483 posts categorized "Picture Books" Feed

A Greyhound, a Groundhog: Emily Jenkins & Chris Applehans

Book: A Greyhound, a Groundhog
Author: Emily Jenkins
Illustrator: Chris Applehans
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-6

GreyhoundGroundhogA Greyhound, a Groundhog isn't so much a story as an extended bit of wordplay centering around a greyhound and a groundhog. Emily Jenkins' spare text reads almost like a tongue-twister, as we follow grey dog and brown hound around through the pages of the book. There's a minimalist narrative about the greyhound and groundhog becoming friends, playing together and celebrating nature. Like this (over three page spreads):

"A greyhound, a groundhog,
a found little 
roundhog.

Around, round hound.
Around, groundhog!

Around, brown hog.
Around, grey dog."

You almost have to stop and check yourself, to make sure you are reading it right. The similar and repeating words, and rhyming words, make A Greyhound, a Groundhog a poem in picture book form. I think it would work best as a read-aloud for preschoolers, with a soothing rhythm that would comfort before naptime. 

Chris Applehans' watercolor and pencil illustrations use a restrained color palette with lots of purple-tinged gray and brown, and plenty of white space. The spare illustrations reinforce the minimalist text, while also capturing Jenkins' wordplay around the shape of the animals. For instance, the "roundhog" mentioned above is shown rather like a ball, uncertain in the face of the cheerful and very different-shaped greyhound. Later in the book, as the animals' play becomes more active, both text and animals leap around the page, with slightly blurred edges representing speed. Ultimately, Applehans is able to capture the joy the greyhound and groundhog take from their friendship. 

A Greyhound, a Groundhog is a certainly a quieter picture book. It is also a lovely celebration of friendship.

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: January 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).A 


Hello, Mr. Dodo!: Nicholas John Frith

Book: Hello, Mr. Dodo!
Author: Nicholas John Frith
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

HelloMrDodoHello, Mr. Dodo! is a very cute picture book about a little girl named Martha who loves birds. One day, while looking for birds in the woods behind her house, Martha encounters a dodo. Of course dodos are supposed to be extinct, but this doesn't stop Martha from befriending the bird. She learns that he really can't fly, and that he loves donuts. She keeps the dodo a secret to protect him, but one day she slips up, and the dodo's life is threatened. Only some quick thinking by Martha saves the day. 

Nicholas John Frith offers a read-aloud-friendly text, with occasional italics for emphasis, and a clear trust in children to a) cope with mildly disturbing things and b) take responsibility on their own (as when Martha does her own research into the history of the dodo. Here's a snippet:

"It was a dodo -- and it was supposed to be extinct!

Once there had been thousands of them,
then they had all disappeared. People had
hunted them and eaten them for dinner.

No one had seen a dodo for hundreds of years.

"Poor things," thought Martha.
"Well, they're not going to eat my dodo."
And she decided to keep him a secret.

This is accompanied by an illustration of Martha in her room, surrounded by books, set against sample pages (in a muted gray, so that they don't take over) of texts describing dodos and showing their hunter-induced fate. Frith's illustrations (except for the sample pages) are colorful and vaguely cartoonish (e.g. Martha with oval, pure black eyes), and filled with details that highlight Martha's love of birds. Her bedroom slippers are birds, her binoculars are always around, her kite has large feathers attached to the tail, etc. My six-year-old particularly enjoyed a picture of Martha imagining the dodo covered with snow and looking like a misshapen snowman during the winter. 

Here's the true endorsement for Hello, Mr. Dodo! After I read it to my six-year-old, she immediately asked me to read it again. She used to do this as a small child, but now rarely wants an immediate re-read. Martha and Mr. Dodo found their way immediately into her heart. And into mine. Hello, Mr. Dodo! is going to be one of my favorite picture books of 2017, I believe. Highly recommended! This would make a great preschool or K-1 read-aloud.

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books  (@Scholastic
Publication Date: January 31, 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).


