Blancaflor, The Hero with Secret Powers: A Folktale from Latin America / Blancaflor, La heroína con poderes secretos: Un cuento de Latinoamérica by Nadja Spiegelman, illustrated by García Sánchez

Blancaflor, The Hero with Secret Powers: A Folktale from Latin America (9781943145553) / Blancaflor, La heroína con poderes secretos: Un cuento de Latinoamérica (9781943145577) by Nadja Spiegelman, illustrated by García Sánchez. Introduction by F. Isabel Campoy. Spanish translation by María E. Santana and José M. Méndez. Toon, 2021

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

Genre:  Folktale/graphic novel

What did you like about the book? Blancaflor, like many of us, has an ogre of a father, a more understanding witchy mother, and annoying siblings. And she’s bored with life. A handsome prince shows up after her father plans to entrap him in an unwinnable game, “The Ogre’s Three” / “Las tres del ogro.” Blancaflor enthusiastically, and secretly, helps him escape. The prince, who is hapless and completely ignorant of all the ways she helps him defeat the ogre’s traps, thinks it is he who manages the escape. Folktale fans will recognize Blancaflor’s tools – special powers, plus soap, a mirror and a comb. All along, the reader will feel the frustration that Blancaflor has suppressed, which is that all of her labor and forethought goes unrecognized by her beloved. Finally, when she has given up on the prince ever returning her love or seeing her for the amazing person that she is, she decides to do away with herself in a dramatic gesture of plunging a knife into her breast. It is then that the prince realizes her feats, and they are married.

The story hovers on the edge of just too much self-centered male junk, but astute readers will recognize a person in love who is willing to give their all, and is finally ‘seen’ by the end. I like the commentary which contextualizes the concept of women’s invisible labor, and gives background on the tale. The art is gorgeous! From the Aztec and Maya pictograms on the opening pages to the wonderful graphic art anchored in blue and brown, with Blancaflor in orange, this is a visually beautiful tale. The text and art work wonderfully together to tell an ancient tale with relatable sensibilities. And some of the spreads are full of such wonderful details.

The Spanish edition is a faithful and spirited version.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? Fans of folktales and fantasy graphic novels, ages 8-12. Perfect for fans of Barry Deutsch’s Hereville series.

Who should buy this book? A wonderful addition to folktale collections for Elementary school and public libraries and Spanish language collections.

Where would you shelve it ? Graphic novels/folktales, 398

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: October 25, 2021

Posted in *Book Review, Folk Tale, Folklore, García Sánchez, Graphic novel, Nadja Spiegelman, Spanish | Tagged | Leave a comment

Bear is a Bear – written by Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Dan Santat

Bear is a Bear – written by Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Dan Santat, Balzer + Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins, 2021. 9780062880512 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format:  Hardcover

Genre:  Picture Book

What did you like about the book? The words are wonderful: Bear is a bear hopeful and shy.  Bear is a bear full of love” as the huge brown bear is introduced to the baby. The illustrations, done in watercolor, pencil, and Adobe Photoshop, place this book among the classics. The huge bear puts up with a lot: being used as a tissue (ugh!) and being chewed on (this picture is really too cute…).  But there is also dress-up, being a brave protector during storms, exploring and drawing.  As these activities continue, the baby is growing up.  She becomes a teenager and goes off to college and Bear?  Packed away as a memory. Until, of course, she returns to being a Bear of love once again.  A beautiful story that kids could certainly relate to as they outgrow their own softies.

Anything you did not like about the book?  No.

