March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Picture Books: An Elvis Presley Tune, Mindfulness, and More | January 2018 Xpress Reviews

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Andersen, Hans Christian. Thumbelina. adapted by Elizabeth James. illus. by Kelly Vivanco. 48p. Simply Read Bks. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781927018736.

Gr 1-4 –This retelling follows the tale of the tiny flower-sized girl as she hopes for meaningful companionship and someone “as tiny as she.” The universal theme of not being alone in the world will resonate with all readers. The mint green cover with a peek-a-boo cutout shows a portrait of Thumbelina, eyes closed in despair, and sets the melancholy mood of this version of the famous tale. The textual adaptation is modern and clear but is secondary to Vivanco’s artistic vision for the story. Using acrylic on canvas, the artist creates layered and stunning visual portraits, but the decision to make Thumbelina larger than life and to often fill the entire page, along with the animals she meets on her journey, serves to minimize the impact on readers of Thumbelina’s diminutive size. The endpapers are the best symbolic expression of Thumbelina’s plight, given her miniature size and the overpowering larger world represented by the partially visible tree trunk, forest greenery and various insects placed throughout the scene for scale and comparison. Readers can sense the length and difficulty of her voyage to reach her community. VERDICT This version of the fairy tale could be purchased for larger collections and would be best enjoyed one-on-one as an opportunity to luxuriate in the beautiful artwork.–Eva Thaler-Sroussi, Needham Free Public Library, MA

Andreae, Giles. Be Brave, Little Penguin. illus. by Guy Parker-Rees. 32p. Orchard. Dec. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338150391.

PreS-Gr 1 –The author of Giraffes Can’t Dance is back with another animal story about overcoming obstacles. In this case, it’s a little penguin’s fear of water. While the other penguins frolic merrily in the icy Antarctic ocean, little Pip-Pip remains ashore, too afraid to join in the fun. Saddened by loneliness and the teasing cries of “Scaredy-Pip-Pip” from the other penguins, the little penguin sits alone until his parents intervene. While his dad is less than understanding, his mother’s gentle approach pays off. She validates his fears, provides reassurance and support, and encourages him to think positively rather than let his fears hold him back. The illustrations complement the story, with dark, murky blues depicting the unknown depths of the ocean and vibrant yellow skies representing Pip-Pip’s joy at discovering a new ability. VERDICT A welcome addition to the wealth of stories for young children on overcoming fears. The pleasant rhyme scheme makes it an excellent storytime or classroom read-aloud.–Kimberly Tolson, Concord Free Public Library, MA

Capozzi, Suzy. I Am Kind. illus. by Eren Unten. 34p. (A Positive Power Story). Rodale. Oct. 2017. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781623369217; pap. $4.99. ISBN 9781623368784.

PreS-Gr 1 –This title’s stated intent is to teach “kids and parents alike the power of positive affirmations and how to incorporate them into their daily lives.” It features a young girl who sees kindness around her and acts in kind ways herself. The book begins with the child observing her mother, “the kindest person I know.” Her mom is shown helping Grandma and then, along with her daughter, serving food at a community center. Other vignettes include the girl helping in the garden of a neighbor who has a broken arm, making friends with a new girl at school, being patient with her baby brother, being kind to friends as well as to the Earth on a scout hike, and creating a garden for the whole community. Throughout, variants on the phrase “I am kind” are repeated, with a prompt on the last page for readers to think of ways to be kind. Big-eyed, slightly cartoon-style, mostly white characters are featured in the colorful illustrations. While there are several examples of ways to be kind in this book, there is not much of a story here, resulting in a somewhat generic tale. VERDICT A purposeful title for sparking discussions in families or in the classroom, but not really a solid choice to draw in new readers.–Jenny Berggren, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA

Dominy, Amy Fellner & Nate Evans. Cookiesaurus Rex. illus. by A.G. Ford. 40p. Disney-Hyperion. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484767443.

