Review: Oink by David Elliot

Oink by David Elliot

Oink by David Elliot (9781776572144)

In this nearly wordless book, a little pig is getting ready for a nice calm bath all by himself. As he settles into the warm water, the door is opened by a sheep who brings a toy boat and climbs into the bath too. The next to enter is a cow, who asks the sheep if she can join and the sheep agrees. Cow brings a beach ball in, which bounces right off of the pig’s head. Then comes donkey who wears a floaty around his waist and hops into the bath too. The bath is noisy and crowded and not what pig wanted at all! What is a pig to do to find some peace?

The only words in this book are animal noises made by each of the critters. They use punctuation and emphasis to show what tone should be used when they are read aloud. It works very nicely. The book has a wonderful build up of frustration for the pig, as he gets more and more cross visually as the animals enter and the chaos increases. The humor of the solution is wonderfully timed and will have small children in stitches. Perhaps adding a little noise for that when sharing aloud would add to the fun.

A little fart of a book with lots of appeal. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Gecko Press.

Review: Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech (9780062570734)

When Louie’s father brings home a newborn mini donkey, Louie finds himself immediately attached to the sickly little thing. His parents try to warn him that the donkey may not even survive the day, but Louie is determined. He goes out to get supplies and food for the donkey that he names Winslow. Winslow lives in their basement where Louie also sleeps in order to care for him. When other kids come to visit, they warn Louie that Winslow won’t make it. Nora, a quirky girl from the neighborhood, is particularly worried about getting attached. She lost a baby brother soon after he was born. One fragile baby donkey shows readers all about survival, love and hope.

Creech is an amazing author. Her books are so readable by children, the length just right, the story incredibly focused. Here she tells the story of Louie and Winslow, offering small glimpses of school and the community but focused always on the pair. She offers just enough drama throughout as well with Winslow getting severely ill and also disappearing at one point. Even once Winslow seems larger and healthy, there are threats to have him removed from Louie’s home. The ending is completely satisfying and will leave readers optimistic and cheered.

Another great read from Creech, a master storyteller. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins.

I’m a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail

I'm a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail

I’m a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail (InfoSoup)

A little girl donkey keeps on getting mistaken for a boy. She knows that others think that she should be nice, but she’s “sweet and sour, not a little flower.” She rides really fast on her scooter too and people think she’s a boy as she zooms past them. She takes off her clothes down to her underwear to jump in the pool too. After each time she is mistaken for a boy, she insists over and over again that she is a girl! In the end she meets a boy who is mistaken for being a girl and the two of them rejoice in dressing and being exactly who they are.

This is a lovely and very accessible look at gender stereotypes and the children who act as themselves and against societal expectations. I appreciate the book going beyond external trappings and looking at behavior and what a child finds fun. So girls can be noisy, messy, fast and exciting. This book can be used just as a dynamic picture book about gender but it could also be used in a classroom to discuss differences and similarities and why it is good to be yourself.

The illustrations are done in watercolor that is vibrant and bright. The little blue donkey dances across the page moving at breakneck speed and clearly have a great time. The use of her beaded necklace shows the speed that she is going at and also shows that she does have some more feminine aspects to her dress as well. It’s a subtle way to speak to the mix of feminine and masculine traits that we all have.

A radiant picture book about breaking gender stereotypes, this book introduces a jolly female protagonist. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.

 

Review: I Yam a Donkey! by Cece Bell

I Yam a Donkey by Cece Bell

I Yam a Donkey! by Cece Bell (InfoSoup)

This silly little book is a read-aloud gem. A donkey declares on the cover “I yam a donkey!” But unfortunately, he’s speaking to a yam and a rather persnickety one at that. The yam can’t leave the donkey’s odd grammar alone, and tries to correct him, but that quickly devolves into a “Who’s on first” type of exchange where misunderstandings pile up and the silliness does too. When the yam finally manages to explain that he is not a donkey (as the donkey has been misunderstanding) but actually a yam and all of the other characters are also vegetables, the ending takes a deliciously dark turn.

Bell uses impeccable comedic timing to make this picture book work so well. The vaudeville like comedy works perfectly here, playing up the stodgy yam and the enthusiastically confused donkey. The two are divergent personalities and make for a book that is such a strong read aloud that you really can’t read it silently. It begs to be shared and done with exquisitely different and wild voices since it’s written entirely in dialogue.

Bell’s illustrations are large and funny. Again, the two characters are shown as very different and the donkey mistaken the rather wrinkly and orange yam as a donkey is made all the funnier thanks to the illustrations. The final twist is wonderful and will have children who are a little older than preschool enjoying the grammar jokes and the ending together.

Funny, wildly silly and completely satisfying, this picture book will work best with elementary aged children who will get the dark humor as well as the grammar jokes. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Vote for Me by Ben Clanton

vote for me

Vote for Me by Ben Clanton

This picture-book look at the campaigning process takes young readers through a comical look at politics.  The donkey and elephant represent Democrats and Republicans only superficially.  They make no claims that match the party platforms at all.  Instead, it is about how cute elephant is, whether you will accept candy or peanuts as a bribe for your vote, and lots of grandstanding.  Soon the two are completely at odds with one another and slinging actual mud along with their bitter words.  The insults they use are harsh but humorous, just right for the picture book crowd.  Soon both of them have said things they regret and they agree to get along.  But it just might be too late for either of them to win the election!

This book is not an in-depth look at voting or politics.  Instead Clanton has created a light-hearted look at arguments and fighting through the lens of an election.  Adults will enjoy the clear ties to modern American elections while children will be engaged by the humor. 

The illustrations have a great vintage feel with a modern edge.  The pages are dappled like old paper that has just begun to mildew.  The two characters show lots of emotion throughout the book and it is clearly conveyed by their body language and facial expressions.

A chance to laugh a bit at the cantankerous campaign ahead of us, this book would work for discussions about arguments as well as a light-hearted look at elections.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

Review: A Donkey Reads by Muriel Mandell

donkey reads

A Donkey Reads by Muriel Mandell, illustrated by Andre Letria

This adaptation of a Turkish folktale features Nasreddin Hoca, a 13th-century teacher, judge and imam whose writings are well known in the Middle East.  This is the story of a village in Anatolia that was conquered by the Mongols.  The Mongol leader demanded that every family pay tribute, but one family had only a worthless donkey to offer the leader.  When the Mongol leader reacts with fury at the tribute, Nasreddin speaks up and tells the him that the donkey is worth something, in fact Nasreddin will teach the donkey to read.  Everyone is shocked, but Nasreddin is calm and confident that it will happen.  The ending will have reader giggling at the humor and courage of Nasreddin’s solution.

Mandell has adapted this tale with a great feel for storytelling.  Her pacing is adept and her wording easy to share aloud.  The tale is universal in its appeal, thanks in particular to the humor that pervades it.  The end of the book has a page where the story of Nasreddin is shared with the reader.  It’s a trickster tale with only a donkey as an animal.

Letria’s art is filled with textures and colors.  The pages have backgrounds that are rough with brushstrokes, peeling and colors.  They add a feeling of age to the book, giving it a strong organic quality as well.  The characters pop on the page, especially Nasreddin with his towering headwear.  The illustrations add a great appeal to the story.

A window into another world of folktales that many of us have not experienced, this book offers plenty of humor and an appealing package.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Planet Esme.