Review: Humpty Dumpty Lived Near a Wall by Derk Hughes

Humpty Dumpty Lived Near a Wall by Derk Hughes

Humpty Dumpty Lived Near a Wall by Derk Hughes, illustrated by Nathan Christopher (9781524793029)

This modern twist on Humpty Dumpty is a dark and yet hopeful version. Humpty Dumpty is just one of many fairy tale creatures who works for hours for the King under fluorescent lights. They all work and live in the dark shadow of the wall, in a world where they have been forbidden to dream. But Humpty Dumpty has a dream, a dream of seeing over the wall. He had many ideas and decided to build himself a very tall ladder. He finished the ladder, brought it to the wall, and climbed up, up, up to the very top. But the next morning, all that was left were shattered pieces of egg shell and a broken ladder. The wall and the King had won, or had they?

The rhyming text of this book is so cleverly done. It plays with the convention of rhymes in fairy tales and nursery rhymes, yet it never has a jaunty tune here, playing out more like a funeral dirge. The modern touches of fluorescent lights and TV blend into the fairy tale world that Hughes has created. This is a story that mixes our national issues with political walls along with a capitalistic monarchy to great result, a mix of sorrow and hope that is so powerful.

Christopher’s illustrations are simply incredible. Done in pen and ink with no color, they are filled with fine lines and details. It is those details that create an entire dark world for Humpty Dumpty and the others. Walls are built with skulls, thorns fill the borders, roots tangle the floors. The pages are populated by all sorts of fairy tale creatures, some with specific names like Chicken Little and the Mad Hatter and others who are more general like gnomes, fairies, and giants. These are pages to lose yourself in, looking at the details, seeing new things each time.

Incredible, political and edgy, this picture book is for slightly older children who will enjoy the details and the tone. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Penguin Workshop.

Review: Mother Goose of Pudding Lane by Chris Raschka

Mother Goose of Pudding Lane by Chris Raschka

Mother Goose of Pudding Lane by Chris Raschka, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky (9780763675233)

The story of the real Mother Goose frames a selection of her rhymes in this biographical picture book. The book begins by explaining that Mother Goose was actually Elizabeth Foster who married Isaac Goose in 1692. He was a widower with 10 children and the two had four more children together! So she was very like the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. She raised this large family with her husband, filling the house with rhymes which are still shared in homes today.

The framework of Mother Goose’s own story is told in brief poetic lines that rhyme across the pages, forming their own nursery rhyme of sorts. The highlight here is seeing the nursery rhymes themselves, all returned to the more original versions that were a little rougher and reflected Mother Goose’s time period. It would have been good to have an author’s note with more details about her life as well as a bibliography.

Radunsky’s illustrations are funny and clever. They range from paintings to rougher pencil sketches that appear on the page together. The mix is dynamic and interesting, reflecting the mix of rhymes and story on the page.

Not your regular picture book biography, which makes it all the more interesting. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy  provided by Candlewick Press.

 

Three Tall Tales in Picture Book Form

Humpty Dumpty, a southern twist on a classic, and a fresh new adventure await:

After the Fall by Dad Santat

After the Fall by Dad Santat (9781626726826)

After Humpty Dumpty has fallen from the wall and gotten as repaired as he can be, he continues living his life but with a fear of heights. He can’t sleep in his bunk bed or even reach for the cereal at the grocery store that is on the top shelf. He thinks often of the wall and finds himself watching birds flying. Then one day, he decides to start making paper airplanes. He practices and practices until he makes a perfect one shaped like a bird. But what will he do when it flies over the wall? Santat has a gorgeous way with pacing a story, allowing it to naturally grow and build towards the climax. Here there is a delight of a twist at the end, just enough to transform the story of Humpty Dumpty to another tale entirely. It is handled with care and precision, making the reveal very special. The Caldecott Award winner’s art is lovely here, done with subtlety and style with interesting perspectives. A traditional tale retold into something very special. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Review copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater

The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, illustrated by The Fan Brothers

Marco, a young fox, had lots of questions about the way the world works. The other foxes weren’t interested in his questions, so Marco headed to the harbor where he found a ship that was lost. The deer in charge of the vessel admitted they weren’t good sailors and were looking for crew members. Marco offered to sail with them and so did a group of pigeons looking for adventure. The journey was harder than expected with storms, windless stretches and pirates! Their new crew weathered all of the challenges by working together and eventually found the island they were searching for. Were their adventures done? Not yet!

