Archive for Picture book


Written and Illustrated by Aaron Becker

As in his fantastic Caldecott Honor Journey and sequel, Quest, Becker has no problem telling a beautiful story with no words. His rich and detailed illustrations really need no words.

Most of the characters carry a single crayon and add to the color of the world with that single crayon. Whatever they draw becomes a reality and can take them to castles in faraway lands. This book begins with the girl drawing a red door and entering. Her father finds her missing and follows her into the other realm. There they find the boy from the other books, a king, a huge castle, and also some danger. The boy draws purple birds and other creatures. As the father and daughter continue to explore, they discover cave drawings that look suspiciously like the story being told in the book. With the father’s help, the girl overcomes an evil man capturing all the different colors.

As an innovative picture book, Return encourages the reader to use imagination and observation to learn about the world and make inferences, very important to solving problems. Of course, the reader should also give this book a try if only for the pure enjoyment of the reading. With or without a teacher or parent, kids will love this book.

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  • ReturnTitle: Return
  • Author/Illustrator: Aaron Becker
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture book, Fantasy
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7730-5


The Sound of All Things

Written by Myron Uhlberg
Illustrated by Ted Papoulas

Based on the author’s true story, this beautiful picture book follows a deaf man and woman and their hearing son as they venture out for a day at Coney Island. The man has a vague memory of sounds, and wants his son to describe all sounds vividly. The rollercoaster, the crash of ocean waves, a thunderstorm, the roar of the fireworks. But the young boy lacks the vocabulary for adequate descriptions. The library! What a great idea.

Papoulas does an amazing job of capturing the fun, excitement, and flavor of Coney Island in the 1930s. His vibrant and detailed illustrations make the reader part of the scene. The Brooklyn Bridge at both day and night and depictions of Coney Island are great.

This is a wonderful tool for learning about just how disabilities affect everyday life. The use of the library at the end is a sneaky, yet effective way to work on literacy skills and introduce a reading activity.

I tried to imagine what it was like to be deaf. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine being blind. But there was no way I could ever know what it was like being deaf.

This book and the one the boy finds help.

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  • Sound of All ThingsTitle: The Sound of All Things
  • Author: Myron Uhlberg
  • Illustrator: Ted Papoulas
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 36 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, Disabilities, Words, History
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-833-2

Emma and Julia Love Ballet

Written and Illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Ballet is the star of this story so beautifully done by award winning-illustrator Barbara McClintock. Emma is a little girl who lives in the country and takes ballet lessons. Julia is a grown-up ballerina. The story is beautifully told in parallel fashion as we see each girl get breakfast and go through their day. Besides the comparison between how they do things because of their age, is the comparison of rural versus city life. It is a fascinating dance within the story itself.

The diversity factor also plays in this story as Julia is of African American descent, reflecting the realities of our current prima-ballerina in the United States. A marvelous conclusion to the story has Emma asking for Julia’s autograph with Julia answering, how she once shared Emma’s dream of becoming a ballerina. So this is a different kind of circle story. Where the mouse ends up wanting another cookie, in this instance, the book clearly tells little girls who love ballet their dream can be realized.

Stretches and poses were carefully studied thus beautifully illustrated. Current and former ballet students will recognize the positions. Other types of dances are also represented and encouraged.

This book is a delight and should be part of every school and public library. Teachers will fulfill many core curriculum standards in literacy such as picture clues, sequencing, comparing and contrasting, as well as, main idea.  An all-around winner!

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  • Emma and JuliaTitle: Emma and Julia Love Ballet
  • Author/Illustrator: Barbara McClintock
  • Publisher: Scholastic, 2016
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-439-89401-2
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 2


Arctic White

Written by Danna Smith
Illustrated by Lee White

How many shades of white do you see around you?

Danna Smith introduces the nuances of white in the beauty of the arctic using short melodic sentences. Lee White does an exquisite job of illustrating various whites amid classic winter blue hues.

