Book review: Nell Plants a Tree, by Anne Wynter, illustrated by Daniel Miyares

Wynter, Anne. Nell Plants a Tree. Illustrated by Daniel Miyares. HarperCollins, 2023. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 978-0062-865779. Ages 5-9. P8Q8

Through time and with love, this story uses great imagination and colorful graphics to give us a portal to see the tree as a seed and how through time the generations have enjoyed this tree. The illustrations are wonderful and draw you into the story of this family and of the life of the tree.

VERDICT: What an enjoyable journey through time using the lens of the tree and the person who planted it. The soft and colorful artwork brings this story to life.

Review by Lynne Wright.


[Note: Pen and ink, gouache, and collage illustrations combine with lyrical descriptions to braid timeline stories of Nell, an African American girl who plants and nurtures a tiny tree, and the succeeding generations of her family who enjoy the shade and pecans that the large tree produces.]

Book review: The Library Fish Learns to Read, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Gladys Jose

Capucilli, Alyssa Satin. The Library Fish Learns to Read. Illustrated by Gladys Jose. Simon and Schuster, 2023. Unpaged. $18.99. ISBN 978-15344-77070. Ages 4-8. P10Q10

The library fish happily lives in its bowl on the librarian’s desk and enjoys seeing the patrons wander in and out. Children sit and read, and it looks like so much fun, the library fish wants to learn to read, too. All night long she would sit with books and over time she learns to read. The illustrations are fun and upbeat, showing a lively library and good times.

VERDICT: This was a fun sequel to The Library Fish book. It was great how it touched on that not everyone knows how to read, and how with dedication and looking at illustrations, even the library fish could read. Definitely a great addition to any collection.

Review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: Mega-Predators of the Past, by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Howard Gray

Stewart, Melissa. Mega-Predators of the Past. Illustrated by Howard Gray. Peachtree Books, 2022. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 978-168263-1096. Ages 4-8. P9Q9

This large, colorful book focuses on lesser known but equally fierce prehistoric predators with fabulous and less fancy names like, “Terror Birds” and the “Giant Ripper Lizard” instead of the ubiquitous T. rex. Who doesn’t want to hear about those? There is also great information and illustrations about each one, and on the final pages it compares by size the predators highlighted. It also covers a couple of species present today.

VERDICT: This is a fun book. It covers animals not usually illustrated, and it also has a sense of humor in the writing. The colors and shapes are big and bold, just as we like to see them in our books about prehistoric creatures.  

Review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: Dragons are the Worst!, by Alex Willan

Willan, Alex. Dragons are the Worst! Simon & Schuster, 2021. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781534485112. Ages 4-8. P8 Q9  

From the glittery, bumpy texture of the cover to the humorous ending of the book, children will be entranced and entertained as Gilbert the Goblin explains why dragons are the worst. Gilbert the Goblin introduces the reader to a wall of portraits of goblins, explaining that even though goblins have been around for ages, people only care about dragons! Gilbert wants to be fierce, like dragons, but the country folk all think that Gilbert is cute. Gilbert elaborately and comically narrates why dragons are not scary and the disadvantages of dragons (they have lots of teeth to floss, hats are hard to fit due to spiky horns). How can Gilbert convince them that goblins are fierce? In the end, the country folk are fearful of Gilbert, but not for the reason Gilbert envisions. The large whimsical illustrations include Gilbert’s comparison of goblins and dragons, a labeled diagram of a goblin, and a full-page illustration of a “fearful” goblin.

Verdict: The cutest book ever! I enjoyed the book so much I purchased the prequel, Unicorns are the Worst. This humorous, creative, colorful, imaginative adventure is sure to be a child’s favorite.

Review by Harris.

Book review: When Langston Dances, by Kaija Langley, illustrated by Keith Mallett

Langley, Kaija. When Langston Dances. Illustrated by Keith Mallett. “A Denene Millner Book.” Simon and Schuster, 2021. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781534485198. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

When Langston Dances is both inspirational and beautiful. Langston, who is African–American, loves to dance and play basketball. He performs ballet at Alvin Ailey Dance Company, enjoys the hip hop of the African dance, but is teased by a boy who tells him, “Boys don’t dance like that.” Langston is not deterred and remembers his mother’s advice that he can be successful at whatever he sets his mind to. Large full-page size illustrations show Langston shooting a basket, dancing in his basketball uniform, and working hard at ballet. Langston’s joy shines from his heart as his dancing skills progress. Langston’s joy and self-confidence jump off the page and infuse the reader’s heart with joy.

Verdict: Children will be inspired by Langston and realize that they can follow their passions to be whatever they want to be regardless of gender stereotypes. I gifted this book to a fellow librarian whose whole family is involved in dance. She read it to all of her library classes and reported that the book was “inspirational” and “engaging.”

Review by Harris.

