446 posts categorized "Picture Books" Feed

Ninja Bunny: Sister vs. Brother: Jennifer Gray Olson

Book: Ninja Bunny: Sister vs. Brother
Author: Jennifer Gray Olson
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-7

NinjaBunnySister

Ninja Bunny: Sister vs. Brother is the sequel to Ninja Bunny. I haven't read the first book, but in this installment, a young bunny is on a quest to find The Golden Carrot of Awesomeness, the world's largest carrot. He wants to lead his friends on the quest, only to be pestered by his tag-along sister. In the grand tradition of parents everywhere, mom tells him to "Play with your sister, dear." There's a classic back and forth, as the sister keeps following, saying "Me too!" and the brother says things like "Only BIG bunnies can be super awesome ninjas." But the sister finds a way to use her small size to her advantage in the end. 

Ninja Bunny: Sister vs. Brother has a deliciously melodramatic tone. My favorite page is when the bunnies find "The Golden Carrot of Awesomeness", only to also find "the insurmountable vines of protection." Bonus points for a picture book that uses words like "insurmountable." The latter is accompanies by an image of the bunnies, all of whom look pretty small, confronting a huge tangle of vines, and various unfriendly signs.  

The book is also full of ninja moves, of course. I know that my own six-year-old loves all things ninja, and I think that this book will be a hit. It's a nice mix of cool ninja stuff ("Ninja chop", etc.) and classic sibling dynamics. Most of the illustrations are minimalist, with vignettes of the bunnies doing ninja moves against a white background. The boy bunny is in blue, while his sister is in red, making it easy to tell them apart. The brother's friends are just bunnies, without ninja costumes, keeping the visual focus clearly on the siblings. 

Ninja Bunny: Sister vs. Brother is a nice addition to the recent ranks of books about ninjas, with plenty of dynamic jumps and kicks, and a small but determined sister. Fans of the first book will definitely want to give this one a look, as will libraries serving preschoolers. Recommended. 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: September 13, 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).


This Is My Dollhouse: Giselle Potter

Book: This Is My Dollhouse
Author: Giselle Potter
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

ThisIsMyDollhouseMy daughter brought This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter home from the library, and we both enjoyed it very much. It's about a girl who has made her own dollhouse out of a cardboard box. She's made most of the furniture and other items, too. There's a block with burners drawn on it to make a stove, a couch made from a green and yellow kitchen sponge, etc. The girl plays with the cobbled-together dollhouse family every day, making them foods like noodles from cut pieces of yellow string, and singing them to sleep.

Her friend, Sophie, in contrast, has a "perfect" dollhouse, with plastic people and plastic food. Acceptable play with Sophie's dollhouse is dictated by the available, pre-made accessories. No creativity is allowed. When Sophie comes over to play, the narrator worries about the potential rejection of her home-made dollhouse. Instead, however, Sophie is charmed, and the two girls take the dollhouse family on a delightful vacation. 

This Is My Dollhouse is a celebration of creativity and imagination. It feeds the child reader's fascination with making things, and with little things. My own daughter was inspired to make a cup of "popcorn" (tiny balls of rolled-up toilet paper), like the one in the book. I'm rather surprised that she has yet to build her own dollhouse, though she has been asking to make some dioramas out of old shoeboxes. 

Potter's text is straightforward, written in the first person, and demonstrates occasional flashes of humor. Like this:

"I made a TV by cutting a hole in a little silver box and gluing a picture inside. I can change the picture whenever I want.

The rug is a very small piece of carpet I cut off the one in my room. (So far, no one has noticed.)" 

That last aside made me give a little snort of laughter. Here's one more snippet:

"Mommy makes them fried eggs (circles cut from white paper, with yellow colored centers),

and then the twins take the elevator up, up, up and 
swim in the rooftop pool in their bikinis."

Potter's illustrations fill in more of the details, such as the method of making the popcorn, the girl's choice to use a shoe as an airplane, etc. Her distinctive illustration style, with its old-fashioned feel and sometimes skewed perspectives, is a perfect fit for this story. The expressions of the two girls, when bored at Sophie's house, are priceless, as is the narrator's look of quiet satisfaction on the book's final page. 

