Picture Books: Seasonal Stories, Unicorns, & Applesauce | October 2017 Xpress Reviews

This month's Xpress reviews features furry friends having adventures, tasty winter treats, and a dandy young monster.

Amstutz, Lisa. Applesauce Day. illus. by Talitha Shipman. 32p. Albert Whitman. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807503928.

PreS-Gr 2 –Maria, her little sister and brother, and their parents load up the car. It is applesauce day and first, they need to pick apples. At the orchard, Maria teaches her siblings how to pick apples, just like her parents taught her. After the fruit is picked, it is time to head to Grandma’s house. At Grandma’s they work side-by-side making applesauce. As they cook apples in a very special pot, Maria’s mom says she used to make applesauce in that same pot as a little girl, and Grandma shares her childhood memories, too. They finish processing the apples and put the applesauce in containers. After dinner and a long day, the family head for home. Digital illustrations, expertly rendered to mimic watercolors, fill the pages with a colorful summer palette. Bright-eyed characters with a touch of nostalgic hominess complement the textual theme of family tradition. Maria tells her story in first person, touching on each step to make applesauce. Though her voice has moments of childlike delight, the prose is straightforward and informational. An applesauce recipe and a page of “Amazing Apple Facts” are appended. VERDICT A cozy book worth sharing one-on-one that will perhaps inspire readers to make their own applesauce.–Mindy Hiatt, Salt Lake County Library Services

Atkinson, Cale. Where Oliver Fits. illus. by Cale Atkinson. 40p. Tundra. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101919071.

PreS-Gr 2 –Oliver is a rounded puzzle piece in a straight-edged puzzle piece world. He tries to fit into many different situations, living the life of a pirate or a monster or an astronaut unicorn, but he is repeatedly laughed at. When he changes his shape and color to fit in, he becomes invisible and feels lonelier than ever; until he meets someone on a similar journey. He shares his discovery with the audience, “Your fit will find you!” The Photoshop characters incorporate toys that help children learn colors and shapes. Find room on the shelves for this picture book, because feeling like you don’t belong is universal. VERDICT A solid choice for discussion, and one-on-one or small group sharing.–Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, Alta.

Ayer, Jacqueline. Nu Dang and His Kite. illus. by Jacqueline Ayer. 40p. Enchanted Lion. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781592702312.

K-Gr 3 –This book is the story of Nu Dang, a young boy in Siam (now Thailand) who loves his kite more than anything in the world. Sadly, one day Nu Dang’s kite flies away. He paddles his small boat throughout the river town asking everyone if they have seen his kite. His boat takes him to homes, the market, and many wondrous settings, but no kite to be found. Finally, he returns home heartbroken and finds that his kite has sailed home—a happy ending for a happy boy. The real stars of this book are the beautiful illustrations. The textile and graphic art background of the author-illustrator shine through in the black-and-white vintage-style drawings with bright color accents that capture the landscapes, bustling life, and lush flora and fauna of Nu Dang’s world. VERDICT With its simple story and culturally enriching illustrations, this title is a recommended purchase for any library. Lovely for one-on-one reading and small group sharing.–Jasmine L. Precopio, Fox Chapel Area School District, Pittsburgh

Barrow, David. Fergus Barnaby Goes on Vacation. illus. by David Barrow. 32p. Barron’s. Sept. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781438050096.

PreS-Gr 1 –Fergus Barnaby the little bear lives on the first floor of a four-storied apartment building. As he packs to go on a family vacation, his dad reminds him to check his suitcase for items he may have forgotten. He travels up and down all four floors to retrieve his belongings from his friends giraffe, hippo, and monkey and repeats where he got each item. This repetition will help little ones read the story on their own. The humorous ending will remind readers to always think of their own moms. The soft-focus, cartoon watercolors are expressive and fun. VERDICT This picture book has the texture of a brick building on the outside, and inside, is reminiscent of life in a friendly apartment building full of family and friends. A fun choice to read-aloud or read alone.–Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, Alta.

Blanch, Teresa & Anna Gasol. El libro de los valores para niños. illus. by Valentí Gubianas. 128p. Ediciones B. Feb. 2017. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9788416712243.

K-Gr 3 –Sixteen short stories illustrate eight values, such as honesty, tolerance, and empathy for children. The entries are simple and superficial. In the first, a boy, Roque, is angry his grandparents have offered to share their home with Ayub, a visitor his age from Morocco during his vacation with them. After a multi-day pout, Roque changes his mind about Ayub, but only because Ayub carries him a long distance after a hiking accident. Confusingly, on page 19, Ayub is depicted with dark skin, but on page 21, his skin matches Roque’s, who is white. On the following page, Ayub’s skin is brown again. Other stories show persistence in reclaiming clothes stolen by naughty monkeys, or “coexistence” via a grandmother who comes to live with her son and his family. The strongest aspects of the book are its illustrations and layout (Ayub’s changing skin color aside). Big blocks of text are charmingly framed or integrated on each spread by digital illustrations that are accessibly surreal. One illustration shows a woman peacefully holding up her newborn, an umbilical cord leading between her legs, her body covered in pink leaves. VERDICT Stronger in illustration than story, this an additional purchase for libraries with Spanish collections.–Mary Dubbs, Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis

Bolger, Kevin. See Fred Run. illus. by Ben Hodson. 40p. Harper. Aug. 2017. Tr $7.99. ISBN 9780062286024.

