3 New Picture Books to Get You Moving

Dance, Dance, Dance!

Dance, Dance, Dance! By Ethan Long (9780823438594)

A great mix of picture book and beginning reader, this story features Horse who loves to dance. Buggy is a little concerned though because there isn’t any music, so is Horse really dancing? Horse invites Buggy to join him, but Buggy just isn’t sure. When Horse tries to make Buggy feel better about not being able to dance, he manages to insult her. So Buggy starts dancing too. They add some great music. Soon Buggy is dancing but now Horse is doing something else: resting.

Long has a great touch with humor in picture books. He makes it broad enough for children to immediately relate to it but not so much as to lose the appeal of discovering the humor for yourself. Horse and Buggy make a strong pair, with the exuberant Horse doing his own thing and Buggy reflecting more of what the reader’s reaction is. The illustrations are large and vibrant filled with bright-colored backgrounds and the gyrations of Horse and Buggy’s dances. One to get the wiggles out! Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.)

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The Field by Baptiste Paul, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara (9780735843127)

Told in both Creole and English, this picture book tells the story of a group of children who want to play soccer together, but they have all sorts of obstacles to overcome. They have to move the cows and goats out of the field and then start to play. Once the game really gets going, the rain starts. They quickly decide to keep right on playing even in the wet and the mud. At the end of the day, they go home dirty and happy.

Set on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, the book invites readers to see connections between Creole and other languages. The text is simple and bold, poetic with its short lines. The entire book is filled with energy and action as the children take the initiative to create a field and play together. The illustrations convey this energy with deep colors that shine on the page. The green grass is nearly neon, the sunlight almost glows, and the color of the children’s clothes completes the rainbow-like palette. A great read that will appeal to young sports fans of any culture. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

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A Hippy-Hoppy Toad by Peggy Archer, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf (9780399556760)

A teeny-tiny toad sits on a twig above a little puddle on the road. His adventure begins when the twig snaps and sends him flying upwards into a tree. A bird tries to peck him, so he jumps down landing on a flower where he has to escape a buzzing bee. He hops down into the safety of the grass on the side of the road, where the toad spots a cricket worth chasing. The cricket escapes thanks to a dog and a lizard. The toad is then picked up with the leaves by the wind and blown into a shoe that takes him on a wild run along the road, right back to his very own twig above the little puddle.

Told in rollicking rhyme, this picture books is a galloping read that begs to be read aloud, giggled at together and shared. There is a wonderful rhythm to the book, a structure that is familiar and yet played with just enough to not be predictable. The nod to traditional songs is appreciated as are the modern touches. The illustrations are filled with small touches of nature with wildflowers blooming and snails and ants climbing around. They also capture the wild journey of our little toad as he adventures through the habitat.

Share this one at your next story time focused on frogs, toads or if you just want kids to jump around a bit. Appropriate for ages 2-5. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade Books and Edelweiss.)

3 New Animal Picture Books to Love

If I Had a Horse by Gianna Marino

If I Had a Horse by Gianna Marino (9781626729087)

This poetic picture book dreams of having a horse. The entire book is dreamy and soft, a more spiritual and sense-filled look at horses than the reality of barns and saddles. In the images, the little girl meets a horse in a field and offers him the largest apple she can find. There are moments of shyness and quiet as the two meet. They admire one another’s qualities of strength and gentleness. The little girl does ride the horse but not so easily until they become better friends. Then they head out together to meet other horses. The illustrations are done entirely in silhouettes filled with rich watercolor washes. The hair of the little girl mirrors that of the horse’s mane and also the blades of grass in the field around them. A beautiful dream of a picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

Many The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies

Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton (9780763694838)

This picture book invites readers to think about the wide amount of diversity in the animals and plants that live on our planet. The book offers a small scientific facts on some pages, giving a closer look at things like mushrooms, microbes, elephants, and habitats. The book moves on to fill pages with images of different types of animals, one fascinating two-page spread has animals that were discovered in the last 50 years. It also explores food cycles for several different species. The book ends with information on how humans are negatively impacting species in the world and encourages children to be aware of how they can make a difference. Filled with interesting facts and vibrant illustrations, this picture book is an invitation to explore nature even further. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Trio The Tale of a Three-Legged Cat by Andrea Wisnewski

Trio: The Tale of a Three-Legged Cat by Andrea Wisnewski (9781567926088)

