Review: Camp Tiger by Susan Choi

Camp Tiger by Susan Choi

Camp Tiger by Susan Choi, illustrated by John Rocco (9780399173295)

A remarkable picture book about saying goodbye to summer with one final September camping trip that just happens to involve a tiger. A boy heads out on a camping trip with his older brother and his parents. He is dreading the end of summer and going to first grade. They arrive at Mountain Pond, filled with lots of quiet and nature. But as they are setting up the tents, a tiger enters their camp. It’s a real tiger who talks. The tiger asks if they have another tent that he could use as he feels cold now even in his cave. The family sets it up and the boy climbs in along with the tiger. They nestle together for a time. The tiger stays all weekend with the family, going on hikes, heading out in the canoe, even helping with the fishing. But then, the tiger is gone. The family heads back home, but it’s a trip that no one will ever forget.

I am trying not to simply gush in superlatives about this book. Choi captures the tension of growing up, of wishing time would stand still, of hating the new responsibilities of chores, and longing for kindergarten again. She writes of that with a clarity and ease that honors the child’s feelings. Then the tiger enters, realistic and bold, and at first readers try to puzzle out if the talking tiger is real or not. By the end of the book, it doesn’t matter. Just knowing the tiger, experiencing the tiger was enough. It doesn’t have to be answered as they head back to school and home.

Rocco’s illustrations are just as well done as the text. His illustrations make the tiger almost more realistic than the humans in the story. The tiger swims, sits in firelight, snuggles close, and weighs down the canoe. The final night they have together is filled with starlight and quiet that Rocco captures so beautifully.

Surreal and realistic in the best possible mash-up. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC provided by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Whatever Happened to My Sister by Simona Ciraolo

Whatever Happened to My Sister by Simona Ciraolo

Whatever Happened to My Sister by Simona Ciraolo (InfoSoup)

A little girl knows that something strange is happening to her older sister. She has gotten a lot taller lately and never wants to play any more. She doesn’t like pretty things and has become very secretive. She spends a lot of time in her room alone with the door shut. The little girl tries to seek out advice from her sister’s friends, but they all seem to be acting in a similar way. Her mom and dad are no help at all either. Then the little girl realizes that she misses her big sister so much and the way they used to be together. But maybe someone else feels that way sometimes too.

Ciraolo has created a funny and shining look at the transition from childhood to being a teenager. Told from the first-person perspective of the younger sister, the book reflects her confusion about the changes she sees in her older sister. Any child living with a tween or teen will relate to this book, laugh at the teens with their earbuds in, and also share in the feeling of being left behind. Throughout, Ciraolo honors the emotions of the child with a real tenderness.

The art is modern and dynamic with playful colors that surprise with some page turns. They beautifully convey the emotions, pages with loneliness are filled with gray while moments of connection are a glowing orange that jumps off the page.

A strong book about a moment in life that can be painful to process, this book shows how growing up can also be done side-by-side. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Flying Eye Books.

Review: The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin (InfoSoup)

Released on August 25, 2015.

The voice of a parent narrates this book that looks to the future for a young child. The narrator has known from the time the child was very small that they were special, big-hearted, wild and wise. They also emphasize that the child is unique, because it’s the first time there’s been YOU. The emphasis here is on living a life that is bold and interesting but first and foremost it has to be filled with love. And this picture book shines with it.

This simple book focuses on celebrating the potential of each and every child, telling them that they are special and unique and important to the world. The book is written in rhyming couplets that have a gentle rhythm to them, creating almost a lullaby on the page and a wonderful way to send a child off to sleep.

The illustrations are lush paintings that change from one page to the next, showing different families and different children on each page. This furthers the idea that every child has this potential inside of them too. The families are ethnically diverse and most of the pages only have one parent shown, if any at all.  The focus is on the child.

This would be a great new baby gift or with the way that it ends with the child growing up, a graduation gift too. But it’s best place is being read aloud to children so that they can understand how incredible they are. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Random House Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

Review: George Flies South by Simon James

george flies south

George Flies South by Simon James

Winter was coming, but George was not quite ready to try to fly yet.  George waited for his mother to return with some worms, when a gust of wind picked up his nest and carried the nest and George into the air!  The nest landed softly on the top of a car, which promptly started driving with George’s mother chasing behind.  The nest flew off the car and then landed on a boat.  From there, George and the nest were lifted high up into a tall building that was being constructed.  George slept safely up in the building until he was awoken by a pouncing cat.  Now George was falling without his nest and without knowing how to fly! 

James has written a story that feels very familiar but has its own personal twists.  The combination of the baby bird and his nest traveling through a city together makes this all the more charming.  Add in the appeal of different kinds of transportation, the thrill of the chase, and the daring high building, and you have a book that will appeal to the wiggliest of preschoolers.  The need to learn a new skill under pressure will also be something that will appeal to this age group.

James’ illustrations are done in ink and watercolor.  They have fine lines, washes of color, and a wonderful feel of motion throughout.  They add much to the cheery story.

A great pick for autumn story times, this book will have children cheering George along and seeing that they too are capable of much more than they may think they are.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

How You Got So Smart

How You Got So Smart by David Milgrim

From infant to child, you have a come a long, long way!  This book reveals just how you got as smart as you are.  You watched and listened.  Chewed on things.  Explored and asked lots of questions.  You investigated, made friends, and were very brave.  Each and every step taught you something, and that is what made you so very smart.  This jolly book takes a humorous but sincere look at how babies grow into amazing children every day.

Milgrim’s success with this book is in its tone.  It is funny but really honest and truthful about what makes each of us smart.  The best part is that it is about normal children, who all grow in their own way, who all explore, who all invent.  Every child will see themselves here and relate effortlessly to the book.  Milgrim’s illustrations add to the humor.  They also bring the necessary bright colors and charm. 

Perfect spring reading for classes of children who are advancing to the next grade.  This reminds everyone that they are special and smart.  Appropriate for ages 4-7, older as a treat read-aloud around graduation time.

Reviewed from library copy.