Review: I Am a Tiger by Karl Newson

I Am a Tiger by Karl Newson

I Am a Tiger by Karl Newson, illustrated by Ross Collins (9781338349894)

Released July 30, 2019. 

A very confident little mouse declares that he is actually a tiger. The other animals don’t believe him at first, but he manages to demonstrate that he can growl like a tiger, climb trees like a tiger and even hunt for his lunch. When a real tiger comes along, the mouse declares that the tiger is a mouse! After all, the tiger has a twitchy nose, little hands and feet, and probably ate cheese recently. Mouse continues to show that he has all sorts of tiger-like skills. The defeated real tiger asks then what the other animals are and Mouse gives them all sorts of new identities, including a banana and a balloon. When Mouse leaves and gets a glimpse of himself in the water though, he realizes that he isn’t a tiger after all. Maybe he still isn’t a mouse either?

Newson’s writing is brisk and bright. Done entirely in dialogue, this book begs to be shared aloud with children. Children will love the confident little mouse and his ability to make ludicrous claims and stand by them. Mouse is a great character, becoming all the more interesting when he discovers he isn’t really a tiger after all. The twist at the end is a delight that doesn’t discourage Mouse in the least. The illustrations by Collins are large and colorful. They help tell the full story of what is happening and carry a lot of the humor too.

An uproarious picture book about a little mouse with a big imagination. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Scholastic.

 

Review: Vroom! by Barbara McClintock

Vroom! by Barbara McClintock

Vroom! by Barbara McClintock (9781626722170)

One evening, Annie puts on her helmet and gloves and drives her car right out her bedroom window and out onto the road. The road is straight and flat, just right for driving really fast. When she reaches the mountains, the road gets curvy and cold, then descends into the hot desert. She drives through a forest, then across a huge bridge and into a city where she gets caught in traffic for awhile. She goes fast through the traffic jam, and then faster onto a racetrack. Getting tired, she heads for home, arriving just in time for a bedtime story about cars.

This picture book embraces imaginative play in a little girl’s world as she pretends to be taking the perfect drive. Her white car is pristine at the beginning of the story and ends up covered in dirt and grass with a little smoke coming out of the hood. Annie doesn’t bother to slow down much and not even her imaginary traffic jam can hold her for long. The book, just like Annie, is fast moving with just enough words to hold the story together. The illustrations are filled with the dust of Annie’s racing past. Done in bright colors, the world around her is friendly and vivid with Annie at its center going fast.

A wild ride of a book that is a joy. Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 

 

Review: The Neighbors by Einat Tsarfati

the neighbors by einat tsarfati

The Neighbors by Einat Tsarfati (9781419731686)

A little girl with a big imagination lives in a seven-story building. On her way up to the seventh floor, where she lives, she imagines who lives behind each of the other doors. Each floor has a different door with things outside that give her clues to the type of family or person who might live there. She imagines that the door with many locks and lots of security leads to a family of thieves. Another door with lots of plants outside opens to a jungle lived in by an old explorer and his pet tiger. As she climbs higher, her imagination gets wilder, filling the apartments with vampires, pirates and mermaids. Her home is the most mundane, or is it?

Told in first person by the little girl, this book builds off of a straightforward concept and into a world of make-believe. The text is simple, steadily counting upwards as the girl ascends the stairs. The girl’s imagination is vivid and captivating with much of it being shown in the illustrations rather than being told in the text.

The illustrations are done in bright colors, moving from the white backgrounds of the stairway and hall to bright colors that each imaginative family lives inside. Their apartments are filled with details that are worth lingering over too.

A very enjoyable look at living in an apartment building and using one’s imagination. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams.

Review: Is That You, Eleanor Sue? by Tricia Tusa

Is That You, Eleanor Sue by Tricia Tusa

Is That You, Eleanor Sue? by Tricia Tusa (9781250143235)

Saturdays are the days that Eleanor Sue gets to do her favorite thing: dress up. So she dresses up, climbs out her window and knocks on the front door. When her mother opens the door, Eleanor Sue introduces herself as Mrs. McMuffins, the new neighbor. She is invited in for tea. Twenty minutes later, Eleanor Sue is back at the door as a witch. She is invited in for lunch. Then Eleanor Sue is a wise wizard, a ferocious bear, a delivery person, and a cat. Her next outfit is being dressed as a grandma, specifically her Grandma. But her mother may just get in on the act too, just in time for Grandma herself to appear and join the fun.

