February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Picture Books Xpress Reviews | October 2016

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.


For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Akaltun, Eda. Marcel. illus. by Eda Akaltun. 40p. Flying Eye. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781909263758.

PreS-Gr 2 –Marcel, a French bulldog in a snazzy sailor sweater, is a consummate New Yorker. A decidedly downtown dog with sophisticated tastes, he dines on bagels at Ruff and Sons, is pampered at Mani’s Doggy Day Spa, and listens to his favorite jazz band, The Bone Daddies, in the park. Much to Marcel’s chagrin, he notices his human has been spending a lot of time with a new man. The breezy, conversational narration states, “Whenever he’s around we seem to spend all of our time UPTOWN. OH, IT’S DREADFUL!” The pooch puts aside his jealousy and distaste when he is smuggled inside the Museum of Natural History and gets to cavort with dinosaur bones. The challenges of adjusting to a new family member are blithely recounted: “It’s different, but sometimes different…isn’t SO bad.” Akaltun’s collage artwork showcases New York landmarks and bustling streetscapes. Chic and urbane, the images incorporate photographs and tend to have an adult sensibility, with close-ups of a big diamond ring and selfies taken at a gourmet coffee shop. VERDICT This pup’s story has more style than substance. An additional purchase.–Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ont., Canada

Cali, Davide. Abigail the Whale. tr. from French by Karen Li. illus. by Sonja Bougaeva. 32p. Owlkids. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781771471985.

PreS-Gr 2 –Abigail hates Wednesday—swimming day. She hates the cold shower. She detests all the swimming strokes. She doesn’t like feeling too big and heavy to be a good swimmer. She especially hates how when she dives in the water and makes a big splash, all the kids yell, “Abigail is a whale!” After class her coach gives her some advice—“We are what we think.” All week long Abigail takes his advice to heart. She thinks giant to feel brave, kangaroo to jump high, statue to ignore a shot’s sting, and rabbit to eat all her carrots, and to her amazement it works every time. On swimming day she’s ready. She thinks stone not to feel the icy shower, rocket to dive without a splash, and then kayak, surfboard, submarine, and speedboat to master all the swim strokes. The other kids don’t yell anything at all this time, but Betty says, “You’re such a good swimmer now, you should jump from the high diving board!” Abigail takes the challenge, and from the top she thinks super whale and joyously cannonballs into the water below. Coincidentally (or not) the illustration shows the resulting wave splashing only Betty. Bougaeva’s realistic illustrations perfectly complement the text, giving life to Abigail’s thoughts and her reality, often in the same spread. Use of multiple fonts and text placement makes for fun reading and enlivens the story. VERDICT This tale of positive thinking is a great jumping-off point for a discussion about teasing, self-esteem, empathy, and perspective.–Catherine Callegari, formerly at Gay-Kimball Library, Troy, NH

Chabot, Françoise. Cosquillas. illus. by Françoise Chabot. 32p. ebook available. Obelisco. Aug. 2016. Tr $15.50. ISBN 9788416117994.

PreS-Gr 1 –This Spanish-language work (Tickles) starts off as a look at the many delights of a wintry day. Several bundled-up figures somersault through the snow and tickle the clouds with their brooms. When an angry cloud appears and blows a harsh wind, everyone assumes it is mean, but they soon realize it just wants to be tickled, too! The bold, collage-style illustrations clearly depict the action, and with only a few sentences per page, this title would work well as a read-aloud for preschool groups. It could be coupled with a unit on weather, winter, or including everyone in play. A sense of magic pervades this charming tale. VERDICT A lovely addition to Spanish-language collections and storytimes.–Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Czekaj, Jef. Dog Rules. illus. by Jef Czekaj. 32p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062280183.

PreS-Gr 1 –In this silly tale, two dogs are tricked into raising a baby bird as if it were a puppy. Their attempts to “show Junior” how to growl, roll over, and bark will have kids giggling in fits when the bird can’t mimic the canines. As one might expect, this bird acts like a bird. However, in the finale, the author defies expectations when the bird scares the naughty cat responsible for fooling the dogs, with one mighty “WOOF!” Czekaj’s straightforward text and humor are perfect for storytime. The same is true of the visual style. Characters have large features, colors are solid shades, and there are plenty of opportunities for dialogic reading (especially when the cat pops up). Pauses are incorporated right into the illustrations, so even with a question-and-answer component, the flow is barely interrupted. This work also has a positive underlying message about adoption. VERDICT A great read-aloud for engaging and amusing those “ants-in-their-pants” preschoolers with short attention spans. Especially recommended for fans of James Proimos.–Rachel Forbes, formerly at Oakville Public Library, Ont., Canada

Dahl, Michael. Bedtime for Batman. illus. by Ethen Beavers. 32p. (DC Super Heroes). Capstone. Aug. 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781623707323.

