The nice folks at Silverline–Image’s kid-friendly line of comics–recently sent me four of their picture books to review. They’re all decent additions to a library collection and reasonable in price, especially considering that they are library bound. I also love that they include activity pages for many of their titles. The pages run the gambit from games to coloring pages to memory and vocabulary activities, all perfect for parent-child or teacher-classroom sharing after finishing the books.
by Derek McCulloch and Jimmie Robinson
Silverline, June 2009, ISBN 978-1-60706-074-1
32 pages, $12.99
A tyrannosaur mother hatches three eggs, but the youngest baby–Vegrandis–is also the smallest. His siblings pick on him and he feels sorry for himself, until he discovers that he isn’t the smallest animal in the world.
T-Runt is the most picture book-like, least graphic novel-like of the four titles reviewed here. But that doesn’t affect the quality. McCulloch and Robinson add just the right touch of humor to their tale. Any reader who has ever been the youngest child or the smallest will identify with Vegrandis’ plight. The creators are careful, though, not to make their story too precious. They present the problem, show how Vegrandis solves it and then add an epilogue. The art is cute, but not babyish. The eye-catching cover and the dinosaur element should help make this one a popular title. The book is a good storytime pick, though its slightly smaller size means that it would do better with a smaller storytime group. The website also has a six activity pages available for download.
Bruce is a blue spruce who stands out in a forest of other Christmas trees because of his bluish branches. Four little mice tease him about his color and he worries that he’ll never be picked by a family. Can a friendly rabbit reassure him?
Simon’s was my least favorite of the four. Part of that I will admit to being my own bias. I’ve never been fond of “trees yearning to be chopped down and made into Christmas decorations” stories. They seem to be akin to using a pig to advertise barbecue. My other problem was with the art. Valentino’s style is a little too sweet and cartoonish when drawing animals. They tend to look like something out of a Hallmark card. His humans are also cartoon-like, but they seem more believable, almost as if he was more relaxed while drawing them. However, getting past those two issues, the story itself was not poorly told. The word choices are good, the tale moves along nicely, and there is a good blend of graphic novel elements–such as word balloons and panels–with picture book elements. Libraries looking for even more Christmas books to feed the voracious demand come November and December might consider this one, as it would add a little different element to the Christmas picture book collection. Activity pages are located here.
The PTA is in for a surprise when they get to the school for their meeting. The full moon causes a werewolf to appear, a tentacle monster appears in the lunch lady’s kitchen, and zombies erupt out of the old graveyard!
Though Silverline gives an age range of 4-8 for Scott’s PTA Night, I’d say that it would do better with a slightly older crowd. It’s not that the horror elements are frightening, because Scott plays them all for humorous effect. Rather it’s because readers need to be able to understand some of those horror elements in order to get the jokes. That, to me, makes this a terrific picture book for older readers, even though it is mostly wordless. Scott takes the idea of “sequential storytelling” literally. He shows readers what is happening inside several rooms of the school and that action changes in every room as the pages turn. Readers who love looking for details in a picture book–such as the I-Spy or Where’s Waldo books–should enjoy this one as well, though it isn’t quite to that level of detail. Scott’s art is not too young-looking for older readers and they’ll enjoy flipping the pages back and forth to make sure they’ve gotten the whole story. PTA Night‘s activity pages includes the parts for a full-color diorama.
When a little girl’s mother wishes her goodnight and says “Don’t let the bedbugs bite,” she’s scared that they might attack her. But the bugs that appear are friendly and soon there’s a romping bedtime party going on!
Fricke’s story is a wonderful mix of funny rhyming verse and vibrant illustrations. He doesn’t shy away from longer words, so this one is a read-aloud, but he uses them deftly to paint a picture: “How gently my alarm was eased, / The most exquisite harmonies / Washed over me, into the night / A serenade by full moonlight.” Though his main character is a little girl, the story is silly enough to appeal to boy readers as well. The illustrations are bright and colorful, even when done in a nighttime palette. Black is only used sparingly, so there are no harsh edges to get in the way. The story starts slow, builds to a crescendo and then quiets back down, just the way a bedtime story ought to. But just in case your listeners are still awake afterward, there are some fun activity pages (including two math sheets) to keep them occupied.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Image/Silverline.