Review: Bunny in the Middle by Anika A. Denise

Bunny in the Middle by Anika Aldamuy Denise

Bunny in the Middle by Anika A. Denise, illustrated by Christopher Denise (9781250120366)

Three rabbit siblings fill these pages with their daily activities as being the middle child is explored. When you are a middle child, you are the one in between. Your older sibling helps you and you help your younger sibling. You know when to share and when to hold on. You know the best time to lead and the best time to follow, but you also know when to do things your own way. Yes, you get hand-me-downs and also have to share a room. But it also means that you are often just the right size for a lot of things, including being right in the middle.

While the words in this book focus on explaining the good and bad of being the middle child, it is the pictures that are something entirely special. The images of the three rabbits are filled with sunlight, sticky frosting, leafy adventures, and coziness. From the lankier and rather bossy older sister to the plump toddler younger sibling, this little family is a joy to spend time with. The middle child is often unperturbed in the midst of chaos or demands, showing just what it takes to excel at being that special on in the center of a family.

Gorgeous illustrations illuminate a story of a little group of siblings. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Henry Holt and Company.

Review: Hush Little Bunny by David Ezra Stein

Hush Little Bunny by David Ezra Stein

Hush Little Bunny by David Ezra Stein (9780062845221)

Caldecott Honor-winner Stein has rewritten the classic song of Hush Little Baby into a rabbit-filled delight. A papa bunny spends a day with his little bunny, experiencing a day in spring just as the snow is disappearing. The two of them explore the meadow together, running under the big blue sky. They munch on clover, hide from a hawk, and then return to play in the sun. In the afternoon, the little bunny plays with other young bunnies and papa bunny intervenes when someone is mean. As the day comes to a close, they watch fireflies and rejoice in spending time together.

The book follows the phrasing and structure of the original song, which will inspire singing along when sharing this one aloud. There is such a sense of joy throughout this book about the warming weather, the beauty of spring and the pleasure of being with someone you love and who loves you. The illustrations echo that spirit with their playful nature. The watercolors are filled with the greens of spring and the gold of the sun.

Another winner for Stein, this one is just right for springtime reading. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord

Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord

Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord (9780545914246)

Emma is about to start public school for the first time as a fifth grader after being home schooled. On the evening before her first day of school, her father, a game warden, gets a call about a rabbit stuck in someone’s fence. Emma goes with her father on the call and discovers that it’s not a wild rabbit after all, but a domesticated bunny. Emma and her father take the bunny home and plan to turn it over to a shelter the next day. Then Emma must start school where she has plans to find the perfect best friend. However, things don’t go as planned and Emma is paired on a school project with Jack. Jack has problems paying attention in class, speaks when it isn’t his turn, and loves to talk about animal facts. Jack isn’t the friend that Emma is looking for. As Emma struggles to distance herself from Jack and get closer to the girls in her class, she is also learning more about herself along the way.

Lord once again has created a very readable book for older elementary readers. She perfectly captures the stress of going from a home-school environment to a public school classroom as well as the high expectations to find a best friend. As Emma works to manage her high expectations, she discovers that she is also being bullied by a girl in her class who is also mean to Jack. Still, it is not that simple to accept Jack as a friend, because he is different and has troubles, and yet, he may be the exact friend that Emma needs.

Emma is a complex character, which is very impressive given the short length of this novel. As she moves to a public school, she shows her gentleness with her rabbit, her love of family, and her deep longing for a true friend. She grapples with being pushed to work with Jack, being lied to by a classmate, and then finding herself being mean to Jack behind his back. Friendship is not simple!

An appealing read that will hop right into your heart. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Scholastic Press.

 

3 New Picture Books to Count On

Ducks Away by Mem Fox

Ducks Away! By Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek (9781338185669)

A mother duck crosses a bridge with her ducklings, all five of them! But then one of the little ducks is blown off of the bridge and down into the water below. Mother Duck doesn’t know what to do with four ducklings on the bridge and one down in the water. Then one by one, the other little ducks tumble down to the water. Finally, all five are floating below and they encourage their mother to join them and take the jump herself. This playful counting book merrily counts up to five in a natural way, then counts both up and down as ducklings move from bridge to water. It all feels so much a part of the story thanks to the subtle rhyme structure and the rhythms deftly created by Fox. The illustrations continue the simplicity of the text, and are just right to share with a group or with one child. A picture book you can count on! Appropriate for ages 1-3. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Everybunny Count By Ellie Sandall

Everybunny Count! By Ellie Sandall (9781534400146)

