Hector and Hummingbird by Nicholas John Frith (InfoSoup)
A bear named Hector was best friends with Hummingbird. But sometimes Hector wanted to just eat a snack in peace and Hummingbird would not stop talking. He wanted to scratch his back on a tree, but Hummingbird kept chatting. He wanted a nap and Hummingbird wanted to tell a story. One day Hector had had enough and stormed away from Hummingbird and into the jungle. Hummingbird let him go, kind of. But having complete quiet was not what Hector expected and soon he was missing Hummingbird. Luckily, Hummingbird was right there when Hector needed him.
Frith captures the dynamics of friendship in a very clear and clever way in this picture book. You have a rather quiet bear and a very talkative bird and the two of them may be best friends but sometimes it’s too much. Seeing an existing and strong friendship run into problems is a good set up for a picture book where often you are seeing new, budding friendships instead. The choice of animal for each of the characters makes the book a joy to share aloud, from the fast high Hummingbird to the slower and grumpier Hector.
The art in this picture book shines. Filled with lovely tropical colors of bright pinks, greens and teal blues, the illustrations have a vintage feel but a modern zing and energy. The color palette changes when the friends are reunited, becoming even more pink and filled with the energy of their friendship. It’s a clever transition that shows visually what is happening emotionally.
A great pick for friendship story times, this book is a winner as a read aloud. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Arthur A. Levine Books.
Alan’s Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis (InfoSoup)
Alan is known for the way that he is able to scare the other animals with his big scary teeth. He spends time each day caring for his teeth and practicing his scary faces in the mirror. Then he heads into the jungle, snapping, growling and declaring how scary his teeth are. The other animals are terrified. Then Alan goes home, relaxes and takes out his false teeth. One day, Barry the beaver discovers Alan’s teeth in their hiding place. He takes them away and leaves Alan without his teeth. Alan tries to scare the other animals, but they just laugh at his toothless threats. Alan was terribly sad, though the other animals were relieved not to be scared anymore. Maybe Alan can learn some skills beyond scaring others?
Jarvis writes in a very engaging way that is perfect for sharing aloud. The entire book gallops along at a fast pace with plenty of action and humor. The reveal of Alan having false teeth is nicely timed, so that the listening audience will be just as surprised as the animals are. The playful tone of the book is helped by the humor throughout with surprises adding to the fun.
Jarvis’ illustrations are childlike and bold. The backgrounds on the illustrations show jungle lushness without being overwhelming or dark. The illustrations have just as much charm as the story itself, creating funny moments and showing products like “Snap Snap Toothpaste.” The entire book works as a seamless package with the illustrations skillfully supporting the story.
This picture book is sure to get toothy grins from any audience you share it with. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Tiptoe Tapirs by Hanmin Kim (InfoSoup)
The jungle was a very noisy place with all of the animals making the most noise they can. The elephants went BOOM, the rhinos went BAM-BAM, the hornbill went CAW, and the ape went HOO-HAA-HOO-HAA! But there was one animal that wasn’t noisy at all, Tapir and Little Tapir. They were very quiet, tiptoeing through the jungle silently. When Little Tapir wanted to go to the Great Puddle for her third birthday, the two tapirs moved silently to get there and then enjoyed the lovely mud. Then out of the blue, a leopard attacked the tapirs. The leopard ran after them with loud THUDDING steps while the tapirs ran silently. The tapirs were almost eaten by the leopard when a gun shot rang out. The leopard was terrified, but the kind tapirs had a solution to save them all.
Kim has woven a fable-like story around his love for tapirs. The book is a delight to read aloud from the loud noises of the other animals to the hush-hush of the tapirs and their quiet silence. It’s a wonderful contrast that is great fun to act out. Kim uses repetition and solid writing to create a traditional feel in this story. There is also a lot of humor throughout, the noises are wild, the mud cakes are fresh. The focus on kindness as the solution in the end is also a treat of its own.
The art also has a dynamic mix of traditional and modern feel. Done in watercolor, ink and marker, the illustrations are filled with organic shapes of leaves and trees. Colors range from bright washes of watercolor to the darkest black of ink. The shapes of the animals themselves are delicately done, particularly the tapirs who both hide in the jungle settings and dance on the page.
Whether you are sharing this with a loud or quiet little animal, this book is a great pick to share aloud. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from ARC received from Holiday House.
The Tiger Who Would Be King by James Thurber, illustrated by Joohee Yoon
Released September 15, 2015.
Thurber’s profound story is brought to vivid life in this new picture book version. Tiger wakes up and decides that he wants to be king of the beasts, declaring to his wife that he will be king before the night is over. He believes that others are calling for change as well and that the moon will rise in his colors, striped and orange. Lion though is not willing to give up his title. The two start fighting and soon all of the animals in the jungle are fighting too, though many don’t know why they are fighting. Eventually after an immense battle, there is only one survivor, Tiger. He may be king, but there are no beasts to rule any more.
Yoon takes the words of Thurber and creates a picture book that is startling and incredible. She captures in expressions, the pride of declaring yourself to be a ruler, the shock of the old ruler being challenged. The epic battle is shown on pages that fold out to a four-page spread that brings to mind Picasso’s Guernica in its confusion and brutality. Done in only two colors, the green and orange capture the moist heat of the jungle. Though the illustrations appear to be prints, they are actually done with a combination of hand drawing and computer art. However it was done, it is pure brilliance.
