March 18, 2018

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Picture Books: New Reads from Cynthia Rylant, Adam Rubin, & More | June 2017 Xpress Reviews

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Aikens-Nuñez, Talia. Colors of the Sun and Moon/Colores del sol y de la luna. illus. by Amy Caringella. 32p. SundanceKid. Dec. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780986269240; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780986269257. BL

PreS-Gr 2 –This story follows the curious musings of a granddaughter and her grandmother on a bright day. Gabriela constantly asks questions about the nature of the world, and, surprisingly, Grandmother always has the right answer. As Gabriela continues to wonder out loud about the many colors in the sky, Grandmother gives very appropriate answers with scientific definitions that can be understood easily by young curious children. Caringella’s illustrations are beautifully done; they seamlessly incorporate vibrant colors and different textures and noticeable transition from day to night. However, the way the text is printed is distracting. This particular copy has English text on one page and the coinciding Spanish text on the next page behind it, disrupting the flow of the story and chopping the illustrations in half. VERDICT Despite some design issues, this wonderfully illustrated story will be a great addition for bilingual storytimes and to share with Spanish-speaking families.–Jessica Espejel, New York Public Library

Bing, Bai. Free as a Cloud. tr. from Chinese. illus. by Yu Rong. 40p. Starfish Bay. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781760360351.

PreS-Gr 2 –Originally published in China, this is the story of a wild myna bird who befriends a family, becomes their pet, then is set free once again. The award-winning illustrations by Rong are eye-catching: a mix of very sketchy pencil drawings and bold, thick, cut paper silhouettes, which creates a dramatic contrast on each page. There is very little color, merely well-composed scenes of town life on tea-stained pages. Unfortunately, the story does not match the beauty of the visuals. Perhaps as a result of the translation, the text is stiff and stilted: “Singing is what small birds dream of, and singing makes them happy.” Additionally, the story closes with the bird being released into the “jungle,” though the pictures contradictorily depict her in some sort of zoo or park, which may confuse readers. VERDICT Libraries with large picture book collections or those with a focus on Chinese literature may want this book for its artistic merit, but for the most part, it is an additional purchase.–Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA

Davies, Becky. Three Little Pugs and the Big, Bad Cat. illus. by Caroline Attia. 32p. Tiger Tales. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781680100433.

PreS-Gr 2 –An old nursery story is given an update by substituting three little pugs for the porcine trio, and the wolf is replaced by a big, bad cat! Mother Pug informs her young ones that they are no longer puppies and that they must leave their woodsy kennel to go out and build houses of their own. She also tells them to beware of the Big, Bad Cat and to build strong homes to keep her out. The three dogs—Bandit, Beauty, and Bubbles—with their backpacks full of snacks, head out to find a good spot on which to construct their homes. Bubbles is very hungry, so he chooses an area with lots of straw and builds his house quickly with this material. Bandit finds a bunch of sticks and builds his house with these. Beauty keeps looking until she finds a pile of bricks. And with the help of woodland critters, she builds her own sturdy house. But who is watching the pugs build their houses? None other than the Big, Bad Cat, with her blowing tools close by in order to destroy their homes. Bubbles and Bandit escape to Beauty’s house, but Ms. Cat follows in a jumbo jet! Just in time, Mrs. Honeybun, Muffin’s (aka Big, Bad Cat) owner, calls her to come see her big surprise: three new family members…the little pugs! All the art in the book is created by Attia except for the photos of the dogs. She has put a dress on Beauty and bow ties and bandanas on Bandit and Bubbles. The Big, Bad Cat is drawn with a red cowboy hat and boots and an evil grin. This story has lots of action and suspense—what will happen to the dogs? The pugs are so very cute—and easier to love than pigs! Let’s hope that Davies and Attia have more “Pugs” stories up their sleeves. VERDICT Preschoolers and early elementary students will adore this title.–Elaine Lesh Morgan, formerly at Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Gehm, Franziska. 10 ovejitas. illus. by Marina Rachner. 24p. Uranito. Jan. 2017. Tr $11.95. ISBN 9788416773060.

