March 23, 2018

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 6:55 pm by suebe2

After the Fall:
How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again
by Dan Santat
Roaring Brook Press

Before he fell off the wall, Humpty Dumpty loved sitting up there among the birds.  But after the fall?  He just didn’t have the nerve.  He had to satisfy himself with bird watching.  Then one day he sees a paper airplane sail past.  Maybe that’s how he can reunite with the birds.

So he spends countless hours and numerous failed attempts to create a paper airplane that flies like a bird.  Unfortunately, on its maiden outdoor flight, it ends up on top of that wall.  Humpty Dumpty is tempted to leave it up there but he spent so long working on it.  He just has to try to get it back.  And as he climbs up the ladder, something happens.  [This is a huge plot spoiler so the last sentence of this paragraph will be below my signature.]

This is one of those amazing picture books that turns into much more than you expected.  I loved fractured fairy tales and fairy tale retellings and Dan Santat?  He creates such a rich variety of books for young readers.  I love that he is both author and illustrator because it allowed the final revelation to come about through the illustrations alone.

This is a more than a Humpty Dumpty story.  It is a story about healing and growing and reaching new heights.  It is a story about fear and dreams and achieving amazing things.

I don’t know what media Santat used to create his  illustrations but I love how expressive Humpty Dumpty is.  PIck up a copy of this to share with your young reader for Easter or for quiet reading time.  This one is a must but expect to spend some time studying just the illustrations for the subtle details they add to the story.


scroll down (follow the arrows that look suspiciously like v’s)










He turns in to a bird.


October 5, 2016

The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:15 pm by suebe2

the-cookie-fiascoThe Cookie Fiasco
by Dan Santat
Hyperion Books for Children

Four friends with only three cookies makes for one great big problem.  Will they work it out before it’s too late?

A hippo, a crocodile and two squirrels are trying to figure out how to evenly divide four cookies.  (It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke!) I kept expecting the hippo to snap and just eat all the treats.  He does suggest that he should get a bigger share because he’s so much bigger than the others.

But as hippo gets hungrier and hungrier, his nerves snap.  Let’s just say that he has a nervous habit of fiddling with things.  With a snap, the breaks one cookie and then another.  The squirrels worry that soon there will be only crumbs.

Worrisome though it may be hippo’s habit saves the day.  It seems that it is much easier to evenly divide the pieces of cookies.

Work with kids and at least one of these characters looks familiar.  I definitely know hippo.  One of my son’s friends will carefully explain that because he is bigger he deserves more.  He NEEDS it.  Then there’s my niece aka the outspoken squirrel.  I am little and I am mighty.  You’d think Santat had spent time in my dining room.

Because this is another of the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! early readers, the text is super simple.  The illustrations don’t build on it, as they would in a picture book, but they do give young, inexperienced readers the clues they need to decipher unfamiliar words.

As always, Santat’s illustrations are humorous and expressive.  As simple and straightforward as they look, there are always plenty of clues for young readers to use the gauge what is going on in a character’s head.

If you have a young reader who is working to decipher words for him or herself, request this book at your library. The text is simple and straightforward.  The characters are silly.  It will pull your new reader in and help to develop the skills needed to tackle longer books.


March 16, 2015

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:34 am by suebe2

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
by Dan Santat
Little, Brown and Company

I adore Dan Santat’s work and his offbeat way of looking at the world.  Still, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book about an imaginary friend who decides to take charge and find his boy or girl.  I should have known that Santat would break the rules and win doing it.

Write a book and pretty soon, someone will tell you that you have to tell your reader the character’s name up front.  Not in this book.  When we meet the main character, marshmallow?  ghost?  with a crown, he is coming into being on the island where imaginary friends are born.  But he doesn’t have a name because his name will only come when he is picked by a child and given a name.

But he isn’t picked.  The purple octopus is picked. And he isn’t picked although the faceted panda is picked.  And still, no one choses him.  Perhaps his child is just to busy to fully imagine him?

Our main character works up his nerve and decides to go find the boys and girls who might become his friend.  After a long ocean voyage, he wanders into a restaurant.  No children and the adults aren’t much fun.  Then he tries the subway — even worse!   Finally, out on the sidewalk he spots a familiar tail and follows it to a playground.

Kids come.

And kids go.

And finally he sees someone who looks familiar.

Her name is Alice and she names him Beekle.  She is Beekle’s first friend.

At the hands of another author, this could become overly sweet.  Fortunately, this story is brought to us by the slightly offbeat and always delightful Dan Santat.  I’m not going to tell you how it ends because I refuse to spoil it for you.

I love Santats simple but expressive illustrations.  I especially enjoyed the variety of imaginary friends who ranged from lizard like to clearly octopus and then . . . Beekle.

