463 posts categorized "Picture Books" Feed

A Well-Mannered Young Wolf: Jean Leroy + Matthieu Maudet

Book: A Well-Mannered Young Wolf
Author: Jean Leroy
Illustrator: Matthieu Maudet
Pages: 30
Age Range: 4-8

Well-ManneredWolfA Well-Mannered Young Wolf, written by Jean Leroy and illustrated by Matthieu Maudet, is a darkly humorous tale with an ending that Jon Klassen fans should appreciate. While technically it is a book about the benefits that can come from using proper manners, the deadpan delivery makes it far more entertaining than didactic. The story begins:

"A young wolf, whose parents had taught him good manners, went hunting alone in the forest for the first time."

The wolf catches a rabbit, but is polite enough to offer the rabbit a last request. When the rabbit's request requires the wolf to leave for a time, the rabbit promises to stay put in order to be eaten later. But, of course, when the wolf returns, the rabbit is gone. The frustrated, but still polite, young wolf goes through a similar process with a chicken. But when a young boy is polite enough to keep his word to the wolf, the wolf finds that he wants to reward the boy. In the end, characters get what they deserve (in the sense that polite = deserving). 

Leroy's narration is pitch-perfect for the story. Like this: "Furious, the hunter resumed his search for more prey to devour" and "At the idea of having to return home a third time, the young hunter exploded with rage." 

There's also quite a bit of dialog. And in that dialog are direct references to what is and isn't polite, as taught by the parents of the various characters. A Well-Mannered Young Wolf is a fun text to read aloud. 

Maudet's illustrations have a spare, cartoon-like feel, with a limited color palette. They display a sly sense of humor. For example, the wolf captures the chicken by throwing a book at it. There's a little thundercloud over the wolf's head when he is angry, and we can also tell a lot about what he's feeling from the appearance of his teeth and eyebrows. 

This book was originally published in France, and to me there does seem to be a French sensibility to it, though I'm hard-pressed to express what makes me say that. What I can say is that the ending made me laugh. A Well-Mannered Young Wolf is a quiet title, but one that I think kids with a relatively sophisticated sense of humor will enjoy. Recommended!

Publisher:  Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (@eerdmansbooks)
Publication Date: October 3, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Noah Webster & His Words: Jeri Chase Ferris + Vincent X. Kirsch

Book: Noah Webster & His Words
Author: Jeri Chase Ferris
Illustrator: Vincent X. Kirsch
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

NoahWebsterNoah Webster & His Words, written by Jeri Chase Ferris and illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch, is a picture book biography of the man who compiled the first American dictionary. We learn that Noah was born in 1758, expected to be the next in a long line of Webster farmers. But Noah wanted to be a scholar, and the world is more literate today thanks to his efforts. 

The book follows Noah through the major events in his life, as he goes to college, becomes a schoolteacher, starts working on his first speller, marries, and so on. I hadn't realized the patriotic underpinnings of Webster's work prior to reading this book, and found reading about Noah's motivations quite uplifting. Here's the first hint:

"In October 1781, King George's soldiers SURRENDERED [verb: gave up] at Yorktown. The war was over at last! America was free and IN-DE-PEN-DENT [adj.: not controlled by others]. THat gave Noah an idea. He would write the schoolbooks for America, beginning with spelling. "I will write the second Declaration of Independence," Noah wrote to a friend. "An American spelling book!"

I quite like the way Jeri Chase Ferris incorporates dictionary-like definitions right into the text. This both reinforces the subject of the book and makes a fairly text-dense book more accessible to new readers. I also like the way she uses a slightly old-fashioned tone to her writing, to suit the time period. Not so much as to make the book inaccessible to modern kids, but just enough to give a flavor, though the use of words like "Alas". The text is rendered in an old-fashioned-looking font, also, furthering this impression. Even the author and illustrator bios at the end of the book follow these conventions, complete with definitions. This made me smile. 

Vincent X. Kirsch's illustrations show somewhat oddly proportioned people (see cover image above), but I think he does capture Noah's scholarly, well-intentioned character. I think that kids will appreciate seeing how Noah ages over time as the book progresses. The muted color scheme also support the historical, bookish feel of the book. The brightest thing on many pages is Noah's blue-backed speller". 

I only had one nit about the text. There's a sentence: "Over the next ten years Noah wrote six more schoolbooks for children and had several children of his own." The "several" seemed imprecise in a biography. I had to consult the end matter to see how many children Noah and his wife did have, to satisfy my own curiosity [8]. I'm guessing that the children arrived over more than those ten years, and this was too complex to explain, but it took me out of the story. This is, however, my only complaint about a solid, interesting, well-written book.  

