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Finn’s Feather & Sterling, Best Dog Ever, Two New Books by Epic18 Debut Authors

FINN’S FEATHER
Written by Rachel Noble

 Illustrated by Zoey Abbott
(Enchanted Lion; $17.95, Ages 4-8)

&

STERLING, BEST DOG EVER
Written and illustrated by Aidan Cassie

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR; $17.99, Ages 3-6)

 

are reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

 

A feather. A fork. These things mean more than they seem when viewed through the loving eyes of a family in two new picture books, FINN’S FEATHER and STERLING, BEST DOG EVER from debut authors.

 

Finn's Feather book cover illustrationFINN’S FEATHER features an upbeat and energetic child who discovers a white feather on his doorstep. He runs to show the new treasure to his mother, explaining that the feather is from his brother, Hamish. His mother responds with a deep breath and a big hug. His teacher’s reaction is likewise muted. But Finn’s friend Lucas understands and shares in his delight. Together they find ways to include the special feather in their playtime.

With the feather as an equal, adventuresome partner, it is as if Finn’s deceased brother is right beside them, sharing in the delight of a spring day. When Finn finally decides to write a letter to Hamish, he uses the feather as a pen. “I whish you were here,” he writes, and secures his message in a tree branch.

Abbott’s warm illustrations are clear and soft, setting off the emotional tale with gentle tenderness. Simple and generously spaced, the images leave ample room for Noble’s text to carry deeper meaning. The pastel color palette is attractively textured, drawing readers’ eyes to the ever-present, symbolic feather. This poignant book is ideal for helping children understand the range of complex emotions, grief and happiness, that accompany our experiences of loss and remembrance.

 

Sterling, Best Dog Ever book cover illustrationIt’s a fork, or a dog, that stars in STERLING, BEST DOG EVER. Although no home has ever wanted to keep Sterling, he is determined to find a family. Outside the Butlery Cutlery Factory, he comes up with a plan to be shipped inside a package of utensils. Sure, he may have to disguise himself as a fork to succeed, but he’s resourceful!

The Gilbert family is skeptical but accepting of Sterling, and their dog-obsessed daughter is delighted beyond measure. But Sterling’s role is not entirely clear. Did the family want a fork, a dog, or should he try to be a whisk, a rolling pin, or a chandelier? Young readers will giggle at Sterling’s enthusiastic attempts to carve out a place for himself in the new family order.

Cassie’s illustrations are colorful, humorous and well-paced. Even when attempting to fill-in as an inanimate household item, Sterling is imbued with emotion, expression and energy. His earnest efforts and the girl’s equally passionate yearning to help her “dog-fork” assimilate are heart-tugging and funny at the same time. STERLING is a quirky, clever tale of self-acceptance and love that will hold special appeal for readers with rescue dogs.

• Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Click here to read another recent review by Cathy.

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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The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy by Beatrice Alemagna

THE WONDERFUL FLUFFY LITTLE SQUISHY 
by Beatrice Alemagna, translated by Claudia Zoe Bedrick
(Enchanted Lion Books. $18.95, Ages 4 to 8)

  • is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey

TheWonderfulFluffyLittleSquishy

 

Edith – or “Eddie” as she is called – is a five-and-a-half year old charmer with straw-spikey hair, a pert pug nose, and a bright fuchsia hoodie in Beatrice Alemagna’s The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy. She also has a problem – it is her mother’s birthday and she needs to find the perfect present, stat. Overhearing something about a “fuzzy – little –squishy” leads her to assume that her sister might scoop the “right” gift for their mother before Eddie. So our intrepid heroine abandons a steaming teacup and sprints into the streets of her charming French village in search of the fuzzy little squishy gift.

In her wonderful walkable neighborhood, Eddie visits the baker, the florist, a clothing boutique, the antique dealer, and the butcher. She asks each adult for assistance in finding a squishy, fluffy or fuzzy something. Although they listen to her plea and try to help, each giving her a tiny treasure (except the grumpy butcher), none have the elusive gift she seeks. Discouraged, Eddie heads home in the falling snow.

