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
CELEBRATE MOTHER’S DAY & FATHER’S DAY
WITH LITTLE BEE BOOKS
CUDDLES FOR MOMMY & THE BEST PART OF DADDY’S DAY
Reviews and Giveaway
Cuddles for Mommy
Written by Ruby Brown
Illustrated by Tina Macnaughton
(Little Bee Books; $16.99, Ages 4-8)
Here’s a read aloud picture book moms won’t tire of sharing with youngsters on Mother’s Day or any day. What kind of cuddle do you like best? There are all kinds of cuddles and in the pages of this sweet picture book, Little Owl is wondering which one’s her favorite and decides to try them all. Mommy Owl is on the joyful receiving end of all the hugs.
The good morning – a wake up time cuddle.
The good-bye – a leaving for school cuddle.
The “I’m sorry” – a way to apologize for doing something wrong cuddle.
The “I’m scared” – when mommy’s reassuring hug helps quell fears and makes nightmares go away.
There are also the thank you cuddle, happy cuddle, the proud cuddle, the “I’m sick” cuddle, and the good night cuddle. But the best kind of cuddle for any time or any place is the Mommy Cuddle “Just because I love you!” And that’s sure hard to argue with. Brown has picked cuddles for her book’s subject and it works wonderfully. She’s created a feel good picture book that’s great for story time or bedtime. And since it’s just the right length, Cuddles for Mommy will leave lots of time for some quality cuddling at the end. I hadn’t ever considered how many cuddles and hugs we give to one another, but I’m glad Brown did. Macnaughton’s chosen a variety of background colors to highlight her illustrations that also add a cheery mood to this story. Plus, with her depictions of Little Owl and Mommy Owl, she’s found a way to make the cuddling of the two owls look believable without turning their bodies into cartoon characters. An endearing story for a special holiday, Cuddles for Mommy would make a great gift for Mother’s Day.
Interior artwork from Cuddles for Mommy written by Ruby Brown with illustrations by Tina Macnaughton, Little Bee Books © 2016
The Best Part of Daddy’s Day
Written and illustrated by Claire Alexander
(Little Bee Books; $16.99, Ages 4-8)
The strong message of love in both Cuddles for Mommy and The Best Part of Daddy’s Day is an important one for young readers. I may have guessed the ending in Alexander’s new picture book, The Best Part of Daddy’s Day, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying every page and remembering my son feeling the same way at the same age as Bertie, the narrator. Bertie wishes he could spend the day with his dad, but dad’s a builder and must make tracks to work while Bertie goes to school. Throughout the course of Bertie’s school day, he finds himself thinking about his dad and trying to recreate the experience of being a builder. Sometimes he has success and other times he doesn’t – like when a classmate gets footprints on Bertie’s artwork of a crane like the one his dad operates. The highlight of Bertie’s school day is climbing to the top of the jungle gym where he is certain he can see his dad up in the crane constructing a skyscraper. When school ends it turns out Bertie’s daddy has had quite similar experiences at his job, even spotting his son on the jungle gym! But during a bedtime story, Bertie’s dad reveals that the best part of his day isn’t actually when he’s at work. No, it’s when he comes home and gets to snuggle up close to his son. Bertie agrees that the feeling is mutual. Alexander’s written a delightful story for budding builders and those who dream of following in a parent’s footsteps. The watercolor illustrations are tender yet playful, just perfect for the subject matter. Make reading The Best Part of Daddy’s Day the best part of your day and get a copy today.
Interior artwork from The Best Part of Daddy’s Day written and illustrated by Claire Alexander, Little Bee Books © 2016.
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(Candlewick Press; $15.99, Ages 3-7)
★Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews
I love larger-than-life characters who never let defeat get in their way. I think of Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther series; there’s also the self-proclaimed genius Wile E. Coyote whose only success is consistently failing to catch his adversary. No matter how many times they fail or get rejected, these characters’ shameless ineptitude has us laughing clearly at, not with, them.
Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise uses this larger-than-life character trait in the loveable Hoot Owl who invites us to laugh right along with him. Hoot Owl’s flair for overly dramatizing his predatory skills consistently botches his ability to catch any real dinner. Even before the dedication page, we feel the suspenseful tone build up in the warning posted on page 1: “Watch out! I am Hoot Owl! I am hungry. And here I come!” In his first picture book for children, Jullien, of course, eases the hearts of even the youngest reader. Hoot Owl’s egg shaped head and wide eyes peeking from the bottom corner of the page assure us no animals (illustrated or otherwise) were harmed in the making of this book.
