The Watermelon Seed, written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, is the 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Winner, and it is no wonder why. The fun and colorful cover immediately drew me in, and the cover under the jacket did not disappoint either. Upon opening the book, it is as if the reader is actually going inside of a watermelon thanks to the pink watermelon endpapers.
The Watermelon Seed follows a crocodile as he eats his favorite food, watermelon. Everything is going great until something extremely relatable happens: he swallows a seed! Most kids have heard that if you swallow a watermelon seed then a watermelon will grow in your stomach. This book follows the main character on a stress-filled hilarious journey as he pictures the watermelon growing in his belly and the vines growing out of his ears, among other symptoms.
Throughout the book, Pizzoli makes use of full bleed images and double page spreads that make the reader feel as if they are actually in the story. The pink and green color scheme is very bright and combined with the simple and cute drawings, create an aesthetic that is enjoyable and very appropriate for beginning readers. Pizzoli also makes use of variety of font types and sizes and puts few words on each page. The language used is easy to understand without writing down to the intended audience. This book is really fun to read aloud, especially the pages with extra large font and silly words, such as this one:
Luckily for our crocodile friend, he burps up the swallowed seed. He vows never to eat watermelon ever again, but very quickly gives in (I mean come on, who can resist some yummy watermelon?!). The book comes full circle as he eats the watermelon and swallows a seed once again. This comical ending is very fitting for the book.
Overall, this book is entertaining to read, relatable, and aesthetically pleasing for kids and adults alike. The watermelon theme and the crocodile main character are an unlikely pairing, but super cute and work well together in this book.
by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, illustrated by Man One
Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix is a kid-friendly biography of Roy Choi, a famous food truck chef who was born in Seoul, South Korea. The book recounts how Roy and his family moved to Los Angeles when he was two years old and how his experience as an immigrant influenced his upbringing. His mom made traditional Korean food like kimchi, and bibimbap; her food was so good that Roy’s family opened up their very own restaurant. Roy loved having Dumpling Time at the restaurant, where the whole family would sit down together and fold the dumplings to be cooked later that day. The book discusses how Roy’s parents closed their restaurant and had a more successful life in the jewelry business. Even with this prosperity, Roy felt like more of an outcast without the cultural anchor of the restaurant in his life. He eventually found his place in culinary school and started working in fancy restaurants. After a while, a friend encouraged him to open a Korean taco truck. Roy wanted to “remix the tastes” that were so important to him, combining traditional Korean flavors with dishes that everyone would love. He opened Kogi BBQ Truck, and at first people scoffed at the idea. Eventually, the food truck became very successful, and Roy loved seeing how his food brought diverse people together. Kogi expanded to a whole fleet of food trucks, and Roy even opened a restaurant called Locol in an underserved neighborhood. The book ends with Roy showing other people how to make their own food and cook with sohn-maash, or love.
Man One created the illustrations for this book in an incredibly unique way. He spray-painted canvases to create the backgrounds, then digitally uploaded them. He added in pencil drawings of people and all the landscape details, resulting in vibrant and alluring pictures throughout the book. Even the endpapers show images of ramen noodles, a small detail that really ties into the heart of the biography. I love how the authors included explanations of Korean words and foods that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. This allows them to tell the story in an authentic way, not dumbing it down or “Americanizing” it, while still allowing the reader access to all of the important concepts. I also appreciate that the authors didn’t glorify Roy Choi’s experience. They include parts about how isolated and different he felt, and how he lost his job at a fancy restaurant before opening his food truck. They also mention the doubt, based in racism, that people had of Roy’s idea. The inclusion of “Korean guys can’t do tacos” in the dialogue of the book underscores how stereotypes influence every aspect of our culture, including our thoughts about food. Roy Choi is an honorable person in my eyes; he became very successful and purposefully chose to continue serving people instead of making his food exclusive to the wealthy. He could have easily chosen to open a restaurant with a months-long waiting list, but he decided to make his food accessible to everyone. Roy serves as a great role model for children for a variety of reasons. He overcame the challenges of being different than most people in LA, chose a challenging and unconventional path to follow his passion, and gives back to the community when he is able. Overall, this is a sweet biography of a man who didn’t take no for an answer and persevered until he reached his goal.
Written and Illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
Patrick McDonnell is a comic strip illustrator, famous for his series MUTTS. He has also written several other picture books, including the New York Times best-seller The Monsters’ Monster and Me…Jane, which received a Caldecott Honor.
A Perfectly Messed-Up Story is the tale of Louie, who is happy until things start to go wrong in the telling of his story. First, a plop of jelly lands on his page, interrupting his sentence.
The jelly is not the only thing to interrupt his story. It is soon followed by a splat of peanut butter, smudgy finger prints and a splash of orange juice. Louie is not pleased. He feels books deserve respect and should be taken care of.
After an incident with some crayon doodles gone awry, Louie becomes so distraught that he gives up all together.
As the story continues, Louie realizes that the story can still be read and loved, despite its setbacks. He begins to love his story again, messes and all.
Overall, we found this book to be humorous and engaging. The illustrations are delightful, and use a variety of mediums to share a quirky story. The moral is sometimes life is messy, but that isn’t a reason to give up; life can still be good, even with messes in it. This is an important message for children, especially those who are stubborn or like things to go their way (as most kids do). We think this would be appropriate for children three and older and would be useful in teaching kids about accepting flaws in life, in themselves and in others. Parents could absolutely use this book in helping kids through transitions, such as welcoming a new sibling, entering a new school or simply a change of plans. We definitely recommend this book and hope it brings you as much laughter as it did us!
-Anna McCarthy and Hayley Robinson