Returning to the world that Klassen has built in his previous picture books is pure joy. In this picture book, he presents a series of short chapters that tell the story of a tortoise, and armadillo and a snake. In the first story, the tortoise has his own favorite spot to stand that is near a flower. The armadillo though prefers a spot near a small sapling. Readers know a huge rock is hurtling towards them. But who has decided on the right place? In the second story, the tortoise climbs the rock and falls off, yet he doesn’t want any help at all getting turned back over. The third story has the friends imagining the future. Plants will grow up around the rock and there may be a terrifying one-eyed creature too. The next two stories deal with feeling left out until that same terrifying creature returns.
Klassen has such a delightful darkness to his stories. This one still has hats in it, but they aren’t the focus of any of the stories. Instead it is the rock itself that literally anchors the stories together along with the three animals who find themselves near it. Klassen creates real drama with the tension he builds in his stories, moving from the rock hurtling to the quiet of it afterwards. He also moves from imagining what could happen to that happening very quickly in reality. These elements add a dark humor to everything, making the books immensely funny even as they take a turn.
As always, Klassen’s art is simple and powerful. He uses the pages as almost a stage with a line of horizon that stays consistent throughout the book. The dialogue is either on its own page or on a distinctly separate part of the illustration, allowing the action to continue to play out in front of the reader and listener.
Dark, funny and full of surprises. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
We Love Fishing by Ariel Bernstein, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal (9781534438644)
Bear, Porcupine, and Otter love fishing. Squirrel isn’t quite as enthusiastic as the others. Bear, Porcupine and Otter love eating fish. Squirrel thinks fish smell too fishy. Bear, Porcupine and Otter love walking through the woods on their way to catching fish. Squirrel doesn’t like the bugs, the steep terrain or the rocks. In fact, he’d much rather take a taxi. The others love the hours it takes to catch the fish while Squirrel is horribly bored. The other don’t mind the rain which makes Squirrel’s hair frizz. After a mishap with the only fish they manage to catch, the others realize they love Squirrel and his offer to buy dinner more than they like fishing.
Told in marvelously “factual” statements that the entire foursome love the same things, this picture book shows Squirrel’s opinions in a wry and funny way. Bernstein’s very simple writing is just right for sharing aloud. The change from enthusiastic fishing to frustration is one that most people on fishing trips have experience at one time or another. Happily, this group has Squirrel and his phone to save the day and fill their stomachs.
The art is simple and bold, showing clearly the emotions that each creature is feeling on their day out together. Rosenthal uses body language and facial expressions to great effect. The images use plenty of white space, inviting readers to both enjoy the outing and also to understand Squirrel’s point of view too.
For anyone who has ever gone fishing, particularly those of us who fall asleep in the boat. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Cole has a favorite knight of King Arthur’s Round Table. So he writes Sir Percival a letter asking to be his assistant knight. Sir Percival received the letter and cried, because knights do cry and he too as a boy asked to be an apprentice. Cole had a lot to learn in his new position. There were many things to do and figure out how to help Sir Percival be a great knight: lugging stuff, getting knocked down, and cheering him along. Sir Percival was also terrified of the Underwear Dragon, unfortunately that dragon arrived and destroyed the kingdom. All of the knights lost! So Cole wrote another letter, this time to the Underwear Dragon. But dragons can’t read, so the dragon ate the letter and just kept on destroying things. The Underwear Dragon finally faced off against Cole. Cole was scared, but had also learned a lot of skills. He used them all until finally the underwear flew off, and the dragon left. Cole became a member of the Round Table, but needed a nap before he could choose his own assistant knight.
Rothman has created a very funny picture book that plays against knight stereotypes, making them marvelously open about their feelings. He has a great sense of comedic timing where the impact is increased by page turns. The book has several montage scenes of things like “why knights cry” and “what Cole needed to learn” that are funny and boisterous. The Underwear Dragon himself gets his own montage of things that he cannot read, which makes for great comedy as well.
The illustrations are just right for reading aloud, whether to a group or individuals. There are many sight gags, offering just the right amount of silliness to an already funny book.
Funny, silly and full of knights and dragons. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House Books for Young Readers.
In this hilarious easy reader, the main character is a dog. But the narrator of the story has other ideas. The first story is simply called “See the Cat” and the dog must insist he certainly is not a cat, definitely not a blue cat in a green dress, and most definitively not riding a unicorn. Still, there’s a nice twist in the end that ends with an embarrassed “red dog.” In the second story, the dog is happily snoozing when the narrator announces that you can “see the snake.” The snake is under the dog, and then gets quite angry. But before the snake can bite the dog, the way the narrator says, the dog comes up with his own solution involving a pencil. In the last story, the reader is told to “see the dog” but then the dog is ordered to spin, jump and even fly or else he will get sat on by a hippo! In the end though, the dog does some bargaining and can go back to napping with no snakes or hippos in sight.
LaRochelle’s easy reader is very funny, just the right sort of humor for young children. The pacing is great with the page turns adding to the moments of reveal and drama. The text is very simple, with the humor playing up the format of an easy reader and it’s straight-forward language. The result is a book that is silly and a delight, something that could be read again and again by new readers who will giggle every time.
The art suits that of an easy reader too, done in simple lines and nice large formats. The dog’s expressions are classic cartoon and add to the humor of the book. When things like the snake and hippo appear, it increases the merriment.
A great addition to easy readers, this one is a hoot! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
After falling asleep chewing gum, it ends up in your hair. When your father tries to cut out the gum, the scissors end up stuck there too. They look online and discover that all the website advise to use two sticks of butter. But the websites were wrong, and the butter is also now in your hair. Your aunt adds the grass. Your grandpa adds the bacon and noodles. Your rabbit eats grass, but ends up stuck too. Perhaps the cat will help? Or scaring the cat away from your head with the vacuum cleaner? Nope, those are stuck too. But don’t worry, the firemen are on their way!
