Children’s Book Review: Art & Max by David Wiesner

Art and Max cover

This book was recommended to me by my branch manager at the library where I work. I checked it out based solely on that and the beautiful and adorable cover art.

All Max wanted to do was paint. His friend Art is an artist, so he asks him if he can’t paint too. Max doesn’t know what to paint, so Art tells Max to paint him. Max takes this literally, and this starts a really fun rollercoaster of different media.

Max may not be experienced but he is really excited and passionate about trying. He’s full of enthusiasm and he doesn’t give up. I loved Max a whole lot, probably because he reminded me of myself.

Art and Max 4

SPOILERS: Max paints Art (literally) and then must wash off the paint, which leads to Art being left with no color. Art is just an outline but he eventually turns into a pile of lines, which Max works back into Art’s shape. The first time he does it is very basic, but he tries again and works really hard and meticulously until Max is the right shape. And then comes the really fun part: Max paints Art again and Art is more beautiful and colorful then he ever dreamed of. So the pair start painting together in the end. END SPOILERS

Art and Max 2

Art & Max is about never giving up and continuing to try as hard as you can at everything you do. It’s about being passionate and enthusiastic and trying new things. Man, I loved this one. Plus, look at all of these beautiful illustrations! I could see these up in a kids’ art classroom. Also, Max is my role model. Haha.

Art and Max 7

Publication info:

Art & Max

Written and illustrated by David Wiesner

Published by Clarion Books; October 2010

40 pages (hardcover)


Children’s Book Review: The Day the Crayons Quit

The Day the Crayons Quit Cover

This is hands down one of the cutest children’s books I’ve ever read. EVER.

One day when all Duncan wants to do is color, he finds a stack of letters from his crayons each expressing their frustrations at either being used too much or not enough…or in the case of green being forced to be the mediator between orange and yellow – who both think they are the right color for the sun.

“Orange you glad I’m here” says the orange crayon. Hahaha!

Crayons 4 Crayons 5

This is one of the most creative children’s book I’ve seen. Who would have ever thought about crayons quitting or going on strike because they needed a break? Blue crayon has been used so much that he’s just a little stub, and he “can’t even see over the railing in the crayon box anymore!” Poor blue crayon!

Crayons 8

The Day the Crayons Quit will definitely be one of those books I’ll be buying when I eventually have kids. It made me laugh. I can’t wait to see how much a child will laugh at the idea of crayons tiring out from overwork or being sad because they only ever outline pictures and are never used to color anything in!

Also, Oliver Jeffers. His illustrations are just wonderful. You might have seen how much I loved two of his other books (these ones written and illustrated by him). I’m super jealous of his handwriting too. Look how adorable it is!

Have you read The Day the Crayons Quit? What did you think?

Publication info:

The Day the Crayons Quit

Written by Drew Daywalt; illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Published by Philomel; June 2013

36 pages (hardcover)

Book Review: Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, I was able to read this book. It is a delightfully light, funny, and enjoyable read. When the book begins, the mother of a young boy and his little sister leaves for a trip. The family runs out of milk, so the father sets out to the corner shop to buy some. He is gone for a rather long time, and when he gets back he tells them that he was on his way home when he was abducted by aliens who wanted to redecorate the planet. He manages to escape, but meets a bunch of pirates, and so on and so forth until he finally makes it back home.

Fortunately, the Milk aliens

Fortunately, the story was completely engrossing and lovely. It is a whimsical tale of pirates, vampires, dinosaurs who are professors and world-renown for their time travel, piranhas, aliens, and more. The story is funny, creative, and full of adventure.

Fortunately, the Milk Piranhas

Fortunately, Skottie Young is a wonderful illustrator and brought this story to life. The illustrations complement the silliness and craziness of this story perfectly. Everything feels a little over the top, much like the story does. Young’s illustrations make the story the father weaves feel as entertaining and as wild as the father’s story itself. So much fun! Also, I don’t know if it was just me, but the kids’ dad kind of looks like the Fourth Doctor. It can’t just be me, right?

Fortunately, the Milk Dad Fortunately, the Milk Dad smirk

Fortunately, I can buy a copy of this book for myself (I checked it out from the library).

Fortunately, the Milk Dad and Professor StegFortunately, the Milk Cover
Publication info:

Fortunately, the Milk

Written by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Skottie Young

Published by HarperCollins; September 2013

114 pages (hardcover)


Children’s Book Review: Two books by Oliver Jeffers

Today I’m going to be reviewing two of Oliver Jeffers books: The Way Back Home and The Incredible Book-Eating Boy, both of which I loved.

