Book review: Mervin the Sloth Is About to do the Best Thing in the World, by Colleen A.F. Venable, illustrated by Ruth Chan

Venable, Colleen A.F.  Mervin the Sloth Is About to do the Best Thing in the World.  Illustrated by Ruth Chan.  Greenwillow Books, 2016.  $17.99.  ISBN 978-0-06-233847-1.  40 pages.  Ages 4-7.  Q8P8

A silly cute story about Mervin the sloth working up to doing the best thing in the world.  Because he’s a sloth this takes some time, much to the frustration of almost every animal around him.  Watercolor illustrations and simple text depict the other animal’s thoughts of what the best thing in the world could be, all from their perspective.  What does the Gazelle think the best thing in the world is?  Gazelling of course!  But what is the best thing for Mervin?  It’s worth the wait to find out at the end of the story!

Verdict:  Great illustrations and positive message!  This book is fun to read aloud book, and a peaceful sit-and-enjoy-the-pictures book for those children with the patience to do so.

June 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Blue Penguin, by Petr Horáček

Horáček, Petr. Blue Penguin. Candlewick Press, 2016. Unpaged. 15.99. ISBN 9780763692513. Ages 3-6. P7Q7

A single blue penguin is born into a flock of black and white penguins and becomes isolated in his differences.  As the blue penguin sings his songs of loneliness and dreams of a white whale, another penguin listens, learns the songs and becomes a friend.  Other penguins, too, being to listen, which changes the songs from those of loneliness to songs of friendship.  When a huge, white whale responds to the first song, and comes to take the blue penguin away, the other penguins ask him to stay.

Mixed media illustrations use spashes of color in the snowy Antarctic to carry the blue penguin’s sense of isolation and then his growing inclusion in the penguin community.

Verdict: I recommend this story of friendship and community for preschool, elementary, and public library collections.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: In a Cloud of Dust, by Alma Fullerton, art by Brian Dienes

Fullerton, Alma. In a Cloud of Dust. Art by Brian Deines. Pajama Press, 2016. Unpaged. $8.95. ISBN 9781772780000 (pbk). Ages 4-7. P7Q8.

In Tanzania, children who may spend hours walking to the village school have the opportunity to borrow bicycles from the bicycle library.  When the bicycle library truck brings bicycles to the school, Anna, a hardworking student, comes too late to get one of the bicycles.  After she helps her friends learn to ride, Anna’s friend Mohammed shares a ride home with her.  The author’s note gives more information about the importance of reliable transportation to isolated communities in Africa and lists several organizations working to bring bicycles to these communities.

The bright, appealing illustrations carry the joy that the bicycles bring to the students through gold and orange washes, though specifics of the Tanzanian countryside are often lacking.

Verdict: Highly recommended for preschool, elementary and public libraries to increase awareness of life in different cultures and parts of the world.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Come Home, Angus, by Patrick Downes, illustrations by Boris Kulikov

Downes Patrick. Come Home, Angus. Illustrations by Boris Kulikov. Orchard Books/ Scholastic, 2016. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN . Ages 4-6. P6Q8

One day Angus wakes up angry.  His dachshund is slow, his canary is noisy, and his mother makes the pancakes too thin.  As Angus becomes angrier and angrier, he feels bigger and bigger—until he is as big as houses and he runs away from home.  Angus runs a block, two blocks, five blocks, then he stops feeling angry and remembers that he forgot to bring anything to eat.  As Angus becomes a bit scared and lonely, he feels himself growing smaller and smaller.  Fortunately, his mother, who has followed along, arrives just in time with a comforting sardine sandwich.

Artist Kulikov’s mixed media illustrations incorporate acrylic washes, pencil, pen, ink, oil pastel, and black-tea wash to show Angus’s emotional intensity.  As Angus becomes larger with anger, the illustrations show him becoming less real, less distinct than the figures around him.  One technique I found interesting was the use of crosshatching in the oversized pictures of Angus.  It was almost as though Angus was cracking apart as he lost control.  As Angus shrank back to child-size in the city, the streets and people around him took on the textures of unreality.

Verdict: This, along with Molly Bang’s When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry should be available to young children as a way to learn about dealing with anger.  When Angus yells, “Mama, I don’t have to listen to you. I’m mad. I’m madder than mad. I don’t have to be nice,” his mother replies, “In this house, being angry doesn’t let you be rude.”  Setting limits for young children (and even for older children and adults) helps convey that emotions, though powerful, are not all-consuming.  We have a choice in how we handle feelings. Recommended for preschool, elementary and public libraries.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Let’s Go to the Hardware Store, by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Melissa Iwai

Rockwell, Anne. Let’s Go to the Hardware Store. Illustrated by Melissa Iwai. Henry Holt & Co., 2016. $16.99. ISBN 9780805087383. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P7Q7

Flora and her brother go shopping at a hardware store with their father. They have a long list of tools and hardware he needs for fixing up their new house. As they choose the items, some explanation is given as to what the tool does, and there is further information at the bottom of the page about variations on the tools. For example, we see different types of hammers, like framing, tack and sledge. The illustrations are simple, clear, and convey a lot of information. I think most children will enjoy this book because there are so many interesting and useful things in a hardware store.

VERDICT: This book could be useful in an elementary classroom because of its focused vocabulary and clear progression of events.

April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Pete with No Pants, by Rowboat Watkins

Watkins, Rowboat. Pete with No Pants. Chronicle Books, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9781452144016. Unpaged. Ages 2-5. P7Q8

As Pete plays outside, he tries to figure out what he is. At first, he thinks that he’s a boulder, since he is big, gray, and not wearing pants, and that describes a boulder. Then he thinks he’s a squirrel, and then a cloud. While trying to answer this big question, Pete frolics around and tries to engage the flighty squirrels in word games. They aren’t very cooperative, but they do make sarcastic remarks. The quirky illustrations in soft pastel colors provide a wonderful backdrop for this cute story and show Pete’s personality and energy. I loved that Pete’s patient mom appears once in a while and tries to get Pete to put on his pants, and in the end she helps Pete answer his question.

VERDICT: A very cute, sweet story that will entertain little ones and their parents or teachers.

April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Three concept books by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. Black? White! Day? Night!: A Book of Opposites. Roaring Brook Press, 2016.  $14.99. ISBN 9781626722545. Unpaged. Ages 2-6. P7Q8.

This brightly colored book goes through pairs of opposites like black/white, night/day, over/under. It uses a nice “flap” system to show a bit of the picture below it, and when you lift the flap, you see the opposite- some of these are very clever. Young children who are building vocabulary will find the book fun both for testing their vocabulary and for looking at what the simple blocky illustrations are showing them. I normally don’t like children’s books with flaps or tabs for my library since they are so easily damaged, but this one seems sturdy and should last a while!

VERDICT: This is a good bet for younger children who are developing their vocabulary and learning to read. It will be popular in my library. Originally published October 2006.

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. Lemons are Not Red. Roaring Brook Press, 2016. $14.99. ISBN 9781626722538. Unpaged. Ages 2-6. P7Q7

Another book like the previous, but this one is about colors. I have the same comments in general, but this one is on lighter weight paper and unfortunately is not going to hold up as well as Black? White! Day? Night! Originally published in 2004.



Seeger, Laura Vaccari. One Boy. Roaring Brook Press, 2016.  $14.99. ISBN 9781626722521. Unpaged. Ages 2-6. P7Q7

Another book like the previous, but this one is a counting book. I have the same comments in general, but this one is on lighter weight paper and unfortunately is not going to hold up as well as Black? White! Day? Night! Originally published in 2008.


April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.