Picture Book Reviews: Blue Ethel & A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum…

Review: Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
Source: AR courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: May 30, 2017 by Farrar Straus & Giroux
Book Description:

Ethel is old, she is fat, she is black, and she is white. She is also a cat who is very set in her ways… until the day she turns blue! Blue Ethel is an adorable story written and illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, showing readers that being different can be a good thing.

Blue Ethel, written and gloriously illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, is a sweetly surprising story about an old black and white cat who experiences changes while out on her day-to-day activities. One of the most unusually drawn, vivid and adorable (huggable) cats I have seen recently in picture books, Ethel is a creature of habit. As we learn, Ethel does the same few things every day: she looks out over the land (from her spot on the porch); closely watches the weather and clouds (from a lovely grassy hill); and goes after nefarious creatures (look out for the ants!). One thing that Ethel also loves to do is explore the sidewalk and roll around on it before falling asleep.  But one day, Ethel rolls down the covered-with-colourful-chalk-drawings sidewalk and turns the colour blue! Ethel, of course, cannot see that she now looks different- different from her usual self and quite different from the other cats in her neighborhood. Ethel finds her mood turning to match her new blue colour as the other cats whisper about her new, funny colour. Luckily, a brave little white cat named Fluffy comes to Ethel’s rescue with an idea of how they can be happy and colourful together.

Blue Ethel is a story that emphasizes acceptance, friendship, kindness and empathy; the turns of humour, quiet bursts of quirk and the illustrations make the story so lively and one that kids (and cat lovers!) might especially clamor for. Jennifer Black Reinhardt does such a wonderful job here with the full-page dynamic illustrations and straightforward storyline and text that makes just the right use of repetition. I have had the pleasure of reading this story aloud with my daughter- who is quite obsessed with Ethel and Fluffy now- and she and I both love the story’s tranquil, diverting nature and deserved happy ending.

Review: A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum… by Davide Cali, illus. Benjamin Chaud
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: March 14, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

There’s more to this museum than meets the eye! This is the wonderfully wacky world of celebrated international author-illustrator team Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud, the duo behind Junior Library Guild selections I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . ., The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer . . ., and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School . . . . Notoriously (and delightfully) unreliable narrator Henry is late to a museum where his class is spending the day. But he has a plan: He’ll just catch up in one of the exhibits. That’s not possible in these halls! With volcanoes erupting, dinosaurs charging, and secret stairwells lurking, reuniting with his classmates becomes a quest of outrageous proportions. Young readers will revel in this entertaining book’s over-the-top antics.

Author Davide Cali (Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs) and illustrator Benjamin Chaud (The Bear’s Song) have collaborated together on a number of fun book projects. Included in their collaborative work are other titles in this series of picture books/early fiction titles involving protagonist Henry and his larger-than-life, incredible diversions. Henry has so far, had some spectacular (and some might argue unbelievable!…) adventures during his summer break, while getting to school, and attempting to finish his homework. Now, we turn to the museum!

In this latest adventure, the story begins with Henry’s teacher asking how he found their class trip to the museum. Henry immediately dives in with letting his teacher know that it “wasn’t exactly what he expected” as he was “charged by a triceratops” as soon as he set foot in the museum! From there, Henry (and his constant canine companion) experience one tremendous, funny, or bonkers experience to the next. Cali has a sharp and funny sense of humour that plays so well in his storytelling; Chaud’s finely detailed, bright, eye-catching and funny illustrations capture Cali’s stories so well. Cali and Chaud’s series of stories featuring Henry are good fun and should appeal to readers who enjoy wacky reads or stories by authors like Jon Agee, Ole Könnecke, Gemma Merino or Margery Cuyler. Reluctant readers who enjoy funny reads and might find themselves scared off by heavier text in early readers or early chapter books- but don’t want to necessarily read “picture books”- might find themselves reaching for A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum.. and other titles in this series.

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 from Lucy Cousins, Mary Sullivan, Aaron Blabey & more!

