March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Picture Books Xpress Reviews | June 2016

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Amavisca, Luis. Princess Li/La Princesa Li. illus. by Elena Rendeiro. 40p. ebook available. NubeOcho. May 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9788494413742. BL

Gr 4 Up –In this bilingual tale from Spain, a Chinese princess falls in love with a European woman. Princess Li and Beatriz have spent their days kissing in the imperial gardens; there is never an explanation as to how Beatriz came to be accepted at the palace. However, the dreaded day comes when the king demands that his daughter marry a man from the realm; when she refuses, the king orders her lover to be transformed into a bird. Later, the sorcerer, in an attempt to take the throne, poisons the king’s drink. Beatriz the bird knocks over the cup and saves the day. In thanks, the red-haired, green-eyed paramour is returned to human form and allowed to marry the princess. According to an interview, Amavisca strove to use this vehicle to encourage tolerance for all races, countries, and sexual orientations. In spite of this, he inexplicably chooses the culturally inaccurate term king instead of emperor, which the Chinese rulers have used consistently since around 221 BCE, and the translator has the princess address her father with the incongruous term Dad. Rendeiro’s landscape and architecture are beautifully detailed in gradient shades of red watercolor. But the skill level is inconsistently displayed. Sorcerer Chun Bin is amateurishly rendered, and the interior of the palace has a row of courtyard-facing doors that would have been more at home in India. VERDICT This picture book is geared toward an older audience. An additional purchase.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Bijsterbosch, Anita. Who Will Dance with Little Mouse? illus. by Anita Bijsterbosch. 32p. Clavis. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781605372679.

PreS-K –Little Mouse loves to dance, but it’s not so much fun to dance alone, so he starts looking for a dance partner. Each of the animals Little Mouse asks seems to have something better to do. Little Sheep just wants to jump around (want to see how high?), and Snail just wants to glide. The array of animals include a sloth, a frog, a puppy, a heron, and an elephant. In the end, Little Owl dances with Little Mouse while Nightingale sings a beautiful song. The digital art is bright and cheerful and has an appealing collage effect. The book has a question-and-answer format and a satisfying degree of repetition. VERDICT A simple and engaging read-aloud, perfect for storytimes to get kids moving around.–Debbie Tanner, S.D. Spady Montessori Elementary, FL

Burach, Ross. There’s a Giraffe in My Soup. illus. by Ross Burach. 32p. HarperCollins. Feb. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062360144.

PreS-Gr 2 –Many people have experienced going out to eat and finding something they didn’t order in their soup. The boy in this story is surprised to find a giraffe in his bowl, followed by an alligator, an elephant, a yak, and a whale. This is a funny book that engages readers from the very first page, when the young diner arrives at the restaurant on his Big Wheel and leaves it with the valet. The waiter does not initially believe the boy at first but realizes that the child is right and quickly brings him a fresh bowl. Each new serving brings a bigger and more difficult dilemma. The animals prove to be more of a problem for the waiter than the boy. He ends up with bandages, cuts, and a broken leg. Children will be eager to see what comes next. They will also enjoy watching the waiter become more frightened and exhausted with each trip to and from the kitchen. When it is suggested the young boy have a free dessert…things become even worse! The ending will surely elicit laughs. The exaggerated cartoon artwork is colorful and expressive. VERDICT This is a great, silly read-aloud for storytime or one-on-one sharing, especially for finicky eaters.–Barbara Spiri, Southborough Library, MA

Carluccio, Maria. D Is for Dress Up: The ABC’s of What We Wear. 36p. Chronicle. Apr. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781452140254.

PreS-Gr 1 –A book for budding fashion lovers. Carluccio celebrates all different types of clothing, fabric, and accessories. She depicts various articles of clothing, such as bow ties, jeans, leotards, overalls, and underwear, showing outfits for everyday and special occasions. Even the trickier letters are well represented: V is for vintage, X for x-stitch, Y for yoga pants, and Z for zippers. Charming digital illustrations portray children of various ethnicities engaging in indoor and outdoor activities. Clothing is detailed and appears to have texture. Children will enjoy looking at the spreads as well as guessing what apparel will come next with the corresponding letter. VERDICT Perhaps not a first choice for learning the alphabet, but this is a fun and stylish alternative A-to-Z compendium for one-on-one and small group sharing.–Megan McGinnis, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

Codell, Esmé. Maybe Mother Goose. illus. by Elisa Chavarri. 32p. ebook available. S. & S./Aladdin. Feb. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481440363.

PreS-Gr 1 –When it’s a rainy day at Mother Goose Nursery School, the teacher cheers up the children with fun presentations of nursery rhymes. The six rhymes she recites during indoor recess include “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep,” and “Sing a Song of Sixpence.” Each rhyme ends with four questions. After “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” the teacher asks the children, “Window? Star? Wish?” and the children say, “Yes,” because these words are featured in the rhyme and digital illustrations. The last question is meant to be humorous. “Space aliens?” The children scream out, “Nooooo!” but when the page is turned, they see the possibility of aliens interacting with nursery rhyme characters. Notable spreads show 16 nursery rhyme characters dressed in formal wear. The maids in “Mary Mary Quite Contrary” look like flowers, and while the children play “Ring Around the Rosie,” Bo Peep and Boy Blue get married under a trellis of Mary’s flowers. VERDICT A wonderful follow-up to Fairly Fairy Tales.–Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, AB, Canada

Dempsey, Kristy. Superhero Instruction Manual. illus. by Mark Fearing. 40p. Knopf. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385755344.

PreS-Gr 2 –Not everyone is lucky enough to be born with superpowers or get bitten by a radioactive spider and develop abilities overnight. Fear not! Just use the Superhero Instruction Manual and you can be a superhero in seven easy steps. While the first six steps (pick a name, pick a sidekick, craft a super disguise, secure a secret hideout, choose a superpower, and store up super energy) might be really easy, step number seven (save the world) isn’t as doable as the manual says. It turns out that sometimes even superheroes need help. Colorful illustrations and a playful layout make this book a fun experience. The illustrations are a good mix of cartoonish styles typically found in picture books. There’s also a homage to actual comic books. Where it falls flat is the text. While the idea is appealing to children who love superheroes, the tips are a little bland and lack the necessary oomph to make them really super. The ending, too, is a little uninspired. After the main character ignores his little sister in favor of his dog and messes up his attempt at saving the world, she proves that she is super by setting everything right. VERDICT While this message is lovely, the theme of sibling relationships has been done better in other picture books. A supplemental purchase.–Paige Garrison, Augusta Richmond County Library System, GA

Diller, Kevin. Hello, My Name Is Octicorn. illus. by Binny Talib. 48p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062387936.

PreS-Gr 2 –You’ve never heard of an octicorn? He’s the offspring of an octopus and a unicorn, of course! Octi describes his life to readers in a matter-of-fact voice that belies the comic illustrations in this title. Octi believes his parents may have met at a costume party (where they each dressed as the other animal). But while his parents found each other and are happy, Octi feels very left out. He doesn’t feel like he fits in on land or at sea. Octi is lonely, but he is also able to list all the things that make him unique and someone to be appreciated. The title character could be fun at parties, if he were ever invited—his tentacles make him a great juggler, his horn is perfect for ring toss. This story about how even the most unusual individuals long for friends will appeal to children. The text is fairly short and easy to read. The line drawings, in black and white with the occasional pop of color, are charming and amusing. Diller and Lowe use color to emphasize Octi’s personality—the warmth Octi would show to a friend, if only someone would try. VERDICT Children may start the book laughing at Octi’s appearance, but they will be won over by his personality and will find him endearing in the end. A fun choice for storytime.–Susan E. Murray, formerly at Glendale Public Library, AZ

DiPucchio, Kelly. One Little Two Little Three Little Children. illus. by Mary Lundquist. 32p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062348661.

