516 posts categorized "Picture Books" Feed

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).


Super Slug of Doom: Matty Long

Book: Super Slug of Doom
Author: Matty Long
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

SuperSlugOfDoomSuper Slug of Doom is the sequel to Matty Long's Super Happy Magic Forest (reviewed here). In this installment, an evil slug named Zorgoth is accidentally released and sets out to find and drink The Potion of Power. If Zorgoth is successful, the Super Happy Magic Forest will be destroyed. The same band of five heroes from the previous book sets out to follow Zorgoth's (slime) trail, and prevent disaster. Their travels lead them deep beneath the earth, where they encounter one-eyed miner trolls, hot lava-soaking dragons, and culinarily-obsessed ogres. But, in the end, the heroes manage to save the day. 

What makes Super Slug of Doom fun are tongue-in-cheek moments. For example, at one point four of them are sitting around a campfire when they realize that Trevor, their mushroom companion, is  missing. Then Blossom the unicorn says: "Come to think of it, I remember seeing Trevor in a cage back in Ogre Village...". And off they go to undertake a rescue. Observant young readers will have already noticed Trevor in the cage, next to a sign that says: "DINNER: Mushroom toast. DESSERT: Low-fat yogurt."

My other favorite scene comes late in the book. The text says:

"Eventually, the heroes
arrived at the foot of a great
mountain. Somehow, they knew
that the Potion of Power
must be close."

The illustration shows a huge sign in the shape of an arrow that says: "POTION OF POWER THIS WAY". Yes, somehow they knew. 

So the heroes are a bit hapless. But this is going to work perfectly for young readers, who can feel superior. The illustrations in Super Slug of Doom tend towards complex page spreads filled with small pictures, and plenty of dialog bubbles to read. This is more a book to pore over than a book to read aloud. Certainly it is better one-on-one than in a group read-aloud setting, where the small images would be too hard to read. My daughter was especially pleased to notice an "Ogre Yoda", and also appreciated a cameo from two penguins seen in the first book. 

Fans of Super Happy Magic Forest will probably be as thrilled as my daughter was to see that there is now a sequel. While I'm not sure the second book completely holds up to the fun and inventiveness of the first (because that would be difficult), Super Slug of Doom is still well worth a look, and a must-purchase for libraries serving the K-2 set. Recommended. 

Publisher: Scholastic (@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).


Kid Amazing vs. the Blob: Josh Schneider

Book: Kid Amazing vs. the Blob
Author: Josh Schneider
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-7

KidAmazingBlogIn Kid Amazing vs. the Blob, a boy named Jimmy has a secret identity as a crime-fighting superhero. When the "emergency catastrophe alarm" goes off with "an extremely annoying howl", Jimmy heads down through a secret elevator to a high-tech base hidden deep below his otherwise ordinary home. There he dons his special gear and transforms into Kid Amazing! The Commissioner sends him off on a mission that involves confronting his "arch-nemesis, the Blob!". After dangerous encounters with a stink cloud and a slime-covered floor, Kid Amazing finds a way to silence the Blob and save the day. 

The joke, of course, is that the Commissioner is Jimmy's mom, the Blob is his baby sister, and her "stink-containment unit" is a dirty diaper. Adult readers will know exactly where the story is going from the first couple of pages. Younger listeners will catch on as the book progresses.

Although I didn't find Kid Amazing vs. the Blob suspenseful, I appreciated the way that Schneider captures the hyper-dramatic way that kids interact with the world. And I liked Jimmy's mom's matter-of-fact acceptance of it. Like this:

"It's the Commissioner.

"What is it, Commissioner?" asks Kid Amazing.

"Jimmy--" says the Commissioner.

"Kid Amazing," says Kid Amazing.

"Kid Amazing," says the Commissioner. "Do you hear that howling? Could you please see what's going on?"

"I'm on it," says Kid Amazing. Who could it be?
And evil giant robot? Those space lobsters again?
No, only one thing could howl such an annoying howl:
Kid Amazing's arch-nemesis, the Blob!

"The Blob! says Kid Amazing. "Don't worry. I'll take care of her.""

And off he goes. The above text covers one side of a single page spread. On the other we see Kid Amazing at the controls of his lair, looking through a screen at the Commissioner, who is washing dishes in the kitchen but wearing a police hat. The lair is shown in blue-gray shading, making it fairly clear what is imaginary and what is real. At least, for those who choose to accept that some of this is imaginary. 

