Archive for Picture book

The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

Written by Danna Smith
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

            Falconry has enjoyed a long history of legends and stories alike. This stunningly beautiful tale is told in verse from the viewpoint of a young girl hunting with father and their hawk. The story is told sequentially during the day, throughout a hunt and concludes with putting the hawk to bed in its mew at day’s end.

            The spectacular acrylic gouache illustrations bring alive medieval castle life amid authentic panoramas of European countryside. All views of the hawk, as well as of its prey are so realistic as to make the reader think it is a photograph. Upon reading the detailed illustrator’s note it all makes sense as, Ibatoulline, was raised by a falconer father and totally understands this topic. The hawk appears to be gliding right across the cover of the book.

            On each page a nonfiction text box clearly explains details of falconry using the proper terms. All nonfiction text is presented in italics, which helps young readers distinguish it from the fictional tale. Teachers, librarians and parents will commend the publisher for this important design feature.

      Curriculum standards can be met in the areas of literature, geography, history, animal life and the arts well into middle school.  While the book is also a beautiful read aloud for kindergarten or grade one. Teachers of grade two or grade three will use it in teaching about falconry as an ancient hunting sport, as an introduction to the study of medieval times or as a science book about falcons.  It is a story children and adults will want to read again and again. It is highly recommended for all school and public libraries.

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  • Title:  The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry
  • Author:  Danna Smith
  • Illustrator:  Bagram Ibatoulline
  • Publisher:  Candlewick, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-7636-7992-7
  • Genre: Picture Book/Nonfiction Connection
  • Grade level:  PreK to 3
  • Extras: Index, Related Readings List, Related Internet sites, detailed illustrator note.

Great, Now We’ve Got Barbarians!

Written by Jason Carter Eaton
Illustrated by Mark Fearing

If you don’t clean your room, there’s a good chance you will get some kind of infestation but what if that infestation involves barbarians? Seems pretty extreme, huh?  And what do you have to do to get rid of them?

The main character in this raucously fun book is not bothered by the ants or flies or mice his sloppiness bring, but when Vlad the Barbarian shows up, it’s a different story. Vlad brings with him Törr and a bunch of other guys in horned helmets. And they eat all the cheese curls. They snore and belch and snarl, too. They use Mom’s makeup for war paint. The only answer is to take away their fun. Be careful not to cause any more havoc. Something else may show up.

The expressions of the rest of the family, including the cat, are priceless, as are the details of the mess the boy and his barbarians create.

Second graders may be able to read this independently, though much younger kids will get a kick out the humor.

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  • Title: The Tree: Great, Now We’ve Got Barbarians!
  • Author: Jason Carter Eaton
  • Illustrator: Mark Fearing
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture book, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6827-3

Prince Ribbit

Written by Jonathan Emmett
Illustrated by Poly Bernatene

Full of twists and turns, this cute new fairy tale pulls in elements from the classic frog prince without copying. When two of three princesses embrace the original frog prince story as fact, the third princess tries to convince them that you can’t believe everything you read. Instead, they adopt a talking frog and try to kiss and pamper him into princehood. He lives a life of luxury but remains a frog. A surprise ending should delight any reader.

The illustrator deftly complements the text with a sassy curly-headed redhead, clever and expressive frog and dog, a lush backgrounds, and a cast of other characters.

Parents and teachers will want to read this aloud and talk about all the other ways this story and the original one could end. Kids could learn a lot about literature and about ways in which we gather facts. This book is sure to become a bedtime favorite.


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  • Title: Prince Ribbit
  • Author: Jonathan Emmett
  • Illustrator: Poly Bernatene
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture book, Fantasy, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-761-8

Our Very Own Dog

Written by Amanda McCardie
Illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino

This semi-instructional picture book follows the story of a lively addition to a loving family. Sophie, the Jack Russell terrier, was adopted from a shelter by the narrator’s family. She made friends with some family members and readily accepted her new toys and collar. It took a little longer for her to warm to Dad, but food was a powerful incentive. She learned several commands and made some doggie friends. She enjoyed playing and also getting into trouble. Sophie was a dog to be proud of.

