Off-Limits by Helen Yoon

Cover image for Off-Limits.

Off-Limits by Helen Yoon (9781536207316)

Dad’s office is off limits for playing. But the temptation to enter is irresistible. Maybe if the little girl just looks around and doesn’t touch anything. Perhaps one piece of tape won’t hurt anything… Soon the lamp has a tape scarf and looks lovely. She then discovers the paper clips and binder clips which quickly form into necklaces, crowns and more. Post-It notes come next and soon the room is filled with paper chains, lines of notes, and that’s when she realizes that it’s gotten out of control. She sneaks out, trailing office supplies in her wake to hide in her room. But what does she find there?

Yoon has taken my own love of office supplies and turned it into a picture book that celebrates creativity and the joy of tape, post-its and binder clips. Readers will feel the barely suppressed need to play with the office supplies at first and then the relief of just giving in and doing it. Told in the voice of the little girl, the text is entirely her dialogue as she plays, rationalizing along the way what she is doing and then her horror at discovering how far she went.

The illustrations are a huge part of the delight of this picture book. The tape alone offers so much visual pleasure with it in her hair, dangling like earrings, and taping her mouth shut. Then come the clips and the sticky notes, and the entire book swirls with ideas until in one final amazing page, it all comes together into a stage-like finale. Add in the twist in the end and it is so much fun!

A dazzling look at office supplies that get out of control. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick.

Review: The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung by Samantha R. Vamos

The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung by Samantha R. Vamos

The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Sebastia Serra (9781580897969)

This is a companion book to the award-winning The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred. This second book is by the same author but a different illustrator. Here a girl sets off to do some errands while the rest of the farm gets ready for a celebration. The farm maiden creates a piñata by hand with the help of a boy, horse, goose, cat and sheep. The farmer carves figures from wood and everyone prepares for a party. Told in a cumulative folktale style, the book uses Spanish words and phrases to create a book that sings with festivities.

The writing by Vamos is skilled as she weaves together English and Spanish into rhymes and a repeating and cumulative structure. Children who don’t know Spanish will easily be able to decode the words in the text since Vamos replaces the English word on a previous page with the Spanish word. The book also includes a glossary of Spanish words as well as directions for making your own piñata. The illustrations by Serra are colorful and bright. They are filled with the action of making the piñata and every animal and person is happy while doing their work. There is a sense of anticipation throughout the book as the celebration nears.

A great bilingual choice for Spanish-language learners. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Charlesbridge.

Claymates by Dev Petty

Claymates by Dev Petty

Claymates by Dev Petty, illustrated by Lauren Eldridge (9780316303118, Amazon)

Two balls of clay meet one another and then are formed by an artist into an owl and a wolf. The two are left alone and quickly discover that they are able to change their own shapes as they like. They rapidly change from one form to another, elephants and peanuts, things big, small, flat and sharp. As the artist returns, the two balls of clay try to remember what they had originally been shaped as but don’t quite get it right. So back they go into a wolf and an owl and then eventually into balls of clay. But they aren’t done playing yet!

The text of the book is entirely done in a dialogue between the two characters, so it is simple and easy. The result is a book done in photographs that reads much more like a comic with speech bubbles. There is a delight in the photos and the clay shapes, evoking claymation movies and the joy of childhood play with clay.

Throughout the book, there is lots of humor both in the dialogue and the shapes that the clay takes. The illustrations also incorporate the tools the artist uses to shape the clay, and the early pages of the book show an image of the set and photography equipment. The clay shapes are clever and funny, inviting readers to explore clay themselves and start to make friends through play.

A joyful look at friendship and creativity. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.


Review: Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett


Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

In the bleakness of winter when the town was all white from snow and black from chimney soot, Annabelle found a box that contained yarn of every color.  She knit herself a sweater and still had more yarn, so she knit a sweater for her dog too.  There was still yarn, so she started knitting sweaters for everyone or hats for those who didn’t want sweaters.  Still there was more yarn, so she knit sweaters for all of the animals around.  She still had not run out of yarn, so she started knitting for objects that don’t wear sweaters, covering houses and mail boxes with yarn.  That’s when Annabelle attracted the attention of a vain archduke who wanted the unending box of yarn for himself.  When she refused to sell it to him at any price, he stole it from her.  But we all know the rules about magic things, and soon the box was back in Annabelle’s hands.

This book is filled with magic and not just in the form of the unending yarn.  Barnett’s storyline is a combination of gentle storytelling and subtle humor.  It manages to be both fresh and also pay homage to traditional tales. 

Klassen’s art has the starkness of his previous book, I Want My Hat Back, but the brightness of the yarn adds an entirely new dimension.  It glows in all of its color and texture against the rest of the illustrations, bringing not only color but also a robust life into the images.  His use of digitally scanned textures to create the knit effect is ingenious. 

A delight of a picture book that references the traditional while creating something completely new and magical.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.