Judging a Book by its Cover: “Beautiful” Picture Book Reviews

20180731_100803-1In my last batch of PB reviews, I focused on authors or illustrators I recognized and titles I had been meaning to read. Today, I chose books I was unfamiliar with by authors and illustrators I didn’t remember reading before. There were definitely some fun finds in the bunch and some authors you’ll probably be hearing more from in the future!

51r3bldbn2l-_sy456_bo1204203200_Title: Mrs. Mole, I’m Home!
Author/Illustrator: Jarvis
Publisher/Date: Walker Books Ltd (April 6, 2017)
The “gist”: After a long day at work, Mr. Mole has lost his glasses, but has determined he will get home to his family. It just might take a while!
My favorite part: I loved the fact that the reader realizes his glasses are on his head the whole time and he never notices.
My response as a reader: The downside of this story is that it’s a tad predictable of course, but it’s so cute who cares? On the other hand, the animal families he interrupts on his way home start out fairly “normal,” and get more outlandish, reminding one of the old Bugs Bunny cartoons where he pops up in unexpected places.
My “take-away” as a writer:   This book would be a fabulous mentor text for layout and story pacing. There are a couple layouts setting up the scenario followed by “failures” which become increasingly more dangerous until he finally resolves at home– ending with a tiny surprise at the end for the reader. All within a brisk word count and adorable illustrations.

61ml3seic5l-_sx478_bo1204203200_Title: In-Between Things
Author/Illustrator: Priscilla Tey
Publisher/Date: Candlewick (May 22, 2018)
The “gist”:  This book challenges the reader to explore and think about objects, spaces and concepts which are “in between” other things. It starts very simply (the cat is between the table and the table and the chair) to much more complex thoughts like what’s between the floor of one room and the ceiling of the floor beneath. Oh yeah, and it rhymes!
My favorite part: I love the illustrations which look at “forgotten” areas like under the rug or under the floor (see the cover).
My response as a reader: This is the kind of book which I would imagine resonates even more when it’s over. It would be great for a classroom where kids could create their own drawings of what is located “in between” two areas, like between the refrigerator and the wall, between the bed and the floor, etc.
My “take-away” as a writer:  One of my stumbling blocks as a children’s author is the idea that everything has been done already. This book is stunningly original and reminds me that there are indeed still new ideas out there!

 

61mof-ppwgl-_sx414_bo1204203200_Title: Too Many Carrots
Author/Illustrator: Katy Hudson
Publisher/Date: Capstone Young Readers (February 1, 2016)
The “gist”: Rabbit loves collecting carrots so much he needs to find a new place to live, but moving in with his friends becomes…problematic.
My favorite part: Is it a coincidence that judging a book by its cover has landed me with three gorgeous author/illustrated books? Look at the luscious orange on that cover? The illustrations remind me a bit of Mary Englebreit and that’s a good thing here.
My response as a reader: Similar to the “Mole” book above, the storyline here is a little predictable, but then again, jaded adults are not the target audience– kids like preditability, particularly since they will undoubtedly be smarter than the main character, who takes quite a while to realize he has entirely…(wait for it)…TOO MANY CARROTS!
My “take-away” as a writer:  Faithful readers will recognize my oft-repeated refrain “I wish I could illustrate like that!” It’s ok, though, because not only do I recognize that a lot of hard work is behind that talent, but Katy Hudson has worked equally hard to make her writing work too, so there’s always something to be learned, in this case about simplicity and clarity.

61idynusral-_sx398_bo1204203200_Title: The Prince and the Pee
Author: Greg Gormley
Illustrator: Chris Mould
Publisher/Date: Nosy Crow (June 26, 2018)
The “gist”: A prince is on vacation when he’s called away to save a castle under attack by a dragon. Unfortunately, he didn’t have time to stop and pee first.
My favorite part: My favorite character is the horse, Sir Rushington, who channels his inner “Alfred,” as he responds to the poor prince’s troubles with exclamations like “How frustrating!”
My response as a reader: This book is fabulous!! I was a little reluctant at first because of the “pee” humor, but if “Everybody Poops” can be a best seller, there’s room for this take. And really, haven’t we all said “You should have gone before you left” to a young person? Or struggled to find a place to go when traveling? It’s a fairy tale setting, but completely relatable!
My “take-away” as a writer:  This is yet another wonderful mentor text– it follows a definite structure as our “hero” struggles to solve his problem, but it also keeps up wonderful patterns which kids would find extremely satisfying in a read-aloud (“Up and down. Up and down. Up and down” for one!).

51roq5ujvpl-_sx396_bo1204203200_Title: Copy Cat
Author/Illustrator: Ali Pye
Publisher/Date: Nosy Crow (May 22, 2018)
The “gist”: Bella loves Anna and copies everything she does until Bella gets annoyed and leaves. Then Anna realizes she can have fun on her own– or with other friends.
My favorite part: We copy for a lot of reasons. Some are negative, sure, but many are not! Sometimes we copy because we admire a friend or so we can learn how to do something! I love that this book starts out with one form of copying (which isn’t actually negative anyway) and brings it back around into something even more positive.
My response as a reader: This is a great way to teach kids the old saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” since Bella is truly only copying because she loves her friend so much!
My “take-away” as a writer:  There’s a great story here, but as with Too Many Carrots, it’s told with very little text. As I work on my current manuscript, I realize it desperately needs to lose some text. Maybe I can be inspired to “copy” Ali Pye’s style and slim it down a bit!

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