Book review: Elvis Is King, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio

Winter, Jonah. Elvis Is King! Illus. by Red Nose Studio. Schwartz & Wade, 2019. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-399-55470-4. Ages 4-8. P8Q8

Born “on the wrong side of the railroad tracks,” a blond boy gets his start singing in church and wanting to feel loved. Winter brings out Elvis Presley’s personality as he stays lonely despite his success after buying a used guitar, dying his hair black, and developing a new style of rock and roll that combines rhythm and blues with country music. An endnote with a few photographs discusses the reasons for Presley’s popularity and skips the tragic events of his later life.

Verdict: The distinctive art, photographs of intriguing handcrafted articles of wire, fabric, wood, and found objects, will engross the readers as much as the simple lyrical text. The back of the cover shows objects used in the book and explains what they are made of. Charming on all fronts.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.


Book review: he Sun Is Kind of a Big Deal, by Nick Seluk

Seluk, Nick. The Sun Is Kind of a Big Deal. Orchard Books, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-338-16697-2. Ages 5-8. P8Q8

Whimsical comic-style illustrations and text enhanced by commentary in dialog bubbles from the planets and sun highlight the relationship of the planets to the huge star, emphasizing its influence on the Earth. A bonus is the poster on the back of the book’s cover of the sun, the eight planets, and the dwarf planet Pluto with its comment, “I’m still here, guys.”

Verdict: This funny introduction to the solar system delights as it educates. Highly recommended.

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: Stonewall: A Building, an Uprising, a Revolution, by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jamey Christoph

Sanders, Rob. Stonewall: A Building, an Uprising, a Revolution. Illus. by Jamey Christoph. Random House, 2019. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-5247-1952-4. Ages 4-8. P7Q9

For the 50th anniversary of activism at the historical Greenwich Village inn, the famous building narrates its history from its inception as a stable in the 1840s to the turbulent riots on January 28, 1969 resulting from police raids and leading to LGBTQ rights of today. Illustrations of different time periods on white background change to the dark night paintings showing the way that abused LGBTQ people became empowered and fought back against the police who frequently raided the Stonewall Inn. At the end, Sanders included photographs and an interview with Martin Boyce who participated in the Stonewall Uprising.

Verdict: Sanders, author of Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, has produced another highly accessible and important picture book adding to the U.S. civil rights collection.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Gecko, by Raymond Huber, illustrated by Brian Lovelock

Huber, Raymond. Gecko. Illus. by Brian Lovelock. (Nature Storybook series). Candlewick, 2017, 2019. $16.99. 29p. ISBN 978-0-736-9885-0. Ages 3-7. P9Q9

Creators of Flight of the Honey Bee have produced their next book in the series in which they combine a brief fictionalized story about a male tokay gecko and with bits of scientific information about the lizard—predators, physical characteristics, protections, etc. Following the gecko for 24 hours, the story is at the top of the page and the information is at the bottom. Soft watercolors combine with acrylic ink pointillism enhanced by colored pencil follow the teal creature covered with orange-hued spots.

Verdict: A bonus for this picture book is the index, useful for teaching young children. Details such as the gecko eating the skin that he has shed will fascinate, and the story and scientific information are well delineated by different fonts. The flowing lyrical text with visual impressions makes the book an idea read-aloud.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World, by Katherine Halligan, illustrated by Sarah Walsh

Halligan, Katherine. Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World. Illus. by Sarah Walsh. Simon & Schuster, 2018. $19.99. 112p. ISBN 978-1-5344-3664-0. Ages 8-12. P7Q8

Each woman receives a two-page spread with the same format with vivid gouache, colored pencil, and Photoshop illustrations surrounded on the white background by a text that simulates hand printing. Each begins with the subject’s birth and childhood and ends with the portion, “Shaking Up the World.” The five chapters highlighting leading, creativity, helping, problem-solving, and believing in change feature artists, writers, political leaders, scientists, and activists. Later entries demonstrate more progressive hope for the world, whereas some of the early female leaders demonstrated brutality in their methods. The book is heavy on the past: only four of the subjects were born in the past half century, and only four of them are still alive.

Verdict: Text-heavy, the book may be difficult for younger readers because of the lack of context for biographies. Some of the entries indicate that the subjects died young but don’t give the age or date of death. A two-page chronological addition gives both birth and death dates, but the readers must go back and forth to find the death dates.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: How It Works: Pictures and Answers for the Curious Mind, by Valorie Fisher

Fisher, Valorie. How It Works: Pictures and Answers for the Curious Mind. (Now You Know series.) Orchard Books, 2018. $17.99. 29p. ISBN 978-1-338-21545-8. Ages 8-10. P8Q6

Colorful, two-page spreads complete with diagrams demonstrate the uses of 22 items commonly found in the home from a bicycle to a screw, sometimes using concepts such as physics, mechanics, and environmental concerns such as composting and recycling.

Verdict: Items seemed to be selected at random with no organization. Bright bold colors enhance the reading experience, but the directions on “How to Read This Book” with symbols for combinations and cross references can be confusing. Explanations vary in quality: the toilet diagram was quite good, the rubber ball not as clear. Some of the explanations can be vague, i.e., using the term “minerals” as part of the content for crayons along with “iron ore” and “slate”—which are minerals. The “light bulb” omits the LED with no mention of “light bulbs” used to save energy. Young readers, however, will enjoy looking at diagrams that illustrate the workings of a zipper, toilet, whistle, and other common items.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.