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Hedgehog Needs a Hug and Twilight Chant Feature Artwork by Jen Betton

HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG
Written and illustrated by Jen Betton
(G. P. Putnam’s Sons BYR; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

&

TWILIGHT CHANT
Written by Holly Thompson
Illustrated by Jen Betton
(Clarion Books; $17.99, Ages 4-7)

 

One talented creator’s works grace two new picture books, Hedgehog Needs a Hug and Twilight Chant, featuring wonderful animal illustrations. Both books are reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

Hedgehog Needs a Hug cover art by Jen BettonSure, on Instagram every hedgehog looks cute and cuddly. But in this story, woodland friends are fearful of his prickles when HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG, the debut author-illustrator title from Jen Betton. Perhaps he got out of his cozy nest the wrong way, but Hedgehog wakes feeling “down in the snout and droopy in the prickles.” Smart and resourceful, he knows just what he needs to feel better. But who will hug Hedgehog? Rabbit and Raccoon refuse, and Turtle won’t even wake up. Then an ominous shadow seeks into the clearing. It’s a fox! He’s not afraid, but should Hedgehog be?

Betton’s text is smooth and rhythmic with vivid verbs and comforting refrains. Her woodland scenes feature crisp white and lush, deep blue-greens that make creamy-brown Hedgehog pop as the star. Plentiful double spreads and a clever mix of perspectives keep scenes entertaining from one page turn to the next, and expressive animal faces convey emotions without ambiguity. A gentle ending brings comfort and happy closure, plus a new friend who can see beyond Hedgehog’s thorny accoutrements.

 

Twilight Chant by Holly Thompson cover illustration by Jen BettonBetton also lends her prolific talents to TWILIGHT CHANT, a beautiful and poetic science picture book written by Holly Thompson. Readers follow a family leaving the shore as the sun begins to sink and shift to twilight hours. Thompson’s lyrical text directs attention to the animals that become active at this time of day – the “crepuscular creatures emerge” – with smoothly rhythmic repetition that reads aloud beautifully. As deer graze, swallows skim, foxes sniff and bats swerve, each page turn leads to a new creature and heightens our appreciation of this calm yet intensely busy twilight time

The illustrations, rich with gold and rose dusky tints, showcase each animal and its setting with both realism and softness across double spread pages. The family wends their way home slowly, tucked in as a careful through-line to emphasize our environmental interconnectedness. The deepening sky colors conclude with purpley nightfall – making this title a perfect, calming bedtime selection. An author’s note clearly explains what twilight is and gives more information about the intriguing animals encountered in the story. A poetic masterpiece infused with subtle science and soothing imagery, TWILIGHT CHANT is one of a kind.

• Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Find another recent #Epic18 picture book review here.

Where obtained:  I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go? Groundhug Day by Anne Marie Pace

GROUNDHUG DAY
Written by Anne Marie Pace
Illustrated by Christopher Denise
(Disney-Hyperion Books; $17.99, Ages 3-5)

 

Cover image for Groundhug Day

 

Groundhug Day is a picture book delight that seamlessly weaves a heartwarming and credible friendship story together with Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day holidays. Making a themed book that can be read on more than a few days each year is a feat few authors and illustrators attempt, but the winning combination of Anne Marie Pace and Christopher Denise have managed to pull this off quite successfully!

Moose is planning a Valentine’s Day party and he’d like to celebrate with all his pals. There is however just one little hitch. While Bunny, Porcupine and Squirrel can attend, if Groundhog sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, he’ll “go back into his hole for six more weeks.” In other words, he won’t emerge in time for February 14th festivities. So it’s no surprise that when Groundhog comes out and sees his shadow, he’s quick to head back down, but hints there’s more to it than that. Ever the intuitive one, Moose thinks perhaps his pal is afraid of shadows. Determined to show Groundhog that shadows aren’t scary at all, Moose enlists help from his friends to demonstrate “just how awesome shadows are.”

