Review: Squeak! by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Squeak! by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Squeak! by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Kate Harvey McGee (9780525518150)

When a summer breeze tickles a little mouse’s ear early one morning, an entire cacophony follows. With one loud squeak, the mouse starts the world waking up. The chipmunks wake up, sending a pine cone into the river. The trout jump. The elk bonks into a tree launching the eagle off. The sound of her huge wings wakes the bears, whose growls wake the wolves. The wolves howl waking the bighorn lamb who leaps high. Finally, the bison bellows and all of the other creatures in the area awaken too. Except for one little mouse, who is now asleep.

The author plays with sounds in this book as they ripple across an ecosystem in this nature-focused read. From the small mouse squeak to the huge bison bellow, all of the sounds are unique and interesting. Children listening to the story will love the chance to howl like wolves, leap like trouts, or fly like eagles along the way. The book is filled with a sense of joy and wonder as the series of noises awaken all of the animals.

The art is done in two steps by the two creators, one who did the black lines and the other who colored them in digitally. The result is almost like stained glass. The sense of the glow of morning light carries through all of the illustrations. They are united by a strong feeling of being in a shared place too.

A great read aloud for a group, expect lots of participation. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

3 New Noisy Picture Books

Blacksmith_s Song by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk

Blacksmith’s Song by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, illustrated by Anna Rich (9781561455805)

Told in first person, this picture book shows how communication worked for the Underground Railroad. The boy’s father is a slave on a plantation, working as the blacksmith. He uses the rhythm of the forge to send messages that carry to those waiting to escape. The boy wonders when it will be their turn to escape to freedom. But day by day, his father is growing weaker and more ill. Soon he may not be able to even send the messages from his hammer. When it is finally their turn to leave, it is the boy who takes up the hammer, sending his first message and his father’s last as they head to freedom.

Rich with language, this picture book takes the words of the forge and let them shine. Throughout smoke, sparks and the hammer’s rhythm form a steady beat that the book uses very successfully. The added tension of the father’s illness brings even more pressure for the family to escape in time. While slavery is painted with a gentler brush here for younger audiences, the feeling of oppression is strong and the need to escape is clear. The illustrations are deep and dark, lit by the light of the forge and showing that dark unknowns are safer than slavery. A look at the Underground Railroad that is appropriate for young listeners aged 5-7. (Reviewed from ARC provided by Peachtree Publishers.)

The Great Dictionary Caper by Judy Sierra

The Great Dictionary Caper by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Eric Comstock (9781481480048)

When the words in Noah Webster’s dictionary get bored just sitting around, they escape and create plenty of word fun in this picture book. They form a word parade made of works like “clang” and “boom” and “crash.” There are short words and long words, action verbs pick up the pace. Homophones, contractions, antonyms and palindromes fill the pages too. Rhyming words and words with no rhymes as well as interjections and conjunctions make merry. There is plenty to enjoy here, including witty humor and a rip-roaring pace. Children won’t even realize they are learning concepts as each of the letters has a personality that suits the word they are in. Jazzy and delightful, this picture book is a celebration of our language. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.)

Rumble Grumble...Hush by Kate Banks

Rumble Grumble…Hush by Kate Banks, illustrated by Simone Shin (9781101940495)

The day starts with a few small noises until the little boy starts to play loudly with his imaginary friends. There is roaring, banging, rumbling and dumping. Then it’s time for a bit of quiet with breakfast and thinking until once again the rumbling and grumbling starts. More quiet comes, with a bag of quiet games, puzzles and art projects, books to read and a nap. Then noise is welcome again with balls and toys and blocks and trains. Dinner comes and goes and bedtime approaches with its own quiet. The way that noise and quiet are presented here is lovely, showing they both have places and special ways of playing that allow them to happen. Loud and quiet times are filled with play and imagination here and parental expectations are shown with lots of love and support. The illustrations are playful with friendly huge imaginary friends that fill the page, dark wood floors to sit on and play, bright walls to hang art on, and plenty of room for imaginations to fill. A warm and loving look at play and noise, this picture book is a gem. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade Books and Edelweiss.)

