Picture Book Review: The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Review: The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illus. Jon Klassen
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada and Candlewick Press. Thank you!
Publication: October 10, 2017 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

Early one morning a mouse met a wolf and was quickly gobbled up.

When a woeful mouse is swallowed by a wolf, he quickly learns he is not alone: a duck has already set up digs, and, boy, has that duck got it figured out! Turns out it’s pretty nice in there, with delicious food and elegant table settings, courtesy of the wolf’s unchecked gluttony. And there’s something even better: no more fear of being eaten by a wolf! In fact, life is pretty good, until a hunter shows up. . . . With a nod to traditional fables and a wink to the reader, the award-winning Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen offer a tale of cooperation and creative cuisine that is sure to go down easy.

“I may have been swallowed,” says the duck, “but I have no intention of being eaten.”

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have, together and separately, published some of my favourite picture books…From their joint work in Extra Yarn to Sam and Dave Dig a Hole; from Barnett’s Leo: A Ghost Story (illustrated by Christian Robinson), to Klassen’s The Dark (written by Lemony Snicket), Barnett and Klassen are a decorated and first-rate duo. Joining their roster of works is their latest effort, The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse, a darkly funny, peculiar fable that takes on some familiar fairy tale tropes and twists them in successful (and surprising) ways.

We have likely read a fairy or folk tale in which a villainous animal gobbles up a meeker or smaller animal of sorts. But what happens when two bedfellows meet in the belly of the beast? In The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse, readers meet a wolf who happens upon little mouse in the woods and greedily eats him up. As mouse ponders his existence in the caverns of Wolf’s spacious insides, he discovers he is not alone in there…for a duck has made rather comfortable quarters for himself inside of Wolf. As the duck and mouse forge their new, unexpected- and safe, protected– life together in wolf’s insides, they find that the outside world still poses a threat to their existence. As wolf finds himself in throws of a terrible bellyache (as mouse and duck party on rather lavishly), a hunter sees the chance for himself to take down the wolf. But alas, what the hunter has not prepared for- and how could he, really?- is the measures that duck and mouse will now take to defend their new home.

Wonderfully disquieting, macabre and funny- think a multiplication of I Want My Hat Back– but told in the style of a unusual folk tale, The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse is another terrific read from Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. The New York Times Book Review noted, in their review of this title, that ‘no one does perturbed animals better’ than Klassen, and I wholeheartedly agree. I would also add that Klassen’s expertise of shifty-eyed animals in tandem with Barnett’s ability for ingenious, crafty, malleable storytelling style make for a sublime experience here in The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada and Candlewick Press 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.

Must Read Monday (61): New from Laurel Snyder, Ben Clanton, Jonathan Fenske & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week, we’re talking picture books and a few early reader books! Some of my all-time favourite authors and illustrators are on the roster this week, including the following: Laurel Snyder, who has the first of a new readers series coming out called Charlie & Mouse (with illustrations by Emily Hughes!); Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Lisa Brown, which looks awesomely strange and touching; and Triangle by the terrific duo of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Plus a new Narwhal and Jelly, Jonathan Fenske’s latest- a follow-up to Barnacle is Bored!- and what looks to be a gorgeous and funny picture book called I Don’t Know What to Call My Cat.

I Don’t Know What to Call My Cat by Simon Philip, illus. Ella Bailey
Publication: January 12, 2017 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
Book Description:

Every cat needs a name. One name, one word, just a sound… It should be easy to choose one, right? WRONG!!! I just don’t know what to call my cat!

Choosing the right name for a new pet is very important! Find out just what this cat’s name turns out to be in this clever and witty story from an exciting debut author and talented young illustrator.

Triangle by Mac Barnett, illus. Jon Klassen
Expected publication: March 14, 2017 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

Multi-award-winning, “New York Times “best-selling duo Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen conspire again on a slyly funny tale about some very sneaky shapes.

Meet Triangle. He is going to play a sneaky trick on his friend, Square. Or so Triangle thinks. . . . With this first tale in a new trilogy, partners in crime Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen upend the traditional concept book and approach it from a new angle. Visually stunning and full of wry humor, here is a perfectly paced treat that could come only from the minds of two of today s most irreverent and talented picture book creators.

Charlie & Mouse (Charlie & Mouse #1) by Laurel Snyder, illus. Emily Hughes
Expected publication: April 11, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Four hilarious stories, two inventive brothers, one irresistible book! Join Charlie and Mouse as they talk to lumps, take the neighborhood to a party, sell some rocks, and invent the bedtime banana. With imagination and humor, Laurel Snyder and Emily Hughes paint a lively picture of brotherhood that children will relish in a format perfect for children not quite ready for chapter books.

