Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Review - Goodnight, Forest

Goodnight, Forest
by Carly Allen-Fletcher
Date: 2020
Publisher: Muddy Boots
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 22
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

This delightful board book by the author/artist of Goodnight, Seahorse teaches children about hibernating animals.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a cute little board book about hibernating animals. The spare text and appealing pictures make this a book that will likely be enjoyed again and again by the youngest of readers. There's a little explanation about hibernation at the end, but for the most part, the concept is shown through the illustrations and text.

Recommended to young children, especially those who like books about animals.

Thank you to NetGalley and Muddy Boots for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Review - Snowy Farm

Snowy Farm
by Calvin Shaw
illustrated by Oamul Lu
Date: 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

A magical and lyrical fantasy about a family of farmers who live in a shimmering, frosty house in a snowy white world, where warmth of each other is all they need to be cozy and happy.

There’s a snowy white windmill
on a snowy white farm
with a frosty old house
and a snow covered barn.


And so begins this enchanting story of a family in a frozen land whose quiet and simple way of family life is all they need. This fantastical picture book from debut author Calvin Shaw and internationally renowned illustrator Oamul Lu is sure to warm hearts and become a perennial family favorite.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm sorry, but this is just stupid. I'm losing patience with some children's books these days. In this case, the ridiculous premise is made worse by not including the author's note at the beginning, leading to the impression that this is culturally appropriative and grossly inaccurate... when it's really just weak fantasy.

The problem is that this is--according to the author's note--an imagined idea of what it might look like for a family to live in Antarctica. But then the people are drawn in a way that makes them look like they're Inuit... and it all goes downhill from there as they're shown harvesting snow apples, feeding snow carrots to their animals, raising chickens (who wear earmuffs), and making snow angels with the goat. But they're also shown building structures out of snow blocks and eating locally caught fish. It's impossible to tell what's real and what's imagined. The Dutch-style windmill on the first page was the first big clue that something was amiss, but some of the other details were realistic, making it difficult to sort out what was real. (I'm also not a fan of the mother being the cook for the family and the father doing the farm work. If this is fantasy, why are rigid gender stereotypes still enforced here?)

I do not like the pictures, either. They're too rough for my taste. And I just don't get all the animals wearing human accessories. Why would you bring animals from a temperate climate if you're going to go live in the coldest place on earth? (It could've gone full-on fantasy and had the family raising penguins instead of chickens and using reindeer instead of horses. You know, cold-climate creatures to go with the cold climate. At least then it would've made more sense.)

This was a total miss for me. It either needed to be more reality-based or more clearly fantasy. This is too realistic, and it's going to be confusing for some readers... especially since they won't encounter the author's note until after they've already read this head-scratcher.

Premise: 1/5
Meter: 3/5
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.71 out of 5

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Review - Bird Brain (DNF)

Bird Brain: Comics About Mental Health, Starring Pigeons
by Chuck Mullin
Date: 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Reading level: A
Book type: comic collection
Pages: 144
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Bird Brain is a collection of brutally honest, brilliantly weird comics exploring what it’s like to live with mental illness... using pigeons.

When Chuck Mullin began experiencing anxiety and depression as a teenager, she started drawing comics to help her make sense of the rollercoaster. Eventually, she found that pigeons—lovably quirky, yet universally reviled creatures—were the ideal subjects of a comic about mental illness. Organized in three sections—"Bad Times," "Relationships," and "Positivity"—and featuring several short essays about the author’s experiences, Bird Brain is a highly relatable, chuckle-inducing, and ultimately uplifting collection of comics for anyone who has struggled to maintain their mental health.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

DNF @ 54%

It's tricky when you're reviewing something so personal. But I couldn't finish this one, and I feel I should mention the reasons why, since it might save someone else an unpleasant experience.

Let me start by saying I have no problem with the premise or the intent behind these comics, at least individually. It's brave for anyone to share their mental health struggles with a bunch of perfect strangers. No, my problem is not so much the subject matter. In the case of this book, it's a quality versus quantity issue... and the quantity is what's causing the problem.

If I'd come across these as web comics, encountering them one at a time, I might have liked them more. The problem, as I see it, comes when they're all put into one place. It leads to overwhelm (especially for those who might be suffering from mental health issues themselves). I felt the same way about The Grumpy Guide to Life, which was a book that collected a bunch of Grumpy Cat memes. One or two are amusing. A whole book of them leaves you feeling like you hate humanity. Bird Brain suffers from the same problem; where one comic might have seemed insightful and witty, a whole bunch of them together feels like the book is starting to beat the reader over the head. I had issues with the "Bad Times" section, because all of those comics about the pigeon getting overwhelmed at parties just left me scratching my head and wondering why the pigeon didn't just stop going to parties if they were that torturous. But it was the "Relationships" section that really put the nail in the coffin for me. One or two comics about relationship insecurities and a great partner would've been fine. Comic after comic about how supportive and perfect the pigeon's partner is comes across as a bit tone deaf (many people with severe mental health issues don't have a partner, and it kind of rubs salt in the wound to see this point belaboured the way it is). I don't think it was the intent, but this section comes across as a little braggy; I don't think I would've felt the same way had I encountered the comics one at a time in some other format.

I'm also not a fan of the huge chunks of explanatory text (I thought I was getting a collection of comics, not a prose memoir) or the way the author generalizes mental illness as if all conditions are the same. You don't see people trying to compare a broken finger to colon cancer, even though they're both physical ailments... so I don't appreciate having all mental illness lumped together, either.

The pigeons are amusingly drawn and, like I said, I might have liked these better if I'd encountered them one at a time. In a collection, it's all just too much. Sometimes comics work better in a serial format; not every comic needs to be collected into a book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing a digital ARC.

