November 17, 2017

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Picture Books: Excellent Bilingual Books and Sleepy Sheep | November 2017 Xpress Reviews

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Antony, Steve. Thank You, Mr. Panda. illus. by Steve Antony. 32p. Scholastic. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338158366.

PreS-K –Mr. Panda is out and about delivering gifts to all his friends. The presents aren’t perfect; Mouse’s is too big, Octopus’s doesn’t cover all of his legs, and Elephant doesn’t even open his! Lemur has been tagging along and reminding everyone that despite each gift’s imperfections, it’s the thought that counts. The last present is for Lemur, the first of Mr. Panda’s friends to thank him. As Lemur discovers a pair of oversize underwear, Mr. Panda reminds him that it’s the thought that counts. With this third “Mr. Panda” book, his sour expression is an understood hallmark of the rather simple and delightful illustrations. Each drawing does a lovely job of demonstrating each animal’s emotions (other than Mr. Panda himself), with subtle clues of excitement and bewilderment in the character eyes and expressions. Overall this book, as with Please, Mr. Panda and I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda, is a wonderful way to discuss the importance of manners with preschool audiences. VERDICT A pleasant discussion starter and solid addition to share with young audiences.–Shana Morales, Windsor Public Library, CT

Arant, Bruce. Simpson’s Sheep Just Want To Sleep! illus. by Bruce Arant. 32p. Peter Pauper. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781441324290.

PreS-Gr 1 –In this follow-up to Simpson’s Sheep Won’t Go To Sleep!, Farmer Simpson finds himself in an equally difficult situation: his sheep will not wake up! In silly alliterative rhyming lines, Arant’s bouncing narrative explains that at sunrise, the cow, pigs, ducks, and chickens are all obediently awake. However, out in the field, sound asleep, are a bundled, blanketed herd of sheep. Simpson tries making loud noises, banging pots and pans, shouting, and other amusing antics to rouse them. At last, an idea comes to him: he decides that he will get a puppy from a local shelter to help out on his farm. When the dog reaches the sheep, she doesn’t bark, howl, whine, or growl. Instead, the farmer learns a lesson from the pup’s approach, “When friends are stubborn and won’t budge/they might need just a gentle nudge.” The soft color palette paired with cartoonish illustrations help make this story a cheery, tender tale perfect for a silly yet gentle farm-themed storytime. VERDICT Pair this with Margaret Wise Brown’s Big Red Barn and Pat Hutchins’s Barn Dance for a barnyard read-aloud delight. Recommended for picture book collections.–Brianne Colombo, Fairfield Free Public Library, NJ

Chaperon, Danielle. Odd One Out. illus. by Iris. 40p. Auzou. Sept. 2017. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9782733850664.

PreS-Gr 2 –Clara has a best friend, Annabelle, whom she adores. They are “soul sisters” and “inseparable” until a new girl arrives, drawing Annabelle away. Clara doesn’t even try to get along with Juliette. She wallows in her jealously, feeling sorry for herself. Eventually, her better nature does win out, and she gains a new friend. Clara recalls all this in her own words. Her perspective is initially self-centered, and she is the type of child to blow matters out of proportion with thoughts like “the absolute worst has come to pass….” Children should be able to identify with the feelings of the character if they are experiencing a similar situation. Iris’s style is heavily influenced by her work drawing bandes dessinées. The cartoon characters with their simple faces, loose line art, and matte colors suit the tone of the story. VERDICT Odd One Out conveys the feelings of any child who’s been left behind and should prove useful in situations similar to the one Clara faces.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ont.

Davies, Becky. Old MacDino Had a Farm. illus. by Ben Whitehouse. 32p. Tiger Tales. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781680100631.

PreS-Gr 1 –Old MacDino has a farm with traditional animals, lots of “E-I-E-I-O’s” and plenty of surprises. Follow Old MacDino as he tends to his animals while different dinosaurs keep showing up. He has to run off a diplodocus intent on taking the cows’ hay and deal with a pterodactyl disturbing the chickens. Kids will love to make the parallels from Old MacDonald’s farm and see how the dinosaurs disrupt the barnyard. The most popular dinosaurs are featured, so young kids will love seeing the interaction of their favorite dinosaurs in the familiar location of a working farm. VERDICT With colorful illustrations and lots of actions, kids will love this fun, quick read and will want to sing along.–Nicole Detter-Smith, Homestead High School, IN

Demont, Belle. I Love My Purse. illus. by Sonja Wimmer. 34p. Annick. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554519545.

