One Day in the Eucalyptus Eucalyptus Tree by Daniel Bernstrom (InfoSoup)
A little boy skipped along in the shade of the eucalyptus tree when down came a snake who ate him up! The boy told the snake that there was more room in his belly and encouraged him to eat something else. So the snake snuck up on a bird and gobbled it up. The boy told the snake he was still hungry and one-by-one, the snake ate more and more animals: a cat, a sloth, an ape, a bear, and a beehive. By then, his stomach was huge and distended, but the boy told him there was room for just one more very small thing. Perhaps not!
In the tradition of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, this picture book has a rhythm and rhyme that makes reading it aloud pure joy. This is a child outwitting an enormous snake, staying calm and being clever, adding to the appeal for children. The pacing of the book is stellar, creating moments before each new animal is devoured as well as when the boy convinces the snake to eat more.
The illustrations are bright and colorful. The eucalyptus tree is central to the story and to the art with its colored bark and large expanse. The bright yellow snake is huge and vies with the tree for the reader’s attention in the best of ways. Cross sections of the snake’s belly show the animals and the boy inside.
Great pick for a read aloud, this picture book is energetic and cheerful. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Katherine Tegen Books.
When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek (InfoSoup)
So I admit that I waited for spring to actually come to Wisconsin before I reviewed this and that means that even now I am being optimistic that it has finally arrived even though it was in the 30s here overnight. But even if you are almost headed into summer, this is a great book to share in early, mid and late spring. Written at a level just right for toddlers, this book shares the transformation that spring bring us. Bare trees become covered in blossoms and leaves. Snowmen disappear. Puddles appear. Grass turns from brown to green (with flowers). Gardens grow and soon there is green everywhere, breezes, robins and worms.
Henkes’ writing is made to share aloud with small children. His verse doesn’t rhyme but it has a great natural rhythm to it that makes the book almost sing. The joy here is in the exploration of the changing season, one that brings a certain beauty with it, a freshness. Henkes captures the turning of the season, the aspects of early spring all the way through to almost-summer and he does it in a way that shows small children what they can see and experience themselves.
Dronzek’s illustrations are big and bright and simple. She moves from the lighter colors of early spring through to the bold robustness of near summer. The images change too, moving from small images surrounded by white to double-page spreads that run right to the edge of the pages and seem to spill over with the bounty of late spring.
A gorgeous book for the smallest of children, this is a triumphant toddler look at spring. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins Publishers.
Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora (InfoSoup)
A little girl is flying a kite when her string breaks and the kite lands in a cave. When she heads into the cave to get her kite, there is a big bear in there who rolls over in his sleep and breaks her kite. The little girl gets very angry and yells at the bear, “Horrible Bear!” She stomps away to her home. Bear was very upset too. After all, he isn’t a horrible bear at all. But then he had a horrible idea of his own. He practiced barging in, making lots of noise and waking someone out and then headed down to her house. Meanwhile though, the girl was figuring out exactly how rude she had been. Now an apologetic little girl is all set for a run in with a bear ready to be horrible!
Dyckman has created a book that simply must be shared aloud. From the refrain of “Horrible Bear!” as the girl storms off to the roaring bear as he is being horrible, the entire book is filled with ways for children to participate. This book is about the importance of apologizing for bad behavior and mistakes and the way that apologies can completely change a situation. I particularly enjoyed the clever interplay of a grumpy girl and a mellow bear that then switch roles. It also shows that each of us have different aspects to our personality and that we can decide to change our moods.
OHora’s illustrations are wonderfully large and bold, adding to the appeal of the book for group sharing. With a dynamic mix of panels and other images that span both pages, the book makes turning pages fun and interesting. The orange bear pops on the page as does the red-headed little girl. The two convey their emotions clearly which makes it easy for children to understand as their moods change.
