524 posts categorized "Picture Books" Feed

Valensteins: Ethan Long

Book: Valensteins
Author: Ethan Long
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-6

ValensteinsValensteins is a sequel to Ethan Long's Fright Club, featuring a not-so-scary group of young creatures (vampire, ghost, mummy, bunny, butterfly, etc) who hang out in a cool club house. In this installment, the other creatures take note of Fran K. Stein, who is cutting out a pink paper heart. They mis-identify is as various things like a rounded bat or a big pink nose. They are baffled and revolted when Bunny tells them what it is, and why you would give someone a heart for Valentine's Day. As for Fran, he quietly goes about his own business, goes outside, and finds the person he had in mind all along. The overtly sappy message about the true meaning of love is leavened by the response of the majority of the Fright Club members, who think that Fran and his lady friend are just "Weirdos". 

Valentsteins is humorous through and through, full if entertaining details. For instance, when the creatures don't know what "LOVE" is, Vlad looks it up in a dictionary. When Bunny speaks of a fluttering like butterflies, the actual butterfly says "Don't drag ME into this." When Ghost says that love "is making my skin crawl" the butterfly points out "Ummm, you don't have any skin." And the the universal horror when Bunny says that people in love sometimes "KISS ON THE LIPS!!" is a delight to behold, particularly set against Bunny's clear delight in the concept.

 Long (or the book's producers) uses large fonts for emphasis when needed ("EEEEWWW!" for example), while various text bubbles give the book an early graphic-novel type feel. This is a book to read aloud to an individual or a classroom. Valenstines is pure fun, perfect for the sensibilities of preschoolers and kindergartners who are utterly grossed out by love and kissing (or at least who pretend to be). Recommended!

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's (@BloomsburyKids)
Publication Date: December 19, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).


Groundhug Day: Anne Marie Pace & Christopher Denise

Book: Groundhug Day
Author: Anne Marie Pace
Illustrator: Christopher Denise
Pages: 48
Age Range: 4-8

GroundhugDayGroundhug Day, by Anne Marie Pace and Christopher Denise, is a charming story about holidays and friendship. It's February 1st, and Moose, with the help of his friends Bunny, Porcupine, and Squirrel, is planning a Valentine's Day party. The animals want their friend Groundhog to be able to attend. They worry, however, that he will see his shadow in the morning and go back inside for six more weeks. As they fight over various schemes for keeping Groundhog from seeing his shadow, they end up too late. But they nonetheless make a valiant effort to convince Groundhog to stay aboveground and to learn not to be afraid of shadows. Although things don't turn out quite the way the animals wanted, they do end up with groundhugs all around, and the chance to celebrate other holidays going forward. 

The bickering between the four well-intentioned friends follows a pattern throughout the book, sure to be reassuring to young listeners. Groundhug Day strikes me as more of a book to be read aloud to a child than for the child to read himself, with words like "silhouette" and "thundered". It would be fun for a parent or librarian to read aloud, doing distinct voices for the various animals. Here's a snippet to show the different voices:

""But you're not afraid of shadows
anymore," Moose protested.
"Now you don't have to miss my
Valentine's Day party."

"I may not be afraid,"
Groundhog said,
"but it is cold up here."

"But there aren't any balloons in your hole," said Squirrel.
"Or Valentine cards!" said Bunny.
"Or Valentine hugs!" said Porcupine pointedly."

Little snicker at: "Porcupine said pointedly." One can see that Anne Marie Pace (author of the Vampirina books) has put care into every work. I also like that she doesn't overly spell out details about Groundhog Day or the other holidays. She lets the details flow from the text, or from whatever auldt is reading the book aloud to young listeners.

Christopher Denise's digitally created illustrations lend both warmth and humor to the story. Each animal's personality comes through via details of their representation, with the paternalistic Moose wearing a sweater and glasses, and Porcupine thoroughly pouting when he laments the lack of hugs. When Groundhog emerges from his den in a St. Patrick's Day outfit near the end of the book, he's practically a different animal from the one who wasn't really ready to face the winter in early February. 

