Little Fox in the Forest

A wordless story that is a fantastical adventure and teaches a lesson about empathy.

Wordless picture book, fantasy
Interest level: PreK through grade 2
5 out of 5 stars

For show and tell at school, a young girl takes her beloved stuffed fox. A series of photographs show the reader that she has had this stuffed animal since she was a baby, and has taken it many places. While she plays on the swings, a real fox sneaks out of the nearby forest and steals away the girl’s toy. A pursuit through the forest ensues.
The colors in the illustrations are a key piece in the telling of the story. The scenes that take place in the girl’s home and school are all a bluish-gray shade. The stuffed animal fox is the same bluish-gray. The fox that appears on the playground is the only splash of a different color on the page. The fox is copper, with a yellow shirt. Then, as the girl enters the forest, a greenish-gray hue takes over, broken only by the bright colors of small animals wearing clothes. A reddish bird with a green striped shirt is seen in many of the pages.

As the girl searches for the fox, she begins to encounter more little animals wearing clothes. They are all very friendly and try to give her directions to help in her search. Going through a doorway in a hedge, she suddenly enters a brightly colored village of small animals wearing clothes. They live in rustic homes and have smal shops.

The girl finally locates the young fox, who is heartbroken as he returns the stolen stuffed animal. In an unselfish gesture, the girl gives her stuffed animal to the fox. The fox realizes this is a special gift, and in return gives the girl a stuffed unicorn that sat on the shelf near his bed. The final scene shows the two characters, each going to bed with their new gifts.
The fantastical world that Graegin has created works very well in the format of a wordless book. There is so much for children to see on each page, and the different colors for different parts of the world, really help tell the story.

Children have often had a special toy from their childhood that would be difficult to part with. They will be able to identify with the girl who wants her beloved animal back, but they will also have a good lesson in kindness to ponder as she gives the animal to the young fox. The idea that a new friendship may be more important than the toy is a wonderful seed of empathy that Graegin plants.

All in all, this is a delightful adventure that children of all ages will enjoy.

Little Fox in the Forest
by Stephanie Graegin
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2017

Good Day, Good Night

Fans of Goodnight Moon might enjoy this previously unpublished book by Margaret Wise Brown

Picture book, fiction
Interest level: Pre-K
2 out of 5 stars

I really wish the publishing of unfinished manuscripts of deceased writers would stop. Dr. Seuss, Harper Lee, and now Margaret Wise Brown are all examples of authors whose previously unpublished works have been exploited for a profit.

Good Day, Good Night reads like a possible a first draft of the book that eventually became Good Night Moon. The main character is a young rabbit who is waking up and greeting the day. Maybe this is the follow-up to the young rabbit we put to bed the night before in Good Night Moon?

As the day gets going in the rabbit’s town, we encounter the first hints of the lilting rhyme that made Goodnight Moon such a wonderful text to read aloud.

Good day, trees
And birds in the skies
Good day, bees
Buzz out of your hives
Good day, kitty
There’s milk in your cup
Stretch, little cat
Try to wake up

After this we are told to “Go live your day!”

When you turn the page, it is suddenly dark and the bunny is now telling everyone goodnight. There is no transition from day to night, and the page turn marks an abrupt jump in the storyline. I turned back several times to make sure I didn’t miss something.

The text of this book does not read as smoothly as Goodnight Moon. There are rough passages that cause the reader to stumble over the awkward rhythm:

Good night, sky
And the daylight
Good night, flowers
Bugs, good night

It really felt impossible for me to review this book on its own merits, due to its obvious similarities with the treasured classic, Good Night Moon. I find it interesting that the publisher decided to use an illustrator whose style is nothing like the original illustrations of Clement Hurd. Loren Long’s acrylic paintings feature adorable animals with large eyes and there is a nostalgic sense to the scenes that fit well with the tone of the text. Long even incorporates a tribute to Hurd’s illustrations as the bunny heads to bed.
Overall, this book is very weak compared to the original Goodnight Moon. People will want to read this follow-up out of nostalgia. It could make a good read aloud for an adult with a young child. You would want to pause at certain areas and make connections to self. This could help with some of the awkward transitions in the story. I would have given the book one star, but I love Loren Long’s style and feel they are a good fit for the story.

Good Day, Good Night
by Margaret Wise Brown; pictures by Loren Long
Harper, 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-238310-5


Now is a reminder to live in each moment of our daily lives and celebrate the joy that can be found in the things around us.

Picture book, fiction
Interest level: Pre-K through grade 2; Reading level: 2.4
5 out of 5 stars

This is a fairly simple picture book with a really thoughtful message. The illustrations feature a young child that is drawn in a broad ink outline of black. The background of most pages is stark white, and only basic images of the item being celebrated is included.

The reader follows along with the child as she plays outside and enjoys interacting with nature. Each page showcases something the child has chosen as their favorite — breeze, mud, worm, rain, tree. “This is my favorite” is repeated with each item as the child delights in the moment spent there.
The child eventually moves inside, gets ready for bed, and enjoys reading a book with a parent. In that moment, the child declares, “And this is my favorite now because it’s the one I am having with you.”

The simple illustrations and limited, but repetitious text, make this book accessible to a young reader. It is also perfect for parents to share with small children as a read aloud. Adults will also appreciate the reminder to enjoy each moment and find the beauty therein.

