Review: Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Small in the City by Sydney Smith (9780823442614)

When you are small and along in the city, it can be very frightening. A child who knows how to navigate the streets offers some advice even though they can find the city a bit overwhelming too. Alleys make great shortcuts. Dryer vents can offer warmth. Avoid the big dogs that fight. The child hangs posters as they make their way through the city and the falling snow, identifying a place to sit together and options for hiding up high. It’s perfect advice for a lot cat who also could just come back home.

Set in an urban setting with street cars and a maze of lights, streets and sounds, this picture book skillfully captures the confusion of the city. As the child moves through the space with confidence, readers will learn more about both the kid and their city along the way. Readers at first may think that the child is homeless or running away. It takes a little while for their lost pet to be revealed to the reader.

Smith’s illustrations create a fascinating mix of the bustle of urban life but also the quiet of snowfall, the beauty of an empty park, and the small areas of a city just right for a little cat to survive. The images bring a contemplative tone to the book, giving space and opportunity to breathe and feel deeply.

A stellar picture book that reveals the heart of the city and the heart of a child. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.


Review: We Forgot Brock! by Carter Goodrich

We Forgot Brock by Carter Goodrich

We Forgot Brock! by Carter Goodrich (InfoSoup)

Phillip’s best friend is Brock, the problem is that no one else can see Brock except Phillip. The two of them spend all of their time together and Phillip’s parents are supportive, waiting for Brock to move his motorcycle out of the way, giving him imaginary seconds at dinner. One day, the family heads to the Big Fair where Brock wants to ride the Brain Shaker. Phillip and Brock ride a lot of rides together and eventually Phillips falls asleep. Brock though still wants to ride the Brain Shaker, so he is left behind at the fair. When Phillips wakes up in the car, he discovers that they have left Brock behind! Brock is discovered by a little girl who has her own friend, Princess Sparkle Dust. She invites Brock to come home with them. But Brock misses Phillip and Phillip continues to search for Brock. Good friends are hard to find!

Goodrich is the author of the Zorro series of picture books and brings the same humor and charm to this new book. The subject of imaginary friends has been a popular one recently. This picture book shows a child not ready to leave their imaginary friend behind yet, which makes it much less of an issue book and much more cheerful in general.

The illustrations clearly keep the imaginary from reality, with Brock and Princess Sparkle Dust done in child-like crayon drawings that have a single color and a white background. Meanwhile the other art is more sophisticated and colorful. This lets the imaginary characters pop against reality, somehow giving them even more presence rather than less.

A strong and warm book about imaginary friends and friendship in general. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Hermelin by Mini Grey


Hermelin: The Detective Mouse by Mini Grey

Released August 5, 2014.

Hermelin is a mouse who lives in the attic of Number 33 Offley Street.  His attic is filled with books and boxes and a typewriter that Hermelin uses to write with.  When Hermelin notices that the Offley Street Notices board is filled with people missing things, he knows just what he has to do.  So he starts working as a mouse detective and solving the mysteries of Offley Street.  He does this by noticing things and then leaving typed notes for the people to help them find their missing items.  Then when tragedy almost strikes the youngest person on Offley Street, Hermelin is the one to save the day!  Soon everyone wants to know exactly who this Hermelin person is, so they invite him to a thank you party in his honor.  He just isn’t quite what they were expecting…

A new Mini Grey book is always a treat and this one is perfectly lovely.  Hermelin is a winning character with plenty of pluck as he goes about solving mysteries.  Happily, the mysteries are just as small as Hermelin himself, making the book all the more jaunty and fun.  Grey spends some time showing Hermelin’s attic and how he lives.  The small details here add a rich warmth to the book and it is also the details that create such a vibrant world on Offley Street with the humans as well.

Done in her signature style, the illustrations are filled with details.  One can read the cereal box, the milk carton, and the titles on the books as well as giggling at the flavors of cat food on the shelf.  Hermelin himself is a lovely white mouse with inquisitive eyes and a face that shows emotions clearly.  The entire book is a pleasure to immerse yourself into and simply enjoy.

Clever and filled with adventure, the vast appeal of this detective story is no mystery at all.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Review: Following Papa’s Song by Gianna Marino

following papas song

Following Papa’s Song by Gianna Marino

Little Blue and his Papa are traveling farther than they ever have before as they migrate, following the song of the other whales.  Little Blue has lots of the questions and his father encourages him to keep listening for the song.  As they travel, Little Blue learns about the different layers of the ocean.  Then he notices light in the darkness below and just has to head down and see what it is for himself.  He discovers a magical layer of life in the ocean, but when he heads even lower there is darkness and no other creatures are there.  Little Blue tries calling for his Papa, but his little voice doesn’t carry far in the cold water.  Then he remembers that he needs to listen and he hears his father’s call from above.

