Jenny's Library

Posts Tagged ‘animals

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.

Giftmas is creeping ever closer!

Which means it’s time for another “literary gifts” booklist.  Today’s booklist is for pre-readers.  As in: kids that are no longer toddlers, but are not yet reading aloud themselves.

As before, I’ve divided the main list into books that you have to order and books that you can probably walk into a bookstore and buy off the shelf.  If you choose from the first group of books, you are less likely to duplicate someone else gift, or give a child a book they already have.  But the books in the second group can be bought at the last minute.  Probably.

However, partway through typing all this up I realized that this list was getting way too long for one post, so this time I’ve broken the list up into several parts.

Today, you get:

Books You Will Probably Need to Order:

cover image for The World Is Waiting For YouThe World is Waiting for You by Barbara Kerley

National Geographic has some amazing picture books for children, and this is my absolute favorite.  Lyrical in a way that non-fiction picture books rarely are, filled with breathtaking photographs, and expertly designed, The World is Waiting for You encourages to children to explore and treasure the world around them.

It’s also not the kind of book most kids would pick up for themselves, yet it is the kind of book that becomes a cherished favorite over time, making it a perfect gift book.

cover image for Kitten's First Full Mooncover image for Old Bearcover image for A Good Daycover image for Little White Rabbitcover image for My Garden

Kitten’s First Full Moon, Old Bear, A Good Day, Little White Rabbit, My Garden by Kevin Henkes

Henkes initially made his name with some great picture books meant for elementary age children, but I absolutely adore these newer, more preschool friendly books.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a sucker for illustrations with high contrast, gorgeous colors, and thick lines.  All four of these books also have great stories for younger children – ones that engage their imagination and encourage them to predict what will happen next.

cover image for Wavecover image for The Zoocover image for Shadow

Wave, The Zoo, Shadow by Suzy Lee

Suzy Lee’s wordless picture books are incredibly beautiful and clever. Her wonderful use of color and contrast keeps the illustrations readable while allowing her to include the kinds of details that reward repeated viewings.

cover image for Hondo and Fabiancover image for Bark, George!cover image for Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime

Hondo and Fabian by Peter McCarty

While not a wordless picture book, the illustrations are readable, informative, and expressive enough to work as one.  McCarty also has a very gentle and distinctive style as an illustrator, making his books both intriguing and memorable.

Bark, George! by Jules Feiffer

This story never fails to make any crowd I read it to giggle and laugh hysterically.

Dinosaur vs. Bedtime! by Bob Shea

Particularly good for younger preschoolers, children will love roaring along with Dinosaur, and parents will love the fact that Dinosaur “wins” by getting everyone to roar with him.  I mostly love how silly and cute the books are.

cover image for Dogscover image for Orange Pear Apple Bearcover image for Blue Chameleon

cover image for The Odd Egg

Dogs, Orange Pear Apple Bear, Blue Chameleon, The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett

Gravett’s books are clever (Orange Pear Apple Bear works as an “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” for kinders) and the illustrations are elegant, even when the subject matter is comedic.

cover image for Thank You Bearcover image for Don't Worry Bearcover image for I Miss You Mouse

Thank You Bear, Don’t Worry Bear, I Miss You Mouse by Greg E. Foley

These are probably the most “typical” books for preschoolers on this list, but they are so very well done.

cover image for Little Peacover image for Little Hootcover image for Little Oink

Little Pea, Little Hoot, Little Oink by Amy Krause Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace

For some strange reason, you can get this series more easily as board books than as picture books, but I think they are better for preschoolers than toddlers. They also work really well for younger elementary school students, so the picture book format is a more useful investment, in my opinion.

cover image for The Handiest Things in the WorldThe Handiest Things in the World by Andrew Clements, photographs by Raquel Jaramillo

A lovely, lovely book about what it means to be human – and all the new things little hands are learning to do.

cover image for The Warrior's ApprenticeThe Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold

Miles Vorkosigan is determined to serve in the Barrayan military, just as his father and grandfather did before him.  No one expects him to be able to make it, what with his short stature, easily breakable bones, and other physical impairments – the result of an attempt to assassinate his mother with poisoned gas when she was pregnant with him.  But then, no one expected him to even survive long enough to be born, either.

If this were a middle grade novel, Miles would accomplish his goals with plucky determination.  Everyone would learn their lesson and go home happy. Thank god this isn’t a middle grade novel.

What makes Bujold’s Miles novels so very excellent is that even when Miles comes out on top, it’s not necessarily in the manner he’d hoped to.  Persistence can’t change everything, it especially can’t allow him to pretend that he lives in a world that expects him to be different from what he is.  So Miles path to where he wants to be isn’t typical; it’s not even a typical underdog story.  Instead, Miles life is uniquely Miles.  Which is why Bujold’s books are so enjoyable, memorable, and popular.

cover image for Olivia and the Fairy PrincessesOlivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

Olivia doesn’t have anything against princesses, she just doesn’t understand why all of the other girls (and even some of the boys) all want to be the same pink, fairy princesses, with sparkles and ruffles.  Why not reporter or a nurse or…at the very least a princess in a blue sari instead?

It’s so very common, when it comes to books for young children about gender stereotypes, for them to drift into dissing feminine roles and characteristics instead of inspiring girls (and boys) to be more than what gender norms expect.  The latest Olivia book does nothing of the sort.  Instead, her worry is more about not standing out, and her desire to do so will encourage boys and girls to try new roles.

(There is a portion of the book where Olivia dresses up as princesses from other cultures.  It didn’t strike me as appropriative as the costumes looked well researched for a picture book, and the emphasis seemed to be on showing variety, possibility, and drawing inspiration from real princesses. That said, I’m not the best person to judge this sort of thing, which is why I’m mentioning it anyway.)

cover image for The Artist Who Painted A Blue HorseThe Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle

Why paint horses only brown or black or white or gray? This artist paints blue horses, purple foxes, and even green lions!