This would be a great one for story time or to spark a conversation about imagination and originality.  Share this book with the highly unique child in your life!




August 8, 2014

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 12:37 am by suebe2

The Three Ninja Pigs
by Corey Rosen Schwartz
illustrated by Dan Santat
G.P. Putnam

Once upon a time, or so the story goes, times were dangerous and a wolf went around blowing down houses until three pigs decided that they had had enough.  They enrolled in the local ninja school.

Suffice it to say that all three pigs were not equally good students.  The first little pig quickly grew bored.  He could say he studied and that might have been enough if his house wasn’t made out of straw.

The second little pig could put on a good show but that wasn’t enough to save his bamboo house.

Fortunately, their sister, the third pig, had dedicated herself to her studies, emerging from the school with her final belt.

Whether your young reader loves fractured fairy tales, studies tae kwan do or is a fan of martial arts movies, there is a lot to love in this tale. Schwartz’s story is fast-paced with humorous dialogue, just like in the movies, and Santat’s illustrations pack a humorous punch.  I especially love the “power lines” that radiate out whenever our porcine heroine strikes a victorious blow.

In terms of book design think graphic novel with panels and flamboyant action.

And if you read this at bed time, don’t be surprised when your little pig ends up standing on the bed practicing kicks and punches.


January 30, 2014

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Dan Santat

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:07 am by suebe2

by Aaron Reynolds
illustrated by Dan Santat
Chronicle Books

It isn’t easy being a carnivore.  People think it is — after all, the call the lion the “King of the Beasts.”  But what people don’t realize is that even a carnivore can have sensitive feelings and it hurts when the other animals call you “bad kitty”  or comment on your “feeding frenzies.”

Given their special social issues, it shouldn’t have been surprising when the lion, the great white shark and the timber wolf started meeting.  After all, who better to understand what is going on in your head than another carnivore.  What can they do to stop the hurt feelings?

The answer they came up with: become vegetarian.  Not surprisingly, it didn’t work.

I don’t want to go into more detail about the actual story because I don’t want to spoil the plot.  Suffice it to say that it is hilarious in a slightly warped kind of way.  Okay, maybe more than slightly warped.  Let’s just say that after several humorous attempts to be someone (or something) they aren’t, the carnivores learn to embrace what makes them unique.

Not only is the text extremely funny, Santat builds on this in his illustrations.  Be sure to read the signs and dry erase boards in the background when the carnivores are meeting.  And do pay attention to the secondary characters — the bunnies don’t mean to be funny, but in their own vapid way they may be the funniest part of the book.

This may be more of a boy book than a girl book or maybe you just need to be a wee bit warped to truly appreciate it.  Frankly, I tempted to buy it for my fourteen-year-old son, the self-described carnivore.

I’d love to deliver this review with no warnings, but I do have one.  If you are a vegetarian with no sense of humor, don’t pick this book up.  You may very well be offended.  If you fail to heed my warning and are offended … oh, well.  You can’t say I didn’t warn you.


PS  Watch the trailer below.  If you laugh, check out the book!  If you don’t, there is no help for you.  I’m sorry.

December 9, 2013

Picture Day Perfection by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Santat

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:25 am by suebe2

Picture Day Perfection
by Deborah Diesen
illustrated by Dan Santat
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Have you ever read a picture book and then looked behind the door to make sure the author or illustrator wasn’t hiding in the house, spying on your kid? That’s how I felt when I was reading Picture Day Perfection.  Not only does he wake up with major bed head, but his favorite shirt is wrinkled and stained.  That’s my son in a nut shell.

As if this wasn’t enough to prevent a top-notch photo, just like me, the parent’s in this book refuse to go with one of the stunning new background options, such as Peacock Blue or Pizzazzy Purple.  These parents are deadly dull and instead opt for “traditional gray” with which our main character’s favorite shirt blends perfectly.  Otherwise, it doesn’t exactly make for the best possible picture.

Unless of course, that’s your plan.

For reasons known only by certain young males of our society, the main character is out to ruin his school photo.  His plan is to make an absurd or horrid and disgusting face at just the right moment.  Unfortunately, while he’s chuckling about this fantastic plan, the photographer snaps the picture and catches him with a sappy grin.

Santat’s brightly colored illustrations are the perfect compliment to this boy’s dark plans.  The scowls, glares and shocked indignation that Santat manages to capture on his character’s face contrast perfectly with the vibrant color pallet used for the illustrations.

This would make a fun read aloud for family time, school picture time or story hour, providing of course that someone brings along a camera to capture the antics that are sure to ensue as everyone demonstrates their own photo wrecking face.


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