Tusa’s picture book is a delight. She shares not only the story of Eleanor Sue’s imaginative play but also a supporting mother and family who enjoy Eleanor Sue’s antics. The stories that Eleanor Sue tells as each character are a large part of the book, adding funny details that interplay between the various costumes. There is one fast-paced portion where Eleanor Sue has to hustle with costume changes that adds to the fun. As always with a Tusa book, the illustrations are beautifully done. She has a knack of capturing children at play complete with wrinkled, drooping cloth, and wry expressions.

Full of imagination and playfulness, this should be read while sipping tea. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.

 

Review: Zola’s Elephant by Randall de Seve

Zola's Elephant by Randall de Seve

Zola’s Elephant by Randall de Seve, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (9781328886293)

In this exceptional picture book, Zola moves in next door to a little girl. The two mothers have already met and decided the girls should be friends, but the little girl knows that Zola already has a friend. After all, Zola has a box large enough for an elephant and the girl knows that elephants make wonderful friends. As the girl heads different noises, she also thinks about the fun that Zola is having with her elephant. They are taking merry baths together, playing hide-and-seek, and building a lovely clubhouse together. But the truth is shown in the illustrations, explaining the noises that are being heard as much more mundane and downright lonely. Will the little girl have the courage to head over and meet Zola for real?

The text here is rich and evocative. It displays the wealth of imagination that the nameless narrator has as she builds entire worlds of play and merriment from seeing one large box and hearing some noises. It is a book that explores shyness and loneliness and how they live side-by-side and how they can be fixed by one act of bravery. Beautifully, the lonely new neighbor’s pages have no words on them, allowing the image to simply tell the truth.

With illustrations by a two-time Caldecott honoree, the illustrations are detailed, deep and beautiful. Zagarenski manages to create two parallel worlds, one of imagination and brightness and the other stark and blue with isolation. She then captures the moment when those two worlds meet. Done with a circus theme that is embedded in all of the illustrations, she pays homage to the elephant fully even though it doesn’t actually exist.

Beautiful and rich, this picture book is unique and imaginative. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Little Barbarian by Renato Moriconi

The Little Barbarian by Renato Moriconi

The Little Barbarian by Renato Moriconi (9780802855091)

In this wordless picture book, a barbarian mounts his horse and proceeds across a series of challenges and obstacles. They leap a crevasse, are attacked by a flock of birds, jump a pit of snakes, dodge arrows, avoid orcs and much more. Page after page is a new obstacle and the little barbarian blithely marching, leaping or galloping across the page. Children who enjoy fantasy creatures will love this barbarian who faces the challenges with his eyes closed and sword and shield raised. When the truth is revealed at the end of the book, everyone will want another ride.

There is plenty of space for young imaginations to fill in the stories. That is probably the best part of this. I don’t expect the book to read particularly quickly with small children, who will want to supply monster noises, sword crashes and heroic details to the tale. Still, the oblivious way the barbarian crosses the pages is quite funny. The high and low paths the barbarian takes make perfect sense at the end of the book with the twist. The illustrations are humorous, colorful and filled with imagination, making the book entirely compelling.

A delight of a wordless read, this is one that children with their own toy swords will love. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell

Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell

Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luyken (9780735230378)

Adrian Simcox is always talking at school about the horse that he owns. But Chloe knows he is lying, since he lives with his grandfather in a small house in town. There is no room there for a horse. She also knows that Adrian’s family isn’t wealthy and a horse costs a lot of money to keep. So Chloe complains to her friends, her mother and eventually to the entire class about Adrian lying. When Chloe’s mother takes her to Adrian’s house, Chloe knows she is going to be proven right. But she doesn’t bargain for what she is actually going to find there.

This beautifully told story will have readers siding with Chloe from the beginning, since her reasons for not believing Adrian are clear and logical. Still, as the story unfolds readers will start to understand what Adrian is doing long before Chloe does and will begin to feel for him and relate to Adrian. The book does this without becoming didactic at all, instead naturally leading children to an empathy before Chloe gets there. The prose is strong and the pacing is just right in this quiet book.

The illustrations by Luyken are done with lots of white space around Chloe and then riotous plants and gardens around Adrian. Even on the playground, there is a sense that Adrian can create his own world out of imagination, filling the white space in a way that the others can’t. It’s an ideal analogy for the story line itself.

