The parade of animals continues with this second installment of animal book reviews from members of the Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) of the International Reading Association (IRA). Visit their website to join CL/R SIG or to read more about them.
Rohmann, Eric. (2011). Bone Dog. New York: Roaring Brook Press.
When his dog Ella dies, Gus lacks interest in regular activities. Although he doesn’t even feel excited about trick-or-treating, het puts on his skeleton costume and heads out. His outfit leads to a perilous situation when he runs into real celebrating skeletons. Luckily “skeleton-dog” Ella comes to his rescue and, with some dog-and-bone humor, helps to save the day. Rohmann’s signature black outlines and cartoonish figures suggest the fun of his Caldecott-winning My Friend Rabbit. However, here he places his main character in a more sinister state; skeletons crawl from their graves and threaten to eat Gus. The skeletons’ rounded features and silly word-play soften the scare, and a perfectly paced, wordless resolution will leave readers giggling. In addition to a hint of spine-tingling thrill, Bone Dog presents a relatable depiction of grief that can lead to meaningful discussions on loss and depression. This slightly edgy Halloween tale is a read-aloud for all seasons. - Lauren Aimonette Liang, University of Utah
Taylor, Sean. (2011). Huck runs amuck. Illus. by Peter Reynolds. New York: Dial.
Mountain goat Huck simply cannot live without plenty of yummy flowers to eat. When there are no more flowers in the mountains, he begins a pilgrimage to the city for more. After a series of near accidents, mishaps, and an encounter or two, Huck faces a dilemma. He happens upon a wedding during which the delectable flower-laden hat of Mrs. Spooner, the mother of the bride, is blown to the top of a church spire. When Huck races to retrieve the hat and devour the flowers, onlookers see his brave ascension and dub him a hero. Huck is truly on the horns of a dilemma, caught between doing the heroic, right thing and filling his belly with petals. Nobly resisting temptation, Huck climbs down, and returns the hat, with nary a nibble. There is a reward for Huck and a surprise for all the wedding guests. The illustrations, created from watercolor, ink, and tea, depict perfectly Huck’s passion for petals. - Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University
Srinivasan, Divya. (2011). Little Owl’s night. New York: Viking.
It’s night time, and while much of the rest of the world heads for their beds, Little Owl is wide awake. The curious owl watches his nocturnal friends become active and takes note of everything that’s happening around him, even the flights of moths and the movement of fog into a field. As dawn approaches, the tired owl begs his mother for a bedtime story. She obliges and describes how night ends and day begins, but Little Owl never hears the end of the story because he’s fast asleep. Young readers will request this title again and again when it's time for their bedtime reading, and their caregivers won't mind repeated readings because the text has a dreamlike quality about it. Drenched in rich colors, the illustrations also are appealing with wonderfully drawn pines, green grass, and animals with huge eyes. Even the end papers feature interesting details such as a raccoon reaching into a squirrel's treasure trove of nuts to steal an acorn or two. This is a great picture book debut from a new author/illustrator. - Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University
Ehlert, Lois. (2011). RRRALPH. New York: Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster.
Who wouldn’t want to spend time with a talkative and uniquely talented dog named Ralph? The narrator is convinced that Ralph can speak since in addition to his own name, he is able to vocalize sounds such as “roof,” “bark,” “rough,” “wolf,” and “yep” as he and the narrator stroll outside through the woods. Of course, Ralph’s responses are puns rather than examples of his sophisticated vocabulary. The use of different font colors helps readers distinguish between observations and spoken words. The illustrations are filled with found and hand-painted objects such as zippers, wood, buttons, twine, metal, bark, screws, textile fragments, and papers. A close look will reveal that the beak of the woodpecker on the title page has been fashioned from a screw. - Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University
Gravett, Emily. (2011). Blue chameleon. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Even a chameleon can feel a little bit blue when he’s all alone and seems to have no friends. Without a friend or a welcoming place or anything to do, he sits alone and waits for a connection. His posture makes it clear that feeling blue is an evocative way to express someone’s feeling of profound depression. The blue chameleon quickly springs into action, though, once he sees potential friends in other objects and creatures. But he doesn't remain himself. Instead, as is characteristic of chameleons, he tries to mimic others in shape and colors. Thus, he molds himself into the yellow curve of a banana and the swirly shape of a snail in his attempt to be like them. At one point, he even remains quiet and unmoving like the rock he is trying to befriend, giving up after nothing happens. In desperation, he blends in with the book’s white pages, and readers can rub their fingers along the surface to feel his chameleon shape. Nothing works, and he remains lonely until he comes upon another chameleon, also searching for a kindred soul. The chameleon and his potential buddies roll, rest, bounce, swim, hop, and even hide in the book’s imaginative illustrations. - Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University
Vamos, Samantha R. (2011). The cazuela that the farm maiden stirred. Illus. by Rafael Lopez. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
It all starts when a farm maiden decides to prepare rice pudding. The first step requires her to stir the pot, which she does. But she can’t complete the dish without some help, and eventually, the farm animals join her, churning the butter, producing the fresh milk, purchasing the sugar, and adding all the ingredients for a yummy dessert. But everyone gets so caught up in having a good time together that they almost forget to keep an eye on the rice pudding. The warm acrylic illustrations painted on grained wood complement this engaging and delightful bilingual cumulative story. Back matter includes a recipe for arroz con leche and a glossary of Spanish words. - Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University
Numeroff, Laura. (2011). What puppies do best. Illus. by Lynn Munsinger. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Get ready for plenty of “Awww’s” when you read this book filled with puppies, puppies, and more puppies. Almost irresistible, puppies spill across the pages, dashing from their beds to awaken their human companions, jumping on humans’ beds, clamoring for walks, chasing balls, making new friends, and even learning how to retrieve and how to sit. They even offer slobbery kisses for anyone within reach, and anyone who sees them has no choice but to greet them with affection. In the end, readers are reminded what those of us who share our lives with dogs know: Puppies are exceptionally good at loving others and sharing their affection unrestrainedly. The watercolor, pen and ink, and pencil illustrations pay tribute to the spirited nature of puppies, always loveable even after they have just destroyed a couch cushion or a favorite shoe. Those loving, trusting eyes and the irrepressible nature of puppies make it hard to stay annoyed for long. - Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University
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