PreS-Gr 3 –This delightful story features a brown-skinned, curly haired student named Charlie, who loves the red purse his grandmother gave him. One day, he decides to take it to school. As he’s leaving home, his dad takes note and tries to dissuade him from carrying the purse by telling him what boys wear. Unconvinced, Charlie forges ahead and carries his red purse to school anyway. When he get there, his classmate Charlotte questions why he is carrying a purse and tells him what boys carry. Again, unswayed, Charlie moves through his day. Later, an older student Sam confronts him about his red purse, telling him what boys do. With each encounter, Charlie is unfazed explaining that he loves his purse and chose to carry it. When Charlie heads home, the crossing guard also notices his red purse, but instead of telling him anything about what is considered appropriate for boys, he tells him a story of one of his favorite items. The next day, Charlie notices subtle differences in everyone who questioned him the day before. Charlie carries his purse everyday that week. By Friday, everyone from his dad to the crossing guard has changed their mind about what is acceptable and embraces their hearts’ desires. I Love My Purse is for every Charlie, young and old, who dares to live on their own terms and for those who dream of it. VERDICT Employing a bright palette of primary colors, exaggerated illustrations and accessible language, this is an important story of being oneself, despite what others think and believe.–Maegen Rose, Collegiate School Library, New York

Denise, Anika. Starring Carmen! illus. by Lorena Alvarez Gómez. 32p. Abrams. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419723216.

PreS-Gr 2 –Meet Carmen, a girl with a flair for the dramatic. Carmen is a brown-skinned girl with an exuberant mass of hair on her head. And that is not the only exuberant part of her; Carmen is an actress, a singer, a dancer, and a costume designer. She’s a one-girl sensación! Though her parents find her exhausting at times, her adoring younger brother Eduardo is enthralled. When he asks if he can be in her show, Carmen first casts him as a rock, though she later decides he would make a better lamp. When Carmen suggests an encore, her parents suggest a break. Carmen sulks, dramatically of course. Not knowing what else to do, she joins Eduardo in his pirate ship game and soon learns that her brother has an equally imaginative world of his own. When they team up for a new production, Carmen finds sharing the limelight has its own rewards. The vibrant illustrations match the exuberance of the story. When Carmen is preparing for her shows in a whirlwind of creative activity, the illustrations practically jump off the page in a riot of dramatic color and motion. VERDICT A wonderful celebration of creativity and imagination that may inspire readers to engage in their own dramatic productions. What fun!–Lucia Acosta, Children’s Literature Specialist, Princeton, NJ

Doyen, Denise. The Pomegranate Witch. illus. by Eliza Wheeler. 40p. Chronicle. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452145891.

Gr 1-3 –Each year as the pomegranates bloom on an old tree near a farmhouse outside of town, the local children gather round to drool. Those pomegranates look so good, so ripe, so luscious. But who is brave enough to take on the guardian of the tree: the Pomegranate Witch? There are five who dare to plot and plan to capture the prized fruit. And when the witch declares a pomegranate war, they are ready. But will their plans succeed in the face of the dastardly witch? And who is the Kindly Lady who welcomes the children to the farmhouse each Hallows’ Eve? The delicious rhyming text provides a wonderful read as it builds to its rather mysterious ending. The greens and oranges that highlight the delicate illustrations bring a strong feeling of fall and the holiday that comes at its end. VERDICT A different sort of Halloween story that introduces children to a lesser-known fruit and the rewards of bravery and cleverness. For general purchase.–Heidi Grange, Summit Elementary School, Smithfield, UT

FLORENCE, Melanie. Stolen Words. illus. by Gabrielle Grimard. 24p. Second Story Pr. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781772600377.

Gr 1-4 –A vibrant young girl cheerfully comes home from school wanting to share with her grandfather the dream catcher she made. Wanting to continue learning more about her Cree culture, she asks him what the Cree word for grandfather is. Her grandfather explains the residential school system and how his language was lost. Grimard’s colorful illustrations shift to gray as they symbolize the words flying away from their mouths in form of birds to be caged. The child provides comfort to her grandfather and finds a way to allow him to start healing with Cree words. An emotional read, as the illustrations show mothers waving goodbye to their children and words being lost. As Grandfather revisits his native first language, the words fly back. VERDICT This powerful picture book would pair nicely with Jenny Kay Dupuis’s I Am Not A Number. Recommended. –Amy Zembroski, Indian Community School, Franklin, WI

Franceschelli, Christopher. Buildablock. illus. by Peskimo. 90p. Abrams Appleseed. Sept. 2017. Board $16.95. ISBN 9781419725692.

