Category Archives: picture book reviews

Picture Book Review: Huff and Puff by Claudia Rueda

I guess I’m just a sucker for a good retelling of the three little pigs, because I love this book! This retelling, which makes excellent use of sparse wording and drawings that waste not a line, is going to be a great addition to your storytimes. Trust me! I could never tell the story of those scrappy pigs will only one sentence per page, but Claudia Rueda does it so beautifully in Huff and Puff  that the book reads more like a minimalist poem than anything else. “First pig building a house. First pig inside the house. One wolf huffing and puffing.” Also a delight are the ink and watercolor illustrations, which really spotlight the focus of each page by surrounding them with crisp white space. There are also delightful die-cut circles that encourage readers to huff and puff themselves, becoming the wolf! This retelling even ends with a sweet treat for everyone, making it a perfect story for toddlers and up.


Picture Book Review: Cold, Crunchy, Colorful by Jane Brocket

If you haven’t seen any of the books in Jane Brocket’s Clever Concepts series, I definitely recommend checking them out today! The series includes books about texture, shapes, colors, numbers, and patterns. Her newest book, Cold, Crunch, Colorful: Using Our Senses, is a great addition. There are a lot of things I really enjoy about the series. They feature minimal text, which makes them great for younger groups, such as toddlers. They’re not illustrated, but they feature full color photographs of the concepts the text describes. The photos are always arranged so deliberately and paired so artfully  that even a city street filled with honking streets becomes beautiful. One of my absolute favorite things about the series, though, is that they branch out beyond the obvious. For example, the shapes book doesn’t just feature squares and circles, but star shapes, egg shapes, and more. Similarly, this senses title doesn’t just talk about how we see things. The page on feeling says “And we feel things through our skin. When the weather is cold and snowy and hot or sunny. When it is cool and windy or wet and rainy.”

My library at least hides these jewels in the non-fiction section, where they sometimes languish. Sometimes busy toddler moms don’t have time to wander over to our nonfiction section and sort through the offerings to find things short enough for their kiddos (note to self: do better cross-promotion and display more nonfiction in the picture book area!). All of the Clever Concepts books make a great addition to this summer’s CLSP reading theme of Fizz, Boom, Read, because if we can’t sense the world around us, how can we do science?!? I would definitely encourage you to grab these excellent books for use with your kiddos today!


Picture Book Review: The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague

I can hear you now: why oh why do we need another version of The Three Little Pigs? And for the most part, I hear ya. There are so, so many of these. In my opinion, this version, however, from Mark Teague, is really a stand out — especially as a readaloud to groups.

One thing I really enjoy about this story is that though it’s a funny and a bit updated (the first little pig rides a scooter, two of the pigs are more interested in junk food than building a good house), it’s not SO fractured as to be unrecognizable. In fact, the bones of the story are pretty traditional. There is plenty of humor (when the wolf blows down the straw house, he says “I can’t believe that worked!” because, of course, he’s never blown down a house before.

There’s also a strong redemptive theme – after he collapses from trying to blow down the brick house, he apologizes for what he did when he was hungry and couldn’t think straight. He’s very embarrassed, and  everyone ends up being friends.

Teague’s art style is recognizable here, with bright, expressive animals filling the pages from edge to edge.

This book would be an excellent read aloud for anyone who can sit still for a slightly longer book – older preschoolers or early elementary students in groups, or very patient toddlers as a lapsit.

Picture Book Review: Baby Parade by Rebecca O’Connell

Baby Parade

Another book made for baby time from Rebecca O’Connell! Baby Parade is a simple concept: each page presents a baby in a different situation and prompts the reader (or listener!) to wave to the baby.

Soft, multimedia illustrations depict that happy babies and their cheerful caregivers in a park and around the city.  Refreshingly, a diverse range of babies – although they’re uniformly round headed and adorable.

Perfect for reading aloud to babies and parents, this book is definitely a worthy addition to your storytime shelf.

Picture Book Review: Dino Bites by Algy Craig Hall

Dino Bites!

A progressive story about the food chain and what happens when your lunch doesn’t sit quite right in your stomach — literally!

Bold charcoal and digital illustrations give this book a really streamlined (but not overly polished) look. Each page features only one or two dinosaurs and a handful of words on a solid background.

Silly and short, this book is perfect for toddler time!

