Book review: The Fisherman and the Whale, by Jessica Lanan

Lanan, Jessica. The Fisherman & the Whale. Simon & Schuster, 2019. Unp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-5344-1574-4. Ages 4-6. P9Q9

In this wordless story, a father takes a young boy, possibly his son, on a fishing trip where they discover a whale caught in ropes. Lush watercolors and gauche show the adventure above and below water as the man dives in to rescue the whale before the boy throws over a life preserver as the man swims back to the boat. In a superb finish, the whale leaps into the air before the ship heads back to shore in a sunset. An author’s note describes “purse seining” method of catching salmon and the problems of whales, porpoises, and dolphins becoming entangled in commercial fishing nets.

Verdict: The vivid communications between the boy and man are enhanced by the variety of perspectives, including the pair of eyes, one showing the whale in the human pupil and the reverse showing the two protagonists reflected in the whale’s pupil. A book that can be “read” over and over.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Cyril and Pat, by Emily Gravett

Gravett, Emily. Cyril and Pat. Simon & Schuster, 2019. Unp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-5344-3950-4. Ages 4-7. P9Q9

A gray squirrel, Cyril, thinks he has found a bosom buddy in Pat, and they have great adventures together playing games in the park and outsmarting other creatures until Cyril is told that Pat is a “thieving rat.” Everyone claims that squirrels can’t be friends with rats, and Cyril is alone—until Pat rescues Cyril from a terrifying experience outside the park. Bold pencil, acrylic ink, and watercolors against a white background illustrate their fun and games, temporary sadness, and the darkness when Slim the dog almost traps Cyril until Pat brings his pack to solve the problem.

Verdict: A fun read with a large variety of entertaining characters, the story’s message doesn’t overwhelm the literary text, and the whimsical images are delightful.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Our Flag Was Still There: The True Story of Mary Pickergill and the Star-Spangled Banner, by Jessie Hartland

Hartland, Jessie. Our Flag Was Still There: The True Story of Mary Pickergill and the Star-Spangled Banner. Simon & Schuster, 2019. Unp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-5344-0233-1. Ages 5-8. P7Q7

In 1813, George Armistead commissioned Mary Pickersgill, a flag-maker, to create a huge U.S. flag in two weeks to fly over Fort McHenry when the British tried to capture Baltimore. Text and gouache illustrations show the process with panels on two pages describing its 200-year history afterward, first in private ownership and then restored to a honored place at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. An author’s note at the end gives the names of the five girls and women who worked on the flag, information about the writing of the song that became the national anthem, and changes to the flag’s design as states were added to the union.

Verdict: The naïf style of illustrations may not please everyone, and the narrative skips over the work of Pickersgill’s crew. A more appealing book to younger readers, Kristen Fulton’s Long May She Wave: The True Story of Caroline Pickersgill and Her Star-Spangled Creation illustrated by Holly Berry, tells the story of the flag’s creation from Mary’s 13-year-old daughter, Caroline.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Nobody Hugs a Cactus, by Carter Goodrich

Goodrich, Carter. Nobody Hugs a Cactus. Simon & Schuster, 2019. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-5344-0090-0. Ages 5-8. P9Q9

Hank, a small saguaro cactus, lives in a round pot in an arched adobe window, preferring his quiet life despite those who want to befriend him: Rosie the Tumbleweed, a tortoise, a jackrabbit, a coyote, a lizard, and an owl. Friends can be nice to have, Hank discovers, when a cup becomes attached to his needles and Rosie rescues him. Watercolors, mostly in warm tones such as yellow, brown, and red highlight the setting of the Southwest desert, and the background for the owl is appropriately blue.

Verdict: The leisurely pace is appealing as each new character is introduced in a new two-page spread, and the language of movements and actions are rich and descriptive. Hank’s change is believable as he decides to do a favor for the tumbleweed that helped him.

May 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Bear and Squirrel are Friends, by Deb Pilutti

Pilutti, Deb. Bear and Squirrel are Friends. Simon & Schuster, 2015. 36 pgs. $17.99. ISBN 9781481429139. Ages PreS-Grade 1. P5Q6

Bear and Squirrel are friends, even though other animals are worried and surprised about it. They have fun together, and there is some nice humor in their times together. There is a moment of worry that the other friends are right to be concerned when bear is hungry, but it ends up to be a humorous lesson. Graphics are colorful and simple, but enjoyable.

VERDICT: Youngsters will probably enjoy this simple tale of friendship. It is a decent middle of the road offering with a lesson in being a good friend.

April 2019 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: Seeds Move!, by Robin Page

Page, Robin. Seeds Move! Simon & Schuster. 2019. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-5344-0915-6. Ages 3-6. P9Q9

Survival of a seed means “sunlight, soil, water, and an uncrowded place to put down roots.” So begins Page’s minimalist text about the various ways that seeds leave their original place to find a new home, beginning with “hitchhike” on a racoon and ending with “plops” as undigested seeds go through a brown bear. Large photoshop photos on the two-page spreads enhance the narration with different words for movement—shoots, catapults, drifts, floats, even helicopters.

Verdict: Charming, educational, and enlightening, the book can be explored time and again by both young and old. In addition, children will learn about expressive verbs to describe action.

April 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man behind the Machines, by Sarah Aronson, illustrated by Robert Neubecker

Aronson, Sarah. Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man behind the Machines. Illus by Robert Neubecker. Simon & Schuster, 2019. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-4814-7668-3. Ages 6-9. P7Q8

In the early 20th century, a young man entertained people by drawing unbelievably complex—and unrealistic—machines to perform the simplest of functions. By the middle of the century, the word “Goldberg” became a term for “impractical” because of his cartoons. Neubecker uses pencil and ink colored by a Macintosh computer to provide the improbable illustrations accompanying Aronson’s biography about his drive to become a cartoonist when he moved from San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake to New York City.

Verdict: Young readers who delight in the ridiculous and fanciful will enjoy these convoluted illustrations such as shutting off a light and cutting your own hair.

April 2019 review by Nel Ward.