A handy, illustrated timeline at the end of the book fills in details for those who are interested in extra facts, and should make Noah Webster & His Words a useful reference title for elementary school kids. A bibliography includes both primary and secondary sources [providing a good opportunity to introduce this concept to kids.]

Noah Webster & His Words is a picture book biography done right, from the choice of an important historical figure to the selection of anecdotes and facts to the choice of fonts. It belongs in primary school libraries and classrooms everywhere. As for me, I gained a new appreciation for Noah Webster, and for the importance of dictionaries in making America the distinct country it is today. Highly recommended!

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: October 23, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


The Most Perfect Snowman: Chris Britt

Book: The Most Perfect Snowman
Author: Chris Britt
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

MostPerfectSnowmanThe Most Perfect Snowman by Chris Britt is about a lonely snowman named Drift who was "built fast and then forgotten", left without any clothing or even a carrot nose. Drift is mocked and ignored by the other (frankly, not very nice) snowmen. Things change for Drift when a compassionate trio of children happen by and spruce him up a bit. But when the choice arises whether to maintain his spiffy new accoutrements or help someone in need, Drift has the chance to really be perfect. 

OK, so the ending of this one is a little bit sappy. But Drift's reluctance to do the right thing is plausible, and the fact that he does it anyway makes this a good book for kids to read around the holidays. I also appreciated the author's finding a secondary use for a carrot nose, one that I think kids will appreciate. 

Britt's text is read-aloud-friendly, with a series of up and down emotions, and the use of apt vocabulary words. Like this:

"So he spent his days alone, swooshing
and sliding through the wintry woods,

often stopping in the shadows to watch
the others laugh and play."

The three children who help Drift are so excited that they declare him (loudly): "the PERFECT snowman!" The other snowmen watch "in astonishment." There's a fair bit of dialog in The Most Perfect Snowman, and I think that it could also work for first or second graders to read on their own. 

Britt's illustrations are filled with kid-friendly details, particularly the scenes in which the other snowman are partying away, dressed in their finery, and having snowball fights. There's a band with a sign: "Chilly and the Frozen Blobs". Drift raises his arms in the air with joy when a little boy gives him snuggly mittens. The smiles on the faces of Drift and the children as they play together are a delight to behold. 

The Most Perfect Snowman, though not technically a holiday book, is all about giving, from the gifts that the children give to Drift to the gifts that Drift passes along. With its snowman-filled pages and winter adventures, it would make an excellent addition to a winter-themed library read-aloud. I would expect young readers to laugh in the middle, and say "aww" at the end. I look forward to reading this one with my own daughter. Recommended!

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


The Magic Word: Mac Barnett and Elise Parsley

Book: The Magic Word
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Elise Parsley
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8


TheMagicWordWhen one sees a picture book entitled The Magic Word, one might understandably fear that it will be some moralizing tale about the importance of saying please. One might have this fear, that is, were the author someone other than Mac Barnett. But any aficionado of humorous picture books knows that Mac Barnett is sure to have more fun up his sleeves than that. And he does.

The Magic Word is about a boy named Paxton C. Heymeyer who, when prompted by his babysitter for "the magic word" says: "Can I have a cookie, ALAKAZOOMBA?" When a cookie immediately appears in his hand, young Paxton does what any right-minded child would do. He starts using ALAKAZOOMBA to request other things, like "a walrus that will chase the babysitter up to the North Pole" and a waterslide into the (new) pool in his living room. Paxton's exploits, and his house, get bigger and bigger. But after his friend Rosie shows a marked lack of appreciation for the whole ALAKAZOOMBA thing, Paxton begins to get a tad lonely. The resolution of The Magic Word is rather predictable overall, but with a refreshing, black-humorous twist at the very end.

The Magic Word is fairly text-dense, with a lot of dialog, and feels like more a book for early elementary school kids than for preschoolers. Here's a snippet:

""Pax," said Rosie, "you're a terrible host."

Well, Paxton wasn't going to stand there and be insulted in his very own house, let alone his very own castle with a helipad and pink-lemonade moat.

"WALRUS, ALAKAZOOMBA."