PreS-K –Using the same cadence as the familiar nursery rhyme “One Little, Two Little,” this text follows children, their parents, and their homes as they build a sense of community. “One little, two little, three little children./Loved little, hugged little, snugged little children./Cry little, shy little, my little children./All children ’round the world.” While the families represented vary in racial makeup and structure (for instance, same-sex couples, single-parent households), the emphasis is on the similarities. While this rhyme’s racist history is not overtly addressed in the narrative, the visual inclusion of a teepee occurs twice without a defined context. Both mothers and fathers receive positive recognition in this well-paced, repetitive read-aloud. “One loving, two loving, three loving daddies./Smart loving, art-loving, heart-loving daddies./Peace-loving, strong-loving, long-loving daddies./All daddies ’round the world.” Cool, soft colors emphasize a tranquil environment in the pencil and watercolor artwork displayed on watercolor paper against clean white backgrounds. The final spread depicts the group’s participation in an outdoor picnic as “one BIG family ’round the world.” VERDICT A rhyme with a disturbing history receives a modern makeover and focuses on the universal language of love. It makes a solid addition for schools and camps working to convey a sense of inclusion and community.–Meg Smith, Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville, NC

Goldman, Judy. Kopecks for Blintzes. illus. by Susan Batori. 32p. ebook available. Kar-Ben. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781467779852; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781467779876.

PreS-Gr 2 –This story is based on a Jewish folktale of Chelm, the town of wise fools. Poor Yankl and Gitele can’t afford to make blintzes, a traditional treat for the holiday of Shavuot. They agree to put aside a kopeck (Polish coin) each day until they have enough, but each spouse assumes that the other is doing so and holds back his or her own cash. A slapstick ending ensues, with an argument, a wild ride down the hill in a wheeled trunk, and the rabbi’s wisely foolish new commandments against living on hills, making blintzes, or owning wheeled trunks. This story must have seemed hilarious back in the shtetl, but the new version falls somewhat flat. Contrary to today’s storytelling tastes, Yankl and Gitele are not very sympathetic characters and they gain nothing from their experience. The foolishness of the Chelmites includes superstition about dybuks, a foreign concept for the modern era. Readers learn little about blintzes and less about Shavuot. And the family never does make blintzes, having to eat them at the rabbi’s house instead. The illustrations are cartoony and comical, befitting the mood of the story, but there is one problematic element. The rabbi is frequently portrayed wearing not only a kippah (Jewish skullcap) but also a flowing headdress that appears to be a prayer shawl worn keffiyeh-style. Jews in Eastern Europe did not wear such headgear, especially outside the synagogue. The author’s note misses the opportunity to talk about blintzes or Shavuot, focusing only on the folklore of Chelm. In addition, the source of the folktale is never credited. VERDICT Barbara Diamond Goldin’s A Mountain of Blintzes is a more positive Shavuot story based on the same folktale.–Heidi Estrin, Congregation B’nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

Goodman, Andy. It Was So Quiet I Could Hear a Pin Drop. illus. by Andy Goodman. 36p. Princeton Architectural. May 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781616894801.

PreS-Gr 2 –Goodman is a graphic designer, and this title is a mostly visual experience that ties images to sounds. It is so quiet that the narrator can hear all the things that are pictured: a fluttering kite, a buzzing bee, and a ticking wristwatch. But soon the sounds become louder…a baby cries and someone sings in the bath. Sounds appear that are louder still…stampeding elephants and the roar of a locomotive give the narrator pause. Could it all have been a dream? Goodman uses various styles for his prints, from nostalgic to geometric, all on white background. This book can be used for writing and art prompts in classrooms and explorations of visual literacy. Readers can re-create the sounds of a volcano erupting and a cat on a keyboard. VERDICT The open-ended conclusion may elicit discussion, but overall, the title is a bit too flat to be of general interest.–Lisa Lehmuller, Paul Cuffee Maritime Charter School, Providence, RI

Hartt-Sussman, Heather. Noni Speaks Up. illus. by Geneviève Côté. 24p. Tundra. Feb. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781770498396.

