517 posts categorized "Picture Books" Feed

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).


Pigeon P.I.: Meg McLaren

Book: Pigeon P.I.
Author: Meg McLaren
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-7

PigeonPIPigeon P.I. by Meg McLaren is a hardboiled picture book mystery in which the characters are all birds. Private Investigator Murray MacMurray, a pigeon, is taking things easy following the departure of his partner. But then a little yellow canary shows up, trying to get Murray interested in the disappearance of a number of birds (and the canary's own near-capture). The jaded Murray rebuffs "the kid", but when he later learns that the canary is missing, he is on the case. 

Pigeon P.I. is filled with old time P.I. novel tropes, from Murray's fedora to his gruff attitude to the thief's hideout being "the Red Herring Bar and Grill." There are phrases like "it looked like my wings were clipped for good" and "sticking your beak where it doesn't belong" that extend the noir style to the bird community. All of this offers tremendous fun for me, a long-time fan of P.I. stories.

But I think that the Pigeon P.I. will work for young kids, too, even if they are less versed in noir. The end pages feature a handy "Beginner's Guide to Private Investigation", from different types of detecting hats to a ranking of different snacks for stakeouts to a series of general tips. These are illustrated with humorous images of the little canary asking things like "Am I a clue?" The interior illustrations are also full of detail to reward close reading, from old newspaper articles on the wall of Murray's hideout to descriptions of missing birds on milk cartons. There's a fun bit in which the police are on a big case that seems to involve nothing more than eating donuts (which are quite large relative to the birds, adding to the visual humor). 

There are little jokes. Like this:

"Have you seen this canary? We suspect she has been bird-napped by a cream ring." (says an officious police bird)

"A crime ring, Sarge." (adds a smaller assistant police bird)

In short, Pigeon P.I. is total kid-friendly (and adult-friendly) fun, and a perfect introduction to the old-style private eye genre. This would be a great book for kids to read prior to launching into the various chapter book mystery series (A to Z Mysteries, etc.). Highly recommended, and sure to become a family favorite in my house. 

Publisher: Clarion Books (@HMHKids)
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).


Big Sister, Little Monster: Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum & Edwin Fotheringham

Book: Big Sister, Little Monster
Author: Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum
Illustrator: Edwin Fotheringham
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

BigSisterLittleMonsterBig Sister, Little Monster, written by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham is the latest in a long line of picture books about rivalries and loyalties between siblings, especially sisters. In this instance, big sister Lucy considers her messy, pesky, attention-seeking little sister Mia to be a monster. But when Mia makes herself scarce, Lucy eventually misses her. She finds her sister playing merrily in a hidden world behind a strange door, a world populated by colorful monsters. The monsters have no interest in relinquishing kindred spirit Mia, until big sister Lucy puts her foot down. And then the loyal sisters play together happily ever after. 

I have to say that for me, the introduction of actual monsters, with a "Where the Wild Things Are" dynamic, made Big Sister, Little Monster rise above the ordinary. Sure, the ending is a little sappy, but before that we have this:

"Sister? Shmister!" growled a grimy monster. "You're not like Mia!"
"Mia prances in puddles," snorted a scaly monster.
"She paints with pudding," sang a fangy monster.
"She's rule-free and ready to romp," bellowed a furry monster.
"Monster Mia is our queen!" they hollered. 
"We're keeping her forever!"

FOREVER?"

I like the alliteration, as well as the sheer joy in Mia's antics. I also like Lucy, when she gets "VERY MAD" at the monsters, finding her own "INNER MONSTER". Her determined expression, hands on hips, hair flying, is a joy to behold. 

Fotheringham's illustrations render the items in the day to day background of the girls' lives in muted colors, while the monsters are brightly colored, set against a dramatic black background. This contrast visually echoes the change in the entire dynamic between the girls, as Mia goes from supplicant to treasured sister, in one fell swoop. 

Big Sister, Little Monster is a fun yet empowering take on the pesky little sister / annoyed yet protective older sister dynamic. It is fun to read aloud, with monster voices and plenty of drama, as well as being visually pleasing. I think libraries will want to give this one a look for their picture book collections. Recommended!  

Publisher: Scholastic  (@Scholastic
Publication Date: September 12, 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).


When a Wolf is Hungry: Christine Naumann-Villemin & Kris Di Giacomo

Book: When a Wolf is Hungry
Author: Christine Naumann-Villemin
Illustrator: Kris Di Giacomo
Pages:  34
Age Range: 4-8

WhenAWolfIsHungryWhen a Wolf is Hungry was originally published in France, and maintains a certain French tone, I think. Written by Christine Naumann-Villemin and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo, it's the story of lone wolf Edmond Bigsnout, who leaves his home in the wood because he has "a hankering for some rabbit." Specifically, a city bunny. He finds an apartment building in which dwells such a rabbit. However, when he accidentally leaves his knife in the elevator, another resident borrows it. After that, the wolf keeps going home for different implements with which to kill or cook the bunny, but he keeps running into building residents who borrow them. By the end of the book, Edmond is very hungry, but won over by the kindness of the residents who, we just know, are gong to become his neighbors. 

