Review: Ultrabot’s First Playdate by Josh Schneider

Ultrabot's First Playdate by Josh Schneider

Ultrabot’s First Playdate by Josh Schneider (9781328490131)

When Ultrabot’s professor invites their neighbor Becky to come over for a playdate at their secret lab, Ultrabot is very nervous. He wonders if Becky will share or break his toys. He pictures her as an enormous furry dog-person with barrettes all over. But Becky turns out to be a little human girl. She brings a ball along with her and after some initial shyness, Ultrabot sees that they can share. The two played ball together, drew cats, and had sandwiches for lunch (with the crusts cut off.) They shared all of Ultrabot’s toys too, though afterwards the professor thought it best if they met at Becky’s house next time.

Schneider tells a very touching and funny story of a shy giant robot and his first playdate. Ultrabot’s emotions mirror those of a young child going to their first playdate or meeting a new person. The questions he thinks about, the worries he has and the resolution are all very human.

However, the illustrations show that this is still one giant robot who has toys like real airplanes, eats sandwiches made of girders and diesel tanks, and is able to do wild math calculations. The illustrations are wildly funny and set a perfect tone. I particularly love that the secret lab is ever-so-obvious and out-of-place in their residential neighborhood.

Funny and friendly, this is just right for any reluctant robot in your house. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol

The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol

The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol (9781626724426)

The Little Guys are very small but when they work together they can do almost anything! Using leaves to float, they cross deep water. In the big forest, they hold hands to stay together and keep from being afraid. They find berries and form a stack to reach them. But as they continue their search for more and more food, they start using their combined strength in a way that upsets the rest of the forest. Chipmunks go flying, owls get forced out of their nests, and they even beat up a bear! Soon they have all of the food in the forest! But have they gone too far?

Brosgol follows her incredible Leave Me Alone! with this clever look at the impact of collective action and what happens when even the smallest of us upset the balance of nature and society. The text is simple and straightforward, told in the voice of the Little Guys as they head out scavenging. They are full of confidence as they make the trek to find food and it’s a stirring picture of the power of community until it goes awry in such a spectacular way.

Brosgol’s Little Guys are ever so adorable with their acorn caps and stick-thin limbs. Their orange bulbous noses also add to their appeal. With almost no facial expressions, it is impressive how she gives them emotions with body language. The dwarfing of their size in the forest and beside the other animals is also effectively portrayed.

A delight of a picture book that is an unusual look at sharing with your community. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.

Review: Oink by David Elliot

Oink by David Elliot

Oink by David Elliot (9781776572144)

In this nearly wordless book, a little pig is getting ready for a nice calm bath all by himself. As he settles into the warm water, the door is opened by a sheep who brings a toy boat and climbs into the bath too. The next to enter is a cow, who asks the sheep if she can join and the sheep agrees. Cow brings a beach ball in, which bounces right off of the pig’s head. Then comes donkey who wears a floaty around his waist and hops into the bath too. The bath is noisy and crowded and not what pig wanted at all! What is a pig to do to find some peace?

The only words in this book are animal noises made by each of the critters. They use punctuation and emphasis to show what tone should be used when they are read aloud. It works very nicely. The book has a wonderful build up of frustration for the pig, as he gets more and more cross visually as the animals enter and the chaos increases. The humor of the solution is wonderfully timed and will have small children in stitches. Perhaps adding a little noise for that when sharing aloud would add to the fun.

A little fart of a book with lots of appeal. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Gecko Press.

Review: Lawrence in the Fall by Matthew Farina

Lawrence in the Fall by Matthew Farina

Lawrence in the Fall by Matthew Farina, illustrated by Doug Salati (9781484780589)

When Lawrence finds out that his teacher wants the students to bring in their collections to share, he is very worried. He doesn’t have a collection at all. At home, he tells his father about not having a collection and his father has an idea. The two of them head into the forest together to see what they can find. But Lawrence doesn’t want to collect bugs the way the spider does and he can’t reach the shiny, smooth rocks that the river has collected. When a sudden storm begins, Lawrence gets separated from his father and finds himself standing near a large tree full of bright-colored leaves. Lawrence calls to the tree and it drops a beautiful leaf down to him. Now Lawrence knows exactly what to collect!

Farina captures the emotions that can accompany an assignment at school, including sadness and isolation. Thanks to the warmth of his father’s response, the two of them tackle the problem, taking action rather than despairing. In the end, Lawrence delights all of the children in his class by sharing his collection freely with them. The book has a touch of magic about it as Lawrence requests leaves from the trees, and they freely offer them.

The art by Salati captures Lawrence’s emotions beautifully. The double-page spreads of the forest are dramatic and could be seen as something frightening, particularly when Lawrence is separated from his father. In the end, the forest becomes something very special, a place where Lawrence discovers nature.

A lovely picture book with delicate illustrations and a strong story. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Disney-Hyperion.

Review: Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora (9780316431248)

When Omu makes her thick red stew in her apartment, its delicious smell brings people to her door to discover what she is cooking. One by one, she feeds each of them some of her stew. There is the little boy, the police officer, the hotdog vendor, and many more. By the time Omu has given each of them a bowl, her large pot of stew is empty and there isn’t any left for her own dinner! Someone once again knocks on her door and it is all of the people she fed that day offering their own thanks and food to share with her.

Mora writes with the feel of a traditional tale. On just the first page, there is a cadence that feels immediately familiar and warm. Details are shared in just the right way, then the repetition kicks in, linking this even more with a traditional folktale. Mora has crafted the book with collage pages that combine different mediums. The stew itself is always red and often flowered. The smell wafts across the page in a swath of light-colored haze. Meanwhile, the vibrant urban community is brought to life and abuzz with energy.

A top read-aloud of the year, this picture book should be shared just like red stew. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Mia Moves Out by Miranda Paul

Mia Moves Out by Miranda Paul

Mia Moves Out by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Paige Keiser (9780399553325)

When Mia moved into her house, she had a lovely room all to herself. She hung stars from the ceiling and it was perfect. Then her baby brother Brandon arrived, and Mia had to share her room. At first it wasn’t so bad, they had lots of fun together. But the toys piled up until Mia couldn’t even recognize her room anymore. So she made a decision, she would move out! She tried moving into the bathroom, but it was too gross. She tried the basement, but there were scary things in boxes. She tried all sorts of places until she built a space near the books. But something wasn’t quite right. That’s when she found out that Brandon had moved out too. Perhaps they could move out together!

This picture book perfectly captures the give and tug of being siblings. On one hand, they can be maddening while on the other hand, they are important to your life. It also shows the way that children “run away” or move out from their homes, how spur of the moment it is, how built on emotion, and how regretful it eventually becomes. The parents here deal with it well, guiding gently from the sidelines and allowing Mia to make her own decisions.

The illustrations are funny and warm, just like the story line. They show the growing pile of toys overtaking the entire room and the entire page. One can completely understand Mia’s frustration. As Mia searches for the perfect spot to move to, the illustrations play large part in conveying her responses to each.

Clever and funny, this is a warm look at siblings. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf. 

3 Friendly Picture Books

Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi

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

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

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.)

3 Wintry Picture Books

Two of these picture book welcome winter while another sends it on its way:

Spring for Sophie by Yael Werber

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

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

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

The Starry Giraffe by Andy Bergmann

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.