Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi (9781626725638)
In this wordless picture book, two boys are drawing lines towards each other without realizing it. When they bump into each other, they join their lines together. But then with an accidental rude tug, the two of them begin a tug of war over their line. Soon an actual rift begins to form between them. The more they pull, the larger the rift grows. Is there a way for them to reach across the newly formed divide? Otoshi plays with the idea of art bringing people together and then introduces competition and a certain amount of tension into the story. The art is playful and uses colors to show the emotions the children are feeling in each scene. A strong picture book about art and friendship. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Review copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)
I Have a Balloon by Ariel Bernstein, illustrated by Scott Magoon (9781481472500)
A blue owl has a big red balloon. When a monkey sees it, he wants it so badly. He offers several things in trade for it, but the owl doesn’t agree. Owl turns down a sunflower, a robot, a picture of balloons and a ball. In desperation, he offers a sock. Suddenly Owl perks up and starts to dream of all the things he can do with that sock with a red star on it and a perfect hole. But the deal is not so easily made! This clever and very funny picture book is written entirely in dialogue between the two animals. It has a vibrant and natural feel to it and is ideal for sharing aloud. The art by Magoon is also hilarious, offering ways to use socks, balloons and more. And the expressions on the animals faces are perfection. A fun pick for story times. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster.)
La La La by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Jaime Kim (9780763658335)
Newbery Medalist DiCamillo has created a nearly wordless picture book. A little girl sings all on her own, heading outside to sing to the world. Exploring the pond and the plants, she continues to sing. She even heads out in the evening to try again, but nothing works. After she falls asleep, someone answers her after all. Kim’s illustrations offer a world that plays between blank white and a lush world of daylight greens and evening purples. Throughout the illustrations there is a sense of hope and wonder, of knowing that the world is listening. Gentle and thoughtful, this is one to share and then discuss together. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Two of these picture book welcome winter while another sends it on its way:
Spring for Sophie by Yael Werber, illustrated by Jen Hill (9781481451345)
Sophie is waiting for spring to come, but she’s not sure how to tell when it arrives. Her mother explains that she should be able to hear the changes, so Sophie is patient and listens while she is outside. Eventually she starts to hear more and more birds in the trees. Still, it was snowy outside. Her father explains that she can use her feet to feel spring coming. So Sophie paid attention to how soft the snow was and eventually, it was less icy and more soft. Still, the snow was there. Her mother tells her to use her eyes and nose. Sophie watches the snow melt, the green return and one day her nose tells her that spring has finally arrived! This picture book celebrates the change of season in a tangible way that children will love. The focus is on the child experiencing the changes themselves with gentle guidance from loving adults. The illustrations celebrate both winter and spring, the slow but steady transformation between seasons. A perfect book to invite exploring outside. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)
William’s Winter Nap by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Chuck Groenink (9781484722824)
This rhyming picture book tells a story of a boy who is ready for bed. But just as he is about to fall asleep, there comes a tap, tap, tap at his window. It’s a chipmunk and William invites him into his bed to sleep. Again and again, William is about to fall asleep but another animal needs shelter from the cold and the snow. When the last animal knocks, the other animals insist that there isn’t any more room, but somehow they find room for the very large bear with a little help from William. The series of drowsy moments interrupted makes this a great bedtime tale but also a lovely one to share with a group. The illustrations are friendly and inviting, just like William himself. There are opportunities for counting, naming animals and thinking about napping yourself in this very appealing read. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Disney Hyperion.)
Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Richard Jones
Fox wakes up to snowflakes falling and wonders what he should be doing to prepare for winter. A caterpillar suggests that he wrap up in a chrysalis and wake in the spring while the bat thinks a cave would be best. Turtle heads to the bottom of the pond to sleep in the mud and squirrel quickly gathers food. The geese fly south and the snowshoe hare turns white like the snow. Bear falls asleep in a log. But none of those solutions is right for Fox! He finally meets another fox in the woods who knows just what to do. Beautifully written by Bauer, this book uses repetitive structures to evoke a timeless feel that will be welcoming for the youngest listeners. The illustrations by Jones have a lovely softness to them while also showing the changing season and the beauty of the natural setting. A great pick for celebrating the coming winter. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)
The Starry Giraffe by Andy Bergmann (9781481491006, Amazon)
Starry Giraffe was very hungry when she came upon an apple tree full of ripe red apples. She selected the most delicious-looking apple and picked it. But just as she was about to eat the apple, a little mouse appeared and told Starry how hungry he was and that he was far too small to reach the apples on his own. So Starry gave him the apple. She turned back to the tree and picked the second most delicious apple to eat. But as the was about to eat it, a family of skunks came up. The giraffe gave them each an apple. And so it continued, with the giraffe picking apples and animals appearing. She gave each of them away until finally there were no more apples on the tree! But just when readers think that there are no apples yet, the story takes a great twist.
This picture book looks at generosity and the power of sharing as the giraffe at the center of the story chooses again and again to share the apples with other animals. The twist at the end moves the book away from more traditional tales and adds a layer of silliness to the story. Abundance is a huge part of this story as the creature with the abundant source of food chooses to share it will all.
Bergmann’s illustrations are simple and bright. The star-covered giraffe is unusual with her starry pattern and the stick-thin legs. The images have a strong graphic punch to them with bright animals on white backgrounds and pale green grass.
A dynamic and modern twist on a story of sharing. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Aladdin.
Mine! by Jeff Mack (9781452152349, Amazon)
Two mice discover a large rock that they both want to own. What ensues is a one-word argument back and forth between them and an ever-escalating battle of dominance. The mice use cheese to tempt each other along with wrapped gifts. Other rocks also play a role and pile around the bigger rock. There are walls of rock, knocked down by a wrecking ball. Finally, the two mice are together on the rock, arguing with one another. That’s when the ending takes a great twist.
Mack has a delightful sense of humor and timing in this picture book. The writing could not be simpler, with only one word being used in the entire book. The illustrations work particularly well with their limited palette and bright colors. They have the feel of the vintage Spy vs. Spy, with the two mice in their distinct colors battling one another. There are sneaky attacks and all out blasts. It’s a wild look at the hazards of not sharing.
Great for toddlers learning about sharing, reading this aloud will have you shouting “Mine!” in all sorts of tones. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe (9781592702145, Amazon)
Spring has returned to the forest, filling the woods with all colors of green. In the midst of the new growth, something special sparkled. It was a gold leaf, unique and different. All of the animals wanted to have it. A bird got it first, planning to use it to line its nest. Soon though, other animals grab it and take it for themselves until finally it lays in tatters on the ground and then is swept away by the wind. The animals are so dismayed at what they have done. The seasons change and fall and winter arrive and go. It is spring once again, green and lush. Will the gold leaf return?
Hall dazzles with her prose, offering so many colors of green in a single sentence that it is almost like being in a woods and noting each color. She uses very dynamic pacing in this picture book from the frenzy over the gold leaf itself as it is torn apart to the sadness afterwards and the slow turn of the seasons. That slow consideration continues as the animals wait to see if the gold leaf will ever return to them.
The illustrations take Hall’s considerable list of green colors and convey them to the page. The images are lush and filled with rich colors that have dapples of sunlight, deep shadows and animals that glow against the background. The use of goldleaf for leaf itself is very effectively done, particularly as it is ripped apart and each little piece continues to brighten the page.
A book about wonder, patience and sharing, this picture book is particularly golden. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion.
Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin (9780553537895)
In this wordless graphic novel, a little girl brings her stuffed toy fox to school for show-and-tell and it is taken from the playground by a real fox! The girl and her friend chase after the fox, stopping to ask directions when they find a small door in a tree. The squirrel who lives there points them in the right direction. Meanwhile, a weasel tries to steal the toy from the little fox, but a bear steps in and sorts it out. The children arrive at a town where animals live together and they enlist the help of the entire area to search for the fox. Soon they discover the little fox and his stolen toy, but what will they do then?
Graegin tells a really wonderful story solely through images. Using white space to frame her images into a graphic novel format, the story is told with rich details. It clearly establishes the little girl’s long attachment to the stuffed fox and her desire to share it with her class. Then the story becomes a chase sequence and a mystery of where the fox has gone. It then enters a lovely fantasy where the entire animal town comes to life, shown in a wide panorama that makes one want to wander the streets.
One special device used through the book is that the children are shown in black, grays and whites. The color enters the book subtly at first with the little fox and a red bird who watches from above. The children maintain their more somber color palette even as the world around them is vibrant color. Yet these worlds can touch and cross, much to the joy of the reader.
This genre bending graphic-novel picture book is beautiful, rich and worthy of journeying through time and again. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz and Wade.
