Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Shh! We Have A Plan

Booklist (October 15, 2014 (Online))
Preschool-Grade 1. Four friends are quietly trundling through a dusky grove when they spot a radiant bird in the distance. “Hi, birdie,” says the smallest, but the three bigger friends, all wielding nets, have other ideas. They shush the fourth and silently sneak over, but they’re thwarted at the last minute when the bird flies away. It happens again and again, but the smallest guy—all eyes, hat, and limbs—takes a different approach and offers his flighty new friend some bread. Then another bird arrives, and another, and soon the gloaming is full of brilliantly bright birds. It’s a dream come true, until the friends are outnumbered and the birds seek out some well-earned revenge on their would-be captors. Haughton’s stylish digital illustrations in chunky patches of color make masterful use of hue and contrast—the jazzy warm-toned birds are vibrant when set against the crepuscular blues of the friends and the woods. With only a few words total, a repeated refrain, and a visually unmistakable plot, this is a great choice for emergent readers or a group storytime.

Meet the Dullards

Booklist (November 1, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 5))
Grades K-2. Parents used to hearing “This is so boring!” might want to show this worst-case scenario to their kids. Mr. and Mrs. Dullard are trying to raise their three children—Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud—in their own image: dull as rocks. Horrified upon finding the kids reading books (instead of “nice blank paper”), the family uproots from its lawless neighborhood. (They’re still recovering from when the leaves changed color.) Their new house, though, has problems: a neighbor who uses exclamation points in front of the kids, and a room—brace yourself—painted bright yellow. So the family hurries off to buy some beige-gray paint and, you guessed it, watch it dry. The real story, however, plays in the edges: the three kids taking every opportunity to scurry away from their stultifying parents and cavort, climb, and cackle. Pennypacker packs the pages full of winning jokes (“Five vanilla cones, please. Hold the cones. And extract the vanilla”), while Salmieri’s colored-pencil art creates a perfectly monotonous world of straight angles and nondescript coloring. Rarely has boring been this boisterous. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Both Pennypacker (the Clementine books) and Salmieri (Dragons Love Tacos, 2012) are best-sellers. Dull as it is, this ought to sell well, too.

Byrd & Igloo A Polar Adventure

From the Publisher:

BYRD & IGLOO is the first narrative nonfiction book to tell the daring adventures of legendary polar explorer and aviator Richard Byrd and his lovable dog explorer, Igloo. Byrd is known for being the first to fly a plane over the North and South Poles, while Igloo is famous for being the only dog to explore both the North and South Poles. The adventures of Byrd and Igloo opened the door for science and research in the Antarctic. Featuring direct quotes from letters, diaries and interviews, newspaper clippings, expedition records, maps, charts, as well as never-before-seen photos, it will give the complete story of the explorers' journey. Though rooted in history with evidence from many museums and research centers, Byrd & Igloo will be exciting in tone, making it accessible and interesting for young readers.

Audrey (Cow)

Kirkus Reviews starred (September 15, 2014)
Move aside Wilbur and Babe. There's a new farmyard hero in town, and she has no desire to end up hamburger. Audrey isn't like the other cows. They might accept their lot as "food cows," but she has other ideas. After her mother is taken away to a slaughterhouse, the feisty Charolais concocts an elaborate escape for herself using the expertise and help of her barnyard friends. However, the escape itself proves to be only half the battle, and Audrey's experiences in the wild forest with its unpredictable denizens put both brains and moxie to the test. In a multiple-perspective, documentary-like format, each animal tells its part of the story with terrific humor and personality. From pompous Charlton the rooster, who considers his role in the story a moment of deus ex machina ("as the Romans would call it"), to a parliament of consensus-minded sheep to a thoroughly prejudiced squirrel, the many voices make the book an ideal read-aloud for a classroom and ideal fodder for readers' theater. Bar-el is also unafraid to engage in truly lovely descriptive writing (one cow's grief over losing her son is said to be akin to "a mist like we'd get on gray, foggy mornings that made the farm seem as if it were fading away along its edges"). Part Great Escape, part Hatchet, part Charlotte's Web, all wonderful. (Animal fantasy. 8-12)

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny

Booklist (October 1, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 3))
Grades 1-3. A prolific author and illustrator as well as an active practitioner of martial arts, Himmelman combines these interests in his latest book, a series starter starring a bunny named Isabel. Isabel is introduced as “the best bunjitsu artist in her school,” an expert in kicking, hitting, and throwing, who can also handle all of the paradoxes that Teacher sends her way. Isabel’s martial arts aren’t confined to the classroom, either—she also faces down some piratical foxes and turns an angry wave into one that lifts her up and transports her. There are some peculiar episodes in this early-reading book, including one in which Bear walks up to Isabel, engages in conversation, and then kicks Isabel across a field, flips her to the ground, and twists her “into a pretzel.” Isabel demonstrates how she doesn’t “give up” by kicking, flipping, and twisting Bear. The rest of the book is less cartoonish and violent in its exploration of Zenlike koans, and Himmelman’s black-and-white line drawings nicely convey Isabel’s swift and deft movements. We are ready for the sequel, Teacher.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stick and Stone

