Circle, Triangle, Elephant! By Kenji Oikawa and Mayuko Takeuchi (9780714874111)
Following a pattern of naming the stacked shapes in order, this book immediately surprises readers by inserting elephants, boats, birds, lemons, and busses into the stacks. It is a very simple premise made entirely engaging by the surprises on each new page. Children will love to help name the items in the stacks and won’t even realize it’s a concept book at all. The images are bright colored and bold, each element easily recognized and named. Colors and other elements can be pointed out as well as this is bound to be a favorite. Appropriate for ages 1-2. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Opposite Surprise by Agnese Baruzzi (9789888341375)
With large flaps to lift, this board book asks questions about opposites that become more complicated and interesting once the flap is lifted and the picture is revealed. “Small or big?” opens to reveal two trucks, one of which may have seemed big without the other in the image.”Empty or full?” has an image of a fish tank that seems crowded with bright red fish, or is it? The illustrations are simple and bold and will lead to discussions about how they could be interpreted. This is a board book that begs to be shared and talked about. Appropriate for ages 2-3. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Pizza! By Lotta Nieminen
This one is best kept for library programming or for families to own, because it has one loose piece that will likely get lost in libraries without a creative way to attach it. But it is so charming that I had to recommend it anyway. The book uses an actual recipe for pizza making that then uses interactive elements to involve young children in the process. Salt and flour pour by pulling a tab. Children can use the spoon to stir. The best element though is a panel with “dough” that has just the right texture. Make sure to have some baking supplies ready to make pizza with children after sharing this one. Yum! Appropriate for ages 2-3. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, illustrated by Man One (9780983661597, Amazon)
Roy Choi was born in Seoul, Korea and moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was two years old. His family owned restaurants and he grew up loving his mother’s cooking. When his family got successful, they moved into the suburbs where Roy didn’t fit in. He eventually found his way to being a chef and worked in prestigious kitchens until he lost his job. When a friend had the idea to open a food truck that served tacos, Roy agreed. Soon his food truck was a huge success. Still, Roy wanted to do more. He decided to open fast food restaurants in neighborhoods that needed them. Roy stayed in the neighborhoods where he felt most at home and where he was needed, and that’s exactly where you will find the very successful chef today.
This is the third book about chefs and food people by Martin. As with the previous two books, she captures the essence of this person with skill. Her prose is shown as poetry on the page and often reads that way too. Her take on things so succinct and focused, she uses only the necessary words to tell the story. Her collaborator, Lee dances poems on the page that have the feel of modern lyrics.
The illustrations are entirely unique. Done with backgrounds of spray-paint on large canvases that were then photographed, there is a wild energy to them. The play of music and food on the page is apparent, the graffiti inspired art ties to the urban setting and the poorer neighborhoods.
Strong and successful, this picture book captures a modern master of food. Appropriate for ages 6-10.
Reviewed from library copy.
Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex (9781452154435, Amazon)
All of the other fruit are having great fun creating rhymes for themselves. But Orange knows that nothing rhymes with him, so he can’t join in. He does ask if he can participate, but no one has time to answer him. Meanwhile the rhymes that the other fruit are using get forced and the kinds of fruit get more unusual. Soon other fruit that don’t have rhymes either are included and only Orange is left out. Luckily though, Apple has noticed and creates a rhyme just for Orange!
Rex has immense joyous fun creating the weirdest rhymes for fruits in this book. Readers will agree with Orange’s take as the book gets odder and odder as it continues. Adults will laugh aloud with surprise with even Nietzsche makes an appearance just to force a rhyme with lychee. The dynamic energy of the book makes it great to read aloud and will have everyone laughing along and hoping that Orange gets to play too.
The illustrations combine grocery-bag brown paper with photographs of different fruit. The fruit also have faces with big expressions and lanky limbs that make them friendly. Orange in particular is very emotive as all sorts of emotions are felt by him during the course of the book.
A great read aloud and a hilarious book, this one will have everyone rhyming! Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Chirri & Chirra in the Tall Grass by Kaya Doi (9781592702251, Amazon)
This is the second book in this series that has come to the United States from Japan. In this adventure, sisters Chirri and Chirra ride their bikes into a tall stand of grass. Once inside, they follow a bee to its home where they get to taste honey sponge cake. From there, they follow some flower chafers to their home where the chafers share some leaf juice with them. When a lizard passes by, the girls follow him to his home and they make candies together. As darkness falls, the girls return back home.
Doi’s books are completely unique. The two characters react to nature and the foods offered them with wonder and curiosity. There is no fear here, just adventure and joy. The books celebrate nature and investigation. There is a strong element of fantasy as well as the creatures talk and cook, but that whimsical part just strengthens the honesty of the natural pieces.
The illustrations are filled with small details that make these books better for one-on-one sharing. These are books to pore over and enjoy together, discussing the details. The illustrations show close ups of the food and drink, small touches making them all the more appealing.
Look forward to book three this fall, this is a delicious Japanese import. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmer’s Market by Michelle Schaub, illustrated by Amy Huntington (9781580895477, Amazon)
Through a series of poems, take a visit to the farmer’s market. From the early work done by farmers long before their customers are awake to the market itself, this book celebrates one of the joys of summer. There are poems about how markets transform empty parking lots, the displays of heaped produce, the friendly sharing of samples, tempting baked goods, and the feeling of community that markets bring. It’s also a collection that celebrates the food too, the freshness of the produce and the bounty that people bring home.