PreS-K –This fleecy, Spanish-language counting book takes a flock of sheep from one to 10 and incorporates woolly color identification as a bonus. From the yellow lamb who happily jumps into ponds to the tutu-clad black hoofer, these colorful and indefatigable ovines multiply from page to page until there are 10 high-steppers unwisely performing the can-can upon a doomed table. Rachner’s brightly hued sheep’s expressions range from manic to ecstatic atop shaggy, gumdrop shaped bodies. They blithely gambol from one goofy adventure to the next across an idyllic pastoral landscape. Unfortunately, the rhyme and meter are uneven, and some verses are formatted as paragraphs because of sentence length. On the first page, the word amarillo is stranded three words from the end of the line. As a result, its partner charquillo ends up an orphan. This formatting faux pas is repeated for verses five and eight. Roja’s rhyme partner in the eighth is afloja, yet the line terminates with que. Because of the inherent challenge of rhyming in another language, it’s difficult to ascertain how this awkward Spanish-language effort differs from Gehm’s original German edition. VERDICT The whimsical nature of this title, along with the clever concept of using the right-hand margins to visually reinforce concepts introduced in the text, will entertain young readers despite shortcomings.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Grimm, Sandra. Qué tienes en tu pañal? illus. by Sabine Kraushaar. 16p. Uranito. Jan. 2017. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9788416773084.

PreS-K –Translated from German into Spanish, this lift-the-flap potty training book is quite the eye-opener. Amid a cacophony of flatulence, a variety of young animals fill their diapers. Each then proceeds to proudly display the “fruit” of their efforts. From doggy doo to road apples, each flap reveals a steamy diaper, which in turn inspires nose-holding and blunt language. When the animals turn to Quique the rabbit, he boldly flaunts his diaperless bottom. His friends are astonished, but after Quique demonstrates how to use the potty, his friends then all agree that being toilet-trained is much better and more entertaining than relying on diapers. Grimm’s story is chock-full of bathroom humor; however, the text and Kraushaar’s brightly detailed illustrations are very explicit. The term caca, a vulgar term in Mexico and many other Latin American countries, is used throughout in its various manifestations. Quique is actually shown defecating into the “váter” as his friends cheer him on. The font size is not reader-friendly, and the text-dense tale is dominated by attempts to compare the quality and quantity of the poo. VERDICT Not for the faint of heart, but young readers will definitely get a kick out of the images beneath the flaps. For a less brazen approach, ¿Puedo mirar tu pañal?, the Spanish translation of Guido van Genechten’s Peek-a-Poo: What’s in Your Diaper? is the better choice.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Katz, Karen. Baby’s Big Busy Book. illus. by Karen Katz. 12p. S. & S./Little Simon. Feb. 2017. Board $14.99. ISBN 9781481488303.

Baby-Toddler –Katz returns with her round-faced babies in this busy board book. Readers follow a diverse set of babies through their day starting with waking up and ending with bedtime. The popular format of labeling multiple recognizable objects on a page makes this board book one that little ones will return to again and again. Lift- the-flaps prompt interaction on every page, and children will enjoy finding the textured objects throughout the pictures. The flaps will need to be reinforced to make sure the book endures multiple circulations, but the textured elements will survive being handled by little hands even if the flaps are missing. VERDICT An excellent purchase for home libraries and board book collections.–Brooke Newberry, La Crosse Public Library, WI

Lacabe, Nilda. Instrucciones para que el hipopótamo duerma solo. illus. by Sebastián Infantino. ISBN 9786079344337.

Restrepo, Emilio Alberto. De cómo les creció el cuello a las jirafas. illus. by Nancy Brajer. ISBN 9786079344276.

ea vol: 32p. (Pequeños lectores). Uranito. Jan. 2017. pap. $4.95.