PreS-Gr 1 –Cookiesaurus Rex, the self-proclaimed King of All Cookies, has a great attitude until it’s not all about him. Life is good being the first sugar cookie to be frosted. “Oh, I like the green. Grrreen is grrreat!” But when the horse cookie gets colorful sprinkles and the dog gets shiny stars, it just becomes too much to bear. “Wait one stinkin,’ stompin’ minute! Why do they get all the good stuff? I’m Cookiesaurus Rex, and all I have is gloppy green frosting and this STUPID hat! Do over! I want a do over!” Fun, colorful illustrations work well with the text. The dinosaur does get more accessories, but it’s not the glamour he craves. First he gets a ballerina tutu, followed by a baby bonnet and diaper. The lighthearted text will appeal to children as will the theme. Readers will be cheering him on and laughing as the giant human hand follows with frosting. Dinosaur tries running away, then takes matters into his own hands by decorating himself as a superhero. A few more decoration changes follow before the dinosaur becomes the decked-out King of All Cookies. But eventually his fate is sealed when his decorations are licked off. VERDICT The combination of lively text and fun illustrations make this a solid choice for a storytime as well as an upbeat addition to most collections. Who doesn’t like a picture book with a friendly dinosaur?–Robin Sofge, Prince William Public Library System, VA

Fleming, Meg. Ready, Set, Sail! illus. by Luke Flowers. 32p. little bee. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781499805338.

PreS-Gr 1 –This tale of a tiger captain and his turtle first mate going to sea uses plenty of boat and sailing terminology. The simple, rhyming lines scan well and run across the top of each page, leaving plenty of room for the bright, full-bleed illustrations. The artwork matches and helps explain the text, making words like a bowline, dinghy, or boom easy to understand in context. Characters are friendly and cheerful with large eyes and expressive faces. VERDICT A good choice for ocean or nautical-themed storytimes.–Kelly Roth, Bartow County Public Library, Cartersville, GA

Frost, Libby. Princess Snowbelle. illus. by Lucy Fleming. 32p. Bloomsbury. Nov. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781681196909.

PreS-Gr 1 –Snowbelle is the beautiful, young princess of Frostovia, a snowy, mountainous kingdom rendered by Fleming in swirling white, purples, pinks, and blues. At the beginning of the story, Snowbelle is nervous because her royal parents have asked her to sing the opening song at the upcoming Snow Ball. To help keep her calm, her parents tell her that they will be there and her good friend Sparkleshine will accompany her on the piano. They remind her that “Friendship is like magic and can help you get through anything.” Unfortunately, Sparkleshine does not arrive at the castle due to a huge snowstorm, so Snowbelle and her horse ride out to rescue her. Their success in finding Sparkleshine is due not only to Snowbelle’s courage and loyalty but also to her magic bracelet and the helpfulness of the forest animals. All predictably ends happily at the Snow Ball, and after her successful song, Snowbelle reflects on the power of friendship and magic. Little girls who yearn for princess stories will enjoy this almost too-sweet story, since the book looks and feels like the Disney movie Frozen. There is a brave, kindhearted princess; a snowy world with forests, mountains, and a beautiful castle; and even the colors of the movie. VERDICT There is nothing new or noteworthy about the storytelling or the artwork in this less-than-magical picture book. A marginal purchase for avid young princess lovers only.–Sally James, South Hillsborough Elementary School, CA

Gibson, Sabina. Wolfie Paints the Town. illus. by Sabina Gibson. 32p. Knopf. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101940730.

PreS-Gr 1 –Art is the theme in this book, which uses textile arts to tell a story about a wolf who loves to paint. Wolfie walks through Little Wood’s Garden District pulling a red wagon filled with art supplies. She stops to greet friends and paints the town’s sights, but is initially too timid to show her work. Later, she invites everyone to an art show. Carefully stitched miniature fabric animals and handcrafted props take center stage in photographed tableaux. Blurred backgrounds ensure that readers focus on the animals and their small details, including ties, books, paintbrushes, food, and flowers. Sentences are simple and straightforward in a thick black font against the background, Dialogue, however, is limited and lackluster, as in this exchange between Wolfie and Bear: “Hi, Wolfie! What are you doing?” “Oh, nothing. It’s just a silly painting.” A spread of Wolfie’s Art Show invites interactivity, as readers are encouraged to spot the characters and places within her paintings. Adults and children with attention to detail will appreciate the craftsmanship in Gibson’s finely detailed creatures. A general absence of expression in word and pictures, however, makes the story a little flat, though not without artistic merit. ­VERDICT An artful addition for maker spaces, craft classes, and anyone trying to spark creativity in the very young. –Lisa Taylor, Florida State College, Jacksonville

Hazell, Rebecca. The Sweeper: A Buddhist Tale. illus. by Rebecca Hazell. 32p. Shambhala Publications. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781611804386.

