Hamish Takes the Train by Daisy Hirst

Hamish Takes the Train by Daisy Hirst (9781536216592)

Hamish the bear and Noreen the goose love to watch trains together. Hamish longs to take a train to the city, but Noreen isn’t interested. So Hamish set off, following the train tracks on foot. When he got to the station though, he found he needed a ticket, so he just kept on walking. As night fell, he came to a railroad yard and discovered a caboose all lit up inside. There he found Christov who was sick with the flu and too ill to go to work in the morning and run a big crane. So Hamish offered to help. He borrowed Christov’s hat and jacket and headed into the city on the train. When he got to the building site though, he didn’t have any boots, luckily he was able to find some nearby. Then it was time to run the huge crane. Hamish worked hard, running the crane from the cozy cabin. He did it for the five days that Christov was sick and was offered a job himself by the end. But Hamish was missing Noreen and took a train home, to share his adventures with her, and maybe have some new ones together.

Hirst tells a charming tale of Hamish, a bear with a taste for adventure and trying new things. He is also a very helpful and thoughtful character, helping out where he can and finding unique solutions to problems he encounters along the way. I was most impressed that Hamish was a success as he tried to help. It became a celebration of trying new things, learning and succeeding rather than what is often seen in children’s books like Curious George where helping becomes failing in a funny way.

The art is simple and friendly, capturing both the expanse of the countryside and the bustle of the city streets. Some of the pages are fully colored while others use white space and smaller images that move the story ahead. Throughout there is a sense of happy positivity.

A glorious adventure full of trains and cranes. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick Press.

3 Picture Books about Families

Bruces Big Move by Ryan Higgins

Bruce’s Big Move by Ryan T. Higgins (9781368003544)

Bruce the bear continues to be mother to his four goose children. But now three mice have also joined them in Bruce’s den and it’s getting very crowded, particularly for the grumpy bear. It was messy and loud. Bruce tried to get rid of the mice, but nothing worked. So he decided to move away with the geese instead, leaving the mice behind. Bruce built a house, just the right size along the water. Bruce was very happy there, but the geese were all sad. Soon though, the mice had a solution, one that Bruce wasn’t happy with but one that felt like home. Higgins once again takes a very grumpy bear and forces him to reluctantly appreciate the chaos around him. Higgins uses a big dollop of humor throughout the book, both in the text and the illustrations. Bruce trying to cheer up the geese is a wonderful twist on the book series and seeing Bruce smile is rather creepy in a good way. A moving book that is a nice twist on other picture book moving stories, this is another winning read-aloud featuring Bruce. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Review copy supplied by Disney-Hyperion Books.)

The Call of the Swamp by Davide Cali.jpg

The Call of the Swamp by Davide Cali, illustrated by Marco Soma (9780802854865)

Boris was found as a newborn at the edge of the swamp by his parents. Boris had quite happy days growing up, though he was different than the people around him. His eyes were larger and he had tentacles rather than hair. Then one day, the wind blew the smell of salt air and Boris could smell the swamp. He eventually walked all the way back to the swamp and found himself in the water with animals that were a lot like him. It was his real family. But where did Boris truly belong? This picture book explores adoption through a human family adopting a water creature. It also explores what makes a place a home. The tone here is open and curious, exploring both the wonders of the swamp and the longing to return to the human house and his parents. The art is lovely and filled with details. The illustrations are filled with subtle colors that pay homage to the swamp throughout. A lovely book of nature and home. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Review copy provided by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.)

His Royal Highness, King Baby by Sally Lloyd-Jones

His Royal Highness, King Baby by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by David Roberts (9780763697938)

Told from the point of view of a little girl who is about to get a new baby brother, this picture book offers a great example of an unreliable narrator for small children. The little girl was in charge at first in a land where there was plenty of time for stories with both of her parents. Then the new baby arrived, King Baby, and everything turned into screaming, poop and attention for the baby. The princess had to share the bathroom, carry groceries, and soon became invisible to everyone. Then she came up with a new plan and turned into a Mysterious Fairy with a cunning plan that would break the spell of King Baby. But it didn’t quite turn out the way she planned.

I love the way that the text stays true to the little girl’s perspective entirely. But the illustrations show an entirely different thing.The narrator has a vivid imagination that she uses to turn a new sibling into a fairy tale. Still, her parents are around and attentive to both children and often looking on with knowing glances at their older child. Wise and funny, this picture book will give children a voice and parents a nod. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)


Review: Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

Mother Bruce by Ryan T Higgins

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.

Review: Goose the Bear by Katja Gehrmann

goose the bear

Goose the Bear by Katja Gehrmann

In a Canadian forest, Fox stole an almost-hatched goose egg, planning to eat roast goose very soon.  But he is so proud of himself that he forgets to watch where he’s going and runs right into Bear.  Bear picked up the egg from the ground after Fox ran off and wondered what it is.  Then the gosling hatched and called him “Mama!”  Bear tried to explain that they were not the same type of animal, but the gosling did not understand.  So Bear decided to show the little goose just how different they were.  Bear demonstrated how well bears climb trees, but the gosling could reach the top too.  Bear showed how fast bears can run, but the little goose ran just as quickly.  Finally, Bear jumped in the river and the little goose followed him in.  Then Bear got very worried.  Would the little creature survive the fall into the water?

Gehrmann has created a picture book that stands out from the many books about foxes chasing smaller animals.  Her addition of a bear as a main character adds a clever twist and throughout the book she continues to surprise the reader.  The writing has been done to create a read-aloud that will also keep young readers guessing about what is going to happen next.  With the theme of a tiny creature who can do just what a big bear can do, this book has strong kid appeal.