To whom would you recommend this book? For Storytime or at home, this book could be shared with other books with a similar theme: Sarah’s Bear by Marta Koci, Nothing by Mick Inkpen and, of course, The Velveteen Rabbit by Williams.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries, day-care centers and families of young children

Where would you shelve it? Picture Books

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Near

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Katrina Yurenka, Retired Librarian, Editor, Youth Services Book Review

Date of Review: October 25, 2021

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, *Starred Review, Dan Santat, Jonathan Stutzman, Stuffed Animals | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Unforgettable Logan Foster by Shawn Peters

The Unforgettable Logan Foster by Shawn Peters. Harper, 2021. 9780063047679

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: ARC (1/22 pub date)

Genre:  Science fiction/superhero

What did you like about the book? Twelve year old Logan Foster lives in an orphanage. He is neurodivergent, with an eidetic memory, and loves comic books and internet cat videos. His narration, to an unknown younger sibling, whom he hopes to find one day, is full of information he has memorized from which he tries to make sense of the world. It is also funny and very entertaining.

Logan is placed with a young couple, Margie and Gil, and moves to their home. He quickly makes a friend in Elena, a high school girl next door. Things are looking up, but he withholds hope that his new foster parents will work out. From the beginning, he can sense that they are hiding something. And when they are attacked in a movie theatre by a beefy dude named Seismyxer, he learns that they are the superheroes Quicksilver Siren and Ultra-Quantum, and that they are part of a world wide organization called MASC which coordinates activities of all superheroes fighting the forces of evil. But soon, Logan and Margie and Gil must question all of their assumptions about who the good guys are, as a huge showdown at MASC headquarters threatens the peace of the entire world.

I love the combined dramas of Logan’s personal fate and the fate of the world, and how he methodically tells the events of the story, often punctuated by his signature line, “That is a fact.” The action gets going really quickly, and his voice is clear and engaging. It feels like he’s speaking to the reader as he tells his story to the sibling he hopes to meet one day. Elena is also a great character – a tall, athletic high schooler with unexpected abilities. I really couldn’t put the book down! Occasional art, which is not realized in this advance copy, will be fun to see. If it’s anything like the cover it should be good. The spine marks the book as the first in a series, but happily there is a satisfying ending which brings closure to many questions.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? For ages 9-14, fans of adventure/science fiction and superheroes, and for anyone who enjoys characters with the special powers of autism.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: October 24, 2021

Posted in *Book Review, Autism, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Shawn Peters, Superhero | Tagged | Leave a comment

Fluffy McWhiskers Cuteness Explosion – Explosions by Stephen W. Martin, Cuteness by Dan Tavis

           Fluffy McWhiskers Cuteness Explosion – Explosions by Stephen W. Martin, Cuteness by Dan Tavis, Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster, 2021. 9781534441453

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book? Can you imagine being so cute that your cuteness actually causes the viewer to explode?  Kaboom!  That is the curse that Fluffy McWhiskers lives under.  She tries giving herself a bad haircut, wearing an ugly sweater and wearing a paper bag over her head -all to no avail.  She looks even cuter. She finally takes a rocket ship and lands on an empty planet, at last, peace – until a saucer flying by goes Kaboom!  A deserted island finally does the trick, but she is lonely. Until….  The colorful illustrations fill the page, frequently as a two-page spread.  There is a rainbow quality to the story which keeps it from feeling sad.

Anything you did not like about the book?  It seems a very weird concept, being so cute, you cause others to explode…?

To whom would you recommend this book? I’m really not sure.  I need to try reading it to a child.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries and day-care centers, kindergartens

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  Cute, but not cute enough.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Katrina Yurenka, Retired Librarian, Editor, Youth Services Book Review

Date of Review: October 24, 2021

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, Dan Tavis | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Little One by Kiyo Tanaka

The Little One by Kiyo Tanaka,  translated by David Boyd. Enchanted Lion Books, c2018, 2021. 9781592703586

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book?  What a weird, wonderful, and touching book this is! A small girl holding a school satchel walks through a Japanese street and spots a tiny black creature with bold slanting eyes. Apparently she’s the only one who can see the baby-sized walking blob and follows it, first to a secret garden and then into a traditional Japanese house. After enjoying tea, the creature invites her to venture inside a closet, which leads to a magical dark attic, filled with glowing fairy lights, a swing, and a tree to climb. After all that activity, the girl and the little one climb a soft, furry mountain and fall asleep. “I had a dream about my mom”, the narrator tells us as we see them snuggled together on the back of an enormous, fanciful, cat-like creature. The girl and the little one leave the house and the girl runs toward a man, exclaiming, “Oh! Hi Daddy!” as they walk home together. 