PreS-Gr 1 –This beginning reader continues the sight word instruction launched in Fun with Fred and Ed. An unseen, cheeky narrator directs the actions of Fred, a purple, legume-shaped creature, and his pal Ed, an orange character with four strands of hair and pinprick eyes. While Ed gets to ride a bike over a hill and don a cowboy hat, Fred must walk into a tree and sport a funny chicken suit. Slapstick comedy ensues as the narrator declares, “Run, Fred. Run! Come on, Fred. Run.” Through speech bubbles, ever-suffering Fred interjects his quips and protestations: “I will not run in this.” “Nope. Not doing it.” The narrator then deviously introduces hungry tigers and angry gorillas into the comic panels to spur Fred on. Hodson’s bright cartoon illustrations are full of riotous details that extend the text and provide more opportunities to hone reading skills, including signs (“Welcome to the jungle”), sound effects (“BONK!”), and sidewalk chalk drawings (“GO THIS WAY”). A list of the 59 sight words used in the book appear on the beginning and endpapers. VERDICT With sight words and sight gags aplenty, this is a good choice for children learning to read.–Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ont.

Brendler, Carol. The Pickwicks’ Picnic: A Counting Adventure. illus. by Renée Kurilla. 40p. HMH. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544839588.

PreS-Gr 1 –A family of dogs pack up their car and head for the shore in this counting tale. Along the way they become stuck in traffic due to bridge construction, which gives readers a chance to count different types of vehicles. Pip and Peach manage to have fun despite the traffic delay when they unload all of their beach supplies to throw an impromptu picnic while waiting for the bridge to reopen. The other canine-filled vehicles all follow their lead and the traffic jam takes on more of a party atmosphere. The illustrations are full of fun details and have a cartoonish style that works well for this story. The story’s strength lies in its portrayal of a positive attitude in the face of adversity, and in the resourcefulness exhibited by the main characters. VERDICT An appealing and interactive read-aloud with a good message that is a solid choice for most picture book collections.–Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

Brewis, Megan. Henry and Boo. illus. by Megan Brewis. 32p. Child’s Play. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781846439995; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781846439988.

PreS-K –A purple bunny with a limited vocabulary shows up uninvited in this funny debut picture book. One day while Henry, a dog, is enjoying his tea, a purple bunny named BOO arrives. Even though Henry asks him to leave, BOO stays. He follows Henry everywhere and will only say, “BOO!” This clearly makes BOO an annoying house guest, but he eventually saves the day when a hungry bear sneaks into Henry’s yard. Mindful readers will see the bear hiding in previous pages, along with signs saying “Bears Keep Out!” and will love being in on the secret. The whimsical watercolor illustrations work well in this story, and the attention to detail will help readers predict the ending. VERDICT A purchase for libraries looking for books with a message of patience, tolerance, friendship, or a fun storytime pick.–Brooke Newberry, La Crosse Public Library, WI

Byrne, Richard. I Want To Go First! illus. by Richard Bryne. 32p. Holt. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250127716.

PreS-Gr 2 –Little Elphie elephant must always go last on the walk to the water hole. Elephant rules stipulate biggest to smallest! Elphie wants to figure out a way to get to the head of the line. In this humorous, interactive picture book, that means entreating the help of readers. Shaking the book to make a bridge wobble, hissing to make a fellow elephant suspect a snake, and other clever maneuvers allow Elphie move up in the line. Changes in font and text color indicate whether Elphie is talking to the audience or to his fellow elephants. Humorous, colorful illustrations add heaps of lighthearted charm. While Elphie’s antics provide good examples of problem-solving and ingenuity, some teachers and parents may be a little hesitant to support the idea that, like Elphie, children should use trickery to get what they want. In the end though, Elphie’s gentle fun earns him the first spot in line. VERDICT Kids will love helping Elphie make it to the front of the line in this clever and colorful interactive picture book. Purchase where the author’s titles are popular.–Alyssa Annico, Youngstown State University, OH

Carter, Chris. The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird. illus. by Kim Smith. 40p. Quirk. Aug. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781594749797.

PreS-Gr 2 –Young Dana and Fox are enjoying a campout in their backyard when a bright light shines through their tent. Thinking it’s aliens, they step outside to discover that it’s just the porch light. The pair continue on a fun and spooky adventure as they follow mysterious shadows, sounds, and tracks. Even though Fox’s overactive imagination gets him each time, Dana is able to counter his fear with perfectly logical explanations. However, this wouldn’t be an “X-Files” story if there weren’t more to it than meets the eye. Instead of leaving readers on a scary note, the author opts for a funny one that is sure to delight believers. Unlike the creepier adult-themed TV series, the book is actually rather cute. Dana and Fox look stubby and friendly, the colors are atmospheric but not overly dark, and the text bubbles are shaded in cool alien greens and blues. This outing is its own story; young readers can enjoy it without knowledge of the franchise. VERDICT Fans of spooky tales or alien stories will get a kick out of this fun nighttime adventure. A good choice for Halloween-themed storytime.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ont.

Collet-Derby, Pierre. Barnaby Never Forgets. illus. by Pierre Collet-Derby. 32p. Candlewick. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763688530.