Gr 1-3 –The sweeper in this brightly painted picture book is Padme, an orphaned servant girl in ancient India. Bored with her chores and disillusioned at a tender age, Padme wants more from life than the demands of her perfectionist master and mistress. A visit from the Buddha changes nothing and yet everything. Padme’s physical circumstances are never altered—she remains the palace sweeper throughout her adult life, marries the gardener, and has two children. However, Padme’s internal dialogue and attitude are transformed by the Buddha’s recommendation to view sweeping as a daily act of meditation. A newfound fondness for her work endears Padme to her masters, who in turn treat her better. The Buddha visits Padme once more in her adulthood, and at her request teaches the community a chant to bring happiness and end suffering. Hazell’s text is simple and clear, and passages featuring the Buddha’s gentle instructional lectures on meditative breathing and chanting are particularly strong. The story holds up better than the watercolor illustrations, which while beautiful, delicate, and cheerfully colored, comprise predictable clusters of stiffly modeled figures. The painted tableaux appear costumed and posed rather than living and breathing, and characters lack dynamism and variety in facial features and expression that could have aided story development and prompted reader investment in the fate of Padme and her community. VERDICT This instructive story based on Buddhist tradition is a welcome addition to any collection in need of a primer in meditation practices and mindfulness.–Lauren Younger, New York Public Library

Henson, Mike. Surprise! illus. by Mike Henson. 32p. words & pictures. Dec. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781910277416.

PreS-Gr 1 –Rabbit’s friends peek conspiratorially through the curtains, whispering “Sssshh!” as he walks to the door. Inside, everything is black except for five blinking pairs of eyes until Fox flips the lights and everyone yells, “Surprise!” But soon the lights are off again, and each time they turn back on, the friends are in costume, dancing, or performing tricks. Finally, the lights go out and a surprise birthday cake appears (candles blazing), concealing the friends for one final surprise. While the concept and colorful cartoon artwork are engaging, and the alternating lights on/lights off has the potential for hilarity, the spare text feels anything but surprising. VERDICT As a read-aloud, it is unlikely to hold the interest of a group, and the target audience age seems unclear. For animal-themed silly suspense stories, Jan Thomas takes the cake.–Jenna Boles, Greene County Public Library, Beavercreek, OH

Hong, Nari. Days with Dad. illus. by Nari Hong. 40p. Enchanted Lion. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781592702336.

PreS-Gr 1 –In this autobiographical tale, a young girl’s father uses a wheelchair to get around—“he hasn’t been able to [walk] since he was a baby.” Though he continually apologizes to his daughter for being unable to join her for skating, swimming, playing soccer, or splashing in puddles, she gently reassures him that she is more appreciative of all the quieter things she does with him, like enjoying his rainy day cocoa, making sand castles, bird-watching, and even going ice fishing. Her father is an amazing chef, draws with his daughter, and plays the ukulele while she sings along. Hong’s mellow childlike color-pencil illustrations perfectly complement the story’s gentle tone and cheerful refrain of, “Don’t worry, Dad.” VERDICT A touching portrayal of the love between parent and child. Best shared one-on-one or with a small group.–Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY

Jeong, Myung Sook. Kikuchi’s Sushi. illus. by Sul Hee Kook. 38p. TanTan. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781939248176.

