Thursday, March 1, 2012

Picture Book Mini-Reviews

Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Seaside Shenanigans - Lovable monkey Chico Bon Bon (and really, isn't that just the best name for a monkey ever?) is back for a vacation adventure in this third installment of Chris Monroe's series of picture books.  Everything about this book screams Summer!, though it wasn't released until October (what's up with that, Lerner?).  From the seaside location to the bright orange cover, the whole thing will have you hearing luau music in your head.  Chico Bon Bon is called away from his normal routine of fixing things when his friend Clark the elephant sends him a postcard (I love the address: Chico Bon Bon, Big Tree House, Next to Elsa's) asking for his help.  Clark's uncle's resort is falling apart and they need Chico and his trusty tool belt to help it from being destroyed completely.  First we get an amazing two page spread of Chico's road trip, then a wonderfully colorful and detailed spread of the resort itself.  If there's one thing Monroe is really good at, it's the little details.  Chico gets right to work fixing things and trying to solve the mystery of why they're breaking in the first place.  First it's a hole in a cabana roof, and then it's chewed up ropes on all the hammocks.  Eventually, Chico does catch the saboteur in the act, and it both is and isn't anything you'd expect.  All's well that ends well, and Chico and Clark finally get to go surfing.  With each new installment, I'm growing more and more fond of little Chico.  He's resourceful, helpful, and not above taking a banana break in the middle of a mission.  Monroe's sense of humor and again, her eye for detail are in top form here.  I only wish I'd had this book during the dog days.  Oh well, there's always next summer!
Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Seaside Shenanigans by Chris Monroe
2011, Lerner Publishing Group
Library copy

I Want My Hat Back - Ha!  That's my initial impression of this book.  One great big guffaw.  In text, it is essentially one long, comic joke and a killer (haha) punch line.  But when Jon Klassen's elegantly crafted joke is married to his spare, droll drawings you get a hilarious, gorgeous, brilliant little book.  The story is simple.  Bear’s hat is gone.  He wants it back.  He walks through the forest, asking animals if they have seen his hat, but none have.  That is, at least, until he comes upon Rabbit, who is wearing something that looks suspiciously like a hat, despite his protestations otherwise.  Bear soon despairs of ever seeing his hat again when suddenly he sits bolt upright, on a bright red page and thinks “I have seen my hat”.  Bear returns to Rabbit and the two face off in perhaps the best two page spread in years.  I won’t ruin the ending for you, but believe me, it will make you chuckle, if not laugh right out loud.  Klassen’s first solo effort is a perfectly crafted piece of humor and art, though it is one that might be enjoyed more by adults than by children.  The humor requires a bit of participation on our part, as most good jokes do, and some children might be more confused by the book’s ending than entertained.  When tested with my storytime audience, the older children “got” the joke and laughed, and the younger kids laughed because the other kids were laughing.  No one was traumatized, not even the parents.
 I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
2011, Candlewick Press
Library copy

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