Book review: The 5 O’clock Band, by Troy Andrew, Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Andrew, Troy. The 5 O’clock Band. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. Abrams Books For Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781419728365. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7Q9.

The 5 O’clock Band is an amazing sneak peek into the magical neighborhood of Treme in New Orleans. The reader follows a young boy, Shorty. He is an integral part of a band called, The 5 O’clock Band.  The band would parade throughout the streets of the town playing and ‘living’ the music that they loved, out loud. One day he was late in meeting his band and is thrust on a personal mission as he doubts his ability to be the band leader he longs to be.  On the boy’s journey we meet many influential people who teach the boy about what it takes to be a leader, how to be dedicated, to honor tradition, and to play with heart. Illustrations are a rich blend of water color collage and pen and ink. Treme is brought to life with the vivid color displays from streets to rooftops captured throughout the story.

Verdict: This is a delightful story and would be a great cultural and historical addition to any classroom or library. It can be used to teach theme, perseverance, tradition, culture, community, and dedication.

September 2018 review by Marcy Doyle.

[Editor’s note: The 5 O’Clock Band is a companion to Andrew’s autobiographical picture book, Trombone Shorty, a 2016 Caldecott honor book and winner of the 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.]

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Book review: The Princess and the Pit Stop, by Tom Angleberger, illustrated by Dan Santat

Angleberger, Tom. The Princess and the Pit Stop. Illustrator Dan Santat. Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9781419728488. Unpaged. Ages 5-7. P7Q5.   

She might as well give up’, was a statement that the bold, racecar driving princess wasn’t going to endure. The Princess and the Pit Stop is a fast-paced story involving a princess and a car race. She is competing against beloved fairy tale characters and a doubting Fairy Godmother.  Her Fairy Godmother informs her that she is in last place and she must decide to persevere or simply give up on winning the race. She ends up winning the race and inviting all the famous racers to a ball at her castle. Illustrations pull the young reader in with vivid colors, clean lines, and an early graphic novel, comic book feel.

Verdict: It doesn’t have a strong story line, but young readers will love the heroine princess, action scenes, humor, and favorite fairy tale characters embedded throughout the book.

September 2018 review by Marcy Doyle.

Book review: They Say Blue, by Jillian Tamaki

Tamaki, Jillian. They Say Blue. Abrams Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781419728518. Unpaged. Ages 5-7. P7Q8

They Say Blue is an artistic journey of a little girl as she discovers her world through colors and the connections they make to her life. The author draws the reader to wonder and question their world. Is a blue whale blue? Could purple mean something new? The use of imagery plays with the reader’s sensory perceptions through analogies and the relationship of ideas. Illustrations are bold with deliberate color hues drawing attention to the imaginative displays and mood of the text.

Verdict: Young readers will be enticed by the bold illustrations and playful wonderings of the main character. It would be a great addition to any K-2 library collection and/or used as a mentor text for literacy or art lessons.

September 2018 review by Marcy Doyle.

Book review: Moon, by Alison Oliver

Oliver, Alison. Moon. Clarion Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781328781604. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P8Q8  

Moon is a delightful, fictional story about a young, inquisitive girl, named Moon. Readers are swept on an imaginative adventure, leaving the mundane daily routines of life behind. Moon was overwhelmed with having so much to do after school and wondered what it would be like to be free.  One night, while observing a shooting star, she meets a wolf who takes her into the forest to teach her “wolfy ways”. After returning home, she shares her newly learned ‘wolfy ways’ and infuses the joy of imagination and play into the hearts of her classmates. Illustrations use simple colors of gray, purple, and turquoise hues to tell Moon’s story. The reader is drawn to Moon and the wolf as all other illustration features fall into the background.

Verdict: In a world where we value being ‘busy’, this story is a pleasant reminder of the importance of play and questioning our world. This would be a great addition to any K-2 library and/or read aloud lesson on curiosity, wonder, inquiry, and the joy of play.

September 2018 review by Marcy Doyle.

Book review: Walk Your Dog, by Elizabeth Stevens Omlor, pictures by Neesha Hudson

Omlor, Elizabeth Stevens. Walk Your Dog. Pictures by Neesha Hudson. Penguin Random House LLC, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9780399546525. Unpaged. Ages 3-5. P7Q8   

Nothing is better than a girl and her dog! Walk Your Dog is one girl’s adventure in taking care of her dog using predictable text and heart-warming illustrations. Illustrations are complementary and calming as the reader follows each interaction between the little girl and her dog. The reader can feel the warmth and love between the characters as their actions and expressions are portrayed from page to page.

Verdict: This book would be a great addition to any library or pre-k-1st grade classroom. It is an enjoyable story for young children to read and/or study the illustrations for picture clues relating to character feelings and connections. It is sure to be a class favorite!

September 2018 review by Marcy Doyle.

Book review: Don’t Eat That!, by Drew Sheneman

Sheneman, Drew. Don’t Eat That! Penguin Random House LLC, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781101997291. Unpaged. Ages 3-5. P7Q6   

A young Girl Scout, Gertie, is on a quest to earn a merit badge and meets a hungry brown bear, recently displaced by the local zoo. Gertie quickly learns that teaching a bear how to eat appropriate food is hard work and searches for an easier animal to assist. Gertie and the bear work on their own without success and find themselves together again. She realizes the that kindness and helping others is more important than her merit badge quest. They team up and find successful ways to catch and eat food. It is a simple story with a lovable bear and pun-loving Girl Scout. Illustrations are digitally painted, set in a graphic novel style, and use bold colors to engage the young reader.

Verdict: Young readers will love the bear’s antics and enjoy hearing humorous dialogue between Gertie and the bear, although vocabulary, puns, and inferences might have to be explained to the projected audience. It will be a good addition to any K-2 classroom or library read aloud lesson on friendship, perseverance, and/or teamwork.

September 2018 review by Marcy Doyle.

Book review: Dragon’s Green, by Scarlett Thomas

Thomas, Scarlett. Dragon’s Green. (Worldquake, book one.) Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781481497848. 369 pgs. Ages 9-12. P8Q7

This is a very enjoyable first book in the Worldquake series for middle grade readers. Effie Truelove spends a lot of time with her wonderfully eccentric grandfather, and tries to get him to teach her magic. He is reluctant to do that though, but when he has a mysterious accident and dies, Effie is left a magic ring and some other items (a letter opener, some spectacles, and more). Her grandfather has also written a codicil to his will for Effie, but her father has destroyed it, as well as selling the grandfather’s magical library, which Effie was supposed to receive. Along with a group of misfit friends from school, Effie takes on the role of hero in a dangerous magical adventure. This book has all the elements that make a kids’ fantasy story exciting- a heroic character, a dragon, a quirky school, villains, magic, and danger.  As I read, I wished at times that I knew more about some of the characters- maybe I will get this information as the series continues.

VERDICT: Middle grade students who like fantasy will like this book and its characters. I will be watching for the next one in the series (out in May 2018).

September 2018 review by Carol Schramm.