Childrens Book Reviews

This is Belle

Review by: Michael Lambert
Published: February 14, 2019

Every parent is looking for a book to inspire their children, and this book is special in so many ways.

For starters, the entire book is presented with beautiful graphics. Graphics are a part of every childrens book, or at least they should be, but the graphics often are an after thought. These graphics actually paint the picture that the story is telling. It's easy for a child to focus on the book because of these well presented graphics. Not too "slick", not to goofy, just right to speak to your child.

To further aid in your childs development, the book is written in two languages...showing side by side. Coming from south Florida this is invaluable. But should be considered valuable by anyone interested in language skills. Exposing a child (as well as the parent) to multiple lanaguages as early as possible is a great way to help insure an open mind, for language, as well as various cultures. And obviously a primarily spanish speaking family will be thrilled to have a well written childrens book written in english and the original author!

But there is no doubt that the true value of this book is it's message. I would actually say there are two distinct messages within the book. One is showing that any child that has difficulty finding friends or mixing in should realize that they are not alone. This simple fact can put your child at ease, and allow them to feel less alone and awkward. The second message suggests that the child find things in common with others, and build relationships based on the commonality. A message that should speak to children as well as adults, but too often doesn't.

I have had the opportunity to meet this author, as well as to "fight" with her, as she is a 3rd degree black belt in Aikido, and I am a shodan (1st degree). When Isabel is not swimming, running or pursuing other physical challenges, she teaches Aikido to children and exhibits great patience training the children to be respectful and controlled, but have fun. She and her family are amazing people, and their children are a testament to her ability to speak to and inspire children.

Title:This is Belle
Paperback: 26 Pages
Author: Isabel De La Vega
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication Date: 13 April 2017
Format: Paperback
ISBN-10: 1524687308
ISBN-13: 978-1524687304
For ages: 5 - 12


Four All at Sea

Review by: Anastasia Gonis
Published: September 20, 2021

The four car friends from Four on the Run, return with fame and new adventures. 

In Four All at Sea, the personification of the characters and the objects that surround them, steer the story through dialogue and point of view with humour.

Flash, Fergie, Lady and Maxie have tasted success after living on the farm in unintended neglect. Now, with shiny new paintwork that matches their stardom, they are travelling for the first time overseas on a ship with their owner Mrs Brown, to film their first movie with Peachey Productions.

Housed in a container with a bright interior, the cars all look forward to this new adventure into the flashy world they have entered.

Bad weather sets in and the ship starts to rock. They don’t understand what is going on. The ship assures them they are safe, but a darkness closes over them as their container is washed overboard.

Landing on a beach, they work as a team to push the door open. Amazed at the beauty of the desert island and the palm grove they find themselves on, their first consideration is to move to safety away from the water.

When Fergie goes to investigate their surroundings and returns followed by a rusty tank that believes they are invaders come to destroy him, the friends are faced with new challenges.

The four must use cunning to find a way to attract attention so they can be rescued. When a navy warship answers their distress call, new developments add a hero to their experiences.

Illustrated short chapters, a fast-moving storyline and trim size with themes of friendship and team spirit, this second book about the adventures of the talking cars will delight early readers and kids that find longer books overwhelming.

Title: Four All at Sea
Author: Sophie Masson
Illustrator: Cheryl Orsini
Publisher: Christmas Press, $13.99
Publication Date: 1 September 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780648815419
For ages: 6+
Type: Junior Fiction

Where is Everyone? by Tom Schamp

Review by: Tanya
Published: September 23, 2021


Where is Everyone? 
Review Copy from Prestel

Last year I had the absolute pleasure of reviewing Tom Schamp's oversized, exuberant, engaging oversized picture book, It's A Colorful World. I immediately fell in love with his detailed, sort of kooky, richly colored illustrations and his visual storytelling style. I jumped at the chance to get my hands on Where is Everyone? and, even though, being a lift-the-flap board book, it is smaller in trim size and the illustrations are more singular, Schamp's style remains completely enchanting and evocative of early Ricard Scarry (think Ole Risom's I Am a Bunny).

Over the course of fourteen pages, a ducking wanders in and out of different domestic settings, curiosity prompting questions on every page. Sometimes the shape of the item on the page, or the item itself, lend clues to questions like, "Who keeps a cool head?" which is asked while peering up at a refrigerator. Opening the door/flap reveals a polar bear and two penguins amidst the eggs, jam, mustard, and a box labeled, "Eyes." A cup of tea and the question, "Who is very thirsty?" reveals a chimpanzee on a surfboard holding a glass of juice. There isn't much rhyme or reason and no narrative, but what you do get is a glimpse into Schamp's imagination and it is really fun. Readers will laugh with surprise on every page. While I especially love the final pages where a gift and a four-tiered cake reveal special treats, I think my favorite page has to be where a toaster, a piece of toast popping up, reveals a hamster with ears in the shape of the toast!

Where is Everyone? is an out of the ordinary, marvelously illustrated board book with European sensibilities that is sure to delight.

Barkus Book 3: The Most Fun by Patricia Maclachlan, illustrated by Marc Boutavant, 64 pp, RL 2

Review by: Tanya
Published: September 21, 2021


Barkus Book 3: The Most Fun 
by Patricia Maclachlan 
illustrated by Marc Boutavant
Review Copy from Chronicle Books

In 2018, I reviewed the first Barkus book, which became an instant hit in my library. While I missed reviewing the second book in the series (where Baby, a very smart, white kitten joins the family) I am happy to share that this third book in the series really is THE MOST FUN! As always, there are four chapters. In Book 3, each chapter corresponds with a season in nature.

