Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse by Jane Godwin

Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse by Jane Godwin

Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse by Jane Godwin, illustrated by Blanca Gomez (9780525553816)

Told in simple rhymes, this book invites the youngest children to explore its pages and engage with the questions asked inside. The book begins with houses, including a little tree house for the tiny mouse. Colors are explored and then there is counting on the next page combined with more colors. The book takes readers on a bus, into the ocean, on all sorts of transportation, and asks engaging questions of the reader along the way. The book ends by inviting readers to look for the mouse hiding in every illustration.

This picture book’s jaunty rhymes are reminiscent of classic children’s books like Go Dog Go! The way that children are invited to engage with the book is wonderful and will help parents new to sharing books with children understand the sorts of questions that can be asked about the images in any picture book. Gomez’s illustrations are full of pure and bright colors that leap from the page, glowing with red, green, blue, orange and pink. The people on the pages are diverse and the urban setting where most of the book takes place is busy and friendly.

Engaging and fun, this book is best shared with only a few children so their perspectives can be heard. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Dial Books.

Review: Home Is a Window by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard

Home Is a Window by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard

Home Is a Window by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard, illustrated by Chris Sasaki (9780823441563)

A little girl celebrates her city home and all of the things that make it special. From the small touches like a basket for your shoes and plants in the corner to the lamplight at night from a neighbor’s window. Her family makes it special too, doing chores together, fixing mistakes, and helping one another. When the family moves to a new home, they take a lot of the elements that make it special with them. In the new house, they will once again create a home together.

In statements that begin with “Home is…” this picture book explores what makes a house a home. From the smells to the people to the windows themselves, each piece fits together like a puzzle. Ledyard’s prose asks people to slow down, to celebrate the everyday and small moments that make up their lives and their homes. The switch to a book about moving later in the book makes the first part all the more important and profound, allowing the family to rebuild easily the sense of home they always carry with them.

Sasaki’s illustrations show a multi-racial family spending days together filled with love and in a home that is warm and colorful. Those elements carry throughout the illustrations, each one making sure that readers know that small touches create a home. From lamplight at night to tables filled with family.

A beautiful look at family, home and moving. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Neal Porter Books.

Review: The Great Indoors by Julie Falatko

The Great Indoors by Julie Falatko

The Great Indoors by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Ruth Chan (9781368000833)

When the humans head out on vacation, the animals move in for their own holiday time. The beavers head to the kitchen to make plenty of snacks for everyone. The deer set up a dance party. A teen bear takes over the bathroom to curl her hair. The skunks used their cell phones. The bears used the humans’ tools to build things. Now there was no peace and quiet, no lack of screen time, and everything the indoor life had to offer. But as the week goes on, the parties and life of ease turn into one big mess. At the end of the week, it is clear that the animals are looking forward to returning to the peace of the outdoors. But what happens when the humans get home?

Told with a broad sense of humor, this picture book turns a lens on our own lifestyles and vacations. The joy of the animals at their return to the ease of electricity, TVs, cell phones and more is a great start to the book. As the vacation goes on though, the toll those options take is clear. Yet the book is not a lecture on modern convenience as the tone is kept light and humorous.

Chan’s art is marvelous, playing up the humor of the situation. From the tower of ice cream buckets arriving to the final mess of the house, the illustrations add so much to this picture book. Butter-licking deer, broken beds, nacho cheese in a toaster and more add to the final chaos.

A giggle of a book, this is a good one to share. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Disney Hyperion.

Review: The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson (9781338209969)

Marinka never asked to be a Yaga, but since she is the granddaughter of a Baba Yaga, she has been learning to speak with the dead and guide them through the Gate and into the stars. All Marinka really wants is to make a real human friend and do things that other twelve-year-olds do. Making friends is nearly impossible though when you live in a house with chicken legs that can move you all over the world overnight. So when Marinka gets another chance to make friends with someone, she takes it, even if it breaks all of the rules that she has been taught. As her decision changes her entire life, Marinka is left to figure out who she really is and what she wants to be.

Anderson has a clear love of Russian folktales, taking a beautiful view of Baba Yaga and giving her a larger community, more chicken-footed houses and a longing for family. The folktales at the center of the book continue to reverberate throughout the story, offering Marinka distinct choices. Marinka makes her own decisions though, ones that readers will not agree with though they might understand. As her situation grows direr, Marinka becomes almost unlikeable, and yet Anderson is able to bring us back to loving her by the end.

