Catch That Chicken! by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank (9781536212686)
Lami is the best chicken catcher in her small Nigerian compound. Happily, the compound is full of all kinds of chickens and she helps out by catching them for everyone. She may not be fast at spelling like her sister or fast at braiding hair like her friend, but she is the fastest at catching chickens! But one day, Lami moves too fast to catch a chicken, ignoring everyone telling her to slow down. She chases the chicken right up a baobab tree, toppling from a branch and falling. Her ankles swells up, and now she can’t catch any chickens at all. But her Nana Nadia sits down with her and gets Lami thinking of a new way to catch chickens without the wild chase.
Atinuke is the author of the Anna Hibiscus series and several picture books set in her native Nigeria. Her skill as an oral storyteller always shines in her picture books. This one also reads aloud beautifully, building in pace to a great crescendo before the literal fall. Atinuke uses repeating phrases and sentence structures to create a warm energy throughout the book.
The illustrations will work well for sharing the book with a group. Done in mixed media, the move from long distance images of the compound to being right in the mix of the action with Lami as she dashes after chickens. These are energetic illustrations that perfectly suit the story.
Clever and fun, head on a wild chicken chase with this picture book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.
Smashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino (9780062910370)
Join Mr. Gilly in his crane with a wrecking ball in this dynamic picture book. Mr. Gilly’s crane is slow moving, but it can do a lot. When he swings the wrecking ball and hits a wall, it goes “Smash! Smash! Smash!” When he hits it again it goes, “Crash! Crash! Crash!” The wall tumbles down. Is he done? No! On goes the demolition, the ball swinging, smashing and crashing. When it is finally finished, Mr. Gilly uses his bulldozer to clear up the mess he made. The new building starts going up as Mr. Gilly heads home to dinner and bed.
This is a picture book just right for toddlers who love trucks and machines. The text is jaunty and great fun to read aloud. It has plenty of rhyming repetition in the smash and crash as well as the repeating question of whether Mr. Gilly is done yet. Get the children you are reading to involved in the crash and smash with claps and stomps, and you have a great finishing book for a story time.
The art by Yaccarino is bold and simple, ensuring that this is great for reading to a crowd of children. The art has the same good humor and merriment as the text, offering a busy urban setting for demolition as well as a final view of a public library being built on the site.
Let this one crash your story time! Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins.
Fix That Clock by Kurt Cyrus (9781328904089)
Full of rhythm and rhyme, this picture book takes a broken down clock and rebuilds it. The clock is teetering and old, with the structure and the clock no longer functional. The only things that live in it are the wild animals who have moved in. So three builders arrive to change all of that. Floor-by-floor, they transform the zigzag of crooked walls into straight new boards and squares. The clock too gets reworked and soon the tower is straight and working once again. But what will happen to the little creatures who lived there?
This book was made to share aloud. It has such a jolly rhythm to it, with hammers banging, boots tramping, and the clock bonging. Still, Cyrus takes the time to tell a full story here, giving quieter moments where the reader gets to more fully understand the structure itself and the creatures who live there. It’s that contrast that really makes the book work as a read aloud, giving it a heart beyond the rhythm and rhyme.
Cyrus’ art is great, the old wood grayed and weathered by time contrasts with the fresh gold of the new wood. One can almost smell the sawdust as you turn the pages. The three builders are diverse as far as race and gender, which is very welcome to see. The use of interesting perspectives adds to the appeal visually.
A great choice for reading aloud for any units on construction or clocks. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Is That Wise Pig? by Jan Thomas (InfoSoup)
Cow, Pig and Mouse are all making soup together. Mouse adds one onion, Cow adds two cabbages, but Pig tries to add three umbrellas! The other two ask Pig if that is wise. Then Mouse adds four tomatoes, Cow adds five potatoes, and Pig tries to add six galoshes. Is that wise? More ingredients go in and Pig even adds nine carrots! Then Pig reveals that she asked ten friends to join them, something that probably was not wise. Suddenly Pig’s galoshes and umbrellas make a lot of sense as the soup flies!
As always, Thomas completely understands the farcical humor that toddlers adore. Children will be so engaged in laughing at Pig’s ingredients that they won’t see the ending coming until the reveal. There is also a counting component to the book that is subtly done and the book feels much more like a story than one teaching numbers. Thomas’ illustrations will work well with a crowd, projecting easily even to those in the back thanks to their strong black lines and simple colors.
Expect lots of requests for seconds of this silly book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
Goodnight, Grizzle Grump! by Aaron Blecha
Grizzle Grump is a huge bear who is ready to hibernate for the winter, but he has to find the right quiet place to do that. He’s so big that even his yawns can blow the other animals around. He tries to sleep in the trees first, going through an elaborate ritual of scratches, wiggles and flopping. Then he is asleep and snoring until the noises of the woodpeckers wake him up. He heads off to find another spot. But when he sleeps near the stream, the beavers are too loud. The gloomy swamp seems like a good choice until the frogs start to croak. He finally finds a snowy cave, far from everyone else. Then it is his turn to make huge snoring noises that drive everyone else away.
Blecha has created a great book to share aloud with a group. The humor is flawlessly presented in a way that makes it effortless to share. The ritual that Grizzle Grump goes through each time will have children giggling and is also something that you can get the audience to participate in. Inventive story time librarians will have children help make the noises of the woods and swamp with hands and feet.
