Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom

Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom

Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Shane W. Evans (9780062463319)

When a child doesn’t want to go to school because he’s scared and nervous, he talks with his grandfather. His grandfather understands exactly how his grandchild is feeling and takes him on a ride in his car which is also a time machine. It takes them both to see when he left his mother back in 1952 and had to be brave himself. They stop in 1955 to see him working up high on buildings, needing to get beyond being so scared. In 1957, Big Papa had to get over his fears to ask a lovely girl to dance, a girl who would eventually marry him. They then head to 1986 when the child was left with Big Papa. He wasn’t sure if he could take care of a baby all on his own. All about bravery in spite of being scared and nervous, this book shows that it is those moments that define a life.

Bernstrom takes readers on a real ride through history through the eyes of this African-American family. Generations appear and their clear love for one another is evident. Even with a baby being left behind for a grandparent to raise is shown as a chance to save a life and find a new way forward. Children in smaller non-nuclear families will recognize the connection between a sole adult and their child in these pages. It’s particularly lovely to see an African-American man in this role.

Evans makes the pages shine with light as he uses bright yellows and mystical swirls and stars to show the passing of time. Every page is saturated in color, glowing with the connection of the two characters. The child is never declared to be a specific gender in either the text or illustrations, making the book all the more inclusive.

A bright and vibrant look at why to be brave. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Vroom! by Barbara McClintock

Vroom! by Barbara McClintock

Vroom! by Barbara McClintock (9781626722170)

One evening, Annie puts on her helmet and gloves and drives her car right out her bedroom window and out onto the road. The road is straight and flat, just right for driving really fast. When she reaches the mountains, the road gets curvy and cold, then descends into the hot desert. She drives through a forest, then across a huge bridge and into a city where she gets caught in traffic for awhile. She goes fast through the traffic jam, and then faster onto a racetrack. Getting tired, she heads for home, arriving just in time for a bedtime story about cars.

This picture book embraces imaginative play in a little girl’s world as she pretends to be taking the perfect drive. Her white car is pristine at the beginning of the story and ends up covered in dirt and grass with a little smoke coming out of the hood. Annie doesn’t bother to slow down much and not even her imaginary traffic jam can hold her for long. The book, just like Annie, is fast moving with just enough words to hold the story together. The illustrations are filled with the dust of Annie’s racing past. Done in bright colors, the world around her is friendly and vivid with Annie at its center going fast.

A wild ride of a book that is a joy. Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 

 

Bunches of Board Books

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep by Katrina Charman

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep by Katrina Charman, illustrated by Nick Sharratt (9781681198958)

Sung to the tune of “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” this board book will quickly become a favorite for any little one who loves vehicles. The book is filled with all sorts of cars, trucks, boats, and planes. Each one carries a rhyme with it and creates all sorts of motion on the page. The illustrations are bright and friendly, inviting the littlest readers to explore their thick lines and bold shapes. This is one beeping good board book.

Reviewed from copy provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

A Pile of Leaves by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin

A Pile of Leaves by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin (9780714877204)

Just right for fall reading either one-on-one or with a small group, this board book offers a unique experience. With only a preface containing words, the book opens to reveal see-through pages that form a leaf pile. Readers turn the pages, removing one layer of leaves at a time and discovering interesting things hiding in the leaves. There is a worm, ants, a mitten, a key, a grasshopper and more. Beautifully, the leaves continue to pile on the pages to the left, creating a new pile to explore. Clever and a delight to explore, this board book is like breathing crisp fall air in book form.

Reviewed from library copy.

