442 posts categorized "Picture Books" Feed

Super Happy Magic Forest by Matty Long

Book: Super Happy Magic Forest
Author: Matty Long
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

SuperHappyMagicSuper Happy Magic Forest is a super-fun picture book by Matty Long, about an epic quest by a brave band of five explorers to Goblin Tower to recover The Mystical Crystals of Life. It's basically an affectionate spoof on epic quest stories. The heroes include a mushroom named Trevor, who can't climb things because he has no arms, and a naive fairy with purple wings. They show varying degrees of courage and creativity as they make their way through frozen lands and a "Super Creepy Haunted Forest" to Goblin Tower. What they find there is somewhat unexpected, but they do, in the end, save the day. 

Super Happy Magic Forest would make a perfect gift to any child of Lord-of-the-Rings-loving parents. It's also a nice introduction to the idea of the epic quest for young readers. There are dangers along the way, but these are lashed with enough humor to keep the book from ever feeling scary. 

This is definitely a book to read aloud with dramatic intonations. Like this:

"But the forces of evil were at work. One day,
the Mystical Crystals of Life were
STOLEN"

(Here STOLEN is rendered in large, bold letters)

and:

"They adventured through
frozen lands and faced scary
and terrible creatures."

Long's illustrations are busy, chock-full of entertaining details, particularly the captions. The Super Happy Magic Forest (where the heroes live, and from where the crystals are stolen includes Rainbow Falls, Happy Bunnies, a Cotton Candy Cave, and lots more. There are ghosts and witches and colorful butterflies. It's like a cross between a gloomy quest and an LSD-enhanced trip through Wonderland, sprinkled with mild humor ("With barely enough time to pack a lunch, the heroes began their epic quest.").

Super Happy Magic Forest is a book that we've had for a few months now, and have appreciated a bit more each time we read it. While it's a bit complex (and perhaps scary) for the youngest listeners, it's a great choice for early elementary schools kids. Especially if they like butterflies, rainbow unicorns, goblins, or ghosts. Highly recommended and pure fun!

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic
Publication Date: February 23, 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).


Pirasaurs!: Josh Funk & Michael Slack

Book: Pirasaurs!
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Michael Slack
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

PirasaursWhat if the dinosaurs had been, or still were, pirates? You'd have Pirasaurs! Josh Funk's band of dinosaur pirates is on a quest to find buried treasure. They'll have to overcome a mutiny, a damaged map, and a trap first, however. The protagonist is a small, scaly orange cabin boy, uncertain of his place with the rowdy crew. The crew is headed by the female Captain Rex, assisted by Bronto Beard the lookout and Triceracook (a triceratops cook with a hook, covering many bases). 

Josh Funk's rhyming text is fun to read aloud, and sprinkled with strong vocabulary words. Like this:

"With handy hook, Tricercook
Prepares Jurassic feasts!

I love to slurp and belch and burp
With buccaneering beasts!"

and:

"Velocimate can navigate
From reef to coastal bay.

I use my smarts to map the charts.
But still we're led astray."

Bonus points later in the book for use of the words "blurt" and "scallywags".

Michael Slack brings the pirates to colorful life, with special attention to our sometimes hopeful and sometimes discouraged young narrator. A battle between rival pirate gangs is especially dynamic, full of scowling faces and a mix of swords and dinosaur horns. 

Pirasaurs! is full of interesting characters, engaging wordplay, and dramatic (but not scary) action. It is perfect for preschoolers, and recommended for libraries, homes, and classrooms, or anywhere that a pirate- and/or dinosaur-loving child might lurk. 

Publisher: Orchard 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).


Milk Goes to School: Terry Border

Book: Milk Goes to School
Author: Terry Border
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

MilkGoesToSchool

Terry Border, the author/illustrator of the Peanut Butter and Cupcake books, has a new back-to-school picture book called Milk Goes to School. In this story, Milk, a cute little red and white milk carton, starts school for the first time. She's excited about her sparkly new backpack, and her dad has attempted to boost her confidence by telling her that she is "la creme de la creme". But when she points these things out to the other students, they quickly conclude that "this Milk is spoiled." As the day progresses, Milk makes mis-step after mis-step, adding to the perception (about which she is in deep denial) that she is spoiled. But after a humiliating experience, Milk does refresh her behavior a bit by the end of the book and find some common ground with the other food children. 

