Review: Another by Christian Robinson

Another by Christian Robinson

Another by Christian Robinson (9781534421677)

In his first solo picture book, award-winning illustrator Robinson creates a wordless experience for young book lovers. A little girl is in bed with her cat sleeping at her feet, when a portal opens in the wall. Through the portal comes a cat who is just the same as her cat except that it wears a blue collar rather than a red one. The portal cat steals the girl’s cat’s red mouse toy and heads back through the portal with it. What ensues is a literal cat and mouse game through a series of portals that lead to Escher-like rooms, reversal of gravity, and much more. Finally, the girl meets another version of herself and retrieves the red mouse, returning home. The adventure is over, or is it?

Cleverly designed, this wordless picture book is a joy to experience. Readers will love figuring out that gravity is different, or that stairs don’t actually look like stairs, or that there are other worlds out there much like our own. The use of portals adds a delightful science-fiction quality to the book too. As always, Robinson’s illustrations are exceptional. His use of repeating polka dots is used on the end-pages and under the book jacket as well as throughout the story. From the girl’s hair to entire landscapes of dots, the book is a cohesive whole even as it journeys through other worlds.

An exceptional picture book made all the more impressive by being wordless. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: How to Give Your Cat a Bath by Nicola Winstanley

how to give your cat a bath by nicola winstanley

How to Give Your Cat a Bath by Nicola Winstanley, illustrated by John Martz (9780735263543)

A simple five-step guide to giving your cat a bath becomes a romp of a picture book. Just filling the tub with the right amount of water is a challenge. First too much, then too little. Then the cat disappears. Maybe it’s time for a milk and cookie break? The girl returns to the bathroom with her cat, but now the water is cold. The cat escapes again. She chases after forgetting to turn off the water which creates a flood. Once the water is mopped up, it’s time to start again. Or perhaps there’s a simpler solution?

The flat voice of a guide book adds so much to the humor here. The timing is also exceptionally done with the design of the page turns adding a touch of suspense to the fun. The entire book is lighthearted and played for laughs. The art is done in simple lines which emphasizes the chaos that eventually occurs on the page. The messes accumulate, moving into new rooms.

A complete giggle-fest of a book particularly for families who love cats. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: There Are No Bears in This Bakery by Julia Sarcone-Roach

There Are No Bears in This Bakery by Julia Sarcone-Roach

There Are No Bears in This Bakery by Julia Sarcone-Roach (9780399556661)

The author of The Bear Ate Your Sandwich has returned with a second book about a hungry bear (or two.) Muffin is a bakery cat who solves cases when night falls. He knows all of the night sounds until one night when he hears a “grrrrrrrr” noise. At first he can’t locate the noise, but when he returns to the bakery he discovers the largest mouse he has ever seen! Or perhaps it’s the smallest bear. The sound is coming from the little bear’s stomach. Muffin knows just what to do to solve the problem: he feeds the little bear the bakery treats. Then a second bear shows up, much larger than the first. Could Muffin be in a bear-load of trouble?

Sarcone-Roach writes with exceptional tone and turns of phrase in this picture book. She uses bakery metaphors such as “I slipped into the darkness like icing melting down a hot cake.” The metaphors continue when Muffin meets the bears, giving readers a sense of what they smell like, sound like and even feel like. The story here is clever with a cat whose job might be to solve issues but most likely not by feeding wild creatures.

The art is full of colors with yellows and blues playing against deeper blacks in the shadows. Muffin pops with his orange coat against these colors. There is a playfulness in the illustrations that is particularly effective even with their dark colors and nighttime vibe.

A perfect combination of cat and bears that will leave readers craving sprinkles. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Knopf.

Review: Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks (9781368008440)

Living on Wilnick, an outdated and aging space station at the end of the galaxy could be dull, but not for best friends Sanity and Tallulah. Sanity, who has always wanted a pet despite rules against having one, decides to create one herself. It turns out to be a very cute three-headed kitten with a taste for meat. The kitten manages to escape soon after Tallulah’s mother finds out that she exists. The girls set out to find out whether the problems that are happening across the space station are the fault of one cute kitten or maybe it’s something else. Meanwhile, there seems to be a very large monster on the loose and the coolant tank appears to have been drunk dry. As disaster looms aboard the space station, it’s up to Sanity to save the day thanks to the technology she explored when creating her illegal pet.

