3 Silly Picture Books

Accident By Andrea Tsurumi

Accident! By Andrea Tsurumi (9780544944800)

Lola spills juice all over a chair and decides to run away and hide in the library until she’s a grownup. As she runs to the library, Lola meets a series of other animals having their own accidents and disasters. She takes them all with her to the library. But soon the disasters multiply as they run, turning the entire town into chaos. Even the library itself is soon a catastrophe. Then the little red bird explains that these are all just accidents and they should make it better. So each animal returns to the mess they have made and fixes things with apologies, help and towels. Throughout this picture book the pace gets faster and faster as the accidents build up and up. The illustrations are filled with small details and it’s worth slowing down and noticing all of the little touches of disaster as the pages get more chaotic. A book that celebrates taking responsibility even in the face of the ultimate mess. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Read the Book Lemmings by Ame Dyckman

Read the Book Lemmings by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora (9780316343480)

Head out on an Arctic adventure aboard the S.S. Cliff with Foxy, Captain PB and three little lemmings. Foxy is trying to read a book about lemmings but the problem is that the lemmings themselves haven’t read it. As Foxy reads aloud that lemmings don’t actually jump off of cliffs, the three lemmings immediately jump overboard. Foxy tries again to show them the information, but still, the three lemmings jump overboard again. Eventually Foxy realizes why the lemmings won’t read the book, but they have one more trick for him! Dyckman has an impeccable sense of timing in this picture book, creating moments of true hilarity that are a pleasure to share aloud. The book is simply written which adds to its appeal. The illustrations have great sense of style to them with a pink sky, deep ocean-blue water, and lemmings that wear hats so you can tell them apart. Funny, deeply silly and heart warming, despite the cold water. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake (9781419726996)

A little boy declares that he can get ready for the bath by himself, but gets himself stuck in his shirt. He thinks about what would happen if he was permanently stuck in his shirt. It might be alright sometimes, but what about when he gets thirsty or wants to play with his cat? He realizes he could figure out inventive ways to solve those problems. Unfortunately, then he tries to take off his pants and manages to get entirely stuck. Luckily his mom appears and rescues him. Every child has gotten stuck in their clothes and will enjoy laughing along as this child figures out clever ways to live in a shirt. The (literal)  twist of the pants at the end is cleverly done and offers just the right silly tone and a glimpse of a bare bottom too. Share this one after a bath. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

A Pattern for Pepper by Julie Kraulis

A Pattern for Pepper by Julie Kraulis

A Pattern for Pepper by Julie Kraulis (9781101917565, Amazon)

Pepper needs a dress for a special occasion, so she and her mother go to Taylor’s to have a dress specially made. First, Mr. Taylor measures Pepper and then it’s time for Pepper to choose the fabric. But there are so many that it’s not that simple! Some of the patterns are too cold, others are too bumpy. As they discuss each pattern, Mr. Taylor offers information on the pattern and its name, explaining where the pattern came from in the world. After Pepper rejects pattern after pattern, she starts to wonder if she will ever find the right one. Happily, Mr. Taylor has been listening to all of her likes and dislikes and figures out the exact pattern that Pepper will love.

Kraulis combines information on each textile pattern with an engaging look at a child empowered to make this decision for herself. Throughout the adults show patience and a sense of Pepper’s ability to work through the problem with their expertise helping. Pepper is an engaging character, firmly knowing her own mind without being rude. As readers learn about the patterns, they will enjoy seeing what their own favorites are and whether they agree with Pepper on her choice.

The illustrations are done in a limited color palette with primarily blues and browns on the page. This limited color scheme allows the patterns to really be the focus rather than the color of the fabrics. The illustrations have a nice texture to them as well that lends itself to a book about textiles.

An empowered young heroine makes her pattern a priority in this picture book. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Netgalley and Tundra Books.

Pete with No Pants by Rowboat Watkins

Pete with No Pants by Rowboat Watkins

Pete with No Pants by Rowboat Watkins (9781452144016, Amazon)

Pete is a little elephant who prefers not to wear pants. He likes to pretend to be other things that are also gray and also don’t wear pants. Maybe he’s a boulder? But the boulders don’t like his knock-knock jokes and never respond. Maybe he’s a squirrel? But he manages to scare the squirrels away. A pigeon? A cloud? Or maybe, he’s exactly who he knows he is, a little one who doesn’t want to wear clothes.

I love that there is a moral here, but it’s for the parents not the kids. That is to let your little one be who they truly are. The ending has the mother elephant who is dressed quite conservatively and has been watching with a worried expression finally just accepting Pete for who he is. The writing is mostly done in asides spoken by Pete and the other animals. It’s wry and great fun, just right for reading aloud.

