Book review: Groundhug Day, by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by Christopher Denise

Pace, Anne Marie. Groundhug Day. Illustrated by Christopher Denise. Hyperion, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781484753569. 48 pgs. Ages 5+. P8Q8

Did you ever wonder why his shadow makes Groundhog go back underground? In Groundhug Day we learn that Groundhog doesn’t understand shadows and is afraid of them. Moose and his friends are planning a Valentine’s Day party and are worried that Groundhog won’t be able to attend if he sees his shadow and goes back underground. When they realize that he is afraid, they take him outside to show him the fun and beauty of shadows. The soft, glowing illustrations feel old-fashioned and are really, really lovely. Their softness gives a authentic feeling to the spreads where the animals are playing with their shadows. In the end, Groundhog does go back underground because he’s cold, after receiving many hugs, but comes back out just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. I liked that a number of the spring holidays are mentioned (Valentine’s, Groundhog’s, St. Patrick’s, and Easter).

VERDICT: This is a sweet story that celebrates friendship and understanding of others’ points of view. It will be a perfect read-aloud in the spring when kids are looking forward to the upcoming holidays.

June 2019 review by Carol Schramm.

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Book review: It Feels Good To Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity, by Theresa Thorn, illustrated by Noah Grigni

Thorn, Theresa. It Feels Good To Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity. Illus. by Noah Grigni. Holt, 2019. Unp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-250-30295-3. Ages 4-8. P7Q6

Colorful watercolor and gouache accompany the text that introduces four transgender, cisgender, and non-binary children with explanations about their feelings and reasons for these beliefs. Families of all these children are accepting.

Verdict: The clear and non-critical narrative provides an uplifting perspective of acceptance for different gender identities, but the direct approach without any story may be designed for adults to present to children instead of as a read-alone book. The definition for intersex fails to clearly identify a body’s anatomy because other explanations refer to gender not matching bodies.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Fergal and the Bad Temper, by Robert Starling

Starling, Robert. Fergal and the Bad Temper. IMPRINT/Macmillan, 2019. Unp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-250-19862-4. Ages 4-7. P8Q8

Imagine the fire when a dragon can’t control his temper. That’s what happens with Fergal every time someone tells him to do something: he gets angry—and breathes fire. He burns his dinner, the soccer goal, cakes, and games—everything he encounters if he can’t “keep his cool.” Distraught because he doesn’t have any friends, he gets some advice from his mother and from animal acquaintances about how to feel less “fiery.”

Verdict: The colorful acrylic, gouache, and digital illustrations appear block like, and the solution is almost too easy. Yet the lesson is a good one for young readers who think that their life is “not fair.”

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Fisherman and the Whale, by Jessica Lanan

Lanan, Jessica. The Fisherman & the Whale. Simon & Schuster, 2019. Unp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-5344-1574-4. Ages 4-6. P9Q9

In this wordless story, a father takes a young boy, possibly his son, on a fishing trip where they discover a whale caught in ropes. Lush watercolors and gauche show the adventure above and below water as the man dives in to rescue the whale before the boy throws over a life preserver as the man swims back to the boat. In a superb finish, the whale leaps into the air before the ship heads back to shore in a sunset. An author’s note describes “purse seining” method of catching salmon and the problems of whales, porpoises, and dolphins becoming entangled in commercial fishing nets.

Verdict: The vivid communications between the boy and man are enhanced by the variety of perspectives, including the pair of eyes, one showing the whale in the human pupil and the reverse showing the two protagonists reflected in the whale’s pupil. A book that can be “read” over and over.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Wolf Who Solved the Mystery of the Missing Mask, by Orianne Lallemand, illustrated by Claire Frossard, translated by MaryChris Bradley

Lallemand, Orianne. The Wolf Who Solved the Mystery of the Missing Mask. Illus. by Claire Frossard. Trans. by MaryChris Bradley. Auzou, 2019. Unp. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-7338-67402-2. Ages 4-7. P8Q8

Quirky bold illustrations begin with a black wolf sporting a huge, long nose who grumpily goes to a museum with his friends because he wants to be with Wolfette. The narrative proceeds with punny artists’ names, beginning with Leonardo da Wolfinci, and Wolf wanders on by himself. A missing tribal mask traumatizes the little guard, Barnabas, and Wolf sets out to uncover the perpetrator, finding more clues and pieces of the museum. The gentle story finishes with the discovery that Wolf’s friend, Miss Yeti, had taken the mask because it looked like her father. All ends happily when Miss Yeti buys a replica of the mask in the gift shop and Wolf falls in love with a painting that looks like his forest.

Verdict: Twists and turns take the reader through a museum, a mystery, and a relationship that ends in pure joy.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: A Surprise for Little Mole, by Orianne Lallemand, illustrated by Claire Frossard, translated by MaryChris Bradley

Lallemand, Orianne. A Surprise for Little Mole. Illus. by Claire Frossard. Trans. by MaryChris Bradley. Auzou, 2019. Unp. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-7338-6732-7. Ages 4-7. P8Q8

Watercolors in soft hues provide the background for Little Mole’s discovery of a baby on the doorstep. She feeds the panda-like creature that she calls Who-zit before they set out to find the parents. Each animals’ family sends her on: the rabbits to the bear family, the bears to badgers, and the badger to an owl before a wolf tries to take the baby. The forest families rescue Little Mole and Who-zit, and owl guides them to the zoo. Leaving Who-zit with its parents, Little Mole goes home, lonely, where she discovers that her friends have given her a birthday party.

Verdict: The warm, loving story shows the importance of caring and friendship, and the lovely illustrations highlight the tale.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: When Pencil Met Eraser, by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos, jr., illustrated by German Blanco

Kilpatrick, Karen and Luis O. Ramos, Jr. When Pencil Met Eraser. Illus. by German Blanco. IMPRINT/ Macmillan, 2019. Unp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-250-30939-6. Ages 4-6. P9Q9

In the beginning, Pencil wanted his drawings to stay the same, but the more Eraser changes them the more Pencil appreciates that ART can be created from erasing as well as drawing. Eraser shows Pencil how to see the sky behind the skyscrapers and makes the wave part for “smooth sailing.” Yellow Pencil and pink Eraser highlight the white pages sometimes covered with pencil drawings with a little help from Photoshop.

Verdict: Without being heavy handed, the book’s creators demonstrate that everyone can use some help, creatures different from each other can become friends, and two can benefit from the synergistic coexistence of different abilities. The finishing pages bringing more drawing tools such as a ruler, brush, and crayon can perhaps expand the horizons of Pencil and Eraser. Great fun!

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.