Another spate of recently read wonderful picture books- with a board book tossed in for good measure! Everything from the new and terrifically vibrant, active read alouds, to cheeky and funny rhyming stories to the quietly gorgeous and interactive picture books. As ever ,I am in awe of the talent and innovation in picture books (and board books). I’ve starred the ones which I have used (and were a big hit!) at one of my storytimes.

Hooray for Birds! by Lucy Cousins*
Publication: March 28, 2017 by Candlewick Press

Treat by Mary Sullivan
Publication: March 1, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey*
Publication: July 1, 2014 by Scholastic

Hello, Mr. Dodo! by Nicholas John Firth
Publication: January 31, 2017 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima*
Publication: February 14, 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Patricia Hegarty, illus. Britta Teckentrup
Publication: February 9, 2016 by Doubleday Books for Young Readers (this edition)

Chicken Story Time by Sandy Asher, illus. Mark Fearing*
Publication: December 13, 2016 by Dial Books

Charlotte and the Rock by Stephen W. Martin, illus. Samantha Cotterill
Publication: March 14, 2017 by Dial Books

Bunnybear by Andrea J. Loney, illus. Carmen Saldana*
Publication: January 31st 2017 by Albert Whitman Company

Tickle My Ears by Jörg Mühle (board book)*
Publication: September 2016 by Gecko Press (this edition)

Spotlight & Giveaway: Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds!

Welcome to a special post featuring Peter H. Reynolds’s Happy Dreamer and a giveaway, courtesy of Scholastic!

Read on to find out more about Happy Dreamer, my thoughts on the picture book, and how you can enter to win a copy. Thank you to Scholastic for sending me a copy for review.

About the Book

Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds
Release: March 28, 2017, recommended for ages 4-8

In the same spirit as OH, ALL THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!, the beloved, worldwide bestselling creator of The Dot and Ish inspires readers of every age to find their own unique path to happy, and to always follow their dreams with HAPPY DREAMER.

Picture book and creativity guru Peter H. Reynolds brings us a universally poignant celebration of the colorful spectrum of what it means to dream and the many ways to find happy!

While the world tells us to sit still, to follow the rules, and to color inside the lines, Happy Dreamer celebrates all those moments in between when the mind and spirit soar and we are free to become our own true dreamer maximus! In Peter’s signature voice and style, this empowering picture book reminds children of how much their dreams matter, and while life will have ups and downs, he enlists readers to stay true to who they are, to tap into their most creative inner selves, and to never ever forget to dream big!

Peter H. Reynolds’ latest inspirational book is a perfect gift for graduations, new babies, milestone moments, and any happy occasion throughout the year for any age!

Peter H. Reynolds has quite the number of acclaimed (and loved) picture books on his roster: everything from The Dot, Sky Color, Ish, to his illustrative work for the Judy Moody series, Someday and Tess’s Tree. Reynolds’s work encapsulates a kind of lovely positivity- always gently uplifting but not saccharine- and I consider myself quite a fan! Happy Dreamer is an ode to the ones who dream (excuse the La La Land nod!); the quiet dreamers, the loud dreamers, the colourful dreamers, the individuals who don’t fit and don’t feel right when forced into a tidy box. A broad theme in Reynolds’s work is that of expression and staying true to one’s self: that message carries across in Happy Dreamer with a lovely missive that the ‘best way to be a happy dreamer’ is to be one’s self. It is tricky to balance sweetness, guidance, praising individuality and proffering hope without veering off into a lane of moralizing, but Reynolds keeps the line firmly in the corner of encouragement.In the description above, comparisons are made to Oh, the Places You’ll Go!– a longtime staple (and standard) of gifts-to-grads. I personally have not reached the high levels of affinity for this particular Dr. Seuss title as many other readers have, but I would still like to content that Happy Dreamer is indeed as wonderful an inspirational bookish treat, just the right thing to hearten and show love and appreciation. The heartening, compassionate nature of his picture books often reminds me of work by authors such as Alison McGhee, as well as the work of Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Patrick McDonnell. Any readers who have already read and enjoyed Reynolds’ previous work or have enjoyed work by the aforementioned authors might especially appreciate Happy Dreamer.

