Review: The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo


The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo

Told in the first person, this picture book is from the point of view of one bored little boy.  He and his stuffed raccoon decide to play pirates.  To do that you had to not only be sneaky but you also needed a prisoner, and his sister’s stuffed rabbit was quickly stolen and sent afloat in the lake.  The boy was scolded and the now damp bunny was returned to his angry sister.  The boy then spent time playing with his own toys, but soon his mother was asking if he’d taken the bunny again.  He hadn’t but no one believed him and then his stuffed animal went missing too!  It was a real mystery and now they had a real pirate on their hands.

Castillo takes a classic book of summer boredom and then picking on a sibling to a different and surprising place in this picture book.  Children who are paying attention will notice a furry face that appears on almost every page in the background, a lurking raccoon who seems to want to get involved or maybe is having his own dull afternoon and is looking for some fun.  This second little troublemaker adds a great amount of fun to the story.  Even better, having dealt with raccoons invading my house and stealing my son’s stuffed animals up into their attic den, this all rings completely true.

Castillo’s signature art style is on display here.  She manages to capture a timeless look on the page but also one that is modern and fresh.  The tinge of blue on the stuffed raccoon make sure that children will not mix up the real and stuffed animals.  The family’s home is well detailed, busy and filled with other natural touches.

A solid new title from Castillo that will work well for units or story times about pirates, siblings or raccoons.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Come Back, Moon by David Kherdian

come back moon

Come Back, Moon by David Kherdian, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian

In this quiet book, Bear blames the moon for not being able to fall asleep.  So he pulls it out of the sky.  Fox notices that the moon is gone and so do Skunk, Opossum and Raccoon.  Crow asks Fox why he doesn’t know where the moon is, since he’s so clever.  So Fox takes them all to talk to Owl who is wise.  Owl knows where the moon is, since he saw Bear take it.  So they head off to retrieve the moon from Bear.  But how will they get it away from him?

This book has a wonderfully clear and simple story line that makes it ideal to use with toddlers.  It also has a deep quiet to it that will work for good bedtime or naptime reading.  Kherdian uses repetition throughout the story, having the different animals share ideas and echo back decisions. 

Hogrogian’s art also has that simple style.  She has wonderful images like the one on the cover that speak to the darkness and loss of the moon.  Her animals are realistically depicted and appear against white or tan backgrounds with few details. 

There is a place for quiet books for small children and this one has just enough activity to keep it moving too.  It would make a great board book.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

Review: School for Bandits by Hannah Shaw

school for bandits

School for Bandits by Hannah Shaw

Ralph was not a normal raccoon.   He looked like any other raccoon, but he certainly didn’t act like them.  He was polite, clean, and tidy.  His parents were frustrated and so sent him to Bandit School where he could learn to be naughty, dirty and thieving.  Ralph had an awful time in school because he was just too nice.   When his teacher announced the Best Bandit in School competition, Ralph just knew that there was no way he would ever win.  He spent his break reading inside instead of causing trouble out on the streets like his classmates.  Can a nice raccoon ever come out ahead? 

Shaw captures the naughtiness of raccoons with glee.  They are shown with frizzy fur, bad breath, and are often playing pranks and taking other animals’ things.  Yet they are never frightening, despite the worry on other characters’ faces, they are rascals rather than being gang-like.  Children will love many of the touches here, including burping in class and brushing teeth with chocolate.

The text is simple and tells a good story, often crooked on the page.  The illustrations and text work well together, sometimes playing off of one another in style. 

This is a book that speaks to the importance of manners but in a way that remains fun and light-hearted throughout.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf.

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Review: The Bear Who Shared by Catherine Rayner

bear who shared

The Bear Who Shared by Catherine Rayner

Norris, the bear, knew that the plorringes were the best fruits.  So he waited under the plorringe tree because he knew something special was going to happen.  Tulip and Violet, a mouse and a raccoon, knew that plorringes were the best too.  They were able to climb up in the tree to get closer to the single hanging plorringe.  They could see how delicious it looked and smell its delicious scent.  They listened to it and hugged it too.  They were just about to lick it when it fell off of the tree and down right onto Norris’ head.  Now Norris was closest to the plorringe and had it all to himself.  But just as Norris was patient, he was also a very nice bear.  The type of bear who would not only share but would make some new friends doing it.

The story here is one that has been shared in many picture books.  Rayner’s writing has a gentle repetition that is almost not noticeable.  She has a playfulness and a warmth to her writing that makes it a pleasure to read aloud.

It is the illustrations that make this book something extraordinary.  There is the brawny brown of the bear done in overlapping paint that show his girth and weight, but also his sturdiness and steadiness.   Then the raccoon is a mash of black and grays, blending and merrily mixing, capturing the dynamic movements.  The mouse is all delicate line and a whisper of pink expression for the tail.  The plorringe is yellows, reds and pinks, a mix of mango, plum, and guava.

A book about sharing and friendship that will be loved due to the illustrations.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.