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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic: Goldilocks and the Three Bears by James Marshall

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2. What Can I Be? by Ann Rand & Ingrid Fiksdahl King





Holding What Can I Be? in my hands after reading it, I felt like I had just walked through a gallery at a modern art museum. I knew that there had to be a story behind this book, which was published this year by Princeton Architectural Press, but feels much older. The premise of What Can I Be?which was written by Ann Rand and illustrated by painter and architecture professor Ingrid Fiksdahl King, coauthor of A Pattern Language, one of the most influential books on architecture and planning, is simple, suggestive and playful, presenting readers with a shape and asking what could it be, then encouraging readers to imagine what else that shape could be. Reading this article at the marvelous Brain Pickings, I learned the story behind What Can I Be?









In the 1950s Ann Rand and her husband at the time collaborated on three picture books that are still in print. Her husband, Paul Rand went on to be a legend in the graphic design world, creating many of the corporate logos that are still in use today. Like Fiksdahl King, Ann Rand was an architect and trained under Mies van der Rohe. In the 1970s the two created What Can I Be? but it did not reach publication for forty years. It is always fascinating to me when creative people from different disciplines make picture books, and when it is successful, the results stand out on the shelves, and What Can I Be? is definitely successful.


What could be green and shaped like a triangle? "a Christmas tree / the sail of a boat / a tent / or maybe a kite flying high in a windblown sky." While concept books are, by their very nature, simplistic, Rand and Fiksdahl King add layers of complexity, especially in the illustrations, but also in the text, using words like "splendid," "ruffled" and "windblown." What Can I Be? will definitely appeal to parents with a background in in art, design and architecture, but I believe it will also truly inspire little listeners who will want to hear it read over and over.




Books by Ann & Paul Rand





Source: Review Copy


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3. The Biggest Little Brother - A picture book for siblings!





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4. Pretty Minnie in Hollywood

Pretty Minnie in Hollywood. Danielle Steel. Illustrated by Kristi Valiant. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Minnie is a white, long-haired, teacup-size Chihuahua.

Premise/plot: Minnie and her owner live in Paris, France. Francoise (the child owner) and Minnie travel with the Mom to Hollywood to hand deliver a beautiful, glamorous dress to an actress for a movie. Most of the 'plot' of this one focuses on the trip there and back. While in Hollywood, Minnie gets her big break and stars in a movie of her own.

My thoughts: Could the cover of this book possibly have even more glitter? I didn't think so. The plot is what it is. It isn't horribly creative or clever or new or unique or compelling. More frivolous and predictable and obnoxious in a cutie-sweetie-pie way. Now, if the book had been a super-sweet story about a cat instead of a dog, would I feel differently? Maybe. But I don't see a cat dressing up and following directions. That would have been a whole different story. Several pages might have even been spent on trying to get the cat into traveling bag.

I was unimpressed with the writing of this one. But what slightly saves it are the illustrations.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Some physical picture books to have a look at!

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6. Picture Book Monday with a review of Little Robot

Graphic novels have been around for a long time, but English language titles in this genre that are suitable for younger readers are a more recent phenomenon. Thankfully First Second books and other publishers are now creating many wonderful graphic novels for children and young adults. There are books that are suited to readers who are just starting their reading journey, and there are also books for readers who are comfortable with complex and rich stories.

Today's picture book title is a mostly wordless graphic novel that young children will find captivating. In the story there are robots, a strong-willed, tool-wielding little girl, and plenty of action-filled adventure. What more can one ask for.


