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.

This Beautiful Day by Richard Jackson

This Beautiful Day by Richard Jackson

This Beautiful Day by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Suzy Lee (9781481441391, Amazon)

Three children are spending a gray day inside as it pours rain. Then they start to dance and twirl, pulling blue into their day. They head outside with umbrellas and boots, walking through puddles, jumping and stomping. The rain ends and other come out with yellow and pink umbrellas and clothes, the colors starting to fill the page. Their umbrellas float up into the sky that is now blue with white clouds. The group of children play together in the field of flowers, climbing trees, rescuing umbrellas, and then treats back at home on a lovely day.

Jackson’s text is filled with motion and rhythm. It invites readers to swirl and twirl with the characters on the page. The action words in the text zing and zip, moving the book forward even as they celebrate the bad weather and move to the sunshine. There is a sense of optimism throughout the book, an acceptance and joy of rainy weather and then a true delight when it becomes sunny later.

Lee’s illustrations are lovely. They use color so skillfully, showing first the gray day while the children are quietly playing alone and then the single swirls of blue that color the children and their clothing. The book slowly unfolds with color, until it bursts like the meadow of flowers and the sun in the trees.

Share this one on rainy and sunny days. Just have umbrellas and boots ready along with popsicles too. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.

 

Don’t Blink by Tom Booth

Don't Blink by Tom Booth

Don’t Blink by Tom Booth (9781250117366, Amazon)

A little girl sits in the middle of the page, looking right at the reader. When a bird flies up and asks her what she is doing, she replies that she’s having a staring contest with the child reading the book. As the pages turn, more and more animals join the staring contest, until the page is crowded with an elephant, fox, frog, porcupine, owl, giraffe, monkey and many more. Even a slow-moving tortoise is heading to the game. But before the tortoise can get to the center of the page, everyone has blinked. Perhaps another try?

Booth’s playfulness is fully on display in this picture book. The book is entirely written in dialogue that is color-coded to the animal speaking with dotted lines to clarify who is saying something. With so many animals on the page, this book lends itself to lots of various voices which will also add to the fun. The illustrations are modern and friendly, even the alligator being more toothy than frightening. All of the animals looking directly at the reader is also very effective.

A great pick to share aloud and have children try to win the staring contest. Or maybe the next one! Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Rodzilla by Rob Sanders

Rodzilla by Rob Sanders.jpg

Rodzilla by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Dan Santat (9781481457798, Amazon)

An enormous chubby monster is heading for the city! News crews are reporting on the disaster as the monster releases stink-ray farts. There are slime missiles of snot and even one big upset tummy effect. Hoses try to push him from the city, but it just ends in a belly flop. But the monster gets back up and continues his rampage. Until two brave people are willing to take on the disaster directly, by picking the terrible toddler up.

Sanders channels Japanese monster films in his text, offering just the right tone of awe and fear into the text. The book is great fun to share aloud, using an announcer voice that just makes the humor even funnier. Sanders offers just enough gross moments for children to be engaged and then moves on to other sources of humor. The switch from monster to toddler is also well handled and will not surprise readers who have been given clear hints about the end.

Santat uses his signature style here. The reactions of the people on the ground to Rodney’s gross emissions is particularly effective, as they run in fear or try to survive. Santat’s illustrations also offer clues to Rodney actually being a human toddler, ones that become more clear as the text progresses.

A funny look at the destructive nature of toddlers that will be appreciated by older siblings and parents alike. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Short Stories for Little Monsters by Marie-Louise Gay

Short Stories for Little Monsters by Marie-Louise Gay

Short Stories for Little Monsters by Marie-Louise Gay (9781554988969, Amazon)

A series of cartoons make up these short stories for children. The stories are so short that most of them take up only a page or two. They are very short stories about imagination, becoming invisible (maybe), and whether there are sharks in the water. Other stories are about the speed of snails, the wonder of worms and the secret powers of mothers. In each story, children are the stars and they are busy asking questions, making messes and being creative.

Gay is the author of Any Questions? and it has the same energy of that book. In this newer book there is less of a focus, giving lots of opportunity to find something that captures your attention or makes you think differently. The children are questioning, sometimes rather naughty and easy to relate to. They make messes and figure things out. Readers will love the running snail jokes and the sharp humor.

Thanks to its comic-book format, the book is more for elementary-aged children than preschoolers. It may actually do better in your children’s graphic novels and find the right audience there. The illustrations have a dynamic feel to them, capturing children running, playing and creating. The loose lines add to the playful nature of the entire book.

A welcoming book of super short stories that is sure to appeal. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.