Booklist (November 1, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 5))
Preschool-Grade 1. Stick, a stick, is lonely. Stone, a stone, is too. They meet and become friends. The end! In the hands of debut author Ferry and unstoppable best-selling Lichtenheld, however, this nearly plotless affair becomes a thing of off-the-charts adorability. For starters, just look at them: Stone (described as “a zero” because of his shape) is a brown lump, while Stick (described as “a one”) is a stubby-limbed fella with a tall twig head topped by a leaf. They both have dots for eyes and dashes for mouths, all of which go giddy after they meet. Ferry uses a minimalism that matches the art: “Stick, Stone. / No longer alone. / Stick, Stone. A friendship has grown.” Then: a hurricane! Stick is missing! Then he is saved by Stone! Okay, it’s true, even this dynamic author-illustrator duo run out of things to do, but these two characters are a delight to know (at the end, quite cleverly, they form “a perfect 10”), and the irresistible cadence of the text should make this a repeat favorite.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: After such hits as Steam Train, Dream Train (2013) and Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site (2011), anything Lichtenheld touches will be gobbled up.

Take Away the A

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2014)
Amid the flood of alphabet books, now and then one rises to the surface. This one is a prize catch. In a distinctive, refreshing approach, the text takes a word and subtracts one letter, turning it into a different word. "Without the A / the BEAST is the BEST." The stylized illustration on the double-page spread gives form to the concept by depicting a photographer (a buzzard) focusing on the winners of a competition: A monster wearing a "Scariest and Hairiest" sash stands in first place, with a goose and fish in second and third. "Without the B / the BRIDE goes for a RIDE." A worried-looking buck holding a balloon and a doe wearing a bridal veil are riding on a Ferris wheel. Now picture these: The chair has hair; the dice are ice; plants are pants; the crab hails a cab; and so on. All of the figures are animals fashioned with touches of humor; a white mouse pops in and out throughout the scenes. For Q, the word "faquir" (a turbaned tiger) attends a "fair"; for X, "foxes" become "foes." The artwork is deceptively simple; subtle details betray its sophistication. Altogether, the fascinating illustrations, crafty composition and tall format give the book real flair. Without a doubt, these inventive images are imaginative and engaging--chock full of inspiration for kids to try their own wordplay and a boon to teachers. (Alphabet picture book. 7-10)

Cheese Belongs to You!

Booklist (December 1, 2013 (Vol. 110, No. 7))
Rat law is simple: if you find the cheese, then it belongs to you. Unless someone bigger, quicker, hairier, or scarier wants it—then the cheese belongs to them. If all the other rats exhaust themselves fighting over the cheese, then the cheese belongs to a kind rat who is willing to share. The text starts slowly and then builds on itself, until readers are left breathless after each long sentence. The illustrations clearly show how each rat is different and more terrifying than the last and are sure to produce squeals of fright and delight from readers. Surprisingly, there is a great lesson about sharing tucked neatly into the last pages, which gives this silly story a little extra heart. For a storytime that is sure to leave the librarian breathless, pair with There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, by Simms Taback (1997). Any way that a young reader experiences this book, whether during individual reading or in a group, this will be fun.

Albie's First Word

Booklist (October 15, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 4))
Grades 2-4. Spun from a remark of Albert Einstein’s that he took several years to begin talking, this mostly extrapolated tale takes a silent yet expressive lad through a series of experiences: family outings, concerts, a science lecture, and a model boat race. Despite the best efforts of his loving, worried parents and a wise doctor to elicit some comment or remark, little Albie never says a word—though he smiles, hums, gesticulates, and takes a lively interest in everything. Evans’ accomplished, atmospheric illustrations set apart this variation on a well-known aspect of Einstein’s childhood. In warm, softly focused scenes washed with golden light, Evans depicts a bright-eyed, large-headed child with amusingly recognizable features, and places him in a fully and carefully detailed late-nineteenth-century setting. Albie at last gives verbal expression after seeing a shower of falling stars: “Why?” An extended note introduces Einstein in greater detail and explains that while many of the story’s specifics are invented, its core, his parents’ fear he might never learn, is true. A reassuring episode for late bloomers, and their parents, too.