dull alphabet book.
Beautifully designed and executed, this one will be a favorite. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Dream Flights on Arctic Nights by Brooke Hartman, illustrated by Evon Zerbetz (9781513261898)
An Alaska-themed bedtime story, this picture book matches gorgeous illustrations with rhyming verse. A boy makes a nighttime wish that he could fly and a raven appears at his window, ready to carry him away. The boy climbs on his back and they fly together, seeing all sorts of Alaskan wildlife along the way, such as wolves, ptarmigan, bears, and sea lions. For awhile, the boy flies on his own near eagles, then a snowy owl takes him even further on his journey. The northern lights appear in the sky, and the boy floats with the colors and the stars. Then the raven returns to fly him back to bed just as dawn begins to break.
Hartman’s poetry is rhyming and gentle. She takes readers on a beautiful journey through her native state, allowing them to see the incredible animals and natural features that make Alaska so special. Throughout, the child is enjoying his flight and in control of his journey through the sky. There is a sense of thrill and joy as he makes his way.
The art in the book is exceptional. Done in linocuts, the illustrations are dramatic and very effective. With the darkest of black backgrounds, the stars, animals and northern lights shine like lanterns on the page. The images have a feel of mythology and honor nature.
A unique look at Alaskan wildlife and nature. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.