Review: Bruce’s Big Fun Day by Ryan T. Higgins

Bruce's Big Fun Day by Ryan T. Higgins

Bruce’s Big Fun Day by Ryan T. Higgins (9781368022811)

Nibbs, the mouse, wants Bruce to have a fun day, but Bruce doesn’t seem to be having any fun at all. Breakfast in bed turns into a messy disaster. The long walk is exhausting. A picnic turns into a feast for the ants. The boat ride is wet, particularly when Nibbs uses Bruce himself as the boat. They do make it back home in time for supper, but supper is too dainty and fancy for Bruce and dessert is even worse. By the time they are in bed, Bruce is very, very grumpy. Which is really nice, since Bruce loves to be grumpy. It might have been the perfect day out after all.

Higgins cleverly turns his picture book series about Mother Bruce into an easy reader format. His use of limited vocabulary is done seamlessly with the story. It helps that there is zany action on many of the pages that can be explained in Higgins’ rather dry tone in just a few words. The illustrations help too. Done in full color and with Higgins’ signature style, they show the story playing out on the page with great clarity and additional moments of silliness.

A great addition to easy reader shelves, this one is big fun. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (9780316464475)

A river flowed through the forest. The river had no idea it could have adventures until a big bear came along. As the curious bear toppled into the river, the adventure began. Soon Bear was joined by Froggy and they both climbed onto a log which headed down the river. Along the way, others joined them too. There was the beaver who could captain, the turtles who were worried about disaster, the raccoons who didn’t know how to be careful, and the duck they crashed into. Then came the waterfall…

Morris has written a book that begs to be shared aloud. From the various personalities of all of the creatures to the shared adventure that is filled with twists and turns, this book is full of fun. Morris uses an interesting turn of phrase throughout the book, with each additional animal and the river itself not knowing what they are capable of. It’s a great lens as each of the animals learns that they are not alone but instead part of a larger community and world.

Pham’s illustrations are zany and ever so funny. He completely captures the personalities of each of the characters as they head down the river. From their body language to their expressions, these creatures are in for a lot of adventure together. The added joy of the maps of the river as the endpages are great. Grayed-out at first, they are full color at the end.

A wild ride of a book that is really all about shared fun and community. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Bear Out There by Jacob Grant

Bear Out There by Jacob Grant

Bear Out There by Jacob Grant (9781681197456)

This second book about Bear and his friend Spider follows Bear’s Scare. Bear is happy staying at home all day, being cozy and warm. Spider though has a kite that he wants to fly, and he loves to be outdoors. When Spider’s kite gets away from him, Spider asks Bear for help finding it. So Bear heads out into the itchy, bug-filled, dirty woods along with his friend. The two search for a long time, Bear completely missing the charm of the woods. When it starts to rain though, the entire adventure gets bleak and disheartening. The two friends though, never quit. They eventually find the kite tangled in the trees. Now can they find a way of compromising and finding some indoor/outdoor fun together?

Grant writes with a great wry sense of humor that really allows Bear to be just as grumpy as he likes without the book ever becoming too filled with complaints. Spider helps in that way too, without saying a word, keeping spirits high and trying to show Bear how lovely the outdoors actually are. The text is simple and the pace is just right for a walk in the woods.

As with the first book, Grant’s art is perfect for sharing with a group. He fills the pages with color and large shapes. Even small Spider can be easily viewed by children seated on the floor. The art is welcoming and simple.

A look at the wonders of nature through the lens of a friendship. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Review: The Night Bear by Ana and Thiago de Moraes

The Night Bear by Ana and Thiago de Moraes

The Night Bear by Ana and Thiago de Moraes (9781541555099)

At night, the Night Bear takes the night bus and heads out searching for his favorite nighttime meal, nightmares. Each type of nightmare tastes different from the others, but equally delicious. “Monsters with hideous eyes taste like burgers and fries.” “Scary pirates being mean taste like strawberries and cream.” On and on the Night Bear munches until he comes to one package of dreams he thinks is completely disgusting! It’s rainbows and unicorns, ick! So the Night Bear heads out to see if he can give it to a dreamer. He discovers a child who is awake in the middle of the night because of a bad dream and exchanges his awful unicorns for the child’s spiders and snakes (that taste like chocolate cake!)