Little RobotLittle Robot
Ben Hatke
Graphic Novel
For ages 6 to 8
First Second, 2015, 978-1-62672-080-0
One day a little girl sneaks out of her trailer home and she sets off to explore. She sees the other kids going to school, she plays on the swing set in an old man’s yard, and then she goes to a place where lots of old cars are piled up. She finds an old set of tools in a belt, which she takes and slings across her shoulder. Then she sees a box floating in a stream. She pulls the box out of the water, opens it, and finds out that it contains a strange metal canister. When she presses a button on the top of the canister it starts to open up.
   The little girl runs away to hide in an old car and watches as the canister opens up some more and then turns into a robot; a not very coordinated robot that tips over on its back when it tries to walk. It lies there with its legs flailing until the little girl takes pity on it and helps it get back on its feet. When the robot tries to walk again it falls flat on its face. Clearly the little machine needs help figuring out how to walk, and the little girl is the one who gives it that help. She also teaches the robot that a cat is not something to be afraid of, and that flowers are alive.
   What the robot and the little girl don’t know is that a machine in the factory knows that one of the robots is missing and a large and rather terrifying retrieval robot has been sent to find it.
   The next day the little girl and her new friend explore together again. The robot turns out to be very good at skipping stones and the two of them have a wonderful time.
   On the third day the little girl and the little robot have a falling out when the little robot seems to prefer hanging out with a broken down car than with her. The girl walks away in a huff. Luckily for the little robot the little girl sees something that makes her think that perhaps something is amiss. She runs back to her mechanical friend just in time to rescue him from being captured by the enormous retrieval robot. They manage to get away from the terrible machine, but their troubles are far from over. The machine is not going to give up without a fight.
   This delightful mostly wordless graphic novel tells the story of a special friendship We meet a courageous little girl whose skills with a wrench and screwdriver helps her to do something special. She is the quintessential heroine, and when they get to the end of the story readers will most certainly be left with a warm, fuzzy feeling in their hearts.

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7. Caillou: Storybook Treasury: Ten Bestselling Stories | Book Review

Caillou, everyone's favorite preschooler, is back in this delightful collection of ten best-loved stories.

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8. First Day of School Jitters? Try Splat the Cat

First Day of School Jitters? Try Splat the Cat | Storytime Standouts

Storytime Standouts reviews Splat the Cat by Rob ScottonSplat the Cat by Rob Scotton
Picture book about starting school published by Harper Collins Publishers

There’s no doubt about it, going to school for the very first time can be nerve-wracking. It is no wonder that Splat is wide awake bright and early.

When mom opens his bedroom door, his first instinct is to pull the covers over his head. When that doesn’t work, Splat tries all sorts of tactics to delay leaving for school. He can’t find socks and his hair is a mess. One thing he knows for sure, having a friend in his lunchbox is certain to help. Splat pops Seymour the Mouse into his lunchbox and sets out to meet his new teacher and classmates.Splat the Cat spread

Mrs. Wimpydimple and Splat’s new classmates are very welcoming and soon Splat is full of questions. He is especially curious to know why cats chase mice! (A definite opportunity to introduce the concept of foreshadowing) When it is finally lunchtime, Splat opens his lunchbox and his small rodent friend, Seymour is suddenly the centre of attention – and not in a good way. Splat’s new classmates do exactly what readers will predict – the chase is on!

Engaging, playful illustrations provide many details for young children to notice and enjoy. A mostly grey and black color palette is highlighted with vibrant yellow and red details that pop off the page. Those who are able to read will love the signs in the storefront windows and Mrs. Wimpydimple’s blackboard illustrations.


Harper Collins has some terrific Splat the Cat printables for children to enjoy.

Splat the Cat at Amazon.com

Splat the Cat at Amazon.ca



Storytime Standouts - Raising Children Who Love to Read

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9. Big Fun in a Colorful Picture Book!

Silly Goose’s BIG Story

by Keiko Kasza

            I’m always looking for great read aloud; books that cry out to be read in your favorite “Snuggery” with an arm around a child and characters that lend themselves to a variety of voices parents can mimic and kids will love. Well, in Silly Goose’s BIG Story, I’ve discovered a great summer read AND read aloud. Goose has a definite flair for storytelling and holding his friends Squirrel, Porcupine and Beaver enthrall. (I can just hear parents inventing voices for this trio).