But grandfather has a secret about something extra special he can only show the children in the darkest dark. He leads them out on an adventure. What might it be?

Something sure to delight every reader. The double-paged spread depicting the Northern Lights is glorious.

But the story doesn’t end yet. The children hurry home to recreate marvelous full color pictures to display inside their igloo. The double meaning of colors existing on the inside, will intrigue adults and children alike. It could lead to interesting discussions.

While this book easily fulfills core curriculum standards in literacy, geography and science; the art teacher might get the most mileage from it. Surely the children can produce wonderful colors from any part of the world to decorate their winter hallways.

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  • Arctic WhiteTitle: Arctic White
  • Author: Danna Smith
  • Illustrator: Lee White
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co, 2016
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-62779-104-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 2

Never Insult a Killer Zucchini

Written by Elana Ezose and Brandon Amancio
Illustrated by David Clark

The setting is a science fair and the participants are exceptional. Each and every project is unusual, advanced, and possibly impossible. There are twenty-six projects in total, one for each letter of the alphabet. But each project also represents a basic concept in physics, concepts that explained in detail in the last pages of this fun book. Some of the projects are not only possible but currently in use in some form. From Antimatter and the Bionic Limb to the Youth Serum and Zero Gravity, Mr. Farnsworth must judge them all. The Killer Zucchini comes in at “K,” where Mr. Farnsworth threatens to put ranch dressing on it. AT “D,” the student is eager to demonstrate his Doomsday Device. At “M,” the Mind Control project receives a promise from Mr. Farnsworth for first prize.

The cartoon-style illustrations are wonderful and detailed. They help to make this a delightful experience.

Second graders can read the main text with a little help and can learn a little physics along the way, especially with the help of the explanations. Older students can use this as an introduction to many of the concepts presented. All in all, a fantastic way to spur interest in science.

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  • Killer ZucchiniTitle: Never Insult a Killer Zucchini
  • Author: Elana Ezose and Brandon Amancio
  • Illustrator: David Clark
  • Published: Charlesbridge, February 9, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 4
  • Genre: Early reader, Science, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-58089-618-4

Merry Christmas, Mr. Mouse

Written and Illustrated by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner

Hidden pictures add to the excitement of this new book by the creators of, Snowmen at Night.

This rhyming story tells of a mouse family that moves into a nook under a kitchen floor. Their first discovery is special cooking and decorating done by the people of the house. Without missing a beat, Mr. Mouse hurries back to the nook and begins the same party preparations for his own family.

Grade one and grade two readers will enjoy reading this story on their own. Preschool listeners will be awed by the bright colored multi-layered illustrations. There are even hidden pictures on every page, with answers provided on the backside of the cover. What a neat idea!

Everyone will enjoy recognizing the everyday items carried into the nook by the mice to be used for their own furniture, clothing and snacks. Perhaps a discussion will follow about other household items to see how they could be used by others. What an interesting look at spatial relationships to see Mrs. Mouse using a birthday candle as a living room reading lamp.

Librarians, teachers, and parents should put this on the purchasing list right away. Literacy skills will be met in the core curriculum standards in multiple areas. Picture clues, rhyming words, predicting outcomes, and cause and effect, are just examples of the skill practice possible.

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  • Merry Christmas MouseTitle:  Merry Christmas, Mr. Mouse
  • Authors/Illustrators:  Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner
  • Publisher:  Dial Books, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-8037-4010-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 2
  • Extras: Hidden pictures in the illustrations.

Max and Marla

Written and Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

True Olympians never give up. Proven here by two good friends who prepare for everything in the sport of sledding, well almost, everything that could go wrong. Humorous illustrations fill in the story where the words leave off and will have children dissolved in giggles.

Max and his pet owl are very persistent. Each new failure provides a new opportunity to prepare in a different way. The message to keep on trying will stick with readers and listeners.