Paxton is not, perhaps, the nicest kid you'll read about in a picture book this week, but The Magic Word is chock-full of kid-friendly wish fulfillment. A lemonade moat. A swimming pool in the living room. A pet elephant. A roller coaster zipping around one's house. You get the idea. Elise Parsley's digitally generated illustrations bring all of these innovations, and more, to colorful life. She also clearly gets across Paxton's rather bratty personality, particularly in a close-up near the end of the book of what can only be described as an evil leer. 

The Magic Word is a book that kids will find fun from cover to cover. It should spark lots of interesting discussions, too, about what they would do if they discovered a magic word that could give them anything. I'm pretty sure that my daughter will be writing a "magic word" story of her own quite soon. Recommended!

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


I Am A Story: Dan Yaccarino

Book: I Am A Story
Author: Dan Yaccarino
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

IAmAStory

I Am A Story, a new picture book by Dan Yaccarino, is the story of, well, the story. Yaccarino begins with the earliest stories, presumably told around campfires by early human tribes. He moves on through cave paintings, hieroglyphics, tapestries, and, eventually, books. Going further, he notes that although stories have been censored, banned, and even burned, the story itself will never die. 

The text in I Am A Story is minimal. Like this (over several pages):

"I was written on papyrus
and printed with ink and woodblocks,
then woven into tapestries
and copied into big books to illuminate minds."

The illustrations, with recognizable Dan Yaccarino-style people, reveal more of the details than are addressed in the text. For example, the "woven into tapestries" page spread shows a king strutting past a tapestry, his cloak held up by a small page. Several suits of armor line the hallway. In one, eyes are visibly following the young page. Wall sconces with flames provide lighting. A small orange bird is seen in each illustration, either alive or as part of a tapestry or other element. The recipients of stories (often children) are shown generally happy. 

This is a book for a parent or teacher to read with kids, I think, so that the context of these various methods of capturing stories can be explained a bit. I Am A Story reminded me a bit of the Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World, which explores the history of communication. However, I Am A Story focuses more narrowly on the need of humans to share stories, and the various ways in which this has been accomplished over many years.   

I Am A Story is a celebration of the power of, and necessity of, story, one that few librarians will be able to resist. Recommended for library or home use by anyone who loves history and/or stories. 

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit: Sue Ganz-Schmitt + Shane Prigmore

Book: Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit
Author: Sue Ganz-Schmitt
Illustrator: Shane Prigmore
Pages: 36
Age Range: 5-8

PlanetKindergarten100DaysPlanet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit is a sequel to Planet Kindergarten (reviewed here). Both books were written by Sue Ganz-Schmitt and illustrated by Shane Prigmore, and feature a boy's imagined (?) reality that his kindergarten is actually a base camp on another planet (with fellow students as crewmates, teacher as commander, etc.). This second book addresses the trend that has arisen (recently?) for classes to celebrate "100 Days of School" by having kids bring in 100 of something. My daughter did this in pre-k and kindergarten. 

In Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit, the crewmates arrive burdened by things like "100 ounces of goo", "100 globules" and more conventions bricks (legos) and cookies. The boy shares some highlights from his learning during his first 100 days of school, and then the crewmates "report to the rug with galactic pride, because today is a new milestone." Then they take some time out for "anti-gravity exercises", making medals, and building rockets. Artifacts from traditional kindergartens can be glimpsed in the illustrations (blocks and popsicle sticks, a nurse's office, etc.), but the text remains true to the spaceship premise. 

Then the kids, I mean crewmates, present their 100 items. A near disaster occurs for our hero, but, with help from his colleagues, a crisis is averted, and the recruits survive to meet day 101. 

The moral of the story is a bit overt for my personal taste:

"I am weightless, because know that no matter what new challenge lies ahead for the bold voyagers of Planet Kindergarten, we can count on each other... day 101 and beyond."

However the intergalactic and alien trappings should provide sufficient distraction for kids, and keep Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit on the right side of entertaining. 

I do love Prigmore's digitally created bright, stylized illustrations, which perfectly match the tone and subject of the book. The alien kids have a wide range of shapes and colors (including pinks and greens), and they're all engaging. I particularly like a pink-faced girl with huge glasses and a long, skinny neck. 

The bottom line is that fans of Planet Kindergarten, of which there are many, will certain enjoy Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit. The two books together would make a great first day of school gift for four or five year olds, particularly any who are obsessed with outer space. I also haven't seen a lot of 100th day of school books. This would be a fun read-aloud in any classroom celebrating that. Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit is quirky, fun, and kid-friendly. 

