June Book Reviews

I haven’t posted book reviews in quite a while, though I write them every month. Bobbie began writing reviews for the Parents Express 30 years ago! Now I write them though she helps out when I’m in a bind, as she did for these.

if you want to see a whale, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin E. Stead, Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, $16.99, hardcover, ages 2-6.
This latest creation by the team that gifted us with And Then It’s Spring is another quiet picture book and an astonishing one. As someone who has seen whales and been humbled at the experience, the art and story here leave me breathless. In lovely, poetic language a young boy, accompanied by his hound dog and small bird, tells readers what’s required to see a whale, remaining focused and not distracted by wonders like pink roses, pirate ships, clouds, and “things that are smaller than most small things can’t be as giant as a whale.” Pacing and layout, use of white space and expanse of color all exemplify the needed patience and wondrous reward at the close. The illustrations done in linoleum-block prints and colored pencil detail and amplify, but never overshadow, the words. You’ll want to carry this book with you all the time for those moments when you feel you MUST read it AGAIN

Prairie Chicken Little, written by Jackie Mims Hopkins and illustrated by Henry Cole, Peachtree Publishers, hardcover $15.95, ages 3-7.
The very best read-alouds are the ones where it’s as much fun for the reader as it is for the listener. (Dr. Seuss may be the gold standard, but it’s not exactly easy for a parent to read his tongue-twisting text aloud.) This book IS fun to read aloud – the author is a storyteller and it shows. The story of Mary McBlicken the prairie chicken practically tells itself; smooth rhythms, clever word-play and a Western “flavor” make this re-telling fresh. Cole’s illustrations add to the fun, especially the wide panic-filled eyes of chicken and friends, the sharp-toothed smile of the sly coyote and the ponderous stares of the bison herd who calmly watch the story unfold..chicken

Ol’ Mama Squirrel, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein, Penguin Young Readers Group, hardcover $16.99, ages 3-7.
The newest picture book by the author/illustrator of Interrupting Chicken is a new and humorous variation on an old theme: the fierce love of a mother for her children. Ol’ Mama Squirrel, who has raised many babies, says “There’s no shortage of creatures that would love to snack on a baby squirrel…but it won’t happen on my watch!” With a stern and scolding tone, she chases away predators: “Chook, chook, chook!” she warns a cat, an owl and a dog. But one afternoon, when a grizzly bear comes calling, she’s forced to call in the reserves. Stein draws the squirrel family with a playful, deft touch that highlights the humor and reassures listeners that all will turn out all right. squirell

These reviews originally appeared in the print and online versions of the Philadelphia Parents Express for June 2013.

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