Am I Yours? by Alex Latimer (9781682630440)
When an egg is blown out of its nest by the wind, different dinosaurs try to figure out who it belongs to. As each kind of dinosaur walks past, the egg asks if it belongs to them. The stegosaurus asks the egg if it has spikes under its shell, but it doesn’t. The brachiosaurus wonders about a long neck. Perhaps it has horns or a crest? Or maybe sharp teeth like the T Rex? But nothing matches what is hidden under the eggshell. When the sun sets though, the dinosaurs can see the silhouette of what sort of dinosaur is in the shell!
Latimer uses rhyme and a strong pattern structure to create a book that will be a winner with dinosaur fans. So many dinosaur books don’t read aloud well, but this one is a treat to share aloud. Latimer’s rhymes are skillfully done, creating just the right rhythm to move the story ahead at a brisk pace. Children who know their dinosaurs will love naming the different kinds and trying to guess what is inside the shell before it is revealed.
The illustrations are just as playful as the story with bright colored dinosaurs of red, green, blue and orange. Done in strong colors throughout, the book has a graphic appeal that will work well when shared with groups of children.
Add this to your next dinosaur-themed storytime. It is sure to please! Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller (9781524715663)
With Mr. Neely as her very enthusiastic science teacher, Natalie can’t get out of asking a scientific question and exploring it using the scientific method. But Natalie would much rather get answers about her family, about why her mother won’t leave her bedroom anymore and how her father can stop being in therapist mode all the time. So when Mr. Neely encourages Natalie to compete in an egg drop competition, she knows that if they can win, things will change. Natalie’s best friend Twig is on their team, offering creative solutions for the egg drop and they also become friends with the new kid, Dari. As the three become closer, Natalie continues to try to figure out how to help her mother, putting together a plan for the prize money that they hope to win that will inspire her mother and get her back to normal. But life doesn’t always go to plan and neither do science experiments as Natalie soon discovers.
Keller writes with a lovely mix of humor and science throughout this novel. She looks directly at the subject of a parent’s chronic depression and shows the impact of that on a child and a family. Natalie steadily learns to find her voice in the novel and express her own pain about the situation. Science is used throughout the novel as a bridge between people, a way forward and a solution to problems.
Natalie as a character is beautifully conflicted. While she yearns to have her mother back she is also very angry about the situation, something that she has trouble expressing. Even with the friends she has, she worries about Dari joining her and Twig at various times particularly as Twig and Dari seem to have a special connection with one another. None of this is overly dramatized, but feels natural and emerges as convincing times of emotional stress.
Smartly written and filled with glowing characters living complicated lives, this middle grade novel unbreakable. Appropriate for ages 9-13.
(Reviewed from copy provided by Random House Children’s Books.)
Wake Up! by Helen Frost, photographs by Rick Lieder (9780763681494, Amazon)
This is the fourth collaboration of poet Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder. Once again, there is a focus on nature and its wonder. In this book, spring is the subject with new eggs, newly hatched animals, and babies galore. Frost’s poetry is simple and skillful, filled with rhymes and rhythm that carry the book forward inviting investigation. Lieder’s photography is wonderful, capturing that same love of the wild.
Frost’s poetry is particularly deft. She invites readers to explore the outside world, look up into the sky and the trees. She looks below the water and at seeds on the breeze. The photography follows these invitations, capturing eggs, tadpoles and baby deer in their natural habitat. The book ends with more in-depth information on the animals featured in the images.
Another delightful success by this pair, this picture book deserves a place in every library to help celebrate spring. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
We’re Going on an Egg Hunt by Laura Hughes (9781681193144)
This lift-the-flap picture book is a riff on the beloved We’re Going on a Bear Hunt reworked with an Easter theme. Here a family of rabbits head out to find eggs on a lovely spring day. There are ten hidden eggs on the pages and not every flap has an egg hidden behind it. Along the way, the rabbits encounter a series of obstacles and how to navigate things like lambs, bees and ducks. The final very large egg hides a wolf and the rabbits and the reader have to work together to foil him.
Hughes has done a nice job of incorporating the rhythm and structure of the original book into this springy Easter version. Even the obstacles themselves have a springtime theme. The wolf at the end makes for a delightful twist that creates the joy of rushing back through the obstacles in reverse order and returning home just in the nick of time.
The use of flaps is particularly enjoyable when combined with an egg hunt. Children will enjoy lifting the flaps which are fairly sturdy and should survive small hands well. There are surprises underneath some of them and the chance to count upwards to ten as well.
Great for sharing with a small group of children or one-on-one, there will be lots of demand to be the one to lift the flaps because it is such fun. My guess is you will be reading this one again and again. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Bloomsbury.
Egg by Kevin Henkes
Henkes returns with another winner of a picture book. This time he uses a graphic novel format ideal for preschool picture book fans. The book is utter simplicity, using repetition to show each of the four eggs: one pink, one yellow, one blue and one green. At first they are whole, then three begin to crack. Soon three chicks have emerged! Still, the green egg stays whole and quiet. There is lots of waiting and the three chicks return to help the final egg start cracking open. Then they are the ones who get a surprise when the egg hatches!
