Cockatoo, Too and Toucans, Too

Cockatoo Too.jpgTitle: Cockatoo, Too
Author/Illustrator: Bethanie Deeney Murguia
ISBN: 9781499801026
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Little Bee Books, an imprint of Bonnier Publishing Group, c2016.

 

 

 

Toucans Too.jpg

 

 

 

 

Title: Toucans, Too
Author/Illustrator: Bethanie Deeney Murguia
ISBN: 9781499804218
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Little Bee Books, an imprint of Bonnier Publishing, c2017.

A pair or two of two cockatoos, two toucans, and in the end of the second book two gnus dance to their own tune of homophone words and phrases. Tutus, cans of stew, and canoes play a role in this wonderful wordplay, and cuckoos and owls (“WHO?”) make an appearance. The author’s bio mentions a fascination with Seuss at a young age, and that inspiration is evident in the fun. While the story isn’t action packed and younger children might be slightly confused, elementary aged children learning rhymes and word sounds might enjoy hearing it read aloud, if only for the silliness. I’m no art expert, but I’m pretty sure the illustrations are water color and ink. They portray a vibrant forest background, and overlaying the words on a generous white footer allows for easy visibility and readability. Tata you two toucans and cockatoos, until hopefully a third showing.

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Whobert Whover, Owl Detective

Whobert Whover.jpgTitle: Whobert Wover, Owl Detective
Author: Jason Gallaher
Illustrator: Jess Pauwels
ISBN: 9781481462716
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2017.

Whobert Whover, owl detective, is patrolling the forest when he sees Perry the possum dead on the ground. Or is he? Astute readers will see Perry’s eyes open during Whobert’s examination of Perry and interrogation of nearby animals. The culprit of his feigned demise is someone Whobert would never expect as he jumps from one false conclusion to another with little or no evidence. Brightly colored illustrations dedicate a single color to each animal. I wish the jaunty clothing seen on the cover was included in the story. Perry’s final reaction and Whobert’s continued cluelessness seems overly dramatic, perfect for the story time crowd.

Imagine That

Imagine That.jpgTitle: Imagine That
Author/Illustrator: Yasmeen Ismail
ISBN: 9781681193625
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, c2017 (US edition), originally published in Great Britain in 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing Pic

Lila’s mother repeatedly asks her what she is doing, and consistently receives the response “Nothing”. Her actions though are far from ordinary, as in her imagination she is off wrestling with an octopus, performing in a circus, scaling a tower Godzilla style. Sometimes little snippets of reality in the form of her mitten minders leach into her imaginings, but not always. Her imaginings are relayed in rhyme, either couplets or alternating rhymes, and that inconsistency might call for practice before reading aloud. Although Grandpa and Mom ask Lila the same type of questions, Lila only invites Grandpa into her imaginative play, which makes me feel bad for Lila’s mother whose frustrations seem to grow with every interaction with her daughter. A strangely abrupt and didactic conclusion does not do the story any favors. I seem to be in a minority as it receives rave reviews elsewhere online, but I felt that there are other, more imaginative books about imagination available.

Meditate With Me

Meditate with Me.jpgTitle: Meditate With Me: A Step-By-Step Mindfulness Journey
Author: Mariam Gates
Illustrator: Margarita Surnaite
ISBN: 9780399186615
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Young Readers Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, c2017.

 

Imagine a jar full of water and glitter in any colors you choose. […]
Your mind is like that glass jar, with shiny thoughts and feelings zooming this way and that.
But you can use your breath and body to set that busy mind down flat.
Gently, just like that. Swish!

With little introduction, the book leads children through a short meditation. Five animals (a rabbit and elephant who are clothed as females, a cat and bear shown as male, and a pig of indeterminate gender) act out the instructions presented. The narrative is uneven, sometimes in labored rhymes (“Now notice your breath, / in and out through your nose / Is the air cool? Is it warm? / Can you feel in your body where it goes?”), other times in straight prose. The drawings are bright, colorful, engaging, and uncluttered, although reading it while the text encourages students to close their eyes might prove counterproductive. The jar of glitter imagery and the encouragement to be still and quiet in order to listen and identify how you feel and what you hear is well suited for the age, but hardly groundbreaking as they are common in the practice. A summarizing “Four Easy Steps to Meditate with Me” neglects any mention of emotional awareness, which the book spends several pages exploring “What does happy feel like in your body? Make a happy face.” Possibly read through, have a discussion, and then adults could use only the words to guide students through their own efforts. A well-meaning introduction to the idea of meditation, but children might need prompting to picking-up the picture book and the practice.

