Review: The Great Gran Plan by Elli Woollard

The Great Gran Plan by Elli Woollard

The Great Gran Plan by Elli Woollard, illustrated by Steven Lenton (9781250186034)

Reviewed June 18, 2019.

This fractured fairy tale mixes the story of the Three Little Pigs together with Little Red Riding Hood into one wild caper. When the wolf is unable to blow down the house of bricks, the pig finds the wolf’s next plot: to gobble down Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother! So pig sets off to save her. But first, he must gather supplies. He shops for a superhero cape, but all they have is a shawl. He puts that on and tries to find binoculars, but all they have are red eyeglasses on a chain. He wears those with the shawl and finds a lack of rope, which he substitutes yarn for. So when he heads into the woods to save Granny, he looks rather like a grandmother himself!

Woollard has managed to create a rhyming picture book that avoids being too sing-songy or stilted. Instead she merrily plays with rhymes both internal and at the ends of lines, creating a jaunty feel that reads aloud beautifully. Her fractured tale is filled with plenty of action and readers will realize that pig is starting to look like a grandmother long before he does in the book. That adds to the merriment factor immensely. Add in the anything-but-frail Granny and this book is a lot of fun.

Lenton’s illustrations are bright and bold. Filled with touches like the pig-shaped vehicle that pig drives, the three bears selling items in three different sizes, and even a store called “Rope-unzel’s.” This is a world filled with other stories that are hinted at in the illustrations and are entirely delightful.

A fun fractured fairy tale with one big bad wolf, who is sure to lose. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Henry Holt & Co.

Review: The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette

The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette

The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette, illustrated by Julie Flett (9781926886541)

When a little girl wanders too far from her mother while they are picking berries, she finds herself lost in the woods. Unable to figure out how to return home, she starts to panic. Suddenly, a large gray wolf appears and using his nose, figures how where she comes from. But night is falling, so the wolf asks the girl a series of questions that demonstrate how much she really knows. He encourages her to take a deep breath, close her eyes, and then look. When the girl does this, she realizes that she can see berries that are safe to eat and water that is safe to drink. She eats and drinks, then the wolf encourages her to breathe deeply again. Now she recognizes the stand of trees nearby and finds her way back to her mother who explains that she has heard of wolves that help lost children. The little girl later leaves a gift of thanks for the wolf’s aid.

This book is a complete re-imagining of the Little Red Riding Hood story into one with a First Nation spin. Vermette is a Metis writer from Treaty One territory in Winnipeg. She has entirely turned Little Red Riding Hood into a story of the strength of a little girl who only needs help to figure out that she had the ability all along. The quiet and encouraging wolf is such a shift from European stories, energizing the entire picture book with his presence.

Flett’s illustrations keep the little girl in red, clearly tying this new story to its origins. The wolf is almost as large as the girl, making his threatening presence strong when he first appears but also offering a real sense of strength as he is better understood as the tale unfolds. The art is filled with strong shapes and rich colors.

An entirely new telling of Little Red Riding Hood, this is one to share when learning about independence and mindfulness. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

Review: Red by Jed Alexander

Red by Jed Alexander

Red by Jed Alexander (9781944903114)

A wordless riff on the traditional Little Red Riding Hood tale, this picture book offers an initial title page that will show immediately that it’s a different sort of story. With a huge wolf holding wrapping paper in his mouth and Grandma waiting for him arrive, the tale then moves to a very little Red Riding Hood being stopped by the large wolf on her way in the woods. Other animals appear with presents, ribbons and even a cake. The wolf delays Red until the other animals and Grandma are ready and they surprise her with a birthday party! The day ends with Red riding off on the wolf merrily.

The illustrations use pops of red and pink to show the elements of the party and Red’s cloak. Otherwise they are filled with black and white ink drawings featuring a grinning rather devious wolf, rabbits and badgers, and one determined little girl.

A winning new take on a traditional story. Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Cameron Kids.

3 Picture Books Filled with Wild Animals

Where, Oh Where, Is Baby Bear By Ashley Wolff

Where, Oh Where, Is Baby Bear? By Ashley Wolff (9781481499163)

This picture book continues Wolff’s series on Baby Bear and his explorations of his habitat. Here, Baby Bear and his mother head out to look for food. But every time his mother looks for him, Baby Bear has disappeared. Again and again she has to call out “Where, oh where, is Baby Bear” and then her little bear responds. Readers will enjoy spotting where Baby Bear is heading and then where he is hiding as the pages turn. The repetition is handled nicely, giving the book a lovely rhythm when being read aloud. The illustrations are crisp and filled with details of their forest home. A great read aloud pick. Appropriate for ages 1-4. (Review copy provided by Beach Lane Books.)

