Smashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman

Smashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman

Smashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino (9780062910370)

Join Mr. Gilly in his crane with a wrecking ball in this dynamic picture book. Mr. Gilly’s crane is slow moving, but it can do a lot. When he swings the wrecking ball and hits a wall, it goes “Smash! Smash! Smash!” When he hits it again it goes, “Crash! Crash! Crash!” The wall tumbles down. Is he done? No! On goes the demolition, the ball swinging, smashing and crashing. When it is finally finished, Mr. Gilly uses his bulldozer to clear up the mess he made. The new building starts going up as Mr. Gilly heads home to dinner and bed.

This is a picture book just right for toddlers who love trucks and machines. The text is jaunty and great fun to read aloud. It has plenty of rhyming repetition in the smash and crash as well as the repeating question of whether Mr. Gilly is done yet. Get the children you are reading to involved in the crash and smash with claps and stomps, and you have a great finishing book for a story time.

The art by Yaccarino is bold and simple, ensuring that this is great for reading to a crowd of children. The art has the same good humor and merriment as the text, offering a busy urban setting for demolition as well as a final view of a public library being built on the site.

Let this one crash your story time! Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins.

Review: Fix That Clock by Kurt Cyrus

Fix That Clock by Kurt Cyrus

Fix That Clock by Kurt Cyrus (9781328904089)

Full of rhythm and rhyme, this picture book takes a broken down clock and rebuilds it. The clock is teetering and old, with the structure and the clock no longer functional. The only things that live in it are the wild animals who have moved in. So three builders arrive to change all of that. Floor-by-floor, they transform the zigzag of crooked walls into straight new boards and squares. The clock too gets reworked and soon the tower is straight and working once again. But what will happen to the little creatures who lived there? 

This book was made to share aloud. It has such a jolly rhythm to it, with hammers banging, boots tramping, and the clock bonging. Still, Cyrus takes the time to tell a full story here, giving quieter moments where the reader gets to more fully understand the structure itself and the creatures who live there. It’s that contrast that really makes the book work as a read aloud, giving it a heart beyond the rhythm and rhyme. 

Cyrus’ art is great, the old wood grayed and weathered by time contrasts with the fresh gold of the new wood. One can almost smell the sawdust as you turn the pages. The three builders are diverse as far as race and gender, which is very welcome to see. The use of interesting perspectives adds to the appeal visually.

A great choice for reading aloud for any units on construction or clocks. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Kitten and the Night Watchman by John Sullivan

Kitten and the Night Watchman by John Sullivan

Kitten and the Night Watchman by John Sullivan, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (9781481461917)

The night watchman heads out to his night of work. He works on a construction site, making sure that the doors are locked and the rooms are empty. He shines his flashlight near the broken trucks and startles a killdeer. He drinks his coffee under the shining stars and moon, thinking of his children at home asleep. Then a small kitten appears and joins the watchman for the rest of his rounds. They spot a jet in the sky, share dinner, and look at bugs. But then the kitten disappears and the watchman is left with only the sounds of the night around him. When the kitten returns, the watchman makes a decision to bring it home with him.

Beautifully told in a gentle and simple way, this picture book takes a poetic look at a job and a setting that is not usually given that treatment. The counterpoint of a construction site and the beauty that night lends it is very effective. As the quiet of the night progresses, it reveals so much that is hidden during the day. Birds, insects, and the kitten itself emerge from the darkness to be noticed and are made remarkable.

The artwork is filled with darkness and blues. Yet it is also lit by stars and the moon, and it is filled with beams from flashlights and lamps. These yellow streams of light lend brightness and illuminate the budding relationship of the watchman and the kitten with warmth.

Uniquely mixing construction, night and beauty, this picture book is something special. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: The Chickens Build a Wall by Jean-Francois Dumont

chickens build a wall

The Chickens Build a Wall by Jean-Francois Dumont

The chickens on the farm have built a wall but no one else is quite sure why.  It started when the hedgehog suddenly appeared in the middle of the farm.  The chickens were all very concerned about this strange new animal that quickly curled itself into a prickly ball.  But most alarming was when it had disappeared the next morning.  Perhaps it was after the chicks and eggs!   None were missing, but that didn’t stop the hens from accusing the hedgehog of eating their worms.  The rooster decided that they could not stand by and have this continue happening, so they leapt into action and built a wall.  It was not just a small wall, but one that grew so high that one could not see where it ended in the sky.  Can this wall save the chickens?  And what is it saving them from exactly?

