Chez Bob by Bob Shea

Cover image for Chez Bob.

Chez Bob by Bob Shea (9780316483117)

As a rather lazy alligator, Bob comes up with a great plan to get birds to fly right up to his mouth. He opens a birdseed restaurant on his nose. After seasoning his birdseed with his favorite spices, so the birds would taste delicious, news soon spread about his restaurant among the bird community. Soon a small town grew around Chez Bob. Bob wanted to support the community, so he coached the bird basketball team and joined a book club. When a large storm came, Bob offered all of the birds shelter in his mouth. This was his perfect opportunity to eat them all! But he could hear them laughing and talking together and then looked around the empty town. He knew what he had to do.

Shea’s books are always a delight. This one contains just enough adult level humor that parents will enjoy reading it to their children multiple times. Just the book club page alone had me guffawing aloud, and there are lots of moments like that. While Bob may start out as a villain, I agree with him that hero isn’t too strong a word by the end of the story. There is great delight in watching Bob decide what he should do, all for the community good that he accidentally created.

Shea’s illustrations are large and bold, full of bright colors. They feature all sorts of little birds who come to Bob’s community and to Chez Bob too. Bob’s own scheming face is a delight as he plots to eat the birds. By the end though, the scheming grin turns into a genuine smile.

A delicious and sharp-toothed book about the transformation of a villain. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

I Can Make a Train Noise by Michael Emberley

Cover image for I Can Make a Train Noise.

I Can Make a Train Noise by Michael Emberley and Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick (9780823444960)

A little girl enters a crowded cafe with her family, insisting that she can make a train noise. As they take off their coats and sit at a table, the little girl continues to state that she can make a train noise, and that she will do it NOW! Jumping down from her chair, her imagination takes over as all of the customers form a line and quickly transform into passengers on a train. The train moves through a city formed from kitchen utensils, ketchup and mustard. It makes its way out in realistic oceanside settings and mountains with prairies. As the train slows to a stop, readers return to the bustling restaurant where everyone is talking about trains now.

This picture book is written in very simple lines, repeating “I can make a train noise” and “Now!” again and again. Using simple punctuation to slow the lines down or speed them up, the rhythm the repeating lines make is captivating and very impactful. This is a picture book that is ideal to share aloud and then share it again with the group joining in with the repeating lines. It’s a book that begs to be done aloud.

The illustrations are a large part of the success of this book. Given the simplicity of the text, they carry the weight of the story and the little girl’s imagination. I love the nod to In the Night Kitchen with the city made of condiments and kitchen gear. The transformation of cafe to train is joyous and fun, with everyone happily going along for the ride together. The speech bubbles in the cafe scenes are very effective and done only in images.

A grand ride on a little girl’s imagination. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Neal Porter Books.

Review: Truck Stop by Anne Rockwell

truck stop

Truck Stop by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Melissa Iwai

Every morning the truck stop has to open for business.  A boy and his family own the truck stop and get there early in the morning before the sun has come up.  The boy squeezes the orange juice while his parents prep the other breakfast foods.  Soon the trucks start arriving.  The boy knows all of the regulars and his parents know their orders by heart.  There is Eighteen-Wheeler who wants all of his tires checked.  Milk Tank and Maisie arrive next for a sweet breakfast of coffee and doughnuts.  The man with the moving van wants pancakes.  But where is Green Gus the old pickup truck?  More trucks arrive, but still no one has seen him.  It’s not until the little boy gets on the school bus that they figure out what has happened to Gus.

Rockwell tells a story that is a fine mix of family, food and trucks.  Children will enjoy seeing how a restaurant runs and also the warmth with which regulars are remembered and served.  Still, it is the trucks that will have this book off of the shelves and into little hands.  It is good to see more than just a list of different types of trucks and instead have a book that can be read aloud as a story as well.  Even better, there is a little mystery at the end about Gus that makes it all the more fun to read.

Iwai’s illustrations are done in cut paper collages.  The types of paper add a richness to the images, combining textures from textiles, slick painted papers, and lots of patterns.  The result are pictures that are colorful and a pleasure to look at closely.

A solid book, this will be a welcome bedtime addition for any family with a truck-loving child as well as a choice pick for story times.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.

Funny Lunch

Funny Lunch by David Catrow

This second Max Spaniel book offers mayhem and fun with a pizza theme.  Max is not a dog, he is a chef!  He and his cat friend have a restaurant where they serve pizzas.  When one customer refuses the special and orders chili instead, he is given a scarf, hat and mittens.  When another orders a hot dog, a panting dog with a fan is served.  Trouble arrives by bus with an order of 100 pizzas with everything!  Max cannot make pizzas that fast and ends up with a mess instead.  Luckily great pizza is only a phone call away.  Even better, Max got to enjoy the pizza too.

Catrow successfully mixes very simple beginner reader words with pictured filled with funny details and merriment.  The jokes are classic and there are some that only those looking at the pictures will find.  Catrow’s watercolor illustrations ooze giggles and laughs as well as pizza sauce and cheese.  They add another dimension of fun to the book.  The relationship between Max and his cat friend is a good one that plays out primarily in the illustrations. 

A frolic of an easy reader, this book will be enjoyed by young pizza and dog lovers.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.

The Dancing Pancake

The Dancing Pancake by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

Bindi is facing a lot of changes in her life.  First, her father has left their family to find a job in another city.  A few months later, she learns that her parents have separated.  Now her mother and her aunt are starting a restaurant called The Dancing Pancake.  They will be moving into the apartment above the restaurant and out of their house.  As all of these changes hit, Bindi finds herself feeling sad and angry about them.  People at the restaurant and her extended family help her deal with her feelings and show her the positive in her life. 

This verse novel features a full cast of interesting characters.  The poems are written from Bindi’s point of view.  She is a protagonist who is open and honest about her feelings, even when she is struggling with them.  She offers readers a clear view of what children deal with when parents separate and life changes.  At the same time, she is uniquely Bindi, a girl who loves to read, worries about what sort of friend she is, and tries to help others whenever she can. 

Spinelli’s verse is short and sweet.  It has a clarity and understated feel to it that makes it very easy to read.  Lew-Vriethoff’s illustrations have a breezy, effortless quality to them.  They are simple line drawings that capture the moments in the book.  The verse format and the illustrations throughout the book will make this a very inviting title for young readers.

Highly recommended, this book strikes just the right balance between a girl’s life falling apart and a family ready to catch and hold her.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf.