3 New Picture Books Full of Animals

Honey by David Ezra Stein

Honey by David Ezra Stein (9781524737863)

This is a companion book to Leaves with the same bear. This time the bear has woken up from hibernation and is hungry for honey. Everything around him reminds him of aspects of honey like the golden sun and the flowing river. But it is too early for honey to be ready, so the bear tries to forget about it. Still, he keeps on thinking of the sweet treat as he spends his days. He enjoys the rain, swimming in the water, and exploring his surroundings. Finally it is time for honey! And then the days start to cool again and fall approaches.

A great companion book to the first stellar picture book, this one feels so connected to the first. The art has the same free and flowing style as the first that was so compelling. In this book, honey is the focus and Stein cleverly shows how different parts of the bear’s day remind him of honey even when he is distracted. The illustrations are compellingly summerlike, the sunshine clear on the page. A welcome new sweet treat of a book to share. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Moon Man by Isabel Harris

The Moon Man by Isabel Harris, illustrated by Ada Grey (9781680100785)

One day Cat, Rabbit and Squirrel discovered a new addition to the wheatfield they lived near. It was a scarecrow, but only Rabbit knew that. The friends played near the scarecrow because he smelled nice and had a friendly face. That night, Fox, Owl and Hedgehog came out into the field and see the scarecrow. They think that he’s a moon man and leave him food to eat. The next morning, the other animals believe the scarecrow has left them some treats to eat. They in turn give the scarecrow flowers. The nocturnal animals see the flowers and think that the moon man has picked them because the moon doesn’t have any flowers. Perhaps they should build him a rocket to return home. When the farmer returns, he finds his scarecrow quite different! He moves it to another field, so the nocturnal animals believe their rocket has worked!

Grey’s picture book has young readers in on the joke immediately. The day animals know what the scarecrow is and their jubilant reaction sets the tone for the book. The nocturnal animals are the most confused, but their story is what makes the book really work. It is particularly nice that their story of what is happening is never disproven and instead remains intact throughout the book. The illustrations are bright and summery, filled with golds and greens. The nighttime illustrations fade to grays and pastels. A book about imagination and creativity, this picture book is full of humor and friendship. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Pignic by Matt Phelan

Pignic by Matt Phelan (9780062443397)

An adorable family of pigs head out on a sunny day for the perfect picnic. A friendly turtle helps the littlest pig climb up into a tree. As other pigs want to fly a kite, a wolf sneaks up on them. There isn’t any wind, but luckily the wolf has a solution and fixes the problem with a “Huff puff.” Called to eat, the pigs leave the wolf holding the kite. Soon storm clouds gather and rain pours down in a gush. It leaves lots of mud behind, much to the joy of the pig family!

With one problem after another, the pigs still manage to have a wonderful picnic together. The text is very simple, with a natural rhythm that ends with a chorus of “Hooray!” when each obstacle is overcome. This playful book shows the power of helping one another and having a positive outlook. The illustrations are done in watercolors and pencils, showing pink pigs of all sizes ready for a great day together. Even the blue wolf is not scary, just right for the littlest listeners. A book that will have everyone planning the next picnic. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

3 Fun-Filled Picture Books

These three picture books are wild romps of fun:

I Love You Like a Pig by Mac Barnett

I Love You Like a Pig by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli (9780062354839)

This picture book celebrates all the different forms that love can take, beginning with being loved like a pig and moving to other unique ones as well. At first they may seem silly or unlikely, but the book shows what each one means through the illustrations. The text stays very simple, offering new ways of loving: I love you like a window, I’m smiling like a tuna, and You’re sweet like a banker. Then the illustrations shows how each analogy works and brings it all to life. Barnett comes up with far-fetched analogies that then are transformed into meaning. The selections are clever and will appeal specifically to children and their experiences. Pizzoli’s bright illustrations invite readers to explore the words and find the meaning too. An ingenious book about love and delight. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABCs (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABCs (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell (9780316502467)

When the little red cat heads outside, he discovers a world of surprises and dangers that follow the ABCs. Readers will have to puzzle out what matches each letter along the way (though there is a key in the back of the book to help if you get stuck.) With a merry chase throughout the book, it has the feel of a Gingerbread Boy gallop across the pages. The book is wordless, offering only the letters along the way, providing a visual treat as the cat is joined by an alligator, a bear, a chicken, a dragon and an egg on his adventure through the alphabet. Filled with moments of humor, like the stop at the rest room for R and the lovely use of N and O, this picture book is a delight of an alphabet book that is great fun to share. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Nibbles The Dinosaur Guide by Emma Yarlett.jpg

Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide by Emma Yarlett (978-1-61067-643-4)

This is the second Nibbles book where the little yellow monster invades a book by munching his way right into the pages. Here a serious informational book about dinosaurs is what he enters and causes all sorts of mischief. The book names beloved dinosaurs and explains facts about them before being interrupted by the chaos created by Nibbles as he chews through the pages. Nibbles flees from Triceratops charging him. He has an eating contest with a family of Diplodocus. He is surrounded by Velociraptors and then runs right into a Tyrannosaurus Rex before escaping the book.

