Review: A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey

A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey

A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song (9781452167916)

In his classroom, Henry is looking to make a new friend. It can’t be the class pet, because Gilly the fish can’t play on the swings. It can’t be his teacher. As Henry considers different children in his class, he realizes that some of them are too colorful even when you try to do something nice for them. Others don’t listen very well, like a friend would. Other kids break the rules or play with worms. Henry found himself watching Gilly in her fishbowl. Katie is watching Gilly too. Henry thinks about Katie. The two play blocks together quietly and Katie listens to Henry and he listens to her. They play together but each in their own way. It’s just right.

Bailey has written a captivating story about a boy with particular needs and wants in a friend. Henry has strong opinions about friends, ones that make him angry when they are dismissed. When Henry gets too frustrated he ends up in a bit of trouble at school. It is great to see a book embrace the deep emotions of children and not label any of them as wrong. Henry doesn’t have to change at all to find a friend, he just needs some patience.

Song’s illustrations are simple and warm. They depict a diverse classroom of children, all possible friends for Henry to consider. Done in ink and watercolor, they show everyone’s emotions throughout the day very clearly through body language and facial expressions.

A lovely look at the emotions of finding a friend. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Chronicle Books.

Review: My Heart by Corinna Luyken

my heart by corinna luyken

My Heart by Corinna Luyken (9780735227934)

The author of The Book of Mistakes returns with another amazing picture book. This time she focuses on empathy and self-awareness as she speaks about the power of your heart. The heart here can be open or closed, small and hidden or ready to grow. It can separate you from others or invite them inside. It can break but also be mended as well. The power of the heart is for its owner to decide.

Written in rhyme that swirls, this picture book invites readers to explore their own hearts. It looks through a poetic lens at the dark side of life, such as isolation, loneliness, fear and anger. These elements are balanced with a strong feeling of hope throughout the book, a tone of mending, care and resilience. This is a book that can start conversations about negative emotions as well as positive ones.

The art carries the simple verse forward. Done in a beautifully limited color palette, this picture book has gray, black and yellow. The yellow is used as sunlight, glimmers of heart on dark pages. It goes from tiny touches of yellow to drowning the page in its light. The illustrations are delicate and show the emotions in the text through images very successfully.

This is one heartfelt picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

Review: When Sadness Is at Your Door by Eva Eland

When Sadness Is at Your Door by Eva Eland

When Sadness Is at Your Door by Eva Eland (9780525707189)

This quiet book looks at how children can handle deep emotions like sadness in a proactive way. It explains how sadness, depicted as a large blue round creature, can arrive without notice and be so close you almost smother. It reveals how sadness can almost become you, but try not to be afraid. Instead listen to the sadness, ask it where it came from, be quiet and sit together for a while. Do things together, even take a walk with one another. Give it room and make it welcome, and then tomorrow is a new day.

Eland takes a rather Buddhist approach to handling negative emotions as she asks the reader to sit with their emotion, welcome it and basically make it feel at home. The book shows that emotions can’t be hidden or pushed away. This approach leads away from anger and misery and into an acceptance that makes this book very gentle. In the art there are clear echoes of Harold and the Purple Crayon in its simplicity. The color scheme is muted and reflects the quiet nature of the text and the content.

A clear and gentle look at difficult emotions. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House.

Review: Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna

Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna

Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna (9781911171539)

A girl talks about how her fear had once been small and helped protect her. However, when she came to a new country, her fear grew much bigger and kept on growing. Her fear kept her in the house when she wanted to go out. Her fear doesn’t want her to go to school. Fear fills the girl’s dreams, evenings and meals. It makes her feel separate and lonely. When a boy reaches out to her at school, they draw and paint together. When they head outdoors, a dog barks at the two of them and suddenly both of them reveal their fears to one another. Her fear steadily gets smaller and more manageable as she begins to try new things and meet even more people.

Sanna, the author of The Journey, returns with her second book that once again speaks to the experience of an immigrant child. The use of Fear as a full character in the book works very well, embodying this large emotion and demonstrating how it can control one’s life. Children who are not immigrants will be able to see their own fears represented here as well, making this a strong choice for discussing emotions.

The art plays a crucial role in the book, particularly in the way that the fears are presented. Sanna creates a fear that is friendly at times and ferocious at others. Fear is soft and changes size, sometimes riding on the girl’s back and weighing her down. When Fear shrinks, it becomes almost toylike and very manageable, conveying that some fear is a good thing to have.