Schaub very successfully has captured the summer joy of farmer’s markets across the country. One can hear the bustle and busyness of the market, captured in her poetry. Throughout there is a sense of humor and immense pleasure at what the market provides beyond the food itself. The poetry has a lightness that reflects the feel of summer and sunshine.
Huntington’s illustrations are equally bright and sunny. She incorporates people of a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures in her images, making sure to fully celebrate communities in her images. She also cleverly weaves a story in her images with a loose dog who adds to the energy of the day.
A fresh and vibrant look at farmer’s markets that is perfect zest to a summer day. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Bear Likes Jam by Ciara Gavin
Released February 14, 2017.
This is the third book in the sweet series about a bear that lives with a flock of ducks. Bear discovers his love of jam and forgot to share it with the ducklings. He ate it late at night and during the day. Mama Duck worried that Bear wasn’t eating a balanced diet, even though Bear proved that he could balance very well. So she started trying to feed Bear vegetables at dinner with no jam. Bear refused to even taste them and went to bed hungry. Breakfast was oatmeal with no jam in sight. Dinner came around with no jam either. But then the ducks showed Bear a new game! It was a game that got him eating vegetables without even noticing and then he was a happy bear because he could also have a jar or two of jam a day along with the ducks.
Throughout this series, Gavin has played off of the fact that Bear has unique needs just because he’s a bear compared to all of the other ducks in the family. The last book was about hibernating and this one is about delicious foods. Bear is a wonderful character who just is who he is. His love of jam suits his character perfectly and once again the ducks band together to create a solution to help Bear be healthier and yet still be himself too.
The art has delicate lines, the ducklings tiny compared to the mountainous bear. The watercolors add sweep across some pages, but most of the pages use white as a background. Small details add to the appeal with flowered pillows on seats to get little ducklings high enough and ducklings merrily munching on fruits and vegetables.
A book that addresses healthy eating with a sense of balance and plenty of sweetness. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Is That Wise Pig? by Jan Thomas (InfoSoup)
Cow, Pig and Mouse are all making soup together. Mouse adds one onion, Cow adds two cabbages, but Pig tries to add three umbrellas! The other two ask Pig if that is wise. Then Mouse adds four tomatoes, Cow adds five potatoes, and Pig tries to add six galoshes. Is that wise? More ingredients go in and Pig even adds nine carrots! Then Pig reveals that she asked ten friends to join them, something that probably was not wise. Suddenly Pig’s galoshes and umbrellas make a lot of sense as the soup flies!
As always, Thomas completely understands the farcical humor that toddlers adore. Children will be so engaged in laughing at Pig’s ingredients that they won’t see the ending coming until the reveal. There is also a counting component to the book that is subtly done and the book feels much more like a story than one teaching numbers. Thomas’ illustrations will work well with a crowd, projecting easily even to those in the back thanks to their strong black lines and simple colors.
Expect lots of requests for seconds of this silly book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi, illustrated by Shahar Kober (InfoSoup)
In a dim sum restaurant, one dumpling is sad because he is considered ugly. He tried to make up for it with outfits or wrinkling his brow, but he was always the one left behind and ignored.Then a cockroach came along and offered to show the Ugly Dumpling the beauty in the world. They explored the kitchen together with all of its wonders. Then the Ugly Dumpling noticed something. There were more ugly dumplings who looked just like him! He was in fact a steamed bun and fit in perfectly. The same could not be said for the cockroach though when he was revealed to all in the dining room. But by that point, the Ugly Dumpling knew just what to do.
This is a clever riff on the Ugly Duckling story that manages to tweak the story just enough to keep it fresh and new but also so that the traditional tale is still able to be seen as well. It is the character of the cockroach that makes this book really work. The addition of a friend to model self-esteem even if you are unique is crucial here and then for the tables to turn at the end of the story. The text is simple and straight-forward, making it a great book to share aloud with a strong story arc.
Kober’s illustrations are jaunty and lively. Showing the kitchen as a kind of wonderland is magical with the towers of plates that look like skyscrapers, the woks that are almost volcanic, and the landscapes of flour. The emotions of the dumpling and other characters are done clearly and the illustrations are large enough to work with a group nicely.
A strong pick for a book to share aloud, this dynamic picture book is sure to suit everyone’s tastes. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Potato King by Christoph Niemann (InfoSoup)
A Prussian king named Fritz loved the idea of the potato. It was easy to grow and healthy too and could just solve the hunger problems in his country. So he went to a nearby village and told them about the potato and its benefits and planted some potatoes for them. But people don’t like to be told what to eat, and the village rejected the potato entirely. Then King Fritz had an idea. He ordered his army to go to the village and guard the potato field, telling them to be very lax about it. Suddenly, the people were very interested in a food that they were being stopped from eating and that was valuable enough to guard with soldiers. They snuck into the field and stole the potatoes, planting them in their own gardens. It was a clever use of reverse psychology to create a crop that would end up being a staple of the area.
Translated from the original German, this picture book is told very simply. The book ends with a brief history of the potato and how it came to Europe from South America. It also admits that this tale may be a myth, but that’s part of what makes it all the more fun to tell. Niemann manages to take a moment in history and turn it into a rollicking tale that young children will enjoy immensely and will relate to immediately.
The illustrations in the book are done entirely in potato prints of different colors combined with actual potatoes too. The prints work particularly well when used to create larger scenes of hills of grass and crowds of soldiers. Somehow the crude images have their own personality too, particularly the king himself whose open mouth and bright red color mark his as unique right from the start.
Nominated for a German Youth Literature Prize, this picture book has a wonderful organic charm all its own. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.