Monday Review! My Wild Family

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2015, Chronicle Books LLC, Ages 3 to 5, $17.99

Laurent Moreau

What would it be like to have a fierce and hairy lion for a father? Or a shy and beautiful giraffe for a mother? A dreamer bird brother, or what about a hungry uncle bear? This young narrator has many unique family members to admire and to share. Originally published in France in 2013 titled Ma Famille Sauvage, Moreau’s intricately active illustrations painted brightly in flat color blends well with the short and sweet storyline that invites the reader into a very special family of a young human girl. The large size of Moreau’s full spread pages help draw the readers into this colorful, flat world of wild individuals and would make a perfect show and tell or preschool class story time book. Each member of this wild family has something special about them, leaving the question for all recommended readers of ages 3 to 5 at the end, “What makes you special?” 

 

The Good/Bad List:

  • Good-Illustrations=love. Every page is so big and brightly colored and intricate  it draws the eyes immediately. I look at this and think back to the illustrations I loved as a kid (I was a Dr. Seuss/Goodnight Moon/anything colorful or has dinosaurs or animals kid) and think, kids would like this. Of course I could be wrong! Oi!
  • Good- The theme is of Moreau’s work asks an important question; “What makes you special?”
  • Good-writing is quirky and fun. Introduction to metaphors!
  • Bad(ish)- I’m not sure how much of a re-readability there is. Sometimes the illustrations can outshine the writing in PBs and I think this is one of those cases. The times I’ve gone through the book, I took much longer gazing at the illustrations that paying attention to the writing. However, most kids will be looking at the pictures and I might just be children’s illustration lover. (hey, it is what it is)
  • Bad- I say this about every large picture book, this books is big. It will probably get ruined/torn. On the other hand though, good show and tell/story time size.

And that’s it! Hey, I might do another one this week (maybe.) I really want to write a review on Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri.

 

Monday Review; Seeds of Freedom

In Huntsville Alabama, 1962, peace between German scientists and American engineers bring about prosperity and happiness to scientific significance. Happiness, however, isn’t found everywhere.

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Happiness can’t be found on a little girl’s face as she carries a picture of her feet. She is not allowed to try on shoes because she is black. Happiness isn’t found on the signs black protesters carry or in the eyes of the young black men and women who aren’t being served at a restaurant. In this beautifully and realistically illustrated picture book, Bass tells just a piece of African-American history during the Civil Rights Movement. Each section of the story is labeled with the month and year as a time guide through this journey to happiness, the planting of the seeds freedom. Though Bass’ picture book is a little too long for maybe a bedtime story, the historical topic of solving segregation is recommended for ages 5 to 8 and makes a wonderful library addition.

And to simplify that a bit, the good/bad list:

  1. Good-E.B. Lewis uses watercolors wonderfully! I definitely was that person who opened this book because of the cover image. (I also had a portfolio review by him back in 2015. I was terrified because I basically did everything WRONG and was so nervous I didn’t really know my name or what medium I worked in. In the end, I got a signed copy of this book. I guess the meeting wasn’t a total catastrophe!)
  2. Good- Hester Bass has an author’s note in the back for more information on the abolishments of slavery and the time, patience, and justice it took for the abolishment. Interesting read. Also has a selected bibliography on the last page.
  3. Bad- Too long. I personally wouldn’t recommend this as a quick bedtime story, or one to read over and over and over again (though really, it’s the child who is the decision maker there haha.)
  4. Good- The theme of “planting the seed of freedom” is done nicely throughout book

And on to next monday! (night of course…or maybe tuesday)

 

 

Reviewing Rosie Revere, Engineer

This story’s about Rosie Revere, who dreams of becoming a great engineer. With her hot dog dispenser and helium pants, for her uncle and aunts,  she chose a fine career! But one failure lead to an uncle’s laughter and tears, “all to the horror of Rosie Revere.” She promised herself “never again!” that day and hid all her inventions away, along with her dreams of becoming a great engineer…

but failure you need, indeed, to succeed.

