‘Leo’s Gift’: A Touching, Truthful, and Wise Picture Book

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“Leo’s Gift,” ostensibly a children’s book but in fact a gift to all who read it — of any age — tells the story of a very young but very gifted boy who learns, quite by accident, of the amazing talent he possesses.

Leo hears his sister practicing piano as her recital day rapidly approaches. She dutifully practices her Mozart piece, but she makes it clear that she would much rather be outside practicing basketball, a sport which she loves and at which she excels. Leo, meanwhile, is entranced by the music; he begs his sister to show him how to make such beautiful sounds. She does so. He takes his turn at the piano and almost immediately is able to perform the Mozart piece impeccably. He is a “natural.”

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‘We Don’t Eat Our Classmates’ by Ryan T. Higgins Is a Hilarious Picture Book for Pre-School-Age Readers

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In “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates,” talented author Ryan T. Higgins explores what it would be like if a dinosaur, specifically a very carnivorous T. Rex, attended school. Penelope the T. Rex was ready to start. Her dad had made her lunch, three hundred tuna fish sandwiches. What she was not ready for, though, was the fact that her classmates were human children.

As any self-respecting T. Rex knows, children are delicious. So Penelope ate them. Her teacher grew angry and insisted that she spit them out immediately. She did. The children were not happy. Penelope was not happy. Going to school with delicious snacks available was just more than the precocious dinosaur could stand.

But one day, in a hilarious turn-around, Penelope found out what it feels like to be the one on the dinner plate, and she didn’t care for it at all. Higgins entertains readers — young and old — with his trademark clever twist that will keep his fans loving each and every picture book he writes. Kids will love this one, and their parents will, too.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Disney-Hyperion, the publisher, for review purposes.

‘Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-Up’ Is a Fascinating View of What Might Be

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“Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-Up” created by Shawn Sheehy and illustrated by Jordi Solano is an imaginative and clever peek into what might become of our world in the year 4847, after the sixth global extinction has happened.

This clever pair created new species from old ones — creatures that adapted to the new ecosystem after environmental disasters and world-wide destruction of wildlife. It’s a new world.

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‘Blue’: A Picture Book by Laura Vaccaro Seeger About All the Shades of Blue, Happy and Sad

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“Blue” by Laura Vaccaro Seeger follows her fabulous picture book “Green.” Unlike the previous color-themed book, “Blue” tells a story about a boy and his dog. The story begins with the color baby blue, a puppy and an infant boy whose blue rattle is cut out in the center; and that blue circle becomes the blue center of a wheel on the little red wagon the young boy is using to take his young dog for a ride.

And as the two grow up together, always in shades of blue, always with cutouts on one page that lead to the next, the scenes vary from ocean blue to sky blue to midnight blue. Always with boy and dog, inseparable.

But blue is at heart a sad color. And the sad truth about loving a dog is that its lifespan is so very short when compared to ours. And a when a young boy and a young dog grow up together, when the boy becomes a teenager, his constant companion, his shadow, his loving confidante, is at the end of his life.

But having loved a dog, truly loved a dog, few choose to remain dog-less for long, and “Blue” is a story not just of love and loss, but of the renewal of love and the rebirth of that loving connection that we feel with our dogs. All in blue. All beautiful.

Each page has a cut-out shape in an object that leads to a different object on the following page. Kids love seeing what happens when the circle cutout depicting a beach ball and a boy in a red shirt becomes a red balloon when the circle opening is now on the red of the boy’s shirt from the previous page. The cutouts and how they are created are brilliant, but so are the many and varied shades and emotions of blue.

Pick this book as a gift for anyone in your life who loves dogs, who loves color, who loves life. Buy it for yourself.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Roaring Brook Press, for review purposes.

‘Giraffe Problems’ by Jory John & Illustrated by Lane Smith: A Picture Book Kids LOVE!

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Don’t just take my word for it, get a copy of “Giraffe Problems” by Jory John with chuckle-inducing illustrations by the talented Lane Smith. Read it to any child between three and thirteen. All will love it: guaranteed.

But don’t get the book only for the laughs. It’s much more than just another humorous picture book for entertaining children. The story of the giraffe with the really, really long neck, who doesn’t like his neck at all, will resonate with kids. Edward, the giraffe, laments his misfortune and wishes he had a neck like a zebra, an elephant, or a lion.

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Five Nonfiction Picture Books for Kids of Many Ages — From Monsters and Animals to Historical Figures and the Flight to the Moon

“Vincent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky” by Barb Rosenstock and Mary Grandpr√©¬† shares with young readers the lonely, often tormented life of Vincent Van vincentGogh. Each page begins with “Vincent can’t sleep…” and begins with his childhood when at the age of nine or ten he once walked at night six miles from his home in the Netherlands to Belgium where he was “found with torn clothes and muddy shoes.” The author includes that he was moody, “Excited. Bored. Eager. Lazy. Explosive. Shy. His many-colored moods scare the customers — and he’s forced to go.” This is a wonderful book for encouraging discussion about being different. Van Gogh was different. He’s described as “A sensitive boy. A hidden genius. A brilliant artist.” But according to the Author’s Note, he may have only sold five paintings while he was alive. Questions to discuss can include what makes someone successful? Was Van Gogh successful? Was he crazy? Why are his paintings so revered and so valuable? A beautiful book about a brilliant — and tormented — artist. (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)
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