Book review: Owl Sees Owl, by Laura Godwin, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey

Godwin, Laura, and Rob Dunlavey. Owl Sees Owl. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016. 32 pgs. $17.99. ISBN 9780553497823. Ages 3-7.  P9Q9

An owlet leaves its nest, explores the night forest around it, and returns home. The story is wonderfully simple, and the text is descriptive and sparse. Soar/ Glide/ Swoop/ Swish. The illustrations are dark and deep. They draw you into this young owl’s world. I enjoyed everything about this book, especially the concept of the reverso poetry style it is written in.

VERDICT: Young readers and also adult readers will be drawn into the night world of this owlet, proving that few words well-placed with gorgeous illustrations can make a story that has an impact. Simplicity well designed.

March 2019 review by Lynne Wright.


Book review: Little Taco Truck, by Tanya Valentine, illustrated by Jorge Martin

Valentine, Tanya. Little Taco Truck. Illus. by Jorge Martin. Schwartz & Wade, 2019. $16.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-5247-6585-9. Ages 4-7. P9Q9

Little Taco Truck has a profitable and happy life selling his food to workers building high rises in the city until he is slowly crowded out by other trucks selling a variety of ethnic food. Miss Falafel came first, followed by Jumbo Gumbo and then Annie’s Arepas. With no place left for him, Little Taco Truck plans to arrive in the night and claim his spot. The other trucks apologize for crowding him out and even make room for Oodles of Noodles the next day. The glossary defines six types of food on the trucks.

Verdict: The theme of accepting different ethnic groups is gloriously illustrated by bright digital colors that demonstrate the trucks’ different personalities, and the representation of the workers as different animal species gives a quirky touch to the plot.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: What Is Given from the Heart, by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by April Harrison

McKissack, Patricia C. What Is Given from the Heart. Illus. by April Harrison. Schwarz & Wade, 2019. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-375-83615-2. Ages 5-8. P8Q8

In McKissack’s last book, published posthumously, James Otis, living in poverty with his single mother in a small Southern town after his father dies, ponders over a gift for Sarah, a little girl whose family has lost everything in the family. His attempt to make a decision shows his simple treasures such as a rock, but his mother insists that he find something for her because “what is given from the heart reaches the heart.” James’s choice reaches the Sarah’s heart when he gives her a book that he writes himself.

Verdict: This last work from the three-time Coretta Scott Award winner and Newbery Honor author pairs well with the picture book debut of an illustrator using mixed-media images of collage, acrylic, and found objects that give the feeling of stained glass. The beautiful gesture of a James’s mother making an apron from her best tablecloth for someone who has even less than she does is matched by the touching scene when she and James return home to find a “love box” of donations from the church.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Elvis Is King, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio

Winter, Jonah. Elvis Is King! Illus. by Red Nose Studio. Schwartz & Wade, 2019. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-399-55470-4. Ages 4-8. P8Q8

Born “on the wrong side of the railroad tracks,” a blond boy gets his start singing in church and wanting to feel loved. Winter brings out Elvis Presley’s personality as he stays lonely despite his success after buying a used guitar, dying his hair black, and developing a new style of rock and roll that combines rhythm and blues with country music. An endnote with a few photographs discusses the reasons for Presley’s popularity and skips the tragic events of his later life.

Verdict: The distinctive art, photographs of intriguing handcrafted articles of wire, fabric, wood, and found objects, will engross the readers as much as the simple lyrical text. The back of the cover shows objects used in the book and explains what they are made of. Charming on all fronts.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.

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: Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle

Hagen, George. Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle. Schwartz and Wade Books, 2014. $16.99 ISBN 9780385371032 371pgs. Ages 9-12. P7Q7.

Gabriel Finley loves riddles. His dad used to tell him riddles all the time. Gabriel’s dad disappeared years ago and now strange things are beginning to happen to him. Gabriel can communicate with ravens. This has been a family gift and the reason his dad disappeared. Gabriel goes on a quest with his raven Paladin to find his father. The themes in this book are friendship, trust, and perseverance. I believe students who like Gregor the Overlander will like this book. September 2014 review by Jo Train.