Circle, Triangle, Elephant! By Kenji Oikawa and Mayuko Takeuchi (9780714874111)
Following a pattern of naming the stacked shapes in order, this book immediately surprises readers by inserting elephants, boats, birds, lemons, and busses into the stacks. It is a very simple premise made entirely engaging by the surprises on each new page. Children will love to help name the items in the stacks and won’t even realize it’s a concept book at all. The images are bright colored and bold, each element easily recognized and named. Colors and other elements can be pointed out as well as this is bound to be a favorite. Appropriate for ages 1-2. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Opposite Surprise by Agnese Baruzzi (9789888341375)
With large flaps to lift, this board book asks questions about opposites that become more complicated and interesting once the flap is lifted and the picture is revealed. “Small or big?” opens to reveal two trucks, one of which may have seemed big without the other in the image.”Empty or full?” has an image of a fish tank that seems crowded with bright red fish, or is it? The illustrations are simple and bold and will lead to discussions about how they could be interpreted. This is a board book that begs to be shared and talked about. Appropriate for ages 2-3. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Pizza! By Lotta Nieminen
This one is best kept for library programming or for families to own, because it has one loose piece that will likely get lost in libraries without a creative way to attach it. But it is so charming that I had to recommend it anyway. The book uses an actual recipe for pizza making that then uses interactive elements to involve young children in the process. Salt and flour pour by pulling a tab. Children can use the spoon to stir. The best element though is a panel with “dough” that has just the right texture. Make sure to have some baking supplies ready to make pizza with children after sharing this one. Yum! Appropriate for ages 2-3. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Welcome to My House by Gaia Stella (9781452157924, Amazon)
Olga, a friendly black cat, leads readers through her home. She shows all of the objects in the house in a variety of categories. There is everything for sitting that includes a stool, chairs, and even a stack of books. Everything that brightens has candles, lamps, and a window. The lists continue with images of each item and a name. Everything that passes the time includes games but also brother and sister. While this is a look at the objects in a home, it also speaks to the various roles that the people in a home can have.
Originally published in France, this picture book has a distinct European feel. Stella presents a simple premise of a book that becomes more complex as readers look more closely at the items included in each category. There are some lists that are unusual like everything that shows time passing and everything for warming up that include unlikely items. This picture book shows categorizing items and also teaches words so it has many uses for young readers.
The illustrations are done in a simple and bold style that offers just enough detail to identify objects clearly but avoids being fussy or too crowded on the page. Readers will enjoy discovering that Olga is a cat, something that explains the sorts of things that make her list and are distinctly from a cat’s point of view.
A book that will have readers exploring the pages closely and inventing their own categories in their homes. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle.
Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani (9781419723490, Amazon)
This simple counting picture book is full of feline fun. Starting with one sleeping cat, the book moves to two cats playing with yarn, then three cats stack together into a tower like the cover of the book demonstrates. Four and five cats make towers that threaten to tip. Six cats wisely split into two towers of three cats. Seven cats nap together and then eight cats try a very tall stack and tumble down. Nine cats form three stacks of three and ten cats are just too many. So then the subtraction starts and counting backwards begins.
This is simple counting presented in a humorous and clever way. The text has a great rhythm to it that weaves nicely into the counting itself. Small children will enjoy counting the cats and adults helping them can ask them to count the sleeping cats and point out the basics of multiplication and division shown clearly on the page.
The illustrations are bright and cheery, filled with teals and oranges that pop against one another. They have crisp graphic qualities and the cats themselves are entirely adorable as they play, snooze and stack on the pages.
A winning cat-filled counting book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.
My Pictures After the Storm by Éric Veillé (9781776571048, Amazon)
Before and after takes a humorous turn in this picture book. The first part of each pair of illustrations shows normalcy. Then something happens and everything changes. In the first pages, there are items from a beach and then after the storm things are tipped over, towels blow away, and ice cream falls. Lunch is shown and then after lunch everything is munched and changed. Other changes get more silly such as animals going to a hairdresser or mislabeled objects get relabeled or creatures eat too many potato chips.
Veillé has created a picture book that is a joy to share. The pictures are fun to explore and children will love spotting the differences. There is a zany nature to the illustrations, done in simple lines and bright, flat colors. The simplicity adds to the fun as the objects shift and change after an event.
Much more than a concept book, this is a funny and wry look at the chaos of life before and after. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.
Sam Sorts by Marthe Jocelyn (9781101918050)
All of Sam’s toys are in a heap on his floor. It’s time for him to clean up. He finds one unique toy, then two dinosaurs, and counts upwards. But there are other ways to sort toys into categories. Maybe by what they are made from or their shape. And then there are the toys that fall into both categories. Some of them rhyme with each other. Others have the same pattern on them. They can be every color in the rainbow or have qualities that make them similar like being fuzzy or smelly. Some float. Others fly. So many ways to sort!