Plankton is Pushy by Jonathan Fenske
Expected publication: April 25, 2017 by Scholastic Press
Book Description:

In this funny, underwater picture book, Plankton says hello to Mussel, but Mussel doesn’t say anything back. Plankton tries everything to get quiet Mussel to talk. In fact, Plankton gets VERY pushy about it! Will Mussel ever open his mouth? Kids will relate to Plankton’s frustration with Mussel, and they will be anxious to see what happens when Mussel finally does open his mouth… Geisel Award Honoree Jonathan Fenske delivers a laugh-out-loud ocean story, and this is the perfect follow-up to Barnacle is Bored.

Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket, illus. Lisa Brown
Expected publication: May 2, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Goldfish Ghost was born on the surface of the water in the bowl on a dresser in a boy’s room. The boy’s room was pleasant and familiar, but Goldfish Ghost wanted company, so he set out to find a friend. He floats over the neighborhood, past the pier, and let the breeze carry him into town where he discovers that not many people pay attention to goldfish ghosts.

Off he floats, searching for the perfect home and the perfect friend and then he hears a voice…

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt (Narwhal and Jelly) by Ben Clanton
Expected publication: May 2, 2017 by Tundra Books
Book Description:

Happy-go-lucky Narwhal and no-nonsense Jelly find their inner superheroes in three new under-the-sea adventures. In the first story, Narwhal reveals his superhero alter-ego and enlists Jelly to help him figure out what his superpower is. Next, Narwhal uses his superpower to help a friend find his way back home. In the third story, Jelly is feeling blue and Narwhal comes to …more

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 (11): Swan, Leo & More Crayons!

Welcome to the eleventh edition of Must Read Monday! On Mondays I will spotlight current and/or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

SWAN18317569Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, illus. Julie Morstad
Expected publication: August 18, 2015 by Chronicle Books
As soon as I read, see or hear about anything coming out from artist/illustrator Julie Morstad, it goes on my immediate must-buy list. Her work is just that incredible. In Swan, Morstad has teamed up with popular children’s author Laurel Snyder (Bigger than a Bread Box, Penny Dreadful) for what is sure to be a spectacular biographical picture book on the life of prima ballerina and choreographer Anna Pavlova. I cannot wait to read this one!

The world is big.
Anna is small.
The snow is
everywhere
and all around.
But one night . . .One night, her mother takes her to the ballet, and everything is changed. Anna finds a beauty inside herself that she cannot contain. So begins the journey of a girl who will one day grow up to be the most famous prima ballerina of all time, inspiring legions of dancers after her: the brave, the generous, the transcendentally gifted Anna Pavlova.

 

LEO24905361Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illus. Christian Robinson
Expected publication: August 25, 2015 by Chronicle Books
Oh boy, this looks like a terrific one! We have: Mac Barnett, who authored Extra Yarn and Sam & Dave Dig a Hole; and Christian Robinson, who illustrated the critically acclaimed Last Stop on Market Street and Josephine. 

You would like being friends with Leo. He likes to draw, he makes delicious snacks, and most people can’t even see him. Because Leo is also a ghost. When a new family moves into his home and Leo’s efforts to welcome them are misunderstood, Leo decides it is time to leave and see the world. That is how he meets Jane, a kid with a tremendous imagination and an open position for a worthy knight. That is how Leo and Jane become friends. And that is when their adventures begin.

 

thedaytheCRAYONScamehome23310161The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt, illus. Oliver Jeffers
Expected publication: August 18, 2015 by Philomel Books
If you adore the work of Oliver Jeffers and witty, laugh-out-loud funny picture books and haven’t yet read The Day the Crayons Quitwell, what are you waiting for?! The Day the Crayons Came Home is the long-anticipated companion to the best-selling Crayons debut.

…Having soothed the hurt feelings of one group who threatened to quit, Duncan now faces a whole new group of crayons asking to be rescued. From Maroon Crayon, who was lost beneath the sofa cushions and then broken in two after Dad sat on him; to poor Turquoise, whose head is now stuck to one of Duncan’s stinky socks after they both ended up in the dryer together; to Pea Green, who knows darn well that no kid likes peas and who ran away—each and every crayon has a woeful tale to tell and a plea to be brought home to the crayon box.

If you’d like to join Must Read Monday, please do! Link up or leave a comment about what you’re looking forward to reading- I love to hear what other readers have on their radar!

