The Starry Giraffe by Andy Bergmann (9781481491006, Amazon)
Starry Giraffe was very hungry when she came upon an apple tree full of ripe red apples. She selected the most delicious-looking apple and picked it. But just as she was about to eat the apple, a little mouse appeared and told Starry how hungry he was and that he was far too small to reach the apples on his own. So Starry gave him the apple. She turned back to the tree and picked the second most delicious apple to eat. But as the was about to eat it, a family of skunks came up. The giraffe gave them each an apple. And so it continued, with the giraffe picking apples and animals appearing. She gave each of them away until finally there were no more apples on the tree! But just when readers think that there are no apples yet, the story takes a great twist.
This picture book looks at generosity and the power of sharing as the giraffe at the center of the story chooses again and again to share the apples with other animals. The twist at the end moves the book away from more traditional tales and adds a layer of silliness to the story. Abundance is a huge part of this story as the creature with the abundant source of food chooses to share it will all.
Bergmann’s illustrations are simple and bright. The star-covered giraffe is unusual with her starry pattern and the stick-thin legs. The images have a strong graphic punch to them with bright animals on white backgrounds and pale green grass.
A dynamic and modern twist on a story of sharing. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Aladdin.
Applesauce Weather by Helen Frost, illustrated by Amy June Bates
Faith and Peter know that it is applesauce time when the first apple falls from the tree outside their house. It’s also the time of year when their Uncle Arthur comes to tell his stories about how he lost his finger. But this year is different, since Aunt Lucy died and Uncle Arthur just isn’t as twinkly as he once was. Faith though is sure that her uncle will come and he does, unsure of his welcome without Aunt Lucy. He sits on the bench under the apple tree with the children, warming up to telling his tales. Maybe this year they will finally learn the truth of his missing finger!
There is a beautiful delicacy in this book, spun together by the masterful poetry of Frost. She holds the hearts of her characters with such tenderness, showing the love of the children for their uncle and also the love of Arthur for his beloved Lucy. The stories all twine together, the family sitting under the tree, long-lasting love, Peter discovering his own first love, and then the remarkable stories that Arthur tells. The entire work is dazzling, moments of life held up and made amazing just for taking the time. This is real world writing at its very best and one of the best verse novels of the year so far.
The illustrations by Bates are filled with emotions. There is the hesitation of Arthur as he arrives. The bend of the back of Faith as she waits under the apple tree. The flow of breeze into her hair. They are filled with whimsy, the stoop of an old back, the twinkle of a storyteller starting to tell, the joy of apples in fall.
Beautiful and amazing, this very short verse novel is a celebration of autumn and families. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.
Tree by Britta Teckentrup (InfoSoup)
The seasons pass as an owl looks out of a hole in a tree in this engaging picture book. Beginning in winter, owl is alone in the cold landscape. When spring comes, the snow melts and buds form on the tree. Baby bears play and climb the tree’s trunk. Leaves and blossoms form and squirrels, birds and fox cubs arrive. With summer, the apples start to form on the tree and the tree spends long warm nights swaying in the breeze. Autumn comes with colder temperatures and the animals start to leave. Apples fall to the ground and the tree’s leaves turn red and fold. Snow comes and winter arrives. Soon everyone is gone, even the owl. But he is peeking out again soon as spring comes once again.
Teckentrup uses simple rhymes to tell the story of one large tree and the ways that it supports the ecosystem around it. The seasons are clearly noted in the rhymes, the changes explained and each one is celebrated for how unique it is. The various animals too change what they are doing as the weather shifts. This is a dynamic book about weather and seasons.
It is the illustrations that make this book so noteworthy. Teckentrup’s cut out designs allow each page turn to show the owl for most of the book but also to add the other animals as they appear in the story. Then as the story reverses and the animals leave, the cut outs play out that way too.
A clever and striking look at one tree, one ecosystem and many seasons. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House.
Apples and Robins by Lucie Felix (InfoSoup)
Released March 8, 2016.
So simple and so clever, this picture book takes the wonder of shapes and page turns to a new height. Apples are made of circles and red, turn the page and the white circles on a red background transform into red apples and green leaves. A ladder appears from a stack of six rectangles and one long one. A robin flies onto the page as ovals and triangles are framed by a circle cut out. The book comes together as a birdhouse is built in the apple tree and soon robins and apples are thrown into disarray as the page turns reveal a big storm. The simple elements though return and things are set to rights once more.
There are a lot of books with cut outs on the market. Few though have this book’s flair with surprises and a sense that with each page turn there is a reveal. Even the very simple ladder somehow surprises and delights. The combination of apples and robins may not seem clear at first, but that too is revealed in a playful way as the book comes together into a cohesive whole filled with enough drama to keep those pages turning quickly.
The illustrations are simple and lovely. They use basic shapes in a compelling and creative way. As I mentioned earlier, it is the reveal that works so well here with each page turn having a sense of magic about it.
