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Stellaluna. Reprinted with
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Reviews

Picturebooks - Fiction (2010 reviews)

AGE GUIDES: these are approximate recommendations:

  • Picturebooks, 3-8 years old
REVIEWERS: Ethan Bishop, Kristina Blake, Paris Brown, NaToya Faughnder, Louisa Garcia, Kira Hall, Amanda Hansen, Chris Kane, Francis Merlie, Kayla Nielsen, Marianne Paluso, Jaimee Pease, Natalie Scott, Danielle Seid, Marie Soriano, Cat Walker

* denotes San Diego writer and/or illustrator
** Age levels, when provided by the publishers, are included in the bibliographical information. Otherwise, category placements are our best approximations.

  • Ashburn, Boni. Over at the Castle. Illustrated by Kelly Murphy. New York: Abrams, 2010. ISBN 978-0-8109-8414-1. $15.95.
  • Beard, Alex. The Jungle Grapevine. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2009. ISBN 9780810980013. $16.95. Ages 4-8
  • Beiser, Tim. Bradley McGogg, the Very Fine Frog. Toronto: Tundra Books. 2009. ISBN 978-0-88776-864-4. $17.99. Ages 2-5.
  • Berry, Lynne. The Curious Demise of a Contrary Cat. Illus. Luke LaMarca. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. ISBN 978-1-4169-0211-9. $12.95 U.S./$17.95 CAN. Ages 4-8.
  • Bond, Rebecca. In the Belly of an Ox: The Unexpected Photographic Adventures of Richard and Cherry Kearton. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009. ISBN 978-0-547-07675-1. $16.00. Ages 4-8.
  • Chalk. Concept and illustrations by Bill Thomson. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books 2010. ISBN 978-0-7614-5526-4. $15.99. Ages 4-8.
  • Chidvilasananda, Gurumayi. The Frogs and Their Monster. South Fallsburg, NY: Siddha Yoga Publications. 2000. ISBN 0-911307-91-5. $14.00. Ages 4-8.
  • Egan, Tim. Dodsworth in London. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2009. ISBN 978-0-547-13816-9. $15.00 U.S. Hardback. Ages 6+.
  • Hansen, Doug. Mother Goose in California. Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2009. 978-1-59714-101-7. $16.95. Ages 4-8.
  • Hartt-Sussman, Heather. Nana’s Getting Married. Illustrated by Georgia Graham. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-88776-911-5. $17.95. Ages 4-7.
  • Inches, Alison. The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle. Illus. Pete Whitehead. New York: Simon & Schuster Little Green Books, 2009. Paperback, $3.99. Ages 4-6.
  • Javernick, Ellen. What if Everybody Did That? Illustrated by Colleen M. Madden. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7614-5686-5. $12.99. Ages 3-7.
  • Jenkins, Steve. Never Smile at a Monkey. Illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Boston, New York, 2009. ISBN 978-0-618-96620-2. U.S. $16.00/ Higher in Canada.
  • Johnson, Neil and Chin, Joel. The Falling Raindrop. Berkeley: Tricycle Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-58246-312-4. $14.99. Ages 3-6.
  • Kitamura, Satoshi. Millie’s Marvellous Hat. London: Anderson Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7613-5153-5. $16.95 U.S. Ages 4-8.
  • Lillegard, Dee. Sitting in My Box. Illustrated by Jon Agee. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, 2009. ISBN 978-0140548198. $15.99. Ages 4-8.
  • MacDonald, Margaret Read. Too Many Fairies: A Celtic Tale. Illustrated by Susan Mitchell. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7614-5604-9. $17.99. Ages 4-8.
  • Mandine, Selma. Kiss Kiss. New York: Golden Books, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-375-96431-2. U.S. $9.99/ $12.99 CAN. Ages 3-7.
  • Na, Il Sung. The Thingamabob. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. ISBN 978-0-375-86106-2. $15.99 U.S./ $19.99 CAN. Hardback. Ages 3+.
  • Nelson Micheaux, Vaunda. Who Will I Be, Lord? Illustrated by, Sean Qualls. New York: Random House. 2009. ISBN 978-0-375-84342-6. $16.99. Ages 4-8.
  • Perry, John. The Book That Eats People. Illustrated by Mark Fearing. Berkeley: Tricycle Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-58246-312-4. $14.99. Ages 4-8.
  • Rylant, Cynthia. Snow. Illus. Lauren Stringer. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc, 2008. ISBN 978-0-15-205303-1. $17.00. Ages 4-8.
  • Seibold, Jotto and Vivian, Siobhan. Vunce Upon A Time. Illustrated by Jotto Seibold. San Francisco, California, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8118-6271-4.
  • Stockton, Frank R. The Bee-Man of Orn. Illus. P. J. Lynch. Cambridge: Candlewick P., 2003. ISBN: 0-7636-2239-7.
  • Thomson, Sarah. Pirates, Ho! Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7614-5435-9. Ages 4-8.
  • Villeneuve, Anne. The Red Scarf. New York: Tundra Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-88776-989-4. $17.95. Ages 4+
  • Ward, Jennifer. There Was an Old Monkey Who Swallowed a Frog. Illustrated by Steve Gray. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7614-5580-6. $16.99. Ages 4-9.
  • Wheeler, Lisa. Dino-Baseball. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books. 2010. ISBN 978-0-7616-4429-2. $16.95. Ages 5-9.
  • Willis, Jeane. The Bog Baby. Illustrated by Gwen Millward. New York: Schwartz and Wade, 2009. ISBN 978-0375861765. $16.99. Ages 4-8.
  • Winner, Ramona Moreno. The Wooden Bowl - El bol de madera. Illustrated by Nicole Garay. Goleta: BrainStorm 3000, 2009. ISBN 978-0-9651174-3-2. $15.95. Ages 4-8.
    Yates, Louise. A Small Surprise. New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-375-85698-3. U.S. $16.99/ $18.99 CAN. Ages 3-7.
  • Yeh, Kat. You’re Lovable to Me. Illustrated by Sue Anderson. New York: Random House, 2009. ISBN 978-0-375-86015-7 $15.99. Ages 4-7.
  • Zenz, Aaron. The Hiccupotamus. Marshall Cavendish Children, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7614-5622-3. $12.99. Ages 3-7.