PreS-K –In this Dark Knight tale for the youngest fans, a plucky boy prepares for bed by fantasizing about bounding in the footsteps of his hero. Donning Batman pajamas, he imagines each of his nightly rituals paralleling the adventures of the Caped Crusader. First he has to clean things up (in the bathroom) just as Batman does (in a dark sewer). He must lock things away (his toys) just as Batman does (the villains). There are those who depend on him (a hungry goldfish) just as there are those who depend on Batman (the citizens of Gotham). The dramatic, brightly saturated illustrations are satisfyingly reminiscent in style of the graphic novels for older Batman devotees. There’s plenty of gentle humor, such as a scene of the boy wearing only a black cape and white underpants and facing the toilet with hands on hips and “business to take care of.” While children may not buy bedtime as a “great adventure,” they are likely to settle down to absorb this fun tale featuring their favorite character. Meanwhile, parents will appreciate the good-humored brevity that leads efficiently to lights out. VERDICT The youngest Batman lovers and their parents will snap this title off library shelves faster than you can say “dynamic duo.”–Suzanne LaPierre, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Docherty, Helen. The Storybook Knight. illus. by Thomas Docherty. 32p. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492638148.

PreS-Gr 2 –A small knight learns to fight his foes with a good story rather than a sword. Leo is a small knight who is fond of adventures—at least the ones found in books. His parents hope that the challenge of fighting a dragon with his new shield and sword will turn him into a brave, dragon-fighting knight. Leo sets off on his quest with a supply of good books, but along the way, he meets foes looking for fights. Thankfully, Leo is quick with a story to calm the angry beasts—even a dangerous dragon likes a good tale. There are delightful spreads done in acrylic ink and watercolor that pair beautifully with the rhyming stanzas. The characters’ voices are distinct and beg to be read aloud. VERDICT A recommended purchase for all collections and perfect for storytime, bedtime, or anytime.–Karen Ginman, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library

Esbaum, Jill. If a T-Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party. illus. by Dasha Tolstikova. 40p. Sterling. Aug. 2016. Tr $14.45. ISBN 9781454915508.

PreS-Gr 2 –If a T. Rex crashes your birthday party, it might seem like fun for a while, but there are things you should be warned about. For one thing, he’s as big as a school bus, and he’s not shy about stomping on your piñata. Also, he’s not that great at hide-and-seek. He’ll scarf down cupcakes and flatten bouncy castles. If his party hat breaks, brace yourself for the loudest roar you’ve ever heard. He’ll want to play with your toys, and when you ask him to help clean up, he’ll stomp and pout and sulk. And when you’ve finally had enough and ask him to leave, he might give you a funny look. And suddenly, you’ll realize that behind that toothy smile and a furrowed, fierce brow, there’s a dinosaur who is simply being himself. Playful, doodlelike illustrations capture the curiosity of a silly scenario that turns out to be equal parts poignant and giggle-worthy. Evenly dispersed pictures and text punctuate the antics of the dinosaur and his human partygoer buddies, creating a hullabaloo that ends with a sweet, surprising twist. VERDICT Reading this crowd-pleaser aloud may cause clamorous laughter in even the most serious of storytime attendees. Readers may also enjoy the “How Do Dinosaurs…?” series by Jane Yolen and the “Dinosaur Vs.” books by Bob Shea.–Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library

Geist, Christina. Buddy’s Bedtime Battery. illus. by Tim Bowers. 40p. Random. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553513394.

PreS –Buddy puts on his new robot pajamas, calls himself “Ro-Buddy,” and pretends to turn on his battery with a BEEP! He then jumps on his trampoline until it’s time for a familiar bedtime routine of using the potty and brushing his teeth (with help from his human sister, Lady) before hearing a bedtime story and being tucked into his cuddle pod by Robo-Mom and Robo-Dad. This robot-loving toddler is then asked to power down his various body parts. The images are satisfactory, but simple pictures of a happy boy in robot pajamas are ill matched to wording such as, “Ro-Buddy makes a laser-beam pee-pee. He cleans his metallic hands with super-sensitive germ-blaster wipes.” This book also disappoints with its mundane text. Parents seeking options to guide children in powering down will do better choosing Andrew Daddo’s Goodnight, Me or Barbara Bottner’s Feet, Go to Sleep. Robot fans are more likely to enjoy Anna Staniszewski’s Power Down, Little Robot or Todd Tarpley’s Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep! VERDICT Not recommended, even though the subject matter is appealing.–Gaye Hinchliff, King County Library System, WA

Harnett, Katie. Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat. illus. by Katie Harnett. 32p. Flying Eye. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781909263376.

