This is the Path the Wolf Took – Picture Book Review

By: Laura Farina
Illustrated By: Elina Ellis
Published On: September 1, 2020

I loved the concept of this story: An older brother reading two fairy tales to his little sister changes up the story to be something less scary. She’s not fooled though and wants the stories back to something less boring. But as much as I loved the concept, the story didn’t quite work for me. Part of my issue was that I never knew what the true overall goal or moral of the story was. Are we to root for the brother and his retelling? Or are we rooting for the sister who thinks he hurt the story by taking out all the drama? Are classic fairy tales better left as they are? Along those lines, I also wasn’t sure if the focus was supposed to be on the brother, the wolf, or how he retells the story at the end when he tries to make it less boring. Yet, even that opens up further questions such as why was the brother so scared of the real story? Or why was the last retelling supposed to be so much better because that one fell a little flat for me as well? The illustrations were nice, but there were some confusing layouts that made the flow of the story more difficult to follow than it should have been.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Description:

A boy’s little sister doesn’t like the way he improvises when he tells tales, in this funny and bighearted tale about what makes a story good.

The stories Gabe ?reads? to his little sister start out sounding familiar — a red-caped girl on her way to Grandma’s house meets a wolf in the woods — but then, just in the nick of time, Sir Gabriel swoops in to save the day. His sister points out that’s not how the story is supposed to go. The boy says his way is better: “Nothing bad happens in my story.” But when his sister stops listening, the boy realizes he needs to reconsider. Are his stories boring? Why does it seem like there’s always something missing?

Laura Farina’s funny and empathetic tale explores why a good story is never made up of only good things. Many young children want a story to be exciting, but they don’t want anything scary or bad to happen. This picture book shows how a brief period of being afraid or sad is necessary to make a story worth hearing. It makes for a great discussion starter and works well for loads of language arts applications, including writing skills, elements of a story, and fairy tales or other literary genres. With its playful humor, endearing sibling relationship and high-energy illustrations by Elina Ellis, this book also makes an entertaining read-aloud.

Fiery Night: A Boy, His Goat, and the Great Chicago Fire

By: Sally M. Walker
Illustrated By: Kayla Harren
Published On: September 1, 2020

Illustrations of fierce orange, angry red, and threatening yellow await readers in this harrowing and heartwarming historical picture book story about a boy named Justin Butterfield and his goat, Willie, during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Around midnight, Justin and his family are woken up to pounds on the door telling them they need to wake up. A policeman tell them there is a fire and they need to protect themselves. The family rushes to save their house from flying orange embers, but soon realize it is too late: the house is lost and they will need to find a way to escape. They gather all the belongings they can into a wheelbarrow while Justin is determined to ensure Willie comes with them.

Slowly their family along with many, many other families are forced into the street looking for safety, which they hope they will have once they reach Lake Michigan. Willie is scared. The air is filled with too much smoke and the flames are getting closer so the family is forced to leave even their belongings in order to keep ahead of the fire, but Justin keeps Willie and continues to protect him from the ash and the wind and the fire throughout the night until it is over.

Two things are simply amazing to me:

1) After the fire the Butterfields stayed with friends. While there Justin wrote a letter to a friend telling him of what happened and drew a picture of them fleeing the fire that was included within the fire. This picture is now housed at the Chicago Historical Society and can be seen at the end of the story along with actual photos of the aftermath of the event.

2) The pictures are perfection. Their vivid colors evoke so much emotion as they help recreate the story of what the Butterfields and others must have witnessed and experienced during this fire. A few years back I remember seeing a specific video shown on the nightly news of a person’s car ride escape from one of the California fires. The colors of orange, yellow, and red screaming out all around them. If you have ever seen one of those videos then you can imagine what many of the illustrations may look like within this picture book.

Fiery Night is a well told story that is paced evenly showing the love between Justin and Willie and the escape. And even though the story focuses on one family, I appreciated how it demonstrated that this impacted more than just the Butterfield’s and how it impacted the entire city and community. The story and the illustrations together create a wonderfully memorable book that will be difficult to pass up. However, please note that because of fierceness of the flame illustrations and because the story recounts a very dramatic moment in time some children may find it a little scary.

Thanks to Netgalley and Capstone for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Rating: 5 stars

Description:

Based on a true story, Fiery Night is a heartwarming, empowering picture book about a little boy’s devotion to his pet goat, Willie, and how they gave each other strength during the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Young Justin Butterfield was awakened in the night by neighbors warning his family of the coming fire. The Butterfields did what they could to save their home but eventually had to flee. Justin insisted on taking Willie with them, even though the frightened goat made it more difficult for them to get away quickly. Encouraging and comforting Willie helped bolster Justin’s own courage during the family’s difficult journey through the burning city.

Pugtato Finds a Thing – Picture Book Review

By: Sophie Corrigan
Published On: August 4, 2020

Pugtato is a wonderfully illustrated picture book filled with a lot of play on words that kids and adults will definitely all enjoy. However, I found the story ending a little confusing and felt like perhaps I missed something.

In Pugtato Finds a Thing, Pugtato is digging around in the mud when he finds a shiny round purple round thing. Having no idea what it is, Pugtato starts asking all of his different friends – Tweetroot (a turnip bird), Tomatoad (tomato-looking toad) and many others what they think it might be. Each give their thoughts to Pugtato and begin to use it as they saw best, but none of it felt right to Pugtato. Finally, he gets some advice to follow his heart.

The illustrations are terrific. Bright and vibrant colors are used throughout, but the highlight is how the drawings bring characters to life. Characters like Cowbbage (a cow/cabbage combination) or Purrsnip (a cat/parsnip combo) will delight readers both young and old. I can even picture many fun conversations over each of the animal-vegetables.

Although the pictures were the best part for me, I was left confused by the story. I completely understand that Pugtato finds a purple shiny ball, but I never could figure out what it was, which I knew would be ok because I was sure the ending would do a ‘big reveal.’ However, even the ending left me perplexed as I tried to figure out how hugs and snails and a purple ball went together. After re-reading it several more times I now have an inkling of an idea of what it all might mean, but I’m not sure an adult should have to read it that many times to understand it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Zondervan for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Rating: 3 stars

Description:

Enchanting illustrations. Giggle-inducing text. Unique and loveable characters. Join Pugtato and his cute and quirky pack of pals in this heartwarming picture book that celebrates the power of friendship, compassion, and believing in your own unique gifts. 

When Pugtato’s simple, quiet life is disrupted after he digs up a strange object in his garden, he enlists his best “spuddies” to help (they are more clever than he is, after all). Tweetroot is certain it’s a new egg for her nest. Tomatoad is quite sure it’s a toy just for him. And Purrsnip simply won’t stop scratching it! Luckily, Pugtato has another very special spuddy to ask …

Pugtato Finds a Thing:

  • Introduces kids 4-8 to a hilarious mash-up of pet and vegetable characters by the inimitable illustrator Sophie Corrigan
  • Written in delightful, giggle-inducing, rhyming text
  • Eye-catching cover features spot gloss and embossing

I’m Afraid Your Teddy is in the Principal’s Office – Picture Book Review

By: Jancee Dunn
Illustrated By: Scott Nash
Published On: June 16, 2020

Oh no! The student who owns a teddy bear has been called to the principal’s office. Not because they have done something wrong, but because their teddy bear has. How mischievous has teddy been? Quite.

That very morning teddy contacted all his stuffed animal friends and then they all sneaked into the kid’s backpacks. While the kids are learning the stuffed friends do all sorts of rascally things, such as making a mess at the cafeteria. Doesn’t sound bad on the surface, but when it includes writing their names on the walls with mustard and ketchup then it’s whole other story. Perhaps if they hadn’t gone to the gym and tied up the coach with a jump rope the principal may not have been all the upset. Or if they hadn’t poured a bottle of bubbles into… well, you get the idea.

While I liked the book, the adult in me thought a little more was needed to round out the story. Initially, my confusion started at the beginning by wondering why the student was in the office. Was the student the real culprit and the teddy just who they had used as an excuse? It turns out the instigator really is teddy. But then, I also would have liked to have seen teddy and friends experience some consequences for their actions. Perhaps the principal should have asked teddy and friends to help clean up, which is actually how I thought the story would end. Yes, teddy is called to the principal’s office, but I guess I’m not sure I agree with teddy looking really cute, which then helps him skirt out of any consequences for his actions.

The illustrations are very humorous, filled with many pastel colors or if not pastel, then they are still given a light-touch to them. I suspect many young kids will find this book really funny and expect a chuckle or two from them.

Thanks to Netgalley and Candlewick Press for the advanced ready copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Rating: 3 stars

Description:

What do your favorite toys get up to when you’re at school? Teddy and friends bring their creative mayhem to the classroom in a gleefully vicarious comic romp.

What would happen if your teddy bear stowed away in your backpack and followed you to school? And what if your teddy convinced all your friends’ stuffed animals to come along for the party? Would you believe they might sneak into the cafeteria to play Pizza Disc, head to the band room to put bubbles in the wind instruments, make a clever glue trap for the art teacher, and roll around in finger paint as well? Luckily, the principal remembers what it was like to be young and may let the rambunctious teddy bear and crew off just this once. Author Jancee Dunn and illustrator Scott Nash bring Teddy and friends back for more mischief in a high-spirited tale of uninhibited fun.