Review - The Lorax

The Lorax
by Dr. Seuss
Date: 1971
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 72
Format: e-book
Source: library

Long before "going green" was mainstream, Dr. Seuss's Lorax spoke for the trees and warned of the dangers of disrespecting the environment. In this cautionary rhyming tale, we learn of the Once-ler, who came across a valley of Truffula Trees and Brown Bar-ba-loots ("frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits as they played in the shade and ate Truffula Fruits"), and how his harvesting of the tufted trees changed the landscape forever. With the release of the blockbuster film version, the Lorax and his classic tale have educated a new generation of young readers not only about the importance of seeing the beauty in the world around us, but also about our responsibility to protect it.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I didn't think I'd read this one, but as I turned the pages, the memories started to come back to me. It was the Brown Bar-ba-loots that stuck in my head for some reason...

In any case, this is a rather modern-sounding tale about conservation. It's just as appropriate for today's audiences as it would have been when it was first published. The Lorax contains a story within a story told by a mysterious character called the Once-ler, who tells of a time when Truffula Trees grew plentiful, supplying the Brown Bar-ba-loots with shade and food. But the Once-ler figures out that he can knit with the tufts of the Truffula Trees, and this spells the end of the natural paradise. A creature called the Lorax, who speaks for the trees, warns the Once-ler that he's doing harm... but the Once-ler cares only about money.

I found the writing in this a bit iffy, and the meter isn't as strong as it is in some of Dr. Seuss's other books. Still, the message is important enough that I'm willing to overlook some of these issues.

The story ends with a bit of hope, but the depiction of what happens from unchecked industry and greed is bleak. It's definitely a timely tale, and one that is perfectly appropriate--necessary, even--for today's kids.

Quotable moment:


Premise: 4/5
Meter: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.71 out of 5

Review - How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
by Dr. Seuss
Date: 1957
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 64
Format: e-book
Source: library

"The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason."


Dr. Seuss's small-hearted Grinch ranks right up there with Scrooge when it comes to the crankiest, scowling holiday grumps of all time. For 53 years, the Grinch has lived in a cave on the side of a mountain, looming above the Whos in Whoville. The noisy holiday preparations and infernal singing of the happy little citizens below annoy him to no end. The Grinch decides this frivolous merriment must stop. His "wonderful, awful" idea is to don a Santa outfit, strap heavy antlers on his poor, quivering dog Max, construct a makeshift sleigh, head down to Whoville, and strip the chafingly cheerful Whos of their Yuletide glee once and for all.

Looking quite out of place and very disturbing in his makeshift Santa get-up, the Grinch slithers down chimneys with empty bags and stealing the Whos' presents, their food, even the logs from their humble Who-fires. He takes the ramshackle sleigh to Mt. Crumpit to dump it and waits to hear the sobs of the Whos when they wake up and discover the trappings of Christmas have disappeared. Imagine the Whos' dismay when they discover the evil-doings of Grinch in his anti-Santa guise. But what is that sound? It's not sobbing, but singing! Children simultaneously adore and fear this triumphant, twisted Seussian testimonial to the undaunted cheerfulness of the Whos, the transcendent nature of joy, and of course, the growth potential of a heart that's two sizes too small.

This holiday classic is perfect for reading aloud to your favorite little Whos.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

When a book is this old and this popular, many people are bound to have memories tied to it. For me, this book takes me back to high school. It was a tradition while I was there that one of the English teachers--an elderly gentleman with an actual English accent--would read this book at an assembly just before the start of Christmas break. To this day, I still think it's one of the neatest things ever: imagine hundreds of jaded teenagers sitting there, absolutely silent and rapt, listening to a teacher read a children's picture book. Nobody was "too cool" to listen and nobody made fun of anyone else for enjoying it.

I hadn't actually read the book myself (not that I could remember, anyway), so I figured I should give it a try. I couldn't get it last year before Christmas, so I waited. I'm glad I finally got a chance to read it for myself.

What can you really say about this one? It's a classic, with a message that's more timely than ever before. The illustrations are kind of goofy, and Dr. Seuss has an annoying habit of making characters grin their speech (et tu, Dr. Seuss?), but I can forgive those things because the book has so much else going for it: fun characters, a strong message, and the wonderful rhyming text that just begs to be read aloud.

I can definitely see why this book has stood the test of time. Kids might be more familiar with the animated special or the movies... but I would also recommend going straight to the source and introducing them to the book. It's a wonderful Christmas story that will probably be enjoyed for generations to come.

Quotable moment:


Premise: 4/5
Meter: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Monday, December 9, 2019

Review - Salma the Syrian Chef

Salma the Syrian Chef
by Danny Ramadan
illustrated by Anna Bron
Date: 2020
Publisher: Annick Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

All Salma wants is to make her mama smile again. Between English classes, job interviews, and missing Papa back in Syria, Mama always seems busy or sad. A homemade Syrian meal might cheer her up, but Salma doesn’t know the recipe, or what to call the vegetables in English, or where to find the right spices! Luckily, the staff and other newcomers at the Welcome Center are happy to lend a hand—and a sprinkle of sumac.

With creativity, determination, and charm, Salma brings her new friends together to show Mama that even though things aren’t perfect, there is cause for hope and celebration. Syrian culture is beautifully represented through the meal Salma prepares and Anna Bron’s vibrant illustrations, while the diverse cast of characters speaks to the power of cultivating community in challenging circumstances.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Salma the Syrian Chef is a sweet story about the immigrant experience.

Salma and her mother live temporarily in the Welcome Center in Vancouver with a number of other immigrants. Salma is trying to adjust to her new life, but she's aware that her mother is busy and distracted. In fact, it's been a long time since Salma has heard her mother laugh. She thinks that if she can bring a little taste of home to Canada, it might help... so she sets out to make foul shami. Not knowing the language makes it tricky, but she succeeds in finding most of the ingredients. Things go well until a series of mishaps threaten the dish, and Salma wonders if her mother will ever laugh again.

