Review: Music for Mister Moon by Philip C. Stead

Music for Mister Moon by Philip C. Stead

Music for Mister Moon by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (9780823441600)

A collaboration between the Steads is always reason for joy. This picture book explores the imagination of Hank, a young cellist who simply wants to play all alone. When her parents suggest that she play in public, she doesn’t think that sounds good at all. So she imagines them as penguins and heads for her room which she imagines is an isolated warm room. But just as she starts to play, an owl hoots outside. Hank eventually tosses a teacup at the owl but then her cozy home starts to fill with smoke. She discovers that the moon has been hit by her teacup and fallen down to sit atop her chimney. Together, Hank and moon have a series of adventures from buying the moon a warm hat to taking a boat ride. Will Hank play her music for the moon? And how will the moon return to the sky again?

This story is intensely whimsical and lovely. From the very first page, the tone is set and readers will realize they are in a different world. This is partly because of the lightness and ethereal beauty of the illustrations. Filled with chalky color, their fine lines show a world populated with animals, coziness and quiet.

The writing is equally delicate, moving through the tale and inviting readers to linger a while and hear the cello music too. Hank is an intriguing character, a girl who loves music but not performing. She is also a girl with an intense imagination, creating teacups and flinging them high enough to tap the moon. She allows her emotions to become items she places around her, and so the journey with the moon becomes all the more beautiful.

A bedtime story that is beautiful, moonlit and filled with music. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Neal Porter Books.

Review: Sweet Dreamers by Isabelle Simler

Sweet Dreamers by Isabelle Simler

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.

Review: Dream Flights on Arctic Nights by Brooke Hartman

Dream Flights on Arctic Nights by Brooke Hartman

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.

Review: Sleepy the Goodnight Buddy by Drew Daywalt

Sleepy the Goodnight Buddy by Drew Daywalt

Sleepy the Goodnight Buddy by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Scott Campbell (9781484789698)

Roderick hated to go to bed, so he would make all sorts of requests and excuses to delay bedtime. Then his parents got him Sleepy, a toy that would help Roderick fall asleep. At first, no matter where Roderick put Sleepy in his bedroom, he could feel Sleepy’s staring eyes on him. Roderick tried to tell Sleepy that it was his job to help Roderick sleep, but Sleepy asked for a drink of water, then to use the bathroom, then to brush his teeth, and on and on. Until finally, Roderick loses his temper turns his back on Sleepy and just goes to sleep. Could that have been Sleepy’s plan all along?

Told in both prose and dialogue, this picture book has a merry voice. Young readers will recognize their own reluctance for bedtime and may not realize as quickly as adults that Sleepy is up to something. The dialogue between Roderick and Sleepy is fast-paced and full of humor. The book reads aloud well and demands a unique voice for Sleepy in particular.

The art really works well with Sleepy being a beautifully creepy toy or creature. His staring huge eyes, striped legs, and puffy antlers are delightfully confusing. The scenes of the two characters in bed next to each other use particularly effective imagery of wide eyes glowing in the darkness, side-by-side.

A great riff on bedtime struggles. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

3 Picture Books that Celebrate Community

Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets A Muslim Book of Shapes by Hena Khan

Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini (9781452155418)

A superb concept book that has a definite Muslim flair that is very welcome. The rhyming story opens with the cone-shaped tops of the minaret. Rectangle is the mosque’s door. Then readers get invited in to see octagon fountains, arches, triangles formed by stairs. The book moves on to gardens, a shared meal at an oval table. It ends with a crescent moon in the sky.

I appreciate that this concept book about shapes offers many shapes that are not the expected ones like cones and crescents. Add in the focus on diversity that is inherent on each page, and this book is certainly something special. The book includes Muslim terms that are used in the text and then defined in the glossary at the end of the book. The illustrations are modern and bright, a mix of tradition and modernity that shines on the page. The shapes are clear and easily found in each image. A gem of a picture book that belongs in all collections. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.)

Pie Is for Sharing by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard

Pie Is for Sharing by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard, illustrated by Jason Chin (9781626725621)

Join a family on their Fourth of July celebration at the lake, complete with pie for everyone to share. There are other things that are perfect for sharing too, like a book, a ball and a tree. How about sharing a jump rope and a rhyme to skip by? As the book progresses, more and more children play together along the shore and even more things are shared. There are stick and stones, boats and water, stories, hugs and hideouts. And in the end, fireworks and another slice of pie!

This Fourth of July book truly looks at the holiday through the eyes of a child. It is lit by sparklers and fireworks as evening comes, but the day itself is brightened by all of the time spent as a family and a community. New friends are made; old friendships are strengthened. The illustrations are particularly lovely. They use child-height perspectives as well as other inventive ones to really see the holiday from a little-one’s point of view. The illustrations are realistic, sun filled and pure summer on a page.

Share this one any day of the year! Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

You_re Safe with Me by Chitra Soundar

You’re Safe with Me by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Poonam Mistry (9781911373292)

On a dark and stormy night, the little animals could not call asleep. Mama Elephant stayed with them. She rocked them in her trunk, repeating “You’re safe with me.” The wind moaned in the trees, awakening the little animals. Mama Elephant explained that the wind carries seeds from faraway into the forest. Thunder sounded startling the little animals. Mama Elephant explained that with thunder comes the rain that waters the seeds from the wind. Lightning flashed and Mama Elephant soothed the little animals with tales of the stars coming back to the sky. Finally, the river burbled and the little ones fell asleep with Mama Elephant’s refrain of “You’re safe with me.”

