August 16, 2017

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Picture Books Xpress Reviews | November 2016

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For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Chapter Books

Middle Grade

YA

Graphic Novels

Nonfiction

Alemagna, Beatrice. What Is a Child? tr. from Italian by Anna Bennett. illus. by Beatrice Alemagna. 36p. Tate. Sept. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781849764124.

K-Gr 3 –There’s a kind of conspiratorial tone to this wink-wink paean to children and childhood. Whether this Italian import is actually meant to be savored or completely understood by child audiences is another matter. While many young readers/listeners may comprehend and appreciate the thoughtful musings and references herein, the philosophical commentaries seem more nostalgic for adults than a story to capture young children’s interest for long, despite the truthfulness of the comments. For example, “Children are like sponges. They soak everything in: bad moods, bad ideas, and other people’s fears. They seem to forget, but then everything comes out again in the school bag, or under the covers, or in front of a book.” Moreover, language purists may object to the occasional use of the singular “a child” in conjunction with the plural pronoun “they.” In addition, the stylized illustrations, while colorful and childlike and depicting an assortment of diverse, multicultural tykes, won’t be everyone’s cup of tea: some will strike viewers as whimsical or comical, while others will seem rather bizarre. VERDICT Worthwhile trying it with young audiences to stimulate conversations between adults and youngsters, but more likely to be enjoyed by their elders. An additional read-aloud for large public collections.–Carol Goldman, Queens Library, NY

Andersen, Hans Christian. The Tinderbox. illus. by Vladyslav Yerko. 24p. A-Ba-Ba Haus. May 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780996560641.

Gr 3 Up –One of Andersen’s earliest fairy tales, “The Tinderbox” is considered a classic of the genre. But unlike in his other tales, this hero is self-absorbed and greedy. First published in 1835, the story begins with a soldier returning home from war, his knapsack on his back and a sword at his side. As he walks, he meets an ugly old witch. She asks him to climb into a hollow tree to retrieve a magic tinderbox and gives the soldier permission to take anything he finds inside the tree, but he must return the tinderbox. In the tree, he comes across three chambers filled with copper, silver, and gold coins guarded by three monstrous dogs. He fills his pockets and knapsack and returns to the witch. When she demands the tinderbox, the soldier draws his sword, “and that [is] the end of the witch.” The soldier becomes rich and extravagant. He learns the secret of the tinderbox. When he strikes the flint, the three monstrous dogs appear, ready to grant him any wish. In true fairy-tale style, he also goes on to discover a princess in a locked tower and has one of the dogs kidnap her. He falls in love with her, but her royal parents have him arrested, put in prison, and sentenced to death. On the day of execution, the soldier sends a boy for his tinderbox, and, at the scaffold, asks to have a last smoke. When he strikes the match, the dogs appear, fall on the judges and council members, and “toss…them high into the air, so high that they [break] into pieces.” The soldier and the princess are united, and the dogs join the wedding feast. Yerko’s pencil and watercolor artwork is expressive and intricate. The book’s oversize format gives readers the opportunity to enjoy his exquisite detail. Inset illustrations and incidental art as well as full-page pictures are interspersed throughout to create a clever design that perfectly complements this somewhat mysterious and curious folktale. VERDICT Perhaps not a first choice when sharing Andersen’s work, especially with the younger crowd, but this book would be a beautiful addition to any comprehensive fairy-tale collection.–Carole Phillips, Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY

Barash, Chris. Is It Sukkot Yet? illus. by Alessandra Psacharopulo. 32p. ebook available. Albert Whitman. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807533888.

PreS-K –“When leaves are all turning/bright orange and red/And it’s time for the rakes to/come out of our shed…/Sukkot is on its way.” Charming, warm illustrations depict a contemporary, rosy-cheeked family, along with their friends and neighbors (and their adorable furry and feathered friends), in an idyllic rural setting, getting ready for the Jewish harvest holiday. The refrain, “Sukkot is on its way” is repeated as everybody pitches in to build and decorate the sukkah, the temporary hut that Jewish families erect for the weeklong holiday. But when the sukkah is complete, the refrain changes: “When the sunlight’s grown dim as it quickly turns night/And we’re snug in our sukkah/with moonbeams for light…/Sukkot is here!” The final spread portrays two children sleeping peacefully outside in the sukkah while the grown-ups watch from the house. The lulav and etrog, important symbols of the holiday, make an appearance, but a festive holiday meal, prayers, and other traditional customs are absent. VERDICT Without any background information, this title is clearly intended for those who celebrate Sukkot, and they will certainly welcome this lovely, poetic addition that’s perfect for sharing aloud.–Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL

Bradshaw, Lauren. Henry’s Bright Idea. illus. by Wednesday Kirwan. 32p. Cameron Kids. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781937359942.

