Here are some new picture books for spring.
"SOPHIE'S FISH," by A.E. Cannon, illustrated by Lee White, Viking, $15.99 (ages 3-5)
Jake is very worried about his promise to care for Sophie’s fish, exclaiming, “I don’t know anything about taking care of fish!” His imagination conjures up possible food (maybe strawberry worm cake) or activities to entertain (what kind of story to read to the fish).
But Jake’s imagination is not as big as the gag Utah author A.E. Cannon and Lee White play on the reader. This will certainly be a “read it again!” choice for the summer.
"WOODY GUTHRIE'S RIDING IN MY CAR," by Woody Guthrie, illustrated by Scott Menchin, Little/Brown, $17.99 (ages 5 and up)
When a family plans a New-York-City-to-San-Francisco trip in a vintage wood-paneled convertible, they are accompanied by Woody Guthrie’s music, “Riding in My Car.” Scott Menchin has cleverly included tabs, wheels and pull-outs in his impressionistic photo-collage art to show the author’s home of Okemah, Okla. Guthrie's song “This Land is My Land” becomes a big part of this wonderful journey.
It’s a slight that the lyrics are not included for both songs in the book, but they are available in a noted website to accompany the book.
Thunder can be fearsome to many young children. Brannon’s family reassures his fears with explanations like, “It’s a big cat purring,” or “Angels are bowling in the heaven.” But Brannon is not appeased. His brother suggests the best explanation: “Only dinosaurs stomping around. And you know about dinosaurs.” Fears mastered!
Marion Dane Bauer’s practical story is accompanied by Margaret Chodos-Irvine's clunky collages just right for capturing the feeling of dinosaur stomping.
"PENNY AND HER SONG," by Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow, $12.99 (ages 4-8)
Penny, a mouse with music ready to bust out, is eager to share her talents. But during dinner and when the baby is asleep — every time she tries to burst out a tune — she is told to be patient. Then patience pays off for Penny (in a whole page spread all by herself), and she gets to belt out her song to the applause of the family.
Kevin Henkes has a unique ability to turn the seemingly simple into a perfect storyline. This will appeal to all children who are bursting at the seams with new-found gifts that need sharing but have to wait their turn.
Moose is more than impatient of find his place in the alphabet book and pushes Duck and Elephant out of the way. As Kangaroo and Lollipop near their spot, Moose becomes exuberant until Zebra (bedecked with referee shirt over his stripes) takes things in hand.
Paul Zelinsky has humorously portrayed an almost-typical alphabet book with Moose on a rampage. This will be fun for children to make their own storyline.
Prince Han’s wife Eva may have passed the pea-under-the-mattress test, but she’s too sensitive and whiny. Prince Henrik is seeking a princess who is just the opposite: “She just had to like hockey and camping and have a nice smile.” Prince Henrik tests out all the would-be princesses with an old sleeping bag and a camping mattress piled over a package of frozen peas.
Sue deGennaro’s whimsical collage, gouache and pencil drawings prove that a fresh new version of a good old story can be told and retold over and over.
"THE DUCKLING GETS A COOKIE!?" by Mo Willems, published by Hyperion, $15.99 (ages 2-6)
Recently the irascible Pigeon who wanted to drive a bus, have a pet and stay up late has had to share a treasure with Duckling (“The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog"). Now he is shocked that the cute little Duckling asks for and receives a cookie all for himself. And Duckling didn’t have to beg. “I ask for things all the time!” Pigeon protests. “I ask to drive a bus for a walrus! But do I get what I ask for? Noooooo.” There's a surprise turn, which amazes both bird and reader.
There’s no extravagance with Mo Willems’s work. He maintains interest with a simple pen stroke (a lowered eye lid or a tail flip) and the fewest words possible. Simplicity — that’s the hallmark of Willem’s brilliance.
"IF ALL THE ANIMALS CAME INSIDE," by Eric Pinder, illustrated by Marc Brown, Little, Brown, $16.99 (ages 2-6)
The title alone suggests images of mayhem. When a little boy and his family try to live with a menagerie of animals, there is pandemonium. It’s impossible to bathe with an octopus, and rhinos dominate the TV. “My daddy would try to sit down in his chair. He’d holler and whoop with a porcupine there!”
Onomatopoetic words such as lunch, munch, burp and crunch are tossed about, which amplify the mess and breakage. Eric Pinder’s spirited couplets move the turmoil along and Marc Brown’s splashy collages (a distinct different style from his popular Arthur Adventure series) add action to a humorous chaotic situation.