PreS-Gr 1 –A neighborhood’s orange and white cat with mismatched eyebrows has many names because he claims one at each house he visits on Blossom Street. From a young ballerina to bird-watchers to gardeners, the feline’s multicultural family members seem unaware of one another’s existence until he goes missing. He’s discovered at the home of an ignored woman, where he has decided to take up permanent residence. Luckily for all, the entire clan is eager to visit him, bringing collaboration to the community and providing the former recluse with company. Warm colors and busy vignettes keep the pages engaging. VERDICT This variation on the favorite Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore is a fun read-aloud that shows how cultural diversity coexists with emotional commonality.–Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

Heras, Theo. Hat on, Hat Off. illus. by Renné Benoit. 24p. Pajama. Jul. 2016. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9781927485347.

Toddler-PreS –A true-to-life tale of the struggles of getting a toddler ready to leave the house, this story stars a jovial tot who dons numerous hats and takes them off as he readies himself to go play. His pigtailed older sister attempts to help him put his coat, hat, and shoes on, but wait, he has to go to the bathroom, and the hat must come off. Once his sister dresses him again, “Where is bunny?” The current hat must come off as they search for the bunny. Finally dressed and in his stroller, he ends up wearing the same hat he started with, only to take it off as soon as he gets outside. Heras and Benoit tell a story that every parent will relate to, using toddler-friendly language and soft watercolor illustrations. The patterns of each hat are subtly woven into the narrative as a backdrop to many of the pages that contain text. VERDICT Recounting the delights and trials of toddlerhood, this charming offering makes for a fun read-aloud to share one-on-one or with a small group.–Kristen Todd-Wurm, Middle Country Public Library, NY

Hughes, Alison. What Matters. illus. by Holly Hatam. 32p. Orca. Sept. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781459809109.

PreS-Gr 1 –With childlike wonder, a boy discovers the benefits derived from recycling just one small, crumpled bright red aluminum soda can. Mixed-media illustrations depict parklike surroundings, a meandering pathway around grassy areas, trees, and flowers leading to the beach and vast seas. The child’s kind act has a positive impact on a snail, an ant, a spider, a worm, a dog, a mouse, a bird, a dandelion, and 73 blades of grass, but even more than all this, the point is made that it is possible for all of us to have a beneficial influence on the world. Does the child understand the full impact of recycling the aluminum can appropriately? Not completely. Nonetheless, Hughes and Hatam make the powerful point that all children can help change the world and make “the earth just a little more blue, a smidgen more green.” VERDICT A charming addition that teaches about the interrelationships in nature and the importance of recycling.–Nancy Call, Santa Cruz Public Libraries, Aptos, CA

Kimmel, Eric. Little Red Rosie. illus. by Mónica Gutierrez. 32p. Apple & Honey. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781681155180.

PreS-Gr 1 –A young girl sets out to bake a challah, a traditional braided bread, for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. “Who will help me measure the flour and make the dough?” Little Red Rosie asks her stuffed friends, Toucan, Parrot, and Hornbill. Unlike in the familiar tale, the birds respond enthusiastically. However, they have a hard time following Rosie’s instructions, and in their eagerness to assist, they make quite a mess. Rosie remains patient and encouraging but soon realizes that it’s better if she kneads and braids the dough, brushes it with egg, sprinkles the poppy seeds, and cleans up all by herself. The animals help Rosie say the blessing over the challah and help her eat it, too. The bright, cheerful cartoon illustrations complement the text but also create some confusion. While the bread traditionally eaten on the Sabbath is a braided loaf, on Rosh Hashanah a round challah is used. Both shapes are depicted and appear on the dinner table. No explanation or distinction is provided. The animals come to life to help Rosie in the kitchen, but when the guests arrive for the holiday dinner, the toys sit lifeless on the couch. They spring back to life to help Rosie with the blessings and to share a bite of challah but are again lifeless in the final illustration. In the author’s note, Kimmel explains that Rosie is practicing kindness, patience, and encouragement through role-playing; he also discusses the Jewish value of welcoming guests. These messages may not be so obvious to young children. VERDICT Leslie Kimmelman’s The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah is a more successful Jewish holiday adaptation of the well-loved folktale.–Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL

Kleven, Elisa. The Horribly Hungry Gingerbread Boy: A San Francisco Story. illus. by Elisa Kleven. 40p. Heyday. Aug. 2016. Tr $17. ISBN 9781597143523.