Where_s Halmoni By Julie Kim

Where’s Halmoni? By Julie Kim (9781632170774)

This picture book is done in a full-color graphic-novel style that will be appealing to children even beyond picture book age. It is the story of Korean-American siblings who head to their grandmother’s home to find her missing. They discover a magical passage in her home that leads to a world filled with creatures from Korean folklore. There is Tokki (the rabbit), Dokkebi (the goblins), and Horanghee (the tiger). As the children figure out how to get past each of the creatures using snacks and games, they come close to learning their grandmother’s secret. Sharp-eyed children will realize what happens to the fox at the end of this Korean adventure. The appeal of folklore combined with a modern graphic-novel style makes this book a winner. Appropriate for ages 5-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett

The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

When a mouse is gobbled up by a wolf, he discovers there is life after being eaten. Inside the wolf’s stomach, a duck is already living. The duck has a bed, a table, tablecloth, chairs and much more. The duck likes being inside the wolf, because he no longer has to worry about being eaten, since it’s already happened. Soon the mouse has decided to stay and the two have a dance party to celebrate. Unfortunately, this makes the wolf’s stomach hurt. He is spotted by a hunter and soon all three animals are in danger as the hunter takes aim. What can be done to save them all? It will take all three to save the day. Barnett has the perfect rather dark humor to work with Klassen’s illustrations. The story has a mix of fun and fate that will have readers guessing right up until the end. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

4 Compassion-Filled Picture Books

Letters to a Prisoner by Jacques Goldstyn

Letters to a Prisoner by Jacques Goldstyn (9781771472517)

This wordless picture book is almost a graphic novel in style. A father and daughter head out with protest signs marked with red circles that match the little girl’s red balloon. Waiting for them though are police in deep blue, who speak with blue squares. The red circle protesters are beaten with batons and taken away to jail. The girl’s father is held in isolation, dreaming about his daughter and their time together. Suddenly, the man gets mail but the guards don’t approve of it. More and more mail arrives from the mice and birds. The guards burn the letters, but the scraps fly into the air to be found by others around the world who write more letters in response. Soon the jail is buried in letters and the letters form wings that carry the man back to his daughter.

Based on the letter writing campaigns of Amnesty International, this picture book/graphic allows young readers to not only understand that people are jailed wrongly around the world but also to have a way to help. The illustrations have a wonderful energy to them. They show the despair of the jailed man but not without small glimpses of hope in the form of small animal friends. A strong message of unity and working together for justice pervades this book. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (E-galley provided by Netgalley and Owlkids Books.)

The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip C. Stead

The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Matthew Cordell (9781626722828)

When Sadie and Sherman discover that Little Amy Scott threw the goldfish she got for her birthday into the ocean, they know that they have to do something. Sadie gets right to planning, immediately naming the goldfish Ellsworth. Helped by a small gang of monkeys in striped shirts and red bandanas, the children also borrow a boat, get a net and two long fishing poles, balloons, paint and slickers. They head out onto the ocean, trying to be patient as they try to catch Ellsworth before supper. Will their plan work? What will they do with Ellsworth if they save him? And what will happen to Little Amy Scott?

Stead’s writing works seamlessly with Cordell’s zany art. The story has lovely details that enrich the book, giving a sense of community, of a detailed plan and the joy of working as a team to rescue someone. The art by Cordell adds the wonderful monkeys and the pink balloons that keep sending their own messages. A wet and rainy riot of a picture book that is sure to make even the dampest child smile. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Pup and Bear by Kate Banks

Pup and Bear by Kate Banks, illustrated by Naoko Stoop (9780399554100)

The Big Freeze was coming to the Arctic and the wolves took shelter. But when the Big Melt came, one little wolf pup was stranded on a sheet of ice and unable to reach land. He swam and swam, finally falling asleep in a snowdrift. There, a polar bear found him. The little wolf was scared at first, but the polar bear offered to help him. She took him to her den, fed and cared for him. Even though she was not his mother, she could do many things for him like teach him where to fish and play together. As time passed, the wolf grew old enough to head out on his own. He met other wolves and led a pack. Then one day, he found a baby polar bear alone in a storm, and the seasons and cycles continue.

Illustrated by award-winning Stoop, the Arctic images are done on wood, allowing the grain to come through and form swirls in the blue sky. The white animals glow against the Arctic setting filled with blues and greens. Banks’ text is poetic and evocative as it describes the beauty of the Arctic and the wonder of care for others. A lovely picture book with a strong message of extended community. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (E-galley provided by Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.)

Shelter by Celine Claire

Shelter by Celine Claire, illustrated by Qin Leng (9781771389273)

The animals are all getting ready for a big storm. They have closed their doors and are making their dens cozy and warm. Two strangers arrive out of the blustery wind and begin to ask at each door for shelter. They have tea to offer, but one after another the neighbors all say no. The little fox though heads out with a lantern for them, but nothing more. As the snow begins to fall, the strangers know they will be fine. But the fox family’s shelter is failing due to the weight of the snow. Soon they are outside in the falling snow and asking for help themselves. Who will help them?

This book explains with a gentle tone and a non-didactic approach about the failure of community when it becomes isolationist and the power of kindness and compassion for those in need. After all, one might become the ones who need help eventually. The illustrations by Leng glow on the page. They show the lovely families together and their warmth with one another and the love they have. That is then turned quickly on its head as they turn away the strangers. A strong and simple tale that will lead to important discussion. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (E-galley received from Netgalley and Kids Can Press.)

