501 posts categorized "Picture Books" Feed

Vampirina at the Beach: Anne Marie Pace and LeUyen Pham

Book: Vampirina at the Beach
Author: Anne Marie Pace
Pages: LeUyen Pham
Age Range: 4-8

VampirinaBeachVampirina at the Beach is the third book in the Vampirina series, written by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Vampirina is a joyful young vampire with fangs and pale skin. In this entertaining picture book, Vampirina and her parents, along with a host of ghoulish friends, go to spend a full moon-lit evening at the beach. Pace's text doesn't directly address the fact that the various people in the story are non-human. She just shares things that are fun about visiting the beach, together with practical safety tips, leaving Pham to provide the visual, and unconventional, details.

For instance, we have this text over a couple of page spreads:

"When the waves are breaking, just right,
give surfing a whirl.

Practice your best ballet posture:
catch a wave,
demi-plie,
and ride,
ride,
RIDE!"

This spread is accompanied by vignettes that show Vampirina dragging a new, apparently human, friend out onto a gravestone-like surfboard. As the kids are trailed by a green octopus, the moon comes out from behind the clouds, and the friend is revealed to be not-so-human after all. Other spreads show sunken ships, pirate ghosts, and treasure maps, as well as supernatural creatures of all sorts doing relatively ordinary things, like playing beach volleyball and building sand castles. Turns out that being able to turn into a bat is useful in adding decorations to the tippy top of a castle. A fold-out spread in the middle of the book ramps up the action with a dance party. 

Vampirina at the Beach is full of entertaining monster details that will reward multiple inspections. These are set against a comforting backdrop of family fun and friendship. The closing image, of Vampirina and her friend sitting back-to-back eating roasted marshmallows beneath a full moon will make any kid smile. Pham manages to make the various monsters a mix of grotesque and cute, with Vampirina herself falling on the cute side, of course. 

Because so much of the fun of Vampirina at the Beach is visual, mainly in the form of multiple small illustrations per page, I think this is a better book for reading alone, or with a parent, rather than for a larger storytime. I think that first and second graders might be more receptive to the humor than preschoolers will, too, which also supports the read-alone, pore over it time and time again, hypothesis. Fans of the earlier two books will certainly want to give Vampirina at the Beach a look. It stands alone just fine, however (I have not read the other two books), and is a fun choice for celebrating the start of summer and beach season. Recommended! 

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 
Publication Date: April 4, 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).


Mosquitoes Can't Bite Ninjas: Jordan P. Novak

Book: Mosquitoes Can't Bite Ninjas
Author: Jordan P. Novak
Pages: 32
Age Range: 2-5

MosquitoesCantBiteNinjasMosquitoes Can't Bite Ninjas, by Jordan P. Novak, is just what it sounds like, a picture book that celebrates the triumph of a young ninja over a garden variety mosquito. Novak first recaps the categories of people that mosquitos do bite (swimmers, etc.). Then he shows that, despite being sneaky, quick, and persistent, mosquitoes are no match for the stealth, speed, and creativity of the ninja. He even introduces a baby ninja-in-training who has skills of his (?) own. The ending, in which the ninja ends up accidentally eating the mosquito, is a little bit disgusting, but definitely kid-appealing. It adds a nice twist to a story that might otherwise have been a bit too straightforward. 

This is a picture book for younger listeners. The text is minimal, and the digitally colored illustrations are bold and simple. I like the fact that the little we can see of the skin of the ninja siblings is brownish in color - not terribly dark, but at least dark enough to give some ambiguity. I also like how Novak can convey the ninja's attitude through his stance, when all we can really see of his face is his round eyes. 

Even though, at seven, she's a bit older than the target age range for this book, my ninja-obsessed daughter loved this book. What budding ninja wouldn't want to read:

"Mosquitoes try...
and try...
and try...

but a mosquito is no match

for a ninja."

Mosquitoes are universal. Ninjas are universally cool. Mosquitoes Can't Bite Ninja's belongs in libraries serving preschoolers. It would make an excellent start-of-summer storytime book. But parents should beware. It may awaken in their children the desire to become ninjas. In my experience, there are worst things. Recommended!

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BloomsburyKids)
Publication Date: March 28, 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).


Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night: Kallie George & Oriol Vidal

Book: Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night
Author: Kallie George
Illustrator: Oriol Vidal
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

DuckDinosaurNoiseNightDuck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night is the sequel to Duck, Duck, Dinosaur by Kallie George and Oriol Vidal. Both books feature a family with three siblings: two little ducks, Flap and Feather, and a much bigger dinosaur, Spike. In this installment, Mama Duck tells the siblings that it's time for them to "sleep all by themselves in their very own nest." They are initially proud and "only a little scared." Until a big, scary noise wakes them up, that is. They try hiding from the noise, and running away from the noise, and even scaring the noise. But the noise keeps following them. Sleep is impossible until they figure out just what the noise is.

My favorite part? At the very end of the book, we see that Mama Duck has been keeping watch all along, leaving it to the kids to solve their own problem. 

This is a text that calls out for reading aloud. The noise is rendered in huge block letters, to show how loud it is. There are calls from Spike to "HIDE!" and sound effects when their knees knock and teeth chatter. There is some repetition to the text which my six-year-old eventually had me skip over, but which I think will work well for preschoolers. Like this:

"They shared a story. They shared a snuggle. They sang a song. They counted the stars.

Then, at least, they fell asleep." 

This bedtime ritual repeats throughout the story. 

Vidal's digitally created illustrations are eye-catching and slightly stylized (particularly the backgrounds). He captures the coziness of the snuggling, and the utter exhaustion of the siblings as their night keeps being interrupted. The round eyes of all three after each scare made me laugh, and the fond smile of Mama Duck at the end made me smile, too. 

The source of the noise will be readily apparent to adult readers, but I don't think that kids will catch on. Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night is a book that has an age-appropriate hint of scary for preschoolers, but ultimately will leave young listeners with a warm, safe feeling. It is fun to read aloud, and kids will enjoy poring over the illustrations. Fans of the first book will certainly want to take a look at this one, and librarians will find it well worth a look for preschool storytime. 

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: February 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).


Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue: Calista Brill and Tad Carpenter

Book: Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue
Author: Calista Brill
Illustrator: Tad Carpenter
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7

TugboatBillTugboat Bill and the River Rescue by Calista Brill and Tad Carpenter is about a small tugboat named Bill and a rather beat-up barge named Mabel who work in the Hudson River. Bill and Mabel are friends, but they are essentially bullied by larger, newer ships. When the opportunity comes to rescue a kitten, however, it's the small, beat-up boats who really shine. 

Calista Brill's writing is read-aloud friendly, with short sentences but strong vocabulary words. Like this:

"The river is home to other ships, too.
They are big
     and graceful.
They are fit
     and prime.
They are haughty
     and vain
almost all of the time.

(They think they are so great.)"

and:

"Mabel
squares her shoulders
braces her hull
and pretends she doesn't hear.

But she does.
And so does Bill."

She uses sound effects, too, like "BLURB!" and "KERPLUNK". 

Tad Carpenter's illustrations are bright and friendly, with a graphic design feel. Both Bill and Mabel are engaging and distinctive, while the mean big boats are delightfully nasty. The crowd on the shore is multicultural, if you count blue and green people mixed in with the yellow ones (which I do). 

My only complain about Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue is that the ending, in which the big boats are regretful and hordes of people cheer for Bill and Mabel, is a bit ... easy. Sure, any reader will expect that the nice Mabel and Bill will do the right thing, and will be glad that they get a happy ending. But just because one gets public credit for doing the right thing doesn't mean that one's bullies will immediately come around. Still, just because my adult sensibilities had a hard time accepting this doesn't mean that it's not going to please preschoolers. And I do like that this is a subtle portrayal of bullying, masked as it is by the personification of the boats. And I think it's good to show kids characters who don't hesitate or waffle, but just go ahead and do the right thing without even thinking about it. 

Between the fun of the word choices and sound effects, the accessibility of the pictures, and the inherent coolness of tugboats, I think that young listeners will be captivated by Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue. It would make a great library read-aloud for preschoolers, and is a must for any kid who is obsessed with boats and/or rescues. Recommended!

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: February 21, 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).


Mrs. White Rabbit: Gilles Bachelet

Book: Mrs. White Rabbit
Author: Gilles Bachelet
Pages: 32
Age Range: 6-10

MrsWhiteRabbitMrs. White Rabbit by Gilles Bachelet is the picture book diary of the decidedly grumpy wife of the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. Mrs. White Rabbit shares her concerns about her children (including a daughter who wants to be a supermodel), unwanted visitors, neighborhood gossip, and a husband who does not pay her enough attention. 

