What About Worms? by Ryan T. Higgins (9781368045735)
Part of the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series, this easy reader is about a tiger who is big and brave. In fact, he’s not afraid of anything… except worms. Worms are slimy and wiggly and confusing. Tiger loves flowers, but wait! Flowers grow in dirt, and you know that worms live in dirt. Tiger throws the flowerpot into the air and breaks it. No worms there though. Tiger also loves apples, but wait! Worms love apples too. He throws the apple into the air, splat. No worms in the apple. Then he finds a book, that just might be all about worms. It’s too much for Tiger to take, and he runs off. Now the worms come out of the ground. They discover the dirt, the apples and a nice book. They are scared of tigers usually, but this one seems to have left them all their favorite things. Time for a worm hug to thank him!
Higgins sets just the right pace and tone in this easy reader. The page turns are well done, allowing some sentences to hang between pages, building the suspense. He creates plenty of angst and drama here with so few elements, just flowers, apples and a book. It’s a remarkable feat to have so much emotion about worms.
Higgins’ art is marvelous. With nods to Calvin and Hobbes, Pigeon that appear occasionally, and even a likeness of himself and Willems on the back of the book that should not be missed. Tiger’s emotions show not only in his facial expressions but through his entire body, emoting clearly on the page and drawing children in.
Smart, funny and fast, just what you want in an easy reader. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Hyperion Books for Children.
Goodnight, Veggies by Diana Murray and Zachariah OHora (9781328866837)
At sunset the garden needs its rest, but the vegetables are tossing and turning. Turnips are “tucked in tightly” while potatoes are closing their eyes. Tomatoes are humming lullabies and cauliflowers cuddle by droopy pea pods. The baby lettuce and baby carrots are snuggling while rhubarb reads stories to the broccoli. Soon the other vegetables are calm as the cucumbers. As the moon gets bright all of them are sleeping, tired from growing all day and all night.
Written in a musical rhyme, this picture book is ideal for reading aloud to toddlers and preschoolers. It takes a spring theme of gardening and turns it into a bedtime book that will make everyone tired, since little children are growing day and night too. Throughout the book, humor cleverly used alongside alliteration, making the book a treat for adults as well.
The art by OHora is marvelous. Readers can follow a worm through the garden as he tunnels past the tired veggies and finally falls asleep himself. The images move from showing root vegetables to garden beds from above, creating a winding path through this abundant garden.
Clever and seasonal, this spring bedtime book is one worth picking. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman (9780451474988)
When a mouse asks Carl, an earthworm, why he digs in the dirt all day, Carl doesn’t have a good answer. So he sets off to find one. He asks all sorts of animals in the meadow “Why?” Some of them answer with their own reasons for why they do what they do. Rabbit does things to take care of her babies. Fox does things to hunt. Squirrel plants trees by hiding nuts in the ground in order to have homes in the future. But why does an earthworm dig in the dirt? Carl doesn’t get any good answers. He finally finds himself on a hard patch of dirt where a beetle complains that he can’t find any grubs to eat. Suddenly, Carl understands what he does and why and begins to turn the hard earth into soft dirt. As he works, the area transforms back into green grass, planted seeds, and plenty of wildlife.
Freedman takes one worm’s curiosity about why he does things and cleverly transforms it into a look at the interconnected roles of animals and worms on the habitat they live in. The story here is tightly written, following a structure of questioning neighbors and coming to a conclusion that is familiar in children’s literature.
The illustrations really show exactly the impact of an earthworm and move from lushness to a dry landscape back to the beauty of new growth and then lushness once more. As always, Freedman’s watercolors are filled with color, even transforming the brown dirt into a fertile and fascinating space on the page.
Another winner from a master book creator. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Viking Books for Young Readers.
Worm Loves Worm by JJ Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato (InfoSoup)
Two worms have fallen in love and decide to get married. They get lots of advice from other insects. Cricket offers to marry them. Beetle insists on being the “best beetle.” The Bees want to be the bride’s bees. Cricket tells them that they need rings for their fingers, but they don’t have fingers so they wear the rings as belts. There has to be a band and a dance even though the worms don’t dance, they just wiggle. Then come the clothes and the cake. But which worm is the bride and which is the groom?
Austrian has created a completely fabulous picture book. What starts as a look at weddings and marriage broadens to become about the ability to marry whomever we love. By the end, the gender of either worm stays completely ambiguous and all that matters is that they can be married to one another because they love each other. The message is simple and creatively shown. The gender-free worms are a perfect pick for the main characters, offering lots of personality without committing to either gender.
Curato’s illustrations are wonderfully jolly. They capture the rather sanctimonious Cricket and the stuffy beetle with their conservative dress and attitudes. The merry bees are more friendly, but also help insist on a bride and groom. The worms themselves contrast with the others in their plainness and joy in one another. While they are unruffled by the rules of being married, their take on love wins in the end.
A celebration of the freedom to marry, this picture book is sure to cause a new stir among the same crowd bothered by And Tango Makes Three. Enjoy! Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Balzer + Bray.
Chooky-Doodle-Doo by Jan Whiten, illustrated by Sinead Hanley (InfoSoup)
A fresh little counting book, this Australian import combines numbers with a jaunty rhyme. One little “chooky” chick is unable to pull a big worm out of the ground, so another chick tries to help. Three of them pull and pull then, and the worm just grows longer and longer. Eventually there are six chicks pulling and not able to get the worm out of the ground. Rooster joins them and helps to pull. They pull and pull, bracing themselves on the ground, until pop! The worm lets go and gives them all a big surprise.
