Jenny's Library

Posts Tagged ‘animals

cover image for Lulu and the Dog From the SeaLulu and the Dog From the Sea by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

When Lulu, her parents, and her cousin, Mellie, spend a week in a cottage by the sea they discover an unexpected guest – the kind that walks on four legs.

A cute story that is designed to appeal to the large number of newer readers that love animals.  Each of the characters has personality, and while the plot may be unlikely, the day to day discoveries and frustrations and interactions ring true.

It’s not the most spectacular writing, but it’s far from stilted, which is all too common in when books for this age group.

cover image for When I Grow Up: Sally RideWhen I Grow Up: Sally Ride by AnnMarie Anderson, illustrated by Gerald Kelley

A biography of Sally Ride, written at about third grade level.

Unfortunately, this particular easy reader does all kinds of things that are common to easy readers that I hate, especially nonfiction easy readers.

The first is that it’s just not very well done. The sentences make sense, but they aren’t memorable either.  The illustrations lack elegance and just don’t flow. Worse, the practice of using photographs, and then drawing images of Sally Ride into them rather undermines the idea that this is a real person.  It’s also written in the first person, as if Ride herself was talking to us, despite the fact that Sally Ride was a real person who died recently and wrote words of her own that could be quoted.

It’s not so awful that I wouldn’t buy it for the library, especially considering the topic, but it’s the kind of book that makes me wish we had higher standards for beginning readers.

cover image for Shin-chi's CanoeShin-chi’s Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave

When Shi-shi-etko and her younger brother, Shin-chi, are sent to a residential school, they have to leave not only their parents behind, but also the names their parents gave them as well.  The siblings are sent to separate dormitories and not allowed to speak to each other, or in their native language.  But before they are forced to part, Shi-Shi-etko gives Shin-chi a small toy canoe, to remind him of the family who loves him, and that one day will all be together again.

This is not a happy book, but it is a beautiful book. A lovely, sad story about colonialization and destruction, and strength and importance of family.  All told with gorgeous text and illustrations.

cover image for Stanley the FarmerStanley the Farmer by William Bee

Stanley the Hamster spends a busy day on his farm.  With help from friends, he manages to get everything done.

(ok, for the record, unbound galleys of picture books are weird. now, moving on…)

A simple, cute story, that condenses the time needed to grow and harvest, but has bright pictures and the right amount of detail for small children.

cover image for Blue on BlueBlue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes

Cotton clouds.
Morning light.
Blue on blue.
White on white.

A peaceful, sunny day is interrupted by rain and thunder and lightning, but before the day is done, the sun comes back to say goodbye and goodnight.

It’s a very nice book, and decent enough poem, and I love Krommes’ style (with the exception of some of the peoples’ facial expressions).

cover image for Are You My Mommy?Are You My Mommy? by Joyce Wan

“Mommy! Mommy! Where is my mommy?” a little bunny cries, as they ask all the animals they encounter if they are their mother.

SQUEE! A new Joyce Wan book!

No, this is not a new premise, but Wan’s take on it is excellent and fresh and adorable, as always.  Wan turns the common trope into a guessing game, as each adult animal responds to the bunny by saying “No, I am a [chicken/pig/horse] and my baby is a…” with the answer on the next page, giving little ones a chance to guess and show off. Each answer is also revealed with the use of a clever cut out, creating visual and tactile interest.  Plus, for such a small, short book, it does a wonderful job of introducing vocabulary – many board books use words like “chicken” but fewer use “foal.”

cover image for In My MeadowIn My Meadow by Sara Glillingham & Lorena Siminovich

I’ve reviewed another in this series and everything I said about In My Forest is true of this book as well.  The sense of place is not quite as well defined here, but that’s only because this book focuses more on sustenance (clover, strawberries, and cool water) than on surroundings.  And since that’s a decision that makes sense for a series of board books, and creates a richer experience over the course of the series, I can’t fault it or the creators for doing so.

cover image for Creature ColorsCreature Colors by Andrew Zuckerman

Yes, I know that your library probably has more books about colors than you know what to do with, but you’ll want to make room for this one, I promise.  Zuckerman’s brilliant, bright, and detailed photographs really make this book stand out, even if it does sometimes feel like half the animals are birds of one type or another.

cover image for Waiting is Not EasyWaiting is Not Easy by Mo Willems

Piggie has a surprise for Gerald.  The only problem is that it’s not ready yet, and waiting isn’t easy.  But some surprises are worth waiting for.