This is definitely a picture book for older children, with dense text and relatively mature themes. I didn't want to explain to my six-year-old daughter why someone wanting to be a supermodel would spend all of her time on a scale and essentially stop eating, for example. I feel like she has plenty of time to learn about such body image issues as she gets older. There's also a toddler who "seems to be quite advanced for his age" and is seen peeking under the skirts of a pretty doll. Sigh. And, of course, a major theme is the relationship between an unappreciated wife and her neglectful husband, hardly a preschool-appropriate concept. 

There is certainly humor to the book, as when the aforementioned toddler wants to wear a bunny costume for Halloween. As an adult and a mother, I could relate to certain aspects of Mrs. White Rabbit's sardonic attitude. And, of course, there are Alice in Wonderland references, including an invisible cat from Cheshire that the family adopts, and a young girl who turns up who has "an unpleasant tendency to change size at the drop of a hat." I think that Mrs. White Rabbit would be wasted on readers lacking at least some familiarity with Alice in Wonderland. My six year old, who has seen the Disney animated movie once, and never read the book, recognized enough detail to find this book interesting. 

Bachelet's illustrations are full of whimsical details that harken to traditional stories but add a modern edge, such as Humpty Dumpty sitting on a wall all in one piece holding what looks like a beer bottle. Mrs. White Rabbit is shown shell-shocked and frequently angry, but she does get a moment of happiness in the end. My daughter and I were both a bit grossed out, though, when the impish twins are shown holding and playing with rabbit poop because they are "interested in everything" and able to "have fun with almost anything."

Mrs. White Rabbit is a creative and unusual picture book that demonstrates a mature sense of humor and adds hitherto unknown depth to the character of Alice in Wonderland's white rabbit. While I will admit that this book isn't quite my own personal cup of tea, my six year old found it hilarious and interesting. And I think that fans of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland will be quite pleased to visit the White Rabbit's home though this book. 

Publisher:Eerdmans Books for Young Readers 
Publication Date: February 6, 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).


Charlotte and the Rock: Stephen W. Martin & Samantha Cotterill

Book: Charlotte and the Rock
Author: Stephen W. Martin
Illustrator: Samantha Cotterill
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-6

CharlotteAndTheRockCharlotte and the Rock by Stephen W. Martin and Samantha Cotterill is about a girl who wants a pet, but instead is given a large rock. Charlotte tries to make the best of her unusual pet, celebrating the positives (hypoallergenic, good listener), but she can't help noticing that the rock is not good at eating her leftover broccoli from the table. Nor is the rock at all helpful in getting her out of trouble in school. ("You said WHAT ate your homework?") Charlotte adapts, but she never stops wishing that her pet could offer her more affection. A surprise twist at the end delighted me, and is sure to please young readers. 

I quite liked Charlotte and the Rock. Though I've read other stories about inanimate pets (My Pet Book by Bob Staake, Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly), something in the matter-of-fact tone of Charlotte and the Rock really worked for me. Like this (over two page spreads):

"But as with any pet, some things proved difficult.

Walks were not fun.

Really not fun."

Here we first see a red-cheeked Charlotte gritting her teeth, struggling to pull the rock (wearing a knitted hat) up a hill with a leash. Then (the really not fun part) she is flying down the hill behind the rock, as a squirrel jumps out of the way and people stare from inside shop windows.

Charlotte is adorable, with freckled cheeks, round glasses, and a plausible range of expressions. You can't help but feel for her when she is playing with her rock in the bath (using it to model a deserted island), wistfully wishing that the rock "could love her back." Her joy at the end of the book is a true pleasure to behold. 

Charlotte and the Rock is my favorite picture book of the year so far. Although it may be targeted a bit more towards preschoolers than to elementary school kids, I eagerly look forward to sharing it with my daughter. I'm sure she will love Charlotte (and the rock) as much as I do. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Dial Books  (@PenguinKids)
Publication Date: March 14, 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).


Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner: Tadgh Bentley

Book: Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner
Author: Tadgh Bentley
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

SamsonPiranhaSamson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner by Tadgh Bentley is about a "rather adventurous" piranha who likes to try new things. Most of all, Samson dreams of "eating fine food at the fanciest restaurants". Of course, fearsome piranhas are not generally welcome at fancy restaurants. Samson, however, is determined to give it a try. Only after a series of disguises fail, however, does Samson happen upon a real solution to his problem. 

Tadgh Bentley fills Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner with a lush vocabulary and hints of humor, together with read-aloud-friendly enthusiasm. Like this:

"His friends were right. He couldn't get into a restaurant looking like a piranha.

But maybe he COULD get in looking like something else. He would need a disguise!