PreS-K –“Smash…Crash…Wrecking Ball! Construction Site!” The creators of the “Block Book” series are back with another graphically savvy title that encourages exploration. After a short rhyming introduction in which a pair of children sees so many trucks and wonders, “what do they all do?,” readers are presented with an extensive list of construction machines, from the familiar bulldozer and excavator to more specialized equipment like the pile driver, sky crane, and tunnel borer. Textual and visual clues focusing on action words (“smooth,” “pound,” “burrow,” “flatten”) are provided for each machine. Turn the tantalizingly die-cut and foldout pages to find out which machine paints “lines to keep you safe” (the road striper) or cuts “a ditch deep in the ground” (the trencher). Using the same trim size and sturdy materials as the previous books, this title contains bright, saturated colors that bring the geometric city and construction site to life. The people in this busy city are diverse in appearance and gender. Although there’s a lot of activity in each spread, the details are never overwhelming. The compositions are crisp, balancing line work and shapes in a pleasing manner that complements the brief, descriptive narration. VERDICT A solidly built addition to a wonderful series, this book is sure to entice curious toddlers and preschoolers.–Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library

Friesen, Angnakuluk. Kisimi Taimaippaktut Angirrarijarani/Only in My Hometown. tr. from English by Ipiksaut Vuriisan. illus. by Ippiksaut Friesen. 24p. Groundwood. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554988839.

PreS-Gr 2 –A tender celebration of daily life in an Inuit village. Watercolor and acrylic paintings paired with text in syllabic Inuktitut, romanized Inuktitut, and English convey a child’s cherished moments of life in her small hometown. Specific details such as a mother’s warnings about the “little men [who] will come and take you to their secret lair,” and the experience of a circle of women laughing together as they feast on raw caribou meat provide cultural insight while also resonating with any young reader who has received parental cautions or enjoyed the warmth of a family gathering. The realistic illustrations have the feel of folk art and, together with the poetic text, portray a community integrating traditional values into contemporary daily life. Children ride bikes around oil drums and colorful modern houses, adults and kids alike seek “glimpses of hope” in the Northern Lights, and, most importantly, “We share in times of plenty/and are helped in times of need.” Written and illustrated by sisters from Nunavut, this gentle ode to a town where “everyone could be family” is sure to stir appreciation in young audiences for those things that make their homes special. VERDICT Lyrical text and lively artwork combine for a heartfelt tribute to community that should find a place on most library shelves.–Chelsea Couillard-Smith, Hennepin County Library, MN

González, Xelena. All Around Us. illus. by Adriana M. Garcia. 32p. Cinco Puntos. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781941026762.

Gr 2-4 –This philosophical offering opens with a young girl and her grandfather searching for circles. According to him, “circles are all around us,” if only we look for them. He points out a rainbow, explaining that it is half a circle; the other half, unseen, is beneath the ground, “where water and light feed new life.” As they work in the garden, the girl and her grandfather continue their conversation about the cycle of life; during a walk through their suburban neighborhood, the pair finds circles in themselves, each other, and their surroundings. Upon returning home, they visit the trees, under which the family’s ancestral ashes and the girl’s placenta are buried, and the grandfather encourages her to see her own place in the circle of life. An author’s note further discusses her (and, presumably, her characters’) mestizo heritage, as well as the birth and death rituals referenced in the story. Garcia’s art is multilayered and richly textured, if a bit busy at times. The colorful illustrations at once capture the intimate bond between the girl and her grandfather, and suggest movement and vitality with bold, sweeping arcs and energetic lines. VERDICT This quiet, thoughtful offering is ideal for readers seeking to explore cycles in life and nature or familial bonds and traditions. Best shared one-on-one.–Lauren Strohecker, McKinley Elementary School, Elkins Park, PA

Hart, Owen. I Can’t Sleep! illus. by Caroline Pedler. 32p. Tiger Tales. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781680100662.

PreS-K –Mole tosses and turns but can’t fall asleep. Sighing “Fiddlesticks!” he pads across the boat’s deck to Mouse’s stateroom. Mouse invites Mole to sleep with him, but Mole still can’t sleep. They read a story. Then another. And another. Mole is finally ready to sleep, but it’s too dark. Mouse turns on a lamp but it’s too bright. Mouse makes a starry lampshade but then Mole is too cold. With an extra blanket, he gets too hot. They push the bed to the window where “at last all was peaceful.” Mole dozes off and snores too loud for Mouse to sleep. This is a familiar bedtime scenario but the clever solutions and sweetness between the two friends makes it feel fresh. Parents will relate to the patient, beleaguered Mouse. The soft and evocative illustrations follow the text. The animal’s faces are expressive and the boat is filled with charming, whimsical detail. The cool shades of blue and green are consistent with the book’s soothing tone. VERDICT A lovely choice for libraries wanting to add to their bedtime collections.–Amelia Jenkins, Juneau Public Library, AK

Kobe, Tatjana Pregl. Mi querida abuelita. illus. by Maja Lubi. 32p. Picarona. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9788491450399.