PreS-Gr 1 –An effervescent rabbit can’t remember where he put his glasses, but young readers will quickly realize that they’re right where they should be. Barnaby doesn’t want to be late for school, so he searches all over his house for his blue specs while explaining that he isn’t usually so forgetful. The cheery, warm digital cartoon illustrations tell observant readers otherwise. Once his glasses are found and he’s on his way out the door headed for school, he realizes that he sometimes can be very forgetful. Comical half- and full-page art done in a bright yet subdued palette of red, yellow, and blue focus on stacks of overdue library books or flashback to a hilarious memory when Barnaby forgot to put the trash inside the garbage can. But finding forgotten things can be a whole lot of fun, too: the excitement of uncovering a dollar bill in a pant’s pocket, the joy of finding a once-loved toy in a neglected toy chest, or even the thrilling relief of finding out that it isn’t actually a school day after you’ve walked all the way to the school yard. VERDICT A recommended, silly read-aloud for the classroom, storytime, or one-on-one sharing. For instant giggles, pair with Jonathan London’s Froggy Goes to School.–Brianne Colombo, Fairfield Free Public Library, NJ

Courgeon, Rémi. Feather. tr. from French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick. illus. by Rémi Courgeon. 36p. Enchanted Lion. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781592702107.

K-Gr 2 –Courgeon’s prints have a dynamic graphic impact as he depicts a child’s transformation from a bullied little sister to a determined young boxer. With muscularity reminiscent of Soviet propaganda posters, he places thematic elements on a full page, facing a page illustrating Paulina, aka Feather’s actions. The icons face rightward, propelling readers through the pages: a feather leads the eye toward Feather towing a shopping basket of groceries up her winding interior staircase; a jump rope bends toward Feather working out in the gym; and a boxing glove points toward Feather getting dressed in the locker room. There is plenty to capture one’s attention in this handsome volume. Unfortunately, the writing is not on a par with the dramatic artwork. The text is spare in an unsatisfying way, since larger issues are hinted at but left unexplored. Feather’s father is a Russian émigré who drives a cab and her mother is absent. The siblings fight one another to decide who does the chores and so Feather ends up doing the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. The sexism is shown, but unexamined. Somehow, by taking up boxing, Feather changes her family’s attitude and it’s implied that they begin to share the household chores. In the conclusion she relinquishes boxing, preferring to play the piano. VERDICT There seems to be an underlying story wanting to be told, but Courgeon only teases readers with glancing clues about it.–Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NY

Daywalt, Drew. BB-8 on the Run. illus. by Matt Myers. 40p. (Star Wars). Disney Pr. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484705087.

Gr 1-3 –“It’s easy buddy. You do good things, and good things will come back to you.” Out on his own for the very first time, BB-8 the tiny drone wonders just how easy doing good will be. After leaving his friend Poe behind, BB-8 is on a mission to deliver a top-secret map to the Resistance so they can find and rescue Luke Skywalker. With Luke’s fate resting in his hands, BB-8 reluctantly sets out on his mission while keeping his friend Poe’s advice in mind. Along the way, BB-8 encounters many friends (and foes) who delay his journey. He meets Teedo, who tricks him into helping save his luggabeast from sinking into the sand; a large, friendly droid named Fez; a hungry scavenger family; and a happabore with an injured leg. BB-8 questions whether helping others is worth it as his real task slowly slips from his grasp. Will he and Fez both make it to his droid ship and be able to escape Teedo? And is doing good for others really worth it, even if it gets in the way of a very important mission? In this exciting new “Star Wars” classic, Daywalt takes the story of the beloved droid and introduces it to a whole new audience. The simple text and sweet story, paired with Myers’s paintings with digital finishing, create the perfect bedtime read. VERDICT An engaging and funny story with an important message and beautiful illustrations; recommended for most library collections. A must-buy for Star Wars fans.–Elizabeth Blake, Brooklyn Public Library

de Lestrade, Agnés. Justo al borde. illus. by Valeria Docampo. 36p. Edaf. Apr. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9788441436848.

K-Gr 2 –This imaginative, playful, and sophisticated picture book takes readers on a ride through the whimsical musings of a big blue bear whose contemplations explore the geographies and materials of dreams, wintertime, ocean sands, and the emotional states of boredom and sadness. For example, bear describes how just at the border of tears, there is a bit of salt. He wonders: Shall his sorrows be cast out to the sea? At other times, he notes that at the edge of boredom there lie tons of ideas. So, although today he may sit quietly and just allow time to pass, tomorrow he shall free himself of boredom. The narrative offers a structured pattern where the main character offers a contemplation and immediately follows it by an act of agency. The rich creative use of the Spanish text is matched by fantastical illustrations full of abstract shapes and geometrical figures that match the lyrical feel of the book. The narrative is joyful and filled with inventive flourishes, making this book a pleasure to read aloud. VERDICT A philosophical tale with beautiful illustrations and delightful Spanish; a good choice for storytimes and bedtimes that seek a poetic flair.–Lettycia Terrones, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dixon, Amy. Maurice the Unbeastly. illus. by Karl James Mountford. 32p. Sterling. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454919537.

