February 24, 2018

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Picture Books: Fatherhood, Fears, and More | May 2017 Xpress Reviews

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Agaoglu, Basak. The Almost Impossible Thing. illus. by Basak Agaoglu. 32p. Philomel. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399548277.

PreS-Gr 2 –This title is about a completely impossible creature: a rabbit with exceptionally long ears who takes flight after a series of failed attempts. He’s finally launched, propelled by his ears and the help of 21 other rabbits, all engaged in an uncomfortable-looking exercise of ear twirling. A case could be made that stranger things have happened in children’s books. Horton did hatch an egg, after all, and Charlotte spun lifesaving phrases into her web. However, those stories have settings, but this one does not. Agaoglu’s loose, fluid lines are not without charm, but they are largely lacking context. At times, viewers explore a landscape of mountains or float on an inner tube; at others, they are indoors with a chalkboard or in a ball pit. Cast adrift in a vague landscape populated by animals as varied as a zebra, fox, polar bear, and turtle, readers are left unmoored. VERDICT The lessons of persistence and cooperation are all very well, but many other stories have tackled them more successfully. For a look at cooperation, try classic folktales such as “The Turnip” or “Why the Sky Is Far Away”; for texts that tackle determination, use Crockett Johnson’s The Carrot Seed instead.–Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NY

Bachelet, Gilles. Mrs. White Rabbit. illus. by Gilles Bachelet. 32p. Eerdmans. Feb. 2017. Tr $17. ISBN 9780802854834.

Gr 1-4 –It seems wholly appropriate that a picture book based on a character from the odd world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice would be mighty curious itself. Written in the form of a diary by the wife of the White Rabbit, who is always late—as it turns out, for some pretty sordid reasons—the story relays the trials and tribulations of Mrs. Rabbit’s days. In very adult and sophisticated language, she tells of her utter unhappiness with her life in a household that includes a teenage daughter who appears to border on anorexic in her efforts to become a bunny model, twin boys who play marbles with their own scat, and a young lad who is precociously interested in girls. The jokes are largely adult: for example, the White Rabbit is a drunkard who needs to be fetched from the palace in a wheelbarrow. The illustrations are fantastic, with incredible detail, but much of the humor will be appreciated only by those who know the Alice stories. Readers who haven’t been previously exposed to the tales will likely be confused and put off by the dolorous tone of the text. VERDICT Bachelet is undoubtedly an incredibly talented and funny illustrator, but the palpable anger of Mrs. White Rabbit and the many specific references to Alice’s world may bewilder young readers. Older readers familiar with Wonderland will likely find the book most amusing and enjoy the intricate, colorful illustrations.–B. Allison Gray, Goleta Public Library, CA

Bright, Paul. The Hole Story. illus. by Bruce Ingman. 32p. Andersen. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781512439502.

K-Gr 2 –In this original British tale, Hamish and Hermione are two holes who leave their abode in a wedge of Swiss cheese and seek a new home “where holes can be useful” and bring joy. After attempting to take up residence in the king’s sock and the queen’s knickers, the holes create decided unhappiness and chaos in the royal palace. As Hamish and Hermione move into new homes, their colors change to suit each situation, encouraging readers to spot their hiding places and figure out the inevitable impact they will have on the secondary characters. The warmly hued illustrations contain subtle details, such as the dish running away with the spoon in the opening pages, reinforcing motifs and inviting discussion. Appropriately, the holes’ adventures are conveyed through a series of circular vignettes, underscoring the idea that all things have a purpose in life. It is with relief that Hamish and Hermione, through the efforts of the royal carpenter, find a home in freshly carved flutes for the prince and princess. However, the king and queen are not too thrilled at hearing their children practice until the wee hours of the morning, so the holes are still somewhat of a nuisance. VERDICT While lengthier than the average picture book, this quirky read-aloud asks questions about what it is that makes one special, and the clever solution is delivered in a humorous and delightful way.–Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI

Crossley, Kimball. When I Am with Dad. illus. by Katie Gamb. 32p. Two Little Birds. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780991293575.

