November 19, 2017

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Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes | SLJ Review

BARNES, Derrick. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. illus. by Gordon C. James. 32p. Agate/Bolden. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781572842243.

K-Gr 3 –Rhythmic text describes the feeling of a young African American boy as he gets a “fresh cut” and how a trip to the barbershop changes the way he feels about the world and in turn how the world perceives him. He might just “smash that geography exam” or “rearrange the principal’s honor roll” and, of course, the cute girl in […]

A Different Pond by Bao Phi | SLJ Review

PHI, Bao. A Different Pond. illus. by Thi Bui. 32p. Capstone. Aug. 2017. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781623708030.

K-Gr 2 –This gorgeous tale about a father/son fishing trip shows the interconnectedness of family and the inexorable way that generational history impacts the present. The story is told from the boy’s perspective, as his father wakes him long before dawn to go fishing. Although the child enjoys the outing as a special adventure with his dad, they are fishing for food, not sport, and they […]

In the Middle of Fall by Kevin Henkes | SLJ Review

HENKES, Kevin. In the Middle of Fall. illus. by Laura Dronzek. 40p. HarperCollins/­Greenwillow. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062573117.

PreS-Gr 2 –In this lovely companion to When Spring Comes, poetic text and lush-hued acrylic paintings depict a rural setting fully turned to autumn. Leaves shimmer orange and yellow, “the sky is mostly gray/and the air is chilly,” “frisky” squirrels gather nuts, plump pumpkins stand ready for the picking, and apples hang from tree branches “like ornaments.” A red-jacketed girl and her dog, along with […]

Perfect Picnic Picture Books | SLJ Spotlight

Six perfect picture books for a family outing.

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

Seamus’s Short Story by Heather Hartt-Sussman | SLJ Review

HARTT-SUSSMAN, Heather. Seamus’s Short Story. illus. by Milan Pavlović. 32p. Groundwood. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781554987931.

PreS-Gr 2 –In this hilarious tale, Seamus, a big-headed and blue-haired kid, hates being short. He can never reach what he needs to, including a “horrid” baby picture of himself. He explores a few ineffectual options until he discovers his mom’s high heels and, suddenly, he is “having a blast.” Seamus’s being a boy in pumps passes without comment; high heels are simply a tool that […]

Robinson by Peter Sís | SLJ Review

SÍS, Peter. Robinson. illus. by Peter Sís. 48p. Scholastic. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545731669.

K-Gr 3 –Sís’s latest picture book fuses an episode from his childhood with the plot of Robinson Crusoe—a favorite novel when he was young. Sequential panels lead to full-bleed double spreads as the first-person accounts describe the way a group of five diverse friends play pirates in every conceivable setting, from a backyard tent to the bathtub. When the school costume party is announced, the collective choice is obvious, […]

I’m Smart! by Kate McMullan | SLJ Review

MCMULLAN, Kate. I’m Smart! illus. by Jim McMullan. 40p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062449238.

PreS-Gr 2 –Oozing confidence and energy, a big-eyed, grinning school bus describes his morning route, informing listeners that it “takes BRAINS to do my job—drive you to SCHOOL and keep you SAFE!” As with previous titles, the McMullans (I’m Brave!; I Stink!; I’m Cool!) infuse everyday activities with an infectious excitement bound to entice vehicle-loving youngsters. When the bus’s lights flash amber, it means “Cars and trucks, […]

Pup and Bear by Kate Banks | SLJ Review

BANKS, Kate. Pup and Bear. illus. by Naoko Stoop. 32p. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399554094.

PreS-Gr 2 –At the close of an Arctic winter, a wolf pup, stranded on an ice floe, is rescued by a polar bear. “I am not your mother,” says the bear, but she assures the fearful pup that she will care for and shelter him. As the seasons turn, she protects the pup, plays with him, and teaches him to fish until at last […]

Windows by Julia Denos | SLJ Review

DENOS, Julia. Windows. illus. by E.B. Goodale. 32p. Candlewick. Oct. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763690359.

PreS-Gr 1 –In this story, a boy of color dons a red hoodie, leashes his eager dog, and ventures out into the twilight, where the windows are “blinking awake as the lights turn on inside: a neighborhood of paper lanterns.” Readers get to peer in at the small, diverse figures making dinner, throwing a party, dancing, even stretching tin cans on a string between houses to talk on […]

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s by Patrick McDonnell | SLJ Review

MCDONNELL, Patrick. The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way). illus. by Patrick McDonnell. 48p. Little, Brown. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316502467.

PreS-Gr 1 –McDonnell’s abecedarian tale takes a small scarlet cat on a breathtaking adventure. The clever tale—wordless except for two signs and one warning shout—begins when the feline notices his home’s front door standing open and takes to the hills. He almost immediately comes upon a gape-mouthed Alligator, a climbing Bear, and an agitated […]

When’s My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano | SLJ Review

FOGLIANO, Julie. When’s My Birthday? illus. by Christian Robinson. 40p. Roaring Brook. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626722934.