I always like to see a book that's set locally, and this one has the added bonus of focusing on a subject that's current and timely. The struggles of the newcomers--especially in learning English--are highlighted, but with an undercurrent of patience and hope. Salma and her mother already have a great network of new friends who understand each other's emotions because they're all going through something similar.

The illustrations are quite cute. They have an almost retro-animation sort of style, complemented by geometric ornaments and patterns. The pictures work really well with the story.

Overall, this is a strong book about the emotional side of a child immigrant's experience. I enjoyed getting to know Salma and her friends... and learning a little bit about Syrian cooking.

Thank you to NetGalley and Annick Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.83 out of 5

Review - Krit Dreams of Dragon Fruit

Krit Dreams of Dragon Fruit
by Natalie Becher & Emily France
illustrated by Samantha Woo
Date: 2020
Publisher: Bala Kids
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A beautifully illustrated, Zen-inspired picture book for children ages 4-8 about moving to a new home, making friends, and finding beauty wherever you are.

Krit and his dog, Mu, love their beautiful home in Thailand--full of golden temples, colorful mountainsides, and endless adventures. Everything seems perfect until Krit's mother announces they will be moving to the frigid city of Chicago. At first, Krit tries to adjust to this unfamiliar place, but he can't do any of the things he used to love. Missing Thailand, Krit asks his mother to tell him a story about home. But instead of a story, she gives Krit a koan--a Zen riddle--to puzzle through. Krit wonders what the story about a blade of grass and Buddha's smile have to do with home, but in solving the puzzle, Krit meets a new friend and learns that home is wherever he makes it.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Krit Dreams of Dragon Fruit is a story about the immigrant experience and finding home wherever you go.

I like the overall premise. Unfortunately, in this case, it seems subtly appropriative. The authors' note at the end further muddies the issue and makes me wonder about the motivation for using a Thai boy as a main character. There's a huge difference between a child being dragged across the globe by his parents to an unfamiliar city and an affluent adult making their own decisions about where they want to go.

The writing is mediocre. A glaring dangling participle tripped me up early on. There's also evidence that writers today don't know how to properly use quotation marks when dealing with paragraph breaks. (I'm not picking on these two specifically; I'm seeing this more in recent years in various picture books.) The illustrations are okay, but I found them a little flat. I wanted to feel the way about Thailand that Krit did... but the pictures didn't really help get me to that emotional place.

Overall, this is okay in that it sort of introduces Buddhist concepts to kids. However, I question the use of a Thai main character. The use of that ethnicity sends the message (inadvertently or not) that Western kids can't be Buddhist. (A little digging shows me that Natalie Becher was born and raised in Thailand. Why on earth is this not mentioned anywhere? It would go a long way to making the book look less like it's trying to capitalize on someone else's culture.)

Thank you to NetGalley and Bala Kids for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.5 out of 5

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Review - Dyno Dinosaur Family Christmas Adventures

Dyno Dinosaur Family Christmas Adventures
by Sharida McKenzie
illustrated by Tatiana Minina
Date: 2018
Publisher: Sharida McKenzie
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 46
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon.ca

Let your child’s imagination run wild in this immersive and delightful collection of Christmas short story picture books starring the Dyno Dinosaur Family! Experience the Christmas spirit with the Dyno family as they laugh, play and celebrate together all while helping Santa and Mrs. Claus prepare presents for all the little girls and boys. The stories and illustrations magnificently capture the warmth and magic of the holidays. The dinosaur lover in your family will treasure this creative twist on Christmas! Perfect for kids ages 0-6.

Titles include:
1. Santa and the Flying Dinosaurs
2. Dyno Kids Visit Santa’s Workshop
3. Decorating the Christmas Tree with the Dyno Family
4. Dyno Family Snow Day

(synopsis from Goodreads)

To be fair, I'm not the audience for this. I'm not a kid aged 0-6, nor do I have a kid aged 0-6. So maybe it's because of this that I didn't find a lot to love in this storybook. There are four short "stories" in here, but they're basically little plotless scenes with dinosaurs doing Christmas stuff. The writing is uneven (who needs consistent punctuation?) and the meter is really clunky in places.

But the illustrations kind of saved this one for me. I'm not entirely sure why it's snowing indoors in the middle two stories, but the rest of the pictures are pretty cute... especially in "Dyno Family Snow Day". I love the dinosaur kids in their onesie pajamas! That alone is worth checking out.

I wish there had been more plot to these "stories", because the concept of these anthropomorphized dinosaurs is really cute. The illustrations are quite strong, but they need a stronger narrative to really make them shine.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: 2/5
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 2.71 out of 5

Review - David Attenborough

David Attenborough (Little People, BIG DREAMS)
by Mª Isabel Sánchez Vegara
illustrated by Mikyo Noh
Date: 2020
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

In this book from the critically acclaimed Little People, BIG DREAMS series, discover the life of David Attenborough, the inspiring broadcaster and conservationist.

Little David grew up in Leicester on the campus of a university, where his father was a professor. As a child, he spent hours in the science library, collating his own specimens and creating a mini animal museum. When he was old enough to go to university, he studied science and zoology—but what he wanted most of all was to be close to the animals he was studying. So, he started working in television, visiting animals in their natural habitats, and telling the world the untold stories of these animals. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the broadcaster's life.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is just an okay little biography of David Attenborough. While the pictures themselves are stronger here than in some other books in the series, I'm not a fan of the random animals just appearing (sometimes anthropomorphized) in most of the illustrations. I would expect something a little more factual in a biography about a naturalist. (Also, there's a picture at the end that's supposed to be present day, yet he's drawn to look like a young man.)