You and Me by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

You and Me by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Susan Reagan (9781568463216)

This exceptional board book tells the story of an older sibling with a very adorable new baby in the house. Sharing time with Grandma isn’t easy,  but the older sibling is patient. The baby has lots of cute things that they can do, but so does the older sibling. In the end, the baby finally goes down for a nap and it’s time for the older child to be paid a lot of attention. The poem in this board book is gentle with rhymes that sway. The illustrations are truly amazing, filled with eyes alight with joy and both siblings wonderfully androgynous as well. These are images of a loving African-American family that celebrate being an older sibling.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: The Princess and the Pit Stop by Tom Angleberger

The Princess and the Pit Stop by Tom Angleberger

The Princess and the Pit Stop by Tom Angleberger, illustrated by Dan Santat (9781419728488)

In a car race, the princess is forced to pull off for a pit stop to refuel. While in the pit stop, she is told that she is in last place with only one lap to go. Maybe it is time to give up? But instead she hits the gas. Car by car, she moves up through the ranks, passing different fairy tale characters along the way. Narrated by the Frog Prince speaking into a mic, the excitement builds. She goes over Tom Thumb and under the giant. She zooms past other characters like the Big Bad Wolf, the Three Little Pigs, the Seven Dwarves, the Ugly Duckling and many more. In the end, it is down to her and the Ugly Stepsisters as they race up to a cliff’s edge.

Angleberger writes with a directness that works very well for a book told primarily through a microphone and an excited frog. The book could have been just a list of different storybook characters, but with Angleberger’s humor it becomes a series of jokes and puns that make the book really rev. Santat’s art is stellar, creating a book with lots of different perspectives. It incorporates the feel of a graphic novel and also has the colorful playfulness of a picture book.

A funny and incredible book filled with girl power and glory. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Mama Lion Wins the Race by Jon J. Muth

Mama Lion Wins the Race by Jon J Muth

Mama Lion Wins the Race by Jon J. Muth (9780545852821, Amazon)

It is race day for Mama Lion and Tigey. Tigey works on their car while Mama Lion reminds him that winning isn’t everything. In fact, she may have spotted just the right prize for Tigey and it isn’t the big trophy. When the race starts, Mama Lion and Tigey are immediately in the lead. Unfortunately though, when swerving to avoid an obstacle, their wheel comes off. Nicely, one of their competitors, the Flying Pandinis stops and helps them repair their car. They are soon passed though by Bun Bun who is scattering seeds as she rides her motorcycle and the Knitted Monkeys who are always a little naughty. As they race toward the finish line, Mama Lion and Tigey have a decision to make. Should they win the race?

Muth is the author of the acclaimed Zen Shorts series of books. It’s a joy to see him use those same ideas and concepts in a picture book about racing that is also about so much more. Muth has embedded Buddhist thought and ideals in this picture book in a way that is natural and never didactic. This is a picture book with a message that is so deeply ingrained in story itself that the message flows and never feels forced. The characters of Mama Lion and Tigey along with the other toy animals are dynamic and complex. This is a rich picture book that turns the concept of winning entirely on its head.

Muth’s illustrations have a zingy energy to them that matches the subject matter beautifully. They are filled with animals that are clearly toys. The Knitted Monkey team is exactly that. The Flying Pandinis are small round stuffed pandas. Mama Lion and Tigey are clearly beloved stuffed animals with whiskers, buttons and of course racing goggles.

A truly special picture book, this one is for those kids who love racing and those who love toys and those who love a great read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham (9780763692698, Amazon)

Francie and her mother are headed home from Grandma’s house. It rains and rains. It rains enough that a big truck washes their car into a picnic area. Nearby, the rain hits rabbits, mice and a hawk. It rains on fishermen and ducks. Francie and her mother wait in the car, the windows steaming up. Francie writes their names on the windows. She asks her mother what her new baby sister’s name will be when she arrives, but her mother doesn’t know yet. They eat a picnic in the car together and then they pull back onto the road and continue home. When they stop to get gas, Francie’s mother decides on her little sister’s name and the sun returns to light their way home.

Graham has written a lovely picture book that is more complicated than it seems. It is the story of a little red car heading home. It’s the story of a family about to get one person bigger. It is the story of names and inspiration. It’s the story of rain and water and weather. Graham ties all of these elements together into one precious rain-soaked bundle that really works. It is bursting with the love of family on every page.