Here’s where young readers, already drawn into the story, will be treated to several beautiful pages of illustrations (in addition to to all the other striking artwork in warm welcoming tones) showing what wonderful things shadows are and can do. It’s easy to feel the joy both author and illustrator felt about creating this lovely picture book. More fun times are in store because, despite no longer being fearful of shadows, Groundhog must still get his six weeks of sleep! This tale, honoring the support that genuine friendship offers, is both a sweet and satisfying read that has all the feels you’d want from a picture book.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

 

Celebrating Dads With A Father’s Day Books Roundup

 

A FATHER’S DAY BOOKS ROUNDUP
FOR 2017

 

I Love My DaddyCover image of bear for I Love My Daddy by Sebastien Braun
Written and illustrated by Sebastien Braun 
(Katherine Tegen Books: $7.99, Ages 0-4)

Daddy bear adores his young cub as evidenced by his doting nature. This sturdy new board book edition, with its simple sentence structure, sweet illustrations and little cub narrator takes readers through 12 activities that demonstrate this father bear’s love for his child. Whether it’s washing time, feeding time, play time or tickle tie, “My daddy looks after me.” And isn’t heartwarming to know the feelings are mutual because best of all, “I love my daddy.”

 

 

 

Nelly Gnu and Daddy TooNelly Gnu and Daddy Too book cover
Written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney
(Viking BYR; $9.99, Ages 3-5)

This story resonated with me because, like Daddy Gnu created by late author illustrator Anna Dewdney, my husband helped our daughter decorate her very own cardboard house when she was Nelly Gnu’s age. In this charming story, after making the cardboard house together, Nelly Gnu and Daddy head to the hardware store to get all the supplies needed to put the finishing touches on her “perfect little house for one!” When Nelly gets lost momentarily and panic sets in, Daddy’s there to make things right, like he always does. Between its vibrant artwork and the engaging storyline, Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too is a keeper.

 

 

You and Me, Me and YouCover image for You and Me, Me and You by Miguel Tanco
Written and illustrated by Miguel Tanco
(Chronicle Books; $12.99, Ages 3-5)

I loved the thoughtfulness of this 36 page hardcover with its cloth binding that will make it feel like a big-kid book to the preschool crowd. You and Me, Me and You is a celebration of dads that says so much in under 100 words! The young narrator is wise beyond his years and not only shows readers what he has learned from his father, but what he as a child can bring to the relationship. “I give you the chance to tell stories … and I help you choose words with care.” Tanco’s retro artwork does a terrific job in conveying all the meaning packed into this well-crafted picture book. Insightful and moving, this You and Me, Me and You hits all the right marks and can be enjoyed year ’round.

 

 

Things to do With DadThings to do With Dad by Sam Zuppardi cover image
Written and illustrated by Sam Zuppardi
(Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

Cooking pancakes with dad is lots of fun but a chores list tacked on the fridge is a reminder to bother father and son that there’s lots more to be done. The only catch is most of what needs doing can be done alone, by dad. That is until the young boy finds a clever, creative way to turn making the beds into sailing a pirate ship, hanging out the laundry the same as joining a circus and watering the garden a jungle beckoning to be explored, all by dad’s side. Things to do With Dad shows that with a positive attitude, a big imagination and dad’s willing participation, a bunch of boring chores can easily become a fun, father-filled adventure. Zuppardi’s cheerful artwork is a perfect pairing for this Father’s Day delightful read.