Brooks sets exactly the right tone in this graphic novel. The girls best friends who tend to talk one another into getting into even more trouble while trying to fix what they have already done. Add in a three-headed kitten and mayhem follows. The two girls could not be more different, which makes for an odd-couple chemistry between them. The story is fast paced and a delightful mix of STEM and girl power.

The art in the book is done in a limited color palette with pinks and deep blues. The art brings to life the space station and its size, conveying the hazards of keeping it functional while giving the girls a lot of space to run into trouble. The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse and that extends to all of the people who live aboard the space station.

A strong graphic novel with plenty of appeal. Appropriate for ages 9-12

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Up the Mountain Path by Marianne Dubuc

Up the Mountain Path by Marianne Dubuc

Up the Mountain Path by Marianne Dubuc (9781616897239)

Every Sunday, Mrs. Badger walks to the mountain peak. Along the way, she greets her various animal friends and finds gifts to give others later. She helps anyone who needs it too. When a young cat asks to share Mrs. Badger’s snack, she invites the cat along to the mountaintop. They need to find the little cat her own walking stick and take breaks along the way, but the two eventually make it to the peak. They enjoy one another’s company and the trip so much that they continue to make the trek together again and again. Eventually, Mrs. Badger grows older and has to be the one taking breaks and finally she can’t make the trip any longer. The cat continues to make the walk, finding her own young animal to mentor on the way.

This gentle picture book has such depth to it. Mrs. Badger is a fabulous character, exhibiting deep kindness and thoughtfulness for others. She knows everyone she encounters on the walk and makes connections easily. She demonstrates how to make and keep friends with all of her actions. This becomes even more clear as she walks with the young cat, teaching them how to make the long climb to the peak. The book can be read as a metaphor for life but children can also simply enjoy the story of the friendly badger and a young cat who become friends.

Dubuc’s illustrations move from full pages of images to smaller unframed pictures that offer a varied feel throughout the book. She makes sure to have a special feeling when the characters make it to the mountaintop. The vista is striking but it is the journey itself that makes the book sing.

A quiet book about connections and community. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Stop, Go, Yes, No! by Mike Twohy

Stop, Go, Yes, No! by Mike Twohy

Stop, Go, Yes, No! by Mike Twohy (9780062469335)

The author of Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run! brings his fast-paced dog to a new concept book this time. In this new title, opposites are the focus. A dog and cat character demonstrate each set of opposites. The cat is asleep, the dog is awake. A chase ensues when the dog wakes the cat up, sending then over and under, smiling and frowning, high and low, hiding and seeking. Along the way the cat gets wet, a mess is made, and finally a compromise is reluctantly agreed to.

Twohy has a great sense of dynamics in this picture book, creating moments of humor and hijinx while still giving readers a compelling story arc. He uses his art to tell the tale, the only words being the pairs of opposites that are shown on the page. The emotions of both the cat and dog are clear and add to the funny nature of the story. Expect plenty of giggles.

An outstanding opposites picture book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from libray copy.

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 All About Me, Myself & I

I Am a Cat by Galia Bernstein

I Am a Cat by Galia Bernstein (9781419726439)

When a housecat named Simon introduces himself to large cats from the wild, he tells them that he is a cat too. But they laugh and him. Each big cat goes on to explain why they are a cat and he clearly is not. The lion explains that he has a mane and a tuft on the end of his tail. Cheetah can run faster than any other animal. Puma lives in the mountains. Panther lives in the jungle and sleeps in trees. Tiger is very big, very strong and very orange. Simon is confused, because each example is unique to that big cat. Then Lion explains how they are all alike and Simon is able to show that he shares those same attributes too.

Written almost entirely in dialogue between the various cats, this book moves along as fast as a cheetah. Along the way, readers will realize that they are not being told what cats actually are and will agree with Simon when he protests. The ending of the book is immensely satisfying as the cats play together and then fall asleep in a heap, big and small together. The illustrations are very appealing, showing long before the text does the similarities between the big cats and Simon. The subtle color palette is particularly effective. This picture book is the cat’s meow. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

I Am Enough by Grace Byers

I Am Enough by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo (9780062667120)

In gentle rhyme, this picture book tells everyone that they are enough, that they deserve a good life. The book speaks of the importance of learning, of growing, of getting up when you fall and trying all over again. It is also about diversity and the way that we are all different from one another but that we can still make connections, support one another and be friends.

Written in gliding poetry, the book doesn’t focus on a story but on a feeling of inclusion and support, of self esteem and empowerment. Children of all races and faiths will see themselves on these pages thanks to the inclusive illustrations that accompany the text. The illustrations have a joy to them that celebrates the power of children to rise above. A strong and simple picture book that is inclusive and celebratory. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

I Got It by David Wiesner

I Got It by David Wiesner (9780544309029)

Award-winner Wiesner returns with another of his signature near-wordless picture books. Here the book is about baseball and what happens in the outfield. A boy in a red shirt is sent to the outfield and when a ball is hit out towards him, he calls “I got it!” But as he leans to get the ball, he trips, loses a shoe and is left face down on the ground. As he trips, readers will see roots emerge from the ground. The next time he attempts to catch the ball, the tree roots and limbs are even larger and result in a bigger crash. The third time, the ball itself becomes huge but as the boy is smaller, he determinedly goes after the ball, climbing over the other players to finally make the catch.

While the elements are playful here and rather surreal, there is a truth to the entire book that speaks to the tangle of feet, the tripping of toes, the humiliation of falling, and the resilience it takes to keep on getting up, reach for the play and finally make it. With Wiesner’s beautiful illustrations, this picture book soars like a baseball into a blue sky. Simply superb. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

3 New Animal Picture Books to Love

If I Had a Horse by Gianna Marino

If I Had a Horse by Gianna Marino (9781626729087)

This poetic picture book dreams of having a horse. The entire book is dreamy and soft, a more spiritual and sense-filled look at horses than the reality of barns and saddles. In the images, the little girl meets a horse in a field and offers him the largest apple she can find. There are moments of shyness and quiet as the two meet. They admire one another’s qualities of strength and gentleness. The little girl does ride the horse but not so easily until they become better friends. Then they head out together to meet other horses. The illustrations are done entirely in silhouettes filled with rich watercolor washes. The hair of the little girl mirrors that of the horse’s mane and also the blades of grass in the field around them. A beautiful dream of a picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

Many The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies

Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton (9780763694838)

This picture book invites readers to think about the wide amount of diversity in the animals and plants that live on our planet. The book offers a small scientific facts on some pages, giving a closer look at things like mushrooms, microbes, elephants, and habitats. The book moves on to fill pages with images of different types of animals, one fascinating two-page spread has animals that were discovered in the last 50 years. It also explores food cycles for several different species. The book ends with information on how humans are negatively impacting species in the world and encourages children to be aware of how they can make a difference. Filled with interesting facts and vibrant illustrations, this picture book is an invitation to explore nature even further. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Trio The Tale of a Three-Legged Cat by Andrea Wisnewski

Trio: The Tale of a Three-Legged Cat by Andrea Wisnewski (9781567926088)

Trio was a cat born with only three legs. Even though he was missing a hind leg, he still managed to fully explore the chicken coop that he lived in with his siblings and a flock of chickens. Trio liked to explore the world like a chicken would with dust baths and eating bugs. But he could not lay an egg like they did. When Trio finally got all the way up to the nesting boxes, he found that it was warm and cozy there. One day, Trio found an egg in the nest, one that cracked and moved. It eventually hatched into a very special chick. Told in the simplest of sentences, this picture book is filled with a warmth and strong sense of style. The story is based on a real cat who has three legs, though he may not have hatched a chick of his own yet. The illustrations are done in gorgeous paper cuts, that evoke the feeling of woodblock printing. With their organic feel, they add to the friendly warmth of the book. A lovely and accepting look at being differently abled. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)