A Well-Mannered Young Wolf by Jean Leroy, illustrated by Matthieu Maudet (InfoSoup)
A young wolf who has been taught good manners by his parents heads into the wolf to hunt alone for the first time. One of the most important rules is that he must honor the final wishes of his prey. When he nets a rabbit, the rabbit requests that the young wolf read him a story. So the wolf heads home to find his favorite book but when he returns to the woods, the rabbit has left. Next, the wolf captures a chicken who requests music. After the wolf returns with an instrument, the chicken is gone too. The wolf then captures a little boy, who asks for a drawing. The wolf almost doesn’t agree, but the little boy has said please. When the wolf returns, the boy is still there waiting! And the boy loves the picture so much that he wants to show his friends. In a twist ending that is both satisfying and wonderfully dark, the wolf finally succeeds in his hunt.
Leroy sets a brisk pace in this picture book where much of the dialogue is done in speech bubbles and the text is kept to a minimum. The book dashes along on the hunt with the wolf, to and fro from his house and back to his disappearing prey. As the book gains momentum thanks to the repeating pattern, Leroy breaks it and moves ahead with the story at just the right time. It’s a wild and wolfish look at manners that everyone will enjoy.
Maudet’s illustrations convey the frustration of the young wolf very clearly. The wolf uses the book to capture the chicken and then leaves the instrument smashed on the ground in frustration. The limited color palette is filled with orange and red, played against gray and brown.
The book is completely wonderful, satisfying and the twist ending will leave children surprised and asking to hear it again. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien
A very hungry owl uses a unique approach to find his dinner in this silly picture book. Hoot Owl is a master of disguise, so he as he hunts in the dark night, he switches into different costumes to trick his prey. First, he sees a rabbit and so he puts on his carrot disguise. It doesn’t work to tempt the rabbit, so he moves on to a lamb. Hoot Owl disguises himself as a mother sheep to lure the lamb closer, but that doesn’t work either. Maybe a pigeon will be fooled by his clever birdbath costume? Nope. Then finally, he finds something to eat that can’t move away – pepperoni pizza! But will his waiter costume work?
The voice of owl as the narrator for the story is so much fun to read aloud. He is brazen, confident and sure that eventually his unique approach to hunting will work out. Never daunted by disappointment, he moves on to the next meal quickly and eagerly. Throughout, Hoot Owl expresses himself in metaphors and playful language. The night is “black as burnt toast” and his eyes “glitter like sardines” when they see the pizza.
Jullien’s illustrations are bold and gorgeous. The colors are bright and fun, the orange of owl popping against that black night sky. Hoot Owl’s personality shines on the page, his head peeking out from various angles as he hunts his prey.
This playful picture book is a great read aloud, bright, funny and impressive. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
The author of Little Owl Lost returns with another great picture book in his signature style. In this book, four people head into the forest with nets at night. There, they find a gorgeous red bird. The littlest of them calls out “hello, birdie” but the others shush him and declare that they have a plan and show the cage they are holding. They slowly tiptoe up to the bird, count off and jump! But the bird flies up into a tree. No worries, they have another plan. And when that fails, another and another. Finally, the smallest of them comes up with a plan that just might work, or maybe not.
This book is a stupendous read aloud. The chipper, bright voice of the littlest of them, the hushed shushing from the others, the counting off and finally the shout of GO! This happens again and again and will keep even the wiggliest of children paying close attention. Even better, the little one is the one who figures things out and presents a solution. Add at the end a wonderful twist to continue the story, and you have an outstanding picture book for sharing.
Haughton’s illustrations are created digitally but have the feel and texture of cut paper. He uses beautifully deep blues throughout the nighttime story and then the bright red of the bird pops. It also helps that the bird seems to live in its own beam of light, one that follows it as it escapes again and again. It’s a clever use of stage lighting in a picture book.
A top pick for sharing aloud, this picture book is a dazzling dark delight. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Hunters of the Great Forest by Dennis Nolan
Released October 28, 2014
This wordless picture book is the story of a group of hunters who head out from their small village one day and into the forest. Bringing only a handful of items with them, the group must face large rocks, mountains and enormous trees. It quickly becomes apparent that the hunters are tiny people as they are forced to run from buzzing dragonflies and then from a hungry toad. After escaping those creatures, the hunters must then flee from a bird and a chipmunk. Sneaking out later from their hiding place, the hunters discover a girl sitting by a campfire roasting marshmallows. But even though they have food to bring back to their village, the dangers are not over for our intrepid group of hunters.
Wonderfully detailed pictures make this a spectacular picture book to share. The journey of the hunters makes for a page-turning delight filled with dangers, mishaps and surprises. If you pay close attention to the illustrations, some of the surprises can be predicted with clues about the next page. For example, you can see the toad’s legs in the corner of the page before the toad is fully revealed after the page turn. This makes for a book that reads as a continual stream of story, rather than individual images strung into a story.
I applaud Nolan for including plenty of little female hunters on the journey as well. There are young and old little people too. And even better, if you watch, it is not the women who need rescuing on the journey. In fact, the older of the little women carries the spear the entire journey and seems ready to use it at times.
Join the hunters on their quest for the elusive marshmallows in this journey through a forest filled with dangers of all sorts. It’s a jolly read that is sure to please. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
Kali’s Song by Jeanette Winter
Kali’s mother painted amazing paintings of animals on their cave walls. Soon Kali would be a man and so he started practicing with a bow and arrows. But on his first session of practice, he discovered that he could do something else with the bow: he could make music! Soon he was making music instead of practicing his shooting at all. When the day of the big hunt came, his bow was taut and his arrows sharp. The men and boys approached the huge mammoths, that were far larger and more impressive than Kali had ever expected. Kali forgot all about the hunt and just felt that he had to play the music he was hearing in his head. As he played, the mammoths gathered closer around him and the other hunters laid down their bows. Everyone realized that Kali must be a shaman to charm animals in this way. Even as Kali grew much older, he continued to play music on his bow.
Winter has created such a remarkable story here. It is a story without modern judgment about killing animals, which would be out of place in this book. Yet Winter does not turn entirely away from modern sensibilities either with this book about a young shaman who does not kill, but instead charms. It is a book that celebrates innate talents of people, relishes in inventiveness, and demonstrates a large heart for acceptance too. Kali is not shunned for being different, but instead embraced for it.
Winter’s illustrations are also very special. Framed with torn edges, the illustrations are filled with the texture of papers that mimics that of cave walls. The characters are roughly painted, just as his mother’s cave paintings are with additional fine details drawn on in ink. The result is a book that is a winning combination of rough and fine.
This picture book embraces differences, celebrates art and music, and does it all surrounded by stars and mammoths. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.