Review: The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett

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The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Poly Bernatene

I have to admit, I came to this book with a lot of reservations.  It’s ANOTHER princess book in a time filled with sparkly pink books.  But if you are as sick of the regular princess books as I am, then this is just the book for you!   A farmer had a little pig in the back of his hay cart.  He decided to name it Pigmella.  At the same time, in the tower high above, a queen picked up her baby daughter and decided to name her Priscilla.  But the queen dropped the baby out of the window without noticing and up flew the piglet in her place.  Soon the piglet was being treated as a princess and the princess was happily adopted by the farmer and his wife.  After all, this sort of thing happens all the time in books!  The princess was happy at the farm, growing up and making everyone happy.  Unfortunately, the same thing can’t be seen of the piglet, who grew into a pig, could not learn to read, and refused to wear her finery.  But what is to happen when the mix-up is discovered and the young woman is told she is a princess?

Emmett has inundated his book with references to other fairy tales that the characters in the book use to rationalize what has happened.  They blame things on evil fairies and magic, which is why the mix-up is not discovered for so long.  The writing is merry and filled with humor.

That same humor is carried out to great effect in the illustrations.  They are filled with the funny things that would happen if a pig were a princess, the pomp and ceremony that would still be attempted, and the gentle, loving family of farmers raising a real princess.  The illustrations are done so that the characters pop on a softer background.  The jolly nature of the book is embraced in full here.

Exactly the antidote to children who have read too many princess books, this is a shining example of what a twisted fairy tale book can be.  Great fun and very satisfying.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

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Review: A House in the Woods by Inga Moore

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A House in the Woods by Inga Moore

One pig had built a den for herself in the woods with another pig next door in a hut.  The two pigs went exploring in the woods and when they returned home, they found a bear and a moose in their homes.  Unfortunately, the spaces were not made for such large animals and both the den and the hut collapsed!  So the four animals talk about what they could do and decide to build a home where they all could live.  They had no idea where to start, so they called in the Beavers who only asked to be paid in peanut-butter sandwiches.  Everyone worked together to build a marvelous house and then worked together to get the sandwiches made for the Beavers.  In the end, they had a cozy warm home just right for the four friends together.

This book is so warm and cozy with an old-fashioned feel.  The story embraces a spirit of friendship and cooperation without ever being didactic about it.  Instead the lessons are woven directly into the story and shown, never told.  The tone of the tale is gentle and cheerful with small touches throughout that bring the story to life.  Here is the paragraph when the four friends are finally asleep in their own home:

Soon the only sounds to be heard were the soft cheeps of sleepy birds roosting in the rafters, the tiny rustling of wood mice in the fallen leaves outside, and, just now and then, the gentle snoring of Bear.

Moore’s art has the same warm, old-fashioned feel as the story.  The animals are individuals with interesting personalities, who each contribute differently to the project.  Through the entire work is a feel of nature and home.

This charming book is a joy to read aloud and will delight listeners.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

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Review: Little Pig Joins the Band by David Hyde Costello

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Little Pig Joins the Band by David Hyde Costello

His family all call Jacob, Little Pig, and he is the smallest in his family.  So when his siblings get out his Grandpa’s old marching-band instruments, Little Pig has trouble finding one that fits him.  He’s far too small for the drums, too little for the trumpet and trombone, and don’t even ask about the tuba!  All he can do is watch as his older brothers and sisters march around the room.  But when they come to a crashing stop, Little Pig knows just how he can join the band after all.

This simple story speaks to everyone finding their own niche and value in a family.  Here, Little Pig finds the special place for himself rather than the older children or adults helping him.  It makes for a very powerful message for young children, that not only do they have value but they can discover it on their own. 

Costello writes with simplicity and a solid feel.  His story has small, clever asides that are filled with puns as well.  His art is friendly and cheerful.  Little Pig has an oversized snout, small eyes and expressive ears.  Even the older children are treated as individuals in the art, with one decked out in hat and a boa.  I can see more stories about the children in this family.

A strong story about finding your place and becoming a leader, this book has a cheery feel that is very appealing.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

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Book Review: Ice by Arthur Geisert

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Ice by Arthur Geisert

Geisert returns with another wordless picture book featuring his industrious little pigs.  In this book, the pigs are on a desert island where it is hot and water is running very low.  So the pigs hatch a plan to find water.  Delightfully, they create a hot-air balloon from their boat and fly over the waves.  They find an iceberg, where they install a sail on the ice and take the entire thing back to their island.  The final pages show interesting details of transferring the iceberg into the water tank and the differences the ice has made in their lives.

Geisert excels at details in his illustrations.  Sweltering heat and low water are shown by bucket brigades and drooping pigs.  The time with the iceberg is shown as almost a party with pigs dancing and celebrating.  The pigs then begin working again to get the ice moved to the tank.  Somehow Geisert makes work look fun or at least very intriguing. 

These are illustrations that are small, detailed and worthy of some time spent looking at them.  Share this book with a child who loves looking closely.  Or even better, curl up together and share some time with ice, invention and imagination.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

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Pirates Don’t Take Baths

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Pirates Don’t Take Baths by John Segal

Some piglets hate, hate, hate taking a bath.  In fact, this little pig NEVER wants to take a bath again.  So he decides to become someone who never takes a bath.  Like a pirate!  But his mother points out that he gets seasick.  So the little pig decides to be a cowboy until his mother reminds him that cowboys sleep on hard, cold ground.  How about an Eskimo, well they eat things like blubber and liver.  The piglet goes from one idea to the next, his mother giving reasons why it isn’t a good option.  Until finally, he decides to become a treasure hunter who searches for treasure – under water!

