Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey (InfoSoup)
This playful picture book comes from the author of The Underneath and other novels for older children. This counting book does not move from one to twelve, but instead starts at three and allows a merry amount of counting along the way. Throughout the action is led by the crows who climb around on trees, sit on lines and find all sorts of treats to eat, including spicy ants. The story moves forward with counting until there are twelve crows who then discover one cat!
Appelt proves that she can be a very successful writer for any age of child with her first picture book. Her rhyme reads aloud so well that it’s impossible to read it silently to yourself. It has a great rhythm and buoyancy to it, giving the book a really dynamic energy and feel. I also enjoy a book that has counting in it, but isn’t solely a counting book. This one tells a full story in a cheery way and allows you to share it either as a story book or a concept book.
The illustrations truly make the book unique. Using light drawings with touches of red, the book pops. Readers may notice the one scarf-wearing crow who appears in each scene and then they can see what happens to the scarf after the cat appears. It’s a nice touch that may have some readers turning back to trace the scarf from the beginning of the book.
Bouncy, rhyming, fun and jaunty, this picture book has its own unique tone and feel that readers will appreciate. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
The Fox and the Crow by Manasi Subramaniam, illustrated by Culpeo S. Fox
A new version of a classic Aesop fable, this picture book explores the tale of Fox and Crow. Crow is all set to perch with his fellows on a wire but then smells the bread cooling in a window below. Down he swoops and heads into the woods with it. But Fox is there too, sneaking along. Fox howls, singing beneath Crow. Crow must respond in song, opens his mouth and down falls the bread into Fox’s waiting mouth below. It’s a tale we all know, but told in such a masterful way that it is made new again.
Subramaniam’s text adds to the drama of this short tale. This is writing with lushness and body, using words that will stretch young children in just the right way. Words like raucous, wafting, twilight and temptress fill the story and enrich it. They cleverly play up the darkness, the wildness and the tricks that are being played.
Fox’s illustrations are just as rich and dark. Each illustration is a painting that stands on its own in composition and beauty. Fox uses spatters to add texture to his deep color palette that evokes the encroaching twilight and evening. On some pages the colors of the sunset enter, adding more drama.
A reinvention of an old tale, this is an incredible new telling. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Come Back, Moon by David Kherdian, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian
In this quiet book, Bear blames the moon for not being able to fall asleep. So he pulls it out of the sky. Fox notices that the moon is gone and so do Skunk, Opossum and Raccoon. Crow asks Fox why he doesn’t know where the moon is, since he’s so clever. So Fox takes them all to talk to Owl who is wise. Owl knows where the moon is, since he saw Bear take it. So they head off to retrieve the moon from Bear. But how will they get it away from him?
This book has a wonderfully clear and simple story line that makes it ideal to use with toddlers. It also has a deep quiet to it that will work for good bedtime or naptime reading. Kherdian uses repetition throughout the story, having the different animals share ideas and echo back decisions.
Hogrogian’s art also has that simple style. She has wonderful images like the one on the cover that speak to the darkness and loss of the moon. Her animals are realistically depicted and appear against white or tan backgrounds with few details.
There is a place for quiet books for small children and this one has just enough activity to keep it moving too. It would make a great board book. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.