PreS-Gr 2 –A group of elegant, nattily dressed animals reside in a tall tree house and call themselves the Walnut Animal Society. Their mission “is to create and always remain curious.” The friends include Magnolia the Bunny, who makes maps of all the different places she’s discovered. Chester the Raccoon adventurously collects ropes and fishing poles, and Eleanor the Bear likes to collect flowers and brew tea for her friends. The main character, Henry the Fox, is well-known for his distinctive ingenuity. One day, he proclaims that he has lost an idea and has no clue where to find it. With the help of Eleanor the Bear, the two venture out for a walk in the walnut grove. Readers can grasp the importance of clearing one’s mind with relaxation activities, such as taking a walk and talking with a friend. Exploring an array of nature’s objects, Henry concludes that he still hasn’t found what he was looking for. As the sun begins to set, tiny adorable lightning bugs encircle Henry—helping him discover his “bright” idea. Although the story ends rather abruptly (the final page shows Henry back in his room, where “he [gets] right to work”) without a look into Henry’s idea. Children in a classroom or storytime can take turns coming up with their own theories about Henry’s idea. Kids who like to play with Calico Critters might enjoy the warm, furry animals that Kirwan has drawn. VERDICT A great precursor story to read to children before engaging in a project or for elementary school library literature collections on maker spaces.–Krista Welz, North Bergen High School, NJ

Brooks, Erik. Later, Gator! illus. by Erik Brooks. 40p. Sterling. Jul. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781454918165.

PreS-Gr 2 –Brooks describes the experience of Gator, who must say good-bye to his old friends when he moves to a new neighborhood. Gator misses his friends, but when they write him letters that make him smile, he is encouraged to introduce himself to the new neighbors he sees playing outside. The familiar plot is sure to provide comfort to any kid going through a similar situation. Many of the lines in the book are plays on the phrase, “See you later, alligator; in a while, crocodile.” Young readers will find humor in the rhymes that Gator makes up for each of his animal friends. The watercolor illustrations are delicate and detailed and add to the sweet, gentle tone of the book. One especially endearing set of illustrations shows Gator in the snow wearing earmuffs and a scarf as he introduces himself to new friends. The front inside cover features repeating illustrations of Gator playing with his old friends, while the back inside cover shows repeating illustrations of Gator playing with his new friends. VERDICT Though the plot is a common one in children’s books, Brooks’s endearing characters and illustrations make this book stand out. A fun read-aloud and storytime selection for most children’s collections, especially those with a transient patron base.–Celia Dillon, The Brearley School, New York

Chabbert, Ingrid. The Day I Became a Bird. illus. by Guridi. 40p. Kids Can. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781771386210.

PreS-Gr 2 –This strange and wonderful picture book tells the story of a boy who transforms himself to catch the eye of the one he loves. On the day he first starts school, a young boy falls in love with the girl who sits right in front of him, but Sylvia is an avian lover and has eyes only for birds. Suddenly, the things the boy used to enjoy just don’t seem important anymore. Desperate to attract her attention, he constructs a bird costume. In it, he feels handsome and warm, though it does make it hard to climb trees, and he smells like wet dog when it rains. His classmates giggle and stare, but then one day Sylvia sees him and it’s worth it all. Delicate and slightly surreal pencil drawings follow the young protagonist through this sweet tale with cinematic precision. The poetic text has a dreamy cadence as it flows through the pages. The young narrator’s affection for Sylvia is innocent and endearing, and readers will join him in rejoicing when she finally sees him. VERDICT A beautiful and touching story that captures the exhilaration of first love, recommended for fans of Oliver Jeffers and Jon Klassen.–Laken Hottle, Providence Community Library

Coh, Smiljana. The Seven Princesses. illus. by Smiljana Coh. 40p. ebook available. Running Pr. May 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780762455874.

PreS-Gr 2 –Not your traditional royal tale. This story is about seven princesses, each of whom has a special passion or talent, such as math, engineering, or athletics. Each one is cleverly named for a color, and the visuals hint at this color relationship. For example, the fifth princess is named Azzurra, and her illustrations are highlighted with blue tones, including her clothing. Azzurra loves animals. The story, after the introduction of the princesses, begins to focus on the good and bad aspects of sibling relationships. Just like real siblings, the princesses fight, and each sister decides that she’d rather be an only child or have different sisters. As time passes, they are reminded of the good times they shared, and make peace. The illustrations enhance the tale, allowing readers to keep track of the siblings by using the color-coding. As the sisters start to fight and separate from one another, the images turn dull gray and brown tones but return to the vivid colors as the sisters realize they need one another. VERDICT A great nontraditional princess tale and teachable sibling story, sure to be checked out in any children’s collection.–Erin Olsen, The Brearley School, NY

Gianferrari, Maria. Officer Katz and Houndini: A Tale of Two Tails. illus. by Danny Chatzikonstantinou. 32p. S. & S./Aladdin. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481422659.

K-Gr 2 –Puns pepper the page as feline Officer Katz gets ready for retirement, but not before a final attempt to capture the canine escape artist, the Great Houndini. Every year, Houndini defaces the mayor’s portrait, but Officer Katz challenges him to try to escape from his amazing contraptions. If Officer Katz can keep him locked up, then Houndini promises to leave the city and never return. Even an old dog can learn new tricks, and Houndini is no exception. The cast of characters are illustrated in lively action scenes with minimal setting. A fluffy narrative filled with high jinks will delight. In the end, the foes stop fighting like cats and dogs and join forces to take their show on the road. VERDICT Adventures abound in this pun-filled read-aloud that’s sure to appeal to cat and dog lovers alike.–Karen Ginman, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library

Gomi, Taro. Over the Ocean. tr. from Japanese. illus. by Taro Gomi. 36p. Chronicle. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452145150.

PreS-Gr 1 –A dark-haired child in red overalls clasps hands behind his or her back while gazing at vistas of the ocean and wondering what might be beyond it. Each page turn leads readers to the child’s imaginative speculation about farms, cities, bullies, amusement parks, exotic animals, and even a beach where another child mirrors the narrator’s actions. A constant on the horizon is a steamer progressing along the page from right to left. Spare text and vibrant color are typical of Gomi’s mood pieces. VERDICT The book’s elegant simplicity lends itself not only to pointing out visual details but also to encouraging a listening child’s own speculations. Perfect for one-on-one and small group sharing.–Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

Harris, Amber. Bingo Did It! illus. by Ard Hoyt. 32p. Redleaf Lane. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781605544915.

PreS-Gr 2 –Wisteria Jane loves to play and dress up with her dog Bingo. The dog knocks teacups over after Wisteria invites him to a tea party. Wisteria also digs up her mother’s flower bed while continuing a hole that the dog started to dig. She blames the dog for the trouble she gets into after she is questioned by her mother about both events. After each incident, she boldly exclaims, “Bingo did it!” Wisteria’s mother teaches her about what it means to take responsibility for one’s actions. Wisteria realizes that her mother and father have both taken responsibility for events that did not go as intended as opposed to blaming others for the mishaps. She chooses to adopt a new outlook. The illustrations in this book are done with curved lines, giving them a textured look and depth. Pastel colors imbue the drawings with a warm and inviting feel. The narrative moves with a pleasing, rhythmic pace. The relationship among mother, daughter, and pet are both believable and adorable. This book encourages children to take ownership of what they do and to choose actions that communicate respect toward their peers. VERDICT Young readers will fall in love with the mischievous Wisteria Jane and her curious playmate.–Deanna Smith, Mamaroneck Public Library, NY

Hassett, Ann. Goodnight Bob. illus. by John Hassett. 32p. Albert Whitman. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807530030.

