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.
How to Give Your Cat a Bath by Nicola Winstanley, illustrated by John Martz (9780735263543)
A simple five-step guide to giving your cat a bath becomes a romp of a picture book. Just filling the tub with the right amount of water is a challenge. First too much, then too little. Then the cat disappears. Maybe it’s time for a milk and cookie break? The girl returns to the bathroom with her cat, but now the water is cold. The cat escapes again. She chases after forgetting to turn off the water which creates a flood. Once the water is mopped up, it’s time to start again. Or perhaps there’s a simpler solution?
The flat voice of a guide book adds so much to the humor here. The timing is also exceptionally done with the design of the page turns adding a touch of suspense to the fun. The entire book is lighthearted and played for laughs. The art is done in simple lines which emphasizes the chaos that eventually occurs on the page. The messes accumulate, moving into new rooms.
A complete giggle-fest of a book particularly for families who love cats. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
The winners of the 2019 Lollies (Laugh Out Loud) Book Awards have been announced. The award celebrates the funniest children’s books. The winners are selected from a shortlist and voted on by children in the UK.
BEST PICTURE BOOK
Mr. Bunny’s Chocolate Factory by Elys Dolan
BEST 6-8s BOOK
The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of a Pig by Emer Stamp
BEST 9-13s BOOK
Tom Gates: Epic Adventure (Kind Of) by Liz Pichon
Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr (9781536200171)
Astrid loves living in her tiny village in the mountains. The only problem is that no other children live nearby. She does have a best friend, Gunnvald, a neighbor in his seventies who loves to play the fiddle and can be rather grumpy. Astrid spends her time playing outside, building prototype sleds with Gunnvald, and bothering the owner of the wellness retreat nearby. When some children do come to the retreat (where children are forbidden) Astrid becomes friends with them despite having a fight first. Astrid’s world is idyllic, but something is about to change. When Gunnvald has an accident and has to have surgery, the secret he has been keeping from Astrid is revealed. Could it be that nothing will ever go back to normal again?
This Norwegian book has been translated into languages and sold around the world. It’s wonderful to see it on American shelves. Parr writes with a delightful sense of merriment throughout her book. She speaks to the importance of children having freedom and an ability to make choices in their life (even if one of those choices can’t be missing school all the time). She also demonstrates what a life lived outdoors looks like and the importance of loving a place and identifying with it.
The book uses the story of Heidi as a central plot point, which is very interesting since I had been thinking of how much this tale was like Heidi from the start. It is partly the setting itself of a mountaintop with an older man who is grumpy yet warm. But another large component is the character at the heart of both stories. Astrid, like Heidi, is fiercely independent and loves with all her being.
Richly told, this book is a delightful wintry read that feels like a long-lost classic. Get it into the hands of fans of Heidi and Pippi Longstocking. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Candlewick Press.
Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks (9781368008440)
Living on Wilnick, an outdated and aging space station at the end of the galaxy could be dull, but not for best friends Sanity and Tallulah. Sanity, who has always wanted a pet despite rules against having one, decides to create one herself. It turns out to be a very cute three-headed kitten with a taste for meat. The kitten manages to escape soon after Tallulah’s mother finds out that she exists. The girls set out to find out whether the problems that are happening across the space station are the fault of one cute kitten or maybe it’s something else. Meanwhile, there seems to be a very large monster on the loose and the coolant tank appears to have been drunk dry. As disaster looms aboard the space station, it’s up to Sanity to save the day thanks to the technology she explored when creating her illegal pet.
Brooks sets exactly the right tone in this graphic novel. The girls best friends who tend to talk one another into getting into even more trouble while trying to fix what they have already done. Add in a three-headed kitten and mayhem follows. The two girls could not be more different, which makes for an odd-couple chemistry between them. The story is fast paced and a delightful mix of STEM and girl power.
The art in the book is done in a limited color palette with pinks and deep blues. The art brings to life the space station and its size, conveying the hazards of keeping it functional while giving the girls a lot of space to run into trouble. The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse and that extends to all of the people who live aboard the space station.
A strong graphic novel with plenty of appeal. Appropriate for ages 9-12
Reviewed from library copy.
Sir Simon: Super Scarer by Cale Atkinson (9781101919095)
Simon is a ghost who has haunted a bunch of different places like a forest and a boat. Now he has his first assignment to haunt a house. As a ghost, he has chores that he has to take care of, including moving things around, creaking the stairs and flushing the toilets. After he does that, he has time for his own hobbies. Everything was going well until a child moved in, a child who could immediately see Simon and wanted to talk. Simon decides to have the boy do his ghost chores for him, but things don’t work out quite as planned.
