Is That Wise Pig? by Jan Thomas (InfoSoup)
Cow, Pig and Mouse are all making soup together. Mouse adds one onion, Cow adds two cabbages, but Pig tries to add three umbrellas! The other two ask Pig if that is wise. Then Mouse adds four tomatoes, Cow adds five potatoes, and Pig tries to add six galoshes. Is that wise? More ingredients go in and Pig even adds nine carrots! Then Pig reveals that she asked ten friends to join them, something that probably was not wise. Suddenly Pig’s galoshes and umbrellas make a lot of sense as the soup flies!
As always, Thomas completely understands the farcical humor that toddlers adore. Children will be so engaged in laughing at Pig’s ingredients that they won’t see the ending coming until the reveal. There is also a counting component to the book that is subtly done and the book feels much more like a story than one teaching numbers. Thomas’ illustrations will work well with a crowd, projecting easily even to those in the back thanks to their strong black lines and simple colors.
Expect lots of requests for seconds of this silly book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
Moo by Sharon Creech (InfoSoup)
Reena and her little brother, Luke, move to the Maine countryside with their parents. At first they spend their summer riding their bikes around the area, loving the freedom that comes with it. But then their parents “volunteer” both of them to help out on a neighbor’s farm. Mrs. Falala is unusual to say the least. She has all sorts of animals on the farm, including a pig, a cat and a snake, but the one that she needs Reena’s help with most is Zora, a grumpy cow. Slowly, Reena gains Zora’s trust and starts to understand what she needs to be happier. Just as slowly, Luke begins to bond with Mrs. Falala as he works on his drawings alongside her. As these new friendships emerge, new opportunities arise to form connections, learn from one another, and delight in the antics of one ornery cow.
Creech uses a glorious blend of prose and poetry in this novel. The poetry takes concrete form at times but usually is free verse and flows in the way summer days do. The prose reads like poetry at times, blending the two formats even more closely together. The rural Maine setting comes alive in the book, the children experiencing it with great delight that readers will share. Creech captures the emotions of a major move and the wonders and fears of being from the city and landing firmly in farm country.
This is a book with plenty of large characters. Mrs. Falala is a wonderful character, isolated and lonely, she is by turns prickly and warm, a conundrum that also makes perfect sense. From her use of music to express emotion to her willingness to learn to draw, she is an older character with plenty to still learn and even more to share. Then there is Zora, the cow, a creature with more than enough attitude and chutzpah to carry the novel. She is very much an animal version of her owner, though she tends to use hooves and head butts to show her feelings.
A rich narrative and plenty of amazing characters, this novel in prose and verse enchants as it demonstrates the importance of connections and community. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
In, Over and On the Farm by Ethan Long
Following his Geisel Award-winning Up, Tall and High, Long returns to prepositions. Four animals friends have adventures on the farm in this easy reader. Broken into three short stories, each story focuses on one pair of prepositions. Chicken can’t get in the coop, so she is left out in the rain, until she realizes that everyone else is warm and dry in there, so she orders them to get out. In the next story, Chicken can’t get over the fence or go under it either. Luckily Cow has another solution for her, go around! In the last story, Pig is on the tractor and Cow and Goat join him there. When they are all on the tractor though, it starts to roll away and soon they are all thrown off. But they want to go on it again.
Long is a very prolific author and excels at creating books for beginning readers which are a winning mix of humor and simplicity. It also helps that he is a natural storyteller and so his short stories in the book have the feel of being complete tales despite their brevity. His characters are also universal, in their group and individual dynamics. The book is entirely relatable by children and will be enjoyed in classrooms looking at prepositions as well as by individual readers.
Long’s illustrations are funny and filled with a cartoon appeal. The colors are candy-bright and even gray rainy days are tinged in lavender. The incorporation of a few flaps to lift is also very appealing for young readers who will enjoy that the twist for each story is revealed in a physical way.
Silly and very easy to read, these stories have massive appeal. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
Moo! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Told in just a couple of words, this picture book is one wild ride. When the farmer puts a sign up that says that his car is for sale, it catches the attention of a cow nearby. She jumps right in and starts off driving up hill and down: Moooooooooooooooo. But then disaster strikes: Moo! And she lands in trouble with the police. She tries to explain herself, but the officer just sends her back home, walking. When the farmer finds out, what is a cow to do? You will just have to see how this romp of a picture book ends.
