Picture Book Reviews: Before I Leave & Ninja Baby
How do you say goodbye to your best friend?
When a little hedgehog’s family tells her they’re moving far away, she and her anteater best friend decide to play one last time, like nothing is changing. And though it’s hard, they discover that while some things have to change, the most important things find a way of working out.
After reading and falling in love with Jessixa Bagley’s previous picture book, the critically-acclaimed and superb debut Boats for Papa, I couldn’t wait to see/read what Bagley would do next. With the same soft touch of portraying genuine love and sadness- this time in a different capacity- Bagley’s Before I Leave is another beautiful and affecting picture book. A simple story unfolds: hedgehog’s family is moving to a new home…taking her far away from her best friend in the world. Through Zelda the hedgehog’s uncomplicated and pitch-perfect first person narrative, we see how she and best friend, anteater Aaron, face the impending move. Through Bagley’s gentle, colourful and expressive illustrations, readers get to experience how Zelda decides to spend her time before she leaves, and how Aaron helps her face some of her fears about moving.
A soft and unassuming picture book about saying goodbye, Before I Leave is a wonderful story that brims with sensitivity, the happiness of friendship, love, and finding some sunshine in clouds of sadness. Readers young and old will find much to enjoy and savor in this endearing story. Jessixa Bagley is clearly a big talent in picture books and I cannot wait to discover her future books!
From the day she was born, Nina was a ninja baby. She obliterated her applesauce. She concealed herself at bath time. And she was training herself in advanced infiltration (of movie night). Nina wants to do everything by herself, until the day her parents bring home a Kung Fu Master (a baby brother). Now with a sibling, Nina will face the one thing she cannot do alone: be part of a family. With verve and humor, David Zeltser and Diane Goode tell the story of an unusually gifted child, and the family that is more than a match for her.
With positive reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus, David Zeltser and Diane Goode’s Ninja Baby makes a spirited entrance into the picture book sphere. Zeltser does a solid job here in his picture book debut: in precisely restrained text and diction, his text just springs to life with accomplished illustrator Goode’s artwork. Diane Goode’s illustrations are absolutely terrific: dynamic, fluid, and with just enough detail to capture all the essential elements of the story. With such an active story and combustible main character here in Nina the ninja, it’s a testament to the skill of both author and illustrator that the story never once feels frenetic or overworked!
If you’re expecting a simple picture book just about a funny little girl who is a brilliant young martial artist, you may be in for a surprise or two. While indeed about young ninja Nina and her exceptional skills from birth, the picture book is also a story about a young child who is suddenly faced with becoming a big sister. Nina not only reacts in some unexpectedly non-ninja-like ways to being a big sister and but also feels a bit lonely…However, things change when she learns some very impressive techniques from her surprisingly skillful new brother. A fun twist at the end may have readers wondering if we may ever get to see more of Ninja Baby and Kung Fu Master baby in action! Overall, Ninja Baby is an entertaining, energetic and witty read that also offers an interesting and fresh take on welcoming a new sibling.
I received copies of Before I Leave and Ninja Baby courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.