Atkinson tells this story in Simon the ghost’s voice which creates a great tone throughout. The book is filled with humor, from Simon’s previous jobs in haunting to his list of the easiest people to scare to the boy learning to haunt a house. The art adds to that appeal with funny touches like using a flowered sheet to be a ghost. It is done in a style that has a vintage feel and a modern edge.
A great ghost story when you are looking for giggles rather than gasps. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Knights vs. Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan (9780062686237)
King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table love to tell tall tales of their adventures, but they are all lies. There just aren’t enough mythical beasts for them to battle. When Sir Erec brags that he’d slain forty dragons, he knew that he’d pushed the storytelling too far. It caught Merlin’s attention and Merlin suggested that Sir Erec, Sir Bors, Sir Hector and the Black Knight explore one particular cave. As they did so, along with Bors’ brave squire, they are transported back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Now there were more than enough “dragons” to battle! But they may just prove to be too much for our hearty knights. The question becomes who would win in a battle, a knight or a dinosaur?
Phelan clearly has had a ball writing this book. It is filled with jaunty references to King Arthur’s court and has a humor that children will love. The knights have distinct personalities from one another and beautifully grate on one-another’s nerves. The knights enter a world of real peril where Phelan creates moment after moment of battles, dangers and sword-swinging good times.
There are a couple of reveals here that invite young women to see themselves as knights too. In fact, the female knight completely rocks! The dinosaurs who battle one another with a joyous abandon add so much to the tale, something that dinosaur fans will love to see. The book has illustrations sprinkled throughout, breaking up the text for young readers.
A boisterous, battle-filled book that will appeal to young knights and young dinosaur experts and anyone looking for a good read. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins.
Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner (9781481495561)
AJ just doesn’t feel like he fits in with his two best friends anymore. They are always daring each other to do things and have fantastic lives where they take big risks and brag about them. In contrast, AJ feels short and dull. But then he decides to take a big risk and start talking to a girl he’s had a crush on for years. He’s just not sure how to get Nia’s attention. He knows she is way into vampire novels, so he starts to read them too. Perhaps all it will take is some fake blood around the gums to get her to notice him. However, when Nia does notice AJ, she thinks he’s a real vampire and she has dedicated her life to slaying them. What none of them can see though is that there is a real vampire in their midst! Something they might figure out too late.
This graphic novel for teens and pre-teens is just right for both Twilight fans and Twilight haters. Getting it into the hands of Buffy fans would also be a great choice. Gardner wisely plays on the tropes of vampire novels, using similar character names and book titles. Throughout there is a sense that the reader is in on the broader joke of it all, something that is entirely charming.
Readers will figure out that there is a real vampire long before the characters do and Gardner then lets that play out delightfully. There is no attempt to conceal it, either through the storyline or the art work. And the art work is excellent, offering large panels in a colorful vampire-filled world. It has a cartoon feel to it that makes it approachable and then the humor completes it nicely.
A great pick for fans and haters alike, this one would make a great graphic novel to book talk to middle-schoolers and teens. Appropriate for ages 11-15.
Reviewed from library copy.
Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith (9781534422209)
Cager’s best friend Billy and caretaker Rowan have taken him to his father’s huge cruise-liner spaceship orbiting the moon in order to break his drug habit. It was meant to be for a short period of time but while they are up in the ship, the earth with its thirty wars burns up. Now Billy, Rowan and Cager are the three last humans left alive with thousands of cogs (robots) around them to serve their every need. The cogs usually have one dominant personality trait and unfortunately that can be anger, glee, talkativeness or being constantly horny. As Billy and Cager explore the ship, they find that something strange is going on. Cager is certain that there are human girls aboard the ship because he can smell them. But even more interesting and perplexing, the cogs have started eating one another!
Wow. I fell hard for this wild and zany science fiction novel. It can be read as a rather sexual romp in space with horny robots and aliens intent on destroying the cogs. But Smith uses that tantalizing premise to really ask some deeper questions about humanity, about robots that are so close to being human that it may not matter any more, about love and about survival of a species that may be in its final version. Smith avoids becoming too didactic by continuing to have frantic and funny moments throughout from a tiger-eating giraffe with a French accent to Parker, the perpetually horny personal servant.
It is incredible that Smith keeps enough rein on this book as it strains to break free and become a farce at any moment. Yet he does, partly thanks to Cager, the lead character, who though he is spoiled and beyond wealthy, also has a straight-forward take on life whether beating a cog to death with a shoe or hanging cogs by the neck to save them.
A deep book hidden in farts, horniness and space, this is one incredible teen novel. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Simon & Schuster.