Yarlett has a real feel for what children love in picture books. She includes poop and fart jokes along the way, and offers lift the flap and die cut pages. Along the way, various side characters offer puns and jokes that will have readers giggling. Still, there is real information on the various dinosaurs offered as well, creating a book that combines silliness and seriousness into just the right mix.

Yarlett’s illustrations work to combine the serious and silliness. The pages on the dinosaurs are done in serious muted colors, sepia tones. But when Nibbles is around, those colors burst into fuller colors with oranges, greens and yellows. The die cuts are cleverly used to move through the book, some of them appearing through multiple pages for even more effect.

Another delicious Nibbles book that combines interactive elements and dinosaurs for what is sure to be a popular pick. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from copy provided by Kane Miller.)

Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello

Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello

Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello (9781580897150, Amazon)

In this second Little Pig book, Little Pig isn’t big enough to join his older siblings at sailing camp. One of his brother’s gives him a rope to practice knot tying. That gets dull after a day. Happily, his grandparents come over and Poppy has been making a model ship. Little Pig helps him finish it and they sail it over and over again. Then on Saturday, the ship gets away from them and sails over a waterfall. Poppy and Little Pig try to catch it, but the current carries the ship away. Luckily, Little Pig has been practicing his knots and has the rope along in his pocket!

Costello demonstrates how little ones can be too small for some experiences but just the right size to save the day. Throughout the book there is a jolliness to the days spent with a grandfather who is happy to dabble in the water again and again. As the water runs faster after the rain, the adventure begins. Costello beautifully has Little Pig do the rescuing even as Poppy supports him in his endeavors. This is a story where the little one is the true hero.

The illustrations are immensely friendly. Costello combines sharp dark lines against flowing watercolors, making Little Pig and the other characters pop. Readers will notice that Little Pig has two grandfathers who visit, making this book a subtle LGBT-friendly read. As the days pass, Poppy’s shirts change color, marking the time in a floral way.

A second win for Little Pig! Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush by Emma J. Virjan

What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush by Emma J Virjan

What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush by Emma J. Virjan (InfoSoup)

This second book in the A Pig in a Wig series keeps up the zany silliness of the first even though it’s a bedtime story. Pig is getting ready for bed still in her wig, brushing her teeth and combing her hair. She’s all settled into bed with her teddy bear when other animals start showing up and making noise. They all climb into the bed with Pig, but soon it is too much to take and Pig shushes them all and sends them back to the barn. Soon all is silent again until the owl outside Pig’s window starts to hoot. Where will she find a quiet place to sleep?

Just as with the first book, this book is written in a jaunty and bouncy rhyme that sets a brisk pace. Despite the silliness and the rhyme though, the book does slow down at the end in a natural way, becoming downright dozy by the end. The illustrations are simple and funny, particularly when all of the animals are piled high on the bed.

A great addition to beginning reader collections, this book had just the right mix of silly and sleepy. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Review: In, Over and On the Farm by Ethan Long

In Over and On the Farm by Ethan Long

In, Over and On the Farm by Ethan Long

Following his Geisel Award-winning Up, Tall and High, Long returns to prepositions. Four animals friends have adventures on the farm in this easy reader. Broken into three short stories, each story focuses on one pair of prepositions. Chicken can’t get in the coop, so she is left out in the rain, until she realizes that everyone else is warm and dry in there, so she orders them to get out. In the next story, Chicken can’t get over the fence or go under it either. Luckily Cow has another solution for her, go around! In the last story, Pig is on the tractor and Cow and Goat join him there. When they are all on the tractor though, it starts to roll away and soon they are all thrown off. But they want to go on it again.

Long is a very prolific author and excels at creating books for beginning readers which are a winning mix of humor and simplicity. It also helps that he is a natural storyteller and so his short stories in the book have the feel of being complete tales despite their brevity. His characters are also universal, in their group and individual dynamics. The book is entirely relatable by children and will be enjoyed in classrooms looking at prepositions as well as by individual readers.

Long’s illustrations are funny and filled with a cartoon appeal. The colors are candy-bright and even gray rainy days are tinged in lavender. The incorporation of a few flaps to lift is also very appealing for young readers who will enjoy that the twist for each story is revealed in a physical way.

Silly and very easy to read, these stories have massive appeal. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Review: What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig by Emma F. Virjan

What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig by Emma Virjan

What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig by Emma J. Virjan (InfoSoup)

The pig in a wig comes first in this story where she is quickly floating in a boat on the moat. But then it all starts to get even more silly as a frog, a dog and a goat on a log join her in the boat. A rat and an elephant come next and it gets even more crowded, then a skunk and house! It’s completely full when a mouse and a panda join the floating group. But the pig has had enough and orders everyone to leave. They swim to shore, but then it’s all a bit too quiet for the pig who figures out exactly what they need to stay together.

