3 New Picture Books with City Settings

Bus! Stop By James Yang

Bus! Stop! By James Yang (9780425288771)

When a boy misses his bus, he finds himself in a city filled with strange vehicles that are certainly not his bus. One bus is too tall and the passengers have to use their propeller hats to board it. The next is pulled by horses and shaped like a covered wagon, just right for the people in cowboy hats who climb aboard. When people wearing sailor suits arrive next, readers can guess the ship is about to arrive. There is another bus that bounces passengers high. The boy catches the next bus, even though it isn’t his either. It floats high above, away from the little girl who just missed the bus.

Told in very simple lines of text that are shown as speech bubbles, this picture book is all about the illustrations. With a modern edge, they have a playful feel thanks to their bright colors and the wild sorts of transportation shown on the pages. The matching of passengers to each conveyance is particularly skillful and will have children guessing what sort of “bus” is about to arrive on the next page. Humorous and jolly, stop for this book! Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Daddy, Me and the Magic Hour by Laura Krauss Melmed

Daddy, Me and the Magic Hour by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Sarita Rich (9781510707917)

When the family arrives home, Daddy starts cooking while Mommy feeds the baby. After supper, the little boy heads outside with his father for Magic Hour, their after supper walk. They greet a neighbor watering her roses. Meet dogs out for a walk, run a bit, find sticks and feathers. They play at the quiet playground that they have all to themselves. On their way home, the crickets start to chirp, they catch fireflies and release them. The daylight disappears and they walk home in the moonlight.

A book about the specialness of time spent together, this picture book celebrates quiet moments that string together to make a childhood. The text is jolly and short, the images telling parts of the story that are not put into words. The illustrations use comic-like framing to show each moment and connection in a special way. Along the walk the little boy steadily fills his bucket with memories, each tangible and solid. A delight of a bedtime read. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

In the Darkness of the Night by Emily Rand

In the Darkness of the Night by Emily Rand (9781849764810)

This book invites children to think about what happens after they head to bed at night. In the deep blue darkness of the city, windows are lit. Dishes are being washed, car doors slam as people arrive home again. Some people are still out, the trains are running through the night. Sirens sound, mothers are up with babies, some people work at night too. City foxes begin to explore, airplanes land. And morning comes with garbage pick up, mail being delivered, and the cat returning home again.

There is a wonderful mix of sleepiness and activity in this book. Told in rhyme, the book really works thanks to its rocking structure and its inherent quietness. Throughout, readers get to peek into windows of the city both ones that are lit and those that are dark. It’s a clever way to invite readers to explore the images that support the story so well. Deep blue throughout, this book is a city lullaby worth sharing. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Tate Publishing.)

The Tale of Angelino Brown by David Almond

The Tale of Angelino Brown by David Almond

The Tale of Angelino Brown by David Almond, illustrated by Alex T. Smith (9780763695637)

When Bert, a bus driver, finds a tiny angel in his shirt pocket, he takes the little angel home with him. His wife Betty makes the angel some food, he mostly likes sweets, and then a bed in a box. They name him Angelino. She takes him with her to her job at a school the next day where Angelino discovers that he can talk and even fly! But some others have also seen him and soon they have created a plan to kidnap Angelino and sell him to the highest bidder. Along the way Angelino has made some friends, so they set out to save him even though they have no idea where he might be. It may just take a miracle to rescue their little angel.

Almond uses such a playful tone in this book! He makes jokes along the way, including the names of the various noxious adults that appear in the book. There is a Professor Smellie and a Mrs. Mole. Rather hard to take them seriously at all with those names. Even the other evil characters turn out to be a lot less dangerous than they seem at first. The book has a great fast pace and never lingers long in any one place before merrily swooping onward. The illustrations by Smith add to the lightness and humor.

Clever disguises, children lost and newly found, and one central angel make this a book that is great fun to read. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.

 

 

Review: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

last stop on market street

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Take a ride across town on a bus with CJ and his grandmother. Every Sunday after church CJ and his grandmother get on a bus and take a long ride. Along the way, they meet all sorts of people on the bus. There is a man who is blind, a busker who plays the guitar, teenagers who listen to music on their iPods. CJ longs for some of the things he sees, like his friends who have cars to drive places, the iPods the teens have, and the free time his friends have on Sunday afternoons. But his grandmother sees the beauty in the ride, in the other passengers and in the time they spend together. At the end of the ride, they get off in a poorer section of town and head to the soup kitchen which is ringed by a rainbow in the sky. CJ is glad that they made the trip once they are there.