Groundhug Day is a fun addition to the ranks of holiday picture books - covering Groundhog Day, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and even Easter. It would be a nice selection for any library serving preschoolers. My seven-year-old read it on her own and pronounced it a book that I had to write about. And so I have. Recommended!

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (@DisneyHyperion)
Publication Date: December 5, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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 Little Girl Who Didn't Want to Go to Bed: Dave Engledow

Book: The Little Girl Who Didn't Want to Go to Bed
Author: David Engledow
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

LittleGirlDidntWantThe Little Girl Who Didn't Want to Go to Bed is the first picture book by photographer David Engledow. The story itself is pretty straightforward picture book fare: little girl doesn't want to go to sleep because she feels like she is missing something. She ends up staying up all night, and is so tired the next day that she misses the real fun that she could have had. And so she decides that she will sleep at night after all.

What makes the book much more than that storyline, however, are Engledow's over-the-top illustrations, digitally manipulated photographs full of kid- and parent-friendly details. These are juxtaposed against text that is generally much more ordinary. For example: 

"Every night, she'd make up excuse after excuse...

"Just one more story. PLEEEEEEEEEASE?""

We see a picture of the little girl perched atop a teetering stack of picture books, surrounded by other stacks, and clutching a copy of "War and Peace." Small alphabet blocks spell out "ONE MORE STORY."

The blocks, as well as the girl's pink stuffed animal (in matching pajamas to her own) are in many of the illustrations, with the blocks spelling out key phrases. Then there are the parents. 

"Even after the lights were out, the little girl would lie awake imagining all the fun that must have been going on without her."

Here we see the parents, dressed up in fancy clothes, mom wearing a pink and white tiara, doing fun things like piñata, jigsaw puzzles, and bobbing for apples. At the very end of the book, when the girl is finally asleep in her own bed, there's a tiny hint that maybe that is the sort of thing the parents do.

But my favorite illustration is one where the girl sneaks out of her room at night and hides in the kitchen trash, banana peel on her head, apple in her mouth. The ones where she is tired and does things like put her arms through her pants are also pretty cute.

My seven year old thought that this book was hilarious. As for me, I thought at first that it would be a bit too gimmicky for me. But I have to say that The Little Girl Who Didn't Want to Go to Bed won me over through a combination of entertaining plot and humorous details. This would make a fun baby shower gift, in that it speaks as much to parents as to kids. It's definitely worth a look. Recommended. 

Publisher: HarperCollins  (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).


Red Again: Barbara Lehman

Book: Red Again
Author: Barbara Lehman
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-7

RedAgainRed Again is a new wordless picture book by Barbara Lehman. Like her other books (see my reviews of Rainstorm and Trainstop), Red Again offers quirky delights that celebrate friendship and make kids think. In Red Again, a boy on a bike (shown on the cover) finds a red book. When he takes it home and reads it, he discovers that the book is about a boy in a boat who also finds a red book. As the first boy reads his book, he see images of the boy in the book seeing images of him. So we have boy 1 looking at a picture of boy 2 looking at a picture of boy 1 looking at a picture of boy 2, and so on. It's fascinating and brilliant. As Red Again progresses, the boys find a way to meet in person, and the red book, cast aside, is found by a girl. Lehman doesn't have to show us what will happen next. 

I would have recognized the illustrations as Lehman's work anywhere. The first boy lives in a house in a city, along the waterfront. He travels up regular stairs, circular stairs, and a ladder to get to a glass cupola, where he reads his book (and from where he can eventually spot the boy in the boat). His setting reminded me very much of the settings in Rainstorm. It's not enough for Lehman to make the basic story intriguing, she also adds cool details like a glass cupola, and a telescope. The only red to be seen in most of the illustrations is the book itself, small compared to city- and seascapes, but visible throughout. 