PreS-Gr 3 –What do you do when you’re grown up enough to sleep alone but your pet hippopotamus wants to share your bed? Just follow the simple instructions presented in Instrucciones para que el hipopótamo duerma solo. The combination of the formal, impersonal style of the text and the sly humor of the illustrations will keep readers laughing and eagerly turning pages. There isn’t a lot of text, but the small size of the font may make this a challenging read-aloud for storytime. Instead, plan to share this funny and skillful introduction to the challenges of sleeping in one’s own bed one-on-one or with a smaller group of older preschool or early elementary students. In the fablelike De cómo les creció el cuello a las jirafas, the gods have given early giraffes the gift of speech and intelligence but also a strong sense of pride. These characteristics lead to many difficulties. The animals do not want to eat food off the ground (it’s “beneath them”), but they can’t reach the delicious fruit that grows on the trees. After many wildly ill-fated plans, they consult with the gods and come to a wonderful solution. The text is a bit dense for preschool listeners, but the silliness of the story will appeal to early elementary school groups. This is an engaging title to start a discussion about animal characteristics or fables. VERDICT Two charming Spanish-language, animal-focused picture books that would do well in most collections.–Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

McCanna, Tim. Barnyard Boogie! illus. by Allison Black. 24p. Abrams. May 2017. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781419723469; Board $7.95. ISBN 9781419727108.

Toddler-PreS –This is a wonderful rhyming book, full of farm animals who are ready to play musical instruments and dance around the farm. All except for Cow, who isn’t sure what she can do. Horse plays the tuba (“Oopa Doompa Doo!”), and Goat plays the sax (“Honka Wonka Woo!”). Cat plays the fiddle (“Zinga Zinga Zee!”), and Pig plays piano (“Plinka, Plinka Plee!”). Sheep blares the trumpet (“Blatta Blatta Blat!”), and Dog bangs the drums (“Ratta Tatta Tat!”). But who will lead this marvelous band? “And-a-One, and–A Moooooo!” It’s Cow, of course! This is a fun picture book, full of color and rhyming words that young children will love. The animals are portrayed simply on brightly colored backgrounds of green, orange, blue, and red. VERDICT A great title for toddlers and preschoolers; even babies would love the funny sounds. A definite purchase for any size children’s collection.–Elaine Lesh Morgan, formerly at Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Martinez, Luciano. My Super Cool Friends/Mis amigos super fabulosos. illus. by Luciano Martinez. 27p. Lectura. Apr. 2016. pap. $8.95. ISBN 9781604480122. BL

PreS-Gr 1 –This is a cute book about a child who describes the shapes, feelings, and personalities of his classmates. The illustrations support the text and the highlighted vocabulary words on each page; English appears on one page while Spanish is on the other. A teacher could use this title to lead up to an art activity in which students describe and illustrate themselves. VERDICT While this offering could be used to introduce similes, and opportunities to teach vocabulary abound, the flow is choppy and the ending is abrupt.–Katie Darrin, Boulder Valley School District, Boulder, CO

Mayeno, Laurin. One of a Kind, Like Me/Único como yo. tr. from Spanish by Teresa Mlawer. illus. by Robert Liu-Trujillo. 32p. Blood Orange. Sept. 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9780985351410. BL

Gr 1-3 –Based on a true story, this timely picture book tells the story of Danny, who wants to be a princess for the school parade. Danny sketches a beautiful purple gown and silvery crown and declares, “I’m going to be a princess, just like her.” Danny’s family are supportive and loving. His little sister coos with approval; Mom affirms her encouragement, saying, “Let’s go find your princess dress”; and Grandpa suggests the Nifty Thrifty because they have everything there. At the thrift store, Danny finds a bouncy ruffled purple fabric that might be a shower curtain, but with a few cuts and redesign, it transforms into Danny’s princess dress. On parade day, Danny’s pineapple-dressed friend declares, “I’ve never seen a boy princess before.” Danny responds, “I’ve never seen a walking pineapple or a talking butterfly.” The child’s resilience and ability to affirm his value and uniqueness shine through. Mlawer’s expert Spanish translation parallels the English text and invites readers to reflect on the importance of gender diversity in all our communities, including Latino families. Liu-Trujillo’s illustrations use warm pastel colors that lend tenderness to this beautiful story of inclusion and love. VERDICT This inclusive bilingual picture book belongs in public and school libraries.–Lettycia Terrones, Los Angeles Public Library

Mayes, Kate. Daddy Cuddle. illus. by Sara Acton. 32p. Amicus Ink. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781681521930.