K-Gr 2 –Noni tries to display proper manners at all times; she gives up her seat to the elderly, holds open the door for an expecting mother, and assists a gentleman when his loose change hits the floor. Her well-intentioned actions stop short, however, when she struggles to defend a bullied child at school. Noni reflects on how growing up has caused her to lose her way, as she now values others’ opinions more than her own. The narrative sways slightly off track in its earnest message when the girl finally addresses the bullying directly: “Finito! Kaput! She is done with standing by and doing nothing. D-O-N-E. DONE!” The child-centric story line displays Noni’s feelings with realism: “But Noni is so afraid of making enemies that she just stands there. Speechless.” Digital illustrations depict the protagonist growing in confidence, with bright red circles on her rosy cheeks against her otherwise pale complexion. Shifting perspective conveys the bully’s diminishing power; the taunting child’s jeering mouth initially expresses defiance but is starkly contrasted when the bully shrinks in size after Noni asserts herself. This title effectively captures a child’s internal struggle as she takes responsibility for her actions, making this one of the stronger selections available to tackle bullying behavior for a young audience. VERDICT A strong selection for one-on-one reading or for starting a classroom discussion.–Meg Smith, Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville, NC

Hunter, Robert Frank. The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story…. illus. by Robert Frank Hunter. 40p. (Classics Here and Now). Frances Lincoln. Mar. 2016. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781847807977.

PreS-Gr 2 –This “reimagined classic” has vibrant, full-bleed, and spot illustrations throughout that use a palette of oranges, purples, blues, and greens. Just familiar enough and yet innovative, the cartoon artwork sets this edition apart from those previously published. Tiger Shere Khan steals the human “man cub,” Mowgli, and returns with him to the jungle. This forbidden act rallies the other animals against him and results in the tiger’s banishment. Bagheera, the panther, returns the child to the city but not knowing which family is his, he entrusts the baby’s care to a pack of street dogs, who teach Mowgli survival skills. Hearing that Shere Khan is in the city seeking revenge, Bagheera spirits Mowgli, now 10, back to the jungle for safety. There he and Baloo try to instruct the boy in the ways of the jungle, but Mowgli is disinterested, preferring play time to learning. They do manage to teach him the jungle call, a surefire SOS cry, and make him practice it till he is hoarse. “AaHaoOO!” Convinced that he can take care of himself, Mowgli leaves Bagheera’s protection and sets off alone. Returning to the city, he discovers that Shere Khan has taken out his anger on the dogs who raised him. Upset that the pack have suffered because of him, Mowgli recalls his jungle training and plans to trap the tiger. Outsmarted and in danger, Mowgli instinctively yells the jungle call. Bagheera and Baloo rush to help. With Mowgli’s assistance, they permanently get rid of the tiger. VERDICT A straightforward retelling with arresting illustrations; recommended for collections needing an update, especially with the new feature-length Disney film hitting theaters.–Sara-Jo Lupo Sites, George F. Johnson Memorial Library, Endicott, NY

redstarJaramillo, Susie. Los Pollitos/Little Chickies. illus. by Susie Jaramillo. 11p. (Canticos). Encante Pr. Apr. 2016. Board $14.99. ISBN 9780996995900. BL

Toddler-PreS –An accordion-style board book featuring one of the most well-known Spanish songs for children. In this classic nursery song of the Spanish-speaking world, little chicks go, “!Pio! !pio! !pio!” when they are hungry and when they are cold; mother hen finds food for them and keeps them warm. Snuggled up under her wings, they sleep until the next day. In a clever use of the format—one side is the Spanish version, the other the English adaptation—neither language takes precedence over the other. In a nod to its origin, the English adaptation still has the chicks squealing in Spanish. The simple, brightly colored cartoon-style illustrations, boldly outlined in black, stand out against a white background. With every page turn, there are flaps to open and even a wheel that will send mother hen’s legs spinning off to find food, making it a fully immersive and interactive reading experience. This sturdy volume comes in a case, all the better to hold those accordion pages with. With so many books translating English songs into Spanish, it is a rare treat to have one with an original Spanish song, especially when it is so engagingly done. VERDICT Little ones and their grown-ups will love singing and reading this book together. A perfect choice for bilingual storytimes.–Lucia Acosta, Children’s Literature Specialist, NJ

Jules, Jacqueline & Kim Smith. The Secret Recipe. ISBN 9781479587179; ISBN 9781479587230.