Book review: A Smile, attributed to Raoul Follereau, illustrated by Hoda Hadadi

Follereau, Raoul. A Smile. Illustrated by Hoda Hadadi. Pajama Press, 2021. Unpaged. $19.95. ISBN 9781772782271. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

How do you describe a smile and the positive impact it creates? Poetic lyrics and colorful friendship-themed paper collage matte illustrations describe and show the effect of a smile. Children also learn empathy and how acts of kindness can change lives. Colorful illustrations follow the poetic text, showing families and friends smiling and interacting. The end pages provide information regarding the life of Raoul Follereau, who passed away in 1997. The “cover and book design were based on the original by Rachel Lawston.”

Verdict: Young children will enjoy hearing the positive impact of smiling. Follereau provides specific guidance to youth on how they can change the world by smiling and showing kindness. Themes include empathy and caring, highlighting showing kindness to people who may not show kindness back. Highly recommend for social emotional lessons or classroom libraries for young children.

Review by Harris.

[Note: “A modern translation of the poem ‘Un sourire’ (‘A Smile’) by Raoul Follereau, which celebrates the power of a smile–something that costs nothing but provides so much value to the recipient.”–Publisher description. “This text has been faithfully adapted from the French poem ‘Un sourire,’ attributed to Raoul Follereau in the collection Le livre d’amour, published in 1920.”–title page verso.]

Book review: Yoshi and the Ocean: A Sea Turtle’s Incredible Journey Home, by Lindsay Moore

Moore, Lindsay. Yoshi and the Ocean: A Sea Turtle’s Incredible Journey Home. Greenwillow Books, 2022. Unpaged. $18.99. ISBN 9780063060982. Ages 4-9. P9Q9

This picture book tells the remarkable true story of Yoshi, a loggerhead turtle. A small, injured Yoshi is rescued by a Japanese fishing vessel and taken to Two Oceans Aquarium in South Africa to recover. Yoshi was a beloved attraction at the aquarium for twenty years. After staff noticed restless behavior, Yoshi was fitted with a tracking device and returned to the ocean. The book chronicles her amazing journey all the way back to Australian waters where femaleloggerhead sea turtles return to lay their eggs. The illustrations in the book are amazing and include pictures, maps, and labeled diagrams. The backmatter is a book unto itself, full of amazing scientific facts about the journey, loggerhead sea turtles, and the ocean.

Verdict: this is a must for the library and the classroom. Full of interesting scientific vocabulary, teachers can use this book when studying turtles, the ocean, or how scientists use tracking devices to gain information.

Book review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: The littlest elephant, by Kate Read

Read, Kate. The Littlest Elephant. Peachtree Publishing, 2022. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781682634943. Ages 3-5. P9Q9

This bright beautiful picture book features a social-emotional story dealing with concepts of shared spaces and boundaries. Ellie the elephant is in a big hurry to get to the pool, and steps on lots of toes as she bounds through the jungle. Along the way she disturbs many creatures including the monkeys, spiders, butterflies and birds. Ellie is stopped in her tracks after a run in with the tiger. Ellie listens, and proceeds with patience as all the jungle friends head to the pool together. Painting, cutting, dyeing, printing and drawing are used in illustrations that make the characters jump off the page as you read.

Verdict:  This sweet book is perfect for introducing children to the importance of personal space. It is a great story time book for the library. Teachers will want to share with in their preschool and kindergarten classrooms.

Book review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Your Friend, Parker, by Parker Curry and Jessica Curry, illustrated by Brittany Jackson and Tajae Keith

Curry, Parker, and Jessica Curry. Your Friend, Parker. Illustrated by Brittany Jackson and Tajae Keith. (Ready to read series). Simon Spotlight, 2022. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781665902595. Ages 5-6. P8Q8

This Level One Ready to Read story features Parker Curry, the six year old New York Times bestselling author who wrote Parker Looks Up. In this autobiographical story Parker and her family are headed on a road trip, and Parker decides to write letters to her best friend Gia as she travels. Parker writes of traveling to Georgia and New Mexico. Included are details of going to an aquarium and attending a lantern festival. The backmatter features “A Friendship of Two Writers: Zora Neale Hurston and Dorothy West,” two writers from the Harlem Renaissance who were  friends and enjoyed writing letters to each other. The last paragraph encourages the reader to write their own letter to a friend.

Verdict: A book for both the library and K-1 classroom. Young students will appreciate the easy sight words and the story line. Teachers can use this as an introduction to letter writing.

Book review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Big truck little island, by Chris Van Dusen

Van Dusen, Chris. Big Truck Little Island. Candlewick Press, 2022. Unpaged. $17.99 ISBN 9781536203936. Ages 3-7. P9Q9

What do you do when a big truck blocks all the local traffic on a small island? Read Big Truck Little Island by Chris Van Dusen to find out! This delightful story is clever, engaging, and mostly true! Each page features two rhyming couplets that flawlessly tell the story of traffic that is being held up by a very big truck. The beautifully painted illustrations contain lots of details inviting the readers to spend time looking at each page. The theme of cooperation shines through and makes for a very good story. The backmatter includes an author’s note that explains the actual incident the book is based on.

Verdict: This is a great book for the library, as it is a perfect story time book. It is also perfect for the classroom, as teachers will appreciate the cooperation theme.

Book review by Denyse Marsh.