Segal has created a book that nicely mixes avoiding baths and different types of jobs.  He infuses the entire book with humor that keeps it moving quickly forward.  The relationship between the young pig and his mother is also a pleasure to read.  Book design helps in reading the book aloud by having the mother’s comments in italics. 

Segal’s art, done in pencil and watercolor, plays white space against fully colored pages to great effect.  Reality of the mother and child is done against a white background while his fantasies of different jobs are done in full color backgrounds.  The illustrations have strong edges and the watercolor gives a softness that is very appealing.

A fun look at avoiding baths through imagination, this book is appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Philomel Books.

A Garden for Pig

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A Garden for Pig by Kathryn K. Thurman, illustrated by Lindsay Ward

Pig lives on an apple farm where they grow lots and lots of apples.  And what does Pig get to eat?  Apples, apples, and more apples.  Mrs. Pippins owns the farm and she makes all sorts of apple dishes for pig to eat, but he is sick of apples all the time.  What he really wants to eat are vegetables!  So Pig breaks into the vegetable patch and begins gulping down squash, seeds and all.  When Mrs. Pippin finds him in the garden, she is not happy.  She ties Pig up.  When she catches him trying to break the rope, she shuts him in his pen.  Though Pig tries to escape, he can’t.  But he is determined not to eat any more apples!  Pig notices the next day that his pen looks a lot like a garden.  And after digesting the squash, he has the seeds he needs to make one.

Thurman’s words are simple and have a jaunty rhythm to them.  There are wonderful sounds woven into the book that children will enjoy mimicking.  Pig’s determination and tenacity as well as his creative solution to the problem add to the appeal.

Ward’s collage and cut paper illustrations have a warmth to them.  This is accentuated by the use of fabrics that offer a texture to the images.  In the apple orchard, there are words on the paper that make up the leaves: apple recipes.  The illustrations are large enough to read to a group.  And goodness knows, the poop event at the end will be a hit!

A friendly and warm introduction to gardening in an organic way, this book is a happy addition to gardening story times.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Kane Miller.

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Piglet’s Picnic: Yummy Fun

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Piglet’s Picnic by Jessica Souhami

On a sunny day, Piglet posted a note about a picnic by the river, just bring your favorite food to share.  She headed off to the river with her friend Mouse.  Both carried covered baskets with their favorite foods in them.  Some crows fly up with a bundle, two frogs come with promises of something crunchy.  Dog arrives with a newspaper packet and two sheep bring a knitted bag.  It was then time to open the parcels of food.  But as each is opened with a flap that the reader gets to open, the other animals are disappointed to see what is there.  Luckily they all brought enough for each of them to each their favorite food, the food they brought.

This friendly and fairly predictable story has plenty of toddler appeal.  Small children will enjoy opening the parcels with the flaps as well as the surprise of the final foldout page that shows the entire picnic laid out.  Nicely, different concepts are layered in the book unobtrusively with numbers and addition as new animals arrive.  Souhami’s cut paper illustrations are bright and bold enough to show nicely to a group. 

A simple story perfect for toddler story times or sharing with your own small child.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Pigs to the Rescue

Pigs to the Rescue by John Himmelman

I loved Chickens to the Rescue which was released in 2006 and this next book is just as winning and funny as the first!  Each day of the week Farmer Greenstalk and his family need help.  The tractor breaks down, the garden needs watering, a shoelace breaks and a kite gets stuck in the tree.  In each case, the pigs launch in to help out, always leaving the situation a bit worse than when they “helped.”  This zany book is sure to have guffaws galore as the illustrations are there to tell the rest of the story, especially the results of the pigs’ frenzied help.  The book ends with a wonderful twist that will have readers laughing all over again.

Himmelman allows his illustrations to really tell the story here.  The text is matter-of-fact, playing the straight man against the wild humor of the illustrations.  The cartoon feel of the pictures works perfectly here with the larger-than-life humor that is mostly physical.  Reluctant readers will enjoy the juxtaposition of the simple text against the vibrant background.

Sure to be a hit, this book will work best one-on-one because the illustrations should be enjoyed close up.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt.

Can I Play Too?

Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems

If you are ever looking for a picture book or easy reader sure to pull a child in and get them adoring books, pull any of Mo Willems books off the shelf.  His Elephant and Piggie series is so simple, yet profound and funny.  This latest book in the series is one of the best in the bunch.  Here we see Elephant, the careful and more serious character, and Piggie, who is loud and enthusiastic.  The two of them are best friends, which alone has led to some great books.  Add Snake who wants to join them in playing ball.  Of course, that’s a problem because Snake can’t really catch since he doesn’t have arms.  But that doesn’t mean he can’t try and it certainly doesn’t mean that Piggie can’t figure out a solution that will have them all playing together.

Willems is the master of brevity, capturing entire scenes in a few words and his simple illustrations.  His book are perfection for early readers but also make great read alouds thanks to his skill in writing.  His characters are beautifully drawn, offering so much in so few words and images.  It is magic on a page.

In this book, Willem’s natural humor comes pouring forth into a vaudeville-like scene that will have children laughing aloud, guffawing even.  It is a special easy reader that will have my teenage son crowding us on the couch to be able to see.  But then, all he needed to hear was that it was a Mo Willems book and it was funny. 

Guaranteed success between two covers, this book is laugh-out-loud funny, wry and as always with Willems, big hearted.  Appropriate for ages 3-6 and the occasional thirteen-year-old.

Reviewed from library copy.

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