Picture Book Review: A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano & Lane Smith

Review: A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano, illus. Lane Smith
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: May 1, 2018 by Roaring Book Press
Book Description:

The dynamic duo of Ezra Jack Keats Award-winning author Julie Fogliano and Caldecott Award-winning illustrator Lane Smith team up to tell a delightful story about a boy and a girl who explore an abandoned house and imagine who might have lived there in A House That Once Was .

Deep in the woods
is a house
just a house
that once was
but now isn’t
a home.

Who lived in that house? Who walked down its hallways? Why did they leave it, and where did they go?

Two children set off to find the answers, piecing together clues found, books left behind, forgotten photos, discarded toys, and creating their own vision of those who came before.

Readers who have already experienced the beautifully melodic writing of the Julie Fogliano (If You Want to See a Whale) as well as the lush (and sometimes wonderfully peculiar) artwork of Lane Smith (Grandpa Green), might already know that they are in for a treat with A House That Once Was!

At the top of a hill
sits the house
that is leaning.
A house that once wasn’t
but now is peeling.
A house that was once
painted blue.

Image from A House That Once Was via Macmillan site

Tinged with this happy-sad feeling of nostalgia, a little bit achy, bittersweet yet hopeful, A House That Once Was is story told through the eyes of two young kids who find an old, seemingly abandoned house in the woods. As a bright-eyed blue bird closely watches (and possibly judges!) the kids’ behaviour, the two explorers venture inside through “a window that now has no window at all, a window that says climb inside”. The children wander quietly- whispering to each other- making their way through the house, looking at photographs, emptied cans, books, cooking, and other forgone items, imagining who might have once owned and lived in the house that once was. Could the owner have been a “woman who painted all day in the garden portraits of squirrels…”, or “a boy who built planes and dreamt nightly of flying? A baby? A cowboy? A queen or a king?”. Thinking about why this house is in its current state, the children consider everything from past residents being involved in shipwrecks…or taking off to Paris…simply running away…Or! Is the house is simply waiting for their owner(s) to return? After some time has passed, the children venture out of the “house that was once but now isn’t a home”- blue bird still watching their movements- and ponder at their experiences as they make their way back to their own waiting, inviting home.

Image from A House That Once Was via Macmillan site

I have mentioned the feeling of nostalgia in a few picture books as of late (e.g. Alma and How She Got Her Name), and there’s just something that I quite love about a story with some wistfulness in it…Quiet, lyrical picture books such as A House That Once Was are an experience to read and to savour (A House That Once Was would be a lovely read to pair with A House Held Up by Trees and This House, Once). I have read this title a number of times to myself, but reading it aloud and relishing in performing Fogliano’s rhythmic texts makes for a new experience! Overall, a beautiful read that stands perfectly against the backdrop of Smith’s thoughtful and rather dreamy mixed-media illustrations. Readers who have have previously read and enjoyed Julie Fogliano’s work and are fans of Lane Smith’s art, or who enjoy more reflective picture books might especially enjoy the beauty of A House That Once Was.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

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Picture Book Reviews: A Perfect Day by Lane Smith & Noisy Night by Mac Barnett and Brian Biggs

9781626725362Review: A Perfect Day by Lane Smith
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 14, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Today is a perfect day for Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel.

Cat is lounging among the daffodils. Dog is sitting in the wading pool, deep in the cool water. Chickadee is eating fresh seed from the birdfeeder. Squirrel is munching on his very own corncob. Today is a perfect day in Bert’s backyard.

Until Bear comes along, that is. Bear crushes the daffodils, drinks the pool water, and happily gobbles up the birdseed and corncob.

Today was a perfect day for Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel. Now, it’s just a perfect day for Bear.

Just look at happy Bear on the cover! Sniffing beautiful flowers, lounging on the grass and enjoying the sunshine- what could be wrong?! In bestselling and award-winning Lane Smith’s funny and terrifically timed A Perfect Day, readers get a look at multiple animals’ perspectives of what makes for their idea of a perfect day.

A Perfect Day starts off with Cat enjoying some colourful flowers and Dog enjoying the feel of cool water, followed by a few other adorable animals having their own ultimate day. Where some authors/illustrators might veer- or perhaps stay- on a straight line of the darling and sweet, Smith takes a wonderful and quiet dive off to the comical and unexpected- all the while maintaining major levels of adorable. As we get to little Squirrel enjoying some corn, readers have, up to that point, only seen that all animals have been enjoying a perfect day…but then- surprise!- in trundles big, lumbering, impervious Bear, making a grand mess of things. And while effectively wrecking everyone’s flawless day, Bear ends up (happily) making his own day of perfection.

Overall, A Perfect Day is a delight, begging for multiple readings and closer inspections of Lane Smith’s illustrations. A relatively simple story, light on text, A Perfect Day makes great use of repeated words and phrasing, and sets itself apart with its comical twist in the introduction of Bear. This story could work brilliantly as a read aloud for toddlers/preschoolers (I hope to try it out soon!), especially if given the right intonation and animated stress on certain words. Smith’s mixed-media illustrations are lively; detailed yet broad at the same time, and though distinctive (as is all of Smith’s beautiful art), his work is easily approachable for all ages to enjoy.

9781596439672Review: Noisy Night by Mac Barnett, illus. Brian Biggs
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: March 7, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

It’s a noisy night in this city building! The residents of each floor can hear their neighbors above them, and are wondering what’s going on above their heads. Climb floor by floor and page by page to find out whose singing, dancing, cheering, and cooing are keeping a grumpy old man awake.

