Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Picture Book Review: Have You Seen This Book? by Angela DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Tom Booth (2021)


Quick Booktalk

A cartoonish young boy addresses the reader with a description of his missing book that includes all the special details that make the book his own. 


About the Illustrations 

The pictures in this book feature speech bubbles filled with lengthy paragraphs of text and images of the boy's book that illustrate the clues he has given to help identify it. These pictures feel very hectic and busy, a style which conveys the boy's enthusiasm for his favorite book, but also makes it a little hard to share with a group of more than a few kids at a time. The pictures are very bold and colorful and the cover is very eye-catching. 


Story Time Possibilities

This is definitely a book best read to an elementary school aged group. It's sure to find popularity among librarians who either work in or regularly visit schools because it provides a lot of opportunities to talk about a love of reading, the proper treatment of books, and the fun of sharing what we read with others.  There is a lot of text, but because it's written as dialogue addressing the reader, the story doesn't get bogged down. Kids who have grown up on Elephant and Piggie will be familiar with the format, which will make the book feel comfortable to them. 


Readers Advisory

My chief problem with this story is that it promotes basically defacing a book. I would never allow my kids to write in, add pages to, remove pages from, place stickers on, stick objects in, or tape notes to the pages of any book we own. On every page, as the boy in the story revealed what he has done to his book to make it his own, I just cringed. Librarians who deal with problems of kids being too rough on books will undoubtedly feel the same. I understand the sentiment that books are for use, and that a book is often beaten up if it's been well loved. But the idea of just completely altering a book to make it what the child wants it to be rubbed me entirely the wrong way. I realize there are parents out there who would have no problem with this, but for our family, it's a no go. 

I was also puzzled, as was Kirkus, about the fact that the book, which has been purportedly missing, just suddenly turns up on the last page as though it wasn't actually lost after all. This was a letdown to this would-be mystery and will be downright confusing to a lot of child readers.


Disclosure 

I received a finished copy of Have You Seen This Book? from Penguin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Picture Book Review: Barn at Night by Michelle Houts, illustrated by Jen Betton (2021)


Quick Booktalk

Simple text and warm illustrations show young readers all that happens in a barn at night.


About the Illustrations 

The pictures make beautiful use of light and shadow to contrast the cold winter temperatures outdoors with the cozy warmth of the animals in the barn. The illustrations also show the child reader all the work that needs to be done on a farm, both on ordinary days and the extraordinary ones where new baby animals are welcomed to the barn. There is a sense of quiet calm on every page that helps capture the solitary feeling of being awake when much of the rest of the world sleeps.


Story Time Possibilities

The poetic text of this book begs to be read aloud, and it's a perfect length for the preschool and kindergarten audience. I like that it puts a different spin on the old farm theme by focusing on actual farm work rather than the usual topic of animal sounds or baby animal vocabulary. Other story time themes that would work with this book are nighttime, winter, fathers and daughters, and horses. 


Readers Advisory

This book has much in common with Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and is a good read-alike for kids who love that book. I also really appreciate that the book makes it possible for me to teach my kids, who have only ever lived in an urban area, what life is actually like on a farm.  The story really shows the hard work of farming as a positive and joyful thing. The story's gentle and quiet tone also makes it a great naptime or bedtime read-aloud. 


Disclosure

I received a finished copy of Barn at Night from Feeding Minds Press in exchange for a positive review.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Picture Book Review: I Can See Red by Britta Teckentrup (2021)

Quick Booktalk

In first person a little girl relates both the intense redness of her anger and its eventual blowing over. 

About the Illustrations

The pictures are abstract to represent the emotion of anger. The tumultuous swirls and splatters are the perfect accompaniment to the character's descriptions of her rage. The girl's facial expressions further drive home the fire of her anger and its physical impact on her. The pictures will certainly speak to any child who has ever felt angry. 

Story Time Possibilities

This would work for a feelings theme, depending on the audience. For some kids, potentially the emotions of the book would be too intense, but for others, they would be satisfying to experience on the page in preparation for experiencing them in reality. The illustrations would work great for a story time or classroom audience.