PreS –A simple, quiet story about a boy named Bob at bedtime. After he says good night to the moon and gets ready to go to sleep, Bob notices a set of eyes in the dark. Using his flashlight, he discovers that the eyes belong to his pet fish, who is wishing him good night. Bob continues to notice eyes that belong to different animals, ranging from a mouse to Bigfoot, who say their good nights, until Bob sees “lots of eyes,” which are actually stars. The story concludes as the boy closes his eyes and the stars wish him a final good night. Ann Hassett’s text is soothing and succinct, making it appropriate for young readers and for read-alouds. For tykes wary of the dark, this book eases children’s fears without ever being didactic; Bob calmly shines a light on the animals he notices in the dark, and the animals, in turn, are shown to be harmless as they all warmly wish him good night. John Hassett’s illustrations feature deep shades of blue to reflect the darkness of night, which blends with the yellow of Bob’s flashlight, creating a green glow that illuminates the pages whenever Bob spies a new pair of eyes. The animals are drawn as cuddly and friendly, even Bigfoot, adding to the story’s charm. VERDICT This gentle book is a peaceful bedtime selection and a suitable read-aloud in a bedtime-themed storytime.–Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY

Hopgood, Sally. See You Later, Alligator. illus. by Emma Levey. 32p. Sky Pony. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781510704848.

PreS-Gr 2 –Tortoise is ready to go on an adventure, and courtesy of an illustrated map before the title page, readers understand that this story likely takes place in a zoo or animal sanctuary of some kind. He bids his friends farewell, beginning with, “See you later, Alligator. I’ll be a while, Crocodile.” He continues with, “Toodle-oo, Kangaroo. I’ll call you soon, Mr. Raccoon.” And many more. In fact, Tortoise spends so long saying good-bye that he never makes it on his adventure. While the concept is cute and the end joke is spot-on, this book suffers from a dissatisfying rhyme scheme that is trying too hard. By the fifth good-bye, the rhymes seem completely forced, and nicknames begin to take precedence over the actual species names. In the end, Levey’s illustrations are the real highlight. Children will likely stick through the story and enjoy pointing out various elements (like how the Rhinoceros is called a Unicorn), but it’s not worth the read-aloud struggle. VERDICT The delightful illustrations are not enough to make this a must-purchase.–Shana Morales, Windsor Public Library, CT

Knapman, Timothy. Good Night Tiger. illus. by Laura Hughes. 32p. Tiger Tales. Sept. 2016. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781680100303.

PreS-Gr 1 –When Emma keeps hearing growls, stomps, and trumpets in the middle of the night, she’s convinced that the animals from the local zoo must have escaped. But no! It’s the animals on her wallpaper, and they just can’t get to sleep. She climbs into her wallpaper in hopes of settling down the animals with baths, lullabies, even hot chocolate, but nothing works until she pulls out a bedtime story. This supremely adorable bedtime tale fits perfectly into an already well-stocked genre. Hughes’s illustrations are child-friendly and appear to be created with marker, colored pencil, crayon, and perhaps even some watercolor. They come across as polished where they need to but are imperfect enough that children could be inspired to make their own. This title is perfect for one-on-one snuggling or pajama storytime programs. VERDICT A delightful purchase for bedtime story collections.–Shana Morales, Windsor Public Library, CT

Lester, Helen. Yo primero. illus. by Lynn Munsinger. 40p. ebook available. Obelisco. Aug. 2016. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9788416648047. BL

K-Gr 3 –Lester’s 1992 classic is now bilingual. “Pink, plump, and pushy” Pinkerton the pig is still full of himself. He butts and cuts his way to the front of any line. From hogging the first seat on the bus to jumping snout-first into a picnic basket, Pinkerton is willing to do anything do in order to be FIRST. That is, until he hears a beguiling call in the wind: “Who would care for a sandwich?” Pinkerton loses no time tearing across the sandy hills, squealing, “Me first! Me first!” until he lands at the feet of a Sandwitch. She grabs him by the sleeve and hauls him off to her castle. After hours of caring for the Sandwitch—combing her hairy toes, feeding her with a shovel, powdering her nose—Pinkerton finally realizes that “FIRST [is] not always BEST.” The story retains its delightful whimsy in Spanish, and a footnote explains the play on words (“sandwich/Sandwitch”). Pinkerton’s playfully pernicious pigginess is perfectly portrayed by Munsinger’s humorously detailed illustrations. VERDICT The art and text blend flawlessly in this gently moralistic tale. Purchase for Spanish-language and bilingual storytimes and collections.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Lowery, David & Toby Halbrooks. Pete’s Dragon: Elliot Gets Lost. illus. by Benjamin Lowery. 48p. Disney Pr. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484750292.