While this book is suggested for readers from kindergarten through second grade, there are many words children will struggle to sound out. Librarians, teachers and parents will do best to read this book aloud the first time or two. It is a fantastic new winter book and will be a great addition to any collection. The look at a particular season qualifies this as a book to fulfill core curriculum standards in science, as well as for many literacy skills.

Read and enjoy. Then go sledding with a new outlook.

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  • Max and MarlaTitle: Max and Marla
  • Author/Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger
  • Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover/32pgs
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-17504-6
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade Level: K to 2

My Leaf Book

Written and Illustrated by Monica Wellington

Leaves change color and fall breezily to the ground every year. Children love to catch them, collect them and figure them out.

Monica Wellington’s new book helps them identify leaves and put them in a book of their own making. While this book is fiction because the little girl is not real, Wellington has included a great deal of authentic science. Her depiction of various leaf types is well done and the leaves are matched with the names of the trees from which they come.

Grade one, grade two, and even grade three readers will be able to use the book for basic leaf identification. However, the scientific notes placed in text boxes on the pages illustrating true leaves are done in tiny print that will require adult help for some children to read and decipher.

Librarians and teachers can use this book successfully as a read aloud for pre-school through first grades. While the book meets core curriculum standards for literacy in the areas of picture clues, comparing and contrasting, separating fact from fiction, it also fulfills standards for natural science in the elementary grades. This book deserves a second look as first glance will sell it short of its educational value.

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  • My Leaf BookTitle: My Leaf Book
  • Author/Illustrator: Monica Wellington
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-4141-6
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 3
  • Extras: End pages contain a list of leaf projects for readers to do

The Day the Crayons Came Home

Written by Drew Daywalt
Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Duncan’s crayons quit a while ago, but now they are headed back home. Well, some of them are supposed to be headed home. The title is a little confusing on this issue and kids will catch it for sure. One crayon is upstairs in Duncan’s room stuck to a sock, and one is down in the cushions in the couch. Another is standing in the hallway of Duncan’s house waiting for someone to open the door.

The first and last pages of the book are in normal font. However, as in the previous book about these crayon characters, the postcards supposedly written by the crayons are going to be hard for some children to read. They are in kid-like scrawl and in various colors.

Otherwise, it is a silly, fun kind of book destined to get giggles galore from young readers themselves and lots more when a literacy teacher or librarian reads it aloud. It would be great to use with older students when talking about character development. Writing curriculum standards will be met using this as discussion starters also in discussions of fact versus fiction and setting.

Art projects depicting crayons in touch conditions will be fun follow-up activities for classroom or story hour.

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  • CrayonsTitle: The Day the Crayons Came Home
  • Author: Drew Daywalt
  • Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
  • Publisher: Philomel, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-17275-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: K to 3

The Stranded Whale

Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Melanie Cataldo


In this beautiful, short tale of a beached whale and how three children tried to save it, Yolen relates a timeless struggle against the harshness of nature. As the children walk home from school, they discover a whale stranded on the beach as the tide goes out. They immediately start trying to wet the whale’s skin with their sweaters and call for help from the beach’s emergency phone. Many people come to help, but it’s not enough. Eventually, the whale dies and the kids go home to their frantic parents. The Coast Guard gives the children each a medal for making the attempt to help, but what they really want is for the whale to be alive and well.

Cataldo’s lovely illustrations evoke the feel of the ocean and are dark enough to convey the seriousness of the situation. In the Author’s Note, Yolen explains her road to this story and the history of beached whales. She notes that this phenomenon doesn’t affect the overall whale population. Animals die.

Second graders will enjoy reading this story independently and should find hope in the circle of life. Nature may be harsh at times, but it is what it is. And people can always help.

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  • Stranded WhaleTitle: The Stranded Whale
  • Author: Jane Yolen
  • Illustrator: Melanie Cataldo
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 4
  • Genre: Fiction, Picture Book, Nature, Environment
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6953-9
  • Extra: Author’s Note
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