Illustrations or story patterns…but not both

Vibrant illustrations or rhythmic stories usually carry a children’s book from shelf to lap. Looking at two recently purchased books it occurred to me how difficult it is to have both in the same book.

In “How to Find a Fox” by Nilah Magruder, the illustrations really carry the story. The little girl narrator is beautifully drawn and her precociousness jumps off the page. The Fox comes off as appropriately sly and wily as foxes are often found in story books. However, the story itself is a bit choppy and without a rhyme or rhythm is a little difficult to hold the listener. I’d recommend this, though, for the illustrations alone and the story’s main point of learning that sometimes things come to you when you least search for them.

“Mamasaurus” by Stephan Lomp is story-driven. There is an easy rhythm to the story of how the babysaurus asks each prehistoric character encountered about whether they’ve seen the mama. It includes a subtext about different perspectives of big and small and how different individuals have different strengths. The basic illustrations are enough for the page but don’t add anything beyond the story itself.

Both of these books have been kid-approved by a preschooler and a toddler. Each would be a pleasing addition to a bookshelf depending on whether you are into illustrations or storytelling.

These reviews were also placed on Amazon, Goodreads, and LibraryThing. The copies reviewed will eventually hit a little free library, once the children outgrow them.

bilingual, children's

Rise of the Water Dragon

I love bilingual children’s books. There are different types of audiences for such books and the variety of bilingual books reflects the differing needs. For some languages where the pronunciation of both languages is relatively easy to identify in the same alphabet such as Spanish and English, families who are bilingual and families who aren’t can both be served by the same books. However, for languages such as Chinese, unless the reader is bilingual, pronunciation guides are necessary. In the case of “The Water Dragon,” by Li Jian the reader should be bilingual to read all of the book in both languages.

That said, even if you can’t read this book in both languages, it is still an enjoyable story in either one. The illustrations are done in the style of a scroll painting. The tale takes us to a struggling village where a boy, Ah Bao, sets out on a journey to bring much needed water. He meets a series of magical creatures along the way. The story covers honesty and self-sacrifice. It is an excellent one for ages 4-7.

This review has also been posted on Amazon, Goodreads, and LibraryThing. The book was placed in a little free library for others to enjoy.


Two Children’s Nativity Books for Christmas

If you celebrate Christmas and are looking for religious themed children’s books, two board books stand out as perfect within the 1-5 age range.

Christmas in the Manger” by Nola Buck and Felicia Bond uses an easy rhyming scheme to keep children’s attention. It also includes bold crisp illustrations that clearly focus on the topic of each two page set. Each turn of the page includes a verse about a nativity character, finishing with the baby Jesus. This one veers on the younger side and is perfect for babies and toddlers but maxes out the interest level at about 3 years old.

Jesus in the Manger” by Maite Roche uses reveal tabs rather than a rhyming scheme. The story begins with the angel Gabriel, moves to travel to Bethlehem, and the final manger scene. Roche’s use of tabs is appropriate for a pre-reader and lists a question about a character over the tab. The revealed vocabulary is also listed in outer tabs at the edge of the pages. This one would be useful for home reading or for religious education.

The above reviews have also been posted on Amazon, Goodreads, and LibraryThing. A copy of the books were placed in a Little Free Library.

children's, Fiction

Let the 5 year old take it from here

Run, Banana, Run!” by Kitria Stewart, Illustrated by Keith Gannon, is a rhyming children’s book with simple illustrations. And had I not read it to my kindergartner, this would be a very short review. In summary, my daughter looooves this book.

It is the story of a banana preparing for a race, being cheered on by fruit bystanders, and ultimately winning. The banana is all one shade of yellow, the apple – all one shade of red, the grass – all one green. But my daughter loves to look at this book. The rhyme is such that all of the lines rhyme with all the other lines – with the same ending sound in each line. But my daughter loves when I read this book to her. Each page or page duo has one line of the story. But my daughter loves to read this story to me.

While so many children’s books today are written with a wink to the parents likely reading the book (some even using the parents as a story line – I’m looking at you B.J. Novak), this story is refreshing in its focus on what children like. Buy it from the store, borrow it from the library. If it’s for a child 3-6, I’m confident they will like it. My 5 year old guarantees it.

This review may be found on Amazon, Goodreads, and LibraryThing. When the kindergartner finally tired of it, it will also be placed in a Little Free Library.

children's, Fiction

A well-crafted children’s book with lots of rhyme

Mallory Brown at Super Fun Town” is a brightly and gorgeously illustrated children’s book that can cross the interests of several ages. Tristan Tait brings each page to life. The publisher enhanced these illustrations by choosing the appropriately glossy paper. It is immediately visually appealing.

David Disspain’s story itself uses both a rhyming, Dr. Seuss style that younger children will enjoy – think 3-5 year olds – and a lengthy story that 6-9 year olds might enjoy reading on their own. This length though is a bit of a double edged sword. The word lengthis like that of a first chapter book that a 9 y.o. would pick up but the style is done in a manner that might not feel “big kid” enough. Conversely, it is too long for a 4 y.o. to take in one sitting. That said, the possible downsides are outweighed by the delightful pages. I still highly recommend this wonderfully crafted book to families with children age 3-9.

This review has also been placed on Amazon, Goodreads, and LibraryThing. The copy I reviewed was received through a Goodreads giveaway and has been placed in a Little Free Library for others to enjoy.