Book review: Thanks a Ton!, by Sabrina Moyle, illustrated by Eunice Moyle

Moyle, Sabrina. Thanks A Ton! Illustrated by Eunice Moyle. “A Hello! Lucky Book.” Abrams Appleseed, 2020. Unpaged. $17.00. ISBN 9781419743344. Unpaged. Ages 3-6. P7 Q5

There are so many ways one can say thank you. Told in first person, a cute gender-neutral elephant dressed in overalls brings a letter to the mailbox with a note to say “thank you for helping me the other day.” The elephant shares a multitude of ways to express gratitude for what others have done. Animal words such as: silly cockatoo, big baboon, holy moly cow, huge walrus, and even underwear are in large font. Each two-page spread states the act one did for the elephant and then the elephant responds in a rhyme that includes an animal name. For example, “And how about this CROCODILE…for the time you made me smile?” The last page includes a pull out that opens up into a large page including all the animals in the book. The illustrations show the elephant’s thinking bubble, which shows acts of kindness. Illustrations were created digitally.

Verdict: This rhyming thankful book makes a great read aloud due to large spacious illustrations, cute animals and simple text. The use of animals makes it fun, but doesn’t really make literal sense. However, it is whimsical and gets the point of thankfulness across. Children will gravitate to the silliness and the animals. As a linear thinking person, I struggled to find the correlation between the animals and thankfulness.

February 2021 review by Harris.

Book review: Milo’s Christmas Parade, by Jennie Palmer

Palmer, Jennie. Milo’s Christmas Parade. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020. Unpaged. $18.00. ISBN 9781419744990. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Christmas parades are so much fun! Milo, a opossum, and his passel never missed the Christmas parade. While his family comes for the food that is dropped, Milo loves the parade itself and dreams of being in the parade. Milo sets forth to make a float for the parade. Will Milo be included this year? Red asterisks at the end of some of the sentences are placed in another place on the page explaining a bit more for the reader. The Christmas themed artwork was made using pencil, ink, watercolor, and digital tools. Includes an author’s note which explains that the book is dedicated to the Macy’s studio crew for all the work they do to prepare for the yearly parade. Before making books, the author worked as a production designer for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Verdict: This Christmas tale brings hope that dreams can come true. The author’s experience as a production designer is evident in the behind the scene adventure that Milo has as he creates his float. Children can see how one works towards a dream by making plans, teamwork, not giving up, growth mindset and making the best of what they have. This is a fun picture book for Christmas.

February 2021 review by Harris.

Book review: Julián at the Wedding, by Jessica Love

Love, Jessica. Julián at the Wedding. Candlewick Press, 2020. $17.00. Unpaged. ISBN 9781536212389. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7   

It is so exciting to be in a wedding! Cousins Julian and Marisol get to be in a wedding. They meet the brides and their dog, Gloria. After the brides kiss, Julian, Marisol and Gloria venture out and explore a fairy house. When Marisol’s dress gets dirty, Julian has a plan. This illustration forward picture book has simple sentences and resembles a wordless book on most of the pages. The rich colored matte illustrations are on brown paper with Black and Afro-Latinx characters. Julian is the main focus and shows selflessness towards Marisol. This is a follow up to Julian is a Mermaid.

Verdict: The explanation of a wedding as a “celebration for love” is fantastic. It shows the joy of family and richness of one’s heritage. The wordless format allows for the reader to absorb the events and to write the narrative themselves. This age appropriate LGBT+ book for children emphasizes that love and gender is expanse and not limited. I am adding this book to the rainbow corner in my elementary school library.

February 2021 review by Harris.

Book review: Sheepish (Wolf Under Cover), by Helen Yoon

Yoon, Helen. Sheepish (Wolf Under Cover). Candlewick Press, 2021. $18.00. Unpaged. ISBN 9781536207323. Ages 4-8. P8 Q8

A wolf hiding in sheep’s wool “scoot, scoot, scoots” to infiltrate a sheep’s building. Shhh, don’t tell. The wolf thinks no one suspects, but the illustrations show the sheep hiding under the table. The wolf has a master plan: be helpful, be handy, be fun and friendly, be a team player, and of course, be the sheepiest sheep. While the wolf is being helpful, it’s goal is consuming a lovely sheep dinner and he has a sheep in various meals in his thinking bubble. However, his plan does not go as desired so he goes back to the drawing board. Illustrations are done in detailed mixed media and the wolf is made of a collage of hair, which makes it look textured and realistic. The illustrations add elements to the story that are key and add humor. Light is used in a unique way, including the shadow of the wolf.

