I HAVE A BALLOON
Written by Ariel Bernstein
Illustrated by Scott Magoon
(Paula Wiseman Books; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
It’s a clear and clever case of the balloon is always redder as opposed to the grass is always greener in Ariel Bernstein’s debut picture book, I Have a Balloon featuring illustrations by Scott Magoon. I absolutely adored this story because it not only took me back to my childhood, but reminded me of so many episodes I had to navigate with my children when the dreaded sharing demon reared its ugly head. I appreciated the slow, steady build up of this timeless tale that takes the dislike of sharing to humorous new heights.
Interior spread from I Have a Balloon by Ariel Bernstein w/art by Scott Magoon, Paula Wiseman Books ©2018.
Owl’s got a lovely red balloon he’s pretty darned pleased with. Monkey would like it. Owl says no. Persistent in his pursuit, Monkey offers to trade something of his in return. Owl’s not interested. But it would make Monkey SO HAPPY! Forget about it! Forget the teddy bear Monkey’s willing to swap. Or the sunflower. Or for that matter, the robot or the hand drawn picture of ten balloons. No. No. No. Not a ball or a pin. But something about the sock with a star and a perfectly shaped hole seems to suck Owl in. Suddenly the play potential of this single sock is just so appealing that the tides turn. Following creative, circular prose, readers end up at a similar point from where the drama of this delightful book began.
From the playful book jacket flap copy spoiler alert of: This is NOT a book about sharing to Bernstein’s spot on prose pitting Owl and his special, it’s mine and I’m not sharing it red balloon vibe to Monkey’s earnest desire to possess said balloon, I couldn’t read this book fast enough to find out what happens. From Magoon’s subtle yet oh so successful depictions of the the pair’s interaction (check out Owl’s expressive eyes!) to the perfect (and sweet) finish, I Have a Balloon is wonderfully entertaining. In fact I can’t think of a parent, teacher, caregiver or relative who hasn’t encountered this exact situation. Tightly told, tongue-in-cheek, and relatable, I Have a Balloon is guaranteed to garner grins when shared with kids. A truly treat of a read!
★Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly
HERE COMES THE EASTER CAT
BY DEBORAH UNDERWOOD WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY CLAUDIA RUEDA
& REVIEWED BY MARYANNE LOCHER.
Here Comes The Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Claudia Rueda, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014.
Just in time for Easter, a sweet picture book with a salty twist. Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail … Oh! Wait! That’s not a bunny, it’s a cat, and he’s not hopping, he’s … riding a motorcycle?
In Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood with artwork by Claudia Rueda, (Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 3-5), a clever cat plots to take over Easter. Cat decides he’ll give out chocolate bunnies, gets a sparkly outfit, and a fast motorcycle. Now all he wants, more than anything, is a nap. When he finds out that the Easter Bunny doesn’t get a nap, he’s questioning if he can handle the job. But when a tired Easter Bunny delivers a chocolate egg to Cat himself, Cat has his most brilliant idea of all.
From page one, Claudia Rueda easily pulled me in with her delightful drawings of the fat cat who communicates (using picket signs and his ever-changing facial expressions) with Underwood’s unseen narrator. Cat owners will love this book whether they have a child or not. Parents will appreciate this book if they have a child who is dealing with jealousy issues. Most of all, though, children will simply adore the humorous ideas and antics of the cat. I won’t spoil the book for you, but Underwood’s fantastic ending left me thinking there might be another book on the way. Well, at least I can hope to see more of Cat.
Coming to bookstores this October is a really terrific retelling of a most beloved fairy tale, Cinderella, this time starring none other than the perfectly plump and pleasing pachyderm known as Cinderelephant (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, $16.99, ages 4-8) written and illustrated by Emma Dodd.
Parents, it’s likely that by the time you read this to your child, he or she will have already heard this classic or watched the Disney version. That’s definitely a plus because it will allow you more time to spend pointing out all the humorous touches Dodd’s included in the colorful and cheerful illustrations. And if your youngsters are new to the tale, they’re still in for a tremendous treat.
You know the plot and to Dodd’s credit, her economy of words keeps the story fun and flowing for those of us for whom the tale is not new. Cinderelephant is bossed around by the Warty Sisters, two unattractive Wart Hogs who are “horrible, mean, and smelly,” plus they clearly lack table manners.
When an invitation to Prince Trunky’s ball arrives, young readers get their first clue as to what this Prince might look like considering the king is called King Saggy and the queen is Queen Wrinkly. Calling her “Cinder-irrelavant,” the Warty Sisters slough off Cinderelephant’s hope of also attending the ball.
I love how Dodd features a Furry Godmouse who’ll save the day and get the gigantic gray gal to the Prince’s party. She even manages those appropriately placed superlatives and the occasional big but (you’ll see what I mean) joke with both her text and artwork.
Parents and kids will be entertained by the humor, whimsical illustrations and happy ending (pun intended) because, let’s face it, we all know one pink size 20+ shoe can only belong to one palatially-sized pachyderm!
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
I appreciate author/illustrator Michael Townsend’s sense of humor. How many picture books do you see with wording on the jacket cover like the latest mouthwash or detergent only funnier? Now with added CUTENESS!
From the striped jacket art to every last delightfully drawn facial expression on the characters’ faces, CUTE & CUTER (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15.99, ages 5-8), will pull kids in and keep them turning each and every adorable page! Designed in quasi comic book style, this 40 page book will not just help parents broach the sensitive subject of sibling rivalry or tackle the topic of why the new baby demands so much of mom and dad’s attention, it will entertain and amuse. I know because I had a huge grin on my face from the moment I was introduced to Janie Jane, “an expert on all things cute.”
The language Townsend uses throughout the story will totally appeal to today’s youngsters who would absolutely name their own new puppy Sir Yips-a-lot just like Janie Jane does. The new pet and owner spend 24/7 together year round until Janie Jane’s next birthday when she receives a new kitty. Suddenly, no longer the cutest pet in the world, Sir Yips-a-lot must take a back seat to Lady Meow-meow, “The World’s Cutest Kitty!” according to Janie Jane.
Watching Sir Yips-a-lot try to win back Janie Jane’s attention is hysterical and his realization that he is jealous will surely be a conversation starter for many families. But my favorite part was the page devoted to Sir Yips-a-lot’s schemes to rid the world of his competition as he launches OPERATION CUTE-BE-GONE!! Things backfire, however, when the puppy feels guilty about his awful deed and is determined to find Lady Meow-meow.
Townsend’s plotting is perfect and he wraps things up or maybe I should say unwraps things (see for yourself) with a happy ending that makes CUTE & CUTER ideal both for story time or for bedtime. TCFW!!
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel