Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Picture Book Review: The Little Bear by Nicola Killen (6/28/2022)

Quick Booktalk 

In this back-to-school story from the same series as The Little Kitten, Ollie follows a bear to his woodland school one night and learns not to be nervous about her own first day. 

About the Illustrations 

The sweet, gentle pictures are mainly done in black, white, and gray, with occasional bits of navy and gold foil. They capture the nighttime atmosphere in a way that feels quiet and peaceful, not spooky. 

Readers Advisory

This could be a fun read-aloud at home for a child who is already anxious about attending school. I'd probably avoid reading it to a child who doesn't have any reservations about the first day because I wouldn't want to introduce a problem where there isn't one. The ideal age range is probably ages 3 to 5, which matches when most kids will begin their first school experiences. 

Content Notes

This is a different take on the back to school story, and it takes a very gentle and supportive approach. It keeps a positive outlook on the idea of starting school and makes it fun by imagining what an animal school might be like. My kids are homeschooled, but they are fascinated by school, so they all enjoyed reading this one. 


I received a review copy of The Little Bear from Paula Wiseman Books in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Picture Book Review: A Little Ferry Tale by Chad Otis (8/2/2022)

Quick Booktalk

As a little ferry boat carries people back and forth across the water, she is distracted by how much her passengers praise other types of boats and veers off course attempting to imitate them. When there is an emergency, however, she realizes how helpful her own good qualities actually are.

About the Illustrations

The pictures in this book make me think of some of Disney's storyboard images, so it wasn't much of a surprise to learn that the illustrator has worked for Disney. All of the boats have anthropomorphic features, while the humans and animals in the story are more realistic. The illustrations portray a lot of movement of boats and water very effectivly using varying shapes and lines.

Read-Aloud Possibilities

This is a fine book to read aloud, with not many words on the page, lots of bold shapes and lines in the pictures and even some onomatopoeia. It could be fun for a story time about boats, especially since ferries are not widely represented in picture books. It also works for a "be yourself" theme.

Readers Advisory

There are so many books already that follow this same formula, where a small vehicle discovers its big purpose: The Little Engine That Could, Little Excavator, Little Tug, Lily Leads the Way etc. I wish this one had done something a little bit different with the premise to make itself stand out a little more.


I received a review copy of A Little Ferry Tale from Atheneum Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Picture Book Review: Wondering Around by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Richard Jones (5/3/2022)

 Quick Booktalk 

In poetic text this book reflects on the things children might wonder about while exploring the world around them. 

About the Illustrations 

Richard Jones's colorful pictures capture the wonder of the natural world as well as the way a child's imagination melds reality and fantasy together. His illustrations look at the world from a variety of vantage points, inviting the reader to think differently about each one.

Readers Advisory

This is a rhyming book, but its use of language is more abstract and sophisticated than what I would typically suggest for a preschooler. The publisher's recommended age range is grades 2-3, and that feels about right. The rhyme and rhythm of the poetry work well, and the lines are simple enough for kids to understand and to potentially even imitate, but not dumbed down or condescending. It's a solid choice for encouraging creativity, introducing poetry, and tying imaginatio to nature.


I received a review copy of Wondering Around from Beach Lane Books in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 25, 2022

New Picture Books About Birds, July 2022

Birds is a perennial favorite theme in my homeschool and my story times, and though I'm mostly happy with the tried-and-true titles I use over and over again, I always like to check out new ones when they come out. This month, three Simon & Schuster imprints have new bird-themed picture books of which they so kindly sent me review copies. 

The first one that showed up on my doorstep was Whose Nest is Best? A Lift-the-Flap Book, written by Heidi E.Y. Stemple (daughter of Jane Yolen), illustrated by Gareth Lucas and published by Little Simon. This book highlights the nest-building habits of nine different species of birds, wondering on each page which nest is best. The author ultimately concludes that each nest is the best one for its intended inhabitants. My toddlers like the flaps more than the content, but it is actually a well-done science book for little ones. Young readers get to see the adult bird and learn how the nest is built, then they lift the flap to see the babies and the name of that bird.  My toddlers are two and they are a bit young for this book, but three- and four-year-old listeners will enjoy the opportunity to acquire some new bird knowledge. 

The New Rooster by Rilla Alexander is published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, and it deals with a language barrier. When Rooster arrives at his new country home and begins the day with "Ockcay away oodleday ooday" (cock-a-doodle-doo in Pig Latin), he is shocked that none of the animals respond. Writing down the message doesn't work, either, but Rooster finds that a community meal transcends all of the languages spoken on the farm and gives him a chance to meet the other animals and learn to communicate with them. This book would be confusing for a child who has never heard of Pig Latin, which makes me think the likely audience skews a bit older than what I normally have in mind for a farm book. I think the concept is fun, but the story feels brief somehow, and I wanted the author to do a bit more with it. The illustrations, which use rubber stamps, ink, and digital collage are bold and eyecatching, but the story doesn't quite live up to the appeal of the front cover.

Finally, Atheneum Books for Young Readers sent me Time to Fly by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. I requested the book based on the author's previous works, which I remembered enjoying. Unfortunately the text of this book suffers in two ways: one, the subject matter - a baby bird who is afraid to leave the nest and must be coaxed by his mother - is cliched and the author didn't do anything new with it and two, the rhyme is awkward and forced, with words chosen simply because they rhyme and not for their strength. The illustrations are pleasant and spring-like, with lots of cool greens and warm browns. The illustrator varies the perspective as well, zooming in and out on the nest as the story progresses. She did all she could with the weak text, but the story isn't really enough to sustain a whole book and the illustrations do make that even clearer. 

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