Another wonderful Piggie and Elephant book from Mo Willems.  I especially liked the way the word balloons grew so big that they became part of the action, rather than just text.  And, of course, Willems’ ability to surprise us all with the unexpected, even when we know it’s coming.

cover image for AlwaysAlways by Emma Dodd

Whether sad or happy, naughty or nice, a small elephant is always loved.

This is hardly a unique premise, but it’s not like there’s never a demand for new books for parents to give their little ones, telling them they love them. Dodd’s illustrations are adorable and the sparkle throughout the book – ranging from a few glittering stars to a large shiny lake – help make it memorable. Which is exactly what one looks for in this kind of book.

cover image for MirrorMirror by Suzy Lee

A sad little girl finds something surprising in her reflection.

The blurb on the back of the copy I read claims that the ending to this story “provides a gentle reminder that every action has consequences.”

My friends, the twist at the end of this story is no “gentle reminder.”  It’s a bit of a mind bender actually, seeing as how [spoiler alert! – it’s unclear if it’s the original little girl or her reflection that pushes the mirror over and makes the other disappear].  All of which makes Mirror a great example of why I love Suzy Lee’s books AND why I think they are a fantastic example of speculative fiction in picture books.  (Yes, these two opinions are very related).

cover image for Is There a Dog in This Book?Is There a Dog in This Book? by Viviane Schwarz

Having established that There Are Cats in This Book (or wait, are there????), Schwarz and her feline creations must now determine if this new book also contains…a dog!

These books are so clever and funny, and do such a great job of breaking the fourth wall, that it makes me incredibly sad that they are not all still available to order for the library.

cover image for In My ForestIn My Forest by Sara Gillingham

designed by Sara Gillingham

illustrated by Lorena Siminovich

The deer finger puppet in the center, and the over widening cut-outs around the deer, are what first catch little ones’ attention. (And mine, I must admit.) But Gillingham and Siminovich have managed to create a book that is much more than just that.  The text is simple and straightforward, but never awkward, and the illustrations are full of texture and interest, yet soft and sweet.  Most notable is the sense of place that Gillingham has managed to create simply by emphasizing the location of the deer as being in the forest, in winter, and combining that with the puppets and cut-outs.

Highly recommended.

cover image for Bringing in the New YearBringing in the New Year by Grace Lin

A young girl and her family prepare to celebrate the New Year.

What makes this book remarkable is all the ways in which it isn’t – all the ways that it treats celebrating the Lunar New Year as important and special, but also just as normal or typical as any Western holiday.  There’s no introductory explanation of who this family is or where they live or when the Lunar New year is in relation to the Western calendar.  It’s simply a listing of all the things that make this holiday special.  Just as one might find in a typical (US) book about Christmas or Thanksgiving.  By centering the experience of the family in the book, rather than the experiences of others, Lin fosters connection and recognition rather than distance and detachment.

Lin’s brightly colored illustrations fit the celebratory tone of the story.  They also help to explain and define terms and actions that might be unfamiliar to some readers – without requiring awkward pauses that would interrupt the flow of the story, or a scholarly tone that might depersonalize the festivities.

Highly recommended.

cover image for Baby Loves Winter!Baby Loves Winter! by Karen Katz

“It’s winter! What will Baby see?”

All kinds of wintry things, underneath large flaps.  Good book, and large sized flaps are the best, but there’s nothing super memorable here, and I’m getting a little annoyed with the fact that, in this particular series by Katz, “Baby” is always white.

Recommended, with reservations.

cover image for Up Against ItUp Against It by M. J. Locke

When disaster strikes the asteroid colony of Phoecea, it’s up to Jane Novio, manager of the Resource Commission, to figure out the logistics of how the colony is going to survive. With Jane soon dealing with a rogue AI, probable sabotage, and the Martian mob – all on top of a colony threatening water crisis and the aftermath of a tragic accident – the question quickly becomes if Phoecea will remain intact and functioning, not how.

This wasn’t a book that I fell into quickly, but when I did fall, I fell hard.  It’s not just that Jane is both competent and interesting, and old enough to have experience and history.  I also desperately loved how much the story was aware of how vital many of the mundane things we take for granted are.  Living in California, especially now, the importance of access to potable water is something that is increasingly hard to ignore, and so I found the underlying crisis both relevant and believable.  The supporting cast is great as well, and I’m realizing that I’m a sucker for good AI stories.

cover image for Let's Play HouseLet’s Play House by Emma Quay, illustrated by Anna Walker

In very few – but well chosen – words and with soft but expressive pictures, Quay and Walker show the ups and downs of playing with friends, and the joys of playing pretend.

