Archive for ‘Animals’

October 4, 2012

Creepy Carrots!

Title: Creepy Carrots!

Authors: Aaron Reynolds
Illustrator: Peter Brown

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2012
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Humor

Opening Lines:

Jasper Rabbit had a passion for carrots. And the carrots that grew in Crackenhopper Field were the best. Fat. Crisp. And free for the taking.

Synopsis (from Amazon):

The Twilight Zone comes to the carrot patch in this clever picture book parable about a rabbit who fears his favorite treats are out to get him.Jasper Rabbit loves carrots—especially Crackenhopper Field carrots.He eats them on the way to school.He eats them going to Little League.
He eats them walking home.
Until the day the carrots start following him…or are they?

Celebrated artist Peter Brown’s stylish illustrations pair perfectly with Aaron Reynold’s text in this hilarious picture book that shows it’s all fun and games…until you get too greedy.


In elementary classrooms have students come up with their on creepy vegetable stories. Check out the following post by a teacher, scroll to the bottom.

In keeping with the spooky theme, create a shadow puppet theater at home!

Why I Like This Book:

This book just cracked me up. Just looking at the spooky illustrations caused the twilight zone music to run through my head. The premise of the story was crazy, but the three-color themed illustrations and lighting effects just took the craziness to a whole new level. Seriously, you may never look at carrots the same again or anything else that is your “favorite”. My girls enjoyed being in the know that there really are creepy carrots, seeing how Jasper came up with the solution to the creepy carrots problem, and the twist at the end.

This is a perfect book to spook your kids with for Halloween.

Check-out  Peter Brown’s video about the illustration process, it’s amazing.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

NOTE ADDED 10/16/12: This book was nominated by Danielle Smith for the 2012 Cybils Awards in the Fiction Picture Book category. I am a second-round judge in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks!

September 21, 2012

A Home For Bird

A Home For Bird

Author & Illustrator: Philip C. Stead

Check out the story behind the story in an interview with Mr. Stead at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Publisher: Roaring Book Press, 2012
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-8
Themes: Friendship, Animals, Adventure

Opening Lines:

Vernon was out foraging for interesting things when he found Bird.
“Are you okay?” asked Vernon.
Bird said nothing.
“Are you lost?”
Bird said nothing.
“You are welcome to join me,” said Vernon.

Synopsis (from MacMillan website):
While out foraging for interesting things, Vernon the toad finds a new friend – a small blue bird who is curiously silent. Vernon shows Bird the river and the forest and some of his other favorite things, but Bird says nothing. Vernon introduces Bird to his friends, Skunk and Porcupine, but Bird still says nothing.

“Bird is shy,” says Vernon, “but also a very good listener.”

Vernon worries that Bird is silent because he misses his home, so the two set off on a journey to help find a home for Bird.

This is a tender tale of a thoughtful friend who is determined to help his quiet companion, by the author of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal.


Excellent classroom discussion questions about foraging/collecting, visual foreshadowing, friendship and more at the The Classroom Bookshelf.

Links on how to make a variety of birdhouses/bird feeders.

Why I Like This Book:

This story reminded of the classic Frog & Toad stories, filled with small adventures, wonder, and most importantly compassion and heart.

The book opens with a picture of the “Careful Moving Co.” on the title page where readers will get visual clues as to the origins of Bird. The story starts with Vernon foraging through the forest for interesting things, when he befriends Bird. They spend time together but Bird is quiet, this worries Vernon who decides he must help Bird find his home.

One of the things that amazed me is that the story was so engaging even though most of the book is filled with just Vernon’s words and thoughts. The repetition of the line “Bird said nothing” was simply perfect. Vernon talking to the Bird reminded me of the way young kids are always in-tune to the needs of their stuffed animals or imaginary friends. I loved the simplicity and richness of this book, it had both.
The story is simple but the depth of compassion Vernon has for Bird as well as the illustrations brought out the richness of this book.
Illustrations are a mixture of crayon and gouache making the art vibrant and child-appealing. A unique characteristic of the art is that he doesn’t always stay within the lines which lends itself to a softer quality. Check out a review of the illustrations by Design of the Picture Book and an interview by Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. See more gorgeous pictures from the book at MacMillan website.

This book is good for storytime. Since the book is not high-energy, I would recommend drawing attention to the visual clues throughout the story and asking questions to keep young kids engaged.

This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

NOTE ADDED 10/16/12: This book was nominated by Amy for the 2012 Cybils Awards in the Fiction Picture Book category. I am a second-round judge in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks!

September 13, 2012

Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch

Title: Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch

Authors: Mary Peterson and Jennifer Rofe
Illustrator: Mary Peterson

Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2010
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 2-5
Themes: Concept-Prepositions, Farm Animals

Opening Lines:

Piggies in the pumpkin patch
peak and sneak,
under crinkly clean sheets,
over growing, green beans
behind snoring, sleepy sheep,
into the clover field.

Synopsis (from Charlesbridge website):

Two little piggies run amok on the farm, as they travel from the pumpkin patch, through the garden, into the black bull’s pen, and back to mama pig in time for a nap. The piggies’ antics introduce young readers to prepositions of direction. Alliteration, assonance, and rhyme in each of the three stanzas make for a great read-aloud.


Why I Like This Book:

A simple, short jam-packed story with action words like sneak, peek, crash, dash and a slew of prepositions. But it is not boring, no way, these little piggies are off on a chase which leads them into trouble.