As an added bonus, the first boy is African-American. The second boy is white, and from a much more rural environment. But of course no cosmetic differences matter once these two meet under such wondrous circumstances. 

Barbara Lehman's work just keeps getting better. Red Again is fabulous, and a book that I expect to keep for the long term. It will make kids think and make them smile. Highly recommended!

Publisher:  HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).


Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever! (Probably): Julie Falatko & Tim Miller

Book: Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever! (Probably)
Author: Julie Falatko
Illustrator: Tim Miller
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

SnappsyAndFriendSnappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever! (Probably), written by Julie Falatko and illustrated by Tim Miller, is the sequel to Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book). This installment is narrated by a Bert, a chicken who has declared himself to be Snappsy's best friend. Snappsy, who clearly values his alone time, looks askance at Bert. The dialog and illustrations reveal the disconnect between what Bert wants to be true and what actually is true. Like this:

"(Narrator:) We met at a party. And now we do everything together. 

(Dialog bubble from Snappsy:) Actually I'm going into town. To run errands. By myself!"

When Bert plans a "Best Friends Sleepover", Snappsy says: "I prefer quiet evenings. Alone." 

Bert persists through a shopping expedition, party planning, and best friend t-shirts, despite Snappsy's attempts at polite deterrence. Eventually, he drives Snappsy to lash out and kick Bert out of the house: ("All the other guests went home WEEKS AGO. And you're still here.")

But when Snappsy gets his quiet alone time back, he discovers that life without Bert is a bit TOO quiet. 

Personally, I found the ending of this book unrealistic. I would have been THRILLED to get rid of Bert, and doubt that I would have missed him at all. But, you know, it's a children's book, and it is quite entertaining throughout. My daughter found the very end of the book confusing - I had to go in and explain it to her. I think that the disconnect between what Bert has to say as the narrator and what is actually happening requires a bit of a leap in understanding. I think that Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever! (Probably) is more suited to elementary than preschool readers, though the vocabulary is not particularly advanced. 

Tim Miller's brush and ink and "computer hocus-pocus" illustrations are in graphic novel format, with colorful panels and lots of text bubbles (with occasional narrator-generated text shown above the panels). This format would make the book work well as an early reader, though kids might need some explanation of the concept of the unreliable narrator. I love how grouchy and/or baffled Snappsy looks for most of the book, and the visual fun of the chaos wrought by Bert. 

Fans of the first book about Snappsy will certainly want to snap this one up (sorry!). It would make a good introduction to the concept of friends having different needs regarding alone time. As an introvert, I especially related to Snappsy, myself, but I think that many kids will love Bert. Recommended, and an especially good fit for elementary school classroom libraries. 

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).


Literacy Milestone: Turning to Favorite Picture Books for Comfort

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other night my overtired seven-year-old had a bit of a meltdown. It was bedtime, and she was in the awkward position of being angry with me, but also needing me for comfort, because I was the only one home. She was stiff, and responding to me only with nods instead of words. So I asked her if she wanted me to read. Nod. I gestured to the stack of graphic novels next to her bed, and asked: "One of these? Or a picture book?" She lifted her chin towards the shelves of picture books. Then she finally spoke.

"I want Big Mean Mike." 

BigMeanMikeAlrighty then. After a bit of hunting, I found Big Mean Mike (by Michelle Knudsen), and also ran across Donut Chef (by Bob Staake) along the way. We snuggled down to read. It only took a couple of pages for her to start pointing out details of Big Mean Mike, which we have read many, many times. She was soon cooing over the cuteness of the bunnies, and commenting on the talent of illustrator Scott Magoon. She took over some of the reading late in the book, and was pretty much back to her usual self by the time we moved on to Donut Chef (which we know more or less by heart).  By the time we finished Donut Chef, she was ready to go to sleep. 