A wonderful picture book that is just right for sharing aloud with a group. Expect lots of chants of Horrible Bear from preschool audiences. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The House that Zack Built by Alison Murray (InfoSoup)
Zack built a house out of blocks outside under a tree. A fly buzzed by, the cat stalked the fly, then got more interested in the cream up high on a shelf. The dog was asleep when down fell the cream, knocked over by the cat who was still looking to catch that fly. The lambs in the field are calm and quiet, then the dog runs through still covered in cream and the sheep dash out of the field. Then Zack looks around, amazed at the mess of the farm. He jumped into action and set it all right. Then they all sat quietly and looked at the incredible house that Zack had built.
This British import is a cumulative tale that doesn’t solely stick to the traditional structure of building and building onto the length of the sentence with each new addition. Instead here it is the story itself that is the focus and the cumulative structure is used when it works and then merrily abandoned to make the storyline work better and to also make the book much more enjoyable to read. The result is a cumulative tale that will not leave you breathless or with a spinning head when shared aloud.
Murray’s art is simple and friendly. The illustrations will work well for a crowd since they are not filled with small details. Children will enjoy the cat in particular as it causes almost all of the problems that emerge.
There is a real satisfaction in this story of watching chaos happen and then having it set to rights. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt
A little frog has decided that he doesn’t want to be a frog. He’d much rather be a… cat! Why? Because frogs are too wet. But a bigger frog explains that there is no way he can be a cat, because he’s a frog. Then he decides he wants to be a rabbit, since he can already jump and because frogs are too slimy. But he’s missing the long ears. Maybe a pig? But then you have to eat garbage. How about an owl? Nope, he can’t turn his head all the way around. Finally, a wolf comes along and gives the little frog a perfect reason to be happy to be a frog.
This debut picture book makes for a great read aloud. The two voices of the pair of frogs form the entire story, creating a great dynamic together. The story may be very silly, and it certainly is, but at the heart it is a child questioning if it might be better to be something entirely different, something furry or something that flies. It’s a classic case of identity crisis and one that children will relate to even while they giggle about it.
Boldt’s illustrations play up the humorous aspect of the story. The expressions on the frogs’ faces are well drawn and convey the emotions they are feeling very clearly. The use of speech bubbles and hand lettering makes for a book that has the feel of a comic book. Combined with the silly story, the illustrations make it even more funny.
Get this in the hands of Mo Willems fans who will completely fall for this loud little frog with big ideas. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Doubleday Books for Young Readers.
The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak
No pictures? In a picture book? Is it still a picture book? Is it still for preschoolers? The answer is a resounding yes! And even better, this is a book filled with words and no images that preschoolers will delight in. First, the audience is told that the rule with reading a book aloud is that the reader has to say everything that is on the page, whether they like it or not. Even if the words are nonsense, even if they have to be sung, even if they insult themselves. Completely silly, this picture book is filled with funny things the reader has to say aloud and then clever asides about what the reader is thinking to themselves.
Novak understands child humor wonderfully. Reading this book to a group of preschoolers will be a delight, particularly when they realize that the author has you under their control. Play up your dismay at having to be silly and you will have the children rolling with laughter. Novak walks the line perfectly here, never taking the joke too far into being mean, but keeping it just naughty enough to intrigue youngsters to listen closely.
This is one of those picture books that you save to end a story time, since it is guaranteed to keep the attention of the entire group of children. It’s a winner! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial.
Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
Duck has lost his new blue socks. He searches in his box, but they aren’t there. He asks his friend Fox who hasn’t seen them either. Perhaps Ox knows where his socks are? Ox remembers seeing some socks down by the rocks. But those socks are purple, not blue socks, and they aren’t new either. Finally, Duck asks a group of peacocks about his socks. And they do know where his socks are! It turns out they are in a most surprising place!