This concept book has the perfect combination of story and education value. Kids will be engaged with the story of the chase wondering where the piggies will end up next, while adults will appreciate the vocabulary building aspects of the book. The text is short and descriptive; one of those books where each word is pitch-perfect.

The illustrations are colorful and the animals have a cute roundness to them. The layout of the text was creatively interspersed within the images. For example the text “between teasing tabby cats” splits the group of animals in half, or the text “along winding wagon tracks” is actually printed out along the curve of the wagon tracks. The endpapers contain a map of the piggies chase around the farm.

This book is sure to delight young readers and can be used for storytime or in classrooms to teach prepositions.

Check out the book trailer below.

This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

September 6, 2012


Title: Lunchtime

Author & Illustrator: Rebecca Cobb

Publisher: MacMillan Children’s Books, 2012
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 2-5
Themes: Food, Childhood Experiences, Imagination

Opening Lines:

At lunchtime Mum said, “Eat up.”
I said, “No thanks, I’m a bit too busy.”

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

It’s lunchtime for one little girl, but she’s just not hungry. A visiting crocodile, bear and wolf, however, are starving. It’s just as well that children taste revolting! A beautifully illustrated tale of food, friendship and fun.


  • Check-out Playing by the Book’s review, that contains activity suggestions such as making watercolor rainbow rings (see endpapers), creating shadow puppets (see title page of book), or having a tea party.
  • Have kids draw out a picture of what is on their lunchtime plate, and ask which animal would come to eat the food.

Why I Like This Book:

A perfect picture book – simple, imaginative, colorful, and relate-able by every young child who would rather be doing something else than eating.

The little girl is drawing and painting pictures of animals and does not want to pause for lunch. But she must and so she sits and sits at the dining table, until a colorful crocodile appears under the table asking for her untouched food. Soon a bear and a wolf appear. Not to worry these are friendly animals, after all she created them (hint, hint). The animals eat her food and her mother allows her to go play upon seeing the clean plate. There are consequence to not eating as the little girl finds out. Parents will enjoy the message of why not to skip a meal. Don’t forget to check-out the back cover of the book for a special scene on friendship.

The illustrations are the gem of this book. The art is simple and colorful, a mixture of detailed illustrations and child-like drawings. I like the little girl’s hair that appears as if it were colored with a felt tip pen. I also enjoyed the crayon scribbles on the bear and burst of rainbow colors on the crocodile. Checkout the endpapers for more rainbow circles. The author has done an accurate, beautiful job with the expressions of the characters and well as the movements of the young girl. Some of my favorites are the little girl’s bored expressions at the table as well as her movements of trying to get off the chair and later rushing to dinner. To see more art from the book check out Rebecca Cobb’s site.

There is so much detail in the illustrations which helps to keep the text at a minimum. This would make a good book for PB writers to study and do a page-by-page analysis of what is conveyed in the text vs the art.

This book was published in the UK in spring 2012 and may not be readily available in the US. You can check WorldCat. I was able to get this book through the Interlibrary Loan system.

This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

August 24, 2012

Puffling Patrol

Title: Puffling Patrol

Author & Illustrator: Ted & Betsy Lewin

Publisher: Lee & Low Books, 2012
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 7-10
Themes: Puffins, Animal Conservation, Iceland

Synopsis (from Lee & Low website):

Every April, the Westman Islands off the coast of Iceland become home to hundreds of thousands of puffins, small black-and-white seabirds with colorful bills. They spend the summer on the rocky cliffs of the islands, caring for their newly hatched chicks. By the middle of August, it is time for the young puffins, called pufflings, to make their way to the sea. And that is when the children of The Puffling Patrol are called to action.

Ted and Betsy Lewin have journeyed to the Westman Islands to experience The Puffling Patrol’s endeavors firsthand. In the company of Erna, Dáni, and their father, they drive through town at night, carefully searching for confused little birds that have glided down onto the streets instead of out to sea. Will the children find the pufflings before the birds encounter danger? Will the pufflings ever make it to the sea to spend their lives with other puffins in the North Atlantic Ocean?

Activities & Resources:

Puffin Sites:


  • News story in National Geographic about children’s effort to save pufflings on Heimaey
  • Puffin related activities to do in the classroom.
  • Coloring sheets at Kidzone and Puffinpalooza.

Photos &Videos:

  • National Geographic for Kids has a page for puffins.

Why I Like This Book:

A simple, easy-to-read book with beautiful artistry, a great way to learn to learn about animals. The authors recount their puffling rescue experience on a visit to Heimaey, an island off of Iceland. This is a wonderful book to show kids that they too can make a difference in the world. The yearly puffling rescue is something that the whole community young and old partake in. I especially liked that it was Dani, an eight-year old, that had “Eagle Eyes” in spotting the lost birds.

The illustrations are the gem of this book. The two styles of Ted and Betsy Lewin, blend together seamlessly. Betsy’s spot illustrations are cute and playful, reminiscent of her work in the Click Clack Moo series.

Ted’s larger photographic styled illustrations of the pufflings bring out the exquisiteness of these birds.

The story is told in first-person narrative, giving readers a feeling that they are right there experiencing the rescue first-hand. Unfortunately, the scene-by-scene narration also slowed down the pacing. The text at times seemed wordy.

The end pages are packed with information, puffin facts, information about the volcano on Heimaey, and a glossary.

The book can be used in classrooms to supplement discussions on animal conservation, birds, and Iceland.

Disclosure: I received my copy of Puffling Patrol from the published Lee & Low Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

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