Category Archives: New Books/Reviewer’s choice

Marvelous New Picture Book Monday: The Honeybee

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The Honeybee, written by Kirsten Hall and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, is a newer children’s picture book that became available May 8, 2018. It tells the story of a hive of honeybees and their yearlong journey from Spring to Spring. The illustrations stood out to me immediately- very pretty yellows and oranges with pops of pink in the flowers and black on the honeybees in the cover art. I am also drawn to anything flying considering birds and flying insects have been of particular interest to my 2-year-old and 4-year-old daughters this Spring and Summer. Why bees do what they do can feel mysterious and often the unknown can be scary for children. This story provides incredible imagery and descriptions of a bee’s life through the fun and information-packed lens a child can grasp.

The inside cover is playful with black and yellow stripes and the cute snippet, “BZZZ… What’s that? So you hear it? You’re near it. It’s closer, it’s coming, it’s buzzing, it’s humming…” with the whizzing bee trail around it. Reading that alone is exciting for the child, the “bzzz” sounds are unique to a bee and are fun to say and read together. It is very foretelling of the fun and exploratory story of the bee and its quest for pollen (as well as what happens after). The tone is fun and the sounds and rhyme of the story give it kind of whirling rhythm that is very fitting to bees movement. The story is accurate as a description of nature- it tells of the bee’s quest for nectar, it’s gathering of pollen, its zooming around, the return to the hive, the dance to show other bees where they found their pollen, the process of changing the chemical makeup to make its honey, how it’s stored, and how they stay in with what they’ve packed away for the Winter all huddled together with their queen. It’s an adventure into the life of bees with the bees themselves and both the writing and the illustrations create the perfect scene.

The illustrations are the right balance of bold yellow and black honeybees and subtle flowers with incredible contrast. The mix is just beautiful- pages of lovely flowers and a whizzing trail immediately followed by a double page spread of a happy, smiling bee.

 

There are pages of soft watercolor flowers and grey background details on a white background followed by a series of pages inside the hive with black background and thin white hexagonal hive patterns. The bees are given facial features that appear friendly and soft and not at all scary. This is great insight to bees as gatherers in nature and not just mean insects with stingers. The flowers contain pops of iridescent orange that emphasize the ultraviolet pattern bees see so they know where to get pollen. The illustrations of nature and the hive and flowers and the bees are slightly whimsical but still based in reality allowing for simple connections to be made between the story and the world around us.

Additionally, within the last few pages of the book, there is a great letter from the author encouraging kids to care about the future of bees and their effect on the environment. I highly recommend the book for children who are interested in nature and the world around them, as well as anyone interested in bees and beautiful books.

By Andrea Runnells

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I Just Want To Say Good Night

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I Just Want To Say Good Night

This colorful and entertaining picture book is a perfect bedtime story for all ages.  I Just Want To Say Goodnight incorporates the universal story of a child procrastinating their bedtime through a multicultural lens.  The bright and vibrant colors of the illustrations capture the setting in the African village beautifully, while demonstrating sentiment and emotion through the characters as well.  In addition, this book is notably a Caldecott Honor winner.

The book begins with the young girl Lala greeting her father and asking about his day.  The illustrations use the coloring of the sky to indicate that the sun is setting and it is almost the end of the day.  When Lala’s father tells her it is time for bed, she explains that she wants to say good night to a few animals in the village.  She says good night to the fish, the cat, the ants, etc.

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My favorite illustration throughout the book is the double page spread where Lala is saying good night to the monkey.  She kindly bends down to the little monkey’s level and offers him a flower.  The illustration is set with a bright pink and purple sky, and the sun close to the horizon.

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The concept of time passing, and night-time approaching, is wonderfully represented through the illustrations.  As the reader delves deeper into the story, the illustrated sky goes from sunset, to dusk, and then night.  Not only does the sky get darker, but the lighting and contrast in the rest of the illustration develops too.  Lala becomes more of a silhouette as the sky darkens, and shadows begin to appear.

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As time goes on, Lala has difficulty finding anything left to say good night too.  She finally says good nigh to a rock before following her Mama into the house.  Once in bed, she grabs her bed time book, in which the illustration and text both allude to the famous, and classic, bed time board book, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.

Author and Illustrator, Rachel Isadora is well-known for her wonderful children’s books in which she seamlessly incorporates playful and relatable stories in African settings and backgrounds.  She truly does a remarkable job of creating books with multicultural themes that children of all ages and ethnicities can thoroughly enjoy.  I absolutely loved this book, for its child-like humor and magnificent pictures, and would recommend it to any parent, family member, or caretaker that is looking for a fun and new book to read during bed time.