About the Author

Peter is a New York Times bestselling children’s book author and illustrator of many books for children, including the Judy Moody series, written by Meghan McDonald; The Dot; Ish; Sky Color; and Allison McGhee’s Someday, selling more than two million books in over 25 languages around the globe. In 1996, he founded FableVision with his brother Paul as a social change agency to help move the world to a better place by creating “stories that matter, stories that move.” He lives in Dedham, Massachusetts, with his family.

Official Site + Social Media

Visit the official site
Follow Scholastic on Twitter and Instagram
Like Scholastic on Facebook
#HappyDreamer

Trailer + Activities:

*Watch the Happy Dreamer trailer
*Download the Happy Dreamer Guide, a fun kit complete with activities to share with your readers!

Peter H. Reynolds Interview

*Learn more in this podcast featuring the author!

Giveaway Information:

Happy_Dreamer_Cover_3fe71e22fcOne (1) winner receives:

  • a copy of Happy Dreamer

Giveaway open to Canadian AND US addresses. Prizing provided by Scholastic.

The giveaway will run from April 20th to April 27th, 2017 and is open to Canadian and US addresses. The winning entry will be randomly selected via Rafflecopter. All entries will be verified. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to me via email at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com OR DM’ing me via Twitter with their mailing address, or a new entry will be drawn.

To enter, click on the Rafflecopter link below and follow the instructions:

Enter to win the Happy Dreamer giveaway!

 

A copy of Happy Dreamer was provided courtesy of Scholastic in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this giveaway. Review comments and opinions are my own.

Giveaway for Loryn Brantz’s Feminist Baby Board Book & Prize Pack!

Welcome to a special post featuring Loryn Brantz’s Feminist Baby board book and a fabulous giveaway, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion!

Read on to find out more about Feminist Baby, my thoughts on the board book, and how you can enter to win a prize pack! Thank you to Disney-Hyperion for sending me a copy and providing a prize pack  for review.

Board Book Details

Feminist Baby by Loryn Brantz
Publication:  April 11, 2017, recommended for ages 0 – 2

Synopsis

LOUD AND PROUD FEMINIST!

Meet the irrepressible Feminist Baby in this refreshing, clever board book about a girl who’s not afraid to do her own thing, and wants to make as much noise as possible along the way!

Feminist Baby likes pink and blue.
Sometimes she’ll throw up on you!
Feminist Baby chooses what to wear
and if you don’t like it she doesn’t care! 

A bright, cheeky, and funny board book with a positive message for all babies, Loryn Brantz’s Feminist Baby is a board book winner. Blurbed by feminist writer and professor Roxane Gay, Feminist Baby broadly takes on feminism and wonderfully turns the concept into an affirmative board book that babies/kids and adults will like. In the last few years, there appears to be an increase in the number of concept board books (concepts beyond ABC and counting, etc.). For example, Ruth Spiro and Irene Chan have collaborated on a Baby Loves series featuring aerospace engineering, quarks, and more, giving STEM a place in early childhood literature. Other board books series such as Cozy Classics and BabyLit have taken on themes or concepts in classic literature and adjusted them to suit babies and toddlers. Loryn Brantz’s Feminist Baby now joins the oeuvre, and it is wonderful to see and read. While concepts- such as feminism- can be complex, and you might wonder, what can a baby get from this?…The answer is: an introduction to vocabulary! It’s all about learning and exploring, and having the pleasure and option to read something as encouraging and aware like Feminist Baby to a wee one is just fantastic.