K-Gr 2 –Ana’s grandmother tells her a bedtime story about a little girl named Maggie who obsesses about finding her prince after seeing him in a dream. When she becomes a young lady, she is courted by many who fall short of her expectations. Finally, her prince appears and they happily “eat partridges” all the days of their lives. Suddenly, out of the blue, Ana asks if the fairy tale was about her grandmother’s life. When she’s answered in the affirmative, Ana hugs the older woman and declares her love and affection. Maybe this Spanish translation of Slovenian author Kolbe’s original story has lost its intended nuances, but in this reincarnation, the message regarding the undying nature of love falls flat. One moment Maggie is surrounded by mediocre beaux, and the next she’s swept off her feet by her prince with nary a bump in the road to test her mettle nor that of the prince—whose name, despite the fact he is Ana’s grandfather, we never learn. Lubi’s soft pastels successfully convey the dreamlike nature of Maggie’s memories, but the saccharine illustrations are as uncomplicated as the story. ­VERDICT Both the underdeveloped story line and characters will likely leave readers dissatisfied.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Lam, Chris Sam. Inspector Brunswick: The Case of the Missing Eyebrow. illus. by Angela Keoghan. 32p. Tate Publishing. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781849764445.

K-Gr 2 –During a visit to the museum, the great cat detective Brunswick and his dog assistant Nelson stumble upon a painting, which is mysteriously missing an eyebrow. Did it fall off? Was it stolen? The clues have the determined pair slinking over portraits, and crawling all around the floor, as they try to figure it the mystery. Readers will find the unexpected truth, and its resulting happy ending absolutely delightful. The story’s British whimsy is all-encompassing. The art looks almost like it is made from cut pieces of paper; these are given character through brushstrokes, patterns, and textures. Characters also have fairly static expressions that hilariously contrast with the writing. For the author, it isn’t enough to say that the crowd was shocked when “gasps of horror” sounds much more thrilling. Such straight-faced exaggerations makes this book extra humorous. VERDICT With its absurd premise, Inspector Brunswick turns out to be a silly, creative sleuth for all ages.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ont.

Laviera, Tato. Mayanito’s New Friends/Los nuevos amigos de Mayanito. tr. from Spanish by Gabriela Baeza Ventura. illus. by Gabhor Utomo. 28p. Piñata. Oct. 2017. pap. $17.95. ISBN 9781558858558.

Gr 2-5 –Readers first meet young Mayanito as he is perched on a mountaintop watching the rain fall. As he watches, he sees that each drop contains a child “gracefully falling to earth.” This mythic tone and strong visual imagery continues as we follow Mayanito on his adventures—through the jungle to the home of a foreign people who he eventually brings back to his home for a celebration of diversity and unity. At the end of the book, Mayanito wakes up from this beautiful dream. The original lyrical text by Puerto Rican poet, Jesús Abraham Laviera, has been complemented by new illustrations by Utomo. The range of Pan American cultures represented is wonderful, but there aren’t enough details about each culture. The story is quite long and may be easier to follow for primary grade students. VERDICT A beautifully told folktale for students with longer attention spans, which would work well paired with more detailed information about some of the cultures represented.–Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Lunge-larsen, Lise. Seven Ways To Trick a Troll. illus. by Kari Vick. McLaren. 96p. University of Minnesota Pr. Oct. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780816699773.

Gr 1-4 –Trolls are tricky creatures—however, children can be even craftier. In this whimsical series of Scandinavian tales, young readers learn practical lessons in pulling one over on trolls. This collection of folktales is simple to read with plenty of bright watercolor illustrations. Each illustrated troll has its own look that corresponds perfectly with Lunge-Larsen’s descriptive tale. The trolls are fearsome but not too scary for the intended audience. They’ll learn that trolls are easily distracted in “A Narrow Escape.” They also explode if they get too angry, as readers discover in “The Ashlad Who Stole The Troll’s Treasures.” There is a section of history on troll tales in the beginning for perspective, explaining how they teach children valuable lessons about behaviors and feelings. VERDICT A valuable addition to any library folktale collection, perfect for sharing aloud or independent reading.–Kris Hickey, Columbus Metropolitan Library, OH

McLaren, Meg. Pigeon P.I. illus. by Meg McLaren. 40p. Clarion. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781328715616.