Samson checked his moustache and fluffed his eyebrows. He could almost taste the luscious lily linguine and the sizzling seaweed sausages!

"Pardon me, but I believe you have a reservation for Samson P. Rana?""

Get it? P. Rana? Five years olds will like it. I liked the alliteration in "luscious lily linguine and the sizzling seaweed sausages". I also enjoyed expostulations like "SCALEY NEPTUNE'S CRABCAKES!" on the part of the restaurant staff members. 

Bentley's illustrations use deep underwater tones, blues and greens tinged with gray, dramatized with huge red letters when the various restaurant people shriek: "PIRANHA!". There are some nice details, too. I particularly enjoyed scenes showing Samson's boring friends, sitting around an underwater living room, one of them actually resident inside of an old television set. Samson, with his huge teeth, is not exactly an attractive creature, but his expressions do evoke sympathy, and his disguises are funny and cute.

I found the resolution of Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner to be a bit easy, but the final scene is humorous and apt. My daughter found this book hilarious, and will surely want to read it again. Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner takes an initially unsympathetic main character (who likes piranhas?) and makes readers root for him. It has a nice mix of humor and rich, alliterative vocabulary, making it a good recommendation for storytime read-aloud. This is a fun book that I'm happy to have read, and to recommend. 

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: February 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).


Not Quite Narwhal: Jessie Sima

Book: Not Quite Narwhal
Author: Jessie Sima
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

NotQuiteNarwhalNot Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima is a picture book about not fitting in, but being loved anyway, and finding your place. Kelp is born in the ocean, but knows early on that he is different from the other narwhals. He swims clumsily with a glass bowl on his head, wearing floaties and kicking his four legs, while the other narwhals swim gracefully about. His friends accept his differences, however, so he doesn't worry too much about it. Until, that is, his poor swimming leads to him being swept away on a strong current, ending up on land for the first time.  Where he discovers, and is accepted by, unicorns. But then Kelp has to make a choice between staying with his new-found, like friends on land, or going back to the friends below the surface, who doubtless miss him. The book's resolution is a bit sappy, but certainly joyful. 

My six-year-old delighted in knowing before Kelp did that he was, in fact, a unicorn. She also found the ending satisfying. I liked Kelp's determined and hopeful attitude, particularly in a scene where he teaches himself to walk on land by following various animals. Imitating a frog is not especially helpful for poor, Kelp, but it does provide entertainment for the reader. Here's a snippet of Sima's text from later in the book:

"Kelp swam toward home as fast as he could,
which wasn't very fast at all,
hoping that the narwhals would still like him now that he was a unicorn.

When he finally arrived, Kelp had butterflies in his stomach."

There's a mild humor in phrases like "which wasn't very fast at all" (because we've already established that Kelp isn't much of a swimmer), and in some of the dialog (as when Kelp's friends tell him that they always knew that he wasn't a narwhal). This humor off-sets what could have been a tad too much sweetness in Kelp's expression and in the trappings of unicorns (rainbows coming out of their horns, etc.). 

You can read Not Quite Narwhal straight up, as the sparkly story of a unicorn born to narwhals who discovers other unicorns, then journeys home to the narwhals who loved him all along. Or you can read Not Quite Narwhal as a parable about not fitting in (because of being gay, or transgender, or whatever else might make a person feel different) and then discovering that there are other people like you. I can envision a little bookworm living in a house of people who only watch tv discovering a world of avid readers one day in the library, and thinking "Oh, so that's what I am." The possibilities are endless, and make Not Quite Narwhal much more than it seems on the surface. Recommended!

Publisher:Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (@SimonKids)
Publication Date: February 14, 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).


Charlotte the Scientist is Squished: Camille Andros & Brianne Farley

Book: Charlotte the Scientist is Squished
Author: Camille Andros
Illustrator: Brianne Farley
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

CharlotteScientistCharlotte the Scientist is Squished, by Camille Andros and Brianne Farley, is about a rabbit who is a scientist, but has trouble focusing on her work because her home is so crowed (rabbits being the way they are). At her wit's end, Charlotte decides to apply the scientific method to her problem. Her lack of space ends up leading her to outer space, where it is quite, but, perhaps, just a bit lonely. Can the trusty scientific method, applied one more time, help Charlotte to come up with a better solution to her problem? 