DonutChefI suppose this isn't really a milestone, because it isn't the first time that my daughter has turned to books for comfort. But it stood out to me that she knew that when she was sad, certain favorite picture books would do the trick. And of course she was correct. May she continue to find reading her old favorites with me a comfort for a long time to come. 

Thanks for reading!

© 2017 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


Tea with Oliver: Mika Song

Book: Tea with Oliver
Author: Mika Song
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

TeaWithOliverTea with Oliver by Mika Song is a satisfying story about friendship (and tea), aimed at preschoolers. Oliver, a cat, "talks to himself a lot." He's a bit lonely, and wishes that someone would have tea with him. Philbert, a mouse, lives beneath Oliver's couch. Philbert would LOVE to have tea with Oliver, but is too "too shy to come out from under the couch." Philbert attempts to get Oliver's attention via a series of notes, but lightly comic misunderstandings intervene (as when Oliver mistakes one of the notes for a handkerchief and uses it to blow his nose). Oliver's cousin turns up and hosts a party in Oliver's house, but the rowdy crowd is too busy dancing for tea, and breaks the teacups. Of course things turn out ok in the end.

Tea with Oliver is a celebration of one-on-one friendship and of quiet pastimes in general. Neither Oliver nor Philbert enjoys the big party (what mouse would enjoy a room full of rowdy cats?). But they are both quite happy at the end of the book to be drinking a cup of tea together. 

I was a bit concerned on reading this with my daughter that the book's focus on the joys of a cup of tea might not resonate with a seven-year-old, tea-drinking being a fairly adult pastime. But of course I forgot the wide appeal of the tea party. Imagine, if you will, the joy of having a tea party with a friendly little mouse in a pink shirt. Tea with Oliver reminded me a bit of A Visitor for Bear (by Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton), which also ends with a mouse and another animal having a quiet cup of tea together, but aimed at a slightly younger audience. 

Song's minimalist illustrations are direct and readily accessible for preschoolers. The text consists mainly of dialog, coupled with a minimum of straightforward sentences like: "So Philbert decides to march right up and hand Oliver the letter." This makes Tea with Oliver a quick, read, perfect for bedtime or breakfast. Tea with Oliver is a warm, friendly tale to which my daughter and I both gave two thumbs up. Recommended, and a great fit for preschool storytime. 

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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 Pomegranate Witch: Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler

Book: The Pomegranate Witch
Author: Denise Doyen
Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler
Pages: 40
Age Range: 5-10

PomegranateWitchI wasn't sure what to make of The Pomegranate Witch when I first saw it. It's a slightly undersized picture book, with a dark, old-fashioned-looking cover. Inside the story has an advanced vocabulary and is written entirely in poetry (real poetry, not just upbeat rhymes). But after reading The Pomegranate Witch aloud to my daughter, I've concluded that it is fabulous.

The Pomegranate Witch is about a creepy farmhouse on the outskirts of a small town. In the yard of the farmhouse is an enormous pomegranate tree. The local children covet the fruit of this tree. However, the tree is protected by the Pomegranate Witch. We never see her clearly, but we see her actions as she battles the local children in an effort to guard her fruit. It's unclear for a time whether the witch is real or a sort of group hallucination, but someone blasts the children with water cannons. The mood lightens late in the book, around Halloween night. There's an ambiguity to the ending, though my seven-year-old has not doubts about her interpretation. The ending and the quality of the poetry both make The Pomegranate Witch special. 

Here's an example of Denise Doyen's writing:

"And before its sagging porch, amid a weedy foxtail sea,
Found the scary, legendary, haunted pomegranate tree.

The gnarled tree loomed high and wide; its branches scraped the ground.
Beneath there was a fort, of sorts, with leafed walls all around.
Its unpruned limbs were jungle-like, dirt ripplesnaked with roots,
But glorious were the big, red, round, ripe pomegranate fruits."