K-Gr 2 –Maurice knows he is not like other monsters. He likes dandelion lemonade and is far too photogenic to be like the other beasts. To change his ways, Maurice’s parents send him off to the Abominable Academy to no avail—he fails his roaring lesson by singing in a perfect pitch. He finally manages to win over the other students when he saves them from an equally terrifying beast: a cute little puppy. The story is simply sweet and does a wonderful job embracing individuality, though it’s a familiar narrative that has been told many times before. However, Mountford’s illustrations really shine, making the book worth a second look. His Klassen-like hipster folk-art style focuses on adorable character design with minimalist background. And he certainly adds to the humor, especially in the faces of the disgusted classmates or Maurice’s oblivious actions. The color choices even add to the kitschy charm; an assortment of reds, yellow, and greens are the only colors used, yet they beautifully set the tone for a book that’s as wonderfully oddball as Maurice himself. VERDICT A gentle and welcoming read-aloud addition to any collection.–Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI

George, Kallie. Duck, Duck, Dinosaur: Perfect Pumpkin. illus. by Oriol Vidal. 32p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062353153; pap. $3.99. ISBN 9780062353146.

PreS-Gr 1 –Ducklings Feather and Flap, along with their unlikely brother Spike (a big green dinosaur), are searching for the perfect pumpkin. Feather and Flap find pumpkins but Spike’s notions of what to do with them (jumping, bowling, and juggling) result in squashed pumpkins. Finally, the ducklings suggest decorating the pumpkins, but Spike’s remorse at his ungainly ways gives Mama Duck an idea for the ruined ones—pumpkin pie!—and all ends well. Page turns work effectively to build momentum and humor in this fall story that’s perfect for beginning readers. Bright, digital illustrations on a white background are paired with simple sentences and vocabulary. With repeated phrasing and cheerful characters, the title provides a positive platform for burgeoning readers. VERDICT Simple sentences, good formatting and appealing characters make this a solid seasonal early reader addition.–Ramarie Beaver, Plano Public Library System, TX

Gomez-Jurado, Juan. El séptimo príncipe. illus. by José Ángel Ares. 48p. Ediciones B. Feb. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9788416712007.

PreS-Gr 2 –From the first illustration showing tousled redhead Benjamín in contrast to his six pale, bald, and grimacing brothers, readers will know that this is a fairy tale with a twist—the seventh prince is glancing at his smart phone. The basic plot is familiar: a dragon menaces the kingdom, the king sends his sons off to face it, and each in turn is gobbled up. Can the youngest son, with his love of music, beat the monster with wits instead of brawn? The answer won’t surprise most, but the narration will delight. Told as a father to his daughter at bedtime, the text is full of pithy, modern asides, recalling The Princess Bride or Shrek (the movie). The digital illustrations are cartoony and literal, reminiscent of a graphic novel. At almost 50 text-heavy pages, the book is too long for storytime but is most suitable as a long bedtime story. Make sure to enjoy the epilogue, set up like a series of tweets among the characters. VERDICT Funny and fresh, this is a solid choice for Spanish-language family read-alouds.–Mary Dubbs, Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis

Gray, Kes & Claire Gray. Dog on a Frog? illus. by Jim Field. 32p. Scholastic. May 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338116953.

PreS-Gr 2 –Tired of being squished by a basset hound, an agitated amphibian changes the rhyming rules that were laid out in Frog on a Log? Recapping the seating arrangements of the first book, a bossy cat reiterates: “Cats sit on mats, frogs sit on logs, and dogs sit on FROGS!” The frog proffers, “Dogs sit on logs, and cats sit on gnats.” While the feline shudders in wide-eyed dismay at the proposition, the pooch curiously wonders what bears might sit on. Field’s hilarious cartoon illustrations show a family of six bears leisurely eating bowls of porridge on a flight of purple stairs. As the frog gets “the hang of this,” the fast-flying rhymes get progressively more outrageous: “cheetahs will sit on fajitas,” “hens will sit on pens,” and “poodles will sit on noodles.” The witty banter between the loquacious frog and the sceptical dog will elicit lots of giggles, as will the astonished expressions on all of the animals precariously perched on their wacky new places. In a funny twist ending, the frog breaks all rhyming rules when he declares his new sitting spot to be a very comfortable patio chaise lounge. VERDICT This standout read-aloud choice tickles the tongue and the funny bone. A fun read for storytime and language arts classrooms.–Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ont.

Hamburg, Jennifer. Billy Bloo Is Stuck in Goo. illus. by Ross Burach. 32p. Scholastic. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545880152.

PreS-Gr 2 –Poor Billy Bloo is stuck in a large pile of green goo. Others notice his predicament, but can they extract him? No. “’Yeeeehaw. I’ll git you out real fast!’/declares a cowgirl riding past!/She spins her rope ‘round Billy’s shin./Then loses grip...and falls right in!” Four acrobats, a pirate, a wizard, 17 nobles, and their queen attempt a rescue as the situation becomes ever more absurd with the addition of each new character. In the end, they do manage to get the young boy out, and yet, just when you think they’ve all escaped, the lot jump back in to rescue one little thing that got left behind. This ending is ironic; Billy Bloo is the only one not stuck in goo, even though it was he who first chose to ignore the warning sign (as seen on the title page). Between the wacky words and sounds, the ever-evolving sentence construction with its rhymes, and an expressive and colorful art style, there is plenty to laugh at. VERDICT Lots of giggles and goo, and weird characters too, in this rhyming cumulative storytime read-aloud, make this title a must-have for picture book collections.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ont.