PreS-Gr 2 –Elizabeth likes everything neat, tidy, and organized, but things with her dad aren’t always so well planned. In spare words and revealing acrylic illustrations, this slender picture book examines realistic issues facing many children while emphasizing the importance of loving the whole person, regardless of differences. Two young girls spend the day with their dad, and because Crossley doesn’t reveal their background, the book will be applicable to children in single-family or two-home situations. Problems arise, however, such as when the girls’ dad doesn’t know how to do their hair or has to take them into the “wrong bathroom.” A heartfelt illustration shows Elizabeth’s consternation at not going into the clearly labeled women’s restroom, for she is old enough to recognize this distinction. But she is still young enough that her dad needs to protect her and her sister, as shown by her kid sister scrambling up the grocery store’s shelves in the background while her dad’s back is turned. With a subdued palette and expressive lines, Gamb’s art is the perfect accompaniment to Crossley’s words. VERDICT This is a welcome addition to picture book collections about families and fathers, especially because there are too few titles of quality about realistic issues.–Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI

Enova, Dušan. Eco, el hada de la naturaleza. illus. by Maja Lubi. 32p. Picarona. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9788416648689.

K-Gr 3 –Translated into Spanish from Slovenian, this allegorical tale follows the crusade of Eco the water/nature fairy, Daimoon the dragon, and a human boy named Bell as they join forces to battle the evil lake creature, Wardoo. When Wardoo falls in love with Eco, he strives to be worthy of her—until he notices that Bell has monopolized her attention. In a jealous rage, he undermines the dikes protecting Bell’s village. Daimoon flies to the rescue and buries Wardoo forever under a landslide of boulders. Enova’s needlessly ponderous and overly ambitious fairy tale introduces a hodgepodge of narrative threads that have nothing to do with the story’s principal message: to love and protect nature and all its gifts. The assertion that people must be taught to respect their environment comes across as ineffectual and redundant because Bell and his people were already living in harmony prior to Eco’s extraterrestrial appearance. The concept that hate and jealousy destroy from within and without is connected only loosely to the message of environmental responsibility. The murky resolution is made tolerable by Lubi’s pastel illustrations, which complement Enova’s simplistic tale. The wide-eyed, cherubic characters are evocative of Precious Moments figurines. VERDICT Although convoluted and didactic, this effort could be used as a springboard to teach young readers respect for the environment. An additional purchase.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Fuller, T. Nat. A Good Day for a Hat. illus. by Rob Hodgson. 32p. Abrams Appleseed. Mar. 2017. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781419723001.

PreS-K –Mr. Brown knows that today is a good day for a hat. And he would know, because he has one for every occasion—a wide-brimmed hat for rain, a cozy earflap hat for snow, even a chef’s hat for the big Bear County Cook-off! But today, a mischievous rabbit is creating chaos with its magic wand. Each time Mr. Brown opens his front door, something has changed, causing the bear to go back inside to change his hat. Finally, Mr. Brown must leave his house or be late to meet mousy Miss Plum. So he stacks several hats on his head and arrives at Miss Plum’s just in time for a surprise birthday party for him! Luckily, his friend has just the right hat for that! This bright and cheerful hat-filled book (don’t miss the whimsical endpapers) is similar in tone and structure to Brian Won’s Hooray for Hat! and Jory John’s Goodnight, Already! The illustrations, created digitally with pencil, crayon, and ink, use a presentational perspective; kids will feel as though they are looking at a theater pantomime through a proscenium. Flat, geometric shapes create backgrounds, and loose-limbed characters stare directly at viewers. VERDICT Although the book fails to pull readers in emotionally and there’s no explanation for the pesky rabbit, the repetitive structure, plot-driven narrative, and large, easy-to-read font make this a fun storytime title for toddlers or preschoolers.–Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library

Gravett, Emily. ¡El lobo no nos morderá! illus. by Emily Gravett. 32p. Picarona. Feb. 2017. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9788416648245.

PreS-K –In this Spanish-language translation of Gravett’s Wolf Won’t Bite, three confident circus pigs capture a wolf in the wild using a large net and invite all to come to the show. They make the wolf stand on a stool, wear a gigantic bow, jump through hoops, and much more, all while promising that the wolf won’t bite! The wolf’s confused expressions will keep young readers fairly certain that the pigs are right—he will not bite—but after shooting the wolf from a cannon and sawing him in half, the pigs make the mistake of placing their heads in the wolf’s mouth. Suddenly the wolf is no longer confused, and young readers will quickly notice the smile forming on his face. The fun illustrations on white backgrounds and the large text wonderfully portray the circus atmosphere, and the ending will leave children wanting to read the story again. VERDICT Recommended for all Spanish picture book collections.–Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, League City, TX

Hula, Saskia. Gilbert y sus horripilantes criaturas. illus. by Eva Muszynski. 32p. Picarona. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9788416648726.

