Book review: Hare and Tortoise, by Alison Murray

Murray, Alison. Hare and Tortoise. Candlewick Press, 2016. $16.99. ISBN 9780763687212. Unpaged. Ages 2-5. P7Q8

The author/ illustrator used lively digital art to illustrate this adaptation of the traditional Aesop’s fable. I enjoyed the modern style- I could hear a sports commentator as I read about the progress of the race, and I liked the “scientific” illustrations and descriptions of each animal. Small children will find the artwork fun and easy to understand, and will enjoy the occasional rhymes. There isn’t a lot of time spent dealing with the moral of the story, but Tortoise is a good winner and invites Hare to join him in the lettuce patch at the end.

VERDICT: This is a solid, engaging book that will be a popular choice in the children’s room at my library.

September 2018 review by Carol Schramm.


Book review: Good Dog, by Dan Gemeinhart

Gemeinhart, Dan. Good Dog. Scholastic, 2018. 290 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-1-338-05388-3. Gr. 5+. P8 Q8

Brodie, a dog, dies leaving behind Aidan, the boy that he loves. Brodie’s love is so strong that he cannot go on to the next world till he knows that Aiden is safe. Brodie is given the opportunity to go to pet heaven but he chooses to return to Earth. Here, other animals have chosen to stay behind, but they can only do so by stealing parts of the soul of those who have returned. The story is told through a series of flashbacks that help the reader see how miserable Aiden’s life is. Three dogs are after pieces of Brodie’s soul and chase him through the city to capture it. This is a fast paced story with twists and turns throughout.

Verdict: There would be lots of discussion if this book were read out loud to a class. There are many teachable moments in the story as well. The moral to this story is good will win out.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Llama Llama Loves to Read, by Anna Dewdney and Reed Duncan, illustrated by JT Morrow

Dewdney, Anna, and Reed Duncan. Llama Llama Loves to Read. Illustrated by JT Morrow. “An Anna Dewdney book.” Viking, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9780670013975. Unpaged. Ages 2 and up. PP9Q10

This adorable over-sized picture book is sure to be a favorite of emerging readers! Each page features rhyming text that is perfectly crafted into a fun, meaningful narrative. The book follows young Llama to school and carefully explains letters, the alphabet, words, spelling and sentences. The illustrations bring each page to life with colorful pictures of a class of young animals with a zebra teacher learning to read. There are lots of opportunities in the book for young readers to sound out simple words and practice right along with Llama. My favorite line in the book states “Words have magic power indeed.” It is a celebration of literacy!

VERDICT: This book belongs in classrooms, libraries, and at home as it drives home the message that reading is fun!

May 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.


[Editor’s note: Though credited to Anna Dewdney, this book was published posthumously with co-author Reed Duncan.  Though the characters and illustrations are faithful to the original Llama Llama books, the plot and text could have benefited from the careful attention of the beloved author.  As a picture book introducing young readers to school and reading classes, this is still a worthwhile addition to kindergarten, elementary and public library collections.]

Book review: Albert’s Tree, by Jenni Desmond

Desmond, Jenni. Albert’s Tree. Candlewick Press, 2016. $15.99. ISBN 9780763696887. Unpaged. Ages 3-8. P7Q7

Do you have a favorite tree? Well, Albert, a bear, does, and after a long winter’s nap he can’t wait to get back to it. However, something is different. Albert’s tree is crying. This sweet story follows Albert and his forest friends as they try to cheer the tree up. When nothing works, Albert is ready to try one last idea, he hugs his tree. In the calm the hug brings, Albert gets a big surprise: it’s not the tree that is crying, it is an owl in the tree. The two become friends, which makes the tree twice as good.

VERDICT: I can see this book being used in a classroom to talk about friends, and how friends can come in all shapes and sizes.

May 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Leap!, by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon

Lawson, JonArno. Leap! Illus. Josée Bisaillon. Kids Can Press, 2017. $16.99. unp. ISBN: 978-1-77138-678-4. Gr. 1+. P8 Q8

On a farm a flea leaps into the air and lands on a grasshopper who then leaps onto a rabbit’s nose, which causes it to leap. This leaping circle ends when the flea sees a chance to land on a dog, who then lays down to sleep. The rhyming text is easy to read and carries the reader through this leaping adventure. The illustrations are done in mixed media and made me laugh as each animal or bug is startled into leaping.

Verdict: Children will love this book as the animals on the farm start to leap from one place to another. My favorite was the startled horse who rears back on his hind legs before leaping a fence.

July 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Little Elliot, Big Fun, by Mike Curato

Curato, Mike. Little Elliot Big Fun. Henry Holt and Company, 2018. unp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-8050-9827-3. Gr. K+. P8 Q8

Young children face difficulties each day, some even when it is supposed to be a fun day. Elliot and his best friend Mouse face just such a day. Elliot is excited about going to an amusement park with Mouse, his BFF, he just didn’t know how frightening it can be. The water ride, Elliot can’t swim. The fast rotating wheel will cause Elliot to get to dizzy and he could fall. When offered a red balloon, Elliot is thrilled, till he sees the grinning clown behind the balloon. Frightened, he runs, getting into many difficult situations. When Elliot can run no more he stops under a boardwalk close to the ocean, where Mouse finally finds him. Elliot calms down and Mouse finds a ride that is not fast or scary and Elliot discovers that the rides can be fun. The friendship of the two is further cemented when they both agree that the best part of the day “was spending time with you.” The illustrations are pencil on paper drawings that were digitally colored and showcase the friends’ trip. There is one double page fold out illustration that shows Elliot and Mouse enjoying a ride together.

Verdict: Sharing this book with young children who have never been to an amusement park can help them be better prepared for what they might find. This is the third book featuring  Elliot and Mouse.

July 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Sami, the Samurai Squirrel: Welcome to Woodbriar, by Scott McMahon

McMahon, Scott. Sami, the Samurai Squirrel: Welcome to Woodbriar. Action Lab, 2017. $9.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-63229-353-4. Ages 7-9. P8Q6

After Sami loses her homeland, she finds a new home in a small village where she protects the inhabitants, including Bea the Bumblebee fairy, Doctor Krizzel, Bloop, and Doug Bunny in their quest to save Woodbriar from the ghost Visper. Along the way, they face off Cyber-Yeti, ninja monkeys, and a pirate gang in a variety of action and comedy.

Verdict: A pleasant romp.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.