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Madame Martine by Sarah S. Brannen

MADAME MARTINE
written and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen 
(Albert Whitman & Company, $16.99, Ages 4-8)

Madame-Martine-cvr.jpgWith soft, smudgey watercolors, the book shows us the unsmiling Madame going about her usual business. She even irons with her back turned to a gorgeous view of the Eiffel Tower from her apartment window! “Eh! It’s a tourist thing,” she says dismissively.

Then one rainy day, Madame discovers a small, wet, dirty dog that licks her hand and wags its tail. “It needs me,” she thinks, and “A dog might be nice.” She takes him home, cleans him up, and names him Max.

Max fits comfortably into Madame’s routine life, until one day he takes off after a squirrel and chases it under the turnstile to the Eiffel Tower. Madame has no choice but to buy a ticket and follow him. Young readers will relish the wild journey as Max rushes all the way to the top, even taking the elevator! Will Madame be cross with her pup, or will Max’s unplanned adventure change her life for the better?

Brannen’s illustrations masterfully capture the intricate metalwork that compose the Eiffel Tower and she paints the full range of misty, hazy sky shades that drape Paris in the spring. Beautiful large spreads of the flickering city lights help reinforce the idea that the world beyond one’s doorstep is a wondrous place to explore. Children will adore the cuddly, lively Max whose puppyish energy and enthusiasm ooze off the page.

MADAME MARTINE is a nice book to share with children who embrace routine and resist change. It is also refreshing to see an older person portrayed in a picture book as a character who is still open to change, growth and discovery. And while Madame is not completely transformed, the book gently emphasizes that life is a sweeter journey with a good friend – or dog – at your side.

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

 

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a promotional copy of MADAME MARTINE from the publisher and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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Duck & Goose go to The Beach by Tad Hills

Duck & Goose Go to the Beach by Tad Hills, (Schwartz & Wade Books 2014, $17.99, ages 3-7), is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

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Duck & Goose Go to the Beach by Tad Hills, Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014.

It’s summer, and Duck is eager to explore. Goose, however, is reluctant to leave their perfect little meadow with its tree stump, hollow log, stream, lily pond, and shady thicket.

“A TRIP? A trip sounds far away. I like close…An adventure? That sounds scary,” Goose honks.

But Duck is determined, and Goose grumpily follows him on their hike. When they arrive at the beach, Duck gets more than he bargained for. The waves are loud, the sand is hot, the ocean is big, and the beach dwellers are different. The beach isn’t what Duck expected, but it isn’t what Goose expected either, and, suddenly, he’s up for the adventure!

Goose stared at the vast stretch of sky, sand, and sea. “Isn’t it magnificent?” he said.

 “Oh dear, the beach has SO MUCH water,” quacked Duck. “I feel tiny.”

 “Have you ever seen SO MUCH sand?” honked Goose.

  “It’s getting in my feathers, and it’s too hot on my feet,” said Duck. “Let’s go.”

  “Go swimming? Good idea, Duck!” said Goose, and he raced to the water’s edge.

Duck & Goose Go to the Beach is a story of many levels. It presents the idea of having an adventure and doing something new. It deals with facing fears and being open to changing your mind. It’s a fun summer read. Most of all, it is charming and humorous. Duck and Goose are adorable characters. They are who they are, and that trait is so appealing to young readers (and their parents).

The oil paint artwork is almost too cute. The images of the feathered friends running down the hill and peeking over the sand dune are picture perfect. The artwork adds to the massive appeal of the book.

Whether they’re in a meadow, at the beach, or in your home, your kids will delight in Duck and Goose.

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Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood

Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood
with illustrations by Jonathan Bean
is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

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Bad Bye, Good Bye written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Jonathan Bean, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.

Bad Bye, Good Bye (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, $16.99, Ages 4-8) is such a great title. Even my almost 13-year-old who hasn’t read picture books for quite some time remarked about how clever the title was and how he instantly knew what the book would be about.

Families move. It happens all the time. Moms or Dads get new jobs and whammo, it’s time to pack up, head to another city (or country as it was in our case) and start all over again. It’s never easy to move and leave behind all we know and love, but having a picture book like Bad Bye, Good Bye to share with kids when relocating can really help parents broach the topic gently and also help kids open up about their hopes and fears.

As I mentioned earlier, Bad Bye, Good Bye is such a terrific title that I’m surprised no one thought of it sooner. Having moved three times with my children because of my husband’s job, I know firsthand how unsettling and sad it can be for youngsters. If the change is hard and stressful for an adult, imagine how overwhelming it is for little ones who don’t have all the coping skills yet in place for dealing with these kinds of major life events. Underwood wastes no time in setting the scene by beginning the picture book with moving men loading a family’s belongings onto a moving van while two red-faced children cry. In fact the little boy even clings to a mover’s leg in an attempt to stop him. Everything is rotten.

Bad day,
Bad box,
Bad mop,
Bad blocks.

What can go right for this brother and sister who do not want to leave their home and their friends? Even their car journey to their new home is filled with anxiety. The sparse rhyming text manages to convey the reluctance of the kids even as the artwork begins to show more positive parts of moving.

As the jacket flap copy reads: “Bad Bye, Good Bye is perfect for moving day or any of life’s tough transitions.” What parents can do is have this book on hand to read when there are no big moves planned so children can see that not all aspects of a move or a change are sad. For example, one of the two child characters in the story meets a neighborhood boy he spies from upstairs while he’s checking out his new bedroom and soon they’re watching fireflies light up the night together.

New kid,
Good throw,
New Bugs,
Good glow.

Bean’s illustrations work beautifully with the text. His paintings combine both the deep darker colors of the mood everyone is feeling as well as less prominent sketches on the same page to indicate movement and progression of time. I cannot picture this book with anything but these illustrations because they’re so full of the emotion and local color that Underwood’s story has set up so well. As someone who has experienced the sadness and apprehension of moving multiple times with my young children, I would not hesitate to recommend reading Bad Bye, Good Bye as a way to make any move or change acceptable and perhaps even looked forward to!

And for a bonus – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s provided a page of moving tips for families you can find by clicking here.

 


 

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