Milk Goes to School is full of wordplay, particularly puns about food. Like this:

"Milk asked Carrot, "Would you like to share crayons?"

"I don't carrot all," Carrot said. "Like I said to Salad, lettuce be friends!"

Carrot seemed okay."

I was reading this book to myself and didn't get this at first. This is a book that calls for being read aloud. There's also this, sure to make a four-year-old giggle:

"Later, in the library, Milk asked if someone cut the cheese.

I don't like that saying," said Cheese, "but I think someone tooted."

"Oops. Sorry," said Beans. 

Much of the humor of the book, however, lies in Border's unique and whimsical illustrations. These were created by manipulating and photographing three-dimensional objects, such as, say, a milk carton with wire arms and legs, wearing a backpack. Fun details are everywhere, like the fishtank full of goldfish crackers and the image of Milk imagining herself as a queen, surrounded by foil-wrapped chocolate coins. I especially enjoyed the family pictures that the students drew, such as three apples (two large and one small) sitting on the branch of a tree. And I'm still smiling over Potato who "wanted to be a sailor on a gravy boat" when he grew up. Oh, and the eggs hatching chicken nuggets. Priceless! 

For me as an adult reader, the story itself is a little bit repetitive, with food puns throughout and Milk saying over and over again that she "didn't think she was spoiled at all." But I think that kids will find Milk Goes to School hilarious, especially kids who have already been through the pain of starting school and making new friends.

I quite respect Border's choice to make Milk, well, a bit spoiled. She does some nice things for the other kids, but she fusses when something is spilled on her drawing, she wants people to see how well she can spell and draw, etc. One suspects that she is an only child who hasn't had much chance to socialize with other kids. This makes Milk Goes to School braver than your run of the mill back-to-school picture book, where the issues are more about overcoming shyness or missing parents, etc. We have realistic character development in 32 food-covered, pun-filled pages. 

I'll add that my six-year-old just came in as I was writing this review, book open on my lap. She shrieked in recognition, saying "I had Peanut Butter and Cupcake in my Kindergarten class. And that's the exact same cupcake." She is VERY excited to read the book (but has friends over right now). I think this incident speaks to Border's distinctive and kid-friendly illustration style. 

In short, Milk Goes to School is a must-purchase for library back-to-school collections. It is sure to stand out, visually and thematically, and to be a favorite with kids. Recommended!

Publisher:  Philomel Books (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: June 28, 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).


Woodpecker Wants A Waffle: Steve Breen

Book: Woodpecker Wants A Waffle
Author: Steve Breen
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

WoodpeckerWantsAWaffle

Woodpecker Wants A Waffle is an appealing new picture book by Steve Breen. It's about an enterprising woodpecker named Benny who, on smelling the waffles from a new breakfast place, decides that he wants to try them. I mean, he really, really wants to try them. He tries various tricks and disguises, but the dour waitress is not to be fooled. The other animals mock him for his quest. But, as you would expect, Benny finds a clever way to get his way in the end. 

Breen's text is brief and to the point, but with some nice vocabulary ("investigate", "declared"), and read-aloud-friendly sound effects ("TAP! TAP! TAP!", "BAP!", "FWAP!"). After all of the animals chime in regarding how ridiculous Benny's quest is ("BEARS DON'T EAT BAGELS!", etc.), this text follows:

""Well, why not?" Benny asked.

"Why not?" the animals grumbled,
chirped, croaked, and whispered.

They thought, and thought, and
thoughts, and thought...

"Because I SAID so, said Bunny." (on the next page)

I was so grateful that the other animals didn't magically realize that Benny was right, or any didactic nonsense like that. And I loved Benny's solution, which puts the other animals in their place and gains him waffles. 

Breen's ink, watercolor, and colored pencil illustrations have a fairly minimalist look, sprinkled with kid- and parent-friendly humor. I especially liked the tall beehive hairdo on the waitresses head, and Benny attempting to sneak in by camouflaging himself against a large woman's bird-patterned skirt.  His milk carton disguise is rather priceless, too. There's almost a cartoon feel to the book, helped by the sound effects ("SWOOSH!" goes the milk carton into the trash). 

