Rummanah Aasi
 I'm so excited to start reading this year's Monarch Award list this year. Many thanks to the librarians and teachers who composed this list! You can find this year's Master List for the Monarch Award here. Coincidentally, the first two books on this review are also featured on the list.

Description: Illustrations that resemble a silent film tell the story of a plump mama goose who is invited to dinner by a hungry fox while her babies try to warn her that it is a bad idea.

Review:  A picture book by one of the rock stars of children's picture books is guaranteed to be crowd pleasing. Willems's That Is Not a Good Idea! doesn't disappoint. The book is a homage to the silent movies as it uses its conventions—exaggerated facial expressions, telling body language, and, of course, blacked-out dialogue pages cut into the story. The setup is classic featuring a cunning and sly fox trying to entrap an innocent naïf duck. The three-piece-suited, top-hatted, grinning fox catches the eye of a sweet, old babushka-wearing duck. Dinner! he thinks and asks if she’d like to go for a stroll in the deep, dark forest to his kitchen, where he’s making a pot of soup that’s missing only one last ingredient. At each step of the way, a chorus comprised of an increasingly frantic litter of chicks warns "That is really, really, really, really not a good idea!" By the time the story reaches its peak, the suspense increases and you can practically hear the pot boiling. You can bet kids will be squirming with tense glee, primed for a classic Willems gotcha! that turns the whole thing on its head for the poor, unsuspecting fox. That Is Not a Good Idea! is a quick read that kids will want to read over and over again. It's also a great pick for a group storytime.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades K-1.

If you like this book try: Outfoxing the fox by Friederike Rave, Hattie and the fox by Mem Fox

Description: Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: We quit!
   Beige is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown. Blue needs a break from coloring all that water, while Pink just wants to be used. Green has no complaints, but Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking to each other. What is Duncan to do?

Review: The Day the Crayons Quit had me chuckling right from the front page. Duncan has one simple desire: to draw with his crayons. When he reaches for his box he doesn't find his favorite crayons, but instead of crayons, he finds a stack of letters listing the crayons' demands in this humorous tale. Some examples include: an overworked red crayon who has been laboring even on holidays and doesn't get a break. An exhausted grey who is burnt out from coloring expansive spaces (elephants, rhinos and whales) and poor black wants to be recognized as a color-in color. This anthropomorphized union of crayons amicably requests workplace changes in hand-lettered writing, explaining their work stoppage to a surprised Duncan. With a little creativity and a lot of color, Duncan saves the day! Jeffers's illustrations are playful and energetic, done in a combination of pencil, paint and crayon. The drawings are loose and lively, resembling just how a young Duncan would draw. With few lines, he makes his characters effectively emote and capture the crayons' conundrum. The Day the Crayons Quit is a comical and fresh look at crayons and color. Young readers may not see their ordinary box of crayons the same again after reading this book.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades PreK-1

If you like this book try: A day with no crayons by Elizabeth Rusch, Monsters love colors by Mike Austin

Description: A wordless picture book about the inspiring friendship that develops between a bluebird and a young boy.

Review: Bluebird is an abstract picture book, rich with symbolism and themes that I think would be best suited for middle to upper elementary readers. Younger readers could easily read this wordless story but I'm not sure if they would understand the emotional impact that the author wants his readers to have by the end. Readers follow a bluebird as it flies past a New York City skyline filled with cones, pyramids, and rectangular prisms. Vertical lines are punctuated with stylized circular trees, heads, iris shots, clocks, etc. The sky and bird are indeed blue, but the lonely boy with the large, round head is dark gray; shades of gray comprise much of his world. Readers and the bluebird observes how the little boy is bullied and mocked as he enters school. Afterward, the bluebird befriends the lonely boy by playing hide-and-seek, share a cookie, and sail a toy boat together. Attentive readers will catch the subtle deeper layer of the book as conflict arises when they enter Central Park, which is ominously and purposely dark, and bullies attempt to steal the boat. When one of them hurls a stick, the bird blocks it and falls, lifeless. As the child cradles his friend, the background brightens and a brilliantly colored flock lifts the pair into the clouds, where the creature fades from view as the boy waves good-bye. Cynical readers will wonder what was the point of the bluebird's friendship if it only dies in the end? I, myself, thought this book beautifully provides a platform to talk about aggression and bullying with young students as well as the importance in teaching students the importance of empathy and hope.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 2-5

If you like this book try: One by Kathryn Otoshi
5 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Look at those little fat chickies Rummanah! THEY'RE SO CUTE! We've been getting all the pigeon books for my niece and she loves them, so I'll have to let my sister in law know about this book of his as well. Mo Willems is epic:)

  2. I wasn't too impressed by the Crayons book. I thought it was original, but it was also too wordy and the fonts seemed hard to read. Of course, I was looking at buying it for a family with young kids so my perspective was that it wouldn't be appropriate for kids their ages.

  3. What cute books! I have to laugh at the crayon one though. So need to start recommending these little books to some little ones I know! :D

  4. I love Mo Willems and That Is Not A Good Idea is hilarious. It was a big hit with my niece when we went home for a wedding. I hit up the book fair at the elementary school (I collect picture books) and I also read The Day the Crayons Quit but let someone else buy it. I haven't seen Bluebird but it sounds like a beautiful story. Can't wait to read more reviews like this.


  5. I love The Day the Crayons Quit. I haven't heard about the other two but am not surprised that you enjoyed That is Not a Good Idea! Bluebird sounds like a great read that I may be able to incorporate into a lesson someday.

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