The partnership between author and illustrator is so seamless that I not sure who came up with the concepts. The text in the book is entirely animal noises and is so simple that any small child will be able to read it on their own after just one shared reading. Who knew that “moo” could say so much! The illustrations are simple as well, and play up the jolly humor of the book.
A simple book perfect for storytime, expect lots of giggles on this joy ride. Appropriate for ages 1-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
It’s Milking Time by Phyllis Alsdurf, illustrated by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher
This picture book looks at milking time on a modern dairy farm. A little girl works alongside her father. She helps to bring the cows in from the field and then into the barn. She scoops feed into their stalls and helps get the milkers ready. Then she opens the big barn doors and the cows enter the barn and line up in their stanchions. The little girl goes around and locks them. Milking starts, and there are quiet moments to look out at the growing corn, but then milk is ready to be carried to the milk house, a pitcher filled for the family. Then the calves must be fed, the manure shoveled, and finally the two walk up to the house in the twilight.
Told with great detail and a loving tone, this story shines with love for the heartland and dairy farms.
While the farm is clearly modern, there is a great timelessness to the story with the interaction of farmer and cows, the buckets of milk, and even the pitcher of milk for home use. Alsdurf uses a refrain throughout the book, “Every morning, every night, it’s milking time.” That repetition works well, reminding readers that this same activity happens over and over again on a farm.
The illustrations add to that feeling of timelessness. They are done in soft colors with late afternoon light flowing golden over the images. They also have soft edges, like favorite jeans that have been washed many times. They are pure comfort.
For librarians in Wisconsin, this book is a natural fit. It’s good to see a farm setting that is not historical but keeps that pastoral feel. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.
Zig and Wikki in the Cow by Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler
This is the second Zig and Wikki book, featuring two little aliens who find their way to Earth. In this book, the two friends lose their spaceship when they return Zig’s pet fly its native habitat. On the way, the two discover that flies eat poop, that dung beetles use it as well, and that cows have multiple stomachs. It’s all a matter of learning things up close and personal, right down to being swallowed by a cow. This humorous mashup of scientific fact, alien appeal, and comic format makes for an engaging read for young readers.
It is really the blend that works so well here. The writing is light and funny, combined with scientific facts that are highlighted with photographs. Readers learn about food cycles, ecology and habitats without even realizing it. Add in the humorous poop factor and the graphic novel format, and this is one appealing package.
A graphic novel series that is a lot of fun and also informational, this second book is a winner, winner, cow dinner. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick Press.
Cows to the Rescue by John Himmelman
This third book in a hilarious series follows Chickens to the Rescue and Pigs to the Rescue. It’s time for the county fair where there will be plenty of opportunities for the cows to save the day. They help when the truck won’t start by carrying the family, the pigs and the duck to the fair. They fill in during the three-legged race so that Jeffrey would have someone to race with. They help the duck win the Handsomest Duck contest by getting him cleaned up. They filled in for family pictures at the fair. In the end, they have done so much that they can’t make it home. So it’s up to the duck to try to get everyone back to the farm. Look out for the next book, which just might be Duck to the Rescue.
Himmelman has a great touch for humor, painting it in broad strokes without holding back. His words may be simple, but they have a jolliness that make it a pleasure to read. His use of page turns to delay the cow’s solutions also adds great timing into the book.
His illustrations have a pleasant cartoon quality to them, which definitely adds to the humor of the title. From the duck that gets caught up in the action to the tiny pig who has a great personality of his own, this book has so much to look at and enjoy.
If you enjoyed the first two books, make sure to check this one out. And if you haven’t read the first two, you can start at any point. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt & Company.
The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Marcellus Hall
Told in a jaunty rhyme, this book shows life on a farm through a funny, quirky lens. Farmer feeds each animal every day. The horse eats hay. The chickens eat chicken feed. The geese eat corn. The pig eats slop. The dog loves doggie treats. As each animal is introduced along with the food it eats, the chorus chimes in with “the cow loves cookies.” Then with each new animal, the previous ones are added to the rhyme, forming a fun, cumulative tale. In the end, the reader will be pleased to find out exactly how the cow got a taste for cookies.
This book is made to read aloud with its great rhymes that never grow stale and the wonderful rhythm that is built into them. Even better, there is that chorus line that children will love to help repeat. Hall’s illustrations echo the light-hearted tone of the text with their free flowing style and friendliness. They are also large enough to work well with a group of children.
Add this one to your storytime reads for barnyard books. Perhaps even concluding the stories with some cookies, you know that the children love cookies! Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from McElderry Books.