This search and find book features a very purple creature named Gordon. Children get to try to find him on the beach and in the city. At the amusement park though, Gordon stops hiding and stands in a field. At the farmer’s market, Gordon is wearing a bright yellow hat that makes him easy to spot. Gordon decides that he wants to stand out rather than blend in. So the narrator locates someone else to find. Her name is Jane and she’s rather shy. She manages to evade the narrator catching up to her, and that’s when Gordon has a new idea. Now the narrator has a bunch of creatures who are eager to be found on the complex pages.
This is Where’s Waldo with an attitude where the characters insist on being treated the way they want to be. It’s an empowering book with a great sense of humor. The book starts out as a straight search and find until Gordon breaks free of the expectations. Jane then does the same, taking readers on a wild dash across the pages. The solution at the end is clever and engaging.
For younger children than Where’s Waldo, these illustrations are just a touch more simple. They are also filled with silliness as readers look at detailed scenes of ski slopes, markets, cities and neighborhoods. The bright colors and strange creatures and animals make it all the more engaging too.
Great fun and full of silliness. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
When the dog gets sick, cat takes his place in this sequel to See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog. In the first story, Cat has to run, bark and then dig a hole. But the cat has their own way of digging that surprises the bossy book. In the second story, the cat has to swim across the lake and fetch the stick. But cats don’t like water nearly as much as dogs do! Again, the cat makes the most of it by the end of the tale. The third story has the cat protecting a sheep from the approaching wolf. All seems lost until cat is saved and can stop being the dog in the story.
The Geisel Award winning, See the Cat was a great book for beginning readers and the second in the series keeps the same wit and silliness. The bossy tone of the book is just right, following so many beginning reader tropes with repeating words, direct orders, and all with very funny results. This is another book that will have readers laughing rather than frustrated as they start to read.
I’m fascinated that these books are done by two people, since the illustrations and the text seem to beautifully interwoven into one solid story full of humorous moments. the illustrations play with beginning reader simplicity but add in a touch of frenzy and zany energy that makes it all the better.
A grand sequel sure to charm beginning readers and the adults who listen to them read. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Little red chicken got up early on Saturday and brought his Papa breakfast in bed. Cookies for breakfast! But Papa doesn’t want either of them having cookies for breakfast and just wants to sleep a little longer. He agrees to read a book together though. Little red chicken picked out a book of nursery rhymes. There Was an Old Woman started out normally enough, but soon Little red chicken has turned it into a tale of shared cookies in a shoe. Jack and his candlestick and Hickory Dickory Dock all get changed too and now include cookies. Papa is starting to get a headache, so Little red chicken writes him a rhyme of his own which features cookies, of course. Now it is Papa’s turn to be hungry, and the two of them agree on a different treat for breakfast, cake! Pancakes.
This third book in the Interrupting Chicken series is another winner. In this book, Little red chicken interrupts regularly to continue to ask for cookies for breakfast. His sleepy and patient father goes along as best he can while also insisting that neither of them would have cookies for breakfast. The interruptions are great fun, transforming classic nursery rhymes into delicious humor. The relationship between the two characters is also a pleasure with their back and forth dialogue being just as joyous as the silly rhymes.
The art by Stein contrasts highly saturated and deeply colored images of the chickens with light pastel vintage nursery rhymes shown in a book. Those in turn get changed with some clever erasing and crayons that add yet another layer to the stories.
Another winner in a charming series. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Mr. Watson lives with Mr. Nelson in a big house in an even bigger city. In their little yard, they kept dogs, cats and three chickens. They started with a sensible number of chickens, but Mr. Watson’s collection quickly grew until they had 456 chickens! Their big house had chickens in every room. One of the chickens, Aunt Agnes, even wrote a song that added to the chaos and noise. She sang it all the time. Finally, Mr. Nelson had had enough and threatened to move out to the chicken coop in the yard if nothing was done. The two of them took the chickens to the county fair to get rid of them. But after an accident sets all of the chickens free, they are forced to gather them all up again. Luckily, their accident proves to be exactly the solution to the chickens.
This picture book shares rollicking rhythms and repetition along with a skillfully told story. Dapier leans into the full chaos of so many chickens. It’s the song that Aunt Agnes writes that really proves to be too much, though young listeners will love it. There is a merriness to the entire book, where the chickens steal the story away from the gay couple who are struggling to adapt and figure out how to take control back from their feathered friends. The human couple caught in the frenzy are a wonderful example of how being gay can be an integral part of a story but not seen as an issue.
Tsurumi’s illustrations have a touch of vintage cartoons mixed with modern elements. She shows the wild world of the chickens with details that are great fun to look at. There is even one double-page spread of the county fair where readers can search for the last chicken. She layers additional visual jokes and humor onto a story that is already great fun.
A funny feathery frantic tale of pets that get out of control. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Haley loves Gothic romances and has turned in four English papers on Wuthering Heights. So when she sees someone drowning in the river, she knows just what to do. After rescuing the drowning man, Haley awakens to find herself in Willowweep, a manor filled with characters who are Gothic novel tropes. There is the housekeeper who looms and lurks, the three brooding brothers, and even a ghost who haunts the manor. But there is more happening in Willowweep. The external features of the manor hide the fact that this is a pocket universe, created to keep two larger universes from colliding: a universe full of evil and Earth. Willowweep’s defenses are beginning to crack and crumble, allowing the evil to enter the Gothic world. It is up to Haley to figure out how to use her deep knowledge of Gothic novels to stop the evil invasion.
This uproariously funny graphic novel plays beautifully upon Gothic tropes. Haley serves as the voice of the reader, exclaiming as each new trope becomes apparent. The twist of being in a decaying pocket universe works really well with the Gothic overlay. The clockwork style of the universe’s inner workings are a delight as is the solution worked out in the ending. Add in that all beings must stay in the Gothic style, and the evil monk who arrives is perfection. It’s all a very funny yet great adventure with a well-read smart heroine at its center.
The illustrations are a delight as well, leaning into the Gothic elements like the looming housekeeper, the ghost only Haley can see, and the three brothers. The green glowing eyes of those taken in by the evil add to the marvelous joy of the book.
A delight of a graphic novel that mixes Gothic and science fiction into something new and wonderful. Appropriate for ages 12-16.
This chapter book invites readers to experience the first 100 days of school alongside Harry. Harry has worries about his first day of school, helped quite a bit by his older sister showing him the way things work. He has a real fear of guinea pigs, a creature he believes is much more like a wild pig than the small furry rodent it actually is. Harry decides that his goal is to become an expert on something, though he isn’t sure what. Perhaps an expert on Fluff Monsters, a video game he loves. Harry quickly makes friends at school, surprising himself by who he actually gets closer to. He learns to set healthy boundaries with classmates who like to play jokes and also finds himself overcoming a lot of his fears along the way. In fact, he turns out to be an expert on quite a lot!
Award-winning author Jenkins sets exactly the right tone here. Throughout the book, there is humor that will have children immediately engaged and that is layered beautifully with empathy for Harry and the others in his class. Harry and his classmates are multidimensional characters who reveal themselves over the course of the book. Readers will laugh out loud at the humor here and be drawn deeply into the story of how Harry survives first grade.
The illustrations by Oswald work well to break up the text and make this a more approachable book for young readers. Oswald captures the diversity of Harry’s class and community. The urban setting is vibrant and colorful while the classroom is warm and inviting.
Funny and clever, this is just the right book for first graders and any others who may need a good giggle about school starting. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House Children’s Books.
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.