Woodpecker Wants A Waffle is a joyful celebration of persisting to get what you want, even if you have to be a bit sneaky about it. It has kid-friendly humor, fun language aspects for read-aloud, and no moral message at all. A delight through and through. I think it would make a wonderful group read-aloud; libraries will definitely want to give Woodpecker Wants A Waffle a look. Parents may want to make sure there are actual waffles available before reading this one at home, though. Recommended!

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: June 14, 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 Storyteller: Evan Turk

Book: The Storyteller
Author: Evan Turk
Pages: 48
Age Range: 5-10

TheStoryteller

When The Storyteller turned up at my house I nearly set it aside for when my daughter is older. It's long and text dense, and I wasn't sure if she would appreciate it. But I figured I'd wait and see, and left it on the kitchen table for her. A couple of days later she asked me to read it to her, because her babysitter had already read it to her, and it was "A really good book." Long, yes. Mythic, vs. tied to ordinary suburban existence, yes. But The Storyteller is also "really good" and well able to hold a six-year-old's attention. I agree with her assessment.

The Storyteller is a nested tale of stories within stories about Morocco, magic, and the desert. It begins:

"Long, long ago, like a pearl around a grain of sand, the fertile Kingdom of Morocco formed near the edge of the great, dry Sahara. It had fountains of cool, delicious water to quench the dangerous third of the desert, and storytellers to bring the people together."

What right-minder lover of stories would not want to continue reading after that? What follows is a tale of a thirsty young boy looking for water during a drought. He finds an old man who tells him a story, the hearing of which fills the boy's bowl with water. But the story contains the seeds of previous stories, and the boy returns day after day, as the old man fills in the details, and magically fills his bowl with water. Then, when a danger approaches, the boy uses the power of story to help his people. 

Different colored fonts are used to distinguish visually between the different stories within stories. This is nice, but I didn't find it necessary - the book was not difficult to follow. There is certainly an old-fashioned, epic sort of tone. Like this:

"Many years ago, my great-great-grandmother's great-great-grandmother was a carpet weaver. Our village again had a terrible drought, and people had to travel far to find water.

One day, a very old woman walked into the weaver's home with a bundle wrapped in cloth."

Just as young readers will be swept away by the story, they'll also delight in Turk's lush illustrations, "rendered in water-soluble crayon, colored drawing pencils, inks, indigo, sugared green tea, a heat gun, and fire." They look like old parchments, with a mix of bold inks and more muted colors to help visually convey the layers of the stories. A page in which a carpet is woven looks like a carpet itself, complete with a collection of different geometric borders. Other pages have carpet-like borders, too. The Storyteller seems ancient, and yet timeless.

The Storyteller is a gorgeous and compelling picture book that would be welcome in any library serving elementary school children. While it's a bit dense for preschoolers, it is sure to captivate older kids, and their parents. Highly recommended. 

Publisher:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers (@SimonKids) 
Publication Date: June 28, 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).


Small Talk Books: Star Bright Books

Star Bright Books sent me two upcoming books from their Small Talk Books collection. These are picture books written by Ellen Mayer, an early literacy home visitor. They are unusual in that they seem to be written more for adults than for kids. They are sort of manuals (complete with instruction sections at the end of the books) for talking with preschoolers in a way that will enhance their vocabularies. 

RosasVeryBigJobThe first book is Rosa's Very Big Job, illustrated by Sarah Vonthron-Laver, about a little girl who decides to help her mother by putting away the laundry, and in the process engages in some fantasy play with Grandpa. There's definitely some preschool-friendly humor here, as Rosa is able to put away the (previously folded by Mama) clothes neatly, while the lazier Grandpa struggles. Rosa has to teach Grandpa how to keep a jacket from slipping off the hanger ("Zip it up").

The transition into fantasy mode (when the laundry basket becomes a boat) is seamless, though reality remains in the details (as when they fish for a striped sock, using a hangar for a fishing rod). Rosa is very cute, and demonstrates the classic drive of a preschooler to help Mama. It's a nice bonus that the family is brown-skinned, though no other multicultural details are included. It's also nice, in both books, to see grandparents included as day-to-day caregivers.  