Simple and completely wonderful, this picture book graphic novel is great fun to read. Children can help by repeating the phrases the right number of times along with the adult reader. There is a lovely rhythm created by the repetition, almost swinging along with the beat. The limited vocabulary is also welcome for new readers.
The art by Henkes stays simple as well. With firm lines and soft pastel colors, the book is ideal for springtime (or those of us dreaming of spring). Even the illustrations get in on the repetition, using similar panels to repeat as the different eggs wait, hatch and then wait once more.
Clever and warm, this is a very welcome addition for emergent readers and springtime story times. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins (InfoSoup)
Bruce is a bear who likes very little in life. But he loves eggs. He finds complicated recipes on the internet that he tries out. When he discovers a recipe for goose eggs, he immediately heads into the forest to source the items. Back home, he puts the eggs in water but then has to run out for firewood. Returning home, he finds that the eggs have hatched into four goslings. He considers eating them with butter, but loses his appetite. He tries to return them, but Mother Goose has left for the winter. So he is stuck with the four little goslings who follow him everywhere. He tries to make the best of it, but it’s very challenging for one grumpy bear to suddenly be a mother to four little birds.
Higgins has created a laugh-out-loud funny picture book about a bear who finds himself unable to say no to parenting four goslings. The humor is wonderfully silly, from the way that Bruce “shops” and “locally sources” his ingredients in the forest to the attempts to get the geese to migrate south. The book shows that this grumpy bear has a heart of gold as he cares deeply for the geese and allows his entire life to be changed by them without getting overly mushy at all. The ending too was a surprise, one that fits perfectly but I didn’t expect at all.
A lot of the humor of this picture book is carried in its illustrations which have a real attitude of their own and a point of view. Readers will fall for Bruce despite his grumpiness thanks to the illustrations alone. The little goslings too are a delight as they imitate Bruce, drape themselves around, and explore the world. The illustrations of the goslings as teens is perfection.
Funny, perfect to read aloud, and a surprise of an autumnal read, this picture book is great fun. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
P. Zonka Lays an Egg by Julie Paschkis
P. Zonka isn’t like the other chickens on the farm. The other chickens lay eggs each and every day, but P. Zonka never lays a single egg. She’s busy walking around the farm noticing nature and the beauty of flowers and moss. The other hens call her lazy, but she doesn’t pay them any mind. Finally, after they cluck at her for a long time, P. Zonka agrees to try laying an egg. After clucking and delays, she lays an egg that isn’t anything like the brown and white eggs the other hens lay. P. Zonka’s egg is spectacular and shows in colors and design all of the beautiful things she has been seeing in nature. P. Zonka’s eggs are art, pure and simple.
Paschkis takes her inspiration from Ukrainian eggs designed with bright colors and intricate designs. A Ukrainian decorated egg is called a pysanka, giving P. Zonka her unique name. The story is written with the rhythm and structure of a traditional folktale. The complaining hens and rooster create the chorus of the book, the repetitive feature. This more formal structure contrasts wonderfully with P. Zonka’s daydreaming and wandering. Those parts of the book are filled with her descriptive words and the pacing shifts and changes.
Paschkis carries her Ukrainian inspiration directly into the art in the book, filling it with the colors and shapes of traditional art. The bright yellows, deep reds, clear blues and crisp greens echo the traditional art as do the sweeping lines and free flowing plants. Yet this is distinctly modern too with the lines having a looser feel and the animals feeling more life like.
This book is a winning blend of traditional and modern, folktale and new story. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Oliver and His Egg by Paul Schmid
Oliver from Oliver and His Alligator returns in a second book. While on the playground, Oliver finds an egg, really a large smooth rock, that he imagines will hatch into a big orange-polka-dotted dinosaur. He would have a new friend and they would go on adventures together. As Oliver dreams of their adventures, the other children find that he is sitting on the “egg” waiting for it to hatch. So he tells them of his enormous dinosaur-sized dream and they all have to find eggs of their own.
Schmid’s picture book is simple and cheery. Oliver is a creative little boy, inventing his own worlds. The book also shows that all children can be creative and use their imaginations. Just as in the first book, the text is minimal, offering less than a sentence on each page. It suits a book that is about imagination to have so much left unsaid.
The illustrations are simple too. Clearly drawn characters are done in simple lines with small touches of color. They are combined with the rock “eggs” that are photographed stones, giving them a weight that the light illustrations don’t have. It’s a dynamic combination on the page.
A cheerful follow-up picture book, this second outing for Oliver is great fun for toddlers. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Told in rhyme, this book explores the many different ways that birds create nests for their eggs and babies. The jaunty rhyme is accompanied by informational text on each species and their habitats and nest building style. Bird species range from penguins to falcons to flamingos. There are also more unusual birds like weaverbirds as shown on the cover of the book.
Ward’s rhyme works well here, offering a playful feel to a book filled with scientific information. She has also selected a great mix of species with familiar birds mixed in with more exotic ones. Each has its own unusual way of creating a nest, making this a book where turning the page is part of the adventure.
As always, Jenkins’ cut paper art is spectacular. He manages to create so much life with textured paper and different colors. From the subtle colors of a cactus plant to the feathers on an owl’s wing, this art is lovely and makes this book very special.
Intelligently and beautifully presented, this nonfiction picture book will entice young readers to learn even more about birds. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.