Review: Trevor by Jim Averbeck

Trevor by Jim Averbeck

Trevor by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Amy Hevron (9781250148285)

Trevor is a very lonely canary who knows that he can escape his cage at any time, but stays put for the seeds. He has one favorite kind, sunflower seeds, that he saves for when he is feeling loneliest. When Trevor sees a lemon outside of his window, he tries to get it to sing with him. He even gives it his last striped sunflower seed, but it won’t eat. The lemon doesn’t reply to Trevor at all and doesn’t give him any gifts in return. Still, Trevor builds a nest in the tree for himself and the lemon. Meanwhile, the seed has fallen to the ground below. Eventually, a storm comes and Trevor must try to save the lemon. When he reaches the ground, he discovers the sunflower has sprouted and grown, scattering seeds across the ground. When a group of hungry birds arrives, Trevor quickly realizes what real friendship feels like.

Averbeck keeps the text of this picture book very simple, making it just right for younger listeners and good to share aloud. The emotions that Trevor feels in the book take center stage, from frustration at the lemon to eventual forgiveness to acceptance about their differences. Trevor is a great mix of brave, inquisitive and friendly as he makes his way into the larger world.

Hevron’s illustrations are painted onto wood. She cleverly allows the wood to show through to create tree branches and leaf spines. Against the pale blue background, the leaves, lemon and Trevor himself pop. One can see the wood grain throughout the book, both covered in color and plain. It makes for a very organic and natural feel.

A lovely quiet picture book about new friends and what to do when life gives you lemons. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.

Bundles of Board Books

Animal Colors by Christopher Silas Neal

Animal Colors by Christopher Silas Neal (9781499805352)

This bright board book offers a mix of animals, colors and wordplay that is immensely engaging. The book takes one colored animal, mixes it with another animal and then ends up with an odd hybrid. For example, a blue whale and a yellow lion mix together to make a “Green Whion.” This continues through the book moving from primary colors mixing into secondary ones and then on to more complicated color combinations. The wordplay adds a delightful silliness to the book, making it impossible to quite guess what is on the next page. A colorful whimsical board book worth sharing. Appropriate for ages 2-3. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Birds of a Color by Elo

Birds of a Color by Elo (9781536200638)

In this board book, each bird shows not just one color but two. It takes little hands to help turn over the flaps to see the surprise color hiding behind wings, heads, beaks and more. The text of this book only shares the names of the colors, often hiding any words behind the flaps. There is a great sense of fun about this book, because the turn of the flap reveals a new side of that bird that is entirely unexpected. Playful and enjoyable, this is a great introduction to colors. Appropriate for ages 2-3. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Ciao, Baby! In the Park by Carole Lexa Schaefer Ciao, Baby! Ready for a Ride by Carole Lexa Schaefer

Ciao, Baby! In the Park by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illustrated by Lauren Tobia (9780763683986)

Ciao, Baby! Ready for a Ride by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illustrated by Lauren Tobia (9780763683979)

In these two board books, Baby gets to explore their urban home. In the first book, Nonna takes Baby to the park where they see a squirrel, a grasshopper, and a pigeon before having to head home. Baby scooches and crawls toward each animal until they scamper, jump or fly away. In the second book, Mamma and Baby head across the city to visit Nonna. They have to take many types of transportation to get there, including a stroller, the bus, a boat and the train. When they head home after the visit, they take the vehicles back in reverse order. A loving and warm look at life in an urban setting with a Hispanic family at its heart. Appropriate for ages 1-3. (Reviewed from library copies.)

Opposites by Jacques Duquennoy Shapes by Jacques Duquennoy

Opposites by Jacques Duquennoy (9782747087001)

Shapes by Jacques Duquennoy (9782747086998)

These two board books are the first in the Zoe and Zack series. They feature die-cut pages that are sturdy enough to hold up to public library use. The opposites book offers clever uses of die cuts that turn stairs from up to down, rebuild castles with a single page turn, and bring back ice cream cones. Even more successful though is the shapes book where the two characters draw shapes together. The shapes are drawn partially on see-through pages that when turned form a complete shape. This clever mechanism makes for a dynamic book that will have children wanting to make their own shapes too. Two great board books with unique designs. Appropriate for ages 1-3. (Reviewed from library copies.)

 

3 New Picture Books That Are Just Birdy

Bird Builds a Nest by Martin Jenkins

Bird Builds a Nest by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Richard Jones (9780763693466)

This picture book cunningly incorporates ideas about the science of forces into an appealing story about a bird building her nest. As a new day begins, Bird first finds something to eat and tries to pull a big worm out of the ground. Eventually, she settles for a smaller and less strong worm for her meal. As Bird begins to work on her nest, she gathers twigs. Some are too heavy, others she can carry one or two of and still smaller ones she can carry three or four twigs. She pushes and pulls the twigs into place. Then she gathers lighter and softer things to line her nest for the eggs that are about to arrive.