 

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ABRAMS Books for Young Readers/ABRAMs, $16.95, 2013 

 

With lovable rhyme and Roberts’ uniquely designed illustrations, Beaty tells a tale about failure and why it should be celebrated. Because Beaty’s work is in rhyme and is fairy short, the work has that re-readability that some books don’t have and may also have a good bed time story quality as well. Recommended for ages 4 to 8 and to anyone that loved Iggy Peck, Architect. 

The good/bad list (or in this case, pretty much just the good list):

  • Good-love the rhyme! (if you couldn’t tell already, I butchered that first paragraph, at least I had fun!)
  • Good-Re-readability
  • Good- Illustrations are cute, uniquely designed, and match well with the manuscript.
  • Good-The overall package is very silly in nature with the kooky inventions and funny characters. I can see a child trying to make a cheese hat of some sort!( or at least playing with spray cheese haha)
  • Good (maybe bad?)- The topic is a practical one as the story is about something the child will eventually have to decide on when they become an adult, however with the never giving up moral and the story’s silliness, I don’t think this practical topic is necessarily bad.

End Note: maybe I should just write Tuesday reviews?

 

Monday Review! (Only it’s Tuesday…)

Charlie, alpha, tango…

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2015, Candlewick Press, Ages 5 to 8, $18.99

 

These three words may seem randomly thrown together but in the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, “Charlie-Alpha-Tango” spells “cat”. Emergency services including the police, firefighters, the military, and the Red Cross use this alphabet as a way to communicate clearly. Arsenault’s concept and fantastic illustrations make this alphabet book a unique learning experience for the ABC learner and anyone who may not know the NATO phonetic alphabet. Because of the engaging concept and illustrations meant to inspire different interpretations of each object representing each word in the alphabet, furthering Arsenault’s idea of communication between the reader and listener, a parent may be just looking for a standard ABC book and might pass this particular one by. Despite that, Arsenault’s work is great for any child between ages 5 to 8 and makes a good addition to a picture book enthusiasts’ library. Arsenault’s alphabetic masterpiece is also recommended for anyone who also wants to learn the NATO phonetic alphabet as well. 

Here’s the short, sweet, good/bad list!:

  1. Good-I already said how much I like the illustrations. Certainly in love with them!
  2. Good- Concept is simple and unique! I have’t seen anything like it (but if you have, point me in the direction!)
  3. Bad- Some parents may just want a standard alphabet book without the concept of learning IRSA and the idea may not be for everyone.
  4. Good- Kids can learn about 2 alphabets! Learning multiple things sounds good to me!

Arsenault created a beautiful alphabet book and I recommend it!

Monday Review! (though Monday’s almost over…)

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2015,Candlewick Press, Ages 3 and up, $22.00

 

Late review, but I will post another one tomorrow along with a little writing activity so two this week for the price of a late one that I already wrote? Yes! So here is the original review for Katie Cotton’s Counting Lions:

Beginning with one lion and ending with ten zebras, Cotton’s beautifully poetic picture book counts up to ten threatened species of animal. Walton’s realistically rendered and powerful charcoal drawings capture each animal’s natural movement and grace. Before the counting starts, a forward written by Virginia Mckenna sets the tone for the reader as the numbers of each of these animals are rapidly counting down by the week because of the increase in the human population and dwindling of certain important habitats. More information about the ten animals, the lions, gorillas, giraffes, tigers, elephants, Ethiopian wolves, penguins, turtles, macaws, and zebras, can be found near the back. Each fact includes the animal’s habitat, behaviors, and protection status. This recommended masterpiece for grades kindergarten to 12 not only teaches young readers their numbers one to ten, but also makes older readers aware of the depletion of certain natural habitats that put these wonderful creatures in danger.