The illustrations and tone of the book strongly suggest a debt to Edward Gorey, with their delicate black-and-white copperplate etchings and the bizarre little one. But what at first seems odd and even vaguely threatening gradually becomes warm and friendly. The girl’s mother is missing and although the book provides no answers as to the where, when, or how of her disappearance, the resolution is comforting. This is an open ended story, with lots of room for children to fill in their own interpretations. Adults who object to the child following a stranger or venturing into dark spaces need to get with the (metaphorical) program.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Consider yourself forewarned: it won’t be for everyone.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This might be a good conversation starter for families experiencing loss or grief. 

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books or possibly in a parenting section

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: October 24, 2021

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, *Starred Review, Grief | Tagged | Leave a comment

Can You See Me? by Gökçe Irten

Can You See Me? by Gökçe Irten. Kids Can Press, c2020, 2021. 9781525308376

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book?  An unseen narrator addresses readers to point out a subtly philosophical concept: that size is relative. Some things around us are small and some are big, but it’s really a matter of seeming. An airplane looks huge when we stand next to it, but small in the sky. If you were as small as a flea, an orangutan’s short fur would look like a forest. If you grew as fast as a caterpillar, your feet would triple in size in just 3 days. Over and over, we’re asked to look at the world from another’s perspective; useful not only when dealing with size, but for more existential concepts as well. Irten uses an eye-catching collection of colors (all sunny and warm) combined with retro, found objects layered in clever collages (and further enhanced with Photoshop). The results are dreamy yet compelling. A photo of a magnifying glass enlarges the tiny hand drawn purple fleas we’ve seen on previous pages, awestruck by a giant (to them) smiling red ant. A ladybug crawls on a leaf, but on the next page, we see her shape and pattern echoed in a girl’s polka-dotted red beret as she walks her dog (with those pesky fleas hopping off). Irten provides something for everyone here: big important observations, high-interest factoids (elephant footprints filled with water provide habitats for more than 60 different species), and beautiful, absorbing artwork.The human child in the pictures is White.

Anything you didn’t like about it? It was a bit meandering. Very literal children may not appreciate this mix of fancy and fact. Also, the teaser on the front, “A book about feeling small” was misleading, giving me the idea that the book might be about self-esteem. Possibly this is just awkward translation.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Young listeners willing to bend the boundaries between nonfiction and picture books will enjoy this. Given the visual differential between the small and large things, I think this would work best one-on-one or in small groups.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: October 24, 2021

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, Concepts | Tagged | Leave a comment

Ruffles and the Red, Red Coat by David Melling

Ruffles and the Red, Red Coat – David Melling, Nosy Crow, 2021. 9781536220216 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book? Ruffles is an adorable small white dog with a bullseye of grey around his right eye.  Ruffles loves “howling, scratching, eating, fetching, sniffing, chewing, digging, running and sleeping”.  Ruffles does NOT like his new red coat, not one bit.  He struggles and struggles and finally manages to get it off.  It’s raining, it’s cold and wet and Ruffles should wear his coat, but nope.  He finds a puddle and splashes and jumps in it – without his coat.  His friend, Ruby, shows up in her blue coat.  Together they jump and splash in the puddle until big dogs come and destroy the puddle soaking Ruffles and Ruby, only Ruby has been protected by her blue coat.  She still wants to play but not Ruffles, he is mad.  When Ruby returns with Ruffles’ red coat, he struggles and struggles until he finally has it on.  And there is a new puddle!  The super cute illustrations were done in pencil and colored digitally.  They all have a different solid- colored background: blue, green, white and red accentuating the little white dog and then the little grey dog, Ruby.

This is such a simple, sweet story.

Anything you did not like about the book?  Not a thing.