K-Gr 2 –Fox offers to trade acorns for some of chef Kikuchi’s appetizing sushi and ends up gaining both an appreciation for the cuisine as well as a new friend. The meandering story is told in first person by the unnamed fox who walks upright, speaks, and lives in a fully furnished den. Nonfiction paragraphs in smaller text enrich the story with information about Japanese food and culture. These paragraphs are sometimes hard to read when the dark text is set against the equally dark background. Only nigirizushi and rice balls are discussed, ignoring the many other varieties of sushi, such as the nori-wrapped maki that may be familiar to North American readers. Vocabulary is inconsistently defined: matsuri (festival) and koinobori (carp flag) are explained, but terms such as sashimi, palanquin, and blue-meat are not. Charming, colorful illustrations of the fox and Kikuchi include many traditional Japanese elements (cherry blossoms, traditional architecture, a village festival), and everyone is depicted in traditional Japanese clothing. While the back cover gives male pronouns for the fox, the front cover and internal illustrations show the fox in the traditionally feminine garb of a kimono and parasol. Miscellaneous facts at the back discuss two ethnic groups in Japan, the “northern” and “southern,” a potentially misleading oversimplification that leaves out the Ainu and other ethnic minorities. VERDICT Enthusiasm and cuteness cannot quite make up for the missteps here. Libraries should seek more accurate works on sushi and Japanese culture.–Sarah Stone, San Francisco Public Library

Jian, Li. The Bronze Dog: Stories of the Chinese Zodiac, A Story in English and Chinese. tr. from Chinese by Yijin Wert. illus. by Li Jian. 42p. Better Link Pr. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781602209985.

K-Gr 3 –A wonderful representation of the Chinese Zodiac legend of the dog. The story of two brothers and their love for each other is tested by the temptations of riches. The two brothers live a very poor life until one day they discover a bronze dog buried in their backyard. The eldest brother knows it can be worth a lot of money, and the brothers begin to imagine how their life would be different: a bigger house, all the food they could eat, and clothes. But before the brothers realize what is happening, the bronze dog swallows the eldest brother. The younger brother panics, ready to destroy the dog to get his brother back. The dog begins to speak and tempts the younger brother with food and a big house in order not to be destroyed. The younger brother refuses all the offers of the dog, knowing all of these riches would mean nothing without the companionship of his brother. The legend showcases the importance of sibling bonds. Having the story in both English and Chinese is an excellent addition. Seeing the beautiful calligraphy characters would pique the interest of curious readers. VERDICT : This book would be a strong addition to any folktale collection or bilingual collection.–Erin Olsen, The Brearley School, NY

Kontinen, Satu. Mokomaki. illus. by Satu Kontinen. 24p. POW!. Nov. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781576878057.

PreS-K –This quirky series title by Finnish designer Kontinen stars the Mokomaki, little birds who live in the Mokomaka forest where animal moms and dads enlist the birds’ help in finding their missing offspring. A zebra, for example, has lost her baby among a group of 10 zebras on the opposite page. Each creature is slightly different—some have more or fewer stripes, others are almost all black or white—and it is the readers’ task to spot the baby that matches the parent. In the process, children will learn about counting and colors and a little about animal features (“Tigers have stripes…But these guys have spots!”). The text can be choppy as the Mokomaki contribute brief asides to the activity, so the book doesn’t work well as something to read through—but the search-and-find activity is fun and satisfying. VERDICT Though Mitsumasa Anno’s books are much better, this title could work with children who are drawn to the spare aesthetic of his Anno’s Counting Book.–Henrietta Verma, National Information Standards Organization, Baltimore

Kristanc, Ana Žontar & Kristijan Žontar. Timmy el conejito y la receta mágica. illus. by Maja Lubi. 32p. Uranito. Jul. 2017. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9788416773312.

