Book review: Unstinky, by Andy Rash

Rash, Andy.  Unstinky.   Arthur A. Levine /Scholastic, 2018.  $17.99.  ISBN 978-0-439-36880-3. Ages 2-6.     P9/Q9

This book was far and away the most popular one with the toddlers I read to.  The story is about a stink bug (known in scientific circles, I must note, as a shield bug, and illustrated accordingly) named Bud who keeps losing stinking contests because he smells so good.  Appealing to children’s scatological humor, each of Bud’s challenges are illustrated by the various bad things his competitors can smell like, contrasting with is good smells.  Finally, despite his concern that he won’t be accepted, Bud makes friends with a bee who invites him to hang out with the hive.  Soon he finds out that his quality, smelling like flowers, comes to be appreciated by some folks (namely bees).  The story no doubt is encouraging to children who fell like they are misunderstood or don’t fit in, but the joy in the listeners I saw was in recounting things that stink.  I was required to read this book over and over again to a 2 and a 4-year-old.

March 2019 review by Ann Goddard.

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Book review: Family reunion, by Billy Steers

Steers, Billy. Family Reunion.  (Tractor Mac series).  Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013.  $5.99. ISBN 978-0-374-30814-8. Ages 3-5.  P7/Q7

Fans of vehicles (Thomas the Tank Engine) and farms will be particularly drawn to this story (one of a long series) about Tractor Mac.  Mac begins to think that his place is with his kind, all the other tractors in the world.  But after he visits a tractor showroom, he finds out that other tractors would like to have his situation, being one of a kind in a family where everyone has a different role, not just hang out with other tractors.  One of the endpapers has a diagram of Iron Dave, the steam engine, with all of its parts labelled, which will no doubt be appreciated by any train aficionados.  A page of stickers of the book’s characters will be popular, no doubt, with owners of the book, but would hopefully go unnoticed in a classroom or library.

March 2019 review by Ann Goddard.

Book review: Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug, by Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Jay Fleck

Stutzman, Jonathan. Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug. Illustrated by Jay Fleck. Chronicle Books, 2019. $15.99. ISBN  978-1-4521-7033-6. Ages 2-6.  P7/Q7

Tiny the Tyrannosaurus Rex is anything but intimidating in this story.  All he wants to do is learn how to give a hug, but he finds his arms are too small to go around anyone to hug them.  Lots of friends want to help, and they recommend practice, getting strong, and planning a strategy.  He works hard, makes some mistakes, but in the end Tiny finds that he can give big hugs even if his arms don’t do the whole job.  Cute illustrations, including the end papers.  Nice story (though not compelling enough for a toddler to demand repeats), teaching a lesson in getting beyond physical limitations.

March 2019 review by Ann Goddard.

Book review: Bee Calm: The Buzz on Yoga, by Frank J. Sileo, illustrated by Claire Keay

Sileo, Frank J. Bee Calm: The Buzz on Yoga.  Illustrated by Claire Keay.  Magination Press , 2019.  $17.99   ISBN 9781433829574. Ages 4-8.  P7/Q7

Using rhyming couplets, this book introduces the concept of yoga and a few of the poses.   Bentley Bee flies high and spots a number of different animals twisting their bodies into odd positions.  He finds out that they are yoga poses.  The illustrations are sweet and relateable, but they are sometimes hard to make into a yoga pose that anyone would recognize.  Perhaps that’s for the best, as it requires that someone in the room demonstrate the pose, engaging the child listener.   Reading it to a 4-year-old who had been doing some yoga with her mother recently, she eagerly showed me how to do each of the poses.  She said she liked the book, but she didn’t have much to say about it.  The end of the book has ideas for how to use it in introducing yoga to children.  The poses are simple enough that preschoolers can enjoy doing them, and at preschool or at home it should be helpful in getting into the practice.  The book is published by the American Psychological Association in support of children’s emotional health.

March 2019 review by Ann Goddard.

Book review: Sugar and Snails, by Sarah Tsiang, illustrated by Sonja Wimmer

Tsiang, Sarah. Sugar and Snails. Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer. Annick Press, 2018. $18.95. ISBN 9781773210056. Ages 4-7. P8Q9

This funny, pretty book turns gender stereotypes upside down. It’s based on the nursery rhyme that includes, “sugar and spice and everything nice/ that’s what little girls are made of”. With their grandfather, a brother and sister imagine what they might be made of (not at all the stereotypical things girls and boys are supposed to be like). For example, girls are made of snails and rocks… and butterfly socks, and boys are made of lightning and newts… and rubber rain boots. The rhymes get more silly the further we go, and the illustrations more fantastic. We see the rich imaginings of the children, and young readers or listeners will enjoy looking at the funny details.

VERDICT: This is a wonderful book to use when talking with kids about gender stereotypes and individuality. I recommend it for all elementary school and public libraries.

March 2019 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: The Snowy Nap, by Jan Brett

Brett, Jan. The Snowy Nap. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018. $18.99. ISBN 9780399170737. Ages 4-6. P8Q8

Hedgie the hedgehog’s friends come to wish him a good sleep, and talk about sleigh bells, snowflakes, ice skating, and other winter fun. Now he is determined to stay awake so he can see all the beauty of winter. He doesn’t manage to stay awake very long, though, and falls asleep in the path. When the little girl from the cottage brings him inside to warm him up, he has the chance to see winter through the windows. He eventually dozes off again, and the girl puts him in his burrow to hibernate for the winter. As usual, Brett’s illustrations are detailed and lovely. I liked that on the left side of the spread there is a little drawing that shows what already happened, and on the right side, we have a preview of the next spread.

VERDICT: This is a good addition to a collection of picture books about winter and hibernation.

March 2019 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, by David Ezra Stein

Stein, David Ezra. Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise. Candlewick Press, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9780763688424. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P8 Q8

Chicken learned at school about the “Elephant of surprise” in stories. She tells her Papa about this, and he tries to explain about the element of surprise. Chicken doesn’t believe him and insists on reading some favorite stories to find the elephant. Sure enough, they find an elephant in The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid. Then Papa tells a story that surely doesn’t have an elephant in it… I really liked the contrast between the bold, richly colored illustrations where Chicken and Papa are featured, and the old-fashioned, pale illustrations of the storybooks, and the contrast between silly and serious. Sequel to the Caldecott honor book, Interrupting Chicken.

VERDICT: This will make a wonderful read aloud story, and will be popular with parents at my library. I can see this being fun in elementary school classrooms too.

March 2019 review by Carol Schramm.