Jenny's Library

Posts Tagged ‘picture book

cover image for Razor's EdgeRazor’s Edge by Martha Wells

When a deal to obtain supplies for a new Rebel base goes awry, Leia and Han – and crew – find themselves attempting to rescue a merchant ship from pirates.  While the rebels fight and scheme for their lives, Leia also attempts to convince one particular band of pirates, refugees from Alderaan, to give up their mercenary ways and join the Alliance instead.

Can Wells write more Star Wars novels? please? pretty please?

I’m not going to pretend that this is a Hugo worthy novel, but it was fun. And managed to have a bit of depth in addition to being tons of fun.  Best of all, Wells’ take on the characters must be very close to my own, because everything about them – Leia and Han in particular – was just spot on.

I’ve tried a few Star Wars novels before, and bounced off all but Zahn’s.  But this is one of the rare titles that I’ve gotten through Netgalley that I’ve not only finished but immediately put on my list of books to buy.

cover image for Kami and the YaksKami and the Yaks written by Andrea Stenn Stryer and illustrated by Bert Dodson

Early one morning, Kami watches as his father and older brother prepare for the day. The climbers are coming soon, and Norgay and father have been hired act as their guides.  But the family’s yaks are nowhere to be found.  Can Kami find the yaks and save the day before it’s too late?

The story was nice and the illustrations were gorgeous, but unfortunately I was extremely distracted by the badly designed layout on some of the pages, which left a significant amount of the text hard to read.

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cover image for Hocus Pocus Takes the TrainHocus Pocus Takes the Train by Sylvie Desrosiers and Remy Simard

When a magician and his dog stop to enjoy a treat before boarding their train, the magic rabbit in the magician’s hat peeks out and spies a friend.  While Rabbit is trying to talk to a baby’s stuffed bunny, the magician and his dog have already boarded the train! And so have the baby and mother!  Will Rabbit and the stuffed bunny get left behind, or will Rabbit save the day?

Clear and expressive illustrations make this graphic novel perfect for newer readers.  The humor should appeal to younger children, who will also find it easy to relate to Rabbit’s worries and adventures.  This clever but simple book has me eager to read more by these authors.

cover image for This is How I Find HerThis is How I find Her by Sara Polsky

Every day, when Sophie comes home from school, she immediately looks for her mother.  The days that Sophie finds her mother in her studio  – those are the good days.   Then there are the days that Sophie finds her just as she was when she left for school; the blinds still closed, the apartment dark and silent.  Until one day Sophie finds her mother in her bedroom, unconscious, an half empty bottle of pills beside her.

There was a lot that I liked about this book, particularly the way it explored the relationship between Sophie and her extended family (her mother’s sister, and her cousin, who she used to play with as a child, but hasn’t seen in years), how Sophie’s mother’s illness affected her, and how Sophie struggled to cope with her mother’s suicide attempt.  For some reason it never really clicked with me though, and I can’t really put my finger on why.

cover image for The Spy PrincessSpy Princess by Sherwood Smith

Twelve year old Lilah never gets to do anything or go anywhere.  Stuck in her father’s palace, friendless and frustrated, she sneaks out one night in borrowed clothes in search of adventure.  Instead, she finds a revolution against her own family brewing.  Even more surprising, Lilah begins to think the revolutionaries may be right.

I so wanted to like this book – I love Sherwood Smith’s novels!  But it just wasn’t very well done.   Or, at least, it wasn’t what I’ve come to expect from her.  It’s a rather long book considering how little happens, and at the same time, I felt like the presentation of what was going on was rather shallow.  I felt like she wasn’t trusting her middle graders readers like she should, and that was making everything more complicated and yet less nuanced than it needed to be. (I know, that sounds contradictory, but it’s the difference between running around without much important happening versus really examining the situation.)

cover image for MontmorencyMontmorency by Eleanor Updale

Montmorency is a thief. Not a particularly notable thief, but a competent one. Or at least, he was. Until an accident during a job not only landed him in jail, but also left him seriously injured.  His ailments caught the attention of a Doctor Farcett, who was eager to see if his new treatments could give Montmorency the mobility he once had.  When the doctor’s surgeries meet with the success, Montmorency is then dragged along to lectures for show and tell.  While his fellow inmates grow increasingly jealous of his supposed good fortune, Montmorency plots his escape.

This was a very odd book.  And I don’t mean that it was strange in thought-provoking ways, just that it was unusual and perplexing at times.  Although occasionally fascinating, I kept wondering just who it was meant for.  It’s written at middle grade level, and yet all of the characters are adults.  Including a very annoying and absurd woman who decides to pursue Montmorency at one point.  It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t really a good one either, and I really don’t know who I would suggest it to. Also, I’d hesitate to give it most middle grade readers simply because of how cliched all the female characters are, especially in light of how unique the main character is.

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 A Big Guy Took My BallA Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems

Piggie lucks out when he finds a ball to play with, until a big guy comes along and takes it from her!  It’s not fair – and Gerald isn’t going to stand for it.