Little Big Girl: Claire Keane

Book: Little Big Girl
Author: Claire Keane
Pages: 32 
Age Range: 3-5

LittleBigGirlLittle Big Girl by Claire Keane is a particular take on what happens when a one-time only child becomes a big sister. We see various vignettes of "Little Matisse" as she scoots up onto the counter to "brush her little teeth" and puts on her "little shoes", shown as small compared to those of her parents. When she travels in the back of her parents' car, we see how little she is, compared to the big city. But when Matisse meets her baby brother, she has an instantaneous shift in perspective. Suddenly her clothes and shoes and fingers are big, in comparison to those of the baby. Keane tells us about this perspective shift in words, but she also shows us in pictures, with Matisse growing larger relative to the background in many of the later images. 

Two things make Little Big Girl stand out for me in the sea of new sibling books. The first is the use of the perspective shift, as described above. When else in life does someone go from being small to being big overnight? Keane's bold illustrations capture this beautifully. The second this is the sheer joy that Matisse shows in her every interaction with her brother, and his clear fascination with her. While I think that it's useful to have books in which the new sibling cries a lot and is annoying and takes away attention, I found Little Big Girl's pure focus on a positive to be rather a joy. 

Like this: 

"He slept in a little bed, and wore the clothes Matisse was now too big for.

Suddenly, Matisse realized that she wasn't actually little at all.

She was big."

The first line of this quote is accompanies by a tender image of Matisse kissing the sleeping baby in his cradle. The second shows her putting on his tiny little shoes. We see her medium-size shoes, still small compare to the surrounding shows of mom. And with "She was big" we see Matisse looking at herself in the mirror, a stylish preschooler with hands on hips, self-confident and growing more so before our very eyes. 

Little Big Girl is not a complex book, but it's a nice, positive spin on what happens when someone becomes a big sister or a big brother. The illustrations are heart-warming (just look at that cover above), and the minimal text will keep the attention of even the youngest of big sisters. Little Big Girl would make a great gift for anyone you know who is expecting a second child. Recommended!

Publisher: Dial Books (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: November 8, 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 Princess and the Frogs: Veronica Bartles & Sara Palacios

Book: The Princess and the Frogs
Author: Veronica Bartles
Pages: Sara Palacios
Age Range: 4-8

PrincessAndTheFrogsThe Princess and the Frogs is a reinvention of the classic Frog Prince story featuring a princess who wants a pet frog, but who has no interest whatsoever in princes. Princess Cassandra has everything she could ever want, except for a best friend. She decides that what she needs is a pet who matches her favorite green dress and will play with her all day. The Royal Pet Handler eventually brings her a frog. She has a great time playing with the frog, right up until she loves the frog so much that she kisses him on the head and he turns into a prince. He wants to marry her, but she just wants a pet frog, and so sends him off to work in the kitchens. This happens again, and again, until a solution is found. 

Who knew that ALL frogs were princes in disguise? Hopefully this is just in Cassandra's kingdom, because otherwise, things could get a bit awkward. I just love that Cassandra, confronted by prince after prince, keeps saying: "Princes aren't pets. I want a frog!" She's a delightful heroine, with a big smile, round glasses, and a determination to play and read. Who wouldn't like her? 

My favorite page is one in which Cassandra has sent all of the princes away and is attempting to prove to herself that she doesn't need anyone. We have:

"Cassandra played in the empty courtyard and read books in the silent library.

But even her favorite green dress didn't make her happy. And she still didn't have a friend."

This is accompanied by images of Cassandra jumping rope, while two bored servants turn the rope for her, and having a sad tea party with a real cake and a stuffed rabbit. Finally, she sits dejectedly in a hopscotch grid. The bored servants cracked me up. And perhaps I thought of my own only child, constantly begging for playdates (though never with frogs). But I do quite like the way that Sara Palacios brings Cassandra to life. 

The Princess and Frogs is an engaging story featuring a non-traditional princess with a refreshing twist on happily ever after. It will make kids, especially girls, laugh. Recommended for home or storytime use. 

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: November 15, 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).


Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure: Jennifer Thermes

Book: Charles Darwin's Around the World Adventure
Author: Jennifer Thermes
Pages: 48
Age Range: 5-8

CharlesDarwinAroundTheWorldCharles Darwin's Around the World Adventure by Jennifer Thermes is a nonfiction picture book focused on a five-year voyage that Charles Darwin took as a young man that strongly influenced his scientific discoveries. Charles, chosen to be the naturalist aboard a ship mapping measurements of South America in 1831, writes about his wondrous findings and collects various natural specimens. The book describes some of Charles' key discoveries at various points along his voyage, while rendering Charles as a real, accessible person to young readers. We learn about Charles' sea-sickness, for example, and how he felt when he experienced his first earthquake. 

Here's a snippet, to give you a feel for Thermes' writing:

"Charles dug up bones of ancient sloth-like creatures, including a giant Megatherium, buried on the beach. How many of these huge creatures once roamed the earth? Why had they disappeared? 

He studied the rocks and tried to figure out how steep cliffs and flat plains were formed. Was it possible that the shape of the land affected the animals' survival?" 

Thermes' illustrations are detailed, with labeled maps interspersed between images of Charles and his experiences. A map on the book's end pages shows Charles' journey as a whole, with an accompanying timeline. Although the main text is fairly detailed in and of itself, there are also end notes, sources, fun facts, and recommendations for further reading. There is a LOT here to keep an interested elementary-schooler reading and studying. My six-year-old was utterly engaged in Charles' story, though we did not pore over map in detail. 

Charles Darwin's Around the World Adventure is top-quality narrative non-fiction, featuring a likable historical figure, interesting plant and animal facts, and well-mapped journey. This is a book that belongs in libraries and classrooms severing first through third graders, everywhere. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (@AbramsKids)
Publication Date: October 4, 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).


Hap-pea All Year: Keith Baker

Book: Hap-pea All Year
Author: Keith Baker
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

Hap-peaAllYearHap-pea All Year is the fourth book in Keith Baker's The Peas series (which started with LMNO Peas). These are basically concept books featuring cute little pea-characters doing their thing in a world of large letters and numbers. Hap-pea All Year introduces preschoolers to the twelve months of the year, and their associated seasons and holidays. Each page spread shows the month written out in giant letters, with the tiny peas cavorting in seasonally appropriate ways, and brief rhyming text that highlights something about that month. For example:

"Hap-pea February! Deliver valentines.
Count to twenty-eight -- or leap to twenty-nine." 

This example may require explanation from a parent for younger listeners, though my six-year-old understood it just fine. My personal favorite text accompanies August:

"Hap-pea August! Bait a fishing hook.
Nap in cool shade, reread your favorite book."

But of course it's the illustrations that make Hap-pea All Year fun. In all cases, Baker uses colors and tone appropriate to the month in question (e.g. yellow for the sunny August). The letters are shown as lightly textured, with the subtle patterns containing extra hints about the month in question. The sky looms large in all of the page spreads, too, particularly July, with a star-filled sky. And the peas covert in endless, joyful ways, from sledding and skiing in January to camping in July to raking leaves and wearing Halloween costumes in October. One of the peas holds a little sign indicating the month number each month, and I'm sure there are other details that I missed on my first couple of reads through the book. 

Fans of The Peas series, and libraries serving preschoolers everywhere, will definitely and to add Hap-pea All Year to their collections. It's a book that offers mild-age appropriate educational facts, keeping things fun all the while. This is a book that simply made my daughter and I happier from reading it. Recommended!

Publisher: Beach Lane Books (@SimonKids)
Publication Date: November 1, 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).


Penguin Problems: Jory John and Lane Smith

Book: Penguin Problems
Author: Jory John
Illustrator: Lane Smith
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-7

PenguinProblemsPenguin Problems, written by Jory John and illustrated by Lane Smith, is the story of a cranky little penguin who complains about everything. When a mature walrus shares some perspective, the penguin considers whether or not a better attitude is warranted. But overall, his personality remains fairly consistent throughout the story. He's like a preschool-age, penguin-shaped version of Alexander of Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day fame. 

The text in Penguin Problems is written in short, punch text, and the problems are those that preschoolers will be able to understand, even in cases where they may not directly relate. Like this (over four pages:

"It snowed some more last night,
and I don't even like the snow.

It's too bright out here.

I'm hungry.
I'd like a fish.
Where are all the fish?!