A great book to spur discussion about war, pride and costs, this picture book will resonate with young readers. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
Released June 11, 2013.
Explore three of the greatest primatologists of the 20th century in this graphic novel. The book begins with the story of Jane Goodall and how she was recruited by the famous anthropologist Lous Leakey to research chimpanzees. It shows how she first learned to quietly watch the chimpanzees and be accepted by them as well as her own personal life as she lived in the jungle. When Dian Fossey is then recruited by Leakey, the story turns to her life and her very different personality as she researched gorillas using similar techniques to Goodall. The last woman recruited was Galdikas and she studied orangutans and had her own adventures as her research progressed. Told with humor but also immense respect, the stories of these three pioneering women show the importance of female scientists and the unique paths you can take to reaching your dreams.
Ottaviani writes in the voices of the three women, beautifully capturing their individuality through their words. The three are profoundly unique yet also amazingly similar in their bravery, dedication and resilience. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where the three of them were together and the ending which demonstrated how different they were from one another. It takes a lot of skill to write three women’s voices with such clarity that they are distinct and special.
The art by Wicks has a wonderful simplicity and also a playfulness that makes the book welcoming and light hearted. This is nonfiction that reluctant readers and young biologists alike will enjoy. The graphic format is compelling and given the nature of the research makes the entire experience more tangible for young readers.
A great graphic novel, this is a stellar pick for school libraries and public libraries that will have children learning about scientific history without even realizing it! Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from First Second.
Grandma and the Great Gourd retold by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, illustrated by Susy Pilgrim Waters
This picture book is a retelling of a Bengali folktale. Grandma was invited by her daughter to visit her on the other side of the jungle. Before Grandma traveled there, she left the responsibility for her garden and home with her two loyal dogs. On her way across the jungle, Grandma met a series of hungry animals: a fox, a bear and a tiger. To each, she explained that she is very thin now, but will be plumper when she returns from seeing her daughter, so they let her go. Grandma had a good time at her daughter’s home, eating lots of food and visiting. But eventually, she had to return home to her dogs and her garden. But how was she to get back? That’s where the giant gourds in her daughter’s garden came in, and you will just have to read the book to find out how.
Divakaruni has taken a traditional folktale and left it wonderfully traditional. The story reads like an oral tradition, filled with repetition, small descriptions, and a story that just keeps on rolling forward like a gourd. She includes noises in the story as well, the khash-khash of lizards slithering over dry leaves, the thup-thup-thup of elephants lumbering on forest paths, and the dhip-dhip of her heartbeat.
Waters’ illustrations are lush and colorful. She uses texture and pattern to create a jungle. The colors range from earthy browns to deep oranges and hot pinks. The cut paper collages have strong clean lines and add a perfect organic feel to the story.
A great choice for library folk tale collections, this is a story that reads aloud well and has just the right mix of repetition, sound and inventiveness. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
Hide & Seek by Il Sung Na
The author of several lovely picture books returns with another beautiful book. This time readers are part of a game of hide and seek with jungle animals. Elephant offers to seek while the others hide. There is a slow count from one to ten as the animals search for places to hide. Giraffe opts for a tree to hide behind. Gorilla stands atop Tortoise’s shell like a statue. Elephant searches for everyone and one-by-one he finds them all, except for Chameleon. All of the animals finally have to give up and Chameleon reveals himself. Young readers can search for chameleon throughout the bright illustrations, participating in the game themselves.
The text here is fairly basic, allowing the game to create the pacing and story. The counting from one to ten creates an effective counting book that is nicely married to a hide and seek game that will challenge young children.
It is really the art that is special here, glowing with light from within and filled with bright colors. None of the animals are colored as expected. The elephant has vibrant ears in red with hearts. The giraffe is a fiery yellow with red. Tortoise is a rainbow of pattern and color. The trees themselves are topped with colorful clouds of leaves. It all creates a very dynamic and fanciful world.
Colorful counting and a game to play make this a great pick for lap sharing with your favorite toddler or preschooler. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.
It’s a Tiger by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard
The story starts in the jungle filled with vines and trees. You can look at the monkeys swinging around, but wait! That’s not a monkey. It looks like… a tiger! Run! Whew. Now we are safe inside a cave. You’ll have to watch for bats and duck your head. Wait, some of those shadows look like… a tiger! Run! The escapade continues through the jungle with snakes, but then you head on a boat to a deserted island. Sure you are safe there. Right? Roar!
This fast-paced race through the jungle is exactly what squirmy toddlers need at the end of a story time. The book has a great sense of timing and plenty of action. The repetition of the tiger appearing over and over again, will have children merrily joining in and shouting along. This is not a quiet book for contemplative reading, but instead a jolly book that will have children making plenty of noise.
Tankard’s art is a huge part of the appeal here. The thick-lined, orange ferocity of the tiger plays against the finer lines and subtler colors of the background. The little boy who joins you in your trek through the jungle is also drawn in the thicker lines and pops on the page. There is a feeling of motion and action throughout the book that brings the story even more fully to life.
A great pick for toddler story time, this is one book to have in your pile for when kids get restless. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.