––––. Singing Superstar. ISBN 9781479587162; ISBN 9781479587223.

ea vol: 32p. (Sofia Martinez). Capstone. Jan. 2016. lib. ed. $20.50. pap. $5.95.

Gr 1-2 –Sofia Martinez is at it again with more zany adventures. In Singing Superstar, she receives a special gift that allows for constant creative expression through song, but it takes her some time to find the perfect audience. In The Secret Recipe, Sofia struggles with paying attention while cooking with her abuela and the finished product doesn’t taste quite right. Through every up and down, Sofia’s family remains a source of unwavering love and support. The illustrations are bright and cheerful and complement the story lines. Mostly in English, with a sprinkling of Spanish words throughout, the works are well written and provide adequate context clues to assist children in decoding the meaning of unknown words. A glossary of Spanish vocabulary and thought-provoking questions are appended and allow for an extension of the story. VERDICT With broad appeal to beginning readers, these easy to read titles are strong additions to most collections.–Kristen Todd-Wurm, Middle Country Public Library, NY

Lam, Thao. Skunk on a String. illus. by Thao Lam. 40p. Owlkids. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781771471312.

PreS-Gr 2 –Skunk finds himself in an airborne adventure in this wordless picture book. The opening scenes, done in cut-paper collage, introduce viewers to about a dozen children marching in a large balloon parade. Somehow, Skunk has gotten entangled in a smaller red balloon, and up, up, up he floats. He floats past an apartment building where a nice lady hanging her laundry throws him a pair of boxer shorts to hang onto. Alas, he cannot reach them, and he floats even higher and away to a construction site where a man on a beam offers up his sandwich to grab and hold. That doesn’t work, either, and soon Skunk is floating past the zoo and all the animals inside. He tries to grab Elephant’s trunk, but one sneeze blows Skunk into the bed of a garbage truck. He has an unsuccessful landing there as well and ends up in the river. Skunk splashes underwater for a moment, then up again he floats over the desert and back to the city, where he falls into one of the seats on a Ferris wheel. Balloonless at last, and safe on the ground, he spies a balloon vendor. The adventure was just too much fun, apparently, for Skunk chases away all the customers, grabs the balloons, and floats off for some more fun. The illustrations are colorful and humorous and enhanced with ink. VERDICT Children will enjoy following Skunk as he travels far and wide in this creative and silly story. Perfect for small groups or individual sharing.–Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA

Levin, Jack E. & Norma R. Levin. My Dog Spot. illus. by Jack E. Levin & Norma R. Levin. 40p. S. & S./Aladdin. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481469074.

PreS-Gr 1 –Best-selling historian and artist Jack E. Levin takes a break from the adventures of American presidents to focus on a topic much closer to home, the family dog. Spot is based on his real dog, Sporty. The Levins have a deft talent for creating simple yet lively drawings with whimsical expressions. Spot is carefully crafted, and the pastel illustrations match the text well, making it easy for children to decode the actions and objects throughout the narrative. While Spot’s real origins contribute depth to the creation of the book, a preface and introduction feel out of place at the beginning of this picture book. VERDICT This simple story will engage beginning readers and dog lovers alike. A fun and pleasing addition, but not a necessary purchase.–Maria Alegre, The Dalton School, New York City

Lipan, Sabine. Mom, There’s a Bear at the Door. tr. from German by Tulipan Verlag. illus. by Manuela Olten. 34p. Eerdmans. Feb. 2016. Tr $16. ISBN 9780802854605.

