The month of May is good for flowers and green growing things, but it’s also got some wonderful picture books just released in time for spring. And after a long day filled with sunshine, or even a long day filled with rain, nothing gets a kid ready for bed better than a wonderful picture book. Here are a few fabulous suggestions: some will make your child laugh and giggle, others will lead to fabulous discussions. Enjoy.
Kids LOVE anything by Mo Willems. In this clever, oh so clever, book “Harold & Hog PRETEND for real!” by Dan Santat, the humor starts before you even open the cover. For on the cover are an elephant and a hog, with the elephant wearing Gerald’s black round glasses and the hog wearing Piggie’s pink nose. At the top of the cover are the words “An Elephant and Piggie book” covered with the words “Harold & Hog.” At the bottom of the cover are the words “By Mo Willems” crossed out and Dan Santat is written over it. And that’s the core of the book — Harold, an elephant and Hog who decide to pretend to be Gerald and Piggie. But there’s a problem. Gerald is careful, but Harold is not. Piggie is carefree but Hog is not. What are the two friends to do? But like many friendships, this one survives through clever thinking and adjusting their ideas. The solution to the problem is beautiful, and kids love the after-ending with a cameo by pigeon and Elephant and Piggie! Kids love Mo, but they also love Dan Santat’s characters pretending to be Mo’s characters. Fabulous enjoyment and hilarity. (Hyperion Books for Children)
A beautiful and thoughtful book that is absolutely perfect for reading at bedtime is “If I Was the Sunshine” by Julie Fogliano and Loren Long. This larger picture book is almost square in shape which just means there’s more room for the brilliant illustrations by Long. This is the type of picture book that works with a wide range of ages. Very young children will enjoy the rhymes and the vibrant pictures while older children will be able to consider the complex language contained in the paradoxically simple phrases. For example, a picture of a bear hibernating has the words,
“if you were the winter
and i was the spring
I’d call you whisper”
and the next page depicts the mama bear with two cubs on a field of green grass and brightly colored flowers under a beautiful blue sky with the text:
“and you’d call me sing”
Talk to the children (or students) about what the author means by winter whispering and spring singing. The first illustration cleverly sets the stage for the progression in the story. It features a blue and orange rooster crowing to start the day with a field of bright yellow flowers and yellow-tinged clouds under a blue sky. The children especially loved the two pages with the ocean tossing a small yellow boat (if i was the ocean – and you were a boat – you’d call me wild) and the next page an illustration of the tiny, brightly colored boat atop the water spout coming from a HUGE whale (and i’d call you float). The last pages feature the same farm in the evening when the animals are getting ready for night. The last two words are “sleep tight,” which is just what children will do after reading this before bed. Kids enjoy the beauty of the rhyming text and some said it was calming. My students also loved the brilliant illustrations. Great illustrators like Long know how to create illustrations that marry with the text and create synergy — the combination of the visual and the text is something much more than either alone. One especially perceptive student commented that if she read this book at night, she would not have nightmares but rather “dream-mares” which are the best. So true. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
“I Will Race You Through This Book!” by Jonathan Fenske is an interactive book that kids love to read and have read to them. The main (and only) character introduces him-or-herself as Book-It Bunny and claims that “no one reads as fast as me!” The kids are invited to try to race BiB (as his racing name tag reads) through the book. He tries a few tricks to slow down the readers, but is a not-too-sore loser at the end. One perspicacious students pointed out the similarity to the tortoise and the hare. And at the end, BiB challenges someone else to a race — someone BiB is sure will be easy to beat. My students really loved this book. After only reading the title and showing the cover, one commented, “This is gonna be good.” They loved that the “pretend” flying cow turned out to actually be a flying cow. It’s sure to be a hit with one child or a classroom full of eager readers. Giggles for sure. (Penguin Workshop)
“Watch Out for Wolf!” by Anica Mrose Rissi and Charles Santoso is a beautifully clever fractured fairy tale about the piggies. But there are not three little piggies. Rather the story begins, “This little piggy went to market for some flour and sugar, some butter and eggs, and some chocolate for the cake.” The other four piggies warn him to watch out for Wolf! Another piggy stayed home blowing up balloons and wrapping prizes. Another little piggy delivered invitations, all the while looking out for Wolf. The other two piggies had other chores to accomplish and finally the party was ready. But what happens when the wolf is coming? Surprise! The story is charming and the simple illustrations with the wolf in the background keep the suspense going to the almost-last page! Kids will want to hear this over and over again. (Disney-Hyperion Books)
“Digger and Daisy Go Camping” by Judy Young and illustrated by Dana Sullivan is a perfect book to get kids ready for summer fun and maybe, just maybe, a camp-out one warm summer night. When Digger and Daisy decide to camp out on a lovely summer night, Digger is worried about bears. With every sound he hears, he thinks it’s a bear. But Daisy reassures him that the sounds are not bears, but rather harmless. Late at night, Daisy wakes to a sound that scares her! Children will love seeing the tables turned when Digger explains the scary sound. Sullivan’s bright, clever illustrations will keep readers looking and finding new items to point out. In Digger’s bedroom, blocks spell “truck” in front of Digger’s yellow truck. This series is a beginning reader series perfect for preschoolers through first graders just learning to read. The repeating words and simple plot will have beginning readers breezing through with a few practice reads. Summerific. (Sleeping Bear Press)
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publishers for review purposes.