In this homage to artist Franz Marc, Carle’s unique style is once again put to excellent use, this time inspiring children to create books and art of their own.  The sparse text and repetition keeps readers focused on the bright pictures, while also helping develop language and vocabulary.

cover image for The Big Bad Wolf Goes on VacationThe Big Bad Wolf Goes on Vacation by Delphine Perret

Some kids are afraid of monsters hiding in their closet. Not Louis.  He doesn’t worry that something might be in his closet, he already knows that the Big Bad Wolf lives there.  This causes all sorts of problems, of course. Including the Big Bad Wolf insisting that he be taken along when he overhears that Louis is going on a trip with his grandfather.

Silly, unique, and sarcastic, this is one of the rare picture books that works better for older children rather than little ones. New readers may need help with the words, but can easily follow the pictures and will feel accomplishment in the use of chapters.  Older readers will find the comic like structure challenging but fun. Perret’s minimal sketches allow for personality and variation, but are uncluttered enough to keep their repetition from becoming chaotic or confusing.

cover image for I Need My Own CountryI Need My Own Country by Rick Walton, illustrated by Wes Hargis

Little brothers can be such a pain sometimes.  That’s when you need to take charge, and make a country of your own.  One he can’t join.

Hargis’s illustrations are well done, but the actual story is one of those that seems more for adults than for kids, who likely won’t be quite as entertained by this book as their parents will be.

cover image for A Good Night WalkA Good Night Walk by by Elisha Cooper

Evening slowly turns to night, as readers take a walk trough a friendly neighborhood.

Part of what makes Cooper’s books work so well is the way the illustrations giver personality to the text as the words explain the mechanics of farming, a day at the beach, or how ice cream is made.  While the illustrations here are wonderful, and the text is soothing, the two don’t work together in quite the way they often do in Cooper’s other books – they repeat rather than adding different information.

cover image for Quick as a CricketQuick as a Cricket by by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood

Are you as quick as a cricket? As happy as a lark? Or perhaps you are as strong as an ox.  Or maybe, like our narrator, you’re all of these things, depending on your mood.

With simple similes and rich illustrations, Don and Audrey Wood introduce young readers to a world rich in nature and imagination, as well as the idea that they can be more than just one thing.  This book is a classic for a reason; the sentences are lyrical and the pictures creative, while the message is both simple and profound.

cover image for Tumble BumbleTumble Bumble by Felicia Bond

A tiny bug takes a walk, but he’s not alone for long. Soon a while parade of critters joins him as they tumble bumble through the neighborhood – and into someone’s house!

Felica Bond is a whiz with subtle shades of color and engaging characters, as anyone who as seen her artwork for the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series knows.  It turns out that she’s really great at rhymes and humor as well, making this book a classic story for little ones.

cover image for Sam's SandwichSam’s Sandwich by David Pelham

When Samantha asks her brother to make her a sandwich, Sam agrees – and decides to make her one with all the fixings.

The design of this book is rather clever and cute, and if it was just a story about a sandwich with creepy crawly things in it, I would love it.  The characters are both incredibly annoying though, as are the gender stereotypes they perpetuate for no reason.

cover image for Jump, Frog, Jump!Jump Frog Jump by Robert Kalan

Fish, snakes, and mischievous children all want to catch the frog.  Jump, frog, jump!

The text for this book is just brilliant; it manages to use both pattern sentences and be a cumulative story.  However, the illustrations, while readable, leave much to be desired.

cover image for Good Night, GorillaGood Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

A zookeeper makes one last round through the zoo, saying saying good night to all the animals as he goes.  But watch out! The gorilla has a surprise for him.

This is such a fantastic story for preschoolers.  It’s not just that the jokes are obvious  enough even for four year olds – although that helps – it’s also because the repetition and engaging humor invites young children to try to predict what happens next.  Foreshadowing for pre-k!

Also, it’s just a tiny bit hilarious, particularly everyone’s expressions.

cover image for Ref-Eyed Tree FrogRed Eyed Tree Frog written by Joy Cowley, photographs by Nic Bishop

When the sun sets and other animals animals go to sleep, the red-eyed tree frog is just waking up and ready for breakfast.  But watch out, frog, or you might become someone else’s meal!

The detailed and close-up photographs are clearly what make this book, but the text is rather nice for a non-fiction picture book.  It’s not quite as clever as National Geographic’s Picture the Season’s series, but there is an actual story here and the sentences flow well enough to be read aloud to younger children.

cover image for Creature CountCreature Count by Brenda Huante, illustrations by Vincent Nguyen

Huante reworks the classic counting song, Over in the Meadow, to tell the story of a different kind of forest – one filled with dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.

Ngyuyen’s animals are nicely done, but the backgrounds are flat, making the creatures feel pasted onto the page instead of part of their environment.  Still, Huante’s rhymes will keep you turning the page and humming along.

How Do You Feel? by Anthony Brownecover image for How Do You Feel?

Do you feel bored? Lonely? Happy? Silly? Or maybe you’re feeling sleepy.

I’m not a huge fan of Anthony Browne’s books to begin with, and quite frankly this little monkey is creepy.  It’s not an awful book, but I don’t recommend it, there are so many other better books about feelings to choose from.

cover image for A Kiss Like ThisA Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy

How does a mouse kiss? A fish? A giraffe? Like this!

Simple, but sweet. The illustrations are full of bold strokes, bright colors, and an overall childlike quality.  A good choice for valentine’s day – or just to let your little ones know how much you love them.