Don't you love the word choices? (Amid. Ripplesnaked. Gnarled.) I also like the adjective repetition in the last line of each stanza. You wouldn't write "big, red, round, ripe pomegranate fruit" in a regular sentence. But it works here. Last there's this:

"Some clever gangster-pranksters dug a foxhole in the field.
When they peered below the leaves? Witchy work boots were revealed!
Next, they scavenged broken racquets, rusty rakes, a dead tree limb;
What better tools to yank a pomegranate from its stem?"

The rhyme between limb and stem does work, if you read it aloud. It made me stop and give a little nod. The previous page also has a reference to how "forbidden fruit is tempting." Nice subtle biblical reference. This is clearly a book to reward repeated reads. The story itself is suspenseful (Is the witch real? Will the kids get any fruit?), atmospheric, and occasionally humorous. 

Eliza Wheeler's illustrations add to the ambiguity surrounding the witch, shown lurking beneath the tree, in shadow, with her broom most visible. They also lend humor, particularly when the Pomegranate Gang is formed, wielding weapons such as rakes and tennis racquets. There's a timeless quality to the images, with girls in dresses and boys in suspenders and bow ties, but the Gang also displays diversity in ethnicities and sizes. Nothing is shown as red in the somewhat muted illustrations, except for the glowing red pomegranates. 

Thought-provoking, surprising, entertaining, and gorgeously written and illustrated. The Pomegranate Witch is not to be missed. The advanced vocabulary makes it more of a book for elementary schoolers than preschool kids. It would make a lengthy but wonderful classroom read-aloud for Halloween. Here in my house, the Pomegranate Witch is going on our "keep" shelf. Highly recommended! 

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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's Not Jack and the Beanstalk: Josh Funk and Edwardian Taylor

Book: It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

ItsNotJackIt's Not Jack and the Beanstalk, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Edwardian Taylor, is a meta retelling of the classic story, in which young Jack rebels against the narrator. He doesn't want to sell the cow, who he loves. He wants to eat the beans instead of throwing them out of the window. He questions the rhyming choices of the giant. And by the end of the book, well, let's just say that things don't turn out quite the way the narrator was expecting. But it's all good fun, and everyone is happy in the end. 

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk is told with a mix of dialog bubbles and narration. The narrator basically interacts directly with Jack, as well as with the giant. The narrator's words are shown in a gothic font, while the dialog bubbles use different colors, to help identify the respective speakers. This is quite clear visually, but does require the use of voices (or other attribution) when reading aloud. Here's a snippet, where I've added attributions:

"(Narrator:) When Jack arrived at the
top of the beanstalk, he
found himself in front of
a humongous house.

(Jack:) "I'll bet a giant lives there."

(Narrator:) Jack entered the house.

(Jack:) "Are you sure about that?"

(Narrator:) Yes! Jack definitely entered the house.

(Narrator:) Everything inside the house 
was tremendously large.

(Jack:) "Spoiler alert: 
A giant lives
here. Can I 
go home
now?"

(Narrator:) Suddenly, Jack heard a booming voice--

(Giant:) "FEE-FI-FO-FUM,
I SMELL THE 
BLOOD OF AN 
ENGLISHMAN."

(Jack:) "Umm, that 
doesn't even
rhyme. How about:
Fee-fi-fo-fum,
I can see the 
giant's bum?""

You get the idea. As the book progresses, Jack and the giant become less and less cooperative, and the narrator becomes more and more cranky. This is shown using bold, oversize text, with plenty of exclamation marks. I especially enjoyed when Jack pointed out an inconsistency in the narrator's instructions. How can he use his ax to chop down the beanstalk when we're already established that Jack has no possessions. There are also notes of modern humor, like the fact that the giant is a vegan (and thus unlikely to eat Jack). There's even a cameo appearance from Cinderella. 