3 Wolfish Picture Books

Baabwaa & Wooliam by David Elliott

Baabwaa & Wooliam by David Elliott, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (9780763660741)

Wooliam and Baabwaa are sheep who spend their time together reading books and knitting. When they decide to head out on an adventure together, they find a distinct lack of adventure in the sheep pasture. Then a stranger appears and suddenly they are on an adventure. The stranger turns out to be a wolf! When the sheep discover that the wolf needs their skilled help, they band together to teach him to read and knit him something better to wear. This picture book celebrates the mix of quiet life and excitement that makes life an adventure. The writing by Elliott has a strong narrative voice that adds a dash of humor to the tale. Sweet is an exceptional illustrator and it’s great to see her doing a lighthearted picture book filled with her watercolors and collage. A great pick for fans of books, knitting or sheepish wolves. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

When a Wolf Is Hungry by Christine Naumann-Villemin

When a Wolf Is Hungry by Christine Naumann-Villemin, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo (9780802854827)

Edmond Bigsnout is a hungry wolf on a mission: a mission to catch and eat a city rabbit. But when he travels out of the woods and to the city, he discovers that it’s not that easy. The rabbit lives in an apartment building with lots of neighbors and Edmond is mistaken for a new neighbor. Edmond makes plan after plan to capture the rabbit, but somehow ends up helping all of the neighbors instead. Edmond soon realizes that he may just have to join them instead, particularly when he meets a lady wolf who also lives in the building. The pacing of this book is beautifully done with rushing to and fro that adds a dashing pace and then the slower moments of helping others that lead to the natural conclusion. The art uses unique perspectives that are appealing and visually interesting. A little dark and a lot of fun, this picture book is just right for ages 4-6. (Review copy from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.)

The Wolf Who Fell Out of a Book by Thierry Robberecht

The Wolf Who Fell Out of a Book by Thierry Robberecht, illustrated by Gregoire Mabire (9781423647973)

When a book falls to the floor, a wolf is ejected from his story. At first he thinks he can just hide under the book, but a hungry cat starts to stalk him. When he tries to enter the book he came from, he can’t seem to find the right place in the story to come in. He tries another book then, but that one is filled with princesses and dancing and the wolf is expected to dress up. Trying another book, he discovers the dangers of dinosaurs. The wolf finally discovers a book where the wolf has gone missing, and it’s just the right choice. This fractured story is a lot of fun and unlike other fractured tales doesn’t expect the readers to know many fairy tales or folk tales. Readers will enjoy the pitch black wolf struggling to enter the candy-colored story books around him. This is a story of stories worth the read. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

 

Little Wolf’s First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Little Wolf's First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Little Wolf’s First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee (9780763689711, Amazon)

Little Wolf and his father head to the top of a hill for Little Wolf’s first try at howling at the moon. They watch as night falls and then Big Wolf demonstrates how it is done with a pure AAAAAAOOOOOOO. Little Wolf goes next, trying to imitate his father. But he can’t help but share his joy at it being his first howling as part of it with an “I’m hoooowling!” Big Wolf tells him that he started well but the ending was not proper form and demonstrates again. This time Little Wolf starts well again but soon adds his own interpretation. Once more Big Wolf demonstrates and again Little Wolf does his own things, this time getting his father’s paws to tap along. Soon the two of them are joining together in Little Wolf’s way of howling.

Kvasnosky’s text is simple and friendly. It will invite young listeners to howl along, so expect to fill your own space with lots of howling. As Little Wolf comes into his own in his personal way of howling, children will love the rhythms and jazzy nature of his voice. There is a great relationship between father and son in this book, a sense of patience emanates from Big Wolf while a wild playfulness exudes from Little Wolf.

McGee’s illustrations are done in gouache relief and capture the vibrancy of nature at dark. They are sprinkled with starlight and light from the moon. The medium also has lots of darkness and texture, creating its own shadows and organic qualities that add to the experience.

A howling good time, this picture book will be a pleasure to share aloud to your own group of little wolves. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Road Home by Katie Cotton

The Road Home by Katie Cotton

The Road Home by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (9781419723742)

A variety of animals travel on their way home. Birds fly to warmer places, escaping the chill of winter. Mice build nests in the grass that offer safety and warmth. Wolves hunt for food to fill their hunger. Rabbits hide in the brambles, chased clear by the wolves on their heels. They reach their burrow and safety. The next day, the wolves and rabbits are outside again along with the birds and the mice. All sharing a larger home with one another.

Cotton’s poem is delicious. From the initial rhyming stanzas on the first page, she builds a full story of the importance of home and the strength of parent/child pairs in survival. Throughout the poem there is a sense of arrival or approaching home, defined in different ways for the different species. There is also a focus on security and warmth, on being together despite the odds and filling small burrows and nests with love.

Jacoby’s illustrations embrace the natural setting. They keep readers from realizing that all of the animals are in the same area by using a different feel for their habitats. The mice are in golden nests of straw, the birds soar in the sky, the wolves hunt through a forest and the rabbits are close by. Then the final reveal of them together is like the sun returning, a beautiful reveal.

Gorgeous poetry combines with strong illustrations to create a celebration of home no matter what species you may be. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

the-bad-guys-by-aaron-blabey

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.