K-Gr 2 –A most surprising guest brings joy when he arrives at a boy’s apartment. The child attempts to explain to his mother just how his animal visitor happened to get there and why he came to the 11th floor of the building. Receptive to the conversation, the mom asks questions, which result in her son’s direct answers. Variation between black and red text indicates the change in speakers from son to mother; repeated phrases accelerate the story line’s gentle pace as the boy answers his mother’s questions. “And how did the bear get to the city?/He took the bus. How else?/He took the bus?/He took the bus./The bear had a ticket?/He probably bought one./The bear bought a ticket?/He’s not allowed to get on the bus without a ticket! So he must have bought one.” Acrylic paint and colored-pencil illustrations capture the bear’s impressive stature in a palette rich with rosy hues. The bear appears as a gentle giant; he takes the boy by the hand, and they travel together and also enjoy a quiet picnic in a wordless, vast rooftop spread. The sweetly realized conclusion displays a stuffed teddy bear on the corner of the blanket while the large bear snuggles the boy as they sleep. VERDICT The interplay between text and art enhances this engaging tale of a mother, her son, and his bear. This is a sweet additional purchase for imaginative children, especially those who have an answer for everything.–Meg Smith, Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville, NC

Lloyd-Jones, Sally. Baby Wren and the Great Gift. illus. by Jen Corace. 32p. HarperCollins/Zonderkidz. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780310733898.

PreS-Gr 1 –This gentle read-aloud proves that everyone has a special gift to share as a baby wren leaves her nest to explore the world. Venturing out into the beautiful canyon, a kingfisher invites the wren to go fishing, ring-tailed cats ask her to join them in cartwheels, sunfish call to splash in the river, and eagles ask her to soar high above the storm clouds. But the baby wren cannot dive, do cartwheels, swim, or soar, compelling her to predictably ask why she cannot do these things. Lloyd-Jones’s lyrical text follows a comfortable pattern of wren’s unanswered question to each of her new friends (“Why aren’t I a sunfish…so I could swim and splash, too?) always followed by the refrain “But no one answered./Monarchs played in the milkweed./A breeze rustled in the switch grass./And the glittering river ran on.” Corace’s fine-lined and brightly colored drawings show the scenic details of the wren’s surroundings and the spectacular sunset as she discovers the magnificent call deep in her chest. Finding her special gift, the wren fills the canyon with a birdsong of thanks for all to hear. VERDICT Lovely and lyrical, this is a comforting story to be shared at storytime, bedtime, or anytime children are looking for reassurance of their special gifts.–Kristine M. Casper, Huntington Public Library, NY

Miles, Brenda S. & Colleen A. Patterson. Move Your Mood! illus. by Holly Clifton-Brown. 32p. Magination. Apr. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781433821127.

PreS –Some emotions can be difficult to express and explain to young children. In Move Your Mood!, the authors and illustrator attempt to explain emotions through movement. Each page depicts an animal using movement to express a feeling. Wording is limited on each page, and the illustrations take center stage. Though not all the combinations fit quite perfectly (for example, an octopus shakes stubborn away), the book does make a good effort to show how moving can help improve one’s mood. The book emits positive energy and is simple and to the point. A note about how to use the work is appended. VERDICT A solid option for those looking for materials on emotions.–Vivian Ho, Port Washington Public Library, NY

Ohi, Ruth. Shh! Mi hermano esta durmiendo. illus. by Ruth Ohi. 36p. Obelisco. Mar. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9788416117697.

PreS –This Spanish translation of author/illustrator Ohi’s Shh! My Brother Is Napping offers a story of sibling relations told with warmth and humor. After a trying shopping outing, with Mama Mouse juggling shopping bags, umbrella, stroller, and squealing baby brother, the family is now home and baby brother is thankfully asleep. But for how long? Big brother is trying very hard to keep his activities quiet, though he does need to be gently reminded throughout the story that his brother is slumbering. Simple text allows funny details in the cheery line and watercolor illustrations to extend the story. Children and their adult readers will laugh at the precariousness of the “quiet” situations portrayed. And yes, in the end it is too much, and baby brother is woken up with a big “¡Pataplaffff!” Not to worry, baby brother has worn off his crankiness, and the two enjoy playing until it is now big brother who drops off to sleep. Readers will recognize the familiar conflict of emotions typical of most sibling relations, and smile at the honest portrayal. VERDICT Recommended for the picture book sections of libraries with Spanish collections.–Lucia Acosta, Children’s Literature Specialist, NJ

Pigott, Louise. Squirrel Me Timbers! illus. by Louise Pigott. 24p. Capstone. Apr. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781623706524.

