Henry in Love

Henry In Love Henry in Love by Peter McCarty

I remember seeing an F&G of this book at ALA a year ago and loving the spare design. Each page is meticulously drawn and watercolored and there is never any more depicted than is necessary (many illustrators tend to go for ‘more is more’ and HiL is refreshing in that it does not).

The story here is cute but not cloying and what really gets me is the everyday-ness of it. Much of what happens in Henry’s day is not overtly related to his falling in love, but it all adds up to a satisfying package. The story matches the illustrations: quiet and elegant, but not fancy.

Reviewed from library copy.

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Princess Hyacinth {The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated}

Princess Hyacinth Princess Hyacinth {The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated} by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Lane Smith

Growing up Florence Parry Heide’s books about Treehorn (illustrated by super mega favorite Edward Gorey) were some that I went back to and re-read over and over again. So when I saw that she had teamed up with the amazing Lane Smith, I was very excited.

I was not disappointed! The illustrations and design of this book make for a very satisfying read. Text floats off the page and the stylized characters and scenes feel royal, even when Princess Hyacinth is floating around in her underwear. At times the Princess looks a little Charlie-Brown-ish which feels right and endears her to the reader even more.

This is a relatively text-heavy picture book and not one that little ones are likely to sit still for – it’s the older kids who’ll take the time to notice all the details in each scene and will identify with the friendship the Princess finds with Boy.

Recommended. Reviewed from library copy.

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Finn Throws a Fit

Finn Throws a Fit Finn Throws a Fit by David Elliott, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

Right from the cover, the illustrations draw you into this book. Finn’s state of mind is clear from the grumble cloud above his head and the way he’s clutching his blanket around him. Ering’s illustrations are charcoal, oil paint, and grease pencil and the combination of materials with his style perfectly show how changeable the world truly is. One never knows if one will still like peaches today, and the lines sometimes feel unstable. Finn’s fit is a thunderstorm and you can just feel that urge to lash out and stomp around. The brilliant moment comes with the line, “It lasts until it doesn’t” and we’re all left with that aftermath feeling, wondering why it was such a big deal to begin with. Elliott and Ering have clearly spent some time around little ones.

Highly recommended. Reviewed from library copy.

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Guess Again!

Guess Again by Mac Barnett/Adam Rex Guess Again! by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex

This book is a guessing game, with questions and answers on alternating pages. Each question spread shows a scene with a black silhouette of the obvious answer, which of course is proved wrong on the following spread with a very silly answer and filled in illustration. Rex’s illustrations are goofy and hilarious without veering into cheesy territory. The facial expressions of the people and creatures are spot-on, making the book work. This is a perfect read-aloud for mid-elementary age kids.

Recommended. Reviewed from library copy.

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Acorns Everywhere!

Acorns Everywhere Acorns Everywhere! by Kevin Sherry

Right up front: I have an affection for squirrels. They’re cute and furry and have those tiny little hand-like paws with which they hold objects. And they have that tendency to stop, look around, and then go back to what they’re doing. How can you resist that?

Secondly: Did you read I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean? If not, run right now and do it right now, because you’re missing out. (ITBTITO was Sherry’s first picture book.)

I’m not usually a huge fan of illustrations that incorporate bits of photographs into non-photograph scenes. It’s not easy to make that technique work and it very rarely does (Knuffle Bunny is the prime example of it working). Sherry pulls it off here, though, with real hardcore acorn footage used with a goofy, adorable watercolor and ink Squirrel. The snippets of text on each page (“gather!” “dig!” “bury!”) match the pace of an actual squirrel’s activity as does the repetition. Sherry manages to squeeze a lot of emotion into the sparse lines of Squirrel’s facial expressions (as well as those of the other animals). This is a fun read with plenty of detail to find away from the primary action.

Recommended. Reviewed from library copy.

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Crazy Hair

crazyhair Crazy Hair by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean

This is yet another awesome collaboration between Gaiman and McKean (others for children include Coraline, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, The Graveyard Book, and The Wolves in the Walls) and it is utterly engaging. McKean’s fanciful style is perfectly suited to the tale of this outrageous head of hair, which is a home for exotic birds, a jungle containing wild beasts, a carnival, a dance floor, and many other unexpected things. The illustrations are a combination of a variety of media including computer manipulations, which seem tailor made for the subject matter. Recommended.

reviewed from library copy

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The Big Elephant in the Room

Photobucket The Big Elephant in the Room by Lane Smith is a goofy picture book featuring a character we all know: the friend who borrows things and doesn’t return them, who compliments you in a way that also insults you, who goads you into doing something embarrassing and then tells everyone what you did (leaving out the part about their role). Of course the ‘you’ in those scenarios is the other donkey here, the one who is taken advantage of in so many ways and who, in the case of this story, gets a ridiculous story in answer to an innocent question.

This is a bit of a change from Smith’s past picture books, in that it is less layered, less nuanced than most of his other works. It is, however, a successfully rendered joke that works. We all take our perceived injuries too seriously a lot of the time, and I think this book works to help us see the silly in ourselves (as well as the asinine ways we may occasionally treat our friends without realizing it). The illustrations are up to Smith’s par, with expressive faces and action happening all over the page.

Reviewed from library copy

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