Book review: Mouse Scouts Camp Out, by Sarah Dillard

Dillard, Sarah.  Mouse Scouts Camp Out.  (Mouse Scouts series.) Random House Children’s Books, 2016.  $6.99.  ISBN 978-0-385-75608-2. 144 Pages.  Ages 5-8.  Q8P7

This is the third book in the Mouse Scouts series and focuses on teamwork and friendship through an overnight camping trip.  I liked the Mouse Scout Handbook which gives helpful tips to being a successful camper throughout the book.  The tips, while from a mouse’s perspective, are valid tips for a successful camping experience, such as how to make a compass and various wilderness dangers from poisonous plants to bugs and snakes.  The outdoors is not a comfortable place for everyone and this book shares tips to make outdoor life bearable for those who don’t come by it naturally.

Verdict:  A simple story of friendship and perseverance through teamwork with lots of tips and tricks for happily experiencing the outdoors.

June 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

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: Mr. Putter & Tabby Hit the Slope, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

Rylant, Cynthia. Mr. Putter & Tabby Hit the Slope. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. (Mr. Putter and Tabby series, #25) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. Unpaged. $14.99. ISBN 9780152064273. Ages 5-7. P7Q8

On a slow, snowy day, Mr. Putter remembers the long ago fun of sledding down hills. The adventurous neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, has sleds in her garage. Mr. Putter, Tabby, Mrs. Teaberry and her dog, Zeke, head out for an adventure, riding sleds down hills in this twenty-fifth book in the series.  Much of the charm of the long-running series comes from the simple watercolor and goache paintings that show the varied emotions of the characters—Mr. Putter’s sadness in being left without a sled, Tabby’s worried terror  as Zeke pilots the two of them down the hill, the contentment on both Mr. Putter’s and Tabby’s faces as they have muffins afterward.

Verdict: Highly recommended for preschool, elementary, and public libraries.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Blue Penguin, by Petr Horáček

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.

Book review: In a Cloud of Dust, by Alma Fullerton, art by Brian Dienes

Fullerton, Alma. In a Cloud of Dust. Art by Brian Deines. Pajama Press, 2016. Unpaged. $8.95. ISBN 9781772780000 (pbk). Ages 4-7. P7Q8.

In Tanzania, children who may spend hours walking to the village school have the opportunity to borrow bicycles from the bicycle library.  When the bicycle library truck brings bicycles to the school, Anna, a hardworking student, comes too late to get one of the bicycles.  After she helps her friends learn to ride, Anna’s friend Mohammed shares a ride home with her.  The author’s note gives more information about the importance of reliable transportation to isolated communities in Africa and lists several organizations working to bring bicycles to these communities.

The bright, appealing illustrations carry the joy that the bicycles bring to the students through gold and orange washes, though specifics of the Tanzanian countryside are often lacking.

Verdict: Highly recommended for preschool, elementary and public libraries to increase awareness of life in different cultures and parts of the world.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Come Home, Angus, by Patrick Downes, illustrations by Boris Kulikov

Downes Patrick. Come Home, Angus. Illustrations by Boris Kulikov. Orchard Books/ Scholastic, 2016. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN . Ages 4-6. P6Q8

One day Angus wakes up angry.  His dachshund is slow, his canary is noisy, and his mother makes the pancakes too thin.  As Angus becomes angrier and angrier, he feels bigger and bigger—until he is as big as houses and he runs away from home.  Angus runs a block, two blocks, five blocks, then he stops feeling angry and remembers that he forgot to bring anything to eat.  As Angus becomes a bit scared and lonely, he feels himself growing smaller and smaller.  Fortunately, his mother, who has followed along, arrives just in time with a comforting sardine sandwich.

Artist Kulikov’s mixed media illustrations incorporate acrylic washes, pencil, pen, ink, oil pastel, and black-tea wash to show Angus’s emotional intensity.  As Angus becomes larger with anger, the illustrations show him becoming less real, less distinct than the figures around him.  One technique I found interesting was the use of crosshatching in the oversized pictures of Angus.  It was almost as though Angus was cracking apart as he lost control.  As Angus shrank back to child-size in the city, the streets and people around him took on the textures of unreality.

Verdict: This, along with Molly Bang’s When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry should be available to young children as a way to learn about dealing with anger.  When Angus yells, “Mama, I don’t have to listen to you. I’m mad. I’m madder than mad. I don’t have to be nice,” his mother replies, “In this house, being angry doesn’t let you be rude.”  Setting limits for young children (and even for older children and adults) helps convey that emotions, though powerful, are not all-consuming.  We have a choice in how we handle feelings. Recommended for preschool, elementary and public libraries.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Frogkisser!, by Garth Nix

Nix, Garth.  Frogkisser! Audible Audio Edition. Listening Library, 2017. $19.25. 11 hrs 6 min. Ages 10-13. P8Q8

Although my favorite Garth Nix books are the darker YA Abhorson series, I thoroughly enjoyed this humorous fairy tale. Spunky Anya is the younger princess of the kingdom of Trallonia. Her evil stepstepfather is a tyrant sorcerer who “transmogrifies” anyone who bothers him- that is, he turns them into frogs or other animals. Anya prefers to read in the library, but to help her sister and to escape from her stepstepfather, she reluctantly sets out on a quest to gather the ingredients for a magical lip balm that will allow her to kiss a frog (one of her sister’s suitors) and restore him to his human form. She is accompanied by one of the royal talking dogs and a want-to-be thief boy who has been turned into a newt. She finds diverse help along the way (though she says she won’t need help, because she’s not that kind of a princess), and learns some good lessons. I liked that while this was a light children’s story, there were some serious themes like how sometimes we don’t want to do something, but we must help when we can, that people have rights and responsibilities, and that being a leader means thinking about what is good for the people before doing what you want for yourself.

April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.