This very simple rhyming book takes a classic story line of wildly silly building up of creatures in a limited space. The rhymes are silly themselves, often forced in a way that adds to the humor. The entire menagerie of animals have no rhyme or reason them other than rhyming and sometimes not even that. It’s a very silly story and one that is sure to appeal to new readers.

The illustrations are done with simple lines and colors. Looking almost like a coloring book, the illustrations add to the simplicity and the innate appeal of the book.

An early reader that has enough silliness in it to appeal to new readers. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Review: Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey by Alex Milway

pigsticks and harold

Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey by Alex Milway

Pigsticks hasn’t done anything with his life yet, unlike his very distinguished ancestors.  So he decides that he will travel to the Ends of the Earth but unlike his forepig, he will make it back alive.  Pigsticks quickly realizes that he will need an assistant, someone to carry all of his gear and cook.  Everyone in town came for an interview, but Pigsticks could not find the right person for the job.  That is until Harold the hamster showed up with a misdelivered package.  Harold wasn’t sure he wanted to be Harold’s assistant, but after much negotiation involving how many cakes would be brought on the journey (three of them) Harold agreed.  The two set off the next day, fording rivers, marching through jungles, crossing frail bridges across deep ravines, and then entering a vast desert before climbing an immense snowy mountain.  It’s a journey filled with mishaps and perils, most of which befall Harold, on their way to the elusive Ends of the Earth.

Milway has created a very clever early reader that will have new readers giggling right along.  Pigsticks is a wonderfully inattentive character, never noticing the various perils that Harold is facing along the way.  One might think be would come off very negatively, but he actually is a likeable character throughout, just a little self-absorbed.  Harold on the other hand is the voice of sanity on the trip, the one who sees danger ahead, but also the one doomed to not be listened to.  Their odd relationship works well in this book, creating very funny moments with just the right tone and humor for the age group.

Milway’s art is clever and cartoony.  He uses the art to fill in much of the story and provides art throughout at just the right amount to make the book appealing to new readers who are daunted by full-text pages.  The art adds to the zany humor of the text and further builds the dynamic between the two characters.

Funny, clever and cake-filled, this quest to the Ends of the Earth is sure to “end” up as a new reader favorite.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from digital copy received from Candlewick Press and NetGalley.

Review: Henry’s Map by David Elliot

henrys map

Henry’s Map by David Elliot

Henry was a pig who believed in being neat and tidy with everything in its place.  So when he looked out from his very clean sty, he was bothered by the messiness of the farmyard.  He decided to make a map, so that everyone could find things on the farm.  That meant he had to travel around the farm and write things down.  He included the sheep and the woolshed, Abigail the cow with her tree, Mr. Brown the horse and his stable, and the chicken coop.  Then all of the animals climbed up a nearby hill to look down on the farm and compare it to Henry’s map.  But when they looked closely, none of them were where they were marked on the map!  Luckily though, they all knew right where they belonged thanks to the map and back they all went, even Henry.

Elliot has a feel for writing picture books.  His pacing is delightful, the storyline is dynamic but not frenetic, and the characters are personable and ones that you want to befriend.  Henry is a little pig with a big vision, and there is satisfaction in him completing a big project on his own.  Elliot also nicely navigates having just the right amount of text on the page, enough to tell a full story but not too much to overwhelm or bog it down.  Add the twist of the animals being alarmed at not being in the same place as the map tells them they should be, and you have a very strong read. 

Elliot is the artist behind the Brian Jacques series of books.  Here his art has a wonderful playfulness but also a timelessness.  This book is beautifully illustrated with lots of jolly characters and one very serious pig.  The map itself looks like something a child would make complete with drawings and misspellings. 

A top pick, this picture book is perfect for map units in preschool and elementary school.  It also makes a fun addition to any farm or pig story time.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Philomel.

Review: Ribbit! by Rodrigo Folgueira

ribbit

Ribbit! by Rodrigo Folgueiro, illustrated by Poly Bernatene

One morning, the frogs in the pond woke up to discover a very pink visitor among them: a little pink pig.  They tried to ask the piglet why he was there, but all he would say was “Ribbit!”  The other animals soon heard about the unusual pig and hurried to the pond to see him.  All of the animals except the frogs found the entire situation hilarious, but the frogs were getting more and more angry.  The animals went in search of the wise old beetle to ask his advice, but when they returned the pig was gone.  All of the animals began to wonder what the pig had wanted all along and it wasn’t too late to find out!

Folgueira has created a book with the feel of a traditional folktale but one that also has the humor and feel of a modern story.  Told in a clear voice, the book invites readers to wonder about what is actually happening in the book.  Happily, the ending ends the questions, but until then there is plenty to think about.

Bernatene’s illustrations have bright tones and fine lines.  The watercolor texture of the pages and the pictures add a welcome rustic warmth to the story that suits it well.  She has also created one of the most engaging little pigs, with a merry grin and closed eyes formed out of just a few curved lines.  Pink perfection.

This is a look at friendship and also at cultures and what happens when someone steps out of their own comfort zone and begins to explore new things.  In the end though, it’s a delight of a read aloud that children will enjoy for just the story alone.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.