Review: Building Books by Megan Wagner Lloyd

Building Books by Megan Wagner Lloyd

Building Books by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Brianne Farley (9781524773687)

Katie loved to build with blocks, from the noises that they made to the way they wobbled and then fell. Most of all, Katie loved building something new. Owen loved reading books, from the smell of the paper to the rustle of turned pages. Most of all, Owen loved reading something new. The two argued about which was best and then the school librarian stepped in. She gave Katie a stack of books to read and Owen a stack of books to shelve. Katie couldn’t settle in and read at all. So she started to build with the books until after a very large topple of a tower, a book on castle engineering caught her eye. Owen meanwhile was reading the books he was supposed to shelve. But then he noticed that books could balance on one another and soon he was building with them. The two admitted to each other that the other had been right, but then they come together and put building and stories into one big idea.

Lloyd writes the stories of each child in parallel with one another. The rhythms and patterns of each of their experiences match one another, creating a great structure for the book. The intervention of the librarian amusingly does not go as she plans, with the children taking their own approach to everything. Beautifully, it isn’t until Katie discovers just the right book for her that the world of reading opens up. Meanwhile, Owen is having a similar experience with building.

The illustrations by Farley add so much to the story. He manages to create amazing structures out of blocks and books, including elephants and giraffes that will have readers looking closely at them and wondering if they could actually be built. The final pages with the two children working together is also incredible. I also love the librarian’s response to what she has inadvertently created.

Funny and accepting, this book shows the power of reading and how it can build into something brand new. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf.

3 New Picture Books that Take Action

The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul

The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul (9781250153562)

When bad news is announced on the television, everyone in a little girl’s family gets very worried. Her parents start watching more TV and spending more time on their phones. They whisper together too. It’s all very scary. Even bedtime isn’t the same. It seems like everyone around is feeling it. At school, the little girl is inspired to try to help. But her funny show doesn’t make anyone laugh and no one seems to notice how much she is helping and being good. So she tries to do one tiny thing at a time and soon things are looking brighter even if the bad news is still around.

Told from the child’s point of view, this multicultural book offers a view of how one big bad event can color people’s days, especially those of children. There is an important empowering message here, of doing small things that add together to make a big difference, one that can spill past a family and into an entire community. Told with a simplicity and straightforward voice, this picture book reminds us all that we are not powerless even when we feel that way. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier

The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez (9780545859196)

Ruby is always thinking of new ideas. When she found some old boards one day, she decided to build a fort. She asked her brothers if they wanted to help build, but they didn’t want to, so she learned how. She drew up plans, gathered supplies, cut the boards, hammered the nails. With each step, she offered to have her three brothers help but each time they refused. When her fort was finished though, they all wanted to play in it. Ruby refused to let them, since they didn’t help at all. So now it was up to the boys to come up with some great ideas and ways to lend a hand.

With the structure of Little Red Hen, this picture book celebrates a younger sister who is willing to do the work to see her vision through. She gets help along the way from her parents and grandmother. The women of the family are the ones handling the tools throughout the book, along with Ruby herself. The illustrations are done in a mix of traditional and digital media that offers a bright color palette and a layering of textures. A strong book about girls building their own future, this picture book is a gem. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Who Will Bell the Cat By Patricia McKissack

Who Will Bell the Cat? By Patricia McKissack, illustrated by Christopher Cyr (9780823437009)

When Marmalade the cat comes into the mice’s barn, sick and hungry, the mice help to nurse her back to health. But when Marmalade recovers, she starts to hunt the mice, terrorizing them. Now the mice had to come up with a plan on how to handle the cat. Eventually Smart Mouse finds a bell and the mice create a collar for the cat, but who will be brave enough to get it around her neck. The mice try time and again and even turn to the local rats for help, but Marmalade evades each attempt. It isn’t until some dangerous humans come to the barn that the cat is belled, but at what cost?

McKissack has put her own spin on a classic fable. Her writing makes for a fable that is entirely shareable, something that begs to be read aloud to a group of children who will delight in the dangerous cat, cheer on the brave mice and then enjoy the giant humans at the end. Cyr’s illustrations are dramatic and beguiling. The fable takes on mythic proportions with the yellow-eyed and sharp-clawed villain of a cat and the plump brave mice. A great pick to share aloud with a crowd. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.)