 

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Additional Recommended Books for Father’s Day:

Ladybug Girl and Her Papa
Written by Jacky Davis
Illustrated by David Soman
(Dial BYR; $5.99, Ages 2-4)

Little Wolf’s First Howling
Written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky
Illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee
(Candlewick Press; $15.99, Ages 3-7)

Daddy Honk Honk!
Written and illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet
(Dial BYR; $16.99, Ages 3-5)

Heroes for My Son
Written by Brad Meltzer
(Harper; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Diaper Dude: The Ultimate Dad’s Guide to
Surviving the First Two Years
Written by Chris Pegula w/Frank Meyer
(TarcherPerigee; $15.00)

 

Argyle Fox by Marie Letourneau

ARGYLE FOX
Written and illustrated by Marie Letourneau
(Tanglewood Publishing; $17.99, Ages 3-7) 

Cover image of Argyle Fox

 

 

Author illustrator Marie Letourneau’s latest picture book, Argyle Fox, has a distinctly European feel about it. Maybe it’s Marie’s French sounding last name, maybe it’s the language, or maybe it’s the artwork. It could even be a lovely combination of all three, so I was surprised to read in the jacket flap copy that she actually lives on Long Island in New York, where I grew up!

The tale, one about the payoff that comes from perseverance and resilience, introduces us to Argyle Fox, a well-dressed and determined forest animal. Eager to play outside despite the windy spring weather, Argyle is cautioned by his mama that his desire to make a tower of playing cards on such a blistery day might be in vain. Not easily swayed, the plucky creature tries to no avail. Four more attempts at fun outdoor activities include dressing up like a spider and using yarn to make a web, pretending to be a pirate setting sail on a log ship, playing soccer and kicking what is supposed to be the winning goal, and battling a fire-breathing dragon as a fearless knight. Every time he makes up a new game, Argyle’s pals watch and warn him that the wind might disrupt things. Still he persists. Of course all of Argyle’s creative efforts are ruined by a “Whoosh” of the wind so he heads home. Mama Fox suggests that there still might be something to play with in the wind and leaves her youngster to his own devices. 

There’s a reason Argyle’s name is Argyle and that’s because his mama’s a big knitter. And what do knitters have lots of? Yarn! “Argyle went straight to work. He cut, tied, knitted, painted, and taped. Finally it was finished!” With all his forest friends in tow, this imaginative fox shows off his handmade kite and then gives all his friends their very own custom creations, too! Now the “Whoosh” sound is a welcoming one indeed!

Letourneau’s charming picture book makes for a marvelous read-aloud. Even as I read the book alone I found myself saying “Whoosh” out loud each time it appeared! Parents and caregivers can use the subject matter to start a conversation about imagination, creativity, and persistence after sharing the story. Together they can also look at all the adorable details Letourneau’s included in her illustrations while enjoying the cheery color palette, not to mention taking time to play all the fun games Argyle has played in the book.
With summer break around the corner and kids wanting to be outdoors, Argyle Fox is a welcome inspiration.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

ARGYLE FOX
Written & Illustrated by Marie Letourneau
Tanglewood Publishing 
Distributed by Publishers Group West 

 

BOOK ACTIVITY: http://www.tanglewoodbooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Argyle-Kite-Activity-1.jpg

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR  www.marieletourneau.com

 

 
 

 

 

Wolf in the Snow written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell

 

 

WOLF IN THE SNOW
Written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell
(Feiwel & Friends; $17.99, Ages 2-6)

 

★ Starred reviews – Booklist, Horn Books, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, SLJ

Wolf in the Snow cover image

 

Matthew Cordell’s notable picture book, Wolf in the Snow, balances a chilly winter landscape with warm sentiments of kindness. A young girl in a red triangular-shaped parka loses her way home from school when snows obliterates the path. At the same time, the severe weather separates a wolf cub from its pack. The two youngsters find one another and the girl’s thoughtfulness sets the story’s tone.

 

Interior artwork from Wolf in the Snow written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, Feiwel & Friends ©2017.

 

The only words in this book are plaintive sounds: whines, barks, howls, exhausted huffing. Children not yet literate can easily follow the images. Be sure to view the pictures before the title page which convey important information about the girl, her parents, and their dog. These also start us with the idea that, though the girl becomes lost, she is not alone—help will come, though not necessarily in the manner expected.

Blowing snow illustrations are bookended by ones of cozy comfort, communicating a safe opening and conclusion. Icy storm and natural colors contrast sharply with the bright jackets worn by adults and children. Wolves are depicted with distinction.