Marino paints a beautiful picture of father and child care and love.  Her use of whales and their calls is a smart choice that really makes the theme of being lost as a child work well on a higher level.  The advice to stay still and listen will also work for young humans hearing the story.  The book is simply written so that even the youngest of children can enjoy this underwater story.

Marino’s art is filled with currents and colors.  She creates light and water that dances and moves on the page, clearly creating different layers in the ocean.  I particularly enjoyed the use of bright pink to show the layer of the ocean with all of the life in it that tempts Little Blue downward.  The greens and blues of the ocean water truly come to life on the page here.

A lovely story about fathers, children and the importance of listening when you are lost.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.

Book Review: Loon Baby by Molly Beth Griffin


Loon Baby by Molly Beth Griffin, illustrated by Anne Hunter

Loon Baby lives happily with his mother in the northern woods.  His mother dives under the water for Baby’s dinner but he is too little to follow her underwater.  Loon Baby waited, floating and paddling.  At first he is sure that his mother will return just as she always had.  But she stays away and he begins to wonder if something has happened to her.  He tries to dive down into the water, but keeps bobbing back to the surface.  After diving so many times, Loon Baby can’t remember where home is anymore.  Everything looks the same to him on the banks of the pond.  Loon Baby has had enough and wails a cry that wavers and sinks.  His mother pops up by his side, his dinner in her mouth.  In his happiness, Loon Baby dives deep into the water, discovering that he can indeed dive just like his mother.

Griffin tells this story in prose that reads like poetry.  It is spare, simple and ideal for young children.  The story speaks to the panic a lost child can feel when their mother disappears, gently guiding children to the parallels between Loon Baby and themselves. 

Hunter’s illustrations are a lovely mix of watercolors and lines that crosshatch and offer details.  The green and blue colors evoke the northern woods.  Pulling back to a larger view, they emphasize the lone Loon Baby as he seeks his mother. 

A lovely book for preschoolers about being lost and being found again.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Katie’s (Little Ones) Learning Lounge.

Red Ted and the Lost Things

Red Ted and the Lost Things by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Joel Stewart

This is a picture book graphic novel.  It is best described as sweet and quiet, two words that are rarely associated with graphic novels!  Red Ted has been lost on the train by Stevie who loves him as much as she loves cheese.  He is put on the lost and found shelf next to a green crocodile who has been there so long he can’t remember who lost him.  Red Ted doesn’t want that to happen to him, so he decides to escape.  The crocodile goes with him, jumping off the shelf and following the signs out of the station.  Once outside, they meet a cat who smells the cheese on Red Ted and then helps him find his way to Stevie by following the smell of cheese. 

The adventures they have on the way are not frightening, focusing on things like rain and dogs.  This book has a quiet story that combines an old-fashioned feel with a modern format.  It is a very good first graphic novel for young children who will enjoy the speech bubbles and the frames that they see in older siblings’ books.  Rosen tells a complete and charming story in just a few words and snatches of conversation.  Stewart’s art works really well here with the bright and bold colors of the main characters contrasting with the gray tones of the backgrounds. 

A graphic novel for the preschool set, this book has a charm about it that will find it happy owners.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Featured on 7-Imp.

When You Meet a Bear on Broadway

When You Meet a Bear on Broadway by Amy Hest, illustrated by Elivia Savadier

When you meet a bear on Broadway, you stick out your hand and ask them to stop.  Then you politely ask what his business is there.  He bursts into tears saying that he has lost his mother.  The two of you think of how to find her together.  Then you look uptown.  And downtown.  Along the river.  Until you find a forest where the bear climbs a tall tree and shouts for his mother.  But will a mama bear be able to hear him in the middle of a bustling city?

Though the styles are very different, this has the feel of Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie feel.  It is the short lines and the repeating phrase of “When you meet a bear on Broadway.”  Hest takes this form and creates a book about being lost, being helped, and being found.  There is never any sense of panic about the child helping the bear.  It is far more of a problem solving book about what to do when you find a bear on a city street. 

The book has a nice bit of old-fashioned whimsy about it though the setting is modern.  Savadier’s illustrations contribute to this with their gentle lines and watercolor washes.  The little girl and the bear are often the only bright color on the page, magnifying their relationship rather than the largeness of the city itself.

Funny, quiet and very satisfying, this book would be nice paired with any of Numeroff’s If You titles.  It also offers a nice change of pace for any bear-themed stories.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by A Patchwork of Books.