            Big problem though, Goose is always the hero of his stories, with his friends as the minor cast of characters. Eventually resentments build. Can this be the end of the friendship? Goose finds himself alone and in trouble with a goose-hungry wolf and, of course, no friends in sight. Can Goose survive alone and friendless? Will Goose’s storytelling capabilities hold up with his quick thinking imaginative tale told to the wolf of the horrible “WEM”, (Wolf Eating Monster to the unenlightened) summoned ultimately to save the quick thinking Goose?

   But is this wily wolf so easily deceived? Will he see through Goose’s storytelling deception? Wait! What if there really is a WEM, called forth by the creative powers of Goose’s storytelling imagination? Or is it the power of friendship that makes the WEM appear? Kids will relate to this story of someone in their crowd who always wants to be “it.” But the larger lesson in this free wheeling romp is that when it comes to crunch time, buddies band together for the sake of friendship and baddies bolt. Lesson: Hold onto the friends you have and forgive them their temporary flights of ego.

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10. One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree byDaniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel



In 2014 I enthusiastically reviewed Some Bugs, a wonderfully rhyming book written by Angela DiTerlizzi and illustrated by newcomer Brendan Wenzel. Wenzel's  playful, colorful style reminded me of Eric Carle and it is a treat to see him at play again in Daniel Bernstrom's magnificently mellifluous One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree.




Bernstrom takes a traditional theme in children's stories - being trapped in the belly of a beast (and getting spit out) and crafts it into an onomatopoetic, adjective packed story that is especially fun to read out loud. The clever little boy (with the toy, a cool little pinwheel) figures out that if he can prod the snake to keep eating and eating he will eventually over eat...



Wenzel's illustrations frolic across the pages of One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree, distracting the reader from the fact that cool kids and cute creatures are being eaten by a huge reptile. As the snake is wiggle-waggling and gobbling up a bird, a cat, a bee hive and even a adorable green "sloth covered in fuzzy-wuzzy moss," the art is as colorful as the words Bernstrom uses to tell his story.  When the clever boy eggs the snake on to eat one final small piece of "plummy-chummy fruit," the teeny-tiny fly perched on the fruit proves to be the tipping point. "Gurgle-gurgle came a blurble from that belly deep and full" and, well, you know how it ends one day in the eucalyptus, eucalyptus tree.


Coming soon! 
Wenzel's debut as author & illustrator 
and a follow up to Some Bugs!



Source: Review Copy


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11. I wanted to love this book – The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

I wanted to love this book – The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade | Storytime Standouts

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade written by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Christian RobinsonThe Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade written by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Christian Robinson
Antibullying Picture Book published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons: An Imprint of Penguin Group (USA)

You’ve really got to love a recording artist who has a very popular kids’ CD titled, Meltdown! and another called Not Naptime. The album titles alone are enough to bring a smile to a weary parent’s face. So, I wanted to think that The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade was terrific.

And, I do think it is a good book but, there are ways it could have been better.

Sally McCabe is both young and small. She is in the lowest grade at her school and she is the smallest child in the class. Kudos to the illustrator for depicting a racially diverse group of children in the classroom and at the playground. It would have been excellent to see similar diversity in terms of mobility (perhaps one child in a wheelchair or using crutches, for example).Illustration from The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

Sally is unusually observant. She notices a kite that is tangled in a tree and she notices that the janitor’s ring has twenty-seven keys. Unfortunately, this is where my evaluation of the book begins to drop: one illustration of the janitor’s ring only shows seven keys and another shows five keys. I completely understand that twenty seven may have been essential to the rhyme BUT the illustrations should be true to the story. If the ring has twenty seven keys – the illustration of the ring should show us each one of them! Young children will pick up on this sort of disparity. They will want to know where the other twenty or twenty two keys are and the omission will detract from the important antibullying message the author is attempting to share.

When a bully pushes Sally’s classmate, the story tells us that he begins to cry but in the illustration, he is dry-eyed. These seemingly minor disparities really do make a difference and discerning young readers will notice them.

Adults may understand the (metaphorical) significance of wildflowers tipping toward light and cats meeting together in a parking lot but I doubt that, without guidance, young children will see any connection between the cats or the flowers and Sally’s story.

