523 posts categorized "Picture Books" Feed

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).


Wordplay: Adam Lehrhaupt and Jared Chapman

Book: Wordplay
Author: Adam Lehrhaupt
Illustrator: Jared Chapman
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-6

WordplayWordplay, written by Adam Lehrhaupt (Chicken in Space) and illustrated by Jared Chapman (Pirate, Viking & Scientist), is an introduction to the parts of speech for preschoolers and early elementary school kids, shared in the form of a quirky story. Basically Verb does things, but Noun can be things. When a peanut gallery consisting of Interjection, Adjective, and Adverb admires Noun a little too much, Verb gets jealous. But when a bee threatens the changeable but inert Noun, guess who is there to save the day? In the end, Noun and Verb figure out that they can do a lot more by playing together. 

Obviously, this is all very contrived. But it does rather work. Here's a snippet:

"Everyone watches Verb.

"Wow!" says Interjection.

"An impressive display," says Adverb.

"Very graceful," says Adverb.

Verb is happy."

In the above example, Interjection's name and text are shown in purple, matching his color (see cover image above). Similarly for the yellow adjective and orange adverb. Interjection's "WOW!" is shown in a bigger font than everything else. This consistent visual reinforcement continues throughout the book. Verb, of course, is red, shown in constant movement. Noun is blue and has an odd head shape, but also a friendly smile. They all have rather pig-like noses, in what seems to be Chapman's style, but they are surprisingly cute anyway. The bee is quite menacing:

"BEE!" says Interjection.

"A giant, frightening bee!" says Adjective.

"It's coming dangerously close," says Adverb."

You get the idea. 

Wordplay would be a great addition to any preschool to first grade classroom where the teacher is introducing parts of speech. It would make a good next-stage companion to Mike Boldt's 123 versus ABC and Colors versus Shapes books, albeit with a slightly less madcap storyline. Wordplay is a bit gimmicky, of course, but I like that there is a story - it's not just some dry explanation of parts of speech. It's also a celebration of friendship, which is always welcome for this age range. Wordplay is fun and, well, playful, and well worth a look for schools and libraries. Recommended. 

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: July 25, 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).


Secrets I Know: Kallie George and Paola Zakimi

Book: Secrets I Know
Author: Kallie George
Illustrator: Paola Zakimi
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-6

SecretsIKnowSecrets I Know, written by Kallie George and illustrated by Paola Zakimi, is a gentle story about play, alone and with a friend, and appreciating the outdoors. It's not so much a story as a series of connected incidents, each described by a short sentence, taking place over the course of a day in the life of a little girl. The text, with simple vocabulary, and the incidents that take place, are all preschooler-friendly. No parents are visible anywhere in the story, which takes place mainly in the girl's backyard. 

The text is quiet, like this (across the first 3 page spreads):

"Secrets are for whispering.

Whispers hide in trees.

Trees make great umbrellas."

Even reading this to myself, I wanted to whisper. I think that the way the sentences connect from page to page, "whispering" to "whispers", etc., lends a poetry to the text. It feels like a perfect bedtime book to me. But I can also imagine using Secrets I Know for more interactive reading. Once your preschooler picks up on the pattern, you can ask her to predict what's going to happen next. 

I just love that this girl is out by herself, on a slightly rainy day, playing in a very simple treehouse, having a tea party for her toys in the sandbox, using an umbrella as a pretend boat, etc. Then when she goes next door to find her friend, things get a bit more complex (building a robot costume, taking down a telescope from a shelf). There's a timeless feel to all of this, and one can imagine it inspiring kids to want to play imagination games on their own. 

Zakimi's illustrations (drawn in pencil and digitally colored) are lovely, and perfectly complement the story. Zoom in on that cover, if you will. The nameless little girl is adorable, from her wavy brown hair down to her ballet-flat-covered feet. Her friend is African-American, adding a bit of seamless, unselfconscious diversity. The back yard is delightful, full of trees and puddle, with the girl's cozy-looking house in the background, and a dog cavorting about, lending subtle humor. I especially liked the illustrator's use of light, as the day shifts from rain to sunlight to evening stars. 

Secrets I Know is one of those books that you appreciate a little bit more on each reading. If it had been around when my daughter was three, I believe this would have been one that we read every night and referred to during the day ("Together, friends are ladders" or "You can sweeten tea with sunshine"). I think it would make the perfect gift for a three or four year old, and an excellent choice for library storytime. Secrets I Know is highly recommended, and going on my "to give as gifts" list. 