K-Gr 2 –A delightful culinary adventure perfect for read-alouds with early primary grade children. Timmy el Conejo (Timmy the rabbit) sets out to find the most magical recipe, climbing to the top of mountain peaks. Meanwhile, his many friends offer Timmy clues and tips to aid in his search. Each trek up the summit turns out to have just the right ingredient for a new dish, including potatoes with creamy yogurt, savory carrot soup, and fluffy vanilla cupcakes. The authors offer easy-to-follow recipes for each of the dishes, lending an interactive touch to their story. At last, Timmy achieves his goal. Reaching the highest summit, he meets Carl el Águila (Carl the Eagle), guardian of the magical recipe. Pleased, and a little bit surprised that such a tiny rabbit has reached the highest summit, Carl rewards Timmy’s courage and tenacity by giving him the golden scroll containing the magical recipe. Indeed, the reward is sweet as Timmy treats his friends to the most magical and super delicious chocolate cake ever. Lubi’s soft pastel illustrations harmonize with this darling tale of perseverance, teamwork, and tasting sharing. VERDICT Spanish-speaking patrons will delight in this culinary adventure made for read-alouds.–Lettycia Terrones, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Kyle, Tracey. A Paintbrush for Paco. illus. by Joshua Heinsz. glossary. 40p. little bee. Jul. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781499805444.

K-Gr 2 –As el profesor is giving a lesson, Paco daydreams about playing fútbol outside and enjoying nature. He is redirected to pay attention, but after about an hour, Paco is once again distracted. He begins to draw scenes from his pueblo with the montañas that stretched to the sky, with pájaros swooping down low, flying high.” His teacher recognizes his talents and invites him to the art room. There, Paco is able to unleash his artistic side, and the radiant colors in his daydreams are put on paper. That night, Paco peacefully dreams of the stunning and captivating colors he encountered. A glossary and pronunciation of Spanish words interspersed throughout is provided. The author, a Spanish teacher, explains how she has come across many students like Paco in her classroom and advises fellow educators to seek out their students’ creative sides. Pair with a classic like Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon. VERDICT A tale for Spanish and art students alike, allowing them to be inspired to let the right side of their brains shine.–Martha Rico, El Paso ISD, TX

Lai, Trevor. Tomo Takes Flight. illus. by Trevor Lai. 40p. Imprint. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250085467.

PreS-Gr 2 –Tomo and his grandfather’s Adventure Journal are back. But before he can go exploring, he must do his fishing homework. He quickly invents a machine to do the work, while he and his friend Maya decide to build a flying machine. Guided by the journal, they find instructions to build one, but it doesn’t work out as planned. Maya suggests consulting the journal again. They read about a rare bird, and Maya notes that birds know how to fly best. Tomo builds a bird-watching tower so they can study birds and better understand how their wings and tails work together. He quickly sketches out a new idea for a flying machine. He tries it and it works; he soars with the bird in the sky and helps his new friend find a safe home. While he’s flying, he sees his dad heading home. Tomo returns to check his Fish-o-Matic to see what he has caught. The friends have had a great day, and Maya says next time she wants to fly, too. Each colorful page turn adds to the fun. Original pencil drawings, colored in Photoshop and layered with texture, bring Tomo’s world to life. Illustrations of the open Adventure Journal really help to pull readers into the excitement. VERDICT Fans of Tomo will enjoy reading one-on-one with the little explorer and his ever-expanding imagination.–Emily E. Lazio, The New York Public Library

Marshall, Linda Elovitz. Mommy, Baby, and Me. illus. by Ged Adamson. 32p. Peter Pauper. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781441322388.

PreS-Gr 2 –In this adorable first-person narrative told by the family dog, readers learn about the loving, cherished relationship the pup had with his owner, aka Mommy. Together, they went for walks, cuddled, groomed, and spent a lot of time together—until Mommy met Daddy. Things changed fast: “They cuddled. A lot. And I got my very own bed.” Things changed even faster when Mommy’s lap got smaller and smaller, and her pregnancy moved further along. Soon, it became Mommy and Baby who would cuddle, groom, and sing together, and the pooch quickly feels displaced: “Things were starting to be not so nice.” However, as Baby grows and starts to crawl, the dog realizes how Baby is as much as a gift for him as she is for her parents. Generous white space accompanies the humorous, detailed pencil-and-watercolor cartoon illustrations; the artwork seamlessly captures and complements this sweet tale. VERDICT With expressive illustrations and a narrative told from the canine’s point of view, this book has plenty of read-aloud appeal. A worthwhile addition to picture book collections.–Brianne Colombo, Fairfield Free Public Library, NJ

Matsuoka, Tatsuhide. When I Was a Dinosaur. tr. from Japanese. illus. by Tatsuhide Matsuoka. 40p. Simply Read Bks. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781927018880.

