I have to issue another apology to the authors whose books I read in July. July is when I broke my arm. July is when my head was fuzziest from pain and painkillers. I may not be able to provide the detailed reviews that these books deserve, but I am reviewing them all nonetheless, and I hope my reviews will pique others’ interest in these books.
Barnaby Never Forgets by Pierre Collet-Derby. Candlewick, 2017. Intended audience: Ages 5-8, Grades PreK-3.
Barnaby thinks he remembers the important things—and he does, though his follow-through needs a little work. While in his monologue Barnaby tells the reader all of the things that he remembers, the illustrations betray all the things that he forgets. He always feeds his grasshoppers, but he forgets to close the cage so there are now grasshoppers everywhere. He always remembers ice cream night, but he forgets to close the freezer door. Barnaby admits that he’s not perfect. He has overdue library books, and once he forgot to put the trash into the can, but overall, this bunny thinks that he’s responsible. The action of the book primarily takes place while Barnaby readies himself for school. When he arrives, no one is there. Why? (Highlight to reveal spoilers.)It’s Saturday! And Barnaby forgot his trousers. I really enjoyed the illustrations. I really enjoyed Barnaby as a character, his buoyant personality and his voice. Barnaby’s plight is relatable, though the ending is a little trite, even though it’s sure to get a laugh from the book’s intended audience.
Dog on a Frog? by Kes and Claire Gray and illustrated by Jim Field. Scholastic, 2017.
This British trio originally named the book Oi, Dog! but here in the U.S., “Oi!” isn’t vernacular you expect children to know—not yet. Usually cats sit on mats, and frogs sit on logs, and dogs sit on frogs. That’s the rule. But Frog doesn’t like that rule at all, so he’s changing all the rules. His rhymes get more and more ridiculous. The humor of the book comes from that and the corresponding illustrations. The laughs come easily.
Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers. Philomel-Penguin Random, 2010. Intended audience: Ages 3-7.
Paired with Jeffers’ ever-delightful illustrations, in this book, the penguin wants to learn to fly. The boy tries to help, but nothing is working. As they are seeking expert advice, the penguin believes he has found his answer, and rushes off without his friend, without a word to him. The two become separated and worry about each other. As the penguin begins to worry about flying—and more importantly about landing—the two reunite, just in time for the boy to catch the penguin. This book is gentler than most. There’s no dialogue. I think that takes away some of the immediacy of friendship books like Mo Willems’. This one probably makes a better bedtime story for that though.
Cheer Up, Ben Franklin! by Misti Kenison. Jabberwocky-Sourcebooks, 2017.
While certainly marketed for toddlers, this book could be appealing and helpful to readers of all ages. In one sentence each, Kenison highlights some of the major players in the American Revolution, the ones that kids will hear more about later in school textbooks. Much if not all of the context is removed, but context is not the point, and for those who want to delve deeper, there’s a paragraph for each character in the back as well as a timeline showing the characters’ parts in the American Revolution. Instead of making this a story about a war, this is a story about Ben looking for a playmate. He wants to fly his kite, but everyone is busy. Betsy Ross is sewing a flag. Alexander Hamilton is counting money. Paul Revere is riding his horse. In the final pages, everyone meets back up, John Hancock signs his name, and they all celebrate with fireworks. I’ve fallen in love with these simple, bright illustrations and these simple illustrations of important figures. I like that women and people of color are included too. Where’s Your Hat, Abe Lincoln? is the next in this series. Watch for a review of that here.
An Elephant and Piggie Book: Watch Me Throw the Ball! by Mo Willems. Hyperion-Disney, 2009. Intended audience: Ages 4-8.
I’m sure I’ve read this one before, but I somehow never reviewed it. Gerald believes that throwing a ball takes skill and practice. But Piggie believes that the key to throwing a ball is having fun. Who’s right? Told with a lot of repetition and no contractions, the books in this series make great early readers, and they have plenty of humor in the illustrations and story to make the short story a good and fun one.
An Elephant and Piggie Book: I Broke My Trunk! by Mo Willems. Hyperion-Disney, 2011. Intended audience: Ages 4-8.
I broke my arm. And this seemed like the perfect book to read when I did my first story time after coming back to work. Because I love Elephant and Piggie books, and I could relate to Gerald’s story. Gerald’s story gets crazier and sillier as each page goes on. This book sort of downplays the seriousness and the pain and the fear of breaking a bone. It makes it seem almost a silly thing. For some kids that might be helpful, but this may not be the book you need when trying to reassure a child who has broken a bone of her own.
(I’ve honestly gotten to the point where I can’t rate Elephant and Piggie books subjectively).
These reviews are not endorsed by any of the authors or publishers or anyone else involved in the making of these books. They are independent, honest reviews by a reader.