Gr 1-2 –Pigeon P.I. jumps back into his detective work when his fellow birds start mysteriously disappearing. A small yellow canary seeks out Pigeon P.I. when her friends are kidnapped. Pigeon P.I. follows the clues that lead him to an unlikely kidnapper and motivates him to reopen his detective agency. Readers will love the clever jokes hidden throughout the pictures—adults may like them even more! The actual text is short and simple, while the meat of the story lies in the illustrations with quotes from the characters and objects in the pictures. With that being said, it may be difficult for younger readers to fully understand the plot, but it would be great practice with making inferences for older readers. The vivacious illustrations are bright and colorful and are presented in different formats. For example, the opening illustration sprawls across both pages as readers flip the page, but the next page is organized into six comic book-style panels. VERDICT A clever introduction into the mystery genre that readers will love exploring for fun.–Jennifer Bludau, La Grange Independent School District, TX

Mainé, Margarita. Dante y Camila. ISBN 9786077835684.

––––. En el jardín. ISBN 9786077835790.

––––. Paseo en coche. ISBN 9786077835783.

ea vol: illus. by Marcela Lescarboura. 12p. (Los Cuentos de Osonejo). Uranito. Jan. 2017. Tr. $4.95.

Baby-Toddler –Osonejo, a stuffed bear with the floppy ears of a rabbit, narrates everyday adventures. He belongs to fluffy red-haired Dante. In one story, Dante and his big sister, Camila, annoy each other in typical sibling-fashion until Camila hides Osonejo, then pretends to find him. In another, Dante drops his stuffed friend while out for a walk with his mother. Osonejo endures a series of indignities, from being stepped on to pecked by pigeons, until an older woman finds him and returns him to Dante. A third story finds Osonejo flipped out a window into the garden, where he meets various animals and gets quite dirty. A friendly dogs retrieves him at bedtime, and Dante’s mother gives him a bath. The stories are reminiscent of Mo Willems’s Knuffle Bunny series, though pitched for a younger audience and lacking Willems’s knack for illustrating the growing panic of children separated from their favorite stuffed animal. However, watercolor illustrations serviceably show the action, and the short, simple text will work for children who are just learning to follow plot. VERDICT These slice-of-life stories from the perspective of a much-left-behind stuffed animal are recommended as additional purchases for Spanish board book collections.–Mary Dubbs, Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis

Martí, Elisenda Pascual. Clara y su sombra. illus. by Mercé Serra Valls. 32p. websites. Uranito. Mar. 2017. Tr $10.95. ISBN 9788416773213.

K-Gr 3 –Clara is being touched inappropriately by an adult friend of the family. She doesn’t like what’s being done to her, but says nothing because her parents have taught her that “adults are always right.” A slimy shadow dogs her as the adult uses every opportunity to catch Clara alone. He tells her that the ominous patch of darkness will transform into a breath of butterflies when he and she encounter her “marvelous treasure.” One day she decides to get rid of the shadow herself through self-exploration. Clara’s mother catches her standing nude on her bed before a mirror. The child has just realized that she and the shadow are one, and that there is nothing about her that she should be afraid of facing. She accepts that her mother can “help her dress the shadow with butterflies of light.” Because Martí, a child and family psychologist, treats this subject with purposeful open-endedness, there is no resolution regarding the family friend. Valls’s dry-plant-matter collages blend seamlessly with the tale’s symbolism. The illustrations are executed in tones of brown and beige with few exceptions such as Clare’s and Mom’s red hair, and the “breath” of butterflies. Suggestions for using the subtly presented information are appended as is a website link that provides detailed back matter on the topic and illustrations. VERDICT This title is a sensitive treatment of a serious problem and would be most effectively utilized on a one-on-one basis with parents or professionals.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Newman, Vivian. Moti the Mitzvah Mouse. illus. by Inga Knopp-Kilpert. 24p. Kar-Ben. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781512426472.