The mini biography and timeline at the end are missing in my e-galley, which is disappointing. I always find these books don't give me quite enough information, and I rely on those bits at the end to help fill in some of the gaps.

Overall, this isn't one of the best books in this series, but it isn't one of the worst, either. I think it'll mostly appeal to kids who know who David Attenborough is, though; the book, unfortunately, doesn't make him come across as all that interesting (perhaps because there's no mention of conflict or of anything that he had to overcome).

Thank you to NetGalley and Frances Lincoln Children's Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.33 out of 5

Review - You Loves Ewe!

You Loves Ewe!
by Cece Bell
Date: 2019
Publisher: Clarion Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

A side-splittingly funny picture book about a silly donkey, a cranky yam, and an irresistible ewe, packed with hilarious homonyms and the distinctive humor of Newbery Honoree Cece Bell. For fans of P is for Pterodactyl.

Hilarity meets homonyms in this high-comedy companion to I Yam a Donkey by Cece Bell. A persnickety spud, Yam, introduces the grammar-challenged Donkey to a new friend, Ewe, a lady sheep. The confusion between “ewe” and “you” results in a fabulously funny series of who’s-on-first misunderstandings, even though Yam explains the concept of homonyms to Donkey clearly enough for the youngest of readers to understand. Heightening the humor is an over-the-top love triangle, because everyone is in love with You. Err, Ewe. Perfect for Valentine’s Day or any day!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

You Loves Ewe! is a silly little book full of obliviousness and wordplay. It's a pretty amusing way to teach a grammatical concept.

Donkey, who is grammar-challenged, instantly misunderstands when confronted with a yam and a ewe. He then spends the rest of the book thoroughly confused as the yam tries to explain the concept of homonyms (or, as Donkey calls them, "hummanums"). The homonyms are actually quite clear to the reader; it's just our asinine hero who can't quite grasp the concept.

The illustrations by Cece Bell are amusing enough. The expressions on the characters' faces are pretty funny at times.

Overall, this is a pretty strong little story that actually teaches readers about a grammatical concept. I wouldn't mind having a look at I Yam a Donkey, too.

Quotable moment:


Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5

Review - Dasher

Dasher
by Matt Tavares
Date: 2019
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

From the celebrated creator of Red and Lulu comes the story of a brave little doe who meets Santa and changes Christmas forever.

Dasher is an adventurous young reindeer with a wish in her heart. She spends her days with her family under the hot sun in a traveling circus, but she longs for a different life — one where there is snow beneath her hooves and the North Star above her head. One day, when the opportunity arises, Dasher seizes her destiny and takes off in pursuit of the life she wants to live. It’s not long before she meets a nice man in a red suit with a horse-drawn sleigh — a man named Santa. And soon, with the help of a powerful Christmas wish, nothing will be the same.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Dasher tells the story of how Santa got his reindeer.

That's pretty much it, really. Animal welfare is hinted at, but the main thrust of the story is the building of the legend. Dasher and her family start out in a circus. Mama tells them stories about their true home, a place where the North Star is always overhead. One night, Dasher has the opportunity to escape, and takes it. After getting lost, she runs across Santa and his horse, Silverbell, who is having a hard time pulling the sleigh. So Dasher offers to help... and the legend is born.

The writing is really strong and the illustrations have a relaxed, dreamy quality to them. I can see this as the sort of book where everyone sits down with a cup of hot chocolate and listens to the tale.

Overall, this is a lovely Christmas offering. I'd recommend it to those who enjoy books like The Polar Express.

Quotable moment:


Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Review - Long Ago, On a Silent Night

Long Ago, On a Silent Night
by Julie Berry
illustrated by Annie Won
Date: 2019
Publisher: Orchard Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 45
Format: e-book
Source: library

Long ago, in a dusty barn, a mother took a child in her arms, wrapped him snug, made his bed in the hay. He was her gift that Christmas Day. There's no sweeter gift than a life so new. My best gift, little one, is you.

In this poignant and lyrical story by Printz Honor recepient Julie Berry, the miracle of Christmas and the promise in every new child come together in a luminous celebration of unconditional love and hope. With tender, incandescent illustrations by Annie Won, the wonder of the nativity story and the marvel of every baby come alive in a wholly extraordinary book for families everywhere.

A special, beautiful keepsake storybook to read, share, and cherish every Christmas season with the ones you love.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Long Ago, On a Silent Night takes the Nativity as its starting point and weaves a lyrical narrative that connects two families thousands of years apart.

While this is a book that celebrates the more religious aspects of Christmas, it's also a book about love and welcoming a new child. I think it will probably appeal to parents because of this. But there are some cute touches throughout that tie the two time periods together (I won't spoil those for you) that kids will probably enjoy seeing.

The illustrations are lovely and luminescent. Annie Won has managed to capture light beautifully on the pages.

Overall, this is a strong Christmas offering. While it doesn't actually tell the Nativity story in detail like some other picture books (relying on readers' previous knowledge of the subject instead), it finds a clever way to relate the present-day birth of a beloved child to the birth of Jesus.

Quotable moment:


Premise: 4/5
Meter: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Review - The Button Book

The Button Book
by Sally Nicholls
illustrated by Bethan Woollvin
Date: 2020
Publisher: Tundra Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

This silly and sweet picture book introduces young children to colors through humor and clever interactive elements. For fans of Hervé Tullet's Press Here.

Here's a button. I wonder what happens when you press it?

Follow a group of animal friends as they discover a collection of mysterious buttons, all of which do different things!

From a blue singing button to a purple tickle button, from a rude sound button to a mysterious white button, there's only one way to find out what they do: press them all! And thankfully, there's even a sleeping button to lull the animals to sleep after a busy day.