Okay, the good/bad list:

Good: LOVE the art, beautiful drawings oh my gosh.

Good: LOVE the poetry, perfect example of poetic writing without rhyme.

Good: Facts about the animals and habits near back so that the older kids may read and the younger ones can just enjoy the counting (though they may want you to read it all! :D)

Bad: This is a big book and I can visualize all the damage it’s going to go through as picture books usually do. Because of this, it may not have the lovable re-readablitly like some other, more sturdy books.

Alright! That’s it for tonight!

Monday Review! Bully

 

This little bull doesn’t know just how mean he is to his friends.”Chicken! Slow poke! Pig!” he calls them when they ask to play. How long does it take for a little bull to realize he’s being a bully?

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2013, ages 4-8, $16.99, Neal Porter Book/ROARING BROOK PRESS

 

I should probably write something about the 4th of July but I’m not. Instead, I decided to write about one of the picture books I bought at the New York SCBWI conference in 2015 titled Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.

Seeger uses simple, bold illustrations with precise wording to create this tale of one bull being bullied in the beginning, then almost unintentionally spreading it around to others. In the end his friends forgive him when he apologizes, making the story pretty straight forward.

I can’t say that Seeger’s work is one of my favorites, but it’s definitely a fully thought out concept and here is why in the good/bad list:

  1. Good-concept of bull growing along with his bullying is spot on.
  2. Good- the decision to create the part of the story where the little bull is being bullied by a larger bull before the title page sets the tone rather nicely, giving a reason for the story being told.
  3. Bad- I don’t care for the background on each page, however it gives a farm vibe with the hay colors and texture that suits the theme (maybe I just don’t like the digital repetitive texture.)
  4. Good- simple illustrations match well with simple manuscript.
  5. General rule for this one (could have a negative impact on the story)- reader must read out loud in growing, bullying tone to create the full impact. If you just go through Seeger’s piece in monotone it just won’t work, the story’s too short and the reader will fly by it without thought. As a general rule for most picture books though, if you’re not reading a PB out loud then you’re not really reading a PB at all.

And that’s the review for today! Hmm, I wonder what I’ll write about next week…

 

Addressing Race in Reviews

About a month ago I received an email from Emily Griffin, president of Children’s Literature, to all reviewers discussing race in reviews and linked a couple sites that may help everyone be mindful of this topic. Side note, I haven’t reviewed in awhile and I think that it’s because I only signed up for a year…still receiving emails though so thats cool.

Kirkus wrote a pretty helpful piece here and this guide is pretty nifty.

As one who illustrates, writes and reviews children’s books, addressing race/ethnicity, gender, disabilities, and mental illness is a must and I felt the need to share the two articles. There are many different children and they all want to read about kids like them. I think it’s also a good idea to introduce different cultures to a child as well, let them meet different people, see different worlds.

I grew up (and live!) in Glen Burnie MD. Here there are many types of people so when I first started realizing how many of the characters in the picture books I was reading were white I was like, wait, most people in and around Baltimore are black so…why aren’t there more black main characters? In high school we had a pretty diverse list of stories like I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and Sula by Toni Morrison and Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston are just three I can think off the top of my head, so again, why aren’t there more CHILDREN’S BOOKS with black characters? I see even less books with asian or hispanic characters and I can’t remember ever reading any books about native american children.

I guess the only way to solve this problem is to illustrate, write, read (and research!!!)  more diverse books!

 

Monday Review!

I’m typing  this up rather late! That’s because I just got back from Massachusetts, vacationing in this cozy beach cabin with a few friends.

Yes! Beach time!

While I was at the beach I brought with me my notebook and began jotting down a few picture books that I thought would be a good idea for this blog. Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist is today’s review! Below I’ll post what I had originally written for Kidlit, but beyond that is my personal opinion of Herbert’s work, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, which is to the point.