 

Interior image of wolf from Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

Interior artwork from Wolf in the Snow written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, Feiwel & Friends ©2017.

Animal lovers will appreciate the resounding connection between humans and creatures. Wolf in the Snow reminds us that helping one another is an idea without boundaries.

 

  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com

@WFSediting, Christine@Write-for-Success.com

Best Kids Picture Books for Valentine’s Day

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY 2015!
❤️A ROUNDUP TO SHARE THE LOVE ❤️

In-My-Heart-cvr.jpgThis book is great for Valentine’s Day, but is not limited to the holiday.

Even as an adult, feelings are hard to pinpoint, much less express. Written by Jo Witek, with illustrations by Christine Roussey, IN MY HEART: A Book of Feelings, (AbramsAppleseed, $16.95, Ages 2-4), may be a book intended for toddlers, but its universal theme will appeal to all ages.

This beautiful die-cut board book uses colors, shapes, and symbolism to help children identify and verbalize what they are feeling. Witek’s lyrical writing and masterful use of vocabulary are awe-worthy, and are complemented perfectly by Roussey’s fanciful illustrations.

In-My-Heart-int.jpg

Interior spread from In My Heart by Jo Witek with illustrations by Christine Roussey, Abrams Appleseed ©2014.

 

When I get really angry, my heart feels as if it’s going to explode!
Don’t come near me!
My heart is yelling, hot and loud.
This is when my heart is mad.

But other times, my heart is cool.
I bob along gently like a balloon on a string.
My heart feels lazy and slow, as quiet as snowfall.
This is when my heart is calm.

Sad, afraid, and shy are emotions which are explored by this perfect pairing of author and illustrator, along with hopeful, brave, and proud, to name a few. Witek ends the book with an open-ended question for the reader, sure to encourage a heart-felt discussion. She asks:

How does your heart feel?

Both Witek and Roussey live in France, and originally published their book in French under the title Dans Mon Petit Coeur, (Editions de La Martiniere/2013). Nothing has been lost in the translation to English, proving the heart speaks a language all its own. – Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Guess-How-Much-cvr.jpgIt must have been twenty years ago when I first read the touching tale of Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare, and teared up. Then, when my oldest daughter was in high school, her boyfriend gave her a copy of the book for Valentine’s Day. I got choked up again when she let me read it. GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU, written by Sam McBratney, and illustrated by Anita Jeram, (Candlewick Press, $9.99, Ages 4-8), is now available in a 4″x4″ special foldout, pop-up book format, and after all of these years, still makes me misty.

A timeless tale of love, this beloved book comes to life with Jeram’s ink and watercolor illustrations of Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare. In this most recent edition, the characters pop off the pages as they try to outdo one another while expressing their love.

“I love you as high as I can hop!” laughed Little Nutbrown Hare, bouncing up and down.
“But I love you as high as I can hop,” smiled Big Nutbrown Hare — and he hopped so high that his ears touched the branches above.

Guess-How-Much-int.jpg

Interior artwork from Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney with illustrations by Anita Jeram, Candlewick Press, ©2014.

 

McBratney’s text expands upon the phrase, “I love you this much,” so often heard between parent and child, with his creative prose. The sentiment is appropriate any time, but tucked away in a beautiful red sleeve with a decorative gold title, Guess How Much I Love You  makes the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for loved ones of any age. – Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Love-Monster-cvr.jpgThis little Love Monster was a nice little monster living in a land called Cutesville. LOVE MONSTER, written and illustrated by Rachel Bright (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 2-4), is another terrific Valentine’s Day picture book to add to your gift list. Living in a world full of everything cute and fluffy can be hard when you’re a funny looking monster of bright red hue, and googly eyes. Or so it felt that way for our main character who was seeking someone to love him “just the way he was.”

NOTE: Make sure to point out the sign that reads BIG, WIDE WORLD as Love Monster sets off on his search.

Love-Monster-int.jpg

Interior artwork from LOVE MONSTER by Rachel Bright, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ©2014.

Monster looked high, low and he even looked “middle-ish,” one of my favorite words in the story. At the Fancy Dress Shop (costume store) he was almost fooled by a monster mask, then again by his shadow, and finally by his reflection. Was there no one for him?  It almost seemed as if he had a dark cloud hanging over his head. But in a moment of pure storybook serendipity, as Love Monster was almost running out of places to look for love, his luck changed.

“You see, sometimes when you least expect it … love finds you.”

Bright’s message is not a new one, but it’s an oh so important one to share with children. How many times have we said something similar to our kids?  This simple tale is one of hope and reassurance for any child feeling they don’t quite fit in.

Bright’s artwork is not only bold and colorful, reflecting Little Monster’s various moods, but unique. Bright’s created her illustrations with solar etching according to jacket copy.  She uses ultraviolet light to create printing plates, a truly illuminating technique!
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Other New & Noteworthy Picture Books

Zombie in Love 2 + 1 by Kelly DiPucchio with illustrations by Scott Campbell (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
A Crankenstein Valentine by Samantha Berger with illustrations by Dan Santat (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

The Winter Train by Susanna Isern

The Winter Train by award winning author Susanna Isern
with illustrations by Ester Garcia

The-Winter-Train-cvr.jpg

A tale of friendship, kindness, and teamwork, can be found in The Winter Train, written by award winning author Susanna Isern with illustrations by Ester Garcia, (Cuento de Luz, November 2014; $16.95, Ages 3-5). Originally written in Spanish under the title, Tren de invierno, Jon Brokenbrow has successfully translated this beautiful story into English.

Every year, all of the animals in the Northern Forest, except for White Owl, Frog, and the fish, pack up their bags and board the Winter Train. They help each other prepare for their trip to a warmer climate in the Southern Forest before the snow hits.

Rabbit, Wolf, and Hedgehog are all on board. Wolf, Goat, and Bat have worked out their seating arrangements, and even Tortoise has managed to get to the train on time. The train chugs along, while the animals are playing games to pass the time, when Genet (a nocturnal, catlike mammal) realizes they’ve left one of their friends behind.

“We’ve forgotten Squirrel! We’ve got to go back and get her!”

“But if we go back, we could get trapped in the snow,” said Beaver, pointing to the dark clouds outside the window.

‘We can’t leave Squirrel behind. She can’t stand the cold,” said Ferret.

“Well, that’s settled then. Let’s go and find her!” said all the animals together.

In this picture book, Garcia’s illustrations show how quickly the landscape can change when autumn turns to winter, and snow covers everything. The bravery of Genet, trotting across the snowy ground to rescue her friend, Squirrel, tugs at your heartstrings. I found myself cheering the cat along on her trek.

Isern’s lyrical style of writing is both appropriate and appealing in this tender-hearted book for pre-schoolers.

“You came back to rescue me!” said Squirrel, shuddering from the cold.

But, of course the animals went back for their tiny friend. Who cares that a train can’t “turn around” or that in reality the animals would have eaten each other? Isern has managed to suspend our sense of reality in this wondrous magical picture book, which is sure to please the child in all of us.

– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

 

Best Kids Books for Halloween – A Round Up

 90-small_pumpkinBooks 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 0-3Wickle-woo-cvr.jpg) 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.

Magical-Mix-Ups-cvr.jpgPrincess 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)

Found by Salina Yoon

Found by Salina Yoon is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

Junior Library Guild selection for Spring 2014
✩Starred Review – Publishers Weekly

Found-cvr.jpg

Salina Yoon has created a wonderful story with Found (Walker Books for Young Readers /Bloomsbury 2014; $14.99, Ages 2-6. Bear finds a toy bunny in the forest and wants to find its owner, so he posts “found” flyers in the forest. Time passes and no one claims the bunny, and Bear becomes attached to it. It is, after all, “the most special thing he had ever seen.” But eventually Moose, the owner, spots Floppy, and Bear must prepare to part with his new, treasured toy. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it has just the right touch.

