Oscar’s Tower of Flowers by Lauren Tobia

Cover image for Oscar’s Tower of Flowers.

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers by Lauren Tobia (9781536217773)

This wordless picture book tells the story of Oscar and his love of plants and flowers. Oscar’s mother has left him with a relative and his favorite picture of him and his mother is full of flowers. At first, they grow just one little plant in a pot but soon after a visit to a garden store, Oscar has much more. He selects seeds to plant, potting soil and tools. Back in the apartment, they fill all sorts of containers with soil and seeds, placing them on the sunny windowsill. Then they all sprout! The apartment fills with plants, including the bathroom. It all gets a little too crowded, so Oscar gives the plants away to their neighbors. With his mother back, she and the reader can see the way that Oscar transformed not only one apartment but the entire neighborhood.

Tobia creates a warm and lovely story here filled with an adult empowering a child to follow his interest. Oscar communicates through his drawings of plants, showing his desire to grow something. The woman taking care of him, who may be an aunt or a rather young grandmother, dives in with him, getting him the tools and items he needs to truly grow plants. The solution of sharing his success with everyone is transformational for the entire apartment complex. The diverse urban setting changes from stark to vibrantly green and growing in the course of a few months, thanks to one little boy.

A wordless picture book about sharing, community and the impact a child can have. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick Press.

Moon Pops by Heena Baek

Cover image for Moon Pops.

Moon Pops by Heena Baek, translated by Jieun Kiaer (9781771474290)

On a very, very hot night, everyone had their fans rattling and their air conditioning whirring. It was too hot to sleep even with a refrigerator door open. That’s when something started dripping. It was the moon melting. Granny ran out of her apartment with a bucket to catch the moon drops. She decided to make frozen moon pops out of the liquid moon. Then the power went out. It was dark everywhere, everywhere but Granny’s apartment that glowed. Granny handed out the glowing moon pops to everyone. They were icy and sweet and made the heat go away so that they could sleep. That’s when the two moon rabbits showed up and Granny had to figure out how to rebuild their moon home using the last drops of the moon.

This is the first book by Henna Baek that has been translated into English. She is an internationally acclaimed Korean children’s book author and illustrator and has won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. This picture book puts a modern spin on a classic Korean folktale of rabbits that live on the moon. The entire book is marvelously crafted with a languid slowness of the heat at first and then the drama of the melting moon. The intelligence of Granny and her willingness to share and help make for an unusual folktale of community both nearby and far.

The illustrations are done in dioramas that are photographed. Baek lights them with glowing touches of the moon, lemony yellow lights that illuminate the darkness and provide comfort and connections. The paper figures are various animals who all live together in a crowded apartment building with their own interesting apartments to look into as well.

Intriguing, haunting and beautiful. Here’s hoping we see more translations of Baek’s work. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Owlkids.

Sonny Says Mine! by Caryl Hart

Cover image for Sonny Says Mine.

Sonny Says Mine! by Caryl Hart, illustrated by Zachariah OHora (9781547605804)

When Sonny finds a pink, soft bunny toy in the sandbox, he falls in love with it. He names it Bun-Bun and they spend lots of time playing together. Meemo, the dog, sniffs Bun-Bun but Sonny insists that Bun-Bun is “Mine!” Later, Honey and Boo come by. Boo is crying, because she has lost Suki, her favorite pink bunny. Honey searches everywhere for Suki, but Sonny keeps Bun-Bun out of sight. Honey even asks if Sonny has seen Suki, but Sonny says No! Sonny hides Bun-Bun in a safe place and then heads to help Boo feel better, but she doesn’t want to play. She is even too sad to eat cake. Now it is up to Sonny to see if he will do the right thing or not.

This is the first in a new series of books featuring these four characters. This first book looks at sharing and telling the truth. Hart’s animal characters have big personalities and their relationships with one another are well drawn and interesting. They are written as small children and show the same mistakes and learning.

OHora’s illustrations work really well here with their bright colors and simplicity. The emotions on their faces are clear and add to the understanding of how difficult the choices are for Sonny as he struggles with his desire for the toy and the need to make his friend feel better.

A charming new series starter that will start conversations about sharing and choices. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.

All We Need by Kathy Wolff

Cover image for All We Need.

All We Need by Kathy Wolff, illustrated by Margaux Meganck (9781619638747)

This picture book explores what we need to live. That includes essentials like air, food and water, then the book also explores the importance of learning opportunities, having a home, and the joy of family and friends. Told in poetic text, the book explores the necessities in ways that show how they bring special moments to our lives. For example, air is explained first as stillness and deep breaths. Food is explored both for filling bellies but also through the illustrations as cultural connection. This picture book takes simple essentials and shows the way they allow us to form community and inclusion.

Wolff’s poetic writing establishes those connections clearly, exploring the deep connection we have to air, water, food and one another. The book ends by establishing what we should do when we have enough or more than we need. Sharing becomes just as essential as the other elements here, connecting to new people and a larger community through generosity and giving.

Meganck’s illustrations are bright and colorful with a diverse cast of characters, including diverse races, religions and LGBT representation. The illustrations tell a lot of the story, showing playful elements of air and water. The images are given several full-page wordless spreads that reveal new ways to connect and form community with one another.

A look at sharing, connection and being human. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

This Is Gus by Chris Chatterton

This Is Gus by Chris Chatterton

This Is Gus by Chris Chatterton (9780593097366)

Gus is the sort of dog that doesn’t like much. He doesn’t like being petted, going on walks, playing fetch, or making friends. He doesn’t like birthdays either. Then a little dog enters his life. The little dog explains that once he arrived, Gus started liking all sorts of things like baths together and hugs. But the one thing that Gus really loves is sausages. He loves everything about sausages. So does the little dog! But Gus doesn’t like to share. But there just might be one thing that Gus likes more than sausages.

Chatteron’s humor is marvelously deadpan. His timing is impeccable throughout the book, particularly the reveals. At first the book seems to not have a specific narrator but that reveal of the little, perky dog speaking about Gus is a delight. The ending too has a well-timed and touching moment that is simple but perfection.

The text is very simple, so the illustrations carry much of the story. They are particularly important to capture the neutrality of Gus with his natural frown. Big and bold, the illustrations work well for sharing the book aloud.

Hilarious and just as satisfying as a sausage feast. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Penguin Workshop.

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.