Publisher:  Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: May 23, 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 Girl Who Ran: Frances Poletti, Kristina Yee, and Susanna Chapman

Book: The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, the First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon
Author: Frances Poletti & Kristina Yee
Illustrator: Susanna Chapman
Pages: 48
Age Range: 4-8

GirlWhoRanThe Girl Who Ran recounts the true story of Bobbi Gibb, who from childhood loved running. When Bobbi learned about The Boston Marathon she wanted to run. But in her day (the 60's), women weren't allowed to run marathons. People believed that they weren't strong enough, and would injure themselves. So, after training on her own, running across the country and camping at night, Bobbi dressed up like a man and successfully completed the 1966 Boston Marathon. Bobbi's story definitely held my interest. 

I did feel like the book could have provided a bit more detail to Bobbi's story. What year was Bobbi born? How old was she when she ran the marathon? Where did she grow up? But I suppose it's not difficult for young readers who are inspired by Bobbi's story to look her up.  And this is more a book describing one thing about someone's history, rather than a full-fledged biography. Certainly it is an inspiring story. Here's a girl who loved doing something, was told "no" repeatedly, including by her parents, and found a way to do it anyway. 

In the book's presentation, all of the men around her who realized that she was a woman during the race were supportive, as were spectators along the route. While I found myself a tad skeptical of the universal support once she was already in the race (in contrast to the universal condemnation of the idea prior to the race), I think that this upbeat portrayal will encourage young readers. I liked that the authors, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, made it clear that finishing the race was difficult for Bobbi, but that she gritted it out.

Their writing style is a mix of narrative text, words from the people around her, and the occasional poetic couplet. The book's formatting keeps these three methods distinct. Like this, on one page spread:

"The cheers were a roar. And Bobbi needed it. The ground was hard, her new shoes were stiff, and the final hill was still ahead.

But she couldn't stop now, though she ached and perspired,
and the world whooshed by, like the wind in the fire."

This text is shown at the bottom of the pages, while near the top, above the picture of Bobbi running, the words from the bystanders are shown in various fonts: "It's a girl!" "Go, girl, go!", etc. Different fonts for different voices. My seven-year-old, when I read this with her, will want to read every one of those aloud herself.

The poetic couplets are always in italics, and repeat the "like the wind in the fire" refrain. It's a bit unconventional, this mix of narration, exhortations, and poetry, but it worked for me. And I quite liked Susanna Chapman's illustrations. When Bobbi runs, we see a kind of streamer trail, in red, yellow and orange, a visual representation of her joy in running. There's a fold-out spread showing when she crosses the finish line of the marathon, with plenty of white space, and which adds to the epic feel of Bobbi's accomplishment. 

The Girl Who Ran is the very prototype of inspirational nonfiction picture book. It leaves the reader feeling happy. The fact that it's about a single aspect of the protagonist's life, rather than a chronicle of her full history, could make The Girl Who Ran work for those who are not such fans of biography, but just want a good story. Despite the two authors and separate illustrator, and the multiple narrative methods, the whole package works seamlessly together. The Girl Who Ran is a book that certainly belongs in libraries. It would also make a good classroom read-aloud for first or second graders, perhaps in the week prior to the school fitness run. I look forward to reading this with my daughter. Recommended!

Publisher: Compendium 
Publication Date: June 13, 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 Too-Scary Story: Bethanie Deeney Murguia

Book: The Too-Scary Story
Author: Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Too-ScaryStoryThe Too-Scary Story by Bethanie Deeney Murguia is about a father telling a bedtime story to his young son and slightly less young daughter. The daughter, Grace, presses for the story to be scarier. The son, Walter, wants it to be less scary. So the father has to keep switching back and forth, leading into something scary and then pulling back and offering something more cozy instead. Like this:

"Beyond the fireflies,
deep in the bushes, crept all kinds of ...

creatures.

"I can hear them all breathing," whispers Grace.

"Too scary!" says Walter.

Don't worry.
Those creatures were just settling into bed for the night."

Here we see a picture of Walter and Grace petting safe, sleepy creatures like rabbits, though their Toto-like dog still looks a bit scared. Only late in the book do both kids have the chance to be scared. And brave. As with all of the best bedtime stories, The Too-Scary Story ends with the kids cozily in bed. 

This is a fun book to read aloud, with lots of changes in tone, communicated through both the fonts and the illustrations. In the above example, "creatures" is in large, bold font, while the "Don't worry" font is smaller and less intimidating. The font used for Papa's story is different from the font used for the dialogue with the kids, making it easier for the adult reader to use a special, spooky voice for the story within the story. 

I like that the family is brown-skinned (exact ethnicity vague, though we know the dad is "Papa" instead of "Daddy"). I also like that the brother and sister share a room, with twin beds, something you don't always see in books these days, and that it's Papa who is reading to them. There's a well-stocked bookshelf in their room, and, at the end, a jar of fireflies. 

The Too-Scary Story captures the difficulty inherent in creating a bedtime story for kids of two different ages. It celebrates family, and fathers in particular. It provides a lovely mix of scary (with dark palette to match) and cozy (fireflies!). It's different in style from Murguia's other picture books (e.g. Zoe Gets Ready and sequels), but with the same understanding of sibling relationships. And, if anything, this new book is more fun to read aloud. Recommended for anyone looking for a new bedtime book! 

