The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper

The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper

The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper (9781484726464, Amazon)

Part of the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series, this early reader is a philosophical joy. Yellow Bird has a button that does absolutely nothing, or does it? He shows it to Red Bird and Blue Bird. When Blue Bird tries the button, it surprises him. And that’s not nothing! It doesn’t surprise Red Bird, which makes Blue Bird sad, also not nothing. Then Yellow Bird gets angry at their responses, which is also not nothing. Soon the button can make them do lots of things, even get funny and silly. Perhaps the button does everything?

Harper has created a wonderful mix of humor and philosophy in this early reader. Done with just the right jaunty humor and wild zaniness, the book moves at a fast pace towards its philosophical conclusion. The ties to Elephant and Piggie are clear and this feels like a natural extension of their humor and attitude, making it exactly the right kind of book for this series.

The illustrations are bright and simple. Done with similar speech bubbles to Elephant and Piggie, they convey the emotions of the birds clearly, something that is very important in this book in particular.

A zingy riot of an early reader, this one is a winner. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: I Am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon

I Am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon

I Am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz (InfoSoup)

The finches live all together in a flock making a huge racket and not thinking at all. They all say good morning, good afternoon, good evening and good night each day, starting over again each day. The only thing that changed their routine was when the Beast came and ate one or more of them. After that, the flock would shout about the Beast and fly higher in the tree. But then something different happened. Henry woke up and heard a thought in his head. He thought and thought, and realized that someone had to stop the Beast and that he could be a hero! But when he tried to best the Beast, it did not go as planned. Can thinking some more save Henry?

I am a fan of strange picture books and this is certainly one of them. It has a philosophical feel to it, changing from what is at first a look at the cacophony of the modern world and the lack of thinking happening in mobs to then the power of thought, the importance of ideas, and the way that thinking alone can change the world. This is a book that is not pat. It will instead inspire discussion. If you are looking for a picture book to inspire a metaphysical discussion with children, this is it. Clever and smart, it allows children themselves to start to think too.

Using thumbprints as the finches is a fascinating choice. Fingerprints are unique but these birds are anything but. The book then moves to darkness where Henry is inside the Beast. The pages black with white lines, all deep and dark and filled solely with silence and thought. It’s a powerful visual transition.

Not for everyone, this picture book will delight some and confuse others. I hope it delights you like it did me! Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Where Do I End and You Begin? by Shulamith Oppenheim

Where Do I End and You Begin by Shulamith Oppenheim

Where Do I End and You Begin? by Shulamith Oppenheim, illustrated by Monique Felix (InfoSoup)

This poetic book asks deep questions about the interconnectedness of life and nature. It begins with a cat asking where it ends and its tail begins. How about a shell and a snail? Or a branch and a tree? Perhaps the sky and the sea? Each pairing gets readers thinking about whether they can tell where one stops and the other begins. Some of them are arguably doable, like the sky and sea where a boundary is evident, others though are real questions whether emotional like a hug or physical like the snail and its shell. This is a book filled with unanswerable questions that will get readers thinking about the importance of all types of connections in our lives.

The poem at the heart of this picture book is particularly beautifully written. It uses items that are familiar to children and then guides them to think about them in a new and surprising way, examining the connections. While the poem could be read very literally at times, other pairings in the book make sure that the questions are larger than the objects themselves, lifting it up to include the interconnectedness of all of us on the planet. This grand book is sure to start interesting discussions in classrooms and families.

The illustrations by Felix are delicate and luminous. They shine on the white background, interconnect with one another and play together too. The cat is found on the next page, walking the stair within the snail’s shell. A boy and girl are present on many of the pages too, exploring the way that humans fit into the world as well.

A superb picture book that asks profound questions and then celebrates the world and our connections with it. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.