Book review: Hurry Up!: a Book About Slowing Down, by Kate Dopirak, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

Dopirak, Kate. Hurry Up!: a Book About Slowing Down Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Beach Lane Books, 2020. $17.99. ISBN 9781534424975. Unpaged. Ages 3-8. P7 Q7

Dopirak Hurry Up

We are often in a hurry. A child of color wakes up in a “HURRY!” and continues rushing as they run down the steps and out the door to the bus. Once at school, the child continues to hurry until the universe shouts “STOP!” The child, who is accompanied by their dog, slows down. The book compares and contrasts hurrying and stopping. Except for the page where the students are in the classroom, the child is the only person in the story. Matte oversized illustrations show the world in frantic motion and then at a slower pace. The illustrations capture the atmosphere and portrays successfully how it feels to be in hurry and how it feels to slow down.

Verdict: Children are able to appreciate the world they are in if they slow down and take the time to appreciate their surroundings. I read this mindfulness book to a class of second grade students. They said they felt frantic and busy during the hurry pages and calm during the mindfulness pages. The book provides specific activities for children to take a break, slow down and relax.  

December 2020 review by Harris.

Book review: The Little Kitten, by Nicola Killen

Killen, Nicola. The Little Kitten. (My Little Animal Friend series). Simon & Schuster, 2020. $16.99. ISBN 9781534466968. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q8

While wearing a kitten costume, Ollies is about to jump into a pile of leaves when she sees it moving. She discovers a little shivering kitten. While Ollie, her cat and the little kitten are exploring the woods and playing hide and seek, the reader can see lost kitten posters on the trees. As Ollie continues to travel through the heart of the woods, she knows what she needs to do. Just when the reader thinks Ollie has completed her mission, Ollie finds herself in need of being rescued. The illustrations are grey scale with orange leaves, pumpkins and accents. The accents include leaves that are covered in orange foil. Cleverly placed cut outs on the pages allow the children to have a glimpse of what is on the next page. In the window on the last page, one sees who the cat belongs to. There are now three books in the My Little Animal Friend series, The Little Rabbit and The Little Reindeer.

Verdict: This sweet fall themed story of friendship between Ollie, her cat, and the little kitten, is very well done. There are some fun, unexpected, details along the way as well as special effects that will delight the reader. The adventure left me with a comforting feeling and the foil accents give it a magical feel. I love it! I purchased all three books in the series for my elementary school library.

December 2020 review by Harris.

Book review: Lubaya’s Quiet Roar, by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Philemona Williamson

Nelson, Marilyn. Lubaya’s Quiet Roar. Illustrated by Philemona Williamson. Dial Books, 2020. $17.99. ISBN 9780525555551. Unpaged. Ages 5-8. P6 Q7

Lubaya likes to be alone and has a vivid imagination. She imagines herself as a ballerina or an African American artist astronaut. In school, she prefers to watch others and does not raise her hand in class even when she knows the answers. While her family watches the news, she draws on the back of posters left over from a previous protest. Will Lubaya be able to contribute to the protest, even if she is quiet? The illustrations show her sitting apart from classmates, drawing, and marching with her family. The illustrations match the text. My favorite quote is “Her roar may not be loud, but a quiet roar can make history.”  This is an example of social justice for introverts. Based on the text and pictures, one may wonder if there is more to Lubaya’s introvert nature.

Verdict: This picture book provides a very important message that one does not need to be loud and an extrovert to march and stand up for their beliefs. Adults can use this book to help children explore many ways one can march, why is marching important, and how can they stand up for their beliefs.

December 2020 review by Harris.

