Book review: Knock Knock, by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Guy Francis

Sauer, Tammi. Knock Knock. Illustrated by Guy Francis. Scholastic Press, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9781338116946. Unpaged. Ages 3-5. P8Q7

A sleepy bear goes to bed, trying to get settled for hibernation. A series of people bang on his door, each with a terrible knock knock joke. We eventually see that it is a plan- it’s a party for bear from his friends, who will miss him during the winter. I thought the illustrations really made the book work. Bear’s face is so expressive, and the rich colors and funny details make you look to see if you’re missing anything.

VERDICT: This will be a popular read-aloud book- maybe not for bedtime, but when parents want to have some fun interaction with their kids.

March 2019 review by Carol Schramm.

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Book review: The Donkey Egg, by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel

Stevens, Janet, and Susan Stevens Crummel. The Donkey Egg. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9780547327679. Ages 4-7. P8Q8

In a return to the characters of the 1995 Caldecott Honor book, Tops & Bottoms, sleepy Bear finds himself the proud owner of a large, green egg purchased from Fox, who assures him that if he keeps it safe and warm, it will hatch into a donkey—just what Bear needs to get his farm back into shape.  Time (as marked by sidebars about seconds, minutes, days) passes and Bear grows fond of the egg. Then disaster strikes and only with the help of friend Hare does Bear finally get his donkey.

Verdict: This story follows the structure of folktales from many lands but is not attributed to any specific origin story. The tall tale silliness paired with comic illustrations of animal characters will appeal to readers and storytime listeners as the tricky Fox gets his comeuppance while honest work wins the day.  Highly recommended for home libraries, preschool, elementary, and public library collections.

March 2019 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Giraffe Asks for Help, by Nyasha Chikowore, illustrated by Janet McDonnell

Chikowore, Nyasha. Giraffe Asks for Help. Illustrated by Janet McDonnell. Magination Press, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781433829468. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q8

Gary is so excited, he is turning six and he thinks he will finally be tall enough to reach the best leaves from the giant acacia trees. When Gary realizes he still cannot reach the leaves, he is discouraged and upset. He tries many different ways to reach the leaves by himself. His friends come along-side him and tell him that they have to ask for help when they need it. When Gary asks them for help, they work together to help him reach the leaves. The colorful whimsical illustrations of animal friends working together are sweet and draw children in. The illustrations are accurate, including the giraffe with a black tongue. The book includes Notes to parents and caregivers on the importance of help-seeking, identifying potential helpers, model help-seeking and encourage empathy.

Verdict: This picture book emphasizes asking for help from a friend or family member. It also has the themes of perseverance, problem solving, friendship and teamwork. I highly recommend this book for elementary school and public libraries.

January 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Try a Little Kindness, by Henry Cole

Cole, Henry. Try a Little Kindness. Scholastic Press, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781338256413. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P7 Q8

Kindness can be fun. Cartoon animal characters show children examples of how to be kind to others. From being the last in line, inviting others to play, sharing one’s toy, telling someone they are special and many more specific ways to show kindness. Some of the animals go a bit too far in showing kindness. Such as, “holding the door for a friend” shows a cat opening the cage for a bird to get out. The illustrations complement the picture book and shows children what each act of kindness looks like. The children will learn as they are being entertained by the comical animals.

Verdict:  When one thinks of acts of kindness, we think of the obvious acts children can do. This picture book is refreshing, adding new ideas that one may not have thought of. One of the acts of kindness is to “be a great ally.” This act can open up a conversation with children on what an ally is and how they can be one. I highly recommend this book for elementary school libraries and public libraries. I will be reading this book in my Character Education class.

January 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Tales from the Inner City, by Shaun Tan

Tan, Shaun. Tales from the Inner City. Arthur A. Levine, 2018. $24.99. 221p. ISBN 978-1-338-29840-6. Ages 12+. P7Q10

“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons.” This quote by Alice Walker introducing the book sets the tone for these 25 pieces completed with masterful full-page paintings. The book begins with “Crocodiles live on the eight-seventh floor,” and my favorite ends with “The cattle are here … with lawyers.” In between the magic never stops. These imaginings of alternative worlds follow Tan’s Tales from Outer Suburbia.

Verdict: This astonishing book displays the power and dignity lacking in humans that displays their relationships in lyrical language, especially seen in the opening sentences for each piece.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Dingo, by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Tannya Harricks

Saxby, Claire. Dingo. Illus. By Tannya Harricks. (Nature Storybook series). Candlewick, 2018. $16.99. 30p. ISBN 978-0-7636-9856-7. Ages 4-8. P8Q8

Oil paint illustrations accompany this blend of scientific facts about the Australian wild dog and a brief story about her leaving the pack to search the forest for food to take back to her five pups. Saxby highlights the dingo’s senses as she pursues and catches a rabbit.

Verdict: The artwork is stunning as it bleeds off the pages; particularly spectacular is seeing just the Dingo’s hind leg. The volume is educational, especially with the index, and entertaining.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Only Way is Badger, by Stella J. Jones, illustrated by Carmen Saldana

Jones, Stella J. The Only Way is Badger. Illustrated by Carmen Saldana. Tiger Tales Press, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9781680100983. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Badger thinks all the animals in the forest need to be like him, so he puts up a wall and kicks out animals that are not like him. Because Badger sounds so sure, his friends don’t question him as they climbed over the fence and leave the forest. Finally, his world is perfect, but is it really? When all his friends are gone, he realizes he is alone. I noticed none of the animals stand up to Badger, they just go along with what he is saying because he acts like he is in authority. The rabbit’s speaking bubble says, “I do not like where this is headed,” but rabbit still goes along with Badger. The animals over the fence call to the other animals and let them know that it is nice on the other side. The illustrations show animals trying to do tasks to fit in. They also show the animals speaking bubbles and what they interject into the story. This book helps children understand that we do not all need to be alike. This book was originally published in Great Britian in 2018.

Verdict: Children often think that their friends need to be like them. Badger shows children that friends are the most important thing. It also models apologizing and saying sorry when you hurt others feelings. If I read this book to children, I would encourage children to explore how the animals might have felt to get kicked out of the forest and if the Badger was doing the right thing throwing them out. I recommend this book for young children.

December 2018 review by Tami Harris.