Jocelyn has created a book that is all about the concept of sorting items into categories. Again and again, she shows that toys can be put into any number of categories. It’s all in how you look at them. The book also incorporates counting on some of its pages. It’s a book that is perfect for more conversations outside of the ones in the text. Questions of finding other toys that fit the new categories on the page, or even thinking of other categories that Sam hasn’t used yet. There’s plenty to be creative about here.
Jocelyn’s illustrations are done in cut paper collage. Some items have a lovely depth to them, created by shadows on the page. On another two pages, there are shadows on the wall that add to the fun. On other pages real objects appear with drawings of others. This is a vibrant visual feast where children will want to look closely at the items and talk about how they match or don’t match.
Have items on hand to sort to continue the conversations started with this creative look at sorting. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley received from NetGalley and Tundra Books.
ABC Dream by Kim Krans (InfoSoup)
This wordless alphabet book is a wonderful mix of concept book and also guessing game. Each double-page spread is dedicated to one letter and filled with natural elements that demonstrate that letter being used. The detailed illustrations invite readers to look closely and explore what other items they can spot that start with that letter. Nicely, the book ends with a list for each letter so adults can help make sure all of the details are noticed. This alphabet book is a unique and wondrous book that invites whimsical dreaming even as young ones learn their alphabet.
The illustrations are the entirety of this book. They are a gorgeous mix of pen and ink fine lines and watercolor washes. This combines black and white detail with touches of color that enliven the pages. Each illustration is its own fine composition with colors that complement one another and invite you to lean in and look even closer.
One of the more unique alphabet books around, this picture book will delight adults and children alike. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Books for Young Readers.
The Hueys in What’s the Opposite by Oliver Jeffers (InfoSoup)
The Hueys are back with another book, this one focused on opposites. One Huey starts by asking another what the opposite of beginning is, but that stumps the other one. So they move on to easier opposites like here and there, up and down, yes and no. Each of the opposites is acted out by the characters with lots of humorous touches that make the book a delight to read and share. As always, the Hueys have exactly the right tone for a preschool crowd, this time making the concept of opposites great fun to learn.
Jeffers has a real gift for quiet humor that is shown mostly in the illustrations while the text stays focused and matter of fact. Sharing this aloud is not about just reading the text, but also exploring the illustrations together to make sure that you don’t miss the smashed cup of tea when the cat is gotten down from the tree (by sawing it down). At times the text gets in on the fun too, like when the Huey caught on a desert island is unlucky at first, then lucky and then sadly, unlucky once again.
Children will enjoy that the opposites get more complex at the end of the book. A discussion of whether a glass is half full or half empty should lead to everyone joining the Huey with his hurting head. The end of the book adds to the merriment finally answering the original question of the opposite of beginning.
A real joy to read and share, this picture book will appeal to both existing Huey fans and will also earn new ones. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Philomel Books.
Chooky-Doodle-Doo by Jan Whiten, illustrated by Sinead Hanley (InfoSoup)
A fresh little counting book, this Australian import combines numbers with a jaunty rhyme. One little “chooky” chick is unable to pull a big worm out of the ground, so another chick tries to help. Three of them pull and pull then, and the worm just grows longer and longer. Eventually there are six chicks pulling and not able to get the worm out of the ground. Rooster joins them and helps to pull. They pull and pull, bracing themselves on the ground, until pop! The worm lets go and gives them all a big surprise.
Each page asks “What should chookies do?” and leads into the page turn where another chick has joined in helping. The next page then starts with the number of chicks pulling, making the counting element very clear for young readers. The text is simple and has a great rhythm to it. This picture book could easily be turned into a play for preschoolers to act out, since the actions are simple. The reveal at the end is very satisfying and make sure you look at the very final pages to see the smiling worm still happily in the dirt.
The illustrations are done in collage, both by hand and digital. The textures of the papers chosen for the collage offer a feeling of printmaking too, an organic style that works well with the subject matter. The chicks have huge eyes and are large on the page, making counting easy for the youngest listeners. The bright colors add to the appeal.
A great toddler read aloud for units on farms, this picture book will worm its way right into your heart. Appropriate for ages 2-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
Wild about Shapes by Jeremie Fischer (InfoSoup)
A wonderfully simple idea, this book features abstract patterns on each facing page. Turn the clear plastic page with its abstract design so that it overlaps the first page and suddenly an animal is revealed. While some of the animals can be guessed from the designs or from the short text, many of them are complete surprises. Children will have to be paying close attention to spot some of the animals like the fish made from the white space on the page and the octopus that floats on another.
Spiral bound, this book is printed on card stock that will stand up to little hands. Even the acetate pages are strong and thick, limiting the amount of tearing that libraries will see. The text is very limited in the book, giving full attention to the clever illustrations. They are entirely playful and fun, the book less of a guessing game and more of art that you get to experience.
Children will want to turn the pages themselves, so that they are able to look back and forth between the abstract and the tangible on the page. So it’s best for sharing with only a few children at a time. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.