PreS –Young Bunny gets up “early in the morning, when it’s quiet and dark,” and is ready to play. He immediately hops to his parents’ bedroom and tries to wake up Daddy Bunny. When the little rabbit gets no response, he finds a ball and tries to convince his dad to bounce it with him. He continues to find more and more toys until the room is a disaster. Finally, Daddy wakes up and lifts Bunny, gives him a kiss, and cuddles him back to sleep. A blur of tan next to Daddy insinuates that another bunny who is familiar with this game has pulled the blanket over his or her head. This Australian import with soft pen and watercolor illustrations will be familiar to caregivers everywhere. VERDICT A great addition for a storytime with a caregiver or good morning theme. Consider purchasing for most libraries.–Brooke Newberry, La Crosse Public Library, WI

Nordqvist, Sven. The Camping Trip. illus. by Sven Nordqvist. 32p. (The Adventures of Pettson and Findus). NorthSouth. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780735842779.

PreS-Gr 3 –A new addition to the internationally beloved series that features a toddlerlike cat and the older gentleman who cares for him. This particular adventure begins when the pair stumble upon a packed tent while looking through the attic. The ever-curious Findus asks what it is and upon receiving an answer pleads to go camping. Pettson agrees, thinking he’ll enjoy a peaceful outing. Readers will thoroughly enjoy events involving some demanding chickens, a large pike, and an impulsive cat. Both characters have a distinct look. Pettson has a bulbous nose and floppy farmer’s hat that suits his identity as a kindly guardian and inventor of funny contraptions. By contrast, Findus’s energetic and often silly actions really stand out. Readers will easily locate Findus in his green overalls and beanie even in busy scenes. Each page offers vibrant colors and lush details to pore over. Items such as like the hidden fairy creatures and Pettson’s cluttered home flesh out the characters and world beyond the simple text. VERDICT Young readers will be charmed by this book’s quirky elements and engaging characters.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ont.

Rubin, Adam. Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel. illus. by Daniel Salmieri. 48p. Dial. May 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525428886.

PreS-Gr 1 –The kid and his taco-loving dragon friends are back, and there’s a crisis. There are no tacos left in the world. “None. Nada. Nil.” Circumstances require use of the time machine to go back to a party for a handful of tacos to plant and grow into trees. However, spicy salsa messes things up again, with journeys back to wrong time periods, including when dragons loved diapers and when tacos loved dragons. Eventually heading home, the kid watches in disbelief as the dragons lose their resolve and gobble down ALL the tacos…except one. He plants a taco tree and the world is saved from disaster. Created with watercolor, gouache, color pencil, and digital elements, the images are comical, especially the scenes of spicy salsa fire breath and its aftermath. Deadpan statements such as “Oh boy, not again” and “Oh, come on” reinforce the humor. VERDICT Kids who can’t get enough dragons or tacos will be won over by this humorous tale. A silly addition for old fans and new readers alike.–Gaye Hinchliff, King County Library System, WA

Rylant, Cynthia, retel. Beauty and the Beast. illus. by Meg Park. 40p. Disney-Hyperion. Jan. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423119814.

PreS-Gr 2 –Rylant breaks away from the movie versions to deliver a less joyous retelling that is deeper in tone and closer to the classic fairy tale. There’s no arrogant and funny Gaston, nor are there enchanted castle inhabitants. Instead, the narrative evolves between a frightening yet noble Beast and a brave and kind Beauty. Ultimately, the Beast is dying because Beauty declines his marriage proposal, and his curse is broken only when Beauty reciprocates his love. Rylant’s narrative flows poetically and allows young readers to absorb vocabulary words that enrich the plot’s structure. Primary grade readers will engage with the pleasing sounds of the text and will immerse themselves in the dreamy quality of the images, which are heightened by the illustrator’s use of shades of magenta and violet. These visual elements interact with the curved line of the illustrations to enhance the meaning of the text. VERDICT A poetic retelling that will melt readers’s hearts, and a must for school and public libraries.–Kathia Ibacache, Simi Valley Public Library, CA

Schoene, Kerstin. Todos los animales creeeecen! illus. by Kerstin Schoene. 24p. Uranito. Jan. 2017. Tr $23.95. ISBN 9788416773046.

