Tag: Picture Books

by Sarah Stewart

After reading Stitches I wanted to see more by the artist, David Small. His illustrations have a slightly different feel in this book- they’re feel softer, more gentle. Still just as vivid, with the expressive line I admire so much. Story is of a young girl in what I assumed was Depression era, but not sure. She has to leave the family farm because times are hard (I guessed they were having trouble feeding the family) and goes to stay with her uncle in the city. He runs a bakery. He never smiles. She wants to work hard and prove herself useful, but also longs to see her uncle smile. And brings her love of plants with her, packets of seeds from her grandmother’s garden. Gradually through the pages you see green appearing then filling the pages- first in a corner here, on a fire escape there. She grows flowers in window boxes and more people stop to look at them from the sidewalk, drawing customers into the shop. But she’s really making a huge surprise for her uncle up on the roof of the building. There’s a double page spread near the end that’s just a glorious riot of flowers, bold and free with color. Lovely. It’s all told in brief letters the girl writes home, so not a lot of detail in the words, you have to gather it visually through the images, but it’s one you want to linger over anyway. The art is a bit loose and sketchy but I enjoyed trying to identify some of the species pictured anyway: daffodils, amaryllis, tulips, sunflower, zinnias, daisies, morning glory, cosmos, marigold, astilbe . . . Really nice story of a girl facing a hard situation, bringing some cheer into a dingy place with her ‘green thumb’.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
40 pages, 1997

or There Must Be More To Life
by Maruice Sendak

I saw this one browsing in the library and picked it up. I thought I\’d read it before, but I must have just seen the final panels reproduced elsewhere- the beginning was more or less unfamiliar to me.

The first part is chapter-book style, with full page illustrations. Jennie, a sealyham terrier, has everything she could want in life but feels unsatisfied so she runs away to find adventure. She wants to have a star role in the theater but needs experience. A passing milkman assumes she is the newest nursemaid for a child in a big house nearby- exclaiming one must need experience for the job- so the dog accepts that and does her best to go make the baby eat her dinner. Instead, it\’s the dog who is eating tons of stuff on nearly every page! she does land the theater position in the end, and the final pages show the performance- a silly nursery rhyme about a dog eating a mop. Yeah, what?

Some other things are really odd- the dog talks to a plant and eats all its leaves until it can\’t speak to her anymore (she also later talks to an unhappy tree). The family in the big house moved away, left their baby behind, and then promptly forgot their original address so couldn\’t return to get her. And they keep a lion in their basement to eat the nursemaids who fail at the job (main requirement is getting the baby to eat). A lot of it is just the kind of ridiculousness and skewed logic a child might employ, but I\’m not sure if my kid would find this book amusing, or just plain weird!

Myself, I didn\’t really care for it in the end. But the illustrations, with their detailed pen-and-ink texture, are lovely. They transcend the story.

Rating: 2/5          70 pages, 1967

by Brendan Wenzel

A cat takes a walk. A child sees it, impressed by the big round eyes. The following pages show how each animal it comes across, sees it in a very different way. To a dog the cat is a sneaky thing, to the fish a wide blur, to the mouse it is a horrible monster. The views get a bit more sophisticated as you advance through the book. Some creatures see it in black-and-white, others in a kaliedascope of color. A bee sees the cat as various dots, a worm feels it as vibrations through the ground, the snake senses the heat of its body. On the final page- how does the cat see itself?

This book is deceptively simple. The illustrations are bold, the words are repetitive. But that\’s part of the beauty of it- a young child will just enjoy the pictures and rhythm. An older kid will appreciate the insight into perceptions- not just about viewpoints, but about the different means by which a thing can be known. Art, science and kitties!

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5              44 pages, 2016

by Brigitte Raab
Illustrations by Manuela Olten

My six-year-old over the past few months has had difficulty getting to sleep. I flipped through this book at the library and thought she would find it amusing- yep. It reminds her that she\’s not the only one having issues falling asleep- and makes her laugh!

The kid in the story says to her mom over and over: I can\’t sleep. Mom tells her to snuggle with her stuffed leopard and close her eyes, adding: \”all creatures sleep. Even the real leopards in Africa-\” and shares some fact about how leopards sleep. Next page, the kid complains she can\’t sleep- she tried to sleep like a leopard but it didn\’t work- so mom tucks her in again and tells her how storks sleep on one leg- you get the picture. Each time the kid tries sleeping like an animal: eyes open like a fish, surrounded by buddies like a duck, turning in circles like a dog. She finds out of course that animal sleep habits are not for kids, snuggled in a bed is best of all.

This book isn\’t about finding some strategy for bedtime (and we\’re mostly over needing that). You see through the pictures that the mother is going through her own bedtime routine, and on the last page when the kid finally says \”I\’m sleeping now!\” mom is already snoozing next to her. It never shows the child actually falling alseep- which I found a tad annoying. But it\’s good for giggles.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5                32 pages, 2012

by Eric Carle, et al

When I saw the cover of this book at the library, I thought it was a story about some crazy made-up composite animal. Nope! It\’s a bunch of renowned children\’s illustrators telling what their favorite animal is, and why. Some share little stories about a beloved pet, others about why they like the animal, a few are just a poem or brief description of the animal. There are funny pages and more serious ones. I especially liked the story about the carp that was supposed to be christmas eve dinner, and on another page, appreciation for the snail. I recognized a lot of the artists and thoroughly enjoyed looking at their pictures- Eric Carle, Steven Kellogg, Lane Smith, Mo Willems, etc. My five-year-old has forgotten that we used to read many books by some of these illustrators, so this volume has inspired me to pull some old favorites off our shelves (she\’s usually going for something new at the library, not repeats).

