3 Silly New Picture Books

If the S in Moose Comes Loose by Peter Hermann

If the S in Moose Comes Loose by Peter Hermann, illustrated by Matthew Cordell (9780062295101)

This picture book takes wordplay and makes it the focus of the story. When Cow’s friend Moose loses her S and E, cow decides to get some glue. But in order to do that, she has to make some and spell the word “GLUE”. Cow asks to take Goat’s G, and exchange it for a B that she steals from Bear. So Goat becomes Boat and Bear becomes Ear. As Cow continues to take letters, things get stranger and stranger. A chair becomes hair, a lake becomes cake, a house becomes a hose, and so on. Finally Cow has the letters she needs to make glue and bring back her friend, but there’s still some mess to clean up too.

This rambunctious story takes a wild look at words, letter sounds and spelling. Hermann’s fast and zany pace creates a picture book that flies right by. Throughout, different characters add to the chaos, including the Bull who refuses to share his U and the very confused Boat who used to be a Goat. The illustrations by Cordell add to the fun with their loose lines and dashing action scenes. They also make it nicely clear what letters are forming each creature’s name, so that children will be able to play along as the words shift. A fast and funny look at words. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Sheep 101 by Richard T. Morris

Sheep 101 by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by Leuyen Pham (9780316213592)

A boy is counting sheep to fall asleep, but then sheep number 101 crashes into the fence and gets stuck. The boy tells them not to stop and talk to each other, but soon even more is going wrong. A cow enters instead of a sheep, posing as number 103 and jumping the fence and the sheep easily. The pig who comes next can’t make it over Sheep 101 who is still stuck. When the blind mouse and Humpty Dumpty add to the chaos, someone has to help. Who could it be?

Filled with lots of humor and surprises, young listeners will love this book. It is a treat to read aloud with the characters talking directly to the reader and causing all sorts of problems along the way. The final twist will surprise everyone and places the book firmly into the world of today’s children. The illustrations are a treat, featuring lots of speech balloons, a weeping pig, a cow who does backflips, and a rather cross sheep. Share this one with a group of preschoolers for plenty of cheers! Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

People Don_t Bite People by Lisa Wheeler

People Don’t Bite People by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Molly Idle (9781481490825)

This picture book is all about not biting people but being able to bite other things like gum. Animals may bite too, but they are not people. Even if you mood is bad, you don’t bite other people. No biting mothers or fathers, you choose who you chomp. This book must be read aloud with its galloping rhyme that even has a chorus that repeats and invites listeners to join in too. The entire book is a look at biting and has a light hearted tone throughout that will have children giggling. The illustrations by award-winning Idle have the same feel as her popular Flora books but this time with a vintage flair. Ideal for sharing with a group of kids! Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum.)



3 New Noisy Picture Books

Blacksmith_s Song by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk

Blacksmith’s Song by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, illustrated by Anna Rich (9781561455805)

Told in first person, this picture book shows how communication worked for the Underground Railroad. The boy’s father is a slave on a plantation, working as the blacksmith. He uses the rhythm of the forge to send messages that carry to those waiting to escape. The boy wonders when it will be their turn to escape to freedom. But day by day, his father is growing weaker and more ill. Soon he may not be able to even send the messages from his hammer. When it is finally their turn to leave, it is the boy who takes up the hammer, sending his first message and his father’s last as they head to freedom.

Rich with language, this picture book takes the words of the forge and let them shine. Throughout smoke, sparks and the hammer’s rhythm form a steady beat that the book uses very successfully. The added tension of the father’s illness brings even more pressure for the family to escape in time. While slavery is painted with a gentler brush here for younger audiences, the feeling of oppression is strong and the need to escape is clear. The illustrations are deep and dark, lit by the light of the forge and showing that dark unknowns are safer than slavery. A look at the Underground Railroad that is appropriate for young listeners aged 5-7. (Reviewed from ARC provided by Peachtree Publishers.)

The Great Dictionary Caper by Judy Sierra

The Great Dictionary Caper by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Eric Comstock (9781481480048)

When the words in Noah Webster’s dictionary get bored just sitting around, they escape and create plenty of word fun in this picture book. They form a word parade made of works like “clang” and “boom” and “crash.” There are short words and long words, action verbs pick up the pace. Homophones, contractions, antonyms and palindromes fill the pages too. Rhyming words and words with no rhymes as well as interjections and conjunctions make merry. There is plenty to enjoy here, including witty humor and a rip-roaring pace. Children won’t even realize they are learning concepts as each of the letters has a personality that suits the word they are in. Jazzy and delightful, this picture book is a celebration of our language. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.)