An original look at fear as an emotion. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Allie All Along by Sarah Lynne Reul

Allie All Along by Sarah Lynne Reul

Allie All Along by Sarah Lynne Reul (9781454928584)

When Allie’s crayon breaks, she is suddenly furious and turns into a bright red anger monster. She stomps, smashes things and throws a tantrum. When her brother gives her a pillow to punch, the worst of the anger leaves. She climbs out of the red monster suit, now an orange monster. Her brother tells her to squeeze her favorite toy really tight. That helped more and soon she was a green monster. Her brother tries more techniques and Allie becomes blue and rather sad. Still, she is herself after that and looking for a hug.

This picture book brilliantly explores anger and healthy practices to release it and let it go. The use of different colored monsters gives children a visual meter of Allie’s anger and how she is steadily de-escalating it with her brother’s help. Told from her brother’s point of view, he is calm and steady throughout the book, knowing just what to do. The illustrations are a huge part of this book with the angry monsters showing a steady decline in anger until sadness is revealed.

Well designed, this picture book will offer a way to talk about emotions and anger. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: I’m Sad by Michael Ian Black

I_m Sad by Michael Ian Black

I’m Sad by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (9781481476270)

Flamingo is very sad today. He wonders if he will ever feel better. A little girl and a potato, yes a potato, try to explain about emotions and feelings. At times the three of them get a bit down all together, but they quickly turn to a plan to cheer up Flamingo. The girl and potato think of things that they love, but they don’t work for Flamingo. He doesn’t eat ice cream or dirt. In the end, they decide that sometimes it’s OK to just be sad. Flamingo worries that his friends won’t like him if he’s still sad tomorrow, but they assure him that they still will. Then potato makes a joke and the book ends with lots of laughter.

Told entirely in dialogue, this is a frank look at sadness and emotion. It explains a variety of approaches to emotions, ending with the most important one which is to not push the emotions away and that they will naturally change on their own. Black’s use of a potato as a main character seems odd until his personality starts flying and it suddenly steals the show. Ohi’s illustrations are big and bold, filled with flamingo pink (of course) and other bright colors that will make this a great read aloud, particularly when shared with different voices for the three characters.

A quite happy and optimistic book about sadness. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

 

3 New Picture Books That Get Emotional

Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang

Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang, illustrated by Max Lang (9780553537864)

Jim was having a very grumpy day where nothing was going right. He couldn’t figure out what was wrong. His neighbor Norman suggested that Jim might be grumpy, but Jim insisted that he wasn’t. As the two headed off on a walk, they met different animals who all pointed out how Jim seemed or looked grumpy. So Jim fixed those things and looked very happy on the outside, but it didn’t change how he actually felt. All of the animals had suggestions about what might help Jim, but it only made him grumpier. When he finally shouted at everyone, he decided to leave and be by himself. But when Norman also starts to have a bad day, the two discover that they will feel better soon.

The cover of this book will have children picking it up, whether they are grumpy or not. Then the inside will have them giggling, whether they are grumpy or not. Jim is ever-so-grumpy and not just a little bit, but exceptionally so. The illustrations capture this beautifully from his slump to his grimace. Perhaps the best part of the book is when he looks happy but is still grumpy as can be. Throughout, Lang keeps the pace brisk and the humor just right. The illustrations add to the fun with their jungle setting, huge trees, and vibrant characters. Grumpiness galore in this picture book that challenges readers not to grin. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Random House Books for Young Readers.)

Wallpaper by Thao Lam

Wallpaper by Thao Lam (9781771472838)

This wordless picture book tells the story of a little girl who moves to a new town. As the is unpacking her boxes, she hears talking outside her window and looks out to see three children in a treehouse next door. When they spot her, they wave but she ducks out of sight, shy to meet them. As she sits under her window, a small yellow bird made of wallpaper emerges from a tear in the room’s wallpaper. It flies out the window and the little girl peels more of the paper away and a flock of yellow birds fly out. She peels more and a jungle-like wallpaper is revealed that she steps into. Then a yellow monster appears and the girl peels the paper away to reveal the next layer. She dashes through polka-dots then watery blue and green with frogs, then black sheep. Finally the monster stops chasing her and sits there dejected. The little girl heads back and introduces herself to him. They play together until the girl heads off to lunch. Now can she meet the kids outside?