Edwardian Taylor's digitally rendered illustrations feature a wide-eyed, expressive-faced Jack and a gold-toothed giant with an epic beard. The ending includes a delightful range of fairy tale characters, including an unhappy Pinocchio and a cheerful Goldilocks eating dinner with three three bears. A note on the back cover urges kids to look for the gingerbread man, the three blind mice and other fairy tale friends hidden throughout the book, suggesting good cause for a re-read. 

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk is an introduction for early elementary school kids to both meta-fiction and fractured fairy tales, all in a disarming and engaging package. The narrator's over-the-top responses are especially fun to read aloud. It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk is a joyful story, and would be a fun addition to any library or classroom serving preschoolers. We will certainly be reading it again in my house. Recommended!

Publisher: Two Lions (@AmazonPub)
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).


Bizzy Mizz Lizzie: David Shannon

Book: Bizzy Mizz Lizzie
Author: David Shannon
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

BizzyMizzLizzieBizzy Mizz Lizzie is about a little bee who tries to do everything: music lessons, art lessons, dance lessons, Honey Scouts, and so on. Lizzie's goal is to be so successful that she is able to meet the Queen Bee, and to tell the Queen that she is "the best bee I can be." Lizzie naturally doesn't listen to her best friend, Lazy Mizz Daizy. Daizy spends most of her time lying around in the garden, reading and dreaming, and listening to the stories of "a very nice old lady." When Lizzie has a chance to meet the Queen by participating in a spelling contest, she pushes herself too hard, and finally learns "to stop and smell the flowers." 

The resolution of Bizzy Mizz Lizzie is, of course, completely predictable, and the message is overt. These things are normally a turn-off for me, but I liked Bizzy Mizz Lizzie anyway. David Shannon fills it with lots of fun, bee-centric details, and uses lots of "z's" in the text. This makes it a fun book to read-aloud. Like this:

"The next day the entire colony was at the Spelling Contest. Everyone buzzed as loud as they could when the Queen arrived. Newzy Suzie, Zach, Zack Pat-on-the-Back, and Lizzie battled through round after round. But then Suzie forgot a "z" in "razzmatazz," and "Zach Zack was fooled by "bamboozle." All Lizzie had to do was spell "quizzical" and she would win!"

And although I'm not a big fan of the illustrations in Shannon's David books, I did quite enjoy the images in Bizzie Mizz Lizzie. His illustration style is somehow suited to bees. Lizzie has bouncy ponytails, while Daizy is shown contented and a bit scruffy. There are lots of fun details, like Lizzie carrying a stack of "Junior Honey Scout" treats, towering high above her head, with names like "Honey Pies" and "Swarms". I also had a fair bit of sympathy for Lizzie's tired mother, who car-pools various groups of young bees around on her large back, with a less-than-contented expression. 

The bottom line is that the message about cutting back a bit on structured activities, and taking time to enjoy life, is one that many kids today could benefit from hearing. The fact that it is delivered in a buzzy, humorous, read-aloud-friendly package makes Bizzy Mizz Lizzie a winner. Recommended, and an excellent pick for early elementary school classrooms and libraries. 

Publisher: Blue Sky Press (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).


Book or Bell: Chris Barton and Ashley Spires

Book: Book or Bell
Author: Chris Barton
Illustrator: Ashley Spires
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

BookOrBellBook or Bell has a premise that teachers and librarian will be unable to resist. Written by Chris Barton (The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch) and illustrated by Ashley Spires (The Most Magnificent Thing), Book or Bell is about a boy named Henry who finds "the most awesome book about a bike." Henry is so enthralled in his new book that he starts ignoring the bell at school, staying put at his desk reading instead of going to recess, lunch, etc. This rebellion causes much consternation for his teacher, the school principal, the mayor, the governor, and a visiting senator. The authority figures propose a succession of bigger, louder bells. But in the end, it's Henry's teacher who finds a compromise solution. 