Rumble Grumble...Hush by Kate Banks

Rumble Grumble…Hush by Kate Banks, illustrated by Simone Shin (9781101940495)

The day starts with a few small noises until the little boy starts to play loudly with his imaginary friends. There is roaring, banging, rumbling and dumping. Then it’s time for a bit of quiet with breakfast and thinking until once again the rumbling and grumbling starts. More quiet comes, with a bag of quiet games, puzzles and art projects, books to read and a nap. Then noise is welcome again with balls and toys and blocks and trains. Dinner comes and goes and bedtime approaches with its own quiet. The way that noise and quiet are presented here is lovely, showing they both have places and special ways of playing that allow them to happen. Loud and quiet times are filled with play and imagination here and parental expectations are shown with lots of love and support. The illustrations are playful with friendly huge imaginary friends that fill the page, dark wood floors to sit on and play, bright walls to hang art on, and plenty of room for imaginations to fill. A warm and loving look at play and noise, this picture book is a gem. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade Books and Edelweiss.)

A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins


A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans (InfoSoup)

Released January 3, 2017.

This is a picture book that will leave you breathless in two ways. First, it is an astounding feat of wordplay that romps and gallops. Second, if you read this aloud I guarantee you will be out of breath by the end, much to the delight of your little listeners. A long lean greyhound that is round when it curls to sleep meets a very round brown groundhog and the two of them spend time playing together. They run and dash, filling the pages with movement and speed. The book takes a lovely pause suddenly when the two spot a butterfly and then more butterflies. And it ends with the two exhausted friends dozing side-by-side. Be ready to read it again and again, if you can do it!

Jenkins takes wordplay on a wild ride in this picture book that is pure mad joy. Readers not caught up in the swirl of words will notice that they all make sense, the wordplay is not at the expense of the story, rather it builds it and allows the play to happen. It is a wonder of rhythm and rhyme. The pacing is very well done from the blazing pace of the playing together to the delicious stop for the wonder of butterflies to the dozy ending. It is masterfully built and executed.

Appelhans’ illustrations are buoyant and bounding. He uses watercolor to create the two characters who whirl across the page, jumping and leaping, dashing and darting, the two becoming one joyous act of play together. Appearing on a white background, it the characters who shine on the page, simple and sunny.

A truly breathless read aloud, this picture book will be a wonderful addition to any story time. Save it for the end! Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from ARC received from Schwartz & Wade.

Yaks Yak by Linda Sue Park

Yaks Yak by Linda Sue Park

Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt (InfoSoup)

This picture book is a wonderful piece of word play. On each page, animals act out the version of their names as verbs. Quails quail in fear. Fish fish with lines and hooks trying to catch other fish. Bats swing bats at baseballs. Slugs wear boxing gloves and try to slug one another. The book goes on and on, each one funnier than the last. The book nicely offers the definition of the verb because some of them can be unusual for young readers. The book ends appropriately with kids kidding.

Park’s writing is simplicity itself, just the two words next to each other, noun and verb and then the definition of the verb. She also offers a chart of the words at the back of the book that explains the origins of both the nouns and verbs so young readers interested in language can explore the words more deeply.

The illustrations by Reinhardt are so important to this book, allowing young readers to immediately understand what is happening even in the more esoteric words. She makes them all work clearly and well, even quailing, craning and badgering. It’s a very impressive feat and one that makes this book full of appeal.

Grand wordplay, this book offers a fun look at word pairs. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.



Review: Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier

take away the a

Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

A delightful new approach to the alphabet book, this picture book goes through the alphabet and offers words where you take away a letter and get a new word.  So, for example, for letter A, “beast” becomes “best” when you take the A out.  The concept is a simple one, but handled superbly throughout so that it never becomes repetitive or dull.  Instead there is a wonderful humor that pervades the entire book.  Look forward to the end of the alphabet where the simple premise of the book becomes much trickier to pull off, and of course the Z is not to be missed. 

This is the first book by this French author/illustrator team that was not translated from French.  This book with its word play was written in English and offers art and text that is entirely original.  Still, the book has that certain French flair to it that marks their collaborative work.  Escoffier’s word play makes it all look so easy, but young readers will quickly learn that it is not as they try to come up with their own, particularly certain letters.