The concepts of pushing and pulling, dropping and lifting, heavy and light are very nicely portrayed in this picture book. The story reads aloud well and is a great introduction to the concepts as well as a good book to share. The illustrations are bold and bright, so they will work well when shared with a group. A nice one to share in the spring, this picture book intelligently uses science to tell a story. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

This Is the Nest That Robin Built by Denise Fleming

This Is the Nest That Robin Built by Denise Fleming (9781481430838)

This picture book offers a riff on the “House That Jack Built” story by featuring a robin builiding a nest with help from a variety of other animals. Squirrel trims the twigs, dog provides the string, horse shares his straw and so on. Eventually the nest is built and lined with soft items and then the eggs are laid. The story continues all the way through hatching and ends as the little robins are taking their first flight.

The traditional structure of the story works well here and Fleming offers just the right rhythm to make the book a pleasure to read aloud. As always, Fleming’s art is approachable and wonderfully textured and organic. Her use of layered collage is bright and friendly. A joy to share, this picture book is just right for spring. (Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.)

Warbler Wave by April Pulley Sayre

Warbler Wave by April Pulley Sayre with Jeff Sayre (9781481448291)

This book is an invitation to wonder at warblers, tiny colorful songbirds that migrate long distances each year. They must stop on their way to eat and rest, searching for insects and spiders to devour. They come in many colors from blue to yellow to reds and mixtures of colors. Then they return to their journey north to their nesting grounds, flying by night and calling to one another along the way.

Sayre is a master at creating nature books that soar with poetry, drawing young readers into the wonder that is the world around us by tantalizing them and showing them the magic. The images shared here are crisp and bright, the skies deep with color, the small birds caught with a clarity that is difficult to achieve. A great introduction to warblers and birding for young readers. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane.)

3 Picture Books Filled with Empathy

These three picture books all look at empathy in different ways and all are worth exploring.

Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee

Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee, illustrated by Pascal Lamaitre (9781524739058)

Seeing the news about anger and hate in the world, a little girl wonders what she can do to help. So each of her parents take the little girl out in their diverse and urban community. They are kind to others on the subway. They greet their neighbors and shop at stores owned by people of different races and faiths. Then the little girl asks to walk the dog on her own. Will her parents be brave enough to let her leave fear behind and head into the world on her own?

Told simply and with great kindness, this picture book shows children and families exactly the small steps they can take to bring love and joy back into their lives during these stressful fear-filled times. The illustrations are simple, showing the diversity of the community with clarity. Families looking for ways to get beyond worry and fear will embrace this picture book. It is exactly what our world and our children need. (ARC received from Penguin.)

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui (9781479597468)

Written and illustrated by two Vietnamese-Americans, this picture book captures the author’s experience as a child accompanying his father to a local fishing pond. The two of them are up early since his father has to head to second job that he just got. They stop at the bait shop and pick up minnows. Then head to the pond, where the boy’s father fishes and the boy builds a fire for them. It’s cool during this Minnesota dawn. The two share sandwiches, a small memory from Vietnam about fishing, and catch fish for dinner. When they return home, the extended family is there and that evening they all feast on the fish together.

Phi’s prose is filled with the skill of a poet. He stitches the past and present together into a richness that is poignant. He welcomes young readers into the life of a refugee family in Minnesota. The illustrations have a modern edge to them, sometimes framed like a graphic novel and other times soaring to the sides of the page. Bui uses her format skillfully and enlivens this quiet tale of fishing and new lives. Told with grace and strength, this picture book is wondrous. (Reviewed from library copy.)

King of the Sky by Nicola Davies

King of the Sky by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin (9781406348613)

A boy is now far from his Italian home and only one thing in this new place reminds him of Italy and where he used to live. It is Mr. Evans’s pigeons and their cooing that reminds the boy of Rome. The boy spends time with Mr. Evans and the pigeons. Mr. Evans gives him one as his own, a gray pigeon with a white head that the boy names “King of the Sky.” But the pigeon is slow to return home as the pigeons train, though Mr. Evans insists the bird will be a champion. Finally, the bird gets the perfect long distance race, flying back from Italy. But will he make it or will he stay in Italy like the boy would long to?

Davies is a masterful writer, inviting the reader into the pain of a boy who has left the country he loves and hasn’t found a place that feels right in his new country. It is a book about loneliness and finding your way forward. It’s a book about connection with your neighbors and community to find that way. The illustrations by Carlin are quirky and beautifully layered. They have a dreamlike quality to them, filled with soft edges and even softer light. This is a picture book that invites readers to understand what home really is. Appropriate for ages 5-8. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper

The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper

The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper (9781484726464, Amazon)

Part of the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series, this early reader is a philosophical joy. Yellow Bird has a button that does absolutely nothing, or does it? He shows it to Red Bird and Blue Bird. When Blue Bird tries the button, it surprises him. And that’s not nothing! It doesn’t surprise Red Bird, which makes Blue Bird sad, also not nothing. Then Yellow Bird gets angry at their responses, which is also not nothing. Soon the button can make them do lots of things, even get funny and silly. Perhaps the button does everything?

Harper has created a wonderful mix of humor and philosophy in this early reader. Done with just the right jaunty humor and wild zaniness, the book moves at a fast pace towards its philosophical conclusion. The ties to Elephant and Piggie are clear and this feels like a natural extension of their humor and attitude, making it exactly the right kind of book for this series.