PreS-Gr 1 –Sammy the Squirrel is a pirate (at least that’s what he says) and finds a treasure map. He weathers marches, hungry crocks, and thistles in his fur before ending up in an oak grove, but where is the treasure? Sammy does discover it and is thrilled with his find. With wonderful, vivid illustrations and a fantastic bucktoothed squirrel, this story begs to be read aloud, but some forced rhymes can be distracting. Additionally, children will love referring to the map and following Sammy’s adventures. VERDICT A swashbuckling addition for libraries where pirate books are evergreen.–Melisa Bailey, Harford County Library System, MD

Pregl, Sanja. Hay amor para todos. illus. by Maja Lubi. 32p. Picarona. Jan. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9788416117468.

PreS-Gr 1 –A wise little girl named Zala takes children on a journey to meet her family, made up not only of mother and father, uncles and aunts, and grandparents but also of her parents’ new partners. She explains that just because a family grows does not mean there is less love to go around. Not everyone understands how she can love all her new extended family, something that little ones whose parents have found new partners will be familiar with. Using stuffed dog toys as examples, she admits that she feels guilty for playing with a new toy and forgetting all about her old one. That doesn’t mean, however, that she loves her old one any less. Similarly, being with one part of her family does not mean she forgets about the other part. This will help young ones who struggle with guilt at spending time with one side of the family. The largely red-tinted illustrations show a smiling Zala and her family, stuffed dogs, and family tree. VERDICT A good choice for children whose families are going through separation or who struggle with mixed feelings about separated or blended families.–Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, League City, TX

Rodari, Gianni. Alicia Caediza. tr. from Italian by Lorenzo Fasanini. illus. by Elena Temporin. 32p. Picarona. Jan. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9788416117550.

PreS-Gr 2 –When we first meet Alicia Caediza we learn that as her name implies (“caer” means “to fall” in Spanish), she has a tendency to fall. This inclination propels the rest of the narrative as Alicia falls into household objects (the gears of a clock, a water bottle, a drawer full of napkins) and her family searches for her. This repetition will please young listeners and encourage interactivity in a read-aloud context. The refrains are printed in a distinct font, as are the sound effects, promoting print awareness. The illustrations are bold and clear but with fun details, which lend themselves to rereading. This sweet tale was originally written in Italian and has been translated into European Spanish, which may require a little explanation for some young readers. VERDICT This is a great pick for storytime or one-on-one reading and will appeal to the sense of humor of older preschoolers and early–elementary school students.–Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Rodari, Gianni. El cielo es de todos. tr. from Italian by Lorenzo Fasanini. illus. by Nicoletta Costa. 32p. Picarona. Jan. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9788416117567.

PreS-Gr 2 –This book begins with a philosophical question: How is it that the whole sky belongs to everyone? Readers encounter scenes with a wide range of characters—from kings to farmers, poets to street cleaners, scared rabbits to lions—who all can enjoy the sky. Rodari shares that each of us has the whole sky and even if you are the last person to look at it, you won’t find it any less beautiful. After establishing that the sky does belong to all, the last page asks why then we have the earth divided into little pieces, with an image of the planet with many flags across it. Although many of the flags represent real nations, some of them are imagined. The brevity of the text and the musicality of the translation lend themselves to a read-aloud context. The cartoon-style illustrations are vibrant and interpret the text well enough to support beginning readers in tackling the text on their own. The somewhat abrupt jump from the abstract poetry of the beginning to a consideration of geopolitics may be a bit of a leap but in the right hands could help foster an age-appropriate conversation about cross-cultural similarities and national boundaries. VERDICT An additional purchase for Spanish-language collections and a useful pick for classroom discussions.–Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Sayres, Brianna Caplan. Where Do Steam Trains Sleep at Night? illus. by Christian Slade. 32p. ebook available. Random. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553520989; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375974717.