Smart and lovely, this is a brilliantly designed book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Give and Take by Chris Raschka
A farmer who grows apples discovers a strange little man out in his orchard just as his apples are ready to pick. The little man is named Take and he encourages the farmer to listen to him so that he can have a fine life. Though the farmer already has a fine life, Take promises to make it better. So the farmer goes through his day taking everything. He takes all of his neighbors pumpkins when she offers him some. He takes her advice to make pumpkin soup, and he takes a long hike. Left wishing he had some apples to eat, he kicks out Take the next morning. Then when he visits his orchard that morning, he meets another little man named Give. Give promises to make his life sweeter, so once again the farmer tries. He gives everything away, including his apples and all of his opinions. He is left hungry another night and kicks Give out. But in the morning, he discovers the two little men fighting with one another. Can a farmer outwit these two battling forces?
Raschka has written this picture book with the tone of a fable. Readers will immediately see Take as a selfish force and then think that Give is the angelic voice. But Raschka’s take is more nuanced than that, showing the harm in being too giving with everything in your life and how it can turn toxic and harmful too. He then goes about having his farmer propose a balance of giving and taking in life. The result is a book that has balance, a folkloric rhythm and tone, and is a great read aloud and opportunity for discussion.
Raschka’s illustrations are his trademark flowing and free style. He uses watercolors contained with thick black lines. The bright red of the farmer’s nose and the apples pop on the page along with the pink pig and the orange pumpkins. As always, his book is art, changing with each turn of the page as the story is told.
Perfect for discussions about balance, generosity and greed, this picture book is a great balance of art and folklore itself. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.
The Loopy Coop Hens: Letting Go by Janet Morgan Stoeke
This is the third Loopy Coop Hens book and it continues the silly adventures of these three goofy hens. Here the question is why apples fall. The hens think that it is probably the fox hiding in the tree and throwing apples at them. They try to get Rooster Sam to help them, but he is so traumatized by the falling apples almost hitting him, that he runs away. The hens know that it is up to them, so Dot volunteers to climb up the ladder to see what is going on and whether it is a fox or not. Dot heads to the top of the tree and discovers two things: why apples fall and how gorgeous the view is that high up.
Stoeke has a real touch for the absurd and silly. In her flighty hens, she demonstrates how even the silliest can also be the brave ones. Her art is simple-lined and really tells a lot of the story along with the words. The book works well as a read-aloud and the pictures are large enough to work well with a group.
This is a simple chapter book in the guise of a picture book, inviting beginning readers to give it a try. Even better, it ends with chickens falling out of trees! A perfect addition for fall and apple story times and units. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
Apple by Nikki McClure
Follow the life stages of an apple from the time it falls from the tree, ripe and red, to its return to the soil. Written in single words, the story is told primarily through the images that are done in exquisite cut paper. In each image, red is used solely to illuminate the apple with the rest of the image in black and white. This serves to not only highlight the apple as the focus, but also makes for a dynamic minimalist style.
The simplicity and minimalism really work here. It is a stunning book both in the strength of the illustrations and the focus on life stages. This is a book I would suggest for parents reading to infants, because it has that strong contrast of black, white and red that infants’ brains respond to. Even better, it’s a book that adults will enjoy reading again and again.
Appropriate for ages 0-3.
Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell
If the heat of summer is getting to you, you can always look ahead to the crispness of fall. This new edition of the Rockwell classic keeps the same feel as the original. It is the story of a little girl who heads off into the country to a farm to pick apples and pumpkins. There they meet the geese, chickens and turkey who live on the farm. They pick apples and the little girl carefully selects her pumpkin which she later carves into a jack-o-lantern. The book ends with apples being given away on Halloween.
There is a timelessness to this story that adds to its broad appeal. Rockwell’s words are simple and friendly, just as they were in the 1988 edition. Her daughter’s art, done in watercolor, has the same timeless simplicity. She celebrates the colors of autumn, but keeps the story at the center of the images.
A winning pick for an autumnal story time, you can’t miss with either edition. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.
Little Mouse’s Big Secret by Eric Battut
When Little Mouse discovers a juicy red apple on the ground, he decides that it will be his secret. So he hides it in a hole in the ground. Once it is safely hidden, his friends appear one-by-one and ask him what he’s hiding. Little Mouse insists to each animal that he will not tell because it’s his secret. As Mouse talks with animal after animal, his back is to the apple and the hole he hid it in. Soon a sprout appears from the hole, then a stalk and finally a tree. Apples appear on the tree just as Little Mouse declares that he will keep his secret forever! Then the apples fall to the ground. All of the animals reappear and Little Mouse discovers that some secrets are even better when shared.
Battut has created a picture book perfect for very young children. From the simple, friendly illustrations that have plenty of whitespace to the repetition built into the animals asking what the secret is, this book has lots of child appeal. Each double-page spread has only two lines of text on their own page, creating a book that is quite engaging and fast moving.
Children will immediately get the humor of a fast-growing apple tree that the mouse is completely oblivious to until the apples fall around him. The book also has a high cute factor, with the animals dwarfed by the growing tree, all bright-eyed and merry. They are on a buttery-yellow background that adds to the coziness of the title.
Add this book to your autumn and apple book lists. The very little mouse and other animals make it more appropriate for small groups or individual sharing. Appropriate for ages 2-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
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