Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Boot & Shoe

Booklist starred (August 2012 (Vol. 108, No. 22))

Preschool-Grade 3. Boot and Shoe, Shoe and Boot—they’re a perfect pair. The white-and-black canine moppets are identical littermates, except for one small detail: Boot has boot-high black markings on his legs, while Shoe has shoe-high markings on his. They live in harmony, eating out of the same bowl, peeing on the same tree, and sleeping in the same bed. Boot is “a back porch kind of dog,” while Shoe prefers the front porch. Sounds blissful, right? And it is, until a pesky squirrel upends their little lives. Frustrated by the squirrel’s shenanigans, the two chase the tiny menace “until it gets bored,” then collapse belly-up from exhaustion. Boot wakes to find himself on the front porch, with no Shoe in sight; Shoe finds himself on the back porch, with no Boot in sight. Befuddled, they each wait lovingly for the other to return to his rightful spot. Two-time Caldecott Honor winner Frazee creates the dogs’ world in a series of cozy, expressive vignettes (nestled in plenty of white space), which capture the devoted friends’ joy and angst in shades of muted green and yellow. Full-page spreads offer up views of their tidy house, both porches visible, and a particularly amusing image depicts (seemingly) hundreds of squirrels and shaggy pups chasing one another around, up, and over the structure. Rarely have dogs—or footwear—been so charming.

This Is Not My Hat

Horn Book (September/October, 2012)

The eyes have it in Klassen’s latest hat book (I Want My Hat Back, rev. 11/11). Klassen manages to tell almost the whole story through subtle eye movements and the tilt of seaweed and air bubbles. The wide-eyed little fish on the cover looks guilty. He is. He has taken the tiny bowler from the head of a large sleeping fish and pleads his case to the reader. He explains why he will never be caught -- the fish is asleep; he won’t wake up or notice the missing hat; and he won’t know who took it or where the thief has gone. The culprit continues to flee the scene of the crime, moving to "where the plants are big and tall and close together." Once he reaches his destination, the reader sees the little guy for the last time, disappearing amidst the "safety" of the seaweed. The final spread is laugh-out-loud funny: the large fish now sports the teeny hat, eyes closed and relaxed in slumber. The seaweed wafts innocently, and the air bubbles are calm. Since every claim the little fish makes is belied by the pictures, the reader is in on the joke, by turns rooting for him to get away and nervously hoping he is caught. Klassen continues to be the master of black and brown, and the viewer will not tire of the palette. Little eyes will pore over the end pages, looking for evidence of foul play, but all the interaction between the two characters takes place where the plants grow tall and close together, obscuring the view. Darkly hilarious. robin l. smith

Bear Has a Story to Tell

Horn Book (September/October, 2012)

What good is a story without listeners? Bear wants to share one before he hibernates, but his friends are too busy preparing for winter -- Mouse collecting seeds, Duck heading south, while Mole is already asleep. So, gentle and uncomplaining, Bear helps them as he can, then sleeps too. Come spring he tries again, warming up his audience with thoughtful gifts like an acorn for Mouse and a spot of sunshine for Frog. But now Bear has forgotten his story! No worries: with some prompting from the others (Duck: "Maybe your story is about the busy time just before winter"), Bear begins with a reprise of the book’s first line: "It was almost winter and Bear was getting sleepy." Bear’s patient acceptance of his friends’ ineluctable needs (and the reciprocity that finally engenders the story that proves to be this one) make for a perfectly cyclical read-it-again bedtime book. Erin Stead’s scenes of sleepy, soft-edged creatures floating on imagination-freeing white among a few bare trunks and drifting autumnal leaves are nicely counterpointed by gentle night skies and touches of soft spring green. Quietly entrancing. joanna rudge long


Booklist starred (April 15, 2012 (Vol. 108, No. 16))

Preschool-Grade 2. Homer is an old dog. Younger dogs in the family rush off to race around the yard, and humans bustle past on their way to play in the sand or swim in the waves, but Homer is content to watch from the porch: “No, no. I’m fine right here.” His own needs are simple—he has food, a comfy blue armchair, and his people. The text is minimal, and most of Homer’s story is told through Cooper’s loose, watercolor-and-pencil images in his signature, spare style. Many pictures appear inside borders and emphasize Homer’s small, contained world, while full-bleed, wordless pages open up to give context to his life. A six-paneled spread is particularly wonderful: Homer moves slowly from the porch to his food bowl to his armchair, and the panels reinforce his measured movements. The day’s passage from sunrise to evening is reflected in a muted palette of yellow, orange, and indigo, and it seems somehow symbolic of Homer’s own life cycle. Repeated readings will reveal new details, such as the family portrait on the wall, with Homer front and center. This subtle picture book beautifully captures the rhythms of a family, with a dog nestled at its heart.

I Know A Wee Piggy

Booklist starred (September 1, 2012 (Vol. 109, No. 1))

Preschool-Grade 1. With an old-lady-who-swallowed-a-fly structure, this follows a wily wee swine through a county fair as he sloshes in substances of different colors, creating mess after mess and smile after smile. At first he is as happy as a pig in mud, but then decides brown is not for me and I think I’ll add a rinse of . . . RED! He wallows in canned tomatoes from the horticulture exhibit to achieve the desired effect. A veritable rainbow of mishaps follow—from pink cotton candy to yellow egg yolks to black paint—and each is perfectly paced across long pages, with exciting page turns. This is a blue ribbon–worthy read-aloud opportunity for celebrating rhyme, repetition, rural traditions, laughter—and, of course, color. The star’s earnestness is irresistible, and both text and pictures are rich and energetic. Throughout, the words red, green, blue, and so on are printed in their respective colors, thereby reinforcing the lesson for little ones. Cole’s acrylic and colored-pencil art alternates between full bleeds and spot art placed on clean white pages—clean, that is, until little piggies (aka legions of adoring book lovers) get their hooves on it. Pair with I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! (2005) for an additional splash of color at storytime.