PreS-Gr 1 –In this book written in flowing rhyme, a young girl named Shirley bakes a gingerbread boy. At lunchtime, the gingerbread boy jumps out of her lunch box, having eaten all her food, and runs off, and Shirley gives chase. The wild cookie goes on a cultural journey within San Francisco, wreaking havoc in his path. The horribly hungry gingerbread boy, indeed ravenous, eats his way through places like Chinatown and grows larger with each bite. Now a human-size gingerbread man, he threatens to eat the world. Shirley tells him that he will pop if he doesn’t stop. The two become friends and make amends to the people of San Francisco with baked treats. The end pages include a gingerbread recipe and a guide of San Francisco landmarks that are illustrated or mentioned in the book, including a numbered map and a brief description. The images lend themselves to dreamy immersion into detail and a rainbow of colorful splendor. Children familiar with the original “Gingerbread Man” tale should enjoy the happy reenvisioned conclusion of friendship and baked treats. VERDICT While this picture book may seem to be just another addition to a San Francisco gift shop, the splendid illustrations, cultural diversity, and lyrical rhymes give it a wider audience.–Mindy Hiatt, Salt Lake County Library Services, UT

Krauss, Trisha. Charlotte’s Very Own Dress. illus. by Trisha Krauss. 40p. Random. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553520958.

K-Gr 2 –Charlotte is the youngest of six girls in the lavish Bartlett-Kruger household. While she enjoys playing with her sisters and welcomes their outgrown toys, Charlotte dislikes being stuck with their hand-me-down clothes. When their parents plan a fancy dress-up party, the girls anticipate wearing a stylish new outfit, all except Charlotte, who expects to be the wallflower of the group. Extending some kindhearted effort, the sisters embellish their old dresses with handy items around the house to create a dress “made not only of hand-me-down garments, but with sisterly love.” Krauss’s intricate, meticulous pastel illustrations are a feast for the eyes for fashion buffs, though the outfits (reminiscent of 1920s or 1930s splendor) may not resonate with 21st-century children. Fans of “Cinderella” should be satisfied when Charlotte emerges for her grand entrance wearing a ball gown fit for a princess. The dress is featured on the book’s front cover, which may be a bit of a spoiler, but those who savor a typical happy ending will not be disappointed. Children with older sisters may relish a story featuring the youngest shining as the center of attention, and it is somewhat satisfying being presented with a twist on the evil stepsisters of Cinderella. VERDICT A stylish picture book for young would-be fashionistas and those who love dressing up, but the narrative pales in comparison with the images.–Etta Anton, Yeshiva of Central Queens, NY

Lavoie, Mathieu. Toto’s Apple. tr. from French. illus. by Mathieu Lavoie. 64p. Phaidon. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780714872513.

PreS-Gr 2 –Toto is a worm with a dream. He wants an apple but can’t seem to reach it. After he makes several failed attempts requiring clever disguises, Didi, a young girl, gets the precious apple instead. Hope is not lost when the girl drops the fruit, and Toto makes his move. Whether the end result (Toto and his apple together, in Didi’s stomach) is good or bad could be open to interpretation. Toto certainly looks happy on the final page. The minimalist illustrations highlight the determined worm and clearly depict Toto’s elaborate plans. The text is similarly spare, in a large font that contrasts well with each background, making reading easy. The ingenious schemes are not explained but are obvious from the illustrations. While the final joke may turn some people off, most kids will probably find it amusing. VERDICT An acceptable addition to most collections, just right for an autumn- or apple-themed storytime.–Laura Stanfield, Campbell County Public Library, Fort Thomas, KY

MacLachlan, Patricia. The Moon’s Almost Here. illus. by Tomie dePaola. 32p. ebook available. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481420624.