The illustrations are bright and simple. Done with similar speech bubbles to Elephant and Piggie, they convey the emotions of the birds clearly, something that is very important in this book in particular.

A zingy riot of an early reader, this one is a winner. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Hawk of the Castle by Danna Smith

The Hawk of the Castle by Danna Smith

The Hawk of the Castle by Danna Smith, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (9780763679927, Amazon)

Journey back to medieval times in this nonfiction picture book about the skill of falconry. Told through the point of view of a young girl living in the castle, the text of the book is done in simple verse that hearkens back to traditional tales. Inset in each double-page spread is detailed information on falconry that shows the various parts of owning and caring for a hunting raptor. The book goes through all of the gear that is needed to own a falcon or hawk and then shows the hawk hunting for prey.

Smith has created a gorgeous two-layered book where her light hand with the verse and its traditional format clearly anchors the story in medieval times. That plays against the information shared about falconry which is clear and matter-of-fact. The text makes sure that readers never mistake the hawk for a traditional pet and never misunderstand that the hawk has emotions about their owner.

Ibatoulline’s illustrations are gorgeous. Bordered in a traditional black-and-white hawk theme, they have a lovely formality about them that suits the subject well. The paintings offer a feel of the majesty of the hawk. As the bird takes to the air so do the illustrations allowing a feel of freedom and joy.

This book truly soars, offering information for those wanting to know about falconry and a lovely poetic view as well. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

Bird, Balloon, Bear by Il Sung Na

Bird, Balloon, Bear by Il Sung Na

Bird, Balloon, Bear by Il Sung Na (9780399551550, Amazon, GoodReads)

This is another beautiful picture book for the smallest of children from this author/illustrator. Bird is new to the forest and hoping to make a friend. He spots Bear but can’t quite get up the courage to speak with him. Suddenly though, he sees that Bear has a friend already: a red balloon. Bear plays all day with Balloon, even watching the sunset together. Then one day, a wind gust carries Balloon up into the sky. Bird who has been watching the entire time, tries to rescue Balloon but it’s too late. Balloon pops. Over the shreds of the balloon, Bird and Bear finally meet and soon they have become real friends.

This picture book looks at the pressures of trying to make a new friend, the shyness that naturally arises during that time, and how to move beyond it. The use of a balloon as the other friend is very clever, allowing Bear to have a close friend of sorts but also allowing even the youngest child to realize that Bird would always have made a much more fun and compelling friend from the start.

The illustrations are playful and light. Done on white backgrounds, the bright colors shine on the page. The forest is filled with purples, blues and greens while the sunset emerges with yellows and reds. Still, the illustrations are simple and friendly. Bear is round and cuddly while Bird is a burst of red color and quiet inquisitiveness.

The complications of new friendship have never been lovelier. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith (9781626725362, Amazon, GoodReads)

On a sunny day, all of the creatures are having a perfect day. Cat can feel the sun on her back as she walks in the daffodils. Dog is sitting in the cool water in his wading pool. Bert, a little boy, fills the birdfeeder and Chickadee enjoys the seeds. Down below, Squirrel is trying to reach the birdfeeder and Bert gives him corn to enjoy. Everyone is having a perfect day. Until Bear arrives.

This book is incredibly simple and exceedingly perfect itself. Smith uses only a few short sentences to tell the story. Repetition is used to keep the book focused and also to make it nicely accessible to even the smallest children. There is a lovely quiet to the book, a joy in the simple and everyday that then becomes something surprising and entirely unusual in the end.

I love that the cover has the bear on it, foreshadowing the twist for little children. The illustrations are done in mixed media that is deeply textured and warm. One can almost pet the cat on the page, feel the cool water in the pool, and run fingers over the cob of corn. It adds to the simple delights of the book immensely.

Perfection to share with toddlers and preschoolers, expect this one to become a favorite. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

The Road Home by Katie Cotton

The Road Home by Katie Cotton

The Road Home by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (9781419723742)

A variety of animals travel on their way home. Birds fly to warmer places, escaping the chill of winter. Mice build nests in the grass that offer safety and warmth. Wolves hunt for food to fill their hunger. Rabbits hide in the brambles, chased clear by the wolves on their heels. They reach their burrow and safety. The next day, the wolves and rabbits are outside again along with the birds and the mice. All sharing a larger home with one another.

Cotton’s poem is delicious. From the initial rhyming stanzas on the first page, she builds a full story of the importance of home and the strength of parent/child pairs in survival. Throughout the poem there is a sense of arrival or approaching home, defined in different ways for the different species. There is also a focus on security and warmth, on being together despite the odds and filling small burrows and nests with love.

Jacoby’s illustrations embrace the natural setting. They keep readers from realizing that all of the animals are in the same area by using a different feel for their habitats. The mice are in golden nests of straw, the birds soar in the sky, the wolves hunt through a forest and the rabbits are close by. Then the final reveal of them together is like the sun returning, a beautiful reveal.

Gorgeous poetry combines with strong illustrations to create a celebration of home no matter what species you may be. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.