Review: Kitten and the Night Watchman by John Sullivan

Kitten and the Night Watchman by John Sullivan

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.

 

Review: Sleepy the Goodnight Buddy by Drew Daywalt

Sleepy the Goodnight Buddy by Drew Daywalt

Sleepy the Goodnight Buddy by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Scott Campbell (9781484789698)

Roderick hated to go to bed, so he would make all sorts of requests and excuses to delay bedtime. Then his parents got him Sleepy, a toy that would help Roderick fall asleep. At first, no matter where Roderick put Sleepy in his bedroom, he could feel Sleepy’s staring eyes on him. Roderick tried to tell Sleepy that it was his job to help Roderick sleep, but Sleepy asked for a drink of water, then to use the bathroom, then to brush his teeth, and on and on. Until finally, Roderick loses his temper turns his back on Sleepy and just goes to sleep. Could that have been Sleepy’s plan all along?

Told in both prose and dialogue, this picture book has a merry voice. Young readers will recognize their own reluctance for bedtime and may not realize as quickly as adults that Sleepy is up to something. The dialogue between Roderick and Sleepy is fast-paced and full of humor. The book reads aloud well and demands a unique voice for Sleepy in particular.

The art really works well with Sleepy being a beautifully creepy toy or creature. His staring huge eyes, striped legs, and puffy antlers are delightfully confusing. The scenes of the two characters in bed next to each other use particularly effective imagery of wide eyes glowing in the darkness, side-by-side.

A great riff on bedtime struggles. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

3 New Picture Books with City Settings

Bus! Stop By James Yang

Bus! Stop! By James Yang (9780425288771)

When a boy misses his bus, he finds himself in a city filled with strange vehicles that are certainly not his bus. One bus is too tall and the passengers have to use their propeller hats to board it. The next is pulled by horses and shaped like a covered wagon, just right for the people in cowboy hats who climb aboard. When people wearing sailor suits arrive next, readers can guess the ship is about to arrive. There is another bus that bounces passengers high. The boy catches the next bus, even though it isn’t his either. It floats high above, away from the little girl who just missed the bus.

Told in very simple lines of text that are shown as speech bubbles, this picture book is all about the illustrations. With a modern edge, they have a playful feel thanks to their bright colors and the wild sorts of transportation shown on the pages. The matching of passengers to each conveyance is particularly skillful and will have children guessing what sort of “bus” is about to arrive on the next page. Humorous and jolly, stop for this book! Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Daddy, Me and the Magic Hour by Laura Krauss Melmed

Daddy, Me and the Magic Hour by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Sarita Rich (9781510707917)

When the family arrives home, Daddy starts cooking while Mommy feeds the baby. After supper, the little boy heads outside with his father for Magic Hour, their after supper walk. They greet a neighbor watering her roses. Meet dogs out for a walk, run a bit, find sticks and feathers. They play at the quiet playground that they have all to themselves. On their way home, the crickets start to chirp, they catch fireflies and release them. The daylight disappears and they walk home in the moonlight.

A book about the specialness of time spent together, this picture book celebrates quiet moments that string together to make a childhood. The text is jolly and short, the images telling parts of the story that are not put into words. The illustrations use comic-like framing to show each moment and connection in a special way. Along the walk the little boy steadily fills his bucket with memories, each tangible and solid. A delight of a bedtime read. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

In the Darkness of the Night by Emily Rand

In the Darkness of the Night by Emily Rand (9781849764810)

This book invites children to think about what happens after they head to bed at night. In the deep blue darkness of the city, windows are lit. Dishes are being washed, car doors slam as people arrive home again. Some people are still out, the trains are running through the night. Sirens sound, mothers are up with babies, some people work at night too. City foxes begin to explore, airplanes land. And morning comes with garbage pick up, mail being delivered, and the cat returning home again.

There is a wonderful mix of sleepiness and activity in this book. Told in rhyme, the book really works thanks to its rocking structure and its inherent quietness. Throughout, readers get to peek into windows of the city both ones that are lit and those that are dark. It’s a clever way to invite readers to explore the images that support the story so well. Deep blue throughout, this book is a city lullaby worth sharing. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Tate Publishing.)