Watkins’ illustrations have a great softness to them, colors that are subtle and smear on the page. The background isn’t a pure white but a soft textured gray. The pages move from full double-page spreads to smaller comic-book framing that plays in tune with the speech bubbles on the pages. Don’t miss the denim end pages too, and notice the difference between the front and back ones.

A joyous call to support our children, whoever they are. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: Earmuffs for Everyone by Meghan McCarthy

earmuffs for everyone

Earmuffs for Everyone!: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Meghan McCarthy

Chester Greenwood is credited with being the inventor of the earmuffs.  The story goes that he was a boy with big ears that were sensitive to cold so he had his grandmother create him a pair of earmuffs from wire and cloth.  However, the author also shows that earmuffs were actually invented before Greenwood was even born.  He did however get a patent himself at age 19 for ear-mufflers.  Chester had a great business sense too, one that he honed even as a boy.  He also invented other things besides ear-mufflers, designing new features into kettles and rakes and even creating a portable house.  It was an article in Life Magazine in the 1930s that credited Greenwood with the invention and that continued into the 1970s when there was a day named after him in Maine that continues to be celebrated today.

McCarthy immediately invites readers into the earmuff mystery, showing the early patents by others and then turning to Greenwood.  Readers will see how convoluted stories can become in history, how distorted credit for inventions can be, and also how hard it can be to piece together the truth fully once again.  It is to McCarthy’s credit that her focus is on more than the inventor but also on the others in history and the patent process.  Don’t miss her notes at the end which detail even more fully her search for the truth about earmuffs.

McCarthy populates her books with friendly characters with big googly eyes.  Her paintings are fresh and colorful.  They range from double-page spreads to smaller images on the page.  All of them exude a cheery feeling and invite readers to explore.

This nonfiction picture book embraces the complexity of the past and demonstrates the search for the truth behind an everyday object.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

Review: My Grandfather’s Coat by Jim Aylesworth

my grandfathers coat

My Grandfather’s Coat by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Based on a Yiddish folksong, this picture book celebrates the thrift, hard work and skills of immigrants to the United States.  Told in the first person by the grandchild, this book looks at one man who came to the US and worked hard as a tailor.  He met a woman and they got married and he made his own coat for the wedding.  He wore it everywhere until finally, it was worn it.  So then what did he do?  He made it into a jacket.  He wore that everywhere and eventually wore it out too.  So then he made it into a vest.  He then wore that until it was frayed.  The book progresses through a necktie and finally a stuffed mouse made from the last of the old fabric and even when that is eventually torn apart, a mouse finds it to be perfect for her nest. 

Aylesworth uses a repeating structure throughout this book, first introducing his character of the grandfather and then having him make a garment, wear it out, make another, and start the cycle again.  He uses just the right amount of rhythm and rhyme to hold the story together, making the repetition clear and rollicking.  It reads like a folk tale, filled with a celebration of one man and his skills at reusing things.

McClintock’s illustrations suit this subject matter perfectly.  Her artwork’s vintage feel is right at home here, creating repeating tableaus on the page that reflect the changing time as children grow up and also the process and time of recreating garments from the scraps.  Her art shows the loving family, the shrinking deep blue fabric, and the passage of time.

This story of reuse and recycling takes that modern movement and translates it directly into the frugality of our American ancestors.  Cleverly written, striking illustrated and a great read aloud, this book is appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic Press.

Review: Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman

jacobs new dress

Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case

At school, Jacob loves to dress up as the princess during play time.  Christopher though doesn’t approve of Jacob wearing girl clothes even to pretend.  Jacob’s teacher steps in and explains that you can imagine being anything you like.  At home, Jacob tells his mother about what Christopher said and she says that he is welcome to get out the dress he wore for Halloween and play in that.  Jacob loves the witch dress and wants to wear it to school, but Jacob’s mother doesn’t think that’s a good idea.  So Jacob creates his own dress from a towel that he wears to school, but Christopher pulls it off at recess and teases Jacob about wearing it.  Back at home, Jacob asks his mother to make him a real dress to wear.  She is reluctant, but agrees, and then Jacob has a new dress that is all his own to wear whenever he wants.

The authors take the issue of gender variance head on in this picture book, keeping it firmly at a level that children will understand.  The focus is on Jacob’s desire to wear a dress, not the complexities of what that may mean to label him in any way.  That makes this a book that is about inclusiveness and bullying as well as addressing the need for children who have gender differences to see themselves in a book.

I also appreciate the way the authors included not just Jacob’s emotions about asking for a dress from his mother, but also her own complex reaction to it.  While the entire exchange was positive and supportive, the pauses placed in the text spoke volumes about the emotions happening at the same time.