About the Author

Loryn Brantz is a two-time Emmy Award-winning author, illustrator, and design professional. Her picture book Harvey the Child Mime was the recipient of the 2010 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for Best First Picture Book. Loryn lives in New York City, where she is on staff at BuzzFeed writing and illustrating about feminism and body image. Find her online at www.lorynbrantz.com or www.facebook.com/LorynBrantzBooks.

Official Site + Social Media

Visit the Official Site
Follow @DisneyHyperion on Twitter
Follow @DisneyBooks on Instagram
Follow @LorynBrantz on Twitter and Instagram
#FeministBaby

Giveaway Information:

One (1) winner receives:

  • copy of Feminist Baby
  • branded tote bag and pin

Giveaway open to Canadian AND US addresses. Prizing provided by Disney-Hyperion.

The giveaway will run from April 17th to April 24th, 2017 and is open to Canadian and US addresses. The winning entry will be randomly selected via Rafflecopter. All entries will be verified. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to me via email at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com OR DM’ing me via Twitter with their mailing address, or a new entry will be drawn.

To enter, click on the Rafflecopter link below and follow the instructions:

Enter to win the Feminist Baby Prize Pack!

 

A copy of this title and prize pack was sent courtesy of Disney-Hyperion for the purposes of this post and giveaway. Disney-Hyperion is also providing a prize pack for one winner from my site. Review opinions and comments are my own.

 

Hopping Into Easter with Picture Books and a Giveaway!

As a children’s librarian, part of the build up to Easter weekend at the library includes fielding a lot of questions about Easter books or Easter-themed books, preparing songs and stories about bunnies and other cute creatures…and, did I mention, finding lots and lots of cute stories about anything Easter-themed? I now have two more charming Easter titles to add to the list!

My lovely friends at Raincoast Books recently sent me two perfect-for-Easter picture books: Bunny Bus by Ammi-Joan Pacquette, illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow, and Margret and H.A. Rey’s Happy Easter, Curious George. Bunny Bus is quite the adorable story featuring a bunny-shaped bus, resplendent with rosy cheeks and bunny teeth. A rhyming story with bounce and a fun repetition of ‘hop’ and ‘stop’, Bunny Bus is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers (or any bunny-hop loving kid!). The story is short, simple and sweet, with just a brief moment of trouble (when the bunny bus tires out), followed by quick problem-solving and a happy turnaround to an Easter Parade. Happy Easter, Curious George (with sparkly stickers!) is, as one can expect from the franchise, a light and sweetly silly story featuring George’s antics that always go slightly awry, leading to some confusion followed by a happy conclusion. In this tale, George joins Easter celebrations at a park, where he excels at Easter egg juggling and decorating, and gets into a slight mix-up with how Easter egg hunts work! I adored Curious George growing up, and am always happy and comforted to see George and read about his adventures. R.P. Anderson and Mary O’Keefe Young, the author and illustrator, respectively, of this title have done very well in keeping the charm of the original series.

Now for some (more!) excitement:

I have new (just read once by me) hardcover editions of these titles and I would like to find them a new happy bookish home! One winner will have a chance to win both Bunny Bus and Happy Easter, Curious George. You won’t get them in time for Easter, I’m afraid, but you’ll still get some fun picture books, so it’s all win-win!

If you’d like to enter, here’s what you need to know:

You must be a Canadian resident, 18 years of age or older. The giveaway will run until April 18, 2017.

One winner will be randomly selected at the end of giveaway via Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond by emailing me at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com OR DM’ing me on Twitter @fabbityfab confirming their name and their mailing address. If there is no responses from the winner within 48 hours, a new name will be drawn.

The giveaway is now closed!

Congratulations to MELINDA P.!

Please email or DM in the next 48 hours to confirm your address!