3 Picture Books to Get You Outside

Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine

Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Red Koehler
(9781629794938)

Three children are up in their treehouse in the dark with a flashlight. As the flashlight beam breaks the night, it reveals an adventure. The children head into a woods, through a tomb, on to a pirate shore. There are sword battles, a grabby giant squid, and finally an escape. Then they are back in their treehouse, sharing a good book by flashlight. The text quietly builds the space for the illustrations that fill the page with discoveries by the handheld light. Throughout, there is a feeling of wonder, of the light revealing things that may or may not be there. The illustrations are exceptional, showing the joy of flashlights in the dark and the power of imaginations at play. Perfect to read with flashlights and then head outside for your own adventures. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Lines by Suzy Lee

Lines by Suzy Lee (9781452156651)

A lone ice skater skates past leaving swirling lines on the ice. There are curls and tight spirals and loose curves that feel like music on the page. In her red hat and mittens, the ice skater fills the page with her patterns. Then she falls to the ground and suddenly the page is crumpled up by the artist in frustration. Unfolded again, the page is wrinkled and smudged. But soon more skaters are joining in and the crumpled page becomes a pond filled with people enjoying the ice. Lee once again creates a beautifully simple book that speaks to nature, beauty and quiet. The use of the pulling back and having the artist crumple the page breaks the fourth wall and then turns the picture book into something even more interesting and fresh. This picture book is beautifully designed and very clever. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy supplied by Chronicle Books.)

Windows by Julia Denos

Windows by Julia Denos (9780763690359)

Windows light up as night falls in this picture book that takes readers outside to explore a neighborhood. A boy heads out to walk the dog as night falls, able to see into others’ homes as he passes by. He can see people eating, partying, watching TV. He glimpses a cat and a raccoon. Some windows are dark, some houses are entirely dark. Then those are left to his imagination. Soon he returns back home to his own glowing window where his mother waits for him. There is a lovely quiet to this book, a pleasure in being outside at sunset, the sky lit with colors as the buildings turn dark with windows alight. The illustrations are beautiful, lit by the reds of the sky and the darkness growing with each turn of the page. Time for a flashlight walk in your neighborhood! Appropriate for ages 4-6. (ARC provided by Candlewick Press.)

 

Noisy Night by Mac Barnett

Noisy Night by Mac Barnett

Noisy Night by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Brian Biggs (9781596439672, Amazon)

It’s quite a loud evening in the apartment building. People on each floor can hear what’s happening on the floor above them. The person on each floor hears a strange noise, wonders what it is and the illustrations give a hint as well. Each of the noises rhymes with the others, building the feeling the illustrations give of climbing higher and higher up the stories of the structure. There is a great energy about the book

There is a great energy about the book with the climbing of the heights. It’s added to by the rhymes and rhythms of the book, a strong structure for the story and one that creates a book that grows and builds. The ending is perfection, the timing throughout just right and the humor bold and delightful.

The illustrations have a wild zaniness that works perfectly with the story. There’s a subtle vintage feel to them in the patterns used in the setting but the bold colors are clearly modern and add to the energy of the tale.

This book begs to be shared aloud and children will guess what is making the next noise. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler

The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler

The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler (9780802854889, Amazon)

In between day and night, there is a special time of day: twilight or the blue hour. This picture book looks as blue animals during this brief time of day, capturing their blue beauty against the blue of the setting. There are animals like the blue fox from the arctic. Poison blue dart frogs are tropical. The plants and animals come from around the world, some from our own backyards like violets and bluebirds. Throughout the book, there is a feel of the magical time of day and quiet it brings as night settles in.

Simler’s words are poetic. Her collection of plants and animals move from being more active to a quieter feel as the book progresses. This arc follows the way that nature quiets before nightfall. The end pages of the book offer information on different types of blue and then a map with the various animals on it.

The art is very special with the blue tones dominant throughout. There is a peacefulness and simplicity to it that matches the time of day perfectly. The various animals and plants are shown almost luminous on the blue background, their fur, feathers, and petals lit from within. This adds to the magical feel of the book and the sense that readers are looking at something almost secret.