Trio was a cat born with only three legs. Even though he was missing a hind leg, he still managed to fully explore the chicken coop that he lived in with his siblings and a flock of chickens. Trio liked to explore the world like a chicken would with dust baths and eating bugs. But he could not lay an egg like they did. When Trio finally got all the way up to the nesting boxes, he found that it was warm and cozy there. One day, Trio found an egg in the nest, one that cracked and moved. It eventually hatched into a very special chick. Told in the simplest of sentences, this picture book is filled with a warmth and strong sense of style. The story is based on a real cat who has three legs, though he may not have hatched a chick of his own yet. The illustrations are done in gorgeous paper cuts, that evoke the feeling of woodblock printing. With their organic feel, they add to the friendly warmth of the book. A lovely and accepting look at being differently abled. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Tony by Ed Galing

Tony by Ed Galing

Tony by Ed Galing, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (9781626723085)

Tony was a big white horse who pulled the milk wagon for Tom every morning. Tony pulled the wagon full of eggs, butter and milk. When Tom stopped to make a delivery,  Tony would wait patiently. One child, the narrator, would go outside and greet Tony every morning when they pulled up, giving Tony a hug and a pat. Tom greeted the child too, saying that Tony looked forward every morning to the greeting. Then they went on with their route, and Tony had a little dance in his step in farewell.

This poem by the late Galing makes a wonderful picture book filled with spare language and power. The book walks forward with the solidity of a large horse, the delicacy of breakable eggs, and the spirit of dancing footsteps. It is entirely lovely, creating a sliver of time where horses were used for deliveries and children could greet them eagerly if they were willing to wake early enough.

Stead’s illustrations are exceptionally lovely. Her fine lines bring memories to life. The dreamy nature of the illustrations help us look back in time. She floods some pages with a bright yellow light, welcoming and warm. Others echo the mist of early morning and the quietness.

A lovely poetic picture book that slows you down to another time and place. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

 

 

 

 

Titans by Victoria Scott

Titans by Victoria Scott

Titans by Victoria Scott

Astrid’s family has been destroyed by the Titans, mechanical horses raced at a track near her Detroit neighborhood. Her father lost everything betting on the horses and now they may lose their home. Yet Astrid also finds herself drawn to the Titans and spending time figuring out the math to create the best approaches to turns. So when Astrid meets a strange old man who has a Titan of his own, the first generation ever made, Astrid knows that she just has to try to ride it. It is up to Astrid now to secure the future for her family if she can only prove that a poor girl and an old horse can win.

Scott has written such a rip-roaring story. It is a book that will hook those who love horses as well as those who love racing. It’s a book that is science fiction, but a near future that is all too possible, where the division between rich and poor is even more strong than today and where impossibly complex robotic horses come to life. Even better, it is a world that makes sense for the reader, one with great appeal and a strong heroine to cheer for.

Astrid is an amazing heroine. She has a brain that thinks in mathematics and physics, naturally bounding ahead of others. And she uses it not just to ride differently than the others but also to face the horrible traps set into the race track that change from one race to another.  Astrid is complex. She is deeply loyal to her family, yet does not tell them what she is doing. She also takes longer than the reader to fall for her Titan, something that works very nicely so that the reader is cheering them on together.

A riveting read that is compulsively readable, this teen novel has great appeal and will set anyone’s heart racing. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.

Review: The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton (InfoSoup)

Princess Pinecone is the smallest warrior in a kingdom of warriors. For her birthday, she wanted something other than the cozy sweaters that she usually got. After all, warriors want something that make them feel like champions, not cozy sweaters. So Princess Pinecone asked for a real warrior horse, a grand steed. Unfortunately, what she got was a round little pony who ate what it shouldn’t and then farted too much. The day of a great warrior battle was approaching and Princess Pinecone just asked her pony to do its best. Everyone was fighting with one another and Princess Pinecone stayed at the edge waiting for her opportunity to join in. When Otto, a huge warrior, charged right at her, he was stopped by the cuteness of her pony. One by one all of the fierce warriors stopped to look at her pony, to pet it and hug it. Otto admitted that warriors rarely get to show their cuddly side. And that’s how Princess Pinecone found a use for all of her cozy sweaters and appreciation for her cutest of ponies.

The author of the online comic Hark! A Vagrant has released her first picture book and it’s stellar. First, let’s just applaud a picture book that has a tough heroine at its center, one who uses spitballs, wants to battle, and is looking for a real steed to ride. Second, the book also has other strong female characters, women warriors on the page who are already living the life that the princess seeks. Third, they are also different races. It’s lovely and done without fanfare. Then you also have the fact that the princess is feminine and cute herself. She does not have to reject that part of her to be a warrior. And finally of course you have the cute pony that manages to win a battle in its own way. This book is all about being yourself, whoever you are and the magic that happens when you do just that.

Beaton’s illustrations add so much to the appeal of this book. I love that the pony is a zany cute with eyes that sometimes don’t look in the same direction and a penchant for farting. Round and sturdy, it is impossibly cute. The warriors are also wonderful in their own ways, wearing different types of armor with missing teeth and green hair, they are individuals to the core. And yes, there’s even ice cream at the battle, adding the sense of merriment throughout.

