Picture Books: A Bunny's "Staycation" and a Big Brother Dinosaur | April 2018 Xpress Reviews

Daniel W. Vandever's imaginative picture book centers a Navajo student who doesn't follow the line; two titles expand the "bedtime book" genre; a lyrical meditation on losing a loved one.

Ebbeler, Jeffrey. George the Hero Hound. illus. by Jeffrey Ebbeler. 32p. Amazon. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781503941762.

PreS-Gr 2 –George the hound dog has had a good life helping Farmer Fritz with chores and then napping when they are through. One day, Farmer Fritz retires to the beach and leaves George to help a new family look after the farm. From the city, they know next to nothing about tractors or keeping track of cows and chickens. The also lose track of Olive, the youngest member of the family. George lives up to his hound dog reputation and brings Olive safely home. He soon appreciates that although his laid-back farm life might be over, he has a real place with a rambunctious family that needs him. The acrylic and ink-on-watercolor paper illustrations lean toward the humorous. George stoically follows the farmer with a bucket while the cows are plotting escape in the background. One scene shows George herding Olive who is dressed as a chicken. VERDICT General purchase for collections needing farm or heroic animal tales. A suitable read-aloud for a “down on the farm” storytime.–Kelly Roth, Bartow County Public Library, Cartersville, GA

Esbaum, Jill. How To Grow a Dinosaur. illus. by Mike Boldt. 40p. Dial. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399539107.

PreS-Gr 2 –A dinosaur learns about his role as an older sibling in this funny and sweet take on bringing a new addition into a family. Dinosaur is excited to learn that his mom is going to hatch a baby. He soon learns that having a baby brings both good news (they take a while to arrive; you can show them all your toys!) and bad (they’re too young to play with you). Dinosaur will need to teach the baby all kinds of things, like how to roar and share, and what’s dangerous (toddling off a cliff, for example). Soon, the baby will be copying his older sibling, and Dinosaur will have a friend for life. Boldt’s friendly, round-toothed anthropomorphized dinosaurs are cute and silly. Breaks in the text clearly show where to pause when reading aloud, allowing for maximum comic effect. VERDICT A fun read-aloud for storytime and when shared one-on-one with someone about to be a new brother or sister. A solid addition for most libraries, especially where silly books and new sibling titles are in demand.–Mary Kuehner, Arapahoe Library District, CO

Leone, Dee. Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night. illus. by Bali Engel. 40p. Sterling. Feb. 2018. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454921394.

PreS –A new addition to the canon of bedtime stories focusing on nature. Leone’s rhyming text and Engel’s stylized digital illustrations present an array of habitats, all encased in the soothing dark colors of the night. The mood is peaceful and drowsy as readers venture into a variety of nightscapes. First, the book explores the world of nocturnal insects—moths, spiders, and crickets, surrounded by grasses and leaves. Birds in the trees and the water, sea animals, and more familiar farm and forest animals are also shown as families with their young settling down. Plant petals “curl up gently for the night” and a sprinkling of seeds are described as “drifting wanderers, white as snow,” that “parachute where dreams can grow.” The rhyming text is comforting and descriptive, but not exceptional. Each section closes with a repeat of “Nature’s lullaby fills the night,” adding to the soothing idea that the whole world is drifting off to sleep, including the baby being embraced by his mother on the final page. VERDICT An appealing addition to an already crowded genre. It would be a good choice for those seeking a bedtime book that also cultivates an appreciation for nature and the many different types of creatures that inhabit the night.–Theresa Muraski, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Library

Richmond, Lori. Bunny’s Staycation. illus. by Lori Richmond. 32p. Scholastic. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545925891.

