Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast by David Ezra Stein

Cover image for Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast.

Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast by David Ezra Stein (9781536207781)

Little red chicken got up early on Saturday and brought his Papa breakfast in bed. Cookies for breakfast! But Papa doesn’t want either of them having cookies for breakfast and just wants to sleep a little longer. He agrees to read a book together though. Little red chicken picked out a book of nursery rhymes. There Was an Old Woman started out normally enough, but soon Little red chicken has turned it into a tale of shared cookies in a shoe. Jack and his candlestick and Hickory Dickory Dock all get changed too and now include cookies. Papa is starting to get a headache, so Little red chicken writes him a rhyme of his own which features cookies, of course. Now it is Papa’s turn to be hungry, and the two of them agree on a different treat for breakfast, cake! Pancakes.

This third book in the Interrupting Chicken series is another winner. In this book, Little red chicken interrupts regularly to continue to ask for cookies for breakfast. His sleepy and patient father goes along as best he can while also insisting that neither of them would have cookies for breakfast. The interruptions are great fun, transforming classic nursery rhymes into delicious humor. The relationship between the two characters is also a pleasure with their back and forth dialogue being just as joyous as the silly rhymes.

The art by Stein contrasts highly saturated and deeply colored images of the chickens with light pastel vintage nursery rhymes shown in a book. Those in turn get changed with some clever erasing and crayons that add yet another layer to the stories.

Another winner in a charming series. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick.

What Are Little Girls Made Of? by Jeanne Willis

Cover image.

What Are Little Girls Made Of? by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Isabelle Follath (9781536217339)

This book of refreshed feminist nursery rhymes takes the classics and turns them into rhymes that inspire all children to not follow gender norms. Little Baby Bunting’s mother heads out to find a job so they can pay for college. Georgie Porgie is taught a lesson on consent. Jill repairs Jack’s scooter so he can keep going down the hill. Girls welcome spiders to their gardens and picnics. Throughout the book, girls and women appear as doctors, mechanics, and scientists. They are invariably confident and in control of situations. These rhymes are a far cry from the originals and long overdue.

Willis takes clever aim at each of these familiar nursery rhymes. She keeps their structure and rhymes in place for the most part, inserting the feminist twist without losing the connection to the original. Some of the rhymes change just a little while other become almost entirely new. This makes for interesting reading as one realizes how sexist and outdated the originals truly are.

Follath’s illustrations fill the pages with strong women and girls of all races. As written in the rhymes, the girls get messy, get wet, insist on being treated properly, and in general take charge of the pages. This is done with a merry sense of humor in the illustrations, ensuring that the tone remains light.

A great book for little feminists of all genders. Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Nosy Crow.

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


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.