K-Gr 2 –This catalogue of creepy creatures centers on Gilbert and his insensitive mother. All of these beasties are hidden in every nook and cranny of his formidable home. Deciding that Gilbert is old enough to be left alone, his mother callously departs for the pharmacy. Before he can protest, the door slams shut. Gilbert can practically hear the distant gnashing of teeth. What’s worse, he has to go to the bathroom. How is he to safely navigate through the perilous corridors? He must make allies. The rhinoceros is the perfect choice, but where is he? Down the list Gilbert goes, but none of the animals can be found. At last, he makes it to the bathroom, bare-bottomed and directly under a wild, dangling poisonous spider! After a hair-raising moment, Gilbert realizes that he has finally found an ally—at least until Mom gets home. Hula’s spot-on tale about overcoming fears—real or imaginary—and forging ahead to personal triumph is smartly accompanied by Muszynski’s predominantly dusky purple watercolors. The ominous shadows teem with skulking terrors, and Gilbert’s expressive eyebrows convey his every emotion. However, the small font size makes it difficult to enjoy this otherwise excellent story. VERDICT A smart, humorous, and gently encouraging tale for timid souls everywhere.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Jacobs, Kim, retel. Princess Sophie and the Six Swans: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm. illus. by Kim Jacobs. 40p. Wisdom Tales. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781937786670.

Gr 1-3 –The story of the six brothers transformed into swans by a jealous and wicked stepmother is one of the best loved Grimm tales, although, as the author says in her note, it was around long before the Grimms included it in their collection. The feisty and determined sister, now named Sophie, is a fully fleshed-out character whose commitment to saving her brothers, even at great pain and eventually danger to her own life, will inspire admiration. The painterly illustrations are lovely and capture a real sense of “once upon a time, long ago and far away.” The colors are soft and have an ethereal quality. VERDICT A solid addition to most folklore collections. Suitable as a read-aloud or for independent reading across elementary levels.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ

Kelly, John. Can I Join Your Club? illus. by Steph Laberis. 32p. Kane Miller. Jan. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781610675932.

K-Gr 2 –Hoping to make some new friends, Duck eagerly visits Lion, Snake, and Elephant, inquiring about joining each animal’s club. Despite his best efforts—including donning accessories to look more like each animal and making enthusiastic attempts to replicate their special sounds—Duck is simply unable to make the cut. He cannot roar like Lion, hiss like Snake, or trumpet like Elephant. Time and again, poor Duck’s applications are “DENIED,” and he is told that he’s just not what the club is looking for. Rather than admit defeat, plucky Duck decides to start his own club in which everyone is welcome. Soon the all-inclusive group is the most popular, and everyone learns that “you can never have too many friends.” Dynamic illustrations add humor to the story, and the animals’ exaggerated movements and expressions are sure to elicit giggles. VERDICT The onomatopoeia included in the animal sounds also makes this an entertaining choice for reading aloud. With a lighthearted but important message of tolerance and friendship, this is a solid addition to any library. Join the club!–Whitney LeBlanc, KIPP New Orleans Schools, LA

KipLing, Rudyard. The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Adventures. retold by Joe Rhatigan & Charles Nurnberg. illus. by Debra Bandelin & Bob Dacey. 28p. Quarto/MoonDance. Dec. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781633221130.

Gr 1-4 –When classic books are abridged and truncated (in this case called “a modern retelling”), the question always arises as to whether the heart of the story remains intact or whether it has been lost in oversimplification. Will the abridgement whet children’s appetites so that they will approach the original version when older, or will they possibly believe they’ve already read it and pass it by? Rhatigan and Nurnberg have managed to make the story accessible to younger readers while preserving the main plot and characters. The narrative moves along quickly and maintains the drama of the original tale of little Mowgli, who is adopted by a wolf pack, befriended by Baloo and Bagheera, and threatened by Shere Khan, the vicious tiger. The illustrations are bright and flow across the spreads. An alert child may spot characters from other Kipling tales. VERDICT Buy where there is interest in other Kipling classics and their movie versions.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ

Laguarda, Elena, María Fernanda Laguarda, & Regina Novelo Quintana. Ati y su caja de besos. illus. by Alejandra Kurtycz. 56p. (Ati: Bk. 2). Uranito. Sept. 2016. Tr $7.95. ISBN 9786079344993.