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 Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, illustrated by Julia Kuo (InfoSoup)

Yoshio heads out of his house and into the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. He hears all sorts of things, like splashing puddles and rain on his umbrella. Then he hears the sound of a woman playing a koto and visits with her. He asks her what her favorite sound is and she replies that it is the sound of silence. Yoshio spent the rest of the day looking for silence. But there was always some kind of sound, others talking, the breeze in the bamboo, traffic and trains. He couldn’t find silence anywhere, not in the bath where water dripped or in bed where he could hear a radio playing far away. He went to school early the next day, still seeking silence and then for one moment, he heard it. Even inside he was still. He discovered it was in between all of the other sounds, just waiting for him there.

Goldsaito has written a beautiful contemplative picture book where seeking the sound of silence is a search for finding your own inner place of peace. Even as the book looks towards silence, it celebrates the other sounds of a bustling city, a busy school and a family at home. As the sounds grow quieter, the book slows too allowing readers to see the way towards silence as they move through the book.

Kuo’s illustrations are gorgeous with their fine lines and details. They capture a city with many inhabitants walking together, traffic moving, and plenty of action. They also show the beauty of the bamboo garden, the loving family eating together and then Yoshio eager to find the solution to hearing silence. Readers will hear silence on many of the pages thanks to the beauty of the illustrations and the moment it takes to really look at them.

A very special picture book that will speak to many readers in our busy modern world who are themselves looking for a peaceful break in their day. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Scritch Scratch Scraww Plop! by Kitty Crowther

Scritch Scratch Scraww Plop by Kitty Crowther

Scritch Scratch Scraww Plop! by Kitty Crowther

Jeremy doesn’t like the dark. So when bedtime comes, he is just fine as he gets ready for bed. He’s happy when his father reads him a bedtime story and his mother comes in for a final hug and kiss. But once he is left alone in the dark in bed, he hears something. It’s a “scritch scratch scraww plop” and Jeremy is fairly sure that it is some sort of monster in his room. He goes to tell his father, but his father just moves him back to bed. Eventually after being unable to sleep after several tries, Jeremy climbs in bed with his parents. His father can’t sleep then, and goes to sleep in Jeremy’s room. And that is when he hears a “scritch scratch scraww plop!” He heads back to get Jeremy and the two of them go outside together to figure out what is making that noise.

Crowther takes a universal situation of being scared of the dark and places a lovely natural twist at the end. The fact that Jeremy is not making up or imagining the scary noise he is hearing is central to the story. Reading this book aloud is a treat with the “scritch scratch scraww plop” offering a great opportunity to add a little shiver into the room. The design of the book is old-fashioned and warm. I immediately thought of Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter when I opened the book. The clear celebration of nature at the end of the book is a strong way to finish on a high note.

Crowther’s art is done in discrete panels on each page adding to the vintage feel. The art itself is jaunty and friendly. The pools of water on the floor that make up their carpet is funny and the real darkness on the page done in black is deep and adds to the scary feel when Jeremy is alone.

This import from Belgium will be welcomed as a bedtime story for those who have their own monsters and scary noises to deal with at night. It may also invite exploration out into yards and gardens to discover what is making those noises. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Review: When Lions Roar by Robie H. Harris

when lions roar

When Lions Roar by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Chris Raschka

The author of It’s Perfectly Normal joins forces with a Caldecott Medalist to create this picture book.  It is the story of a young boy who is overwhelmed by a visit to the zoo with all of the animal noises.  He also gets scared of a thunder storm, sirens and mommy and daddy shouting.  When it all becomes too frightening, the boy sits down, shuts his eyes and tells the scary to go away.  And it does.  Then he can hear the quiet again and he stands back up and opens his eyes.  He is off to run in the sunshine, look at nature and hear the softer sounds around him.

This is a simple picture book with lines that don’t rhyme but a rhythm that ties them all together into almost verse.  Harris captures the feeling of a child overwhelmed by noise but also by negative things happening.  I appreciate that the child solves the issue on his own by becoming introspective and mindful and not by having a tantrum.  It is a book about centering oneself and calming down even in a loud environment.  The return to being able to hear the softer things and enjoy your surroundings again is particularly effective.

Rashka’s art is his signature style with loose sweeps of paint in bright colors.  His images are swirls of movement that work very well with the subject matter.  From the noises in the air to the quieter moments, the boy’s entire body language changes as he gives in to the overwhelming feelings first and then recovers from them.

A strong book, this is one that will encourage children to center themselves and be in charge of their own reactions to overstimulation.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Orchard Books.