It’s been longer than I intended, but it’s time for another edition of Weekly Readings!
For those new here, Weekly Readings is when your lit. rat reviews picture books I’ve read here and there. While T.A.A. focuses on animal stories, we do give humans their due now and again, and one of the books this week does feature one, more on that later…
Publisher: Paula Wiseman Books (An Imprint of Simon & Schuster)
Pub. Date: January 7th, 2014
In the spirit of Dumbo and the works of Todd Parr, along comes Henny, a chicken born with unusually long arms and hand-like wings!
A great “Okay to be Different” story without getting hokey about it.
While I often lament the minimalist movement in picture books these days, this book makes great use of minimalism in both words and illustrations. Zeroing in on our heroine and how she makes the most of her unique physique features!
The picture book answer to R.J. Palacio’s middle grade novel “Wonder” with a fantastical fauna twist!
Elizabeth Rose Stanton: This is a debut to be proud of.
HERE COMES THE EASTER CAT
Written by Deborah Underwood (@underwoodwriter )
Illustrated by Claudia Rueda
Pub. Date: January 28, 2014
It seems dogs aren’t the only rivals for this cat given the title of the latest from author Deborah Underwood, best known for “The Quiet Book” and it’s companion “The Loud Book.” Despite the dominance of cats on YouTube and elsewhere, the “Cat” of this story wants fame that’s beyond the confines of the internet. Cat wants the Easter Bunny’s job, even though its a high maintenance ordeal (the ending will further hammer this home, which I won’t spoil here)
As a dog lover through and through, I found this book charming in my self-made feline rehabilitation program. (That’s a whole other blog post so I won’t elaborate here!)
The spare and charming illustrations by Claudia Rueda don’t get too cute beyond the expected, and provides warmth and substance to orchestrate this tale that’s simple to read, but HARD to pull off as the author, as a newbie in the picture book landscape from an author standpoint, trust me, it’s harder to pull off than it is to read in this stellar book!
One thing I get concerned with picture books is can the author branch out of the books that made them well known. I haven’t yet read Debroah’s earlier books (yes, I’m in kidlit, but I was mostly focused on novels until couple years ago) but I can say this book safely avoids the dreaded sophomore slump as far as I’m concerned.
Like Mo Willems “Pigeon” series, this book has great kid-participation appeal and gives pre-readers the chance to “Be the Parent” as the narrator is written like you’re speaking directly to Cat, and he responds via facial expressions and holding up various signs (think Wile E. Coyote of Looney Tunes fame)
For those of you who’ve seen the “Maisy” animated television series (based on the books by Lucy Cousins) you’ll see a similar vibe here, and it just so happens Deborah plans to have future adventures of Cat, and this rat can’t wait (this is the post-mouser era, folks, at least for some of us…)
Easter may be some time off (At the time this review is being written) but it never hurts to plan ahead with seasonal titles.
Written by Jenny Offill
Illustrated by Chris Appelhans
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (An imprint of Random House Children’s Books)
Pub. Date: March 11, 2014
I promsied some human love at the start of this review merry-go-round, and now I can deliver, for while Sparky the sloth, his story would not be possible without the girl who ordered him by mail and gave him his name. Like many kids REALLY wanted a pet, but her (seemingly workaholic) mother insists it has to be low-maintenance, and on a trip to the library, she learns about sloths, a furry creature (that’s the basis for many of the “Bigfoot” legends, that’s just my personal theory) that meets all the criteria-
-Doesn’t Need to be Walked
-Can’t cause various mischief
(Which one neighbor in the book appreciates)
While Sparky can’t do what other pets do, his girl learns to see the best in him in ways no one else can. When you give a dog treats, they’ll eat them all, but with Sparky, you share a cookie, meaning he gets half, than you get the other half!
While first person narration is common in YA and some middle grade fiction, it’s RARE to see first person narrator in a picture book when most often the reader is an adult (or an older tween or teen sibling), but Jenny pulls it off with noticeable skill. Not only from a technical standpoint, but also sounds like the kid narrate this story.
The impressionistic, clay/watercolor hybrid illustrations by Chris Appelhans bring quirky warmth to the experience, and if this style seems familiar for some reason, it might be because Chris did work on “Coraline” the 2009 film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name.
Kids with nontraditional pets will get a kick out of Sparky, a sloth that despite being slower than turtles, and more sedate than your eccentric cousin thrice removed after Thanksgiving has more to offer than what the cover image above leads you believe.
That’s it for Weekly Readings, check back next time!
NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: If my ramblings convinced you to buy one or more of the books mentioned above, please support T.A.A. by clicking on the affiliate cover images above or links within the review.