March 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Hiding in Plain Sight | SLJ Spotlight

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Whether it’s a story about a game of counting and scouting for hidden friends or looking for cleverly concealed visual clues, these books sharpen children’s observation skills and allow them to succeed vicariously by paying attention, honing sharp-eyed reflexes, and having fun along the way.

Ashdown, Rebecca. Bob and Flo Play Hide-and-Seek. illus. by Rebecca Ashdown. 32p. HMH. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544596313. ASHDOWN, Rebecca. Bob and Flo Play Hide-and-Seek

Toddler-PreS –After Penguin Bob arrives at preschool on a rainy day, hidden by his umbrella, he decides to play hide-and-seek with his friends Flo and Sam. Bob is the first one to hide, and Flo and Sam count to 10 twice because “counting to twenty is hard.” Bob isn’t very good at hiding, and Flo and Sam find him quickly each time. During the final round, Flo and Sam play in the kitchen corner while giving Bob time to find a good place to hide. Bob finally “disappears” this time and comes out of his hiding spot just in time to share the pretend cake his friends have made. The colorful pastel illustrations of these charming penguins will appeal to toddlers and their parents. VERDICT Perfect for youngsters just learning to play as a group.–Sarah Polace, Cuyahoga Public Library System, OH

Barroux. Where’s the Elephant? illus. by Barroux. 32p. Candlewick. Mar. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780763681104. BARROUX. Where’s the Elephant

PreS-Gr 3 –With minimal text and bright, bold illustrations, Barroux introduces children to the topic of deforestation in a poignant fashion that invites discussion. By beginning with simple questions that ask the location of an elephant, parrot, and snake, he establishes a familiar seek-and-find narrative that is comfortable and engaging. At first, this is mildly challenging, as Barroux’s acrylic and pencil creatures are cleverly hidden in their jungle habitat. This quickly changes, however, as trees are soon removed and replaced by houses, roads, and cars. Eventually, the natural environment is gone and a zoo encapsulates the cheery animal friends until they elect to bust free, making for an ocean raft and new island home. Each spread is full of stunning art, with the lushness of the diverse tropical leaves set against the increasingly uniform and stagnant buildings. The excitement of hide-and-seek soon turns to crushing loss, forcing readers to ask why this conflict is occurring. The animals’ final flight, along with the contrast between cityscape and natural environs, conveys an important message regarding the ecosystem and the role humans play within it. VERDICT Although clearly written for a younger audience and highly recommended for all picture book collections, this introductory text can be used to spark discussion with elementary school students embarking on environmental studies.–Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI

redstarBarrow, David. Have You Seen Elephant? illus. by David Barrow. 32p. Gecko. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781776570089. BARROW, David. Have You Seen Elephant

PreS-Gr 2 –A game of hide-and-seek is the basis of this story, but with a humorous twist. An enormous elephant and a boy with scribbly brown curls are the players. Before they begin, the elephant discloses, “I must warn you though. I’m VERY good.” Readers will easily spot Elephant on each spread as he attempts to disguise himself behind the drapes, under a comforter on a bed, and under a lampshade. Children will revel in being able to spot the elephant while the boy searches fruitlessly. Attentive readers will notice the boy’s dog sniffing the elephant out in every spread. The mixed-media illustrations work masterfully to tell the story alongside the brief text, which consists exclusively of dialogue. The dynamic backgrounds are splashed with watercolor, and the figures are given soft edges, lending a dreamy quality to the story. The impressive use of light and shadow and incorporation of reds, oranges, and purples add a richness to the pages that will transfix children. In the final pages, a new character and a funny twist will entertain kids. VERDICT This amusingly absurd story paired with the warm and wonderful illustrations will have kids coming back again and again.–Kimberly Tolson, Medfield Public Library, MA

redstarCole, Henry. Spot, the Cat. illus. by Henry Cole. 32p. ebook available. S. & S./Little Simon. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481442251.COLE, Henry. Spot, the Cat.

PreS-Gr 2 –While a young boy is reading a book, his small black-and-white cat, appropriately named Spot, jumps through the window after a bird and sets off on an urban adventure. Each spread of this wordless seek and find–style tale shows the fearless feline wandering further away from its home, venturing down the street to a river embankment, through a park, into an outdoor market, and past a museum, all while its despondent owner looks for it. Finally, as the boy gives up and returns home, the cat comes back as well and the two are happily reunited. Cole’s black-and-white illustrations, laid out in mostly spreads and vignettes, overflow with delightful details (such as numerous other cats and dogs), which enrich the story but make finding the tiny spotted protagonist incredibly challenging. VERDICT Sharp-eyed readers will enjoy looking for the little cat and undoubtedly root for its safe return home.–Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY

These reviews were published in the School Library Journal March 2016 issue

Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth ( 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.