A lively introduction to colors and shapes, The Button Book is the perfect interactive book for storytime (and bedtime!).

(synopsis from NetGalley; see it on Goodreads)

The Button Book is one of those interactive picture books in the same vein as Bill Cotter's Don't Push the Button! series. It doesn't break the fourth wall to the same extent, as the "story" is about a group of animals finding various coloured buttons to push. Each button is a different shape and has a specific function: everything from blowing raspberries to having tickle fights.

I can see some kids really loving this (and some parents groaning when the book gets pulled out of the bookshelf). I don't know if I'm a huge fan of these interactive books, as they often don't have much of a story and rely on interaction with the reader for much of the enjoyment. (This is probably not one you're going to want to read at bedtime because of its potential to wind kids up.)

For what it is, it's fine. If you like this kind of picture book, you'll likely find much to enjoy here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tundra Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.67 out of 5

Review - What's Up, Maloo?

What's Up, Maloo?
by Geneviève Godbout
Date: 2020
Publisher: Tundra Books (NY)
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Maloo the kangaroo has lost his hop. Can his friends help him find it again? This sweet picture book explores the idea of sadness and the importance of friendship through ups and downs.

No other kangeroo can hop like Maloo! But one day Maloo's friends find him stepping instead of hopping. What's wrong, Maloo? His pals look for ways to help Maloo regain the spring in his step. With patience, support and a little "hop" from his friends, Maloo gets his bounce back.

Simple text and adorable art convey the power of friendship over a gloomy mood in Geneviève Godbout's charming debut as both author and illustrator.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

What's Up, Maloo? features a cute kangaroo and a number of other friendly critters. The illustrations are nice, but I'm a bit confused by the message. Or, rather, I'm confused about the message for this intended audience. Maloo doesn't just seem a little down. He seems like he has full-blown clinical depression. Suddenly, he can't hop (even though he was able to do it previously--and joyfully--with no problems). His friends have to come up with a way to get a kangaroo to be able to hop again.

While I'm sure some older readers will be able to relate, I'm not sure toddlers are going to be able to empathize with a clinically depressed kangaroo. Maybe this is just what I read into it, but I thought Maloo's sudden inability to hop seemed extreme, and therefore pathological. To make matters worse, he's shown "getting over" this severe depression with just a little bit of help from his friends. I think I would've preferred to see the inability to hop explained better--maybe there's an actual reason he doesn't feel like hopping, so that it doesn't come across as a random chemical imbalance--or else a more inconclusive ending that doesn't imply that you can get over severe depression with one kind gesture from your friends.

The pictures are lovely, though. I especially liked seeing Maloo's friends trying to keep up with him using their pogo sticks.

I think parents with depression are probably going to get more out of this than their kids are. I'd be hesitant to recommend it to everyone, though, because it does have the potential to minimize what can be a very serious mental illness. Parental guidance and some conversation are definitely suggested with this one.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tundra Books (NY) for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.67 out of 5

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Review - It's Easter!

It's Easter! (Luke and Lottie)
by Ruth Wielockx
Date: 2020
Publisher: Clavis Publishing
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

We’ve celebrate Halloween ("Just right for very little trick-or-treaters" ― Kirkus Reviews) and Christmas (“A merry little Christmas Eve story.” – Kirkus Review) with the twins, Luke and Lottie! Now let’s celebrate Easter with them!

It’s Easter! Luke and Lottie are going to an Easter egg hunt at the farm. Daddy is dressed up as an Easter Bunny. And Luke and Lottie are dressed up as bunnies too! They look in the henhouse, in the meadow, and in the bunny hutch. Easter egg hunts are so much fun!

A sweet and recognizable story about celebrating Easter together. For children ages 3 and up.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

The synopsis says this is "a sweet and recognizable story". It is sweet... but it's not recognizable, at least not to North American audiences. The book was apparently first published in Dutch in Belgium and the Netherlands, and it's obvious that they have some different Easter traditions. The egg hunt seems to be a strange mixture of Easter and Halloween (everybody dresses up in Easter-themed costumes and traipses through animal enclosures to find chocolate eggs), and rather than dyeing eggs, the kids paint them and stick feathers on them.

If you go into it understanding that it's not going to show a traditional North American Easter celebration, it'll probably work a little better. The illustrations are cute (maybe a little too cute... but for little kids, it's fine) and the writing isn't bad.

This book could be used as a good introduction to different Easter customs... and may even be the inspiration for some new traditions of your own!

Thank you to NetGalley and Clavis Publishing for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3 out of 5

Review - Feast of Peas

Feast of Peas
by Kashmira Sheth
illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
Date: 2020
Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Hard-working Jiva might not be the only one anticipating a delicious feast of peas from his garden.

Every morning, Jiva works in his garden until the sun turns as red as a bride's sari. He plants peas and beans, potatoes and tomatoes, eggplants and okra in his vegetable patch. When his friend Ruvji admires his plants Jiva sings,

Plump peas, sweet peas,
Lined- up-in-the-shell peas.
Peas to munch, peas to crunch
A feast of peas for lunch.


But each time Jiva is ready to pick the peas for his feast, they're already gone. What has happened?

From the award-winning author and illustrator team who created Tiger in My Soup, this original story set in India features a deliciously amusing mystery about gardening, anticipation, hard work, and generosity.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Feast of Peas is a story set in India about a farmer who's looking forward to harvesting his peas and having a feast. But someone else also has a taste for peas and keeps stealing them as soon as they're ready to pick. Jiva has to come up with a clever plan to figure out who's stealing his peas before they're all gone!

This is a pretty strong picture book. It features three-fold repetition like many old fairy tales, a little bit of rhyme, and lovely illustrations that capture the essence of the setting.