Verdict: Fun read aloud with cute colorful farm sheep themed illustrations. The ending is sweet and shows the result of kind action. I highly recommend and think children will gravitate towards this book.

February 2021 review by Harris.

Book review: That Missing Feeling, by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Morena Forza

VanDerwater, Amy Ludwig. That Missing Feeling. Illustrated by Morena Forza. Magination Press, 2021. $17.00. Unpaged. ISBN 9781433833786. Ages 4-8. P6 Q7

It can be an adjustment when parents get a divorce. When Mia’s parents get a divorce, Luna and Toby, Mia’s pets, have to split up. Luna lives with Mia’s mom and Toby lives with Mia’s dad. Mia lives at both places. As one follows Mia, they learn what it is like for children to spend part of the time at their mom’s house and part at their dad’s house. Mia shares what she misses when she is at the other parent’s house and how she misses time together with both parents. Included is her feelings, such as “when she is angry she yells” and “when she is sad she cries” and “sometimes she holds her feelings in.” Her grandpa gives her a notebook and explains that “when we write and draw, we can think about life, and that when life changes, writing helps.” Grandpa shows her all of his notebooks and tells her that when she has that missing feeling, she can write in her notebook. Bright illustrations on glossy paper match the text and show Mia as she adjusts to her parents’ divorce. The author’s note explains how to keep your own notebook along with a few ideas to get started. Keeping a notebook can help us understand more about our brains and hearts.

Verdict: This book is helpful for children whose parents have divorced and are split between two households. The addition of the pets, softens the content and adds some comfort and familiarity. The feelings match what one might be feeling and the strategy of a notebook is helpful. I recommend this book to help children adjust to their new environments.

February 2021 review by Harris.

Book review: Pockets Full of Rocks, by Yair Engleberg, illustrated by MacKenzie Haley

Engleberg, Yair. Pockets Full of Rocks. Illustrated by MacKenzie Haley. Magination Press, 2021. $17.00. Unpaged. ISBN 9781433831096. Ages 4-7. P5 Q6

Depression can impact children, especially when they do not understand what is going on. Ella’s dad stays in bed all day and her mommy has to do everything. The author includes a photo comparison of her dad then and now, showing him smiling before and not smiling now. Ella’s dad explains how depression makes him sad and tired. Ella asks her dad if that is why he does not want to play with her. He explains that he wants to and that she has not done anything wrong. He asks her to imagine how it would feel to have a pocket full of rocks. The message conveyed is that depression can be managed by talking, visiting with a therapist, exercising, taking medicine, and that it’s not Ella’s job to fix him. He tells her that hugs fill him with strength and love. The brightly colored illustration shows Ella sitting on her dad’s lap. Includes a Reader’s Note: talking to children about depression, welcome all feelings, answer questions honestly, reassure them of your love, don’t be afraid to ask for help, coping with depression, therapy, family and friends, medication, and exercise. The title is fitting and accurate. The author lives in Israel.

Verdict: The use of daddy/mommy makes it seem like it could be for younger children. The story follows the reader’s note step-by-step, which is helpful and models what the author advises. This book gives appropriate language for families who deal with depression. I do not see children gravitating to this book, but it is successful for the audience it is intended. I especially like the illustration of rocks in the dad’s pocket, which children will be able to relate to.

February 2021 review by Harris.

Book review: Brown: The Many Shades of Love, by Nancy Johnson James, illustrated by Constance Moore

James, Nancy Johnson. Brown: The Many Shades of Love. Illustrated by Constance Moore. Cameron Kids, 2020. $16.00. Unpaged. ISBN 9781944903985. Ages 3-5. P5 Q7

There are so many shades of brown. Written in first person, a child compares a variety of brown skin colors that their family members have. The comparison includes chocolate, autumn leaf, and cinnamon. Each two-page spread includes a portrait of a family member on one page and a sentence describing the shade of brown represented. The main theme is that even though everyone has a different shade of brown, they are still the same. The last page has hand written in brown, list of words that one can use to describe a shade of brown. The illustrations resemble painted portraits and accurately show the shade of brown that it is compared to.

Verdict: This celebration of a variety of browns represented in a family will assure children that although a variety of shades of brown are in their family, they are all connected. The use of mama and daddy makes it more relatable to young children. The familiar words used for comparison allow children to envision quickly and accurately the shade of brown described.

February 2021 review by Harris.

