Review: Sleep Like a Tiger

Sleep Like a Tiger EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-8
Author: Mary Logue
Illustrator: Pamela Zagarenski
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (October 2012)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 0547641028
ISBN-13: 978-0547641027

Once there was a little girl who didn’t want to go to sleep even though the sun had gone away.

Sound familiar?

“Does everything in the world go to sleep?” she asked.

Her parents say yes, everything in the world goes to sleep. Even their dog, “curled up in a ball on the couch, where he’s not supposed to be.” Caldecott Honor winner Pamela Zagarenski’s exquisitely surreal dreamscapes bring to life the dozing animals, from the majestic whales who “swim slowly around and around in a large circle in the ocean and sleep” to tiny snails: “They curl up like a cinnamon roll inside their shell.”

Sleep Like a Tiger

The little girl, who is of course still not at all sleepy, lies in her bed “warm and cozy, a cocoon of sheets, a nest of blankets. Unlike the dog on the couch, she was right where she was supposed to be.”

She wriggled down under the covers until she found the warmes spot, like the cat in front of the fire.
She folded her arms like the wings of a bat.

She circled around like the whale . . .
and the curled-up snail. 
Then she snuggled deep as a bear, the deep-sleeping bear,
and like the strong tiger, fell fast . . . asleep.

The words are reassuring, rhythmic, and gentle. The illustrations, made through a combination of digital artwork and mixed media paintings on wood, are luminous, beautiful enough to be hung in a gallery. There are details to enjoy on every page, from the crowns the family wears to the bunting in the girl’s bedroom that reappears throughout the dreamy animal scenes to the daytime and nighttime scenes of enchanting dream trains on the endpapers. Reading Sleep Like a Tiger may resolve even stressed-out parents’ insomnia troubles. Hands down, our favourite new bedtime book.

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Review: Oh, No!

ohno EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 2-6
Author: Candace Fleming
Illustrator: Eric Rohmann
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (published September 2012)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 0375842713
ISBN-13: 978-0375842719

One of the hallmarks of richly rhythmic language in a children’s book is if it gets stuck in your head like a catchy song.

For me, anyway. Maybe you lot don’t hear voices the way I do.

What? Stop looking at me that way.

Oh, No! is set in the Asian jungle, inexplicably a less attractive setting for writers and illustrators than the African jungle. For parents who have tired of reading books about lions and giraffes, the location offers a refreshing change of pace as well as several creatures children may not have encountered before, such as a loris and a sun bear. There is a deep, deep hole in the jungle floor, and one by one, the animals fall in and become trapped: a frog, a mouse, a loris, sun bear, and a monkey. Lurking nearby is a hungry tiger who is pleased to find a generous meal conveniently trapped for him. But before he can get to any of the terrified animals “[… the ground bumble-rumbled and began to shake. / BA-BOOM! / BA-BOOM! / … The ground bumbled-rumbled and quake-shake-quaked.” The heroic elephant arrives just in time to help his friends out of their predicament — and the tiger finds himself at the bottom of the deep, deep hole. “Oh, no!”

Children will love chiming in with the repeated refrain — “Oh, no!” — as the animals tumble into the hole, and small details such as the loris’s allergy to cats (including tigers) and the fate of the careless monkey will delight readers of all ages. Eric Rohmann’s striking illustrations make an absolutely perfect accompaniment to the text: Rohmann plays with perspective so that much of the book looks up from the bottom of the deep, deep hole, plunging the young reader right in there with the trapped animals (is that the tip of the tiger’s tail we see?). Refreshingly, the writing is musical without rhyming, and the animal sounds are vividly captured ( though the monkey’s cry of “Wheee-haaa!” was offensive to Little E, who insists that monkeys can only say “ooh ooh ah ah.”). And if you’re like me, you might find yourselves washing dishes while mumbling “Loris inched down from his banyan tree. Soo-slooow! Soo-slooow!….” But I’m starting to think that might just be me. Well, it’s better than the six-month period I spent with “99 Luftballons” ricocheting around my head, or listening to Tall Dude whistling his perennial earworm, the theme song to Super Mario Brothers 2.*

Incidentally, if you or your wee one find yourselves unhappy with the ending, in which the animals head off together and leave the tiger trapped in the deep, deep hole, look carefully at the last illustration: the tiger escapes to live another day.

