Rodzilla by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Dan Santat (9781481457798, Amazon)
An enormous chubby monster is heading for the city! News crews are reporting on the disaster as the monster releases stink-ray farts. There are slime missiles of snot and even one big upset tummy effect. Hoses try to push him from the city, but it just ends in a belly flop. But the monster gets back up and continues his rampage. Until two brave people are willing to take on the disaster directly, by picking the terrible toddler up.
Sanders channels Japanese monster films in his text, offering just the right tone of awe and fear into the text. The book is great fun to share aloud, using an announcer voice that just makes the humor even funnier. Sanders offers just enough gross moments for children to be engaged and then moves on to other sources of humor. The switch from monster to toddler is also well handled and will not surprise readers who have been given clear hints about the end.
Santat uses his signature style here. The reactions of the people on the ground to Rodney’s gross emissions is particularly effective, as they run in fear or try to survive. Santat’s illustrations also offer clues to Rodney actually being a human toddler, ones that become more clear as the text progresses.
A funny look at the destructive nature of toddlers that will be appreciated by older siblings and parents alike. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.
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.
I Got a New Friend by Karl Newsom Edwards (9780399557019, Amazon)
A little girl gets a new puppy and the two of them work to become friends. At first the puppy is scared, but she quickly becomes more friendly. The two play outside together, nap on the chair after making a mess, and sometimes get stinky. The puppy gets lost and then found again. They get dirty and wash up. They make noise and give tons of kisses and hugs.
Edwards uses frank and simple text to tell the story of the two new friends in this book. The little girl narrates the book and tells it from her point of view. The illustrations though show the entire story which is that she is getting just as dirty as the puppy, making just as much noise and eating just as sloppily. This clever twist adds to the pleasure of reading the book and will be enjoyed by young readers.
A warm welcome to a new pet, this picture book is a celebration of newfound friends. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Is That Wise Pig? by Jan Thomas (InfoSoup)
Cow, Pig and Mouse are all making soup together. Mouse adds one onion, Cow adds two cabbages, but Pig tries to add three umbrellas! The other two ask Pig if that is wise. Then Mouse adds four tomatoes, Cow adds five potatoes, and Pig tries to add six galoshes. Is that wise? More ingredients go in and Pig even adds nine carrots! Then Pig reveals that she asked ten friends to join them, something that probably was not wise. Suddenly Pig’s galoshes and umbrellas make a lot of sense as the soup flies!
As always, Thomas completely understands the farcical humor that toddlers adore. Children will be so engaged in laughing at Pig’s ingredients that they won’t see the ending coming until the reveal. There is also a counting component to the book that is subtly done and the book feels much more like a story than one teaching numbers. Thomas’ illustrations will work well with a crowd, projecting easily even to those in the back thanks to their strong black lines and simple colors.
Expect lots of requests for seconds of this silly book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
Eat, Sleep, Poop by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Jane Massey (InfoSoup)
This funny picture book about the life of a baby is just right for toddlers and slightly older siblings of new babies. The life of a baby is not easy at all. There’s a lot to fit into the day: eating, sleeping and pooping. If a day gets too hectic though, baby can always cut back on sleep to compensate, much to the chagrin of his parents. Then the routine can go back to normal, filled with eating, sleeping, pooping and plenty of love.
Penfold uses plenty of puns and word play in this picture book that will invite laughter and nods from families dealing with a new baby. The text here is very simple, just enough to keep the humor of the situation at the forefront and allow new siblings to understand that this is what all babies do, all day long. There is a strong focus too on love and support and by the end of the book, the tiny baby has grown into a toddler themselves though their routine hasn’t changed much yet.
Massey’s illustrations underscore the importance of a loving family as the backdrop to the infant’s story. She also includes a dog in the family, one who is displaced by the baby and has to learn to cope with the new focus on the baby. The illustrations are bright and friendly with a doting extended family who all participate in baby care.
A warm and funny look at new infants, this book will be welcomed by families who have their own eating, sleeping, pooping machine. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.
When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek (InfoSoup)
So I admit that I waited for spring to actually come to Wisconsin before I reviewed this and that means that even now I am being optimistic that it has finally arrived even though it was in the 30s here overnight. But even if you are almost headed into summer, this is a great book to share in early, mid and late spring. Written at a level just right for toddlers, this book shares the transformation that spring bring us. Bare trees become covered in blossoms and leaves. Snowmen disappear. Puddles appear. Grass turns from brown to green (with flowers). Gardens grow and soon there is green everywhere, breezes, robins and worms.