The Way Back Home Cover   The Incredible Book Eating Boy Cover

The Way Back Home is about a young boy who finds an airplane in his closet but as he takes off for distant stars, it runs out of gas and he is stranded on the moon. At the same time, an alien’s spaceship has some engine trouble and he also lands on the moon. It gets dark and they both picture the worst when they hear the other walking around. When the finally meet, they realize they can help one another. “Martian, Earthling – it’s all the same when you’re in need of a friend” (Goodreads description). How cute!

The Way Back Home 3

This is an adorable story of friendship and adventure. It’s all about how looking different doesn’t mean that you are different on the inside. You can make friends anywhere with anyone. The Way Back Home is definitely a feel good story. I thought it was unbelievably cute, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying a copy when I eventually have kids.

I actually liked a few of the illustrations so much that I could see myself getting one of them tattooed in the future. Wonderful illustrations.

The Way Back Home 2

The Incredible Book-Eating Boy is about…well, a boy who eats books. He eats all kinds of books – dictionaries, picture books, reference books. It doesn’t matter (though he does prefer red books). The more books he eats, the smarter he gets. But Henry eats too many books too quickly, and it starts to make him sick.

Book Eating Boy 6     Book Eating Boy 5

His head is too full, so Henry must figure out a way to keep enjoying books without his mouth.

Can you guess what he does? Of course you can. You’re on a book blog for a reason. As a bibliophile, I just loved this story. It was definitely one of the cutest children’s books I’ve ever read. It’s clever, funny, and completely charming. I completely adored the illustrations. I could actually relate to the one above quite well (I mean, you hasn’t ever felt like their head was completely full like that?).

I will most definitely be buying a copy of this book in the future. Like, for me. And maybe my future kids.

Also, look how clever the back of the book is!

Book Eating Boy 8 Book Eating Boy 9

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

Children’s Book Review: The Happy Owls

I love owls. Love them. I even have an owl tattoo. So obviously when I saw this book at the library, I checked it out. What a lovely story!

The Happy Owls

The theme of this children’s book is to see the beauty in everyday life and in nature.

The Happy Owls is about two owls that are inexplicably happy – inexplicable at least according to the chickens, ducks, and geese who live nearby. They decide to send the peacock over to find out why. After the owls explain, the other birds are skeptical at the response.

This book made me happy. Full stop. It is a lovely story about finding happiness in each other, nature, and life. The owls are just happy with their world, with their surroundings, and with life.

“When everything is green and growing and the trees nod their leafy crowns to us in the warm sunshine, we sit in a shady nook, in the cool forest and are at peace with the world.”

What a beautiful message. It reminds the reader to not be ignorant to life’s beauty. The world is full of beautiful things. The Happy Owls also says that it is okay to be happy being you. Stand apart from the rest of the crowd. If you are happy with your life, it doesn’t matter if anyone else gets it.

Love this one. I’ll definitely be buying a copy for my future kid(s). Plus look at these beautiful illustrations:

The Happy Owls image

Publication info:

The Happy Owls

Written and illustrated by Celestino Piatti

Originally published by Holiday House in January 1964; the copy I read was published by NorthSouth in May 2013

32 pages (hardcover)


Children’s Book Review: Chris Van Allsburg books

Today I’m reviewing five of Chris Van Allsburg’s books! Note: all of these books are written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg and they were all published by HMH Books for Young Readers.

CVA - Bad Day at RiverbendBad Day at Riverbend (October 1995)

I really enjoyed the idea behind this book, but overall, I wasn’t a huge fan. Basically, the people of Riverbend are surprised when a strange substance begins to cover their horses, then the stagecoach and town. Sherriff Ned Hardy decides to investigate. I’m sure other readers, and kids, will be surprised when they find out the reason behind the substance. I do want to say that I thought the idea was really quite clever, and it makes sense why the illustrations are so simple once you reach the end. However, the execution just wasn’t my favorite.

CVA - Probuditi!Probuditi! (October 2006)

I enjoyed this one quite a bit more than Bad Day at Riverbend. The illustrations were really, really good. Everything has a brown tint to it which I thought conveyed the time period in which the book is set – 1940s America – really well. I thought the story was really cute. Probuditi! is about a boy who goes to a magic show and then decides to try to hypnotize his sister. I don’t want to give it away, but I absolutely adored the ending. I won’t say I was super surprised with the ending, but I did love it! I think anyone that has a sibling will be able to relate to the relationship between Trudy and Calvin.

