February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

4 Picture Books Celebrating the Importance of Family

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A wide array of titles below highlights the warm and sometimes wacky world of familial interactions. Having a monkey as a little brother or an overly scheduled big sister sometimes calls for radical and riotous measures. There’s also plenty of intergenerational love in these vibrantly illustrated books, showing involved and active grandparents having fun with and caring for their grandkids.

Auerbach, Adam. Monkey Brother. illus. by Adam Auerbach. 40p. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627796002.

PreS-Gr 2 –Having a little brother is hard enough, but having a monkey for a little brother is really annoying. He follows you everywhere, torments the dog, and always makes a mess! Mom and big brother often take the little monkey to the park to tire him out, but that rarely works. Inviting a friend over just means double trouble. And birthday parties? Forget it! However, just when big brother has reached his limit, little brother does something sweet, which reminds him that having a monkey for a little brother is not all bad. But his little sister? Now that’s a different story! This bright picture book for preschool and early elementary students is entertaining and amusing. The work puts a funny twist on the classic “annoying younger sibling” tale. Students will delight in the antics of the adorable little monkey and relate to the frustration of having to put up with someone else’s mess. The illustrations are crisp, clean, and colorful, making the title quite visually appealing. The expressions and details conveyed through the pictures are pleasant and comical. VERDICT A strong first pick for storytime or anytime sharing.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

Costello, David Hyde. Little Pig Saves the Ship. illus. by David Hyde Costello. 32p. Charlesbridge. May 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781580897150.

PreS-Gr 1 –The adorable protagonist of Little Pig Joins the Band returns as his brothers and sisters head off to sailing camp for the summer. Little Pig is too small to join his siblings, so his brother leaves him a book of sailors’ knots, and his grandfather carves him a miniature boat. Each day Little Pig and his grandfather sail the boat in a stream until one day it accidentally floats away. Little Pig uses his new knot-tying skills to rescue the vessel. Costello’s ink and watercolor images mixed with comic book–style word bubbles and some paneled page layouts are thoughtful and add energy and movement. The story will be a familiar one to any young reader who feels too small to join in with older siblings or peers, and offers an empowering message of learning to overcome one’s small stature. VERDICT Wholesome and cute, this fun new adventure with Little Pig is a satisfying addition to most collections. A great choice for storytime or small group sharing.–­Kaitlin Malixi, Bucks County Free Library, Doylestown, PA

Hughes, Susan. Up!: How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones. illus. by Ashley Barron. 24p. Owlkids. Apr. 2017. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781771471763.

Toddler-PreS –Whether bouncing on a brother’s hip or nestled in an auntie’s sling, babies around the world are carried safe and snug. In this picture book ode to familial love, Barron’s cut-paper collage illustrations depict a diverse array of family members caring for babies throughout the day. An African mother cradles her infant in her arms while dropping off an older child at school; in a high-rise city apartment, a father in a wheelchair holds his son close; two babies swing gently in baskets as their uncle conveys them across a rice paddy; and on a sunny beach, a biracial family plays in the sand. Hughes’s buoyant text works well for reading aloud. Each spread incorporates the refrain “Upsy-daisy,” addresses the baby directly, and clearly identifies the family member portrayed. The vibrant background settings are not identified specifically but are clearly international and present day. A First Nations grandmother in a northern snowscape wears eyeglasses and a barrette along with her parka, and her village contains modern buildings, with nary an igloo in sight. Busy market scenes in Southeast Asia and the Middle East include cars as well as animal carts and people in both traditional and contemporary clothing. The exceptional depth, texture, and movement of Barron’s paper art provide plenty of visual interest to engage young audiences. VERDICT Detailed illustrations of realistically diverse families elevate a simple concept. Ideal for sharing one-on-one with toddlers and preschoolers.–Chelsea Couillard-Smith, Hennepin County Library, MN

Mantchev, Lisa. Sister Day! illus. by Sonia Sánchez. 32p. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481437950.

PreS-Gr 2 –Lizzie adores her imaginative older sister and craves some alone time with her. Unfortunately, Jane is always busy—with friends, homework, soccer practice, ballet, piano lessons, and karate. The only free day in her week seems to be Saturday, and so she finally agrees to some special sister time. In the meantime, Lizzie plans a big surprise. Instead of cheering Jane on at soccer practice, Lizzie sketches dragons; instead of twirling alongside Jane at ballet class, Lizzie draws sugarplum fairies. She is busy all week working on her Jane-inspired decorations. Mom helps her bake her sister’s favorite muffins, but when Lizzie knocks on her big sibling’s door, where is Jane? It turns out Jane was busy making her own sister surprise at Emma’s house—matching glittery “sister” T-shirts. When Jane sees Lizzie’s elaborate, hand-crafted celebration, she exclaims, “You didn’t just write a story…. You made a whole lot of magic. You have a great imagination.” “It runs in the family,” replies the elated youngster. The digitally rendered illustrations feature many full spreads of the busy, creative brunettes, who indeed look like sisters. Lizzie’s drawings come to life as fanciful, life-size shadows that only she can see. VERDICT Sisters will enjoy this sweet solution to an all too common problem. A solid addition to large collections.–Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools

Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth (ltoth@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.

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