CakeDayThe second book is Cake Day, illustrated by Estelle Corke, about a little boy who helps his grandmother make a cake, which turns out to be for his own birthday. There's a recipe at the end. The tasks undertaken by Grandma, vs. the ones delegated to the boy, are realistic (she measures, he pours, etc.). His sentences are quite short - I suspect that he's younger than Rosa, but Grandma expands on his statements, and explains things to him step-by-step.

The note for parents, grandparents, and caregivers at the end of the book, written by Dr. Betty Bardige, explains Grandma's efforts to build the boy's vocabulary and encourages caregivers to do the same thing. In a nice touch, Bardige notes that it doesn't matter what language you speak when you are talking with your child, just that you keep talking interactively. 

I'm not generally a fan of books that are written for some overt purpose like this. But I do think that there's a place for these particular books. I think that they would be a good fit for doctors' office waiting rooms, and for giveaways by early literacy programs like Reach Out and Read. They would make good new baby gifts for parents not aware of the importance of reading and talking with kids, particularly if handed to those parents by a pediatrician or other trusted adult. 

I did read these two Small Talk Books aloud to my six-year-old, and she liked them reasonably well. I don't think that we'll be re-reading them on a regular basis - they skew a bit young for her interest - but they do have a certain cozy charm. They also show an understanding of things that preschoolers are interested in. Rosa's Very Big Job and Cake Day are worth a look from libraries and literacy organizations. These two books will be published on July 31, 2016. There are two other books in the series that are already available in both English and Spanish board book editions. 

© 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).


6 Back-to-School #PictureBooks from @HarperChildrens

HarperCollins sent me a big box of back-to-school picture books, several of them featuring characters that we already enjoy. Here are some highlights:

Otter Goes to School by Sam Garton. When he learns from Otter Keeper what school is for, Otter decides to set up a school for his stuffed animal friends, who "weren't as clever as they could be." He dresses up as the teacher, and offers math, music, storytime, and lunch, Otter-style. Here's a bit that made me smile: 

"First it was time for math.
I wrote down all the numbers I knew.
No one could work out what to do after that.
So everyone just took turns holding the calculator." 

People who demonstrate proficiency in something (including the teacher himself) are awarded "lots of gold stars". But when one sad student is found not to be much good at anything, Otter needs help from Otter Keeper to figure out what to do. I thought this was the best of the Otter series so far, with a nice mix of humor and warmth. 

Pete the Cat's Got Class by James Dean.  In this new Pete the Cat book, Pete, who likes math, decides to help his friend Tom. Tom is rather math-phobic. Pete's idea for making math fun for Tom is to use cars (which Tom loves) for counting, addition, and subtraction practice.

Though a bit lesson-y, I do think that the idea of making math relevant to someone's particular interests is a good one. This book also features removable math flashcards, stickers, and a fold-out poster. My six year old is in heaven. And Dean's bright illustrations are enough to make any kid have a positive attitude about math. 

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled by Lynne Rae Perkins. This is a detailed picture book about a boy and his dog, and the learning that they do together. Basically, Lucky (the dog) wonders about things out in nature, observing and asking himself questions. He's then able to help Frank learn about things, too. Perkins uses this format to fill the book with interesting tidbits of and about knowledge. For instance, after Lucky wonders about skunks, the two use an experiment to learn what kind of bath will work to change the smell molecules. The reader learns about science, botany, astronomy, entymology, and more. 

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled is a picture book for older (six and up, I would say) and/or more patient kids. It is dense and sprinkled liberally with technical terms. But it's wonderful, a celebration of both friendship and scientific inquiry, full of outdoor adventures. This is a book that belongs in libraries and homes everywhere.

Rappy Goes to School by Dan Gutman and Tim Bowers is the sequel to Rappy the Raptor, about a young raptor who, after a bump on the head as an infant, only speaks in rap. In this installment, Rappy goes to school for the first time. His parents warn him not create a disruption with his rapping. However, when a big kid in his class makes fun of a boy who is clearly shy, Rappy steps in, offering rap as a distraction. Then, when rappy has trouble with spelling, the shy boy is able to help him. The bully gets his comeuppance, and Rappy concludes:

"Tomorrow I'll go back to school.
Learning stuff is really cool.
Now I know that in the end
all you need is one good friend."