The magic of this picture book is its simplicity. The storyline is straightforward and the words are chosen perfectly for the young audience. My kindergartener greatly enjoys Found, and is transported into Bear’s world. When Moose arrives to claim Floppy, my little one’s thumb goes right in her mouth (nervous trait), and when Bear sheds a tear at the thought of parting with Floppy, my little one’s eyes well up, too. Children understand simple, pure emotion and Found presents that to them through the themes of friendship, sacrifice, and love.

The artwork is colorful and appealing. The characters are just adorable. Parents will appreciate the clever play on words and the cultural and historical references on the “lost” flyers. My favorites are “Lost Seasons 1-6,” Peter Pan’s “Lost shadow,” and “Lost my marbles! HELP!”

Your child will get lost in the world of Found, and that’s a good thing.

To read a review of Yoon’s Penguin in Love, click here and watch this space for a review of Penguin and Pumpkin.

 

Picture Books Back to School Giveaway

Enter our exciting picture books giveaway today!

Out here in California, lots of kids have already returned to school. Others across the country will head back after Labor Day. Either way, parents are looking for new reading material to share with their children and we’ve got a set of three new and soon-to-be-published picture books for you to win courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt & Clarion Books! Scroll down after the reviews for our Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway.

9780544104433_lresNANA IN THE CITY by Lauren Castillo (available in bookstores September 2, 2014) $16.99, Ages 4-8  Now a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book!!

Review: I couldn’t wait to read this book starring a Nana as one of the main characters because I, too, had a Nana and growing up there were no books mentioning Nana (unless you count Nana the big sheepdog in Peter Pan). However, unlike Nana in this story, my Nana did not live in Manhattan (the water towers on top of the buildings along with the subway art shouted the Big Apple to me.)

This picture book’s young narrator goes to stay with his grandmother “at her new apartment in the city.” From the very start, the little lad makes it clear he does not like the city nor the fact that his nana is living there. It may be a busy, loud, and scary place (Castillo’s illustrations depict construction and scaffolding, menacing-looking graffiti and homeless people asking for money) to a child, but to Nana the city is “wonderful – bustling, booming and extraordinary.”

With the help of a knitted red cape, and an eye-opening walk around the neighborhood to see close-up what is really going on, Nana shows her grandson that the city, though busy and loud, is  actually a “perfect place for a nana to live.”

Castillo’s use of primary colors interspersed with blacks and whites conveys the city’s mood and totally complements the text. Whether your child is heading to NYC or any other city for that matter, sharing Nana in the City with them is an ideal way to allay any trepidation they might have about visiting someplace new and different.

9780544233515CREATURE_FEATURES_HICREATURE FEATURES: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page (available in bookstores October 4, 2014) $17.99, Ages 4-8 A Junior Library Guild Selection

Review: Creature Features’ authors and illustrators, Jenkins and Page, have come up with an interesting and fun way to engage readers in this nonfiction picture book about all sorts of animals, from the blobfish to the Egyptian vulture, from the axolotl to the thorny devil. There are so many neat new facts to learn and bright bold artwork to enjoy. By addressing each creature individually  …

Dear red squirrel:

Does that fur on  your ears help you hear better?

children will feel as if the first-animal (can’t really say first-person now can I?!) response is directed to them personally.

No. It’s there to keep my ears warm. It falls off in the summer and grows back in the winter.

There is also a spread in the end pages with a chart showing animal sizes compared to humans, a map with the locations of where the creatures live and what their diet consists of.  Check out www.stevejenkinsbooks.com/creaturefeatures to get details on this delightful book.

9780544164666SMALL BLUE AND THE DEEP DARK NIGHT by Jon Davis (available in bookstores now) $16.99, Ages 4-8

Review: Small Blue, a young rabbit, has an active imagination, especially in the deepest, darkest night. It’s then she’s convinced her bedroom is full of “creepy things” like gremlins, goblins and giant hairy spiders. In other words, all types of characters that are intent on preventing a little bunny from getting a good night’s sleep.