CVA - Two Bad AntsTwo Bad Ants (October 1998)

There were things I liked and things I didn’t like about this one – okay, only one thing I didn’t like. Two Bad Ants is about two ants who leave their group after a journey into someone’s house to steal some crystals for their queen (sugar granules). They attempt to make a home with the crystals, but when the person who lives there starts to make his coffee, things go awry! It is an adorable and enchanting story. The ants are thrown into a “boiling brown lake” – which is actually a cup of coffee. It was just very cute. After going through a lot of horrible things, the ants are ready to go home.

The whole theme of the story is being obedient and knowing the comforts and safety of home. I do appreciate that but it also seems as if it’s telling kids that they should never try something new. You will never learn if you don’t try things and fail. It seems a lot of things nowadays are telling kids not to question how they are raised and what they are used to. I do like that it is telling kids to appreciate what they have though.

CVA - The Widow's BroomThe Widow’s Broom (September 1992)

Witch’s brooms don’t last forever. They get old and eventually can lose their ability to fly. This happens one day and a broom is left at widow Minna Shaw’s home. Minna uses it around her house, and then one day she finds it sweeping by itself. She eventually trains it to do many other tasks, but her neighbors are very superstitious and they are afraid of the broom. They want her to burn it.

I loved this story. It was beautiful with wonderful illustrations. The shadowing in the illustrations along with the story make you feel as on edge as the widow feels. I loved how the story told a tale about how people will often destroy what they don’t understand. It looks at bullying and superstition as well. If read to kids, it might make them reevaluate how they treat their peers (hopefully). A very good story.

CVA - ZathuraZathura (October 2002)

Zathura is a continuation of Chris Van Allburg’s Jumanji (which I’m sad to say I haven’t read). Instead of a board game set in the jungle, this one is set in space, and it includes robots, brother-swallowing black holes, and space travel. This book was so much fun! I would definitely say that it is for older kids though.

The illustrations in Zathura were crazy good – ridiculously detailed. The story itself is very imaginative. I think this book could be a gateway book into sci-fi for younger kids; it is the epitome of wonderful, creative science fiction. Kids who have siblings will also be able to relate to the sibling rivalry between the two brothers, and it could teach them to appreciate their sibling – you would miss them if they disappeared.

Loved this one.


So there you go. I’ve read five Chris Van Allsburg books so far. There were ones I loved (Zathura; Two Bad Ants) and ones I didn’t (Bad Day at Riverbend). I’m glad I’ve been able to see the range in Van Allsburg’s work. I need to read Jumanji.

Have you read any Chris Van Allsburg books? Which are your (or your kid’s) favorites?

Children’s Book Review: The Dreamer

AThe Dreamer Coverfter reading Long Night Moon by Cynthia Rylant, I wanted to check out some other books by her. We had The Dreamer at the library where I work, and I thought the illustrations looked beautiful after a quick flip through, so I checked it out.

I suppose I should have realized as I flipped through that this book was a retelling of the story of creation. This book depicts God as an artist who daydreams and creates the things he sees in his dreams.

“As he dreamed in his mind, he would see something he hadn’t seen before. Something beautiful. Something new.”

He sees stars and decides to cut them out of paper, and then he has the heavens.

The Dreamer 1

“This is the story of the one who dreamed the world.”

The Dreamer 2

The dreamer needs someone to see the beautiful things he has made, so he creates humankind.

I really enjoyed the absolutely beautiful illustrations in this book. I could see myself framing some of these on my wall. Moser’s illustrations perfectly match the story; they might have even made the story more beautiful for me. The prose was gorgeous as well.

The book has a kind of dreamlike quality to it, much like the daydreams that the artist is having in which he imagines all of these wonderful new creations he can make. The reader floats along on clouds with the dreamer. The story was quite enjoyable and very creative.

Publication info:

The Dreamer

Written by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Barry Moser

Published by Scholastic; October 1993

32 pages (hardcover)


Children’s book review: Ox-Cart Man

Ox-Cart Man was another book recommended to me by the branch manager at the library where I work. He told me that it was a simple story and that he cries every time he reads it. I had to check it out.

Ox-Cart Man

Ox-Cart Man follows a man in early nineteenth-century New England as he packs up everything his family has grown and made in the past year to sell in the market. All of his family’s goods are packed into the main character’s cart and taken to Portsmouth so that he can sell it to buy new tools for the next season.

I really enjoyed this story about a completely self-sufficient family. As the cart is loaded with all of their goods, we learn that all of these things have been grown and made by the different members of the family. Everyone has their role and nothing is wasted. The ox-cart man sells all of his goods, and then spends the money to buy more supplies and tools for his family for the coming year. He buys a new needle for his daughter so she can sew some more mittens, a knife for his son, a new pot for his wife, and a gift for his family: some wintergreen candies. The book ends in quiet anticipation of the year to come, in which the family will use the all of their new supplies to create and grow new goods.

