Category Archives: New Books/Reviewer’s choice

Free Friday: Heartbeat

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Although this picture book would perhaps fit best under Marvelous New Picture Books, after reading it I could not resist the urge to have it exposed to more people as soon as possible. Heartbeat, a beautiful book published this year that was written and illustrated by Evan Tuck, only took one read to become an instant favorite.

Right away, the colorful cover is an incentive to read and enjoy the book. I definitely recommend (if you are a parent or teacher reading this book) to go ahead and read the author’s note before you read the book, because there will be a lot more details you can notice and be able to pick out in the book.

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When the cover is peeled back, it reveals a different image that later on, would be represented in the story. I personally appreciated the fact that the aesthetic of both covers matched, though they weren’t necessarily meant to be seen together.

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The visual beauty of this book continues with pitch black end pages that melt into the beginning of the story. Perhaps one of the most beautiful pages earlier on was that of the mother and daughter whale’s synergy as they sung together. However, as we approach the climax of the story, the beautiful red and blue hues are disrupted by a sharp jab of white.

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I believe Turk managed to execute this scene beautifully, as the novelty and foreignness of the human spear is very clear, and the typography of the heartbeats induce a panicked feeling of anxiety. Somehow, Turk is so expressive that over the next seven pages, even with nothing but the words “beat” and “heartbeat”, a reader is able to track the path of the baby whale who has now been left all alone.

Turk made the conscious choice to change the baby whale to a white color, and slowly begin to move it through human elements while relating the photos to uses that humans had found for whales (such as candles or as part of weapons).

It was clear both here and in the illustration of the only colorful human (a little girl) that Turk made the distinct choice to use different styles for the whales’ versus humans’ world.

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The way that Turk finally reincorporates color is extremely expressive as it models how one little girl’s voice can reach out and make a difference for the daughter whale who has been wandering almost aimlessly with nothing but a white emptiness till she is “full” again.

This book was sparse on words but was so expressive in terms of illustrations that I would even say it would be a book to look out for for possibly winning the Caldecott Award. The book is able to express the horrors of whale-hunting, of how whales have helped humans in so many ways, and how times have and are changing with new waves of people like the purple girl at the end who want to keep them safe.

I believe that this is an excellent book to read, especially when talking to children in relation to the animal kingdom. I believe the book shows how humans have acted in the past and how things have changed, and can open up the topic of how certain animals have been approached in the past in comparison to the present. This could work for an ocean unit or even a general unit on humans versus the wild.

Overall, the book was a powerful story that celebrated the change in humans’ attitudes towards whale-hunting and their impact on wildlife. I hope that children will read this with an appreciation of the beautiful art but also of the beautiful message: we have come so far, and we will only continue to further enhance our future as we better learn ways to protect and appreciate our dwindling wildlife.

-Hannah Park

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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

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.

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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