Not a Box
by Antoinette Portis
In Not a Box, written for toddlers, a cardboard box unleashes a bunny’s imagination. When an off-page character asks a bunny why he’s sitting in a box, the bunny insists it’s not a box, and we see what he sees–a race car! Or when wondering why the bunny is squirting the box with a garden hose, we see the bunny battling a fire that’s taken hold of a majestic skyscraper. The text only says that it’s not a box, so kids who haven’t yet learned to read can become engaged by describing how the bunny transformed his box.
Tired of the presumably adult interrogator, the bunny insists it’s NOT NOT NOT NOT a box! And while the bunny’s plaything is most definitely not just a box, the book itself is ingeniously designed to mimic one, complete with a “This Side Up” warning on the back cover.
I love the drawings which are simple and absolutely fabulous. The bunny is so expressive and determined. The story inspires children and the adults who read the book to them see the transformative power of imagination.
I couldn’t help but think of the off-stage adults in Charlie Brown specials whose words are heard as a series of wah-wah-wah tones, emphasizing the distance between childhood and adulthood. Not a Box shows how rewarding a rich imagination can be.
A Bone to Pick
by Melinda Leigh
A Bone to Pick is a quick, fun read, perfect when you need an easy, gripping mystery story for entertainment. Deputy Tessa Black responds to an evening call from Mrs. Driver who heard a blood curdling scream. With the other two deputies otherwise occupied, Tessa enlists the help of park ranger Logan Wild. Together, they find the body of artist and newcomer Dante Moreno harpooned against a warning sign on beach within the state park. Searching Dante’s house, they found $100,000 in cash–and a stash of portraits of nude women. With the limited resources of a small town and distracted by her mother’s Alzheimer’s and her caretaking responsibilities, Tessa must figure out who killed Dante before anyone else–including herself–is put at risk.
Set on Widow’s Island, an isolated community in the Pacific Northwest, the novella is populated with quirky characters like Jerry, the aging hippy and owner of the local head shop, and Herb Lawson who played the oboe at the local bar every Thursday night. One of my favorite aspects was the Widow’s Knitting and Activist group led by Logan’s grandmother, Jane Sutton. Not only did the group know everything happening on the island and manage to solve most problems, they were the driving force for good in the community.
The Pacific Northwest offers a beautiful setting, and the isolation of the island heightens the suspense. The possible role of the nude portraits as a motive for the killing was an unusual and interesting touch. Additionally, the book emphasized the necessity of interconnection among residents when living in a rather hostile environment.
While I liked the mystery element, I wasn’t thrilled when it ended by having Tessa wrap up the loose ends through a recap provided to her friend, FBI agent Cate Wild, Logan’s sister. The romance subplot also rang a little hollow. Although the second in a series of novellas, I had not read the first and had no trouble understanding the characters or plot. However, I enjoyed A Bone to Pick enough that I preordered Close to the Bone, the first novella in the series, and will probably read #3 and 4, too.
Thank you to Netgalley and Montlake Romance for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.
by Peter H. Reynolds
At the end of class, Vashti sat despondent at her desk with a blank sheet of paper. Her teacher encouraged her to make any kind of mark to see where it might lead. Vashti put a dot on the page. Instead of berating her, her teacher asked Vashti to sign the page. The next week, Vashti saw that the art teacher had framed her dot in gold and hung it over her desk.
Seeing her dot displayed on the wall challenged her to make better and different dots, and a few weeks later at the school art show, everyone loved her colorful dots of various sizes. When another student praised her work and said he could never be an artist like her, Vashti encouraged him to make a mark and asked him to sign it.
With colorful and sweet drawings, The Dot promotes creativity, perseverance, kindness, and helping others. Overall, I liked the design of the book, but the typeface chosen was a childlike handwriting font which looked authentic but was at times not as clear as it could have been.
In 2003, Peter H. Reynolds founded “Dot Central,” the Blue Bunny Books & Toys in Dedham, Massachusetts. One of the books featured there is I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter Reynolds, which is currently #1 on the New York Times Picture Book Bestsellers List.
The book also inspired International Dot Day, celebrated around September 15, celebrated in almost 180 countries in 2018. Participants are encouraged to become creative and make their own mark.
V is for Vegan: The ABCs of Being Kind
Surveys indicate that as many as 3 to 6% of Americans identify as vegans. Surprisingly, there are relatively few vegan picture books for plant-based families, and I am always happy to find books in this category.
V is for Vegan: The ABCs of Being Kind, written for children three to seven, has a message about compassion and vegan living for each letter of the alphabet, and I couldn’t support the message of the book more. The rhyming ABCs are sometimes funny, educational, and at times unexpected.
While I adored the text, the illustrations, while admittedly objectively cute, were not to my taste, and I though the type used, a child-like handwriting font, was not as clear as it could have been though I understand the choice behind it.
Still, this is a wonderful book and belongs in the library of every vegan family–with or without children!
Pug Meets Pig
Sue Lowell Gallion
Illustrated by Joyce Wan
Pug loves his house and he loves his routine; everything is just right. He sleeps in his comfortable house, goes to “work” barking at the neighbors and digging holes, and eating from his personalized food bowl. That is, everything is just right until Pig arrives. Pig ruins everything. She shares his bed, eats from his bowl, and makes friends with the neighbors. But Pug learns that having a friend might not be so bad.
With adorable illustrations, Pug Meets Pig sends the message that change is not always bad and that friends can make even everyday activities more fun. Recommended for children ages four to eight, this book will be sure to delight them with it’s fun repetition and silly characters. Pug lovers, too, need this in their libraries. Pug’s expression are priceless and really capture pugs’ personalities.
Be sure to check out the sequel, Pug and Pig Trick-or-Treat. I hope that Gallion and Wan produce more Pug & Pig books!