13 Stories about Harris by Amy Schwartz

13 Stories about Harris by Amy Schwartz

13 Stories about Harris by Amy Schwartz (9780823442492)

Harris is a little boy who lives with his parents in his urban neighborhood. In the thirteen (quite short) stories in this book, he is very busy. He draws a huge dragon on the sidewalk, helps in the kitchen, goes on a windy walk, attends his first birthday party, and heads to preschool for the first time. On Thanksgiving, Harris was a truck all day. On other days, he goes to the beach or takes care of a friend’s hamster. There is a lot to do!

Schwartz once again captures the activities and essence of being a preschooler. Harris is wonderfully open to all of his small adventures, experiencing a lot of them for the first time. The book exudes warmth and a family that allows their small child the space to explore and make mistakes but are also always attentive and around to help. The charm of these thirteen stories is remarkable, showing children that they are right where they need to be and that many of these experiences are universal to all small children.

The illustrations show a dynamic and diverse urban neighborhood where Harris is living. The illustrations have plenty of white space, the city streets sometimes taking over with their brick buildings and sidewalks.

Gorgeous preschool vignettes that show the delights of this age. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Holiday House.

Dusk Explorers by Lindsay Leslie

Dusk Explorers by Lindsay Leslie, illustrated by Ellen Rooney (9781624148712)

Head outside into the early summer evening in this picture book. Play in the trees and see who can climb highest. Enjoy leapfrogging, kick the can, and running while playing tag. Take the time though to feel the bark, watch the leaves, discover worms, and hunt for frogs. Find a quiet curb to share some secrets before a game of hide and seek. As night continues to fall, the fireflies emerge. Soon parents are calling for children to head home and the neighborhood gets quiet until the children emerge again into the darkness as the moon rises.

Leslie cleverly shows the joys of being outside as darkness comes by weaving together plenty of games and activities with quieter moments of discovery. The resulting laughter combines with feeling safe and able to be on your own in the dark. Many of the games and activities are unique to just this time of day like the firefly catching and kick the can while others can be enjoyed at any time of day.

The illustrations by Rooney are done in vibrant mixed media with paint, collage and digital elements. They are filled with diverse children, all playing with one another. They also capture the changing light and colors of the sky beautifully as dusk and evening emerge.

Just right for summer afternoons so that children can experience their own dusk that night. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Page Street Kids.

My Best Friend by Julie Fogliano

My Best Friend by Julie Fogliano

My Best Friend by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki (9781534427228)

A little girl talks about her new friend, who just might also be her best friend too. The two of them play together at the park, quacking like ducks, running around, and even siting quietly. Her friend knows how to turn leaves into skeleton hands and fix flowers that have been stepped on, kind of. The two draw together, and the little girl realizes they might just be best friends. They hide together during hide and seek, trying to muffle their giggles. When the little girl pretends to be a pickle, her friend laughed and laughed. They may like different kinds of ice cream, but they can still be best friends. Perhaps tomorrow they can learn each other’s names!

Fogliano perfectly captures the wonder of meeting a kindred spirit as a child and spending an entire day together laughing and playing. Her writing shows all of their shared activities and how they help the two girls bond closely together, despite just having met. Silly things like pretending to be a pickle serve to prove they have the same sense of humor, so that taste in ice cream flavors can be ignored. The ending of the book is clever and sets just the right moment, showing deep understanding of children.

Tamaki’s illustrations are marvelous. She shows the two girls playing and laughing together. They are done in a modern limited color palette of pinks, greens and browns that show the girls in fine-lined detail with very expressive faces. It’s like getting to play along with them yourself.

A warm look at first friendships. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: Penny and Penelope by Dan Richards

Penny and Penelope by Dan Richards

Penny and Penelope by Dan Richards, illustrated by Claire Almon (9781250156075)

When two very different girls get together for a play date, it turns out their dolls are just as different. Penelope is a very sweet princess with a tea set and a pony. Penny is a secret agent with a motorcycle. When danger arrives outside the castle, Penny rushes forward. She defeats the crocodile in the moat and then moves on to take out the werewolf lurking in the woods. Soon Penny and Penelope are riding together on the motorcycle trying to escape, but the werewolf makes its way into the castle tower. It turns out that a princess might be just right for taking out a werewolf as long as she has a cunning plan!

Written entirely in dialogue between the two girls, this book has a breezy quality that makes it perfect for reading aloud. Their voices merge with those of their dolls, and are shown on the page in different colors and fonts. There is a certain amount of doubt in the beginning about whether they want to play together, but as their imaginations take over the adventure begins and both dolls are right in the mix of things. The notion that girls can be secret agents, princesses, robots and more resonates clearly here, and the book celebrates all of the options equally.

Almon’s illustrations are bright and bold. They celebrate both the dazzling gown of the princess doll and the slick leather of the secret agent. The action is captured nicely as are the differences between both girls and their dolls.

This playful picture book is just right for your little princess or secret agent. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuoka

Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuoka

Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuoka (9781776572311)

Leap into this great board book for toddlers! On one page, the animal is sitting waiting to jump, then with the turn of the page the animal launches into the air. Each jump is accompanied with a merry and silly noise that is some version of “boing!” Sometimes there are additional syllables to create even more fun. The format turns the book lengthwise so that the animals can jump even higher. The illustrations are simple and joyous.

A delight of a board book sure to get everyone jumping. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy provided by Gecko Press.

