Thursday, January 31, 2019

God, I Know You're There by Bonnie Rickner Jensen, Illustrated by Lucy Fleming

Beautiful and creative text and artwork pair together in the imaginative board book, God, I Know You're There. Each spread is addressed to something intangible with a rhyming quatrain and the repeated phrase, "Still I know you're there" followed by how the narrator experiences each. Wind, sun, sky, clouds, moon, stars, rainbow, rainfall, thunder, tiny seed (in the ground), snowflake crystals, and God are each addressed in turn.

The text is delightful throughout, but in particular I found the stanza's about the rainbow and God to be most representative of the book's quality: "Rainbow, I can't slide down you. / Still I know you're there. / Your colors arc in heaven's art, / Both beautiful and rare" and "God, I can't see You. / Still I know You're there. / You're in the love I give away-- / The sparkle when I care." This final spread addressed to God has an additional couplet: "And if Your love is what I show, / My heart is fuller still, I know," a beautiful message to end the book on.

Lucy Fleming's artwork is especially pleasing and imaginative in the spread about the moon, showing a girl and fox serenely swinging from the moon. Each spread features a different child, with varying races and genders represented. The final spread about showing God's love ties the theme together by showing a boy and a girl of different races holding hands.

The spot-on text and artwork might this book one of the best board books I've seen in a long time.  God, I Know You're There is written by Bonnie Ricker Jensen, who also wrote the I Love You, Little One board book. The book is just over 5" x 8", giving it the look and feel of a "grown-up book."

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but was not required to post a positive review.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

You're My Little Sweet Pea by Annette Bourland, Illustrated by Kit Chase

"Cuddle up with the Little Sweat Pea in your life and share this heartwarming book that reminds children just how special and loved they are."

Adorable watercolor animal baby and parent pairings accompany soothing rhyming text in You're My Little Sweet Pea, a padded-cover board book. Softly outlined in ink, Kit Chase's illustrations depict a different baby-parent animal set on nearly every page show the parent cuddling, holding hands, or playing with the child.

There is some visual variety in that two spreads each feature a two-page illustration, one page has five small images illustrating each of five different verbs (my personal favorite page, particularly a little baby fox taking a bubble bath in a pail with a stack of bubbles on its head), a spread that features the same animal pair on each page, and the final spread has the pairing of mother mouse putting baby mouse into bed while the right-hand page is a close up of just baby mouse all tucked-in, asleep.

The text by Annette Bourland is short, sweet rhymes centered around things the parent loves about the child: appearance ("squishy cheeks and sparkly eyes, pure delight and perfect size"), personality ("your giggle always melts my heart"), possibilities ("tender feet and tiny toes, where they'll take you, no one knows"), and the relationship between them ("you and me, we're quite a pair"). The last three spreads focus on getting ready for bed, a typical theme of children's board books.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but was not required to post a positive review.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

I Love You, Funny Bunny by Barbara Hendon, Illustrated by Sean Julian

I Love You, Funny Bunny is a sweet picture book about the special relationship between a parent and a child. Each line of rhyming text (except for one) begins with "I love" and then describes a child's attribute or action that the parent loves.

Prominently on the front cover are the words "Illustrated by Sean Julian," the spine says Julian, and the back cover flap features only his bio. To find that the text is written by Barbara Hendon, you have to look at the fine print on the title page with the copyright information.

This focus on illustration makes sense in context of the book: the text itself is simple and undetailed--short, easy to understand, and rhyming: "I love your sense of wonder, when you first see something new" (13-14). The rhymes appear on subsequent pages, making the overall rhythm less effective: "I love the times we cuddle close and share a book or two" (15-16).

In contrast, the illustrations are full of detail, telling more story than the words with vibrant colors and emotive facial expressions on both part of the child bunny and the parent bunny. Each spread has so much detail to take in, occasionally with multiple scenes displayed across the pages. Fully appreciating the illustrations would make the reading aloud pace slow, further prolonging the payout of the rhyme on the next page.

Though the book suggests that it's appropriate for ages 4-8, I would stay on the younger side of that range for optimal enjoyment of the simple text and lack of narrative story line.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but was not required to post a positive review.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Gift that I Can Give by Kathie Lee Gifford, Illustrated by Julia Seal

The Gift that I Can Give by Kathie Lee Gifford is an empowering picture book that shows the many gifts given by God and how children can share their gifts with the world. Told in short rhyming quatrains, through the story the narrator questions whether the gift she is given is dancing, singing, sharing while playing football, helping animals, cheering on a friend, joining a marching band, visiting someone in the hospital, or giving her family hugs. The ending includes a prayer for her to be able to share her gifts with others, and the revelation that God's love is the gift she can give. The message is encouraging: that God has given her so many gifts that she can share with others. The specific mentions of acts of services is an especially creative way of teaching children that gifts don't have to just be innate skills.

The text is in first person, but the illustrations follow a little girl through the pages, accompanied by lots of butterflies, pinks, and purples. The dust jacket also features glittery butterflies. Despite playing in to some gender stereotypes, the illustrations redeem themselves through a racially and gender-diverse game of flag football. Julia Seal's illustrations are cute and colorful and add depth to the story through little details.

The religious message that our gifts come from God is strong, as is the message that we should be sharing those gifts with others. This book encourages community engagement, friendship, and generally compassion for others, shared through a catchy rhyming verse. For these reasons, I'd recommend this book for children ages 3 to 7.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but was not required to post a positive review.