Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Authors put new spins on old ideas

This is one in a series of monthly reviews of books for young people written by four area teachers of children’s literature. Today’s reviews are by Melissa Cain, professor at the University of Findlay.

Children’s authors and illustrators love to play with ideas that have been around for a while, opening our eyes to new ways of thinking and imagining. Here are some examples.

CAT TALE. Written and illustrated by Michael Hall. Greenwillow. $16.99.

In this clever story, three cats travel along trying to make sense of homonyms. Each sentence leads to the next example, e.g. “They train a duck to duck a shoe. They shoe a truly naughty gnu.” Appealing characters made of brightly colored, textured basic shapes contrast with stark white backgrounds. There’s plenty of action as they get confused over our crazy English homonyms and then find their way again.

CINDY MOO. By Lori Mortensen. Illustrated by Jeff Mack. Harper. $16.99.

When the cows on Diddle Farm overhear the nursery rhyme, “Hey, Diddle Diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon,” a great debate starts as to whether this is actually possible. Cindy Moo is determined to prove it can be done. After many tries, she comes up with a clever solution. Children should enjoy the furry animated cows with their toothy grins.

TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR. Written and illustrated by Jane Cabrera. Holiday House, $16.95.

Friendly cartoon-style mothers and babies in a variety of environments are illustrated in bright colors, boldly outlined in black, in this newly expanded rhyme. As examples, “Peeking through the silent trees…” features deer in a forest, while “…High above the deep blue seas” features whales in the ocean. The twinkly magic light of the star sparkles, flickers, shimmers, glistens, and shines over all the creatures of the world.

GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE DINOSAURS. Written and illustrated by Mo Willems. Balzer + Bray. $17.99.

Families will want to return to this hilarious new version of the Goldilocks story over and over. Three cartoon-style dinosaurs — Papa, Mama, and a random visitor from Norway — lure the intrepid Goldilocks into their home. Oblivious to their plotting, she eats their chocolate pudding and explores their house. Finally overhearing their gloating, she sneaks out. Willems leaves readers with a moral for Goldilocks and another for the dinosaurs.

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS DEEP UNDER THE SEA. By Kathie Kelleher. Illustrated by Dan Andreasen. Holiday House. $16.95.

In this clever version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, the narrator is a lobster and Santa Claus is a blue walrus in a red rubber suit. Anticipated by a variety of marine life, Santa arrives on a sleigh pulled by seahorses and leaves sand dollars in the stockings. Ohioan Andreasen illustrates a watery world and happy characters that will charm as they expand young imaginations.

MOUSTERPIECE. Written and illustrated by Jane Breskin Zalben. Roaring Brook Press, $16.99.

Zalben plays with museum art in this story of Janson, a little mouse who lives in a museum. Janson loves the paintings she sees every day and starts painting her own versions — featuring mice, of course. But it isn’t until she develops her own style that she truly feels she has created a “mousterpiece.” The illustrations are a warm juxtaposition of the cartoon mouse world and recognizable masterpieces.

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