Rating: 3/5

more opinions:
Waking Brain Cells
Kids\’ Book Review

by Drew Daywalt

I was babysitting for a friend and saw this book on her shelf. Pulled it out to read (just to myself, the kids weren\’t interested).

A little boy finds a stack of letters from his personified crayons. They each have a complaint. Some are tired of being over-used and worn down to stubs, others feel neglected. Yellow and orange argue over who should be used to color the sun, beige is unhappy at being second-best to brown, pink is upset at being considered a \”girl\” color (relegated to little sister borrowing it for princesses and unicorns), black is bored with only being used to make outlines. One crayon even criticizes the boy\’s ineptness at staying in the lines, and another freaks out because part of its wrapper is torn off and it feels naked. They really are a whiny bunch (except for green who seems content) but I got a chuckle out of it all- and thought it a good point that the crayons\’ complaints were about stereotypical uses. In the end the boy makes one big picture applying the crayon colors to all kinds of different things, which makes them happy.

I thought the book was funny, made a good point against stereotypes (even if it\’s just for what color things should be) and showed how when the crayons made their feelings known, things changed. I think my older daughter would be amused by it. I haven\’t tried it on my younger one. However, if you poke around some other reviews online (there\’s lots on amzn) you\’ll find many parents and teachers don\’t like this book. They think it shows kids that whining gets them what they want, and comes across with a lot of negativity. I think it\’s all in how you present it (or maybe on the child you read it to).

Rating: 3/5       40 pages, 2013

more opinions:
Rhapsody in Books
Playing by the Book

by Carson Ellis

This lovely picture book shows a wide variety of places that people call home. Each page is a detailed illustration of a different kind of home- a city apartment, country home, thatched stone house on a mountainside. Some are really fanciful- the old woman\’s shoe from a nursery rhyme, an underground sea lair (my favorite, with the writhing octopus tentacles and wavy aquatic plants), a diminutive woodland house- for a fairy or elf, you must imagine. There are so many particular details, you can imagine what kind of person lives in each home and the sort of activities they do. The page showing the artist\’s own home is fun, as you can find objects, paintings and sketches in the room from most of the other illustrations in the book. Also there\’s a visual thread running through the entire thing- which I didn\’t notice until the second time I read this to my kid- of a mourning dove. The bird is present somewhere in each picture. Most of all, I loved the details of plants in the pictures- the variety of shapes, the fronds of sea plants and ferns- just lovely.

Note: I did not really think about how prevalent old, negative stereotypes are in this book -in the way it depicts the homes and lifestyles of non-European cultures- until I read the review in the third link below. Now it feels like a slap in the face. My four-year-old definitely wasn\’t astute enough to pick up on this either, but that\’s exactly the problem- the book will just define for her what other places and lives are like, if all she knows about Inuits are \”that they live in igloos\” for example. Sigh.

Rating: 4/5      40 pages, 2015

more opinions:
Things Mean a Lot
Rhapsody in Books
American Indians in Children\’s Literature

the Pup After Merle
by Ted Kerasote

A year or two after the famous Merle passed on, his owner got a new puppy and named him Pukka. This is Pukka\’s story. How he came into the author\’s life, got to know neighbors, learned doggy skills and basic obedience, went adventuring with his new owner on hikes and even river trips. It\’s told from the dog\’s perspective, which in this case is charming and I think would make the book appealing for younger readers too. It\’s mostly presented in photographs, and they are very nice. The scenery is gorgeous, the photos taken in the Seattle, WA area of course make me feel nostalgic. And the puppy is darn cute. He doesn\’t do anything extraordinary, but such a nice dog and the storyline shows how a puppy can become well-adjusted, learn new situations and some basic rules, and in this case, have freedom to roam while near home but accept leash laws when out and about on public streets (they live in a rural area of Wyoming). This book has a different feel from Merle\’s Door, very casual and an easy read- I finished it in one sitting.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5       200 pages, 2010

by Peter Brown

Bobby is sure his teacher is a monster. She stomps and growls and yells at kids. Especially when he throws paper airplanes in class. Bobby often goes to the park to play and forget about his teacher. But one day he is shocked to find his teacher in the park! There\’s an awkward conversation. Then Bobby rescues the teacher\’s hat when it blows away. He finds out she likes ducks, he shows her his favorite hill, she gives him paper to make an airplane to fly. The teacher relaxes a bit too, dropping some of the formal language she uses in class by the end of their time at the park. Back in school, the teacher still stomps and yells at times, but Bobby also earns her praise now and knows she can be friendly.

The great thing about this book is that for the first ten pages the teacher looks like a monster. Then as she and Bobby reach an understanding, her image slowly begins to change- the skin is lighter, the features softer, and by the last page she looks like a normal person.

I borrowed this book from the public library.

Rating: 3/5     34 pages, 2014

more opinions:
Jen Robinson\’s Book Page
The Book Chook

by Peter Brown

Lucy the bear wants to make a new friend. So she visits all the forest animals, eager and friendly. But a bit lacking in social skills. She\’s too boisterous and talkative for most of them, I can exactly picture what kind of outgoing, slightly annoying four-year-old child this bear personifies. The pictures of Lucy trying to squeeze into a rabbit\’s hole, belly-flopping into a frog puddle and trying to give a skunk a bath are cute and funny. She\’s well-meaning and nothing but persistent- but the other animals all look annoyed or at best, startled by her tactics. Getting frustrated, Lucy starts demanding that the other animals play with her, but of course that doesn\’t work either. Finally, when she least expects it, a flamingo comes along who likes to play Lucy\’s games. Phew, a happy ending!

Really cute book, and I\’m sure lots of kids know what it\’s like to be in Lucy\’s shoes (or have been on the receiving end). It\’s by the same author who did The Curious Garden.

This book was borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5      36 pages, 2011


All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it


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