The premise of the book is quite unique and so is the artwork.  First published in Germany, the book has a European feel, particularly in the art.  It is humorous and bold with changing colors throughout.  Gehrmann’s depiction of the natural world around the characters is particularly rich and layered.

Fresh, vibrant and full of fun surprises, this book is an exceptional take on fox and goose (and bear) stories.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Gideon by Olivier Dunrea

gideon gideon and otto

Gideon by Olivier Dunrea

Gideon & Otto by Olivier Dunrea

Gideon is the newest fowl in Dunrea’s farmland.  He is a gosling who loves to play, hates to nap, and has a favorite toy, an octopus named Otto.  In the book bearing just his name, Gideon is hard at play and refusing to listen to his mother call him for his nap.  He just keeps racing on to the next thing to play with.  Readers who are paying close attention will notice that he starts slowing down towards the end of the book, just before he falls asleep all on his own.  In Gideon & Otto, Gideon is once again hard at play on land and in the water.  Otto participates happily, listening when books are read aloud, hiding in the leaves, and even bobbing in the water.  When Gideon sets Otto aside to play more, he instructs Otto to stay there.  But in the midst of playing, Otto gets knocked down and then disappears.  Gideon is about to give up when Otto appears again.  Filled with appeal, these books are jolly additions to Dunrea’s menagerie.

Toddlers and their parents will immediately recognize moments out of their own days here.  From being too busy to nap to losing a beloved toy, these moments are what create the tapestry of young lives.  Told with a wonderful humor, zinging with speed and action, these books beg to be shared.  In fact, when I was curled up to read them to myself, my 10-year-old appeared and insisted that he be read them aloud.  There is such charm to just the covers and even more inside the pages.  These are small books that are very rich.

Perfect for busy toddlers who need some time to slow down a bit.  Appropriate for ages 2-4, or for 10-year-olds who need a cuddle too.

Reviewed from library copies.

Little Green Goose

The Little Green Goose by Adele Sansone, illlustrated by Anke Faust

In 1999, North South books published this story with illustrations by Alan Marks.  Now it has been re-released with new art.  This is the story of a goose who desperately wants to be a father.  When he approaches the hens and asks for eggs to hatch, they refuse to give him any.  So he sadly heads to the woods where Daisy the dog points him to an egg she uncovered in her digging.  Mr. Goose takes the egg home and sits on it.  Eventually, it cracks open and out pops a green chick with scales!  Mr. Goose was proud of his son and when he finally showed him to the others in the barnyard, they were shocked.  The little green goose was told by some of the hens that he is not a proper goose because he is green and doesn’t have feathers or a beak!  Distraught, little green goose heads out to find his real father.  But no animal is quite like him.  It isn’t until he is exhausted and hungry that he realizes that he knows just who will love him no matter whether he is a proper goose or not.

This book is about families and how they are about love alone, not about whether members look similar at all.  I particularly appreciated that it is MR. Goose who wants a baby.  That’s a male role that we don’t see much in children’s picture books.  Sansone’s text is light and a pleasure to read aloud.  Her dialogue is interestingly written.  Her setting is well developed.  She has created a wonderful world in which a baby dinosaur can not only exist but thrive. 

Faust’s illustrations are done in digital collage.  She has a knack for finding interesting visual textures that really create a feast for the eye.  The feathers on Mr. Goose are particularly successful as are the grasses, stones, wood and leaves.  She has captured the freshness and patterns of nature and used them with great effect here.

Highly recommended, this story will appeal to many families and children.  Keep it on hand for any goose or farm story times, where it will add another dimension and a bit of diversity.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from NorthSouth Publishers.

Little Goose and Little Swan

Both of these books swam or flew across my pile at the same time.  It was impossible to not review them side-by-side because they are similarly titled, both have water fowl as main characters, but are such very different but equally wonderful books.


Little Goose by David Mraz, illustrated by Margot Apple

Little Goose has always like things that are round.  They all remind him of something very special to him, but he can’t remember what it is. His mother tells him that he can head off to figure it out, but he should always walk with one wing over water so he comes home safe and sound.  Little Goose heads out, meeting Turtle, Frog, and Mouse along the way.  Each of them have some ideas about what the round thing he is trying to remember may be, but none of them are right.  Little Goose has a catchy greeting that he says to each animal he meets and to his mother: “Hoinkle-oinkle” which is his young version of a honk.  By the end of the book, Little Goose can honk like a big duck and has remembered the special round thing he had forgotten.

It is a pleasure to see Apple’s illustrations here, with her great sense of pictorial humor and the bright colors.  Done in colored pencil, the illustrations have interesting lines and a childlike quality that make them friendly and warm.  Mraz has incorporated great rhythm into his first picture book.  The repetition makes this book a good choice for toddlers as does the story itself. 

Filled with just enough action and surprises to keep small children’s attention, this is a good pick for a story time on geese or mothers.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.


Little Swan by Jonathan London, illustrated by Kristina Rodanas

When Ko-hoh hatches from his egg, his mother and father are with him.  Two days after they have hatched, he and the three other cygnets swim in the lake for the first time.  Ten days after that, they are learning to feed underwater themselves.  Through the entire summer, the swan family stays close together.  As fall begins, Ko-hoh and his siblings learn to fly, a little farther each day, preparing to migrate.  But what will happen when Ko-hoh is attacked by a bear just before he and his family will migrate?

London has depicted the life of a young trumpeter swan with accuracy and without personification.  The name of the young swan, Ko-hoh, comes from the Kootenai Indians, who called the swans trumpet “ko-hoh.”  Rodanas’ paintings show the swans and their environment with nice details.  Yet the illustrations are not busy, but rather focus on the larger world.  They are illustrations that will work well for a group.

A great book for elementary science units, this book is scientific in nature and tells a great story.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.