Picture Book Review: Pug & Doug by Steve Breen

Pug and Doug are best friends. They both like doing the same things (like dancing to Polka music) and they hang out every day. But when Pug starts acting strange, Doug’s feelings get hurt. Have no fear, though, friends! Pug manages to figure out what’s happening and races to fix the situation (jet pack included!). In the end, Pug and Doug realize they were both being a little silly, and decide to talk things out in the future instead of jumping to conclusions.

I found Breen’s multimedia art to be really charming and quirky, and there’s lots of jokes to spot in the illustrations (the boys watch Jurassic Bark together while munching on popcorn). Pug and Doug both have excellent expressions that communicate how delightful (and stressful!) a true friendship can be.

This book is definitely recommended for reading one-on-one with your favorite kiddo. I think even older elementary schoolers would enjoy this book because of the silliness. I’d also try it with an outreach group – it could be fun to do a “misunderstanding” storytime!

Picture Book Review: Look Out Ladybug by Jack Tickle

Ladybug wants to fly, but she’s just not very good at it. Nonetheless, she practices and practices. Soon, though, her practice gets her into all sorts of tricky situations — like onto a trumpeting elephants trunk and tickling a tiger’s tummy. Luckily, all the animals she meets are as charmed by her as we are, and they give her a helping hand

The text is this book is sparse enough to let it serve as a read aloud for toddlers, and the bright, colorful pictures would also serve groups well. My only qualms are that I don’t typically think of ladybugs as jungle animals (as all the other animals are), nor do brown bears live in the jungle. But if you can get past those minor quasi-scientific pumps, then this book will be great for toddler or even preschool storytimes about learning, locomotion, bugs, or safari animals!

Picture Book Review: Polar Bear Morning

A sequel of sorts to Polar Bear Night, Polar Bear Morning by Lauren Thompson (illustrated by Stephen Savage) is a charming and gentle picture book perfect for reading aloud. The rhythm of the text is particularly delightful — it feels like you’re reading a poem. Likewise, the pacing is excellent and creates tension in only the most pleasant “I can’t wait to see what will happen” way.

Stephen Savage’s characteristic linocut illustrations feature a cool palette that’s balanced by the bold shapes and textures to create pages that are interesting and exciting without being overwhelming or cluttered.

I really like this book and can’t wait to use it in a storytime!

Picture Book Review: Open Very Carefully

Open Very Carefully by Nicola O’Byrne is just a little retelling of The Ugly Duckling. Until a rowdy gator crashes the party, that is! Then the ugly duckling has to figure out how to get the letter-eating-crocodilian out of the story and out of the book!

I think this book really will shine as a readaloud, especially for preschool and young elementary school groups. There’s lots of interactivity built in to the text (rocking the book back and forth to shake the crocodile out, shaking the book to distract him) and the illustrations are cute. I especially like the page layouts and think they give the text a really dynamic feel.

This book will shine as a read-aloud with an energetic and committed reader – either 1-on-1 or to a group.

Picture Book Round Up!

Since my job change, I’ve been working toward reading and reviewing at least a few picture books every day.  Some days, I focus on authors, and on other days, I just grab some books of the storytime shelf or from the stacks and read ’em.

This week, I started checking out some of the books from the New York Time’s best picture books of the year. Stephen and the Beetle was a bit too odd for me, and I’m not sure if it would appeal to kids. Red Knit Cap Girl and House Held Up By Trees were both has an artsy-feel, but worked better as picture books than Stephen.

I spent a day reading several of Keiko Kasza’s books, including Ready for Anything,  Dog Who Cried Wolf, Silly Goose’s Big Story, Badger’s Fancy Meal, Dorothy and Mikey and Don’t Laugh, Joe! While I thought all  of the books I looked at would be popular with some kids, I thought the animal-centric lesson-learning a little heavy-handed for my taste.

Greg E. Foley’s quirky works also drew a day of my attention. Willoughby and the Lion, Willoughby and the Moon, Make a Wish Bear, and Purple Little Bird all got annotations from me. While I enjoy the fact that Foley plays with the conventions of printing in the Willoughby series, they were just too self-consciously quirky for me. Make a Wish Bear and Purple Little Bird charmed me more with their simple illustrations and sweet stories.

I finished up the week with a variety of stories. Head over to Goodreads to check out my reviews of Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket, Peanut, Can You Make a Scary Face?  and I’m a Turkey!