Graham’s illustrations are done in his signature style. The characters are people of color and their car becomes a haven and a busy room filled with small details. The book then pulls away to the countryside and their small car seen from above. The rain sweeps the pages and the animals appear. The play of close comfort in the car with wide scenery captures the wildness of the storm and strengthens the intimacy of the family.

A special book that looks at those delicate moments before the birth of a new baby, this picture book celebrates family and storms. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper

lowriders in space

Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raul the Third

Three friends, Lupe, El Chavo and Elirio, work together in a garage where they fix cars.  They dream of one day having their own garage.  Lupe loves working on engines and the mechanics.  El Chavo washes them until they shine with his octopus arms.  Elirio uses his mosquito size and his long nose to detail the cars.  Their favorite kind of car are the low and slow lowriders.  So when a contest with a large prize comes along, they know they have to enter.  Now they just have to turn a junker into the best car in the universe, so they head into space to see what they can do.  This is one unique read that combines space, cars and great friendship.

Camper incorporates Spanish into her story, firmly placing this book into the Hispanic culture.  Her characters are clever done.  The female in the group is the one who loves engines and mechanical things, yet is incredible feminine too.  The book seems to be firmly housed on earth until one big moment launches it into outer space.  The incorporation of astronomy into the design and art of the car makes for a book that is wild and great fun to read.

The illustrations by Raul Gonzalez have a cool hipness to them that is honest and without any slickness at all.  Done in a limited palette of red, blue and black, the art has a vintage feel that is enhanced by the treatment of the pages with stains and aging. 

This graphic novel is cool, star filled, rich with science, and has friendship at its heart.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

number one sam

Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

Sam wins every race, so he’s not worried at all at the big race.  His best friend Maggie is racing too, but Sam know that he is the best.  He quickly leaves everyone behind, except for Maggie who stays right with him and then wins the race!  Sam is devastated.  He didn’t sleep at all before the next race and is so distracted that he’s late starting the race!  Even starting after everyone else though, he quickly takes the lead.  But then, he sees a flock of chicks on the roadway and though he can get around them safely, he worries about the other racers not seeing them in time.  So Sam stops and saves the chicks who ride along with him to finish the race.  Sam finishes last, but as he approaches the finish line he can hear people cheering – for him!

Winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for his first book The Watermelon Seed, Pizzoli has a knack for using simple language for big ideas.  His books are straight forward and have a classic feel about them, perfect for the smallest children.  At the same time, his books are not predictable.  I thought this book might deal with jealousy as its primary focus, but it changed in the middle of the book to be more about good decision making and being a good friend.  I appreciate that he was able to pivot a simple story like this into something with depth.  That takes real skill.

Just like his writing, Pizzoli’s art is simple.  He uses strong lines and bright colors to really create a feel that is distinctly his own.  This book fairly glows with yellow on the page, sunny and bright as the racers speed on the page.  Other pages with different emotions have different colors, something that really works to convey a change in feeling directly.

Another winner from Pizzoli, this book will appeal to children interested in cars and racing immediately but is also a great book about making good choices.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Poem-Mobiles by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian

poem mobiles

 

Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian, illustrated by Jeremy Holmes

This collaboration between two masters of children’s poetry will transport you to new and different places.  Filled with cars that are amazing and wild, the humor-filled poems will delight.  Visit the times of the dinosaurs, underwater driving, cars made of paper or shoes.  Even cars made from bathtubs and bugs.  The poetry flows fast and furious, a perfect pace for young car enthusiasts who may be surprised at how much they enjoy poems.

Lewis and Florian write with a single hand here, the poems flowing naturally from one to the other, the styles of each forming one cohesive whole.  They use humor to great effect both in the titles of the poems and throughout, delighting with puns and word play.  The poems are also very brief, perfect for young readers to enjoy or even memorize.

The art by Holmes plays up the humor in the poems.  His busy active style has lots of motion and zany combinations.  The dinosaur car looks like it could reach right off the page and grab you, the ocean page will have you floating along merrily, and the blueprint style of the contents page sets the tone early.

Perfect poems to share aloud with a class, this one may get lost in poetry collections but marketed correctly should zoom off of library shelves.  Beep beep!

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