Book review: Brave Molly, by Brooke Boynton-Hughes

Boynton-Hughes, Brooke. Brave Molly. Chronicle Books, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781452161006. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Molly is looking out her window when she sees a shadow-like creature. She draws the character and then wads up the paper and throws it away. The creature multiplies as it follows her. She climbs a tree to get away from the creatures. Molly gets frustrated at the monsters and balls her fists. When she shouts at the monsters, they leave and Molly’s face looks hopeful. As she walks away, she notices another monster. When she shares her book with a friend and says “hi,” the monster leaves. Except for the bright red jacket that Molly wears, the illustrations are brown, green, light blue, and grey tones.

Verdict: With the book being wordless, one is able to make captions in their head and create the narrative. It shows that once children face their fear, the fear leaves. This is a non-threatening book for readers to use to gather courage.

December 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Fly!, by Mark Teague

Teague, Mark. Fly! Beach Lane Books, 2019. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781534451285. Ages 3-6. P7 Q8

A small, round fledgling robin has grown too big for the nest, but no matter how the mother robin cajoles and describes the delights of flight, the baby robin refuses.  Even when the very hungry baby falls out of the nest in a tantrum, it refuses to fly.  Only as night approaches and the mother describes the dangers of dogs, cats, and owls, does the baby finally take the leap into flight.

Verdict:  I am not sure how Mark Teague manages to convey such a wide range of emotions on the faces of the mother and baby birds.  His use of space and color is simple, yet entirely effective in telling this wordless story of the baby bird leaving the nest.  Highly recommended for kindergarten through elementary and public library collections. Also, consider it as a possible graduation gift for students leaving high school or college.

December 2019 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Field Trip to the Moon, by John Hare

Hare, John. Field Trip to the Moon. Margaret Ferguson Books, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9780823442539. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q8

A wordless moon picture book! Explorers travel on a yellow bus through the sky to the moon. They walk on the moon in their space suits, write in journals and rest. Oh no! one explorer has been left behind. The explorer finds itself surrounded by ……aliens! Will the explorer find its way home? The illustrations will keep the reader engaged. When the grown-up explorer returns to the moon, they make the young explorer clean up its mess. Even though the explorer has its helmet on, the reader can tell by the drooped shoulders that it is sad. It shows that one needs to clean up after themselves. However, to add comic relief and makes readers smile, the aliens have another idea! Even with the space mask, the illustrations show how the characters are feeling. Extremely well done.

Verdict: This amazing book tells a story without any words. Shows friendship, exploration and creativity. Readers will look at the book over and over. With the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, this is a perfect way to celebrate. I highly recommend this book.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

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: Inside Outside, by Anne Margot Ramstein and Matthias Arégui

Ramstein, Anne Margot and Matthias Arégui. Inside Outside. Candlewick, 2019. $18.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-5362-0597-8. Ages 4-7. P9Q9

As in Before After (2014), the two creators use colorful digital wordless illustrations to present concepts. The first two-page spread presents an inside view of a duck egg on the left and the mother and an offspring watching the object on the opposite page. The book moves forward to show the labyrinth of a mine for the inside, a motif repeated in the last spread as an older man sits looking out his window away from all the objects in his room. Some of the pairs are humorous: the closeup of a heart belongs to a bungee jumper, and the person building a fire in a tent is discovered inside a whale. Most of the pages come from nature, giving the reader a chance to explore the outside world.

Verdict: Colorful and thought-provoking, this oversize book will be perfect to share with classes.

May 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Brain Storm, by Linda Ragsdale, illustrated by Claudio Molina

Ragsdale, Linda. The Brain Storm. Illus. by Claudio Molina. Flowerpot Press. 2019. $16.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-486-71556-5. Ages 3-7. P9Q9

In this wordless book, black squiggles demonstrate the energy surrounding a depressed child who struggles with everyday life—going to school and living with grandparent. The solution to problems is building a paper-like airplane sent out into the world. The book begins with a two-page spread as the child is in bed and ends with the same scene—much more colorful—with the black lines gone and a smile on the child’s face.

Verdict: The symbolism of the constant presence of darkness disappearing into the distance may inspire young readers about how to dissipate the problems that follow them through their daily lives. A bonus is that the child lives with a grandparent, rarely seen in children’s literature.

April 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Found, by Jeff Newman, illustrated by Larry Day

Newman, Jeff. Found. Illustrator Larry Day. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781534410060. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P6Q8

Found is a heartwarming, wordless story about a sweet girl and a lost dog named Rosco.  They quickly become best of friends and spend every waking moment together. The main character, after noticing a lost and found sign for her new friend, encounter a heart wrenching dilemma, to return Rosco or keep him. The illustrations vividly display the agony the main character navigates as she wrestles with the decision to return Rosco to his rightful owner. After reuniting Rosco with his grateful owner, she is rewarded with a new friend, a dog from the local shelter. The illustrations are simplistic with bold black lines accented with bright colors highlighting the main characters.

Verdict: This book will be a good addition to any K-3rd grade classroom or library and can be used as a mentor text for lessons on small moments, doing the right thing even when it is hard, how a character changes through a story, illustrating emotions, drawing inferences, and the power of caring.

April 2019 review by Marcy Doyle.