Showing posts from July, 2014

Red Panda's Candy Apples by Ruth Paul

New Zealander Ruth Paul's first two books to be published in the US just happen to feature my two favorite animals! Last year I reviewed Hedgehog's Magic Tricksand, aside from the presence of a winsome hedgehog, I was charmed by Paul's gentle sense of humor,  sunny palette and sweet story. Red Panda's Candy Apples delivers all of these wonderful qualities and more!

When Red Panda decides to sell candy apples there are a few ups and downs. The candy apples are so yummy and everyone - including Red Panda - wants one. Or two. Mouse buys a small apple for her whole family and carts it off in a wheelbarrow made from a teacup on wheels. Bushbaby and Duckling get into a bit of a sticky spot over the last candy apple, but Paul ends Red Panda's Candy Appleson a happy note and with a hilarious final illustration.  There is third book featuring Paul's adorable animals coming soon, and I hope that there are many more to come!
Be sure to check out Julie Danielson's interv…

A Perfect Place for Ted by Leila Rudge

A Perfect Place for Ted is Leila Rudge's delightfuldebut as a picture book author and illustrator. She has worked, wonderfully, with Meg McKinlay on the fantastic No Bears and two illustrated chapter books (see below for links to my reviews.)On her own, Rudge's book exhibits a sense of humor and illustration style that reminds me of a favorite, Emily Gravett.
Ted is a "smart dog with his own sweater," who does his best to make a good impression, but he has a hard time being noticed. The other dogs in the pet store where he has lived for so long all outshine him. Ted decides to try a different tack and or two, but nothing seems to work. From circus performer to pageant contestant . . . 

. . . to guard dog. But burglars don't even notice Ted.

When Ted answers a "Wanted: Furry Friend" sign, it seems like his wish has come true. A page turn reveals a great moment that makes this already charming book even better. Rudge's illustrations are superb, filled wi…

Sleep Tight, Anna Banana! by Dominique Roques, illustrated by Alexis Dormal

Sleep Tight, Anna Banana! by Dominique Roques illustrated by Alexis Dormal marks the debut picture book from the premier publisher of graphic novels for readers of all ages, FirstSecond and it is a gem! Both the wry storytelling and the energetic illustrations call to mind one of my favorite picture book author and illustrators, Jules Feiffer, who has written his own bedtime story, which has a similar sense of urgency and importance.

It's late and Anna's parents have said, "Lights out," but Anna just can't put her book down. It's "fascinating . . . frightening . . . hilarious . . . gripping!" Unfortunately, her stuffed friends would really like her to turn off the light.

But Anna will not oblige. In fact, she is enjoying her book so much and so loudly that she makes her pals a little cranky.

Then the tables are turned on Anna and in a very funny way. Anna's stuffed animals, who get character introductions on the endpapers, are portrayed perfectly i…

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, 255 pp, RL 5

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman combines time-travel fantasy and historical fiction in an different way that makes for an interesting read. Sherman begins her novel introducing us to the thirteen-year-old Sophie Martineau and the very different world of 1960s Louisiana. Sophie's mama is a Fairchild of Oak River, which was once a great sugar cane plantation. Now, the remains of the Fairchilds, Sophie's aunt and grandmother, live in Oak Cottage, a small house  that resides on a small portion of the land that the family still owns. Sophie's mama is a beauty, with shiny chestnut hair, smooth and creamy skin and a waist that was "not much bigger than twenty inches around, even without a girdle." With her "puppy fat, frizzy, dishwater hair, imperfect skin and thick glasses," Sophie is a great trial to her mama, especially since her father divorced her and moved to New York City where he married a woman who is an artist and probably Jewish. Sherman does a fi…

My Pet Book by Bob Staake

I am a big fan of the work of Bob Staake and I hope you'll take time at the end of this review to explore his other books, many of which I have reviewed here. His newest picture book, My Pet BOOK, perfectly presents Staake's wacky sensibilities and his colorfully crowded world while expressing the joys of books and reading at the same time.

