Harold & Hog Pretend for Real by Dan Santat (9781368027168)
Harold and Hog decide to pretend to be Elephant and Piggie in this easy reader that pays homage to the genius of Mo Willems while making something entirely new. The two characters put on Gerald’s glasses and Piggie’s nose to help them pretend. Harold starts to describe what Piggie is like with Piggie’s carefree exuberance. Harold can’t wait to try to be Gerald with his carefulness too. Harold wants to be careful as he dances, flies and does so many things! Suddenly Harold realizes that he can’t be Gerald and Hog can’t be Piggie, they just can’t pretend that much. Perhaps though there is a solution!
Filled with exactly the right dialogue and humor, this is a very clever take on the classic Elephant and Piggie. The art itself pulls the story far enough away from Elephant and Piggie to make it clear that this is different. Add to that the juxtaposing attitudes of Harold and Hog and you have a set up for pure delight. The book even includes a touch of Pigeon to round it all out.
Smart, funny and just what Mo would want. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Llama Destroys the World by Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Heather Fox (9781250303172)
The book begins with the prediction that on Friday, Llama will destroy the world. On Monday, it all began with Llama eating far, far too much cake. On Tuesdays Llama dances, so he tried to put on his dancing pants. He had to squeeze in to them because they didn’t quite fit due to the amount of cake he had eaten the day before. His pants ripped, creating a sound loud enough to enter space and create a black hole. On Wednesday, Llama noticed the black hole, did scientific calculations and then made a sandwich instead of letting anyone know. On Thursday, signs of doom started appearing everywhere. On Friday, everything was sucked into the black hole. But what will happen on Saturday?
I love that the entire plot of the book is laid out in the title and again on the first page. Llama is going to destroy the world and it will happen on Friday. That hangs over the head of the reader, creating a sense of real drama. It also allows the book to head in a wild and zany direction that is incredibly engaging and that only gets sillier as the week continues. The ending is a great twist in a book that looks a physics, time and space.
Fox’s illustrations are so funny. Llama has googly eyes and a comical face with plenty of expression. The different elements of the story are given heft and drama by the illustrations, including the ripped pants, the pile of cake, and of course, the black hole.
Funny, scientific and zany, this picture book is so much fun. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Henry Holt & Company.
Abner and Ian Get Right-Side Up by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Laura Park (9780316485869)
Open the book and you will discover that friends Abner and Ian are stuck on the sides of the page rather than being appropriately at the bottom of the page like any other book. What will get them into the right position? All they know is that the story really can’t start until they are in the right spot. Perhaps the child reading the book can help? But first Abner and Ian have to decide who will ask the child for help and when. The first shake doesn’t help at all, but makes it worse for both of the characters. More shaking continues and the results get more funny with each shake. Can it ever be fixed and the story begun?
I had not expected to be delighted by another book that asks children to shake the book, but this one is simply superb. A large part of the appeal are the characters themselves and their unique voices. I love their complaining and the different personalities that come forward, sharing weird little factoids and just having a conversation together that sounds natural and is entirely engaging.
Add to those interesting characters some odd visual results from the shaking that are very unexpected, and you have a winner of a picture book. The simple illustrations add to the appeal here, making the various positions on the page all the more humorous.
Funny and fascinating, this is one book that will shake you up! Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh (9780062447814)
Plum could not be more different than her excitable sister, Ginny. Ginny has a group of friends at their private school, while Plum doesn’t have any at all. She’d much prefer to do advance reading for her classes than engage with others her age. Ginny is about to graduate from high school and longs to get accepted into her university of choice, but it’s not that simple. First, she has to be accepted and then she needs enough financial aid to attend. While they may live in a large home, it’s filled with clutter and day-to-day life rather than being a show piece. Feeling more and more distant from her ever-more-agitated sister, Plum finds herself in a position to help, but only because of a secret romance. Now Plum has her own life, but it may take her away from her family right when they need her.
This is a contemporary tale with a classic heart. Riffing on Sense and Sensibility, this novel for teens takes one rather old-fashioned young lady and her sister who is her opposite and flings at them the trials of modern life. There are the costs of living when their mother loses her royalty payments, the grueling college application and financial aid process, bullying, and of course, kissing too. It’s a book that offers two great female characters. Plum is introverted, wildly funny and wise. Ginny is anxiety-ridden, loud, dramatic and loving. The two together make an ideal look at sisterhood.
Thornburgh writes with a specific style here. It even more tightly ties the story to classic literature and also reveals Plum’s thoughts and her own way of thinking. The story never drags, instead it is filled with drama and disasters large and small. The writing is a delightful mix of classic and modern with plenty of humor too.
A deep look at sisterhood that is funny and rich. Appropriate for ages 12-15.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperTeen.
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.