PreS-K –Despite the title, this sliding-panel board book is not about animals maturing and growing, though there are a few exceptions, such as the zebra and cow, who “grow” (elongate) to reveal surprises. A meadow, savanna, and ocean are among the seven featured habitats. However, the jungle scenario is victim to incongruity because a South American rain forest toucan is pictured sharing a tree with an African leopard. Rather than briefly describing or discussing each habitat, Schoene identifies it and poses a question, prompting readers to slide the panels apart to reveal the answer. Also, the information provided about each animal is negligible. The text is well translated from German, and the story reads smoothly. The humorous illustrations are colorfully detailed and whimsical: a sleeping bear sports a nightcap; a snail literally carries a house on its back, replete with curtains and a chimney; and a couple of penguin fashionistas rock orange and yellow striped neck scarves. VERDICT This is an entertaining first look at biomes and their inhabitants.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Soutif, François. íAyayay! illus. by François Soutif. 30p. Picarona. Sept. 2016. Board $21.95. ISBN 9788416117741.

PreS-Gr 2 –A spin on “The Three Little Pigs” comes to life in this wordless board book. A monster and his big bad wolf sidekick are bored and looking to cause some mayhem. When they hear the three little pigs and a friend playing cards in the house next door, they attempt to squeeze through the window. Terrified, the pigs make their escape—until they realize that the monster and the wolf are hilariously too big to fit through the tiny hole in the wall. The three little pigs and their human friend are safe for now, but readers will be prompted to talk about how the story really ends. Will the monster and the wolf escape, terrorizing the three little pigs after all? Expressive, cartoonish illustrations make this sturdy volume an ideal addition to any interactive early literacy collection. Because the title is wordless, readers can follow along with the retelling of the original stories or use their imaginations to craft a tale that’s all their own. Bright yet simple color schemes will capture the attention of young readers and their caregivers. VERDICT Although not ideal for read-alouds, these sturdily bound books will delight any early literacy librarian who is looking to add a quirky Spanish-language title while motivating the youngest readers to build narrative skills.–Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library

Strouse, Benjamin. Hey, Boy. illus. by Jennifer Phelan. 48p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. May 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781481471015.

PreS-Gr 2 –A true bond will last even when individuals are separated for long periods of time. Such is the case with the unnamed boy and dog in this touching picture book. When the boy adopts the pup, they dream of all the adventures they will have together. Sadly, an accident prevents this, and the boy has to give up the dog until he has “grown up.” He stays in touch with his friend’s adoptive owners and visits when he can. Time passes, then more, and just when readers think there is no hope, the boy and the dog’s dreams come true. Strouse’s plainspoken narrative will choke readers up a bit as the boy matures and the dog grows older. Any reader who has had a pet will reflect on the time that they have lost. That being said, neither character dwells on what could have been, so the ending has an air of contentment. In conjunction with the text, the infographic-like designs are quite poignant; children’s hearts will ache to see the little black puppy staring forlornly from behind bars. Most pages feature little other than the characters and a few objects on a white background. However, for emotional beats, color and background expand to fill the page in order to better influence the tone. VERDICT Readers will find a fair amount of emotional depth in this story about the bond between man and dog. Probably best shared one-on-one, with a box of tissues nearby.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ont.

Wheeler, Lisa. Even Monsters Need To Sleep. illus. by Chris Van Dusen. 32p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062366405.

PreS-Gr 1 –In this rhyming metafictional bedtime story, a blue monster dad puts his pink pajama–clad monster child to sleep by reading a book about how other monsters get ready for bed. Bigfoot cuddles with a “wooby,” aliens have pillow fights, a dragon “talks and talks,” Nessie “gets a drink…then gets a drink…then gets a drink.” Each monster’s description is followed by a lulling refrain of “even [name of the monster] needs to sleep.” Finally, Dad checks under the bed “for YOU” and the little monster falls asleep, cozy in bed…or so it seems! Van Dusen’s vivacious gouache illustrations offer plenty of playful details that enliven Wheeler’s sedate verse—dragon parents mournfully look at their talkative offspring, one of the Billy Goats Gruff reads a story to the boy troll, a giant clutches a tiny teddy bear. The story really begins on the wraparound cover that features the kid monster running from the dad monster, continues to the recto and verso where the little monster hides behind the curtains and then gets dragged off to bed, then finally shows the little monster tiptoeing away once again on the endpapers. VERDICT A fun and relatable bedtime romp that will hopefully inspire kids to fall asleep and stay asleep, unlike its mischievous protagonist.–Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY

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

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