Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Review - Look at Me

Look at Me: a celebration of self, playfulness, and exploration

by Audrey Beth Stein
illustrated by Kristina Neudakhina
Date: 2022
Publisher: Audrey Beth Stein
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 28
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon

What do YOU like to wear? Nail polish? Fancy suits? Pigtails? Monday underwear? Possibilities are endless in this vibrantly illustrated picture book for all genders about self-expression and play.

Feelings and senses take center stage in Look at Me as a diverse cast of children share what they like (and don't like) to wear. "Pants are itchy. I like tights," says one kid. "When I grow up, I'm going to live somewhere warm and be naked all the time," declares another. Look at Me inspires kids to be themselves and to embrace others' differences.

Some of the kids love how they look already. Others want to try something new. A few look the way they do for reasons beyond their control. But whether it's through their hair, their clothes and accessories, or something they were born with, each has their own playful and distinct way of exploring their appearance.

Although no child's race, gender, or disability is explicitly mentioned, the illustrations capture the diversity of the real world. Non-binary and gender-nonconforming characters appear alongside gender-conforming kids and adults.

Thanks to the wide cast of characters, every child who reads Look at Me will find at least one person they relate to in this thoughtful and sweet celebration of self.

Look at Me's bright thoughtful images and artful easy-to-read text inspire introspection and discussion.

Children often don't have the right words to communicate big emotions or physical discomfort. Look at Me gives parents, teachers, and caretakers the jumping off points they need to start a conversation with their kids about identity, gender, and self-expression.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

A book like this might make a reader (especially an adult one) sit and think for a moment about how arbitrary (and silly) some of our society's "rules" are. Look at Me is a celebration of kids being themselves, dressing however they like... whether that's a little boy wearing nail polish, a little girl wearing a suit, or a child of unspecified gender wearing nothing but underpants. I can see some of the sentiments being quite relatable to many children.

That said, I'm not sure I love the execution. The text is sparse and the illustrations are not especially appealing. But I do have to commend the overall intent; it's good to see this theme appearing more in children's books. Everybody should have the freedom to be themselves, and there are more important things to worry about than policing the style choices of children.

So, I would recommend this one. Parents looking for books with similar themes might also want to check out Juli├ín Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, Pink Is for Everybody! by Ella Russell, and Pink Is for Boys by Robb Pearlman.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.33 out of 5

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Review - Marshmallow

Marshmallow

by Clare Turlay Newberry
Date: 1942
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

A beautiful classic picture book story about an unusual friendship between a bunny and a cat.

Oliver is a tabby cat who is always the center of attention.

Marshmallow is a baby rabbit who moves into Oliver's home.

At first Oliver does not welcome Marshmallow, but the little bunny's charms are impossible to resist. This is the true story of how Oliver and Marshmallow become friends.

Clare Turlay Newberry's lifelong passions for cats and for drawing come together in this elegantly illustrated book, winner of the 1943 Caldecott Honor.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This could've ended very differently.

I hadn't even heard of this book, even though it was first published in 1942. It's a simple classic, though somewhat heavy on the text by today's standards.

Oliver the cat is content... until Miss Tilly brings a baby bunny named Marshmallow into the household. At first, the cat is afraid. But then his instincts start kicking in... and, for a moment, I was a little worried that this story was going to take a dark turn. Don't worry, though! This true story is safe for readers of all ages.

The illustrations are simple but effective, done in black and white with a few touches of peach. And the text perfectly captures the behaviour of both animals.

Overall, this is a cute classic that deserves a new generation of readers.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Review - Yara and the Yellow-Headed Parrots

Yara and the Yellow-Headed Parrots
(Yara's Rainforest #3)
by Yossi Lapid
illustrated by Joanna Pasek
Date: 2021
Publisher: Lapid Children's Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 50
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon

A pair of Yellow-Headed Parrots are guarding a well-hidden nest perched high up on an Amazon Rainforest tree. They are confident that their young chicks are safe in their well-hidden nest. But are they?

In this third volume of Yara's Rainforest series, Yara confronts a nest poacher bent on capturing these critically endangered Amazon Rainforest birds and selling them on the black market.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I read the first book in this series, Yara's Tawari Tree, back in 2019. It's an interesting series of picture books, set in the Amazon rainforest, that tell stories around the people and the natural habitat there. Yara and the Yellow-Headed Parrots is the third book in the series (I'll have to see if I can track down the second one), but it ties in with the first book with the healing powers of a special tree.

The rhyming text flows nicely, and the story—about a would-be poacher who has his eyes on some yellow-headed parrot chicks—is both timely and sweet. He's not just a villain, but has his own reasons for his actions, which I found refreshing to see in a book like this. Not everything is black and white.

There's some good info at the back about endangered bird species. Overall, this is a strong addition to the Yara's Rainforest series.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.71 out of 5