Especially appealing in this character driven story are the similes Hoot Owl uses to describe his supposed deftness at flying through the “darkness of midnight…as quick as a shooting star…like a wolf in the air…like a knife.” On his first attempt to catch dinner, Hoot Owl boasts of the “sharp beak” that will soon “gobbl[e] that rabbit up!” But Hoot Owl isn’t just any old owl; he is an owl of great mental prowess too. Before he closes in for the kill, he states: “Everyone knows owls are wise. But as well as being wise, I am a master of disguise.” And so our hero disguises himself as a (not-so-convincing) carrot. The bunny’s calm smile confirms our suspicions that Hoot Owl is more likely to win an Academy Award for Best Performance Before Dinnertime than to actually catch anything to eat. The adorably bespectacled “juicy little lamb” and mellow “trembling” pigeon are next on our predator’s supposed hit list, highlighting once more the comic disconnect between Taylor’s sensational diction and Jullien’s heartwarming illustrations.
HOOT OWL: MASTER OF DISGUISE Written by Sean Taylor and Illustrated by Jean Jullien, Candlewick Press ©2015.
That Hoot Owl shares with us he’s in on this comedy, too, is what I find most endearing about his character. “The shadowy night stretches away forever, as black as burnt toast,” he says using a simile so forced you know deep down he’s laughing at his own incompetence. Adults and children will be pleased and surprised at the dinner our hero finally does catch—then back again into the “enormousness of the night” Hoot Owl glides stealthily, warning us of his return….which readers of all ages will, without a doubt, impatiently await.
– Reviewed by Armineh Manookian
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
Books We Love For Halloween
Short, chunky, and sweet, describes this Halloween board book designed for the youngest audience. Wickle Woo Has a Halloween Party, written by Nosy Crow with illustrations by Jannie Ho (Nosy Crow 201; $7.99, Ages 0-3) cleverly incorporates a game of peek-a-boo with a holiday theme. Sturdy tabs are easy for chubby little hands to pull out and reveal various animals in their Halloween costumes, then push back in again.
Wickle Woo, an owl in a wizard’s hat and robe, is having a Halloween party. He can hear his friends, but their costumes are so good, that he has trouble recognizing them. Ho has an interesting cast of characters, dressed in adorable child-friendly outfits. Bear is masquerading as a flower, lion is a pirate, and monkey is disguised as an astronaut, to name a few. There are pumpkins and spiders and bats and witches, but Ho keeps them cute, not creepy.
This is a perfect treat for those who are too young for too many sweets!
It’s time to break out the glitter pens, colored pencils, tin foil, and any other art supplies you might have. Just in time for Halloween, Marnie Edwards (author) and Leigh Hodgkinson (illustrator), along with the help of the reader, have cast a magic spell with their anti-coloring/activity book. Magical Mix-Ups, Spells and Surprises (Nosy Crow 2014; $6.99, Ages 7 and up), has an enchanting story line as well.
Princess Sapphire and Emerald the Witch are best friends. They live in Mixtopia, where things are, well, mixed up, and they attend St. Aubergine’s School. They make a new friend, Violet, who has trouble controlling her broom and has trouble learning to fly. Emerald has troubles of her own. She’s a witch who isn’t very good at casting spells. The girls are preparing for the Halloween Festival and decide to help each other out. There are tiaras and tutus, dancing and candy, magic and friendship and all the things girls love at this age in this well-crafted book.
Oh, Nosy Crow, I love you so! Hmmm, maybe I’ll use that when I help Emerald with her rhyming spell assignment.
– Reviews by MaryAnne Locher
Other terror-ific & recommended great books for Halloween time are:
Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors by Mary McKenna Siddals with illustrations by Jimmy Pickering from Random House Books for Young Readers ($12.99, Ages 3-7)
Backwards Moon (watch for our review next week) by Mary Losure from Holiday House ($16.95, Ages 7-10)
Charlie Bumpers vs. The Squeaking Skull by Bill Harley with illustrations by Adam Gustavson from Peachtree Publishers ($13.95, Ages 7-10)
Scream Street: Terror of the Nightwatchman written and illustrated by Tommy Donbavand from Candlewick Press ($5.99, Ages 8-12)
The Gloomy Ghost by David Lubar from Starscape/Tor Teen ($15.99, Ages 8-12)
The Shadow Lantern by Teresa Flavin from Templar Books ($15.99, Ages 9-12)