Posts from the ‘Picture Book’ Category

Baby Monkey, Private Eye

Baby Monkey Private Eye.jpgTitle: Baby Monkey, Private Eye
Authors: Brian Selznick and David Serlin
Illustrator: Brian Selznick
ISBN: 9781338180619
Pages: 191 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., c2018.

Baby Monkey someone has stolen my […]!
Baby Monkey can help!
Baby Monkey looks for clues.
Baby Monkey writes notes.
Baby Monkey eats a snack.
Baby Monkey puts on his pants.
Now Baby Monkey is ready!
Baby Monkey solves the case! […]
Hooray for Baby Monkey!

Each of the first three chapters of this extended easy reader follow the same format as outlined above. The only clue that readers receive as to the identity of the thief are the footprints that Baby Monkey discovers and follows. Just as you think you’ve figured out the routine, the repetitive nature of the chapters diverges, as in the fourth chapter Baby Monkey is tired and hilariously needs some prodding to solve that case. The fifth chapter divulges even further, making readers second guess the entire premise of the story by the last scene, where observant readers will see the inspiration for all those criminals.

I’m unclear what aspects debut author Serlin (Selznick’s partner) and Selznick contributed to the story. Selznick’s pencil illustrations however are instantly recognizable and as detailed as to be expected, with Baby Monkey’s office accessories changing with every case and the book he is reading lending a hint to the upcoming theft. The snack in each chapter changes and is contained in a clearly labeled ziplock bag, instantly recognizable to children as something they might have packed for their snack. Monkey’s struggle to get into his pants is the visual gags that appeal to children, but I do wish one of this resulting misadventures had yielded both legs in one pant leg. Missed opportunity Selznick, in my opinion. Quite often found with his tongue sticking out of his mouth in concentration, Baby Monkey is adorable in every way possible, with ears sticking out of his head that are almost as big as his eyes (Mickey Mouse comparisons are inevitable) and cowlick/Mohawk fur on his head that reminds me of a troll doll. The over-sized magnifying glass that he carries around clinches it. It might be a big world, and Baby Monkey might be little, but he’s found his place in it.

I echo Betsy Bird‘s sentiments and exasperation about where the heck we’re supposed to put this cross over, combo format. I strongly believe it is best suited for easy or early reader collections, or better yet simple chapter books if your library has that category. The repetitive narration, simple word use, and large bold font is meant for those beginning or struggling readers, and advanced readers typically looking in the fiction area are well above this level. They still might find enjoyment, but it’s not really meant for them. It’s meant for reading aloud and sharing with families of small children, especially those of mixed ages. A coworker with three little ones ranging in ages from I think 3-7 years old said her whole brood of boys enjoyed it. That is where Selznick has hit the sweet spot, geared for a whole new and younger fan base then his previous works.


The Secret Project

Secret Project.jpgTitle: The Secret Project
Author: Jonah Winter
Illustrator: Jeanette Winter
ISBN: 9781481469135
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2017.

Night and day, the greatest scientists in the world conduct experiments and research in the laboratory. They are working on something they call the “Gadget.” What they are trying to invent is so secret, they cannot even call it by its real name. (unpaged)

Jonah Winter and Jeanette Winter attempt an ambitious undertaking in trying to condense the creation of the atom bomb to a level that the picture book crowd can understand. This is definitely not an easy subject to place into context, but they try. They compare the busy, secretive work to the outside world, where life continues, where “artists are painting beautiful paintings” and there are “peaceful desert mountains and mesas, cacti, coyotes, prairie dogs”. The basics of the science are there, that the scientists are “trying to figure out how to take the tiniest particle in the world, the atom, and cut it in half, making it even tinier” before other scientists are able to do the same thing. Atom is not further described, and a passing mention of metals plutonium and uranium are described as things “that can be turned into something with enormous power” with no elaboration. The scientists are portrayed as single shaded shadows, emphasizing their anonymity during that time frame.

I have a hard time determining who to recommend this to or what audience this would best serve, as it will likely raise questions that will have to be answered by an adult. The book is dedicated “for the peacemakers”, which makes me think it was created for parents who are intentionally broaching the topic with their children, maybe because of a new awareness brought about by today’s politics or media. The author’s note elaborates on the creation and aftermath of the first nuclear test. I feel it was probably a conscious decision to refrain from using the word “bomb” or “explosion” instead referring to it as invention or “Gadget”. The wordless spreads at the end are used to convey the powerful nature of what they’ve created, with a four page ever expanding angry red mushroom cloud culminating in a double page spread of finite black.

nonfiction mondayThis review is posted in honor of Nonfiction Monday. Take a look at what everyone else is reading in nonfiction this week.


Accident.jpgTitle: Accident!
Author/Illustrator: Andrea Tsurumi
ISBN: 9780544944800
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, c2017.

“Oh No!” Lola cried. “I’ve ruined everything!”
“I’ll hide in the library! They have books and bathrooms.”
“And I’ll stay there till I’m a grownup.”
So Lola ran away from her mess and right into everyone else’s.