Anderson surrounds Marinka with a beautiful and rich world. There is her own Baba Yaga, filling the house with good cooking, lots of love and ghosts every evening. Then there is Jack, Marinka’s pet jackdaw, who sits on her shoulder and puts pieces of food in people’s ears and socks. A baby lamb soon joins them as well. Yet by far, the most compelling member of Marinka’s home is the house itself. Filled with personality and opinions, the house is intelligent and ever-changing.

A dynamic retelling of the Baby Yaga folktale, this picture book offers a big world of magic and ghosts to explore. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Scholastic.

3 New Picture Books Featuring Friends

A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano

A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Lane Smith (9781626723146)

Two children head into the woods and discover an old house that is no longer a home. Once painted blue with an overgrown path, the house has a door that is stuck partly open. So the children enter through a broken window. Inside they find clues about the people who used to live there. There are art supplies, photographs, things in the kitchen for cooking, and beds that are still made. Could the owner have been a sea captain? Or perhaps a woman who painted in the garden? A girl or a boy? A king or a queen? And why did they leave this house waiting for them, never to return?

Such a gorgeous picture book. The writing is exceptional, the poetry invites readers to head forward slowly as if exploring an old house themselves. The writing looks at things from different angles, puts words together carefully and asks readers to think a bit before moving on. The pacing is delicious and just right, echoing the activities described on the page. Smith’s illustrations are layered and loose, the color on the page almost lifted by the breeze like pollen. It settles and lifts again.

Seriously one of the best picture books of the year. This is treat by two master artists must be shared with children!

Jerome by Heart by Thomas Scotto

Jerome by Heart by Thomas Scotto, illustrated by Olivier Tallec (9781592702503)

This beautiful, heartfelt picture book shows the incredible joy of having a true childhood friend. In this book, Raphael loves his best friend Jerome. He’s a friend who isn’t afraid to hold hands, picks Raphael as his partner at school, shares his snacks, and defends Raphael if anyone picks on him. When Raphael’s parents react rather rudely when he expresses his admiration and adoration of Jerome, Raphael heads to his room. There he looks for a great gift for Jerome, until he is distracted thinking about adventures that he and Jerome can have together. Because they will!

A French import, this picture book is childhood captured on the page. There is a merriment to the boys’ time together and an innocence inherent in the way they treat one another. And yet Raphael has beautifully concrete reasons that he loves Jerome and it’s all about how well he is treated and how Jerome makes him feel inside. The parents’ reaction may echo some of the reactions of adult readers who may wonder if there is more connection between the boys than just friends. That is neatly put in its place as Raphael heads off to be with his friend regardless of what that friendship may eventually mean for them.

Tallec’s illustrations are as masterful as ever. The pairing of the two boys is depicted with solid connections between the two of them. They have a lovely playfulness about them that capture the friendship of the boys and mimics the merriment that the boys feel when together. A delicate and touching story of friendship. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Enchanted Lion Books.)

Rescue & Jessica A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky

Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, illustrated by Scott Magoon (9780763696047)

Written by two of the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, this picture book is the true story of one of them and their service dog, Rescue. It is the story of a dog learning to serve and a girl learning to survive after losing a leg. Both of them train long and hard separately until they are paired together. The two of them spend their days together and Rescue helps Jessica heal after she loses her remaining leg. After that, the training starts all over again, but this time they do it together. This picture book captures a story of resilience and survival after a tragedy and the difference a service dog makes in that recovery and life afterwards.

The writing here is told with a light tone where possible. It helps tremendously that readers can see Rescue training to be Jessica’s dog even as her story is deep in shadows and pain. The mirroring of their hard work is also very successful, showing the dedication they both had to have even before they meet one another. The illustrations are very effective, using white and black backgrounds to show hope and challenging times. Throughout though, there is hope, in the form on one black dog who stands strong against dark and light. A winning picture book that is inspiring and courageous. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

 

 

This House, Once by Deborah Freedman

This House Once by Deborah Freedman

This House, Once by Deborah Freedman (9781481442848, Amazon)

Simple and profound, this picture book by a master author/illustrator takes a look at the wonder behind everyday objects like a house. The door was once a huge oak tree. The stones were raised from deep underground. The bricks came from mud that was baked hard. The windows were once sand. The book takes a quiet and focused look at the transformation of materials into the items that surround us.