Di Giacomo’s art is a large part of the European feel of this book.  Her illustrations here tell a story on the page, as if the reader has interrupted a scene in motion by opening the book to that page.  The animals seem to be relating to one another more than to the reader, just waiting for them to go away so that they can begin speaking again.

Clever and deceptively simple, this is a great alphabet book for youngsters who have been read too many as well as elementary children who enjoy word play.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books

Review: Cat Tale by Michael Hall

cat tale

Cat Tale by Michael Hall

This is an exceptional picture book that I’m not sure I will be able to explain well enough.  If I bungle this, just take my word for it that this is a book you want to get your hands on.  Told in a rollicking verse, this is the story of three cats: Lillian, Tilly and William J.   The three of them head out on some adventures that are driven by the words in the lines.  I think it will work best if I just pull a few of the early verses:

They pack some books and kitty chews.

They choose a spot.

They spot some ewes.

They use a box to hide from bees.

And so it goes on, each line pulling the last word from the line before to create a new situation.  But even better, these are homophones rather than the exact same word.  Best of all, the story is fun and engaging.  This is word play at its best.

Hall has also created engaging artwork to go along with his playful verse.  Done in bright colors and big shapes, the art has an appealing texture.  Created from acrylic paint and paper cut outs that were combined digitally, it is eye-catching and cheerful.

Bravo for a book that invites children to look closely at the words they are reading and just may be the best way ever to introduce homophones to children.  Appropriate for a variety of ages.  Younger children will enjoy the art and verse while slightly older children will understand the word play best.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: A Zeal of Zebras by Woop Studios

zeal of zebras

A Zeal of Zebras: An Alphabet of Collective Nouns by Woop Studios

Follow the alphabet on a journey through the beautiful and evocative collective nouns in our language.  You will get to see a galaxy of starfish, an aurora of polar bears, and even an ostentation of peacocks.  Each animal then has a paragraph or two of information on them, small details that show the unique qualities of that creature.  This is all paired with vibrant illustrations that have the feel of vintage posters and are graphic and wild.  This is one alphabet book that is more about the wordplay and the art than the ABCs.

While the paragraphs are well-written and concise, it is really the art that makes this book special.  The printed and distressed quality of the images and the way that the posters are replayed on the pages with words make the entire work visually intriguing. 

As I finished reading this with both of my sons looking over my shoulder and commenting on the incredible collective nouns, we all agreed that whoever named collective nouns was an artist.  The same can be said for this entire book.  It was done by real artists.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by:

Book Review: Woof Meow Tweet-Tweet by Cecile Boyer


Woof Meow Tweet-Tweet by Cecile Boyer

Released June 1, 2011.

This inventive picture book begins by asking if readers can tell the difference between a dog, a cat and a bird.  The book goes on to explain the differences, such as a the dog lives outside during the day and the bird hates its cage.  But instead of an illustration of the animals, Boyer has replaced them with the word for the noise they make: woof, meow, and tweet-tweet.  The book continues showing the differences between the animals and eventually explores what happens when they meet each other, with great effect, lots of fighting and pouncing.  A word-filled elegant picture book that will have readers looking at the world in a new way.

Boyer’s text is brief, and matter-of-fact, allowing the attention to rest mainly on the illustrations themselves.  The art is filled with strong lines, graphic elements, and lots of color.  Even the choice of fonts for the three different animals says something about them.  Woof is done in a deep brown, thick font.  Meow is elegant and even slinky.  Tweet-tweet is narrow and light.  The words play beautifully against the background that is elegantly minimalist. 

Boyer has created a book filled with wordplay that both children and adults will enjoy.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC received from Seven Footer Press.

Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word


Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Nancy Doniger

Poetry combines with puzzles and playfulness in this book.  Raczka takes the letters from one word and creates a poem that relates to that word.  Interestingly, the letters are always shown in the order that they appear in the original word, which makes for a fun time unraveling the words in the poem.  If you don’t want to puzzle or wonder if you got the poem right, you can always turn the page and see it written in a more traditional format.

Doniger’s illustrations are simple, modern and offer just the right amount of visual interest without detracting at all from the poems themselves.  The color palette is limited to reds, blacks and grays that make for subtle and friendly support for the text.

Highly recommended, this book will encourage children to try this format for themselves and look at words in a playful way.  Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.