A blue-tiful book about nature, time and the wonder around us. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans.

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (InfoSoup)

Lucy spent a long time playing at the beach with her mother and father. The three of them played in the waves, dug holes in the sand, and rolled down the dunes. Soon they were all yawning and Mom declared it was a day for early bedtime! As they got ready for bed, everyone was yawning and Lucy’s mom even fell asleep reading the bedtime book. In the middle of the night the moon shone brightly through Lucy’s window and she was suddenly wide awake. She tiptoed out of bed and through the living room where her father was asleep in a chair. Lucy was looking for Molasses, her bear. She found not only Molasses but all of her stuffed animals who all wanted to come with her to bed. Once again everyone was yawning, even the pictures on the wall, as Lucy fell asleep with her bed full of stuffed friends.

Smiley has done a brilliant job of capturing a day at the beach and then the wonder of being awake at night as a small child. She keeps the language simple, so this book can be shared successfully with very small children who will relate to the joy of playing at a beach, the quiet of early bedtime and then the pure loveliness of moonlight, tiptoeing to find a treasured toy and the imagination at play.

Castillo’s illustrations are glorious. She captures the brilliant light of summer sun at a sandy beach, the hours of play, and the languid sleepiness that rolls over you after a day like that. Her illustrations keep the dark night from being dangerous or frightening, instead keeping the house dimly lit and easily navigated. It is much more a delight than a fright to be alone and awake.

A lovely book of celebrating the warmth of both family togetherness and then the joy of being little and awake alone. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Two Lions.

 

 

Review: Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando

Black Cat White Cat by Silvia Borando

Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando (InfoSoup)

Black Cat is entirely black, from his ears to his tail. White Cat is entirely white. Black Cat only goes out during the day when he can see swallows flying, White Cat only goes out at night when the stars are out. Then one day, Black Cat decides to see the night. And that is how Black Cat and White Cat meet. The two decide to explore day and night together. The night has fireflies while the day has bumblebees. The day has daisies, birds and butterflies while the night has snakes, bats and mice. The two cats become best friends, and eventually have kittens of their own. And you will never guess what color they are!

Borando is an Italian author. Here she uses lovely simple language to convey the wonder of both night and day as seen through a fresh set of eyes. The budding friendship of the two cats is captured in a lively way on the page, each of them sharing their world with the other. The illustrations and design of the book is what makes it special. The use of just the two colors on the page, black and white is done with a subtle humor. Borando creates scenarios where the black cat provides the dark background for the white cat to appear against in the day time and then reverses it. These clever little twists are a joy.

Graphically interesting and beautifully designed, this picture book even has a surprise ending to enjoy. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Night Animals by Gianna Marino

Night Animals by Gianna Marino

Night Animals by Gianna Marino (InfoSoup)

When Skunk walks by, he notices that Possum is hiding and asks why. She’s hiding from “the night animals” and hushes Skunk. The two hide together in a hollow tree until Skunk hears Wolf coming. Wolf shouts for help and says that something big is chasing him. Meanwhile Skunk has gotten alarmed and released his scent which has Possum fainting. Bear arrives in a panic saying that something HUGE is following him! It must be a night animal. Logic is restored by a little bat who informs all of the animals that THEY are the night animals. So what could they be afraid of? You will see!

Marino captures the hectic pace of panic neatly in this picture book. It builds from one animal to the next until it reads at almost breakneck speed as the animals grow in both size and number. The text is very simple and lends itself to lots of voices and humor when read aloud. Children may realize that all of these are nocturnal animals right away, but the final twist of the book will have even those clued into the lack of reason for any panic laughing.

The illustrations add so much to this book. With backgrounds of the darkest black, the animals pop on the page with their light coloring. Speaking in speech bubbles, they are funny and frightened. The addition of Skunk’s overuse of his scent makes for an even funnier read, particularly with it being Possum who is always hit with it.

Funny and a delight to read aloud, this picture book is ideal for sleepovers and bedtime reading, particularly if done by flashlight. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking Books for Young Readers.