Book review: The Snow Lion, by Jim Helmore, illustrated by Richard Jones

Helmore, Jim. The Snow Lion. Illustrated by Richard Jones. Peachtree Publishers, 2018. $17.95. ISBN 9781682630488. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P6 Q7

It is challenging to move to a new house and make new friends, especially if you are shy. When Caro explores her new house, she discovers a Snow Lion in the white walls. The Snow Lion is a perfect friend for shy Caro. The Snow Lion encourages Caro to play at the park. While Caro is at the park, she meets a boy named Bobby. As she meets new friends, the Snow Lion is there to encourage her. Her mother suggests Caro’s friends work together to paint the white walls. Caro wonders if painting the walls will make her Snow Lion disappear. Illustrations are in subdued muted color, which may not make it as popular as  books with brightly colored illustrations. The mixed media artwork illustrations start out dark as Cara’s car is heading toward her new house. The inside of the house is white, which sets the stage for the Snow Lion.

Verdict: Children who are shy will be comforted by the Snow Lion and the positive way he helps Caro find friends. Themes of friendship and courage permeate the sweet story. If a child is not shy and hasn’t had to move, they may not relate as much to the story.

November 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Postcards from Venice, by Dee Romito

Romito, Dee. Postcards from Venice. Aladdin, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781534403383. 257 pages. Ages 9-13. P7 Q7

What would it be like to live for a few months in Italy? Skyler’s mom is relocated to Venice, Italy for her work. When they arrive, Skyler finds out she will be part of a mentorship program writing a blog about the city. While Skyler loves to explore and discover new things, she finds that she has writers block when it comes to writing her blog. Her mom is often preoccupied at work, which adds an element of disappointment to some of Skyler’s adventures. Skyler meets new people and she has to figure out how to navigate friendships. This book is a companion to The BFF Bucket List, but can stand alone. I think readers will enjoy the many descriptions of Venice. It captured the magic of Venice along with the tourist attractions.

Verdict: Readers will enjoy Skyler’s adventures in Venice, mishaps as she learns a new language, how she navigates her new and old friendships and how she works through her mom’s priorities. I recommend this book for elementary and public libraries.

October 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Colette’s Lost Pet, by Isabelle Arsenault

Arsenault, Isabelle. Colette’s Lost Pet. Random House, 2017. $17.99. Unpaged. ISBN 9780553536591. Ages 3-6. P6 Q7

Colette, who has never been allowed to have a pet, has just moved to a new neighborhood. After inventing a lost pet, she enlists help from the local kids to find it. Her initial fib compounds as she spins the story of her imagined pet. How will her new friends react when they learn she was dishonest? We are told Colette’s tale through hand-lettered text that resides in dialogue balloons. The sketchy illustrations are deceptively detailed and have a pleasingly limited color palette.  While the book’s message champions imaginative play and community engagement, I am somewhat hesitant to recommend it.  There is no discussion addressing Colette’s dishonesty and its potential consequences.

Verdict: Colette’s Lost Pet is a good-looking book about childhood acceptance and understanding. The message is one of inclusion, celebrating individuality, and teamwork. A rejection of dishonest behavior would have been welcomed, as there is none. Nevertheless, it is recommended to fans of Arsenault’s previous works, as well as children experiencing a move.

April 2018 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Bruce’s Big Move, by Ryan T. Higgins

Higgins, Ryan T. Bruce’s Big Move. Disney/ Hyperion, 2017. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781368003544. Ages 5-6. P8Q9

Bruce the grumpy bear is mother to four geese. He and his geese children live with three messy, noisy mice who make Bruce crazy. He tries everything to make the mice leave, but they won’t take a hint. When Bruce and the geese finally move away to escape from the mice, the geese are very sad without their friends! I loved the end, where a moving van arrives and the mice pile out with the furniture! The illustrations are really funny and full of character. You can see Bruce’s curmudgeonly attitude, but also sense that he’s not really so cranky inside.

VERDICT: I haven’t read the other Bruce books, but I think I’ll put them on the purchase list for my library.