 

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During the time when African American slaves were forbidden to read or write, pictures were the key to recording the stories verbally told late into the night. Herbert takes the readers through the struggle of sewing out of slavery and into freedom with facts about Powers’ life and her importance as an artist in this picture book biography. The charmingly large amount of color, pattern, and digital collage in Brantley-Newton’s illustrations show the spirit of the patterned fabric, though in some instances the images are cut off by the edge of the page making the page layouts seem slightly amatuer. There are small facts about Powers included within little fabric squares on each page that almost distract from the story itself, but despite these distractions, Powers’ life is lovingly told by Herbert.  Most Love in All the World by Tonya Cherie Hegamin, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera is another book readers may be interested in. Cabrera has illustrated a few other books with a similar topic, such as Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt by Patricia C. McKissack. Herbert’s story is for ages 8 to 12.

BIBLO: 2015, Alfred A. Knoff/Random House LLC,  Ages 8 to 12, $17.99FORMAT: Picture BookREVIEWER: Brittanny Handiboe, ISBN: 978-0-385-75463-7, ISBN: 978-0-385-75464-4, ISBN: 978-0-385-75462-0

Here’s the list that I complete before writing to sum it all up:

  1. Good-Importance of topic, African American slaves working their way toward freedom through art is an important topic.
  2. Bad-Too much information for a picture book; I would not want to read this over and over again as the important side facts take away from the story telling.
  3. Good-Illustrations are very colorful, draws the eye, patterns suit the topic. Interesting use of drawing/digital painting/photo collage.
  4. Bad-At times the anatomy was so off that as an artist/illustrator those badly drawn hands or faces were very distracting, however that could just be me as the illustrator talking.
  5. Good-Despite the overload of information in this PB I found it useful for a beginner, small, research project.
  6. Bad-The collage in the illustrations were interesting… but the overall effect made the illustrations seem a bit amateur, as I said in the review. Perhaps if the collages didn’t look so copy/paste it would’ve been less distracting. Again, my illustrator in me, with all the critiques I’ve had to suffer through haha, could not help but get distracted overall with the illustrations.

I give Herbert’s work an altogether a 6/10 for recommendation. If you are not as distracted by illustrations as I am, then I would recommend Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist.

 

I Love Pete the Cat

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As a side note, I used to write reviews for kidlit and really miss writing those (though half the time I was missing the deadline and panicking about getting them done and none of them were edited and they were all probably written horribly with all my grammar errors but oh well.)

So here it is, my own personal reviews! I’m going to try to complete one of these every monday. Yep. That’s the goal. By 100 mondays I might be an expert! (ehhhhhh probably not!!!)

Anyway, I wanted to begin with Pete the Cat with a story. Yesterday I had brought out several of my favorite PBs into the living room to go over them for inspiration, prepping for blog things, mulling over my own manuscript, when my father looked at Pete the Cat and goes, “If this guy can be an illustrator then even I could be one.”

Here we go with this “my two-year-old can draw better than that” nonsense. I laid it out for him like so

The makings of a TOTALLY AWESOME Picture Book requires:

  1. COLOR/ILLUSTRATIONS are bright and eye-catching, primary color compositions add a great design element, and style matches the MC perfectly
  2. MC CHARACTER is fun and lovable, definitely requires a series, and has a cute moral theme thats not preachy at all
  3. THE WRITING is so re-rereadable that it almost gets stuck in your head like a song with it’s bouncy and flowing repetitive sentences AND it works very nicely with the design.
  4. THE MOST IMPORTANT part is every kid that I’ve watched read or listen to Pete the Cat has LOVED it.

I didn’t change his mind at all but he did love the cat (HAHA!) and so did my friend’s little boy when I bought him Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses. A few weeks later my friend sent me a video of them BOTH reading it, she beginning the page and he finishing the rhyme.

So I guess this isn’t really a review, more of my personal experience as to why this is such an awesome PB series, still a good beginning post. I’ll see what I’ll do next monday!