August 25, 2018

Dude! by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Dan Santat

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 7:13 pm by suebe2

by Aaron Reynolds
illustrated by Dan Santat
A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press

When Beaver and Platypus meet on the beach, they are ready to catch some waves but surfing doesn’t go as smoothly as planned.  First a gull poops on Platypus and then Beaver spots danger.  A shark’s fin following behind them.

But as the two frantically paddle away, up pops Shark.

He’s teary eyed, devastated that, yet again, no one wants to be his friend.  Being the awesome dudes that they are, Beaver and Platypus work him into their day, teaching him to surf.  Will their day be ruined when they lose their surf boards on the rocks?  You’ll have to “read” the book to find out!

“Read”?  I put that in quotation marks because Dude! isn’t your typical book.  The text consists of one word, repeated.  Dude!  The clever reader is going to change the inflection and intonation throughout because sometimes it is awesome and sometimes it is devastating, the story is made clear in the pictures.

And the pictures do tell a large part of the story because Santat is a master at weaving important details into the background.  Whether or not the reader catches these bits and pieces, such as the ice cream stand and the warning sign, the first time they are depicted or only later on when their importance is made clear will depend on the reader.

As simple as it sounds, this a great book for discussing story and emotion.  Teaching children to have empathy with others is largely accomplished by teaching them to tell what someone else is feeling.  Given that the emotion expressed in this single word, Dude!, changes from illustration to illustration, a lot depends on the characters’ expressions and what is going on. How do we tell when they are happy or scared or even sad?  Fortunately Santat is a master of the subtle hints that allow even cartoonish animals to express themselves clearly.

A fun book for reading aloud, by ready to let your young readers tell their own one word stories afterwards.



November 27, 2017

Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:08 pm by suebe2

Creepy Pair of Underwear
by Aaron Reynolds
illustrated by Peter Brown
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Jasper is not a little bunny so when he goes to the underwear store with his mother, he’s ready for big boy underwear.  And for Jasper, that means going with the creepy underwear.

The first thing he notices about his purchase is that they glow in the dark. The greenish glow keeps him up so he buries them in the bottom of his laundry hamper. But when he wakes up in the morning he is wearing none other than the creepy underwear.

He tries hiding them in a drawer and even cutting them into tiny squares but the underwear just keeps coming back.  I’m not going to tell you how Jasper finally succeed in ridding himself of the underwear menace but when he does he actually misses them.  His room is just too dark.

In the end, Jasper proves what a grown up bunny he is and surrounds himself with creepy underwear.

Like Reynolds’ Creepy Carrots, this is picture book horror at its finest.  The story is creepy but also funny because – underwear!   Preschoolers as a whole find the word and everything about it just plain funny.

As an adult, I had to wonder if this story was born of a pair of underwear that had a tendency to creep up.  Not polite, but it is something irritating that the wrong pair will do. As a parent, I realize how funny young readers will find these ridiculous underwear as well as the thought that underwear can be scary.

The creepy factor is emphasized by the black and white, picture book noir, effect with only the underwear being in color.   As always, Brown’s illustrations add tons of fun to the story.  That said, I was a tad disappointed when the cover did not glow in the dark.  Yes, I tested it.

Still a fun story to help introduce young readers to a discussion of what is scary and how what is scary to one bunny, or person, doesn’t phase another.  Share this one with a young reader in your life!  This pair also wrote and illustrated Creepy Carrots.


February 18, 2016

Nerdy Birdy by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Matt Davies

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 5:55 pm by suebe2

Nerdy Birdy
by Aaron Reynolds
illustrated by Matt Davies
Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press

Nerdy Birdy wears glasses that are too big.  His wings are too small.  He isn’t handsome like Cardinal or strong like Eagle.  He doesn’t even have the super worm catching ability of Robin.  But he likes to read and he’s good at video games.

He’s struggling to get Cardinal, Eagle and Robin to notice him when someone asks him why?  “Because they’re cool!”

The other bird points out that they aren’t very nice to Nerdy Birdy and he’s be better off making friends with “all of us.”  Us?  With that Nerdy Birdy opens his eyes to the fact that there are a lot more nerdy birds than cool birds.  Soon he has a flock full of friends who like the same things that he does.