Bubble Trouble

Bubble Trouble.jpgTitle: Bubble Trouble
Author: Margaret Mahy
Illustrator: Polly Dunbar
ISBN: 9780547074214
Page: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, c2008.

Little Mabel blew a bubble, and it cause a lot of trouble. . .
Such a lot of bubble trouble in a bibble-bobble way.

With those lines, we’re off on a rollicking adventure of a baby bounding and bouncing all over town, with half the town’s residents taking up the chase. Be prepared for tongue twisters and oral acrobatics as the lines’ frenetic pace seems to gain steam like a runaway train (or a runaway bubble baby as the case may be). Utilizing alternate rhyme, alliteration, consonance, and assonance this would be a great introduction to a classroom unit on story telling through poetry. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t previously blogged this already, as I’ve been using it for years, primarily with the older audiences considering the length and vocabulary. It’s ideal for outreach visits to summer camps where the children are older, and they are amused and delighted by the absurdity and my efforts to read it at an ever increasing speed. The illustrations are a quirky combination of collage and watercolors, with the impacted family portrayed in matching red hair and patterns utilized for almost every article of clothing. While the audience may be aghast at the account’s antics, baby is for the most part blissful throughout the whole book. Delightful in every way.

SP4RX

SP4RX.jpgTitle: SP4RX
Author/Illustrator: Wren McDonald
ISBN: 9781910620120
Pages: 116 pages
Publisher/Date: Nobrow Ltd., c2016.

“Well the thing is, STEVE, they’re literally removing people’s brains and replacing them with manufactured ones —”
“That’s where you’re wrong, DANA, it’s the same brain, just altered for efficiency.”
“And what? That makes it ethically sound?? These impoverished low-level people are now being forced to work 36 hour shifts for God’s sake! And they are supposed to take ELPIS PROGRAM as a blessing?!”
“Dana, Look. Do you know how much these workers can make in a 36 hour shift? ELPIS gives them the means to provide for their fam-”
“PLEASE! Is that what you tell yourself[…]?!” (27)

In an unspecified dystopian future, SP4RX is a Bitnite, a hacker for hire. He doesn’t ask questions, only delivers the goods, until another hacker named Mega steals the program he heisted. It leads him to meet with a small resistance force with the self-assigned mission to stop a corporation implanting people with upgrades that allow them to be controlled remotely. Initially opposed to joining them, SP4RX realizes that their way might be the only way to maintain the slim direction over his own destiny.

Reminiscent of Fifth Element meets the Matrix, with maybe a little bit of Futurama and Dr. Who’s daleks thrown in for good measure, it’s not uncommon in this world for people to have cybernetic enhancements, communication takes place in person as often as in the virtual world, and the word “eliminate” has replaced “exterminate”. The art work is done in black, white, gray and purple, with the story segmented by full page graphics that feel like filler, or chapter or volume dividers, even though they aren’t labeled as such. A distracting feature is that characters are drawn sometimes with noses and sometimes without with little consistency as to which or why one way is chosen over the other. The story feels like a generic end of the world mashup, with little in the way of a back story explaining how they got to this point. By the end of the book, I was most interested in the minor character of the OBD droid, whose bodyless head steals every scene it’s in, as its implanted empathy drives the dogged search and loyalty it shows for SP4RX. Give that little guy its own series next time, and leave the rest to become more efficient.

There Might Be Lobsters

There Might Be Lobsters.jpgTitle: There Might Be Lobsters
Author: Carolyn Crimi
Illustrator: Laurel Molk
ISBN: 9780763675424
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press, c2017.

Lots of things at the beach scared Sukie. Lots.

Eleanor brings her dog Sukie to the beach, along with Sukie’s loyal toy chimp Chunka Munka. Sukie is not as enthusiastic to be at the beach, and is essentially an Eeyore-esque worrier, about everything from getting hurt to lobsters. Ever patient Eleanor eventually abandons all efforts to get Sukie in the water with her, but everything changes when Chunka Munka gets swept up by a wave and Sukie must save her friend. A triumphant smile graces her muzzle for the rest of the story. Laurel Molk’s watercolors and Carolyn Crimi’s text refrains from making the beach trip scary, keeping the illustrations light and airy and Sukie’s fears are never discounted or criticized, with only minor frustration conveyed by Eleanor at her dog’s uncertainty. Although Sukie seems afraid of the beach ball and water, she doesn’t seem especially distressed at being there, which I interpret as a lesson that you can still have a good time and appreciate the company and event even if you don’t partake in the same activities as everyone else.

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