Suddenly, she hears giggles over head and spies “it” – an adorable fluffy little squishy at last! A long-tailed, four legged, be-whiskered poof that is as pink as can be. Eddie immediately knows that this creature has a thousand uses, from pillow to plant to paintbrush. The small gifts from her neighborhood friends come into play as Eddie rescues the Squishy from a series of near disasters and discovers something wonderful about herself as well.

Alemagna excels in depicting enticing shop windows and displays, bursting with scrumptious pastries, delicate flowers, intriguing antiques, and a fold-out triple spread butcher shop. Her illustrations incorporate bursts of energy and action that draw the eye across the page, from steaming cup to falling snow and gushing fountains. Even little Squishy looks as though he might have been zapped by an electrical socket, shocking his fur into uncontrollable chaos. Excellent depictions of winding cobblestone streets, crowded village shops and slate roofed homes will help children appreciate the European sensibilities of this magical adventure story. And they will certainly find Eddie an irrepressible and appealing heroine whose quest is as quirky as it is delightful.

THE WONDERFUL FLUFFY LITTLE SQUISHY was recently awarded the 2016 Mildred L. Batchelder Award by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association. The Batchelder Award is given to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.

  • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

 

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a copy of THE WONDERFUL FLUFFY LITTLE SQUISHY from the publisher and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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Red Spider Hero by John Miller

RED SPIDER HERO
Written by John Miller
Illustrated by Giuliano Cucco 
(Enchanted Lion Books; $16.95, Ages 4-8)

is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

RedSpiderHerocvr

Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews

Our hero, Harry, is a young red spider, or spider mite. You may have seen these itsy bitsy critters scurrying across a light-colored sidewalk, deck or wall in the warm weather. The illustrator, Cucco, brings the super smallness of these insects to our attention in one initial brilliant two page spread, mostly white, covered with minute red and black speckles. One speck is highlighted with a ring of thick black lines. This is Harry.

Harry sports a beribboned folded paper hat and brown overalls. He carries a scabbard in one of his four hands, which he waves about while hollering that he is tired of being a little spider and wants to see the world. Other mites gather, curious about the ruckus. Harry’s grandfather emerges, and patiently begins to listen and reason with Harry in a most encouraging but realistic way.

Harry certainly does not lack for imagination. Seeing the world may entail building a boat – no problem. Exploring the jungle? He’ll be world famous. Escaping by flea and joining a flea circus? Exciting! On and on, Harry’s dreams of adventure grow wilder and wilder as he refuses to be discouraged by Grandpa’s gentle warnings. After all, Harry wants to be a hero.

RedSpiderHero_IntSpread

Interior artwork from Red Spider Hero by John Miller with illustrations by Giuliano Cucco, Enchanted Lion Books ©2015.

 

Cucco’s bright and quirky illustrations play cleverly with perspective, emphasizing Harry’s small stature in the vast world, while painting elaborate and imaginative settings for the tiny mite’s big dreams. Dragonflies, dandelion puffs, and well-armored articulated flea bodies are boldly drawn and richly colored.

This intergenerational tale is a journey of the imagination. Even little spider mite children dream big dreams, and young listeners will identify with the need to feel special and powerful in a world that can seem vast and overwhelming. As a nice final touch, original photographs of actual spider mites, covered in pollen and posed by a dime, close the book with praise for children who are likely to notice and appreciate the little things in life

 

  • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

 

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a copy of Red Spider Hero from the publisher and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

The Lion and the Bird written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc,
(Enchanted Lion Books, 2014. $17.95 Ages 3-8) is reviewed by Dornel Cerro.

The-Lion-and-the-Bird-cvr.jpgOne autumn day a lion working in his garden finds an injured bird. “You’re welcome to stay with me,” Lion assures Bird. Over the winter Lion nurses Bird back to health and the two share the comforts of Lion’s home and the wonders of the seasons. When spring returns so do Bird’s feathered friends and, after consulting with an understanding Lion, Bird rejoins his flock.

