Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (InfoSoup)
Coyote wakes and heads out of her den to find food for her pups. She walks the roads past houses and fences. She finds a mouse but doesn’t manage to catch it. There are geese on the golf course, but Coyote can’t get close enough to steal an egg without the geese attacking her. There is a rabbit on a lawn, but the rabbit is faster than Coyote. Soon dawn arrives and Coyote still has not caught any food for her family. Then there are turkeys walking nearby and Coyote manages to capture one. She heads home but not before a child spies her from a window when Coyote stops to sing to the morning.
This book is a beautiful dance between illustrations and text. Gianferrari’s prose is extremely poetic, using phrasing that almost turns it into verse particularly when read aloud. The pacing of the book is dynamic and picks up with a sense of near desperation as one prey animal after another escapes. Sympathy for the coyotes, which may not have been high in the beginning of the book, is skillfully built throughout the story until readers will be near cheering when the turkey is caught. The book finishes with information on coyotes.
Ibatoulline’s illustrations are incredibly detailed. Dark and light play on the page, from the electric outdoor lights from human buildings to the moonlight shining on fur. The darkness has dimension, subtle colors, and textures. There is a sense of near hyper-realism as well as readers get closer to these animals in the illustrations than they ever could in life.
This picture book blends nonfiction with great writing to create a realistic view of urban coyotes. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Okay, Andy! by Maxwell Eaton III
The author of the Max and Pinky books returns with a new duo, Andy and Preston. Andy is an alligator and Preston is a young coyote. The two of them make an unlikely team but one that works incredibly well for humor. Preston often can’t figure out what is really going on. So when Andy is hunting a rabbit, Preston thinks it is a game of tag. In the next chapter, Preston wants to take every thing they find, though Andy holds onto a stick for himself. Andy is so distracted that he doesn’t see the cliff coming and then he lets loose his anger on Preston. Then it is up to Andy to make things right, if he can. In the final chapter, Andy is trying to sleep when Preston wants to have him guess what kind of animal noise Preston is making. This quickly descends into a merry chaos and then the book comes full circle back to the rabbit in a very satisfying ending.
This is a graphic novel perfect for beginning readers. Eaton tells the story in just a few words, letting the illustrations carry most of the story rather than the words. He uses repeating words too, making it even funnier and also making it easier for the youngest readers to decipher. Filled with silly action, the book does speak to the ins and outs of friendship. Eaton’s art is clear and clean, his thick black lines filled with simple colors. The result is a graphic novel that is simple, easy and cheerful.
A great pick for beginning readers, children will enjoy the graphic novel format and the humor. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Blue Apple Books.
Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh
Released May 7, 2013.
Papa Rabbit had traveled north to find work when the rains didn’t come one year. Finally, after two years, he was returning home to his family. A party was planned with food and music, but Papa Rabbit didn’t come back. When the other rabbits went to sleep, Pancho Rabbit set out to find his father. He took with him his father’s favorite meal of mole, rice and beans, tortillas, and a jug of aguamiel. As he traveled, Pancho met a coyote, who offered to help him reach his father. The coyote demanded payment of the mole up front, then taking Pancho to the train tracks where they jumped a train. As the journey continued, the coyote demanded food after each part of the journey until Pancho was out of food. Then Pancho himself was the only food for the coyote to demand. This allegorical tale of migrant workers coming to the United States is a powerful look at the dangers they face and the love that drives them.
Tonatiuh writes with a strength here, each word seemingly chosen for its impact and power. The importance of this sort of story for young children cannot be ignored. This book carefully dresses the horrors of the story in folktales, but the purpose is still clear. Those folktale devices are particularly effective in a story such as this, allowing the reader to see the dangers but not be overwhelmed by them. The use of the different pieces of food as payment is particularly clever as is the character of the coyote being that animal.
The illustrations convey the folktale structure as well. Done in a flattened style, they have strong lines and shapes. Tonatiuh makes clever use of textures like jean material, tires, fur and textured paper. This added touch ensures that readers recognize the modern nature of the tale.
This book belongs in every library since it deals with a current issue that affects many in our communities directly. Teachers will find this book especially useful when discussion immigration as well. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.