November 17, 2017

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This month’s selection of clever and funny picture books for budding bibliophiles, includes several titles in which books figure prominently, if not in a starring role. Whether they are ­immersive narratives, interactive experiences, or ways to introduce the components of a story or books, these works engage young audiences through smart texts, ­creative artwork, and/or laugh-out-loud dialogue.

Barton, Chris. Book or Bell? illus. by Ashley Spires. 40p. Bloomsbury. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781681197296.

K-Gr 2 –Finding the perfect book means everything to Henry, for once he has started reading, nothing will convince him to stop—“He decided to just stay put.” No version of a louder bell, not even the “mega-giga-decibel monstrosity illegal in seventeen states” preferred by the state’s Senator Brilliant can make him budge. Recommendations from his teacher, principal, mayor or governor are ignored, until his teacher discovers the call to his heart—a personal interest that builds and then surpasses his favorite book about bicycles. Digitalized watercolor and ink art follows the mayhem as a succession of illustrations highlights the chain-reaction effects of Henry’s insistence on staying put. Fantastical machines designed to get his attention perfectly match the pacing of humorous text with the “bronkitybronkitybronkity…” of an increasingly louder bell. VERDICT Designed to appeal to any child dreaming of the perfect read and a bit of control over their surrounding environment, this offering features plenty of action with a satisfying ending. A suggested general purchase for all libraries.–Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

redstarDyckman, Ame. Read the Book, Lemmings! illus. by Zachariah OHora. 40p. Little, Brown. Nov. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316343480.

PreS-Gr 2 –Another delightful collaboration by the team behind Wolfie the Bunny and Horrible Bear! This story is set in the Arctic on a whale-shaped boat and it focuses on a trio of lemmings named Jumper, Me Too!, and Ditto!, who do not know that lemmings do not jump off of things because they cannot read. After repeated failed admonishments to get the lemmings to read the book, Everything About Lemmings, Foxy realizes that he has to actually teach the active lemmings to read before he can stop them from jumping off of the boat. OHora’s charming illustrations with their primary color palette perfectly match Dyckman’s playful text to produce a funny read-aloud that will hold up to multiple readings. The layouts are full of fun details and the animals’ facial expressions are priceless. VERDICT Children will enjoy this at storytime and again on their own at home. A first purchase for all libraries.–Sarah Wilsman, Bainbridge Library, Chagrin Falls, OH

Fletcher, Tom. There’s a Monster in Your Book. illus. by Greg Abbott. 32p. Random. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524764562.

PreS-Gr 1 –A monster has invaded this book! He looks innocent enough, and yet he is already tearing it apart. That is where readers come in. The goal is to dislodge the little critter by following the instructions and shaking the book, tickling the monster’s feet, blowing on him, tilting the pages, and spinning the book around. The monster rolls and reels around each spread in an adorable “dance,” before disappearing altogether. Or at least he would have, if not for the giggle-worthy twist at the end. All the instructions are simple enough for a toddler to participate in, however, some pages ask readers to perform an action “and turn the page.” Young readers can also depend on visual cues for clarity, such as the font used for action words, and a single motion line that reveals the results of the actions. The monster, with his blue fur and striped T-shirt, is always easy to spot against the grainy white, yellow, and red backgrounds, which mimic the look of book paper. VERDICT A fun interactive book, great for a bedtime read with toddlers.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ont.

Foster, Travis. Give Me Back My Book! illus. by Ethan Long. 56p. Chronicle. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452160405. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –Bloo and Redd simply love their book. It has everything—a green cover, a nice spine, and pages that turn from right to left (or left to right if you’re adventurous.) But what they can’t agree upon is who owns it! When their favorite book ends up snatched by a bookworm, Bloo and Redd must work together to write their own book to get it back. Playing with the “meta-picture book” subgenre, Long and Foster have added a funny and fresh story with several teachable moments. On the surface it’s a simple tale about sharing and the joy of reading, but with Redd describing the different components of a book, and the two then using that information to create their own volume, this is a wonderful teaching tool for either a creative writing or an introductory language arts lesson. The two characters play off of each other well, and the large dialogue balloons matched with the cartoonish character design with no background scenery will please the many fans of “Elephant and Piggie.” VERDICT Not to be missed—give me this book!–Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI

Lehrhaupt, Adam. This Is a Good Story. illus. by Magali Le Huche. 40p. S. & S. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481429351.

