Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Wide-Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner

The Wide-Mouthed Frog: A POP-UP BOOK
Illustrated by Jonathan Lambert, Dial, New York, 1996.
Hardcover edition, 16 pages, ISBN 0-8037-1875-6.

A pompous amphibian brags about his oversized oriface as he polls other creatures concerning their eating habits.

"I'm a wide-mouthed frog and I eat flies..., what do you eat?"

We learn about the varied diets of the bird, the mouse, and finally, the alligator, who ironically replies, "I eat delicious wide-mouthed frogs!"

The frog's immediate comical response is to pucker his mouth into as small an opening as possible, "Oooooh, you don't see many of those around do you?" and leaps into the pond with a "SPLASH!"

A stark white background offsets Lambert's bright watercolor characters, each of whom is placed in the book's centerfold. An impressive protruding pop-up proboscis emerges with each turn of the page, culminating with the colossal unfolding of the final "splash".

Enjoyable as a one-on-one readaloud, this little book also lends itself to frog-themed storytimes. It is especially entertaining to exaggerate mouth movements when performing the voice of the frog, and to bring to a vociferous conclusion.

The repeated sequences of the frog's interaction with each animal allow for easy memorization. Children will love creating additional animal characters and their appropriate lunches in order to keep the story alive longer.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Guess Who? by Margaret Miller

Guess Who?
Greenwillow Books, New York, 1994.
Hardcover edition, 32 pages, ISBN 0-688-12784-3.

Margaret Miller produces another photographic classic featuring common community occupations. A picture question is posed on one page ( Who flies an airplane?), and the reader is presented with four silly photo replies on the next (A bus driver? A statue? A turtle? A baby?). The true answer is presented on the next double page spread with gender and ethnically diverse subjects pictured ( a woman pilot).

Children will enjoy thinking through and responding to the absurdity of the false answers, as well as affirming the correct choice. The photos are arranged artfully in color and composition with clear depictions of the activity being performed as well as an engaging performer.

Baby's First Year by Rick Walton

Baby's First Year
Illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 2011.
Hardcover edition, 32 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-25025-5.

Big brother and sister celebrate their new sibling's milestones in rhyming guesses:

Baby likes to talk a lot.
But understand?
We do not.
Until one day,
what's that we heard?
Was that our Baby's very first...


Church's vivid pastel backgrounds highlight the simply delineated family figures in this joyful romp through first kisses, smiles, peek-a-boos, laughs, crawling, teeth, books, steps and falls leading up to the first birthday party.

A cheerful focus on family closeness, and a celebratory way to trace important landmarks of baby's development for older children. Walton adds a first year milestone poster on the back of the dust jacket with spots for photos of the momentous events. For fun, the author/illustrator photos on the fly leaf are baby pics.

Recommended for family reading, as well as for a story hour about babies or families.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

Not a Box
HarperCollins, New York, 2006.
Hardcover edition, 32 pages, ISBN: 978-0061123221.

Wrapped in brown cardboard paper and weighing a mere 11.5 oz. Net Wt., this item, which is clearly "not a box" needs to be handled "This Side Up".

"Why/what are you sitting (doing, squirting, wearing, standing) in/on this box?" asks an omniscient voice, page after page.

The simple line-drawn bunny accompanied by his suspiciously box-like object repeatedly disabuses the notion of boxhood by responding to the series of queries with increasing fervor, "It's NOT NOT NOT NOT a box!"

The object has, after all, been miraculously transformed by imagination into a racecar (mountain peak, burning house, robot, crow's nest, tugboat, hot air balloon, elephant howdah).

An easy beginning read with repetitive patterns, this little gem also invites small ones to create their own possibilities and visions for "outside of the box" thinking.

Provides a wonderful centerpiece for a "Bring your own Box" decorating event.

ALA Notable Children's Book Winner
Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor Book, 2007.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On the Farm by David Elliott

On the Farm
Illustrated by Holly Meade. Candlewick Press, Cambridge, MA, 2007.
Hardcover edition, 32 pages, ISBN 978-0-7636-3322-6.

Meade's stunning and engaging earth-toned, double-spread woodcuts create a masterful backdrop for Elliott's simple, wry poetry. Children will delight in investigating the details of life on the family farm while absorbing clever observations on resident animals.

The Barn Cat
had better
think twice."

Horn Book Starred Review
Cybils Award in Children's Poetry Books, Nominee, 2008
Raising Reader Selection, 2009

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2000.
Hardcover edition, 32 pages, ISBN 0-06-021417-1.

Degen joyously depicts the exuberant quest of a boy and a bear for berries to make jam. All kinds of berries! Lots and lots of berries!

The simple silly rhymes grow in tempo and intensity as the story progresses from the idyllic countryside, canoeing over waterfalls, dancing with ponies, piling train cars with "billions of berries", greeting brass bands and skating elephants, and flying away in a raspberry balloon as berry rockets explode about them:

"Mountains and fountains
Rain down on me
Buried in berries
What a jam jamboree!"

The brightly-colored illustrations burst with berry hues, providing whimsical details for children to discover: tiny animals, biscuit and butter lily pads, marshmallow marsh plants, jelly roll flowers, and borders of berry-laden vines twining around it all.

Be sure to serve up some jam and bread, and an array of berries with a dollop of cream along with this celebration of color and sound inspired by Degen's family memories of berry-picking and jam-making.

ALA Booklist Editors' Choice
IRA/CBC Children's Choice
American Bookseller Pick of the Lists

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Let's Make Rabbits by Leo Lionni

Let's Make Rabbits
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2002.
Boardbook edition. 28 pages. ISBN 0-375-81564-3

The scissors and the pencil decide to make rabbits: one with a collage of colorful paper, and the other with a simply drawn outline. The two rabbits immediately become friends. So begins Caldecott-winning illustrator, Leo Lionni's, original fable.

The rabbits eat carrots created by the scissors and pencil: one from colored paper, and the other, a simply drawn outline. They nap. Upon waking, the rabbits discover a real carrot from an unknown source. They know it is real because it has a shadow. As they eat it, they become real, too. They know they are real because they also have shadows. Joyously, they hop away.

This simple story with simple drawings against a white background is especially suited to a boardbook edition. The use of scissors and pencil as creative elements begs for a craft project using the same.