Readers Advisory

I'm not 100% on board with the way this book portrays anger as a source of strength and safety. Sometimes that is the case, but my kids' anger is often unproductive and their screaming and carrying on needs to be reined in, not celebrated. This book seems to suggest that all anger is righteous anger, and I don't think that's exactly correct. 

I was reminded of Molly Bang's When Sophie Gets Angry - Really Really Angry, which I think places less of a value judgment on anger and simply focuses on the experience of feeling angry and then having the anger subside. I don't necessarily think one book is objectively better than the other. but they serve different needs and both can be valuable depending on the child and the circumstances. 

Disclosure 

I received a finished review copy of When I See Red from Prestel in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Picture Book Review: The Day Time Stopped by Flavia Ruotolo (2021)

 
Quick Booktalk


One day time stops for a moment, and children around the world are frozen in their current activities just long enough to give us a quick glimpse of what's going in each time zone. 


About the Illustrations

The cover illustration doesn't really sell this book, but the interior ones are more appealing. The images are mostly made up of blob-like shapes which have a very fun and childlike feel. Most of the pages have white backgrounds, so despite the fact that the book is small and square the figures would stand out very well in a story time for a larger group. 


Story Time Possibilities 

Time is a fascinating concept to kids in early elementary school and this book makes it easier to understand time zones in a concrete way. By showing what kids are doing all around the world at one moment in time, kids can personalize other parts of the world in a way that makes it easier to think globally.


Readers Advisory

There are already quite a few books on this same subject, including At the Same Moment Around the World by Clotilde Perrin and the vintage book Follow the Sunset by Herman and Nina Schneider. Still, I like this one and will be keeping it in our homeschool collection for the next time we talk about time zones in our science curriculum. It's just a simple and relatable book that explains a difficult concept very well. 


Disclosure

I received a finished review copy of The Day Time Stopped from Prestel in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Picture Book Review: Never Grow Up inspired by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake (2021)

Quick Booktalk

Illustrated by Quentin Blake, this rhyming book is a tribute to the work of Roald Dahl.


About the Illustrations

If you like Quentin Blake, this book will not disappoint. His signature style is on every page of this book, portraying all the experimentation, exploration, and 


Story Time Possibilities

The rhythm and rhyme of the text in this book beg to be read aloud, but the content isn't for every family. This book celebrates misbehavior and disobedience in a way that runs counter to a lot of parents' plans for discipline. Though the message that we should maintain childhood wonder throughout our lives is a good one, it seems to be accompanied by the idea that we should also continue to behave as children forever, which is not something I really want to teach my kids.


Readers Advisory  

This book is not written by Roald Dahl, and that is obvious. It does have a similar tone and point of view to his work, but it's just not as charming or original. I think the appeal of this book is largely to adults who are strongly in touch with their inner child and perhaps have a persona when they work with kids that reflects that. I could see kids enjoying hearing this book-length poem, but I would hope it would be used only as a means of opening the door to Roald Dahl's actual books.


Disclosure 

I received a finished review copy of Never Grow Up from Viking in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Picture Book Review: Theo Thesaurus: The Dinosaur Who Loved Big Words by Shelli R. Johannes, illustrated by Mike Moran (2021)

Quick Booktalk

Theo Thesaurus, who loves words, is dismayed when he starts at a new school and not everyone is interested in his large vocabulary. 


About the Illustrations

The illustrations in this book feel like they would very easily translate to animated video. Theo, his parents, his teacher, and his fellow students all have dramatic faces, whose eyes and mouths are often exaggerated to show emotion. The background on each page is pretty plain and the palette is colorful but not very bold or bright. 


Story Time Possibilities

This story is not just about having a big vocabulary. Rather, Theo's love of words is used as a vehicle to point out the way someone who is different might be excluded or misunderstood. Though the fun vocabulary words are entertaining, the underlying message feels pretty preachy, which might make me hesitate before sharing it with kids. Because of the focus on vocabulary, it feels like a book for kindergartners at the youngest, but it would probably work best for second and third graders who are beginning to read more independently and might enjoy spicing up their vocabulary.