PreS-Gr 2 –Ati is a little dragon who shares an important message with children and caregivers alike in this Spanish-language picture book. Ati attends his grandmother’s birthday party, where he encounters his aunts, whose affectionate greetings make him feel uncomfortable. After Ati asks his grandmother for help coping with the situation, he finds a creative, healthy, and safe way to interact with these family members. Instead of allowing his aunts to smother him with hugs and kisses, Ati creates a caja de besos, or a box of kisses, to simply give to his aunts when they greet him. Children and the adults in their lives will learn that healthy boundaries and self-care are important to staying safe and that they should always tell a trusted adult when they feel uncomfortable. The back of the book includes templates for readers to create their own box of kisses and provides readers with tools and reminders for identifying situations of potential risk. This book offers concrete direction for self-care and is accessible enough for the very young. Bright, simple watercolor illustrations enhance the text. VERDICT Equal parts creative and practical, this follow-up to Ati el dragon de las estrellas will be appreciated by children and caregivers because of its discussion of a noteworthy topic. Educators would also benefit from this critical addition to their Spanish collections.–Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library

Loth, Sebastian. Josefina. illus. by Sebastian Loth. 96p. Uranito. Jan. 2017. Tr $8.95. ISBN 9788416773039.

K-Gr 2 –In this Spanish-language picture book, Josefina is a chicken who lives a very happy life; she spends her days searching for worms, soaking up the sun, and taking baths—until one day, when she notices that the other chickens have eggs and she does not. She tries and tries to lay an egg—she does yoga, reads books on the subject, and more, but nothing works. Josefina becomes sad, and to top it off, it rains for three whole days. But as the sun comes out, she decides that enough is enough and does something she has always wanted to do—she buys herself some skates. As Josefina enjoys herself, something unexpected happens. Young readers will love this fun and hopeful chicken and be inspired by her unwillingness to let anything keep her down. The humorous illustrations combine with the short and clear text to paint a lovely picture of Josefina. VERDICT Young readers will find a beautiful lesson in this story; recommended for all Spanish children’s collections.–Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, League City, TX

Nencini, Patrizia. ¡Brum, brum, brum! illus. by Vinicio Salvini. ISBN 9788416648412.

––––. ¡Naricitas y narizotas! illus. by Annalisa Sanmartino & Giulia Torelli. ISBN 9788416648405.

ea vol: 7p. Picarona. Feb. 2017. Board $11.95.

PreS-K –These titles present delightful rhymes that feature engaging vocabulary. Both board books are fun to read aloud and may be adapted to common song tunes for a richer early literacy engagement. ¡Naricitas y narizotas! features an interesting range of animals who revel in taking in the aromas of their favorite foods. For example, Hippopotamus takes a whiff of just-baked cake, and Panda enjoys smelling his feast of green bamboo stalks. The illustrations are in bold colors and are rendered in harmonizing hued palettes. They use accessible geometric shapes, including circles, rectangles, curves, and ovals, along with circle-shaped cutouts, to form each animal’s nostrils. As readers turn the page, the cutouts form the shape of the next featured food item. These cutouts complement the thick board book pages, making this title even more accessible to tiny hands and readers. ¡Brum, brum, brum! also uses this cutout motif to good effect. “Brum brum” is a common onomatopoeia used in Spanish to represent the sound of vehicles. Trucks, tractors, school buses, and motorbikes all make appearances. Nencini’s delightful rhymes offer fun alliterations for readers to share aloud with little ones. She assigns each of her animal characters—from bears to kangaroos to badgers—charming names, including Amadeo, Valentín, Romeo, and Jacinto. Seeing unique Spanish-language names in books for children is a definite plus. VERDICT Welcome additions to any children’s literature collection that seeks to be responsive to the rich language assets and early literacy needs of Spanish-speaking caretakers and children.–Lettycia Terrones, Los Angeles Public Library

Paglia, Isabella. ¿Mamá, sólo hay una? ISBN 9788416648832.

––––. ¡Qué grande eres, Papá! ISBN 9788416648818.

ea vol: illus. by Francesca Cavallaro. 48p. Picarona. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.95.

