It’s 1861, and the men of Keokuk, Iowa, have finally been called to war. Unfortunately for 11-year-old Ike Button, he’ll have to stay behind with the women while his older brothers, father and uncles all serve in the Union Army. Ike doesn’t want to care for his baby cousins when he could be off fighting like the men. Determined to forge his own destiny, Ike conjures up a scheme to go to Missouri and slip into the regiment. But before those ill-conceived plans come to fruition, Ike discovers that the war is happening in Keokuk, too, and he doesn’t need to be a soldier to fight for the cause.
Is There a Dog in This Book? had me hooked right from the start, when three adorable, hip cats (Andre, Moonpie and Tiny) welcome readers with a warm greeting on the title page. The trio continues to chat with readers as they notice with alarm that someone has drunk their milk and played with their toy.
If the picture book world has celebrities, Mac Barnett (author of Oh No!) and Jon Klassen (author-illustrator of I Want My Hat Back) are two of the biggest. So when the two of them team up, it’s kind of a big deal. The last time it happened, the result was Extra Yarn, which received a Caldecott Honor, among many other accolades. Now the two have paired up again with Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, another wryly subtle, unexpectedly funny picture book about two brothers in search of something extraordinary.
These days it seems dogs are everywhere. We have dog detectives (Spencer Quinn’s delightful Chet and Bernie mystery series for adults), lost dogs (Chris Raschka’s Caldecott-winning A Ball for Daisy) and even, apparently, dogs with blogs. So, do kids (and adults) need another dog book? The answer, as any dog lover will tell you, is a resounding yes, especially when the book is created by the talented David Ezra Stein, who won a Caldecott Honor for Interrupting Chicken.
The young dinosaur heroes of Gigantosaurus could hardly be cuter. They look like characters right out of an animated feature film―which is no surprise, as creator Jonny Duddle was a concept artist for the Hugh Grant film The Pirates! Band of Misfits. (He’s also the creator of books such as The Pirates Next Door.)
There are lots of picture books about children who worry, ones that try in various ways to reassure children that everything, in the end, will be OK. But I can promise you that you haven’t seen one quite like Anthony Browne’s What If . . . ?
When you open a children’s book, it’s not fair to expect the characters to be ready every time. This is especially true if it’s by Hervé Tullet, the New York Times best-selling author of Press Here. When you open the equally inventive Help! We Need a Title!, you find a princess and a pig tossing a ball together until they notice that you, the reader, have arrived. “Hey! Someone’s watching us! . . . And they’ve opened our book!” The full cast of characters appear and realize that—of course—you would like a story.
For the first time ever, it will just be Adam, his mom and his aging grandmother at their cabin on Three Bird Lake. His parents have recently divorced, and although it will be a different kind of summer, 12-year-old Adam looks forward to escaping the routine of school, sitting on the dock by himself and watching the loons. But his grandmother has other ideas and decides he should learn to canoe around the lake by himself.
The Farmer’s Away! Baa! Neigh!, written and illustrated by Anne Vittur Kennedy, uses rhythmic animal sounds and clever drawings to show that “when the cat’s away, the mice will play.”
“Tap TAP, dark clouds. Tap TAP, damp air.” Better run for cover. There’s a storm coming, and author Elizabeth Bluemle brings it to us with style. Using short, rhyming sentences, we readers are right there in the burgeoning storm with a cast of characters about to get drenched.