Picture Book Roundup – Interrupting Chicken, Olivia Goes to Venice, Children Make Terrible Pets

Ah, lots of picture book love this week.  I love hitting the library and browsing through the sizable collection of kid’s books.  There are so many clever picture books out there, and I feel that I have been very neglectful of them.  I don’t even think I read that many as a child, other than Clifford the Big Red Dog.  This gap in my reading must be filled!

Title: Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

Published by Candlewick Press

The title of this book is what initially caught my attention.  What could that brightly hued chicken be interrupting?  Story time, it turns out.  The little red chicken just can not contain herself when when her father reads her bedtime stories.  She knows that the characters in her favorite fairy tales need a little help, so she jumps right into her father’s narrative with her own twist to the endings. 

The illustrations are big and boldly colored, which works well with the little red chicken’s inclination to be bold herself and interrupt her father.  She is clearly a conflict avoider, and she prefers that her fairy tales to skip right over all of the drama and suspense.  I loved how patient her father was with her, and how he resolved the dilemma of his interrupting chicken.

Grade: B

Title: Olivia Goes to Venice by Ian Falconer

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

I love Olivia!  This pig has the right attitude in life.  When the family jets over to Italy for vacation, she is pleased to be searched for weapons at the airport.  Pleased!  When I am chosen for additional screening, I am not so amused.  In fact, I am quite pissed.  But Olivia, dressed in her red striped jumpsuit, looking like an escapee from the nearest penitentiary, is pleased by the extra attention.  Everything is an adventure for her, and that, sadly, is something that the rest of us seem to grow out of.

Venice will never be the same after Olivia’s whirlwind visit.  The gondoliers may breathe a sigh of relief, and the gelato sellers will cry bitter tears at the drop in sales after she flies home, but Olivia is going to have the time of her life sightseeing, strolling over bridges, visiting palazzos, and drifting along the Grand Canal. And causing some mischief.  Don’t forget that Olivia’s special ability is to cause mischief!

The art is a mix of charcoal and gouache, with a dash of digitally enhanced photos.  I love the facial expressions and deceptively simple illustrations.  If you’ve not spent time with Olivia, she is a friend worth knowing.

Grad: A-

Title: Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown

Published by Little, Brown and Company

Putting a humorous spin on “he followed me home,” Lucy the bear finds a child in the woods.  She is instantly smitten with him, especially the way he squeaks, and she decides to take him home.  Her mother is not so amused, and is at first reluctant to allow this creature into her home. However, after making it crystal clear that Lucy can keep her new pet as long as she promises to take care of it, she relents.  After spending many an inseparable hour with Squeaker, Lucy realizes that maybe her mother was correct, and children do make terrible pets.

What a cute book!  The illustrations are adorable, and I love the simple page arrangements.  There’s not a lot of text, but there doesn’t need to be.  The expressive drawings more than make up for the lack of words.  Lucy’s expressions when Squeaker misbehaves are sure to elicit laughs. 

Grade: B+

Review copies obtained from my local library

Picture Book Roundup – Stellaluna, The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear, Lulu’s Pajamas

Title: Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Publisher: Harcourt Brace & Company

Another winner from Janell Cannon.  Stellaluna is a baby bat, and when she is separated from her mother, she is terrified.  She lands in a nest of baby birds, and after coming to an understanding with the mother bird about some rules she has to follow, Stellaluna tries to fit in with her new family.  There are a couple of issues for her to work through, like the food.  She doesn’t like bugs, because she’s a fruit bat, but she’s so hungry that she learns to just close her eyes and swallow the nasty crawly things.  The biggest change is how she is expected to sleep.  No more hanging upside down off the side of the nest; that’s too dangerous for baby birdies, so she has to sleep in the nest.  It’s hard, but she learns to make due, and comes to love her nest mates.

I love the illustrations in Stellaluna.  Her emotions are captured in each painting, and there is such a range of facial expressions that it’s hard to not feel affection for this little lost bat.  As she adjusts to life with her new family, she begins to see how alike she and the baby birds are, despite their very obvious differences.  The friendships she makes with the birds helps all of them to appreciate each other and pushes them to see their daily activities in a new way.  They are all open to each other’s differences, and are so willing to work past them.   I liked this book a lot.

