What’s the Big Deal about First Ladies.
By Ruby Shamir. Illus. by Matt
Jan. 2017. 32p. Philomel, $17.99 (9780399547249).
352.23092. Gr. 2–4.
Think you know your First Ladies? Think
again, as this colorful book looks at their
varied roles and experiences. Arranged thematically rather than chronologically, the
text includes anecdotes from the women’s
White House days, acknowledgments of
their accomplishments, and information
that gives broader social or historical context to their stories. The double-page spreads
use a Q&A structure. After discussing the
basics, such as the nature of the First Lady’s
job, Shamir answers questions such as, “But
it’s cool to live in the White House, right?”
and “Do First Ladies really make a difference?” Answers might take a single sentence
or several paragraphs, surrounded by large,
imaginative illustrations showing particular
First Ladies in action. Created with watercolor and pencil, the artwork helps create the
book’s buoyant atmosphere. Faulkner takes
full advantage of the large pages with multiple images, some set off by white space, some
imaginatively layered, and others grouping
several First Ladies or events. Packed with
interesting facts and illustrated with style,
this upbeat overview of America’s First Ladies will entertain kids intrigued by history.
By Juana Medina. Illus. by the
Feb. 2017. 40p. Viking, $17.99 (9781101999783). 428.1.
From “angel hair acrobats” to “zestful zip
liner ziti,” this alphabet book is a never-ending pasta bowl of fun that will inspire
readers to explore
the delicious, varied
world of pasta. In
Medina’s (Juana and
Lucas, 2016) imaginative hands, pasta
of every conceivable
kind becomes hair,
hats, and helmets;
beards, bodies, and musical instruments.
Each letter, shown in uppercase and lower-
John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of
case, is given its own whimsical page. Within
a lively circus setting, concise text arcs around
a troupe of smiling, rosy-cheeked clowns,
gymnasts, magicians, knife throwers, and
more. Like 1 Big Salad (2016), Medina’s clev-
er illustrations use thick black lines, colored
washes, and subtle prints to bring inanimate
objects to life. Created using digital tech-
niques and photographs of various pastas,
herbs, and cheeses, the images pop off the
clean, white backgrounds. Many of the words
may be a (tasty) mouthful for youngsters, but
the fun sounds will tantalize their tongues.
Don’t miss the simple recipe for cacio e
pepe—pasta with cheese and black pepper—
on the final page, or the detailed endpapers
decorated with the book’s illustrations repeat-
ed in miniature. This is the perfect book to
read together before taking a field trip to the
grocery store pasta aisle to find the letters and
shapes of campanelle, gemelli, tortellini, and
more. —Amy Seto Forrester
J. R. R. Tolkien.
By Caroline McAlister. Illus. by Eliza
Mar. 2017. 48p. Roaring Brook, $18.99
(9781626720923). 828. K–Gr. 3.
As a child growing up in a small British
town, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien loved
dragons and language. These were passions
that lasted his entire life, and McAlister describes the clandestine library club he formed
at school, the secret language he created with
his cousin, and his eventual job as a professor
at Oxford. Wheeler plays on John Ronald’s
dragon fixation in her detailed ink-and-watercolor illustrations, which are awash
with green, blue, and warm peach tones. A
slinking dragon silhouette appears in a window, and curls of smoke issuing from a pipe,
the steam rising from a bowl of oatmeal, and
later the fire belching from guns on a battlefield all evoke a dragon’s incendiary breath.
John Ronald’s fantasy finally takes off in the
final pages, where he walks through scenes
from The Hobbit until he meets—at long
last—a dragon. Detailed back matter offers
readers more specific information on the
illustrations, Tolkien’s life, and, of course,
the dragons he created. An imaginative and
informative look at this beloved author.
Keep a Pocket in Your Poem.
By J. Patrick Lewis. Illus. by Johanna
Mar. 2017. 32p. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $17.95
(9781590789216). 811. Gr. 1–3.
Kids bored by the usual collections of
classic poems will appreciate this chuckle-worthy take, which pairs familiar verses
with sometimes silly, sometimes thoughtful,
always clever parodies. Robert Frost’s “
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” for
instance, is paired by Lewis’ version, “
Stopping by Fridge on a Hungry Evening”: “The
eggs are black, the meat is blue! / There’s only
one thing left to do: / Get the hose and hire
a crew, / Get the hose and hire a crew.” The
varied selection of poems is well matched
by Wright’s multimedia illustrations, full of
soft shapes, bold colors, and stylized figures,
which depict a diverse array of children performing the actions described in the poems.
In addition to being a great way to introduce
classic poetry to young students, this would
also be an entertaining, playful prompt for
a writing assignment. From short to long
and covering a broad scope of topics, these
poems poking gentle fun at the form should
find easy appeal, maybe even among kids re-
luctant to read poetry. —Selenia Paz
By Jorey Hurley. Illus. by the author.
Feb. 2017. 40p. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, $16.99
(9781481432740); e-book, $16.99 (9781481432757).
597.8. PreS–Gr. 1.
In this handsome picture book, Hurley
leads viewers through the life cycle of a frog,
one double-page image at a time. On the title-page spread, two frogs dive into a pond. Each
turn of the page brings a new picture, accompanied by one word: wait (a cluster of eggs
lies beneath the water); hatch (a tadpole swims
away from the cluster); and grow (a tadpole
with a tail and legs nibbles a waterlily stem).
The story continues through the frog’s stages
of growth as it catches food, avoids predators,
hibernates, and finds a mate—and the cycle
begins again. The two jagged-edged half shells
that the tadpole leaves behind on the hatch
page bear little resemblance to the gelatinous
coating of a frog’s egg, though they symbolically convey the basic idea that the tadpole has
broken free. Hurley’s strong sense of design is
evident in the digital artwork, which uses flat,
subtle colors and simplified forms to create
pictures that show up very effectively from a
distance. A good choice for group sharing and
discussion. —Carolyn Phelan
Steppin’ Out: Jaunty Rhymes for Playful
By Lin Oliver. Illus. by Tomie dePaola.
Feb. 2017. 32p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen, $17.99
(9780399174346). 811. PreS–K.
This playful collection of 19 original
rhymes touches on common toddler experi-
ences that range from visiting the library to
riding an elevator to shopping with Mommy.
The poems are short enough for young au-
diences and demonstrate a pleasing mix of
meters and rhymes, resulting in varied selec-
tions. The verses also evoke emotions and
the senses as they celebrate outside sounds,
the taste of Sunday pancakes, and the feel
of a rainy day at Grandpa’s. DePaola’s signa-
ture acrylic artwork appears on every page,
depicting happy multicultural children en-
gaged in diverse activities. The illustrations
employ great variety, keeping each page in-
teresting. For instance, a double-page spread
paints an inviting ocean scene in “A Beachy
Day,” while “Family Day” utilizes a photo-
album layout, and “Steppin’ Out” expands
horizontally when readers open a big, red
door. The collection closes at “Day’s End,”
observing, “Every day is full of fun, / And
tomorrow is another one!” A great follow-up
to this duo’s earlier collaboration, Little Po-
ems for Tiny Ears (2014), this child-friendly
anthology should have broad appeal.
Continued from p. 38