So, ok, a bit lesson-y at the end. I think to some extent that's the nature of back to school books - they exist to show kids how to behave and not to be scared.  But I also think that kids about to start school will appreciate Rappy's joyous songs. Like the first book, Rappy Goes to School is not a book that can be appreciated when read silently to oneself. It's necessary to read it aloud, applying plenty of rhythm to the rapping.  I challenge you not to get this part stuck in your head (in a good way):

"I'm Rappy the Raptor
and I'd like to say
I may not talk in the usual way
I'm rappin' and snappin' all of the time.
I just can't help but talk in rhyme."

Ruby Rose: Off to School She Goes by Rob Sanders and Debbie Ridpath Ohi is about a little girl who lives to dance and her transition to a kindergarten class in which there is no time for dancing. Throughout the first day of school, Ruby Rose hip-hops and hula dances between activities. When her classmates line up after lunch, she gets them all line dancing. Her inability to sit still is frowned upon with increasing firmness throughout the day. But then an accident finds even the teacher dancing about. 

I always love Debbie Ridpath Ohi's illustrations, and this book is no exception. I suspect that Ohi is going to be the next illustrator whose pictures my daughter recognizes on sight. Ruby Rose's joyful movement comes across on every page. Her classmates are realistically multicultural and delightfully cheerful. And her wide-eyed mom, after receiving a surprise on the last page, is priceless.  

Ruby Rose: Off to School She Goes will please any kid who likes to dance. Kids who have difficulty sitting still, or fitting into the routines of school in general, will also relate to Ruby Rose's plight, and smile at her irrepressible spirit.

Winne & Waldorf: Disobedience School by Kati Hites is the sequel to Winnie & Waldorf, a book about a girl and the awkward dog who is her best friend. In this installment, Winnie decides that Waldorf has been behaving particularly poorly, and needs to go to school. She sets up Winnie's Disobedience School in her home, putting Waldorf through subjects like reading, addition, naptime, and art. But when the pair go outside for gym class, Waldorf's disobedience takes over and then (as in the first book) ends up saving the day. 

Hites' gentle illustrations lend humor to the book, and reinforce the strong bond between Winnie and Waldorf. During reading time, books scattered on the floor include: How To Tie Your Shoes by A. Shumaker. During art class, Waldorf wears a beret and a taped-on mustache, and works simultaneously with paint, crayons, and pencil (using mouth and paws). 

Like Winnie, kids about to start Kindergarten will enjoy this warm and quirky introduction to school activities. 

© 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

 


First Grade, Here I Come!: D.J. Steinberg + Tracy Bishop

Book: First Grade, Here I Come!
Author: D. J. Steinberg
Illustrator: Tracy Bishop
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-7

FirstGradeHereIComeFirst Grade, Here I Come! by D. J. Steinberg is a book of poems dedicated to experiences that kids are likely to have as they begin first grade, like visiting the library, waiting for snack time, going on a field trip, having pajama day, etc. I found the details early in the book to be fairly accurate regarding the difference that we're expecting as my daughter goes from kindergarten to first grade, like:

"Big-time backpacks on our backs,
skinny pencils, books in stacks,
desks to call our very own,
recess in the big-kid zone..."

Some of the other ideas could have been equally applicable to kindergarten or to higher grades, but of course there's going to be a range of experiences in every classroom. 

Steinberg includes nice touches of realistic humor throughout the book. For instance, the solution to a math problem of adding up different color candies is "ZERO, 'cause I ate all EIGHT!". A girl wears pajamas to school a week early for pajama day, to much embarrassment. The kids have their best field trip ever when the bus breaks down, and they end up hanging around and then getting ice cream at a mall. There's a poem about a kid who makes armpit noises. It's all quite kid-friendly. 

I thought that Tracy Bishop's illustrations, full of multi-cultural kids with huge, cartoonish smiles, were a bit cute for my own taste. But they certainly serve the book's purpose of making first grade activities seem accessible and non-threatening to younger kids. My favorite set of illustrations are the vignettes that illustrate the poem BFF (one picture per couplet):

"Monday, Kim's my BFF.
Tuesday, I'm through with her.