To whom would you recommend this book? This is reminiscent of Zion’s No Roses for Harry and could be used together for storytime.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries, Child-care centers, families

Where would you shelve it?  Picture books

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  It wouldn’t hurt.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Katrina Yurenka, Retired Librarian, Editor, Youth Services Book Review

Date of Review:  October 24, 2021

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, *Starred Review, David Melling, Dogs | Tagged | Leave a comment

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!: An Animal Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!: An Animal Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup. Nosy Crow, Candlewick, c2020, 2021. 9781536217186

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover poetry

What did you like about the book? This bold and beautiful anthology of poetry belongs on every shelf. The book is slightly oversized with a startling cover. A bright orange tiger bursts through the darkened underbrush just waiting for us to open the volume. Inside, after a masterful introduction from Louise Bolongaro of Nosy Crow, are jillions of poems all about animals and sorted by the days of the year. There is a full assortment of poets from all over the world and a full assortment of poetry types. Illustrations by Britta Teckentrup are brilliant and authentic but don’t interfere with the space that the poetry should hold. Heavy and bright, this is one to own. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  This is a great poetry anthology in and of itself but also could be paired with other anthologies like Talking Like the Rain, selected by X.J. and Dorothy Kennedy or Poetry by Heart compiled by Liz Attenborough.

Who should buy this book? Anyone aged 0-100 and libraries both public and school

Where would you shelve it? Poetry section (811)

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes. It’s so beautiful you at least have to look through it.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Pam WattsFlavin, Head of Children’s Services, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: October 23, 2021

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, *Starred Review, Animals, Britta Teckentrup, Poetry | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Twenty Big Trucks in the Middle of Christmas by Mark Lee, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus

Twenty Big Trucks in the Middle of Christmas by Mark Lee, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus. Candlewick Press, 2021. 9781536212532

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover

Genre:  Realistic fiction/picture book

What did you like about the book? A town’s Christmas celebration is made possible by twenty big trucks. Each different vehicle helps by bringing in food, performers, decorations, and a huge Christmas tree for a celebration in the town square. Those who are into trucks and things that go will appreciate the variety of vehicles and the brief explanations of their uses.  The illustrations feature not only the trucks, but the adults and children who are working and playing on this exciting day. Readers will enjoy finding details in the illustrations. When an accident leaves the tree topper star broken, two of the children come up with a creative idea to save the day.   

Anything you didn’t like about it? Rhyming is a bit clunky in places, this might make reading aloud a little difficult. But it doesn’t distract from all of the trucks! 

To whom would you recommend this book?   Preschoolers who are into vehicles and ready to encounter new ones.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Kerry A. Lamare, Robbins Library, Arlington MA

Date of review: October 22, 2021

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, Christmas, Transportation | Tagged | Leave a comment

Supermouse and the Big Cheese Robbery by M.N. Tahl, illustrated by Mark Chambers

Supermouse and the Big Cheese Robbery by M.N. Tahl, illustrated by Mark Chambers.  Tiger Tales, c2019, 2021. 9781680102628

Rating: 1- 5 (5 is excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

Genre:  Mystery/adventure

What did you like about the book?   The mayor of Mouseopolis is about to reveal the big cheese, only to pull back the curtain to discover that it’s been stolen! The only clue is a note left by the thief. The mayor sets his best detective on the job: Supermouse. His identity is a secret, but he follows the clues to the thieves’ lair only to discover a trap. The Superman-inspired superhero saves the day and captures the evildoers. Detailed and entertaining illustrations and flaps to lift throughout the story will keep children entertained to the end. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? No, it’s great!

To whom would you recommend this book?  Children ages 3-8

Who should buy this book?  Children’s libraries and parents

Where would you shelve it? jFiction picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this at the top of our “to read” piles? Yes!

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Vicky Tandy, Athol Public Library, Athol

Date of review:  October 22, 2021

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, *Starred Review, Adventure, Lift-the-Flap, Mystery | Tagged | Leave a comment