PreS-K –This attempt at an interactive book about the Jewish tradition of “mitzvot,” or doing good deeds, sinks under the heavy-handed message and forced gimmick. Moti is a little mouse who goes around doing good deeds for the humans whose house he inhabits. On each page, listeners are asked to name the “mitzvah” (good deed) Moti is doing and then they are asked to find something in the pictures. While the concept is clever enough, the interactive bit gets tiresome and repetitive rapidly, causing children to lose interest. The text is acceptable, if a bit utilitarian, and clearly message-driven. However, the illustrations, mixed-media and heavy on collage, are intricate and appealing. They have a childlike look about them and the anthropomorphized, smiling animals would look right at home in a child’s art book. The collage gives them an effective sense of depth, and the search-and-find element, along with the many little items scattered about does invite closer scrutiny. On the whole, the art far outshines the text, and does make the whole package appealing enough to fill a hole if necessary. VERDICT Jewish libraries and preschools in search of more stories explaining mitzvot to very young children will find that this title may fill a need, but most others can pass.–Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT

NIEMINEN, Lotta. Pizza!: An Interactive Recipe Book. illus. by Lotta Nieminen. 16p. (Cook in a Book).Phaidon. May 2017. Board $14.95. ISBN 9780714874098.

PreS-Gr 3 –Part–recipe book, part–board book, and all fun, this interactive experience takes readers through the steps of baking their own pizza. The cover illustration shows a pizza nearly assembled with the title in place of the waiting toppings. An invitation, “Let’s make a pizza!” greets readers at the top of the first spread, which introduces all the ingredients and tools one would need. Steps in the recipe are placed prominently; sometimes at the top of the page, on others they may be seen on the mixing bowl or the oven door. The interactive pages have future chefs pulling a tab to pour salt into a bowl, turning a wheel to set the oven’s temperature, or even kneading dough (a squishy plastic insert). Clean graphic design keeps the illustrations pleasing to the eye and easy to follow in sequence. Simple, accurate directions make this a book that can be enjoyed for the reading experience or put to use in the kitchen for a family cooking activity. VERDICT Entertaining and useful, parents of future foodies will want the entire series.–Suzanne Costner, Fairview Elementary School, Maryville, TN

Nöstlinger, Christine. El dragón bueno y el dragón malo. illus. by Jens Rassnus. 40p. Picarona. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9788491450412.

PreS-Gr 1 –Florian has two invisible dragons, one good and one bad, as the title suggests. But the bad dragon is not actually bad. He is just trying to defend Florian, and his actions are sometimes misunderstood. The first half rambles on describing Florian’s relationship with his dragons. The plot kicks in more than halfway through, when Florian is supposed to go on a trip to the beach with his family. The dragons don’t want to go because they are afraid of drowning, so they pretend to have the measles. Florian’s mom agrees to buy invisible floatation devices for the dragons, which leads them to change their minds about the trip. The dragons have a lovely day at the beach and don’t drown. The illustrations by Rassmus are the best part of this book and the stuff of which Hans Christian Andersen award–winners are made. Watercolor washes with a limited color palette work very well in allowing the dragons to stand out. They are adorable and the most colorful things in each spread, especially the “bad” red dragon. The Spanish translation is fine, but the translator had little to work with. VERDICT The weak, rambling plot does not do justice to the delightful human and dragon characters portrayed in the illustrations. Of limited interest.–Tim Wadham, Children’s Literature Consultant, Puyallup, WA

Oom, Ana. No quiero bañarme. ISBN 9788491450009.

––––. No quiero comer sopa. ISBN 9788491450023.

––––. No quiero ir a dormir. ISBN 9788491450290.

––––. No quiero ir a la escuela. ISBN 9788491450306.

ea vol: illus. by Raquel Pinheiro. 32p. (No quiero). Picarona. May 2017. pap. $12.95.

PreS-K –Sometimes the simplest of tasks are the most difficult for children to get excited about. Eating soup, taking a bath, going to school, and going to bed are made exciting in this Spanish-language series for very young readers. In No quiero comer sopa, Paco learns that not only is soup delicioso, but it can help him grow to be healthy and strong. In No quiero bañarme, Mafalda discovers how important it is to take a bath and that bathtime can be time for fun! In No quiero dormir, Maria doesn’t have a very good day at school after not sleeping the night before, and she learns an important lesson about why getting a good night’s sleep is required for her to have a fun and healthy life. When Simon becomes upset about being at school all day, he protests—until he realizes how much fun he will miss out on if he’s not at school in No quiero ir a la escuela. Illustrations, although accessible for young readers, are not reflective of the racial diversity of the Spanish-speaking communities that librarians and teachers serve. VERDICT A solid addition to any collection needing “how to” books for young readers in Spanish.–Natalie Romano, Denver Public Library

Pearson, Claudia. This Way, Watson!: A Map and Directions Primer. illus. by Claudia Pearson. 32p. Gibbs Smith. Aug. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781423647652.

