Picture Book Reviews: Hungry Jim & Reading Beauty

Two recent picture book releases on review today! Courtesy of the lovely folks at Raincoast Books, I will be be talking about Hungry Jim from Laurel Snyder and Chuck Groenink, and Reading Beauty by Deborah Underwood and Meg Hunt. Happy reading!

 

“I don’t feel much like a pancake today,” Jim called.
“Well, what do you feel like?” asked his mother.
Jim stared into the mirror.
He felt beastly.
Jim was not sure what to do.
On the one hand, he did not really want to devour his mother. …

Author Laurel Snyder (My Jasper June, Orphan Island), and illustrator Chuck Groenink (William’s Winter Nap and William Wakes Up, with Linda Ashman) bring readers the subversive and crafty story Hungry Jim. Jim, our protagonist, wakes up “on a Tuesday” and notices that his tail has “fallen asleep”…a rather strange thing to occur as “Jim had never had a tail before”! But how peculiar, as Jim appears to be a lion and lions have tails! In any event, before he can contemplate things much more, Jim hears his mom calling him downstairs for a pancake breakfast. Pancakes do indeed sound delicious, but with his stomach growling and a “beastly” feeling taking over, Jim is torn: he shouldn’t devour his mother, he doesn’t really want to but…oh dear. As readers see, Jim does in fact devour his mother, happens to feel terrible about it, but still feels hungry! So, Jim jumps and runs and runs and runs, devouring just about everyone is his path. Snyder and Groenink take Jim on an emotional and identifiable journey that leads Jim to a large, very, very scary foe, then on to an ultimately surprising, satisfying ending that will likely give readers much to ponder. Groenink’s pencil and digital illustrations are perfectly matched with Snyder’s beautifully compelling, funny, and rich storytelling: whether through Jim’s expressive eyes and facial movements; the warm hues that soon turn moody and gloomy; or the Sendak-like background spreads, readers’ attention is held by the wonderful match of art and text. Regarding Sendak: I have to say that by the end of the first page of Hungry Jim, Maurice Sendak‘s iconic Where The Wild Things Are immediately came to mind. I was delighted and touched to discover a heartwarming dedication at the book’s end from Laurel Snyder and Chuck Groenink “to the memory of the unrivaled Maurice Sendak, who is alive inside all of us, and occasionally peeks out in a book like this one“. A story about taming our own ‘beasts’ that will likely inspire or call readers back for multiple looks, Hungry Jim is a wonderfully full, clever, and unexpected tale perfect for readers who appreciate the curious, the unconventional and, of course, the work of Maurice Sendak.

 

Once upon a planetoid,
surrounded by book lovers,
a princess, Lex, read morning, noon,
and night (beneath her covers).

You may recognize the stellar (pun intended!) team of Deborah Underwood and illustrator Meg Hunt from their dazzling and fun picture book hit, Interstellar Cinderella. Now, the creators team up and turn their attention to a retelling of Sleeping Beauty with the cosmically delightful Reading Beauty. In Reading Beauty, readers follow a princess named Lex whose favourite thing in the world is to read! The princess loves reading so much that she has “even trained her puppy, Prince, to fetch her things to read”! But alas, as we might come to expect in a fairy tale, trouble is looming. When Lex turns fifteen, she confronts her parents when she discovers that all of her beloved books are being taken away. Her parents tell the story of a terrible curse that was placed upon a baby Lex by an angry, slighted fairy: from the moment Lex turns fifteen, a paper cut will put Lex in “a death-like sleep” for eternity, with “only a true love’s kiss” to “wake her”! For Lex, a world without reading, without books, though, is too dismal and dark to bear. Taking matters into her own hands (with assistance from her trusty, loving dog Prince!), Lex decides it is time to track down the fairy and “make her break the curse”. When Lex finally faces down the fairy, a surprising discovery leads to understanding and an exciting new promise. With Meg Hunt’s ebullient and eye-catching illustrations (this is incredibly just the artist/educator’s second picture book!) and Deborah Underwood’s engaging and bouncy storytelling leading the way, there is just so much to enjoy about Reading Beauty. (A note here that if you’ve spent some time in the world of picture books, it’s likely you’ve come across the wonderful- and proficient!- work of Deborah Underwood!). Lively, fun, and altogether a sincere pleasure to read aloud due to the easy and snazzy rhymes, Reading Beauty should surely hold appeal to readers who enjoyed Interstellar Cinderella. For readers looking for a fairy-tale adjacent picture books, empowering tales, or for those who enjoy stories by authors such as Andrea Beaty, Corey Rosen Schwartz, Shannon Hale, or Jon Sciezka, Reading Beauty may be a terrific pick.

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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