Essentially, Sally, observes bullying on the playground, in the hallway at school, in the classroom and in the school cafeteria. Eventually, she speaks up. She announces, “I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff. Stop hurting each other! This is enough!”

This prompts all of Sally’s classmates and school staff members to point their fingers in the air in solidarity. Soon the school is a much more harmonious place. A somewhat “magical solution” to bullying? Yes, but, this is story that could be used to initiate discussions about bullying and social responsibility.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade at Amazon.com

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade at Amazon.ca



Storytime Standouts - Raising Children Who Love to Read

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12. Interrupting Chicken

Interrupting Chicken. David Ezra Stein. 2010. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was bedtime for the little red chicken.

Premise/plot: Little Red Chicken wants her Papa to read her a bedtime story. She promises to not interrupt. She promises to be good. But. Little Red Chicken can't help getting involved in the stories and interrupting. The stories she interrupts? Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Little. After three attempts at a bedtime story, she's still not asleep. What are they to do?!

My thoughts: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one. I do. I love seeing Little Red Chicken interrupt the stories. I love the story that Little Red Chicken writes to "read" to her Papa. I love the last few pages of this one especially. I think the illustrations are great fun.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Picture Book Monday with a review of Buddy and Earl go exploring

Sometimes the people we love the most, our friends and family members, like to do odd things. Sometimes they have strange hobbies or habits that don't really make sense to us, but we go along for the ride because we care about them and want to be with them. In this picture book a dog goes on a very strange journey with his hedgehog friend. He does not quite understand what the hedgehog is doing or why he is doing it, but he goes on the trip all the same.

Buddy and Earl Go ExploringBuddy and Earl go exploring
Maureen Fergus
Illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Groundwood, 2016, 978-1-55498-714-6
Buddy has had a long day and he is looking forward to snuggling down on his bed for a good night’s sleep. Buddy’s people put Earl the hedgehog in his nice new cage, and then they turn off the light and go to bed. Buddy closes his eyes and is just nodding off when Earl tells him that he is going on a trip.
   Buddy is very fond of Earl and does not really like the idea of his friend going off for an indefinite period of time, but Buddy does his best to be brave and he says goodbye to Earl and wishes him “Good luck!” Earl then climbs into his exercise wheel and starts running. He runs and runs and when he stops he sees that the place he has come to “looks eerily similar to the place I just left.” Which is not surprising.
   Earl is thrilled when he sees that Buddy is with him in the ‘new’ place. After all, “Exploring is always more fun if you do it with a friend.” Together they set off to explore, with Earl’s very fertile imagination leading the way. Somehow, in the kitchen, they encounter a silvery lake, they eat a feast, Buddy saves a “lovely lady hedgehog trapped in the jaws of a monster,” and in turn Earl saves Buddy from another monster.
   In this second Buddy and Earl book, Earl once again let’s his imagination run wild, and though Buddy is a rather literal dog, he goes along for the ride. Children will find it not to laugh out loud when they see how Earl takes the most ordinary of things and turns them into something wonderful. Best of all they will love seeing how the two very different friends stay true to each other no matter what.

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14. Poems in the Attic

Poems in the Attic. Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. 2015. Lee & Low. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Grandma's attic is stacked with secrets.

Premise/plot: Poems in the Attic is a picture book about a seven year old girl who discovers a box of her mother's poems in her grandmother's attic. Her mother started writing poems when she was just seven. Our heroine, the little girl, decides to start writing poems of her own. Readers see these poems--mother and daughter--side by side. The mother's poems are about growing up a 'military brat' moving from place to place every year or so. The daughter's poems are doubly reflective.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I liked the premise of it especially. A girl coming to appreciate her mother in a new light. A girl learning to express herself through poetry. The book celebrates family, poetry, and a sense of life as one big adventure.

