What’s Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle and Friends

What is Your Favorite Color? What is Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle and Friends; illustrated by Eric Carle and Friends. 2017. Various mediums. Published by Henry Holt and Co.

Brief summary: Fifteen famous children illustrators answer what color they like and why.

Comments: The illustrations are two page layouts in the illustrator’s own unique style. The back pages have a photo of the illustrator as a child and a brief biographical sketch. The name of the artist is in the color he/she likes. We have all been asked this ancient question, but have we explained why?  This book could be shared with young readers before asking them the question. I would  include a “draw your reason” part to this activity as well. Note: Anna Dewdney is in this collection. That tugged at my heart a little when I turned to her layout. She was one of my students’ favorite rhyming author.

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(I may receive a small commission for purchases made with links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books in this picture book blog are not sent to me in exchange for a review, but instead, are checked out from a public library).

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires; illustrated by Ashley Spires. 2017.  Published by Kids Can Press.

Brief summary: Lou and her friends love to use their imaginations together during play time and go on all sorts of  adventures. But when Lou’s friends decide to climb  a tree to play, she comes up with many excuses of why she cannot join them instead of admitting she is afraid or has never climbed a tree. Lou convinces herself that she really doesn’t want to climb the tree. Her friends kindly offer to show her how to climb a tree. She tries but is not successful on her attempt. Her compassionate and empathetic friends take the game to another place outside. Lou keeps working on climbing the tree leaving the reader wondering if she will be successful.

Comments: A good read aloud to encourage trying something, failing, but trying again. Growth mindset example of how we can always learn new things even if they are scary at times. Students would also see an example of compassionate friends who do not make fun of Lou but instead, encourage  and help her. Ashley Spires’ The Most Magnificent Thing is also a great story of teaching perseverance and imagination. She is also the author of the graphic novel series titled Binky. I look forward to seeing more picture books by this author/illustrator.

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(I may receive a small commission for purchases made with links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books in this picture book blog are not sent to me in exchange for a review, but instead, are checked out from a public library).

Little Ree by Ree Drummond

Little ReeLittle Ree by Ree Drummond; illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers. 2017. Pen, ink, and watercolors. Published by Harper Collins.

Brief summary: City Girl Ree is excited about her family moving to the country  and living with her grandparents. She notices how different the air smells, can see all the land to the horizon, and realizes  how the pond  reminds her of a swimming pool. As she is getting settled on her first day, her little brother, Mikey, and cat, Pitcher, discover mud. She does not join them, but instead, goes inside to her new bedroom to unpack adding little touches to make it feel like home. At night, she hears different sounds than in the city. She awakens very early. Her grandfather teaches her how to ride her new horse, Pepper, which Lee finds to be harder to do than expected as they manage a herd of cows. She returns to the big ranch house and has a large breakfast which includes pancakes. Lee’s so tired that she falls asleep at the table but wakes up in time to meet all of her cousins at a barbecue. Little Ree realizes she is  overdressed.  They do not care and have fun playing with her. Little Ree believes she could become a country girl after all.

Comments: Author Ree Drummond shares her experiences of becoming a country woman and how it changed her life. There is a pancake recipe in the back. I would recommend this book to be shared with a city and country living unit of study. This is the first of a new series. I really enjoyed her earlier picture books series with Charlie the Ranch Dog.  You may also know Ree Drummond as The Pioneer Woman from My Food Network.

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(I may receive a small commission for purchases made with links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books in this picture book blog are not sent to me in exchange for a review, but instead, are checked out from a public library).

Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins

 

Be Quiet!

Be Quiet! by Ryan Higgins; illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins. 2017. Scans of treated clayboard for textures, graphite, ink and Photoshop. Published by Disney-Hyperion.

Brief summary: Thistle and Nibs, mice friends, keep talking about ideas for the book that Rupert wants to make. Rupert, the mouse that wants to be in beautiful, wordless book is not happy with their input of how the illustrations should be or how many words.  The problem is that his two mice friends will not stop talking.