This picture book is so visually beautiful. The illustrations are detailed and lush. There are small touches throughout, a sense of vast sea and sky, and a wonderful playfulness that enhances the adventures. The text is restrained and allows the images to really shine. This picture book is perfect for young pirates looking for a new beautiful adventure. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy provided by Beach Lane Books.)

Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes

Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes (9781580897181)

A southern take on the classic Princess and the Pea story, this version of the story is set in South Carolina. Ma Sally is one of the best cooks in town, known for her black-eyed peas. Her son John is interested in getting married and several girls are interested in him, but Ma Sally worries about their skills in cooking. So she sets up a test for them. It’s not until a girl from out of town, named Princess, enters the contest that John realizes he’s finally found his match in personality and cooking. Himes takes care at the end of this book to ensure that Princess is not just looking for a husband. Instead there is a focus on the power of women and her right to choose after getting to know John a bit more. The illustrations have folksy simplicity to them that suit the story. A great African-American version of the classic story that puts the choice back into the hands of the couple rather than the mother. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

 

Review: Over the Hills and Far Away by Elizabeth Hammill

Over the Hills and Far Away by Elizabeth Hammill

Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Elizabeth Hammill and various illustrators (InfoSoup)

Nursery rhyme treasuries have to be something special to gain attention and this one certainly is. In this treasury, nursery rhymes from around the world nestle together into one full and playful view of the world and children. There are rhymes from England and the United States, and then there are wonderful additions from Africa, China, South America, France and other areas. Adding to the variety are the illustrations from some of the greatest children’s book illustrators working today, including popular favorites like Lucy Cousins, Shirley Hughes, Jon Klassen, Jerry Pinkney and Shaun Tan.

Opening this book invites the youngest readers into a journey of the imagination and the joy of rhymes from around the world. Anchored by familiar favorites for western readers, the book branches merrily out into less familiar rhymes. Rhymes carefully chosen to become new favorites and ones that reflect the places and regions they come from clearly.

The illustrations are gorgeous and varied. It makes each turn of the page thrilling and filled with wonder. Each one is unique and marvelous, a great example of that master illustrator’s work.

Add this nursery rhyme treasury to your library collection to add an important amount of diversity to your shelves. Appropriate for ages 1-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Nursery Rhyme Comics

nursery rhyme comics

Nursery Rhyme Comics

Take 50 classic nursery rhymes and put them in the hands of 50 of the top cartoonists of the day, and you get a nursery rhyme book that will delight all ages!  As you turn the pages, the styles change too.   While the text stays true to the nursery rhyme, comic asides and comments merrily twist the meaning at times.  There are also plenty of modern twists on the old tales, like There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe is a the owner of a daycare who also happens have a rock and roll band.  This is a book that embraces the humor, quirkiness and outright strangeness of nursery rhymes and takes them to another level.

When I first opened the book, I thought I might list my favorite rhymes and illustrations, but then I realized turning the pages that the real impact of this book is because there are so many diverse rhymes and illustration styles.  I tip my hat to the skill of Chris Duffy in matching illustrators to the ideal nursery rhymes.  This is really what makes the book sing.  I also appreciate the creative freedom given to the artists, making the result all the more intense and beautiful.