But Big Brown comforts Small Blue by offering up a completely new perspective after turning on the light It’s just as likely there could be delightful doggies riding around in a unicycle convention. Or, maybe a smiley spaceman is hosting “a zero-gravity birthday party.”

I love how Davis has introduced a plausible new paradigm for parents to share with an upset or  frightened child. Kids will be empowered by this picture book. They can choose to be scared of the nighttime, preoccupied by all the sneaky things lurking in the dark, or they can re-envision their room as a realm of positive possibilities; a place where doggies, spacemen and yes, even retired sock-knitting pirates parade about, and by doing so welcome the darkness as one big adventure.  And isn’t thinking that way a great way to greet the night?

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

FLASHLIGHT BY LIZI BOYD
IS REVIEWED
BY RONNA MANDEL

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt

Sleepyheads written by Sandra J. Howatt and illustrated by Joyce Wan, (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster, $16.99, Ages 2-6), is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

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Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt with illustrations by Joyce Wan, Beach Lane Books, 2014.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun sets quite late in the summer. I relied on room-darkening blinds and soft music to lull my toddlers to sleep when the sun was still shining. If only I had owned a copy of Sandra Howatt’s delightful, yawn-inducing Sleepyheads about a decade ago!

Howatt’s story begins outdoors under soft moonlight with a delightful assortment of cuddly creatures snoozing in nests, trees, caves and waves. The cozy dozers – bear, duck, rabbit, pig – are relaxed and content. Quiet oozes throughout the soft “S” assonance sprinkled through the rhyming lines. While an owl keeps vigil (This one’s not a sleepyhead – this one slept all day!) we transition inside the house where the cat and dog are sound asleep. There is one last special sleepyhead to be found, where a pillow, bed and blanket await.

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Interior spread from Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt with illustrations by Joyce Wan, Beach Lane Books, ©2014.

Wan’s illustrations are perfectly sweet, soft and soothing. Fuzzy, thick-edged images reinforce the look of deep night sky, with subtle pops of pink, green and brown. The creatures are rounded into large, simple shapes that are just right for little ones learning animal names and homes. The night sky is sprinkled with luminous, glowing stars as tiny fireflies dot pages in a lovely rhythm.

Sleepyheads is just long enough, just soft enough, and just dreamy enough to cause even the most sleep-resistant tots to rub their eyes. Kirkus gave Sleepyheads a starred review, calling it “A superb execution of soporific shapes and sounds perfect for the bedside table.” Perfect for sweet nighttime tuck-ins!

–    Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher and received no other compensation.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

 

Flashback Friday – Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein

Ol’ Mama Squirrel written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2013, $16.99, Ages 3-5) is reviewed by Dornel Cerro.

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Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013.

Ol’ Mama Squirrel, having raised many litters, refuses to let any creature harm her young. Her loud and insistent scolding (“chook, chook, chook”) and threatening gestures scare away the bravest of foes. However, one day she meets up with a “great, growling grizzly bear …” who’s not so easily frightened.

Repetitive words and phrases (“and that takes care of that”), make this a lively and interactive read-aloud for young children. Simple words and word sounds in large font (“PLONK”) enabled my emerging readers to participate alongside more advanced readers. Together they all roared out the bear’s evil “WA-HA-HA” laugh (I do not have a quiet library).

Stein sprinkles some great vocabulary (“afoul,” “scamper,” “puny”), and puns throughout the story, enriching children’s language and comprehension skills. A dog, frightened away by Mama Squirrel exclaims: “this squirrel is crazy! … “They must put crazy powder in the nuts around here!” Grizzly bear threatens Mama Squirrel: “I’ll eat your whole family tree.”

