Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz, illustrated by Eda Kaban (InfoSoup) This clever update to the beloved folk song has a focus on large machinery. The book follows the structure of the original song, filled with E-I-E-I-O’s and then inserts a different type … Continue reading Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz
This second book in the A Pig in a Wig series keeps up the zany silliness of the first even though it’s a bedtime story. Pig is getting ready for bed still in her wig, brushing her teeth and combing her hair. She’s all settled into bed with her teddy bear when other animals start showing up and making noise. They all climb into the bed with Pig, but soon it is too much to take and Pig shushes them all and sends them back to the barn. Soon all is silent again until the owl outside Pig’s window starts to hoot. Where will she find a quiet place to sleep?
Just as with the first book, this book is written in a jaunty and bouncy rhyme that sets a brisk pace. Despite the silliness and the rhyme though, the book does slow down at the end in a natural way, becoming downright dozy by the end. The illustrations are simple and funny, particularly when all of the animals are piled high on the bed.
A great addition to beginning reader collections, this book had just the right mix of silly and sleepy. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Carol is missing out on what all of her friends are doing this summer, because she has to head out with her family to the New Mexico desert and move her grandfather off of his farm and into a home for people with dementia. Carol has never really met her Grandpa Serge and tries to avoid him at first because he is so prickly and all he will talk about is a wild story about bees returning to the desert. As the summer goes ever so slowly by, Carol connects with Serge and discovers his ability to weave a great story. It’s a story that is about her grandparents, about a magical tree that granted everlasting life and about bees too. Carol begins to understand her grandfather’s connection to the dried out land and the small home just as the summer ends and they are forced to leave it behind but the story has not reached its end yet.
This magical realism book is enticingly radiant. It shimmers with desert heat, itches with dust and dirt, aches with the loss of loved ones, and dances with the voice of a great storyteller. The writing is lush and lovely with distinct tone differences between Grandpa Serge’s stories and the prose of the novel. Even that prose though is written with such poetry:
I want to tell her how Serge’s eyes glow, how they are cat’s eyes, wide as a newborn’s, ringed like an ancient tree trunk.
A large theme of the novel is connection to one’s heritage and roots. In this book about a magical tree, those roots have many meanings. Carol is urged to connect more with her Hispanic heritage and also to the land itself. She does over the course of the novel in a believable and organic way that really works well. This book is about those slow changes, about becoming yourself and honoring who you are and where you come from.
Beautiful and haunting, this novel deserves a wide audience and plenty of buzz. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.
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.
Lula Mae really wants a puppy, but her mother tells her that times are hard and she will just have to make do. So Lula Mae takes a look around and decides that maybe a chicken could be a good dog. She finds the most likely chicken, one that is confident, and grabs it. She names the “dog” Pookie and puts a hair ribbon on its head. Her mother insists that whatever Lula Mae calls it, she’s not to bring it into the house. Soon Pookie is starting to act like a dog. She shepherds the other chickens around. She acts like a guard dog when Cousin Tater threatens Lula Mae and the baby with a garter snake. Pookie even manages to perform a search and rescue when Baby Berry goes missing.
This fanciful picture book is brimming with down home warmth. The book’s premise is wonderfully quirky, the substitution of a chicken for a dog. Readers will expect it to go very badly, but this book takes a more positive spin. Even as Pookie starts to act like a dog, she is still clearly a chicken reacting the way a chicken would in that situation. The humans interpret it differently, adding to the fun of the entire story.
Wilsdorf’s illustrations are done in watercolor and ink. They are filled with bright colors and show a vibrant rural lifestyle filled with chickens, woodpiles, and crops. Some of the illustrations show the paths of people (and chickens) running around and convey the panic of trying to find Baby Berry. Sharp-eyed children will spot him by following Pookie’s path.
Funny and entirely individual, this picture book is about making do and following your own heart. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Penguin Random House and Edelweiss.
Job Wanted by Teresa Bateman, illustrated by Chris Sheban
When an old farm dog walks up to a farm looking for work, the farmer refuses. He sees dogs as a waste of food since they don’t give anything back like chickens or cows do. The dog then offers to be a cow instead of a dog. He gets all of the cows into the barn and lined up ready for milking before the farmer gets there, but the farmer isn’t interested in this dog-cow. The next thing the dog tries is to be a horse. He couldn’t fit in the harness for the plow, but he could run ahead of the horse with treats to get the horse to plow faster. Still, the farmer was not interested in hiring the dog. The dog next tries to be a chicken and tidies up the chicken coop before settling down in a nest of hay himself. It’s there that he finally proves the value of a dog on a farm to the reluctant farmer.
Bateman nicely incorporates a rhythm and repetition into her story. The pattern of the conversation between the dog and the farmer carries through the entire book, creating a framework that functions very nicely. On each job, the dog manages to be useful in his own way, something that is a nice surprise in the book rather than him trying to give milk or eggs himself. One immediately roots for the success of this hard-working dog.
Sheban’s illustrations are done in watercolor, graphite, and colored pencil. The result is a picture book that glows with sunlight. There is a wonderful softness to the illustrations, gauzy light that plays across the farm and the characters.
A shining picture book about resilience and being yourself. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Holiday House.
In, Over and On the Farm by Ethan Long
Following his Geisel Award-winning Up, Tall and High, Long returns to prepositions. Four animals friends have adventures on the farm in this easy reader. Broken into three short stories, each story focuses on one pair of prepositions. Chicken can’t get in the coop, so she is left out in the rain, until she realizes that everyone else is warm and dry in there, so she orders them to get out. In the next story, Chicken can’t get over the fence or go under it either. Luckily Cow has another solution for her, go around! In the last story, Pig is on the tractor and Cow and Goat join him there. When they are all on the tractor though, it starts to roll away and soon they are all thrown off. But they want to go on it again.
Long is a very prolific author and excels at creating books for beginning readers which are a winning mix of humor and simplicity. It also helps that he is a natural storyteller and so his short stories in the book have the feel of being complete tales despite their brevity. His characters are also universal, in their group and individual dynamics. The book is entirely relatable by children and will be enjoyed in classrooms looking at prepositions as well as by individual readers.
Long’s illustrations are funny and filled with a cartoon appeal. The colors are candy-bright and even gray rainy days are tinged in lavender. The incorporation of a few flaps to lift is also very appealing for young readers who will enjoy that the twist for each story is revealed in a physical way.
Silly and very easy to read, these stories have massive appeal. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.