Herman, Debbie. Rosie Saves the World. illus. by Tammie Lyon. 24p. Kar-Ben. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781512420852; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781512420869.

K-Gr 2 –This sweet title serves up its didactic content with a gentle hand. Excited about the Jewish value of “tikkun olam, repairing the world by doing good deeds,” Rosie comes up with projects to help her neighborhood. As she sets off to collect cans, her mom asks for help with the groceries, but Rosie is too busy saving the world. This theme continues as she is too busy to help her brother, clean the cat box, or visit her grandmother, because she is off to do similar things on a bigger scale: help at the library, animal shelter, and an assisted-living center. However, when the neighbor remarks that she must be a great help at home, Rosie realizes that “family comes first” and returns home to do the things she neglected. The story is message-driven, but it’s a useful message, and not heavy-handed in its delivery. The text is spare and utilizes a lot of dialogue, making it engaging and readable, if not outstanding. Lyon’s bright, cartoon-style illustrations vary effectively from full-bleed spreads to single pages and spot art. Rosie is appealing, with curly brown hair and glasses, and her neighborhood and the nursing home are peopled with a moderately diverse cast. The illustrations, although pleasant, have a generic feel to them. VERDICT Jewish libraries and others serving large Jewish populations or in need of titles about good deeds will find this one fills a niche. Best shared one-on-one and in small group settings.–Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT

Lloyd-Jones, Sally. His Royal Highness, King Baby: A Terrible True Story. illus. by David Roberts. 48p. Candlewick. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763697938.

PreS-Gr 2 –Once upon a time, there was a beautiful little princess who had everything—especially parents that adored her. They always had time to tell her stories, she had plenty of room on her mother’s lap, and there was never any screaming. Life was good—until King Baby was born and everything changed. The princess felt her parents’ attention was now focused completely on the Royal Baby. She now has to clean her room by herself and must make her own breakfast. Worst of all, the little princess is now forced to walk behind the Splendid Carriage where His Royal Majesty’s bottom rests. How will she ever survive this horrendous situation? This is an amusing story about a little girl named Marianna who has a vivid imagination and is struggling with the acceptance of a younger brother. Told from her point of view, the tale envisions her as a princess with long flowing blonde hair (yellow tights on her head) surrounded by unicorns and castles. Due to all of the chores and hard work the little girl claims she must do, young listeners might see her as Cinderella. Older children will notice her mother vacuuming her bedroom or a full breakfast made for her. The watercolor illustrations are descriptive of the real events going on in the story while Marianna’s drawings depict her perspective. The book demonstrates to older siblings that they are still important and can be very helpful with a new baby. VERDICT A great book for children with younger “royal” siblings or those who are about to have one.–Barbara Spiri, Southborough Library, MA

Maclear, Kyo. Yak and Dove. illus. by Esmé Shapiro. 56p. Tundra. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781770494947.

PreS-Gr 1 –Three short sections tell the tale of Yak and Dove, an unusual pair of friends. In “If We Were Twins,” the small and noisy Dove and the large and well-mannered Yak compare their differences, ultimately deciding they shouldn’t be friends anymore. In “The Audition,” Yak laments that he lost his best friend and holds tryouts for a new companion. After Yak determines that “A best friend would not eat me,” Dove wins the position. In the final story, Yak and Dove create “The Very Noisy Quiet Garden,” as a compromise for their opposite personalities. The dialogue-driven stories alternate fonts for each character’s voice, making it easy to follow along. The humor and whimsical nature of the entries are enhanced by the watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil illustrations. VERDICT In the tradition of “Frog and Toad,” Yak and Dove will find a spot on the shelf amongst animal friendship stories.–Sarah Polace, Cuyahoga Public Library System, OH

Marchini, Tracy. Chicken Wants a Nap. illus. by Monique Felix. 24p. Creative Editions. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781568463087.

PreS-Gr 1 –In this amusing tale, Chicken tries desperately to find a warm, dry, and quiet place to nap—a high ambition on a rainy farm day! Early readers will enjoy following Chicken through her barnyard adventure and will be able to decode objects and emotions easily due to the well-defined expressions of the animals. While drawing on dark-colored paper does well when evoking a dreary rainy day, it also mutes the tones a bit, which contrasts with the bright happy ending. VERDICT A welcome addition to a preschool or kindergarten collections, come rain or come shine.–Maria Alegre, The Dalton School, New York

Martin, Melissa. Tessie Tames Her Tongue: A Book About Learning When To Talk and When To Listen. illus. by Charles Lehman. 36p. Free Spirit. Sept. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781631981333.

Gr 2-4 –Tessie is a talker. So much so that it frustrated her family and her classmates. Sad and confused as to why nobody wants to listen to her, Tessie goes to her teacher for help. Her teacher, along with the school counselor, helps her to tame her tongue. Using a variety of techniques, including counting breaths, curling her toes, and learning to focus, Tessie is able to make friends, share with her family, and help a new classmate who also has issues with being too talkative. This book is clearly meant for a parent/caregiver collection or school counselor’s office. While parents might want to share this book with their child, it gets rather wordy and, if their child is as talkative as Tessie, they might have a hard time sitting through it in one sitting. The illustrations help to show how much space Tessie’s talking takes up and visually depicts the reactions of the people with whom she interacts. The book concludes with tips meant specifically for adults dealing with a talkative child, rather than being geared toward the child themselves. VERDICT A fine addition to collections geared toward adults working with children.–Shana Morales, Windsor Public Library, CT

Millner, Denene. Early Sunday Morning. illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. 40p. ebook available. Agate/Bolden. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781572842113.