Ashburn, Boni. Over at the Castle. Illustrated by Kelly Murphy. New York: Abrams, 2010. ISBN 978-0-8109-8414-1. $15.95.

Young readers will love to spend time Over at the Castle. As in Ashburn’s previous book Hush, Little Dragon, this delightful sequel is to be read to the tune of a folk song. This time, the song is “Over in the Meadow.” The medieval landscape of this book is filled with knights, guards, servants, prisoners, lords, and of course, dragons.

Here, the dragons steal the show. The book opens with the baby dragon asking his mother if the time has come. The mother replies, “Not yet.” A reader’s interest will no doubt be peaked by the mystery of what’s to come. As the book progresses and more characters involved with castle life are introduced, readers should be on the lookout for dragons hidden in the background. This “Where’s Waldo” touch adds a great dimension of reader interaction with the book.

A special mention should be made of Kelly Murphy’s illustrations. From the warm, inviting colors to the adorably stylized drawings, these illustrations contribute greatly to the book’s appeal.

Highly recommended.

Kira Hall

Beard, Alex. The Jungle Grapevine. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2009. ISBN 9780810980013. $16.95. Ages 4-8

Alex Beard’s anthropomorphic jungle animals create laughs and chaos in this wonderfully colorful fable about the consequences of haphazard gossip. In the jungle, the name of the game is telephone, and hilarious antics ensue when Bird’s lazy ear misinterprets Turtle’s comment and kicks off a chain reaction bringing panic and upheaval across the peaceful savanna. As each animal misunderstands the message and asserts it to the next, everyone’s worst fears come to light. It is only the placid demeanor of Hippo which puts an end to the chain of gossip. Unfortunately, Turtle’s penchant for descriptive analogies sets the absent-minded Bird off on another round.

Beard’s soft illustrations are drawn in pen, ink, and watercolor providing a rich visual element to the story and bringing the African savanna to life. While Bird is the catalyst for the gossip and each animal passes one message along to another, Beard’s pictures subtly suggest more than what is going on at the surface of the text. The monkeys, in particular, sit silently outside the frame with Bird, and their sly stances evoke a suspicion which can only signal trouble. Each scene has a framework, with the art filling and sometimes spilling out of it, which helps to elicit the intense mood and emotion of the animals. The bright color palette retains the light-hearted effect of the text despite the story evoking some fearful situations congruent with the natural order of the jungle, such as Lion racing to the waterhole in search of prey.

The Jungle Grapevine is a wonderful story revealing the perils of idle gossip and impressing upon readers that everyone can contribute to it. Whether gossiping directly to one person or repeating it to one’s self, someone is always listening!

Jaimee Pease

Beiser, Tim. Bradley McGogg, the Very Fine Frog. Toronto: Tundra Books. 2009. ISBN 978-0-88776-864-4. $17.99. Ages 2-5.

Bradley McGogg sits happily on his Edenic log that is replete with frog-treats of all types. All is well until one hot summer day as Bradley bemoans that his food supply has vanished. He thinks of ways to rectify his predicament and concludes that his most prudent move will be to ask his formerly unfamiliar neighbors for provisions. In his quest for food, Bradley meets Miss Mousie, Herr Bear and Herr Hare, and Miss Moo. He quickly discovers that he doesn’t have the stomach for the food that his neighbors enjoy, so he despondently returns to his log. Upon returning home, Bradley rejoices as he discovers herds of insects to eat throughout his log. As he sits down to enjoy his feast, Bradley thinks about all of the different things that his neighbors eat.

Written in rhymed couplets, Tim Beiser’s book is as much fun to read as it is informative. In employing more sophisticated techniques such as internal rhyme, homonyms (Herr Hare), and alliteration, Beiser introduces a child reader to the complex nuances of language. Furthermore, by showing how Bradley McGogg responds to the idiosyncratic diets of others, Beiser dramatizes the coming together and acceptance of differing cultures within his narrative. Illustrated by famed painter Rachel Berman, Bradley McGogg, the Very Fine Frog is invaluable to a young reader because it demonstrates both an appreciation of home and of that which is foreign.