Twists aren’t exactly expected in easy readers, seeing as they’re both rather short and meant for five to seven year olds.  But Willems manages to keep coming up with them anyway.  The jokes too, of course, Piggie and Elephant are as hilarious here as they always are. Best of all, though, neither the jokes nor the twists are the kind that rely on making other people the punchline – nor are the “lessons” imparted the kind that are full of saccharine and false promises.  Willems’ Piggie and Elephant books are simply funny and brilliant, and this one is no exception.

cover image for I'm A FrogI’m a Frog by Mo Willems

Ribbit! Piggie has turned into a frog! Gerald is shocked and amazed…and more than a little worried – will he turn into one too?

It’s the expressions on Piggie and Gerald’s faces, their movement and body language, that really make these books – this one in particular.  This is definitely one of the better Elephant and Piggie books, which is saying a lot, considering there isn’t a bad one in the bunch.

cover image for Click, Clack, Boo!Click, Clack, Boo! by Doreen Cronin, illustrations by Betsy Lewin

Farmer Brown does not like Halloween.  Instead of passing out candy himself, he turns out the lights and leaves the candy at the door.  But Farmer Brown can’t ignore the crunch crunch crunching or the creak creak creaking or the tap tap tapping.  What surprises lurk inside Farmer Brown’s barn?

This companion book to Cronin and Lewis’ award winning Click, Clack, Moo doesn’t quite capture the magic of the original book, but it’s clever and entertaining.  The repetition and onomatopoeia will appeal to it’s intended audience.  It should make a nice addition to families’ and libraries’ Halloween collections.

cover image for She Loves You, She Loves You NotShe Loves You, She Loves You Not by Julie Anne Peters

Alyssa hadn’t planned on coming out to her father and stepmother yet, that happened quite by accident.  Now she’s been shipped off to live with the biological mother she barely knows, in a small town far from her friends and the girl she loves.

Parts of this book were a little odd – such as Alyssa believing that her mother is a prostitute when she’s not – and this isn’t Peters’ best novel.  But the general premise is interesting and it’s a good perspective to make sure is included in library collections.

cover image for Here I AmHere I Am by Patti Kim

After a long plane ride, a young boy arrives in a new city, in a new country, full of unfamiliar words and sounds and places.  In his pocket, he’s brought a small piece of home.  When he accidentally drops it, and another child picks it up, will he lose his last treasure from home? Or make a new friend?

I thought this story was rather sweet, the illustrations were well done, and the decision to make it wordless fit the plot and themes perfectly.  I’m not sure how easily children would be able to parse the logic of the story; it’s definitely a picture book that is best for older children, younger children may require guidance or the opportunity to re-read the story several times.

cover image from Far From XanaduFar From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters

Mike was born and raised in Coalton, Kansas.  She figures she’ll live the rest of her life there as well, and that’s just fine by her.  Until the day Xanadu walks into Mike’s life, and she begins to wonder if maybe there’s more out there for her to find.

This is by far one of my favorite novels by Peters.  There’s just something about the characters that felt very real and unforced.  There’s plenty of messed up people in this book, but also quite a few that are doing the best they can with what they’ve been given, and, of course, kids just trying to figure things out.

cover imafe for It's Our Prom (So Deal With It)It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It) by Julie Anne Peters

Prom is so very NOT Azure’s kind of thing.  It’s expensive, elitist, and not at all inclusive.  So when the principal asks her to be on the Prom committee she jumps at the chance to turn it into the kind of party she thinks it ought to be – and she convinces her two best friends, Luke and Radhika, to help her do so.  But when the school board hears just what Azure has in mind, they might change their minds about wanting her to be a part of planning this year’s prom.

It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It) is told alternating points of view, Azure and Luke’s, but it really felt like there should have been a third.  Not having Radhika’s point of view made the trio feel unbalanced, and it also meant the book spent a lot of time wondering why she was upset, who she liked, etc.  When, instead, it would have been much more interesting if it had focused more on how people would react to her confessions, and not just vice versa.  It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t spectacular, and could have been much better.

cover image for Moxie and the Art of Rule BreakingMoxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne

Moxie has always been good at following the rules: Don’t answer the door or have friends over when home alone. No using her T pass unless she has a friend or family member with her.  Be home by nine. Until the day Moxie slips up and opens the door to a dangerous looking stranger.  Now she has fourteen days to find the missing loot from a decades old museum heist – or the crooks who think her grandfather stole it will find a way to make her whole family pay.

The premise and plot are more than a little farfetched, but Dionne’s characters have depth and their relationships are nuanced.  I especially appreciated the allusions to classic middle grade mysteries like From the Mixed of Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Westing Game; they’re definitely part of what makes this book memorable as well as fun.

cover image for LunaLuna by Julie Anne Peters

Regan’s family has their share of problems…and secrets.  Whose doesn’t?  But it’s Luna, Regan’s sister, that has the biggest secret of all.  To everyone but Regan, Luna is Liam, her older brother, their parent’s son, a normal boy.  But at night, Luna becomes the person she knows she was meant to be. And Regan is the only one who knows.  How long can they keep this secret?  And what will happen to their family when it comes out?