Each page asks “What should chookies do?” and leads into the page turn where another chick has joined in helping. The next page then starts with the number of chicks pulling, making the counting element very clear for young readers. The text is simple and has a great rhythm to it. This picture book could easily be turned into a play for preschoolers to act out, since the actions are simple. The reveal at the end is very satisfying and make sure you look at the very final pages to see the smiling worm still happily in the dirt.
The illustrations are done in collage, both by hand and digital. The textures of the papers chosen for the collage offer a feeling of printmaking too, an organic style that works well with the subject matter. The chicks have huge eyes and are large on the page, making counting easy for the youngest listeners. The bright colors add to the appeal.
A great toddler read aloud for units on farms, this picture book will worm its way right into your heart. Appropriate for ages 2-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Fly by Elise Gravel
The Worm by Elise Gravel
The first and second books in the new Disgusting Critters series of nonfiction picture books, these books take a humorous look at the biology of a specific creature. The first book deals with flies, specifically the common house fly. Inside are all sorts of interesting facts like the fly being covered in hair and information on eggs and maggots. More disgusting aspects are played up, which should appeal to young children, like the diet of flies and how germ filled they are and why. The second book is about worms and focuses on their unique anatomy, such as having no eyes and no limbs. There is also a focus on habitat, diet and reproduction. Throughout both books, humorous asides are offered, making this one of the most playful informational book series around.
Gravel combines both humor and facts in her book. She keeps the two clearly defined, with the animals themselves making comments that add the funniness to the books. The facts are presented in large fonts and the design of the book makes the facts clear and well defined. These books are designed for maximum child appeal and will work well in curriculums or just picked up by a browser in the library.
The art in the books, as you can see by the covers, is cartoonish and cute. The entire effect is a merry romp alongside these intriguing animals. I know some people believe that books about science for children should be purely factual, but Gravel’s titles show how well humor and touch of anthropomorphism can work with informational titles.
Information served with plenty of laughs, these science titles will be appreciated by children and teachers. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copies.
Superworm by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
The creators of The Gruffalo return with a silly new book that features one incredible worm. Superworm is super-long and super-strong. So when baby toad hops into the road, Superworm becomes a superworm lasso. The bees are bored and moping? It’s Superworm to the rescue with a game of jump rope. When Beetle falls into the well, Superworm turns into a fishing line to get her out. Everything seems to be going so well for Superworm, until a villain enters the story. Wizard Lizard sends his servant crow to capture Superworm and then uses magic to force Superworm to dig for treasure underground. But the others saw Superworm carried off and now it is up to them to be the heroes and save Superworm!
Donaldson writes in rhymes in such a playful and engaging way. The result is a book that reads aloud beautifully and begs to be shared with children. With the examples of the rescues that Superworm performed coming first, I was happily surprised when a villain was introduced and at the turn of events towards the end of the story. It makes for a very dynamic picture book that is sure to be a hit at story time.
Scheffler’s illustrations hit just the right tone. They are bright colored and he takes the rescues and the action to the perfect funny extremes. He also capitalizes on the kid-appeal of bugs, worms and toads.
Add this to your spring time stories, it is sure to be a delight with young readers and listeners. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Owly & Wormy, Bright Lights and Starry Nights by Andy Runton
When the first Owly book came out years ago, I made sure to get it into the hands of my own reluctant reader. Unburdened by the need to read words, he immediately took to both Owly and Wormy. I’m happy to say that the series has continued to be just as good as that first book. Runton has started to do more picture book versions as well and this is one of those. In this book, Owly and Wormy go on a trek out of the woods and up to a hill where they will be able to view the stars better. Along the way, they get caught in a rainstorm and take refuge in a cave. There are strange and frightening noises and their telescope has disappeared! It will take real bravery and no fear of the dark to figure out what happened.
This wordless picture book relies on its illustrations to succeed. Happily, Owly and Wormy have a warm friendship that is evident from the very first page. Add the dash of darkness, the storm and a really dark cave and you have a real adventure. All of the content is ideal for the youngest independent pre-readers who will enjoy having a graphic novel of their very own.
Runton takes fear of the dark and the unknown and turns it into a chance to make new friends and see new things in this strong addition to a great series. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Worms for Lunch? by Leonid Gore
Through bright colors and die cut illustrations, young readers explore what different animals eat. The book begins with the question of “Who eats worms for lunch?” A mouse declares that he doesn’t eat worms, instead he likes cheese. A relieved worm disappears from the page. Then a cat spots the mouse, and says that that’s what she would like for lunch. She ends up with a bowl of milk. The cow then declares that milk may be good, but grass is better. On the book goes, moving from one animal to the next until finally the question of who eats worms for lunch can be answered!
This entire book has a great sense of play and humor about it. Every other page has a die cut, making the book more enticing for young children to experience. The simple text and the bright colors combine into a book that is just right for toddlers to enjoy. They will enjoy turning the page and having the story change too.
With its large illustrations, this would work well with a group of children. A good pick for a toddler story time about food. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic Press.
Also reviewed by