PreS-Gr 1 –This engaging yet derivative addition to the preschool dinosaur canon suffers from stilted writing. A boy receives a dinosaur costume for his birthday, dons it, and heads to the park where he scares the other children away. Then his imaginative adventure begins, as full-size dinosaurs appear and lead him to “Dinosaur Land” where he helps the herbivores defeat a group of attacking tyrannosauruses. Back at the park, the other children have returned, also costumed as dinosaurs, and they eventually depart, planning to play again tomorrow. The softly realistic mixed-media illustrations effectively portray the little boy’s imaginative adventure, with “Dinosaur Land” rendered in lush, sweeping, detailed full-bleed spreads. While some of the dinosaurs and the boy have a cartoonish feel, the tyrannosauruses are frighteningly realistic. The illustrations move the story along effectively, although one spread awkwardly rotates counterclockwise. The text is the issue here. While it is both minimalistic and accessible, it does not flow well and sounds unpolished. This awkwardness may be due to its translation from the Japanese, but it significantly weakens the book. Additionally, some of the transitions are awkward, and the appearance of the other children at the end is rather jarring, making it unclear if they were part of the boy’s adventure or not. VERDICT An appealingly illustrated dinosaur adventure book with a short text. A supplementary addition where concise dinosaur books are in high demand.–Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT

Morgan, Angie. That’s MY Blanket, Baby! illus. by Kate Alizadeh. 32p. Tiger Tales. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781680100747.

PreS-Gr 1 –The difficult adjustment to a new sibling is explored in this sweet story about the importance of comfort items in the lives of babies and toddlers. Bella has a favorite blanket, named Blanket, that has been with her since birth. She takes Blanket everywhere. They paint together, glue together, and enjoy “singing and dancing in mud puddles.” Then, a baby brother arrives on the scene with his own brand-new, clean blanket. Bella loves her brother almost as much as she loves Blanket, but she thinks that she may be able to love him even more if he would just stop crying. Bella works tirelessly to make her brother happy; “she tried tickling him…told him her funniest joke,” but the new baby did not laugh at all. It wasn’t until Bella did her favorite dance with Blanket that the baby grabs the sparkly, muddy, painty, smelly Blanket and starts to smile. “But that’s MY Blanket, Baby,” and so the sibling arguments begin. Bella shows impressive rational thinking by contemplating that her Blanket must have been new and clean at some point and that maybe if her brother could take his new blanket everywhere, it could be just like her blanket. And so the journey begins; sister teaching brother to do all of the fun and messy things with both blankets by their sides. Mixed-media art complements the story and illustrates the transformation of the blankets as their owners grow. VERDICT Recommended for general purchase for most picture book collections, as books about new siblings are very popular and always needed.–Kristen Todd-Wurm, Middle Country Public Library, NY

Paul, Ann Whitford. If Animals Said I Love You. illus. by David Walker. 32p. Farrar. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374306021.

PreS –Full of loving and silly animal relationships, this second collaboration between Paul and Walker is comforting but also predictable. Each animal pair shows their love in active ways, like the lion cousins who “tussle and tumble, romp and roll in a joyful love jumble,” or an impala grandma who speaks with a “leapity-leap.” Walker’s illustrations are soft, rounded, pastel renderings of the different kinds of love between parents, siblings, and friends. Paul’s rhyme scheme has pleasing onomatopoeia moments and includes an array of unusual animals, such as a “click-clack”ing secretary bird. VERDICT This animal lovefest will appeal to fans of If Animals Kissed Goodnight, but readers looking for uniqueness or inclusiveness should look elsewhere.–Jenna Boles, Greene County Public Library, Beavercreek, OH

Presley, Elvis. Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender. illus. by Stephanie Graegin. 40p. Dial. Nov. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780735231221.