Book review: Sophie Johnson, Unicorn Expert, is a Detective Genius, by Morag Hood, illustrated by Ella Okstad

Hood, Morag. Sophie Johnson, Unicorn Expert, is a Detective Genius. Illustrated by Ella Okstad.(Sophie Johnson, Unicorn Expert series). Aladdin, 2020. $17.99. ISBN 9781534467545. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Sophie Johnson is a budding detective genius. There has been a crime and she is determined to find the criminal. Bella, her dog sidekick, tries to give her hints, but Sophie is too busy arresting suspects, taking finger prints and solving the crime to notice. Bella designs a quite elaborately detailed design to catch the criminal while Sophie is distracted performing “detective” activities. Sophie’s confidence in the face of her obliviousness as to what is going on is comical and allows for a parallel story to unfold. The illustrations are linear across the page, providing a lot of details to look at. Some of my favorite details include the detective themed titles on the books and the “I love unicorn” poster on the wall. The text is written in large, clear font that is easy to read, with some words being bold. The large illustrations are rainbow themed. Of course, there is a white unicorn with rainbow hair and rainbow dots around it. This is book 2 out of 3. Book one is Sophie Johnson, Unicorn Expert and Sophie Johnson, is a Sports Star is due to come out soon.

Verdict: This picture book celebrates all things rainbow, unicorns, and humor! Detective strategies are incorporated for the budding detective. While there are a lot of details to look at, it would still be a fun read aloud. I have ordered the whole series for our elementary school library.

December 2020 review by Harris.

Book review: Little Leo, by Farnaz Eshaashari, illustrated by Hedvig Haggman-Sund

Esnaashari, Farnaz. Little Leo. Illustrated by Hedvig Haggman-Sund. Aladdin, 2020. $17.99. ISBN 9781534446106. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Little Leo is full of confidence as he practices his jumps. However, he is just learning and has a few false starts. When the little lion does not make it up the cliff, he makes up small excuses as to why he didn’t complete the jump. Little Leo has a heart shaped patch on his forehead, which is endearing and his facial features accurately portray his feelings.  The large animated illustrations showing Little Leo trying to jump onto the rocky ledge. Little Leo has confidence and believes that his mom is interested and supportive. This picture book comes from the creators of the Netflix hit series, Shimmer and Shine. The end contains the story behind the story. When the author’s son told her he was giving up on learning, she informed him that failure is just practice on our way to success. She felt that by writing this book it would help other parents have conversations that are hard for them to have.

Verdict: This sweet book highlights perseverance, not giving up and parent support. I read this to a class of second graders and they specifically enjoyed the expressions on the Little Leo’s face. It also allowed students to interact and guess if Leo would make the jump or not. Students like the fact that Leo did not give up. One student even brought out the fact that we can learn from experiences when they do not go the way we think they will.

December 2020 review by Harris.

Book review: What is Light?, by Markette Sheppard, illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson

Sheppard, Markette. What is Light? Illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson. Simon & Schuster, 2020. $17.99. ISBN 9781534476516. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P7 Q7

What is light? Follow children as they explore the many things that bring light into the world. This warm, rhyming picture book highlights the many sources of light in a child’s life. Light can be many things, from the sun to stars, a firefly, spark in one’s eye, a green leaf, a smile on friend’s face, a mother’s love, or nature and animals. Light can be found all around you and inside you! The story moves from literal to metaphorical. The simple text is accompanied by illustrations of dark-skinned children of various shades and hair styles.

Verdict: This illustration driven picture book is imaginative and uplifting, while introducing children to the many sources of light in the world. It also shows the beauty of every day in a child’s life. The rhyming text makes it a great read aloud.

December 2020 review by Harris.

Book review: Simon at the Art Museum, by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Christine Davenier

Soontornvat, Christina. Simon at the Art Museum. Illustrated by Christine Davenier. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. $17.99. Unpaged. ISBN 9781534437524. Ages 4-8. P6 Q7

What is it like for a child to visit an art museum? Simon visits an art museum with his parents. At first, he is bored because there is SO.MUCH.ART! But then he realizes that it is an art museum after all. As his parents look at the art, Simon sits on a bench and watches people as they look at the art. The oversized illustrations were rendered in pen and ink washes and include abstract art on the walls of the art museum. The building inside and out is beige and blue, allowing the characters clothing and artwork to stand out. It is an accurate portrayal of a child visiting a museum.

