Wednesday, August 10, 2016

They All Saw A Cat


This is a simple, but clever concept about how one thing can be seen completely in a completely different light from another viewpoint. It's easy to forget that our view isn't the only view. Wenzel's inspiration for the book came from teaching art, explaining "My philosophy is that it’s impossible to do a bad drawing, and I always introduce that right away to kids. If every kid in a classroom draws the exact same thing – say, a cat – they will come up with a unique image, depending on their perspectives on and experiences with cats, that puts the animal in a different, new light.” That reminds me of how fun it is to walk down the hallway in an elementary school, seeing the variance of a project from an entire class hung in a line.

When you see a cat, what do you see? What a child sees when the cat wanders past is not at all the same as what the dog, or snake, or fish sees. Really interesting to turn the pages and see how each illustration is completely different from the last. It's like looking at the cat through a series of fun house mirrors. I love the fish's view (shown directly below), but probably the best is the patchwork version of the cat from all the views.

Large pages, and plenty of vibrant colors make this a fun read. There isn't much text, and there doesn't need to be. This is a fantastic way to show children how our view isn't the only view. Definitely check out the book trailer from Chronicle Books. Interesting side note: this is Wenzel's first book, which had eight publishing houses bidding on the rights.

Review copy provided by Chronicle Books. 
Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Black Rabbit


Philippa Leathers

One sunny morning, Little Rabbit is startled to discover there is a large, black rabbit looming behind him. Little Rabbit shrieks at him to go away, but his aggressor only stands dark and silent, unmoving. Poor Rabbit tries a multitude of tricks, hiding behind a large tree and swimming across the river, but that scary black rabbit is always just a step behind.

Little Rabbit is so panicked, that he unthinkingly runs straight into the deep, dark woods, which  he would ordinarily be ultra careful to avoid. (So cute that the woods are marked with a large wooden entrance sign: "Welcome to the deep, dark wood.") True to their name, the woods are deep and dark .... but at least there's no sign of that big black bunny.

Just as Little Rabbit takes a seat on a tree stump and breathes a sigh of relief, he notices two slanted eyes peering at him out of the darkness. These eyes belong to someone much more threatening than the character who had been following him all day ... the Wolf! Rabbit panics and runs, with Wolf hot on his heels. But just as quickly as he appeared, Wolf disappears. Because there, standing behind Little Rabbit, in the bright sunshine, is the Black Rabbit.

I love all the little details of Philippa Leathers' little neurotic bunny! His stubby legs in proportion to those long ears,the high spots of color on his cheeks and those big eyes with the worried look. From the illustrations, even young readers will realize right away why the Black Rabbit is there. Super adorable book! 

Review copy provided by Candlewick Press.  
Friday, May 8, 2015

Alexander Calder: Meet the Artist

I'm a little bit in love with this book. At the risk of admitting I am an uneducated rube, I had previously been unaware of Alexander Calder. Thankfully, this book welcomes rubes.

The book starts off fun, with the first two pages covered with colored bubbles (some of which lift up to display photos) that give away blips of information about the artist. I particularly liked the one that read "He used to wear red flannel shirts and dust-covered shoes, and his pockets were full of things." He sounds like such a lovable character.

After the personal section, the book goes on to describe and present photos of Calder's work, from brass animals and toys to wire sculptures and mobiles. More than that, this is also a read and play book, with interactive parts available for the readers. On one page is a chain attached at the top and bottom, with a length that you move around to create free form sculptures. At the very back of the book is a pocket that holds two sheets of punch-outs. One sheet is circus animals that you punch out to to use on the circus page, on the pop up high wire.

Definitely this book is intended to be inspirational, and it truly hits the mark. Seeing what Calder created makes me believe that I could also create something beautiful out of everyday objects. Readers can start creating by using the sheet of punch out household items (tin cans, bottle caps, clothespins) provided in the book, and hopefully move on from there.

Meet the Artist seems to be a new series from Princeton Architectural Press, at least I hope it is, because this book is the perfect mix of educational, artistic, quirky, and fun. 

Review copy provided by Princeton Architectural Press.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Flip Flap Farm


Shurkeys, and Chows, and Mabbits, so fun! This is a really clever book that allows readers to flip the the pages around to make all sorts of interesting animals. Ever wondered how a pig would look balanced on little chicken legs? This is the book for you.  

The basic set up: there are eleven pages of actual animals. The animal is on the right, two paragraphs of information about that animal on the left, and the animal's name running vertically down the edge of the page. The fun part is that each page is split in half, which means you can flip the top or the bottom half to create 121 animal combinations. Sheep upper and squirrel lower makes a Shirrel - an animal that provides fleece for wool and scurries around burying acorns. We love the Dow: dog upper half and cow lower half. Great for herding sheep and provides milk!