This Is My Dollhouse would be a great choice for any child who enjoys making things. It belongs in libraries everywhere, particularly those serving early elementary school children. It would make a wonderful birthday or holiday gift, especially if accompanied by a large cardboard box. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: May 10, 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).


Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie's Chick?: Pat Hutchins

Book: Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie's Chick?
Author: Pat Hutchins
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8
WhereIsRosiesChickWhere, Oh Where, Is Rosie's Chick? is the sequel to Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins. The first book was published back in 1971 and is still in print. My daughter's kindergarten class did an activity centered around Rosie's Walk last semester. When my daughter saw this book she was thrilled.

Both books feature a kind of slapstick humor in which a hapless chicken walks through a farm yard, blissfully unaware of being followed. In this new book, Rosie is looking for her just-hatched chick. She marches all through the farm, never realizing (until the end of the book) that her chick is actually behind her. Meanwhile, various predators attempt to snatch the chick, but are unsuccessful due to accidental interventions. For instance, when Rosie knocks some apples out of a wheelbarrow, she kicks one of them right into the mouth of a large fish that might have swallowed up the chick. These near-misses offer spot-on preschooler-friendly humor. 

The actual text of Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie's Chick? is straightforward and minimalist. Like this;

"She looks in the basket,
but here little baby chick isn't there."

(next page spread)

She looks behind the wheelbarrow,
but her little baby chick isn't there, either."

This repetitive text lends itself to reading by themselves for kids in kindergarten and first grade. When reading the book to a child, it's a bit difficult to get into a rhythm because one wants to stop and point out the various additional things that are going on in the pictures. ("Where is the chick?" "Who is that watching the chick?" "What do you think that animal will do?", and so on.)

The illustrations are gorgeous, filled with brightly colored patterns and cheerful farm trappings. It's like an Amish quilt of a picture book, if that makes any sense. Rosie's obliviousness and her chick's hapless but determined following with both appeal to young readers. Even the apparent predators turn out to be rather friendly, as the fox is revealed to be a parent, too. 

Parents who loved Rosie's Walk (currently available in paper and board book formats) as children will not want to miss out on the chance to share Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie's Chick? with their kids. These two books together would also make a nice addition to a kindergarten or preschool classroom library. Recommended and sure to please!

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@SimonKids)
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).


They All Saw A Cat: Bernard Wenzel

Book: They All Saw A Cat
Author: Bernard Wenzel
Pages: 44
Age Range: 3-6

TheyAllSawACatThey All Saw A Cat is a new picture book by Bernard Wenzel that explores perception. Basically, each page spread shows the same cat, as "The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws...". The cat looks different each time, however, depending on who is observing him. To a child, the cat is wide-eyed and cuddly. To a fox, the cat looks like soft, defenseless prey. To a mouse, the cat looks like a terrifying monster with prominent teeth and claws. In the end, the cat sees itself reflected in water. 

There's not much text to They All Saw A Cat. Lots of "and the bird saw A CAT", etc. But Wenzel's use of italics and capitalization helps to ensure that They All Saw A Cat is a fun book for read-aloud. It is repetitive enough to work as a bedtime books, and the text is simple enough that this book could also work for new readers. 

But They All Saw A Cat is really about the illustrations, which "were rendered in almost everything imaginable, including colored pencil, oil, pastels, acrylic, paint, watercolor, charcoal, Magic Marker, good old number 2 pencils, and even an iBook." Every page is different, to match the tone of how that animal (or person) views the cat. Some images are relatively straightforward, while others include more creative renderings. The bat, for instance, sees the cat as a series of white dots against a black background, which together take the shape of a cat. This page is somewhat reminiscent of a constellation. A late page that morphs the various cat images into one is a visual celebration, sure to make young kids laugh. 

They All Saw A Cat is a visually engaging, read-aloud-friendly picture book that reminded me a bit of Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? It would make a nice gift for a preschooler, as well as a nice over-sized board book (someday...). It will make kids think. Recommended!

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids
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).


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).