HEY!
FISH!
GET OUT HERE!

I'm not buoyant enough.
I sink like a dumb rock."

Buoyant is about as tough as Penguin Problems gets, vocabulary-wise. But can't you just hear the penguin's tone, alternating between whiny and belligerent? 

Lane Smith's illustrations show the penguin as sleepy in his earliest cranky moments of the story. He's also identical-looking to all of the other penguins. This is one of his complaints. The funniest illustration is one in which the penguin laments looking silly when he waddles. There's a page split into four panel. The first three show the penguin tilting in one direction, then another. In the last panel he stands there and says "See?". I snorted with laughter. There's also a funny bit in which he's looking for his parents, but can't find them because all of the penguins look the same. Near the end, when the penguin rails against his many problems, and the fact that "nobody even cares", his slumping posture will be recognized by parents everywhere. 

It's a fact that at least ought to be self-evident that kids like books about penguins. The little unnamed penguin in Penguin Problems has particular appeal, by virtue of his delightfully cranky behavior. And I love the fact that he is NOT, in fact, reformed instantly after being shown the error of his ways. Jory John and Lane Smith make a good team - the interplay between text and illustrations is both seamless and humorous. Penguin Problems belongs in libraries and preschool / kindergarten classrooms everywhere. Recommended!

Publisher:  Random House Children's Books (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: September 27, 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).


Christmas in the Barn: Margaret Wise Brown & Anna Dewdney

Book: Christmas in the Barn
Author: Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrator: Anna Dewdney
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-8

ChristmasInTheBarnChristmas in the Barn is a picture book featuring text written by Margaret Wise Brown in 1952 paired with new illustrations by Anna Dewdney (of Llama, Llama fame). This book debuted shortly after Anna Dewdney's death in September, lending a certain poignancy to its release. In any event, Christmas in the Barn is a perfect pairing of Margaret Wise Brown's rhythmic text and Dewdney's gentle illustrations. 

Christmas in the Barn tells the story of the nativity, but with a strong focus on the animals in the barn, and the lightest possible touch on the religious aspects of the story. Like this:

"And there they were all safe and warm
All together in that ancient barn

When hail--the first wail of a newborn babe reached the night
Where one great star was burning bright

And shepherds with their sheep
Are come to watch him sleep."

While there's no overt naming of names (God, Jesus, etc.), Brown includes classic references like "Because there was no room at the inn" and "Away in a manger, no crib for his bed." Dewdney, while giving the animals distinct personalities, and often keeping the humans in shadow, gives the star pride of place, and casts a soft glow around the family as the shepherds arrive. The words and pictures are equally lovely and full of quiet joy. 

There is just enough rhyme to encourage repeat read-alouds, but not so much as to be sing-songy, or to take away from the importance of the book's topic. Christmas in the Barn would be a perfect bedtime book to read on Christmas Eve. The text and illustrations are reverent, warm, and soothing. Highly recommended, and definitely going on our "keep" shelf. 

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: September 20, 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).


A Well-Mannered Young Wolf: Jean Leroy + Matthieu Maudet

Book: A Well-Mannered Young Wolf
Author: Jean Leroy
Illustrator: Matthieu Maudet
Pages: 30
Age Range: 4-8

Well-ManneredWolfA Well-Mannered Young Wolf, written by Jean Leroy and illustrated by Matthieu Maudet, is a darkly humorous tale with an ending that Jon Klassen fans should appreciate. While technically it is a book about the benefits that can come from using proper manners, the deadpan delivery makes it far more entertaining than didactic. The story begins:

"A young wolf, whose parents had taught him good manners, went hunting alone in the forest for the first time."

The wolf catches a rabbit, but is polite enough to offer the rabbit a last request. When the rabbit's request requires the wolf to leave for a time, the rabbit promises to stay put in order to be eaten later. But, of course, when the wolf returns, the rabbit is gone. The frustrated, but still polite, young wolf goes through a similar process with a chicken. But when a young boy is polite enough to keep his word to the wolf, the wolf finds that he wants to reward the boy. In the end, characters get what they deserve (in the sense that polite = deserving). 