Dumont tells a story about flighty chickens who jump to absurd conclusions immediately about a foreign creature.  The hens are frantic in their reactions, going to such lengths to protect themselves from nothing at all.  Readers will see parallels between gated communities and the chickens’ wall as well as the fast judgments made about people who are different from ourselves.  This would serve as a very nice book to introduce for discussions about diversity and community.

Dumont’s illustrations have a wonderful silliness to them.  The chickens are pop-eyed and always moving quickly.  The hedgehog is still, low and quiet.  The two set each other off nicely in both the illustrations and the storyline.

Translated from the original French, this book has a universal appeal and also a clever quirkiness that adds charm.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Review: Busy-Busy Little Chick by Janice N. Harrington

busy busy little chick

Busy-Busy Little Chick by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Mama Nsoso and her chicks needed a new home.  They spent each night shivering and cold in their dark, damp nest.  So Mama Nsoso said that tomorrow they would start work on their new home.  But the first day, Mama Nsoso found worms to eat and decided to eat rather than build a house.  The family shivered through another night.  The next day there were crickets to eat and no work was done.  Except by Little Chick who set out to gather grasses and mud to create their new home.  His hard work resulted in a fine new home for them, and then he was off finding himself some delicious bugs to eat. 

Harrington writes like a storyteller.  Her words flow beautifully when shared aloud.  She has reworked a classic fable from the Nkundo people of Central Africa and throughout has woven in Lunkundo words from their language.  She has also added lots of sounds to the book, so there are wonderful patterns that emerge as the hen and her chicks move through their day.  She clearly enjoys wordplay and creating rhymes and rhythms, all of which make for a great book to share aloud.

Pinkney’s art is large and bold, filled with warm yellows and oranges.  He has created images of the hen and her little family isolated and floating in cold blues.  They are brilliant orange, evoking the warmth of family and shelter.  His art is simple but filled with moving lines and playfulness with white space. 

A great pick for spring story times, don’t be chicken to share this one.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Review: Building Our House by Jonathan Bean

building our house

Building Our House by Jonathan Bean

Told through the eyes of a young girl, this picture book chronicles her family’s move from the city to the country.  There in a bare field, they are going to build their own home.  The family works for a year and a half on their house, living in a very cozy trailer while they complete enough of the house to live in it.  Slowly the house takes shape from pegging out the corners to digging out the foundation to the incredible use of hand tools to work on the lumber for the frame.  Through it all, the entire family is involved in the process and what an amazing process it is!

There are plenty of lumber, rocks, trucks and construction in the book to keep children intrigued.  It is great to see a construction book where children are right in the middle of things, helping and getting fully engaged and dirty.  The story is based off of Bean’s own childhood when his own parents built their family home from the ground up.  It is told from his older sister’s perspective.  I think that is what really comes through in this story.  It is intensely personal but also wonderfully detailed so that children really get the feel of what it is to spend over a year building a home.

Bean’s writing and illustrations work beautifully together.  The illustrations are filled with small touches like the cats who join the family.  The seasons rush in and out, changing plans and creating a colorful background for the story.  This is a house that honors the site it is built on with all of the nature around it, the book does as well.

Get this into the hands of young construction enthusiasts definitely!  But it has appeal far beyond that since it is a story of family at its heart.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Review: Demolition by Sally Sutton

demolition

Demolition by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock

There has been a movement recently to create some very original and fresh construction and truck books.  Before that, it was a bit of a desert of naming big trucks, telling how they work, and leaving it at that.  This book is one of the best of those new, fresh books about construction vehicles.  In rhyming lines, it tells the story of the demolition of a building.  It begins with the people getting ready, moves to the wrecking ball, then the excavator and its tearing jaws.  There are stone crushers and wood shredders.  Trucks are loaded and clear the site, then they start to build something.  Something with slides, monkey bars, and plenty of fun.

The rhyme and rhythm of this picture book really make it work.  It has a bouncy rhythm that makes the book ideal for toddlers.  The rhyming lines finish on each set of pages with noisy words that bring the work site to life.  Add to that the appeal of knocking something down and then building something new, and you have brought a toddler dream to life.  The illustrations have a great texture to them that evokes the dust and dirt of demolition.  They avoid being too cartoon-like and instead use different vistas on the project to allow young readers to see more than they could of in real life.

One of the most appealing construction or destruction books around, this belongs in every library collection.  It will also be appreciated by librarians and teachers who have long been looking for construction books worth sharing in a story time setting.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.