Ethan Bishop

Berry, Lynne. The Curious Demise of a Contrary Cat. Illus. Luke LaMarca. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. ISBN 978-1-4169-0211-9. $12.95 U.S./$17.95 CAN. Ages 4-8.

The character named “Witch” is giving a monster-bash, and the pre-goth set is invited to her page-turning party! But her obstinate cat insists on disregarding his owner and antagonizing her party guests. Witch is up to the brim of her cauldron in frustration when the irascible Cat puts more attention into making mischief than in helping her with hosting duties. Here is a cautionary tale illustrating the consequences of disobedience—which doesn’t lessen the fun in any way—and Cat learns that inconveniencing Witch will ultimately put a spell on his carefree existence.

The title page showcases the belligerent Cat by framing him with a look of disdain and, through his nonchalant disregard of the Witch’s requests for help, his cheeky attitude cannot be mistaken. Although sketched in gray, the drawings radiate vibrancy; there’s a lot going on in LaMarca’s backgrounds, from the framed portrait of a Cyclops whose expressions change as the pages are turned, to sneaky Rat overturning a pie in his effort to steal a slice. The friendly party guests (including a pearl-wearing ghost, childlike gnomes, and a dancer who resembles Jack Skellington) will seem sweet rather than spooky, even to younger children. The youthful Witch is an appealing version of Warner Brother’s Witch Hazel—with her splayed legs, long hair,
shapeless dress, and a habit of exclaiming, “Drat!”

The whimsical verses, a darkly humorous version of Dick-and-Jane-style books, are ideal for beginning readers and match the light-hearted theme. Bannered text draws attention to the verses, which children will quickly memorize. It’s the perfect Halloween companion that can also be enjoyed year-round.

Paris Brown

Bond, Rebecca. In the Belly of an Ox: The Unexpected Photographic Adventures of Richard and Cherry Kearton. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009. ISBN 978-0-547-07675-1. $16.00. Ages 4-8.

Have you ever found yourself enthralled by the picture of an exotic bird perched on a precipice or building its nest? Bond’s book follows the first two people ever to create a nature book filled with real photographs featuring a multitude of exotic birds. The book tracks the lives of the Kearton brothers, Richard and Cherry, from the very beginning to illustrate how these two pioneers used their trenchant love of nature and its myriad creatures as young children to develop and later publish their groundbreaking book on the birds of England.

For nature lovers and bibliophiles alike, Rebecca Bond’s story of two vanguards in the genre of nature photography is certain to delight. With her inviting style and facts about the lives of her two protagonists, this book is as much inspiring as it is educational.

Furthermore, Bond’s ornate illustrations capture the British landscape with realistic eloquence and accurately convey the charm of the bucolic country-side.

Ethan Bishop

Chalk. Concept and illustrations by Bill Thomson. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books 2010. ISBN 978-0-7614-5526-4. $15.99. Ages 4-8.

Just as children can create anything with chalk, the book Chalk creates a story with no words. And no words are needed.

Bill Thomson’s engaging illustrations make this story come to life. His extremely realistic artwork portrays three children who use chalk to make the sun appear on a rainy day. In addition to a blinding yellow sun and fluttering orange butterflies, however, the chalk is used to create a scary dinosaur. The young children discover how their imagination can help them eliminate boredom --as well as danger.

Chalk illustrates that, on a rainy day, all children need is a few pieces of chalk – and a lot of imagination. The vivid tale will surely spark the creativity of every reader, no matter what age.

Kristina Blake

Chidvilasananda, Gurumayi. The Frogs and Their Monster. South Fallsburg, NY: Siddha Yoga Publications. 2000. ISBN 0-911307-91-5. $14.00. Ages 4-8.

A community of frogs sits lavishly in a marsh just outside of the village of Ganeshpuri lamenting how boring their life is and wishing for something exciting to happen. One day, a giant unknown thing comes crashing down from the sky and lands in the marsh. Overwhelmed by fear, the frogs frantically scamper around in search of places to hide. Paralyzed by the uncertainty of what the unknown thing is, the frogs begin to conclude that it must be a terrifying monster. A local wise man comes to visit the marsh and becomes concerned when he finds the frogs are nowhere to be seen. He summons the frogs to come out and they inform him that they’re hiding because a monster has invaded their marsh. The wise man searches the marsh and finds what is responsible for frightening his amphibian friends. Will the frogs muster up the gumption to come face to face with their unknown antagonist or will they continue to hide?

In the tradition of Aesop, The Frogs and Their Monster is overtly didactic in its message that true happiness arises from being content with what one has. Keeping with this tradition, Chidvilasananda’s story includes an explicit moral at the end addressed to the reader that reinforces the author’s message. A fast and fun read, The Frogs and Their Monster is ideal for a young reader because it advocates the importance of community and courage.

Ethan Bishop

Egan, Tim. Dodsworth in London. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2009. ISBN 978-0-547-13816-9. $15.00 U.S. Hardback. Ages 6+.

