Knudsen, Michelle. Marilyn’s Monster. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. Candlewick Press, 2015. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-9301-5. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P8Q8.
Marilyn waits patiently for her monster to find her, yet everyone has limits, and eventually she is not willing to wait any longer. She takes the initiative to find her monster. Her monster needs her help and it’s a good thing that she takes charge.
Verdict: This is an adorable story about perseverance and initiative. Both have rewards and Marilyn keeps going because she believes in it. The art is beautiful with soft pastels of adorable monsters.
May 2017 review by Penny McDermott.
Van Dusen, Chris. Hattie and Hudson. Candlewick Press, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780763665456. Unpaged. Ages 4-10. P8 Q9.
Hattie McFadden explores a lake and makes a friend with a large mysterious creature she names Hudson. She is determined to convince the town that Hudson is not harmful but friendly. Endpapers are a relaxing pond scene. Illustrations are very detailed and adorable.
Verdict: With the higher vocabulary, it is a great read aloud for discussion for a discussion of friendship or for an advanced reader.
June 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.
Bunting, Eve. Yard Sale. Illustrated by Lauren Castillo. Candlewick Press, 2015. $6.99. ISBN 9780763693053. Unpaged. Ages 3-12. P9 Q 9.
This is a very touching story of a family holding a yard sale because they are moving to a smaller apartment. Told from the child’s perspective of how they might feel having a yard sale of their things. It includes the struggle of a changing friendship with the neighbors. It conveys the struggle of letting go of a bike and the memories of the marks on a headboard of a bed. Then, as a child might feel, they would also be for sale, the book concluded with a sincere moment of realization.
Verdict: This is a very emotional and touching story as young and adult alike can relate to moving and having to sell beloved things. It is a great read aloud for all aged children helping them cope with giving up their things, moving and leaving friends, and/or teaching about empathy.
June 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.
[Editor’s note: Told from the point of view of a young girl whose possessions are among the many that her family is selling, Bunting’s story of a family losing their house and needing to make enough money to move to a small apartment imparts grief, fear and sadness, as well as the love that holds the family together. While not a comfortable story, the warm, realistic illustrations by Lauren Castillo humanize the family’s plight.]
Horáček, Petr. Blue Penguin. Candlewick Press, 2016. Unpaged. 15.99. ISBN 9780763692513. Ages 3-6. P7Q7
A single blue penguin is born into a flock of black and white penguins and becomes isolated in his differences. As the blue penguin sings his songs of loneliness and dreams of a white whale, another penguin listens, learns the songs and becomes a friend. Other penguins, too, being to listen, which changes the songs from those of loneliness to songs of friendship. When a huge, white whale responds to the first song, and comes to take the blue penguin away, the other penguins ask him to stay.
Mixed media illustrations use spashes of color in the snowy Antarctic to carry the blue penguin’s sense of isolation and then his growing inclusion in the penguin community.
Verdict: I recommend this story of friendship and community for preschool, elementary, and public library collections.
January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.
Rosen, Michael J. The Tale of Rescue. Illustrated by Stan Fellows. Candlewick Press, 2015. $14.99. ISBN 9780763671679. 103 pgs. Ages 10-13. P8Q9
I loved this beautifully illustrated story about a family rescued from a dangerous situation by a heroic cattle dog. The mother and father take their 10 year old son on a weekend adventure, so he can experience a snowy country weekend. They get lost while walking in the woods, and are overcome by a blizzard. The cattle dog knows that something is wrong, finds the family, and using the herd of cattle as a sort of snow plow, clears the way for them. Eight years later, the boy goes looking for the dog who saved them, and finds that her name is Angus, like all the other cattle dogs the farmer has owned. The language is poetic and beautiful, and the dark watercolor illustrations perfectly accompany the text.
VERDICT: Dog lovers of all ages will enjoy this book very much, and readers of survival stories will also find something to like.
April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.
Nesbet, Anne. Cloud and Wallfish. Candlewick Press, 2016. $16.99. ISBN 9780763688035. 385 pgs. Ages 10-13. P7Q8
Noah, with his Astonishing Stutter, lives a relatively happy life with his family in Virginia. One day, everything changes, when his parents pick him up from school and whisk everyone off to East Berlin. Noah is now to go by the name Jonah Brown, his birthday is now a different date, and his life is to be regulated with rules like Don’t call attention to yourself, Don’t use our old names, They will always be listening, and Don’t talk about serious things indoors, because… they will always be listening. Noah is very confused- his parents’ explanation that his mom needs to do research to finish her PhD explains some of the situation, but not all of it. Why are they there? Are his parents spies? When he finally makes a friend, Claudia from downstairs, things become even more confusing. Claudia’s parents have been killed in car accident in Hungary, and she is living with her cranky grandmother. This story also makes some sense, but Noah begins to wonder if it’s really true. The grandmother tries to keep the children apart, since Americans are dangerous elements, but they manage to build a friendship based on shared imagination and loneliness. Noah calls the girl Cloud Claudia (from the German pronunciation of the name), and she calls him Wallfish (Jonah makes her think of a whale, which is “Walfisch” in German). Passages of story alternate with “Secret File” sections, which give historical and cultural context. The story comes to an exciting end when Cloud-Claudia and Wallfish are arrested during a demonstration, and Noah and his family are deported.
VERDICT: I loved this story. The complex character of Noah/Jonah is fascinating- he’s a bright and very resourceful, and doesn’t let his severe stutter hold him back. His relationship with his parents is loving and supportive, even during confusing and frightening situations. The blend of adventure, friendship, mystery, history and politics in this unusual setting will keep kids reading.
April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.
Hirst, Daisy. Alphonse, That Is Not OK to Do. Candlewick Press, 2016, $15.99. ISBN: 0763681032. 40 pages. Picture book. Ages 2-5 years. P3 Q2
Natalie doesn’t always get along with her little brother Alphonse. On this particular day, nothing is going right and Alphonse is on her nerves. When Natalie lets her anger get the best of her, she is mean to Alphonse. In the end, the siblings make up and Natalie realizes how fun it can be to have a little brother.
Verdict: This book could be used in a preschool setting to teach about getting along with siblings. The story line is lacking, and children older than 3 may lose interest. The price of the book seems a bit expensive for the quality of the story and the awkward phrasing that is used.
December 2016 review by Victoria Harris.
[Editor’s note: Very simple brightly colored illustrations add interest to the story of sister and brother monsters who squabble when the younger brother damages a book and then make up.]