K-Gr 2 –These vibrant Spanish-language picture books celebrate adoption and blended families. In ¿Mamá, sólo hay una? two girls take turns praising their mothers until one says that she has two mothers—her birth mother and her adoptive mother. The other girl accuses her of lying. The adopted girl, with the help of some friends, explains that yes, it is possible for her to have two mothers. Ultimately, she says, what matters isn’t how children end up with their mothers but that their mothers love them. ¡Qué grande eres, Papá! follows a similar story line, with a boy and a brother and sister celebrating their fathers. Another child mentions that his birth father left before he was born, so his stepfather is raising him with his mother. The same lesson is imparted, this time with the help of a friend who has a single dad. Both of these books are serviceable introductions to adoption and blended families and boast colorful, attractive illustrations. There is no mention of families with parents of the same gender. There’s also a reinforcement of traditional gender roles—the two mothers in Mamá are praised as beautiful, nice, and smart and work as an office administrator and a teacher, while the first two fathers mentioned in Papá are smart, strong, and brave and work as a mechanic and a veterinarian. It is refreshing to see that the third father takes care of the housework, but even that gets put into a gendered context when it is said that he does it just as well as mom. VERDICT Consider as a first purchase where Spanish-language titles about families and adoption are needed. An additional purchase elsewhere.–Molly Hone, Pequannock Township Public Library, NJ

Rodari, Gianni. Una escuela tan grande como el mundo. illus. by Allegra Agliardi. 40p. Picarona. Feb. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9788416648863.

PreS-Gr 3 –Translated from Italian to Spanish, this sparsely worded guide is directed at readers of all ages. Rodari’s posthumously published reaffirmation of his personal philosophy is a gentle reminder that all experiences—good or bad, exciting or boring—contribute to the person we ultimately become. The book follows the exploits of a spunky redhead in a hot-air balloon designed to resemble Earth, and invites readers to view the entire world as a school and each life path as a lesson. Every person, encounter, or interaction teaches the protagonist to keep venturing into the world. The message is similar to that of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go: learning is an ongoing process that gives life meaning, making the unknown more important than the known. Agliardi’s brightly detailed, childlike illustrations nicely complement the message of internal and external exploration as a means of personal growth. VERDICT For anyone starting school, a new job, or any other grand adventure. A strong Spanish-language choice for picture book collections.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Roth, Carol. Hold Your Temper, Tiger! illus. by Rashin. 32p. NorthSouth. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780735842748.

PreS-K –Little Tiger has a temper that flares up when he does not get his way, which is often. When Mama Tiger tells him to wash his tail at bath time, he yells, cries, and stomps his feet, and his tantrums get even worse when he’s denied more cookies. One day, when Little Tiger refuses to clean up his toys, Mama gives him an ultimatum. “Don’t make me ask you again,” she says. “I’M NOT DOING IT!” he bellows. She warns him to “hold” his temper “or else,” which frightens Little Tiger enough to make some effort to control his volatile emotions to avoid the risk of losing playtime, books, or even his coveted dessert. The crucial question is where to hold his temper: In his pocket? In his hand? In his underwear? Finally, Little Tiger discovers that the perfect place to keep his anger in check is in a baseball cap. Reminiscent in many ways of the protagonist of Molly Bang’s When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry, Little Tiger does not run off to a quieter place to cool down but releases his temper only to capture it again. It may seem odd that a hat is able to store emotions, but Roth uses the cap to suggest that it’s OK for Little Tiger to express himself privately without completely losing his temper. Rashin’s bold red background conveys the overall mood of the story, and the quirky pictures of Little Tiger exhaling blue, green, and red flames (some with ghoulish expressions) add a comical element to a tale about the frustrating difficulties of handling emotions. VERDICT A picture book that will find an audience among preschoolers who are learning to deal with anger issues.–Etta Anton, Yeshiva of Central Queens, NY

Rouss, Sylvia A. Sammy Spider’s First Bar Mitzvah. illus. by Katherine Janus Kahn. 32p. Kar-Ben. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781467789318; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781467794121.

K-Gr 3 –Sammy, the cute, curious spider in this long-running series, has celebrated all of the Jewish holidays, gone to school with Josh Shapiro, learned about Jewish values, and traveled to Israel. In this installment, he sneaks into Mr. Shapiro’s tallit bag (the small, zippered velvet bag he uses to carry his prayer shawl and kippah to synagogue) to attend Josh’s cousin Ben’s bar mitzvah. When the Shapiros arrive at the synagogue, Sammy crawls out of the bag and into a large bowl of candy just as Mr. Shapiro grabs a handful. Sammy clings to a piece of candy in Mr. Shapiro’s pocket and watches the bar mitzvah boy receive his own prayer shawl, open the ark, and chant from the Torah. At the conclusion of the service, everyone throws the candy at Ben so that he will have “a sweet life filled with Torah and good deeds.” Sammy flies through the air with the candy and luckily is picked up by Josh and safely (and miraculously!) returned home to Mrs. Spider. The bright cut-paper illustrations, typical of the series, help to depict a contemporary Jewish synagogue during this important life cycle event. A brief paragraph with additional information is appended. VERDICT Schools and libraries where the Sammy Spider books are popular will welcome this latest addition, which could also be helpful in preparing a young child who is attending a bar or bat mitzvah ceremony for the first time.–Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL

Wang, Andrea. The Nian Monster. illus. by Alina Chau. 32p. Albert Whitman. Dec. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807556429.