I'd recommend this to readers looking for something in the fable and fairy tale vein and/or to those who enjoy stories set in India.

Thank you to NetGalley and Peachtree Publishing Company for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.83 out of 5

Review - While Mommy Was Fast Asleep

While Mommy Was Fast Asleep
by Lisa Cole
illustrated by Joy Eaton
Date: 2019
Publisher: Vestra Lingua
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

One crisp winter night, beneath a full moon, whispers of sisters drift up from their room...

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is one of the most ironic picture books I think I've ever read.

While Mommy Was Fast Asleep is a rhyming story about two sisters who have some domestic adventures one night when the younger one wakes up after not feeling well. The mother watches them throughout the night, and the girls are unaware.

The author states that she wanted to write a book about a blind child where the vision challenges were not central to the plot. I'm afraid I don't see the point of this. In making all the clues about the child's blindness visible ones in the illustrations, it kind of erases the disability for anyone who's just listening to the story!

I have a few other issues with this one, as well. The explanation of the mother's subplot is ridiculous and unnecessary ("The tired mother has spent the last few years fearing that, despite her best efforts, she cannot handle the challenges of raising multiple children in a modern world.") and seems condescending at best. And, to be frank, a mother that lets her eldest child deal with the younger one's middle-of-the-night diarrhea (including an underwear change) while smiling and peeking around the corner seems kind of lazy. Her fears about her own parenting are probably founded.

The illustrations are okay, but some of them are weirdly stretched (the one on the title page is particularly bad). The little clues about someone in the family having vision loss are clever. But, again, if you have vision loss yourself, you won't get to see them; the only way you'd know the child in the story is blind is if someone were to read you the author's notes.

The rhyming text is surprisingly good. It flows well, with pretty good meter. The choice to clump it all into paragraphs, however, is puzzling. It makes the pages seem really text-heavy. I think I would've preferred to see the rhymes broken up into lines like poetry. The font would have to be made smaller, though, which may be why this wasn't done in the first place.

Without the focus on vision loss, this is basically just a story of two sisters, one of whom does way too much caregiving while her mother looks on. I don't have a problem with the older sister reading stories and giving cuddles... but I don't think she should have to deal with her little sister's diarrhea and dirty underwear, especially when Mommy is standing right there.

Thank you to NetGalley and Vestra Lingua for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.43 out of 5

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Review - A Girl Like Me

A Girl Like Me
by Angela Johnson
illustrated by Nina Crews
Date: 2020
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

"Once I dreamed I swam / the ocean / and saw everything deep, cool / and was part of the waves. / I swam on by the people / onshore / hollering, / 'A girl like you needs to / stay out of the water / and be dry / like everyone else.'"

Empower young readers to embrace their individuality, reject societal limitations, and follow their dreams. This inspiring picture book brings together a poem by acclaimed author Angela Johnson and Nina Crews's distinctive photocollage illustrations to celebrate girls of color.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I don't think I'm the audience for this. Actually, I'm not sure who the audience for this is. I can see very young children taking delight in looking at the photographs of all the little girls like them. On the other hand, the poetry text is kind of esoteric, and the "girl power!" message gets a little lost in the jumble of words. As an adult, I "get" it... but I don't know if kids will.

I do often like photo collage, but something about the way it's done here doesn't really work. Sometimes--especially when the scene is meant to look realistic--it has an air of "bad Photoshop" about it. The more fanciful collages are better.

Overall, I'm not sure if I'd recommend this one... mainly because I'm not sure who I'd recommend it to.

Thank you to NetGalley and Millbrook Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

Review - Clarence's Big Secret

Clarence's Big Secret
by Christine MacGregor Cation & Roy MacGregor
illustrated by Mathilde Cinq-Mars
Date: 2020
Publisher: Owlkids Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Clarence Brazier kept a big secret for nearly one hundred years: he didn’t know how to read. This picture book tells the true story of his journey to learn—and then love—to read.

As a young boy, Clarence cut class and took over the farm work when his father was blinded in an accident. Clarence worked as a logger, maintained his own successful farm, and became a father and a grandfather. All the while, he never learned to read. His wife was the only one who knew his secret. When she passed away, Clarence taught himself to read using junk mail. He was almost one hundred years old! Eventually, Clarence confessed to his daughter, a teacher, who helped him learn more. He went on to love reading and became a passionate literacy advocate until he died at age 105.

This inspirational and empowering story highlights Clarence’s resourcefulness and the power of literacy. It illustrates the use of growth mindset to achieve difficult goals, and shows it’s never too late to learn a new skill.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Clarence's Big Secret tells the story of Clarence Brazier, a man who didn't learn to read until he was almost 100 years old!

This is the type of picture book biography I really like. It tells the main events in the subject's life simply, without embellishment, allowing the facts to propel the story forward. There's a nice author's note at the back about literacy and education, and we also find out a little more about Clarence.

The illustrations are a lovely complement to the text, done in soft watercolours. I've encountered Mathilde Cinq-Mars's illustrations before, and while I wasn't previously that impressed with them, I thought they really worked well here.

Overall, this is a nice little biography that proves you're never too old to learn a new skill!

Thank you to NetGalley and Owlkids Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Review - A Perfect Tree

A Perfect Tree
by Denise Dunham
illustrated by Samantha Wade
Date: 2018
Publisher: Capture Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book memoir
Pages: 39
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Trying to stay cheerful about her new school's 2018 Christmas exchange, DeeDee is betrayed by a cunning little girl who lies about the present with Dee-Dee's name on it. Did Evelyn steal it?

DeeDee's winter holiday becomes a downsizing nightmare when her parents move into an oh-so tiny house. Added to this, dad explains that their new house is too small to set up a holiday tree. She gets ANGRY. In DeeDee's spiral of disappointments, all is not lost! Surprises are in store when accidents happen. Find out, what all the buzz is about!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

When a book is this overtly Christian, it has to be very strong for me to like it. Sadly, this is a very weak holiday offering with problems such as incorrect and inconsistent grammar, a poor layout, a confusing narrative timeline, and lacklustre illustrations.