Readers Advisory

If you're looking for a less fancy alternative to Fancy Nancy, this is probably a decent choice. It introduces fancy words in a classroom environment but without all the details about clothing and tea parties and such. Still, I mostly don't think kids love to learn vocabulary in books that are written specifically to teach them vocabulary, and this fell flat for me for that reason. 


Disclosure 

I received a finished review copy Theo Thesaurus: The Dinosaur Who Loved Big Words from Philomel Books in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Picture Book Review: Not Yeti by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Claire Keane (2021)

Quick Booktalk

Most monsters are scary, loud and mean, but Not Yeti, who prefers quieter, gentler activities.


About the Illustrations 

The pictures in this book feel very fast-paced and busy, as though they are in constant motion. Quick messy lines portray various physical movements, both of Yeti and his mean monster counterparts. Many pages incorporate speech bubbles which might make reading the book aloud a little bit complicated. Some pages have panels that may also be too difficult to make out at much of a distance.


Story Time Possibilities

Clever title aside, I won't read this book aloud myself because it has a character in it named Itchy Bottom. I think it would have been possible to get across that the other monsters are gross and obnoxious without resorting to cheap bathroom humor. If someone were to read this to an audience, I think lower elementary kids are probably the most likely to enjoy it. I could see it as a potential read-aloud to establish a classroom policy of kindness, for example. 


Readers Advisory

On its face, the point of this book seems to be that peace and love are the answers to everything and opting out of violent and negative behavior is a sign of goodness and strength. Yeti is a bit like Ferdinand, in that he prefers to do his own thing in his own way. There is a part of me, though, that wondered whether there was a secondary message to the book. Yeti is a monster, and yet he chooses to reject everything monsters do and essentially reinvent what a monster is. I didn't like the feeling that I was being led to accept that anyone can be anything they want, and that the identity we're born with can be rejected at will. I admit that I may be reading way more into this than is there, but it was a weird creeping feeling that made the book not sit quite right with me. 


Disclosure 

I received a finished review copy of Not Yeti from Viking in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Picture Book Review: The Walloos' Big Adventure by Anuska Allepuz (2021)

Quick Booktalk

Led by Old Walloo, Little Walloo and the whole Walloo family take a trip to visit a tropical island only to discover they've been vacationing on the back of another animal. 


About the Illustrations 

The Walloos are colorful kangaroo or wallaby-esque creatures with cartoonish facial features. Their surroundings of jagged rocks, choppy waters, starry nights and fuzzy plants are textured and often fill the background all the way to the edges of the page. In general the illustrations have enough contrast to be seen at some distance, so it would be possible to share this book in a classroom or other small-group scenario. The book also has lovely endpapers, which show shadows of living things in the water. At the beginning of the book, they are filled with plants, but at the end there is a change to reflect the discovery made by the characters during the story.


Story Time Possibilities

This book is being promoted as an ecology lesson, but I was a bit confused about the exact message it was trying to deliver. The story is fine without that didactic element, and I actually prefer a book that doesn't preach, so for me that was not a problem. I think the twist at the end will be surprising to preschoolers, who are the best audience for this story based on the short paragraphs on most pages and the focus on Little Walloo's perspective. It would be fun to plan a story time about adventures and include this book alongside fun classics like We're Going on a Bear Hunt and Jamberry. 


Readers Advisory 

I think it would be interesting to pair this book with Margaret Wise Brown's classic, The Little Fur Family, to compare and contrast the two families of unspecified mammals. I don't think it's as great a book as it claims to be for introducing environmentalism, but it would certainly suit the needs of a nature-loving reader.


Disclosure 

I received a finished review copy of The Walloos' Big Adventure from Candlewick Press in an exchange for an honest review.  

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Picture Book Review: My School Stinks! by Becky Scharnhorst, illustrated by Julia Patton (2021)


Quick Booktalk

In a series of diary entries a young boy relates his shocking experiences attending a school for wild animals. 


About the Illustrations

Each two-page spread in this book consists of an image of the boy's diary entry on lined paper, accompanied by a scene that illustrates some incident mentioned in the entry. The color scheme is pretty subdued considering all the excitement that goes on in the story, and sometimes it is hard to know where the reader's eye is meant to be drawn first. Though the contrast between what the text conveys and what is shown by the pictures is meant to provide the story's humor, the illustrations are too subtle on many pages to make that work. 