Publisher: Chronicle Kids (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Edward Gets Messy: Rita Meade + Olga Stern

Book: Edward Gets Messy
Author: Rita Meade
Illustrator: Olga Stern
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-7

EdwardGetsMessyEdward Gets Messy, written by Rita Meade and illustrated by Olga Stern, is about a little pig who is determined to stay clean. When his friends do things like jump in leaf piles, eat spaghetti, and play baseball in the mud, Edward passes. He stays safely, neatly, in the background. He eats steamed broccoli instead of the spaghetti. As all of these activities take place, the discerning reader will note Edward becoming more and more wistful. So it's a bit of a relief, when, through no fault of his own, Edward gets messy. And once Edward discovers that getting some paint spilled on himself is not the end of the world, well, joyful, messy play follows. 

The plotline of Edward Gets Messy is a bit simplistic. Kid hates getting messy, and has a dull life. Kid accidentally does get messy. Presto, kid learns that it's ok to get messy, and has a more fulfilling life. I might have preferred to see Edward freak out a little or have a period of adjustment or something. Though he is redeemed, to me, by being shown, in the final scene, cleaning himself off in a bubble bath. But the fact of the matter is that I liked this book very much anyway. 

Rita Mead's text is lively and enthusiastic, with strong vocabulary words.There are lots of short sentences and dramatic moments, making this a book that calls out to be read aloud. Here's the beginning (over a couple of pages):

"This is Edward.

Edward is a very particular pig.

He detests dirt.

He FEARS filth.

He likes things to be just so.

Edward never gets messy."

Olga Stern's colored pencil illustrations are simply a delight of color. It would be impossible to look at them (see the cover image above) and not feel cheerful. The scene in which paint spills all over Edward is both joyous and funny, even though Edward is initially "distraught" and "devastated". Here "devastated" is in a gigantic green font that matches the green paint. In other places there are sound effects shown in multiple, hand-drawn colors, each suitable to the occasion. New readers will be unable to resist the urge to read the callouts aloud themselves.

Edward is simply adorable, whether he is nervously standing back from the leaf pile or (later) diving right in. One's heart aches for him as he watches three other kids slurping up spaghetti (with spaghetti everywhere), even as he eats his broccoli with a fork. Other times, though, you can see that even though he's holding back, he's not unhappy. He's made a particular choice and is living with it. 

Because of the quick resolution of the plot, I think that Edward Gets Messy, despite some challenging vocabulary words, is more suited to preschoolers than to elementary school kids. It would be simply perfect for a child who, like Edward, shies away from participating in school. It would also make a very fun read-aloud to a pre-k classroom or storytime. Edward Gets Messy is a book that kind of sneaks up on the reader, and is hard to resist. Recommended, especially for younger listeners and classroom settings. 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@SimonKids) 
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Cleonardo: The Little Inventor: Mary GrandPre

Book: Cleonardo: The Little Inventor
Author: Mary GrandPre
Pages: 48
Age Range: 5-9

CleonardoCleonardo: The Little Inventor is a lavishly illustrated celebration of both creativity and family. Little Cleonardo is the daughter of Geonardo and granddaughter of Leonardo. She is the youngest in a long line of inventors. But while Geonardo works hammering and welding metals, Cleonardo prefers to work with natural materials like vines and dragonfly wings. Her father, though caring, is a bit dismissive of her efforts, but with Grandpa Leo's support, Cleonardo sets out to make her own invention for a local invention contest. Eventually, Gleonardo and Cleonardo learn that both of their approaches have merit.

Grandpa Leo's name is, of course, a nod to Leonardo da Vinci, but there is no overt discussion of the famed artist and inventor. Rather, Cleonardo focuses primarily on the relationship between inventor father and inventor daughter, as well as their respective projects. My six-year-old was charmed by Cleonardo's efforts, as well as her persistence. We both enjoyed GrandPre's detailed, old-fashioned illustrations, most celebrating Cleonardo's love of the outdoors. 

The text in Cleonardo is dense for a picture book, but the story certainly held my daughter's interest. I would recommend it for elementary schoolers, but would expect it to be a bit challenging (in both words and pictures) for preschoolers. Here's a snippet of the text:

"So Cleo Wren decided to make something of her own for the festival. The forest was full of treasures, from golden goo bamboo and tacky termite twine to poofy cloud feathers and glitter-winged butterflies. 

With Grandpa Leo's help, she cleaned off a large fallen tree for her worktable. Her grandpa then gave her one of his favorite tools: a twisty, wooden-handled awl."

