This Is Gus by Chris Chatterton

This Is Gus by Chris Chatterton

This Is Gus by Chris Chatterton (9780593097366)

Gus is the sort of dog that doesn’t like much. He doesn’t like being petted, going on walks, playing fetch, or making friends. He doesn’t like birthdays either. Then a little dog enters his life. The little dog explains that once he arrived, Gus started liking all sorts of things like baths together and hugs. But the one thing that Gus really loves is sausages. He loves everything about sausages. So does the little dog! But Gus doesn’t like to share. But there just might be one thing that Gus likes more than sausages.

Chatteron’s humor is marvelously deadpan. His timing is impeccable throughout the book, particularly the reveals. At first the book seems to not have a specific narrator but that reveal of the little, perky dog speaking about Gus is a delight. The ending too has a well-timed and touching moment that is simple but perfection.

The text is very simple, so the illustrations carry much of the story. They are particularly important to capture the neutrality of Gus with his natural frown. Big and bold, the illustrations work well for sharing the book aloud.

Hilarious and just as satisfying as a sausage feast. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Penguin Workshop.

Review: Bruce’s Big Fun Day by Ryan T. Higgins

Bruce's Big Fun Day by Ryan T. Higgins

Bruce’s Big Fun Day by Ryan T. Higgins (9781368022811)

Nibbs, the mouse, wants Bruce to have a fun day, but Bruce doesn’t seem to be having any fun at all. Breakfast in bed turns into a messy disaster. The long walk is exhausting. A picnic turns into a feast for the ants. The boat ride is wet, particularly when Nibbs uses Bruce himself as the boat. They do make it back home in time for supper, but supper is too dainty and fancy for Bruce and dessert is even worse. By the time they are in bed, Bruce is very, very grumpy. Which is really nice, since Bruce loves to be grumpy. It might have been the perfect day out after all.

Higgins cleverly turns his picture book series about Mother Bruce into an easy reader format. His use of limited vocabulary is done seamlessly with the story. It helps that there is zany action on many of the pages that can be explained in Higgins’ rather dry tone in just a few words. The illustrations help too. Done in full color and with Higgins’ signature style, they show the story playing out on the page with great clarity and additional moments of silliness.

A great addition to easy reader shelves, this one is big fun. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Nobody Hugs a Cactus by Carter Goodrich

Nobody Hugs a Cactus by Carter Goodrich

Nobody Hugs a Cactus by Carter Goodrich (9781534400900)

Hank is a very prickly cactus sitting in a window and overlooking the emptiness of the desert. Occasionally others intrude on his blissful quiet, and he doesn’t respond in a very friendly way. When Rosie the tumbleweed rolls past, Hank ignores her entirely. Hank yells at a tortoise so loudly that the tortoise hides in his shell. Other animals and people pass too, each greeted rudely by Hank. Someone suggests that he needs a hug, but no one wants to hug a prickly cactus. The next morning though, Hank is less angry and more lonely. But what is a grumpy cactus to do? Hank may have a new and friendly idea.

Goodrich has created quite the character in Hank. Hank moves beyond just being rather ferocious and cranky into something more closely approaching sadness and isolation. That shift is the key to this book, one that allows readers to truly start to feel for Hank and his predicament. The use of being “prickly” meaning both personality and having sharp needles is clever handled and not overplayed in the text. The book is engaging and funny with a brisk pace despite being centered on a plant.

The art is done in a desert color palette with sand, rich blue skies at night, and changing clouds and weather. Hank himself is full of personality, grumpy as can be at times while being rather morose at others. Goodrich uses plenty of humor in the illustrations too, particularly with Hank himself.

A great pick for grumpy days when you might be feeling a bit prickly yourself. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

 

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.)

Review: Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won

hooray for hat

Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won

Elephant wakes up very grumpy until he finds a present waiting for him on the doorstep and it has one amazing hat inside.  He puts it on and heads off to show Zebra, but Zebra is grumpy too, so Elephant gives Zebra one of his hats.  Soon they have helped Turtle and Owl be less grumpy too by sharing hats with them as well.  They came to Lion who was feeling sad and giving him a hat didn’t help because he was worried that Giraffe was feeling sick.  So they all came up with a great plan to help Giraffe feel better.  I bet you can guess that it involves…hats!

Won has created an entirely jolly book that shows just how small things can change a person’s mood or emotions.  The book is very simply written and repeats nicely as each animal is introduced.  This makes it a great pick for toddlers who will enjoy the repetition as well as the different animals in the book.  It is also a nice book to talk with the smallest children about feeling grumpy and also how important sharing things can be.

Won’s art focuses on the animals themselves with only touches of backgrounds or even ground around and underneath them.  The colors pop when the hats enter the pages, bright and vibrantly different, they are all a hoot.

Cheery and friendly, this book is a happy look at changing emotions and sharing good fortune.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Crankenstein by Samantha Berger

crankenstein

Crankenstein by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Dan Santat

You should be very very scared of Crankenstein.  He appears when provoked, on rainy days, at bedtime, or when popsicles melt on hot days.  Nothing can fix Crankenstein, not a sunny morning, pancakes for breakfast or any amount of niceness.  But there is one thing that can fix a Crankenstein – another Crankenstein.  Sometimes that and only that can get the Crankensteins to both start giggling and then they both disappear and become normal kids again.  But beware, Crankenstein still lurks, hidden, and ready to appear at any moment.

Written in a firmly tongue-in-cheek tone, readers will quickly recognize their own Crankenstein moments in this book.  Berger keeps the details minimal and the situations universal in this book, adding to the humor.  Santat’s illustrations really bring the story to life.  Crankenstein is given the perfect death glare, those deadened eyes staring right at you.  Santat doesn’t hold back here, gleefully creating an over-the-top characterization of pure grumpiness.

This book reads aloud wonderfully and offers a gleeful glimpse at the grumps.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.