Then one day along comes a new bird to the neighborhood.  The cool birds don’t like Vulture and Nerdy Birdy wants to be her friend but the other nerds don’t like the looks of this big, black bird.

You’re going to have to read this one yourself to find out how it ends because I refuse to give it away because it was such a pleasant surprise.  I say pleasant because I thought this was going to be yet another story about the outcasts banding together.  “Look, now we’re popular!”  (Yawn.)

Instead, Reynolds took the message a step farther.  Nerdy Birdy got something out of his friendship with the other nerds and because of this he really grows as a character.

This is definitely a book that should be in every classroom collection and on every counselor’s bookshelf.  It has great messages about bullying and friendship and bravery.  As a mom, I would really have loved to have this book when my own little Nerdy Birdy (my sister still calls him that) was a fledgling.

Give this book space on your shelf.  When you share it, be prepared for some lengthy discussions.


December 10, 2012

Creepy Carrots written by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:36 am by suebe2

creepy carrotsCreepy Carrots
written by Aaron Reynolds,
illustrated by Peter Brown
Simon and Schuster
AR 2.3

What’s up!  Two creepy books in a row?  You better believe it — there is nothing better, IMO, than a book than a safe scary story and this is one of the best.

No one loved carrots more than Jasper Rabbit.  The carrots that grew in Crackenhopper Field were the absolute best.  He ate them every chance he got and he ate lots!

One day, just as he was getting ready to help himself to a particularly amazing carrot, Jasper heard it.  “The soft . . . sinister . . . tunktunktunk of carrots creeping.”  Of course, when Jasper turns around, there is nothing there but he hurries home nonetheless.

Jasper sees them reflected in mirrors, peeking out of the shed window, and even sneaking across his bedroom floor in the dark.  Of course, when his parents investigate, there are no carrots.  Just bath toys, garden tools and toys left on the floor.

But Jasper knew the carrots were there and if his parents weren’t going to help him, he was going to have to help himself.

No more plot.  If I tell you the plot it will give away the surprise ending.

Browns illustrations are a perfect fit for this spare but spooky story.  Even in the beginning of the book when Jasper is blissfully eating carrots, things feel a little creepy because the art work is moody black and white, like an old movie, with just touches of orange as the only color.

Not sure your little reader is ready for a creepy picture book?  This one is atmospheric without being really scary.  They are, after all, carrots.  The main character is a rabbit, not a child, which creates a bit more distance.  And the 1950s feel of the illustrations creates even more distance.

This probably isn’t a good bed time book, but for the young book lover who likes some shadowy atmosphere, this one is a scream.





January 16, 2012

Metal Man by Aaron Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 2:02 am by suebe2

Metal Man
by Aaron Reynolds
AR 2.6

Whenever he gets the chance, Devon heads over to watch the Metal Man work.  His sister won’t go with him.  She’s scared of the noise.  Mama doesn’t even like what the Metal Man does.  According to her, it isn’t art, but junk.

But Devon sees something more.  He sees the work that goes into it and the heart.  Still, sometimes he isn’t sure what he’s supposed to see in the sculptures.     But this isn’t school and eventually Devon learns that with art there is no one right answer.

One day, he asks if he can try something.   The Metal Man won’t let Devon handle the dangerous torch but he follows Devon’s directions and before the day is out, Devon is holding the star-house that he designed.

Paul Hoppe’s mixed media illustrations are a perfect compliment for this story.  Bold black lines compliment Devon’s brass even as they also depict his complex emotions and the pure strength of the Metal Man’s craft.

But this isn’t a bold story.  The power is subtle.  Nothing is said about Devon’s father; all we know is that he isn’t in the book.  Is the Metal Man Devon’s mentor?  A Big Brother?  Again, nothing is said.  All we see is first his tolerance of the boy but also the care he takes when Devon wants to create something of his very own.

It takes nerve on Devon’s part to bring his creation home.  What is Mama going to think?  He views on the Metal Man’s work are outspoken and clear.  But Mama doesn’t have all the answers although she’s willing to see the art in what her son has created.

This book will definitely give you something to consider for quite some time.  Even after a week, I know that I’m still process it.



%d bloggers like this: