5.05.2016

A Firetruck Named Red by Randall de Sève, illustrated by Bob Staake


With A Fire Truck Named Red, Randall de Sève and Bob Staake are perfectly paired for a superb picture book that easily could have been overly sentimental in less talented hands. A birthday present gone wrong becomes a journey and an adventure that connects a boy and his grandfather and opens up a whole new world of play.



With his birthday approaching, Rowan has his eyes on a shiny new ladder truck with all sorts of nifty features. This is not the fire truck he gets. Instead, he gets Red, his grandfather's well-loved toy truck. Papa tells Rowan all about Red, but Rowan is "busy trying not to cry." As Rowan and his Papa spend time in his garage fixing up Red, Papa tells him about all the adventures he and Red used to have. As Papa's stories get more and more spectacular, Rowan is more and more engrossed - and maybe even just a bit excited and happy.



Staake illustrates Papa's stories in sepia tones, and the glasses and round nose make Papa and his younger self immediately recognizable. As Papa's stories get bigger and bigger, the sepia toned illustrations of his memories take up more and more page space until finally, magically, wonderfully, Rowan is pulled into the memories. Where Papa and Red were a team, now Papa, Red and Rowan are a trio. A Fire Truck Named Red ends with Papa handing over a shiny, spiffed up Red  to a smiling Rowan who thinks to himself, "We could be a great team." The final illustration shows that indeed, they are.


Source: Review Copy

5.04.2016

An After Bedtime Story by Shoham Smith, illustrated by Einat Tsarfati, translated by Annette Appel



I am so absolutely in love with An After Bedtime Story, written by Shoham Smith and illustrated by Einat Tsarfatit, translated by Annette Appel. With illustrations that feel like an update on Hilary Knight's classic style (in fact, I think that Nina could very well be what Kay Thompson's Eloise was like as a toddler) and a story that I am sure was written just for me, although about 10 years too late, An After Bedtime Story is sure to become a classic among a certain set of (lovingly permissive) parents. I never did get the bedtime routine down, even with my third and lots of sleep-training books, and can totally relate to Nina's very tired parents. . .



Written in rhyming couplets, An After Bedtime Story opens with an adorable little girl, tucked into bed and sleeping, her parents on either side of her doorway, ready to sneak off. Nina calls them back for one more kiss, and they oblige, of course. But, instead of falling back to sleep, Nina is off and running down the hall, her parents sitting on her bed, bewildered, frustrated and clearly approaching exhausted. But how can Nina sleep? There are guest over and a party happening in the living room. And boy, does Nina know how to party. After hugs from all the aunties and uncles, she hits the dessert cart hard. From there, it's the drinks - fizzy pink lemonade, perfect for the pink and yellow palette that makes the black ink lines of the illustrations pop. Mom and dad try to reign her in. They count down, but before they can give Nina an ultimatum, her baby brother is standing in the hallway, blankie (and toy sword - after all, little brother is wearing a Viking helmet) in hand.







Einat Tsarfati's illustrations are brilliant! They are modern and humorous, but also feel like a timeless representation of life with toddlers. Every page is rich with details, and you will pore over An After Bedtime Story again and again taking them in, from the pet pug who is in a cone-collar for unknown reasons to Nina's bedroom, strewn with toys, including a cradle with a robot tucked in for the night and toy T-rex charging a Barbie-type doll. An After Bedtime Story is one that parents and kids will laugh at together every time they read it, and maybe it might even lead to some peaceful nighttime resolutions?

Source: Review Copy

5.03.2016

This is not a picture book! by Sergio Ruzzier





While This is not a picture book! is only the fourth book I have reviewed by Sergio Ruzzier, I have read many more, including his work with the wonderful Eve Bunting and Emily Jenkins, and I have to say, his newest is my favorite and closest to my heart. This is not a picture book! reads like a love letter to everyone who believes in the transformative power of reading, and it is one that I will read often, to myself and out loud to my students.




This is not a picture book! begins with Duck happily discovering a book, well before the title page. Elation turns to frustration when Duck realizes that there are ONLY WORDS in this book! Bug arrives and asks if Duck can read this offensive book with no pictures, to which Duck replies, "I'm not sure." Up until this page, Duck, the book and Bug are shown on a white background. When Duck answers, the two page illustration shows the white background on the left hand side, with a crevasse and colorful terrain on the verso. A log bridge connects the two, and as Duck walks across it, muttering, "Words are so difficult," and the journey of decoding and learning to read begins!


And what a journey it is! The landscape changes as Duck reads words that are funny, sad, wild and peaceful. While This is not a picture book! is about reading books without pictures, Ruzzier's illustrations are perfectly paired with the spare but powerful text and, as always, his world is one that I love to visit. Colorful curiosities abound as Duck and Bug walk and read, and visual clues that help emerging readers decode. In the final pages of This is not a picture book!, Ruzzier captures perfectly how I feel when I read a good book, "All these words carry you away and then they bring you home where they stay with you forever." And, in a brilliant design touch, the front endpapers of This is not a picture book! are a spread of text, mostly garbled, and, if you have pre, emerging  or struggling readers at home, I strongly encourage you to skim it closely. Reading is like breathing for me - I rarely think about it. Skimming the front endpapers with decodable sight words sprinkled here and there helped me understand what so many of my students experience when they open a book. It is good to be reminded of the challenge. The endpapers of This is not a picture book! is worth reading as well! It is the story of Duck and Bug and the book that they find. It is yet another testament to Ruzzier's gift as a writer. He can craft a powerful picture book with less than 100 words and he can write a picture-less story that is equally engaging, using the words to paint the pictures in the head of the reader.

Source: Review Copy