Bunting has written a picture book in rhyme that dances along to a jaunty beat. The rhymes are merrily done, done in a humorous way. She makes it all look so easy and effortless, but rhyming picture books are some of the most difficult to do well. Kudos to Bunting for maintaining the joy in simple rhymes. Her words read aloud well and are also simple enough for beginning readers to tackle.
Ruzzier’s illustrations are the key to young readers spotting the blue socks which are slowly revealed as the book progresses. Expect eagle-eyed children to figure out the answer even before the adults. Ruzzier fills Duck’s world with lots of clutter from starfish to soccer balls to underwear. Done in ink and watercolor, the colors are bright and add to the surreal nature of the story itself.
Socks lost and then found, rhymes and rhythms, and a delight of a read aloud to share, this book has it all! Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
What Animals Really Like by Fiona Robinson
Mr. Herbert Timberteeth is happy to present his new song that he composed, “What Animals Like Most.” He will also be conducting it, just open the red curtains and… There are groups of animals on stage who flatly deliver, “We are lions, and we like to prowl. We are wolves, and we like to howl. We are pigeons, and we like to coo. We are cows and we like to…” Turn the page to have the chaos begin as the cows change the obvious rhyme into something else entirely. Best of all, you can tell from the animals’ faces that they are up to something. They are the only ones on stage grinning. The same is true of the next grouping. Children will get the joke immediately when the first rhyme is missed. Finally, Herbert, now bedraggled, allows them to sing the new and non-rhyming version of the song. He hates it, but the audience has a very different reaction.
Robinson has tapped into a kind of humor that children enjoy. The unexpected happening when you think you have the structure pegged. Children will be relaxed and ready for the rhyme to come next. In fact, they will probably announce that first rhyme before you get the page turned. Their reaction will be that much better if they do! The unexpectedness of this entire book is a great treat.
The illustrations are also fun. Keep an eye out for all of the small touches. My favorite is where the show is lit by glowworms, and if you look closely one of them has fallen asleep and is no longer lit. But there are many to enjoy, making this a book that can be read again and again.
This is a definite read-aloud pick for any preschool story time. It would make a great final book that is sure to keep wiggly children interested and listening. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Rapunzel and the Seven Dwarfs by Willy Claflin, illustrated by James Stimson
This book is a Maynard Moose tale just like The Uglified Duckling. This fractured fairy tale takes Rapunzel and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and mixes them wildly together into quite a story. Readers who know both stories will enjoy this most, because of the silliness of the mash up. Here Rapunzel is a girl who has trouble keeping her long tresses clean, so a helpful witch puts her in a tower. She is discovered by a portly knight who attempts to climb her hair, but instead due to his bulk, launches her out of the tower and into a pond. Enter the seven dwarfs, who rescue her from the water and solver her hair issues by shaving her head bald. Meanwhile, the witch heads to the home of the dwarfs dressed as a kindly rhinoceros (yes, you read that right) and tempts her to each poisoned watermelon. I’ll leave the final twists of the tale for you to discover, and my there are plenty of twists!
When I first started reading this book, I tried it silently to myself. Told by Maynard Moose, the story has some odd language twists in it and some words that are new but will make sense. The book doesn’t work read silently. Happily, I tried it aloud and the elements all fell into place. If you are wondering as someone who will read it aloud how to do it, there is a CD with the book where you can hear Maynard’s voice.
The humor here is broad and great fun. There are particular lines that had me laughing out loud. I enjoyed the “eight or nine seven dwarfs” and the series of misunderstandings as the prince calls out to Rapunzel to lower her hair. It all adds to the zaniness of the story. The writing is crafted to be read aloud, giving any reader plenty of opportunity to shine.
Stimson’s art plays along with the humor of the book. The homemade rhino costume, the Sleeping Punzel Museum, the rotund little prince, and the issues of long hair. The art is computer smooth and sleek.
This will read aloud well to older elementary-age children who will really enjoy the humor. Recommended for ages 7-9, though completely appropriate for younger listeners.
Reviewed from library copy.
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