Set in Smartytown, we meet a boy who wants a pet that is easy to take care of and has the power to transport you to other worlds. Of course, this kind of pet can only be found at the Loyal Neighborhood Bookopolis (thanks for the shout-out to independent bookstores, too, Mr. Staake!)

Our hero has a hard time choosing just the right book - I mean pet - but he does find a "frisky red hardcover" that doesn't have fleas, never needs bathing and, best of all, doesn't poop.

The boy takes his book home and all is well for a while, until his beloved pet disappears. My Pet BOOK is told in verse and, as picture book prove time and time …

I Am So Brave by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Sara Gillingham

I Am So Brave! is the newest book from Stephen Krensky and Sara Gillingham and the fourth in their series of board books celebrating the milestones along from toddlerhood to preschooler.I Can Do It Myself! and Now I Am Big!andI Can Do It Myself!. Rather than teaching facts to toddlers like most board books, Krensky's books focus on the things the accomplishments they have already achieved.

In I Am So Brave!, Krensky hones in on the seemingly small, everyday happenings that can be monumental for little ones, from being scared of dogs, swimming, the dark, loud horns and good-byes. Each fear is expressed, then countered. Our narrator tells us he was sacred of the dark, then, "I saw the stars shine." My favorite illustration of all of Gillingham's wonderful artwork is the final spread where we see our narrator gleefully jumping into a ball pit declaring, "Now I am brave!"

Source: Review Copy

Montessori Map Work by Bobby and June George, illustrated by Alyssa Nassner

Montessori Map Work is the fourth and my favorite of the Montessori series of board books Abrams Appleseed began publishing in 2012. All of the books by Bobby and June George, founder of the Baan Dek Montessori School in Sioux Falls, North Dakota, are invaluable and Alyssa Nassner's crisp illustrations. As they note in their letter to parents that introduces each book in the series, the Motessori way of teaching focuses on the concrete before the abstract. Before introducing the continents and their names, we learn that the earth is round and made of land and water. Like the other books in the series, these books have textures and shapes to trace, also central teaching methods in Montessori. Best of all, and wisely, the Georges include illustrations of native animals with each country which is guaranteed to get and hold reader's attention. Best of all, the final page has a gatefold spread that shows the world with the animals in their native habitats. As with all the books in …

Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell

There are SO MANY things I love about Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell, but it's clear that the best place to start is with the octopus - a rare but very welcome character in a picture book and not seen with this level of earnest, smart humor since the dynamic duo of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith brought us Cowboy and Octopus. Farrell's laugh-filled story is exactly the kind that little listeners love - a pattern is established, anticipation builds with every page turn and there is a spontaneous shout-it-out kind of audience participation that adds to the fun. Like Cowboy and OctopusThank You, Octopusis the kind of book that you will be asked to read over and over and, along with the listeners, never tire of.

In Thank You, Octopus, Farrell's eight-armed cephalopod is a well-intentioned parental type (the New York Timesreview brilliantly referred to Octopus as an "eight-tentacled au pair") making his home on a cozy tug boat in New York Harbor with his young fri…

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

I was instantly drawn to the illustrations of Kazuno Kohara when I was working as a bookseller and discovered the paperback edition of Ghosts in the House! back in 2010. Ghosts in the House!is the rare Halloween-themed picture book - one that captures the spirit of the holiday while also offering just the right amount of spooky for little listeners. Kohara's book was a joy to read at story time that year and made it onto my list of Halloween books worth buying, which you can readhere.

Kohara's linocut illustrations offer bold, black, textured prints accentuated with one or two colors and ver very visually appealing, as are her characters, who have a childlike resourcefulness that shines through in every book. In Ghosts in the House!, a little witch and her cat solve the problem of a haunted house by washing the ghosts and hanging them out to dry like sheets, then turning them into all sorts of domestic delights, from tablecloths to quilts. In Here Comes Jack Frost, a mopey litt…