PreS-Gr 2 –A beautiful book that’s not a tie-in to the movie Pete’s Dragon but an original story and an element within the movie itself. Elliot is a small puppy going on a car trip and camping adventure with his family of Little Boy, Mom, and Dad. But when he gets overexcited and knocks over the tent, he runs into the woods in shame and quickly gets lost. Several forest animals come to Elliot’s aid but reiterate, “You need to find your family.” Indeed, Elliot misses his family, who are waiting somewhere outside the woods. As dusk falls, he howls at the North Star in despair. The forest animals join together to help Elliot get back to his Little Boy and the campsite that night, the place that is “right where he belongs.” This tale is unique for its prominent placement in the movie as Pete’s only treasured reminder of his parents and his past. The movie’s plot is also suggestively mirrored by the book’s story, with dialogue and illustrations directly referencing scenes from the movie. Yet this title can still be enjoyed on its own merit. VERDICT The story is well written in spare text perfect for reading aloud, with charming, folk art–inspired illustrations. Guaranteed to be a great bedtime selection with broad appeal both on its own and in conjunction with the movie.–Jessica Bushore, Xenia, OH

McAnulty, Stacy. Beautiful. illus. by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. 32p. Running Pr. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780762457816.

PreS-Gr 1 –This picture book is filled with wit and musings on what it means for a young girl to be beautiful. The illustrations evoke a feeling of uniqueness, independence, and strength, defining beauty through diversity, talents, and passions. Girls are playing football, eating messy oranges, digging in the mud, laughing at themselves, and flying like birds on swings. Drawings, vignettes, and square panels provide balance to the text. Simple sentences and phrases stir the imagination. Bold line drawings and rich colors bring a sense of wonder and personality to each girl. The wordplay is clever: “Beautiful girls know all about makeup,” as the girls dress up as pirates with fake beards and mustaches. Each wears a pirate hat, carries a sword, and navigates her own boat on the high seas. “Beautiful girls…have a smart style” refers not to fashion sense but to a sense of discovery and exploration, as each page shows a young woman investigating bugs and plants and other girls building a robotic car or creating a science experiment. VERDICT This simple yet empowering story, best suited for one-on-one and small group sharing, is infused with examples of how beauty is defined in many ways.–Melissa Smith, Royal Oak Public Library, MI

My Best Pop-Up Construction Site Book. 18p. illus. photos. DK. Sept. 2016. Board $14.99. ISBN 9781465453914.

PreS-Gr 1 –Excavators, cement trucks, and forklifts are among the large, digitally imposed vehicles that pop up throughout this oversize book. Each spread focuses on a different construction stage of an apartment building and includes text that describes what each heavy machine can accomplish (“Cranes are strong machines that move heavy objects, such as window frames.”). Small workers are featured in each spread and provide additional commentary in the form of speech bubbles (“I’m the site foreman. I make sure the workers are safe.”). Toddlers will delight as they press the button attached to each page and hear the sounds of busy construction vehicles. VERDICT Colorful, with the perfect amount of realistic images embedded into the fictional construction site. There are few other titles on this topic that offer young children both sound and pop-ups. Recommended for general purchase.–Kristen Todd-Wurm, Middle Country Public Library, NY

Robberecht, Thierry. The Wolf and His Shadow. tr. from Dutch. illus. by Stéphanie Frippiat. 32p. Clavis. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781605373027.

PreS-Gr 2 –Wolf is always frightened. He is even scared of his own shadow because of its exaggerated teeth and giant form. He is teased by his peers because he is so fearful. He does not fit in and is often lonely. One day, though, he becomes the hero of the pack and learns to love himself. This is a story that echoes the classic Aesop’s fable, with a valuable lesson for readers to take away. Parents and educators alike can use this offering to discuss themes and moods such as loneliness, fear, bullying, forgiveness, friendship, and, most important, acceptance of oneself and others. With vibrant cartoon illustrations and a colorful cast of characters, this book is one that should be in every primary classroom and library. The paragraphs are short and concise. The pace is perfect for this age and grade level. The plot is engaging and fun. Certain sight words are printed in bold type and are repeated throughout and can also be used to spark discussion. VERDICT A valuable read-aloud about accepting oneself and one’s peers.–Margie Longoria, Mission High School, TX

Rouss, Sylvia. Holiday for Ari Ant. illus. by Katherine Janus Kahn. 24p. Apple & Honey. Apr. 2016. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781681155074.