Verdict: If you are bringing your child to an art museum, you may want to read them this book first. It shows a bit of what to expect while expanding the experience. I appreciated the author showing the child people watching, which added interest and another element to Simon’s adventure. Sometimes family outings are stressful. This one shows the family outing as positive and fun. The last page made me smile.

December 2020 review by Harris.

Book review: You Matter, by Christian Robinson

Robinson, Christian. You Matter. Atheneum Books, 2020. $17.99. ISBN 9781534421691. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P6 Q7

The message of “you matter” is important for children. This illustration forward picture book contains multiple scenarios that children find themselves in and then reassures the child that they matter.

The subject matter includes feeling lost and alone, when someone you love goes away, a young child in a wheelchair, if others think you are a pest, and my favorite, when you are gassy. The simple sentences get right to the point and include comparison and contrast. The oversized illustrations fill the whole page.

The matte illustrations were rendered in acrylic paint and collage, adding texture. Robinson studied animation at the California Institute of the arts and later worked with Sesame Street Workshop and Pixar Animation Studios before becoming an illustrator for books for children. His vast experience shines through.

Verdict: We all need validation and to hear that we matter. The large illustrations and simple text make for a successful read aloud for young children. The humor lightens the moment while still bringing validation.

December 2020 review by Harris.

Book review: The Sea Knows, by Alice B. McGinty and Alan B. Havis, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

McGinty, Alice B. and Alan B. Havis. The Sea Knows. Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis. Simon & Schuster, 2020. $17.99. ISBN 9781534438224. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

The sea is a beautiful place, but how much do we really know about it? This lyrical, illustration forward picture book follows a racially diverse family and compares and contrasts items in the sea. The illustrations and text feature colorful schools of fish, a variety of ecosystems and plant life and sea creatures, showing the variety and complexity of sea life. The beautiful and rich illustrations on glossy paper show how big the ocean really is and that it is teaming with life. While walking on the beach in Negril, Jamaica, Havis and his wife talked about how beautiful and awe inspiring the sea was and how much they didn’t know about its secrets and the book was born! The end of the book includes a More about what the sea knows sections, which allows information for older readers who want to know more about the sea life.

Verdict: This sea themed picture book will capture the attention of children through comparing and contrasting items. The rhyming rhythm and large illustrations make it a successful read aloud. The numerous facts makes it a valuable book for a sea themed unit.

December 2020 review by Harris.

Book review: The Tale of the Tiger Slippers, by Jan Brett

Brett, Jan. The Tale of the Tiger Slippers. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2020. $18.99. ISBN 9780399170744. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P5 Q8

Do you have something of value that others think is “shabby or worn out?” Told in first person, a young tiger tells the story behind the pair of slippers in the fancy fountain. When his father was young, his mother made him a pair of slippers to protect and guide him, with room to grow. As the tiger grows, he is ridiculed for his ragged, worn slippers. Embarrassed by the slippers, the tiger tries to get rid of them. To his frustration, the slippers keep returning to him. This story within a story is from the Persian tale about Abu Kassem’s slippers. The author visited three national parks in India and had a rare close-up sighting of a large roaring male Bengal tiger. She visited many more museums galleries and the artwork inspired the imagined kaleidoscopic world of the Mughal courts where tigers wear rubies. The signature Jan Brett illustrations include circle frames that magnify animals or items from the page.

Verdict: This tale contains a valuable lesson on how circumstances in the past inform our present and future. Children will enjoy listening to it and looking at the detailed illustrations. However, I do not know if they will seek out the book or pick it up if it were on a shelf. While the cover resembles “Lil Sambo” the tale is completely different. This is perfect book to read one on one due to the extensive detailed illustrations. If you enjoy Jan Brett books, you will want this one in your collection. Beautiful!

December 2020 review by Harris.