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! 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.

Review: Ten Things I Love about You by Daniel Kirk

ten things i love about you

Ten Things I Love about You by Daniel Kirk

Rabbit and Pig are great friends.  So Rabbit decides to make a list of ten things that he loves about Pig.  Rabbit comes up with the first one all on his own: Number 1 – I love Pig because he is very pink.  Then he turns to Pig for help, but Pig is busy doing something else.  Rabbit figures out Number 2, I love Pig because he knows how to keep busy.  As time goes by, Rabbit continues to fill his list as Pig reacts to Rabbit’s visits and questions.  But Pig is getting more and more frustrated with the interruptions.  Finally, Rabbit’s list is complete and Pig has a surprise in turn for Rabbit.

Told entirely in dialogue, this is a picture book that begs to be read aloud.  Because of the way it’s written, the humor is highlighted clearly for young readers.  The pacing too is impacted by the format with a dashing briskness that is very refreshing.  Kirk’s illustrations are very modern.  They were made by scanning ink drawings and painted plywood panels into the computer and then texture and color were added with Photoshop.  They have a wonderful rustic edge to both the images themselves and also the edges of the plywood.  It adds an organic warmth to the story.

Add this one to your friendship story times, Rabbit and Pig are sure to get along well with Frog and Toad as well as Elephant and Piggie.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.

Review: Olympig by Victoria Jamieson


Olympig by Victoria Jamieson

Boomer has decided to be the first pig ever to compete in the Animal Olympics and gained attention of the news.  He practiced hard and at night dreamt of Olympic victory.  The next day, he lined up for the race against cheetahs, rabbits, and greyhounds.  He lost, of course, much to the delight of the news.  Boomer was heart broken until he realized he had other events to compete in.  He lost at weightlifting, hurdles, high jump, wrestling and more.  Then came the diving event, and Boomer knew that he had the best dive in the animal world: the cannonball!  But even then, he lost!  Boomer quit before the final event, storming off the field.  But then he saw his mother on the news saying how special he was and how much she loved him.  So he put on his costume for the final event, and off he went!

Jamieson portrays Boomer as an eternal optimist, someone who has been told that all it takes to succeed is to practice and do your best.  Unfortunately, it sometimes takes some natural talent too.  But Boomer remains that optimist.  He may get bruised and battered, but bounces back.  Jamieson has created an underdog that everyone will be rooting for, but who is also doomed to fail. 

The illustrations are done in a silly, cartoon style.  Jamieson creates engaging pairings for each event: Boomer weightlifts against an elephant, jumps against a flying squirrel and dives against a seal.  Adding to the jolly feel of the book are the endpages that have a silhouette of a round pig doing a range of Olympic events.  They have just the right feel, mocking the Olympic signage.

Silly and yet heart warming, this picture book is nicely timed with the Summer Olympics and will be enjoyed by all of us who yearn to be Olympic victors but just aren’t built for it.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

Review: The Giant Seed by Arthur Geisert


The Giant Seed by Arthur Geisert

This follow-up to the charming Ice continues the story of the community of pigs.  One night, an enormous seed landed near the homes of the pigs.  The pigs immediately set to work planting it, watering it, and caring for it.  It grew into an enormous dandelion.  Just as the flowers were blooming, a volcano near their village started to erupt.  Hot ash fell onto their homes and the pigs were forced to flee.  They found the solution in the dandelion seeds, riding them to a new island filled with trees and fresh water. 

Geisert’s pig stories are told entirely through pictures.  The long, narrow format of the book allows for a series of panels, one picture on each page, or a lovely long image that takes up the entire spread.  Geisert uses all of these formats for his images.  His illustrations are done in etchings with fine lines and small details.  The mystery of the real size of the pigs continues with one wondering if they are either very tiny pigs or the dandelions are truly larger than trees. 

As readers face another disaster alongside the pigs, they will enjoy the whimsical solution and the impressive art.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Review: Piggy Bunny by Rachel Vail

piggy bunny

Piggy Bunny by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard

Liam does not want to be a pig when he grows up, even though he’s a piglet.  Instead, Liam wants to be the Easter Bunny.  Liam even practiced his bunny skills: hopping, eating salad, and delivering eggs.  But they didn’t work out too well.  His family thought that he should just admit he was a pig and move on.  But then his grandmother said that they didn’t have the imagination to see him as a rabbit and that he needed a bunny suit to have them see it.  Unfortunately, the bunny suit doesn’t fit quite right, one ear doesn’t stand up straight, and it itches.  But when Liam looks in the mirror, all of that is forgotten, because he sees — the Easter Bunny!

Vail has created an Easter book that will have appeal far beyond that holiday.  It’s a book about a child with a dream that others can’t even visualize and that child creating it in a way that lets others share his vision.  That solid message is packaged in a very friendly, light-hearted package with lots of appeal.  Her writing is sprightly and fun-filled, inviting children to put on costumes and try new identities.

A large part of the appeal of the book are the illustrations.  Done in thick lines and bright, candy-colored backgrounds, the illustrations are filled with energy and humor. 

A pig in a bunny suit that is as cute as this one will have this book off of library shelves in no time.  Add in the solid storyline and you have a winning Easter book.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel and Friends.