Lush text, a capable heroine, a mix of science and nature, and strong family relationships. Cleonardo covers a lot of ground, and would make a great addition to an elementary school library. One could pair it with some nonfiction about the real Leonardo, or with other books that celebrate female inventors (like Rosie Revere, Engineer). Safe to say that my science and invention-loving daughter will be reading this one again. Recommended for ages 5 and up. 

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic) 
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Pond: Jim LaMarche

Book: Pond
Author: Jim LaMarche
Pages: 40
Age Range: 5-8

PondPond by Jim LaMarche is a gentle celebration of nature and friendship. A boy discovers water bubbling up from the ground in the woods, in an area that he has always called "the Pit." He gets the idea that the Pit was once a pond, and enlists his sister Katie and his best friend Pablo to help him nurse the pond back to health. They clean up trash, build a dam, and are rewarded by a gradually expanding body of water. Their dad, who recalls an earlier version of the pond, helps out, too.

Eventually the pond becomes a resource for animals and the community. A sub-plot involves a heart-shaped quartz that Pablo discovers, which becomes something of a talisman for the kids, and involves a hint of magical realism at the end.

LaMarche sprinkles in a few facts about nature, like the fact that barn swallows eat mosquitos, but keeps everything closely tied to the story. (e.g. The kids are excited about the barn swallows because they've been pestered by mosquitos.) When geese start coming to the pond the boy wants to feed them bread, but "Miss Know-it-all Katie" says not to, because of what she read in a book.   

Pond is fairly text dense. I actually felt like the text could have been pruned back a little, particularly LaMarche's occasional use of adverbs. Here's an example: 

"All right, let's get to work!" said Dad.

The day before, we had dragged the old wooden boat into the pond. It had started leaking immediately. At dinner we had told Dad about the boat.

"I can't believe it's still there," he had said quietly. "Let's see what we can do in the morning."

As Dad patched and puttied the holes and cracks, Pablo sanded out the slivers and I nailed down all the loose boards. Katie painted a dragonfly on the bow. "We'll call it the Dragonfly," she said.

The "quietly" might not have bothered me, but then Katie says something "quietly" later in the book, and I was faintly irritated. But that's all ok, because it's LaMarche's nature-toned acrylic, colored pencil and opaque ink illustrations that dominate every page. Everything is textured, from the kids' skin and hair to the grasses and rowboat. Sunset colors make many of the pages glow.

My favorite page spread is one in the middle of the book where there is no text, and we see Katie rowing the boat, Matt floating on an inflatable mattress, and Pablo standing in the water with a bucket. There are birds and other animals, lily pads, and just a strong feeling of summer. We don't even see the sky - the pond is the backdrop for the entire page. For me, these illustrations brought back childhood visits to ponds and the woods, both real and imagined through books. The ending of Pond is sure to leave readers with a warm glow. 

Pond is a gorgeous ode to the natural world, as well as a subtle love song to family and community. While a bit text dense for group storytime, itcertainly belongs in libraries and would make a nice addition to a nature-themed display. I look forward to reading it with my daughter. I think it will make her want to get outside with her friends. Recommended.  

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@SimonKids)
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes: Jennifer L. Holm + Matthew Holm

Book: Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Illustrator: Matthew Holm
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7

BabymouseChristmasCupcakesBabymouse, the intrepid, cupcake-loving heroine created by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, has appeared in 20 graphic novels to date. Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes is Babymouse's first foray into the world of picture books. As a longtime fan of Babymouse, I found the new picture book delightful.

As the story begins, we find a young Babymouse, perhaps three or four years old. Her little brother is a (very loud) baby. It's Christmas Eve, and Babymouse, alas, eats all of the cookies meant for Santa. But that's ok, because she decides to make Santa some Christmas cupcakes. However, in classic Babymouse fashion, things do not work out quite as expected. A fantasy element roars in, and, well, let's just say that it's a good thing Santa doesn't need very many cupcakes. 

I do love Babymouse. I love that she adores pink, but also wants a suit of armor for Christmas, "because of all the dragons." I love that baking cookies for Santa isn't unique enough, and the fact that she considers (though happily rejects) making a tuna casserole. As in the graphic novels, the dry voice of the narrator interacting with Babymouse lends humor to the story. And I love, love, love the ending, which made me laugh, and also nod with recognition. 

This is, I believe, Babymouse's first time appearing in full color (the graphic novels are black, white, and pink), and Matthew Holms' eye-catching illustrations are sure to draw in the youngest of readers. I challenge any reader to resist the illustration in which Babymouse leaps into the air, positively bursting with excitement, when she hits upon the idea of Christmas cupcakes. There's also a quite fetching pink dragon. 