I was, of course, thrilled to see a picture book featuring a young female scientist. The listing of, and following of, the steps of the scientific method was an additional bonus. The book even includes a bit more detail about the scientific method and some followup questions as end material. My six-year-old, science-minded daughter had no interest in the end material. As an only child, she also couldn't relate very well to Charlotte's difficulty in finding alone time. But, like me, she liked Charlotte anyway, and enjoyed her adventure. 

Camille Andros' text features direct sentences and a matter-of-fact, let's-get-it-done feel. This tone is appropriate to the science-based theme, but also a nice counter-point to the ridiculousness of a rabbit building a carrot-shaped spaceship. Here's a snippet (over two page spreads):

"She tried an experiment to make everyone disappear...
... but it didn't work.

She tried another experiment to make herself disappear.
But that didn't work either."

Brianne Farley's illustrations add both humor and heart to the story. The opening scene, in which a stoic Charlotte stands surrounded by her family, is priceless. The family ranges from babies to clingy young siblings to a male rabbit who is clearly an aloof teenager. They all have personality. The spaceship is delightful, as is Charlotte's joy when she runs across a completely empty moonscape. 

While the conclusion of Charlotte the Scientist is Squished is not surprising, I think that preschool and early elementary readers will find it satisfying. Most readers with siblings, especially younger siblings, will be able to relate to Charlotte's quest to find a bit of quiet space for herself. Charlotte is an engaging heroine, serious and science-minded, but also appreciative of things like blowing bubbles in the bathtub. And despite her differences from her family members, their mutual affection for one another comes through clearly. Libraries and classrooms serving early elementary school readers will definitely want to take a look at Charlotte the Scientist is Squished. Recommended, and going on our "keep" shelf!

Publisher: Clarion Books (@hmhkids)
Publication Date: March 14, 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).


Otter Loves Easter!: Sam Garton

Book: Otter Loves Easter!
Author: Sam Garton
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

OtterLovesEasterOtter, lovable protagonist of a series of books by Sam Garton starting with I Am Otter, is back with a new adventure. In this installment, we learn that Otter loves Easter! Otter is a young otter who lives with an adult male known as Otter Keeper, and surrounds himself with a slew of stuffed animals. [Hmm, I never before thought about the parallels to Curious George, though Otter's adventures are far more domestically-centered.] In Otter Loves Easter!, Otter awakens excitedly on Easter morning to find a bounty of candy. He overeats, of course, finding it simply too hard to share his candy with his (stuffed) friends. After the inevitable stomachache, and a nap, Otter sets up an Easter egg hunt as a way to atone to his candy-less friends. 

It really struck me in this installment how much Otter Keeper pampers Otter. Though Otter takes the lead in every scene (we catch merely a few glimpses of Otter Keeper's feet), as a parent I found it impossible not to notice the huge pile of Easter treats at the foot of Otter's bed. And the adorable Easter breakfast waiting for him on the table, complete with bunny ear pancakes and a decorated hard-boiled egg in a cup. The Easter egg hunt, too, had to involve significant effort on the part of Otter Keeper ("Otter Keeper helped a little too, because even an Easter expert needs help from a grown-up sometimes). This Otter-centered Easter celebration is sure to appeal to young children, most of whom delight in feeling essential to their parents (particularly when lots of candy is involved). 

Otter's messy, occasionally flawed, but well-intentioned antics are full of kid-appeal, too. He puts a hand to his mouth after spilling a dye-filled cup. He looks positively miserable after binging on candy. He regrets the realization that "All the Easter eggs were in my tummy, and my friends hadn't gotten any." He is, in short, both lovable and relatable. 

The Easter egg hunt scene is particularly delightful. Otter's stuffed friends are strategically located around the yard, and the careful reader will enjoy looking among the clutter for the Easter eggs. There are also various live animals, most watching the hunt with wide eyes, and occasional disapproval. One squirrel worriedly clutches a decorated egg, his arms barely fitting around it. A cat lounges on the shed room with sunglasses, holding a drink with a straw, for some reason. This page spread is bright, chaotic fun from corner to corner. 

One other small visual touch that I liked in Otter Loves Easter! is that the end pages are decorated with Easter-egg like patterns in yellow, white, and lavender.

Fans of Otter will not want to miss Otter Loves Easter! And if you are not a fan yet, this is a good place to start. Libraries will certainly want to add Otter Loves Easter! to their holiday collections. Focused entirely on the secular aspects of Easter, Otter Loves Easter! celebrates the delights of Easter eggs and baskets, as well as the safety that comes with being a cherished child. Recommended!

