Book Review: Raymond the Buffalo by Lou Beauchesne

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Juvenile fiction picture book
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Publication Date: May 11th, 2021
Pages: 48, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

Raymond is a brave, strong and hairy buffalo. Gilbert is a quiet, growing and not-at-all hairy boy. Raymond is the hero of Gilbert’s favorite book, and Gilbert brings his favorite book everywhere. When an unfortunate incident separates the two, Raymond finds himself in a very unusual situation–outside of his book and loose in the local library! There’s nothing for Raymond to do but wait for Gilbert to come find him. But as the days turn into months and months into years, Raymond has to be brave and make a new home in the library shelves and a new friend in the librarian, Nicole.

This adorably illustrated picture book celebrates the love we have for books and the strength of friendship.

Pickles with lemon, anyone? That’s the favorite snack of Raymond, the titular character in Lou Beauchesne’s Raymond the Buffalo. Gilbert adores Raymond, and carries the well-loved book everywhere, until one day, dinosaurs catch his eye. Raymond’s book is accidentally scooped up by Gilbert’s mother when she gathers his library books, and Raymond is sent through the book drop at the library. Raymond escapes the book drop, but will he be reunited with Gilbert?

The illustrations by Kate Chappell are adorable. Raymond is fluffy and brown and you really do want him to leap from the page so you can cuddle him (assuming he doesn’t really smell like a buffalo, that is). This is a great book for children who are beginning to read independently. The chapters are short and easily read in one sitting.

The book explores Raymond’s relationship with Gilbert, and also with the librarian. There’s sadness and a search to belong, but also friendship. One important takeaway might be to always stay put if you get lost, so your loved ones can find you quickly.

Children will enjoy the illustrations and Raymond’s adventures as he explores the library and tries to find his way home.

Book Review: What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Juvenile fantasy
Publisher: Subterranen Press
Publication Date: March 18th, 2021
Pages: 231, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

Ghost hunter, fox whisperer, troublemaker.

It is the summer of 2013 and Abigail Kamara has been left to her own devices. This might, by those who know her, be considered a mistake. While her cousin, police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, is off in the sticks, chasing unicorns, Abigail is chasing her own mystery. Teenagers around Hampstead Heath have been going missing but before the police can get fully engaged, the teens return home – unharmed but vague about where they’ve been.

Aided only by her new friend Simon, her knowledge that magic is real, and a posse of talking foxes that think they’re spies, Abigail must venture into the wilds of Hampstead to discover who is luring the teenagers and more importantly – why?

What Abigail Did That Summer is the latest in the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. This outing doesn’t star police detective Peter Grant. Instead, we spend time with Abigail, Peter’s precocious cousin, some talking foxes, and some ghosts from the past.

When one of her schoolmates tries to get her to visit an abandoned house, Abigail is suspicious, and realizes that there could be a connection to some recent disappearances of local teens. With the help of the local river goddess, and some talking foxes, she investigates. 

While Peter is not in this book, Nightingale is, but only as story editor and ultimately to help Abigail tie up some loose ends.

Abigail has a strong voice, and is a snarky, but endearing character. There are glimpses into her family life, and into some folk history for both humans and the foxes.

A Trio of Picture Book Reviews

Since I work at a library, a lot of picture books come my way every day. Sometimes I take a few minutes to read them and occasionally review them. However, those reviews tend to be pretty short, so instead of devoting an entire post to a review that’s not even a paragraph long, I’ll bundle them together!

Stella’s Stellar Hair by Yesenia Moises

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published: January 5th, 2021
Publisher: Imprint
Pages: 40, hardcover

Stella’s Stellar Hair is a fun exploration not only of various Black hairstyles, but of the planets as well. I loved the art style and the vibrant but still soft colors; Moises’ use of color is truly stunning. I also especially loved how deep thought was obviously put into how to tie the Black hairstyles to the planets themselves — so for Black people living very close to the sun, Moises says that the extreme heat would make it easiest to have dreads. For Black people living on Neptune, long waves to match the planet’s oceans would make sense. This is a creative, fun book that children–especially Black girls–will love.

Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Published: January 5th, 2021
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 48, hardcover

The art style was cute and the prose was nice, and I appreciated reading a book that explained things in a way a child could understand. It was maybe a little oversimplified but that’s probably to be expected. 

But I noticed one big flaw: In all the families and people Pham includes, all of them are hetero and able-bodied. When you’ve given yourself a goal to talk about how everyone had to stay inside, you give yourself the responsibility of making sure it shows through in the art. I only noticed because there is a pretty good representation of different groups so the lack of certain ones stood out.

I don’t think it was intentional; I think Pham and her team just didn’t notice. It happens. 

Macca the Alpaca by Matt Cosgrove

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Published: February 4th, 2021
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 24, hardcover

The art was cute, and I loved Macca’s personality and how it showed through the art style. But I’m not sure about the message — it seems to suggest forgiving bullies even when they do nothing to earn that forgiveness, which I think is a much more nuanced lesson than a picture book can tackle, and not one of which I personally approve.

I also heavily question the use of the word “thug” to describe a big brown llama who bullies the smaller white alpaca. I think perhaps the author should have examined their unconscious biases.

That’s it from me! Have you read any children’s picture books that you loved lately?

Book Review: Onyx: The Wolf Who Found a New Way to be a Leader (True Stories of Animal Heroes #1) by Vita Murrow

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Juvenile non-fiction picture book
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021
Pages: 32, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

​In this new series, based on real-life animal stories, discover that not all heroes wear capes. Some have four legs, a wet nose, and a wild heart. 

When Onyx was a young pup in Yellowstone National Park, he was the runt of the litter. Although he was bullied by his siblings for being the smallest, Onyx knew that he could lead a pack better than anyone. As he grew up, he learned to resolve conflict, becoming a step-dad to another family of wolves who had lost their alpha. But it all changed when the toughest pup of the family partnered with a rival pack. One day, the elder wolf and his wild-card stepson met on a ridge. Normally, this would lead to violence, but instead, they met in a graceful and powerful bow. The wolves of Yellowstone flourished. With moving illustrations that make you want to hug the page, from Anneli Bray. 

A picture book story based on the real-life antics and behaviors of the Wolves of Yellowstone National Park. 

The story of Onyx, an alpha wolf in Yellowstone Park, is part of the True Stories of Animal Heroes line of books. Onyx is a wolf who’s always been a bit different. As he grows and leads his own pack, he finds new ways to be a leader and coexist with other wolves.

The story is told simply by Vita Murrow and the illustrations by Anneli Bray are soft, appealing watercolors that capture all of Nature’s shades. Children will learn about how animals cooperate and live together in a small community. This book will make them want to read the others in the series.

Book Review: Larry at Number 10 by E.C. Radcliffe

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Children’s picture book
Publisher: Matador
Publication Date: February 28th, 2021
Pages: Paperback, 20 pages
Source: NetGalley

Awesome (some might say paw-some) Larry is Top Cat at Number 10 – that is until his boss, the Prime Minister, gets a dog called Dilyn. If you can even call this ridiculous puppy a dog. For one thing, he chases his own tail, guzzles sausage-strings and chews things to pieces. How paw-thetic!

For another, Larry is chief mouser at Number 10, head of paw-trolling and champion window-ledge sitting (note: this is for lookout purposes, NOT catnapping). Larry is important and the hero of the mouse catching scoreboard. So what possible job can dopey Dilyn do?

His whiskers out of joint, Larry tries (and fails) to put Dilyn in the doghouse – but then catastrophe strikes as a cat-burglar breaks in and cat-napps Larry! Can Dilyn rise to the occasion and save the day? And if he does, will Larry give his a-paw-logies?

Based on the real cat and dog team living at Number 10, this charming picture book is a treat to read for any child aged 0 – 5 – and their parents, too!

Larry at Number 10 by E. C. Radcliffe, is the story of Larry, cat-in-charge at Number 10 Downing Street. We follow Larry’s exploits as chief mouser among his rivals/contemporaries, such as Gladstone and Palmerstone. Larry is definitely at the top of his game, and rules the Prime Minister’s roost. One day, though, there’s a new face. Will Larry remain the terror of the mice, or will he be voted out of office?