Highly recommended, this would be a great way to get nursery rhymes in the hands of older children who may have missed out on them when they were younger.  It’s also a delight if you know the rhymes already.  Appropriate for ages 6-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Moo, Moo, Brown Cow, Have You Any Milk? by Phillis Gershator

moo moo brown cow

Moo, Moo, Brown Cow! Have You Any Milk? by Phillis Gershator, illustrated by Giselle Potter

An extended version of Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, this book adds new verses with additional animals.  It begins with the traditional rhyme which then changes a little with the wool becoming a blanket for the little boy’s bed.  The goose provides down for a pillow.  The hen has eggs, the bee honey, and the cow milk, which all make a perfect bedtime snack.  The animals then all head to bed too, and readers are left with the boy fast asleep in his bed with his stuffed animals tucked in close with him: a sheep, goose, hen, and cow.

Gershator has used the same rhythm as the original and it all fits nicely into the song pattern as well, so this book can be sung too.  With each new animal, she gently offers up the noise the animal makes, what that animal provides, and then a use for that product.  It’s a pleasant look at animals, farming and the connection between farm and end product. 

Potter’s illustrations have a wonderful folkart aspect to them that adds a timelessness to the entire book.  For a new version of a beloved nursery rhyme, this is just the right art to set the tone. 

This book is a solid addition to nursery rhyme collections.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes

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Pocketful of Posies: A Treasure of Nursery Rhymes by Salley Mavor

This book contains classic nursery rhymes like “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”  The text is unchanged from the classic style, making this book a reassuring one to share with children.   The surprise and wonder of the book is its illustrations.  Done in fabrics and threads, the illustrations have a great dimensionality to them, lifting off of the page.  There is also an almost irresistible urge to try to feel the fabric’s softness on some pages.  If you look closely, you will find other objects in the illustrations as well:  small shells, acorn caps, pine cones. 

The bright colors make the book immediately appealing.  The softness of the illustrations, created by the fabric, continue to add to the appeal.  This becomes more than a book of nursery rhymes and turns into a book that can be pored over time and again.  It is a refreshing and interesting style that is timeless and lovely.

Highly recommended, this would make a gorgeous baby gift.  Stand it up in the library facing out, and it won’t take long for someone to whisk it away to check out.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by: Young Readers.

Three Little Kittens

three little kittens

Three Little Kittens by Jerry Pinkney

Caldecott medalist, Pinkney, has created a picture book version of the beloved nursery rhyme.  Pinkney stays true to the original version of the rhyme.  His illustrations offer a realistic and detailed depiction of the rhyme, offering a jaunty tone that works very well here.  The mother cat is fully clothed in a dress while the kittens romp in collars only, allowing them to act more like cats while they play.  The small details in the illustrations are delightful.  The kittens play with a mouse jack-in-the-box and a mouse doll.  Meanwhile real mice peek around a corner.  The birds outside also have scarves and hats, echoing the anthropomorphized cats nicely.

Pinkney has made this a great autumn book by having the cats frolic in fallen leaves.  In fact, the leaves are what hide the mittens from view when they lose them.  When the cats head back to find their mittens, they find them just where they left them, as young readers will enjoy remembering.  The playful kittens have detailed fur that is lush, fuzzy and fine.  All three having different colored coats make for dynamic and appealing pictures.

A lovely take on a classic rhyme, this book will be welcomed to library and classroom shelves as another great picture book by a master.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

You can also check out this video of Jerry Pinkney talking about creating the book:

Jerry Pinkney and Three Little Kittens
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Annie Kubler Board Books

Hop a Little, Jump a Little by Annie Kubler

Humpty Dumpty by Annie Kubler

Pat-a-Cake by Annie Kubler

Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat by Annie Kubler

A very friendly new collection of board books from Annie Kubler, these books offer one nursery rhyme in each volume.  The child characters are appealing with their large round heads, active hands and feet, and rather jolly feel.  The children are multi-ethnic adding to the appeal of the volumes.  Kubler presents each nursery rhyme simply and successfully.  She does not adorn the verse or change it from the original, rather these are modern versions of the classics.

Recommended for libraries and families, this set would make a great new baby present to get those little ones growing up with nursery rhymes.  Appropriate for ages 0-2.

Reviewed from copies received from Child’s Play.