PreS-Gr 1 –Rouss’s popular “Sammy Spider” series has now been joined by Ari Ant, another friendly insect who takes an interest in Jewish holidays. This first entry in the series is about the somewhat obscure holiday Lag B’Omer. As the back matter explains, the origins of the holiday are unclear. This vagueness is reflected in the story line, which gives some very cursory history and tenuous explanations for the Lag B’Omer practices of picnicking and storytelling. However, the target audience of preschoolers will be satisfied and will enjoy Ari’s mild adventures as he tags along with the human children. The depiction of children learning through play is realistic. The bright and busy artwork appropriately reflect the cheerful holiday customs. VERDICT Books about Lag B’Omer are rare, and Jewish early childhood educators will be pleased to have this title available to fill that gap.–Heidi Rabinowitz, Congregation B’nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

Sharpe, Jemima. Mr. Moon Wakes Up. illus. by Jemima Sharpe.32p. Child’s Play. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781846436949.

PreS-Gr 2 –Mr. Moon seems to be a big, lazy white cat who dozes away most of the day. But at night, when his young owner follows him through the house, his magical qualities are revealed. The feline can climb into fantastical worlds through the wallpaper. Instead of sleeping, the pair play outdoor games like lawn chess and tag. They play badminton with fountain mermaids and centaurs, go boating, and gaze at the stars. The green, white, and red illustrations are subdued and dreamlike in color, seemingly bathed in moonlight. After their adventures under the stars (which are shaped like animal constellations), they both fall asleep. VERDICT This story lends itself to many interpretations, especially if read before bedtime. Sure to inspire sweet dreams.–Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, Alta.

Smith, Alex T. Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion. illus. by Alex T. Smith. 32p. Scholastic. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545914383.

K-Gr 2 –This retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” set in Africa recasts the wolf as a lion. Little Red’s Auntie has broken out in “spots” and asks Little Red to bring her medication. This necessitates a long journey through the jungle. Lion stalks Little Red and develops a plan to eat her and Auntie. Little Red is too smart for Lion and distracts him with delays like grooming his mane into braids. When Lion’s ruse is spoiled, Little Red tells him that if he was hungry, “all you had to do was ask for some food.” Auntie’s spots are healed, Lion’s behavior is changed by Little Red’s generosity, and all is well. Smith’s adaptation is sadly uneven. Average writing accompanies above-average illustrations in a riotously colorful cartoon style. However, the page layout renders the story very choppy, making it ill-suited for reading aloud. Additionally, the cultural representation is half-hearted and awkward. The illustrations depict a wide variety of African animals, but other than Little Red and her family being black, nothing about the story line is particularly “African” other than the lion. Auntie’s “spots” and her need for “spot cream” are also nonspecific, and Little Red improbably brings her a snack of doughnuts. VERDICT Niki Daly’s Pretty Salma more successfully gives a classic tale an African spin, rendering this one a strictly additional purchase with limited appeal.–Jessica Bushore, Xenia, OH

Smith, Crystal. I Am Hapa! photos by Michael Satoshi Garcia. 24p. East West Discovery. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780997394702.

PreS-K –A celebration of all those who identify as Hapa! The simple, repeated phrase, “I am Hapa and I…” (“am unique,” “speak two languages,” “love to share”) is highlighted in red text against a crisp white background and photos of happy children. The inside front cover is a checkerboard of the same children who appear on the pages, and the inside back cover showcases a variety of Hapa families. The back cover defines the word Hapa as “a term used to describe a person of partial Asian or Pacific Islander descent” and states that the “multiracial population in the United States is growing faster than at any other time in history…. It is important to expose our children to an accurate representation of our nation’s diversity.” To that end, the title is also available in bilingual editions (English/Spanish, English/Chinese, English/Arabic, and English/Nepali). Readers can take part in this joyful Hapa celebration. VERDICT For those looking to make their collections more diverse and introduce the term Hapa to their patrons, this option fits the bill.–Ramarie Beaver, Plano Public Library System, TX

Teckentrup, Britta. Don’t Wake Up the Tiger. illus. by Britta Teckentrup. 30p. Nosy Crow. Aug. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763689964.