Naumann-Villemin's text is humorous, with a dark slant. Like this:

"In no time at all, Edmond was back.

Ding!

The bear from the fourth floor!

"Good day, sir! Are you our new neighbor?"

"No ... uh ... I mean ... yes ..." said the wolf, lying through is teeth.

"Welcome to the building! My, that's a nice chainsaw you have there. What did you need it for?"

"To slice a rab ... uh ... to trim my ..."

"Would you mind terribly if I borrowed it until this evening? I have a hedge to trim on the roof."

"Not at all..."

Argh."

Di Giacomo's illustrations are also dark in tone, but again with flashes of humor, as when "Miss Eyestopper" bats her eyes at the stammering Edmond. It's not completely clear whether the other animals are actually onto Edmond's scheme, and are deflecting him, or whether they are just rather pushy neighbors, assembling a fun rooftop party. 

When a Wolf is Hungry is an entertaining take on the thwarting of the big, bad wolf. Here he's stymied by friendly but presumptuous neighbors, and his own reflexive politeness. This book reminded me in theme of A Well-Mannered Young Wolf by Jean Leroy and Matthieu Maudet, though with a different feel. This book won't be for everyone, but it worked for me, and I think that anyone who likes fractured fairy tales will want to give it a look. Recommended!

Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (@ebyrbooks)
Publication Date: August 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).


Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster: Richard Torrey

Book: Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster
Author: Richard Torrey
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Ally-SaurusBossyAlly-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster is the sequel to Ally-saurus & the First Day of School (which my daughter and I enjoyed but which I didn't review for some reason), both by Richard Torrey. The books feature a little girl named Ally who is obsessed with dinosaurs, and wants to be called Ally-saurus. In this installment, Ally and her friend Kai, along with Kai's little brother, Petey, are having a perfectly lovely time playing in the Ally's front yard. Ally is stomping around and roaring like a dinosaur. Kai is dancing "across a grand stage". And Petey is wandering about with his clearly precious teddy bear.

This live and let live fun stops when the bossy new girl who lives next door comes over and insists not only that they all play monsters, but that they play her way. Ally is not allowed to be a dinosaur and Kai is not allowed to dance. Because Maddie declares herself rule-maker in chief. Flashbacks illustrate other instances of Maddie's over-the-top bossiness. But when Maddie messes with Petey's teddy, Ally-saurus finally strikes back. 

In truth, Maddie's bossiness is a bit over-the-top. One wonders why on earth Ally and Kai put up with it for as long as they apparently did. And the resolution is a bit pat, with Maddie folding instantly once the other three put on a united front. But I do think that Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster gives parents a vehicle for talking with their kids about what to do when another child is too bossy.

I like that what tipped Ally over the edge was a threat to her friend's younger brother, rather than meanness to herself. And I like the way that Ally and Kai, when left to their own devices, are free spirits. Kai is a boy who just wants to dance and perform. Ally is a girl who wants to roar like a dinosaur. So be it. I also like that the kids are playing on their own in the front yard, apparently for the whole day, and have to resolve their own conflicts. [This may not be realistic in 2017, but it should be.]

I also love Torrey's illustrations. The kids are drawn in black and white, but each has colored lines showing how they see themselves in their imaginations. Ally-saurus has spikes and a tail. Kai has a top hat and bow tie. And Maddie has a monster outline, and a crown (showing her self-appointed ruler status). The colors used for each child are picked out in the children's own drawings, too, lending a pleasing visual coherence to the story. 

Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster is a whimsical take on an issue that all kids struggle with at some point - how to manage when a bossy kid comes along and tries to take over. Fans of the first book will certainly want to give this one a look. It might even inspire them to stand up to low-level bullying. Paired with the first book, these could make a nice classroom read aloud for early elementary schoolers. Recommended. 

Publisher: Sterling Children's Books 
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).


Give Me Back My Book!: Travis Foster and Ethan Long

Book: Give Me Back My Book!
Authors: Travis Foster and Ethan Long
Pages: 56
Age Range: 3-6

GiveMeBackMyBookGive Me Back My Book is the story of two friends, Redd and Bloo, who fight over ownership of a green book. Only when the rather smug Bookworm makes off with the book do the two friends find a way to work together. Give Me Back My Book is part celebration of reading, part illustration of the way kids sometimes bicker, and part introduction to the components that make up books. 