The first three chapters find Nicky and Barkus on outdoor adventures that begin with summertime camping, where Baby stows away in the tent. Despite mom's predictions, the kitten likes playing in the lake, listening to the owls screech at night and running with Barkus. In the chapter titled, "The Crazy Cows of Spring," Barkus channels his inner leader to herd escaped cows back to their paddock just in time to meet the newest calf. Fall is for parades, and, even though Barkus does not get to ride on the GOOD DOGS float, or even the SORT OF GOOD DOGS float, he and Baby get their picture in the paper. Finally, winter finds the family at their cabin in the snow, reading books, doing puzzles, then telling stories around the fire after dinner.

Barkus and Baby are winning characters worth spending time with. Machlachlan's sentences are short and straightforward, but her storytelling is anything but simple. Add to that Boutavant's boisterous illustrations and you have the perfect book for an emerging reader, or a superb read aloud, especially at bedtime!

Thankful by Elaine Vickers, illustrated by Samantha Cotterill

Review by: Tanya
Published: September 17, 2021


illustrated by Samantha Cotterill
Review copy from Simon & Schuster
Thankful follows a young girl as she begins her family's annual tradition. When the first snow falls, she writes down the things she is thankful for on strips of paper, linking them in a chain, adding to the chain as her year unfolds. Vickers's gentle texts illuminates all the things the narrator is thankful for, starting at bedtime with a home where she is safe and warm and a bedtime ritual with her parents. One gratitude flows to the next as the narrator goes through her day. On the bus to school, she is "thankful for a heart that beats," and in the classroom, in a circle of students sitting with eyes closed and legs crossed, she is thankful for, "every breath, in and out, in and out." At times, Vickers's words are lyrical, like when the narrator is thankful for "doors that lead to wonderful places," and, "snow that softens the whole world." But she keeps her story grounded in the physical world, noting the many everyday, but important, things the narrator is thankful for, things that we so easily take for granted, grouping them in new ways. The narrator is thankful for "things that are soft and fresh," (laundry, bread, moss on rocks) and things that are hard (pedals, handlebars, a smooth road for riding on). Returning to where she began, Vickers ends her story in the narrator's bedroom, a chain of gratitudes hanging around her window, framing the thing she is most thankful for - the world.

Cotterill's stunning 3D illustrations perfectly bring to life and deepen Vickers's story. To bring Thankful to life, Cotterill created sets (about 3 - 4 feet wide) building, from paper that she draws on, paints on, cuts out, and glues into everything that will go on the set, from the bookshelf, bed and desk chair in the narrator's room to the school bus, minivan and three-wheeled baby buggy. There are details galore that readers will pore over, again and again, all marvelous inspirations - along with Vickers's gratitude chain - of what we have to be thankful for.

circle under berry by Carter Higgins

Review by: Tanya
Published: September 16, 2021


circle under berry 

by Carter Higgins

Review Copy from Chronicle Books

Circle Under Berry is whats known as a concept book in that it teaches a concept like shapes, colors, ABCs, opposites, etc. With preposition rich text that goes beyond color and shape identification, it reads more like a book of metamorphoses than a concept book. Higgins stacks shapes and words in this vibrantly illustrated book that invites readers to think about things in transformative new ways. Opening endpapers present nine shapes cut from hand-painted paper on a crisp, white background, evoking the work of Eric Carle. Over the course of the book, these shapes are stacked and rearranged, then presented in new ways, the text guiding and questioning - "Is it berry over circle or circle under berry?" and "Is this orange? Is it oval? Is this frog or square or green?" These nine shapes reappear on the closing endpapers, collaged into new and interesting things. 

It's a challenge to write about an interactive, original book like Circle Under Berry - take a minute to watch the video below to get a better idea of what a delight it is to read. Then scroll down for my reviews of Carter Higgins' other superb picture books!

More from Carter Higgins!

See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat by David La Rochoelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, Reading Level 1.5

Review by: Tanya
Published: September 14, 2021

See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat 
illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Review Copy from Candlewick Press
The team that brought us the superlative picture book (and great social-emotional learning text) How to Apologize won the 2021 Theodore Seuss Geisel Award for their beginning reader, See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog, which is also a very fun read-out-loud. If you read See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog, then you caught a glimpse of Baby Cakes (in a green dress and riding a pink unicorn) and are primed for See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat. And you also know that the humor (and the tension) comes from the fact that the narrator and the main character have some conflicts to work out.

And again, there are some great twists and laughs that I don't want to ruin for anyone, so I will not be divulging much of the plot of this book, which begins with the cat telling readers, in a word bubble, that the dog is sick and asked for a Baby Cakes to take his place. As with all great children's book buddies (Frog and Toad, Elephant and Piggie, Ivy and Bean) opposites attract. Where Dog was a bit of a rule follower who tried to work with the narrator, Baby Cakes is ready for action and full of ideas. The title page for each of the three stories in this book (and the first) hold clues in their illustrations for what is to come. Story number one has a bright yellow hardhat beneath the title and story number two, "See the Lake," has an illustration of an open bag of marshmallows, Most surprising, the third story, "See the Sheep," has an illustration of a hammer. I don't think I'll be giving too much away by telling you that Max makes an appearance in this third and final story . . . 

I'm not sure where Max and Baby Cakes can go from here, but I have no doubt that the brilliant minds of David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka will figure it out!