To enter, click on the Rafflecopter link below and follow the instructions:

Enter the Hopping into Easter Book Giveaway

Copies of Bunny Bus and Happy Easter, Curious George were provided courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Review: Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner & Christopher Silas Neal

Review: Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner, illus. Christopher Silas Neal
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: March 7, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

In this gorgeous companion to the acclaimed Over and Under the Snow and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal bring to life a secret underwater world. In this book, readers will discover the plants and animals that make up the rich, interconnected ecosystem of a mountain pond. Over the pond, the water is a mirror, reflecting the sky. But under the pond is a hidden world of minnows darting, beavers diving, tadpoles growing. These and many other secrets are waiting to be discovered… over and under the pond.

The water’s a mirror, reflecting the sky.
Sunshine and clouds- then a shadow below.
“What’s down there?” I ask.
“Under the pond?” Mom says.

Award-winning author Kate Messner has a number of writing credits to her name, including the Marty McGuire series and the highly-praised middle grade novel The Seventh Wish. Christopher Silas Neal is an award-winning artist, who has multiple- gorgeous- picture books to his illustrative credit, including Lifetime and two other picture books with Kate Messner. Over and Under the Pond is the third collaboration by Messner and Neal in a series of brilliant information-filled picture books: Over and Under the Snow (a personal favourite) and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt.

As a big fan of the first two picture books in this sequence, I was delighted to get a chance to pore over (and I mean: pore over!) this latest entry. Over and Under the Pond is, as its companions, a wonderful experience in visuals and text. Poetic, lyrical and educational all at once, the splendid mix of Messner’s words and Neal’s full page colour illustrations- which are outstanding- take informational picture books to a place of excellence. In Over and Under the Pond, our guides for exploration are a young boy and his mother: paddling, lifting and dipping, and drifting in their canoe, mother and son survey the wide breadth of life found above the water of a pond and under the water of a pond. From cattails to tadpoles, herons to minnows and moose, Messner and Neal highlight the incredible scope of animal and plant life that can be found in a particular ecosystem. ‘An Author’s Note‘ provides even more information on a pond’s ecosystem,  and the inspiration behind this story; there is also a beautiful and convenient ‘About the Animals’ section matching animal image to descriptions; as well as a ‘Further Reading‘ recommendations list of print and online resources.

Overall, Over and Under the Pond is superb; another must-read collaboration from the author and illustrator. This title (as well as the others in the series), is a terrific picture book to use for a more specific environmental-themed storytime, or for any readers looking for a lovely, lyrical and educational picture book.

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

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

Another spate of tremendous picture books I’ve recently read! We had a burst of school visits to my library in the last month or so- classes from preschool to grade two- and in preparation for the visits, I had the great opportunity to read a bunch of new (or new-to-me!) picture books and board books:

 

1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book by Juana Medina *
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell, illus. Rafael López *
Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre *
Panda Pants by Jacqueline Davies, illus. Sydney Hanson *
Look, Look Again by Agnese Baruzzi (board book) *
Go! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper *
Tiny Hamster Is a Giant Monster by Joel Jensen, Joseph Matsushima & Amy Matsushima *
Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro, illus. Tatjana Mai-Wyss
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy, illus. Eugene Yelchin
1 2 3 Dream by Kim Krans
I Heart You by Meg Fleming, illus. Sarah Jane Wright
Flyaway by Lesley Barnes

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

Picture Book Reviews: Things to Do & My World: A Book of First Words

9781452111247Things to Do by Elaine Magliaro, illus. Catia Chien
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 7, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

With playful prose and vivid art, Things to Do brings to life the small moments and secret joys of a child’s day. There are wonders everywhere. In the sky and on the ground-blooming in a flower bed, dangling from a silken thread, buzzing through the summer air-waiting … waiting to be found. In this thoughtful and ingenious collection of poems, Elaine Magliaro, an elementary school teacher for more than three decades and a school librarian for three years, and illustrator Catia Chien provide a luminous glimpse of the ordinary wonders all around us.

“Things to do if you are a honeybee
Flit among flowers.
Sip nectar for hours.
Be yellow and fuzzy.
Stay busy.
Be buzzy.”