Review: Ultrabot’s First Playdate by Josh Schneider

Ultrabot's First Playdate by Josh Schneider

Ultrabot’s First Playdate by Josh Schneider (9781328490131)

When Ultrabot’s professor invites their neighbor Becky to come over for a playdate at their secret lab, Ultrabot is very nervous. He wonders if Becky will share or break his toys. He pictures her as an enormous furry dog-person with barrettes all over. But Becky turns out to be a little human girl. She brings a ball along with her and after some initial shyness, Ultrabot sees that they can share. The two played ball together, drew cats, and had sandwiches for lunch (with the crusts cut off.) They shared all of Ultrabot’s toys too, though afterwards the professor thought it best if they met at Becky’s house next time.

Schneider tells a very touching and funny story of a shy giant robot and his first playdate. Ultrabot’s emotions mirror those of a young child going to their first playdate or meeting a new person. The questions he thinks about, the worries he has and the resolution are all very human.

However, the illustrations show that this is still one giant robot who has toys like real airplanes, eats sandwiches made of girders and diesel tanks, and is able to do wild math calculations. The illustrations are wildly funny and set a perfect tone. I particularly love that the secret lab is ever-so-obvious and out-of-place in their residential neighborhood.

Funny and friendly, this is just right for any reluctant robot in your house. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Run Wild by David Covell

Run Wild by David Covell

Run Wild by David Covell (9780670014118)

Head outside with this picture book that encourages children to run in nature. Sunshine, fresh air, breezes and dirt are all celebrated here. Jump in the water, talk to worms, run through the woods. The joy of running fast, getting dirty, howling and diving. The book is entirely outdoors and movement through nature, a pelting quick book that is full of natural delights.

The text has organic rhymes embedded in it. It works really well read aloud where the rhymes fall into place in a natural way, encouraging children to be loose and free, just like the text. The illustrations are just as loose as the text suggests. They are filled with trees, mushrooms, birds, caves, water, and children.

A fresh and natural read that encourages children to play outside for the day. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Viking.

3 New Noisy Picture Books

Blacksmith_s Song by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk

Blacksmith’s Song by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, illustrated by Anna Rich (9781561455805)

Told in first person, this picture book shows how communication worked for the Underground Railroad. The boy’s father is a slave on a plantation, working as the blacksmith. He uses the rhythm of the forge to send messages that carry to those waiting to escape. The boy wonders when it will be their turn to escape to freedom. But day by day, his father is growing weaker and more ill. Soon he may not be able to even send the messages from his hammer. When it is finally their turn to leave, it is the boy who takes up the hammer, sending his first message and his father’s last as they head to freedom.

Rich with language, this picture book takes the words of the forge and let them shine. Throughout smoke, sparks and the hammer’s rhythm form a steady beat that the book uses very successfully. The added tension of the father’s illness brings even more pressure for the family to escape in time. While slavery is painted with a gentler brush here for younger audiences, the feeling of oppression is strong and the need to escape is clear. The illustrations are deep and dark, lit by the light of the forge and showing that dark unknowns are safer than slavery. A look at the Underground Railroad that is appropriate for young listeners aged 5-7. (Reviewed from ARC provided by Peachtree Publishers.)

The Great Dictionary Caper by Judy Sierra

The Great Dictionary Caper by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Eric Comstock (9781481480048)

When the words in Noah Webster’s dictionary get bored just sitting around, they escape and create plenty of word fun in this picture book. They form a word parade made of works like “clang” and “boom” and “crash.” There are short words and long words, action verbs pick up the pace. Homophones, contractions, antonyms and palindromes fill the pages too. Rhyming words and words with no rhymes as well as interjections and conjunctions make merry. There is plenty to enjoy here, including witty humor and a rip-roaring pace. Children won’t even realize they are learning concepts as each of the letters has a personality that suits the word they are in. Jazzy and delightful, this picture book is a celebration of our language. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.)

Rumble Grumble...Hush by Kate Banks

Rumble Grumble…Hush by Kate Banks, illustrated by Simone Shin (9781101940495)

The day starts with a few small noises until the little boy starts to play loudly with his imaginary friends. There is roaring, banging, rumbling and dumping. Then it’s time for a bit of quiet with breakfast and thinking until once again the rumbling and grumbling starts. More quiet comes, with a bag of quiet games, puzzles and art projects, books to read and a nap. Then noise is welcome again with balls and toys and blocks and trains. Dinner comes and goes and bedtime approaches with its own quiet. The way that noise and quiet are presented here is lovely, showing they both have places and special ways of playing that allow them to happen. Loud and quiet times are filled with play and imagination here and parental expectations are shown with lots of love and support. The illustrations are playful with friendly huge imaginary friends that fill the page, dark wood floors to sit on and play, bright walls to hang art on, and plenty of room for imaginations to fill. A warm and loving look at play and noise, this picture book is a gem. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade Books and Edelweiss.)

Now by Antoinette Portis

Now by Antoinette Portis

Now by Antoinette Portis (9781626721371, Amazon)

This picture book celebrates living in the now as a little girl walks readers through her favorite things. Each of them is her favorite because it is the one she is interacting with right then. It is her favorite cloud because it’s the one she is watching. This is her favorite song because it’s the one she is singing.

The book is pure simplicity with its concept and the art. The concept is used throughout the book, the writing straight forward and also celebrating something deeper too. It’s about a connection to the present moment and a joy in just spending time doing exactly what you are doing and loving it.

The art of the picture book also speaks to the connection with the now. Done in thick lines and rich matte colors, the illustrations show the playful nature of simple pleasures in life.

Perfect for those of us who love the book we are reading right now most of all, this picture book is about simple pleasures and enjoying the current moment fully. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.