Recently Read: Great Picture Books (16)!

A look at some wonderful picture books that I have had the pleasure of reading lately! All are titles I have read and enjoyed and would recommend. Let’s start off with two funny books featuring bears: first up is Don’t Feed the Bear by Kathleen Doherty, illustrated by Chip Wass, a riotous story about an escalating battle of wit and words between a determined-to-get-food bear and an equally stubborn ranger (a bit of a loving nod to Yogi Bear and Disney’s Humphrey the Bear!); second up is Bear and Chicken by Jannie Ho, an adorably illustrated title that gently builds up tension between an anxious chicken and the hungry bear who rescues her from the cold (…this book would pair nicely with That Is Not A Good Idea! or The Doghouse!). Next is Red Sky at Night, from paper artist Elly MacKay, which looks at various weather sayings (e.g.red sky in the morning, sailors take warning) with beautiful, dreamlike accompanying pictorial representations. If you’d like to take a wonderfully sweet trip across Canada, may I recommend Linda Bailey and Kass Reich‘s terrifically told and illustrated Carson Crosses Canada, about a sparkling, funny dog and his equally sparkling and awesomely adventurous owner. Readers who love stories about invention and treehouses, be sure to check out Carter Higgins and Emily Hughes‘s glorious Everything You Need for a Treehouse, a book to inspire and to be pored over and read again and again. If you’re looking for a cat-centred jewel of a picture book with minimal text, try Isabelle Simler‘s marvelously illustrated Plume. Sophie Blackall’s latest title is Hello Lighthouse, a fascinating- and gloriously illustrated- detailed look inside a lighthouse and the life of its current keeper. Last but definitely not least we have I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët, a remarkable, necessary wordless picture book.

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Picture Book Review: When Santa Was a Baby by Linda Bailey & Geneviève Godbout

whensantawasababy9781770495562Review: When Santa Was a Baby by Linda Bailey, illus. Geneviève Godbout
Source: Digital galley courtesy of Tundra Books/Random House of Canada Limited via Netgalley. Thank you!
Publication: October 13, 2015 by Tundra Books
Verdict: Very Good
Book Description:

From the moment they heard his booming voice, Santa’s parents knew their little one was special. After all, it’s not every child who is fond of the color red, is generous with his playthings and has an interest in chimneys. “Maybe he’ll be a firefighter,” said his mom. “Maybe he’ll be a scientist,” said his dad. When Santa Was a Baby is the adorably humorous portrait of a one-of-a-kind kid who grows up to fulfill his destiny — with the support of two very proud parents.

Reminiscent of Little Golden Books and early Disney animated shorts, Linda Bailey and Geneviève Godbout’s When Santa Was a Baby is a warm and inviting holiday picture book.

Readers get to meet Santa as a cuddly and round little baby; a sweet rosy-cheeked boy with a big booming voice all ready ready to shout HO HO HO. As we see him grow into a toddler, his preferences for red, chimneys, wrapping presents, giving presents, wanting a pet reindeer, and loving the cold become apparent. Santa’s parents, ever-loving and understanding, are a little surprised by Santa’s likes and dislikes, but are so proud of who he is and who he comes. In one low-key spread, we also briefly see a teenage Santa who doesn’t quite fit in with the ‘regular’ crowd, but keeps on paving his own path (all the while supported by his parents).

Almost vintage in its illustrative style and colour palette, I can see When Santa Was a Baby being a seasonal hit. This is a gentle story with gorgeous illustrations that covers some familiar ground, but is filled with such genuine warmth and heart that one can’t help but be taken in with Santa and his adoring parents. When Santa Was a Baby will likely be loved by children and adults looking for something new and sweet to read during the winter months- and probably off-season as well!

I received this book as a digital galley courtesy of Tundra Books/Random House of Canada Limited via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reviews: Stanley at School & Starring Shapes!

stanleyatschool25439356 Review: Stanley at School by Linda Bailey, illus. Bill Slavin
Source: Digital galley courtesy of Kids Can Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
Published: August 1, 2015 by Kids Can Press
Verdict: Okay

Book Description:

Stanley knows school is for kids, not dogs. But every day he grows more and more curious. What did the kids do in that school all day? Stanley rounds up his pals from the dog park to take a closer look. Will they find the answers they’re looking for? One thing is for certain: School + Stanley = TROUBLE!

I have read and enjoyed a few previously published Stanley titles and was looking forward to reading Linda Bailey and Bill Slavin’s latest Stanley collaboration, Stanley at School.

As familiar and comforting as it is to read another (mis)adventure that Stanley and his dog friends embark on, the story in this tale did not delight or tickle me as much as previous ones. I personally found that the story itself read, for various reasons, as slightly stilted- lacking a fluid pace. This could be due to the fact that the dialogue between the dogs (not necessarily the narration or story arc) read as bit uneven. Stanley and his friends Gassy Jack, Nutsy and Alice are supremely cute and curious, but the dialogue between them reads as forced (like the author was trying too hard to give them each a distinct voice through limited space and text).

Readers who have enjoyed previous Stanley titles will likely flock to this one- and have fun reading all about the latest escapades. Slavin’s illustrations for this Stanley title are, as ever, joyful and fun, and I could not imagine these stories without his particular palette and warm illustrative style. For readers new to Stanley, however, I would recommend starting off with Stanley’s Party or Stanley’s Little Sister.

I received this book as a digital galley from Kids Can Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

starringshapes25737493Review: Starring Shapes! by Tania Howells
Source: Digital galley courtesy of Kids Can Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
Expected publication: September 1, 2015 by Kids Can Press
Verdict: Good

Book Description:

Shapes play supporting roles in the world around us, but which one will be the star of Shapeston Elementary School’s play? Triangle has experience as a traffic sign, and Square moonlights as a postage stamp, Circle as a lemon slice, Rectangle as the cover of a magazine and Diamond as a kite, while Oval has played a surfboard. A fun and fresh look at basic shapes that will have you seeing them in surprising places.

Starring Shapes! written and illustrated by Tania Howells, is a darling picture book. Children’s books about shapes and explaining shapes have been done many times over but Howells’ work offers additional charming elements to the mix.

In a way that reminds me of the crayons’ letters in Drew Daywalt’s and Oliver Jeffers’ The Day the Crayons Quit, readers here are introduced to each of the main shapes one by one. We’re given their descriptions, their likes, and how they are often used and seen in drawings. For example, Rhombus- known as Diamond more informally- can be found in argyle socks and can fly high in the sky being a kite. Corresponding to each shape’s ‘biographical’ page, there is a page of drawings which visually illustrate how each shape can magically transform, become or create objects.

The running story to this picture book is that the shapes, along with the boys and girls at Shapeston Elementary School are excited and slightly nervous about auditioning for the school play. But the shapes and children do not need to worry, for everyone gets a part! This is another happy element to the picture book; demonstrating that everyone is a star (to borrow from the book), and everyone has something important to offer. Is this a tiny bit heavy-handed to emphasize a lesson? Perhaps, but it doesn’t come across as insincere or hollow here.

Overall, Starring Shapes! is, simply put, a sweet read. The clean lines, child-friendly illustrations and primary colour palette will likely appeal to younger readers, though the pages of longer text may require some reading help. Readers who enjoy the picture books of Lois Ehlert, Anne Rockwell, Michael Hall, Antoinette Portis, Annette Simon, or Anthony Browne might especially enjoy this title.

I received this book as a digital galley from Kids Can Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.