A great book to discuss lying and imagination, friendship and support. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Dial Books.

Review: Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell (9781524719371)

An entire neighborhood of children steadily join together into one epic summer of fantasy fun built entirely out of cardboard. The book begins with The Sorceress, a boy who finds great power and identity in an evil sorceress character who uses magic and a sibling minions to try to take over the world. She is battled by the girl next door who dresses as a knight with a large sword to save the world. As more children join in, they take on characters who speak to what they need in their lives and to who they are deep inside. There are roaring creatures, a rogue, a prince, a huntress, and many more. Even the neighborhood bully ends up joining in as part of the epic final battle of summer.

Filled to the brim with diverse characters, this graphic novel is something very special. There are characters of different races and cultures, and LGBTQ characters. Written by several different authors who all drew on parts of their own childhood, the book speaks in a variety of voices that really feel like a neighborhood of children. There is a real spark here that demands creative thinking by the reader, looks beyond the cardboard and tape and sees the magic of imagination happening.

The art is bright and colorful, filled with family dynamics that are clearly felt deeply by the children in the book. Some stories like The Sorceress are told mostly in images while others have speech bubbles. This book embraces the fantasy motif and has a dynamic mix of superhero and classic fantasy elements that come together into one great adventure.

This one belongs in a every public library. Make sure to have some boxes on hand to build your own castles and creations. Appropriate for ages 7-10. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.)

3 New Picture Books Where Imaginations Soar

Blue Rider by Geraldo Valerio

Blue Rider by Geraldo Valerio (9781554989812)

This wordless picture book tells the story of a little girl who discovers a blue book on the ground. She lives in a bustling gray city filled with people moving in all directions. Taking the book home, she reads it and the blue horse on the pages inspires her. Soon the blue horse is flying above the city and then moving to the countryside where the art becomes more geometric and even more colorful. Out of that burst of color, the girl emerges riding the blue horse. Then we are back in her bedroom where her dreams and her room are filled with color.

Valerio tells the story of how art can inspire and create wonder and a space to dream. The illustrations are done in mixed media, combining paintings with paper collage. The edges become more frayed as the art from the book takes over the page. The movement to a more abstract type of illustration is particularly effective, bursting across the page. A great picture book to share with art classes who will be inspired themselves. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Stone Bird by Jenny McCartney

The Stone Bird by Jenny McCartney, illustrated by Patrick Benson (9781541514553)

Eliza finds a stone shaped just like an egg on the beach one day. She keeps it, even though her mother says it’s not an egg. She sleeps with it under her pillow and then places it on her nightstand, until one day it transforms into a little gray bird made of stone. Eliza takes the stone bird with her everywhere. Then one morning there is a little stone egg next to the bird when she wakes up. Eliza makes a nest out of a pair of socks because winter has arrived. When spring comes again, there are two stone birds in the nest. Then one summer morning, the birds are gone. Eliza misses them dreadfully until her birthday morning when she sees two gray birds on the roof outside her window.

A story of transformation and belief in magic, this picture book is a gentle tale. Eliza is shown mostly alone or with her family and the focus is on her relationship with the stone egg and stone birds. That narrowed focus serves the story well, allowing it to be about seasons passing and the way that birds would act. The illustrations are soft and show the changing seasons with clarity. They have an intimate feel, particularly when it is Eliza and her rocks. A quiet book that asks you to let your imagination soar with Eliza’s. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Andersen Press.)

Groundwood Logos Spine

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki (9781419728518)

This rich picture book looks at colors and inspires children to look deeper at what the colors inspire. While the sky is blue, so is water, until you hold it in your hand and it is clear and sparkles like diamonds when tossed in the air. There are hidden bright colors like the gold of an egg yolk and the red of blood in our bodies. Golden waves of the field look like they could be sailed on with a boat. Until the gray clouds come. Seasons bring their own colors. Black is the color of hair and also the crows outside the window who fly off into the colorful sky.

This is one of those books that you can read over and over again, different words and illustrations touching you each time. For a picture book for very young children, it has an unexpected depth, inviting children to see in a new way as they experience their days. The playfulness of color and imagination delight. The illustrations are exceptional, created with acrylic paint and PhotoShop. Rich and filled with color and sweeping lines, they carry the reader away into dreams of seasons, weather and wonder. A great picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)