PreS-Gr 2 –A young girl is drawing a story as an unseen narrator coaches her and takes her (and readers) through a classic tale of good vs. evil. First the hero and heroine are introduced, along with a discussion of where they live (“Setting”). Next comes a direction for where the narrative will go: “As with any Good Story, ours has a Conflict, a problem that needs solving. And it’s a good thing, too, because without a Conflict there would be no Plot.” They must save the townsfolk from an evil overlord. The narrator corrects and questions the young artist’s choices along the way, encouraging her to “try again” as her hero and heroine get sidetracked and make choices that are not conducive to making a “good story.” So, this is a story within a story about the parts of a story—are you confused? Well, potentially, young readers may be as well without the help of a teacher or imaginative adult. A “Friendly List of Words Used In This Book” is included at the back with accessible definitions of parts of a story. The colorful, whimsical, and childlike illustrations are reminiscent of Ed Emberley’s, and are thus very kid friendly and appealing. VERDICT An imaginative and creative way of educating readers about effective storytelling and elements of style. Great for sharing one-on-one or in a language arts classroom.–Megan Kilgallen, Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn

McClintock, Barbara. The Five Forms. illus. by Barbara McClintock. 40p. Farrar. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626722163.

PreS-Gr 2 –In this energetic picture book, veteran author-illustrator McClintock tells the tale of a strange book found on a library book drop that turns an ordinary day magical. A young girl with brown skin finds a handmade book that explains how to do five forms of ancient Chinese martial arts. As she masters the poses, she brings giant animals to life and they cause a ruckus in her house. McClintock borrows five animal forms from Chinese martial arts traditions—the crane, leopard, snake, dragon, and the one that “returns everything to the way it was.” The endpapers have ink drawings of the animals and stylized Chinese characters, and an author’s note describes her connection to Chinese martial arts. Humorous ink, gouache, and watercolor paintings are expressive and bright, with the books and dolls in the girls room flinging around gleefully. VERDICT Those looking for informational books on martial arts and the different forms and traditions will need to look elsewhere, but this joyful story will tickle young readers.–Lisa Nowlain, Nevada County Community Library, CA

Segal-Walters, Julie. This Is Not a Normal Animal Book. illus. by Brian Briggs. 48p. S. & S. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481439220.

K-Gr 2 –This book purports to showcase a series of animals linked in a silly but predictable pattern by depicting something the first animal would not do, but the following animal would, e.g., “This is a cat. If the cat laid an egg…it would be a hen.” The attempted pattern is quickly disrupted, however, by an apparent disagreement between the author and illustrator. The illustrator’s commentary is identifiable by the hand-scrawled font, juxtaposed with the author’s typewritten font. The artist initially expresses mere snarky incredulity at the absurd text. The conflict escalates into a full revolt when the illustrator flatly refuses to draw a blobfish. Images are a fresh, eclectic mix of doodles, bright and bold ink silhouettes, a memorable blobfish photograph, and an assortment of “real” objects seen to be resting on the page. The true focus of this book is the arguing between author and illustrator—not animals. Reading it aloud in two distinct, argumentative voices (with a little storyteller-guidance) could really get kids giggling. On the other hand, the text is “readable” to many children not yet able to conceptualize the rhythm of the author/illustrator spat, leading to confusion. Anyone, however, can grasp that a blobfish is gross and hilarious. VERDICT Not a must-buy, but purchase where meta–picture book humor is a big hit.–Sara White, Seminole County Public Library, FL

This article was published in School Library Journal's September 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth (ltoth@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.

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