Rubbino’s detailed illustrations show exactly how to treat and train your dog. They are often humorous, with everyone getting a belly rub or Sophie trying to figure out why the daughter is in the bathtub.

Along with the heartwarming story, numerous sidebars give tips on caring for a new dog. That makes this the perfect read aloud so kids and adults can discuss the reasons for advice such as “Most dogs like to be petted by their owners, but many don’t like to be touched by strangers. Always ask the owner before you touch a dog.” Kids may want to keep referring back to the text as their own dog settles in.

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  • Title: Our Very Own Dog       
  • Author: Amanda McCardie
  • Illustrator: Salvatore Rubbino
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture book, Animals, Adoption
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8948-3
  • Extras: A Few Useful Books About Dogs

The Princess and the Frogs

Written by Veronica Bartles
Illustrated by Sara Palacios

In her premier picture book, Bartles presents a delightful twist on the princess-kisses-a-frog fairy tale. Princess Cassandra is as pampered as a princess can be. She has hundreds of dresses and thousands of books, but she has no pet to match her favorite dress. The Royal Pet Keeper sets out to find her the perfect pet. He searches high and low until he happens upon the perfect green frog. Cassandra is elated. She and the frog jump and play all day. When she kisses the frog good night, he turns into a prince. Unacceptable. She has the same result with frog after frog until the palace is overrun with princes. Cassandra finds one prince who only wanted to be a frog. Perfect. One more kiss turns him back to a frog.

Charming illustrations enhance and expand the story as written. Frogs slide down bannisters with Cassandra, share sodas with her, and jump rope. Princes slide down bannisters, hang from chandeliers, and use dresses for kite tails.

This is most fun as a read aloud so kids can guess about the next parts of the story. It’s fun looking for what makes each frog and each prince unique.

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  • the-princess-and-the-frogsTitle: The Princess and the Frogs                         
  • Author: Veronica Bartles
  • Illustrator: Sara Palacios
  • Published: Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fairy Tale
  • ISBN: 978-0-06-236591-0


Written and Illustrated by Leila Rudge

Gary is a pigeon. A racing pigeon who doesn’t fly. When the other pigeons go out to race, he sits at home and waits for the others to return. And dreams of all the places he could have gone. He has a scrapbook of their mementos and stories. Accidentally, he goes out with the flock one day. Since he can’t fly, he’s left to figure out how to return home by other means. When he steps off the bus and tells the others of his adventures, they see the wisdom of solution and start using alternate transportation themselves.

The beautiful and detailed illustrations complement the story perfectly. Gary has things in his scrapbook that help him find his way in the world: what appears to be a subway map, a street map, drawings of various modes of transportation so he can recognize them. The pigeons wear jerseys. A few wear backwards baseball cap or stocking caps.

As a read aloud or independent reading for second graders, this book offers a jumping off place for learning about venturing out into the world. Kids will have fun spotting all the details in the illustrations and figuring out how Gary gets home. Heartwarming and funny at the same time.

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  • garyTitle: Gary                                                            
  • Author/Illustrator: Leila Rudge
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture book
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8954-4



Pizza at Sally’s

Written by Monica Wellington

Definitely worth another look, this book from ten years ago still has a fresh approach to learning about where the food we eat comes from. Sally grows tomatoes, destined for the pizza, in her garden. Wheat comes from the farm, helped along by the farmer and his equipment. Cheese, from the shop next door, is made from milk. When Sally opens her shop, she takes the orders and assembles the finished pizza for take-out and eating in. She begins by mixing and working the pizza dough. Sauce, cheese, and added ingredients follow.  

As an illustrator, Wellington includes all sorts of information, such as many of the things other than cheese that come from milk. This is a helpful, simple, and subtle message that promotes comprehension and literacy skills. Each step of the process is deftly shown, complete with many details. Through it all, Sally’s cat assists her. Kids can look for details such as the names of the ingredients, the names on the order pad (which partially match the book dedication), different vehicles, Italian words and their translations, etc.

