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.

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Book review: Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship, by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Kensky, Jessica and Patrick Downes. Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship. Illustrated by Scott Magoon. Candlewick Press, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9780763696047. Unpaged. Ages 5-9. P8 Q8

We all have an idea of what our life will be like, but what happens when things don’t work out the way we want them to? Rescue came from a long line of dogs who were seeing eye dogs. His trainer felt he would be best as a service dog who works beside their partner instead of in front of them. Jessica had to have her leg amputated and needs a service dog.  Jessica is introduced to Rescue and they learn to work together. When she had to have her other leg amputated, they had to learn to work together all over again. In the end, they rescued each other.

This story was based on a real-life friendship. Jessica was injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and eventually became a double amputee. She received a black Labrador named Rescue to help her. Though Jessica met Rescue when she was an adult, much of the story is true. The last page contains an author’s note which explains the history behind the story and information about NEADS, a wide spectrum of assistance dog services.

The illustrations start out dark and dreary and as Jessica heals and starts working with Rescue, the illustrations become colorful and vibrant. The illustrations show the journey they go on to form a bond and support each other. It was mentioned several times that Jessica and Rescue did not want to let anyone down. We often have the fear that we are not enough or that we will let others down. This book addresses that fear and encourages one to keep going on even if our life looks different from what we thought it would be.

Verdict: Courage, team work, perseverance, and overcoming obstacles are main themes in the story. Jessica’s journey of perseverance through difficult circumstances is inspiring and at the same time, it shows the value of service dogs. I recommend this book for elementary school age libraries.

May 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Saturday Is Swimming Day, by Hyewon Yum

Yum, Hyewon. Saturday is Swimming Day. Candlewick Press, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9780763691172. Unp. Ages 3-7. P7 Q7.

A small girl is taking swimming lessons. Every Saturday her stomach hurts as she anticipates her lesson. At first, her anxiety prevents her from actually getting in the water. However, she is given the opportunity to slowly gain confidence with her new pastime and the stomachache dissipates. Watery paints add texture to bright pencil illustrations of an inclusive cast of family member and swim students. The story teaches trust and patience to both children and the adults who support them in their new endeavors.

Verdict: Young readers will identify with the main character’s discomfort at trying something new. Adults should take a cue from the unobtrusive adults who encourage her to face her fears. This is a great resource for a child who is starting something new—especially swimming.

September 2018 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Dog on a Digger, by Kate Prendergast

Prendergast, Kate. Dog on a Digger. Candlewick Press, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9781536200416. Unp. Ages 2-7. P8 Q9

Dog on a Digger is a beautifully illustrated, textless story about teamwork and friendship. A dog and its human work on a building site. Their constructive day goes awry after lunch when dog’s young friend goes missing. The story is told through panels of pencil illustration—mostly monochrome—with touches of bright yellow and muted blue. Prendergast is quite skillful at depicting sound and emotion with line and texture.

Verdict: I recommend this book to children who appreciate dogs and/or construction equipment. Its lack of text allows young readers to lend their own words to the story or enjoy the creativity of the pleasing illustrations.

September 2018 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Exploring Space: from Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond, by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Stephen Biesty

Jenkins, Martin. Exploring Space: from Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond. Illus. Stephen Biesty. Candlewick Press, 2017. 59 pgs. Includes glossary and index. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-7636-8931-5. Gr. 5+. P8 Q9

This oversized volume on space is one that I will gladly include in my middle school library. Jenkins has divided the book into sections: The solar system, astronomy, going into space and then returning, survival in space, aliens, crowded skies and the future of space. You are taken on a journey through time and space. The material that is presented is age appropriate and is not dry. It instead intrigued me. Biesty’s illustrations include clear, intricate drawings of cross-sections and cut-away sections of spacecraft and satellites.

Verdict: This book needs to be included in every middle and high school library. It will be a great addition to space collections.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: I’m a Duck, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

Bunting, Eve. I’m a Duck. Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. Candlewick Press, 2018. $15.99. ISBN 9780763680329. Unpaged. Ages 3-6. P7Q8

A duck afraid to swim stars in this rhyming picture book. An egg has rolled from the nest, and mother duck dives into the pond to rescue it. Once hatched, the little duck is afraid of the water. The story features several pond friends who offer encouragement and confidence to little duck. Finally, with the backing of friends and family little duck conquers his fear and jumps in! Full color pages beautifully illustrate the pond setting.

VERDICT: I recommend this book for both home and classroom. It would be a great book for young ones not only learning how to swim, but overcoming any fear.

May 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.

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.