Other pages include little insets for "Kid Amazing Gadgets", like trading cards. For example, there's "#55. Mystery Cloth":

"The origin of this mystery cloth is
unknown (although it does bear a
slight resemblance to a missing black
tie). In any event, with the Kid's
brilliant addition of two holes, it
now keeps his secret identity safe." 

A small sketch indicates that the Mystery Cloth is an eye mask. 

Kid Amazing vs. the Blob is fairly text-dense, but the melodramatic tone should keep it accessible for read-alouds to preschoolers. I think it would work better as a one-on-one read-aloud than for storytime, however, because I see kids wanting to look more closely at the pages, unwrapping what is actually going on in light of what Kid Amazing says is going on. 

Kids who enjoy pretending to be spies and secret agents and the like will identify with Kid Amazing, and likely to want to draw their own secret lairs. Kids who have younger siblings will appreciate the perils of stinks and slime, and responsibility that comes with looking after babies. Kid Amazing vs. the Blob is definitely worth a look for the superhero-obsessed set. 

Publisher: Clarion (@HMHKids) 
Publication Date: June 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).


What George Forgot: Kathy Wolff and Richard Byrne

Book: What George Forgot
Author: Kathy Wolff
Illustrator: Richard Byrne
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-6

WhatGeorgeForgotWhat George Forgot is a very cute picture book, perfect for the pre-K-2 set. George is a young boy (my first grade daughter declares him without doubt to be a kindergartener) who is about to leave for school. The problem is that George is pretty sure he's forgotten something important. So he runs back in his mind through all of the things he's done that morning, from waking up to waking his family to eating breakfast to petting the dog. The first clue to what George has forgotten is revealed to young readers here:

"He'd gotten dressed in his favorite fuzzy sweater.
And put on his brand-new watch.
He'd even remembered clean undies.

What could George be forgetting?"

Astute young readers like my first grader will immediately notice that George neglects to put on pants over his clean undies (polka-dotted boxers). Younger listeners may take longer, but Kathy Wolff and Richard Byrne do give them other chances (particularly when George uses the bathroom). In the end, it's George's little sister and his dog who realize what he's forgotten and run after him to catch him as he gets on the school bus. Even though she knew what he had forgotten all along, my daughter still pealed with laughter at the book's conclusion. 

As for me, I got a kick of the author's clear understanding of young children. Like this:

Had he remembered to:

Use the bathroom?
Yes.

Flush? Yes.

Wash his hands? Yes.

(With soap?)

Oh, right. Yes.

Turn off the faucet?
Yes. (Just in time!)

This sequence, over three pages, is accompanies by vignettes. Any parent will smile over George first holding out his wet hands, and only displaying soap bubbles after being reminded. The nearly overflowing sink also reminded me of a recent near miss with the bathtub in my house. 

Richard Byrne's illustrations add warmth and humor, with details about George's large, messy breakfast and an incident in which he uses toast crusts and yogurt to give his little sister whiskers. George is large-headed and messy-haired, with a generally cheerful smile. No parents are visible, adding to the book's kid-friendliness quotient. 

What George Forgot has a perfect blend of realistic day-to-day detail and over-the-top, slapstick humor. Even though George does, well, forget his pants, he's otherwise quite competent and independent. This would be a great book to give to any kid as a first-day-of-school (especially preschool) gift. Highly recommended, and new favorite in my house. 

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BloomsburyKids)
Publication Date: July 4, 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).


Good Morning, Grizzle Grump!: Aaron Blecha

Book: Good Morning, Grizzle Grump!
Author: Aaron Blecha
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

GoodMorningGrumpGood Morning, Grizzle Grump! is the sequel to Good Night, Grizzle Grump!, both by Aaron Blecha. In the first book, brown bear Grizzle Grump is ready to hibernate, but has trouble because the other animals keep making too much noise. In this installment, Grizzle Grump has woken up from his long nap and is hungry. He sets out with his friend Squirrel to look for food. But every time he finds and gathers food (berries, fish, etc.), other bears sneak off with it while Grizzle Grump's back is turned. He gets hungrier and hungrier and grumpier and grumpier, right up until he discovers a surprise bear picnic. Then he eats so much that he's ready to go to sleep again. 

 This is a fun book to read aloud, with lots of sound effects and silliness. Here's a snippet.