Things to Do, written by poet Elaine Magliaro and illustrated by Catia Chien (My Blue is Happy), is a lively verse-filled picture book about marvels- big and small- found in the world around us. With a young child and her canine companion as our guides, readers are taken into a world of poetry and wonder as we look at everything from the dawn to an acorn, the sky to an eraser.

Starting with waking up in the morning and considering the dawn and ending with a nighttime contemplation of the moon, child and pup traverse and explore the world around them and things various objects should do. Chien’s illustrations, rich and colourful yet soft and gauzy (and making such terrific use of perspective and angles) just perfectly compliment Magliaro’s sometimes rhyming, sometimes free, gorgeously lilting poems. Initially, I had wondered whether a consistent, repeated rhyming pattern would have made the flow of the story smoother. However, after some reflection and rereading of passages, I find that the variable nature of the poems to work very well here, as Magliaro alters tone and rhyme (as well as font size and style) to suit each object so wonderfully. As an example, the honeybee poem quoted above features shorter, to-the-point sentences that allow for a quicker reading- just as one might imagine honeybee might be! In contrast, the poetry for ‘Things to do if you are a snail’ uses ‘s’ words to great effect…drawing out sentences such as ‘slowly…slowly…’ and ‘slide along your trail of slime‘. I would argue that a more strict pattern of precise rhyming might not fit so well with the overall style and voice of the story!

In all, Things to Do is a beautiful meld of picture book and poetry. Readers who enjoy or are looking for something a little more contemplative and challenging, or those who enjoy work by authors such as Jon J. Muth, Joyce Sidman, Julie Fogliano, Helen Frost or Kate Coombs might especially adore this enchanting title.

 

9781627795302My World: A Book of First Words by Frann Preston-Gannon
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 28, 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
Book Description:

A beautiful and entertaining visual catalog for toddlers – including things that go, cute fruits and veggies, undersea creatures, and more!

There’s no end to the fun in finding and naming each object in these chockablock spreads! Beautiful birds, adorable mommy and baby animals, colorful clothing, musical instruments, and more fill each page, with objects labeled and grouped by theme. A fun, gorgeous visual dictionary for the very youngest of readers.

If you are not yet familiar with Frann Preston-Gannon’s work in children’s lit, I recommend checking out any one of her gorgeous, vibrant books! From the board book Deep Deep Sea to the adorable picture book Pepper & Poe and many more, Preston-Gannon’s artwork and style is totally singular and recognizable.

Here in My World: A Book of First Words, the author-illustrator approaches a multitude of objects grouped by themes (e.g. Birds, Plants, Prehistoric Creatures, Fruits and Vegetables) in a spectacularly bright and lively fashion. For example, in the ‘Plants’ spread, Preston-Gannon illustrates everything from cattails and bluebells to a Venus flytrap and a stout cactus with enigmatic eyes- comparable to the all-knowing eyes found on Jon Klassen’s animals. Each and every object presented in this engaging, educational and FUN read is drawn ebulliently- children (and adults!) will undoubtedly love to pore over the illustrations large and small as well as find joy in learning new words. My World contains a tremendous variety of words for a range of ages- from words like kittens, chicken and car to very cool and tricky dinosaur names like Diplodocus and Prenocephale!

Overall, My World is a delight. Picture books and board books on ‘first words’ can indeed become repetitive or same-y, but this book from Preston-Gannon is indeed a treat. Perfect for a wider range of ages, with fresh and vivacious illustrations that will likely delight toddlers, preschoolers and adults, My World is definitely one to check out and add to your collection!

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

Picture Book Reviews: Samson in the Snow by Philip C. Stead & Tony by Ed Galing and Erin E. Stead

samson27414441Samson in the Snow by Philip C. Stead
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 13, 2016 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

One sunny day Samson, a large and friendly woolly mammoth, encounters a little red bird who is looking for yellow flowers for her mouse friend (whose favorite color is yellow). As she flies off with the flowers, Samson wonders what it must be like to have a friend. He wonders this for so long, in fact, that he falls asleep and wakes up to a world covered in snow. In the midst of a blizzard, Samson finds and shelters the little red bird and flower-loving mouse in a tender tale of kindness and unexpected friendship.

