Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen (9781643750057)
Badger loves living alone in the big house where Aunt Lula lets him stay. He has turned the living room into a rock room for his Important Rock Work. There he spends many hours quietly absorbed in his work, identifying rocks and minerals. Then one day, Skunk arrives. Skunk refuses to stay more than one night in the guest closet and instead takes over Badger’s box room, making it into his bedroom. He too has been invited to stay by Aunt Lula. Skunk makes large breakfasts that make Badger full and happy until Badger is asked to do the washing up. But then things really go wrong when Skunk invites the chickens over. Soon a stoat is after the chickens, Badger is accidentally sprayed with skunk spray, and Badger says some horrible things to Skunk that cause him to leave. Now Badger is alone again, but not quite so happily as before.
Cracking this book open and reading the first page will have even the most jaded readers of children’s books realizing that they are reading a new classic. The book reads aloud beautifully, the pacing just right for sharing. The humor throughout is just the right mix of broad comedy and quieter silly moments. Add in the touching realizations that Badger has throughout the book as he becomes a much better roommate and friend, and you have a book with merriment, silliness and heart.
Klassen’s illustrations are marvelous, conveying differences between the two characters clearly. From the glowering Badger to the beaming Skunk, you could not have two small furry animals more different than these two. Add in a rocket potato, lots of chickens and exploring a new/old neighborhood, and there is plenty of humor and charm in these illustrations.
Funny, friendly and furry. Exactly what you want in a new classic to share aloud. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Algonquin Young Readers.
Up the Mountain Path by Marianne Dubuc (9781616897239)
Every Sunday, Mrs. Badger walks to the mountain peak. Along the way, she greets her various animal friends and finds gifts to give others later. She helps anyone who needs it too. When a young cat asks to share Mrs. Badger’s snack, she invites the cat along to the mountaintop. They need to find the little cat her own walking stick and take breaks along the way, but the two eventually make it to the peak. They enjoy one another’s company and the trip so much that they continue to make the trek together again and again. Eventually, Mrs. Badger grows older and has to be the one taking breaks and finally she can’t make the trip any longer. The cat continues to make the walk, finding her own young animal to mentor on the way.
This gentle picture book has such depth to it. Mrs. Badger is a fabulous character, exhibiting deep kindness and thoughtfulness for others. She knows everyone she encounters on the walk and makes connections easily. She demonstrates how to make and keep friends with all of her actions. This becomes even more clear as she walks with the young cat, teaching them how to make the long climb to the peak. The book can be read as a metaphor for life but children can also simply enjoy the story of the friendly badger and a young cat who become friends.
Dubuc’s illustrations move from full pages of images to smaller unframed pictures that offer a varied feel throughout the book. She makes sure to have a special feeling when the characters make it to the mountaintop. The vista is striking but it is the journey itself that makes the book sing.
A quiet book about connections and community. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Laundry Day by Jessixa Bagley (9781626723177)
Tic and Tac are brothers and are horribly bored. Ma Badger tries to get them to read books or build a fort or fish. Finally, she asks if they’d like to help hang laundry. The two of them merrily agree since they have never tried doing that yet. The two help their mother and do so well that she leaves them working and heads to the market. Soon the two little badgers have finished hanging the laundry and find even more clothes to hang. They gather more rope and more items from the house, hanging them all on the line! Luckily, their mother knows exactly what else needs to be clipped to the line.
Bagley, the author of Boats for Papa, has created a delightful mischievous picture book. The two little badgers are naughty in the best possible way, carrying the game as far as possible before their mother discovers what they are up to. Children will love to see the household items hanging on the lines and wonder what is coming next. The ending is entirely satisfying as well.
The art is bright and colorful. The final reveal of the clothes lines and all of the objects is amazing. There are plenty of details in the illustrations to linger over and enjoy. The bright colors add to the playful feel of the entire book.
Not just for naughty children, though they will laugh the loudest! Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
The Turnip by Jan Brett (InfoSoup)
Badger girl was weeding the garden when she noticed something odd. It was a huge turnip! She tried to pull it out, but it would not budge. Soon their whole family of badgers were trying to pull the turnip out with no success. Hedgie tried to use his prickles to get it out, Mr. Ram tried using his horns, and Vanya the horse hitched up and pulled too. Nothing worked. Then Rooster strutted up and insisted that he try all by himself. Meanwhile, down in the cave below a family of bears had also discovered the turnip and pushed hard to get it out of their bedroom. The turnip sailed into the air with a triumphant Rooster flying along too. Then it was turnip pancakes for everyone!
Brett excels at retelling folktales, enlivening them with her animal characters. This is a traditional cumulative tale that sticks very close to the original. The family of bears living under the turnip is a great addition that allows strutting Rooster to claim victory over the stubborn turnip. The pacing of the tale works well, each new attempt has a longer and longer line of animals trying to help and also dreaming of what delicious things could be made out of the turnip.
As always, Brett’s illustrations are filled with fine details. She again uses her framing on each double-page spread, showing the next animal to arrive before they come in. Readers will notice the bear family on these panels too, a subtle introduction prior to them taking center stage. The illustrations show that this is Russia where the badgers and bears live. They wear traditional Russian clothing and the frames on the illustrations show a similar influence.
Another winner from Brett, this picture book will make a crowd pleaser of a read aloud, but with Brett’s detailed illustrations it’s also a winner of a lap read. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.
The Day Everything Went Wrong by Moritz Petz, illustrated by Amelie Jackowski
When Badger wakes up one morning, he decides that he is only going to do things that he enjoys that day. But as he tries to get out of bed, he knocks over his lamp. Still in a good mood, he sits down to breakfast and his cup falls off the table and breaks. After breakfast, he can’t find his colored pencils. When he tries to spend time in his yard, he trips on a shovel and falls down, hurting his knee. He decides that the day is really rotten and heads off to see his friends. As he visits them, each one is having a bad day. Badger manages to help each of them feel better about their day, fixing what he can. But he still isn’t having a great day himself when he heads back home to find all of his friends there to make his day better in return.
This Swiss import has a gentleness that permeates the entire picture book. Though Badger is having a very bad day, readers will know that it’s all going to be alright just from the tone of the book. Young readers will recognize things that frustrate them in their own days, toys not working right, being unable to find things, and breaking things accidentally. Badger does not react in anger at any of this, feeling more sad and disappointed as his great day changes to a rotten one. The example that helping others will help your own day improve is definitely something worth reading about.
Jackowski’s illustrations add to the gentle nature of the book. Badger’s home is filled with touches that make it warm and comfortable. The tea kettle is steaming, toast is right within reach, a garden is right outside the door, and there’s a ladder to reach a high branch. Heading out to see the other animals, they all have homes that are personalized but have that same sense of small details.
A book about bad moods and bad days but also how to brighten your day back up again. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.