Told in a folklore-like style with repeating refrains and a firm story structure, this picture book carries the feeling of India with it. It carries a traditional feel, the warmth of Mama Elephant and the comfort she brings with her simple presence almost erases the storm. She uses the cycles of life, plant and animal, to reassure the little animals which makes for a rich story.

The illustrations are amazing and also have a traditional feel to them. Filled with small dots, they are deep with spice and jungle colors. Their richness creates images that children will love to look at, discovering the animals almost hidden on the pages between the leaves of the forest.

A superb bedtime book just right for stormy nights. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Lantana Publishing.)

The Moon’s Almost Here by Patricia MacLachlan

The Moons Almost Here by Patricia MacLachlan

The Moon’s Almost Here by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Tomie dePaola (InfoSoup)

A collaboration between a Newbery medalist and Caldecott Honor and Newbery Honor winner, this picture book is a dreamy bedtime read. As two people get ready for the moon to arrive, the animals around them are also preparing for bed. A hen gathers her chicks close and safe in their pen. The ducks head to the shore. Horses and cows head inside. Fireflies blink in the meadow. The dog and cat fall asleep. Then the moon has arrived, big and bright in the sky, just as the child falls asleep in the adult’s arms.

MacLachlan’s text is a poem that leads readers around the farm, from one animal to another as they prepare for bed. The animals are not anthropomorphic at all, but nicely realistic. She adds in touches of butterflies as well as the fireflies that echo the stars above. The entire effect is of tranquility and a slowing down as the evening arrives. It feels entirely natural and organic as it gets sleepier.

The illustrations by dePaola are filled with teals and blues, but also lit with moonlight. The adult character wears white with a white clown face as well that evokes Pierrot. It creates a surreal and dreamlike effect in the picture book, but is not frightening at all. The deep colors add to the nighttime quiet and sleepiness.

A superb bedtime picture book that works because of the virtuoso blend of poetry and illustration. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (InfoSoup)

Lucy spent a long time playing at the beach with her mother and father. The three of them played in the waves, dug holes in the sand, and rolled down the dunes. Soon they were all yawning and Mom declared it was a day for early bedtime! As they got ready for bed, everyone was yawning and Lucy’s mom even fell asleep reading the bedtime book. In the middle of the night the moon shone brightly through Lucy’s window and she was suddenly wide awake. She tiptoed out of bed and through the living room where her father was asleep in a chair. Lucy was looking for Molasses, her bear. She found not only Molasses but all of her stuffed animals who all wanted to come with her to bed. Once again everyone was yawning, even the pictures on the wall, as Lucy fell asleep with her bed full of stuffed friends.

Smiley has done a brilliant job of capturing a day at the beach and then the wonder of being awake at night as a small child. She keeps the language simple, so this book can be shared successfully with very small children who will relate to the joy of playing at a beach, the quiet of early bedtime and then the pure loveliness of moonlight, tiptoeing to find a treasured toy and the imagination at play.

Castillo’s illustrations are glorious. She captures the brilliant light of summer sun at a sandy beach, the hours of play, and the languid sleepiness that rolls over you after a day like that. Her illustrations keep the dark night from being dangerous or frightening, instead keeping the house dimly lit and easily navigated. It is much more a delight than a fright to be alone and awake.

A lovely book of celebrating the warmth of both family togetherness and then the joy of being little and awake alone. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Two Lions.

 

 

What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush by Emma J. Virjan

What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush by Emma J Virjan

What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush by Emma J. Virjan (InfoSoup)

This second book in the A Pig in a Wig series keeps up the zany silliness of the first even though it’s a bedtime story. Pig is getting ready for bed still in her wig, brushing her teeth and combing her hair. She’s all settled into bed with her teddy bear when other animals start showing up and making noise. They all climb into the bed with Pig, but soon it is too much to take and Pig shushes them all and sends them back to the barn. Soon all is silent again until the owl outside Pig’s window starts to hoot. Where will she find a quiet place to sleep?

Just as with the first book, this book is written in a jaunty and bouncy rhyme that sets a brisk pace. Despite the silliness and the rhyme though, the book does slow down at the end in a natural way, becoming downright dozy by the end. The illustrations are simple and funny, particularly when all of the animals are piled high on the bed.

A great addition to beginning reader collections, this book had just the right mix of silly and sleepy. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Review: Thank You and Good Night by Patrick McDonnell

Thank You and Good Night by Patrick McDonnell

Thank You and Good Night by Patrick McDonnell (InfoSoup)

Clement, Jean and Alan Alexander were having a pajama party at Clement’s house. The three bounce on the bed together, do the chicken dance, and have a funny-face contest. They played hide-and-seek, had a snack and watched the stars. They all started to get sleepy, so they got ready for bed but still had enough energy to listen to a bedtime story. They ended their party with a list of the things they were thankful for, a very long list.

McDonnell channels the energy and feel of every great classic bedtime read in this new book. He lets us in on the fun of a sleepover, focusing on all of the small things that make for a wonderful night with friends. His recap of the day with gratitude is something that many families can incorporate into their days, whether they are having a pajama party or not. It again returned the focus to those simple joys of life and time spent with one another.

The art has a gorgeous dreamy quality to it at times and other times has a zesty playfulness. The pleasure of the small animals playing with one another and not being sleepy at all transitions beautifully to sleepy creatures headed for bed. The final scene where they are revealed to be stuffed animals belonging to a little girl is particularly lovely.

A gentle bedtime story filled with lots of play and then bedtime for everyone. Yawn! Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.