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: A Friend for Mole, by Nancy Armo

Armo, Nancy. A Friend for Mole. Peachtree, 2016. $16.95. ISBN 9781561458653. Unpaged. Ages 2-6. P8Q7

Mole gets disoriented when he ventures out above ground. He finds a hiding place under a bush, and meets Wolf, who is afraid of the dark. They make a plan to help each other, and while passing the time become fast friends. The simple watercolor illustrations aren’t too busy on the page and make following the story from a distance an easy thing. Even the end papers are cute! Children who understand being afraid of something will like this sweet story.

VERDICT: Armo’s book will be a popular checkout among parents with young children. It will make a good bedtime story.

April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Porcupine’s Picnic: Who Eats What?, by Betsy R. Rosenthal, illustrated by Guisi Capizzi

Rosenthal, Betsy R. Porcupine’s Picnic: Who Eats What?  Illustrated by Giusi Capizzi. Millbrook Press, 2017. $19.99. ISBN 9781467795197. Unpaged. Ages 6-11. P8 Q8

Different animals from all different habitats come to join a porcupine who is eating clover for a picnic. Illustrated in a cute way, each animal joining the porcupine is asked to explain what they eat with talk bubbles. The book gives limited examples of what each animal eats. At the end, the author includes a page about herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. The author also shares about animals eating their own poop, which may excite a young reader. It is a cute introduction to the concept of animals eating different things and a beginning of the scientific classifications.

Verdict: It is a good addition to a library.

May 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.


Book review: Little Fox, Lost, by Nicole Snitselaar, illustrated by Alicia Padron

Snitselaar, Nicole. Little Fox, Lost. Illustrated by Alicia Padron. Pajama Press, 2016. $15.95. ISBN: 1772780049. 32 pages. Picture book. Ages 3-6 years. P5 Q7

Little fox gets lost in the woods one day. A friendly owl offers to help him find his way home, but instead he remembers his mother’s advice and does not accept help from a stranger because she promised that if he was ever lost she would find him. As she promised, the mother fox finds her son and brings him home.

Verdict: This book has lovely illustrations and will likely keep the attention of young children who are being read to. This story has been translated from French, and it seems as though some of the significance of the story gets lost in translation. Instead of coming across as a book about a mother’s love it seems more to stress not accepting help from others.

December 2016 review by Victoria Harris.

[Editor’s note: This story’s protagonist, a resourceful little fox, gets lost, but remember’s his mother’s words about stranger danger and finds a safe place to wait until his mother comes to find him.  Cute subtly shaded watercolor pictures of the small fox among the snowy forest trees show other animals watching over the lost kit as he waits.]

Book review: Good Night, Bat! Good Morning, Squirrel, by Paul Meisel

Meisel, Paul. Good Night, Bat! Good Morning, Squirrel. Boyds Mills Press, 2016. $16.95. ISBN 9781629794952. 40 pages. Ages 4-8. P7 Q8

Bat needs a home. He asks several animals but none of them have room for him. He spots a home that he thinks looks perfect. Squirrel wakes up and finds Bat in her home. Squirrel leaves a note for Bat to leave. Bat misunderstands the letter, responds kindly and sets off for the day. Several exchanges of squirrel leaving unkind notes for Bat and Bat misunderstanding the note, then responding kindly and doing kind deeds for squirrel. By the end of the story, squirrel realizes how kind Bat is and starts to miss him. Squirrel invites Bat to live with him.

Verdict: This is a fun book that shows the innocence of Bat, not realizing he is bothering Squirrel by living with him. It is a good book that shows friendship between the two animals. I recommend this book for elementary libraries.

December 2016 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Marta! Big & Small, by Jen Arena, illustrated by Angela Dominguez

Arena, Jen. Illustrated by Angela Dominguez. Marta! Big & Small. Roaring Book Press, 2016. $16.99. ISBN 9781626722439. Unp. Ages 2-6. P7Q7

Marta! Big & Small is a study of opposites and an introduction to the Spanish language through the animal world. The text is formulaic, providing each animal’s foremost characteristic as it equates to Marta. Marta is an “ordinary girl.” So, “To a rabbit, Marta is ruidosa. Loud, very loud. To a snake, Marta is sabrosa. Tasty, very tasty.” All Spanish vocabulary is defined in the text, reiterated with illustrations after the story, and presented in a glossary at back of the book. To children familiar with Dora the Explorer, Marta is a familiar character. She is a Spanish speaking girl with a purple backpack who explores the natural world and introduces vocabulary.

Verdict: This is a fine introduction to Spanish that is simple enough for very young children to memorize. The repetition of the vocabulary is helpful. Marta is not necessarily a unique character; this may be a plus for fans of Dora the Explorer. It is a good addition to public libraries and elementary classroom Spanish units.

May 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Jamal’s Journey, by Michael Foreman

Foreman, Michael. Jamal’s Journey. Andersen Press, 2017. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-5124-3949-6. Ages 5-8. P7Q7

Soft double-page watercolor and pencil illustrations highlight the sweet story of a young camel separated in a sandstorm from his parents and owners. Jamel, the root Arabic word for “camel” that means “beauty,” becomes more and more afraid until a falcon leads him back to safety. That would be enough for a quality story, but Foreman tacks on their journey into a bustling marketplace in Dubai and an imaginary future.

Verdict: Although the culture of the desert may be of interest to young readers, there is little suspense, and little ones may find the book a bit slow. Discovering the caravan would also have made a far better ending because the city scene appears to be an afterward. The colors of the background are rich, but the specific drawings are a bit rough.

April 2017 review by Nel Ward.