Don’t Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton (9781536211191)
Little Crab lives with Very Big Crab in a small tide pool, but now they are off to the ocean! At first Little Crab is very excited. They journey over rocks, across pools, and through seaweed to get there, each with its own special sound. When they reach the edge of the ocean though, Little Crab is overwhelmed and not sure they should continue. There are big waves that hit them over and over again. Little Crab decides it’s time to head home instead, but Very Big Crab continues to encourage Little Crab to try. Step by step, Little Crab enters the ocean until he’s in it! And what an amazing place it is!
Haughton beautifully shows the fear of the new and the way that experiences can feel very overwhelming for children. The use of wave after wave is what doing something new can feel like. The book also clearly demonstrates the importance of continuing forward and trying something new. You may just love it, like Little Crab does. Gentle and powerful, this picture book shows rather than tells, allowing children to find their own way through fear with the help of a couple new friends.
The illustrations are bold and beautiful. They have dark cliffs near the ocean, battered by turquoise water with bright white foam. The greens of the seaweed, purples of the crabs, pop on the page. Then once the ocean is entered, it’s like discovering colors all over again. Remarkable!
Wave away your worries with this wonderful read. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick.
Child of Glass by Beatrice Alemagna (9781592703036)
This unusual French picture book is deep, questioning and modern. Giselle was born near Florence and Bilbao. She was born made entirely of glass, transparent and capturing the light of life around her. People could also see right into her head, viewing her thoughts as she had them. If she was fearful or worried, people would reassure her when they saw those thoughts. As she grew older though, her thoughts were sometimes very dark and sad. When people saw those things, they grew angry, asking how she could think that way and demanded that she stop. The tension of trying to change caused fractures in her glass body. Finally, Giselle decided to leave and find another place to live. But every place treated her exactly the same. Eventually, Giselle returned home, deciding to live as she is without trying to change, entirely transparent and whole.
This picture book wrestles with the very idea that children have dark thoughts, that they are worried and afraid at times, that their imaginations are not always light and playful. It’s a story about being different and being forced to conform uniquely to the crowd’s ideas. Yet it is also a story about finding oneself, living life on your own terms. The book is about reality, a lovely allegory to the importance put upon conforming and the necessity for us all to live our authentic lives, transparently.
The illustrations are complex and filled with different media. They include collage, different types of pens, markers, and pencils. They are layered and dramatic, capturing the mood of each part of the story. Some of the pages are transparent, looking through Giselle’s thoughts and emotions.
Unique and fascinating, this picture book embraces the dark side of our minds and the beauty of individuals. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy provided by Enchanted Lion Books.
The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane (InfoSoup)
Maggie is starting middle school and is getting more and more worried. She has rules to live by that keep the people she loves safe, but there is much more to worry about than that. There is the murderer who was loose in their neighborhood after shooting someone at a local mini mart. There is the boy at school who is going to get a gun for his birthday. There are the rabbits next door owned by a man who doesn’t seem to really love them. Plus there are issues in her own family with a teen sister who is pulling away from Maggie and her little sister and a father growing more and more distant too. Maggie starts to plan new ways to protect her family from danger as her fears mount, but it’s all too much for one person to try to control.
Lane has written an incredible novel for middle grades, particularly as a debut author. She captures the intoxication of danger, the thrill of fear, and then what happens when it becomes more than that, toxic and dark. She shows the problems with fear and worries, the way they mount and the intricate ways that children have of coping in a world where nothing seems firm and solid for them, not even their families. As Maggie copes with OCD tendencies, she is also courageous and caring, striving to control the uncontrollable around her.
Lane captures the real world with honesty here. Rabbits are sold for meat. Children are sometimes not cared for. Marriages have problems. Sisters withdraw. It is all there in this book, but there is more too. There are loving parents, helpful neighbors, friends, apple trees and baby rabbits. So not all is dark and dreary, there is light too and hope here. If only one can see it for the worries.
A bright new voice in children’s literature, this debut novel is delicious and rich. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from library copy.
What If…? by Anthony Browne
Joe is headed to a birthday party and its the first one that he’s ever gone to. He’s very nervous about what is going to happen at Tom’s party and whether he will enjoy it or not. Joe’s mother walks him to Tom’s house. They know what street it is on but not the house number, since Joe lost the invitation. So along the way they peek into windows to see which is the correct house. But the things they see in the windows don’t help Joe feel better at all. There are old people with a staring dog. There’s an elephant. And then there are a couple of houses where the people are being very strange indeed. By the time they find Tom’s house, Joe and his mother are both worried. Will the party be fun?
This is a book that is permeated by Browne’s signature style. I love the idea of finding a party by peeking into windows. Even better, Browne takes it as an opportunity to create wild flights of fancy in each window, each of which is unique and strange. Most of the text of the book is the discussion between Joe and his mother as they walk down the street, with her trying to persuade him that he will have fun at the party.
Browne’s art really tells a lot of the story on the page. The discussions between Joe and his mother are shown in panels with speech bubbles. They are shown in only blues while what they see in the windows are done in full color. This makes the different windows pop on the page, in stark contrast to the limited palette of the main characters. By the end of the book though, Joe and his mother are full color once the party is over.
Another wondrous book by Browne, this is perfect for getting children worried about new experiences to be creative and even a bit wild about how they think about them. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Melanie Watt
Scaredy Squirrel is back! This time he wants to stay far away from camping outside, much happier to watch a TV show ABOUT camping. Unfortunately though, he needs to plug his TV in for it to work. So he has to find an electrical outlet which means heading outside and into the campground. As always, Scaredy plans his trip carefully. He lists what he is scared of, packs important survival supplies, picks out a wilderness outfit to keep himself safe from things like nasty odors and bugs, and has a map of his mission timed to the minute. But things do not go as planned, showing Scaredy that sometimes it’s not about the plan itself but the journey on which it takes you.
Watt has a wonderful comedic timing that she displays in all of her Scaredy Squirrel and Chester books. It is all about those moments of hesitation that make the humor all the more funny. Scaredy is a great character with his obsessive planning and worrying. Many children will see themselves in Scaredy and also be able to see the humor as well. As always, the illustrations are clear, clean and add to the fun.
Another great book in a strong series, this one is perfectly timed for spring and summer camp outs. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.
Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party by Melanie Watt
The fifth in the very popular Scaredy Squirrel series has Scaredy planning his own birthday party. He wants it to be quiet and private, because that’s how he can avoid any surprises. Surprises like Bigfoot, confetti and ponies must be avoided! He carefully plans his solo party with lists and charts, but even then he is surprised by what he finds in his mailbox. It’s a birthday card from Buddy. So Scaredy decides that he will invite just one guest in addition to himself. Now he has to rethink the entire party! There has to be a schedule, topics for small talk, and a list of dos and don’ts. But even with all of his planning and worrying, Scaredy is sure to be surprised at his birthday party!
This is a great addition to the series. I love how Watt takes events that can have children worried and allows Scaredy to worry for them. And Scaredy is so much better at worrying, that he’s sure to show how silly all that worry really is. Heck, some parents could take a lesson from Scaredy about birthday parties that are more about structure and less about fun.
Make your own plan to read this book! But don’t worry, you are sure to love it. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.