The humorous and expressive illustrations not only extend the narrative but practically tell the story on their own. Reminiscent of his artistic work in Leaves, Stein uses deft strokes to suggest shapes and animate characters. Soft, muted watercolors and crayons fill in the outlines. Along with framed single page illustrations, Stein uses double page spreads to create larger than life characters, transforming Ol’ Mama Squirrel from a proud mother to a fearsome opponent. My students laughed uproariously at the two page spread of Mama Squirrel snarling “not on my watch buster” as she and her babies escape from grizzly bear.

The Caldecott winning author and illustrator of Interrupting Chicken has another hit on his hands –just ask my K-1 students who proclaimed Ol’ Mama Squirrel “…a superhero!”

Highly recommended for children ages 3 -6, but be prepared for a rousing story time!

Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears by Corey Rosen Schwartz & Beth Coulton

Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears puts a perfect twist on a beloved fairytale classic,” says reviewer MaryAnne Locher.

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Gold Rocks and the Three Bears by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton with illustrations by Nate Wragg, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014.

In Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton with illustrations by Nate Wragg, (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $16.99, Ages 5-8), the story begins with Papa, Mama, and Baby bear who have their own rock-n-roll band, but are in need of a soprano. When they leave their cottage to find one, the story, written in pitch perfect verse, follows the original tale. Goldi Rocks comes knocking on the three bears’ cottage door, only to find it unlocked, empty with some porridge cooling on the table. This is where the story takes a spin faster than a D.J. scratching records. Goldi forgets her hunger when she sees the music studio with Papa Bear’s drums, Mama Bear’s guitar, and Baby Bear’s keyboard, all of which she must try out, making a mess of things as she goes.

Meanwhile, the bears are holding auditions with some other familiar fairytale characters, but none of them quite work out. The bears return home only to find the cottage a terrible mess and Goldi Rocks asleep on Baby Bear’s keyboard.

They stared at the
slumbering blond girl,
and Papa asked,
“Who could she BE?”
He disrupted her dream.
She awoke with a scream-
the pitch was a perfect high C!

The three bears quickly forget about the mess Goldi had made once they hear her fine soprano voice, and ask her to join the band.

Corey Rosen Schwartz is no stranger to the fractured fairytale, her previous success being The Three Ninja Pigs, but forming a duo with co-author Beth Coulton makes for a chart topper! This may be Wragg’s debut picture book, but his background in animating projects including Ratatouille, Toy Story 3, and Puss in Boots give him the chops needed to bring this book to life through his illustrations.

Just as the band’s song,“Too Hot, Too Cold, or Just Right?” is a hit single, I believe this book will be as well.

The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins

The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins

The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins with illustrations by David Slonim,
Candlewick Press, 2013.

The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins (Candlewick, $15.99, Ages 3-7) is a quiet book. While there was not a lot of action and adventure in its 32 pages, I found myself drawn in by the promise a father made to his little boy, that this would be the summer they saw a deer.

This beautifully illustrated book, with oil paintings by David Slonim, took me back in time to treasured memories of communing with nature. As our civilization takes over more and more land, our jobs (and electronics) take up more and more of our time, and our children are under so much pressure to succeed at such a young age, an outing in nature allows us to reconnect on a deeper level. There are so many lessons that can’t be learned in school.

Take a hike through The Deer Watch, with a boy and his father. Meet the construction crew who, with their noisy equipment scares, the deer away from the corn the hunters left as bait. Ironically, they are saving them while at the same time pushing them out of their natural habitat.

Interior illustration from The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins with illustrations by David Slonim

Interior illustration from The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins with illustrations by David Slonim, Candlewick Press, 2013.

We see all types of interesting wildlife as we turn the pages, but like the young boy in the book, our goal is to see a deer, and more importantly, to have a promise kept. And, just as the boy’s father doesn’t disappoint, neither shall the book.

I adored this moving story of anticipation and discovery, but would recommend it more for children 4-8 years old. Younger children might get a little squirmy as the boy in the story does when he has to wait quietly to spot a deer. However the reward of father and son sharing this special experience is well worth the wait.

– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

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