Book Reviews: How I’ve missed you!

No excuses for the radio silence, just a fact. Life intervenes. Between my day job (which, as a teacher, means day-night-weekend…) and family stuff (Sandwich generation! Yeehaw!), I haven’t been able to get my typical book reviews done and boy have I missed it! But I’m back! While waiting for the dog to get groomed today, I took time for myself and read some of the scads of amazing new books that have been coming out — there are SO MANY!). I loved every one and so will you! Let’s go!

Title: I’m Terrified of Bath Time
Author: Simon Rich
Illustrator: Tom Toro
Publisher/Date:  Little, Brown BYR (April 5, 2022)
The “gist”:  Told from the perspective of the bathtub, this book describes the fears of the bathtub including the big scary humans who splash around inside.
My favorite part: There’s one very taboo action that some little kiddos have done in the tub and it’s handled with an awesome mix of tact and humor!
My response as a reader: 
This book fills a great niche for kids who might be afraid of baths and the illustrations are charming (just look at those eyes/knobs on the cover!). I’m going to be raving to friends about this one, I can tell!
My “take-away” as a writer: I will need to read this book again when I’m starting to get wordy. Simon Rich tells a story with plenty of voice and emotion and a “solved problem” with an average of about a sentence per spread. Where is that sparseness when I need it?

Title: Wellington’s Big Day Out
Author/Illustrator: Steve Small
Publisher/Date:  Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (August 30, 2022)
The “gist”:  It’s Wellington’s birthday, but instead of feeling like he’s getting bigger, everything seems to remind him that he’s still very small.
My favorite part: It was such a sweet teachable moment when Wellington’s grandfather showed him the growth lines on the wall and he realized he was exactly the size his father was at that age.
My response as a reader: 
For a rather quiet book, I was surprisingly invested in the fact that the tailor’s shop kept being closed when they went by to get his jacket altered! I found myself unreasonably annoyed at the inconvenience! (A kid would not likely have this reaction, but I sure did!)
My “take-away” as a writer: This book is a contrast with the previous one in having a significantly higher word count. But hey, it got published, right? So let’s remind ourselves to tell the story you need to tell!

Title: To Make
Author: Danielle Davis
Illustrator: Mags DeRoma
Publisher/Date:  Katherine Tegen Books (May 31, 2022)
The “gist”:  So many creative things in life from music to a garden come together as a result of three steps: gather. make. wait.
My favorite part: There’s not a lot of plot here, so my favorite part was probably just the great “ah ha!” moment of tying together all the creative examples two or three pages in and realizing the elegance of the book’s premise.
My response as a reader: 
All creative people need this story– it reminds me of one of my other favorites, “Trying” by Kobe Yamada and Elise Hurst. It’s got a lovely message of pulling together some ingredients, adding your creativity, but also being patient enough to wait for the final product.
My “take-away” as a writer: Did I say the first book in this set of reviews was sparsely written? This one is even more so. But probably the biggest takeaway for a writer is the huge delicious symbolism in this poor author’s getting this book published: creating and then waiting is probably the most prevalent action in the whole publishing world!

Title: perfectly imperfect Mira
Author/Illustrator: Faith Pray
Publisher/Date:  Little, Brown BYR (April 12, 2022)
The “gist”:  Mira wants so much to be good at something, but she never goes further than the first day, first lesson, etc. because she might not be perfect at it.
My favorite part: I love that Faith Pray has chosen to illustrate Mira with a normal sized body, not a “perfect” one. There is no “thigh gap,” her bodysuit covers her appropriately, etc. She’s just a cute kid.
My response as a reader: 
Similar to the previous story about the patience required to be creative, this is about overcoming the anxiety and perfectionism which so easily takes over when we try to be creative. Definitely a good message for many of us.
My “take-away” as a writer: Like so many of the books I review, I am blown away by those who can both write and illustrate. While the story here is awesome, the illustrations also shine by showing Mira’s joy through really fluid movement in the dance as well as the nature scenes and the dog and cat which accompany her through the second half of the book.

Title: Knight Owl
Author/Illustrator: Christopher Denise
Publisher/Date:  Christy Ottaviano Books (March 15, 2022)
The “gist”:  Little owl has always wanted to be a knight, but he is not sure how his small size is going to work out when he can’t hold a sword or shield. Fortunately he has many of the other necessary qualities like bravery and cleverness!
My favorite part: Another amazing author-illustrator! The story is charming enough, but oh gosh, how can I even get past those adorable little owl illustrations!!
My response as a reader: 
How did I manage to miss this when it came out last March? It’s won a ton of awards and deservedly so. It’s got a real timeless feel and a great message that even the smallest among us can do great things.
My “take-away” as a writer: When I see a book like this, sometimes I think about how the idea must have been born. It might have been as simple as the title — a lovely play on words. Then of course that seed grew in the author’s head with a great “what if…” It’s one of those bits of serendipity that make you think “How did this not already exist?” I’m getting excited for Tara Lazar’s “STORYSTORM” idea challenge month coming in January when I can hopefully be inspired by some new idea seeds of my own and let them take off like this one.

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