Now makes a great follow-up to Antoinette Portis’ previous book, Wait. They both remind us, especially adults, to slow down sometimes hectic lives and look around.

by Antoinette Portis
A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2017
ISBN 978-1-62672-137-1

Dragon and Captain

Dragon and Captain is a fun story that celebrates the power of imagination and play.

Picture book, fiction
Interest level: K-3; Reading level: 1.4
YHBA Picture Book nominee 2017
5 out of 5 stars

There are so many things to love about Dragon and Captain — the bright illustrations, the celebration of imagination, a good friendship story, the graphic novel style format, and … who doesn’t love pirates and dragons!

The story begins with a young boy, dressed in a partial dragon costume, enjoying a bowl of cereal, when he suddenly notices there is a pirate playing in his sandbox. After introducing himself to the pirate, the dragon discovers that he is not a pirate, but just a regular captain who has lost his ship. The dragon, while slightly disappointed that he is not a pirate captain, takes charge and comes up with a plan to help the captain find his lost ship.
What makes this story outstanding is the flow and timing of the illustrations. The story switches back and forth between depicting two boys playing dragon and captain to the story being ABOUT a dragon and a captain. This follows the way a child’s imagination perceives the world as they play. They no longer see themselves as wearing a costume and playing a part, they become the part and the way they see the world changes to accommodate immersing themselves in play.

Lucas Turnbloom utilizes graphic novel style panels to keep readers on track as they read the story. He flawlessly melds the worlds of real and make believe while keeping the plot moving forward. At no point does the storyline stop progressing.

The bright and cartoon-like illustrations capture your attention, and the strength of the story will keep young and older readers engaged. This would make a fun read-aloud, especially if done with different voices for the characters. It could also be adapted into a 4-person readers theater production.
As an aside from the wonder of the story and illustrations, I want to note that I really appreciate the way the parents are depicted. The story primarily features the two kids playing, but in the background we see two female figures talking while one puts laundry onto an outdoors clothesline. My first thought was that the wife/mothers in the story had been placed in some 1950s-style role. However, this is balanced by the end of the story where the father/husband is inside cooking the meal. While this isn’t really integral to the plot, I appreciate books that don’t stereotype male/female roles with dad as the breadwinner and mom taking care of the domestic tasks. Kudos for parents sharing in household tasks!

Dragon and Captain
written by P.R. Attabach; illustrated by Lucas Turnbloom
Flashlight Press, 2015
ISBN 978-1-9362613-3-8

The Bear Report

A young girl undertakes a magical journey as she is working on a school report about polar bears.

Picture book, fiction
Interest level: K-3; Reading level: 1.2
YHBA picture book nominee, 2017-2018
5 out of 5 stars

The book opens with a young girl who is hurries through a book report on polar bears so she can watch TV. She writes three things: they are big; they eat things; they are mean.
Suddenly, a polar bear is crowded onto a chair in her living room. He informs her, “We’re not all mean.” Thus begins a wonderful excursion where Sophie visits Olafur’s environment and begins to learn that there’s a lot more beauty, excitement, and interesting facts about polar bears than she originally thought.
With sparse text and stunning watercolor and pencil illustrations, Thyra Heder provides a few facts about polar bears, but more importantly she inspires a wonder for more knowledge. The story ends with Sophie actively researching and creating tons of notes and illustrations about polar bears, but I believe that the true magic of this book is that it could be read to young children as an engagement activity to get them interested in their own arctic animal research.

There is a brief Author’s Note in the back that talks about the author’s trip to Iceland and what inspiration she found there. Additionally, many kudos to Abrams for responsibly sourcing the paper for the book!

The Bear Report
by Thyra Heder
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015
ISBN 978-1-4197-0783-4


Pete the badger discovers that sometimes you shouldn’t mess with nature!

Picture book, fiction, humorous, rhyming
Interest level: K-3; Reading level: 3.0
4 out of 5 stars

I absolutely love the whimsy of Emily Gravett’s books, and Tidy is no exception! Pete is a badger who likes things neat and tidy. He trims the mis-matched flowers in the flower patch, he brushes the animals, and vacuums up stray leaves from the forrest path.
And then the seasons change, and along comes….Fall. It takes a lot of work to clean up all those leaves, so Pete hatches a plan.

This book is a funny lesson in thinking through plans very carefully before you jump into full execution!

Gravett’s illustrations are fun and whimsical and her animals are absolutely adorable. I love the cut-out cover.

by Emily Gravett
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016
ISBN 9781480192

A Perfect Day

A Perfect Day is a fairly simple story that features a unique twist on the idea of repetition in a story.

Picture book, fiction
Interest level: Pre-K through grade 2; Reading level: 1.9
4 out of 5 stars

Different animals visit a friendly backyard and find just what they need to have a perfect day. Cat finds warm sun and a field of flowers. Dog sits in a pool of water that Bert fills for him. Bert fills the bird feeder for Chickadee, and leaves a corncob on the ground for Squirrel. And then comes Bear…

In the first part of the story, Smith used the repetitious phrase “It was a good day for _____” at the end of each character’s section of the book. Bear arrives and takes over each animal’s happy place. In a twist, Smith again uses the same words of the original phrase, but places emphasis on the word “WAS” — “It WAS a perfect day for ____.”
In a fun twist at the end, we realize Bear is having a perfect day!

Smith’s illustrations feature interesting textures that are pressed into paint. The result is perfect for fur and feathers. The text and illustrations form a perfect combination to tell this story.

A Perfect Day
by Lane Smith
Roaring Book Press, 2017
ISBN 978-1-62672-536-2