As the foxes and bunnies play together, they decide that today is the day for hide-and-seek. They count up to ten and then as they search, the counting begins again. They steadily count up to ten once more, giving young listeners objects to count on each page. When the bunnies finally find Fox, he has a surprise for them! One that will help them count all the way to ten again. Sandall’s picture book has a freshness and a lightness that is very welcome. The incorporation of so much counting in a single book adds to the fun as do the personalities of each of the animals. A counting delight. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Shake the Tree by Chiara Vignocchi

Shake the Tree by Chiara Vignocchi, Paolo Chiarinotti and Silvia Borando (9780763694883)

This bright and active picture book is just right for sharing aloud. When Mouse discovers a nut high in a tree, she tries shaking the tree to get it to fall down to her. She shakes it a little to the left and right, but the nut doesn’t budge. A fox though falls down out of the tree and wants to eat the Mouse who scampers up into the tree’s branches. So the Fox shakes the tree, but the Mouse and the nut do not fall down, instead a Warthog comes down and Fox runs up the tree to escape. When Bear falls down next, he really shakes the tree a lot. All of the animals fall down to the ground along with the nut. What will Bear do now?

Shared aloud, the reader will be shaking the tree and the book back and forth. This book could so easily help with concepts of right and left, particularly if you made the story time interactive and the children helped “shake” the tree too. The book also has a clever way to incorporate counting with each animal adding a shake each time they try. It counts up without actually counting, making it a book that has a natural rhythm and appeal. The illustrations add to this with their bright colors and the large animals tumbling from the tree. Funny and a great read-aloud add this one to your next story time on trees or counting. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

3 New Friendly Picture Books

Adelaide_s Secret World by Elise Hurst

Adelaide’s Secret World by Elise Hurst (9781524714543)

Originally published in Australia, this picture book features a similar world to Hurst’s Imagine a City, a bustling urban setting filled with animals. Adelaide lives in the city and runs a quiet shop where she makes small models. She spent her days and nights alone, watching others rush past and noting those that were quieter like her. Caught in a sudden rainstorm one day, she sees a Fox that she has noticed earlier drop his book. When she returns the book, she hopes they will connect, but it doesn’t happen that day. Still, Adelaide does not give up and creates an art piece filled with connection and magic that may just make her a new friend. This picture book celebrates quiet people who still want friends and connection. Through the gorgeous glowing full-color paintings, Hurst creates a world for these two quiet animals to live in, one that invites readers in and holds them close. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.)

The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler

The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler (9780062424334)

Crane, Dozer and Digger are three big trucks who work hard to build big buildings, roads and bridges. Then one day Digger discovered a tiny flower in the rubble. Digger took care of the flower, watering it, protecting it from the wind and singing to it just before he went to sleep nearby. Soon though, the empty lot that the flower grew in was needed for building. Before Digger could stop him, Dozer cut the flower down. Digger was so sad, but there on the ground were three little seeds. The illustrations have strong graphical elements with shots of color from the trucks and flower. A simple and lovely tale of death and birth, of caring for something you love, this picture book gives a big truck a huge heart. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Kate, Who Tamed the Wind by Liz Garton Scanlon

Kate, Who Tamed the Wind by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Lee White (9781101934791)

A man lived all alone at the top of a very steep hill where winds blew constantly. The wind blew so much that eventually, the shutters banged and the boards bent, and the wind tipped things over and just kept on blowing. Kate was a little girl who lived below the steep hill. When the man cried out in despair, Kate heard him and had a plan. She thought and thought, realizing that she could not stop the wind from blowing. But she could bring new trees to the man. So up she went, pulling her wagon of trees. The two planted the trees together and time passed, the wind still blew, but eventually the trees softened the wind and their friendship grew along with the trees. This picture book is so delightful. Scanlon uses rhymes, rhythm and repetition to create a story that is jaunty and wonderful to read aloud. She plays with the forms, so it never becomes sing-songy and is constantly surprising. The art is just as sprightly and warm, with a stunningly steep hill and plenty of vexing wind. The solution, provided by a child, incorporates nature and science. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.)

Charlotte the Scientist Is Squished by Camille Andros

Charlotte the Scientist Is Squished by Camille Andros

Charlotte the Scientist Is Squished by Camille Andros, illustrated by Brianne Farley (9780544785830, Amazon)

Charlotte is a serious scientist with science instruments and protective goggles. She had one big problem, her family left her squished for room all the time. There was no space for her experiments where her siblings weren’t messing around with her equipment. So Charlotte started an experiment by asking a question, stating her hypothesis and then testing the hypothesis. Her hypothesis was that if her siblings disappeared, she’d have room to be a real scientist. Charlotte tried several ways to make her brothers and sisters disappear until she finally decided that she had to leave instead. She crafted a rocket and flew to the moon. She loved space, but as she drew her conclusions she realized that she was getting lonely. How would she find the perfect balance of space and family?