The rhyming here is what makes the book a great success. It has a wonderful galloping pace as well as being filled with delicious surprises as each nightmare has a distinct and fully-described flavor. That pace nicely slows as the bear looks for a child to share the unicorns with and then picks up again at the end. The illustrations are filled with deep colors of night and vivid depictions of the various nightmares combined with the flavors they have.

Whether you find nightmares or rainbows delicious, this book is just the right flavor. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Andersen Press.

Review: Underwear! by Jenn Harney

Underwear by Jenn Harney

Underwear! by Jenn Harney (9781368027939)

A worn out father bear tries to get his little bear into underwear after his bath, but it’s not going to be easy! Told entirely in a rhyming dialogue between the two characters, the story is rollicking and lot of fun to read aloud. Using homonyms for plenty of humor, the little bear asks “Under where?” and then heads into a rhyming series of lines about where the underwear might actually be. When the underwear is finally located, the fun isn’t over as the little bear immediately puts it on his head as hair and also pretends to be superbear! A new change of underwear is necessary after all this fun and then a bedtime story. But even lights out can’t stop the puns.

Full of lots of laughs, particularly for preschool audiences, this picture book seems simple on the surface. Harney though has taken a single rhyme and used it throughout the entire book, weaving in puns and fun along the way. Her rhythms are dead on, her characters speak as individuals, all within a strict rhyming format. Harney’s art is bold and big on the page, making it a great story to share aloud. The expressions on both bears’ faces are funny and often priceless.

A great bedtime romp, this will also make a great closer to any story time. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Disney Hyperion.

Review: When You’re Scared by Andree Poulin

When You're Scared by Andr Poulin

When You’re Scared by Andree Poulin, illustrated by Veronique Joffre (9781771473651)

A little boy is scared to jump down into the water from a branch, even with his mother waiting below to catch him. A little bear cub feels the same way as he considers jumping from a branch into a dumpster. The mother and son each lunch together after swimming. The cub has lunch too, in the dumpster. When the boy goes to throw away their bag of garbage, he meets the mother bear standing outside the dumpster. The boy is scared of the bear, the cub is scared that he can’t get out. Mother and son decide to help the bears and bring a big log so that the cub can climb out, they are all very scared. Their plan works and the day ends with darkness and no one scared at all.

This Canadian picture book addresses the different aspects of fear. It uses the perspectives of both a human child and a bear cub to show that fear is universal. It also demonstrates that fear can be overcome and that doing so can make a positive difference in the world. The book uses words sparingly to tie the two perspectives together, allowing the story to really be told in the illustrations.

The illustrations are done in collage. They are bright and bold, showing the forest setting of the camping site and the dumpster. In certain images, the emotion of fear is shown as obliterating the sunny day entirely. It’s a very effective use of illustrations to convey emotion.

A book about fear that also encourages moving beyond fear to action. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Owlkids.

Review: There Are No Bears in This Bakery by Julia Sarcone-Roach

There Are No Bears in This Bakery by Julia Sarcone-Roach

There Are No Bears in This Bakery by Julia Sarcone-Roach (9780399556661)

The author of The Bear Ate Your Sandwich has returned with a second book about a hungry bear (or two.) Muffin is a bakery cat who solves cases when night falls. He knows all of the night sounds until one night when he hears a “grrrrrrrr” noise. At first he can’t locate the noise, but when he returns to the bakery he discovers the largest mouse he has ever seen! Or perhaps it’s the smallest bear. The sound is coming from the little bear’s stomach. Muffin knows just what to do to solve the problem: he feeds the little bear the bakery treats. Then a second bear shows up, much larger than the first. Could Muffin be in a bear-load of trouble?

Sarcone-Roach writes with exceptional tone and turns of phrase in this picture book. She uses bakery metaphors such as “I slipped into the darkness like icing melting down a hot cake.” The metaphors continue when Muffin meets the bears, giving readers a sense of what they smell like, sound like and even feel like. The story here is clever with a cat whose job might be to solve issues but most likely not by feeding wild creatures.

The art is full of colors with yellows and blues playing against deeper blacks in the shadows. Muffin pops with his orange coat against these colors. There is a playfulness in the illustrations that is particularly effective even with their dark colors and nighttime vibe.

A perfect combination of cat and bears that will leave readers craving sprinkles. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Knopf.