I find myself unable to capture in words the beauty of this quiet book. It has a gorgeous meditative quality to it, a look at the importance of the history of our things, their origins and the skill that it took to make them. Freedman manages to convey all of that with simple words and taking a look at where all of the parts of the house came from one after another. The ending wraps it all up, tying it all back to the front door as the house comes to life around the reader.

Freedman’s art is dreamy and soft. She creates clouds and leaves with watercolors that feather on the page. Young animals play together in the natural settings that the objects originated in. There are puddles, mud, stones underground, and more. Then the house, solid and warm, lit with by a fireplace, still open to dreams.

A brilliant picture book that will entrance young readers, little builders and budding scientists. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: Busy-Busy Little Chick by Janice N. Harrington

busy busy little chick

Busy-Busy Little Chick by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Mama Nsoso and her chicks needed a new home.  They spent each night shivering and cold in their dark, damp nest.  So Mama Nsoso said that tomorrow they would start work on their new home.  But the first day, Mama Nsoso found worms to eat and decided to eat rather than build a house.  The family shivered through another night.  The next day there were crickets to eat and no work was done.  Except by Little Chick who set out to gather grasses and mud to create their new home.  His hard work resulted in a fine new home for them, and then he was off finding himself some delicious bugs to eat. 

Harrington writes like a storyteller.  Her words flow beautifully when shared aloud.  She has reworked a classic fable from the Nkundo people of Central Africa and throughout has woven in Lunkundo words from their language.  She has also added lots of sounds to the book, so there are wonderful patterns that emerge as the hen and her chicks move through their day.  She clearly enjoys wordplay and creating rhymes and rhythms, all of which make for a great book to share aloud.

Pinkney’s art is large and bold, filled with warm yellows and oranges.  He has created images of the hen and her little family isolated and floating in cold blues.  They are brilliant orange, evoking the warmth of family and shelter.  His art is simple but filled with moving lines and playfulness with white space. 

A great pick for spring story times, don’t be chicken to share this one.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Review: Building Our House by Jonathan Bean

building our house

Building Our House by Jonathan Bean

Told through the eyes of a young girl, this picture book chronicles her family’s move from the city to the country.  There in a bare field, they are going to build their own home.  The family works for a year and a half on their house, living in a very cozy trailer while they complete enough of the house to live in it.  Slowly the house takes shape from pegging out the corners to digging out the foundation to the incredible use of hand tools to work on the lumber for the frame.  Through it all, the entire family is involved in the process and what an amazing process it is!

There are plenty of lumber, rocks, trucks and construction in the book to keep children intrigued.  It is great to see a construction book where children are right in the middle of things, helping and getting fully engaged and dirty.  The story is based off of Bean’s own childhood when his own parents built their family home from the ground up.  It is told from his older sister’s perspective.  I think that is what really comes through in this story.  It is intensely personal but also wonderfully detailed so that children really get the feel of what it is to spend over a year building a home.

Bean’s writing and illustrations work beautifully together.  The illustrations are filled with small touches like the cats who join the family.  The seasons rush in and out, changing plans and creating a colorful background for the story.  This is a house that honors the site it is built on with all of the nature around it, the book does as well.

Get this into the hands of young construction enthusiasts definitely!  But it has appeal far beyond that since it is a story of family at its heart.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Review: Too Tall Houses by Gianna Marino

too tall houses

Too Tall Houses by Gianna Marino

Rabbit and Owl live right next door to one another at the top of a hill in separate small houses.  Rabbit likes growing vegetables and Owl likes the view of the forest.  They were good friends.  Until one day, Rabbit’s vegetables got so tall that they blocked Owl’s view of the forest.  Rabbit refused to cut his vegetables down, so Owl built his house taller.  Then Owl’s house was blocking the sun from reaching Rabbit’s garden, so Rabbit built a taller house and put his garden on the roof.   So started the competition to have the tallest house.  And my, do the houses ever get taller and taller! 

Marino does a great job of telling a story that has the heart and soul of a classic folktale.  The friendship and competition between the two animals carries a subtle lesson that is masked effectively in humor.  She doesn’t back away from carrying the tale to its very funny extreme ending.  The story is kept simple, allowing the illustrations to carry much of the story forward.

Marino’s illustrations have the colors of fall and warmth.  From the orange branches Owl uses to create his home to the terra cotta bricks of Rabbit’s, the colors are bright and autumnal.  As the houses grow into the sky, the colors are cooler, emphasizing that they are leaving the comfort of their warm homes and creating homes simply to beat someone else. 

This is a funny, warm and memorable read that will get your audience laughing.  Perfect for reading aloud any time of year.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.