Book review: Merry Christmas, Peanut! , by Terry Border

Border, Terry. Merry Christmas, Peanut! Philomel Books, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9780399176210. Unpaged. Ages 4-9. P8 Q8

If you like Terry Border’s books, Peanut Butter and Cupcake, Milk Goes to School, and Happy Birthday Cupcake!, you will enjoy his new book, Merry Christmas, Peanut! The story is full of food related puns and food art. Peanut travels to his grandma’s house, encountering other nuts in need and Peanut helps out  with a positive attitude. The forest scene includes cookies with sprinkles and peanuts with cute hats. The friends used their talents to help cheer up Peanut and help him

Peanuts are dressed up to look like people. In the end, the peanuts all get the things that they need. This book leaves one with a cheerful heart.

Verdict: I highly recommend this book for all children’s libraries. Festive, colorful illustrations show peanuts helping each other. This book shows empathy, selflessness, and kindness. It also emphasizes that what you give out often comes back to you.

December 2017 review by Tami Harris

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Book review: The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Barnett, Mac. The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse. Ill. by Jon Klassen. Candlewick, 2017. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-7636-7754-1. Ages 4-7. P8Q9

A mouse finds a new home and a new friend in the belly of a wolf after the “beast” swallows both the mouse and a duck, and they set up housekeeping. The best part of living there, according to the mouse, is that they don’t have to be afraid of being swallowed by wolves. When the wolf gets sick to its stomach from the mouse and duck dancing, mouse’s solution is for it to swallow cheese and wine. The intrepid couple save the wolf from a hunter, and the other two keep their happy home. The illustrations show a happy home complete with a full kitchen, a candlelit dinner, and formal dress for the mouse and duck.

Verdict: The language has the charm of old fables, and the soft grays and browns in the mixed media offer a peaceful feeling. Another whimsical collaboration between a fine author and an illustrator.

November 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Bob and Tom, by Denys Cazet

Cazet, Denys. Bob and Tom. Richard Jackson/Atheneum, 2017. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-4814-6140-5. Ages 5-8. P9Q9

The author of lovable and hapless pairs of friends such as Minnie and Mo and Snail and Slug has a new silly pair in these two clueless turkeys. As usual, the ridiculous dialog carries the plot of this chapter book from morning rain showers to swimming in the afternoon and the loss of their names. Mixed-media illustrations carry out the delightfully absurd action for example when Bob uses a magnifying glass to see if Sam’s head has anything inside.

Verdict: Cazet has a great understanding of satire, but I still prefer Minnie and Moo. 

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel, by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Rubin, Adam. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel. Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2017. $18.99. Unpaged. ISBN 9780525428886. Ages 3-7. P 9 Q 7

This is the sequel to the New York Times bestselling Dragons Love Tacos in which we learned the dire consequences of giving spicy salsa to dragons.  Now, in the sequel, there is a taco shortage. Obviously something must be done about this shortage because, well, dragons love tacos.  Time travel is involved in the problem solving which always causes more problems; and the narrator does experience all the common time travel issues that tend to arise.  Fans of the first book will rejoice to find familiar humor and brightly illustrated dinosaurs. Could there be a loosely veiled lesson about the negative impacts of unregulated exploitation of natural resources and the complicated task of reversing past mistakes?

Verdict: I think this will be a very popular sequel to Dragons Love Tacos. It may even be an allegory for humanity’s ecological footprint. If you liked the first one, you won’t be disappointed.

November 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Babies Ruin Everything, by Matthew Swanson, illustrated by Robbi Behr

Swanson, Matthew. Illustrated by Robbi Behr. Babies Ruin Everything. Imprint, a part of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, 2016. $16.99. Unpaged.  ISBN 9781250080578. Ages 3-5. P6 Q7

A new baby can really impact a family’s day-to-day, especially if the new baby is also a new sibling! Babies Ruin Everything is told from the point of view of an older sister after the arrival of a newborn. As we learn from the title, she is not pleased; yet she makes a good argument—babies aren’t very useful. They can’t catch a Frisbee, whistle, or stand on one foot! Eventually, however, she realizes that they both have a common enemy—their parents—and, thus, the unspoken sibling code is adopted again. Babies Ruin Everything is an accurate portrayal of the social, emotional, and intellectual pressure experienced by older siblings—with a comedic twist and an endearingly drawn, googly-eyed baby. The children are rendered in loud and colorful acrylics while the adults are inserted digitally—faceless silhouettes à la parents in cartoons for young children. This choice to emphasize the children works well to unite them visually as the story bonds them through common mischief.

Verdict: This is a great introductory book for a child expecting a young sibling—especially useful for the reluctant older brother or sister. It’s a worst case scenario story with a happy ending.

November 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: The Great Puppy Invasion, by Alastair Heim, illustrated by Kim Smith

Heim, Alastair. The Great Puppy Invasion. Illustrated by Kim Smith. Clarion Books, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780544999176. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P8 Q8

Puppies come in like an invasion to the town of Strictville, where fun in prohibited. Adults try to get rid of the puppies and tell the children not to look at them. One little boy notices how cute the puppies are and has the courage to engage with a puppy.  Woven into the story is classic puppy and pet owner behavior. “They threw sticks at them, the puppies brought them back.” The story also shows the hypnotic quality that puppies can have with their owners.  The illustrations are bright and lively just like puppies. They eyes of the puppies are large and playful.

Verdict: This fun, engaging story will delight children. The antics of the puppies and their owners are realistic. This book would be a good addition to all libraries. If you like puppies and want to encourage children to try new things, this is the book for you.

October 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: A Voyage in the Clouds : The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785, by Matthew Olshan, illustrations by Sophie Blackall

Olshan, Matthew. A Voyage in the Clouds : The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785. Illus. Sophie Blackall. Margaret Ferguson Books, 2016. Unp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-374-32954-9. Gr.1+. P8 Q8

In 1783, Dr. John Jeffries and Jean-Pierre Blanchard thought up the adventure of the first international manned balloon flight between the nations of France and England, which took place two years later in 1785.  As I read the book, the illustrations were what really stood out. Sophie Blackall used a combined graphic novel style, with panels done in black and white, along with full-page watercolor illustrations. The costumes and dress in the illustrations are appropriate to the time of the great balloon race. As the race commences across the English Channel the reader will experience the ride, too, as they laugh at some of the funny antics that the author includes.

Verdict: A great book to read aloud to children. I would follow it up with historical happenings of the time too.

April 2017 review by Carol Bernardi.