PreS-K –The team who created Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night? now turn their attention to railroad bedtime rituals. This offering very closely mirrors its predecessor. Monorails, subway cars, fire trains, and even toys are imagined in various nighttime scenarios. Matched with rhyming text, small trains shown with their larger version mimic parents and children. In one scene a miniature steam train sips cocoa on the tracks next to its mother, while in another a diminutive freight train sleeps on its daddy’s flatbed as they head back toward the station. As an added bonus, a mouse dressed as an engineer makes an appearance in every spread. The cute cartoon trains are given realistic details and cherubic smiling faces. VERDICT Train lovers will be sure to take this bedtime read for a ride. A sound selection for one-on-one and small group sharing, perfect for bedtime story hours.–Laura Hunter, Mount Laurel Library, NJ

Slegers, Liesbet. Vroom!: Kevin’s Big Book of Vehicles. illus. by Liesbet Slegers. 56p. Clavis. Mar. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781605372570.

Toddler-PreS –Slegers returns with Kevin, and this time the preschooler talks all about his love for various types of transportation. Some of Kevin’s favorite vehicles include helper trucks (such as ambulances, police cars, and fire trucks) and working vehicles (such as garbage trucks and grapple trucks). Each page engages listeners, asking them questions. For example, one page asks readers, “Can you name all the vehicles?” Another asks if they can find the objects within the fire truck. The book explains who uses the specialized vehicles and what they do while operating them. The kid-friendly illustrations are bold, bright, and cheerful and are outlined in black. VERDICT Slegers provides a great interactive experience for parents and children, perfectly suited to one-on-one and small group dialogic reading. Fans of her previous work will love this title.–Megan McGinnis, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

Vande Griek, Susan. Go Home Bay. illus. by Pascal Milelli. 32p. Groundwood. Apr. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554987016.

Gr 2-4 –Canadian painter Tom Thomson spent the summer of 1914 painting landscapes on Georgian Bay, Ontario, while visiting the MacCallum family. He left 10-year-old Helen with a painting on which she noted, “Given to me by Tom Thomson the summer he taught me to paint.” From this brief note, Vande Griek imagines the events of that summer through Helen’s point of view, using spare, free verse poetry: “I look out from the dock/at the sun-end of day,/as Tom the canoeist paddles out and about, dip, dribble, glide,/on a now so-calm bay.” The process of painting and the passion Thomson felt for his work are introduced to readers through Helen as she observes and learns from the artist. The northern wilds of Ontario, which inspired Thomson’s work, are brought to life through Vande Griek’s carefully constructed poems, as well as through Milelli’s expressive artwork. The heavily saturated oil paintings convey the sense of immediacy present in Thomson’s work, while re-creating a sense of the wild scenery that so inspired him. With a strong sense of place, this moody, contemplative title coalesces into a story that will resonate with nature lovers and artists alike. VERDICT While it is smart to be wary of fictionalized history, there’s no harm here; this beautiful and evocative introduction to Thomson’s work is recommended for general purchase.–Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, MN

Beginning Readers

redstarWillems, Mo. The Thank You Book. illus. by Mo Willems. 64p. (An Elephant & Piggie Book). Disney-Hyperion. May 2016. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9781423178286.

PreS-Gr 2 –A sweet and pitch-perfect swan song to a wildly popular series. Reflecting on her good fortune and many blessings, Piggie decides to thank everyone who is important to her. Gerald thinks this is a bad idea, in that she runs the very big risk of forgetting someone. Piggie will not be dissuaded and embarks on her “Thank-o-rama!” She gives a shout-out to the Squirrels, Snake, the Pigeon, and other characters from the series, including Mouse, Birdies, Rhino, Hippo, Hippo’s Big Sister, Barky Dog, Pelican, Bears, and Worms. Piggie turns into a thanking machine. Whale, Ice Cream Penguin, Doctor Cat, and Brian Rat all make appearances. Last, but hardly least, she remembers to acknowledge her partner in crime, Gerald, but there’s still one important group that the effusive Piggie neglects to mention—their readers! Willems’s brilliant, minimalist cartoon illustrations are as expressive and charming as ever. VERDICT The 25th installment in the winning series is a must-have for every collection and will lead kids to go back and revisit the earlier titles again and again. Thanks, Mo Willems, you’ve helped a whole generation learn to be proficient readers with Gerald and Piggie. Hugs all around!–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

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