Ox-Cart Man image

The story was very simple and peaceful. The prose is sometimes repetitive but this made it somewhat lyrical. It turned the book into bit of a song, which I really enjoyed. The book describes a very quiet and peaceful time in our history, which I enjoyed reading about very much. Barbara Cooney’s illustrations match the story quite well to create the feelings of this serene time. I enjoyed her use of colors, all earth-tones, which I thought matched the feel of the book.

I think Ox-Cart Man would be perfect to use in social studies/history classes for kids to show just how simple this time was, especially in comparison to our technology saturated world. It’s a beautiful book.

Publication info:

Ox-Cart Man

Written by Donald Hall; illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Published by Puffin; October 1979

40 pages (paperback)

Book Review: The Story of Ferdinand

If you’re a fan of Fall Out Boy, you might know that their album title “From Under the Cork Tree” was inspired by the book, The Story of Ferdinand. I knew this and I’d been wanting to check the book out for some time. I’m pretty sure I’d read this book a few times as a child, but it was nice to reread it as an adult to see just how wonderful it is.

The Story of Ferdinand Cover

The Story of Ferdinand is about a young bull named Ferdinand who isn’t like his peers. The other bulls would rather run and jump and bump their heads together, “but not Ferdinand.” Ferdinand would much rather sit quietly under his favorite cork tree (an actual tree that grows corks on it; *giggles*) by himself.

But when sweet, pacifist Ferdinand is chosen by accident for the bull fighting in Madrid, what will happen?

I think this book is highly relatable for any children (or adults) who are a little bit different and unlike their peers. Ferdinand’s mother is super understanding. She sees that he wasn’t alone when sitting under the cork tree but actually happy and content, so she lets him do what makes him happy. I loved that. That’s how mothers should be: you should encourage your children to do exactly what makes them happy (I’m glad I had a mother and father like this).

This book is very sweet. I love its message: it is okay to be you. Do what you love doing even if it’s not what people expect of you. Be happy. If you don’t want to do something, don’t.

Highly recommended. It takes no time at all to read and it’s a great message for kids.

The Story of Ferdinand

Publication info:

The Story of Ferdinand

Written by Munro Leaf; illustrated by Robert Lawson

Published by Viking; January 1936

72 pages (hardcover)

Book Review: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish

“I’ll swap you my dad,” I said.
“Oh-oh,” said my little sister.

What if you wanted your best friend’s two goldfish so much that you’d swap anything for them, even your father?

What if your mother came home and found out what you’d done?

The Day I Swapped My Dad... Cover

So when I decided to start reading children’s books again, I immediately checked out The Day I Swapped by Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman from the library. I mean, it’s Neil Gaiman. I wasn’t disappointed. It is a wonderful book.

I laughed out loud more times than I thought possible for a book so short. It was very funny. The idea for the book is silly in and of itself. A boy wants to trade anything he can for his friend Nathan’s two goldfish. Nathan rejects everything until the boy offers to trade his dad. This is when the fun begins: the boy realizes that the goldfish are boring and that this trade was a bad idea, so he and his sister set off to swap the goldfish back. Unfortunately, the boy’s father has been traded off to someone else, and the pair must track down where their father is now.

I liked this book especially because it feels so childlike. What I mean by that is the book evokes just how weird kid’s thoughts are. The book is weird and strange and great. I feel like part of the reason I liked it so much was that I could relate to the family dynamic. Who hasn’t had silly fights with their younger sibling? And the dad: he’s completely oblivious to everything that’s happening because he’s reading the paper. So funny.

I enjoyed the story, but I really loved the illustrations. McKean perfectly combines mediums to create enchanting works of art that convey the message in the book so well. An example:

The Day I... 2

He’s combined actual pictures of goldfish along with his drawings. In other parts he uses pages of books as the background. McKean’s illustrations are a feast for the eyes to accompany the enchanting story. Wonderful.

I just wanted to include this illustration because I’m pretty much in love with it. I don’t know why I like it so much other than the fact it’s so fun!

The Day I... 5

I would recommend this book to any fans of Neil Gaiman or of awesome illustrations. I will say that I think this book is more suited to older children.

Publication info:

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish

Written by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Dave McKean

Published by HarperCollins; August 2004

64 pages (hardcover)

The Day I... 4

*chuckles at pun*