The House that Zack Built by Alison Murray

The House that Zack Built by Alison Murray

The House that Zack Built by Alison Murray (InfoSoup)

Zack built a house out of blocks outside under a tree. A fly buzzed by, the cat stalked the fly, then got more interested in the cream up high on a shelf. The dog was asleep when down fell the cream, knocked over by the cat who was still looking to catch that fly. The lambs in the field are calm and quiet, then the dog runs through still covered in cream and the sheep dash out of the field. Then Zack looks around, amazed at the mess of the farm. He jumped into action and set it all right. Then they all sat quietly and looked at the incredible house that Zack had built.

This British import is a cumulative tale that doesn’t solely stick to the traditional structure of building and building onto the length of the sentence with each new addition. Instead here it is the story itself that is the focus and the cumulative structure is used when it works and then merrily abandoned to make the storyline work better and to also make the book much more enjoyable to read. The result is a cumulative tale that will not leave you breathless or with a spinning head when shared aloud.

Murray’s art is simple and friendly. The illustrations will work well for a crowd since they are not filled with small details. Children will enjoy the cat in particular as it causes almost all of the problems that emerge.

There is a real satisfaction in this story of watching chaos happen and then having it set to rights. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Turnip by Jan Brett

The Turnip by Jan Brett

The Turnip by Jan Brett (InfoSoup)

Badger girl was weeding the garden when she noticed something odd. It was a huge turnip! She tried to pull it out, but it would not budge. Soon their whole family of badgers were trying to pull the turnip out with no success. Hedgie tried to use his prickles to get it out, Mr. Ram tried using his horns, and Vanya the horse hitched up and pulled too. Nothing worked. Then Rooster strutted up and insisted that he try all by himself. Meanwhile, down in the cave below a family of bears had also discovered the turnip and pushed hard to get it out of their bedroom. The turnip sailed into the air with a triumphant Rooster flying along too. Then it was turnip pancakes for everyone!

Brett excels at retelling folktales, enlivening them with her animal characters. This is a traditional cumulative tale that sticks very close to the original. The family of bears living under the turnip is a great addition that allows strutting Rooster to claim victory over the stubborn turnip. The pacing of the tale works well, each new attempt has a longer and longer line of animals trying to help and also dreaming of what delicious things could be made out of the turnip.

As always, Brett’s illustrations are filled with fine details. She again uses her framing on each double-page spread, showing the next animal to arrive before they come in. Readers will notice the bear family on these panels too, a subtle introduction prior to them taking center stage. The illustrations show that this is Russia where the badgers and bears live. They wear traditional Russian clothing and the frames on the illustrations show a similar influence.

Another winner from Brett, this picture book will make a crowd pleaser of a read aloud, but with Brett’s detailed illustrations it’s also a winner of a lap read. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Book Review: The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos

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The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

This is a fresh, fabulous cumulative tale that is made spicier and more interesting thanks to the Spanish sprinkled liberally throughout.  It is the story of a farm maiden who stirred a pot.  Once she started stirring, all of the animals wanted to help with what she was cooking.  The cow gave milk, the hen gave eggs and zested the lime which was picked by the donkey who was carrying the duck to the market.  Eventually everyone is waiting for the treat to be finished until they started playing music and dancing.  Then no one was watching or stirring the pot!  Thank goodness that they returned just in time to enjoy the arroz con leche that they had all cooked together.

When I read this book to myself silently it really didn’t work, but read aloud it merrily dances along, even with my very imperfect Spanish pronunciation.  For classes in our community, the blend of Spanish and English is very desirable.  Happily, the Spanish here forms the real foundation of the story rather than just being extra words that are thrown in.

Lopez’s art is so vibrant and warm.  The sun shines when you open the book, thanks to the use of a beautiful yellow for the majority of the background.  Add to it the purple clouds tinged with red, the orange ground, and the vibrant green of the plants, and you have a book where the colors are filled with heat and spice.

A rollicking picture book that celebrates Spanish and English mixed together sweetly, just like the perfect arroz con leche.  Appropriate for ages 3-5, and in language classes for older children.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

Check out the book trailer to get a feel for the book and the illustrations: