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.

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Book review: Beyond Words: What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel, by Carl Safina

Safina, Carl. Beyond Words: What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel. Roaring Brook, 2019. 165p. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-250-14463-8. Ages 8-12. P7Q8

Large print invites readers to anecdotes about the author’s experiences in Kenya and the Pacific Northwest as he learns about behaviors of the largest animals on earth. Safina also explains how humans are eradicating both species; the last chapter about the deaths of orcas from humans separating families, taking their food, polluting their water, and then finishing them off with Navy underwater sonar and explosion testing is especially painful. Adapted from Safina’s 2015 book with the same name, this version for middle school readers omits chapters about wolves.

Verdict: Black and white photographs are a bit muddy and repetitive, adding little to the text. Readers will gain, however, from learning that these animals are more protective and supportive of their families than humans are.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Brain Storm, by Linda Ragsdale, illustrated by Claudio Molina

Ragsdale, Linda. The Brain Storm. Illus. by Claudio Molina. Flowerpot Press. 2019. $16.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-486-71556-5. Ages 3-7. P9Q9

In this wordless book, black squiggles demonstrate the energy surrounding a depressed child who struggles with everyday life—going to school and living with grandparent. The solution to problems is building a paper-like airplane sent out into the world. The book begins with a two-page spread as the child is in bed and ends with the same scene—much more colorful—with the black lines gone and a smile on the child’s face.

Verdict: The symbolism of the constant presence of darkness disappearing into the distance may inspire young readers about how to dissipate the problems that follow them through their daily lives. A bonus is that the child lives with a grandparent, rarely seen in children’s literature.

April 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Isle of You, by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jaime Kim

LaRochelle, David. Isle of You. Illustrated by Jaime Kim. Candlewick Press, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9780763691165. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q8

Where can children go to feel loved and secure? The Isle of You of course. LaRochelle takes the reader on an adventure to the Isle of You where you have a welcoming committee and you can choose activities you would like. When the sun starts to set, you head back home, knowing you are loved. When you are sad, remember the Isle of You. LaRochelle writes from the second person point of view, inviting the reader/listener to enter into the story. The pastel water illustrations start out with dark pages reflecting a child having a hard day. The child heads to a brightly colored castle across the bay. While the child is at the castle the illustrations are colorful. When the child heads home, the colors are dark again. Children need safe spaces they can go when they are having a hard time. This book introduces a safe space where love is reinforced. The title is a pun, Isle of you, I love you.

Verdict: This is a good read aloud for children who need some support finding a place they can go to where they can leave their worries and find creativity, imagination and love. This book helps children create a positive head space when they have had a hard day.

December 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Mad, Mad Bear!, by Kimberly Gee

Gee, Kimberly. Mad, Mad Bear! Beach Lane Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781481449717. Unpaged. Ages 3-5. P7 Q7

Bear gets mad because he has to leave the park first, then he gets an owie on the way home and has to leave his boots and favorite stick outside. He doesn’t feel it is fair and he gets mad! After he throws a tantrum, he takes a deep breath, has a snack and takes a nap. When Bear wakes up, he feels better. Simple text and large illustrations follow Bear as he goes through the process of getting mad and calming down. Some words are red and large, emphasizing them. Illustrations show Bear’s facial expressions, giving the listener clues to how Bear is feeling. The book is designed to be read to small children.

Verdict: If you have child who gets mad often, this book will provide some simple strategies and show that they can recover from their mad feelings. I recommend this book for small children and public libraries.

November 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Wolf Who Learned Self-Control, by Orianne Lallemand, illustrated by Éléonore Thuillier

Lallemand, Orianne. The Wolf Who Learned Self-Control. Éléonore Thuillier. Auzou, 2018. $14.95. ISBN 9782733861479. 31 pages. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Wolf, who lives in a forest, has no self-control and his moods changed constantly. Wolf’s friends teach him yoga, running, and baking to help him learn self-control. Wolf gets frustrated and storms off. With the advice of a friend, he apologizes. Wolf then uses the skills he learned to create a celebration for his friends. The illustrations are colorful showing Wolf’s feelings as he learns self-control. This book is in the Wolf series, which is a popular in France. It was first published in France, this is the English version. The end pages show the wolf surrounded in colored squares with different feelings.

Verdict: Children who are learning self-control will benefit from the lessons Wolf learns. Themes of self-confidence and friendship are intertwined in the story.

November 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Feelings, by Libby Walden, illustrated by Richard Jones

Walden, Libby. Feelings. Richard Jones. Tiger Tales, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9781680100938. Unpaged. 6-8. P7 Q8

Children experience a large variety of feelings. Walden writes, “Inside my heart and in my head, all kinds of feelings dwell. As they spark and bound around, I fall under their spell.” The feelings featured in this rhyming book are brave, sad, angry, happy, jealous, alone, embarrassed, excited, afraid, and calm. Even though you cannot see them, feelings are strong and real. Each feeling is described on two pages, using abstract examples opposed to literal ones. While the book flows, I feel some words are added just to make it rhyme. The text and illustrations use nature and imagination to help describe the various feelings.  There is a cut out in the shape of a child on each page, with the child on the last page. Illustrations are muted tones that match the text.

Verdict: Children will enjoy the description of feelings and illustrations that evoke the feeling described. The expansive imaginative words may be lost on very young children but early elementary aged children should enjoy it. It is a good conversation starter on how the child feels when they are having a certain feeling. It can broaden a child’s understanding on how the feeling feels inside of them.

November 2018 review by Tami Harris.