Review: What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold

What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold

What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold, illustrated by Linda Davick (9781481472609)

Riley loves to dress for every occasion. Riley wore a bunny costume on the first day of school, even though no one else worse a costume. At the dentist’s office Riley wore a superhero outfit for bravery. Riley wore a ballgown to dinner with Oma and Otto because they went to a fancy restaurant. Space pajamas were just right for Universe Day at school. A hard hat was ideal for a visit to the hardware store. Some days at home were perfect not to wear anything at all. When Riley wore a complicated outfit to the park, Riley was asked if they were a boy or a girl. Riley answered by talking about her outfit’s roles and joined in playing with everyone.

Arnold writes with such skill here that it is only partway through the book that readers may notice that there are no pronouns or genders shared about Riley. Every child can see themselves in Riley and be dazzled by Riley’s costumes and outfits along the way. There is a sense of merriment in all of the things Riley wears and a strong expression of identity as well.

Davick’s illustrations are filled with bright colors and a celebration of Riley’s sense of style. The mixed costumes are complicated and Davick captures them beautifully, showing exactly what Riley was trying to convey.

Ideal for kids of every gender and every way of expressing themselves through clothing. Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog by Sue deGennaro


The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog by Sue deGennaro (InfoSoup)

Told from the point of view of a boy who loves to dress as animals, this lovely picture book embraces differences between people. The boy first tried to dress as a cat, but was chased by a dog. Then he tried a variety of other animals before Camille gave him the idea to try being a frog. He loved it, but frogs are not solitary so he asked Camille to join him. Now Camille is very different from him. She speaks in numbers and science. She agreed to try and was very helpful with measuring for a costume. But soon, she was unable to stand still and the boy yelled at her to stop moving. Camille left. Now it is up to the boy to figure out how to make amends with a girl who is very different from himself.

There is something enchantingly quirky about this Australian import. Just having a boy who dresses as animals and a girl who thinks and speaks in numbers is unique. Then add in the way that the girl uses specific numbers to show her distress, other numbers to say yes and no. This book has lots of levels to it with plenty of room for discussion about friendships, accepting one another’s differences and the importance of communicating even if it’s not easy.

The illustrations add to the appeal. There are the interesting costumes the boy creates for himself. Then there is the language of Camille, which appears as numbers that balance on her hand, fall to the floor, tip and overwhelm, prickle and hurt. The graphic strength of the numbers plays against the softness of the other illustrations, the fine lines swirling into deep colors.

An intriguing picture book that will suit some readers perfectly, rather like a frog suit isn’t for everyone. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.


Review: Edmond, The Moonlit Party by Astrid Desbordes

Edmond the Moonlit Party by Astrid Desbordes

Edmond, The Moonlit Party by Astrid Desbordes, illustrated by Marc Boutavant (InfoSoup)

Edmond, the squirrel, lives in a chestnut tree and hardly ever goes out. He spends his time making nut jam, reading stories, and making pompoms. George Owl lives in the tree above Edmond. He spends his time out and about, gathering items to create his amazing costumes. Harry, the bear, lives in the bottom part of the same chestnut tree. He loves to throw parties and was just planning his upcoming one. It would have a nothing tart, very mysterious, and would encourage people to wear costumes. Edmond longed to go to a party in the tree, but never had. So when George smells Edmond’s latest batch of nut jam as the party gets started, George encourages him to attend even if he doesn’t have a costume to wear. Soon Edmond is at the party, dancing and having a great time and he decides that parties suit him just fine after all.

This French import is a radiant read. The three different residents of the tree all have distinct personalities. Edmond is lonely and looking for connections, George enjoys disguises and Harry is rather distracted in the midst of his party planning. It all turns out for the best as the three neighbors get to know one another, or at least Harry and Edmond to, since George is dressed in a very realistic seagull costume. The text here is lush and gives insight into each character, making the book more appropriate for older preschoolers and children already starting school.

Boutavant’s illustrations have a seventies vibe. Done in the flat bright colors of that time, the illustrations have lots of details to explore and offer real glimpses into the lives of the three denizens of the tree. The bright colors vibrate on the page, brilliant blues, reds and yellows are used as background colors and add a lot of energy to the story.

An exploration of neighbors and being yourself, this picture book is cheery and vibrant. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Review: Hoot Owl Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor

hoot owl master of disguise

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien

A very hungry owl uses a unique approach to find his dinner in this silly picture book. Hoot Owl is a master of disguise, so he as he hunts in the dark night, he switches into different costumes to trick his prey. First, he sees a rabbit and so he puts on his carrot disguise. It doesn’t work to tempt the rabbit, so he moves on to a lamb. Hoot Owl disguises himself as a mother sheep to lure the lamb closer, but that doesn’t work either. Maybe a pigeon will be fooled by his clever birdbath costume? Nope. Then finally, he finds something to eat that can’t move away – pepperoni pizza! But will his waiter costume work?

