Rummanah Aasi
  All of the picture books that I have reviewed today are listed on the Monarch Book Award list, a list comprised of picture books that are selected by librarians, teachers, and readers themselves. If you would like to view the Monarch Book Award list, please go here.

Description: When a circus ship runs aground off the coast of Maine, the poor animals are left on their own to swim the chilly waters. Staggering onto a nearby island, they soon win over the wary townspeople with their kind, courageous ways. So well do the critters blend in that when the greedy circus owner returns to claim them, villagers of all species conspire to outsmart the bloated blowhard.

Review: With vibrant pictures and a rhyming text, Van Dusen brings a story based on true historical events to life. The first half of the book was surprisingly dark as it describes how the ship ran off course when an animal filled steamship en route to Boston is wrecked in a storm. The troupe of circus animals escapes bad treatment and disaster, finding its way to an island off the coast of Maine. The 1800s residents are surprised to find zebras eating their gardens and alligators lounging on woodpiles. Thankfully, the second half is much more optimistic when a tiger saves a toddler from a blazing shed and the animals and the humans work together to avoid the cruel circus owner who is on the hunt to reclaim his animals. It was also fun spotting the hiding animals on a few pages.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson, Sometimes I like to Curl up in A Ball by Vicki Churchill

Description: In this variation of the old tale of the ant who gathers food for winter, and the grasshopper who does not prepare, there is an unexpected ending.

Review: At first I was a bit confused with this retelling of the famous Ant and Grasshopper Aesopp tale. Everything was following the traditional fable with the ant working dutifully and saving up for the cold winter while the carefree and irresponsible grasshopper seemed more at easy planing his fiddle. Suddenly there's a new twist as the Ant feels bad for Grasshopper and offer his assistance. The author is able to add another layer displaying empathy and friendship in this version but I thought it comes across a bit clumsy. Personally, it's the Grasshopper's fault for being stupid and irresponsible so Ant's unnecessary guilt shouldn't be taken advantage of but I do see him taking the higher road.  The watercolor-and-colored-pencil scenes show the two creatures first in their opposite worlds and then standing off. The use of colors also play upon the emotions of the characters. Overall, I thought this one was an okay read but not really remarkable.

Rating: 3 stars

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

If you like this book try: Three Pebbles and a Song by Eileen Spinelli, Ant and Grasshopper by Graham Percy.

Description: A little boy named Clemente learns about his namesake, the great baseball player Roberto Clemente.

Review: Who says that biographies have to be boring? Perdomo's biographical account of the famous and well loved Puerto Rican baseball pioneer through witty text and illustrations that exude passion. The child narrator, whose father is president of the Roberto Clemente fan club, was named in honor of the great player, and little Clemente can tell you just about everything there is to know about the man, from his childhood to his staggering statistics. More important, the boy's mother reminds him, were Clemente's off-field heroics as a staunch family man, battler of racism, and humanitarian; he tragically died in a plane crash bringing relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Bits of Spanish are gracefully sprinkled into the narrative to give it a culture feel. Clemente! is more than your everyday biography and it might spark a new baseball fan in the little ones. I definitely learned a lot after reading this one.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended by Grades K and up.

If you like this book try: The Babe and I by David Adler or Me, Frida by Amy Novesky.
4 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Circus Ship is based on a true event? I can imagine it would definitely be a surprise to look out your window and see zebras and the like. Glad that second half lightens up a bit after the dark beginning!

  2. Lauren M Says:

    Man, reading picture book reviews always makes me think of the summers I spent working in Children's Services at the library. Circus Ship definitely sounds like something I'd like to read aloud. Thanks for the reviews, Rummanah! :)
    - Lauren

  3. Candace Says:

    Circus Ship sounds like I would enjoy reading and my kids would have fun with the pictures. And if its based on a true event, even better!

  4. Circus Ship sounds like something I might want to add to my growing collection of picture/children's books. It will soon rival my YA books however they take up less room! I agree about the Ant and Grasshopper book, the tale sounds like it isn't done as well as the original. And Clemente, well I should probably take a look at that as my children'ts collection could use some biographies.
    Thanks for these great reviews!

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