 

Casey Quinn

Free Fridays: Animal House

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What would your dream home look like if you were a monkey? How about if you were a squirrel? Animal House, written and illustrated by Melissa Bay Mathis, is an imaginative and child-centered picture book that encourages readers to consider the idea of “home” from a variety of new perspectives.

The book begins with a group of children who want to build a tree house. As they begin to brainstorm, they decide to seek help from some animal friends, each of whom have a different opinion on what features would make for a perfect home. The pig’s home, for example, would replace traditional flooring with mud puddles. The finishing touch on the dog’s home would be a vending machine that dispensed bones, shoes, and other chewable goodies.

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Each page in the book is written from a different animal’s perspective, presented through a playful rhyming verse that brings the characters to life. Next to each verse, there is a picture of the speaker, which will help younger children understand the idea of point-of-view.

As fun as this book is to read aloud, however, the highlight of Animal House is the detail in the illustrations. Accompanying every animal’s idea is a full-page spread showing the dream home in all of its glory. The illustrations in this book make read-alouds a truly interactive experience – children will be so engrossed in pointing out the witty details that they won’t want to turn the page!

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After each animal has had a chance to speak, the group gets together and plans a tree house with everyone’s preferences in mind. The book ends with an extra-large pull out illustration of the finished product – a perfect model of how collaboration can ensure that everyone’s needs will be met. Every animal – tall or short, active or lazy – has a place in the tree house.

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Animal House is a fun and crowd-pleasing picture book that children will want to read again and again.

Post by Sami Chiang

Marvelous New Picture Books: A Perfectly Messed-Up Story

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A Perfectly Messed-Up Story

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.

Jelly Stain!

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.

So Inspirational!

After an incident with some crayon doodles gone awry, Louie becomes so distraught that he gives up all together.

I. GIVE. UP.

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.

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

Giant Steps to Change the World

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Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee is a motivational book that speaks to young readers in an inspiring way.

Cover to cover, this book aims to help young readers find a path and follow their dreams. Spike and Tonya Lee have gathered quotes from over 20 world leaders and filled the book’s flaps with short bursts of inspiration. Subtly referencing the achievements and challenges of world leaders, including: “the poet who wrote of the pain and beauty of neighborhoods forgotten” and “the scientist who had a hard time learning to read, but whose theories became the basis for most of modern science,” this book offers a simple yet meaningful message. Adults and children will love reading this book, guessing who the text is talking about, and following the authors’ message: you are going to face challenges in life. We all do; but, you have to take the steps to overcome those challenges and follow your dreams. What’s your next step going to be? 

– Mary Frances

Bedhead by Margie Palatini illustrated by Jack E. Davis

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You know those mornings when you wake up and no matter how hard you try, you just cannot get your hair to work with you? Well Oliver is having one of those mornings in Bedhead by Margie Palatini.  In a daze, Oliver gives his teeth a “passable brushing,” and then he notices it:

“In a gunk less corner of the soapy silver soap dish… in a fogless smidgen of  his father’s foggy shaving mirror…right there on the hot water faucet, for heaven’s sake… he saw it!”

“It was BIG”

“It was BAD”

“It was…”

“BEDHEAD!”

After noticing this monstrosity, Oliver’s scream “shook,” it “rattled,” and “it rolled all the way down from the stairs and into the kitchen where Froot Loops went flying.”  Oliver’s dad, mom, and sister file up to the bathroom to check on him. They each try to tame his hair, but all of their attempts are futile. Oliver finally discovers a solution: a hat!

When he finally makes it to school, one of his classmates reminds him that it is PICTURE DAY! As the class is arranged for their picture, the cameraman tells Oliver to take off his hat. Oliver reluctantly takes off his hat and to his surprise, his hair is not sticking out every which way!

But, then, as the cameraman counts down for the picture, the BEDHEAD comes back!

The story ends with a copy of Oliver’s class picture, which captures the moment perfectly.

This humorous tale offers an experience in which we all can relate. The rich and descriptive language aligns well with the detailed illustrations.

Love it!!

-Anna Blair Solomon

We Are in a Book!

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Elephant and Piggie are back at it again in this wonderful book written and illustrated by the talented Mo Willems!

Winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor (an honor awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States), this book is fun for children of all ages!

In this book, Gerald the elephant and Piggie notice something strange… Someone is looking at them!

Who could it be?

The reader!

When they discover they are in a book, the characters celebrate and rejoice! But now Elephant and Piggie have a BIG problem! What happens when the book ends?

Make sure to pick up a copy and find out!

Join Elephant and Piggie and turn the pages with them. Delight in how Willems experiments with conventions and has his characters “break the fourth wall.” Enjoy how he plays with text and speech bubbles. This book will truly surprise the reader and make the reader smile! 🙂

– Reviewed by Laura Wilczek