K-Gr 2 –A joyous and kid-friendly celebration of the church experience from the perspective of a young black girl. The unnamed protagonist has been given a solo in Sunday’s service, and her family and community members give her tips to overcome her jitters. Ranging from wearing a brand-new dress to picturing everyone with watermelon heads, the advice just doesn’t ring true. It isn’t until the girl’s daddy, who can’t attend her performance because of work, provides her with the boost of confidence she needs that she’s able to lift her voice in song. The author’s simple text features humorous truths about lengthy sermons and sweet, authentic peeks into the life of a religiously observant family’s hectic Sunday mornings. While the narrative sometimes borders on treacly, the snapshots of an African American community and home life—the barbershop, big Sunday dinners, and a sweet image of a mother brushing her daughter’s hair into “a beautiful crown”—make this a winning portrayal not often seen in picture books. Brantley-Newton’s vibrant, jewel-toned illustrations elevate the prose and inject it with layer of charm and jubilance. Though many scenes take place in church, there isn’t overt religious content. VERDICT A lush, exuberant addition to picture book shelves. Pair with or recommend alongside Wade Hudson’s It’s Church Going Time.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Munsch, Robert & Saoussan Askar. From Far Away. illus. by Rebecca Green. 32p. Annick. Jul. 2017. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781554519392.

K-Gr 3 –Saoussan’s family used to live in a “very nice” place, but a war forces the family flee to a new country. Although her classmates are friendly, the child finds school isolating and confusing because she doesn’t understand English. Little by little, she learns the language and school becomes fun. At the conclusion, Saoussan proudly states that not only is she in grade two, but she’s the best reader and speller, too! The final image shows Saoussan with a handwritten message, “Where are you from, reading buddy?” Based on letters from Askar to Munsch, this book was first published in 1995 with illustrations by Michael Martchenko. This edition welcomes a new generation of readers with Green’s attractively modern illustrations. The narrative is tighter and stronger, removing references to Halloween and intentionally leaving out the name of Saoussan’s new country, allowing more readers to see themselves reflected. The straightforward, first-person narration lacks subtlety, but overall communicates the complexity of emotions she experiences. The textured mixed-media images are done in a soft, muted palette. They balance the well-placed blocks of text. As in the original, Saoussan’s classmates are very diverse in appearance. Additionally, the teacher is depicted with brown skin and black hair, rather than Martchenko’s original blonde. Back matter includes a note from Askar with an update on her life since this story was first published. VERDICT Public and school libraries will welcome this still-relevant refugee story, especially helpful as a conversation starter.–Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library

Naumann-Villemin Christine. When a Wolf Is Hungry. illus. by Kris Di Giacomo. 34p. Eerdmans. Aug. 2017. Tr $16. ISBN 9780802854827.

K-Gr 2 –A hungry and crotchety wolf learns a thing or two about being a good neighbor on his quest to find a fine meal. Edmond Bigsnout lives alone in the woods. One day, feeling hungry for a fancy city rabbit, Edmond sets off with knife in hand. Only, he quickly loses it in the elevator of a high rise apartment building where the perfect meal resides. Undaunted, he runs home to retrieve a chain saw. His mission is yet again thwarted when a neighbor in the building asks to borrow it. Again and again, the wolf returns with a new tool, only to loan it to a neighbor under the guise of being a new and friendly resident. In the end, Edmond realizes that he would prefer to live in a community with good neighbors, rather than continue to be a lone wolf. Set in France, this picture book for older elementary students is a bit of a thriller. The wolf, with his sharp teeth and sharp knife, may be a little surprising for readers at first, but as the story progresses they will realize that the big, bad wolf is not so bad after all. The wolf’s violent plans can be jarring, but the illustrations tone down the imagery. Created with mixed media in dark muted shades and splashes of color, the pictures have a more lighthearted touch. VERDICT A big, bad wolf story with a big-hearted ending. Great for read-alouds and small group sharing.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

Parr, Todd. Love the World. illus. by Todd Parr. 32p. Little, Brown. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316506588.

PreS-Gr 1 –Using the same kind of bold, flashy colors and positive message as in The Earth Book, Parr presents a rhythmic, rhyming picture book about the importance of loving oneself and the world around us. Loving one’s face, space, eyes, size, walk, and talk is followed by the love of “…giving a hand” and “…taking a stand.” Despite the text’s simplicity, Parr is able to convey some insightful ideas about how one can extend personal efforts toward broader, community-oriented ones. For example, the love of being kind accompanies a picture of a car on its way to an animal shelter, while the love of using one’s mind features a child building a robot. “Love your ears,” furthermore, is paired with “love your tears.” The latter suggests the value of showing feelings that are not easily expressed. “Love your flair” may not be completely understood by preschoolers, as the generic illustration of an unspecified animal in a pink bow does not adequately define the term. On the other hand, it serves as a catchy accompaniment to the simpler “love your hair” preceding it. Parr’s eye-catching illustrations reflect and celebrate the kind of simple, smiley-faced efforts a child might produce. VERDICT An appealing picture book best used for a classroom unit on Earth Day or one-on-one to talk about self-awareness and well-being.–Etta Anton, Yeshiva of Central Queens, NY

Ravishankar, Anushka. Hic! illus. by Christiane Pieper. 40p. Tara Bks. Sept. 2017. Tr $18. ISBN 9789383145645.