Story Time Possibilities

Though there is lots of physical action on each page to engage the reader, the details are too subtle to be seen by more than a handful of listeners sitting pretty close to the adult who is reading aloud, so this book is only going to work in a small-group story time setting. I do think it could be used to help break the ice with kids who are nervous about the first day of school, since wild animals attending school is pretty silly and laughter is a good way to deal with tension. For homeschooled kids like mine, the interest will be more in the animal humor than the school aspect.


Readers Advisory

This book would be fun to pair with There's a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor by Wade Bradford or May I Bring a Friend? by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers and Beni Montresor, as both books involve animals in an unexpected environment. Because of the format of the story and the understated humor, I think it's best for independent elementary readers who can take the time to carefully observe each illustration individually. Some kids may find that the book tries to get too much out of what is essentially one joke, but for others the humor will strike just the right chord. For me personally, this wasn't quite a hit; I just never quite felt immersed in the world of the story. 


Disclosure 

I received a finished review copy of My School Stinks! from Penguin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Picture Book Review: Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! by Cori Doerrfeld (2021)


Quick Booktalk

Following two little girls from the time they meet to the time one of them moves away, this book highlights the new opportunities presented by every goodbye. 


About the Illustrations

The pictures in this book are in a style that would be suitable for a graphic novel, though most pages do not have speech bubbles or other graphic novel elements. Since the text is more abstract, the specificity of the illustrations is what really carries the story. The characters' personalities and their friendships comes through visually even when the text is more philosophical and vague. Though a few pages have details that are better seen up close, for the most part the bold lines and contrasting colors can engage the eye at a distance as well. Readers who keep score regarding diversity will be pleased to note a variety of skin tones and clothing styles in the background of many of the pictures.  


Story Time Possibilities

I like this book for a variety of themes: hello and/or goodbye, opposites, friendship, moving, etc. The text on each page is minimal enough for toddlers and young preschoolers, but the subject matter as a whole makes it best suited to a pre-K or young elementary audience. There are quite a few scenes set in school that also make this a natural choice to read to a class on the first day of a new school year to help break the ice.


Readers Advisory

The most obvious uses for this book are either to comfort a child after a difficult goodbye or to make children feel at home in a new situation,  Other books that would pair well with this one include Timothy Goes to School by Rosemary Wells and Rosie and Rasmus by Serena Geddes, both of which involve making new friends and saying goodbye. It also made me think about Duck and Penguin are Not Friends by Julia Woolf, which has a similar illustration style and gives a different take on friendship. 


Disclosure

I received a finished copy of Goodbye Friend! Hello Friend! from Penguin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Picture Book Review: Ergo by Alexis Deacon, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz (2021)


Quick Booktalk

Ergo, a chick who has not yet hatched, is at first content to think she is the entire world until curiosity prompts her to look beyond the walls of her shell.

About the Illustrations

The pictures are very simple, consisting mainly of Ergo's face making different expressions. The boldness of the lines and the yellow and gray color scheme help these illustrations to stand out even at a distance. They also have a cartoonish look to them that emphasizes the humorous moments of the story in which Ergo slowly discovers parts of herself, and then realizes that not everything is a part of her. 

Story Time Possibilities

Because the illustrations can easily be seen at a distance and because the text involves lots of emphatic outbursts of excitement, this is a strong story time contender. Though it's really about bigger issues than a baby bird hatching,  it would still fit well with an egg theme or bird theme for preschoolers and early elementary schoolers. I think it could also make for some interesting discussions among older listeners about thinking outside of boxes, taking chances, and expanding horizons. 

Readers Advisory

Ergo reminds me a lot of Ollie by Olivier Dunrea and I think it would be interesting to read the two together, as Ergo gives the perspective from within the egg and the characters in Ollie view the same situation from without. I think this book may also appeal to readers who have enjoyed Jon Klassen's books. This story isn't unsettling and has a more definite message than most Klassen books I've read, but the use of the picture book medium to explore existential questions is very similar.

Disclosure

I received a finished copy of Ergo from Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review.

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