Review: You’re Snug with Me by Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry

You're Snug with Me by Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry

You’re Snug with Me by Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry (9781911373476)

This new picture book follows You’re Safe with Me, this time journeying to the Arctic. A mother polar bear digs a den deep in the snow and there she gives birth to two cubs. Once they are born, she tells them “You’re snug with me.” As the cubs grow up, they have lots of questions about the world outside their den. Their mother answers all of them, ending each answer with “You’re snug with me.” The bears talk about taking care of their snowy home, of ice melting and how important the oceans and ice are for their survival. Eventually, the season changes and the cubs are large enough to head out into the world with their mother who still tells them they are snug with her.

The poetic text of this picture book offers both a snug den and a warmth but also a journey into the frozen world of the Arctic. Soundar also inserts environmental information into the swirling text, creating moments to learn about our interconnected world and the perils of the polar bears. The use of a refrain in the book anchors it firmly to oral traditional tales, making it all the more impactful.

Mistry’s illustrations are exceptional. Here she has created Arctic landscapes out of a series of geometric patterns that celebrate the cold, snow, and ice. The bears too as well as their den is filled with the motions of these detailed and patterned images. These are illustrations to linger and marvel over.

Another unique picture book from this team, this time focused on polar bears and the environment. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

3 New Picture Books Full of Animals

Honey by David Ezra Stein

Honey by David Ezra Stein (9781524737863)

This is a companion book to Leaves with the same bear. This time the bear has woken up from hibernation and is hungry for honey. Everything around him reminds him of aspects of honey like the golden sun and the flowing river. But it is too early for honey to be ready, so the bear tries to forget about it. Still, he keeps on thinking of the sweet treat as he spends his days. He enjoys the rain, swimming in the water, and exploring his surroundings. Finally it is time for honey! And then the days start to cool again and fall approaches.

A great companion book to the first stellar picture book, this one feels so connected to the first. The art has the same free and flowing style as the first that was so compelling. In this book, honey is the focus and Stein cleverly shows how different parts of the bear’s day remind him of honey even when he is distracted. The illustrations are compellingly summerlike, the sunshine clear on the page. A welcome new sweet treat of a book to share. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Moon Man by Isabel Harris

The Moon Man by Isabel Harris, illustrated by Ada Grey (9781680100785)

One day Cat, Rabbit and Squirrel discovered a new addition to the wheatfield they lived near. It was a scarecrow, but only Rabbit knew that. The friends played near the scarecrow because he smelled nice and had a friendly face. That night, Fox, Owl and Hedgehog came out into the field and see the scarecrow. They think that he’s a moon man and leave him food to eat. The next morning, the other animals believe the scarecrow has left them some treats to eat. They in turn give the scarecrow flowers. The nocturnal animals see the flowers and think that the moon man has picked them because the moon doesn’t have any flowers. Perhaps they should build him a rocket to return home. When the farmer returns, he finds his scarecrow quite different! He moves it to another field, so the nocturnal animals believe their rocket has worked!

Grey’s picture book has young readers in on the joke immediately. The day animals know what the scarecrow is and their jubilant reaction sets the tone for the book. The nocturnal animals are the most confused, but their story is what makes the book really work. It is particularly nice that their story of what is happening is never disproven and instead remains intact throughout the book. The illustrations are bright and summery, filled with golds and greens. The nighttime illustrations fade to grays and pastels. A book about imagination and creativity, this picture book is full of humor and friendship. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Pignic by Matt Phelan

Pignic by Matt Phelan (9780062443397)

An adorable family of pigs head out on a sunny day for the perfect picnic. A friendly turtle helps the littlest pig climb up into a tree. As other pigs want to fly a kite, a wolf sneaks up on them. There isn’t any wind, but luckily the wolf has a solution and fixes the problem with a “Huff puff.” Called to eat, the pigs leave the wolf holding the kite. Soon storm clouds gather and rain pours down in a gush. It leaves lots of mud behind, much to the joy of the pig family!

With one problem after another, the pigs still manage to have a wonderful picnic together. The text is very simple, with a natural rhythm that ends with a chorus of “Hooray!” when each obstacle is overcome. This playful book shows the power of helping one another and having a positive outlook. The illustrations are done in watercolors and pencils, showing pink pigs of all sizes ready for a great day together. Even the blue wolf is not scary, just right for the littlest listeners. A book that will have everyone planning the next picnic. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)