Dodsworth Goes to London is another screwball comedy from Tim Egan. Imagine two people who seem to not like each other but really have an unspoken affection and fondness, and no, I don’t mean they’re gay and in the closet. Laurel and Hardy translated into picture books; that’s Dodsworth and his companion Duck, Dodsworth being the straight man. This book starts where the last one left off—Dodsworth and Duck arrive in London in a hot-air balloon. Of course, there is trouble involving pubs, double-decker buses, the Royal Family, and a case of mistaken identity.

The illustrations, ink and watercolor on paper, are marvelous. The lines are soft and the colors muted, so while the story tickles your funny bone, you’re not over-stimulated by bright colors and crazy zigzag lines.

Marie Soriano

Hansen, Doug. Mother Goose in California. Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2009. 978-1-59714-101-7. $16.95. Ages 4-8.

Doug Hansen spent over twenty years illustrating this charming ABC book which features some of California's most recognizable landmarks and beloved creatures. The rhymes, which accompany the letters of the alphabet, are taken directly from Mother Goose, but are given new meaning thanks to the delightful illustrations. A sea otter dressed in a bonnet sells seashells on the Monterey seashore. Peter, Peter, Pumpkin eater and his wife are California Ground Squirrels dressed up like Oakies; and Jack and Jill are California Bighorn Sheep who have climbed high into the picturesque mountains in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Each page is brimming with careful detail, wonderful imagination and abundant playfulness. These rich and ornate ABC scenes deepen an appreciation for the diversity and splendor of the Golden State. This is a highly original, captivating book, sure to please anyone with an interest in California's history, flora and fauna, rhymes, or fine illustrations.

Danielle Seid

Hartt-Sussman, Heather. Nana’s Getting Married. Illustrated by Georgia Graham. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-88776-911-5. $17.95. Ages 4-7.

Change is hard. That’s why the unnamed little boy finds it difficult to accept his grandmother’s boyfriend in Nana’s Getting Married. Nana used to bake chewy chocolate chip cookies, read bedtime stories, and knit mittens, socks, and turtlenecks. Now, she spends all her time with Bob. And when she isn’t with Bob, she does her hair differently, gets pedicures, exercises, takes bubble baths, and sings love songs. Her grandson thinks it’s “gross” and does not approve. Still, Nana and Bob decide to get married.

While Nana’s Getting Married is a fun tale, it’s not fun sharing your loved one with another, especially a new person. That’s why this familiar story is relatable to every child. Nana’s Getting Married shows that even though change can be scary, sometimes it can lead to great new things. The boy doesn’t lose his grandmother. Instead, he gains a new friend.

Kristina Blake

Inches, Alison. The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle. Illus. Pete Whitehead. New York: Simon & Schuster Little Green Books, 2009. Paperback, $3.99. Ages 4-6.

The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle is a rare picture book, being both entertaining and educational. The story follows the journey of plastic water bottle from its first creation to its amazing recycled transformation. In diary entries, the optimistic and happy little bottle bespeaks his love for every minute of his journey, and what a journey it is! To quote the last entry, “I went from crude oil to plastic crumbs, to a plastic bottle, to a vase, and finally to a recycled fleece sweatshirt.” And, in the end, that sweatshirt is worn by an astronaut headed to outer space!

What is wonderful about this little book is that it takes the theme of recycling and creates a sweet journey for its young readers to follow and undoubtedly enjoy. Colorfully illustrated with fun facts interspersed throughout, it teaches kids that recycling is not only good for the environment, but that it gives something as seemingly insignificant as a water bottle a chance to be something else entirely. Maybe the next water bottle they recycle will head off into space too. That truly would be “out of this world.” Keeping with the green theme, the book is also praiseworthy in that it is eco-friendly, made from 100% postconsumer waste recycled paper.

Marianne Paluso

Javernick, Ellen. What if Everybody Did That? Illustrated by Colleen M. Madden. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7614-5686-5. $12.99. Ages 3-7.

Standing up on a school bus, interrupting story time, and throwing one soda can on the highway doesn’t seem like a big deal. But what if everybody did that? The bus could tip over, the librarian wouldn’t be heard, and the road would be filled with trash.

What if Everybody Did That? repeats the question throughout the story, provoking readers to examine their own actions and teaches children that every action, no matter how small, has good or bad consequences. This simple, yet important message is also a great reminder for adults. So next time you do something, think to yourself – what if everybody did that?

Kristina Blake

Jenkins, Steve. Never Smile at a Monkey. Illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Boston, New York, 2009. ISBN 978-0-618-96620-2. U.S. $16.00/ Higher in Canada.

This nonfiction picture book of startling facts is one that educates readers while wowing them with simple but accurate illustrations of each menacing creature. The turn of each page offers readers an insight to some not-so-common facts concerning these unlikely predators. Despite their seemingly gentle appearance, these creatures are proven to be extremely harmful and even deadly. Whether it’s a venomous bite or an alarmingly sharp set of horns, these unsettling beings pose an undeniable threat to unknowing onlookers.

Jenkins accurately depicts each creature whether it’s a squirming insect, a croaking amphibian, or a fanged beast. The alarming facts put forth accurately inform the audience while presenting the subject matter with simple, straightforward text that a young readership can easily understand. The fascinating predators at hand will delightfully shock children, as well as teach the practicality of safety precautions when dealing with foreign species. This factual but creative picture book certainly educates and entertains young and old audiences alike.

Kayla Nielsen

Johnson, Neil and Chin, Joel. The Falling Raindrop. Berkeley: Tricycle Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-58246-312-4. $14.99. Ages 3-6.

A raindrop’s life is scary. Sure, the drop of water gets to “fly” through the sky, but what about after it falls to the ground? Readers will discover what happens in The Falling Raindrop, a tale that follows the lifecycle of a little drop of rain.

With spare text and simple illustrations, The Falling Raindrop shows children that good things can result from change. It also teaches the science of the water cycle. From the raindrop’s birth during a storm to the raindrop’s transformation at the end of the story, readers of all ages will enjoy the journey.

Kristina Blake

 

Kitamura, Satoshi. Millie’s Marvellous Hat. London: Anderson Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7613-5153-5. $16.95 U.S. Ages 4-8.

Aided by a solicitous salesman, Millie’s imagination reaches unprecedented heights when she acquires a new hat. After Millie reveals that she hasn’t enough money to purchase any hat in the shop, the squinting salesman seems to draw inspiration from the ceiling patterns. The hat he presents to Millie is a perfect fit. Drawing on encounters with window displays and passersby while walking around the city, her changing headpiece reflects everything she sees. In an instant, the hat can change from a towering cake to a billowing bouquet of flowers. Millie is additionally able to influence those around her through her happy aura. For example, while imagining that the birds and fish residing on her own hat can jump onto a murky pond topper on an elderly woman’s head, she smiles and the woman’s spirits are lifted.

Millie’s adventure, while charmingly original, cannot be told without Kitamura’s illustrations. A peacock hat (in the picture, an enormous peacock perches on her head) fills an entire two pages with colorful feathers. Her fountain hat features spurting water that forms patterns in the sky, morphing with subtlety into the shape of a nearby bird. Using pastels to create angular retro tones, the author creates an urban utopia of familiar-feeling characters and locales, one that possesses a timeless quality.

Adding to its visual strength, this story is a valuable inspiration to budding artistes. After all, readers can easily expand on the story by using their own imaginations. As Kitamura points
out, “everyone has their own marvellous hat.” We have only to open our minds along with this book, which will remain enjoyable through multiple readings.

Paris Brown

 

Millie’s Marvelous Hat is a picture book quite reminiscent of Madeline, featuring a little brown-haired girl in a bright yellow coat. There’s one important difference; Millie also sports a very special and “marvelous” hat. One day, Millie wanders into a hat shop where a kind salesman gives her a wonderful gift- an imaginary hat that can change into whatever she imagines. As Millie goes through her day, her hat transforms from a peacock to a fountain to countless other wonders. Soon, she imagines a hat on everyone she encounters, even her own parents- proving that fun and joy can be found anytime and with anything- even with an imaginary hat. Millie’s imagination is boundless, and the imaginations of the readers are too. Despite the story differences, lovers of Madeline should enjoy Millie for its similar illustrations and sweetness of character.

Marianne Paluso

Lillegard, Dee. Sitting in My Box. Illustrated by Jon Agee. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, 2009. ISBN 978-0140548198. $15.99. Ages 4-8.

How much can fit into one small cardboard box? Anything you can imagine! Children often find the box more fascinating than the gift inside it. Their imaginations can turn a simple brown box into a fort, an igloo, a 25-story building.

The small boy in Sitting in My Box believes it’s just him and his book about wild animals in his box. But soon, a number of uninvited creatures, including a giraffe, elephant, baboon, lion, and hippopotamus, intrude his cramped space.

Sitting in My Box is a quick and catchy read, perfect for beginners. The story will surely become a favorite for very young readers as they can visualize their magical boxes. So hop in a box and enjoy!

Kristina Blake

MacDonald, Margaret Read. Too Many Fairies: A Celtic Tale. Illustrated by Susan Mitchell. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7614-5604-9. $17.99. Ages 4-8.

There was an old woman who didn’t like to do housework. “Work! Work! Work! How I hate it! Hate it! Hate it!” she would exclaim. So when an array of helpful fairies arrived to help her wash the dishes, sweep the floor, make the bed, and do the knitting, the old woman should have been happy. At the end of Too Many Fairies: A Celtic Tale, however, the old woman learns how to appreciate her daily chores. She finds the loud fairies annoying. Clankety, swishety, flumpety, clickety. Too many noises!

Too Many Fairies: A Celtic Tale, conveys a subtle, yet significant message. The detailed and playful artwork help the tale’s magic come alive. The pixie faces of the fairies, the old woman, and her cat are adorable. The folksy illustrations truly complement the folk tale. Too Many Fairies: A Celtic Tale is a perfect example of why folk tales such as this have been passed down for generations.

Kristina Blake

Mandine, Selma. Kiss Kiss. New York: Golden Books, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-375-96431-2. U.S. $9.99/ $12.99 CAN. Ages 3-7.

How would you describe a kiss? When a teddy bear asks, “What’s a kiss like?” he learns they can be soft, prickly, wet, noisy, or messy. With the help of a little boy, the bear learns that any kiss is wonderful when it comes from someone you love.

This adorable translation of Selma Mandine’s Bisous Bisous is a perfect read aloud for Valentine’s Day. Mandine’s soft pastel illustrations bring to life the uniqueness and sweetness of kisses. The variations of color and background help the reader think about how the kisses of loved ones are different from one another--and yet all are special.

Amanda Hansen

Na, Il Sung. The Thingamabob. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. ISBN 978-0-375-86106-2. $15.99 U.S./ $19.99 CAN. Hardback. Ages 3+.

A little elephant finds a mysterious object, and when none of his friends know what it is, he tries to figure out its purpose by himself. What an adorable story! And the illustrations are lovely. Na uses handmade painterly textures with digitally generated layers, which are then compiled in Adobe Photoshop. The opening pages before the title page and the back page after the credits feature rows of octagons with a variety of designs and colors. Gorgeous! Then the illustrations in the story consist of lines drawn freehand, spirals and delicate, flowing lines that are playful and relaxed rather than straight and rigid. Na has drawn designs on the animals that are so light and tiny that they were likely made with the idea that the child reader’s face would be right in the pages. Sometimes the pictures cover an entire page and part of the proceeding one. Other times the pictures are small and spread across the bottom of the page. This creates a sense of perspective from far away or close to the little elephant. Na uses vibrant colors, although she plays with shades. The Thingamabob looks like it was as much fun to create as it is to read and look at.

Marie Soriano

Nelson Micheaux, Vaunda. Who Will I Be, Lord? Illustrated by, Sean Qualls. New York: Random House. 2009. ISBN 978-0-375-84342-6. $16.99. Ages 4-8.

This is a story of a little girl trying to figure out who she is and who she will be when she grows up. She explores the lives of different family members as she searches for answers. She talks about their occupations and the choices that they have made in life. After she examines the lives of her Great Grandparents, her Grandparents, an uncle, a cousin and her own parents she asks the Lord, “What will I be, Lord?”

The beauty of this story is how Nelson Micheaux manages, in just one or two pages per relative, to tell the history of an amazing family. In her subtle text she not only shares their occupations, but their strong convictions and an underlying love for life and the people they surround themselves with. She doesn’t state it outright, but this book also stresses the importance of sharing and preserving family histories.

Sean Qualls’ illustrations move this book along like a song. Every inch of every page is filled with wonderfully subdued blues and purples. Together Qualls and Nelson have created a heartwarming story that is both enjoyable and magical.

Louisa Garcia

Perry, John. The Book That Eats People. Illustrated by Mark Fearing. Berkeley: Tricycle Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-58246-312-4. $14.99. Ages 4-8.

With yellow caution tape, a red evil face, and The Book That Eats People as a title, some readers may be too afraid to open this book. But if you’re the adventurous type who enjoys risks, turn the page. Just don’t say the cover didn’t warn you.

The Book That Eats People isn’t a fairy tale, a how-to book, or a book of rhymes. It is a different kind of book, and the faint of heart should beware. This is the legend about the book that eats people. Or, is it the truth? “If you hear growling while you’re reading it, stop reading, close the cover, and put something heavy on top of it”—This book is hungry and it doesn’t discriminate. According to the tale, this book has eaten a prisoner, a security guard, a librarian, and a few children.

With laugh-out-loud text and incredibly detailed illustrations, The Book That Eats People entices readers to turn every page. But heed the warning – never read the book with syrupy fingers or cookies in your pocket. This book is always hungry.

Will you dare? Read at your own risk.

Kristina Blake

Rylant, Cynthia. Snow. Illus. Lauren Stringer. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc, 2008. ISBN 978-0-15-205303-1. $17.00. Ages 4-8.

This beautiful and delicate picture book encourages the curiosity winter and snow can bring to children. In a lyrical text, Rylant tells us all the ways that winter can be a wonderful opportunity to bring a family together. Snow focuses on a young girl and her grandmother and their encounters with different types of snowfalls. The soft illustrations go hand-in-hand with the text, allowing the reader to feel uplifted and warm inside.

Snow is a delightful winter story that will encourage readers to cuddle up by the fire and enjoy the small things in life. Rylant reminds us to take opportunities like a winter snowfall to enjoy time with family and friends.

Natalie Scott

Seibold, Jotto and Vivian, Siobhan. Vunce Upon A Time. Illustrated by Jotto Seibold. San Francisco, California, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8118-6271-4.

This picture book tells the not-so-scary story of Dagmar, a young, vegetarian vampire looking to ease his overwhelming sweet tooth. The lovable, candy-hungry monster decides to dress for Halloween in hopes of getting enough candy to last him the entire year. Unfortunately, his first costume is ruined, leaving the misunderstood misfit to prowl the streets simply dressed as himself. While blindly wandering the premises of the crowded neighborhood, Dagmar befriends a bubbly young girl when she is masked by her ghost costume. Upon the unveiling of the pigtail-wearing youngster, Dagmar loses his entire prized candy collection out of fear for the human’s intentions. However, he is pleasantly surprised by her good-natured generosity as she returns each morsel of his sugary sweet assortment, and even dreams of a future friendship after returning to the safety of his coffin.

Reader’s imaginations will be delightfully engaged while journeying through this innocent Halloween tale. The illustrations not only depict what is written in the text, but they also elaborate on the story by filling each page with a colorful splash of seemingly spooky characters and settings that kids will go crazy for. Dagmar’s shy but lovable character is as sweet as the candy his kind heart desires. This harmlessly eerie story is one that youngsters will read time and time again despite the season.

Kayla Nielsen

Stockton, Frank R. The Bee-Man of Orn. Illus. P. J. Lynch. Cambridge: Candlewick P., 2003. ISBN: 0-7636-2239-7.

The Bee-Man of Orn, first published in 1887 as a part of The Man of Orn and Other Fanciful Tales, is given new life and energy by master illustrator P. J. Lynch in this 2003 picture book version. The Bee-Man of Orn narrates the story of a strange but sincere scraggly old man possessing a natural affinity for bees. Upon being told by a Junior Sorcerer that his present form and life is the result of a magical transformation, the Bee-Man sets out to discover his original form, encountering along the way a Lord of the Domain, a Languid Youth, a Very Imp, a Dragon, a baby, and a mother. A quest narrative pocketed with bits of danger and humor, The Bee-Man of Orn is also a sophisticated tale about destiny and contentment. The language and narrative style of the text is that older, smoother style of writing that refuses to look down upon the reader, and while it is not a simple tale, it feels to the reader like a tale simply told. P. J. Lynch’s magnificent watercolor illustrations are master works of color and character. The Bee-Man and all whom he encounters seem to not only possess that spark of believability and life found in the best illustrations, but each image faithfully renders character personality and a sense of action. Though still images, each page depicts a sense of movement; even in a particular image juxtaposing the Bee-Man with the Junior Sorcerer set against a plain white background, the body positions of the figures and their expressive countenances refuse the rigidity or portraiture and bespeak of the vivacity of the characters.

NaToya Faughnder

Thomson, Sarah. Pirates, Ho! Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7614-5435-9. Ages 4-8.

Pirates, Ho! invites its young reader to imagine becoming a pirate. To join them, one must be daring, brave, and ruthless. This book explores the many ways pirates live a great life—surviving the perils of the sea, battling enemy ships, and sharing camaraderie. Part of the pirates’ camaraderie involves sharing ghost stories.

As the pirates gather around on the ship deck to hear a scary tale, the tone of the story shifts. No longer are the pirates portrayed as fearless. Rather, their vulnerability begins to show through their tough veneer. By the end of the ghost story, the pirates escape to the comfort of their beds, where they pull the blankets up tight, grab their pirate teddy bears, and dream of pirate adventures.

This book follows in the tradition of the classic bedtime story. The final thoughts and images of the story involve safely going off to bed, just as its young reader is about to do. The child will see that even the toughest pirate needs a good night’s sleep.

Kira Hall

Villeneuve, Anne. The Red Scarf. New York: Tundra Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-88776-989-4. $17.95. Ages 4+

Turpin the taxi driver believes his day will be grey. When a mysterious stranger leaves a red scarf in his cab, Turpin’s day turns out to be anything but! Join Turpin the taxi driver on his adventure to return the red scarf to the mysterious stranger when he encounters a unicycling lizard, a hungry lion and his tamer, a roller-skating bear, and a mischievous tightrope walking monkey.

Originally published in French Canada in 1999, this Governor General’s award winning book contains one sentence, a fantastic adventure, and numerous beautiful illustrations. The almost wordless aspect invites the reader to bring his or her own imagination and dialogue to the anything but grey day of Turpin the taxi driver.

Chris Kane

Ward, Jennifer. There Was an Old Monkey Who Swallowed a Frog. Illustrated by Steve Gray. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7614-5580-6. $16.99. Ages 4-9.

Ever wondered what happens to a monkey who has a strange diet? Well, the monkey in There Was an Old Monkey Who Swallowed a Frog has a very strange diet. The old monkey gobbles a frog, cocoa, a bat, a toucan, an iguana, and many other residents of the rainforest in this entertaining tale.

The story, which is a parody of the traditional children’s song "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly," also has a cumulative structure. Children will read, even sing, the catchy rhyming words aloud in a sing-song voice. The cute, colorful, and creative illustrations of the big-eyed rainforest creatures add to the story, which reinvents the original folk song but stays true to its rhythm and charm.

Kristina Blake

Wheeler, Lisa. Dino-Baseball. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books. 2010. ISBN 978-0-7616-4429-2. $16.95. Ages 5-9.

Eager throngs of dinosaurs pack the ballpark to watch the important baseball game between the Green Sox and the Rib-eye Reds. The crowd grows bored as the game remains scoreless for the first four innings. The Green Sox manager is ejected from the game for arguing and insulting the umpire. With their manager now gone, the Green Sox hit a three-run homerun to take the lead. Tension mounts as the Rib-eye Reds have the bases loaded. Baryonyx steps to the plate and crushes a grand slam to put the Reds ahead in the score. Maiasaura blasts a homerun in the eighth to tie the game. With the game still even in the ninth inning, Apatosaurus slams a game-winning homerun to catapult the Green Sox to victory. The overjoyed fans rush the field as the season ends and eagerly await the start of next season’s sport, Dino-Hoops.

From the 2008 Geisel Award- winning author of Jazz Baby, Dino-Baseball is Lisa Wheeler’s third installment in the series following Dino-Soccer (2009) and Dino-Hockey (2007). With its combination of esoteric baseball terminology and amplified action, Dino-Baseball is sure to captivate both burgeoning baseball enthusiasts and adolescent readers merely looking for a fun and exciting read. As is the case of the first two books in the series, Barry Gott’s colorful and comical illustrations complement Wheeler’s rhymed stanzas with lively depictions of dinosaurs enjoying our national pastime.

Ethan Bishop

Willis, Jeane. The Bog Baby. Illustrated by Gwen Millward. New York: Schwartz and Wade, 2009. ISBN 978-0375861765. $16.99. Ages 4-8.

Two girls visit a magic pond in the woods where they find a bog baby—a round, blue, jelly-like creature. The girls are enchanted and take him home as a pet. They make the bog baby a home, feed it cake crumbs, and show it to their friends. When the bog baby gets sick, the girls don’t understand why, but they need to find a cure before it’s too late.

Sweeping full-page illustrations of the woods alternate with pages highlighting the characters against a white background and build on the strength of this excellent story. The Bog Baby introduces children to the concept of captivity and its effects on. wild creatures. With a hint of nostalgia and a bit of magic, the bog baby comes alive in this cute and charming tale that inspires respectful exploration of nature.

Francis Merlie

Winner, Ramona Moreno. The Wooden Bowl - El bol de madera. Illustrated by Nicole Garay. Goleta: BrainStorm 3000, 2009. ISBN 978-0-9651174-3-2. $15.95. Ages 4-8.

Children are full of surprises. Sometimes they do the teaching. In The Wooden Bowl, Diego teaches his parents a lesson be helping them realize that they are not treating his aging grandfather with respect. True, Diego’s grandfather makes a mess when he drops his food at the dinner table. But he can’t help it; his hands tremble. Still, Diego’s parents don’t understand. Therefore, the perceptive child can learn his mother and father’s poor habits. How they treat his grandfather now is how Diego will treat his parents when they are older.

The story, written in English and Spanish, is a positive lesson for readers of all ages. The Wooden Bowl teaches children – and adults – to help, not hinder or hurt, the elderly. The book includes discussion questions, writing assignments, and vocabulary words. There is also space for children to place pictures of their loved ones. The heartwarming tale conveys an important message for all of us.

Kristina Blake

Yates, Louise. A Small Surprise. New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-375-85698-3. U.S. $16.99/ $18.99 CAN. Ages 3-7.

Louise Yates’ introductory picture book A Small Surprise showcases a small rabbit who dreams of joining the circus. An employment notice declares, “Small animals need not apply,” but the confident rabbit introduces himself with a bow to the menagerie of performers. Admitting to his imperfections, the rabbit tries tirelessly to impress the performers, but what impresses them is the rabbit’s surprising magic trick.

The simple text is appropriate for any young child, making this book a fantastic read aloud for preschoolers and beginning readers. The unique font used for the words “small,” “disappear,” and “reappear” brings attention to the relationship between the size and abilities of the rabbit. The words, however, are not sufficient in showing the rabbit’s ability to win over the circus animals; the illustrations provide a deeper understanding of the story. The colorful images of enormous wide-eyed creatures bending to help the rabbit wipe his clown nose or tie his oversized shoes portray a gentler side to the animals who were described as “beastly” and “savage” on the menagerie billboard.

Throughout the story, the reader sides with the underdog to win a place in the circus. Does the rabbit make it? The final endsheet leaves room for reader interpretation.

Amanda Hansen

Yeh, Kat. You’re Lovable to Me. Illustrated by Sue Anderson. New York: Random House, 2009. ISBN 978-0-375-86015-7 $15.99. Ages 4-7.

This is a delightful story of unconditional love. Mama Bunny runs around all day, chasing and cleaning up after her six baby bunnies. When it is bedtime, the bunnies apologize to Mama for making her work so hard. In response, she reassures her babies, “No matter what your feelings are, whatever they may be…I’m your mama. You’re my bunnies. And you’re lovable to me.”
Mama finally has time to sit on the couch while she waits for her dad, Grandpa Bunny, to show up for evening tea. When he walks in, he sees his baby sleeping on the couch. He repeats his vow, ending with “And you’re lovable to me.”

The simple and creative illustrations add dimension to the story. They portray the emotions and actions of the bunnies throughout the day. This endearing multigenerational tale teaches that familial love is unconditional, regardless of age or wild behavior.

Cat Walker

Zenz, Aaron. The Hiccupotamus. Marshall Cavendish Children, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7614-5622-3. $12.99. Ages 3-7.

An entertaining picture book, The Hiccupotmus is about a purple, hiccupping hippopotamus who tries to move through his daily life without letting his hiccups get the best of him. His friends try all sorts of methods to “stop this long nightmareapy.”

In a rhyming verse and cartoon-like pictures, The Hiccupotamus is a fun and entertaining story. Nothing is more annoying then a case of the hiccups. Zenz creates a familiar story and puts his own unique style on the tale. With creative “Cast Bios” at the back of the book, Zenz also aims his silly humor towards adults as well. Fun for all ages.

Natalie Scott

 

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