"BERRIES!
Gooseberries!
Lingonberries!
Boysenberries!
Huckleberries!
All ready to EAT!

Now, where
did Squirrel go?"

There's a "HEE HEE HEE" from Squirrel, hiding in a picnic basket. While Grizzle Grump is distracted by Squirrel, we glimpse three sets of paws reaching out for Grizzle Grump's huge pile of berries. On the next page:

""HEY!
Come back
here with my
BERRIES!"

With a gurgling!
And a gargling!

Grizzle Grump and his empty
tummy stomp off in search of
another springtime snack."

This dynamic is repeated with only minor variations in text as Grizzle Grump finds fish and bugs. The repetition will likely be pleasing for preschool-age listeners, though adults may tire of it on repeat readings. 

Blecha's colorful illustrations are cheerful and dynamic. Grizzle Grump's dismay as his food is stolen is palpable in his expression as well as his physical response (jumping up and shaking). There are hints to look for that more astute readers will notice, such a a wink exchanged between Squirrel and the thieves. I thought that the other round-eyed bears looked rather, well, not so bright, shall we say? But they are certainly having a good time, and young readers will, too. Fans of Good Night, Grizzle Grump! will not want to miss Grizzle Grump's further adventures. 

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: April 18, 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).


Shorty & Clem: Michael Slack

Book: Shorty & Clem
Author: Michael Slack
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

ShortyAndClemShorty & Clem is the story of two friends. Shorty is a relatively short dinosaur and Clem is a quail. They apparently live together. One day while Clem is out, a package arrives for him. Shorty is achingly curious about the contents of the package (wrapped in cheerful spotted paper). He doesn't feel right opening it, but, well, bouncing it, thumping on it, and other activities prove irresistible. Eventually Shorty succumbs to temptation and opens the package, finding something delightful. But he has to face the music when Clem comes home. Or does he? 

This book reminded me very much of the Elephant & Piggie books (with Shorty taking the role or Elephant), albeit with a hint more text, and obviously very different illustrations. For example, on one page spread Shorty says:

"I will drive it!"

He looks gleeful (if somewhat demented), sitting on the package. Then there's a page of sound effects: "VROOM, VROOOM, VROOOOM" "screetch" "CRASH!" as he drives the box/car around. I could just hear Gerald the Elephant saying "I will eat the ice cream!" under similar circumstance. 

But, you know, someone does have to fill the void left by the retirement of Elephant and Piggie. And Shorty and Clem are dynamic and funny. Michael Slack's exclamation-filled text is read-aloud friendly, with plenty of opportunities for drama. And the colorful characters are visually engaging. Clem, I think, is especially cute, with his big round eyes. (I'm not sure why Clem is male, to tell the truth, as he is basically wearing pumps, but whatever.) 

I think that Shorty & Clem could work well for a storytime read-aloud for preschoolers, or as an early reader for primary-age kids. Slack nicely captures the desperation that young kids feel when they have to wait to open a present. Oh, the suffering! Shorty's creative uses of the simple box are also inspired. I would not be at all surprised to see these two characters repackaged into an early reader format, and having further adventures. In any event, my daughter and I enjoyed them in picture book format. Recommended. 

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


Go Sleep in Your Own Bed!: Candace Fleming & Lori Nichols

Book: Go Sleep in Your Own Bed!
Author: Candace Fleming
Illustrator: Lori Nichols
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7

GoSleepInYourOwnBedI thought that Go Sleep in Your Own Bed! would be one of those books designed to encourage kids to, well, sleep in their own beds, instead of with Mom and Dad. But if that is the point that Candace Fleming is trying to make, she has an unusually subtle approach. Instead, Go Sleep in Your Own Bed is a silly tale in which a succession of animals each attempts to go to bed, finds someone else in the bed, kicks out said someone else, and then goes to sleep. Then we proceed to the next page spread, where that kicked out animal also finds his or her bed taken. This structure is repeated half a dozen times. There is a mild surprise at the end when the final animal is offered the choice to sleep in someone else's bed. 

What made this book work for me was Fleming's use of apt descriptive language. Like this:

"Oh, w-w-w-h-o-o-o-a is me," whickered Horse. 
And he shambled to his stable, cloppety-plod.

But when he settled down--
Mehhhhh!
Who do you think he found?

(next page)

"Get up!"
whinnied Horse.
"Go sleep in your
own bed!"