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: January 24, 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 Fox Wish: Kimiko Aman and Komako Sakai

Book: The Fox Wish
Author: Kimiko Aman
Illustrator: Komako Sakai
Pages: 32
Age Range: 2-5

TheFoxWishThe Fox Wish was originally published in Japan in 2003, and was brought to the U.S. this year by Chronicle Books. Written by Kimiko Aman and illustrated by Komako Sakai, The Fox Wish is about two children who find magic in what might have been an ordinary day. The first-person narrator, a little girl, realizes that she has left her jump rope at the playground. She heads out to get it, taking her little brother (barely more than a toddler) with her. This is the first fanciful aspect to the story, really, since two children that young would not, today, be likely to just head out on their own without a word to any adult. Anyway, the children discover that the jump rope has been taken by a group of foxes, who are attempted to jump rope and singing a fun song. The girl ends up helping them (they are having problems with caught tails). At the end of the book, the girl has a chance to help a young fox's wish come true. 

There is certainly a message to this book, about how lovely it is watch someone else's wishes come true. But the message comes only at the end of a charming, if somewhat quirky, adventure. Kimiko Aman's text is quiet and contemplative, like this:

"But there wasn't anything left hanging from the tree branch where I'd left it.

Where could it be?

A big wind blew.

"What's that?" Lukie asked.

From somewhere nearby we could hear other kids laughing."

And:

"Lukie and I were quiet all the way back through the park.
The light was golden and the air was warm, and in our footsteps I kept hearing the rhythm of the jump-rope rhyme."

Komako Sakai's acrylic gouache, oil pencil, and ballpoint illustrations did not originally grab me, but they've grown on me as I spend more time with the book. There's a remote quality to the illustrations, the children's faces just barely drawn in, that adds to the fanciful feel of the story. The Fox Wish feels like a tale that might be told at bedtime to children in Narnia. 

The Fox Wish won the Japan Picture Book Award, and it certainly has an international feel (though the children look more American than Japanese). I'll be interested to see how it's received by children in the U.S. Personally, I found the story charming and unusual. It left me with a good feeling, and a desire to see people's wishes come true. Recommended. 

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: March 14, 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).


Hats Off to You!: Karen Beaumont and LeUyen Pham

Book: Hats Off to You!
Author: Karen Beaumont
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

HatsOffToYouThe just-released Hats Off to You! is a companion book to the glittery Shoe-la-la!. In the first book, four girls declare their love for shoes. In this new title, the same girls are enamored of hats: dramatic, sparkly, eye-catching hats. The story begins with Emily, Ashley, Kaitlyn, and Claire in an attic, dressing up in fancy clothes, but lacking hats. They go down to a street fair conveniently located below and find a tent called "Chez Chapeaux" (yes, this is one of those books that will have the reader rhyming everything by the end of a read-through). They try on a plethora of hats before returning to the attic to add extra decorations to their selections. Only at the end of the book does the reader learn that the outfits are for a mother-daughter tea. 

Beaumont's bouncy text is read-aloud friendly and unabashedly glamour-focused. Like this:

"Oo-la-la! This hat's tres chic.
Mine was made in Mozambique.

Funky hat, to match my shoes.
I like the girly curlicues." 

She does vary the meter occasionally, to keep things from getting too sing-songy. Like this:

"Emily, Ashley, Kaitlyn, Claire!
Need to choose new hats to wear.

Hats and more hats piled up high.
Which hats do we want to buy?

Oh, my!"

There's almost a Dr. Seuss feel to the above example, paired as it is with LeeUyen Pham's jaunty illustrations of the girls dancing around the store, following the vendor. Each ends up with a leaning stack of multiple hats atop her head. The vendor's clown-like attire adds to the over-the-top feel of the celebration. 

As for the girls, they are adorable, with big smiles, and apparently boundless energy. They represent a range of ethnicities, with the hat-seller adding yet another gradation of skin tones. Each mom strongly resembles her daughter, and the book ends in warm hugs and thanks to the moms for all that they do. What mom wouldn't want to read this with her daughter? What six-year-old wouldn't delight in the crazy hats that end up on the moms' heads? 

Hats Off to You! is a delightful celebration of friendship, motherhood, and dressing up. It is multicultural without being "about" diversity, which is, I think, a great way to go when you can pull it off. While clearly aimed at four to eight year old girls, I could see Hats Off to You! appealing to that segment of little boys who like dressing up, too. It is read-aloud friendly and one that I look forward to sharing with my own six-year-old. Recommended!

Publisher: Scholastic  (@Scholastic
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).