Comments: There are speech bubbles. The humor that we all know from  Ryan T. Higgins’ Mother Bruce and Hotel Bruce will have students laughing out loud  again with this book of three mice as they walk through the book that is supposed to be wordless.

Buy here.

(I may receive a small commission for purchases made with links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books in this picture book blog are not sent to me in exchange for a review, but instead, are checked out from a public library).

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney; illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 2017. Watercolor. Published by Little, Brown and Company.

Brief summary: (Traditional version). A small billy-goat wants to get over the bridge to the grassy hills on the other side of the bridge. A troll living under the bridge hears TRIP, TRAP! TRIP TRAP! and jumps out from underneath threatening to eat the little goat. The troll decides to let him go, because the next goat would be a bigger and better meal according to the little goat. The middle-sized goat is in the same situation and tells the troll to let him go and eat the biggest goat. The greedy troll lets him go too and shortly meets the largest billy-goat. The largest goat rams the bridge’s gate open. The troll yells that he is going to eat the goat right up. The goat dares him. The troll is charged and rammed over the bridge in which it encounters a surprise.  The goats and herd go back and forth on the bridge eating the wild, green grass.

Comments: I have never been disappointed with any folklore Jerry Pinkney retells and illustrates. His water color illustrations are superb and so detailed. There is an artist’s note in the back of this book and a left hand/right hand foldout. I urge new librarians to try to purchase all of his folklore books as an excellent addition to the library’s collection: The Lion and the Mouse, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Grasshopper and the Ants, Puss in Boots, Three Little Kittens, Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Red Hen, The Ugly Duckling, and many more. Everything he touches is gold. One of my favorite illustrators.

Buy here.

(I may receive a small commission for purchases made with links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books in this picture book blog are not sent to me in exchange for a review, but instead, are checked out from a public library).

Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko

Dad and the dinosaur

Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko; illustated by Dan Santat. 2017. Pencil, watercolor, ink, acrylic, Photoshop. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: Nicholas is afraid of many things while his dad is not. The boy carries around a toy dinosaur in his pocket for courage to whatever activity he does. Nick has the toy plastic dinosaur with him even when he swims, tying it to his swim shorts. That evening, Nicholas takes it to his soccer game tucking the dinosaur in his sock. He scores a goal but loses his toy. His mother asks what he is doing walking all over the grass,  but he does not tell her as they drive back home. He sleeps with the light on. His father comes home from work  and asks if Nick is having a nightmare. His father tells him it’s okay to be afraid. Nick tells his dad about losing the dinosaur. His understanding father takes him out to the soccer field that night, and they find the dinosaur. Nicholas regains his bravery and is glad his father agrees not to tell his mom.

Comments: Wow. I can’t imagine my father going out of the house at night after working all day and actually go looking in the dark  for a small toy dinosaur on a soccer field. This gesture tells the reader that the father really gets the urgency to find his son’s charm. I could see this book being shared at the beginning of the school year or when a child needs to do something a little scary or challenging. I have students show me their good luck charms a lot at the beginning of the school year. Sometimes they show me a photo of their mom all crumbled up having been hidden deep in a pocket.  I show them the photos of my family and cats on my desk. We can all learn that there are different things/events that we may need a little extra reassurance.

Buy here.

(I may receive a small commission for purchases made with links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books in this picture book blog are not sent to me in exchange for a review, but instead, are checked out from a public library).

11 Qualities I Look for That Make a Good Picture Book by Angela Ferraris

Ten Characteristics

How and Where

I was asked how I decided what picture books end up on my book review blog.  I do not review books on my blog in exchange for a free copy of that book. I look through several  book sources featuring the newest picture books being released and then reserve them at the public library. Ironic that I live on the same street as the library? Well…it was one of the attributes of buying the house.

I should add that I am fortunate to be in an area of the USA where several of the library systems are ranked highly in the nation. I often am able to add a reserve to books that are “on order” and not even released yet.  I appreciate the quickness that librarians in the  Central Library Consortium of Central Ohio Libraries catalog and process those books and get them into the libraries for people like me always hungry for the latest in picture book literacy.