Henkes’ writing is made to share aloud with small children. His verse doesn’t rhyme but it has a great natural rhythm to it that makes the book almost sing. The joy here is in the exploration of the changing season, one that brings a certain beauty with it, a freshness. Henkes captures the turning of the season, the aspects of early spring all the way through to almost-summer and he does it in a way that shows small children what they can see and experience themselves.
Dronzek’s illustrations are big and bright and simple. She moves from the lighter colors of early spring through to the bold robustness of near summer. The images change too, moving from small images surrounded by white to double-page spreads that run right to the edge of the pages and seem to spill over with the bounty of late spring.
A gorgeous book for the smallest of children, this is a triumphant toddler look at spring. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins Publishers.
Here are some of my favorite board books that I discovered this spring:
Hello, World! is a new series of board books that look at nonfiction topics in a way that is suitable for the youngest of children. I appreciate that the two books take very different approaches to their subjects. Solar System offers information about each of the planets in our solar system, naming them in order and giving a little fact about each one. Weather takes a more child-focused approach showing the types of clothes a child would wear for each kind of weather. Each book offers bright-colored illustrations that are playful and inviting.
Reviewed from copies received from Doubleday.
My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett
This gorgeous board book looks at the various things in a little girl’s life that make her happy. From smelling bannock in the oven to singing and dancing. The book also includes lots of being outdoors, such as walking in the grass barefoot and feeling the sun on your face. Though the experiences are universal, the book focuses on a Native American little girl and her family. The illustrations are simply superb. They exude a gentleness and depict a loving family experiencing happy moments together.
Reviewed from library copy.
Shhh! I’m Sleeping by Dorothee de Monfried
Eight dogs are asleep in bunk beds until Popov starts snoring. Two of the dogs wake up and turn on their lights. They agree that Misha will read a story. Steadily, one dog after another awakens and soon they all have things they need to do. One needs a toy, another a drink of water, another wants to switch beds. In the end, everyone but Popov makes their way up to Misha’s bed for a story and fall asleep together. Then it is Popov’s turn to wake up. Cleverly done, the thin and tall format works particularly well with the subject matter, offering a perspective just right for very tall bunk beds. The timing is also nicely done with each page turn showing a new dog waking up. The ending too is satisfying with just the right amount of gentle humor. A great bedtime (or morning) pick.
Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.
Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run! by Mike Twohy (InfoSoup)
This fast-paced picture book is built entirely around the alphabet with one word per page. The book starts with a mouse happily “Asleep” in his chair when in comes a “Ball.” Soon a “Dog” is poking his nose into the mouse hole and putting his “Eye” up to it to peek inside. Then the chase is on filled with jumping around the “Kitchen” and “Living room.” The mouse eventually returns the ball to the dog in a wrapped present and the two happily fall fast asleep side by side.
The appeal of this picture book is in its zany energy level that keeps the pace flying along. The chase is a merry one throughout filled with moments of slapstick comedy. It has a sort of Tom and Jerry feel to the entire book made all the more fun by the alphabetic structure of the tale. Simple and fast-paced, this book may have to be read again to slow down a bit and enjoy it.
The illustrations are just as simple as the story itself. Done in a style that will work well when shared with a group, they will project right to the back of a room. The illustrations add to the fast pace with plenty of images of running, dashing, jumping and lines that create more motion on the page.
A dynamic alphabet book that is filled with cheerful energy. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
Into the Snow by Yuki Kaneko, illustrated by Masamitsu Saito (InfoSoup)
Head into the snow with this picture book that shows the joy of winter and the wonder of a snowy day. A child heads out into the snow after bundling up inside. They have a sled along and also explore the way the snow falls softly, the cold of the day, and the icicles hanging nearby. There is a climb to the top of the hill, then the rush of going so quickly, a tumble and the joy of landing softly at the bottom. The snowy day ends with hot chocolate inside, a perfect treat after the cold snow.
This very simple book is told from the youngster’s point of view. Kaneko uses different senses to let the child explore their world. The snow is “soft” and “fluffy” while the icicle is “shiny and clear like glass.” It’s a book of exploration on one’s own, their parent only joining them to call them in at the end and offer the cocoa. The lack of gender for the child is also a great choice, allowing this to be any child’s adventure. This is an empowering read for small children who will want their own explorations on a joyous snowy day.
Saito’s illustrations are done in oil pastels, gouache, acrylic colors and color pencils. They have a delightful roughness that conveys the warmth of the child’s clothes and transformation created by the snow cover. The snow flakes are large and dense. They dance along with the colorful glitter on the child’s hat.
A great snowy day book for small children, this book evokes the feel of a snow day perfectly. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.