DeeDee moves with her family into a new house (apparently sight unseen, as even her parents are surprised by its diminutive size). She looks forward to celebrating Christmas in their new home. One day at school, the kids have a gift exchange, but DeeDee doesn't get anything (except the emergency present her teacher kept on hand). Then she finds out that their house is too small for a Christmas tree. So she prays to God, and a tiny Christmas tree blows off the back of some guy's truck. Hallelujah!

Aside from the Christian propensity to attribute everything good to God, the story didn't impress me in other ways. When DeeDee and her family move in, we only see her and her parents. Then the book talks about a dining table that seats six, and I was confused. Turns out, DeeDee has three sisters! They're not even mentioned until the ninth page. The next confusing bit came with the tree. The book says that one of the family's traditions is to hunt for a perfect tree. The illustrations show them out in the woods, doing just that. Then DeeDee talks about her memories of decorating the tree, and there's an illustration of the family with their Christmas tree. So, naturally, I assumed that the tree had been acquired and decorated. But ten pages later, Dad tells the girls they don't have room for a Christmas tree that year! The other part that could cause some confusion is the gift exchange at school. It's not really explained how it works, so when Evelyn tells DeeDee she got her a Barbie, and then Santa hands out the presents, I assumed that every kid was assigned a giftee to buy for. But Evelyn didn't buy anything, leaving DeeDee to try to be grateful for the hat and scarf her teacher gives her. (A couple of problems I see here. Maybe this was based on what really happened, but what kind of clueless teacher buys a hat and scarf as an emergency present? And why was this gift exchange not monitored more closely so horrible little brats like Evelyn couldn't torment the kids they didn't like?) The story ends abruptly after a tiny tree is serendipitously gained, and the reader is tossed onto a page with an author's note about God and praying.

The layout of the book isn't very good. There's one page that has what looks like placeholder text layered under the actual text (hopefully, this has been corrected in other editions), and one page's background is so busy that it's difficult to read the text at all. The illustrations themselves are kind of rough, and the characters suffer from perspective issues.

This could have been a good story about a childhood incident if the narrative hadn't been so confusing. Events and characters needed to be mentioned earlier (or just mentioned, period) for the story to have a more cohesive flow. Right now, I just have too many questions about the story that are still bothering me: Why didn't the parents know that the house they were moving their family of six into was so tiny? Why wasn't the school's gift exchange monitored more closely by the teacher? Why didn't the teacher have an age-appropriate present on hand? Why was Dad so averse to cutting the branches off a little tree to make it fit in the house (he did know the whole trunk was cut, right)? These questions are distracting, and they didn't need to be. With some tighter storytelling, most of these issues could've been resolved to make the story flow more smoothly.

Thank you to NetGalley and Capture Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 1/5
Illustrations: 1/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.5 out of 5

Monday, December 2, 2019

Review - What If Bunny's NOT a Bully?

What If Bunny's NOT a Bully?
by Lana Button
illustrated by Christine Battuz
Date: 2020
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Gertie the elephant says everyone on the playground should stay far away from Bunny because she's super mean. But Kitty has questions: How did Bunny become a bully? Was she born that way? Was she stung by a bullybug? Or maybe she caught the bully flu? Wait, does that mean bullying is contagious? And if it is, couldn't the other animals catch it, too? But ... then no one would play with them either, and that doesn't seem fair. Is it possible that Bunny is sorry? Should they give her a second chance?

Not your typical bullying story, Lana Button's fresh take flips the focus from the child being bullied to the one being called a bully. In cadenced rhyming text, the compassionate and insightful Kitty leads children through a series of questions that get at the core of the assumptions we make about others and how it feels to be on the other side of name-calling. Christine Battuz's expressive illustrations use tenderness and a touch of humor to complement the emotional level of the text. Altogether, this is a perfect child-level exploration of empathy. It would be an excellent choice for discussions about bullying, or more broad issues of social development. It also works for character education lessons on empathy, compassion, fairness and inclusiveness.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book has an important message, but one I thought could've been taken further.

An elephant tells all the other animals on the playground to stay away from Bunny because she's a bully. We don't know exactly what Bunny did to deserve this ostracizing, but the kids run with it. All the kids except for Kitty, that is. They wonder if Bunny's always been a bully and what makes her that way. Eventually, the kids all decide to give Bunny another chance and let her back into the group.

I think the issue I have with this is that the question in the title isn't satisfactorily addressed. From what I can tell, Bunny isn't actually a bully. It sounds more like she was just having an off day and said or did something that the other kids didn't like. That is not bullying. That's making a mistake. There's no indication that Bunny's words or actions were repetitive or sustained. Too many people today are quick to hurl accusations of bullying around whenever someone says something they don't like, even if it's only said once. Sorry, but that's not bullying. This book had the opportunity to clear up that misconception. Unfortunately, it didn't. The elephant harping on and on about Bunny being so terrible seemed more like bullying to me, given the fact that it was repetitive and there was a clear power imbalance (elephant versus bunny).

So this book, while attempting to deal with bullying and empathy, kind of missed the mark. The illustrations are cute, but the story that goes along with them is a bit weak in places. I would definitely sit down with a child and have a discussion about the themes here, if they're going to read the book; there's a lot of potential for misunderstanding what bullying actually is.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 3 out of 5

Review - Never Talk to Ravens

Never Talk to Ravens (An Xavion and Jamieson Time-Out Adventure #1)
by M. L. Flurry
Date: 2019
Publisher: BooksGoSocial
Reading level: C
Book type: illustrated chapter book
Pages: 130
Format: e-book
Source: library

Xavion is in big trouble.