Wednesday, we'll never be friends again ever,
and sorry we ever were!

Thursday, we kind of forget why we're mad
and how we started this war.

Friday, Kim's my BFF--
my best friend forever once more."

The girls' varying moods are conveyed through posture and facial expressions, and they aren't (for once) smiling in every image. 

First Grade, Here I Come! is a solid addition to the ranks of books about starting school. I like that it covers activities throughout the year, rather than being only about overcoming fears on the first day (as are many in this niche). I also like the use of poetry to explore first grade events and activities, the kid-friendly humor, and the range of racial backgrounds conveyed by the illustrations. Libraries serving rising first graders will want to give this one a look. 

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: June 28, 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).


It Came in the Mail: Ben Clanton

Book: It Came in the Mail
Author: Ben Clanton
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

ItCameintheMailIt Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton is about a boy named Liam who desperately wants to receive some mail. One day, he write a letter to his mailbox, asking to get something in the mail. Something big. And lo and behold! A dragon comes out of the mailbox. After that, Liam gets a bit greedy, and asks for more and more stuff. Only when things get out of control does he find a better solution. Not to worry, though. He keeps the rather adorable dragon.

Ben Clanton displays a nice, quirky humor in It Came in the Mail. My favorite page is this one:

"But then, on a day much like any other,
an idea struck Liam.

BONK!"

The picture shows a winged lightbulb bonking Liam on the head, invisible to his nearby friend (who is busy thinking about a horse). 

The other illustrations are entertaining, too. When Liam is "met by a blast of fire" on the arrival of the dragon, the illustration is shown on the back of an envelope with the corner burned off. When the mailbox is creating stuff, there are lots of satisfying sound effects (KRINK, TOOT!, etc.) as well as a kind of visual, colorful confetti strewn across the page. Liam is a wide-eyed, freckle-faced every-kid with tousled hair. His letter to the mailbox are shown on lined paper, in kid-style print, with occasional cross-outs. They reminded me of my own daughter's letters to the Tooth Fairy. 

Liam is a bit inconsiderate to his friend, Jamel, and to his dragon. But he grows over the course of the book, and the ending is quite satisfying. Though there's a hint of messages about friendship and greed, It Came in the Mail is primarily pure, kid-friendly fun. Libraries will definitely want to give this one a look. I think it would be excellent for library or classroom storytimes. Recommended!

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@SimonKids) 
Publication Date: June 21, 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).


Can I Tell You a Secret? by Anna Kang & Christopher Weyant

Book: Can I Tell You a Secret?
Author: Anna Kang
Illustrator: Christopher Weyant
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

CanITellYouASecretMonty the frog has an embarrassing secret, one that he wants to share with the reader in Can I Tell You a Secret? Despite the fact that he's, well, a frog, Monty is afraid of the water. He's spent his childhood forging doctor's notes, ducking raindrops, and avoiding the water in any way he can. He seeks the young reader's advice, and reluctantly, with some false starts, agrees to share his terrible secret with his parents. Who, of course, know already. Monty takes his new friend the reader along as he sets out to learn to swim.   

I loved Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant's earlier collaboration: You Are Not Small, which won the 2015 Geisel Award. Like that one, Can I Tell You a Secret? is a book that simply begs to be read aloud. Like this:

"I have a secret.

Can you keep a secret?
You sure?
Because I don't want anyone else to know.

Do you promise

I challenge any reader not to read that "promise" like a scared four-year-old. 

Weyant's deceptively simple illustrations are perfect, too. We go in for a close-up of Monty's face when he's talking intently to the reader. Any kid who has ever been scared of anything will relate to Monty's anxious expression, and to the sheepish grin he uses when he chicken's out on his confession. His dejected appearance when he confesses (in a tiny font that calls for a tiny read-aloud voice) "I'm afraid of the water" will make any reader ache for him. Just as his simple joy at the end of the book will leave all readers happy.

Can I Tell You a Secret is a delightful picture book, perfect for the three to six-year-old set. It is certainly one that libraries and preschools will want to stock. It should have near-universal appeal for younger kids and their parents. It has plenty of repetition, and would also work as an early reader for slightly older kids. Highly recommended all around!

