How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion by Ashima Shiraishi, illustrated by Yao Xiao (9781524773274)
Ashima is one of the best rock climbers in the world. Here, she shows how climbers take on the problems (or obstacles in the rock) in front of them. In this book, the problem she shares is the Golden Shadow in Rocklands, South Africa, which she climbed successfully at age 13. Ashima visualized her approach, clapped her hands full of chalk, mapped out each step in her head, and started her climb. Some parts of the rock, she named after different things in her life: her mother’s fabrics and her father’s dancing elbow. But then, the world slipped out from under her, and she fell. She dusted herself off, had a snack, and faced the problem again, learning from her fall. She tried again, stretching muscles to bridge the rock, and conquered it!
The writing here is a great mix of pragmatic approach and also lovely visualizations about the rock itself and the problem it presents. Ashima tells her story in the first person, from examining the huge problem in front of her through the approach, her fall and then success. But each step is executed in front of the reader where they can feel the muscle strain, see the skill that Ashima uses, and also use the approach of falling and learning from those falls, to dust off and try again.
The art by Xiao is marvelous with a substantial comic-book or superhero feel to it. This works really well with the subject matter, which has Ashima climbing what looks like impossible rock walls. The art shows clearly the different steps of the climb and how Ashima approaches each one with determination and focus.
A thrilling read and will inspire you to climb the rocks in your life too. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Make Me a World.
Swim Swim Sink by Jenn Harney (9781368052764)
After three tiny ducks hatch from their eggs: “Crack! Crack! Crack!” “Quack! Quack! Quack!” Their mother leads them down to the pond to swim. The ducklings jump in: “Swim, swim…sink!” Wait, ducks are supposed to float and swim. They try it again, and the duckling sinks every time. Perhaps there’s a solution? Water wings? Scuba gear? A jetski? But nothing seems quite right, until the duckling comes up with a unique solution all their own that involves using their discarded eggshell. Now the story works again and so does the rhyme.
Harney uses broad comedy in this picture book that just has to be read aloud to be enjoyed to the fullest. The rhyme she creates is wonderfully bouncy and jaunty, offering just the right amount of rhythm and speed to be cleverly derailed by the sinking duckling. The humor here is just right for toddlers who will delight in the surprise of the story shifting right in front of them.
The art is bright and bubbly with a merry tone. The sinking duckling in the green-blue water is satisfying and abrupt, adding to the humor of the moment. The final solution the duckling figures out is another great visual moment in the story.
Reading this one aloud will always go swimmingly. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Firefighter Duckies! by Frank W. Dormer (9781481460903, Amazon)
Get ready for some brave ducks in this picture book! The firefighter duckies are called into all sorts of emergencies and have to find the solution for them all. They are brave and strong. They rescue a gorilla in a chef hat who has started a fire with his cupcake candle. They rescue whales caught in hungry, angry trees. They help dinosaurs on bicycles and stop rampaging centipedes. They even straighten out the alphabet and aid hairy monsters. It takes strength, bravery, hair cuts, kindness and being helpful. And it also takes a lot of rest afterwards!
Dormer taps into a stream of extreme weirdness in this picture book, demanding that readers just go along with it. The wild ride is definitely worth it and the result is a very fast-paced book that is hilarious. The simple but silly text works perfectly with the equally silly illustrations. Make sure not to get too caught in the speed of the book to notice the details. Just the looks on the ducks’ faces is a hoot as are the circumstances they need to figure out.
A book sure to “quack” you up, this is the perfect book to rescue a toddler story time. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Argyle Fox by Marie Letourneau (9781939100092)
On a blustery spring day, Argyle wants to head outside and play. However, nothing works quite right due to the pesky wind gusts. He tries building a card tower and a gust blows it down. He tries creating a spider web of yarn and gets all tied in knots. He tries more robust games like pretending to be a knight or a pirate and each game is ruined by the wind. Argyle returns home sadly. His mother encourages him to keep on thinking about how he can successfully play outside in the wind. With lots of thought and even more work, Argyle comes up with a great solution perfect for a windy day.
Letourneau has created a picture book that celebrates the joy of playing outside even on a windy day. She shows the power of imagination as Argyle tries game after game. Then with some inspiration from his mother, Argyle himself solves the problem and finds a solution. The hard work he puts in is a critical part of the story as is his irrepressible spirit throughout.
The illustrations are very appealing. They have a delicacy to them that allows for small details that become ever more important as the story goes on. It isn’t until Argyle is in his room with all of the things he has used in his play earlier in the book that readers will suddenly see what the solution is. The clever art offers plenty of clues for children to be inspired before Argyle himself.
Perfect reading for springtime, this book invites children outdoors even on the windiest days, just make sure you have the right toy too! Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley received from NetGalley and Tanglewood.