Toddler-PreS –Using the familiar character of Pierrot the Mime, the acrylic illustrations pair beautifully with the author’s gentle farewell to the day and welcome of the full moon. The ode begins with Pierrot and a child waiting for the moon to come, watching as “Robin sings in her nest/Babies fly back to her/Ready to rest.” Fittingly, the expansive sky in the background is robin’s egg blue, the first in a spectrum of hues that gradually darken as twilight ascends and the two witness other animals with their offspring—sheep, ducks, calves—preparing for the night. The smallest creature, a butterfly, departs from the flower she has been sitting on to herald the next gorgeous spread of fireflies across a meadow and the first glimpse of moonlight. The text then turns to good nights until the full moon’s reveal. No need to ever fear the dark with this book handily available. VERDICT A magical, wondrous, and comforting selection, especially for bedtime.–Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library

Martins, Isabel Minhós. What’s That Noise? tr. from Portuguese by Isabel Alves & Bergen Peck. illus. by Madalena Matoso. 40p. Tate. Sept. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781849764292.

K-Gr 2 –A graphic design tour de force that coaxes young readers into a voyage of discovery. Basic shapes and colors turn magically into things—a traffic cone, a flashlight, an apple, a forest, a river, lightning—while a narrator encourages readers to listen, look closely, touch, smell, and travel through the shape-things. Something or someone is there; don’t we want to follow? The ending may be heartwarming, but the dramatic journey is its own reward—just the kind of message we’d like to reinforce in children everywhere. VERDICT While this book that engages all of the senses has universal appeal, it will be particularly helpful to those with short attention spans. Perfect for one-on-one sharing.–Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY

Monroe, Chris. Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Maniac Muffins. illus. by Chris Monroe. 32p. Carolrhoda. Sept. 2016. lib. ed. $17.99. ISBN 9781467721554.

PreS-Gr 2 –Chico Bon Bon is back in this fourth installment, trying to correct Clark the elephant’s kitchen disaster. He was preparing a breakfast to celebrate Uncle Bill’s graduation from hotel-motel management school and destroyed the kitchen in the process. Using his wits and 27 tools on his tool-belt apron, Chico Bon Bon unclogs, welds, cleans, and cooks. Unfortunately, the determined elephant’s egg surprise and overuse of baking powder lead to an explosion that shoots muffins all over the neighborhood. Chico’s master plan with giant pancakes is revealed in panels as he creates a barrier to capture the muffins before they careen into the shops. He then rolls the crumbled muffins into the pancakes, much to the culinary delight of all citizens. Monroe shares three recipes at the end as the party concludes with savored but weird food. There is at least a chuckle on every page, and the monkey’s engineering prowess is inspiring. VERDICT With a plethora of details and powerful humor, this title will be a popular segue into STEM sessions. Expect an explosive storytime.–Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

Negley, Keith. My Dad Used To Be So Cool. illus. by Keith Negley. 48p. Flying Eye. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781909263949.

PreS-Gr 1 –This is the story of a father and a son and the day they spend together. This simple premise mixes humor and the perfect amount of emotional heft for a story that resonates. Through spare text, the boy narrates that he knows his dad “used to be cool,” because he was in a band and rode a motorcycle. As he wonders why his dad gave it all up, readers infer that the father would rather spend time with his son than pursue his old interests. The illustrations use a primary color scheme that supports the poignant mood created by the text. In many of the illustrations, the focal point is a single object in the foreground that takes up most of the space on the page (the motorcycle in the yard, the father kneeling over to tie his son’s shoe). This makes the illustrations engaging, especially for young readers. The dad is drawn with prominent tattoos, which lends the father/son duo an inclusive feel and presents one representation of a modern family. The most appealing element of the book is that it works on two levels. Children will appreciate the humor and bold illustrations, while the greater message will be meaningful to parents and other adult readers. VERDICT This is a recommended purchase for any children’s collection and would be a great addition to storytime programming.–Celia Dillon, The Brearley School, New York City

Oxley, Jennifer & Billy Aronson. The Penguin Problem. illus. by Jennifer Oxley & Billy Aronson. 32p. (Peg + Cat). Candlewick. Sept. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780763690731.