Book review: The Not-So-Scary Dog, by Alanna Propst, illustrated by Michelle Simpson

Propst, Alanna. The Not-So-Scary Dog. Illustrated by Michelle Simpson. Magination Press, 2021. $17.00. Unpaged. ISBN 9781433832048. Ages 4-8. P6 Q7

There are several strategies to ease anxiety. Tommy is invited to a birthday party; the only problem is that his friend has a dog. Tommy’s mom says that she “gets how he feels” and that she tried “exposure” a “technique” that she will show him using small steps, nice and slow. In Tommy’s thinking bubble, the dog is large and ferocious. Tommy starts by viewing a dog online and ends up petting a dog. In the end, Tommy is approached by a girl who is afraid of dogs. The illustrations show racially diverse children and a child in a wheelchair. Words that explain the anxiety that Tommy feels and words such as “feeling brave and strong” when he overcomes his fear are included. Includes Reader’s note, defines anxiety, exposure therapy, share own experience with anxiety, plan your list of tasks, and to be present to support and encourage your child. The matte illustrations are not flashy, but they accurately portray what Tommy is going through and add an element that enhances the text.

Verdict: Although this is a rhyming book, it also has a lot of technical language, so it does not flow like a picture book. It is clearly intended to help children use exposure therapy to ease their anxiety and then to help others with what one struggles with. The story follows the strategies in the “reader’s note” almost step-by-step. If exposure therapy is a technique that you want to use with your child, this book will give you specific vocabulary and techniques.

February 2021 review by Harris.

Book review: We Disagree, by Bethanie Deeney Murguia

Murguia, Bethanie Deeney. We Disagree. Beach Lane Books, 2020. $18.00. Unpaged. ISBN 9781534438804. Ages 3-8. P7 Q6

Do friends always need to agree? Mouse and Squirrel do not agree on most things. However, when they realize that they agree that they do not agree, the relationship between them changes. The illustrations are essential since the only words in the book are the dialogue between the two animals. The words get bigger as their discussion gets a bit heated and the illustrations show them getting a bit upset. The illustrations were rendered with India ink, poster paints, and block printing and were finished digitally and set against expanses of white negative space. The text is hand-lettered. Mouse who likes blue has a blue backgrounded speech balloon and Squirrel has a red speech balloon. This format is successful as it focuses on the dialogue between the two animals.

Verdict: As children are learning about friendships, they often think that friends have to agree to get along. This humorous rhyming book featuring a mouse and squirrel show children that it is okay to disagree and still be friends. This is a good book to introduce individuating and thinking for oneself instead of following what others do. It allows for a discussion on how it feels when one disagrees. This makes for a successful read aloud since the words are simple and the illustrations are large. For older children, one can point out that the whole story is written in speech balloons. Great for siblings.

February 2021 review by Harris.

Book review: Home for a While, by Lauren H. Kerstein, illustrated by Natalia Moore

Kerstein, Lauren H. Home for A While. Illustrated by Natalia Moore. Magination Press, 2021. $16.99. Unpaged. ISBN 9781433831874. Ages 4-8. P6 Q7

What goes on inside the heads of children who have to move from home to home to find a safe environment to live in? Calvin carries a suitcase as he walks up stairs to Maggie. As Calvin settles into his new home, his inner dialogue plagues him with negativity.  When it is time for Calvin to get tucked into bed, Maggie asks if she can hug him. He says, “no.” When he bounces a basketball in the house to expend the negative energy he has inside, he breaks a vase. What will Maggie’s reaction be? As Calvin adjusts to living with Maggie, he feels a wide range of feelings, including anger, self-doubt, and uncertainty. Maggie gives him strategies to regulate his feelings. Calvin and Maggie’s words are a different color than the rest of the text, which sets them apart. The visual of Calvin walking up the stairs shows the effort it takes for Calving to integrate into Maggie’s home. The illustrations are colorful and on glossy paper. Children will see the anger, uncertainty and desire to be loved in the illustrations of Calvin as he adjusts to another home he is placed in. A link to the author’s note on supporting the emotions of children in temporary care is available.

Verdict: Children who have been moved from place to place will relate to what Calvin is going through. Adults who are foster parents or who adopt will find this book valuable and can use it to relate to the children they take into their home. It is realistic and does not promise that the child will stay at the home forever. I appreciate that the caretaker has dark skin and the child needing taken care of has white skin.

Not all children will relate to this book, but it is valuable for its intended audience.

February 2021 review by Harris.