Book review: Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths, by Graham Annable

Annable, Graham. Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths. First Second, 2018. $17.99. 119p. ISBN 978-1-6267-2561-4. Ages 5-8. P9Q9

Peter and Ernesto are the odd couple of sloths. One wants to hang around in his tree with the other sloths, and the other wants to see the sky from every part of the world. The separation between the two of them stretches their limits as Peter decides to follow Ernesto despite quaking when he crosses the swinging bridge and meets the scary tapir. Ernesto loves his adventures—a ride on a whale and seeing the aurora borealis—but meeting the polar bear convinces him to return home. The alternating adventures between the two friends show the fretting Peter perched on a monolith where he finds help from crabs and monkeys to guide Ernesto back to the fold. The safety may not last long, though; the planned sequel for the two friends is The Lost Sloths.

Verdict: Clear Photoshop panels with simple artwork in the graphic novel show the movement, body language, and diversity of animals throughout the adventures. Silly charm highlights the value of friendship and concern about each other without being didactic. Absolutely delightful!

March 2018 review by Nel Ward.


Book review: Old Hat, by Emily Gravett

Gravett, Emily. Old Hat. Simon & Schuster, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-5344-0917-0. Ages 3-7. P9Q9

Kate Greenway Medal winner and creator of such minimalist books as Orange Pear Apple Bear has brought young readers another fun-filled and thoughtful title exaggerating the pun “old hat.” Pencil, watercolor, and acrylic illustrations against alternating white and pale blue backgrounds highlight the attempt of Harbet (maybe a small white dog) to fit in with the other animals by emulating their hats. No matter what he does, Harbet’s always a half-step behind in copying their chapeaus, but they have already moved on to another crazy fashion style. Nothing works, not even reading Top Hat Magazine, until Harbet decides not to follow does he find instant success by deciding not to follow the others. When he takes off his hat and reveals the vivid feathers sprouting out of his head, he is the one who is being copied.

Verdict: Quirky creatures resembling a stork, a dinosaur, and a bear populate the pages as their headgear sports fruit, (“low in fat, high in fiber, and could provide 80% of his daily vitamins”), flashing lights, historic boats, and other wacky inventions. A gentle explanation about not bowing to peer pressure.

March 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: When a Wolf Is Hungry, by Christine Naumann-Villemin, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

Naumann-Villemin, Christine. When a Wolf Is Hungry. Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2017. Unpaged. $16.00. ISBN 9780802854827. Ages 3-6. P7Q8

Edward Bigsnout, a solitary wolf, leaves his cabin in the woods with a hankering for a tender city rabbit dinner.  Unfortunately, finding a rabbit in the big city is difficult and posing as the new tenant in the rabbit’s apartment building brings the reclusive wolf many problems, not least the welcome he receives from the other tenants in the building. As Edward strives to overcome the many obstacles in his search for dinner, the kindness of the city folk bring him to change his ways. This 2018 Batchelder Honor book was originally published in France by Editions Kaleidoscope in 2011.

Verdict: Whimsical drawings bring a darkly humorous approach to this big, bad wolf story with a twist.  Recommended for kindergarten, elementary, classroom and public libraries.

March 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: The Thrifty Guide to …: A Handbook for Time Travelers, by Jonathan W. Stokes, illustrated by David Sossella

Stokes, Jonathan W. The Thrifty Guide to …: A Handbook for Time Travelers. Illus. by David Sossella. Viking, $13.99. Ages 9-14.

This hilarious series makes history palatable in a pretense of being a tour guide produced in the 22nd century beginning in 2163. Each volume is black and white with a predominant color highlighting headlines, drawings, and maps. Boxed biographs are headed, “People to Have Lunch With,” and “Helpful Hints” give practical guidelines showing how the parts of the era function. Detailed footnotes give either additional information or break up the seriousness with humorous bits about the business owner, Finn Greenquill, and his peculiarities.

Verdict: The histories are factual, sometimes debunking the “hero” aspect of past historical figures. Upcoming books are Ancient Greece and Medieval Times.

Ancient Rome. Viking, 2018. 128p. ISBN 978-0-451-47960-0. P8Q5

The slapstick approach of this volume may be intended to smooth over the incessant sensational violence, highlighted in red, from gladiators, barbarian hordes, beheadings, deaths from the volcano at Pompeii, etc. Verdict: Not my favorite in the series.

American Revolution. Viking, 2018. 137p. ISBN 978-0-451-47961-7.  P8Q8

Time travelers are invited to dip into the dangerous adventures of the Revolutionary War between the Tea Party of 1773 and the culminating Battle of Yorktown in 1781. In historical information about the nation’s cows, the author describes, for example, the murders of 35 French Canadians under George Washington’s leadership when he was 21 that led to the French and Indian War and later the Seven Years’ War, conflicts that may have led to the Revolutionary War because the British needed tax money to pay for the wars. Interesting trivia include males’ wearing powdered wigs to cover up sores from syphilis. People to have lunch with include the black slave teenage poet Phyllis Wheatley, the black patriot Salem Poor, and Benjamin Franklin. Black/white highlighted with blue.

Verdict: More accessible than Ancient Rome. 


January/February 2018 book review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Crims: Crime Runs in the Family, by Kate Davies

Davies, Kate. The Crims: Crime Runs in the Family. Harper Collins, 2017. $16.99, ISBN 9780062494092. 291 pages.  Ages 8-12.  P8 Q7.

The Crims are a family of criminals, but they have not mastered their art and get caught.  Imogen (the twelve year old girl) doesn’t want to be a part of a crime family, so she escapes to boarding school. However, when her family is accused of a crime that she believes they did not commit, she comes back to solve it. The characters are relatable in a weird way and the relationships between the characters are interesting. It is neat to have references to pop culture and the hidden comedy with a play on words.  In the end, you find out who committed the crime, but I won’t spoil it for you.

Verdict: I recommend this for upper elementary because of the humor once you get into the book. It is an enjoyable and fun read.

January 2018 review by BG (student).

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

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.