PreS-Gr 2 –Peg and Cat are back for a new problem-solving adventure. The two friends journey to the South Pole for the Animal Winter Games. While making a snowman, Peg and Cat encounter skiing penguins practicing for the big race. The penguins can’t figure out how to maneuver around obstacles and keep crashing. Coach Peg and Assistant Coach Cat come to the rescue. The penguins just need a little help understanding directional words (and the coordinating directional arrows) such as over, under, and in between. Maybe now the penguins can beat their animal competitors in downhill skiing and become champions. Fans of the PBS animated television series will appreciate seeing another book featuring the pair. However, familiarity with the television program is not essential for enjoyment or understanding of this picture book. Graph-paper backgrounds as well as math formula page numbers (the third page is labeled “2+1=3”) cleverly reinforce the math themes. VERDICT Appropriate for young readers, delightful characters gently introduce important language arts (e.g., prepositions) and math problem-solving concepts.–Alyssa Annico, Youngstown State University, OH

Pardi, Francesca. Tengo una mamá y punto. tr. from Italian by Lorenzo Fassanini. illus. by Ursela Bucher. 32p. ebook available. Obelisco. Aug. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9788416648023.

K-Gr 3 –Camila and her mom are a perfect family. Or so it has always seemed to Camila—they enjoy each other’s company, cook dinner together, and go on trips in their bus. Sometimes other kids ask Camila about her father, but she just says, “Tengo una mamá y punto” (“I’ve got a mom and that’s it!”). Then one day, a substitute teacher gives the class a Father’s Day assignment to draw their dads. When Camila tries to explain, the substitute asks her to draw the father she would like to have. This baffles Camila, who has never especially wanted one. She attempts to draw several male relatives and friends, but none of them seem like a dad. Finally she draws a picture of her mom: “The dad that I would want to have is exactly like my mom in all ways.” The whimsical illustrations, the easy flow of the story, and the depiction of a happy single-parent family make this a great choice for most libraries looking to grow their Spanish picture book collections. Fassanini’s translation is smooth and readable. VERDICT Much more than an issue book, this title is a wonderful option for one-on-one reading or sharing with a young school-age group.–Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Parker, Jake. Little Bot and Sparrow. illus. by Jake Parker. 40p. Roaring Brook. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626723672.

PreS-Gr 2 –When a motherly Sparrow sees a discarded Robot, a friendship begins. In the spring, Sparrow teaches Robot how to have fun outside. In the summer, she shows him how to be curious (but safe). And before she has to fly south in the fall, she teaches him how to live without her. The warm illustrations capture the beauty of the changing seasons, during the day and the night, and the power of friendship. At the end of the tale, Robot is seen doing two things he thought impossible—dreaming and flying—all made possible because of Sparrow. The differences between a metallic robot and a feathery sparrow show friendships can happen between any two individuals. VERDICT A sweet additional purchase for friendship storytimes.–Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, Alta., Canada

Penfold, Alexandra. Eat, Sleep, Poop. illus. by Jane Massey. 40p. Knopf. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385755030.

Toddler-PreS –In this book, Penfold humorously presents the demanding schedule of an infant. As the title suggests, this mostly consists of eating, sleeping, and pooping, although sometimes sleep is “cut back,” leading to a few illustrations of a cranky baby. The book concludes by repeating the refrain, “Eat, Sleep, Poop,” but adds at the end “Love,” showcasing the baby’s family lovingly embracing their young child. Told from the first-person perspective of the baby, this sweet, simple, and droll story will be especially appreciated by young readers with newborn siblings. The baby’s gender is never explicitly identified, making it easier for readers to relate the tale to their own families. Massey’s illustrations, which were created using pencil and gouache, are soft and detailed, capturing the warm tone of the text and the book’s cute and cuddly narrator. Although “poop” is one of the main things baby does during the day, there isn’t any potty humor, nor are there any illustrated depictions, as Massey subtly implies the occurrence, most often by drawing family members’ reactions when they notice the smell of a stinky diaper; young readers, however, may still giggle at the word as it is repeated several times throughout. VERDICT While children with younger siblings and parents of newborns may get the most amusement from this book, other readers are still likely to enjoy this endearing offering and its gentle humor.–Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY

Perret, Delphine. Pablo & His Chair. tr. from French. illus. by Delphine Perret. 32p. Princeton Architectural. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781616894900.

K-Gr 2 –Young daredevil Pablo is proud of every scab earned while imagining himself an astronaut, cowboy, and soccer player. Therefore, he is devastated when his grandmother’s birthday gift to him is a chair “so you’ll sit still for once!” The boy’s anger quickly recedes as he discovers ways to perform acrobatics with the chair. His skills grow so that he leaves his countryside home with the chair to become a celebrated paid performer across the world. Despite the “glitz and glamour,” he returns home to enjoy dirt in his socks, dragonflies, and the wind in his hair. There, he finally sits down…to tell his family and friends about his adventures. Perret’s pen-and-ink cartoons in retro colors celebrate the mundane and sneak in wry humor. A bear lives with Pablo’s family and a robot attends one of his theater performances. VERDICT This unique tale may assist discussion of imaginative use of ordinary items or celebrating people who are atypical.–Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

Pinder, Eric. How To Build a Snow Bear. illus. by Stephanie Graegin. 40p. Farrar. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374300203.

