Sunday, October 06, 2013

Five New(ish) Picture Books

Little Bear's Little Boat. Eve Bunting. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter.  2003/2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 30 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Little Bear loved his little boat. 

Little Bear loves sailing his boat on Huckleberry Lane. He loves, loves, loves his little boat. It is just perfect for him. But, as Little Bear begins to grow--slowly but surely--his little boat loses its just right-ness. Little Bear doesn't understand why it is his destiny to grow and his boat's destiny to stay exactly the same. But he does accept this truth and adds to it. It is the boat's destiny to find a new little bear. And it is equally important to let that new little bear know that he too will one day have to part with the oh-so-perfect little boat.  This is a charming story of growing up and letting go.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

Big Bear's Big Boat. Eve Bunting. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

When Big Bear grew too big for his little boat, he gave it to Little Bear. Now he was building a big boat for himself. 
"I want it to be just like my little boat, but bigger," Big Bear told his mother. His mother smiled, "You loved your little boat, and now Little Bear loves it. You will love your new one just as much."

Big Bear's Big Boat is a sequel to Little Bear's Little Boat. He is now a proper "big" bear, and when the book opens he is hard at work building a brand new boat--a big boat of course. And he does build a perfect boat--just the way he wants it. But. After he's finished, he begins listening to his friend. All of his friends have ideas and give him advice on how to make this boat even better. And Big Bear listens and follows... But will he be happy with his friends' vision of the perfect boat?! This little picture book has a good moral to it: "a bear should never let go of his own dream."

I definitely enjoyed both books!!! I would recommend both books!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

The Invisible Boy. Trudy Ludwig. Illustrated by Patrice Barton. 2013. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Can you see Brian, the invisible boy? Even Mrs. Carlotti has trouble noticing him in her classroom. She's too busy dealing with Nathan and Sophie.

I definitely liked this picture book. It deals with the question: which is worse--being laughed at or feeling invisible?

Brian, our young hero, is the invisible boy. He's friendless. This is noticeable even in the classroom, but especially so in the lunchroom and at recess. But when a new student comes, Brian reaches out to him--via note, I might add--and soon Brian begins to lose his invisibility. It starts with the new kid, Justin, but soon expands to include others. It has a happy ending that may seem sudden and a bit too good to be true. But it makes for a satisfying conclusion. I liked Brian and Justin. I liked the fact that Brian had strengths, that he definitely was worth knowing and worth noticing.

The book is intentional. It is packed with social lessons. It is inviting the visible and invisible kids to think about their actions, their words, their choices. None of the children are "bad" children; some are thoughtless and impulsive, but nobody is vilified into a BULLY, which I thought was a good thing. The focus is on the little things. The little things that are more accidentally thoughtless than purposefully: I'm out to HURT you.   

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

Tiny King. Taro Miura. 2013. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a Tiny King. The Tiny King lived all alone in a big, big castle. 

If I had to describe The Tiny King, I would say it was unusual, but unusual in a mostly good way. This picture book was first published in Japan. Candlewick is publishing it for the first time in the United States. It has a one-of-a-kind feel to it. And you'll pick up on this from the start. The cover says: THIS IS THE ACTUAL SIZE OF THE TINY KING.

The Tiny King is sad and lonely. At least he is in the beginning. But this is a happy fairy tale. He meets a BIG queen and they marry. He's soon the father of ten tiny children. And with the Queen and all ten children: his life isn't so empty and he doesn't feel so tiny after all.

The illustrations are interesting and fun. Very bright and bold. Original storytelling is complemented by original artwork.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

The Silver Button. Bob Graham. 2013. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

At 9:59 on Thursday morning, Jodie drew a duck. she gave the duck a top hat, cane, and boots of the softest leather. On the boots, she put silver buttons: one...two... Her pen hovered in the air before the final button.
Jodie's brother, Jonathan, pushed slowly to his feet. He swayed, he frowned, he tilted forward...and took his first step. He took that step like he was going somewhere.

Some people really LOVE Bob Graham. I am not one who "loves, loves, loves" his books. The Silver Button is an interesting look at one minute of time in the city. In that one minute, many things happen. Some, like the baby's very first steps, seem momentous. Others are very ordinary. For example, in that minute a soldier says goodbye to his mother (definitely emotional) and a little boy stops and has his shoes tied for the second time that morning (definitely not emotional). The book is seeking to capture life: a blend of simple and complex. One review calls it existential. I think this is a hit or miss book. You'll either really like it and think its brilliant or you won't. It has received plenty of starred reviews: Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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