This book was so very frustrating, because while I’m glad for any and every book that depicts transgender teens respectfully, and I understand Peters’ reasoning for not wanting to speak for Luna, I kept wanting to hear the story from her point of view.   The main theme of the story was to show people what it’s like to be Luna, but having a first person point of view that wasn’t hers meant that we always saw her through the eyes of others instead.

cover image for By the Time You Read This I'll Be DeadBy The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

Daelyn Rice needs to escape her life – and she knows the only way out is death.  She’s tried before but failed, and thus why she’s home schooled, why her parents hover, and why she knows this time has to be her last.

I hate being critical about books that tackle serious subjects, but the truth is this just wasn’t very well written.  Like much of Peters work, it wasn’t awful, and there were some poignant moments, but neither did it manage to be anything to get excited about.

cover image for Define "Normal"Define “Normal” by Julie Anne Peters

Antonia Dillon already has too much to do.  With her mother unable to function most days, it’s up to Antonia to make sure her brothers get fed, laundry gets done, and everyone stays alive – and that’s on top of her own school and homework.  So when Dr. DiLeo asks her to volunteer for peer counseling, the last thing she wants to do is say yes – despite how good it will look on her college applications.   And if she’d known she’d be assigned to counsel Jasmine Luther, she most definitely never would have agreed to do it.

This book may have been published in 2000, but it felt like it should be from the early 1990s.  It’s not quite an after school special – but it’s very, very close.  The conceit of asking readers to question who is more “normal” – Antonia, who teachers love but whose home life is falling apart, or Jazz, who teachers hate but who is cared for and confident of herself – is a laudable one.  Unfortunately, the Peters’ image of what is considered punk or outside the mainstream of teen culture seems to owe more to My So Called Life than anything from the same year.

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.

Continuing from the previous installment, here are literary gifts for preschoolers, kids just starting school, and other children not quite reading yet.  All of the books on this list should be in stock in most bookstores, so they should work for last minutes gifts.

Books That Should Be In Stock

cover image for Not A Boxinside page for Not a Box

inside page for Not a Boxcover image for Not A Stick

Not a Box, Not a Stick by Antionette Portis

In this pair of awesomely entertaining books, a bunny pretends that a box is not a box but a race car! a volcano! a robot! and that a stick is not a stick but a spear! a fishing rod! a sword!  The covers help make the books extra special; Not a Box has the look and texture of cardboard, Not a Stick the feel of wood.

cover image for Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Buscover image for DOn't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late

The Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog!cover image for The Duckling Gets A Cookie!?image for Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App!

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay up Late, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog, The Duckling Wants a Cookie?!, Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App! by Mo Willems

When the bus driver steps out for a while, he asks readers (and listeners) to watch the bus for him – and to not let the Pigeon drive the bus! Giving little ones a chance to tell someone else “NO!” for a change, as the Pigeon tries all the typical arguments (“I’ll bet your mom would let me”) to try to convince them otherwise.  Willems illustrations are full of energy and personality, but remain still simple enough for children to imitate.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay up Late follows the same formula, while The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog and The Duckling Wants a Cookie?! do not but remain quite charming.

The spin-off app is brilliant as well.  More than just an electronic version of the story, the app also allows children to fill in the blanks (Mad Libs style) and record their own version of the story, and gives them a chance to learn how to draw the pigeon, step by step, right on their tablet.

cover image for Press Hereinside page for Press Here

Press Here by Herve Tullet

This interactive story asks children to press, shake, and turn pages to make the dots multiple, move, and transform.

cover image for Blackoutinside page for Blackout

Blackout by John Rocco

When a blackout means that no one in the city can watch tv, play video games, or use the internet, a family rediscover the joys of spending time outside with each other and friends.  Told in a comic book-like format, the beautiful and very readable sequential art helps prepare children for the process of reading – much like Snowy Day does, only in a more sophisticated way.

cover image for Planting a Rainbowcover image for Eating The Alphabet

Planting a Rainbow, Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert

This pair of brilliant concept books uses bright colors, rhyming text, and shaped pages to capture and keep little ones’ attention.

cover image for The Snowy DayThe Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

A young child explores all the wonders of freshly fallen snow.  A lovely book with engaging pictures that are clear and sequential enough that children can use them to “read” the story on their own when adults and older siblings are busy.

Green by Laura Vaccaro Seegercover image for Green

Lime green, forest green, faded green, sea green…all kinds of greens!  A bit more sophisticated than most color books meant for very young children, Vaccaro Seeger rich illustrations and clever cut-outs will delight older preschoolers and younger elementary age children.

cover image for Frieght TrainFreight Train by Donald Crews

Bold black and white backgrounds are joined by brightly colored train cars in a simple and classic story.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendakcover image for Where the Wild Things Are

Do I really need to explain this choice? I didn’t think so.