How to Share with a Bear by Eric Pinder, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Thomas made a pillow cave on a cold day. But when he went to get a flashlight to read by, he noticed that something big had taken over the cave. Something with two brown eyes looked back at him when he looked inside. It was a bear! To get the bear out of his cave, Thomas laid a trail of blueberries down the stairs and sure enough, the bear followed eating them up. Thomas ran to get books to read in his cave, but he was too late and the bear had already returned. He tricked the bear with a back-scratching stick and then got inside the cave, but stray bear fuzz had him sneezing and running for a tissue. In the meantime, the bear returned. Thomas tricked the bear again and again into leaving the cave, but when the bear returned finally and Thomas was already in the cave, something happened. The bear started to cry, revealing himself to be Thomas’ younger brother. There was only one thing to do!
Pinder has created a book sparkling with creativity. His young protagonist who is battling the invasive brother bear comes up with clever ways again and again to trick the bear into leaving the cave. Pinder keeps each of the tricks appropriate for both a bear and a little boy, keeping the audience entirely fooled until his reveal. I was completely convinced of this being a little bear and expected the book to end with a teddy bear of some kind. It was a delight to discover a different twist that speaks to how to be a good older sibling.
The illustrations from Graegin are key to keeping the audience convinced of the bear being real. She subtle makes sure that the face is not shown until that moment of reveal. The book glows with a yellow warmth that invites curling up under a blanket or in your own pillow cave to read it.
A great pick for bear story times, this picture book shows how hard sharing can be. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah E. Harrison (InfoSoup)
Bernice is not having a good time at the birthday party and the cloudy day suits her mood. Her piece of birthday cake didn’t have a frosting rose on it like the others. Her soda was warm and tasted like prune grapefruit flavor. And then the big kids hit the pinata down before she even got a swing and the only candy Bernice got was a stepped-on gumdrop. So when the clown showed up with a huge bunch of balloons, Bernice grabbed them away and took them all for herself. But there may have been a few too many, and she floated up and up. She floated past other animals in the tree who were having a bad day too. She floated up until she got stuck on the bottom of the gloomy cloud. When she looked down, she realized that her problems were pretty small from a distance. Then she set out to change her day to a sunny one after all.
Harrison captures all of the elements of a bad mood and a horrible day. When you are already in a bad mood, nothing much can fix it except yourself. Harrison makes sure that it’s a substantially bad day, one that most children would have difficulty coping with. She does it with subtle humor, making the single gumdrop a stepped-on one and the soda flavor truly icky. She also makes sure that while the result is a more cheerful day, it takes a little while to get there and the change though fast does make sense.
The cover alone made me laugh out loud. Harrison knows her cats and no creature can look quite as grumpy as a wronged feline. The facial expressions of all of the animals are priceless. The paintings are detailed to the point where you can see individual hairs on the animals faces. Each one has a distinct personality, even if they are one in a crowd of little animals. Then the mood change happens and it’s like Bernice is a completely different little kitten with wide eyes and an internal glow.
Purely satisfying and fun, this picture book is a happy treat to share. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
Bob and Flo by Rebecca Ashdown (InfoSoup)
In a story perfect for small children starting daycare or preschool, this picture book shows how to make new friends and share. Bob really likes Flo’s pink bucket that she brought with her to school. When Flo is busy painting a picture, her bucket disappears. She looks for it everywhere. She notices that Bob has a new pink hat at one point. Then she sees him making a tall tower of blocks standing on something pink. She sees him playing a pink drum. And then at the playground, she finally spies her bucket by the slide. Bob is there too, stuck at the top of the slide. Happily, Flo knows just what to do to help and all it takes is a good pink bucket.
Such a simple book but told so very well. Ashdown perfectly captures the unique ways preschool children interact with one another, often playing alongside each other than right together. She weaves in the humor of Flo seeing her bucket over and over again and not recognizing it. That plays nicely against the creativity that Bob uses when playing with the bucket on each page. Toddler audiences will love spotting the bucket on each page spread.
Ashdown’s illustrations are cheery and bright. The sunny yellow background allows the grey and white penguins to shine on each page. The basic toys around them, evoke every preschool or daycare around. Then the penguins themselves have texture and patterns that give them personality and also make them seem more real and more childlike.
Perfect for returning to preschool in the fall, this picture book is just as much fun as a bucket. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.