"ZOE GETS READY," by Bethanie Deeney Murgra, Scholastic, $16.99 (ages 3-5)
Choosing what to wear is a big decision, especially when the day could offer many choices. “Cartwheeling, bouncy feet-in-the-air day” requires pink leotards and orange polka-dot tights. On the other hand, a “touch-the-sky day” means boots are best. When Mom announces it’s time to go, Zoe is ready for anything — rain, shine, whirly-day, secret-place day. But will it be a wings or flowers day? Why not both?
This is definitely a book for children who find it hard making clothes choices. Like Zoe, maybe wearing everything in the closet is the best plan.
"ALL FOR ME AND NONE FOR ALL," by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, Houghton Mifflin, $16.99 (ages 3-6)
Gruntly was — plainly said — a big hog. He not only hogged all of his toys but those of his friends as well. He swiped the fleece from Woolworth the sheep and plucked a few feathers from Cluck the chicken for a comfy pillow, which he didn’t share. When a treasure hunt is announced Gruntly knows he’ll get the prize. He then dashes ahead without the help of the clues along the way. His greediness leaves him in all kinds of trouble.
Helen Lester and Lynn Munsinger have collaborated on many award-winning books, and this is another on-the-mark success.
There’s no telling what can be found when one is out rambling. Zane found a hubcap that became a flying saucer, and an old crate had all the possibilities of a Huck Finn barge. At first, Zane’s friends didn’t see the fun in “found” objects. Gradually they caught the idea of junk-to-treasure and begged, “Can we come rambling, too?”
Young readers will be able to identify dozens of cast-off objects (boxes, toys, ropes, a crutch and baskets) that will complete an imaginary journey. Terry Murphy’s jaunty illustrations will encourage summer ramblings, and who knows where and what the launching will be.
"THE WIND THAT WANTED TO REST," by Sheldon Oberman, illustrated by Neil Waldman, Boyd’s Mills Press, $17.95 (ages 6-8)
The old winter wind was searching for a place to rest, but the crevices and crannies of the village did not allow him in. A grove of trees sent him bustling away and the mountains protested that he’d cause damage to their rocks. He even tried an inn but travelers complained, “There’s a draft, a breeze, a cold wind blowing!” In frustration he raged and ranted, causing cold and winter to return. A small girl took pity and invited him seclusion beneath her house. When spring came the girl watched the winter wind disappear.
A master storyteller, Sheldon Oberman’s story of the winter wind is an original tale that fits into the Just So genre of traditional fantasies. While the telling is charming, the muted blue-tinged watercolor washes set this apart as a beautiful art piece to be enjoyed by the whole family.
"THE HOUSE ON DIRTY-THIRD STREET," by Jo S. Kittinger, illustrated by Thomas Gonzales, Peachtree, $16.95 (ages 4-8)
A mother and daughter move to a new house on Thirty-Third Street, which is supposed to be an adventure. Everything is broken and tattered. There’s hardly a place to sit or sleep. To the child there’s no adventure in this house: “I’d call the whole place “Dirty-Third Street.”
“Try looking at it through eyes of faith,” said Mom.
At church, the child’s prayer is that her mother could still see the house with eyes of faith and “that I, somehow, can see it that way, too.”
In response to her prayer, friends and neighbors come in full force with skills and materials. Thomas Gonzalez’s realistic sketches and miniature portraits add a perfect complement to Jo S. Kittinger’s story of faith and love. “The House on Dirty-Third Street” is a must for family sharing.
"NASTY BUGS," by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Will Terry, Dial, $17.99 (ages 6 and up)
"Nasty Bugs" is a fun, kid-friendly foray into very basic entomology. Mirthful diversion stems from two sources: quirky poems and anthropomorphized illustrations.
Sixteen insect breeds are profiled in "Nasty Bugs" and each receives its own poem and illustration. The poems are funny without sacrificing the relative simplicity that young readers thrive on. All illustrations showcase bugs that have bright colors, rounded edges, human eyes and downright cute features — which is antithetical to how these insects really look, but nonetheless a smart literary device because it warmly invites children into the world of insects instead of scaring them away.
Illustrator Will Terry attended Brigham Young University and lives in Salt Lake City.
— J.G. Askar
"I KNOW A LIBRARIAN WHO CHEWED ON A WORD," by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton, illustrated by Herb Leonhard, Pelican Publishing, $16.99 (ages 5-7)
When the school librarian swallows a word in front of her amazed young students, they want to know what word it was! Meanwhile, she swallows more and more amazing things that don't necessarily wiggle and squiggle and tickle inside her.
My 5-year-old squiggled and giggled beside me as we read this book together. It's a great one for sparking discussion and observation with children as they laugh and consider absurdity. A couple of words are too big for the target audience, but those provide teaching moments, too.
— Tad Walch