From red punch spilled on a white sofa, to a broken swing, a snipped hose line and a collapsed cake, the assorted animals in this town would give Alexander a run for his money in the horrible terrible day category. The illustrations remind me of Richard Scarry’s world or Family Circus cartoons, with lots of action and tiny vignettes completely filling the page. If you’re using this as a story time selection, I would recommend making it available for kids and parents to peruse or pointing out some of the more specific actions. The surprised puffer fish is an ingenious choice, seemingly maneuvering around like the excitable fish in Seuss’s Cat in the Hat, bounding through the streets on either back fin or propelling himself with his side fins and his expressions are not to be missed as he bounces down the stairs head(?) first. Vocabulary building opportunity exists as Lola and others call the incidents catastrophe, disaster, mayhem, calamity, and fiasco. After a red bird whose been following the action since the beginning sets Lola right in that they were all accidents that they can make better, the rest of the anxious animals pitch in to correct the problems. Some we saw causes and solutions (a narwhal who popped a sloth’s balloon is shown with the sloth who now has a pinwheel) while others are more open ended (two flamingos replacing a door certainly has a story behind it). Lola’s return shows that everyone can have an accident, and it’s how you react that is important. A humorous, much needed lesson in owning up and helping out.


Plume.jpgTitle: Plume
Author/Illustrator: Isabelle Simler
ISBN: 9780802854926
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., c2017.

Is this a catalog? Is this a story? It’s difficult to categorize what amounts to beautiful digitally rendered images of over a dozen different birds and one cat. The double page spreads showcase the entire bird on the right, and then focus on the variety of feathers that make up each bird. As the pages turn, the number of feathers increase. In each picture, a piece of cat is visible, sometimes just a tip of ear or tail or paw is visible and other times interacting more fully with the bird, with both bird and cat being observed by it’s counterpart. All the feathers are wispy and imperfect in shape and symmetry, appearing to be falling from the sky and waiting to be picked up and stroked by an inquisitive collector. The birds also have textures that convey the textures and arrangement of the feathers if they were still on the animal. The end papers feature feathers not just from the featured fowl, but also from additional species of birds and, in a sly nod, fur from the cat. I do think the artist missed an opportunity to showcase all of the feathers together on the final page, but it’s a tiny quibble. Pair this with Lois Ehlert’s Feathers for Lunch or Aviary Wonders Inc Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth for a feather focused story time.

The Wolf the Duck and the Mouse

Each month for a previous job, I wrote a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ve expanded that idea to the blog in a feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

Wolf the Duck and the Mouse.jpgTitle: The Wolf The Duck and the Mouse
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
ISBN: 9780763677541
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press, c2017.

Jon Klassen’s signature style of mixed-media illustrations carry the story of a mouse and a duck who have been swallowed whole by a wolf. Life on the inside isn’t as bad as it may seem because as the duck reveals to the mouse: “When I was outside, I was afraid every day wolves would swallow me up. In here, that’s no worry.” Their unconventional life (after-life?) in the wolf’s stomach is threatened by a hunter, who is intent on killing the wolf. The ending (I haven’t seen it spoiled yet, so I won’t be the first to ruin the surprise) provides a fable like rationale behind the wolf’s howling habits. The humor comes from the details and the deadpan, inexpressive portrayals of all the characters, with faces that almost never change. More mind-bending humor that we’ve come to expect from this prolific pair.

How to Be an Elephant

How to Be an Elephant.jpgTitle: How to Be an Elephant: Growing up in the African Wild
Author/Illustrator: Katherine Roy
ISBN: 9781626721784
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: David Macaulay Studio, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, a divising of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, c2017.

“With flapping ears and whiffling trunks, the herd quickly spreads the new. After 22 months of growing,  a new baby is on her way. From walking and rumbling to drinking and dining, nothing will come easy for this giant-to-be. But like her mother before her, she’ll have to learn…”

Katherine Roy’s watercolors portraying the life of an elephant start at the very beginning, showcasing an elephant calf still in utero on the title page in purple and gray hues. The baby springs onto the scene and is greeted by a half dozen trunks, emphasizing the community and emphasis on family that a herd maintains. The thick brush strokes transition to lighter golds portraying the sand-swept savanna. The diagrams included are informative and supplement the text, providing information on the elephant’s development, habits, and survival methods. Bite sized facts allow for easy digestion by readers who aren’t distracted by the fully engaging pictures.

nonfiction mondayThis review is posted in honor of Nonfiction Monday. Take a look at what everyone else is reading in nonfiction this week.

The Antlered Ship

Antlered Ship.jpgTitle: The Antlered Ship
Author: Dashka Slater
Illustrators: The Fan Brothers (Terry Fan and Eric Fan)
ISBN: 9781481451604
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2017.

“The day the antlered ship arrived, Marco wondered about the wide world.”

That vague, open-ended, almost benign statement begins the tale of a fox named Marco, who is keen on having an adventure and finding the answers to all of life’s questions. A flock of pigeons and Marco join the crew of three deer, sailing towards a “wonderful island, with tall, sweet grass and short, sweet trees. When we get there, we’ll eat a delectable dinner.” Along the way they encounter crashing waves, hunger, pirates and more questions without answers for Marco. How the animals built the vessel much less operate it is one of my questions that goes unanswered. The ship, while beautifully drawn in graphite and pen and “colored digitally”, looks more akin to human design than animal, including the elaborately designed animal figureheads on the bow. It’s beautiful, but it’s probably geared for a much more contemplative audience than what I typically select for myself or for other patrons. You’ll need to consider readership when recommending this title, as the plot is restrained and if the book is meant to have a moral, like Marco’s answers it is too understated for me to find.

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