Book review: The Brain is Kind of a Big Deal, by Nick Seluk

Seluk, Nick. The Brain is Kind of a Big Deal. Orchard Books, 2019. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-338-16700-9. Ages 6 and up. P9 Q8

This book explains the science behind the brain- in what it does and how it connects to the functions in rest of the body. It has a great sense of humor with bright colors and a comic/ graphic style that will attract older kids. The science and vocabulary definitely are for the child at least 6 or older, or an adult to translate some of the more challenging passages. It was quite fun to see the various organs playing music and highways to the brain illustrated in a way that does effectively teach about how the brain performs.

VERDICT: I enjoyed the graphic comic book style of the book. Bright colors and more contemporary writing will engage older kids about how the brain sends messages to various body areas. In the back it addresses animal brains, which I thought was a great aspect of the book.  I also found the light jokes and pun style fun.

May 2020 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: Manners Are Not for Monkeys, by Heather Tekavec, illustrated by David Huyck

Tekavec, Heather. Manners are Not for Monkeys. Illustrated by David Huyck. Kids Can Press, 2016. 32 pages. $16.95 cloth. ISBN 978-1-77138-051-5. Ages 3-7. P8 Q7

This is quite the rollicking story about manners… in monkeys and in children, and what they each learn from each other by watching and imitation. The illustrations are quite fun, and children will enjoy the faces and antics of the monkeys. With some adult supervision and comment, young readers will get a good dose of starting basic manners.

Verdict: This was an ok book for me. The illustrations were engaging, but I am guessing some parents won’t love some of the story about how the monkeys seemed to have better manners than the kids. But… maybe that is the point? I think kids will enjoy the story.

May 2020 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: The Space Walk, by Brian Biggs

Biggs, Brian. The Space Walk. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9780525553373. Ages 3-6. P8Q8

Astronaut Randolph Witherspoon wants to take a walk, but Mission Control says that he has to “eat some lunch, get some exercise, and clean the place up”  and he does.  When his chores are done, the astronaut suits up, takes his camera, and goes out for a space walk, ignoring Mission Control’s last minute instructions not to talk to strangers.  After making a new friend on his spacewalk, Randolph comes back home and dreams of going out again tomorrow.

Verdict: The humor in this book rests on the incongruity of an adult receiving the same kind of instructions that a child might receive—and having the adult react much like that child.  Simple line drawings with blue, green and orange highlights in the space capsule change to saturated colors in the vastness of space.  The Space Walk will be a great bedtime story for children who enjoy silly stories, rockets and space exploration.  Recommended for preschool children, kindergarten and public library collections.

March 2020 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Grown-Ups Never Do That, by Davide Cali, illustrated by Benjamin Chaud

Cali, Davide. Grown-ups Never Do That. Illustrated by Benjamin Chaud. Chronicle Books, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781452131696. Unpaged. Ages 5-8. P9Q8

I loved this very funny book about all the things that kids get in trouble for doing- and adults are guilty of doing them too! Each page shows us things that adults never do, like being selfish, saying bad words, speaking with their mouths full, littering, etc. The illustrations are really elaborate and capture a lot of emotion and humor. Kids will enjoy looking for small details (like the man who is wasting time on his phone, ignoring the burning pot on the stove behind him).

VERDICT: I think this book could present a good opportunity for parents and children to talk about why some behaviors aren’t desirable, but that none of us is perfect, and we should all try to become better people. Even without this message, children will find this book a lot of fun.

February 2020 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Perfect, by Max Amato

Amato, Max. Perfect. Scholastic Press, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9780545829311. Unpaged. Ages 3-6. P7 Q7

From the cover, it appears that pencil and eraser are friends. With the title “Perfect” I guessed that the book would be about not needing to be perfect. Pink eraser likes the page perfectly clean, no squiggles or smudges. However, pencil is playing around and writing on the pages. When eraser decides to erase the pencil marks, large pencils charge towards the eraser. Faces on the tall pencils range from angry to smiling, menacing, and straight faced. The pencils are very large chasing the small eraser. The eraser heads to a forest, which the pencil has drawn. The forest is a whole page of pencil markings. The eraser is frustrated with the inability to fix the page. Eraser gets creative and starts erasing patterns in the pencil markings. Eraser is proud and declares, “no pencil can mess with me.” However, the eraser realizes that it is lonely. Eraser calls out and pencil comes back. The illustrations are a pencil with a face drawn on it, an eraser that has an eraser for a body with the legs and arms are drawn on the page.

Verdict: Children can relate to wanting things their way. They do not want their things to be messed with. While it seems perfect to have everything go your way, it can be very lonely. This is a fun way to show children they can be creative and think outside the box when things do not go as planned.

December 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Snack Attack, by Terry Border

Border, Terry. Snack Attack. Phloem Books, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781524740115. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P7 Q7

Full of larger than life pictures of a cheese doodle, a pretzel stick, and a cookie, Snack Attack is a fun story. Using the bent object photography Terry Border is known for he adds wire arms, legs, and glasses to three snacks and they come alive and must figure out a way to avoid becoming today’s after school snack. Several of the pictures will provide laugh out loud moments for the young crowd. The three snack friends brainstorm several plans to avoid their fate, and in the end they think their plan has worked … but where’s cookie?

Verdict: this book will be a favorite among young readers. Perfect for story time, it would be a good addition for the library and K-2nd grade classrooms to talk about teamwork.

December 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Pluto Gets the Call, by Adam Rex, illustrations by Laurie Keller

Rex, Adam. Pluto Gets the Call. Illustrations by Laurie Keller. Beach Lane Books, 2019. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN: 9781534414532. Ages 4-7. P8 Q8

Pluto is taking a visitor on a tour of the solar system when he gets a call from an Earth scientist letting him know that he is no longer a planet.  Pluto, understandably upset, politely continues with the tour, but as further calls emphasize the change in status, the icy ex-planet becomes first embarrassed and then angry.  The other planets offer comforting words, but only the Sun can put things into perspective.

Verdict:  The naïve illustrations and hilarious text make this creative nonfiction picture book one that both adults and children can enjoy over and over again.  The story begins on the front cover and continues on the title page with three astronomers deciding who among them must call and give Pluto the bad news.  There is still debate among the scientific community about whether Pluto will again be classed as a planet, but as of now, it remains classified as a dwarf planet.  That may change in the future, but in the meantime, enjoy this pleasant story.  Highly recommended for kindergarten, elementary, and public library collections. This is one of my favorite books of the year.

December 2019 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Fly!, by Mark Teague

Teague, Mark. Fly! Beach Lane Books, 2019. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781534451285. Ages 3-6. P7 Q8

A small, round fledgling robin has grown too big for the nest, but no matter how the mother robin cajoles and describes the delights of flight, the baby robin refuses.  Even when the very hungry baby falls out of the nest in a tantrum, it refuses to fly.  Only as night approaches and the mother describes the dangers of dogs, cats, and owls, does the baby finally take the leap into flight.

Verdict:  I am not sure how Mark Teague manages to convey such a wide range of emotions on the faces of the mother and baby birds.  His use of space and color is simple, yet entirely effective in telling this wordless story of the baby bird leaving the nest.  Highly recommended for kindergarten through elementary and public library collections. Also, consider it as a possible graduation gift for students leaving high school or college.

December 2019 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Hats Are Not for Cats!, by Jacqueline K. Rayner

Rayner, Jacqueline K. Hats Are Not for Cats! Clarion Books, 2019. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781328967190. Ages 3-6. P8 Q8

A smudge gray cat finds a brilliant red fez , but the shaggy dog in the checkered top hat claims that “Hats are not for cats,” and launches into a long lecture on the various kinds of hats cats should not wear.  Finally the cat has heard enough and knocks the dog’s hat off his head, then leads a torrent, a river, a parade of cats, each wearing a different kind of hat.  Faced with the dog’s sadness, the many cats in hats then declare that “hats are for everyone”!

Verdict: Simple, realistic illustrations of dogs and cats wearing many, many styles of hats accompany a litany of hat styles that make this a pleasant read-aloud book, one for sharing over and over.  Recommended for preschool- through kindergarten-aged children and their adults as well as for public library collections.

December 2019 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Snowmen at Halloween, by Caralyn M. Buehner, illustrated by Mark E. Buehner

Buehner, Caralyn M. Snowmen At Halloween. Illustrated by Mark E. Buehner. Dial Books/Penguin Random House, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9780525554684. Ages 5-9. P8 Q8

What better to do on a cold snowy autumn day than build a snowman? That’s just what the kids did in this magical book about snowmen getting to have some fun on Halloween. Face painting, indulging in treats, hay mazes and stories around a campfire, these snowmen are doing it all. The fun eventually has to come to an end but don’t worry, the snowmen leave a special message for their friends. The illustrations are well done and full of color.

Verdict: A very fun and silly book that will appeal to wide variety of children. A great addition to a Halloween story time.

November 2019 review by Melissa Roberts.