Leroy's narration is pitch-perfect for the story. Like this: "Furious, the hunter resumed his search for more prey to devour" and "At the idea of having to return home a third time, the young hunter exploded with rage." 

There's also quite a bit of dialog. And in that dialog are direct references to what is and isn't polite, as taught by the parents of the various characters. A Well-Mannered Young Wolf is a fun text to read aloud. 

Maudet's illustrations have a spare, cartoon-like feel, with a limited color palette. They display a sly sense of humor. For example, the wolf captures the chicken by throwing a book at it. There's a little thundercloud over the wolf's head when he is angry, and we can also tell a lot about what he's feeling from the appearance of his teeth and eyebrows. 

This book was originally published in France, and to me there does seem to be a French sensibility to it, though I'm hard-pressed to express what makes me say that. What I can say is that the ending made me laugh. A Well-Mannered Young Wolf is a quiet title, but one that I think kids with a relatively sophisticated sense of humor will enjoy. Recommended!

Publisher:  Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (@eerdmansbooks)
Publication Date: October 3, 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).


Noah Webster & His Words: Jeri Chase Ferris + Vincent X. Kirsch

Book: Noah Webster & His Words
Author: Jeri Chase Ferris
Illustrator: Vincent X. Kirsch
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

NoahWebsterNoah Webster & His Words, written by Jeri Chase Ferris and illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch, is a picture book biography of the man who compiled the first American dictionary. We learn that Noah was born in 1758, expected to be the next in a long line of Webster farmers. But Noah wanted to be a scholar, and the world is more literate today thanks to his efforts. 

The book follows Noah through the major events in his life, as he goes to college, becomes a schoolteacher, starts working on his first speller, marries, and so on. I hadn't realized the patriotic underpinnings of Webster's work prior to reading this book, and found reading about Noah's motivations quite uplifting. Here's the first hint:

"In October 1781, King George's soldiers SURRENDERED [verb: gave up] at Yorktown. The war was over at last! America was free and IN-DE-PEN-DENT [adj.: not controlled by others]. THat gave Noah an idea. He would write the schoolbooks for America, beginning with spelling. "I will write the second Declaration of Independence," Noah wrote to a friend. "An American spelling book!"

I quite like the way Jeri Chase Ferris incorporates dictionary-like definitions right into the text. This both reinforces the subject of the book and makes a fairly text-dense book more accessible to new readers. I also like the way she uses a slightly old-fashioned tone to her writing, to suit the time period. Not so much as to make the book inaccessible to modern kids, but just enough to give a flavor, though the use of words like "Alas". The text is rendered in an old-fashioned-looking font, also, furthering this impression. Even the author and illustrator bios at the end of the book follow these conventions, complete with definitions. This made me smile. 

Vincent X. Kirsch's illustrations show somewhat oddly proportioned people (see cover image above), but I think he does capture Noah's scholarly, well-intentioned character. I think that kids will appreciate seeing how Noah ages over time as the book progresses. The muted color scheme also support the historical, bookish feel of the book. The brightest thing on many pages is Noah's blue-backed speller". 

I only had one nit about the text. There's a sentence: "Over the next ten years Noah wrote six more schoolbooks for children and had several children of his own." The "several" seemed imprecise in a biography. I had to consult the end matter to see how many children Noah and his wife did have, to satisfy my own curiosity [8]. I'm guessing that the children arrived over more than those ten years, and this was too complex to explain, but it took me out of the story. This is, however, my only complaint about a solid, interesting, well-written book.  

A handy, illustrated timeline at the end of the book fills in details for those who are interested in extra facts, and should make Noah Webster & His Words a useful reference title for elementary school kids. A bibliography includes both primary and secondary sources [providing a good opportunity to introduce this concept to kids.]

Noah Webster & His Words is a picture book biography done right, from the choice of an important historical figure to the selection of anecdotes and facts to the choice of fonts. It belongs in primary school libraries and classrooms everywhere. As for me, I gained a new appreciation for Noah Webster, and for the importance of dictionaries in making America the distinct country it is today. Highly recommended!

