ALSC Notable Book 2017. First-day jitters are a frequent picture-book topic, but this one has a surprising twist: the nervous one is the school building. Frederick Douglass Elementary is a brand-new school, and so far, he only knows the janitor. The first day is coming, however, and School is worried that the kids won’t like him. First, he overhears some older kids say they hate school; then a freckled girl doesn’t even want to come inside. “I must be awful,” School thinks to himself. But soon, the day picks up. He hears a funny joke at lunchtime, he learns about shapes, and the freckled girl paints a lovely picture of him that the teacher pins to the wall (it hurts a little, but School doesn’t mind). Robinson’s blocky, naive-style paintings set just the right tone, and the subtle faces on all the buildings hint that School’s not the only building with feelings. Meanwhile, Rex doesn’t play the gag only for laughs; rather, he seamlessly weaves School’s dialogue into the tale, as if he’s just another student in the classroom. With bold illustrations featuring a diverse array of children and text that’s ideal for reading aloud, this charming reversal of first-day-of-school nerves will delight little ones and help put their own anxieties at bay.
ALSC Notable Book 2017. Animals disappear one by one, except for a hungry lion. Perhaps the lion is to blame, but could there be another explanation for these rapidly disappearing critters? Cummins’ enjoyably repetitive text and droll illustrations give each animal a personality, despite their pending departure, from the stand-out sauciness of the lion to the affable nature of the ever-present turtle. The stark backgrounds play this up and allow each character to stand out. They reappear at a surprise party, but the tables turn–again (and again)–until ultimately one unexpected survivor remains. All the carnage (both real and assumed) takes place off-page, potentially furthering confusion caused by the story’s many twists. Illustrations in brush marker, gouache, graphite, colored pencil, and charcoal playfully contrast with the macabre undertones.
ALSC Notable Book 2017. Hoping to retrieve her kite, a girl reaches into sleeping Bear’s cave just as he rolls over, inadvertently crushing it beneath him. “Horrible Bear!” she shrieks and then stomps home to scribble, kick, and (accidentally) rip the ear off her stuffed bunny. Meanwhile, Bear is indignant over being so rudely awakened, and he is bent on revenge. He practices barging and making a ruckus, eventually stomping down the mountain to the girl’s house. When the two meet, however, the girl (who now realizes accidents just happen) immediately apologizes, draining all the horrible out of Bear. He becomes Sweet Bear, dedicated to patching up toys and friendships. The creators of Wolfie the Bunny (2015) explore the common childhood experiences of accidents and misunderstandings with sensitivity and humor. A perfectly over-the-top look at tantrums, friendship, and forgiveness that is sure to resonate with preschoolers and parents alike.
AJL Notable Book 2017. “Two Grandmas. Two delicious recipes. And one granddaughter caught in the middle. Sophie loves Bubbe’s Jewish chicken soup made with kreplach. She also loves Nai Nai’s Chinese chicken soup, with wonton. But don’t tell Bubbe and Nai Nai that their soups are the same. The grandmothers are miffed when Sophie calls the dumplings in their soups by the wrong terminology. The grandmothers are quick to point out the differences between kreplach and wonton, but Sophie has a plan to show her elders how good a mixture of “a little Jewish, a little Chinese—a lot like me” can be.
Geisel Honor Book 2017. Otto the robot builds and spaceship in this funny and poignant story which is the latest title in the award-winning “Adventures of Otto” series. Since landing on Earth, Otto has made many friends, but what Otto wants most is to visit his family. Will Otto’s spaceship take him up, up, up so he can go, go, go? But with an “uh-oh” Otto goes “down, down, down”. When he looks up from the wreckage of his spaceship to see his jubilant friends, he realizes he’s looking at his home and his found family. Milgrim combines very few words arranged in easy-to-decode patterns with a balance of laugh-out-loud slapstick and honest emotion.
Geisel Honor Book 2017. The turbulent relationship between a yellow dog and a gray mouse unfolds through a snappy alphabetical series of words and phrases by New Yorker cartoonist, Mike Twohy. An alphabetical romp tells what happens when Dog accidentally rolls his ball into sleeping Mouse’s house. Dog is irritated about the missing ball and winds up chasing Mouse out of his den and all through the house. This clever romp carries beginning readers on an epic chase using common and decodable words and strong illustrative cues to move the action forward. In the vein of Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, and other classic cartoons, “Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run!” is a hilarious alphabet caper.
Geisel Honor Book 2017. As owl is going to sleep, he is repeatedly interrupted by a “squeak”. He’ll never get to sleep unless he can figure out what’s going on! Determined to find its source, Owl tears apart his house from cupboard to floorboard to roof. But while he’s busy tearing his house apart, he doesn’t notice one tiny, squeaky, mouse-shaped detail…Will Owl ever get a good night’s sleep? Greg Pizzoli is the author-illustrator of the 2013 Geisel Award winner “The Watermelon Seed”.