With innovative split-level spreads that offer the feeling of climbing an apartment building floor by floor, this clever and colorful collaboration between New York Times -bestselling author Mac Barnett and gifted illustrator Brian Biggs offers an irresistible investigation of one noisy night.

I love a good, boisterous book for reading aloud and Noisy Night, from award-winners Mac Barnett and Brian Biggs, certainly delivers on multiple fronts. A rambunctious story centred around figuring out the various- and unexpected!- noises going on in an apartment building, readers are treated to one wacky surprise after another.

Noisy Night opens with a quiet scene of a young boy fast asleep in his bed. The lights are off, the scene is washed in blues and grays and then…suddenly, the lights are on and something or someone has woken up the young boy! As the young boy asks what is making the ‘la la la’ noise above his bed in the apartment above, readers are treated to a reveal on the next page, followed by the next apartment resident asking what is going on above their own head. Noisy Night follows a straightforward pattern, allowing readers to easily get into the rhythm of the ask and answer. If performed as a read aloud, kids might really get a kick out of trying to guess who or what could be making noises- especially as the reveals get a little bit kooky as we get higher and higher up the apartment!

Overall, Barnett and Biggs have crafted a genuinely vibrant, livelier than lively story here. As with Lane Smith’s A Perfect Day, the story format and plot in Noisy Night is arguably simple and accessible. And as with A Perfect Day, author and illustrator give that something extra to the story to make it memorable. In Noisy Night, it is the particular details of Barnett’s flare for comedic language and approach to sounds, in combination with Biggs’ unmistakable vivid art that gives this story that extra pizzazz to make it shine. I have already had the pleasure of reading this story aloud to my daughter multiple times and she loves the artwork and making the variety of funny noises along with me! Mark Noisy Night as a must-read picture book for a funny (and booming!) storytime or read aloud.

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

Recently Read: Great Picture Books

wolfcamp26067501I’ve been swimming in seas of great picture books lately! There was a boom in storytime visits at our library with Kindergarten and early elementary grades- usually happens before holiday/winter break fever sets in! So, needless to say, I had about quadruple the number of storytimes to prepare for; in doing so, I happily discovered a pile of new, amazing picture books. I enjoyed and work absolutely recommend any of these titles- for read alouds or just for the pure joy of it:

 

Cat Knit by Jacob Grant*
Max at Night by Ed Vere*
I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony*
The Magic Word by Mac Barnett, illus. Elise Parsley*
Penguin Problems by Jory John, illus. Lane Smith*
Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol*
Everyone is Yawning by Anita Bijsterbosch*
Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer*
Hooray for Today! by Brian Won*
I Will Not Eat You by Adam Lehraupt, illus. Scott Magoon*
Wolf Camp by Andrea Zuill
Dragon Was Terrible by Kelly DiPucchio, illus. Greg Pizzoli
Pug Meets Pig by Sue Lowell Gallion, illus. Joyce Wan
Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey
Also An Octopus by Maggie Tokudo-Hall, illus. Benji Davies

 

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*star indicates that the picture book was used as a read aloud (and was a hit!) at one of my storytimes

Must Read Monday (47): Looking at Fall 2016 Releases (Part 3)

Continuing on with a Must Read Monday feature on Fall 2016 releases!…

This week’s Must Read Monday is a little bit different. I’ve been looking through various sources (review journals, publisher’s sites, Goodreads, blogs, etc.) as is my norm, but my to-be read pile has grown tremendously in a short span! This is due, in part, to all of the incredible books that are slated for Fall 2016 release! Some favourite authors and/or illustrators are releasing new titles or sequels, and there are new-to-me and/or debut authors with terrific sounding and terrifically reviewed titles.

You can take a look at my picks for Part 1 here! AND Part 2 here!

Here, in no particular order, are my picks for Part 3:

 

The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti
Expected publication: September 27, 2016 by Atria Books

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood
Expected publication: August 30, 2016 by Penguin Books

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
Published August 9, 2016 by Random House

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan
Expected publication: September 6, 2016 by William Morrow

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Expected publication: September 13, 2016 by Harper/HarperCollins

The Animators by Kayla Ray Whitaker
Expected publication: November 29, 2016 by Random House

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Expected publication: September 20, 2016 by Little, Brown and Company

The Widower’s Wife by Cate Holohan
Published August 9, 2016 by Crooked Lane Books

Once, in a Town Called Moth by Trilby Kent
Expected publication: September 6, 2016 by Tundra Books

Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick
Expected publication: September 27, 2016 by Scholastic Press

The Trouble with Twins by Kathryn Siebel, illus. Julia Sarda
Published August 9, 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Frazzled: Every Disasters and Impending Doom by Booki Vivat
Expected publication: September 27, 2016 by HarperCollins

A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee
Published August 2nd 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan
Expected publication: September 13, 2016 by Candlewick Press

Pug Meets Pig by Sue Lowell Gallion, illus. Joyce Wan
Expected publication: September 27, 2016 by Beach Lane Books

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton
Expected publication: October 4, 2016 by Tundra Books

The Darkest Dark by Astronaut Chris Hadfield, illus. the Fan Brothers
Expected publication: September 13, 2016 by Tundra Books

Penguin Problems by Jory John, illus. Lane Smith
Expected publication: September 27, 2016 by Random House Books for Young Readers

The Cranky Ballerina by Elise Gravel
Published August 9, 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books

Is That Wise, Pig? by Jan Thomas
Expected publication: September 13, 2016 by Beach Lane Books