Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Paging Through Picture Books: Seed School (2018); Do Re Mi (2017); My Favorite Things (2017); Poetry for Kids: William Shakespeare (2018); Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (2017); Swim Bark Run (2018); How to Catch a Mermaid (2018)

Here are some reviews of some recently published and soon-to-be published picture books (and board books!), review copies of which I downloaded from Edelweiss. 

Seed School: Growing Up Amazing by Joan Holub, illustrated by Sakshi Mangal

This book follows a group of young seeds (including one acorn) as they prepare to bury themselves in soil and wait to grow. The illustrations are very charming, the scientific concepts are explained really well, and the jokes included in the text are mostly pretty funny. I read this aloud to my four-year-old and two-year-old and they were completely enamored of it, and asked a ton of questions. For the preschool and kindergarten audience, this is a great way to introduce concepts related to planting and growing seeds. 

Do Re Mi illustrated by Miriam Bos
My Favorite Things illustrated by Daniel Roode

My middle daughter (the two-year-old) loves books that can be sung, so I knew she would enjoy these Broadway Baby board books. I was really impressed myself by how well the illustrations brought the songs to life even for kids who don't yet know The Sound of Music. Of the two, Do Re Mi is my favorite, but both have wonderfully bright illustrations in bold colors and remain true to the spirit of the original songs without spoiling the movie. 

Poetry for Kids: William Shakespeare edited by Marguerite Tassi, illustrated by Merce Lopez

My four-year-old recently memorized just a snippet from The Tempest ("Where the bee sucks, there suck I..."), so I shared this book with her, just reading the poetry aloud as she played on the floor. The selected passages are a good mix of the ones everybody knows ("Romeo, Romeo;" "To be or not to be;" "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" etc.) and some that would not necessarily be readily recognizable to the average casual reader. Most of the content went over her head, but I think the rhythm and cadence of the language was pleasing for her to hear. The illustrations are also well-done, and they match the mood and time period of each play and sonnet mentioned. I think this would be a nice introduction to Shakespeare for most kids, and even for adults!

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Joe Rhatigan, illustrated by Caroline Farias

This was a quirky take-off on the song in which some cats wish to visit a star they have nicknamed Twinkle., so they make plans to go to space. The concept felt a little too weird and silly for my taste, but my girls seemed to find it amusing, and they talked about it a bit at the dinner table the evening after we read it. For me, I think the story would have been more interesting had it not piggybacked on a favorite song, but instead just told the story without that gimmick. I probably wouldn't seek out others from this particular series.

Swim Bark Run by Brian & Pamela Boyle, illustrated by Beth Hughes

In this book, some dogs decide to participate in a triathlon similar to the one their owners are doing. That concept is already pretty thin, and this book doesn't do much with it. The illustrations are bright and cheerful, which did appeal to my girls initially,  but the "everyone gets a trophy" message didn't get far with my four-year-old, who said, "Mommy, they can't all win. That's silly." I also wasn't fond of the writing, which felt mostly flat and generic. 

How to Catch a Mermaid by Adam Wallace

I ordinarily avoid very commercial-looking picture books like this one, but my girls have been really interested in mermaids so I decided we'd give this book a try. Unfortunately, the rhyme scheme didn't quite work for me, and the focus was more on designing ways to capture the mermaid than on actually spending time with her. (I also thought it was weird for people to be trying to capture a creature that is at least half-human and looks like a person from the waist up. I feel weird thinking about the dignity of a mermaid, but it felt odd to me.) Good mermaid books are hard to find; alas, this book does not alleviate that difficulty.

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