That being said, poetry tends to be hit or miss with me. I sometimes enjoy poetry. Sometimes not so much. I didn't love the short poems in this one as much as I wanted. I liked them okay. I just wasn't WOWED by them. I do like the celebration of family. And the illustrations were great. Eleven places were captured in the mother's poems. And the author's note was interesting. So this one is worth your time.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Poetry Friday with a review of The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders

There is something incredibly soothing about reading poetry. As it is not prose, the form of writing we are most used to, we tend to take our time with poetry, slowing down our reading so that we can take in the words. Of late the news has been full of awfulness of the worst kind and I have found myself taking refuge from the headlines by reading novels that are written in verse. For a while at least I get a break from violence, anger, frustration, and loss. For children, perhaps today's poetry book will offer a similar little break from the tension that is rippling through our world.

The Frogs Wore Red SuspendersThe Frogs Wore Red Suspenders 
Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
HarperCollins, 2005, 978-0060737764
One of the best ways to help children engage with poetry is to create poems that make them laugh, or poems that engage the imagination. Jack Prelutsky is a master when it comes to writing poems that contain just the right amount of delightfully silly fun to keep children coming back for more. He also paints pictures with his words to such great effect that children are also drawn to his gentler, more lyrical poems as well.
   In this poetry collection, animal and human characters do all kinds of delightful things, the kinds of things that children will enjoy reading about. We begin with a quintet of frogs (wearing red shorts with red suspenders) and a quartet of pigs (in purple vests) who are on a stage. They are singing to an audience of chickens and ducks, all of whom are sitting “upon their nests.” One would think that the noise would scare the birds away, but they are delighted by the croaky and oinky “serenade.” So much so in fact that they “laid enormous spangled eggs / and quacked and clucked with pride.”
   In I went to a store we meet a fellow who goes to a store where the storekeepers don’t have any of the things he wants. Instead, they sell him things that he really does not need at all. For example, instead of selling him a pear and a plum they sell him a drum, and instead of some cheese he ends up with a lamp. Clearly this is the kind of store that he should avoid in future!
   Then there is Sarah Small who grows all kinds of clothing in her garden. There are galoshes “short and tall,” as well as “Shirts of yellow, hats of red.” If you need pajamas, sweaters, ties, or mittens, shoes or stockings, this is the place to come, for Sarah Small has them all.
   This is a book where there is something for everyone, and for every mood. Readers will enjoy dipping into to this poetry collection, and they will come back to it again and again.

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16. The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head by Daisy Hirst


I do not think it's at all easy to capture the way children think, their logic, the black and white way that they see the world, on the pages of a picture book. Yet with her debut, The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head, which is a mix of straightforward storytelling and, as Cory Doctorow said in his review, "pure pinkwaterian nonsense," Daisy Hirst has done exactly that, creating a picture book that is immediately embraceable and ultimately unforgettable.



Isabel is The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head and Simon, who is "very good with newts," is her friend. Until he moves away. Hirst's writing is both simple and powerful as she describes how Isabel copes with this change. 

For a while Isabel hated everything. The parrot went to sit on top of the wardrobe. Until Isabel felt quiet inside and decided to like being on her own.

Isabel did not need friends because she had a parrot on her head and a SYSTEM. 

Isabel's system involves sorting her things. One aspect of Hirst's visual story telling style that I love is her choice to color in some things and leave other things as line drawings. Mostly, the line drawings are used for Isabel's toys, but also for what are abstract, imaginary items, like THE DARK and that one, nagging thing that just might be "too big for the system." The wolf. 




Isabel heads out on her scooter, her parrot flying behind, to find a box big enough for this wolf. But when she does, she discovers that there is already something inside the perfect box. A boy. Chester, who was planning on using the box for a den ("Why not a castle?" "Why not an ostrich farm? Or a space station next to the moon?" Isabel asks) but listens as Isabel tells him about her wolf troubles. Chester takes a reasonable approach with the wolf and the results are marvelous.



Hirst ends The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head with a new beginning as Isabel and Chester, who "has a way with umbrellas and tape," get busy with their space station, which "really needed two astronauts and a parrot with a teacup on its head."