Sorry. I digress.  Not a surprise. I have the attention span of a hummingbird. That could be why I prefer picture books over children’s chapter books? So, that is how and where I get the picture books. But, what is it that I think makes a picture book worthy of being reviewed on my blog? There are eleven qualities that I look for as I’m going through the large piles sitting on my dining room table.

11 Qualities

Because picture books really rely on the story being told with illustrations more than other types of books,  I have to admit that I look at the cover first and then flip through to look at the pictures. Do they match the spirit of the story? Are they unique? Do they vary with close-ups, double-page spreads, and  white space? Would another medium have worked better?

Title. Catchy title? Is it funny? Do the words rhyme? Is the font scary or silly in the title? Kids do judge a book by its cover and the title really can grab a child’s attention (and mine). Will it be remembered easily? Does it sound like another famous book?

I look at the type of font that is used. Is it in cursive? I have many students who sadly cannot read the cover’s title, because cursive writing is not taught until they are older (or even at all). Is the font large enough for a child to read?  A smaller font usually tells me that the picture book is one that an adult would read to a child.  Since I’m an elementary school librarian, I am looking for books that my students can read with a large font.  Does the font’s size vary with the actions and conversations in the book? Are there different fonts for different emotions?

The words. Does it have word patterns or words kids like to say? Does it have a repeating refrain that kids would like to say? Is there alliteration? “Fee Fi Fo Fum” Does it rhyme well, or is it too cliché? Are there words kids like to say aloud like “underwear” or “banana”? How is the rhythm of the book? Does it match the illustrations? Onomatopoeia?  Similes? Metaphors?

Is the theme of the book something children find interesting in their world? Can they relate to the story? Sometimes it is okay at the beginning if they have no idea what the theme is as long as they know it by the end of the book. Is the theme too mature or immature for the targeted age group?

Is it funny? Is it kid-friendly humor or hokey? Does it give a funny perspective to a common situation? Students are always asking me for funny books. If it is not funny, and let’s say, a serious story, is it told in a way that young readers can understand?

How does the story flow? How is the plot? Does the plot move along?  Is there a problem that needs to be solved?Are there so many characters that the reader cannot remember them? Can they identify with the characters? Is there a resolution? Are the readers able to relate to the problem and how it is solved? Is the story too long or wordy?

Is there any participation from the reader? Interactive? Do they have a role? Will it make the students think of comments or questions in their heads as they read? What if  it is a story without words? Will students be able to think of the story as they see the illustrations?

I look for  diversity, multiculturalism, and various relationships. Is this a book about children that are not usually represented? I want all children to find books in the library that are like them, but also books not like them as well. Will this book help them understand others like them and others NOT like them? Will this expand their world? Will this encourage connections with others? Will the book open their horizons to other worlds? Will they see themselves in the story for the first time? Will they understand a fellow student’s life a little more after reading the book?

Sometimes,  a book just stands out. Unique. No one has done anything like it before. The reader experiences a shared aesthetic experience with other readers. Do we think about the book after it is read? Do students talk to me about it a week later? Do they retell the story to Wolf Wolf, our library’s stuffed plush?

Curriculum. (I can hear the groans from here). Yes.  Sometimes I am actually thinking, “Wow. This book really explains a certain unit of study, or this book could be read first as a hook to a certain unit of study.” I know. I know. But, sometimes, a good picture book can make the topic more understandable for children. Fun.

Two Things I Avoid

I have had several teachers ask me to buy a book just because of the author. Well, that gets tricky. I don’t want to buy books by an author just because they received an award for a book written two decades ago. I expect the same quality.  If the book is not up to snuff, so to speak, I don’t review it. I do buy it though for the library if a teacher requests it  as part of their classroom author study. I am sort of a softy about teacher requests.

