The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by A. Wolf, as told to Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit, fractured fairy tale

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: The story that you think you know about the 3 little pigs is completely untrue.  Now, for the first time ever, A. Wolf has come to tell you his side of the story, and it involves some sugar and a very big sneeze.

Review: If you want to laugh out loud, read this book!  This here is one of the funniest fractured fairy tales I’ve ever read, and it’s paired with Lane Smith’s already imaginative drawings!  Truly though, Scieszka and Lane make a wonderful duo.

This is one of the few books from my children’s lit class that I remember reading as a child, and I have to say I loved it just as much 15 years ago as I do now.  Though I do have to say that reading it nowadays, I can’t believe I forgot about what A. Wolf did with the pigs’ bodies after he accidentally sneezed their houses down…

But overall, great story, great fractured fairy tale, and great art!!  Definitely great for kids who are used to the same ol’ fairy tale as usual, because this one has a lot of twists and turns!

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Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello

Little Pig Saves the Ship

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: Little Pig can’t go to summer camp with his brothers, so he has to stay home.  But before one of his brothers leaves, he’s given a knot-tying book.  Maybe it’ll come in handy…

Review: Let me shout from the rooftop: I love the Little Pig books!!!  From its beautiful watercolors and fun writing to its heartwarming themes and gay characters, this book is so worth your time.  David Hyde Costello is the author and illustrator for this book, which means that the text and pictures go together just in the way he wants, evoking a picturebook that truly feels whole.

Little Pig is such a relatable character in that he’s too young to do what his big brothers are doing.  But his grandfathers make sure that he’s going to have a good time at home, regardless.  That way, he’ll also have something to show when his brothers return.  And little does he know that he’ll end up being the hero of his own story when his ship heads towards rough waters.

Which, speaking of water–the watercolors are amazing.  The work Costello does is something I couldn’t even dream of doing, it’s that good.  You can truly tell that he put so much thought and effort into this book, and in my opinion, it pays off.

Max Makes a Million by Maira Kalman

Max Makes a Million

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: Max is a poet, and he’s famous.  Well, he will be.  He just hasn’t gotten his big break yet.

Review: This book hits all of my marks…a dog?  A poet dog?  A poet dog who wants to go to France?  References to artistic and musical and literary geniuses of 1920s Montmartre???  Sign me the heck up.  Does it get better than this?  (Yes–with the second book in this series, but outside of this series?  Probably not).

Kalman’s artwork for her book is incredible.  The text does not stand apart from the illustrations–it becomes it.  That’s part of why her illustrations are so incredible, including her references to Magritte, the French way of life, and visually differing characters.  And the text, oh my god, the text.  Have I ever identified with anybody more than Max?  Moody, poetic Max?  (Probably not).

This was such a callback to my time spent in France, and a reminder of just how special it was to me, and how special it is to others.  I can’t wait to read more Max books!!

Skin Again by bell hooks and Chris Raschka

Skin Again

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit, poetry

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: bell hooks’ poem ‘Skin Again’ is reimagined through Raschka’s illustrations.

Review: This is a beautiful version of hooks’ ‘Skin Again.’  Paired with Chris Raschka’s fantastic illustrations, this book hits all the points.  It questions what skin means–what race means–and how we construct it.

I will forever applaud Raschka for illustrating such important literary pieces such as this one, and I’d definitely have to recommend it to anybody who is looking to restore their faith in humanity.

Lion Lessons by Jon Agee

Lion Lessons

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: In order to become a true lion, one must master the seven steps.  But can our small protagonist do it?

Review:  Jon Agee does not disappoint.  With adorable illustrations and a fun plotline, this book borders the fantastic what with its talking animals who have degrees in how to be a lion.

What may seem silly on the surface is actually a great lesson–to not give up on your dreams, and that sometimes you may even surprise yourself.  And, maybe, there’s a lion inside all of us.  It also teaches other valuable lessons that it’s okay if you first fail, so long as you keep trying, and that the feeling of doing what you thought you couldn’t is ultimately hugely rewarding.  I’d love to pass this book onto my niece and nephew.