PreS-Gr 2 –Watson, a dog, introduces young children to the concept of directions and map usage in this large board book. It begins with a spread that includes a cartoon rendition of a map along with a complete legend that shows readers the places that Watson will travel. Rhyming text tells the tale of Watson’s adventure around town to the library, bakery, museum, and back home. “We’ll go OVER the bridge and bike toward town, climbing the hills going UP and DOWN.” Directional vocabulary is introduced, including inside, through, above, under, out, in, behind, front, between, bottom, top, up, down, cross, left and right. Mixed-media illustrations, which include some ink drawing, watercolors and other mediums, complement the engaging text. After hearing about Watson’s journey, young readers are likely to want to revisit the book’s map and legend and retrace his steps through town. This book is chock-full of teachable moments that are introduced with fun and interactive text and pictures. VERDICT Recommended for general purchase for any board book collection, or for young primary-level students who work on maps, legends, and directions.–Kristen Todd-Wurm, Middle Country Public Library, NY

Roca, Marichel. Lula y su amiga Tilica. illus. by Marichel Roca. 30p. Uranito. May 2017. Tr $7.95. ISBN 9786077480624.

PreS-Gr 1 –Lula is playing hide-and-seek in her bedroom closet when she encounters a strange friend. Tilica—meaning skinny—is a playful euphemism for Death, as in a skinny-bones skeleton. Roca offers a refreshing perspective on death as a natural process rather than something to be feared. When Lula’s abuelita passes away, her parents try to shield her, afraid that she may be too young to understand. Yet Tilica and Lula become fast friends, playing dress up and teatime while they wait for Lula’s parent to fetch her. Tilica encourages the child toward a positive attitude about death by explaining how awareness of its inevitability allows us to live fully and seize the day. Tilica assures Lula that death does not mean an end but rather a continuation. For example, she’ll still be able to “see” her abuelita in her dreams and memories. Tilica also points out how her abuelita lives inside Lula. When Lula holds her hand up, indeed she sees how Tilica, or bones, live just under her skin. Roca’s consistent palette of red, white, and black offers a steady consistency or normality that suits the theme. The author’s concluding note affirms this wisdom, noting how adults ought not to shield their little ones from the painful emotions of life. Instead, Roca suggests, we should inform children with truth and, in this way, help them overcome challenges. VERDICT A refreshing and most welcome take on the naturalness of death. The Mexican Spanish in this book is funny and glorious to read.–Lettycia Terrones, Los Angeles Public Library

Rodari, Gianni. Animales. ISBN 9788491450351.

––––. Cielo y tierra. ISBN 9788491450375.

ea vol: illus. by Raffaella Bolaffio. 40p. (El Libro de los Porqués). Picarona. Jun. 2017. Tr. $12.95.

PreS-Gr 1 –For adults who are experiencing a child’s “Why?” and are looking to give a more satisfying answer than, “Because…because,” these slim volumes, called “The Book of the Whys,” tackle children’s questions. The two topics are treated in different ways, though they are branded the same. Animales features mostly silly answers, stories, and poems to children’s questions like, “Why do roosters crow?” and “Why do elephants have trunks?” Occasional bits of truth are found in some sections, but they aren’t marked as such and slip directly into silliness again, so children might not be able to tell what the real answer is. Cielo y tierra (Sky and Earth) has a more consistent structure of a simple one-to-two sentences scientific explanation to questions like “Why does summer end?” and “Why is the sky blue?” A short rhyme or story follows. Colorful digital art accompanies each question. In both books, all the people are depicted with peach-colored skin. While not an essential purchase, both are a whimsical celebration and satiation of a child’s curiosity. VERDICT More fiction than fact, these books may help plug a child’s “whys,” which might result in some “reallys?” An additional purchase for Spanish-language collections.–Mary Dubbs, Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis

Snyder, Laurel. The King of Too Many Things. illus. by Aurore Damant. 32p. Rodale Kids. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781623368746.

PreS-Gr 2 –In this modern day fairy tale, a dark-skinned king orders his wizard to conjure up a dragon to add a little fun to his picture-perfect kingdom. When the addition of dragons makes more of a mess than anything, King Jasper orders the wizard to conjure more and more things in hopes of solving the growing list of problems. King Jasper ends up making a friend, which fills a void he didn’t even realize existed, and, with the help of his new friend and the wizard, he cleans up the messes, this time without magic. Vibrant digital cartoon artwork is appealing and draws upon the illustrator’s background as a character designer with experience in children’s television animation. The message is a little muddled, which makes it difficult to connect the dots from King Jasper’s wishing for fun to filling a void in his life that requires a friend. VERDICT Despite the humor and visual appeal of this modern-day fairy tale, the story’s message is hard to decipher and may be lost on young readers. Additional.–Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Soldi, Franco. El día que el Zorro Marcelo se quedó sin bailar. ISBN 9786077480662.