PreS-Gr 2 –Thomas is anxious to build a snowman one wintry day after school. As he begins, he realizes he will need some help, so he rushes inside to wake “the bear.” But bears like to hibernate, so it will take some coaxing to get it out the door. First, Thomas lets in the sun, then he tries tickling the bear and offering him a toy. How about a delicious snack of milk and cookies? Yes, that gets the creature moving. Soon the snowman is done, and Thomas and the bear return inside to snuggle together on a comfy chair to read a favorite book by the fire. Patrons who are familiar with Pinder’s book, How To Share with a Bear will be delighted to see “the bear” in action again. New readers will giggle as they realize the bear is Thomas’s little brother in a bear outfit. Illustrations complement the text, and readers will be able to feel the wintry weather around them. VERDICT This is an enjoyable read-aloud any day of the year and will be a hit in a seasonal storytime.–Martha Rico, El Paso ISD, TX

Ross, Tony. I Want a Bedtime Story: A Little Princess Story. illus. by Tony Ross. 32p. ebook available. Andersen. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781512416299.

PreS-Gr 1 –The King is away and the Little Princess wants a bedtime story. The Queen, the Admiral, the General, the Cook, the Prime Minister, and the Gardener all tell the child stories, but none of them are as good as her father’s. It’s the Maid who figures out a solution by taking the Little Princess down to the library and explaining that books hold stories within them. The Princess reads and reads until she finds the book with Daddy’s story in it. Excited about her newfound ability to read, the Little Princess still doesn’t want to go to bed. This time it isn’t because she hasn’t heard the right story, but because she has so many new books to read. The scenario of a child not wanting to go to bed until every part of the bedtime routine is complete is a familiar plight for parents. While those hiccups in routines may not be as easy to solve as the Little Princess’s, this is still a fun read-aloud. The illustrations, quintessential Ross, are amusing and colorful and add to the work’s appeal. VERDICT A fine addition to most library collections.–Paige Garrison, Augusta Richmond County Library System, GA

Saltzberg, Barney. Would You Rather Be a Princess or a Dragon? illus. by Barney Saltzberg. 32p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626723580.

PreS-K –If readers are ever faced with the choice of being a princess or a dragon, Saltzberg’s succinct rhyming verse will help them decide the path to select. Princesses enjoy princess things, like the color pink and bubble baths. Dragons, on the other hand, enjoy green and being dirty. Princesses are polite and dragons misbehave. The stereotypes that are illustrated with simple line drawings are made interesting by textures. The green-scaled dragon and pink-swirled princess pop against the stark white background. Children are sure to be pleased with the twist at the end, when the princess needs a break and wants to be a bit wild, “because inside every princess is a little dragon child.” And inside every dragon is a little princess waiting to get out. Quite literally, a princess is trying to get out (of the dragon’s mouth). VERDICT With the bold illustrations, rhyming short text, and popular subject matter, this book is sure to delight a storytime crowd.–Mindy Hiatt, Salt Lake County Library Services

Slegers, Liesbet. Pilots and What They Do. tr. from Dutch. illus. by Liesbet Slegers. 32p. Clavis. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781605373003.

PreS-Gr 1 –Slegers asks readers to step into the cockpit of a passenger plane on its flight to a far-off country. The story examines various aspects of what a pilot does and how air travel works, including a look at the airport’s control tower and a simplified explanation of how planes are able to take flight. The rudimentary illustrations use bright colors, soft shapes, and defined lines to present a friendly and safe glimpse at the life of a pilot. One factor that libraries may want to take into consideration is that all of the characters depicted—pilot, passengers, and crew—are white. The layout is consistent. Each page contains several lines of text, and some illustrations are labeled, including a description of the pilot’s uniform. The level of the text and style of the illustrations make this one best suited to be read aloud to toddlers and preschoolers. While some early elementary students may enjoy exploring the text independently, there is sufficiently challenging vocabulary, such as altimeter and fuel indicator, that some guidance from an adult may be necessary. VERDICT A title best shared aloud with very young children. New readers will find the amount of text and new vocabulary challenging, while independent readers and older elementary students may not be as engaged with the simple illustrations.–Kelly Topita, Anne Arundel County Public Library, MD

Starin, Liz. Splashdance. illus. by Liz Starin. 32p. Farrar. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374300982.