Scheffler did a fantastic job sizing the animals and making them line up just right, so the new combinations look proportionate and funny as heck. There is also something about the way the eyes are drawn, so it seems as though the animal is looking directly at the reader, kind of like they are in on the joke. "I have turkey legs. What do you think about that?" We were pretty much cracking up making silly animal combinations and picturing them running around in real life. Really fun book!

Review copy provided by Nosy Crow. 
Saturday, January 25, 2014



Jon and Tucker Nichols 

I can see why this book is generating a lot of positive buzz. It's unusual, both in format and content. There's nothing I like better than taking a tour of someone's house. Reading this is exactly like that, although I'm pretty sure this guy has far more unusual items than the rest of us.

Alfred Crabtree has lost his false teeth. After a brief and fruitless search, he starts to organize all his belongings on the advice of his sister. Not only does Alfred has some very odd items, he also has some interesting methods of categorization. I found Alfred to be extremely compelling only five pages in, where he displays his collection of real ducks and decoys (including six spare eyeballs). And I knew we could be friends when I stumbled across his very large collection of Small Yapping Dogs.     

Page by page, we get to see this great mix (from dull to wacky to what-the-hee-haw?) of Alfred's possessions, neatly laid out and labeled. Sometimes the category is weird, other times the seemingly normal group contains odd items, or maybe the labels are terribly clever. In any case, you can find humor on every page, and  part of the fun is looking closely. I particularly liked the page with the packed boxes and his nutty labels, although I'm sad we don't get to see the contents of the Sticky Things box.      

I love how the book is oversized - fourteen inches tall. Big books feel like such a luxury to me, particularly when you can open this one up and have all these great big pages filled with fascinating items. It's exactly like pawing through someone's closet, with none of the embarrassment.  

Review copy provided by McSweeney's McMullens.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pomelo's Opposites

Ramona Badescu; Benjamin Chaud 

We love Pomelo! I'm very pleased to see more unique perspectives from my favorite pink elephant. Ramona Badescu covers these expected basic subjects, but her versions are just so smart and clever, that they end up being anything but expected. Pomelo demonstrating opposites is as refreshing as Pomelo Explores Color.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a funny opposites book before, but now that I have, the others seem even more ordinary. This one goes way beyond the traditional in/out, over/under opposite pairings. Badescu covers the lesser known opposites, such as convex/concave, fleeting/permanent, evident/unimaginable, and heartless/kind. One was so obscure, that I actually had to look up the definition. I love a children's book that makes you think.

But even her less outlandish pairs are far from boring. A carrot is ordinary. A carrot in a shape of an elephant is extraordinary. A dream is Pomelo with a lush head of head, while reality is bald Pomelo. She even makes in/out and real/pretend very amusing. Absolutely the very best, most enjoyable book of opposites we have found. 

Review copy provided by Enchanted Lion. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where's Waldo: The Totally Essential Travel Collection

Martin Handford 

Typically, Where's Waldo books are quite large, about 10" x 12", but thin. Certainly fun for home, but maybe not the ideal book to spread open while traveling. Now the clever people in charge of marketing have packed SEVEN volumes of classic Where's Waldo into one much smaller edition. It's genius, really.   

This is technically a soft cover, but with exceptionally strong front and back covers, and a sturdy bendable spine. This means you can crack it open and spread it out for thorough searching without fear of cracking the spine.

Each adventure includes a fold-out checklist at the beginning and end, with hundreds of more items to look for. There's really no chance of running out of items to search for, no matter how long your trip is. 

The classic Waldo books included in this travel edition:

Where’s Waldo?
Where’s Waldo Now?
Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey
Where’s Waldo? The Wonder Book
Where’s Waldo? In Hollywood
Where’s Waldo? The Great Picture Hunt!
Where’s Waldo? The Incredible Paper Chase

Review copy provided by Candlewick Press.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

TouchThinkLearn Books


Xavier Deneux

The old toddler classic, the board book, has been re-imagined, and the results are fabulous. TouchThinkLearn books are designed for early learning with a new dimension.

These retain the sturdiness we love of board books, but with die cut shapes added to the pages for more to touch and feel. Like tiny puzzles, the raised up shapes on the left hand page fit exactly into the cut out shapes on the right side. The shapes are very simple yet thick, so toddlers can get those chubby hands right in there, but parents won't have worry about them being able to tear any pieces off.  

Obviously you need more than just sturdy to make a great board book. Deneux has a way of creating illustrations that are very simple, but incredibly adorable. The bunnies that illustrate inside/outside in the Opposites book are the cutest darn things. They are only outdone by the  white kitten turned ninja cat in the Colors book. It's very clever how the elephant demonstrating heavy fits perfectly into the pure white cloud that is light, and the submarine is the exact same shape as the whale. 

Creating a better board book with more dimension is a smart idea. Unlike books that offer flaps and pop ups, these are sturdy enough for curious toddlers. I love Colors and Opposites, and would expect the other two books in the collection, Shapes and Numbers, to be on par. Smart, cute, and fun to touch.    

Review copy provided by Chronicle Books. 


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