Lion returns home, lonely but philosophical, musing “And so it goes, sometimes life is like that.” But autumn returns, and as the birds begin their annual migration to warmer climes, Lion wonders if he’ll see his old friend. Suddenly, Lion hears a chirp (brilliantly illustrated with a single musical note on an otherwise blank two-page spread). Bird has returned for the winter. “Together, we’ll stay warm again this winter,” Lion assures Bird, as the two settle in the house under a starlit sky dominated by a crescent moon.

Dubuc’s picture book featuring a lion who finds and helps an injured bird is a classic story of friendship set against the cycle of the year. The simplicity and spareness of her narrative and the flat, muted, color illustrations give it a fable-like quality, rendering the story timeless. Dubuc’s layout of the illustrations is remarkable. One cozy, two-page spread depicts a series of oval-shaped vignettes, allowing the reader to peer inside Lion’s cozy home. Another lovely spread shows Lion’s house buffeted by snow and wind and is followed by a blindingly white spread representing the snow-covered countryside. Off-center, three pale pink buds, emerging from the snow, hint at the coming spring. The pages become canvases conveying the story’s narrative and wonderfully capturing the characters’ emotions and the timelessness of a seemingly simpler, rural life. Highly recommended for ages 3-8, but it’s such a well-illustrated and beautiful friendship story, it will be enjoyed by all.

Author/Illustrator Marianne Dubuc is a French Canadian author and illustrator trained as a graphic designer. She has written and illustrated several other titles for young children. Visit her web site (en Français) at www.mariannedubuc.com to learn more about her art and books. Visit Enchanted Lion Book’s wonderful web site at www.enchantedlionbooks.com to see the highly creative and imaginative books they have published from authors and illustrators all over the world.

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Try to Be Brief

briefthiefDebbie Glade tells us why she got a real kick out of reading this terrific picture book.

I’ve read so many picture books in the past five years that I can honestly say I am able to spot a true winner in less than a minute. The Brief Thief ($16.95, Enchanted Lion Books, Ages 4 and up) is indeed one of those books. Not only did I smile while reading every page of this book, I laughed the entire time I was reading it – once to myself and the other time out loud to my husband, who also laughed.

For me, the first step of the review process is always to examine the quality of the physical book. I consider it important because books we love, we want to keep forever or pass on to others who may want to keep them forever. Well, Brief Thief ranks among the highest quality books I’ve ever seen. The hard cover is so thick and sturdy, it is nearly indestructible, the binding is solid and the paper is thick, beautiful matte card stock. I can appreciate this quality, as I am quite familiar with the process and materials used in book printing as a small press publisher myself.

Onto the story . . . Leon is a big green gecko. One morning after breakfast, he needs to use the “facilities” but quickly discovers he is out of toilet paper. To solve his problem, Leon simply uses a pair of undies he finds hanging on a tree as toilet paper. After all they have holes in them, seem unusable for anything else and do not seem to belong to anyone. Then he throws them down and walks away. Well, to Leon’s surprise, those undies do indeed belong to someone else, and he discovers he probably should not have taken them and used them as he did. I won’t give away the ending of the book, but trust me when I tell you that it is clever and engaging, and that every page of this book will make you smile and laugh as I did. Both the words by author Michael Escoffier and the illustrations by Kris Di Giacomo are wonderful, humorous and equally important. Where do authors get crazy, original ideas like this for a picture book? I can only imagine how much fun it was to illustrate!

What makes this book even more interesting is that author Michael Escoffier and illustrator Kris Di Giacomo have created many successful books together in French, including Brief Thief  that we now fortunately have in English. I’ve been told the team has another title coming out in in English in July 2013. Can I please be the first to read it?

So there you have it – a high quality printed book, a funny, well-written original story that is easy to read with spectacular illustrations that all leave you wanting to read the author and illustrator’s next book right now.  Now that’s a perfect picture book.

Note: You’re going to have to wait until April 16, 2013 to read Brief Thief, the publication date for this book. But there’s nothing stopping you from ordering a copy today.

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