But the kangaroo is in even bigger trouble.

Should Xavion help him?

Can Xavion, a boy with big feet, and Jamieson, a homesick kangaroo, help each other?

This fast-paced book features

... basketball, carnivals, high-jumping,

... talking animals, airplanes,

... school and a globe-spanning adventure.

This book is designed to entertain even reluctant readers. Graphics and illustrations are sprinkled throughout.

You’ll love Never Talk to Ravens because Xavion is about to find out that what he thinks is a weakness is really a strength.

Get it now.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

At first, I thought this wasn't too bad. The technical aspects of the writing were surprisingly strong. Unfortunately, it didn't last. By the time I got to the end, the writing was starting to fall apart, the plot had taken a decidedly stupid turn, and I was just glad it was all over.

This seems like one of those books that gets written because it sounds like something kids might like. In reality, though, it's just a disjointed mishmash of plot points held together by an overused framing device that's not even subtle. It's hinted at from the very first paragraph that it's all a dream; then that point is belaboured until I started to wonder if Xavion was suffering from narcolepsy. (He sleeps through all his recess time-outs, and nobody seems to think this is worrisome!)

As for those time-outs, they're completely unfair and show Xavion getting punished for giving a bully a taste of his own medicine. He's tormented daily about the size of his feet--something he can't help. When he tries to tell a teacher, the bullying just gets worse, until he finally fights back and calls one of the boys "four-eyes". This lands him with recess time-outs for a week, while the bullies get to continue merrily making snide remarks whenever the teacher's back is turned. Had this been satisfactorily addressed, I might not have been as bothered by it. But the eventual resolution to the bullying problem is Xavion just ignoring the boys, even though they still continue with their behaviour (just with less frequency). That's not satisfying, either from a real life-message perspective or from a storytelling one.

Let's talk about the storytelling for a moment. The basic premise here is that Xavion, bored from being in time-out, dreams of a kangaroo named Jamieson. (Yes, that's probably a spoiler. If it's not supposed to be, the hints need to be meted out much more carefully.) Jamieson ended up in New York after being tricked into a jumping contest by a group of ravens who wanted part of the grand prize... which was one million pepperoni pizzas. Using a series of trampolines and a rubber-band slingshot, he was flung up into the atmosphere (where the laws of physics broke down completely... don't even get me started). He grabbed an airplane's wing and flew all the way to New York, where he encountered Xavion. He wants to get back to Australia in time for his birthday on Sunday, so Xavion takes him to the carnival where he enters another jumping contest (in which he has to ring a bell that's 50 yards in the air) to win an airplane ticket home. This takes place on Saturday afternoon, but no matter... he still manages to make it home for his birthday in Australia by Sunday. (Having a family member who lives in Australia, I spotted the problem right away. It would've already been Sunday in Australia when Jamieson was competing in the contest! Given the length of the flight, it would've been Monday before he got home... and yet, the book states that he made it home in time for his Sunday birthday.)

The pictures look sort of like stock illustrations, and I almost wonder if the storytelling was partially constrained by which pictures were available. Sometimes they seem like they're specific to the story, but other times they're just pictures of random objects like a phone and a treasure map (which, according to the text, should've been a printed list of flight times).

I did like the idea of a male kangaroo wearing a fanny pack (since he doesn't have a natural pouch of his own), but that was about all I really enjoyed here. The plot has logistic problems, characters defy the laws of physics and get away with bullying, and everything sort of falls apart after the first few chapters. Xavion was unbearably dense (he was constantly wondering why his teacher thought he was sleeping, as if teachers just go around randomly accusing their students of having imaginary naps), and he wasn't developed all that well as a character. I guess you could argue that the whole premise was him coming to terms with his big feet, but the plot was a very convoluted way to get there.

Thank you to NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for providing a digital ARC.

Plot: 1/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 2/5
Illustrations: 1/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.38 out of 5

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Review - Hello, Sun!

Hello, Sun!
by Sarah Jane Hinder
Date: 2019
Publisher: Sounds True
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

An illustrated picture book for children that guides them through a morning sun salutation yoga flow

The latest from the illustrator of the beloved Good Night Yoga and Good Morning Yoga series, Hello, Sun! gives children a great way to connect with their bodies and calm their thoughts before jumping into the adventures of a new day.

Sarah Jane Hinder’s bright color palette and playful illustrations are filled with nature imagery and fun details for children to find. Beginning and ending with Mountain Pose, children follow along with ten classic postures as they learn to breathe, stretch, and greet the day.

For parents, grandparents, teachers, and childcare providers, Hello, Sun! is a heartwarming way to introduce children to the wonders of yoga and help set them up for a happy, mindful day.

The book includes a complete illustrated flow of poses, as well as a brief history of sun salutations and a special sunshine meditation.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm no expert on yoga, but I still found a lot to like in Hello, Sun!, a picture book that uses rhyming text and vibrant pictures to illustrate the steps involved in the Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation. A little girl moves through the various poses, accompanied by her cute animal friends. There's plenty to look at in the pictures (insects have never been so adorable!) and the text is fairly strong. There is a bit of factual information at the back that talks about the tradition of Sun Salutations, along with a short meditation and detailed instructions (with illustrations) on the steps of the Sun Salutation.

There is mention of prayer (it's not Christian prayer), so if yoga or other practices from non-Christian religions offend you, you'll probably want to give this one a pass. But for those who are interested in yoga and would like a book that introduces the Sun Salutation to young children, this is probably a good book to try.

Recommended to fans of books like Meddy Teddy: A Mindful Journey that teach yoga to kids in an easy-to-understand way.

Quotable moment:


Premise: 4/5
Meter: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5