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: October 23, 2012
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 Most Perfect Snowman: Chris Britt

Book: The Most Perfect Snowman
Author: Chris Britt
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

MostPerfectSnowmanThe Most Perfect Snowman by Chris Britt is about a lonely snowman named Drift who was "built fast and then forgotten", left without any clothing or even a carrot nose. Drift is mocked and ignored by the other (frankly, not very nice) snowmen. Things change for Drift when a compassionate trio of children happen by and spruce him up a bit. But when the choice arises whether to maintain his spiffy new accoutrements or help someone in need, Drift has the chance to really be perfect. 

OK, so the ending of this one is a little bit sappy. But Drift's reluctance to do the right thing is plausible, and the fact that he does it anyway makes this a good book for kids to read around the holidays. I also appreciated the author's finding a secondary use for a carrot nose, one that I think kids will appreciate. 

Britt's text is read-aloud-friendly, with a series of up and down emotions, and the use of apt vocabulary words. Like this:

"So he spent his days alone, swooshing
and sliding through the wintry woods,

often stopping in the shadows to watch
the others laugh and play."

The three children who help Drift are so excited that they declare him (loudly): "the PERFECT snowman!" The other snowmen watch "in astonishment." There's a fair bit of dialog in The Most Perfect Snowman, and I think that it could also work for first or second graders to read on their own. 

Britt's illustrations are filled with kid-friendly details, particularly the scenes in which the other snowman are partying away, dressed in their finery, and having snowball fights. There's a band with a sign: "Chilly and the Frozen Blobs". Drift raises his arms in the air with joy when a little boy gives him snuggly mittens. The smiles on the faces of Drift and the children as they play together are a delight to behold. 

The Most Perfect Snowman, though not technically a holiday book, is all about giving, from the gifts that the children give to Drift to the gifts that Drift passes along. With its snowman-filled pages and winter adventures, it would make an excellent addition to a winter-themed library read-aloud. I would expect young readers to laugh in the middle, and say "aww" at the end. I look forward to reading this one with my own daughter. Recommended!

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: October 11, 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 Magic Word: Mac Barnett and Elise Parsley

Book: The Magic Word
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Elise Parsley
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8


TheMagicWordWhen one sees a picture book entitled The Magic Word, one might understandably fear that it will be some moralizing tale about the importance of saying please. One might have this fear, that is, were the author someone other than Mac Barnett. But any aficionado of humorous picture books knows that Mac Barnett is sure to have more fun up his sleeves than that. And he does.

The Magic Word is about a boy named Paxton C. Heymeyer who, when prompted by his babysitter for "the magic word" says: "Can I have a cookie, ALAKAZOOMBA?" When a cookie immediately appears in his hand, young Paxton does what any right-minded child would do. He starts using ALAKAZOOMBA to request other things, like "a walrus that will chase the babysitter up to the North Pole" and a waterslide into the (new) pool in his living room. Paxton's exploits, and his house, get bigger and bigger. But after his friend Rosie shows a marked lack of appreciation for the whole ALAKAZOOMBA thing, Paxton begins to get a tad lonely. The resolution of The Magic Word is rather predictable overall, but with a refreshing, black-humorous twist at the very end.

The Magic Word is fairly text-dense, with a lot of dialog, and feels like more a book for early elementary school kids than for preschoolers. Here's a snippet:

""Pax," said Rosie, "you're a terrible host."

Well, Paxton wasn't going to stand there and be insulted in his very own house, let alone his very own castle with a helipad and pink-lemonade moat.

"WALRUS, ALAKAZOOMBA."

Paxton is not, perhaps, the nicest kid you'll read about in a picture book this week, but The Magic Word is chock-full of kid-friendly wish fulfillment. A lemonade moat. A swimming pool in the living room. A pet elephant. A roller coaster zipping around one's house. You get the idea. Elise Parsley's digitally generated illustrations bring all of these innovations, and more, to colorful life. She also clearly gets across Paxton's rather bratty personality, particularly in a close-up near the end of the book of what can only be described as an evil leer. 

The Magic Word is a book that kids will find fun from cover to cover. It should spark lots of interesting discussions, too, about what they would do if they discovered a magic word that could give them anything. I'm pretty sure that my daughter will be writing a "magic word" story of her own quite soon. Recommended!

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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