Perfectly Percy by Paul Schmid
Percy is a porcupine and one of his favorite things of all are balloons! But it’s hard when you are a prickly porcupine, balloons don’t last long at all. So Percy decides to figure out how he can solve the problem with balloons. He thinks and thinks, but no good ideas come to him. He tries hanging upside down, riding his tricycle, but nothing. It’s not until he’s having breakfast that suddenly he has an amazing, incredible idea!
Schmid’s story is quite simple, focused on one little porcupine’s problem with balloons and how he solves it. I appreciate a picture book that gives so many pages over to coming up with a solution and just thinking and thinking. It makes for a thoughtful and quiet book. Best of all, Percy comes up with the solution all on his own with no adult help.
The illustrations here have a wonderful feel to them. Done in simple lines with pastel backgrounds, Percy shines. Throughout the book has a cheery feel, one never doubts that Percy will find a solution to his problem. Once that solution is found, the cheer turns to sheer joy and delight. That is one merry porcupine.
Thoughtful and empowering, this book stays jolly as well. Percy would be a perfect addition to story times. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Harper Collins.
Hugs from Pearl by Paul Schmid
Pearl is a very friendly little porcupine, and one of her favorite things to do is give everyone hugs. But porcupines are prickly and Pearl’s hugs hurt! At first Pearl tried keeping Band-Aids handy after hugs, but she didn’t like to make her friends say “Ouch!” Then she tried pin cushions on her quills, but that took way too long and she couldn’t reach them all. Pearl tried a long hot bath, but her quills refused to soften. Pearl decided that she just couldn’t give hugs any more. But then she got inspiration on her way home from school when she saw some bees buzzing happily among the thorny roses. Could Pearl have figured out the trick to pain-free hugs from a porcupine?
Schmid has created a story that is simply told and can be read solely as a book about a little porcupine, but it is also a story that could be used for discussions about what each of us has that is prickly and hurts other people and how we can solve it. The story has a touch of heartache and a real sweetness to it that never becomes sickly sweet or overbearing, instead it has a great freshness to it.
The art is equally fresh with its charming mix of pale greens and pinks. Pearl herself glows with her pale pink blush, popping on each page compared to the other animals. Her facial expressions manage to convey deep emotions even though they are just a few lines on the page. The simplicity in both the text and the illustrations make the book very enticing.
This book is a shining example that adorable, sweet books can also be stirring and warm. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
Floyd’s kite gets stuck in tree and what is a boy to do? Well, he tries to pull on the string and swing on it, but the kite stays stuck. So he throws one of his shoes up to try and dislodge it. His shoe got stuck too. The other shoe didn’t work either. Now what could he do? Well, the cat was lingering nearby… And so begins the wild and very funny story of a boy, a stuck kite, and a tree with an amazing propensity for keeping things stuck. The story goes wild with what Floyd has thrown into it, never letting up on the joke. In fact, at the end of the story, which I want you to experience for yourself, the humor is still just as strong as in the beginning and the joke stays true.
Jeffers is one of the kings of picture books. His books love to stretch reality to almost breaking, creating new worlds that readers long to get lost in. Here he takes getting a kite stuck in a tree to the extreme, resulting in a very funny book that will have young readers giggling along. The book will also get readers thinking about what they would throw into a tree, so it becomes a great conversation and creativity piece.
Jeffers art is whimsical, funny, and adds a zany edge to the book. He plays with colors throughout, with the character, objects and tree all changing colors as well as the background. It makes for a dynamic read.
This would make a great final book for a storytime, because children will tune back in for the silliness. I can also easily see it as a flannel board story or a jumping-off point for a creative project. This is great fun combined with effortless storytelling and dynamic art. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Philomel Books.
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Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn’t Fit by Catherine Rayner
Ernest has a problem, he doesn’t fit into the book! He tries to shuffle in forward, but that doesn’t work. He tries to squeeze in backward. Nope. He can get his middle to fit, but not his legs or head. Luckily, Ernest has a small friend with a big idea. It’s just going to take some tape and some paper. They work for a long time until… Well, you will just have to read it to find out how they manage to fit Ernest into his book. Children will respond to the visual puzzle of how to get Ernest to fit into the book. The final unveiling is definitely worth the suspense and build up.
Rayner has created a very simple book that is filled with a gentle humor. The process of problem solving is played out here, from the issue itself through trial and error, and finally the brilliant solution! It is a book that also demonstrations creativity and perseverance. Rayner’s illustrations are charming mix of media with paint, crayon and paper arts. The background to the illustrations is graph paper giving a great mathematical and structural feel to the whimsical art. It is a dynamic pairing.
A great book to share with a group, this book will have everyone cheering Ernest and his friend and their solution to how to fit a big moose in a small book. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.