PreS –Bunny is dismayed to discover that Mama is headed off on a business trip. At first, Bunny tries to hide her suitcase, then thinks he should tag along. Mama explains that business trips are just for grown-ups and leaves him a calendar to count down the days until her return. Even luckier still, Papa decides to make each day an imaginary trip to a different vacation locale. Their cardboard-box car takes them to the bathtub beach, a wintry wonderland near the freezer’s ice cube supply, and a jungle safari in the backyard. Mama is home in no time, and Camp Mama awaits with a pretend campfire and real marshmallows. Spare text and bright, bold-lined illustrations make this an ideal choice for very young children of working and/or traveling parents. It strikes just the right balance between addressing the feelings of being left behind while engaging in age-appropriate creative play as a diversion. Richmond’s bunny family avoids gender stereotypes and bases its characters in a home filled with love, empathy, and fun. VERDICT A lively and appealing read-aloud to share one-on-one or with a small group.–Jenna Boles, Greene County Public Library, Beavercreek, OH

Thompson, Lauren. Good Night, Bunny. illus. by Stephanie Yue. 32p. Orchard. Jan. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545603355.

PreS-Gr 1 –Bunny takes along a toy rabbit and travels outdoors from dusk to bedtime. Told in rhyming couplets, the text drives a calming sentiment forward. Yet some couplets are a bit awkward and will require advance read-aloud practice to tackle alliterative tongue twisters such as “dainty dozy daisies.” Thompson employs excellent vocabulary-stretching words, as well as a few creative word-building examples (“crickets cricking”). Children can reminisce about outdoor scenes they witnessed during the day with phrases such as “Good night, cattails and moonlight glow. Good night minnows swimming slow.” Yue’s clean, cozy lines and warm watercolors are well executed and endearing, but there is little new here. VERDICT In a crowded field of bedtime books similar to Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, this title has a difficult time competing.–Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA

redstarVandever, Daniel W. Fall in Line, Holden! illus. by Daniel W. Vandever. 32p. Salina Bookshelf. Jul. 2017. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781893354500.

K-Gr 3 –This unique picture book explores how Holden, a Navajo boy with a dramatic imagination, navigates through a typical school day in a rigid residential school. Readers travel with Holden and his classmates, who are trained to “fall in line” as they walk past art covered walls, laughing custodial staff, the gym, and other familiar places in school. As they pass in line, Holden’s imagination takes control, and he imagines activities sights and sounds beyond the hallways. The eye-catching graphics permit children to view with wonder the places Holden’s thoughts travel This book is perfect for an interactive read-aloud experience as the artwork, although simply rendered, communicates beyond the text to provide a rich experience. The illustrations are perfect for teaching students to decode graphic images and explain what they mean. A refreshing and lighthearted view of a day in the life of child with a healthy imagination and spirt of exploration and discovery. VERDICT Highly recommended.–Naomi Caldwell, Alabama State University, Montgomery

Young, Chuck. The Day We Lost Pet. illus. by Aniela Sobieski. 52p. Penny Candy Bks. Dec. 2017. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9780997221992.

Gr 2-4 –Through poetic language, two balloon-shaped people explain their thoughts and emotions to their young child. They discuss how they fell in love and created their child together and how their family expanded with the addition of Pet. Through the gradual deflation of Pet, their family learns how to deal with grief, both apart and together, and to sustain the memory of love after loss. The text is consistently clear throughout, changing in page position and color so that it remains visible and does not detract from the illustrations. The story also flows beautifully and is well paced, allowing the artwork to take the lead in certain spaces so readers do not become bogged down in the narrative. However, both children and adults are going to want to stop and pick out all the details that Sobieski has hidden within the very distinguished watercolor art. Through shades of green, blue, purple, and pink watercolors, the emotions of the characters are revealed, and readers are slowly sucked into the details of a strangely similar world. Just like in the story, Young’s text and Sobieski’s illustrations have merged harmoniously to create something wonderful and new for families to discover together. VERDICT A lovingly illustrated book to help children understand the concepts of life and death.–Margaret Kennelly, iSchool at Urbana-Champaign, IL

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