Grade: A

Title: The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear by David Bruins & Hilary Leung

Publisher: Kids Can Press

I was a bit disappointed with this one, and I hate to say it, but I think this will appeal much more to boys than to girls.  Ninja, cowboy, and bear are friends, and they do everything together.  One day, they all quarrel about who is better than the other.  They compete at various tasks, trying to one up each other.  After arguing, they realize that they are all good at different things, and they learn to appreciate each other. 

The illustrations are adorable, but the story just didn’t grab me.  While I enjoyed the ending resolution, the journey towards accepting the differences in others failed to engage me.

Grade: C+

Title: Lulu’s Pajamas by Lucie Papineau & Stephane Jorisch

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Lulu loves her pink pajamas so much that she decides to wear them all the time.  Her parents try to reason with her, but she is adamant.  She’s going to go to school in her pjs!  Her parents decide to let her, and even change into their pajamas for the day.  What Lulu learns, though, is that her special comfy pjs are best for wearing to bed!

This was a cute book about a stubborn little mouse who has to learn things the hard way.  Lulu’s soft as a butterfly kiss pajamas make her so happy that she makes a very important decision for herself; she’s never going to take them off.  Her parents make an important decision, too.  They are going to let her discover that her soft, wonderful pajamas are best for wearing to bed.  After spending the day at school, Lulu’s pjs aren’t quite so special anymore.  In fact, she doesn’t want to wear them ever again!  Talk about a reversal of opinion!

With whimsical illustrations and Lulu narrating the story, Lulu’s Pajamas delivers a fun story about making decisions and dealing with their consequences. 

Grade: B-

The Snow Day by Komako Sakai Picture Book Review


Title: The Snow Day

Author: Komako Sakai

Publisher:  Scholastic

ISBN: 9780545013215

May Contain Spoilers

A snow storm brings a day at home for a little rabbit.  What the rabbit really wants to do is run outside and play in the snow, but the rabbit’s mother won’t let it.  Not until the snow stops falling.  As the day progresses, the snow continues to fall, and father’s flight home is canceled.  Will the snow ever stop falling, and will little rabbit ever get to enjoy some time romping in the cold, white drifts of snow?

I admit that I am not qualified to determine whether or not this book and it’s subdued illustrations will appeal to the target audience of children 4 – 8.  I will therefore make a few observations, and then turn the floor over to my littlest niece, Elly-Bean, who is in that age bracket.  Elly loves her books, and she is carefully being groomed to pick up the slack here at Manga Maniac Cafe.  Only a couple more years, and she can start pulling her own weight and helping me out with con coverage and review chores.  I wonder what kinds of stories she will take a hankering to…

The Snow Day chronicles one of my favorite days, following a young rabbit as it learns that there won’t be any school that day, and that there’s no need to rush out of bed.  But wait!  It’s snowing, so the excited bunny isn’t going to waste time snoozing when there is all of that snow to play in.  Mom is pretty strict, putting a damper on plans to romp through the freshly fallen snow. 

The book is very simple and offers up the excitement and magic of a day a home, waiting and watching as the snow continues to fall unabated.  The illustrations effectively capture the quiet solitude of a snow storm, of the feeling of isolation as the snow piles up ever higher.   The colors are soft and muted, echoing the snow outside, with occasional flashes of red or blue or yellow.  The sense of solitude is enhanced when the rabbit and its mother venture outside, and only they are scampering through the drifts, making snow balls and snow dumplings. Their world is muted, seeming to contain only them and the mounds of pure white snow.

Now it’s time for Elly-Bean to take the floor:

1.  Did you like The Snow Day?


2.  Why did you like the book?

Cause I liked it snowing and she was making snow dumplings.

3.  What did you think of the little rabbit? 

The little rabbit was cute.

4.  Did you like the pictures?


5.  Why?

Because they look like home.

6.  Do you think other people should read The Snow Day?


7.  Do you like snow days?


Well, there you have it.  It’s a winner for the Bean, a soon to be 4 year old.

Review copy provided by Scholastic