Daisy Hirst's second picture book comes out in the US in November of this year and I can't wait to get my hands on it. The title alone is fantastic! Alphonse, That is Not OK To Do! is the story of monster siblings. Natalie is a patient, mostly tolerant older sister until she finds Alphonse eating her favorite book.




Source: Review Copy

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17. Picture Book Monday with a review of Good Night, Baddies

When I was young I read a lot of fairy tales. I was given a collection of books written by Ruth Manning Sanders that were full of stories about giants, witches, fairies, ogres and other baddies. I loved those books and I was particularly fond of the tales where the baddies turned out not to be so bad after all. In today's picture book you will encounter the softer side of some baddies, the side that emerges at the end of the day when they are tired and in need of comfort and friendship.

Good Night, BaddiesGood Night, Baddies
Doborah Underwood
Illustrated by Juli Kangas
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Simon and Schuster, 2016, 978-1-4814-0984-1
The sun is setting and the baddies in the kingdom, worn out by all the bad things that they have done that day, head for the castle that they call home. In ones and twos a giant, an evil queen, a dragon, wolves, witches, a troll, a gnome and others arrive on foot, and through the air. As they enter the castle, they share their news. Did the giant catch Jack the giant killer? Was a treasure that was stolen found?
   After a meal is eaten together in fellowship and harmony, the various baddies head off to prepare for bed. The queen takes off her crown and puts on her pajamas. She puts away her poisoned apple, which she will give to Snow White on “another day.” The troll, who has spent so much time waiting for the three goats gruff under his bridge, is having a long bubble bath.
   Dressed in their pajamas, Rumpelstiltskin and a wolf settle in front of a crackling fire to read a story, “one that’s sweet, not grim or gory.” One of the other baddies gives the dragon a drink.
   When it is time for bed, the witches check under the giant’s bed to make sure that there are no princesses there. After all, they don’t want their large friend to be scared and therefore sleepless. 
   Most of us are used to booing and hissing at the baddies that we encounter in fairy tales. We route for Little Red Riding Hood, and are pleased when the wicked queen fails to kill Snow White. In this picture book these same baddies that we love to hate are presented to us in a different light. They are tired and weary baddies who, now that their daily baddie work is complete, want the same comforts of home that the rest of us like to enjoy. Children will be tickled to see wolves behaving politely at the dinner table, and a gnome waiting to have a bath, a rubber ducky under his arm. They will find themselves feeling sorry for the giant who is afraid of princesses under his bed, and be comforted by the ways in which the baddies look after one another. It would appear that even baddies have a side that is not-so-bad.


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18. The Bad Idea Book Club Presents: How to Eat an Airplane by Peter Pearson, illustrated by Mircea Catusanu



There were two things that made me sure that I wanted to read  Peter Pearson's debut picture book and they both appear in the title. I am certain that I would read any picture book with the words, "The Bad Idea Book Club" in the title, regardless of what comes next. And I feel certain that I would choose to read a book titled, "How to Eat and Airplane," even if it is not presented by the Bad Idea Book Club. Happily, these two intriguing, funny phrases appear in one place - The Bad Idea Book Club Presents: How to Eat and Airplane, fantastically illustrated by Mircea Catusanu. Pearson has written a book that is weird and clever and funny and fascinating and informative, which is quite a feat. 



The Bad Idea Book Club Presents: How to Eat an Airplane is both a book of etiquette and party planing because, as you learn right from the start, "The truth is, most airplanes are too large to eat by yourself, so if you want to eat an airplane you should have a party. Invite guests." This makes perfect sense, and Pearson's tone of helpfulness throughout the book adds to the humor. Guests are greeted at the gate, where carry on bags are stowed somewhere far away from the meal so "they don't get eaten by mistake." Introductions are made, toasts are given, as are tips on how to handle a guest who arrives late. Naturally, you hand them a "glass of jet fuel as they recite the Tardiness Toast: To friends and clocks and paradox. I'm usually on time. Oops." I am tucking that one away for later use!



