Book review: Mad, Mad Bear!, by Kimberly Gee

Gee, Kimberly. Mad, Mad Bear! Beach Lane Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781481449717. Unpaged. Ages 3-5. P7 Q7

Bear gets mad because he has to leave the park first, then he gets an owie on the way home and has to leave his boots and favorite stick outside. He doesn’t feel it is fair and he gets mad! After he throws a tantrum, he takes a deep breath, has a snack and takes a nap. When Bear wakes up, he feels better. Simple text and large illustrations follow Bear as he goes through the process of getting mad and calming down. Some words are red and large, emphasizing them. Illustrations show Bear’s facial expressions, giving the listener clues to how Bear is feeling. The book is designed to be read to small children.

Verdict: If you have child who gets mad often, this book will provide some simple strategies and show that they can recover from their mad feelings. I recommend this book for small children and public libraries.

November 2018 review by Tami Harris.

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Book review: Rosetown, by Cynthia Rylant

Rylant, Cynthia. Rosetown. Beach Lane Books, 2018. 149 pages. $16.99. ISBN 9781534412774. Ages 8-12. P7Q9

In 1972, life in small town Indiana is good for 9 year old Flora Smallwood, but change comes with the death of her dog, her parents’ decision to have separate households, and entering fourth grad.  Even the three times a week visit to her favorite used bookshop fails to cheer her up.  With the help of her old best friend and a new friend from Ukraine, Flora finds her way.

Verdict: Flora is a bookish girl, not quite secure in dealing with children of her own age, and anxious about the changes in her life.  She reminds me of Paulette Bourgeois’ books about Franklin the Turtle, a child who is not quite ready for the developmental hurdles the rest of his class seems to approach with ease.  Fortunately, Flora has the support of her parents, friends, and teacher to accomplish what she needs to do.  Gorgeous prose by Newbery and Caldecott Medal winner Cynthia Rylant delivers this gentle historical fiction story of a girl growing up in the white culture of small town Indiana. Though it does not quite do for Indiana what her 1995 release, The Van Gogh Café, did for Kansas, it is still worth reading. Recommended for elementary school and public library collections.

December 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: What Do You Do with a Voice like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, by Chris Barton, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Barton, Chris. What Do You Do with a Voice like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Illus. by Ekua Holmes. Beach Lane Books, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-4814-6561-8. Ages 7-10. P7Q9

Often overlooked by as an activist, Jordan’s brief career, cut short by multiple sclerosis, expressed a powerful voice in the U.S. House of Representatives during the volatile time soon after the Civil Rights Act and when Richard Nixon was trying to cover up his administration’s fraud. Her strong drive for justice and equality made her a role model as a patriot in the current times when bravery and protests are being denigrated. Barton wrote that his response to the news of the day is “What would Barbara Jordan do?” He gives a template for her believes, her drive, her honesty, and her willingness to work hard. The vivid mixed-media illustrations add to the bold statement of the book.

Verdict: This excellent book adds to the youth biographies about leaders of the past who should be emulated today.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Friends and Foes: Poems about Us All, by Douglas Florian

Florian, Douglas. Friends and Foes: Poems about Us All. Beach Lane Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781442487956. 47 pages. Ages 4-10. P7 Q8

When you hear a poem is about friendship, the poem is usually positive and focus on the great things about friends. This collection of poems not only focuses on friends, but it also focuses on foes. There are twenty-five poems that range from “What friends are for” to “We used to be friends.” The poems are surrounded by childlike drawings using colored pencils and crayon, which add elements children can relate to. Some of the poems are sweet and can help children define what qualities friends have and others are a bit humorous about things that don’t make friendships successful. Some of the poems are deep and heartfelt. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the poems that were about foes, but once I read the whole book of poems, I feel that foe poems help complete the book. Since this book is a compilation of poems, it does not have to be read straight through. One can read the poems that speak to them and skip the ones that don’t.

Verdict: To define friendships, we need to talk about the positives aspects and also define what makes friendships not work. This poem book balances the two quite well. I highly recommend this book for libraries for elementary aged children.

September 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Can an Aardvark Bark?, by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Stewart, Melissa. Can an Aardvark Bark? Il. by Steve Jenkins. Beach Lane, 2017. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-4814-5852-8. Ages 3-7. P9Q9

Representational cut-and-torn-paper double-page collage depictions of animals highlight the noises—barks, grunts, squeals, whines, bellows, growls, and laughs—that animals use to communicate. The author asks a rhyming question about the sound and then explains other animals that make this sound. The last page asks readers to make the same noises, making this a fun, albeit noisy, read-aloud.

Verdict: Fun plus educational!

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Full of Fall, by April Pulley Sayre

Sayre, April Pulley. Full of Fall. Beach Lane Books, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781481479844. 40 pages. Ages 4-8. P8 Q8

Simple poetry leads the reader through the progression of changing leaves as the landscape prepares for winter.

There is information at the end of the book on the science behind the changing colors and life cycle of leaves.  Photographic illustrations include close ups and far away shots highlighting the beauty of leaves. The words are simple, but combined with the pictures, it is an elegant picture book. Words create motion, “They float and sink. They snag and swirl.”

Verdict: This book makes a great addition to a library with young children. The colors are delightful, the words are simple, and the information at the back of the book helps the children learn about fall.

October 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid, by Jeanette Winter

Winter, Jeanette. The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid. Beach Lane Books, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781481446693. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P7Q7

Picture book author and artist Jeanette Winter approaches the life of award winning architect Zaha Hadid by illustrating the scenes of her native Iraq—marshes, desert, ruins—and showing how Hadid used the curves and lines of nature in her building designs.  Beginning with her childhood in Iraq and her architectural studies in London, Winter shows the difficulty of early years as Hadid sets up an office with friends “making drawings and plans.” Her winning designs are not built in England.  Eventually, through determination and hard work, Zaha Hadid makes her visions become reality. Double page spreads show the relationships between nature—swaying marsh grasses, stones in a stream, sand dunes, a sea shell—and the buildings Hadid designed.  Includes a biographical note, author’s note and bibliographic sources.

Verdict: This is a well-executed picture book biography of a woman who changed the field of architecture.  Recommended for school and public library collections.

Note: Both Kirkus and Booklist gave starred reviews to this title.

October 2017 review by Jane Cothron.