The voice of owl as the narrator for the story is so much fun to read aloud. He is brazen, confident and sure that eventually his unique approach to hunting will work out. Never daunted by disappointment, he moves on to the next meal quickly and eagerly. Throughout, Hoot Owl expresses himself in metaphors and playful language. The night is “black as burnt toast” and his eyes “glitter like sardines” when they see the pizza.

Jullien’s illustrations are bold and gorgeous. The colors are bright and fun, the orange of owl popping against that black night sky. Hoot Owl’s personality shines on the page, his head peeking out from various angles as he hunts his prey.

This playful picture book is a great read aloud, bright, funny and impressive. Appropriate for ages 3-5. 

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder


Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder

It’s the perfect day to go to the zoo and the whole family is excited.  Well, maybe not the whole family.  Little T certainly is not, in fact she is frightened of the zoo.  But she can’t remember what in the zoo scares her.  So her family set out to find out what might be scaring her.  They start out at the beginning of the alphabet and acting out the animals.  It’s not alligator, bat or camel.  As they go on, the costumes they use become more and more elaborate and they all help act them out with plenty of laughter and silliness.  They make it all the way to zebras and still Little T can’t remember why she is scared of the zoo.  So they decide to go the next day.  But there is something very frightening at the zoo, and her older sister might just find it a little too scary.

Heder does a superb job here of creating costumes out of boxes and ropes that look like they just might work in real life.  As the costumes grow more and more outrageous and complex, they also get more beautiful.  Along the way, Heder does not name any of the animals being portrayed, so the book has a guessing-game element to it as well.  The ending is funny and satisfying.

Heder’s art really is the majority of the story here.  The text is almost secondary to the full-page images that gallop and dash across the page.  They are filled with motion, color and smiles.  This is art that will inspire children to play with boxes and rope.  Expect your living room to be strewn with cardboard and ideas.

Creative and a joy to read, this is much more fun than any visit I’ve had to the zoo.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Review: Animal Masquerade by Marianne Dubuc

animal masquerade

Animal Masquerade by Marianne Dubuc

This picture book takes one long-running gag and turns it into a very funny picture book.  As the animals get ready for the masquerade, they have to dress up in costumes.  Each animal dresses up as another animal and then that animal chooses yet another animal to dress up as.  It forms a neat chain.  Much of the humor is in the depictions of the costumes themselves and also in the occasional asides that break the rhythm of the book for even more of a punch-line effect.  Fonts are also played with as the hummingbird disguised as an ostrich has its fonts hidden half underground just like its head.  In another spot, the butterfly disguised as a bat has its font upside-down.  All of the small touches add to the giggles in this picture book.

Dubuc’s art here is wonderfully whimsical and playful.  The different animals in disguise are often absurd and completely strange.  Just wait until you get to the animals that dress up like a three-headed monster, Red Riding Hood dressed as a chocolate cake, and the hen that is too dim to understand what is happening and doesn’t dress up as anything at all.   The book is longer than most picture books in terms of number of pages, but that adds to the running gag theme here. 

This picture book will do well read aloud very straight and seriously until the first big joke hits.  Then make sure to leave plenty of time for the giggles to pass before moving on.  It will work well for Halloween too, without anything scary about it.  Appropriate for ages 4-6. 

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Robot Zombie Frankenstein! by Annette Simon

robot zombie frankenstein

Robot Zombie Frankenstein! by Annette Simon

Two robots who are friends try to out-do each other as they dress in costumes.  It starts out with Robot Zombie and goes on from there, until they each have pirate hats, eye patches, capes, chef hats, space helmets, and much much more.  By the end, the two of them look very silly, dressed in all of that gear.  The competition continues until one robot pulls out a cherry pie and the two friends decide to drop the costume competition and share a treat.

A large part of the appeal of this book are the illustrations.  They have white backgrounds that really make the bright-colored shapes pop against them.  Simon uses simple shapes, wild colors and lots of creativity to make costumes for these characters.  Along the way, she shows just how little it takes to evoke a character, sometimes only a few stitches on the head, or a cape around the shoulders.

The writing takes a backseat here, simply supporting the wild antics in the images.  Its use of popular subjects like zombies and robots will get young readers to pick up this book.  The cover completely drew in my son, who just had to read this book immediately.

Halloween story times can be tricky, and this is just the right story to add to your not-scary-at-all version for the youngest listeners.  It’s also a book with plenty of humor and zip that will appeal to any youngster who enjoys a good giggle and a great costume.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick Press.