Rex writes this book in the second person, inviting the reader to feel what it’s like not just to have gum in your hair, but all of these other things. It makes the book feel personal and also adds to the wild hilarity as the story builds. The focus of the illustrations is just like the cover, with the desperation building. Rex continues to add to the humor all the way to the end, creating a real catastrophe that will have children entirely engaged.
The illustrations are marvelous with the various family members coming in with their own solutions. The desperation in the main character’s eyes adds to the hilarity, even as they look right at the reader. There’s a wonderful blankness there too, a sense of despair.
Hilarious, this is one you are bound to stick with until the end. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Ross desperately just wants to be normal, but that isn’t working out for him. After being diagnosed with a rare eye cancer, he has a permanent wink. He goes for treatments each week, making friends with an old guy who is always there as well as with one of the technicians who is desperate to improve Ross’ taste in music. Meanwhile at school, he is steadily becoming stranger as his hair starts to fall out in clumps, he has to use gloppy creams, and he starts to wear a hat all the time. He’s the opposite of normal and the bully in his class definitely notices. But even as he gets further from normal, he starts to figure some things out, like how great it feels to play the guitar even if your fingers are ready to bleed, how amazing it is to play in a band, and how a ton of humor can get you through almost anything.
Based on the author’s personal story, this book takes a unique look at a cancer journey. Harrell’s book is downright hilarious, never allowing the book become too full of the harrowing nature of having a rare cancer and the impacts of the treatment. Ross and Rob are too funny to let that happen, incorporating the adventures of Batpig to help. Through all of the humor a poignancy shines through, allowing those moments of serious crisis to really stand out with their importance and yet also their impermanence.
The book is filled with comic pages, art, and notes. It has hair clumps, face goop, music mixes and more. These graphic elements help to break up the text but also really demonstrate Ross’ skill with art and his quirky sense of humor as he deals with his cancer.
Funny, sarcastic and honest, this is a cancer book with laughter and head-banging music, not tears. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Exactly the right book to pick up when a child has to read for 20 minutes but doesn’t want to. Filled with humor and plenty of empathy for their plight, this book will have the pages turning quickly. Done with very little text on each page and large graphic elements, the book first looks at the rules of reading: Eyes on book. Butt on chair. Easy words are then offered in a list, and then a handful of hard words too, though you are encouraged to just skip words like “plutonium” and “photosynthesis.” Ways to escape your reading exile are also suggested like going to the bathroom or getting a bloody nose. A few blank pages make them turn even faster. Still, in the end, the book actually will get reluctant readers to not only open it up but to read!
The tone of this book is exactly right. There is a wonderful sneakiness to it, inviting children to scheme along with the narrating voice about how to stop reading. And yet, in order to play that naughty game, they have to read. The humor is broad and inviting, while still offering real tips for readers that actually work.
The book design plays a huge role here too. With minimal text on the pages done in large fonts, the rest of the page is designed to be bright and lively with large graphical elements like zippers, flashlight beams, movie film, and the play of black pages and white.
Funny and effective, get this into the hands of reluctant readers. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Part of the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series, this easy reader is about a tiger who is big and brave. In fact, he’s not afraid of anything… except worms. Worms are slimy and wiggly and confusing. Tiger loves flowers, but wait! Flowers grow in dirt, and you know that worms live in dirt. Tiger throws the flowerpot into the air and breaks it. No worms there though. Tiger also loves apples, but wait! Worms love apples too. He throws the apple into the air, splat. No worms in the apple. Then he finds a book, that just might be all about worms. It’s too much for Tiger to take, and he runs off. Now the worms come out of the ground. They discover the dirt, the apples and a nice book. They are scared of tigers usually, but this one seems to have left them all their favorite things. Time for a worm hug to thank him!
Higgins sets just the right pace and tone in this easy reader. The page turns are well done, allowing some sentences to hang between pages, building the suspense. He creates plenty of angst and drama here with so few elements, just flowers, apples and a book. It’s a remarkable feat to have so much emotion about worms.
Higgins’ art is marvelous. With nods to Calvin and Hobbes, Pigeon that appear occasionally, and even a likeness of himself and Willems on the back of the book that should not be missed. Tiger’s emotions show not only in his facial expressions but through his entire body, emoting clearly on the page and drawing children in.
Smart, funny and fast, just what you want in an easy reader. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Hyperion Books for Children.
Llama continues on his path of scientific exploration and world destruction in this second picture book in the series following Llama Destroys the World. The book opens with the promise that by dinner Llama will have unleashed a great alpacalypse upon the world. Breakfast comes first but Llama makes an awful mess making a balanced meal. He hates to clean up, so he turns to inventing a new solution, a dangerous one, a Replicator 3000. At lunch, Llama invites Alpaca over. Alpaca loves to clean and soon is inside the replicator. With a zoop, she is replicated, but then Llama continues to push the button, creating an army of cleaning alpacas set to clean the world. As they leave Llama’s house and head out, dinnertime arrives. Disaster near, but a clever plan involving great pizza may be enough to save us all, until dessert.
I adored the first book in this series which had plenty of humor and lots of science. This second book has a lot to love too. It has less science but continues with the wild humor of the first, offering plenty of clever noises, rather clueless characters, and dangerous but exhilarating science experiments.
Fox’s art adds to much to the book with her googly-eyed Llama and Alpaca, the merrily cleaning army, and the alarmed citizens. Swirls of toilet paper, wet mop paths, and spritzes of cleaner make this just right for our pandemic sensibilities too.
One joyous mess of a picture book. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Henry, Holt and Company.