I do not write-up bad reviews for books.   I may read 30-40 picture books before I find one that I feel deserves to be in my blog. So, I do not want to write-up all those books I did not choose and why as well as those I think  stand out.  But, just because it is not in the blog does not mean I did read it. There are thousands and thousands of books these days. I’m so excited to see all of the Canadian, British, and Australian books now immigrating into the USA bookstores and libraries. So many new books each year. What an exciting time to live.  It would not be impossible for me to miss some great ones.

Why

My passion has always been picture books and now I can share that with more people through the internet as well as with my school’s staff and students. It makes me happy to be able to do this now and work as an elementary school librarian. It has also been a blessing to be on the same avenue as a public library. This is quite a convenience.  I go in several times a week and usually with my husband in tow to help me carry all the books. By the way, yes, at times, my house does look like an explosion of books and cat toys all over the place. I have a very patient and understanding husband with a great sense of humor.

 

I am Not a Chair! by Ross Burach

I am Not a Chair

I am Not a Chair!by Ross Burach; illustrated by Ross Burach. 2017. Pencil, acrylic paints, colored digitally. Published by HarperCollins.

Brief summary: When Giraffe visits the jungle for the first time, he is mistaken to be a chair by several creatures. Trying to prove that he is not a chair, does not work as he keeps getting ignored. Giraffe decides to tell everyone  in the jungle once more that he is not a chair. He is successful this time unaware of his own ironic actions.

Comments: Humorous. Students also love Giraffe in There’s a Giraffe in My Soup which has the same fun and light  problem-solving humor. My kindergarten teachers love Ross Burach’s humor.

Book Trailer:

Buy here. I am Not a Chair!

Buy here. There’s a Giraffe in My Soup

(I may receive a small commission for purchases made with links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books in this picture book blog are not sent to me in exchange for a review, but instead, are checked out from a public library).

Early Sunday Morning by Denene Millner

Early Sunday Morning

Early Sunday Morning by Denene Millner; illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. 2017. Published by Agate Bolden  This is the first of a new series by Denene Millner.

Brief Summary: June enjoys going to church every Sunday with her family but is  a little nervous for the coming Sunday, as she will sing her first solo with the youth choir. Throughout the week, several people give her advice of how not to be scared. The day has come, and her mother and younger brother, Troy, get all dressed up in their finest clothes. Daddy worked an extra shift at work and will need to rest at home. June goes to Sunday school and learns about love. She puts on her white robe afterwards and is ready to sing in the  children’s choir. She waits while Pastor Scott leads prayers and when it will be her turn to do her solo. Although she is nervous, June takes a deep breath and focuses on one spot in the back of the room. At that time, her father opens the church’s doors and shouts, “Sing, Baby.” June is able to sing in front of the congregation with her father beside her.

Comments: We often do not see many religious based books in elementary school libraries even though a child’s religion plays an enormous role in his/her life. This book captures how important church is in June’s life. I think while we are talking about making sure our libraries are diverse, it is important to expose students to different religions in their community to better understand and appreciate each other.  This book also teaches how, although we may be afraid at times, we must move on and conquer that fear. June had the love of her father(who must have been exhausted from doing a double shift the day before) who gave up his rest to be there for his child.

Buy here.

(I may receive a small commission for purchases made with links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books in this picture book blog are not sent to me in exchange for a review, but instead, are checked out from a public library).

Make the Earth Your Companion by J. Patrick Lewis

Make the Earth Your Companion

Make the Earth Your Companion by J. Patrick Lewis; illustrated by Anna and Elena Balbusso. 2017. Published by Creative Editions.

Brief summary:  A gentle poem advises the reader how earth elements can teach about life; how nature can teach mankind to live in harmony with life and one another. “Let the River remind you that everything will pass.”

Comments: One of my new favorite poems of J. Patrick Lewis. The rhythm of the poem and softness of the words with the beautiful illustrations of the Balbusso sisters  are both aesthetically pleasing to hear and see.  This would be an excellent addition to any library. I would use it in the school setting for Earth Day and to teach imagery.  Very well done.

Buy here.

(I may receive a small commission for purchases made with links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books in this picture book blog are not sent to me in exchange for a review, but instead, are checked out from a public library.)