––––. Horacio el cerdito que queria ser caballo de carreras. ISBN 9786077480693.

––––. Matías el pollito rebelde. ISBN 9786077480648.

––––. Mirta la súper mosca y su triste destino. ISBN 9786077480686.

––––. Uxmal y el reto de la gran pirámide. ISBN 9786077480679.

ea vol: illus. by Pedro Bascón. 40p. (Brainy Fables). Uranito. Jun. 2017. Tr. $7.95.

PreS-Gr 1 –These five bilingual (Spanish and English) fables feature a self-assured fox, an aspirational pig, and a rebellious chick, among other quirky creatures. The storytelling is accessible and engaging, with a fair amount of humor and suspense injected into each narrative; but, at times, they border on didactic. (This is especially true of the author’s note in each book.) Even so, young readers will appreciate the efficient pacing and relatability of each volume, making these decent choices for storytimes, read-alouds, and classroom units on fables. (Matías el pollito rebelde is a standout title). Additionally, each title ends with a challenge for readers to provide their own ending. While children are sure to enjoy this opportunity, librarians should be aware that this section includes blank writing space. Though there are some translation errors, overall the writing is well crafted in both languages. Refreshingly, the design gives the Spanish text visual precedence over the English text, something not seen in every bilingual picture book. The mostly monochromatic, economical illustrations are eye-catching and playful. VERDICT This quirky set of bilingual fables is a strong option for libraries in need of engaging contemporary fables. Additional purchases.–Molly Hone, Pequannock Township Public Library, NJ

Torrey, Richard. Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster. illus. by Richard Torrey. 40p. Sterling. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454921233.

PreS-Gr 1 –Ally-saurus is back—“ROAR!” Ally, Kai, and his little brother Petey love playing together. Ally stomps and roars like a dinosaur. Kai dances across the porch stage, and Petey says “Bear!” while holding his teddy bear. Much fun and laughter is had until new neighbor Maddie intercedes. Maddie is full of rules, all of which benefit her, and this day is no different. She insists that they play monsters, and the rules are very strict—no dinosaurs or dancing or saying Ta-Da! and no bears! When bossy Maddie takes Petey’s bear, she’s gone too far. Ally-saurus tells Maddie their rules for playing, which include all of those things and “nobody takes Petey’s teddy bear. That’s the rule!” When Maddie comes back during their “super, amazing monster dance,” she takes one look at the fun and decides to join without a word about her rules. Later at the bus stop when Maddie start ruling, one “Roar!” from Ally-saurus reminds her that fun can be had without being bossy. Torrey matches his spot-on text with even better illustrations. Using the same technique he employed in Ally-saurus & the First Day of School, Torrey uses pencil drawings with colorful crayon-like additions (dinosaur spikes and tail, tux and top hat for dancing, etc.) to deftly make the alter egos visible to readers. This is whimsical and clever and effective in enhancing the story. VERDICT Torrey perfectly captures the words, feelings, and images of childhood imagination and friendships. Great for one-on-one and small group sharing, especially ones where the previous title was popular.–Catherine Callegari, Reston Regional Library, VA

Traini, Agostino. El Caperucito rojo. illus. by Agostino Traini. 40p. Picarona. Jul. 2017. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9788491450535.

PreS-Gr 1 –A Spanish-language retelling of the “Little Red Riding Hood” with a twist. One day Jazmin is gifted a beautiful red hat and wears it everywhere. Her grandmother gets sick, and Jazmin is off to visit her and travels through the forest. She encounters the wolf, who says he is going to eat her. This is where the plot veers from the traditional story line. Jazmin tells him “no,” and continues on her way. Now the wolf was in love with a female wolf and was advised to dress elegantly to win her affections. He loves Jazmin’s red hat but she refuses to give it to him. So he goes to grandmother’s house where he waits for the girl. This is a very child-friendly take on the story with no actual eating of humans or other animals. The wolf stays with the hat and wears it nonstop to impress his beloved and becomes known as Caperucito Rojo. Jazmin is portrayed as a strong and smart girl. Grandma is an adventurous lady. The wolf tries to be scary, but he goes soft around his love. The illustrations are presented as small squares with accompanying text below each scene, similar to a comic strip panel without the speech bubbles. VERDICT This retelling will delight picture book and fairy-tale lovers. A good purchase for Spanish-language collections.–Cynthia Molinar, Medio Creek Elementary SWISD, San Antonio

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

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