Book Review: My Side of the Car by Kate Feiffer


My Side of the Car by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Jules Feiffer

Sadie and her dad are finally heading to the zoo.  Their trip has been cancelled for several reasons that Sadie can clearly remember, but today nothing can stop the trip.  They are on their way to the zoo when Sadie’s father points out that it’s raining.  Sadie looks  out her window and says that it isn’t raining on her side of the car.  Her father keeps driving, because all Sadie sees out her window is sunshine and lots of people heading to zoos.  People on her side of the car are watering their lawns, though it’s pouring on her father’s side of the car.  When they get to the zoo, Sadie’s father allows her to decide if they should stay, because it is raining hard on his side of the car.  Sadie decides that it would be too wet to go to the zoo in the rain.  So they reluctantly head home, until her father notices that the sun is out on his side of the car…

This picture book is inspired by a real-life event between author Kate Feiffer and her father, illustrator Jules Feiffer.  They share their version of the event that inspired the book at the end of the picture book, and Kate continues to insist that it was never raining on her side of the car.  That’s be beauty of personal perspective and the power of imagination and expectations for children.  This book captures it with humor and because it is told from Sadie’s point of view, with an honestly and care for the child view.

The combination of the fresh point of view from Kate Feiffer and the loose-lined art of her father is a winning one.  The imaginative power of Sadie never wavers in Kate’s writing.  The humor of the text and its attitude is reflected effectively in the illustrations as well.

Highly recommended, this book reminded me of both my own strong convictions as a child and those of my own children.  It is a testament to the imagination and creativity through which children view the world.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

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Sick Day for Amos McGee

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead.

I was utterly charmed by this book.  It has a gentle humor, a sweetness and an inherent loveliness that really makes it special.

Amos McGee got up early every morning, changed into his uniform, and headed to work at the City Zoo.  Even though he had a busy work schedule, he always had time to visit his friends.  He played chess with the elephant, ran races with the tortoise, sat quietly with the shy penguin, wiped the rhino’s runny nose, and read books to the owl who was afraid of the dark.  But one morning, Amos woke up and didn’t feel well enough to go to the zoo.  His friends waited for him, but when Amos didn’t come they set out to visit him instead.  The elephant played chess with him.  The turtle played hide and seek instead of running races.  The penguin kept Amos’ feet warm.  The rhino always had a handkerchief ready when Amos sneezed.  And at bedtime, the owl read them all a book.

The husband and wife team who created this book really worked well together.  Philip’s tone of writing has a gentle feel that matches his wife’s art perfectly.  Philip’s writing is very readable and works well aloud.  The small touches of detail make the world more convincing, including the elephant taking a lot of time to make his move in chess and the spoonfuls of sugar Amos uses at breakfast.  It is these little facts that really invite one to linger longer in the book.

Erin’s art is delightfully realistic for such a fantastical story.  The animals are very true to life except for their hobbies.  Her art uses delicate lines and subtle colors.  I especially enjoyed Erin’s two-page wordless spreads as the animals head to Amos’ home.  Again with her art, the small touches add so much: the elephant lining up his chess pieces while waiting for Amos and the socks on the feet of the penguin.  Small details but very important to the tone and feel of the book.

Highly recommended, this book will be embraced by all who read it.  Share it for units on zoos, colds or save it for a great bedtime read.  Now all I need to find is a shy penguin to keep my feet warm…

Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

Also reviewed by The Reading Tub.

My Heart Is Like a Zoo

My Heart Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall

Enter the zoo where each animal has a different emotion.  The beaver is eager, the rabbit is frightened, the clam is cozy.  There are animals here that children will recognize immediately and others that may be new to them.  Nicely, the same is true of the emotions.  Children will immediately understand angry, happy, and silly.  However, they may need help with bothered, rugged and chatty.  This is a book where emotions, art and vocabulary create a real chance to learn.  At the same time, it is friendly, bright and simple.

Hall’s art is large, colorful and great fun.  In this book, his animals are all built from hearts as you can see from the cover image.  Some like the frog are a simple heart with legs while others are quite complex constructs like the walrus.  The simplicity and graphical nature of Hall’s work really function well here.  The book can be read as simply animals.  Plus, it can be used to discuss emotions, and it would be a great platform for acting out emotions.  It can also be used to talk about similes.

Ideal for Valentines Day, this book is simple enough for toddlers to enjoy but complex enough to share with older children too.  The large images are perfect for classroom or group use.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

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Zoo Day Ole!

Zoo Day Ole!: a counting book by Phillis Gershator, illustrated by Santiago Cohen.

Abuelita takes her two grandchildren to the zoo where they count the animals from uno to diez.  They see bears, seals, monkeys, parrots and many more animals.  Gershator’s text is simple with Spanish counting words woven in.  Cohen’s art is thick-lined. His use of large blocks of color make it very child-like and friendly.

The mix of English and Spanish is nicely done, though I would have liked to have seen the names for the various animals done in both Spanish and English as well.  As a counting book, this one works well because readers have the option of counting or not counting since it isn’t built into the text. 

An ideal book for toddlers who love Dora the Explorer or Sesame Street with their mix of Spanish and English.  It would also work well for children learning Spanish in Kindergarten.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.