Toddler-PreS –Paired with Presley’s original lyrics, Graegin’s illustrations tell the stories of four families welcoming new babies and celebrating the first few years of life. The pencil-and-watercolor artwork begins with diverse families gathered outside a hospital nursery window peering adoringly at their bundle (or bundles) of joy and the words “Love me tender.” All of the families take their babies home to cuddle, love, and celebrate life, right up until they walk their now-preschoolers to Graceland Preschool. Many other nods to Presley and music are worked into the artwork—from a mother dancing with her baby, to toy musical instruments, to a record player presumably playing an Elvis album. Even the endpapers show toddlers singing, dancing, and playing instruments. An endnote from Priscilla Presley is included. VERDICT Best enjoyed sung one-on-one with the very young.–Kelly Roth, Bartow County Public Library, Cartersville, GA

Reynolds, Paul. Sydney & Simon: To the Moon! illus. by Peter H. Reynolds. 48p. Charlesbridge. Aug. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781580896795.

Gr 1-3 –An interesting situation arises when the competitive twins decide to participate against each other in a special STEAM contest about the Earth’s moon. Sydney and Simon are eager to win the first place prize: to meet astronaut Commander Kris Kornfield. The siblings usually work well together as a team, but this time they have own ideas and secretly work hard on their projects. Unfortunately, they each appear to be missing an important aspect to make the presentation complete. Simon puts a lot of effort into his research about the phases of the moon, but his plan lacks a creative piece. Meanwhile, Sydney is busy painting a model of the moon but has neglected to do any of the necessary research. The two discuss their dilemma and decide they need to use “twinergy” to put together a “twinning” project. This story is a good bridge to early chapter books. The chapters are short and will not overwhelm young readers. The pen-and-ink illustrations provide children with images to help them visualize and process the words they are reading. STEAM thinking, which incorporates imagination and creativity, is strongly promoted. The book also encourages children to collaborate and value the talents of others. Readers can learn a great deal of information about the moon and its phases. The glossary provides simple definitions and useful information. VERDICT An easy-to-read title for STEAM learning and nonfiction fans. Young readers will want to go to the moon and back with Syd and Simon.–Barbara Spiri, Southborough Library, MA

Rodari, Gianni. Los monos se van de viaje. illus. by Francesco Zito. 40p. Picarona. Feb. 2017. Tr $9.95. ISBN 9788416648757.

K-Gr 2 –In this reissued Spanish-language picture book, three monkeys living at a zoo decide to take a trip. At first, they are impressed by the sights—a lion, seals, and a giraffe in their respective living quarters. But as they tour the area more, they are bored by what they see—the same lion, seals, and giraffe in the same living quarters—and feel that taking a trip is no longer worth it. The final spread reiterates that the monkeys are living in the same zoo as the other animals and that their trip is limited to their own cage, which appears to be a statement against zoos. The books boasts charming illustrations and accessible Spanish text, with short sentences perfect for native speakers learning to read and children learning Spanish as a second language. Unfortunately, the abrupt, didactic ending may leave readers scratching their heads. VERDICT A secondary purchase.–Molly Hone, Pequannock Township Public Library, NJ

Slayton, Fran Cannon. Snowball Moon. illus. by Tracy Bishop. 32p. little bee. Nov. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781499804959.

PreS-Gr 1 –Slayton captures the magic winter holds for many children in this engaging picture book. In the opening scene, a fresh, crisp, white snow blankets the ground outside. Inside, a toasty fire roars in the background as dad and his two children play a board game while mom reads a book nearby snuggled up on the couch. Simple, rhyming text works well with the illustrations. “Snowy night…/firelight./Cozy flames,/friendly games.” The peaceful, mellow vibe changes when the family appears to lose electric power. All eyes turn outside to the beautiful moon illuminating the sky, then the children and even the cute family dog spring into action and head outside to play. It’s an instant play date with neighborhood children who are already sledding, and the snow is perfect for making snow angels. There is fun in creating a fort and having a snowball fight, too. Illustrations, predominately in blue, gray, and white, set the magical tone of a snowy winter night. Animals including a white owl and rabbits also add to the special mood. Eventually the children head home and are greeted with hot cocoa. VERDICT Large illustrations and simple text make this an especially good read-aloud for toddlers and preschoolers. A solid choice for most collections, especially where it snows and an impromptu storytime on the subject matter is welcomed.–Robin Sofge, Prince William Public Library System, VA

Toledo, Eymard. The Best Tailor in Pinbauê. illus. by Eymard Toledo. 32p. Seven Stories Pr. Nov. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781609808044.

