Tuesday, September 1, 2015

New Picture Books Focus on Friends

Little Elliot, Big City
            By Mike Curato
            Best for, Girls: Ages 4 - 8
            Rated: 2.75 (Friendship, Feelings of inadequacy)

            Fans of Melrose and Croc will find some similarities in Little Elliot, Big City. Both stories focus on anthropomorphic animals living alongside humans. In this case, Elliot is a small polka dotted elephant living in 1940’s New York City. He feels alone and left out until he meets a small white mouse. They form a fast friendship and work together to accomplish everything they felt they were too small to do when they were alone. This tale is a pretty straight-forward message of friendship and adventure in a big city. Children will relate to feeling different from those around them and the safety they feel among friends.

What’s good: The illustrations are sophisticated without losing their childish appeal.
What’s bad: Boys may find this book a little too sweet for their tastes.

Izzy & Oscar
By Allison Estes and Dan Stark
Illustrated by Tracy Dockray
Best For: Ages 4 – 8
Rated: 3 (Friendship, Imagination, Pets)

This summer adventure opens as Izzy and her friends embark on a pirate treasure hunt. Izzy is the captain of the surly crew, but some of her friends wonder how she can be a good pirate captain without a pet. Every pirate has a pet and as Izzy and her crew find the spot marked with an X they also find Izzy’s pet. It’s a purple octopus named Oscar. It’s certainly an unorthodox pet which adds to the humor when he sits on her shoulder or they go for a walk. As Oscar grows Izzy knows it would be best if her Octopus were back in the sea. But before they can get to the ocean they find a far better place for Oscar – as the lifeguard in their community pool. It’s a ridiculous tale of friendship, pets and great adventure – perfect for the last days of summer.

What’s good: Filled with humorous situations and likable illustrations.
What’s bad:
Children should understand the absurdity of an octopus as a pet, but who knows?

Orion and the Dark
By Emma Yarlett
Best For: Ages 4 - 8
Rated: 3.5 (Fears, Imagination, Friendship)

Some kids find the dark a scary thing, while others look at it as a big adventure. Orion and the Dark gives readers a bit of both philosophies. Although Orion’s parents tell him there is nothing to be afraid of, he sees the world as full of frightening things. The dark is at the top of the list until one night when Dark pays Orion a little visit. This friendly-ish looking creature takes Orion an adventure in the night – bouncing on beds and flying through space. Dark explains how sounds that seem scary in the night are easily explained in the light. By the end of their adventure Orion understands that Dark can be his friend and he’s not afraid of friends. It’s a great tale for children a little shy of the dark.

What’s good: Wonderful illustrations that will keep children and their parents staring at the pages.
What’s bad: Even with its friendly form, the idea that the dark can come to life may be off-putting to some children.