The story is fun and funny, and the illustrations are very good. Larry’s mischievous nature shines through on every page. There is one image of Boris, but that’s the only detraction from an otherwise very enjoyable book.

Book Review: The Story of Climate Change by Catherine Barr, Steve Williams, & Amy Husband

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Children’s non-fiction
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021
Pages: 40, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

The Story of Climate Change is a wonderful way to introduce young readers to one of the most important issues facing our world today.
Combining history with science, this book charts the changes in our Earth’s climate, from the beginnings of the planet and its atmosphere, to the Industrial revolution and the dawn of machinery. Kids will learn all about the causes of climate change, such as factory farming and pollution, and the effects that climate change has on humans and animals across the world.
As well as discovering the causes and effects of global warming, readers will discover practical ways we can work together to solve it, from using renewable energy to swapping meat for vegetables in our diet.
With fact-packed text by Catherine Barr and vibrant illustrations by Amy Husband and Mike Love, The Story of Climate Change will give kids the information they need to make a change and do their part to fight the climate emergency!

The Story of Climate Change, by Catherine Barr and Steve Williams, is a grade-school picture book about man-made effects on the climate and environment. It’s geared toward helping younger children understand the issue and gives positive steps children and their parents can take toward helping reduce their impact on the environment.

The illustrations and colorful and engaging, and the narrative moves along at a good clip. We dispense of the 65-million-year period between the Chicxulub impactor and Victorian times in one page, with the authors letting us know that humans didn’t really affect the environment on a large scale until the Industrial Revolution.

While the book is geared toward young children and the message is to provide information and steps they can take, a small mention of the impact of larger industry on the environment might have been useful, as well. 


Book Review: The Last Rabbit by Shelley Moore Thomas

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publication Date: February 9th, 2021
Pages: 288, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

In the vein of The Girl Who Drank the Moon and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, an modern fairytale about sisterhood, forgiveness, and redemption.

On the magical island of Hybrasil there lives a Magician and four enchanted rabbit sisters. One by one, the rabbits have been leaving the island, accompanied by a Boy and his boat. He takes them wherever they choose. When the rabbits leave the island, they can turn back into girls.

The last rabbit, Albie, remains. She does not want to leave, but the island is sinking. Before deciding where she wants to go, Albie visits each of her sisters. Caragh has joined a circus. Isolde is the captain of a pirate ship. And Rory wants to go home to the family’s house in Cork.

Through many furry twists and hoppity turns, we learn how one mistake can lead to many consequences, and that forgiveness and family are always within reach.

On the magical island of Hybrasil there lives a Magician and four enchanted rabbit sisters. One by one, the rabbits have been leaving the island, accompanied by a Boy and his boat. He takes them wherever they choose. When the rabbits leave the island, they can turn back into girls.

The last rabbit, Albie, remains. She does not want to leave, but the island is sinking. Before deciding where she wants to go, Albie visits each of her sisters. Caragh has joined a circus. Isolde is the captain of a pirate ship. And Rory wants to go home to the family’s house in Cork.

Through many furry twists and hoppity turns, we learn how one mistake can lead to many consequences, and that forgiveness and family are always within reach.

Book Review: Ollie Feels Fine by Toni Yuly

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Juvenile fiction
Publisher: Little Bigfoot
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2021
Pages: 22, board book
Source: NetGalley

Ollie the octopus has a lot of feelings and he struggles to understand them. One especially busy, emotional day, Ollie becomes overwhelmed by all of his feelings. But with the help of his good friend, Stella the starfish, Ollie is reassured and able to feel that he is ok, and that it is fine to have so many feelings.

How do you feel? Ollie the octopus feels fine, with some help from his friend, Stella the starfish.

In Ollie Feels Fine, by Toni Yuly, Ollie the octopus is swamped by a big wave, bumped by a shark, and loses his hat, He experiences the gamut of emotions, from surprise and anger to happiness. Babies will love Ollie’s colorful hat, and how Ollie’s skin color changes to match each emotion he experiences. Stella shows Ollie, and the reader, that emotions are okay and feelings are normal.

The artwork is eye-catching and will appeal to infants and toddlers. Ollie’s story is simple and effective. It’s okay to not be okay all the time and to feel sad or mad.