THE CASE OF THE POACHED EGG:
A WILCOX & GRISWOLD MYSTERY
Written by Robin Newman
Illustrated by Deborah Zemke
(Creston Books; $15.95, Ages 4-8)
You’re eggspecting me to make yolks about this book, right? So here goes!
Eggceptionally funny, Robin Newman’s second Wilcox & Griswold mystery called The Case of the Poached Egg, will completely satisfy fans who’ve been hungry for a new installment following the duo’s Kirkus-starred first caper, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake.
The trench coat garbed Captain Griswold and the narrator Detective Wilcox are mice on the move. MFIs (Missing Food Inspectors) have to be. It’s an animals steal food kind of world. Always seeking justice for the over 100 creatures on Farmer Ed’s Farm, this pair will stop at nothing to crack a case. So, after taking an urgent call from Henrietta Hen upset over the apparent egg-napping of her “precious Penny,” Wilcox summons his superior to accompany him to the crime scene.
This 48-paged early chapter book not only breaks down the tale into six easily readable chapters, it also cleverly divides actions/events into time and place. For example, Wilcox and Griswold begin their investigation at 10:30am, at the Chicken Coop. There they not only encounter a distraught Henrietta, but an unusually written ransom note too. The game is afoot! I mean an egg! I mean, read on!
The determined MFIs uncover a motive and eventually a culprit, just in the nick of time, using the process of elimination, mounting clues such as a bunch of farm animals oversleeping, a red goose herring (!), thorough questioning of witnesses and possible suspects, and hand writing analysis. All this, which takes place against the backdrop of Farmer Ed’s Big Speggtacular, plus, the cast of colorful characters caught up in the shenanigans including Gabby Goose, Colonel Peck, Miss Rabbit and Porcini Pig makes for amusing dialogue as readers try to solve the mystery along with Wilcox and Griswold. And though, as an adult, I solved the case early on, kids will eat up the chance to play detective and read between the lines, something the format of this clever police procedural actively encourages.
I’m always pulled into a story when there’s a map included, and illustrator Zemke’s created a super one. Her expressive illustrations work wonderfully to add action and emotion to this humorous and accessible story, while also making the thought of reading a chapter book not as daunting for the younger crowd! NOTE: Parents who may read this book aloud should not miss the legal disclaimer on the front endpapers or the author’s note beginning with “No eggs, chickens, geese or roosters were harmed …” I’m ready for another serving of Wilcox & Griswold, yes, ready indeed!
BRICK BY BRICK
Illustrated by Giuliano Ferri
(minedition/Michael Neugebauer Publishing;
$12.99, Ages 3-5)
Brick by Brick, a twenty-two-page wordless board book by Giuliano Ferri, is about building bridges and removing barriers. On the opening page, we meet a cute little mouse who innocently plucks a flower from a wall. A brick tumbles, revealing a glimpse at an enticing world beyond. The mouse carries that block off the page and is joined in, one by one, by other farmyard animals.
Together, they deconstruct the wall, progressively showing the reader more of what lies beyond their border. When their view is clear, they discover jungle animals separated from them by a body of water. Brick by brick, the animals build a bridge connecting their lands.
In Brick by Brick, Giuliano Ferri has crafted a simply important message. Young children will delight in the adorable animal characters. The clever use of space replaces a seemingly endless monochrome wall with a colorful landscape that invites exploration. Beyond the blinding bland whiteness exists the rest of their world.
Giuliano Ferri is a graduate of the Urbino Institute of Art where he specialised in animation and the award winning illustrator of children’s books. His work has been exhibited at Bologna International Children’s Book Fair for more than a decade, and in museums around the world. Mr. Ferri also works with young people with disabilities, using animation and comic theater as therapy. He is illustrator of Luke and the Little Seed, Nino’s Magical Night, and The Snowball from minedition.
- Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt
Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com
Who?, What?, When?, and Where?: Four fabulous board books from the late Caldecott Honor Winner Leo Lionni are simple yet oh so satisfying for babies to toddlers. (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014; $5.99, Ages 0-3)
It’s easy to see Lionni’s Modernist roots and graphic design background when you turn the pages of any of these four books. In Who?, What?, When? and Where?, his signature torn paper artwork combined with graphic elements are visually delightful. The gray mice look as though they were created from boiled wool, and fans of Lionni’s classic, Frederick, will find these board books a perfect intro to his body of work.
With just 16 pages, these four question-themed board books are asking to be shared with your youngsters so they can explore the world with beginning concepts. The parent and child mice first look at different animals in Who? including a fluffy squirrel, a slow turtle, a hungry rabbit, a curious chicken, a big owl and a sharp porcupine. In What? there’s a bit more humor infused in the marriage of artwork and text as little ones are asked to guess what objects they’re looking at: “Let’s make a call.” (a phone), “Do you see what I see?” (a pair of eyeglasses) and a chuckle inducing, “Dinner time!” has to be cheese. In When? the seasons and times of day are featured and I’ll admit this one is my personal favorite because the images are especially rich and colorful, particularly for fall. I also like that daytime and nighttime are included in the mix. Some of the questions posed are:
“When does it snow?”
“When do the flowers bloom?”
“When do the stars shine?”
