The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey
This Australian import is the first in a fresh new illustrated chapter book series. Wolf has decided that he’s tired of being a bad guy so he recruits three fellow baddies to his new gang where they do good deeds. But it’s not so easy for Shark, Piranha and Snake to give up their own ways, like eating meat and people. Their first mission for good is to rescue a kitten stuck in a tree, but what kitten wants to climb down if they see those big teeth smiling at them? Their next job is to rescue 200 dogs from the dog pound. It involves Shark dressing up as a little girl, Wolf making a great shot, and Piranha and Snake showing the dogs the way out. But the plan doesn’t quite work out they way they want it too either.
This book has the pep and feel of a comic book, filled with large fonts that add attitude to the pages and lots of illustrations. In fact, because of its many illustrations it will be a welcome early book for new chapter book readers who will love the humor as well as the pictures that nicely break up the text. There is a great zany energy to the entire book with one joke leading nicely to the next. The pacing is cleverly done with just enough time to catch your breath from laughing before the action starts again.
Blabey’s illustrations are a large part of that manic charm. They are hugely funny. Emotions are shown broadly and wildly on characters’ faces. The shark barely fits into the car and not without a bump out for the dome of his head. There are incidents of eating one another and being bashed against walls. Each one is hilarious and children will love the slapstick comedy of it all.
A funny delight, this illustrated chapter book will have young readers begging for the next in the series. I know I can’t wait! Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.
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.
A Pet Named Sneaker by Joan Heilbroner, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre
Sneaker was a snake who lived in a pet store and wanted to be taken home. But no one seemed interested in a snake until one day Pete came into the store and noticed how special Sneaker was and decided to take him home. The two invented games together, forming handcuffs and a hat out of Sneakers’ flexible body. Then one day Pete had to go to school. Sneaker didn’t want to be left behind, so he slithered into Pete’s backpack. Once they got to school, Sneaker proved to be a great snake ambassador, quickly proving that snakes are not only no slimy but are quite smart. Sneaker continued to show how amazing he was by saving a drowning toddler at the pool and getting it so that animals were welcome to swim there too. Funny and briskly paced, this book will have great appeal for beginning readers.
Told in very simple and friendly language, this book has a strong storyline for a beginning reader. Sneaker and Pete have several adventures in the course of the book, moving quickly from a tale of new friendship to one of real action, which is sure to please new readers. The art by Lemaitre gives the book a vintage feel, hearkening back to Seuss and Eastman in its simple lines and bold colors. There is also that little zing to the eyes, that feeling that the reader is in on the joke that is conveyed through the illustrations.
This is a book with great humor, a touch of vintage feel, and one cool cold-blooded hero. Appropriate for beginning readers aged 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House.
Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems
If you are ever looking for a picture book or easy reader sure to pull a child in and get them adoring books, pull any of Mo Willems books off the shelf. His Elephant and Piggie series is so simple, yet profound and funny. This latest book in the series is one of the best in the bunch. Here we see Elephant, the careful and more serious character, and Piggie, who is loud and enthusiastic. The two of them are best friends, which alone has led to some great books. Add Snake who wants to join them in playing ball. Of course, that’s a problem because Snake can’t really catch since he doesn’t have arms. But that doesn’t mean he can’t try and it certainly doesn’t mean that Piggie can’t figure out a solution that will have them all playing together.
Willems is the master of brevity, capturing entire scenes in a few words and his simple illustrations. His book are perfection for early readers but also make great read alouds thanks to his skill in writing. His characters are beautifully drawn, offering so much in so few words and images. It is magic on a page.
In this book, Willem’s natural humor comes pouring forth into a vaudeville-like scene that will have children laughing aloud, guffawing even. It is a special easy reader that will have my teenage son crowding us on the couch to be able to see. But then, all he needed to hear was that it was a Mo Willems book and it was funny.
Guaranteed success between two covers, this book is laugh-out-loud funny, wry and as always with Willems, big hearted. Appropriate for ages 3-6 and the occasional thirteen-year-old.
Reviewed from library copy.
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