Case’s art is colorful and cute.  The characters clearly show their emotions on their faces.  The various dresses that Jacob wears are cleverly depicted.  The lace on his final dress is clear but so are the dirty spots from playing in it. 

An important book for libraries to have, this book will speak to children exploring their own gender roles and would make a great addition to diversity units.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Little Owl’s Orange Scarf by Tatyana Feeney

little owls orange scarf

Little Owl’s Orange Scarf by Tatyana Feeney

Little Owl lived with his mother on the edge of Central Park.  He loved lots of things like ice cream and riding his scooter, but he did not like his new scarf.  First of all, it was orange.  Second, it was itchy.  Third, it was way too long.  So Little Owl avoided wearing it whenever he could, but his mother kept on finding it and having him wear it anyway.  Nothing worked!  Then Little Owl took a class trip to the zoo and came back without his scarf.  It was lost for good this time.  So Little Owl helped his mother make his new scarf.  He loved it.  First of all, it was blue.  Second, it was soft.  Third, it was just the right size.  It was even perfect for visits to the zoo.

Feeney has struck just the right tone with this picture book.  Happily, it does not come off as whining but as a child who just does not like an article of clothing.  His attempts to lose the scarf or at least give it away are clever and cute.  The working together with his parent to create a new scarf is a smart turn in the story that leads to satisfaction for everyone.  When the little twist at the end is revealed, the story is entirely satisfying.

The art is kept very minimal and simple.  I must mention that the orange in the hardcover version I have is much more bright and intense than the cover above shows.  The entire book is done in black lines, orange and teal, making the colors very important.  The black lines are done with curls and playfulness that add to the light touch of the story as a whole.

Light and fun, this is a book that will work well at toddler story times, especially on winter days with scarves of their own.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

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

Review: Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters by K. G. Campbell

lesters dreadful sweaters

Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters by K. G. Campbell

When Cousin Clara’s cottage was eaten by a crocodile, she moved in with Lester and his family.  No one knows quite whether she is actually their relative, but she stayed with them anyway.  She brought her knitting along with her.  She just sat and knitted all the time, until one morning she announced that she had made Lester a sweater.  It was horrible, an ugly yellow with one arm far too long and purple pom-poms dotted all over it.  Lester was made to wear it to school where the others made fun of him, of course.  That sweater mysteriously shrunk in the laundry.  But the next morning, there was another sweater.  This one was pink with strange upside down pockets.  That one got caught in the mower.  Every time Lester did away with one awful sweater, another appeared to take its place, until one morning he awoke to a mountain of sweaters.  He did what anyone would do, and murdered them quietly with a scissors. But even then, there was one left intact.  There doesn’t seem to be anything Lester can do to end the parade of awful sweaters, but there just may be a solution in a most unlikely place!

This is a dynamite picture book that has a fabulous strangeness about it that works particularly well.  There is the oddness that Lester has already.  He keeps lists of dangerous things that start with the letter C and collects items for the Lost & Found he has.  He is particular about his socks being even and keeping his hair tidy.  He could be an unlikeable character, but those little oddities as set aside when the horrible sweaters start coming.  One immediately understands Lester’s desperation to get rid of the sweaters without confrontation and as the story unravels, it gets more and more fun to read.

Campbell’s art adds to the strangeness of the book.  She has strange objects set around the house: a pickaxe near the front door, a Viking helmet in the Lost & Found.  The pages are done in a matte finish that adds to the vintage feel, the Victorian feel of the book.  And yet, there is that unwavering sense of humor, that lifts everything to feel modern too.

For slightly older children than most picture books, this would make a great read aloud for elementary classrooms.  There is plenty of humor, moments of surprise, and a great ending that I refuse to even hint at.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: What We Wear by Maya Ajmera

what we wear

What We Wear: Dressing Up around the World by Maya Ajmera, Elise Hofer Derstine, and Cynthia Pon

This bright, colorful picture book shows cultural apparel from around the world.  The book revels in the unique colors, structure, beading and design.  Filled with images of children with smiling faces wearing their unique clothing, the book does contain some simple information on the clothes.  They are grouped in categories like dance and play, school clothing, and celebrating who we are.  The simple structure and basic information makes the book more appropriate for preschoolers than elementary students.

Because of the simplicity of the text, this book’s quality rests solely with the clarity of its images and the way they are presented.  Happily, the book has photographs of children of a variety of races, dressed in gorgeous colors and clothing.  They are shown on pages of equally bright colors that really add spice to the design. 

A very friendly look at costumes throughout the world, this book is a solid addition to preschool nonfiction collections.  It reminded me of looking through my mother’s Unicef calendars as a child.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge Publishing.