Kitten and the Night Watchman by John Sullivan, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (9781481461917)
The night watchman heads out to his night of work. He works on a construction site, making sure that the doors are locked and the rooms are empty. He shines his flashlight near the broken trucks and startles a killdeer. He drinks his coffee under the shining stars and moon, thinking of his children at home asleep. Then a small kitten appears and joins the watchman for the rest of his rounds. They spot a jet in the sky, share dinner, and look at bugs. But then the kitten disappears and the watchman is left with only the sounds of the night around him. When the kitten returns, the watchman makes a decision to bring it home with him.
Beautifully told in a gentle and simple way, this picture book takes a poetic look at a job and a setting that is not usually given that treatment. The counterpoint of a construction site and the beauty that night lends it is very effective. As the quiet of the night progresses, it reveals so much that is hidden during the day. Birds, insects, and the kitten itself emerge from the darkness to be noticed and are made remarkable.
The artwork is filled with darkness and blues. Yet it is also lit by stars and the moon, and it is filled with beams from flashlights and lamps. These yellow streams of light lend brightness and illuminate the budding relationship of the watchman and the kitten with warmth.
Uniquely mixing construction, night and beauty, this picture book is something special. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Night Job by Karen Hesse, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (9780763662387)
Released on September 11, 2018.
On Friday nights, a little boy goes with his father to work. They leave after dark on his father’s motorcycle, head across the bridge, and enter the closed school. His father has a big ring of keys to open the door. They clean the gym first, while the little boy plays basketball. They bring a radio with them from room to room, listening to baseball games. At ten at night, they eat the lunch they brought with them. While his father cleans the library, the boy falls asleep reading on the couch. His father wakes him at four in the morning to head back home, across the bridge. The two fall asleep together curled in the big recliner.
Newbery Medal winner Hesse captures the wonder of going to work with a parent and brings in the beauty of being out at night as well. Along the way, the work of a parent who has a night job is honored. As a child of a teacher, I enjoyed the empty hallways of a school closed for the weekend or summer. It’s a beautiful thing to have those areas be silent and just for you. That feeling is shown here clearly, as the boy makes the spaces his own.
The connection between father and son is a focus of the story and the illustrations. The pictures by Karas are done in his signature style and use darkness and light cleverly. The father and son are shown as a pair throughout the book, highlighting their special time together whether in the bright gym or on the dark road.
A quiet book about jobs, connections and families. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.
Real Cowboys by Kate Hoefler, illustrated by Jonathan Bean (InfoSoup)
This picture book takes a look at the skills that really make up a cowboy’s work. It’s not a book about lassoing and riding quickly. Instead the skills that a cowboy needs are things like patience, something that allows them to ride slowly along with the herd. They need to be about to ask for help from others and treat their dogs well. They have to be considerate of those around them and of the environment they ride through. They need to be strong but also careful and caring. They can be girls and are people of all colors. Their jobs may not be all fast horses and wild ruckus, but somehow the quiet reality is all the more heroic.
Hoefler chooses qualities of cowboys’ lives that match those that small children will be learning in classrooms and at home. They ability to share, to take turns, to be considerate, to ask for help. They are all things that we all need to know how to do in our lives. She then writes them in a poetic way that demonstrates how those qualities really matter when out on the range, how they make the job safer. Hoefler also speaks to the loneliness that cowboys feel and the sadness when cattle and dogs are lost.
The illustrations by Bean are bright and stylish. They move from glaring sun to winter storms to deep blue night. Throughout there are the shadows of the land they move through and the cattle they watch. Bean captures the slump of tired shoulders, the wild movement of a stampede, and the beauty of stars above.
A surprising look at cowboys that makes it clear what it takes to be a hero and a good human being. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Hippopotamister by John Patrick Green (InfoSoup)
The zoo where Hippo lives is run down and doesn’t get many visitors at all. His friend Red Panda suggests that Hippo join him in the human world and get a job. The two of them put on hard hats and try their hands at construction. Hippo discovers that he is quite good at building, but he doesn’t build the expected skyscraper. The two then try being hair dressers with similar results, though Hippo does find that he’s quite good at it. They put on chef hats and work in a restaurant kitchen where Hippo creates a pasta masterpiece and Red Panda creates a mess. They go on to try being bankers and dentists and many other jobs until they head back to the zoo on one of their day’s off. Hippo decides to returns to the zoo and discovers that he may just have the exact skills needed to help the zoo return in style.
Green’s dismal zoo with limp animals quickly turns into an active story about different jobs, wild and wonderful ways to screw them up, visual gags, and plenty of laughs. The ending of the book is entirely satisfying, even as readers realize where it is headed. It is a pleasure to watch it play out visually and see Hippo come into his own with his myriad of skills.
The illustrations in this graphic novel are welcoming and fun. Filled with bright colors and plenty of action, they have a wonderful feel to them. Especially effective are the images done in series with Red Panda and then Hippo trying hat after hat and job after job. The entire book is filled with a jolly humor.
Funny and lighthearted, this book also has a cheerful depth to it which is immensely satisfying. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
My Bike by Byron Barton (InfoSoup)
Tom rides his bicycle to work each day. On the way, he passes all sorts of other vehicles like cars, buses, and trucks. As he gets closer to work, he passes lots of people. Then he passes monkeys, acrobats, tigers, lions and elephants! Once he reaches the tent where he works, he changes into his costume and puts on his makeup. He heads into the circus ring as a clown, ready to do his act. Once he’s up on the tightrope, he hops aboard another mode of transportation, a unicycle.
This jolly picture book will appeal to fans of transportation books and circuses alike. Barton has written other classic titles in this series like My Car and My Bus. The book reviews the various parts of a bicycle and then through very simple sentences and words eventually reveals Tom’s job to the readers. The book is straight forward but cleverly done so that readers will wonder what his job is all along his route to work. The final panel of him riding off in his regular clothes and a clown nose is a great farewell.
Just as with the text, the illustrations are simple too. Done in Photoshop, the art is clean and bold, the colors bright and cheery. The transformation into a clown in handled well and Tom never turns creepy on the reader, instead keeping his friendly demeanor and appearance throughout. The final panel of him riding off in his regular clothes and a clown nose is a great farewell.
The simplicity of both the text and the illustrations make this a great pick for smaller children. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.
Dreams around the World by Takashi Owaki
Meet thirteen children from around the world who are ready to share their dreams with you! Photographer Takashi Owaki traveled the world, including 55 countries on six continents and interviewed over 1400 children about what they wanted to be when they grew up. In this book, he shares the dreams of some of those children. Each child and their dream is accompanied by photographs, their age, name and country, along with a short paragraph about where they live. At the end of the book, all of the countries are shown on a world map. The book is a celebration of our diversity but also our universal dreams.
Owaki’s photographs are the heart of this book, especially the full-page image of each child looking directly into the camera. The writing itself is simple, speaking to how Owaki met the child and the family they live with. The smaller images with each story also help give context, showing activities and the environment. My only quibble with the book is that it would have been nice to have the map done in a smaller way with each child to help with understanding the geography.
Originally published in Japan, this is a book that celebrates our world and the beauty of dreams. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy received from One Peace Books.