How to Apologize, by David LaRochelle/Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209440
A gentle and straightforward book about accountability and responsibility, How to Apologize starts off with a reassuring statement: “Everyone makes mistakes”. It’s a strong statement that’s meant to relax readers: it’s okay, no one’s perfect! But the important thing is, once we make a mistake that hurts someone or makes them feel bad, the kind thing to do is apologize. With woodland animals as our guides, David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka lay out the differences between sincere apologies an insincere apologies; whether we like the person or not; apologizing is the right thing to do. And you can do it all sorts of ways! You can write a note, or you can say it in person. You can fix the mistake if it’s possible, but even if you can’t, apologizing will make you – and the person you hurt – feel better. And that’s the most important thing. Gouache artwork is subdued, letting readers readers take in the words and allowing the illustrations to show them how it’s done. Absolutely perfect for preschoolers who are still navigating social-emotional situations (and, let’s be honest, some adults, too).
Candlewick has a Teacher Tips card with some ideas for incorporating this book into the classroom, and coloring sheets that help emphasize some moments when an apology is helpful.
How to Apologize has a starred review from Kirkus.
See the Cat, by David LaRochelle/Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536204278
The 2021 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award-winner, See the Cat, hilariously breaks the fourth wall, a la Elephant and Piggie, with three stories starring a dog who really just wants to take a nap. In the first story, an unseen narrator tells a story about a cat who rides a unicorn while wearing a green dress. It’s a study in concepts and colors and Max, a dog, insists on each spread that he is nothing of the sort, leading to a laugh-out-loud conclusion. The second and third stories see Max learn how to manipulate a story that’s not going his way; the first, when an angry snake shows up, and the final story, when the narrator keeps pushing Max to do something he just doesn’t want to do. Adorably funny back-and forth dialogue between the main character and the narrator, like Snappsy the Alligator or This is a Taco!, make this a great read-aloud between two readers; if you’re going it solo during storytime, let your dramatic flag fly and have fun with voices and facial expressions! Gouache illustrations are cheerful, and Max’s cartoony exasperation will have readers giggling wildly. A must-have.
See the Cat has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Booklist. Publisher Candlewick has free teacher tips (I love this offering) and a fun activity kit that I’ll be using as a grab-and-go book activity this week.
Croc & Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever!, by Mike Wohnoutka, (Feb. 2019, Bloomsbury USA Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781681196343
Croc wants to show off for his best friend, Turtle, but keeps getting one-upped: an elephant easily flips a rock he struggled to lift; a rabbit soars over a rock right after Croc manages to clear it, and do we even need to mention the cheetah racing Croc? Disappointed and sad, Croc laments that he’s “not the best at anything!”, but Turtle reminds him that he’s stronger, leaps higher, and runs faster than him, which makes Turtle feels sad that he’s not the best at anything, either. Luckily, there’s one thing Croc and Turtle are both the best at: being each other’s best friends. Croc & Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever! is great for storytime and independent reading for new readers; it has a sweet message about supporting one’s friends, and not having to be the best at everything. The gouache artwork is kid-friendly; cartoony, expressive, and played for laughs. The colors are soft, and the text changes color with the narrator, to help kids keep straight who’s speaking. This one is a sweet addition to picture book collections.
Croc & Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever!, by Mike Wohnoutka, (Feb. 2019, Bloomsbury Children’s Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781681196343
Croc tells his buddy, Turtle, that he’s the strongest, fastest, highest jumper… but he gets proven wrong each time! When Croc starts to feel down on himself, Turtle knows that just won’t do: he’s the best friend to Turtle. And Croc assures Turtle that he’s the best friend to Croc. They’re both the best at something! Yay! A sweet story about not having to be “the best” at things to have value, Croc and Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever is comical, entertaining, and delivers a valuable message.
Written as a dialogue between the two friends, with other friendly animals chiming in, this works for storytime, one-on-one, and individual reading. The text includes short and mid-length sentences, with sound effects and plenty of sight words for newly independent readers; toddlers and preschoolers will love the cartoony artwork and the big facial expressions; the gouache artwork is done in pastels and is very little kiddo-friendly. Croc & Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever! is a good addition to your picture book collections, and I look forward to seeing more Croc & Turtle adventures.
Mike Wohnoutka is an ALA Notable book author; his books, Can’t Sleep without Sheep, Jack’s House, and This is NOT a Cat have been designated as Blue Ribbon selections by the Bulletin of the Center for Chidren’s Books.