De la Pena is best known for his young adult books.  This is the second picture book he has written.  One would never know that this is not his specialty.  His wording is just perfect for preschoolers, inviting them along on the journey to discover new things on each page. His words form a tapestry of a community, diverse and dynamic. The journey is about more than just seeing new things though, it is also about seeing them differently and in a positive way. From the rain falling to the poor section of town, they are all reframed by CJ’s grandmother into something beautiful.

Robinson’s illustrations are done in acrylic paint and collage.  They are bright, vibrant and filled with people of different colors living happily side-by-side. They capture the busy urban setting with a sense of community that is warm, friendly and fun.

A great journey to take any preschooler on, this picture book celebrates making a positive difference in your community.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Review: The Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc

bus ride

The Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc

Released March 1, 2015.

A little girl sets off on her first bus ride all by herself.  Her mother packed her a snack and her sweater too.  But this is not a normal bus, with its passengers of rabbits, a bear, a turtle, a mouse and a very sleepy sloth.  Stop by stop, the bus picks up and drops off more and more animals.  A family of wolves enters the bus at one point and the little girl shares her snack happily with the little wolf.  The bus goes through a dark tunnel and everything gets mixed around in the dark, but things are quickly sorted back into some sort of normal.  There is even a cunning fox thief that the little girl helps chase off the bus at the next stop.  This is one wonderful adventure for a little girl all on her own who has an amazing ride.

First published in France, this picture book celebrates a child traveling on their own.  Though the larger animals may seem threatening at first, those fears are quickly allayed by their actions.  Even the wolf family acts very appropriately on the bus.  There is the thief but again the little girl is empowered enough to put a stop to his shenanigans herself.  Children in the U.S. will be astonished at the freedom of this little girl and the trust she is given.  They will also love the Little Red Riding Hood ties that are evident in the story.

Dubuc’s illustrations are done in fine lines and subtle colors. That adds to the gentleness of the tale and the feeling that everything is nonthreatening and OK.  Subtle things change on each page and children will want time to look closely at the pictures, particularly after the tunnel switches things around.

Warm and confident, this picture book is a friendly introduction to bus rides even though real life ones aren’t likely to have bears, wolves and sloths as part of the community. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Netgalley and Kids Can Press.

Review: Don’t Squish the Sasquatch by Kent Redeker

dont squish the sasquatch

Don’t Squish the Sasquatch! by Kent Redeker

This is one zany ride of a picture book.  When Sasquatch gets on the city bus, he expresses to the driver, Mr. Blobule, that he hopes it doesn’t get crowded because he doesn’t like to be squished.  Immediately, things start to look like the bus may be crowded.  There’s Miss Elephant Shark, Mr. Octo-Rhino, Miss Goat-Whale, and Miss Loch-Ness-Monster-Space Alien!  Each one bigger than the last and the bus is filling up fast!  You will have to read the book to see what happens when Sasquatch actually gets squished.

Children will enjoy the slow build-up to the actual squishing of Mr. Sasquatch.  As each weird animal combination gets larger and larger, you just know that it’s going to happen.  Then when it does, it is completely worth the wait.  The book is very funny and the timing of the humor is perfect.  Add a very neat twist at the end and you have a unique picture book that is worth sharing.

Staake’s art is modern, bright-colored and adds to the strangeness.  The different animal combinations don’t seem to phase him at all, as he merrily creates a pink elephant shark and a purple octo-rhino.  Mr. Blobule has the feel of a Muppet sitting behind his steering wheel.

This is a weird and rowdy picture book that is sure to add zest to a story time.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham

bus called heaven

A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham

It all started when the bus with a sign that said “heaven” was abandoned on Stella’s street.  Traffic slowed, people gathered, and Stella took her thumb out of her mouth and suggested that the abandoned bus could be “ours.”  So everyone helped move it out of the street and into Stella’s front yard.  It stuck out a bit into the sidewalk and took up the entire yard.  The next morning when Stella looked out her window, things had changed again.  Now there were people sitting on their front wall, children wrestling in the grassy shade under the bus.  The adults began cleaning things up.  When some boys spray painted the side of the bus one night, they were invited back to paint one of Stella’s designs instead.  The bus had become a hub of activity for the entire community.  But then one Saturday morning things changed again, when a tow truck arrived.  What will happen next to the bus called heaven?

Graham creates books that have a special sort of feel to them, a sense of place and community, but that are also infused with a wonder and magic all their own.  Here he takes one abandoned bus and creates that community in our modern world where it is lacking.  This is not a statement about the problems of our society, but rather a look at what it could be if we were only willing. 

The illustrations are done in his signature style that has lots of details, fine lines, and soft colors that manage to be bright too.  He plays with color here, making Stella almost ghostlike in her paleness.  When she gets excited two dots of pink appear, but she does not ever fully become colored like the other characters.  She is a pale but very solid young character.

This is an uplifting read about the little changes that create a community and the little children that can lead us there.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.