Picture book binging is always a favorite activity of mine. I sat down at lunch one day and read four picture books from online reader copies. A Story No One Has Ever Heard Before by Avi Steinberg; Boys Don’t Fry by Kimberly Lee and illustrated by Charlene Chua; How Mr. Silver Stole the Show by Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise on the illustrations and finally Pride: A Seek-and-Find Celebration: Adventure Through the History of the Queer Community illustrated by Diego Blanco, published by Epic Ink Books (due in mid/late April 2024). Well, I skimmed Pride and this is what stopped the binge at only four.
Each book has its own unique qualities of goodness. There is no real theme, just books I was looking at via my old online reader copies, except for the Blanco book (I found that in my new online links).
A Story No One Has ever Heard Before will start this review. Actually, we have heard this story before. Sort of. You see, the book is about how you, the reader, can make your own story. Therefore, that story will be new and fresh and never heard before because it is yours and you just made it happen. That is not a new concept, but the story you make because of the clues and the final “draft” prompt will allow for a new story. The art is cute and a bit silly at times, but that just adds to the fun. There are minimal details and colors that do not “jump” off the page, but are not muted. Steinberg’s story is giving you multiple stories within the book, while telling you how to be creative and use the hints they are using to use in your own story telling. Things are lighthearted, but not fluffy. The modern voice is bouncy and will allow you to use this book in the classroom or for a rainy/cold/snowy/lazy day at home.
I was a smidgen disappointed in Boys Don’t Fry as the build up to the conclusion was a bit quick. However, it is still a lovely book about going against stereotypes. There are also extras at the end that include more information about the author and the characters, plus a recipe. Lee’s story is about a young boy who loves food. He loves the smells, taste and how the grandmother is the center of not just the fun craziness of cooking, but their home as well. When the aunties are preparing the New Year feast, they tell him that he will “get bored” and “be in the way” when he says he would like to help, since his sisters ran off when they were asked by the aunties to help. But when the Queen (the grandmother) speaks, or more actually puts her cane down, the aunties listen and that means the young narrator is able to cook and learns a very important secret to one of their recipes. Chua’s illustrations were a bit too cartoonish for my personal tastes, but they add a lighter tone to things and allow the modern listener to be engaged with things in the bubbly, brightly colored, needed detailed illustrations.
I was and was not surprised that How Mr. Silver Stole the Show by the Klise’s was based on a true story. Mr. Silver was a stray cat that was found by the staff of the fancy Hamilton Hotel, just as the 1947 Greater St. Louis Cat Club Show was happening, and is somewhat adopted by them. Only they do not realize that this cat was curious and found its way into the dinning area, which upsets the guests. The staff, including their hotel hostess, take offense at the fact people called him names, so they clean him up, and enter him into the cat show. The rest is history. Of course, there are several liberties taken such as the odds are the chef and his daughter would not have been of color, how Mr. Silver actually got his name is unknown and while there is documentation about Mr. Silver and his adventure, his actual homelife is unknown. The illustrations are sweet and simple, but are busy in their details and how they support the story. Colorful images pop, even Mr. Silver who is a gray fluff. M. Sarah Klise enjoys the theme they were given and supports their sister’s text well.
Pride: A Seek-and-Find Celebration had a few turn-offs for me to start. The illustrations were one. However, after reading about the artist, Diego Blanco, and their take on art, it made sense to have an abstrarance to things. Still, that fact and the extreme boldness of the colors and the fact it is a “find and seek” book, it is busy and not a quiet book. I was reading online and that did not help. One needs to be in a quiet setting, or at least not a “too active” one where you can concentrate. There are sections that talk about Pride, and even allies. There is history of flags, terms, and more. I just could not finish it, forget what I needed to be looking for, and how things were presented made it crowded and hard for me to focus. This is not an easy “seek and find” nor is it easy with the theme. Know your reader when presenting it to them. In fact, it might work best for adults, but it probably should be at least strong ages eight and up. However, I would use this book if I was looking for information for a high school or even college level paper. There is potential, just not reading via a computer screen. I am looking forward to April and finding a finished copy to explore this book more.