PreS-Gr 2 –Ursula, a polar bear, and her human friend, Ricardo, are set to enter a water ballet contest until a new rule bans bears from the pool. When Ursula shows up next day disguised as a rabbit, she discovers Ricardo has deserted her for a new partner. Although immersed in sadness, Ursula begins to practice her ballet moves in the neighborhood pond, where she meets a group of performers, including a brown bear named Ralph, who are also barred from the contest. Together they perfect their routine and hatch a plan. After all the contestants perform on the big day, Ricardo and his giraffe partner are declared winners. But they are overlooked when a chorus of “Ready…Set…Goooooooooo!” announces the unauthorized entrance of Ursula and her water ballet companions, who dazzle the audience with their “complicated routine” and Ursula’s “triple banana flip” finale. Although they have not won this contest, Ralph assures Ursula they have indeed scored a victory, for a page turn reveals a new pool rule: “Everyone Welcome!” The watercolor and crayon illustrations greatly enrich the brief text and add many touches of humor, from the title page scene of bear and human enclosed in separate shower curtains to a list of such pool rules as “no frolicking; no lollygagging; [and] no filibustering….” Ursula’s rabbit costume and home furnishings as well as announcements on signs and T-shirts afford added chuckles. Alert readers can even check out the title on the rabbit lifeguard’s book. VERDICT The message that loyalty and inclusiveness are important is a valuable one to share with children. Don’t hesitate to jump into this pool.–Marianne Saccardi, Children’s Literature Consultant, Cambridge, MA

Van der Linden, Elly. Larry and Lola: What Will We Choose? illus. by Suzanne Diederen. 32p. Clavis. Sept. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781605372877.

PreS –Larry the Bunny and Lola the Kitten move through their day together. Starting with getting dressed, playing in the sand box, and building a fort, they ask readers questions about their routine and then reveal their own choices in a large, lift-the-flap format. The illustrations are rich in detail and children will also enjoy following Mikey the Mouse as he gets into a bit of mischief along the way. Best for one-on-one or small group sharing because of the level of detail and ample opportunities for dialogic reading. VERDICT A good choice for libraries in need of sweet and engaging preschool books.–Melisa Bailey, Harford County Library System, MD

Venable, Colleen AF. Mervin the Sloth Is About To Do the Best Thing in the World. illus. by Ruth Chan. 40p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062338471.

PreS-Gr 1 –Emerging readers will delight in reading this metafiction narrative. The text descends from the top of the pages over the course of four spreads. The words of the work are the title itself, and a red fox watches with approval as Mervin the sloth stands nearby. A bird collides with the text and complains about its placement; he knows the best thing in the world is flying. Moles pop up from the green bottom of the page—for them the best thing is digging. A gazelle prances by, and other animals come on the scene offering opinions of what the best thing in the world would be, ranging from being president of the world to fighting a shark to inventing a time machine. They bicker and wait, and finally readers see the best thing in the world when Mervin hugs his best friend, the unnamed fox. The simple, distinguished watercolor illustrations create drama, and the details on every page invite repeated viewings. VERDICT A fabulous choice for young readers and for storytime sharing.–Laura Scott, Farmington Community Library, MI

White, Teagan. Counting with Barefoot Critters. illus. by Teagan White. 32p. Tundra. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101917718.

PreS –White’s charming watercolor and gouache illustrations in earth tones depict a cast of animals engaged in a dozen different activities including reading, making pancakes, exploring in the woods, picking and selling apples, playing pirates, swimming, and going home. Each cute critter is joined by another to expand the group, and each activity is presented in a fluid and descriptive rhyme: “Nine!/Now that we’re rested, the next thing in line/Is to visit our fort, where there’s just room for nine./We climb high in the trees to see far past our den/Then it’s back down to land, and we’re ready for….” Young children will pore over the action-packed, detailed illustrations to learn their numbers, practice counting to 12, or just experience the joy on each page. VERDICT Count on this appealing title to enliven concept books collections.–Laura Scott, Farmington Community Library, MI

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

Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA

Do you want to ensure that your library’s collections are diverse, equitable, inclusive, and well-read?

Do you want to become a more culturally literate librarian and a more effective advocate for your community?

We've developed a foundational online course—with live sessions on February 28 & March 14—that will explore key concepts essential to cultivating and promoting inclusive and equitable collections.