The illustrations add to the humor from the bucktoothed squirrel who watches it all to the frenzied reaction of the bear every time he is woken once again. The wild energy of the story line is reflected in the illustrations with the noises themselves part of the art. Even the proportions of the huge bear and his little blanket and pillow add to the humor.
A glorious read aloud for autumn months or any bedtime, this picture book is a silly and cheery delight. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
The Turnip by Jan Brett (InfoSoup)
Badger girl was weeding the garden when she noticed something odd. It was a huge turnip! She tried to pull it out, but it would not budge. Soon their whole family of badgers were trying to pull the turnip out with no success. Hedgie tried to use his prickles to get it out, Mr. Ram tried using his horns, and Vanya the horse hitched up and pulled too. Nothing worked. Then Rooster strutted up and insisted that he try all by himself. Meanwhile, down in the cave below a family of bears had also discovered the turnip and pushed hard to get it out of their bedroom. The turnip sailed into the air with a triumphant Rooster flying along too. Then it was turnip pancakes for everyone!
Brett excels at retelling folktales, enlivening them with her animal characters. This is a traditional cumulative tale that sticks very close to the original. The family of bears living under the turnip is a great addition that allows strutting Rooster to claim victory over the stubborn turnip. The pacing of the tale works well, each new attempt has a longer and longer line of animals trying to help and also dreaming of what delicious things could be made out of the turnip.
As always, Brett’s illustrations are filled with fine details. She again uses her framing on each double-page spread, showing the next animal to arrive before they come in. Readers will notice the bear family on these panels too, a subtle introduction prior to them taking center stage. The illustrations show that this is Russia where the badgers and bears live. They wear traditional Russian clothing and the frames on the illustrations show a similar influence.
Another winner from Brett, this picture book will make a crowd pleaser of a read aloud, but with Brett’s detailed illustrations it’s also a winner of a lap read. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.
Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien
A very hungry owl uses a unique approach to find his dinner in this silly picture book. Hoot Owl is a master of disguise, so he as he hunts in the dark night, he switches into different costumes to trick his prey. First, he sees a rabbit and so he puts on his carrot disguise. It doesn’t work to tempt the rabbit, so he moves on to a lamb. Hoot Owl disguises himself as a mother sheep to lure the lamb closer, but that doesn’t work either. Maybe a pigeon will be fooled by his clever birdbath costume? Nope. Then finally, he finds something to eat that can’t move away – pepperoni pizza! But will his waiter costume work?
The voice of owl as the narrator for the story is so much fun to read aloud. He is brazen, confident and sure that eventually his unique approach to hunting will work out. Never daunted by disappointment, he moves on to the next meal quickly and eagerly. Throughout, Hoot Owl expresses himself in metaphors and playful language. The night is “black as burnt toast” and his eyes “glitter like sardines” when they see the pizza.
Jullien’s illustrations are bold and gorgeous. The colors are bright and fun, the orange of owl popping against that black night sky. Hoot Owl’s personality shines on the page, his head peeking out from various angles as he hunts his prey.
This playful picture book is a great read aloud, bright, funny and impressive. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Laszlo is scared of the dark. You know, that darkness that is always there, hiding in corners and behind the shower curtain, and especially the dark that lives down in the basement. At night the dark would spread around the entire old creaky house and all of its staircases, but in the day it retreated to the basement. Laszlo would visit the dark every morning, from the top of the steps into the black basement. He would say hi, thinking that maybe then the dark wouldn’t feel the need to visit him in his room at night anymore. But that didn’t work, the dark still came at night. Luckily Laszlo slept with a flashlight on his pillow and a nightlight on the wall, so the dark stayed away. That is until one night when his nightlight burned out and the dark started talking to Laszlo.
I can’t think of a stronger author and illustrator match than this one. Snicket turns on the creep factor in this book in a way that will have children leaning in closer, cuddling tighter, and listening to every single word. There are the noises of the house, the scary basement, and the series of staircases. But mostly there is the darkness itself, a second character in the book and written about with almost poetic phrasing. This is one beautifully written book.
Klassen plays so much with light and shadow here. He uses the darkness beautifully as both a frame for his images but also as the thick lines of objects. Then there are the pictures of the cool daylight and the fierce warmth of the nightlight that burns almost like a flame. This is one beautifully illustrated book.
One of my favorite picture books of the year, this book reads aloud perfectly, the tension growing and growing until it’s almost explosive. One can almost hear the dark chuckling along. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Jo MacDonald Had a Garden by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant
Celebrate gardening with this cheery picture book that features Old MacDonald’s granddaughter, Jo MacDonald. The verses here are set to the same music as the original, except this time it’s all about planting a garden rather than the animals on a farm. In the garden there is some sun, some soil, a worm, seeds, water, animals, plants, and then food! Watching the illustrations, children will see the garden take shape and then watch the plants grow until they are ready to be harvested.
Quattlebaum has cleverly written verses that can be acted out by preschoolers as the book is shared. At times, the children in the illustrations show the movements that could be done, and at other times they would be easily figured out by a savvy teacher or librarian. I can see lots of children this spring enjoying planting imaginary gardens all together.
Bryant’s illustrations have a wonderful sense of detail to them. Each page has animals to glimpse in the garden, including a cardinal and a butterfly that are on almost every page. This is a book that children will enjoy looking at and exploring.
Get your voice warmed up and be ready to wiggle like a worm with this new version of Old MacDonald! Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Dawn Publications.