Gr 2-5 –While his mother works at a factory, young narrator Edinho spends afternoons with his Uncle Flores, a tailor in the fictitious Brazilian river town of Pinbauê. Edinho loves to help his uncle cut, iron, and sew while listening to stories of how Pinbauê has changed over time. That story-within-a-story posits readers right when the town loses its traditional economy with the arrival of the factory: men in “dark suits” come and build it, and the pollution leaves people without clean water and fishermen without fish. His uncle only sews gray factory uniforms. When the factory gets cheaper uniforms flown in, Uncle Flores loses his contract. One day, Edinho finds a surprise in his uncle’s shop and the key to what the townspeople really need, bringing his uncle’s business back to life. The Portuguese words in the story are translated just below the text, eliminating the need to flip to a glossary. The collage illustrations, rich with patterns and textures, echo the work of Ezra Jack Keats and employ dark skin tones, portraying Brazilians of African descent. This import imagines the first step toward a more ecologically sound future. It’s an ode to joy, community, and local craftsmanship to offset the loss of contact with nature. An afterword by the author-illustrator details the plight of Brazil’s Sao Francisco River, feared by many to be on the brink of disaster if it is rerouted. VERDICT Pair this engaging read-aloud with Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House and Jane Yolen’s Letting Swift River Go to spark needed discussions on ecojustice.–Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City

Wilcke, Lisa. The Pie Contest: A Story with a Recipe. illus. by Cristine Karron. 32p. Wednesday Night. Sept. 2017. Tr $9.99. ISBN 978-0997314656.

PreS-Gr 3 –Sophie enters a strawberry pie, made with her grandma’s secret ingredient, into the farmer’s market pie contest. After delivering the pie to the contest coordinator, the minutes until the tasting drags on for the young girl. Even picking out tomatoes with her mom—which she always loves to do—becomes a chore. Predictably, her pie is the junior category winner. At the secret ingredient’s grand reveal, Sophie proudly declares it’s “love.” Wilcke misses an opportunity to pull in would-be pastry chefs by skipping the fun of the actual pie-making until the last page. Karron’s illustrations are as creative as the text. The characters’ facial features are all disturbingly similar with a limited repertoire of emotions. If variations in skin tone are intended to distinguish race and/or ethnicity in this bilingual book with Latinx protagonists, they are nonexistent. An odd aside in the recipe instructions adds to the peculiar resonance of this ineffectual shoutout for farmer’s markets: “Sophie makes this pie with her grandma, and they use a stove, so she asked her mom to help her.” Why does she need her mom if Grandma’s helping, and why is her grandmother never portrayed if they make the pie together? VERDICT The stilted and uninspired writing does little to make the story or the characters’ interactions interesting or engaging. Not recommended.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Zenz, Aaron. Little Iffy Learns To Fly. illus. by Aaron Zenz. 40p. Amazon/Two Lions. Oct. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781503939868.

PreS –Some toddlers have a variety of fears, while others embrace the chaos and uncertainty of their lives. Little Iffy is a griffin (that wonderful mythological creature that is a mix of eagle and lion), and, paradoxically, he is afraid of flying. When he imagines going up, he wonders how he will be able to come down. Iffy’s friend, Eggs Pegasus, hatches several plans to help Iffy overcome his fear of flying, but Iffy can’t attempt any of the plans or even flap his wings because he believes that “down is best.” When Iffy is accidentally catapulted into the sky and finds himself coming down very fast, he is forced to flap his wings and thereby overcomes his fear of “up.” The illustrations are endearing and colorful, while the limited text on each page is perfect for young children. Further, the words “up” and “down” are in different colors than the rest of the text (“up” is always orange while “down” is purple), allowing children who are just beginning to read to recognize these repetitive words more easily. VERDICT A charming read-aloud for young children that shows them how friends can help them overcome their fears.–Sally James, South Hillsborough Elementary School, CA

This article was published in School Library Journal's January 2018 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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