Publisher:  Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: June 27, 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).


Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want To Survive the Cafeteria: John Grandits & Michael Allen Austin

Book:  Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want To Survive the Cafeteria
Author: John Grandits
Illustrator: Michael Allen Austin
Pages: 32
Age Range: 6-9

SevenRulesYouMustNotBreakWhen bossy school bus mate Ginny learns that Kyle will be buying school lunch for the first time, she tells him Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want To Survive the Cafeteria. She makes him write them down, though the reader does not learn the rules right away. As Kyle goes through his lunchtime experience, however, he breaks the rules, one right after the next. It is total chaos. And yet, by the end of the day, Kyle considers his cafeteria experience a success. 

This is a text-dense picture book, with illustrations that are a complex mix of reality and fantasy. This is a book that will work well as a read-aloud to first or second graders, but would likely be intimidating for younger readers. Here's a snippet:

"We got to school, and the morning went along as usual. Then, at 11:25, it was time for lunch. My class scurried down the hall like a column of starving army ants.

I was last in line once we reached the cafeteria, and another class got in line right behind me. They were sixth graders, and they were as scary as a swarm of yellow jackets. I didn't turn around. It's best to ignore wasps. They sting when they're angry." 

This passage illustrates several things that repeat throughout the book:

  • Relatively advanced vocabulary ("scurried"). This makes the book more a read-aloud than read-together, though advanced readers could manage it. 
  • Concrete details, like lunchtime being at 11:25, which will help primary kids relate to the story.
  • Insect analogies. Kyle is obsessed with bugs, and he sees many things through an insect-eye filter. Austin's highly three-dimensional illustrations capture this, as we see a line of upright ants wearing t-shirts moving down the hall ahead of Kyle, while yellow jackets fly behind him. On the next page Kyle, confronted by a bully, says: "I felt like a little snail faced with a giant meat-eating water bug."

Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break... is a visual treat throughout, with the rules displayed in variable banners throughout the story (Rule Two: Don't Take Too Many Things), and the wide-eyed Kyle walking around with a bug book under his arm, much smaller than the intimidating sixth graders. The boldness of the illustrations would make this book work for a classroom read-aloud for first or second graders, I think, despite the relatively lengthy text. Certainly the relevance of the subject would make it work for that age range. For kids who, like Kyle, are interested in bugs, Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break... should be downright irresistible. 

While not, perhaps, of strong interest to me personally as an adult, I think that Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want To Survive the Cafeteria absolutely belongs in elementary school libraries and in the home of kids who are fascinated by the social dynamics of insects and/or grade schoolers. A standout title. 

Publisher: Clarion Books (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: June 27, 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).


Morris Mole: Dan Yaccarino

Book: Morris Mole
Author: Dan Yaccarino
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

MorrisMoleMorris Mole by Dan Yaccarino is about a mole who is smaller than all of his brothers but proves that he can still do "big things." Morris isn't just smaller than the others. He's also different in style, wearing a checked suit and jaunty hat to his brothers' hard hats and boots. He eats at his own small table, and sleeps in his own small bed, reading while the others snore away. When a food crisis arrives, Morris is the only one who thinks to dig upward instead of downward, as they've always done before. And thus he discovers a world of sunshine, other animals, and delicious new foods. Morris's quick wits and his digging ability together are able to save the day. 

The text in Morris Mole is minimal, with most pages containing just a brief sentence or two. Like

"He dug up.

And this is what he found."

Yaccarino's signature colorful digital illustrations are where the details of the story are told. "And this is what he found", for example, is set at the bottom of a glorious page spread filled with sunshine and colorful birds, flowers, and insects. We see Morris sticking is head out of a hole in the ground, umbrella to protect him (as shown on the cover, but with a much different background. Why he needed an umbrella to live underground isn't clear, but the umbrella somehow works with Morris's frumpy style. 

The following page, in which Morris gets acquainted with the above-ground world, in a series of vignettes, is delightful. I also loved the final page spread, in which Morris's brothers praise him, and he says: "I may be small, but I can do big things." OK, so that particular text isn't groundbreaking. But we see that Morris now does sit at the table with his brothers, propped up on a pile of books. And while he still has on his suit, he has a little hard hat to match theirs. So, even as they celebrate the way his unique idea helped them, his own personal growth also leads him to fit in with his family a bit better. Subtle but important, I think. 

My daughter and I are big fans of Dan Yaccarino's work. She especially likes Lawn to Lawn and Doug Unplugged, while I favor All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel. We both agreed that Morris Mole was one worth my writing about. She liked the direct written message, and I liked the details revealed by the illustrations. Overall, I think that Morris Mole is like its protagonist: something small that can do big things. Recommended, especially for library or classroom storytime. 

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: May 2, 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).