Personally, I found the third element, the instructive bits about what makes up a book, a tiny bit off-putting. But when I read the book aloud to my daughter, the humor outweighed that. Here's an example (Redd is making the case that the book is his book):

"There are letters on each  page
and they are gathered together
to form words that have meaning
when you read them!"

Then on the facing page, Bloo basically has a tantrum, stomping his feet, shaking his fists, and saying: "ALL books do that!" You just have to smile as you read it. 

Bloo's reactions are definitely read-aloud-friendly. My daughter pronounced the book "hilarious" (though, interestingly, she didn't feel that it was necessary for me to write about the book).

The illustration style of the book is unusual. According to the front matter, Travis Foster created Redd and Bookworm digitally, while Ethan Long created Bloo. Mr. Long assembled the images, adding photos for the green book and various art supplies that are used later in the story. So we have cute, cartoon-like characters reading and interacting with real books. 

Give Me Back My Book! is a bit quirky, but I think that librarians will find it useful for preschool storytime. And kids, if they are anything like my daughter, will pronounce it hilarious, even as they are learning about table of contents, spine, and illustrations. Recommended for library purchase. 

Publisher: Chronicle  (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: September 5, 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).


Dazzle Ships: Chris Barton and Victo Ngai

Book: Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion
Author: Chris Barton
Illustrator: Victo Ngai
Pages: 36
Age Range: 7-10

DazzleShipDazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion is a non-fiction picture book about a strategy that Great Britain and America used during World War I in an attempt to prevent supply ships from being torpedoed. Author Chris Barton provides a brief introduction to World War I before outlining the risk to Great Britain of losing the war because its citizens were at risk of starving (due to the loss of supply ships). A Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve lieutenant-commander named Norman Wilkinson came up with the idea of basically reverse camouflaging the ships, painting them with patterns that would "dazzle" the German submarine crews into not being able to determine the ships' directions of movement. A desperate British navy actually followed this plan, as did, later, America's navy. Ultimately more than 4000 ships were "dazzled", though Barton reports that evidence as to the specific success of the dazzle ships is unclear. 

Dazzle Ships is a fascinating window into a little-known story about World War I. 100 years later, Dazzle Ships gives gives kids background information about the war and also provides an example of the power of creativity in problem-solving. Or, as the book concludes:

"Times change. Technology changes. Torpedoes get faster, submarines get computerized, challenges of all kinds get replaced by new ones. But a willingness to tackle problems by trying the unlikely, the improbable, the seemingly bonkers will always be needed."

I especially love "the seemingly bonkers". 

Dazzle Ships is quite text-dense. And, of course, it's about ships being bombed, with reference to people starving. This is certainly a picture book for older kids, something one would put in a second grade or higher classroom or a school library.

Visually, Dazzle Ships is stunning, particularly Victo Ngai's rendering of the dazzle ships themselves. She uses a mix of digital and analog media that works particularly well in conveying backgrounds, like the waves of the ocean, and golden skies. A page spread illustrating the concept of camouflage is sure to both entertain and educate young readers, while a futuristic image at the end is inspiring. 

Dazzle Ship is a nonfiction picture book for older readers that educates and informs, captures an incident most adults won't be familiar with, and has eye-catching illustrations. I will not be surprised to hear more about this one come Cybils-time. Recommended!

Publisher: Millbrook Press 
Publication Date: September 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).


Professional Crocodile: Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio

Book: Professional Crocodile
Author: Giovanna Zoboli
Illustrator: Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

ProfessionalCrocodileProfessional Crocodile is wordless picture book originally published in Italy and brought to the US by Chronicle. Written by Giovanna Zoboli and illustrated by Mariachaira Di Giorgio, Professional Crocodile follows a crocodile as he wakes to his alarm clock in an urban apartment, gets ready for the day, and takes the train to work. Along the way he purchases some flowers and a roasted chicken. His destination for the flowers is a mild surprise, while his workplace is completely unexpected. 

I didn't see the ending coming, which is quite saying something. Kids will, I think, be both surprised and delighted. The illustrations consist of a series of small, detailed vignettes in sepia tones. We see the crocodile using the toilet (younger kids will like that, picking out a tie to wear, and eating a healthy breakfast. When he's out and about in the city, observant readers will notice some people taking him in stride, while others look at him askance. Though he's surrounded mostly by people, other clothed, upright animals are visible on the train, to careful observers. Some passersby are seen more than once. 

The illustrations maintain an international flavor. Signs and posters are in Italian, and the city streets have a European feel to them. There are a myriad of details to reward careful attention, making this book a better fit for early elementary school kids than for preschoolers (who also might not appreciate the payoff of the crocodile's occupation). 

Professional Crocodile is a quiet story, a bit quirky but ultimately satisfying. Because it is a wordless story, it would make a great choice for kindergarten and first graders to look through on their own, adding their own words to tell the story. Recommended, and one that I expect to read again in the future. 

Publisher: Chronicle (@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).