Posted in Uncategorized

Circle, by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen brings the Shape Trilogy to a sweet close

Circle, by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9780763696085

Ages 5-10

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Shape Trilogy has been hilarious reading, and the final book in the trilogy, Circle, wraps things up in a sweet, silly, perfect way. The three shape friends – Triangle, Square, and Circle – play a game of hide and seek; Circle only asks that no one hide behind the waterfall. So, naturally, the second Circle closes her eyes to count, Triangle takes off and hides behind the waterfall. Circle heads off to fetch Triangle, and heads into the deep dark area behind the waterfall, where she vents her frustrations at Triangle: “Why do you always break all the rules? Why do you always spoil our fun? Why are you such a bad friend?” When Triangle doesn’t answer, Circle takes a moment, apologizes for her angry words, and Triangle thanks her – but Triangle isn’t standing where Circle expects her to be! So whose eyes do the shapes see, glimmering in the dark? Not waiting to find out, the two dash back to the safety of the outside, where they ponder what could have been with them in the dark. “It might have been a good shape”, says Circle; “We just could not see it”.

Circle is a story where kid see themselves, and parents and caregivers will see their kids. Who among us hasn’t said, “Okay – you can play ANYWHERE in this area, but don’t go there”, knowing full well that the second you finish that sentence, one of your little ones is charging directly for that one forbidden spot? Kids will understand the frustration of a friend who doesn’t listen to them, and the spillover that can lead to. Circle also has an important message, quietly included in the storyline: don’t make snap judgements without more information. Don’t jump to conclusions or make decisions about others based on fear. (That being said, stranger danger is also worth a mention here.)

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen can do no wrong in my book. The Hat Trilogy and the previous Shape books are instant storytime go-tos for me, and my son knows that, left to my own devices for at-home reading, those are the books that are likely to get pulled off the shelf. I love the way these two creators work together; the sharp, dry humor that speaks volumes; the spare artwork that communicates so much with a mere shift of a pair of eyes, and the enjoyment I see when the kids reading along with me get the jokes. Finish your collection and get Circle on your shelf.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Angry Cookie is working through a bad mood

Angry Cookie, by Laura Dockrill/Illustrated Maria Karipidou, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205442

Ages 3-7

Angry Cookie is NOT having a good day. From the first page, he’s mad and he wants readers to know it, calling the reader a nosy noodle and complaining about his annoying roommate, running out of his favorite toothpaste, getting a bad haircut, and having the ice cream parlor run out of his favorite sundae. He’s really, really mad, and there’s nothing you can do about it, you hear? But… once he realizes that the readers are sticking around, paying attention to him, he warms up a little, and lets us in on what’s really bugging him: no one listens to him. Nobody sticks around. Once Cookie realizes that he’s being heard, he softens up and even cracks a smile.

Angry Cookie zooms in on what we all really want: to be heard. And preschoolers, in particular, can relate to Cookie: they don’t want that burning, minty toothpaste, they want the fruity-flavored kind (this has been a HUGE issue in my own home), and they don’t want a stupid haircut, and heaven help us if a sibling is on his or her nerves or if a favorite snack isn’t available. Angry Cookie shows readers that it’s okay to be frustrated by things, and that someone is always there to listen. It’s a fun look at managing emotions, with laughs and snorts to be had along the way. The digital artwork is bright and bold, with all text communicated through word balloons and spoken by Cookie. Cookie is round and has a mop of wild red hair, blue overalls, and big, round eyes.

This is a good one for feelings and emotions collections, and a cute storytime pick. I’d pair with Claire Messer’s Grumpy Pants, The Bad Seed by Jory John, and – naturally – any of Mo Willems’ Pigeon books for a display or storytime on emotions and feelings.

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized

The Most Magnificent Thing teaches kids perspective

the most magnificent thingThe Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires. Kids Can Press (2014), $16.95, ISBN: 9781554537044

Recommended for ages 4-8

One day, a girl and her dog set out to make the “most magnificent thing” – the girl draws up schematics (her dog is the assistant), gets materials, and sets up on the street, getting to work. When she’s finished, she takes a look at it – it’s not really what she had in mind. She tries again. And again. And again. She just can’t make her vision come to life, and she gets MAD. At this point, her assistant suggests a walk, where she starts to feel better; she finds she has regained self-control and even more, perspective, allowing her to go back and look at her previous creations with a refreshed eye.

Ashley Spires, who some may know from her Binky the Space Cat series, looks at the frustrating process of working on something and not having it turn out the way you envision it. It is something everyone can relate to, from a LEGO structure to a Science Fair project to a PowerPoint presentation for the big client meeting. Children, who are still learning the delicate art of self-control, will recognize themselves in these pages, as the girl becomes increasingly frustrated with her work, and once she injures herself, loses her temper. Her dog/assistant serves as comic relief and ends up saving the day by having her walk away and clear her head. The book teaches a valuable lesson to kids and grownups alike; walking away and returning when you’re calmer often allows the ability to see things are not so bad after all, and maybe, you can even find things you liked in the project you were about to crumple up and throw out.

The digital art is adorable. The characters have large, expressive faces, and are set against a mostly line-art, blue and black or white and black background, so they really stand out. There are some beautiful spreads and the font itself is a curvy font with a quirky personality and fits perfectly with the story. The endpapers display the row of brownstones where the story takes place, leading the reader into the story.

This is a good book to use for a storytime on patience or feelings. Perhaps a small LEGO craft afterward, or a construction paper assembly craft will help young minds create their own most magnificent things.