Andros has combined the scientific process with a picture book very successfully. It functions as a very strong structure for the story, using the book to both demonstrate the process but also to tell a good story about a girl scientist. The busy and crowded household will resonate with children reading the book and they will recognize their own wish for space at times, and maybe even outer space!

Farley’s illustrations are dynamic and busy. The crowded family and their interruptions to Charlotte’s experiments are clearly depicted. Charlotte’s carrot-shaped rocket is also lovely both on the moon and on earth. The images of Charlotte’s loneliness are suddenly filled with wide space despite the robot bunnies wrapped in toilet paper nearby.

An intelligent picture book with a strong scientific heroine just right for STEM units. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Road Home by Katie Cotton

The Road Home by Katie Cotton

The Road Home by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (9781419723742)

A variety of animals travel on their way home. Birds fly to warmer places, escaping the chill of winter. Mice build nests in the grass that offer safety and warmth. Wolves hunt for food to fill their hunger. Rabbits hide in the brambles, chased clear by the wolves on their heels. They reach their burrow and safety. The next day, the wolves and rabbits are outside again along with the birds and the mice. All sharing a larger home with one another.

Cotton’s poem is delicious. From the initial rhyming stanzas on the first page, she builds a full story of the importance of home and the strength of parent/child pairs in survival. Throughout the poem there is a sense of arrival or approaching home, defined in different ways for the different species. There is also a focus on security and warmth, on being together despite the odds and filling small burrows and nests with love.

Jacoby’s illustrations embrace the natural setting. They keep readers from realizing that all of the animals are in the same area by using a different feel for their habitats. The mice are in golden nests of straw, the birds soar in the sky, the wolves hunt through a forest and the rabbits are close by. Then the final reveal of them together is like the sun returning, a beautiful reveal.

Gorgeous poetry combines with strong illustrations to create a celebration of home no matter what species you may be. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

We’re Going on an Egg Hunt by Laura Hughes

were-going-on-an-egg-hunt-by-laura-hughes

We’re Going on an Egg Hunt by Laura Hughes (9781681193144)

This lift-the-flap picture book is a riff on the beloved We’re Going on a Bear Hunt reworked with an Easter theme. Here a family of rabbits head out to find eggs on a lovely spring day. There are ten hidden eggs on the pages and not every flap has an egg hidden behind it. Along the way, the rabbits encounter a series of obstacles and how to navigate things like lambs, bees and ducks. The final very large egg hides a wolf and the rabbits and the reader have to work together to foil him.

Hughes has done a nice job of incorporating the rhythm and structure of the original book into this springy Easter version. Even the obstacles themselves have a springtime theme. The wolf at the end makes for a delightful twist that creates the joy of rushing back through the obstacles in reverse order and returning home just in the nick of time.

The use of flaps is particularly enjoyable when combined with an egg hunt. Children will enjoy lifting the flaps which are fairly sturdy and should survive small hands well. There are surprises underneath some of them and the chance to count upwards to ten as well.

Great for sharing with a small group of children or one-on-one, there will be lots of demand to be the one to lift the flaps because it is such fun. My guess is you will be reading this one again and again. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Bloomsbury.

Rabbit Magic by Meg McLaren

rabbit-magic-by-meg-mclaren

Rabbit Magic by Meg McLaren

The key to a great magic show is picking the right assistant. Houdini, the white rabbit, was the perfect assistant until an unfortunate magical accident which turned the magician, M. Lapin, into a rabbit. Now it was up to Houdini to carry on with the show and he got so good at it that he became a real star. But even as he created more and more elaborate magic tricks, he realized that the magician was never happy being a rabbit. It may be time for Houdini’s greatest trick of all,  giving someone else a turn in the spotlight. Literally.

McLaren uses words very judiciously here, creating a picture book that is marvelously approachable for preschool audiences. The text is used just enough to keep the story flowing forward and to keep the pacing as brisk as any good magic show. There is also plenty of humor throughout the book, keeping readers entertained with rabbit antics and plenty of magic.

The illustrations are such a part of this book. Words appear sometimes as part of the pictures and other times the illustrations are telling the full story. The magic is shown with stars filling the page and transformations are depicted in stages. The style has a wonderful vintage cartoon feel that is warm and nostalgic.

A funny bunny picture book with enough action and magic to keep everyone happy. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.