Review: My Bike by Byron Barton

My Bike by Byron Barton

My Bike by Byron Barton (InfoSoup)

Tom rides his bicycle to work each day. On the way, he passes all sorts of other vehicles like cars, buses, and trucks. As he gets closer to work, he passes lots of people. Then he passes monkeys, acrobats, tigers, lions and elephants! Once he reaches the tent where he works, he changes into his costume and puts on his makeup. He heads into the circus ring as a clown, ready to do his act. Once he’s up on the tightrope, he hops aboard another mode of transportation, a unicycle.

This jolly picture book will appeal to fans of transportation books and circuses alike. Barton has written other classic titles in this series like My Car and My Bus. The book reviews the various parts of a bicycle and then through very simple sentences and words eventually reveals Tom’s job to the readers. The book is straight forward but cleverly done so that readers will wonder what his job is all along his route to work. The final panel of him riding off in his regular clothes and a clown nose is a great farewell.

Just as with the text, the illustrations are simple too. Done in Photoshop, the art is clean and bold, the colors bright and cheery. The transformation into a clown in handled well and Tom never turns creepy on the reader, instead keeping his friendly demeanor and appearance throughout. The final panel of him riding off in his regular clothes and a clown nose is a great farewell.

The simplicity of both the text and the illustrations make this a great pick for smaller children. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.

Review: The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

farmer and the clown

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

In a wordless picture book, Frazee captures what happens when a young clown falls off of a circus train and is rescued by a lonely farmer.  The desolate and flat landscape is unbroken until the bright circus train passes.  The farmer is clearly reluctant to take in the bright little smiling clown, but he does anyway, taking him by the hand back to his tiny house.  There, the two of them sit together, share a meal and eventually wash up and the clown washes off his face paint.  Now it is the little clown who is worried and sad, his smile removed with the water.  The farmer sits with him as he tries to fall asleep.  Along with the light of dawn, the farmer starts to cheer up the little clown with silly faces and antics.  Soon the two are living a mix of their two lives:  eggs are gathered and juggled, hard work is shared, and the two head out on a picnic together.  While on the picnic, they hear a train coming and it is the circus train filled with clowns.  But somehow, the ending is not sad as the little clown returns to his family and the farmer returns to his farm, both changed forever.

I’m not sure how Frazee manages to convey so much in a wordless format.  She uses symbolism, like the face paint for removing barriers, the connection of the characters through held hands, and their very different hats being removed and shared and eventually exchanged.  It’s lovely and heartfelt and very special. 

I’ve seen this book on a lot of people’s top book lists for the year, and I completely agree.  It’s a gem of a book that has such depths to explore.  The wordless format might imply a simple story, but here readers will find subtlety about friendship, caring for others, and building connections. 

A masterpiece of wordless storytelling, this is a radiant picture book made to be shared.  Appropriate for ages 2-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

A Small Surprise

A Small Surprise by Louise Yates.

A very small white rabbit heads to try to get a job with a circus of animals even though the advertisement says that they don’t want small animals.  The rabbit has trouble getting his clown nose on, can’t tie the clown shoes no matter how he tries, and can’t walk the length of the tightrope without stopping.  Even eating proves to be messy but when the rabbit gets into trouble, something incredible happens that just may keep it in the circus after all.

The illustrations here tell the bulk of the story.  The quizzical animals are large but not scary at all.  They help the small rabbit get dressed and root for the little one when walking the tightrope.  When the rabbit displays its talent, the book turns riotously funny complete with spitting.  I especially enjoy the giraffe who spends the entire book with a leafy twig hanging from her loopy tongue, watching everything unfold around her.  A book of few words, this book repeats the few it has for most of the book, saying “I am too small to…” again and again.  With such great illustrations, this is the perfect amount of text, offering up support for the pictures but allowing them to tell the real story.

With one large word in the entire book and lots of repetition, this one would be good for emergent readers but it is also perfect for sharing with groups of children who will love the sudden transformation of the small rabbit into a true clown and the laughter that that brings.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.