PreS-Gr 2 –While decorating for Chinese New Year, Po Po tells Xingling about the Nian Monster, who used to eat entire villages. The New Year traditions involving loud sounds, fire, and the color red successfully scared him off. Unfortunately, that was thousands of years ago, and he’s not afraid anymore! The Nian Monster returns and threatens to eat Shanghai. Using other New Year traditions of long life noodles, sticky rice cakes, and fireworks, Xingling successfully saves her city. Chau’s watercolor illustrations are filled with warm colors and humor. In one spread, a crowd of people in Yu Garden flee the Nian Monster—except for one person, who would rather take a selfie with the mythical beast. The monster, who looks more adorable than menacing, spreads chaos at other Shanghai landmarks, such as People’s Square and Oriental Pearl Tower, but the quick-thinking Xingling is never afraid as she enacts her plans. An author’s note discusses language and some New Year’s traditions seen in the story. VERDICT This tale of New Year’s high jinks has enough information to be enjoyed by those who have never encountered the holiday, and the focus on Xingling’s wits and the monster’s antics will be a draw for those who have celebrated it their entire lives. A fun read-aloud that’s sure to induce giggles.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

Wang, Zaozao. An’s Seed. tr. from Chinese by Helen Wang. illus. by Li Huang. 40p. Candied Plums. Dec. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781945295133.

K-Gr 4 –A philosophical tale about how doing things at the appropriate time will lead to effective results. A master monk gives each student—Ben, Jing, and An—a thousand-year-old lotus seed and tells them to grow it. The students have their own ideas and put them into action. Ben wants his seed to grow fast. He waits and waits, but the buried seed never sprouts, and he is so angry that he gives up. Jing chooses the best flower pot and uses the best fertilizer, and his seed starts to sprout. He then covers it with a golden lid. Unfortunately, the seedling withers and shortly dies. When spring finally comes, An plants his seed in the corner next to the pond. The seed sprouts, and one summer morning, the lotus flower blooms. Simple text and appealing pictures illustrate the story of the three young monks’ activities simultaneously to provide interesting pictures of their different personalities. However, a couple of pages with text set on darker colored illustrations are a bit challenging to read. The last three illustrations, which feature a green tone, are very appealing. The simplified Chinese characters with transliterated romanization can be used for learning or teaching Chinese for correct pronunciation. “Words and expressions” of Chinese script and the Pinyin pronunciation with the English equivalent provide one-on-one meanings between Chinese and English words. VERDICT This book is useful for teachers, parents, or librarians with Chinese skills to teach students who are interested in learning Chinese. Best shared one-on-one.–Ching-Yen Donahue, BookOps, New York

Xiao, Mao. CeeCee. tr. from Chinese by Helen Wang. illus. by Chunmiao Li & Yanhong Zhang. 40p. Candied Plums. Dec. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781945295140.

K-Gr 2 –This title keeps readers wondering why a girl is not engaging with the other children in their activities. The others play shuttlecock, hopscotch, and beanbag tag. They swing on swings, spin flying saucer discs, float in bumper boats, sing in the choir, have a picnic, and crowd around while CeeCee sits alone. Everyone is wondering, is she sick? Is she in a bad mood? Why doesn’t she join in the fun? Finally, the answer comes when the girl is thanked for being the most wonderful model for a portrait an artist is painting. This book has simple text and colorful illustrations, which emphasize the contrast between the child’s stillness and the noise around her. Overall, the artwork details are too small and too crowded, with many people and activities around the girl that make her hard to find. The simplified Chinese characters, with Roman transliteration directly above the Chinese scripts, provide guidance on Chinese pronunciation. The Pinyin pronunciation directs the proper Mandarin tones. VERDICT This is an interesting tale recommended for teachers, parents, and librarians with Chinese skills to read to children. A very sweet story with a surprising ending.–Ching-Yen Donahue, BookOps, New York

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

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