For a book with so little text, those are some great descriptive words. "Whickered", "shambled", "clopety-plod". And of course there is a hint in "Mehhhhh" about what the next animal is going to be. Vocabulary-building and read-aloud friendly! 

Lori Nichols' illustrations add humor on every page, from chicken feathers flying everywhere when the chickens try to evict a horse to the expression of righteous indignation on the face of the horse when he finds a sheepish sheep in his bed. She also includes visual hints of what the next animal will be (e.g. a bunch of shaggy wool that looks like a mop, in the above example), making it more fun for younger listeners to guess the next animal. She uses dim backgrounds throughout, and closes the book with a cozy nighttime scene perfect for saying "Goodnight" to young listeners.

Go Sleep in Your Own Bed! is a comforting bedtime read, perfect for preschoolers. There's enough interesting vocabulary to keep primary listeners engaged, too, and enough silliness that it could also work as part of a farm sounds unit for a school or library storytime. Definitely worth a look, for libraries and families! Recommended!

Publisher: Schwartz and Wade (@RandomHouseKids
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).


Enzo and the Fourth of July Races: Garth Stein and R.W. Alley

Book: Enzo and the Fourth of July Races
Author: Garth Stein
Illustrator: R.W. Alley
Pages: 40
Age Range: 6-8

EnzoFourthOfJulyI like the previous books about Enzo very much (see reviews here and here). But Enzo and the Fourth of July Races I LOVE. Enzo is a cute little dog who lives with a girl named Zoe and her race car driver dad, Denny. The books are told from Enzo's perspective. In this installment, Enzo accompanies Zoe and Denny to Pine Cone Speedway for the Fourth of July Races. Denny will be competing as usual. And Zoe will be competing for her first time in the Kids' Kart Challenge. If she can overcome the hit to her confidence that comes from overhearing a boy scoff at the idea of a girl competing, that is. 

There's so much to love about this book. It's about how you need to have confidence in yourself to succeed, and how no one else can give that to you externally. It's about the rewards of working hard, and about how you should pay attention to people who might have useful information (even if they are not in conventionally "important" positions). And it's about how girls can, in fact, accomplish anything they set out to do. 

Of course regular readers know that I am very sensitive to books that are didactic. But Enzo and the Fourth of July Races manages to teach these growth mindset-inspired lessons without the tiniest hint of being message-y. I think Garth Stein pulls this off by keeping the viewpoint of the book squarely in Enzo's determined paws. Enzo isn't capable of thinking in didactic terms, and readers won't be, either. Enzo is just observing what Zoe and Denny do, with a few reflections on how they feel, and trying to figure out how he can support his family. It's brilliant. 

The book also highlights fun aspects of the fact that the narrator is a dog. Enzo has learned a bit about people since his puppy days, but he still has a decidedly dog-centric view of the world. Like this:

"This is what I love about the racetrack: the roar of engines, the smell of fuel and rubber, the dirt on everyone's faces, and the look of intensity in their eyes as they work on their cars to make them the fastest of the weekend.

And I also like that sometimes someone drops a hot dog and doesn't notice."

There's also a great spread in which Zoe and Denny are both qualifying at the same time. Enzo runs back and forth between them until he is tired and panting, observing: "They don't realize how much work it is for me to look after them!" You just have this feeling that dogs really think that way. 

R. W. Alley's illustrations of Enzo and his family are warm and pleasing. The illustrator of recent Paddington books brings the shaggy Enzo to life perfectly. 

One other thing I love about this book is what a great dad Denny is. When Zoe (temporarily) backs out of the Go Kart race he tells her: "A wise man once told me there is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose." But he also tells her: " I respect your decision, and I love you whether or not you race." I kind of wanted to hug him right there. 

Enzo and the Fourth of July Races is long and text-dense for a picture book. I would recommend it more for first and second graders than for younger kids. Despite being long, to me (and I am not at all patient these days) it didn't drag on at all. Every page and paragraph was necessary to the plot. Because the vocabulary is relatively straightforward, I think it could work as a read-alone book for first or second graders, or for a classroom read-aloud (perhaps over a couple of days). Certainly my first grader had no hesitation whatsoever in assigning Enzo and the Fourth of July Races to the "write about this book" stack. 

Enzo and the Fourth of July Races is a new favorite in our household. Highly recommended for home or school use!

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).