Rummanah Aasi
  I'm excited to find out what the Monarch Reader Choice Awards for this year will be! I've thoroughly enjoyed reading and discovering new picture books. It's a common misconception that picture books are meant to be only simple stories that help children begin to learn to read, but the picture books that I've read and reviewed below all have powerful and deep messages that adults can benefit.

Description: When a huge black dog appears outside the Hope family home, each member of the household sees it and hides. Only Small, the youngest Hope, has the courage to face the black dog, who might not be as frightening as everyone else thinks.

Review: Black Dog is an adorable read about the timeless fable about facing your own fears. Small Hope, the youngest member of her family, ventures outdoors one snowy morning to confront a monstrous black dog that's been terrifying her parents and siblings. From each of her siblings and from her parents, we get an exaggerated interpretation of the dog. For the parents, the dog is more like a feral wolf and to the older children is it a dog that is bigger than a tank. In a striking and absorbing spread, Pinfold paints a tiny Small Hope gazing up at a dog the size of Mount Rushmore, its black snout looming malevolently. "Golly, you ARE big!" she says, unafraid. "What are you doing here, you guffin?" She takes off across the snowy ground with a rhyming taunt: "You can't follow where I go,/ unless you shrink, or don't you know?" The dog pursues Small Hope from spread to spread, shrinking as he goes, and the pair arrives home to find the rest of the family comically armed for battle with kitchen utensils. Pinfold's illustrations are crammed with quirky detail, which is not a bad thing. I spent more time looking at the illustrations because they were so elegant. The story stays focused while the pacing is strong, allowing for suspense but doesn't become too dark for younger readers. Better yet Small Hope is as charming and adorable as she is brave.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades K-2

If you like this book try: The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman


Description: One magpie, lots of stuff, and a few friendly mice
show us that less is more. This innovative and spare picture book asks the question: When is MORE more than enough? Can a team of well-intentioned mice save their friend from hoarding too much stuff?

Review: Are you a hoarder? Can't get rid of anything? Then perhaps you need to take a few minutes and read Springman's More. A very simple, spare yet important tale about how is more. A bird has a bad habit of collecting things and bring it to its nest. The bird nest becomes to full and heavy, the weight causing it to collapse unless the bird remove things. With the help of a few friendly mice, the bird reduces its clutter and remains safely in his nest. Springman’s text is intentionally and effectively comprised almost entirely of quantity words such as lots, plenty, and much too much. The illustrations by Lies' are gorgeous and realistic, comprised of acrylic-paint and colored-pencil illustrations which are particularly impressive in detailed close-ups of the animals. One powerful image depicts the bird's greedy, sparkling eye reflected back in a mirror he’s acquired. For adults, it could be a message about consumerism and materialism, but I think kids will notice the bird's habit of amassing stuff.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades PreK-3.

If you like this book try: Magpie's Treasures by Kate Slater


Description: A man drives his truck up to a cliff's edge. Unable to go any further, he opens the back door of his truck and a flock of birds flies out, but, as the man soon discovers, a small timid bird remains. Surprised and delighted, the man acts kindly towards the bird and an intimacy develops. After lunch, the man tries to show the bird that he should fly off and join his friends. The man's comic attempt at flight deepens the encounter between these two very different creatures. Soon the bird flies off and the man drives away, but in a surprise twist the bird and his friends return, and in a starkly lyrical moment we see them all experience something entirely new.

Review: In Zullo's Little Bird little things are noticed and important thanks to the spare, rustic cartoons in bright colors which unfolds our story. A truck driver, dressed in simple overalls, delivers a wealth of glorious birds from an enormous red van into the golden wild. All of the birds depart except for one tiny blackbird who refuses to leave. The trucker thinks the tiny bird can't fly so he offers flight coaching. The bird takes small steps, soaring in the sky for limited amounts of time and finally departs but returns with his original companions to pursue the van and lift the driver into the skies, where he, too, soon takes flight to change the world. Little Bird is quirky and while the art is simplistic, I didn't find it as appealing as the message behind the story. I'm not sure if the younger readers would understand the message so adults might need to provide context to the story, but it would be a good opportunity to talk about how one person can change the world.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades K-3.

If you like this book try: If I never forever endeavor by Holly Meade, Every little thing adapted by Cedella Marley
5 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Being a huge dog lover, I'm automatically drawn to Black Dog Rummanah! I love the look of the illustration on the cover, so I would love to see what's on the pages, I'm sure they're stunning. I think this would be a perfect read for my niece!


  2. These all look so good for me to recommend. Oh I'm so going to recommend Black Dog. That one really sounds great!


  3. Candace Says:

    Little Bird might be one that my son would enjoy. I think Black Dog appeals to me the most though.


  4. I think the sound of the dog book the best. It sounds so cute. A good lesson about making a mountain out of mole hill. I will look for it at the library next time. To answer your question. I would recommend Sarah Addison Allen's Sugar Queen to start or Garden Spells. They are fantastic. I loved Sugar Queen they are both older so you should be able to easily get them at the library!


  5. I love the sound of Black Dog - I often find myself spending more time looking at the illustrations in picture books than reading the text, if the artist is really skilled and there is a lot of detail. More sounds like a book that a lot of children could benefit from reading, and I do love the cover too. Great reviews!


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