PreS-Gr 1 –Engaging art in four colors, with bold lines and cartoonish figures, depict a young girl who tries to beat her hiccups in eight ridiculous ways. This small square book was printed with an eco-friendly method, giving the pages an interesting texture. Ravishankar, a prolific writer, has created silly rhymes that bounce off the page, including such winners as “Put some mustard in your nose, which then, proceed to lick. HIC!” The illustrations, set in India, are in mustard, cerulean, black, and white, and will have listeners giggling. In the end, the hiccups are not solved and readers are asked to think of more ways to cure them. VERDICT An excellent storytime picture book; first purchase.–Lisa Nowlain, Nevada County Community Library, CA

Rex, Adam. Nothing Rhymes with Orange. illus. by Adam Rex. 32p. Chronicle. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452154435.

PreS-Gr 2 –The fruit rhyming party is off to a jaunty start, giving plums to chums and superhero capes to grapes. But as everyone knows, nothing rhymes with Orange, who relegates himself to the sidelines. He looks on as the poem grows increasingly frenetic, giving side commentary about rhyming cantaloupe with antelope (“Well, that was a little forced.”) and wondering aloud what is a quince. By the time Nietzsche appears, rhyming with “a lychee is just peachy,” he has had enough: “What?! I don’t see why he’s in this poem and I’m not…is all I’m saying.” Observant Apple notices Orange’s growing sadness and reaches out, blithely bending the English language to include Orange. The solution is no more sensible than the book itself, keeping in spirit with the work’s cheerful absurdity. Clever design choices and fanciful art “rendered in fruit” complement the unapologetically silly tale about loneliness and belonging. The expressive fruits are augmented with black lines for the arms, legs, and eyes. Simple backgrounds alternate between white and crumpled brown grocery bags, allowing the fruit (and recurring head of Nietzsche) to take the spotlight. VERDICT A fun and lively choice for a food-based storytime. Hand this excellent title to Rex’s many fans and those with a taste for the absurd.–Suzanne Myers Harold, Astoria Public Library, OR

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse. Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come True. illus. by Brigette Barrager. 40p. Random. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101936597.

PreS-K –In her first story Uni the unicorn was right, little girls are real. Now she and that little girl must team up to save the nonbeliever unicorns who are beset by seemingly endless rain and are quickly losing their strength and magic. Luckily, as a bolt of lightning flashes and thunder claps, both “wished the same wish with all their might,” and through the power of wishing they stood together at last! After cavorting with delight, they speed off to rescue the other unicorns, but not so speedily that there isn’t time to help some forest creatures and lift some spirits. The act of believing and befriending the little girl was all the other unicorns needed to get their mojo back and together successfully wish the rain away (“After what seemed like forever”). As in their last collaboration, Rosenthal’s magic-filled and effusive text is matched with Barrager’s bright, colorful, and joyous illustrations. Even looking at sad unicorns holding umbrellas (very effectively and amusingly, even with hooves), you can feel the magic waiting to break through. VERDICT Unicorn saves other unicorns with the magic of believing, effective wish fulfillment, and the help of a little girl. What’s not to like? Sure to be in demand where the previous title was popular.–Catherine Callegari, Reston Regional Library, VA

Sánchez, Roselyn & Eric Winter. Sebi and the Land of Cha Cha Cha. illus. by Nivea Ortiz. 28p. Celebra. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399583636.

Gr 1-3 –Sebi and her friend Keeke find themselves in the Land of Cha Cha Cha while pursuing a friendly emerald-colored Cotorra (parrot) during El Carnaval Latino. The children are eager to learn each dance that is offered to them while in the enchanted place. The perky white Cacatúa (cockatiel) teaches them the Cha, Cha, Cha, a handful of mischievous monkeys show them the Merengue, and the Samba is taught by a group of sweet squirrels. The pair return to the Carnaval where Sebi’s mom and grandmother are waiting. They show off their newly learned dancing skills, which bring big smiles to the adults’ faces. The well-told story and bright, vibrant illustrations will attract young readers to this tale. VERDICT Readers are sure to want to explore the dances mentioned in the story and see more of bright-eyed Sebi and her cheerful friend Keeke. Pair with poetry books such as Julia Durango’s Under the Mambo Moon or Marilyn Singer’s Feel the Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing.–Martha Rico, El Paso ISD, TX

Stutson, Caroline. Blue Corn Soup. illus. by Teri Weidner. 32p. Sleeping Bear. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781585369676.