As the meal ends and the guests find themselves at "full capacity," the host should urge guests to pack a "suitcase full of leftovers to bring home." Even though everyone is surely stuffed, it is polite to offer desert and the final illustrations show an ince cream truck driving up the tarmac. Pearson ends The Bad Idea Book Club Presents: How to Eat an Airplane with an Author's Note that truly surprised me - this book was inspired by actual events. From 1978 to 1980 Michel Lotito ate an entire Cesna 150 airplane. The final four pages of the book are filled with interesting airplane facts, such as: "When you fly in an airplane, stars don't twinkle like they do from the ground. The twinkling is caused by the air above you."

The jacket flap for The Bad Idea Book Club Presents: How to Eat an Airplane promises that upcoming titles in the Bad Idea Book Club "might or might not include," How to Camp Underwater, How to Fold the Sun, How to Walk a Dump Truck, and How to Catch a Piano. Whatever comes next, I will be reading it!

Source: Review Copy

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19. An Apple Pie For Dinner

An Apple Pie for Dinner. Susan VanHecke. Illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee. 2009. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One day, old Granny Smith wanted an apple pie for dinner. She looked around her cozy kitchen. She had flour and butter. She had sugar and spices. But there was one thing she didn't have.

Premise/plot: Granny Smith wants to make an apple pie but has no apples. What will she do? She'll take a good look at what she does have--plums, in this case, and make the most of it. She herself has no use for plums--at least not that day--but someone, somewhere will. So Granny Smith sets off to go trading...

My thoughts: I really LOVE this one. It's based on an English folktale. I'm not sure how familiar that original folk tale is today, but, it felt vaguely almost familiar to me. It was a relief to learn that it was inspired by a folk tale. I liked Granny Smith very much. I liked how she set about to do things and actually got things done. I liked all the people she met along the way. I liked how she included them in the ending and asked them to share the pie! The illustrations are very unique and handcrafted.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Duel!

Duel: Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words. Dennis Brindell Fradin. Illustrated by Larry Day. 2008. Walker. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The two enemies had much in common, starting with difficult childhoods.

Premise/plot: A picture book biography focusing on the lives of two founding fathers, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. The book slowly but surely builds its way towards the DUEL between the two men; the duel that will end the life of one and ruin the career of the other. As part of the context for understanding the duel, a little bit of American history is unpacked for readers, highlighting the roles both men had during American's war for independence and the turbulent decades afterwards as the United States of America came into existence. The book illustrates that politics always involves DRAMA.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I really do. I think it is definitely a picture book for older readers though. Not all picture books are intended as fun readalouds for preschoolers and kindergartners. The text keeps the story moving--it's quite lively at times. The author notes that both men were to blame for the duel.

I definitely liked the illustrations by Larry Day.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. The Forgetful Knight by Michelle Robinson and Fred Blunt




Michelle Robinson's elevator pitch for her newest picture book The Forgetful Knight, illustrated by Fred Blunt, goes like this, "A medieval, Monty Python-esque romp that you'll never forget - unless you get bashed on the head by a dragon." To this spot on description I would also add that playful rhyming tells this clever tale, which has illustrations that equally match the silliness of the story, calling to mind the fantastic Fractured Fairy Tales as seen on the Rocky & Bullwinkle show.

The Forgetful Knight begins, "Once upon an olden day / A knight in armor rode away. / Then again . . . / He had no horse. / Did I say 'rode'? / He strode, of course."  The knight strides across the land, a sandwich in his hand. No, not a sandwich, a sword. But what is he off to do? If he could just remember! Eventually, the knight gets there - both mentally and physically, remembering that he needs to slay a dragon, the dragon who ate his best friend and faithful steed, along with a lot of people's pets. Happily, Sir Clopalot has not been digested and one good headbutt causes a cough from the dragon big enough to send all his lunches back out onto dry land, so to speak.


The Forgetful Knight doesn't end there. The knight makes further demands of the dragon, some more head bashing between the two goes on and some feelings are hurt, then mended. Then comes the big reveal - the narrator just happens to be the Forgetful Knight himself! Robinson and Blunt have created a very fun book that is a joy to read out loud and sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Source: Review Copy 

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22. Aaron and Alexander

Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History. Don Brown. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Aaron and Alexander could have been friends. They were alike in many ways. But the ways in which they were different made them the worst of enemies.

