Newtons Book News

Childrens Book Reviews

Picture Lives Enriched with Picture Books

Picture books can be uplifting, rejuvenating, informative and rich with a message to teach. They are easily accessible and can be read through quickly or slowly if time permits. They can be enjoyed by all ages, except for the last book which is geared more for ages 4 to 7, and perfect for families to enjoy together.

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The Girl and the Bicycle, by Mark Pett, has an element that I relish in picture books: it’s wordless. Wordless books evoke elements that bring discussion, emotion and teachable moments. This book does not disappoint in all of these aspects. While walking past stores with her little brother, a girl sees a bright green bicycle in a store window. She begins to work hard to earn money necessary to buy it. She finds a job helping an elderly neighbor by working in her yard and doing odd jobs for her. When she finally reaches her goal of saving enough money, she returns to buy the bike only to find it’s already been sold. What happens next is the most enriching part of this beautiful story. The lessons learned are selflessness, kindness and love. The illustrations are richly drawn with pencil and watercolor: the only color found in the book is the green bicycle. This author also wrote and illustrated a similar book: “The Boy and the Airplane”.

 

Fossil, by Bill Thomson, is another wordless picture book, but the pictures are richly painted with vivid colors of acrylic paint and colored pencils on every page. A boy is splitting rocks along a shoreline of a lake. Inside one rock reveals a fossil fern leaf and by his splitting this rock, the leaf springs to life. When he discovers a dragonfly fossil, the splitting of this rock turns the dragonfly into a pterodactyl which picks up the boy’s dog and flies away. How this youngster figures how to capture these fossils, save his dog and return these fossils to their natural state is beyond words. Be sure to check out the author/illustrator’s previous book: “Chalk”.

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The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig, and wonderfully illustrated by Patrice Barton, is the perfect book for all elementary teachers and should be read at the beginning of the school year! Brian feels invisible to his class. Even his teacher barely notices him and the rest of the class never invites him to play at recess; he even eats lunch alone. But he loves to draw and the book shows his passion of drawing aliens, superheroes and pirates. One day a new student, Justin, enters the class. When Justin brings out his lunch, a Korean dish, the other students make fun of him but Brian slips him a note making him feel better. Justin begins to befriend Brian and gradually so does the rest of the class. This brilliant book begins with everyone in color except Brian. Slowly, as he becomes accepted, his color becomes full. There are so many important lessons in this book and more suggested reading and information is found at the back of the book.

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Lost Cat, by C. Roger Mader, touches the heart as you watch a feline, Slipper, love his elderly owner and his happy life. But when she moves away and accidentally leaves Slipper behind Slipper chases after the moving van and becomes lost. The story and pictures are told through the viewpoint of the cat. Slipper encounters many different sets of shoes and rejects them all until he comes upon a pair of young shiny shoes. He decides this little girl can become his new owner. But what happens next will surprise and warm your heart. You don’t need to be a cat-lover to thoroughly enjoy this beautifully painted story. This would be a perfect read-aloud.

 

Weasels, by Elys Dolan, is a rollicking adventure showcasing these furry rodents attempting to take over the world. You find they have a hi-tech headquarters full of knobs and switches as they feel they have perfected their machinery to rule and just need to turn on the switch to make their rule come to fruition. But nothing happens. Why? They are perplexed. However, the reader will see the problem way before they attempt to turn the switch making this a fun and funny read. The over-sized pages, along with each page full of detailed illustrations, made with mixed media, will motivate readers to pour over and reread again and again. Be sure to check out the inventive end-pages.

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Locomotive, by Brian Floca, is this year’s Caldecott winner and the award is most deserved. This over-sized book is packed with information about the train from looking at the people who rode the train to the engine parts. The book traces the impact of the train when it made its way across the country upon completion of the transcontinental railway. It focuses on an early trip from Omaha to Sacramento. It not only focuses on the engine parts, but also on the train structure, duties of crew members, passing landscapes as well as what the people of that time experienced. The advent of the train impacted our country in countless ways. This book is so full of information that all ages will learn and enjoy pouring over the large pages. The artwork is beautifully and accurately portrayed with watercolor, ink, gouache and acrylic fully encompassing every page.

 

How To Train a Train, by Jason Carter Eaton, and delightfully illustrated by John Rocco, is a fun and enjoyable book that will bring a smile to all by taking a completely different view of trains. How would you select, train and take care of a train – if it were a pet? The trains, drawn with graphite and colored digitally, have large eyes and cute faces on their engines and each personifies a  different personality. The absurdity of this concept is what makes it so funny and a delight to read. The book reads like a guidebook and states “It’s only natural that you’ll want to take home all the trains, but don’t just grab the first one you see. Take your time and choose one that’s right for you.” Kids will be laughing all the way to the train station with this book.

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