Runaway Signs – Picture Book Review

By: Joan Holub
Illustrated By: Alison Farrell
Published On: June 2, 2020

It’s the last day of school and the Children Crossing sign is getting a bit jealous and underappreciated watching all the kids talk on the way home about what they are going to do during the summer. So they have an idea – they will go on vacation too! As they start their journey to Adventureland Children-Crossing signs passes by all sorts of other signs and convince them to take a vacation too. All of a sudden the Stop signs, Construction signs, Wrong Way signs and many others aren’t there to do their job causing major headaches for the people.

The colors in the book are predominantly happy summer colors – the sky is blue and the weather is lovely. The fun part about the illustrations is they include call-outs of conversations from the signs saying phrases like “Who wants to ride a roller coaster?” or the Be Alert for Bear sign saying a vacation is a “Beary Good Idea.”

Photo by Travis Saylor on Pexels.com

The book is a humorous way to introduce children to different signs and the importance of following them. It also can provide opportunities for discussing responsibilities that we each may have.

Description:

When the road signs take a vacation, chaos and hilarity ensue–and they quickly learn how important they are.

School is ending for the summer, and the stick figures on the school crossing sign are jealous of all the vacation plans they hear the students making. The stick figures work hard–maybe they deserve a vacation, too! So they abandon their signpost and set off on an adventure, inviting along all the other underappreciated road signs they meet on the way. It’s all fun and games for a while, especially when they stumble upon a fantastic amusement park. But the people they’ve left behind are feeling their absence, and soon there are traffic tangles and lost pedestrians everywhere. The signs are more important than they realized, and now it’s time for them to save the day!

When the Storm Comes – Picture Book Review

By: Linda Ashman
Illustrated By: Taeeun Yoo
Published On: May 26, 2020

A rhyming picture book asking the reader what do they do when a storm comes rolling in. The story is set against a seaside village and shows us how people and animals such as birds, rabbits, whales and others protect themselves from thunderstorms.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The images are created used digital and pencil drawings in sea-tone and storm-tone colors: blue-grey to show an overcast day threatening to become even darker along with green and team to complete the look of a seaside town. Yellows illuminating from the window of home. A vivid white also makes a splash in the crest of breaking waves, but is also the predominant color of the sheets of rain pouring from the skies.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Even though the narrative is about what creatures of all types do to protect themselves when a storm comes in, the colors, rhyme and peaceful village together present a lovely, calming story that makes you feel safe and secure from wherever you read from.

Thanks to Edelweiss and Nancy Paulsen Books for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Description:

A storm and its sunny aftermath come to life through gorgeous art and lyrical text.

What do you do when the clouds roll in,
When the wind chimes clang and the weather vanes spin?


When stormy skies threaten, people stock up on supplies, bring in their outside toys, and check the news for updates. And during the storm, if the power goes out, they can play games and tell stories by candlelight. But what do animals do? They watch and listen, look for a cozy den or some other sheltered spot, and hunker down to wait. After the storm, while the people are cleaning up their yards, making repairs, and checking on the neighbors, the animals emerge from their hiding places and shake off the rain. And everyone is happy to be out in the sunshine again, grateful for better weather and the company of friends. 

The Stray – Picture Book Review

Story and Illustrations By: Molly Ruttan
Published On: May 19, 2020

In The Stray, a family is out for a walk when a spaceship crashes nearby. There amongst the rubble is ‘the stray’. He’s a cross between a slug, a dog, a frog and maybe a few other things. One thing is for certain: he is a cutie! They decide to take him home and give him the name Grub. They give him lots of love and make him part of the family. They even try to teach him a few tricks, but soon they realize that perhaps he has a home somewhere else that he misses.

Continue reading “The Stray – Picture Book Review”

The Sand Elephant – Picture Book Review

By: Rinna Hermann and Sanne Dufft
Published On: August 8, 2019

Paul was alone in the sandbox. He has no one to play with so he etches out a large elephant in the sand. Slowly sleep overtakes him as Paul wishes the elephant were real and could play with him. But he doesn’t get to sleep too long before the elephant wakes him up to play. The sand elephant lets Paul ride on his back as they travel to very large sandcastle filled with other children Paul can play with. However, soon it begins to rain and Paul and his new friends get worried about the sand elephant and all the other creatures who had been at the sandcastle. But, water can’t truly hurt sand elephants because they and many other creatures can always be remade.

Continue reading “The Sand Elephant – Picture Book Review”

Beijing: A Symmetrical City – Book Review

Written and Illustrated by: Dawu Yu
Adapted By: Yan Liu
Translated By: Crystal Tai
Genre: Children’s: Non-Fiction
Pages: 42
Published on: April 30, 2020

It’s not often I select a non-fiction book to read, but this one sounded so interesting I had to try it. First, I am not as familiar with Beijing as I would like to be. Second, I had no idea the city was symmetrical and it made me very curious to learn a little about that why it was made that way. Beijing: A Symmetrical City focuses on the city during the Qing Dynasty.

Continue reading “Beijing: A Symmetrical City – Book Review”