When’s My Birthday? By Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson

When's My Birthday

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: This little narrator’s birthday is coming up soon, and she’s so excited that she’s going to list everything that would make her birthday the absolute best.

Review:  I can’t lie…this book got me hyped for my birthday, which isn’t even for another 8 months.  The protagonist is so excited for her birthday that she keeps asking how soon it will be, which in turn made me feel like my birthday should be right around the corner as well…right?  I guess the moral of this paragraph is to definitely read this book to your child when it’s actually super close to their birthday.

BUT, for the rest of the book…I loved it.  I loved the imagination, the way it included such fun illustrations and counting and the unbridled excitement you feel as a child…It was just so great.  I definitely recommend this book as a pre-birthday gift for your kid.

In Plain Sight by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

In Plain Sight

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: After school, Sophie helps her grandfather find the things he’s “lost,” effectively creating a bond between them and their generation gap.

Review:  This is a beautifully illustrated book with a story that reminds me of sunny afternoons with my grandma.  It’s homey, it’s sweet, and it’s heartwarming.  This book is perfect for hide-and-go-seekers and I-Spyers, especially since Sophie, the main character, is tasked with the job of finding items that her grandfather has “lost.”  Though these items may be insignificant, they bring Sophie and her grandfather together, forming a deep bond that crosses generation gaps.

This is a book I wish I’d read with my grandma back in the day, because I already have  nostalgic memories about reading it only a few days ago.  Imagine what those memories would be like from ten and a half years ago!

Life on Mars by Jon Agee

Life on Mars

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: A small astronaut has set out to find life on mars.  But it appears that he’s the only one out there…or is he?

Review:  This was…too cute.  This is definitely perfect for lovers of Klassen and Barnett, as it rings true with sneakiness, optimism, and hope.  In this picturebook,  a young astronaut sets out with a mission and a gift: to find life on mars, and to possibly give it a cupcake.  Unfortunately for him, he’s just not finding anything…or so it seems.

For me, the illustrations in this seem cute, homey, yet entirely adventurous.  Maybe it’s the linework, maybe it’s the fact that it’s flat except for the shadows which in turn give it depth, or maybe it’s just because I feel it in my bones.  The writing felt the same way.  But, it’s the combination of the artwork and the text that truly pull this story together: without one, the story couldn’t possibly be complete, and that is part of the beauty of this book.

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea, illustrated by Lane Smith

Kid Sheriff

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit,

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: A young paleontologist becomes the sheriff of a town with a high crime rate.  But what happens when he deduces that all of the crimes are being committed by dinosaurs?

Review:  This was the first book I read for my huge illustrator’s project, and it definitely set the bar.  The story is delightful, the illustrations are humorous, and it was altogether an enjoyable read.

The plot of the story begins slowly–not so much because of the pacing, but because the protagonist is riding into town on top of a turtle–and takes a few unexpected turns.  Notably being that the young paleontologist is taken completely seriously…which is incredible, considering how many books are out there where adults don’t believe the children when they’re actually right.  Of course, there’s some reverse psychology going on in this book, so it rides out a little differently…

Ultimately, this book is humorous in all the right places, a fun parody of old westerns, and perfect for children who love dinosaurs and westerns.

Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo

Nana in the City

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: A little boy is spending the weekend with his nana, who lives in the city.  He loves his nana very much, but he doesn’t think that she should be living where she does now–after all, the city is big, scary, and noisy.  But maybe with a little help from his nana, he can learn to love what the city holds.

Review:  It’s truly no wonder why this book received a Caldecott Honor.  With the beautiful story and warm, colorful pictures to go along with it, this story is truly a work of art.  It teaches that it’s okay to be scared sometimes, but it’s also okay to get help from someone to be braver.  It teaches that things are not always what they seem, and that beauty can be found anywhere, so long as you look hard enough.

The emotional journey our protagonist goes through is also reflected in Castillo’s color palette, and ultimately makes for great reading and great looking.