Reviews: ‘Wonderstruck’ & ‘The Terrible Two’

wonderstruck10128428Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
After hearing and reading tremendous things about both The Invention of Hugo Cabret (which I have not yet read) and Wonderstruck, I was looking forward to diving into this children’s novel. At 640 pages, it seems a considerable read, but it just flies by as over half the story is told through illustrations. Selznick intertwines two stories- taking place fifty years apart- of a young boy named Ben (told through words) and a young girl named Rose (told through pictures); both who are longing to find family and love. Ben has recently lost his mom and never knew his father; Rose collects pictures upon pictures of a beautiful film star, who we learn has a very big part in Rose’s life. The way in which Selznick keeps the reader turning and turning pages, eager to find exactly how these two lives are linked? Great. The slow reveal of clues and details about the lives of Ben and Rose? Great as well. However (ah yes, there is a however), I, for various reasons, did not feel much of a connection to the two main characters. This made the ultimate reveal(s) fall down a bit flat for me, I’m afraid. I am not sure whether it was because I felt the written component of the story was too light- I feel like Ben and his mother are both characters who could have been explored and expanded upon in much more detail. Furthermore, part of the big reveal concerns actions Ben’s mother took, and I felt like they didn’t mesh with what (admittedly little) we knew of her character. Wonderstruck ended up being one of those reads that I wanted to love and was ready to be wowed by, but ultimately just liked. As a side note, I really enjoyed the film Hugo, so maybe I will give Selznick’s other novel a try, and see how I fair with that!
Verdict: Okay/Good

terribletwo22509955The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett & Jory John, illus. Kevin Cornell
Mac Barnett is the author of Extra Yarn, one of my favourite picture books, so I knew I had to give this children’s read a whirl. Our young protagonist, Miles Murphy, has just moved with his mom to a small town called Yawnee Valley. Yawnee Valley, as we quickly learn, is most famous for cows. Cows, cows, and more cows, wandering and mooing everywhere. Miles is not pleased. On top of the constant smell of cows, Miles is upset by the fact that he has to make a new reputation for himself at a new school. You see, at his old school, Miles was THE prankster- no one could top him. But here, in the seemingly boring, cow-filled town of Yawnee, there is someone else. Someone who is pulling off humungous, stupendous pranks- like blocking the school entrance with the principal’s car on Miles’s first day at his new school. Principal Barkin, an easily flustered, misguidedly phlegmatic man, immediately (and incorrectly) suspects new student Miles. Miles takes it upon himself to uncover the prankster, beat him or her at his own game and regain his title as best prankster. If you’re looking for a relatively short, quick, funny and slightly nutty read, this is a great pick. Barnett and John, aided by the terrifically fun illustrations by Cornell, have offered up a light and entertaining read- complete with cows!- that will likely appeal to fans of Binky, Mercy Watson, Fly Guy, Timmy Failure, and Big Nate. This is listed as book one, so look forward to more adventures from Yawnee Valley!
Verdict: Good

Recently Read: Great Picture Books

shhplanimage

From: Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

There is a lot of awesomeness in the picture book genre; so much so that I have a hard time keeping up with all the great new titles coming out! Here, in no particular order, are picture book titles that I have recently read and would recommend:

misterbudconeMister Bud Wears the Cone by Carter Goodrich. I fell in love with Mister Bud and Zorro- the two canine lead characters- in their first story. This third entry is also delightful, with a zippy story and lively illustrations. I especially love how- in all three of the books- the two dogs are illustrated with such fantastic expressiveness that one can’t help but adore them.

 

Once Upon An Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers. Ah, the work of Oliver Jeffers! One of my favourite illustrators and storytellers (The Heart and the Bottle, Lost and Found, etc.). Longer than a typical picture book and more cheekily devious, Once Upon An Alphabet is,  I think, Jeffers’ most intriguing and shrewd work yet.

 

mixitupMix It Up! by Herve Tullet. While I personally did not find this book as magical or streamlined as the wonderfully interactive Press Here, Mix It Up! is still pretty terrific and will likely be a monster hit at story times.

 

 

shhcover1Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton. Haughton, author and illustrator of Oh No, George! and Little Owl Lost brings us another comical and thoughtful story. The bold and unusual colour palette is appealing and the use of utterly delightful repetitive lines will likely (and hopefully) encourage many readings. I LOVE this one!

 

myteachermonsterMy Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) by Peter Brown. Oh this is a good one! Brown consistently brings out uniquely illustrated picture books with slyly meaningful stories. This one- about a boy seeing his scary teacher outside of the classroom- delivers on all fronts, a real treat of a picture book that combines genuine humour and heart.

 

 

samanddavedigSam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen. The author-illustrator team of Barnett and Klassen is marvelous- just take a look at Extra Yarn (a favourite of mine!). Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is a book that begs for multiple readings and plenty of time to examine and compare illustrations and ponder that ending.