PreS-Gr 1 –An exuberant ode to children’s anticipation for the most special day each year: their birthday. Fogliano’s insistent verse wastes no time and doesn’t even stop for traditional capitalization—just like the young narrators, who want to know, “when’s my birthday?/where’s my birthday?/how many days until/my birthday?” They continue breathlessly, wondering if they will “sing so happy happy?” on the big day. The exaggerated excitement […]

In Your Hands by Carole Boston Weatherford | SLJ Review

WEATHERFORD, Carole Boston. In Your Hands. illus. by Brian Pinkney. 32p. S. & S./Atheneum. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481462938.

PreS-Gr 3 –From award-winning Weatherford (Voice of FreedomMoses), this poem from a black mother to her firstborn son will resonate as a prayer for all black boys. A mother holds her child’s hand while expressing her hopes for his safety, his confidence, and a world that will see him as a “vessel to be steered rather than a figure to be feared.” The narrative […]

La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya | SLJ Review

ELYA, Susan Middleton. La Princesa and the Pea. illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal. 32p. glossary. Putnam. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399251566.

PreS-Gr 2 –The traditional Hans Christian Andersen tale gets a makeover in this modern version with a twist. In her signature style of stories peppered with a liberal dose of Spanish and humor, Elya relates the account of a prince who wants to marry and his mother, the queen, who takes charge of vetting the possible candidates. In rhyming text, the author […]

The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip C. Stead | SLJ Review

STEAD, Philip C. The Only Fish in the Sea. illus. by Matthew Cordell. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626722828.

PreS-Gr 2 –With comic urgency, a boy races on his bicycle to tell his friend Sadie the story of spoiled Little Amy Scott, who declared that her birthday goldfish was BORING and walked across town to unceremoniously throw it off the dock. The boy, Sherman, asks Sadie if she could imagine that poor fish, still in its bag and […]

Sing, Don’t Cry by Angela Dominguez | SLJ Review

DOMINGUEZ, Angela. Sing, Don’t Cry. illus. by Angela Dominguez. 32p. Holt. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627798396.

PreS-Gr 2 –In this semiautobiographical picture book, Dominguez honors the memory of her grandfather Apolinar, whose music and optimism had a great effect on her. Every year, Abuelo visits from Mexico, bringing his guitar and his joyful outlook. “He would tell us about his life, and if we were sad about something, he would say, ‘Sing, don’t cry. Because singing gladdens the heart.’ ” Abuelo advises […]

Mama Lion Wins the Race by Jon J. Muth | SLJ Review

MUTH, Jon J. Mama Lion Wins the Race. illus. by Jon J Muth. 56p. ­Scholastic. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545852821.

PreS-Gr 2 –Mama Lion and Tigey are excited: it is race day! They examine their route, take a gander at the prizes, greet the competition in the town square, and drive off with Tigey behind the wheel. The Knitted Monkeys are up to mischief and try to get ahead in the race, but others soon take the lead. When Tigey swerves to […]

Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt | SLJ Review

BRITT, Paige. Why Am I Me? illus. by Selina Alko & Sean Qualls. 40p. Scholastic. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338053142.

PreS-Gr 2 –Britt tackles the metaphysical for the picture book crowd. Two (presumably) parent/child pairs approach a subway from different directions: an African American father and son and a light-skinned mother and daughter. The boy reads a book while riding a skateboard; the girl has a musical instrument case strapped to her back. As the kids notice each other, he wonders: “Why […]

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken | SLJ Review

LUYKEN, Corinna. The Book of Mistakes. illus. by Corinna Luyken. 56p. Dial. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780735227927.

PreS-Gr 3 –It starts with a mistake, but page by page, one slightly too large eye, a wonky elbow, and feet a little too far off the ground transform and combine into a larger picture—one that not only is functional but also works perfectly. Illustrations rendered in ink, colored pencil, and watercolor are the focal point. They start small—just a circle, […]

This Beautiful Day by Richard Jackson | SLJ Review

JACKSON, Richard. This Beautiful Day. illus. by Suzy Lee. 40p. S. & S./Atheneum. Aug. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781481441391.

PreS-Gr 1 –A dark and stormy morning cannot dampen the spirits of three siblings in this ode to summer weather. The day begins with a song, a dance, and a skip as the kids splash through puddles and march through the neighborhood with friends. As the sky clears, the children delight in doing what children do: playing outdoors, expending energy, […]

Round by Joyce Sidman | SLJ Review

SIDMAN, Joyce. Round. illus. by Taeeun Yoo. 32p. HMH. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544387614.

PreS-K –Sidman delivers a captivating homage to the many round things found in nature and in the world around us. Told in the voice and sensibility of a young child, the simple text follows a girl as she comes across round objects, feels their smoothness, and wraps her fingers around their curves. Some she appreciates from afar (turtle eggs and sunflowers), watching how they […]