Premise/plot: Don Brown compares and contrasts the lives of two men--two patriots--Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. The book does a great job in providing context for the now-more-famous-than-ever duel between Burr and Hamilton. The narrative is straight-forward and engaging.

My thoughts: I definitely liked it. I can say I like the narrative more than the illustrations. I thought the narrative was good and age-appropriate.

Is it text-heavy? Not really. I'd say it was very well balanced actually. It is still for older readers. (I don't imagine anyone reading this one out to kindergartners or first graders.) I'd say it's for the 9 to 99 crowd.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. Worst of Friends

Worst of Friends. Suzanne Jurmain. Illustrated by Larry Day. 2011. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the best of friends--even though they were completely different. John was fat. Tom was thin. Tom was tall and John was short. Tom was rich and John was not. John was fond of telling jokes. Tom liked to play the violin. And that was only the beginning. Excitable John could talk for five hours straight without stopping. Quiet Tom didn't say "three sentences together" in public.

Premise/plot: Worst of Friends by Suzanne Jurmain chronicles the friendship and feud of two founding fathers--both Presidents--John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The first eight pages focuses on their deep friendship. Fifteen pages focus on their very bitter feud. The cause of the feud? POLITICS, of course. The last six pages are perhaps the best of all, showing how the feud ended in 1812. The two remained friends the rest of their lives. They both died July 4, 1826.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved the narrative style. It was very conversational and reader-friendly. Not just simple enough for young readers to understand, but it was also actively engaging--lively even.

I also loved the illustrations by Larry Day. They were practically perfect in my opinion!

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

| Storytime Standouts

Shh! We Have a Plan written and illustrated by Chris Haughton

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
Picture book published by Candlewick Press

When four friends, armed with three nets, set out to capture a beautiful, red-plumed bird, all goes well until the smallest friend alerts the the ruby bird that something is afoot. Giggles and laughter will accompany a read-aloud session of Shh! We Have a Plan. This is a book that will appeal to children – especially “youngest” children – as well as adults. The repetitive text will have youngsters ‘reading along’ quickly and repeated building of suspense will encourage children to make predictions about whats will happen next and the final outcome.

Bright, bold, dramatic illustrations are a highlight of this captivating, humorous picture book. A key to the storytelling, observant readers will note the eyes and the posture of the smallest friend in the cover art – he is definitely up to something!

Shh! We Have a Plan is the sort of story that parents and teachers will quite happily read again and again. It is great fun!

Chris Haughton won the 2015 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award

for new illustrator with this picture book. The Ezra Jack Keats Book Award for Illustration was established in 2001 to recognize and encourage emerging talent in the field of children’s book illustration.

Shh! We Have a Plan at Amazon.com

Shh! We Have a Plan at Amazon.ca



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    25. Poor Little Guy by Elanna Allen



    Elanna Allen has designed characters and directed animation for Disney Junior, Nick Jr and PBS and this experience shows in her second picture book, Poor Little Guy. With just a handful of characters and words, Allen tells a minimalist story that is genuinely entertaining and unforgettable.




    The Poor Little Guy of the title is a bespectacled puffer fish just swimming along, trying to do his own thing, but an octopus has other ideas. Like a cat with a mouse, the marshmallowy, grinning octopus thinks up game after game to play with the poor little guy.



    Allen's illustrations are magnificent, artistic and playful at once. Her hand lettered text weaves itself into the illustrations, adding to the story. A limited palette is used expertly, the shades of the ocean background shifting with the rise and fall of the plot. The expressions of the characters tell the story as much as the words do and it's hard to not feel a little sorry for the octopus when the inevitable happens and he pops the puffer fish in his mouth. As with all great picture books, Allen wraps up Poor Little Guy with another (dangerous) surprise that flows out, marvelously, onto the endpapers.




    Source: Review Copy

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