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: May 31, 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).


Chicken in Space: Adam Lehrhaupt and Shahar Kober

Book: Chicken in Space
Author: Adam Lehrhaupt
Illustrator: Shahar Kober
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Chicken in Space is a new picture book about a chicken who is not like the other chickens. Zoey dreams of bigger things, and makes plans accordingly. Her specific dream in this story (one senses that there could be more) is to ravel to outer space. She has a loyal sidekick, a pie-obsessed pig named Sam, and she tries to enlist other animals to accompany she and Sam on their quest. But in the end, Zoey and Sam venture alone into the skies for a great adventure. 

The personalities of the animals come through clearly from Adam Lehrhaupt's dialog-heavy text, particularly for Zoey and Sam. Like this (0ver 3 pages):

"Clara," said Zoey, "come to space with us."

"You don't have a ship," said Clara. "You can't go to space without a ship."

"Not a problem!" said Zoey. "An opportunity!"

"Zoey always finds a way," said Sam.

"Look, Sam! I found a ship!" said Zoey.

"Of course you did," said Sam.  

Of course Shahar Kober's illustrations help to bring the characters to life, too. Zoey is priceless, with her aviator's hat. Sam wears a cute little hat, too, while an apparently timid mouse friend has round wire-rimmed glasses. Later page spreads use tilting perspectives and large colorful fonts to convey particularly dramatic moments. 

Chicken in Space celebrates the power of imagination and the importance of friendship, both in a humorous, kid-friendly way. There is just the right amount of goofiness (and balloons) to keep things fun. Kids will gobble it up, I think, and hope for Zoey and Sam to have other adventures. 

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: May 17, 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).


Sophie's Squash Go To School: Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf

Book: Sophie's Squash Go To School
Author: Pat Zietlow Miller
Illustrator: Anne Wilsdorf
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

Sophie's Squash is one of my all-time favorite picture books (see my review). So naturally I was thrilled to learn that a sequel would be forthcoming. Sophie's Squash Go To School picks up not long after the end of Sophie's Squash. Readers of the first book will not be surprised to find that when she starts school for the first time, Sophie takes her two best friends, Bonnie and Baxter (the squash children of Bernice). Sophie is not keen on branching out to make any new friends, despite the best efforts of a boy named Steven Green. Eventually, however, the determined Steven is able to break through Sophie's reserve, and she learns that having common interests with someone really can be a basis for friendship.

Sophie's stubborn, loyal personality is, happily, largely unchanged from the first book. Like this:

"Sophie's parents were no help at all.

"Steven sounds adorable," said her mother. "And it's good to have friends."

"Especially human ones," added her father.

Sophie hugged Bonnie and Baxter tightly. "I have all the friends I need."

I just love how determinedly misanthropic she is. When she does start to come around to the other kids, it happens s-l-o-w-l-y. Like this:

"So when Liam showed everyone how do do his loose-tooth dance, Sophie considered joining in.

When Roshni spilled her milk, Sophie almost shared her napkin.

And when Noreen told her favorite banana joke, Sophie laughed--inside her head." 

The latter is accompanied by a picture of Sophie glancing over at the other kids, with the first smile the reader has seen yet on her grouchy face. There's no question that illustrator Anne Wilsdorf understands Sophie. 

My only minor quibble about this book was that I found Steven's persistence in becoming friends with Sophie a bit implausible. But an image of Steven sitting by himself, with only his stuffed frog, at the base of a tree while the other kids play suggests his need to find a single kindred spirit, rather than being part of the larger crowd. The other kids are clearly wilder and more extroverted. So I'm willing to give Steven a pass. 

Sophie's Squash Go To School is a long-ish picture book, but I think that the extra length is needed to give Sophie sufficient room for plausible growth. The nice thing about this book is that it works as a sequel for fans of Sophie's Squash and as a transition to kindergarten / learning to make friends book. I don't think that it quite stands alone - you really have to understand where Bonnie and Baxter came from to fully appreciate Sophie's Squash Go To School. But the two books together would make a great gift for a child starting pre-k or kindergarten. And the sequel is certainly not to be missed by Sophie's many fans. Recommended!

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Source of Book: Advance 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).