Book review: Curious Constructions: A Peculiar Portfolio of Fifty Fascinating Structures, by Michael Hearst, illustrated by Matt Johnstone

Hearst, Michael. Curious Constructions: A Peculiar Portfolio of Fifty Fascinating Structures. (Series: Uncommon Compendiums). Ill. by Matt Johnstone. Chronicle, 2017. $19.99. 102p. ISBN 978-1-4521-4484-9. Ages 8-12. P8 Q7

From the expected, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Stonehenge in England, to the unusual, such as a cathedral termite mound over 13 feet tall, author and illustrator delight and educate in this collection of human- and animal-created buildings. Each two-page spread has a full-page illustration, accompanied by smaller drawings, maps, diagrams, and portraits as well as true/false questions, history, or quirky facts following a few paragraphs about the structure. Earlier books in the series are Extraordinary People and Unusual Creatures.

Verdict: Humor and simplicity made this accessible book a great one to dip into although the narrative is stronger than the visuals. It’s global perspective is a boon to broadening the perspectives of youth to the entire world.

May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Pete with No Pants, by Rowboat Watkins

Watkins, Rowboat. Pete with No Pants. Chronicle Books, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9781452144016. Unpaged. Ages 2-5. P7Q8

As Pete plays outside, he tries to figure out what he is. At first, he thinks that he’s a boulder, since he is big, gray, and not wearing pants, and that describes a boulder. Then he thinks he’s a squirrel, and then a cloud. While trying to answer this big question, Pete frolics around and tries to engage the flighty squirrels in word games. They aren’t very cooperative, but they do make sarcastic remarks. The quirky illustrations in soft pastel colors provide a wonderful backdrop for this cute story and show Pete’s personality and energy. I loved that Pete’s patient mom appears once in a while and tries to get Pete to put on his pants, and in the end she helps Pete answer his question.

VERDICT: A very cute, sweet story that will entertain little ones and their parents or teachers.

April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: This Is How We Do It, by Mat Lamothe

Lamothe, Matt. This Is How We Do It. Chronicle Books, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781452150185. Unpaged. Ages 7-11. P8 Q8.

The book follows the lives of seven families and how they live a similar life yet so different from around the world: Iran, India, Peru, Japan, Italy, Uganda, and Russia.  Using a basic simple sentence story line, the illustrations and captions surrounding the story explain the differences for each county.  Although the countries are not in the same places on each page double page spread, they are labelled and do not interfere with the comprehension.  The book provides the reader with the perspectives of the different lives in the countries.  Underlined words in the story are then explained in the glossary for more understanding of the cultures and the illustration. Actual photographs of the real families that the author communicated with to write the story are at the end of the book. Endpapers are a world map identifying the location the children and the author’s home.

Verdict: Illustrations make the contents of the book accessible to a young reader who has limited exposure to other cultures.  It provides a basic view of diversity for the various countries explored in the book.

May 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.

Book review: Love Is, by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane

Adams, Diane. Love Is. Illustrated by Claire Keane. Chronicle Books, 2017. $15.99. ISBN 9781452139975. 32 pages. Ages 2-5. P7 Q8

This is a delightful story about a girl who finds and takes care of a duck. The love between the girl and the duck is evident. As the duck grows up, the girl has to let it go. In the end, the duck returns to the girl, along with its ducklings. I like how the author refers to the girl taking care of the duck as love, such as, “Love is noisy midnight feedings, shoe box right beside the bed.” The facial expressions on the girl’s face show the care and love she has towards the duck. The illustrations are realistic and help the reader relate the feelings the girl is going through. The story depicts a realistic view of raising a duck and the everyday things that would occur.

Verdict: This is a sweet book about the love between a girl and a duck. The girl discovers when she loves the duck and lets it go, it comes back to her. I recommend this book for families with young children and public libraries. This is a nice story for families to read together.

March 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Papasaurus, by Stephan Lomp

Lomp, Stephan. Papasaurus. Chronicle Books, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9781452144252. Unp. Ages 2-6. P8 Q6

Papasaurus is a follow-up to Mamasaurus, published in 2016. In Papasaurus, as in Mamasaurus, babysaurus has lost a parent. In this case, he has lost his Papa. He then proceeds to look for him by enlisting the help of his fellow dino-kids. Each young dinosaur who Babysaurus questions shares characteristics belonging to their own species. At the end of Babysaurus’ search, he realizes that his Papa was there all along. Lomp’s brightly hued characters are nicely contrasted against a black background. The baby dinosaurs have big eyes and friendly faces that will reassure nervous young children who may have fears associated with losing a parent.

Verdict: Papasaurus is very similar to Mamasaurus, though we do meet a new cohort of baby dinosaurs. Dinosaur fans will enjoy learning new facts about them while searching for Papasaurus. I would have liked to see the names of each dinosaur species included somewhere in the book.

April 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books, by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Markel, Michelle. Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books. Illus. by Nancy Carpenter. Chronicle Books, 2017. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-8118-7922-4. Ages 6-9. P5Q6

The inclusion of large fonts, bold face, and quotation marks are used to highlight the life and career of John Newbery who published more enjoyable books for children during the 18th century. His determination and success led to the naming of the famous Newbery award for U.S. books after him.

Verdict: The digital use to color in the pen and ink drawings gives the illustration a flat and pale feeling, the use of archaic terms such as quoins and chases, British slang such as “brilliant,” and the use of English money such as pence may be off-putting to young readers. The book may be more useful for teachers dealing with the history of books for children.

March 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raul the Third

Camper, Cathy. Lowriders to the Center of the Earth. (Lowriders in Space series, #2) Il. by Raul the Third. Chronicle, 2016. $22.99. 128p. ISBN 978-1-4521-2343-1. Ages 8-11. P7Q7

campers-lowriders-to-the-center-of-the-earthIn the first volume of this series, Lowriders in Space, three friends—Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack (octopus), and Elirio Malaria (mosquito)—raised money by winning a contest to open a garage. The conflict in this graphic novel begins when their beloved cat is lost during an earthquake, and the intrepid trio search for the pet in the Realm of the Dead, controlled by the evil Aztec got of the underworld, Mictlantecuhti. The adventures result from attempts to avoid becoming Mic’s skeletons in antics illustrated in panels of red, black, and blue set against cream-colored paper.

2017 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Winner.

Verdict: The advantage of the book is the use of Spanish terms, explained on each page and in the glossary at the end, but the pace seems more manic and less interesting that the first volume.

January 2017 review by Nel Ward.