PreS-Gr 1 –This title by Teckentrup is interactive in the style of Christie Matheson’s Tap the Magic Tree and Hervé Tullet’s Mix It Up. By following directions in the short and simple text, children help animals in the story avoid stirring the tiger from her slumber. Tiger is waking? Don’t worry. Rub her nose and she’ll drift off again. In the end, readers find out that the preparations the animals have been making are for the tiger’s surprise birthday party. The illustrations are bright and bold, set against a white background, and consistent with the fun, simple style of the text. VERDICT Children will enjoy reading and playing along with this tale. Sure to be a storytime favorite.–Paige Mellinger, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, GA

van Genechten, Guido. Tito the Magician. tr. from Dutch. illus. by Guido van Genechten. 32p. Clavis. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781605372563.

PreS-Gr 1 –With his large clown nose, clown makeup, oversize shoes, suspenders, baggy pants, and big smile, Tito clearly loves the circus. He is particularly drawn to the incredible performance by Manu the magician. Alone in his room, Tito tries to re-create Manu’s magic but fails. When he finally gathers the courage to ask for instructions, Manu is gracious with his time, but, more important, he gives Tito the special secret to success: “You have to believe that you can do it.” When Tito later successfully pulls a mouse from Manu’s hat in front of an audience, he experiences the joy that comes from succeeding after taking a risk. The bright, simple illustrations pair nicely with the tale, perfectly capturing Tito’s youth, changing emotions, and sense of wonder. VERDICT A sweet selection that will remind children to have faith in their own abilities. Perfect for a magic-themed storytime.–Sally James, South Hillsborough Elementary School, Hillsborough, CA

Van Slyke, Rebecca. Where Do Pants Go? illus. by Chris Robertson. 40p. Sterling. Sept. 2016. Tr $9.95. ISBN 9781454915928.

Toddler-PreS –In this cumulative tale, a variety of toddlers get dressed unassisted by first putting an article of clothing on an incorrect body part (socks go on your ears? “No, no, NO!”), then putting it on correctly. Preschoolers will be tickled as they follow the bold cartoon illustrations of kids putting on everything from their underwear to their jackets and then finally meeting outside to play. While this title won’t knock their socks off, very young children will enjoy the silliness. VERDICT A good storytime selection because of the clear, humorous illustrations and repetitive text.–Melisa Bailey, Harford County Library System, MD

Williamson, Jo. Messy Molly. illus. by Jo Williamson. 32p. little bee. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781499802665.

PreS-Gr 2 –Molly is a little girl who has trouble staying clean. Despite her best efforts, she falls in mud puddles, gets water inside her rain boots, and makes a mess eating spaghetti. Her faithful canine companion, Pip, also leads her on some grass-stained runs through the park. Molly’s goal is to keep her new dress spotless for her school play. On the way to the performance, she successfully dodges some of the dirty disasters that plagued her during the week. Up on stage, Molly shines in her white frock, which looks pristine—at least from the front. The brief text sets up the humorous events, and Williamson’s whimsical ink illustrations deliver the punch lines. VERDICT Pair this with Rita Meade’s Edward Gets Messy for a squeaky clean storytime.–Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ont.

WIllis, Jeanne. Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool. illus. by Tony Ross. 32p. Andersen. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781783442027.

K-Gr 2 –Once again, the creative minds of Willis and Ross have delivered a finely tuned, amusing story with an important message for kids. Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool is one of those girls who knows she is perfectly primped and believes that everyone else will benefit from her wisdom. So she files nails, tapes back ears, and, in general, gives her advice. Only, as the pictures reveal, it is unwanted, and after a while, people start to avoid her. Still, she plows on, determined “to make the whole world a more beautiful place.” Even when she meets a big, blue, hairy, scary monster—is she deterred? No. She gives it a makeover, believing that this will transform it both inside and out. It is at this point that the bubbly tone pays off. Readers won’t see this darkly humorous ending coming, and because of this, its message is driven home. Appearance isn’t everything, and you certainly shouldn’t judge someone’s character on looks alone. Willis and Ross are at the top of their game; the pace is easygoing, the use of space fits the story, appropriate words are emphasized with a different font, the rhyme is excellent, and Ross’s style is snazzy. Every element coalesces into a strong whole, great for both larger group settings and more intimate ones. VERDICT An appealing read-aloud for grade school children, with a delicious message about the inner vs. outer self.–Rachel Forbes, formerly at Oakville Public Library, Ont., Canada

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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