In Where? it’s all about location, location, location. And kids’ll get a kick out of all the different places where the mice can be found. Whether they’re up high, popping out or squeezed inside, Lionni’s mice are cute and curious, just like toddlers. These short, sweet, and accessible board books are an appealing and interesting approach to early concepts.
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
Hermelin, the Detective Mouse by Mini Grey (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014 $17.99; ages 5-8) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.
⭐︎Starred Reviews – Kirkus Reviews, The Horn Book & Booklist
Hermelin, the Detective Mouse as told to Mini Grey makes me ache for my childhood days in London. With pictures of terraced houses and characters named Lady Chumley-Plumley and Captain Potts, the book transports the reader across the pond and squarely to England.
The cover of this picture book caught my eye straight away with its image of an old-fashioned typewriter with Hermelin standing boldly atop with flag staff in paw. The illustrations are full of fun-to-spot details, such as candy wrappers, book covers, creatively placed paper clips, and cereal boxes. The variously placed text engages the reader by drawing the eye across the page, up and down, and to newspaper articles, encyclopedia entries, notes, and messages. This picture book has a lot going on in both the visuals and the story.
The residents of Offley Street need a detective! Various items, including a teddy bear, reading glasses, goldfish, and diamond bracelet, have mysteriously vanished. The good folks are at a loss. Who can help them? Help comes in an unexpectedly small package: a mouse in a cheese box. Hermelin (named after the Czech cheese) makes himself right at home in the attic of number 33, where he finds an old-fashioned typewriter. As he locates each of the missing items, Hermelin uses the typewriter to communicate with the residents.
Dear Dr. Parker,
You will find your reading glasses in chapter 26 of Medical Monthly (infectious diseases) which is at the bottom of your bathtub. I’m afraid it may be a bit soggy by now.
The grateful residents want to thank the elusive detective, so they invite Hermelin to a “thank-you party in your honor … Everybody wants to meet you!” But a detective mouse is not what they expect and havoc ensues. Will Hermelin be recognized as more than just an “unclean, unhygienic, unwanted” pest? Your child will enjoy this book to the end!
– Reviewed by Rita Zobayan
A NEW BEAR AND MOUSE BOOK!
A Library Book for Bear, (Candlewick Press, 2014, $16.99, Ages 3-7) by Bonny Becker with illustrations by Kady MacDonald Denton, is reviewed by Dornel Cerro.
“QUIET VOICES IN THE LIBRARY!”
That grumpy old bear and his faithful friend, Mouse, are off to my favorite place, the library.
Bear believes the trip is “… completely unnecessary…” and points to his fireplace mantle where he has seven books, including one on pickles. Still … he did promise Mouse he’d go.
At the library, Mouse unsuccessfully attempts to find Bear a book he’ll enjoy. After being shushed for being too loud, the increasingly irritable Bear is about to go when he hears the librarian reading a story. When Mouse suggests they leave, Bear hollers, “QUIET VOICES IN THE LIBRARY!” The librarian invites them to the story time. Enthralled, both stay and they return home with seven books including The Very Brave Bear and the Treasure of Pickle Island.
As with her early Bear and Mouse books, Becker’s story is humorous, well paced, and rich in vocabulary. It makes a rollicking read-aloud and can be used by adults to engage and inspire both young readers and older writers with word choices like bellowed, squished, tucked-away, and extravagant.
With colorful watercolor, ink, and gouache illustrations, Denton wonderfully captures Bear and Mouse’s contrasting personalities and creates reassuring settings with brief and expressive strokes.
My K-3 classes all had a ball with this picture book and were engaged throughout the story. The K-1 classes, able to “read” the characters’ facial expressions and body language, discussed feelings. The 1st-2nd graders decided that this book teaches people that they can find great books in libraries and that it’s important to use “quiet voices” in the library.
Visit award winning Bonny Becker’s and Katy MacDonald Denton’s websites for more information about their lives and work. Candlewick Press has information on the author, illustrator, and titles in the Bear and Mouse series.
FLASHLIGHT BY LIZI BOYD
BY RONNA MANDEL
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd, Chronicle Books, 2014.
Lizi Boyd’s wordless picture book, Flashlight (Chronicle Books, $15.99, Ages 2-6) makes darkness delightful, full of fun creatures to be found by a little boy camping out in the woods.
Just one flashlight shining upwards highlights bats, a surprised looking owl and raccoons all hidden in their normally pitch black homes. Shining downwards and watch out! Some skunks are nearby. Boyd’s artwork of simple grays and whites and a touch of color creates the woodsy environment suddenly brought to life by the beam of the boy’s flashlight. There’s a chalkboard quality about the illustrations that will appeal to all ages. And it wasn’t until I turned to the second enchanting spread that I noticed the clever die cuts revealing new nighttime treasures with every turn of the page.
Without words, and only images to steer the story forward, this book enables parents to take advantage of a wonderful opportunity to make up a narrative or listen as youngsters invent their own tale. Boyd’s sense of humor shines, too, as the woods get more and more full of animals and then the little boy trips, only to have his flashlight picked up by one of the forest creatures, then another and more still. This unexpected yet welcome turn of events is sure to please even the littlest of readers. It will make the next camping trip your family takes a most looked-forward-to adventure.
Buy this book, add an adorable roaring tiger flashlight or even a mini MagLite, and you’ve got yourself one birthday present that will light up the face of any child that receives it.