I don’t know if I’m just looking in the wrong places, but I have a hard time finding books for children that focus on the dramatic play they engage in every day.  With the exception of Antoinette Portis’ excellent picture books, the act of imaginative play almost feels like the preschool set’s version of Fight Club: first rule of playing pretend, don’t talk about playing pretend.  Which is very odd, not only because I have memories of picture books and easy readers that talked about it when I was young (perhaps it’s just books for toddlers in which the topic is lacking?), but also because it’s extremely common for young children to preface their play with “but just for pretend.”

Which is a very long winded way of saying: when I saw this book, I had to grab it.   Short and cute, it’s perfect for older toddlers and exactly the kind of book that I’ve been looking for to add to my “imagination” story time.

cover image for The Rainbow FishThe Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister (board book version)

Rainbow Fish was beautiful, too beautiful to play with the other fish.  Only, now Rainbow fish is lonely. What will he do?

That first sentence up there is almost exactly what the first page says.  Which tells you all you need to know about this book.  I suspect that there’s more text in the picture book version of this story, and perhaps the extra words are an improvement. But yikes! I think the moral of the story was supposed to be about sharing or being considerate, instead the lesson seems to be that you should give away parts of your body so that people will like you.

cover image for SnowSnow by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

“I have always loved the snow.” Page by page, a young bunny talks about all the things she loves about snow and winter.

I always have such high hopes for Wallace’s books; she’s done so many on the kinds of topics that make for great preschool themes.  And yet…the text is always matter of fact, there’s no rhythm or elegance to it, and the illustrations are readable but lack inspiration or harmony.  They’re always just serviceable enough, but never really well done.

cover image for National Geographic Look and Learn: Opposites!Look and Learn: Opposites by National Geographic

Despite the page layouts being slightly busier than they ought to be for a board book, this is an excellent concept book for little ones.  National Geographic’s stunning photographs are put to good use (badly photoshopped cover notwithstanding), as they always are.  It also goes beyond the typical set up for such books; after each type of opposite is introduced in the traditional way (an image illustrating that particular pair, and the accompanying text) it doesn’t immediately move onto the next pair.  Instead, the following pages then present a similar, but more complicated picture, as well as questions that invite parents and toddlers to have deeper conversations about the concept.  The layouts on these pages could use some cleaning up, but they do an excellent job modeling for parents how to engage their children in dialog about the books they are reading.

cover image for My Lucky Little DragonMy Lucky Little Dragon by Joyce Wan

I adore Joyce Wan’s You are My Cupcake and We Belong Together, so I was very excited to stumble across My Lucky Little Dragon on display at the bookstore.  Just like the other two board books, My Lucky Little Dragon features a different endearment on each spread, this time focusing on the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac.  Wan’s illustrations are just as adorable as always and full of personality.  They also feature a variety of colors that pop! off the page, yet remain soft and almost pastel, rather than being limited to high contrast primary colors.

cover image for Curious Baby Curious George:  My First Words at the FarmCurious Baby George: My First Words at the Farm by Greg Paprocki

Just as the title says, this board book is about farm related words, consisting of illustrations and the names of various nouns included in the pictures.  The illustrations themselves will likely delight it’s target audience, but the choice of font and words are questionable.  It’s not an awful book, but there are much better books out there available for the same price.

cover image for Baby ColorsBaby Colors by Rachel Hale

If you recall, Hale is also the author/illustrator of Baby Giggles, which was cute, adorable, and well put together – but extremely homogenous, in terms of the kinds of babies being photographed.  Baby Colors still treats white as the default, but manages to have closer to a quarter or third of the children pictured be children of color.  The rhyming text works, although the colors being discussed aren’t always as prominent as they could be.  Overall, a good book to have in the collection, despite it’s flaws.

cover image for The Day I Had to Play With My SisterThe Day I Had to Play With My Sister by Crosby Bonsall

A young boy and his even younger sister attempt to play hide and seek, but the younger sister doesn’t quite understand how to play.

For some strange reason I remember liking this book as a kid. Which makes me wonder about the overall quality of easy readers available at the time. To be fair, there is humor here, and it’s the kind of humor that your average seven year old with a younger (or older) sibling can relate to.  The illustrations in particular haven’t aged well though, and it’s a meaner type of humor than, say, what readers find in the Piggie and Elephant books.

cover image for Balloons Over BroadwayBalloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

Tony Sarg always loved puppets, even when he was a small boy.  When he grew up and moved to New York City, he made his living creating them for plays, musicals, and even store windows.  Then in 1924 Macy’s department store was so impressed with the window displays Sarg made that they asked him to help put on a holiday parade.  But Tony Sarg knew that for his marionettes to be seen by huge crowds standing on sidewalks, he would need to come up with something new, something BIG.