I of course appreciated the premise of this book. Who doesn't like a kid who can't put his book down, and doesn't particularly care what's happening around him? With bonus points for the kid being a brown-skinned boy. Chris Barton's text is over-the-top and read-aloud-friendly. Like this:

"The school was not prepared for anyone to just stay put.
By not springing up with the ringing of the bell, Henry set of a 
chain reaction unlike anything they'd ever seen.

There was an empty space where Henry's tray would have been.

The food that would have gone on Henry's tray went--
SPLOT! -- onto the floor.

The shoe that stepped on Henry's
food went SCHWOOP!"

The various bells also have loud sound effects, and dramatic impacts on the other students, and are sure to make kids laugh. 

I have to confess, though, that I didn't really understand the ending. The teacher basically lures Henry out of his house on Saturday with the gentle "DING! DING!" of a bicycle bell, and the kids and adults all end up playing outside, with Henry reading under a tree. My seven-year-old took the ending in stride, but I didn't quite get the point. But maybe this is just a deficiency of understanding on my part.

It's a cheerful ending, with kids and grownups engaged in a mix of reading and more active pastimes. I certainly like that the book celebrates both a child reading and a child sticking to his guns to do what he wants to do. I like that his teacher seemed to have sympathy for him, even as the other adults were striving for control. I also like the cheerfulness of Spires' illustrations, particularly a madcap scene in which basketballs bounce all over the street, making "a little extra work for the crossing guard." 

Book or Bell is an over-the-top portrayal of the way that a book can make a person want to escape from the rest of the world, and they way that the rest of the world may object, loudly. It's fun to read aloud, with humorous names and plenty of sound effects, and has joyful, multicultural illustrations. I think that librarians and teachers will find it impossible to resist. 

Publisher: Bloomsbury (@BloomsburyKids)
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).


Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy: Laurel Snyder + Emily Hughes

Book: Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy
Author: Laurel Snyder
Illustrator: Emily Hughes
Pages: 48
Age Range: 4-8 

CharlieMouseGrumpyCharlie & Mouse & Grumpy is the sequel to Charlie & Mouse, written by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Emily Hughes. Both books are full-color illustrated early readers consisting of four chapters. There is a fair bit of text on each page, but the text is wide-spaced and dialog-heavy, keeping it accessible to younger readers. 

Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy is a fun, kid-friendly read. In this installment, brothers Charlie and Mouse are excited to welcome houseguest Grumpy (apparently their grandfather). Their adventures with Grumpy are quite ordinary. He checks in on how they are, and how they are growing. They "pounce" on him when he's napping. He babysits one evening, and they eat pizza and build a blanket fort together. And when he leaves at the end of his visit, there are sad goodbyes (though lightened with humor). 

When Grumpy first arrives, he pronounces older brother Charlie "big", to which Charlie agrees. Younger brother Mouse, however, declares himself to be getting "medium." I especially liked this bit:

"When you are medium," said Mouse,
"you can read some books. But also, people
read books to you."
"What else?" asked Grumpy.
Mouse thought again.
"When you are medium, you can swim.
But your mom sits on the steps and watches.
Just in case."
"Ahh," said Grumpy. "It sounds very nice
to be medium."
"It is," said Mouse. 

There's a little picture of Mouse swimming, with Mom in the background, feet in the water, book on her lap, waving. There's also a picture of Dad reading to Mouse, while Charlie looks over Mouse's shoulder. Which pleased me, because I would have thought that people would still read to Charlie, even if he can read on his own. The blanket fort scenes also feature delightful illustrations. Charlie and Mouse have spiky hair and big eyes and happy smiles in the presence of Grumpy. 

Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy captures the affection between grandparent and grandchildren, and the excitement of having a houseguest. The differences between bigger and smaller brother are there (with Mouse falling asleep in the fort), as is everyone's sadness on saying goodbye. I think that this book hits perfectly on the interests of five year olds. Highly recommended, and a lovely addition to any early reader collection. 

Publisher:  Chronicle Kids (@ChronicleKids)
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).