*It’s been stuck in his head since we started dating. Twelve years ago.

Review: Press Here

presshere

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-5
Author and illustrator: Hervé Tullet
Publisher: Chronicle Books (published Jauary 2011)
Pages: 56
ISBN-10: 0811879542
ISBN-13: 978-0811879545

It’s unusual for a truly unique idea to hit the children’s publishing world. In Press Here, art-director-turned-kids’-book-author Hervé Tullet has combined the format of the book with something entirely new: beginning with just one yellow dot in the middle of the page and the inviting word “Ready?,” this book takes the reader on a jaunt through a magical world of dots that move, shake, grow, slide — all while remaining entirely static on the page. The reader is invited to press, tap, and rub the dots, to tilt and shake the book, to blow the dots into place, to clap, and otherwise affect what happens on each page as the dots change.

Press Here may have been the foundation of a new genre of “interactive” children’s books that have followed in its wake, such as Tap to Play and Tap the Magic Tree. In this case, however, imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery since the new books provide a fun new way to enjoy reading for kids — and the people who read to them. (Little E and I always laugh when we shake the book together.) If you haven’t tried one of the books in this field, check your local library. Press Here, the book that kicked the movement off, is a great place to start.

Parental advisory: Press Here ends with an invitation to read the book again from the beginning. Seasoned bedtime story readers will know that this can be an inescapable trap. The book is unendingly charming for little ones, but the charm can wear thin for grown-ups after seventeen or eighteen readings. Consider yourselves warned.

Review: The Paper Dolls

paper-dolls-jkt-fc1-383x480 EditorsPick (2)

EDITOR’S PICK
GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-6
Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator: Rebecca Cobb
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Children’s Books (published June 2013)
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 0230741088
ISBN-13: 978-0230741089

And now for something completely different from the author of The Gruffalo and Gruffalo’s Child: Julia Donaldson has applied her gift for rhythmic language to an extraordinary story about imagination, loss, and memory.

“There once was a girl who had tiger slippers…” begins The Paper Dolls, and the reader follows the little girl through the creation of a chain of paper dolls with her mother (“They were Ticky and Tacky / and Jackie the Backie / and Jim with two noses / and Jo with the bow”) and her adventures with the dolls. The sweetly whimsical illustrations and simple, evocative writing carry us into the girl’s imagination, where the the paper dolls narrowly escape the claws and teeth of tiger slippers and a crocodile puppet and explore the world of a honey pot and a plate of toast at the breakfast table. Paper dolls are fleeting visitors, however, and when the little girl’s friends are left in a field and then snipped to pieces by a callous little boy, they are gone — but not really. The beauty of memory and the passage of time are vividly captured in just 32 spare pages that will be treasured for years to come. And of course, there’s a built-in follow-up activity; Big E and I had a great time making paper dolls and taking them on adventures after our first reading of this book.

Warning: may leave a lump in the grown-up reader’s throat, even after five readings. Not that I speak from experience.

Review: Big Red Barn

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EDITOR’S PICK
GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Board book or picture book
Author: Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrator: Felicia Bond
Publisher:  HarperFestival (published January 1995)
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 0694006246
ISBN-13: 978-0694006243

“By the big red barn / In the great green field, / There was a pink pig /Who was learning to squeal.” Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952), the canonical author behind Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny, brings her evocative prose to the barnyard and the entrancing animals that inhabit it. Sweetly illustrated by Felicia Bond, this book follows the animals of the barn as the day passes and evening falls. “And there they were all night long / Sound asleep / In the big red barn. / Only the mice were left to play, / Rustling and squeaking in the hay, / While the moon sailed high / In the dark night sky.” Children and parents alike will be comforted and warmed by this simple, cozy story: the perfect book to read at bedtime.