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.)

3 Fun-Filled Picture Books

These three picture books are wild romps of fun:

I Love You Like a Pig by Mac Barnett

I Love You Like a Pig by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli (9780062354839)

This picture book celebrates all the different forms that love can take, beginning with being loved like a pig and moving to other unique ones as well. At first they may seem silly or unlikely, but the book shows what each one means through the illustrations. The text stays very simple, offering new ways of loving: I love you like a window, I’m smiling like a tuna, and You’re sweet like a banker. Then the illustrations shows how each analogy works and brings it all to life. Barnett comes up with far-fetched analogies that then are transformed into meaning. The selections are clever and will appeal specifically to children and their experiences. Pizzoli’s bright illustrations invite readers to explore the words and find the meaning too. An ingenious book about love and delight. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABCs (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABCs (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell (9780316502467)

When the little red cat heads outside, he discovers a world of surprises and dangers that follow the ABCs. Readers will have to puzzle out what matches each letter along the way (though there is a key in the back of the book to help if you get stuck.) With a merry chase throughout the book, it has the feel of a Gingerbread Boy gallop across the pages. The book is wordless, offering only the letters along the way, providing a visual treat as the cat is joined by an alligator, a bear, a chicken, a dragon and an egg on his adventure through the alphabet. Filled with moments of humor, like the stop at the rest room for R and the lovely use of N and O, this picture book is a delight of an alphabet book that is great fun to share. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Nibbles The Dinosaur Guide by Emma Yarlett.jpg

Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide by Emma Yarlett (978-1-61067-643-4)

This is the second Nibbles book where the little yellow monster invades a book by munching his way right into the pages. Here a serious informational book about dinosaurs is what he enters and causes all sorts of mischief. The book names beloved dinosaurs and explains facts about them before being interrupted by the chaos created by Nibbles as he chews through the pages. Nibbles flees from Triceratops charging him. He has an eating contest with a family of Diplodocus. He is surrounded by Velociraptors and then runs right into a Tyrannosaurus Rex before escaping the book.

Yarlett has a real feel for what children love in picture books. She includes poop and fart jokes along the way, and offers lift the flap and die cut pages. Along the way, various side characters offer puns and jokes that will have readers giggling. Still, there is real information on the various dinosaurs offered as well, creating a book that combines silliness and seriousness into just the right mix.

Yarlett’s illustrations work to combine the serious and silliness. The pages on the dinosaurs are done in serious muted colors, sepia tones. But when Nibbles is around, those colors burst into fuller colors with oranges, greens and yellows. The die cuts are cleverly used to move through the book, some of them appearing through multiple pages for even more effect.

Another delicious Nibbles book that combines interactive elements and dinosaurs for what is sure to be a popular pick. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from copy provided by Kane Miller.)

Here Comes Teacher Cat by Deborah Underwood

Here Comes Teacher Cat by Deborah Underwood

Here Comes Teacher Cat by Deborah Underwood (9780399539053, Amazon)

The latest in the long Here Comes Cat series, this picture book is just as charming and fun as the earlier ones in the series. In this book, Cat is asked to step in as a substitute teacher. He’s not happy about it at all, since he wants to nap. Plus, he’s not really comfortable around kittens. Cat attempts to get out of it several times, but finally is in front of the class. They try music first, but Cat’s rock and roll approach disturbs other classes. They build with blocks, which turns out brilliantly and offers a snack too! Art is next and it gets really messy just as the teacher returns to the class room. Can Cat and the kittens get everything cleaned up in time?

I love the way that Cat is always teetering just on the edge of disaster throughout the book. He also has is own style of approaching everything that adds to the chaos and the fun. Putting him in charge of a classroom is rather like putting a child in charge, since he react so much that way and the results play out in a similar fashion as Cat figures it all out on the fly.

Just as with the other Cat books, the book has minimal words and Cat communicates by holding up signs with pictures on them. It’s a trick that the kittens learn by the end of the book, which is a great way to end a long day of teaching.

Just right for early days of school, this picture book is silly fun. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

Whose Moon Is That? by Kim Krans

Whose Moon Is That by Kim Krans

Whose Moon Is That? by Kim Krans (9781101932278, Amazon)

When the cat asks aloud who the moon belongs to, he gets many different answers. The tree and bird both insist the moon is theirs. The bear claims to have seen it first while the stars say it’s theirs because they hold it. The wolf insists that it helps him howl, so it’s his. Even the ocean thinks it is theirs because they reflect the moonlight. But the moon itself soon sets things straight and explains that the moon belongs to no one and to everyone. Still, the cat awakes the next morning with a new question about the sun!

This picture book about the moon is written in rhyming couplets that are not forced or unnatural. The book flows nicely from one natural figure to the next, each insisting that the moon is theirs with rhythm and rhyme. The illustrations are a mix of detailed fine-ink black and white with dramatic watercolor backgrounds that at times are almost tie-dyed and a mix of deep and bright colors.

A lovely bedtime book that will be welcomed especially on moonlit nights. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Random House.

 

Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt (9780374303822, Amazon)

Ethel is a cat who is old and fat. She is black and white and she has a routine to her days. She first surveys the land from her porch. Then she watches the weather. She chases insects and then explores the sidewalk where she has a favorite square where she likes to roll. But one day, someone has used chalk on the sidewalk square and when Ethel rolls on it, she becomes blue! The other cats look at her very strangely and Ethel runs home to hide. The next morning, Ethel feels blue and licks herself into blue stripes and white stripes. Another kitten is outside waiting for her and he is pink! The two together do Ethel’s routine with a colorful change at the end.

Reinhardt shows in this picture book that even old cats can learn colorful new tricks. Ethel is a wonderful look at the familiar routines turned on their heads. Her life is filled with simple pleasures that make her feel powerful and in charge. But that is all changed with one color. Still, Ethel also shows that while change may be hard, it isn’t impossible.

The illustrations are silly and quirky. The area that Ethel surveys each morning is filled with fake animals like deer, flamingos and one large rhino. It takes what we see as normal lawn ornaments one step farther into farce. Ethel herself is rather odd looking and therefore quite delightful as a character.

A look at colors, changes and resilience. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.