Philip C. Stead does picture books about friendship and kindness so well. From the award-winning and beloved A Sick Day for Amos McGee (illustrated by Erin. E. Stead) to A Home for Bird, Stead’s approach to the writing and illustrating of friendship is nothing short of splendid; always reading as unfeigned and sincere. Stead’s Samson in the Snow is another winning picture book: a quietly gorgeous and heart-warming story of one mammoth’s considered acts of compassion and kindness.

Looking after his dandelion patch on a sunny day, Samson is surprised by a tiny red bird. Searching for some yellow flowers to cheer up her friend, Samson helps the little bird select the most beautiful dandelions and off she flies to visit her friend. When sudden and angry snowfall blanket the ground and sky, Samson sets off, concerned about the little red bird. On his way through the deep and dangerous cold and snow, Samson helps and befriends a mouse who is also looking for someone. A miraculous discovery, aided by spotting some bright dandelions in the snow, leads to beautiful and moving reunion- and the start of new friendship. Stead’s work, as ever, is elegant and stirring, all the while tranquil- the kind of quietly powerful and moving picture book that I love deeply.

Any readers who have previously adored Philip C. Stead’s work- either as author or solo work as author/illustrator- will undoubtedly find much to appreciate and love here. The story holds much to explore, read and share in a quiet study or one-on-one read aloud, or for a shared read aloud with an older group. Readers who enjoy the work of authors and illustrators such as Pamela Zagarenski, Marla Frazee, Lane Smith, or David Ezra Stein might especially adore the restrained beauty of Samson in the Snow.

tony29102892Tony by Ed Galing, illus. Erin. E. Stead
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 7, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Tony was all white,
large, sturdy,
with wide gentle eyes
and a ton of love . . .

Follow this touching tale of a boy and his friendship with a horse, by the late poet Ed Galing and illustrated with remarkable tenderness by Caldecott-winning artist Erin Stead.

While Erin E. Stead’s award-winning work as illustrator is much-known to me- and much adored-, (the late) Ed Galing‘s work and poetry is something completely new. Their collaborative work in Tony, a picture book centred around a gorgeous white horse, is surprising, beautiful, and unique.

Reading through Tony, poring over Galing’s words and Erin E. Stead’s incredible drawings, I was faintly and happily reminded of the work of poet Robbie Burns…and of William Carlos Williams…the honest and arguably bare, uncluttered style of writing. Galing’s poetry here in Tony is just that: unfettered and uncomplicated. A relatively simple tale of a narrator’s love and admiration for a glorious, gentle white horse that pulls a dairy cart for a young driver named Tom, Tony is one picture book that could be missed at first glance. But do not miss this one for there is much to love and exclaim over! In particular, the remarkable illustrative work of Stead here. Stead’s work is breathtaking, giving texture, aura, and atmosphere to Galing’s words and, in fact, to Tony the horse. The careful colour palette is mostly lighter green/teals with some washes of yellow; the early morning setting of the story leads to the overall hushed and hazy feel of the story. The relatively simple nature of the poem’s focus, along with details of setting, suggest a story set in a bygone era…

Overall, what a surprise! If you’ve seen and experienced Erin E. Stead’s illustrative work before, then you already know you are in for a treat. Stead’s artwork combined with Galing’s poetry makes for a special and unexpectedly rich picture book. While on the face a simple story about a ‘large, sturdy’ horse, Tony is story that may beg for a read or two or more to sift and settle: an unadorned, wonderful, wholly felt tale that strums the senses. If my words here and enthusiasm haven’t compelled you yet, you can also read this radiant starred review of Tony here from Kirkus Reviews! You can check out the book’s page over on Macmillan to see a few pages of the picture book- well worth a look!

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