December 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book reviews: Ben Says Goodbye, by Sarah Ellis, illustrated by Kim LaFave

Ellis, Sarah. Ben Says Goodbye. Illustrated by Kim LaFave. Pajama Press, 2016. $18.95. ISBN 9781927485798. Unpaged. Ages 3-6. P6 Q6

The inside cover has cave drawings depicting adventures. Ben’s friend Peter is moving. To deal with his feelings of loss, Ben hides under the table and draws cave drawings of adventures he imagines himself and Peter having. At the end of the book, someone moves in next door. The author shows a scooter being unloaded from the moving truck along with the words, “Just the right size for a new friend.” This allows the reader to use his/her imagination as to who has moved in next door. The story was a bit choppy and disjointed. While it explored the feelings one has when one’s friend moves, it also shows that new friends appear.

Verdict: I recommend this book for parents who want to help their children deal with their friend moving away. It shows the child taking some time to deal with his feelings and then the parents spending time with him. It ends with hope that a new friend will appear. Teachers may want this book in their library to help students realize that new friends can appear at any time.

June 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Forever Garden, by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Samantha Cotterill

Snyder, Laurel. The Forever Garden. Illustrated by Samantha Cotterill. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9780553512731. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

As Honey works in her garden, the little girl who lives next door follows her around. Through various activities, they develop a close relationship. As the story progresses, the little girl notices Honey’s house is up for sale. This picture book shows how relationships grow and how to deal with people we love moving. The story is told from the little girl’s point of view. I thought it was odd that the author did not name the little girl. The Forever Garden is based very loosely on a Talmudic story. The idea of gardening is an apt metaphor for friendship. The illustrations in this book are in pen and ink on watercolor paper and colored digitally. The author used language that children can relate to.

Verdict: The Forever Garden walks children through how relationships grow and how to handle it when our friends move away. I recommend this book for public libraries, individual libraries, elementary school libraries and classroom libraries.

June 2017 review by Tami Harris.

[Editor’s note: A review from Kirkus notes that The Forever Garden is about a girl named Laurel who becomes friends with the gardener who lives next door, an adult woman named Honey.]

Book review: Lenny & Lucy, by Philip Stead, illustrations by Erin Stead

Stead, Philip. Lenny & Lucy. Illus. Erin Stead. “A Neal Porter Book.” Roaring Book Press, 2015. unp. $17.99. ISBN:978-1-59643-932-0. Gr. K+. P8 Q8

Peter is not happy that he has to move as he no control over it. I too remember moving when I was only six years old and that I had no control. Was the move hard?: no, but it was scary. Peter and his dog, Harold, soon find friends. Friends, Lenny and Lucy that Peter makes up in his imagination. These imaginary friends and the friendship of a young girl Millie are what finally make his new home, truly home. The color illustrations go along with Peter’s moods and help to tell the story.

Verdict: A book, which offers the true meaning of friendship and that a move is not always bad.

April 2017 review by Carol Bernardi.

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Stead, Philip. Lenny & Lucy. Illustrated by Erin Stead. “A Neal Porter Book.” Roaring Book Press, 2015. unp. $17.99. ISBN:978-1-59643-932-0. Gr. K+. P6 Q8

Peter, a small boy, moves with his father and his dog to a dark house across the bridge from  a dark wood.  Peter is afraid, and Harold, because he is only a dog, cannot help. In an attempt to protect the house against his fears, Peter creates guardian figures from blankets and pillows, stations them by the bridge, and names them Lenny and Lucy.  Surreal ink and subtly colored illustrations highlight Peter’s isolation and fears, and warmer colors show the comfort of having friends, though the friends are merely stuffed creatures.  Resolution comes when a neighbor girl investigates Lenny and Lucy.

Both the story and illustrations are unsettling and leave questions unanswered: where is Peter’s mother; why does his father not notice Peter’s distress; why did Peter not explore the new neighborhood and discover Millie’s house; why did the household have so much unused bedding?  Though moving household is distressing–especially for small children–I am not sure that the story in this oddly appealing picture book carries enough substance to offer comfort.

Verdict: Recommended for public libraries, chiefly for the quality of the illustrations.

August 2017 review by Jane Cothron