Fans of the Babymouse books will definitely want to add Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes to their holiday wish lists. For those children too young to already be fans, Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes is a perfect introduction for preschoolers to an imaginative, stereotype-busting character. It's difficult for me to assess objectively how this book will work for people meeting Babymouse for the first time, but I strongly suspect that it will be successful. There are fun, read-aloud-friendly sound effects and typical small child behaviors (like making a huge mess when helping out, and not being able to resist eating too many cookies). And there is Babymouse. 

My only slight regret (though I agree with as a creative decision) is that Babymouse does not, in this book, mutter "Typical." I am hoping for a future picture book in which she says that for the first time.  

Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes is highly recommended for in-home holiday reading, and a must-purchase for libraries. I can't wait to read it with my own young dragon-slayer. 

Publisher: Random House Books for Children (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Buddy for President: Hans Wilhelm

Book: Buddy for President
Author: Hans Wilhelm
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

BuddyForPresidentJust in time for Election Day, Harper Children's brings us Buddy for President by Hans Wilhelm, in which a boy lobbies hard for his dog to become the next President. Buddy's qualifications including appreciating the great outdoors (like President Theodore Roosevelt) and a (slobbery) ability to kiss babies right and left. Here's a high point of the book:

"Buddy will be our top dog! He will put his presidential paw print only on good laws, like bedtime just for grown-ups and more playtime for kids."

The very next passage felt a bit overly sentimental to me:

"Everybody will cheer when Buddy introduces a law so that all kids must have a safe lace to live with grown-ups and dogs who love them with all their hearts."

But mostly, Wilhelm sticks to fun characteristics of dogs that translate well into leadership, like being good listeners, and being good at playing. The new National Anthem, all in woofs to the tune of Take Me Out to the Ball Game is a lot of fun, as are the campaign posts for dog leaders of other countries (a poodle for France, of course). Wilhelm's bright, cheerful illustrations, with Buddy always a smiling figure, help to keep Buddy for President on the humorous side. I think that kids will find this one entertaining. 

Buddy for President would make a light-hearted classroom or library read-aloud (for kids five and up) on or before Election Day. There are a few facts thrown in that could form a basis for discussion (what is a summit, etc.), as well as a nice plug for reading aloud. 

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Before Morning: Joyce Sidman + Beth Krommes

Book: Before Morning
Author: Joyce Sidman
Illustrator: Beth Krommes
Pages: 48
Age Range: 3-7

BeforeMorningBefore Morning, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes, is simply beautiful, in words and text. It's about the power of wishes, and quiet respite that a snow day can bring. The story is told mainly through the pictures, accompanied by a spare poem from Sidman, sprinkled line by line across the book. We see a girl pause at a bakery window, dragged past by a busy parent. We see the girl at home with her parents, trying to hide her mother's pilot hat, so that her mother won't leave. We see the mother leave for work, while her husband and daughter are sleeping. And then we see it start to snow, and snow, and snow. 

Here's just a hint of Sidman's text:

"Let the air turn to feathers,

the earth turn to sugar,

and all that is heavy
turn light."

This was across three page spreads. You want to read it aloud, slowly. This would make a wonderful bedtime book, soothing and uplifting, and celebrating family. 

Krommes' scratchboard and watercolor illustrations are rendered in a deep palette. Everything is textured and slightly abstract looking. She fills in details that tell us more about the girl and her family. The father standing in the kitchen, having clearly prepared the dinner on the table. The girl's room, full of model airplanes. A picture of the mother in uniform on a side table. And at the end, as any reader would hope and expect, we see the family stop at the bakery, and take home the cake that the girl wanted in the first place. 

In the middle of the book the authors' focus turns to the snow storm. We see skies full of snowflakes and birds, over snowy town scenes. But throughout these images, we also follow the mother's journey, into the airport, and then home again. This is a book that rewards close observation, a slow reading of the text, and a slow perusal of the pictures. 

Before Morning is lovely, through and through. This story that celebrates a child's love of her parent would make a perfect new baby gift. It's especially wonderful, of course, that it's the mom who is the breadwinner, and has the job that inspires and saddens the child. Before Morning belongs in libraries and on home bookshelves everywhere. I think it will work best for preschoolers, but I hope that my six-year-old appreciates it, too. Because it would make me very happy to read this to her. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).