When you need a picture book (or five) to get you out of your reading slump, you hope that one will WOW you. Sadly, I only felt, “That’s nice. But I am not going to be able to write 250 words on each.” Therefore, a collection of three of those picture books reviews!
The cry of “Cannonball!” has been heard at the local pool or swimming hole for decades. This time, we hear it from a young child trying to learn how to do the best cannonball ever. They have several suggestions from their friends, family and neighbors, but it just fizzles out; resulting in the ultimate belly flop. It is not until our young narrator learns how to be themselves, do they find the way to be the best Cannonballer ever. Sacha Cotter creates a book of diversity of people and language that is a fun story about just being you. All ages can enjoy the art and story, but best for the 5 and up crowd.
If a book can possibly be too bright and mixed up, How to Put an Octopus to Bed is it. Sherri Duskey Rinker’s story is more tangled up than the PJ fiasco the parents and child octopi must deal with that evening. Reading feels messy. Looking at Viviane Schwarz’s illustrations feels messy. It was uncomfortable for this adult to read. However, with that said, something tells me kids will flip over the antics of one octopus as he puts his parents to bed. It is quirky and that messy, busy feeling is exactly what most kids go through when it is time to do the nighttime rituals of bedtime. Best for ages 3 and up.
Thank You, Garden is a letter to the garden and the things in and around it: the earth, people, the creatures. Yet, Liz Garton Scanlon’s story, like a garden, is deeper. There are levels that a first read might not show. Therefore, a child of any age can enjoy the story (especially if you have a garden in your backyard or a community garden) and a beginning reader (sometimes with assistance) can read solo; but the adult will get more from it. Simone Shin’s illustrations, like the text, simple, but with hidden meanings. They are real (not realistic) with the gardens earth tones. This is a book that finds you, you do not find it.
Each book shows everyday life (swimming, bedtime, gardening) but also has other themes. Diversity being a major one as the child in Cannonball is of Maori descent and the rainbow of a community garden shines through in Thank You, Garden. Even a family of octopi are not that different from us, even if they look different. But the major theme through them all is that these are stories that you want to find on your reading stack.