I’malways full of love for well written and illustrated non-fiction picture books, but this one is particularly wonderful.  Much has been made of the illustrations, and rightfully so.  Sweet’s use of mixed media is not only beautiful and appropriate to the topic, each style is put to the best use for illuminating different aspects of the story.  The text remains clear and understandable, but doesn’t shy away from evocative phrases like “They shimmied and swayed through the canyons of New York City” or unfamiliar words, such as “articulate.”  The scope of the book is perfect as well, it includes enough about Sarg’s childhood to help kids relate, but remains focused enough on a specific achievement to keep readers engaged.

cover image for Five Silly TurkeysCover image for Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving

Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon

Babies and toddlers are sure to love the shiny, crinkly feathers that stick out from each page, but there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the rhymes or illustrations inside.

Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving by Kimberly and James Dean

Like a lot of cheap paperback spin-offs of popular picture book series, the quality of this title doesn’t quite match the original books. While the illustrator is the same, the authors are not, and it shows.  It’s also a fairly typical holiday book, and repeats all of the same myths about Thanksgiving.

cover image for Shark and Lobster's Amazing Undersea AdventureShark and Lobster’s Amazing Undersea Adventure by Viviane Schwarz, colored by Joel Stewart

Shark and Lobster may seem tough and scary to you, but they have plenty to be scared about themselves.  Like tigers!  Did you know that they walk on their teeth and glow in the dark and will EAT YOU UP? But Shark and Lobster have some ideas about how to keep themselves safe from the scary, striped tigers.

Ridiculous in all the best ways, this is the kind of book that’s really meant more for the younger elementary school crowd than pre-readers. There’s a lot going on each page, plenty to keep new and almost readers busy and thinking and laughing.

cover image for All in a DayAll in a Day by Cynthia Rylant, Illustrated by Nikki McClure

“A day is a perfect piece of time,” just right for trying all kinds of new things.  How much can you fit in a day’s worth of activities and daydreams?

Rylant’s poetic musings and McClure’s bold and elegant illustrations are a perfect pair for this book about the pleasures of the outdoors.  The only misstep is the alternating use of blue and gold in McClure’s illustrations; the limited use of colors throughout the book doesn’t seem to match the themes, and the alternating pattern doesn’t appear to have any relation to to the text.

cover image for How to Be a CatHow to Be a Cat by Nikki McClure

Stretch. Pounce. Clean. Scratch.  Page by page, Big Cat shows Kitten all the most important things one needs to know about being a cat.

McClure’s bold and graphic style is put to perfect use in this picture book.  Each page features a single word and an illustrated definition featuring the two cats. The use of black and white, with small punches of baby blue for letters and scattered butterflies, gives it a calm but memorable style.  While the mixture of quiet (listen, wait) and loud (explore, chase) actions create a rhythm that soothes and entertains.

cover image for Meerkat MailMeerkat Mail by Emily Gravett

Sunny has decided that his home in the Kalahari Desert, with all his meerkat family, is just a little too hot and too crowded. So he packs his bags and sets off to visit relatives.

Page by page, Gravett and Sunny cleverly show readers how and where various species of mongoose live around the world.  A great and entertaining book for inquisitive elementary age children.

cover image for There are No Cats in This BookThere Are NO Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwartz

A warning to cat lovers: there are absolutely NO cats in this picture book.

At least, there wasn’t supposed to be.  But we seem to have stumbled across a trio of felines before they had a chance to head out and see the world.  Their suitcase is packed and they’re all ready to go – just as soon as they can figure out how to get out of the book.  Will they ever make it? With a little help from readers like us, they just might.  Be careful though, you never know what they may bring back from their travels.

The tale Schwartz tells is simple but clever, and the various folds and pop-outs help give this book a little something extra without overwhelming the story itself.  The illustrations are bright, bold, and minimalist, yet sketch-like rather than precise, matching both the story’s playfulness and the characters’ personalities.

cover image for Little Mouse's Big Book of Fearsinside pages for Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears

Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett

Creepy crawlers, sharp knives, and LOUD NOISES! – these are all things that Little Mouse is afraid of.  What are you afraid of?

Although the regular text is sparse, there is so much going on in this book.  Flaps, textures, cut outs, newspaper clippings, and much more.  But don’t mistake it for a book for very young children, the jokes are layered and involve really big words like “aichmophobia” and “rupophobia.”  Older children (and a few fearless younger ones) will love exploring each page and testing out the long and official sounding words that grace the illustrations.