Funny and intelligent, this picture book will have any warrior princess clamoring for more. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Good Night, Knight by Betsy Lewin

good night knight

Good Night, Knight by Betsy Lewin

When Horse and Knight are falling asleep, Knight has a dream about golden cookies. So he wakes up Horse and sets off on a quest to find the golden cookies. They search everywhere, in hollow tree trunks and under water and in the bushes, riding from one place to the next at a brisk trot. It isn’t until they return home and Knight has collapsed from exhaustion that Knight realizes that the cookies were right in their castle all along. The two have a golden cookie feast and then go to bed, but it’s not long before Horse has a golden dream of his own!

Written for emerging readers, this picture book is written with a limited vocabulary and words that repeat on the page and from one section of the story to another. The picture book format will invite reluctant readers to give reading a try. Lewin also wisely incorporates plenty of humor and galloping around, giving the reader reasons to turn the page to see what will happen next. It’s a good mix of action and silliness.

Lewin’s illustrations break the text into nice readable chunks appropriate for beginning readers. Plenty of attention is paid to the illustrations, offering humor beyond the text itself. For example, Knight never removes his armor, even to sleep! The art is simple, funny and inviting.

Head out on a quest with your beginning reader and this simple picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Holiday House.

Review: Abuelo by Arthur Dorros

abuelo

Abuelo by Arthur Dorros, illustrated by Raul Colon

A boy and his grandfather spend time together riding horses and camping.  They have adventures outdoors losing the trail and even facing a mountain lion.  His grandfather taught him to stand strong like a tree.  Then one day the boy moved with his family to the city, leaving his grandfather behind.  The city was very different.  The stars were hard to see, but they were the same stars.  The boy learned to use what his grandfather taught him in the countryside.  He even stood up to a bully on the first day of school, standing strong as a tree.

Told in graceful free verse, this book reads quickly rather like a brisk horseback ride.  Completely controlled and peppered with Spanish, the book evokes the freedom of the countryside and also the lessons of strength being taught across generations. 

Colon’s illustrations evoke the differences between the country and the city.  The open freedom of the countryside is contrasted against the constraints of the city, yet the sky ranges wide above both and there is freedom when riding your bike just as when riding your horse. 

Free verse mingles with the freedom of the range in this multi-generational title, a perfect masculine accompaniment to Dorros’ Abuela.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Review: Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger

crankee doodle

Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger

Brace yourself for a picture book that is entire silliness and proud of it!  In a riff on Yankee Doodle, this story tells readers that it was all the pony’s idea.  Yankee Doodle is bored and goes off on rants about how he doesn’t want to go to town or go shopping.  Then the pony suggests a feather for his cap, which starts another rant.  The pony finishes with a suggestion to call it macaroni.  After that rant, he explains that macaroni is another word for fancy, and that Yankee Doodle may want to call it lasagna instead.  In the end, the two of them head off to town, just like the pony wanted all along.

Angleberger writes with such a wry sense of humor here.  The rants by Yankee Doodle are a hoot to read aloud, the text heavy with indignation and exclamation points.  The sly pony seems to know just what he is doing as he lets Yankee Doodle blow off steam but gets his own way in the end.  The book ends with a historical note about the real history of the song.

The illustrations are done in gouache with a thick black line and bold colors.  The entire book pops visually and will work with larger groups of children thanks to its clarity and strong shapes. 

This one is a winner for story times.  Expect guffaws from children who know the song!  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Rosie’s Magic Horse by Russell Hoban

rosies magic horse

Rosie’s Magic Horse by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Quentin Blake

Rosie collects popsicle sticks that she finds on the ground, creating a collection.  But the popsicle sticks miss their cold sweet ice and wish that they were something more than just discarded sticks.  Maybe they could be a horse!  Meanwhile, Rosie’s parents are worried about bills and how they will pay them.  That night Rosie and the popsicle sticks head out on an adventure together as the popsicle sticks join to become a horse, Stickerino.  Rosie wants to find treasure and first the horse takes her to a mountain made of popsicle ice, but Rosie wants real treasure.  You know that that means pirates!  This story is a true flight of imagination, or perhaps a gallop!

Hoban and Blake are quite a team in this book.  Hoban writes in mostly dialogue here and throughout has a focus on brevity and clarity.  It works well against the wild imaginative nature of the book, making the text a firm foundation from which to launch.  Blake’s illustrations are quintessentially his with their jaunty lines and loose watercolor tones. 

Perfect for inspiring bedtime dreams of popsicles and horses, this book requires you to just go along for the ride.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.