3 New Picture Books to Build On

Florette by Anna Walker.jpg

Florette by Anna Walker (9780544876835)

When Mae’s family moves to the city, they can’t bring their garden with them. All Mae has around her now are moving boxes and a brick courtyard. She fills the courtyard with chalk drawings of butterflies, grass, and more but it’s all washed away when it rains. She draws daisies, grass and apple trees on the boxes too, but they tip over and are moved away. Mae spots an open space out of her window and leads her mother there, but it’s all pebbles rather than green. On their way back, Mae discovers a florist shop with a window filled with green plants and even one poking out the door. She takes that little end of the plant and from it starts the garden that her family said she would have, just a different one than she expected.

This picture book looks at moving and change through the lens of green space and creating your own solutions for a problem. Mae is an inventive little girl, independent as she leads her mother through a new neighborhood and creative as she finds a solution where others might not see one. The watercolor illustrations show a tall gray city but also one with a river, trees and children waiting to play. Mae sees it as cold and unfriendly, but readers will see new possibilities too. A look at resilience and finding your own way, this picture book is a treat. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday by Laura Gehl

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Sarah Horne (9781512431308)

A little girl receives a chicken for her birthday instead of the amusement park tickets that she asked her Abuela Lola for multiple times. A chicken is better than some other gifts, like socks, but you have to feed a chicken. The girl looks forward to eating eggs from the chicken, but the chicken is far too busy to lay eggs. The chicken makes friends with the girl’s dog, cat and hamster and soon all of them are too busy as well working for the chicken. Other animals arrive and work too. The chicken invites Abuela Lola to visit and then reveals what she has been working on all this time. It’s a reveal that is much better than socks!

Told in first person by the girl, this picture book has a wonderful tone. Gehl has other characters speak using signs they hold in their wings, paws or hands to communicate. These little asides add a lot of context and add a lot of humor to the book. The illustrations are bright and delightfully zany, filled with patterns, colors and textures. A fresh look at chickens and birthdays, this picture book is a win. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Carolrhoda Books and Raab Associates.)

Old MacDonald Had a Boat by Steve Goetz

Old MacDonald Had a Boat by Steve Goetz, illustrated by Eda Kaban (9781452165059)

This second book about Old MacDonald’s extended adventures continues the fun. Once again Old MacDonald and Mrs. MacDonald are hard at work on their farm. They have their truck  and look they have a new boat. But there’s a lot of work to do before it gets in the water. There are saws to buzz, hammers to bang, torches to blow, paint to roll and much more.

Verse after verse follows the format of the original song and children will love to participate in singing along. Nicely, Mrs. MacDonald uses the power tools with ease and all of the animals help too. The illustrations have a timeless appeal that suits the subject. There is plenty of fun and humor along the way as hammers miss and ski jumps are moved into position. A rousing new version of the beloved song that is perfect for summer days on the water. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.)

 

 

Review: A House in the Woods by Inga Moore

house in the woods

A House in the Woods by Inga Moore

One pig had built a den for herself in the woods with another pig next door in a hut.  The two pigs went exploring in the woods and when they returned home, they found a bear and a moose in their homes.  Unfortunately, the spaces were not made for such large animals and both the den and the hut collapsed!  So the four animals talk about what they could do and decide to build a home where they all could live.  They had no idea where to start, so they called in the Beavers who only asked to be paid in peanut-butter sandwiches.  Everyone worked together to build a marvelous house and then worked together to get the sandwiches made for the Beavers.  In the end, they had a cozy warm home just right for the four friends together.

This book is so warm and cozy with an old-fashioned feel.  The story embraces a spirit of friendship and cooperation without ever being didactic about it.  Instead the lessons are woven directly into the story and shown, never told.  The tone of the tale is gentle and cheerful with small touches throughout that bring the story to life.  Here is the paragraph when the four friends are finally asleep in their own home:

Soon the only sounds to be heard were the soft cheeps of sleepy birds roosting in the rafters, the tiny rustling of wood mice in the fallen leaves outside, and, just now and then, the gentle snoring of Bear.

Moore’s art has the same warm, old-fashioned feel as the story.  The animals are individuals with interesting personalities, who each contribute differently to the project.  Through the entire work is a feel of nature and home.

This charming book is a joy to read aloud and will delight listeners.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

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