PreS-Gr 2 –Abuelita Mouse prepares a batch of blue corn soup one wintry day. Soon, the wafting smell reaches the nearby canyon animals, each of whom wonders if sopa is on the menu. Upon reaching the mouse’s home, the animals realize there is not enough food to share on this frigid day. But Mouse has an idea: if each animal contributes something to the soup, perhaps there will be enough. Bear finds a large pumpkin, Rabbit brings a basket of potatoes, and Chipmunk happily adds in a yummy squash. When all the ingredients are mixed together, a treat is had by all. A new name is given to the sopa—Friendship Stew. Perfect for storytime because of rhyming words and refrains like “Pinyon smoke drifts through the wood. Someone’s cooking something good.” Smooth, calm illustrations match the text perfectly. A recipe for Blue Corn Soup is appended. Pair with a classic version of Stone Soup. VERDICT This tale is sure to become a time-honored read-aloud in libraries and classrooms everywhere.–Martha Rico, El Paso ISD, TX

Tone, Satoe. Mi mejor amigo. illus. by Satoe Tone. 32p. Uranito. Jan. 2017. Tr $10.95. ISBN 9788416773114.

PreS-Gr 1 –One rainy day, a lonely rabbit goes out for a walk, finds a tiny abandoned egg, and takes it home. The two embark on a lifelong friendship. Rabbit and the egg share meals, finish chores together, make friends with others, and go on picnics in forest meadows. They wish their idyll could last forever, but alas, the little feet sprouting from egg’s shell foreshadows an imminent change. Sure enough, egg’s mom, a bright yellow and rotund bird, comes to fetch little egg and they fly away. Sad, and inconsolable at times, rabbit does his best to carry on, but he misses the little egg very much. Then, to his surprise, his little egg returns. But, egg is now a yellow little bird. Joining him is his whole family and their cozy birdhouse, which sits atop a fluffy nest of green leaves and colorful blossoms. Collectively, the entire family transports the birdhouse, each bird carrying a rope, to join rabbit’s red apple-shaped home. Tone’s wondrously surreal yet accessible illustrations are a feast for the eyes, recalling dreamscapes filled with luminous flower blossoms and expansive blue skies that immediately draw children in. Themes of friendship, the inevitability of change, and the capacity to adapt, are rendered with emotion and are accessible to young readers. The Spanish text is concise yet never lacking in communicating the narrative themes. VERDICT An excellent Spanish-language selection for preschool storytimes.–Lettycia Terrones, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Wahman, Wendy. Pony in the City. illus. by Wendy Wahman. 40p. Sterling. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454922322.

PreS-Gr 1 –Otis, a pony at The Pony Paddock, is “saddled with questions” about the children who visit his home. Do they eat grass? Do they have their manes braided? Do they live in a barn? In a quest to find some answers, Otis sets off to the city and discovers that children’s lives are not that different from his own (but their barns are so big). Just when the voyage starts to get a little scary—he’s all on his own!—some human friends bring the little pony safely back to the park. Children who love to ask why things are the same or different from their own lives will find a favorite in this gentle adventure; the warmth in the tale is aided by the illustrations. Simple images in primary colors show the paddock, while hustle-bustle streetscapes introduce the city (like the renderings in Salvatore Rubbino’s A Walk in New York). VERDICT This simple, enjoyable horse tale with an adventure thrown in is sure to be a hit.–Henrietta Verma, National Information Standards Organization, Baltimore

Yayo. Pikiq. tr. from French by Talleen Hacikyan. illus. by Yayo. 32p. Tradewind. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781926890050.

PreS-Gr 2 –In this book translated from French, Yayo, a Colombia-born and Montreal-based author-illustrator imagines the artistic explorations of a child in the “far far North” named Pikiq and his owl and crow friends. Though the book does not explicitly say so, the protagonist appears to be Inuit: Pikiq is depicted sleeping in an igloo and wearing a fur-rimmed outfit. Pikiq finds a box full of art supplies and books in the snow left by an explorer, and creates art and dreams a colorful dream inspired by the images of animals in other parts of the world. The illustrations are elegant, textured, and brightly colored, switching playfully between collage and line. No author’s note explains the creator’s artistic or narrative choices, nor any connections to Inuit culture. VERDICT This book’s cheerful message about creativity is marred by stereotypical representation. Readers should turn to Sweetest Kulu, by Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, instead.–Lisa Nowlain, Nevada County Community Library, CA

Zidrou. Bobby’s Got a Brand-New Car. tr. from French by Vanessa Miéville. illus. by Sébastien Chebret. 32p. words & pictures. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781910277485.

PreS-Gr 1 –Bobby, an adventurous and determined boy, has decided to buy a car—“one that goes Vroom! for real.” He searches the dealership and settles on a stylish convertible, paying for it with his magic card that pays for everything. After driving for a bit and making all the happy car noises, he sets out to pick up his parents from their jobs. “‘What a beautiful car!’ Mom declares. ‘I really love the color.’” Later that day, Bobby has a new goal in mind, to buy an airplane—“one that goes Whooosh! for real.” The story is rather basic and deadpan. It seems like it’s told from a child’s point of view—there’s no overall reason for Bobby to have a car, nor is there any lesson learned. It’s simply a story about a child owning a car and the realistic things that they would do with it. The art style matches the tone; while the people look realistic, the cars and other background items have a cartoonish and simple design with overlaid colors combined from neighboring items. Altogether, this is a relaxed and dreamlike picture book, much like the wish all children have to grow up too quickly. VERDICT This relatable and easy story is perfect for one-on-one and small group sharing. A fun addition.–Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI

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