A lovely portrayal of being shy and needing to think through what to say when meeting someone new and prepare oneself for it. The wallpaper is done beautifully, the layers deep and rich. The entire book is done in paper collage, filled with layers, patterns both subtle and vivid, and offers a gorgeous depth that will have readers looking closely at the art. A superb picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Whale in a Fishbowl by Troy Howell

Whale in a Fishbowl by Troy Howell, illustrated by Richard Jones (9781524715182)

Wednesday was a whale who lives in an enormous fish bowl surrounded by a city filled with bustling people and cars. It was the only home she had ever known. If she jumped high enough though, she could see a tiny bit of blue far away. Whenever she glimpsed it, her heart would leap. She kept on leaping to see that blue in the distance and soon more people watched her, thinking that she was doing tricks. One day, a little girl visited Wednesday’s tank and told her that she didn’t belong in the fish bowl. That got Wednesday to wonder where she did belong and what it had to do with the blue in the distance.

This timely and beautiful picture book looks at animals trapped in cages and fish tanks and where they do belong and where they should be living. Using a whale as the focal character, makes the book even more touching and speaks directly to issues seen at aquariums recently. The book has an ache to it, a longing on every page until the triumphant ending. The illustrations are rich and beautiful, the contrast of concrete and seawater is mesmerizing. A celebration of freedom and a deep dive into what that means for all living creatures. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.)

3 Boisterous Noisy Picture Books

Bumpety, Dunkety, Thumpety-Thump! By K. L. Going

Bumpety, Dunkety, Thumpety-Thump! By K. L. Going, illustrated by Simone Shin (9781442434141)

Two young siblings, a brother and sister, head outside with their wagon. They play with pebbles near the pond, pick blueberries and then head home. Each thing makes it’s own noise: the wagon bumpety-bumps, the pebbles dunkety-dunk, and the plunkety-plunk. Back home, they bake the berries in a pie, eat, wash dishes, and then take a bath. These activities too are supported by a rollicking and noise-filled rhyme that carries the story forward with a jaunty vibe. The book ends with bedtime and everyone sharing stories and heartbeats together. This book beautifully combines noises of a day with a loving family story and creates a book that is a dynamic read-aloud for toddlers. Appropriate for ages 1-3. (Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster.)

Buster and the Baby by Amy Hest

Buster and the Baby by Amy Hest, illustrated by Polly Dunbar (9780763687878)

Buster, a little white dog, is hiding from the baby who is chasing him around the house. Buster tries different spots to hide, but each time, the baby comes and finds him. THUMP, THUMP, THUMP comes the baby, the same noise that Buster’s heart makes as he hides. Then the two dash off together in a wild chase until Buster finds his next hiding place and it begins again. This book begs to be shared aloud, as Hest has created moments of quiet tension and then uproarious frenzy that repeat again and again. The illustrations by Dunbar add to the joy, incorporating panels that let young listeners see the action across pages. A great pick for reading aloud to toddlers. Appropriate for ages 1-3. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Grump Groan Growl by bell hooks

Grump Groan Growl by bell hooks, illustrated by Chris Raschka (9780786808168)

Explore a bad mood in this picture book that takes a look at being very very grumpy. The child in the opening images prowls like a lion, sharp claws at the ready as he grumps across the page. He groans and growls loudly, almost a roar. There is nowhere to escape his foul mood. He feels wild and out of control until he realizes that he can look inside, let that feeling be and let it pass. Hooks speaks to the process of mindfulness about emotions with few words, showing the emotion clearly and then moving into the process to allow that emotion to pass on. Raschka’s illustrations are dark with emotion, tinged with colors that become more tangible as the child regains control. A great pick for mindfulness with children, this book doesn’t reject negative emotions or cling to them either. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

 

 

Life Without Nico by Andrea Maturana

Life Without Nico by Andrea Maturana

Life Without Nico by Andrea Maturana, illustrated by Francisco Javier Olea (InfoSoup)

Maia and Nico are best friends. They love playing together. But then one day, Nico’s family announce that they are moving across the world. When Nico leaves, Maia is left with an empty feeling inside. The emptiness gets bigger and bigger, not allowing her to play with other kids. But things get better as time passes. Maia finds a kitten, learns to play the piano, and makes a new friend at school. Soon it is time for Nico to return. At first, Maia is scared that things will be different, but soon she discovers that Nico once again fills the emptiness for her.

This story told from the point of view of the person left behind when someone moves away is a nice change of perspective from most picture books about moving. Originally published in Mexico, this picture book captures the progress of emotions that come from losing a close friend. The empty feeling is beautifully portrayed in the story and then the gentle change to meeting new people and finding new hobbies is shown with delicacy.

Olea’s illustrations are striking. I particularly appreciate the way he incorporates the empty feeling visually on the page, shadows cast by other objects but that also speak to the emotions that Maia is feeling right then. Characters in the book have skin of wildly different colors that show various but indistinct races. The result is a book of shadows, light and rich color.

A lovely book on moving and grief, this picture book is one worth sharing. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Kids Can Press and Edelweiss.