A fun book about a favorite food. 

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  • pizza-at-sallysTitle: Pizza at Sally’s
  • Author: Monica Wellington
  • Published: Dutton Children’s Books/Penguin, 2006
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Fiction, Picture book, Food, Cooking
  • ISBN: 978-0-525-47715-0
  • Extras: Pizza recipe

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Written and Illustrated by Lisa Papp

Sometimes, all you need is a calming presence.

Madeline hates to read. She especially hates to read out loud in her class. She gets “Keep Trying” stickers, but she really wants a gold star. When she visits the library and talks to her favorite librarian, Madeline mentions her reluctance to read. The librarian suggests reading to one of the visiting dogs. Bonnie, the dog, is a patient listener and never giggles at her mistakes. Madeline becomes very attached to Bonnie and is very concerned when Bonnie fails to show up once. But, by that time, Madeline has enough confidence to read well in class and get her star. Madeline feels she must share her star with Bonnie – and her new puppies.

Beautiful and detailed illustrations accompany this heartwarming story about fears and how we can overcome them. The room with all the different dogs and kids with books is especially cute.

This makes a wonderful read aloud for first graders and a comforting independent read for second grade and up. Either way, a discussion in the difficulties of learning to read – or anything challenging – would also be in order. Reading activities may include investigating libraries and caring for dogs.

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  •  madeline-finnTitle: Madeline Finn and the Library Dog
  • Author/Illustrator: Lisa Papp
  • Published: Peachtree Publishing, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Reading, Fears, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-910-0



I Love Lemonade

Written by Mark Sommerset
Illustrated by Rowan Sommerset

Baa Baa Sheep returns with even more mischief this time. Given, adults really need to talk to kids about not pulling any of his pranks in real life.

In the previous story, Baa Baa Smart Sheep, Baa Baa knowingly tricked Quirky Turkey into consuming smart pills, which were actually poop. In this tale, Quirky seeks revenge. He wants to convince Baa Baa that a glass of pee is actually delicious lemonade. Naturally, Baa Baa is way too smart for Quirky. All he needs to do is the classic misdirect ala Bugs Bunny.


So, you’re sure it’s lemonade?
Yes, it’s lemonade.
That’s fresh.
And squeezed.

You’re a turkey.
I AM a turkey.
Who likes lemonade?
Who LOVES lemonade.
Then … why don’t you help yourself?
Don’t mind if I do!


This is very funny, especially for first and second graders, but, again, maybe giving them new ideas is not the best thing to do. You decide.

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  • I Love LemonadeTitle: I Love Lemonade
  • Author: Mark Sommerset
  • Illustrator: Rowan Sommerset
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8067-1


Never Follow a Dinosaur

Written and Illustrated by Alex Latimer

In the best traditions of The House that Jack Built and I Met a Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, this cute and funny tale considers what could happen if the tracks two kids find belong to a dinosaur. With each clue Joe and Sally find, they add details about what the dinosaur is up to. An empty cat food bowl suggests a hungry dinosaur. Deep tracks suggest a hungry, heavy dinosaur. Tracks across the swimming pool must mean a hungry, heavy, swimming dinosaur. By the time they find the dinosaur, it has become a hungry, heavy, swimming, dancing dinosaur with a headache and a sore foot and wings. They plan a dinosaur trap, but the reader knows that won’t work. Anyway, the one thing the kids don’t discern from the clues is that it’s also a friendly dinosaur who needs help to bake cakes.

Latimer’s colorful illustrations make the story even more amusing. Willoughby, the cat, follows them on every page. Each child hangs onto a favorite toy throughout.

Second graders can read much of this book independently, but it’s a very entertaining read aloud and would be great with a whole classroom of even younger kids.

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  • Never Follow a DinosaurTitle: Never Follow a Dinosaur
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex Latimer
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, September 1, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-704-5


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