#kidlit Picture Book That Excels At Suspense and Surprise

Along with picture books, I also write mysteries for adult readers (see It’s a Mystery blog). Mystery (and thriller) writers strive to create suspense and tension, as well as surprise in their work. That’s why it is cool to see an author/illustrator excel at this task in a nearly wordless picture book.

In Spencer’s New Pet by Jessie Sima, Spencer has an unusual pet, a balloon dog. The dog accompanies Spencer everywhere he goes, including some places that are decidedly dangerous for balloons.  Readers hold their breath. Will his pet survive?

The ending is a twist sure to surprise everyone. Once the surprise is revealed, many readers are going to want to read it again to look for clues that they might have missed. Although it will never be the same level of surprise, readers also want to re-live that initial experience of tension/suspense.

I noticed in reviews that some people were disturbed by the twist. Perhaps it is possible to defy expectations too much, to make the surprising twist too far from the realm of possibility.? You don’t want to do anything that interferes with readers suspending disbelief and buying into your story in adult books, but the standards are likely different in highly-imaginative children’s books.

Have you read Spencer’s New Pet? What did you think?

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Hardcover: 56 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 27, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1534418776
ISBN-13: 978-1534418776

#Nonfiction Monday The Big Book of Birds

Last year as a Cybils judge I reviewed Yuval Zommer’s The Big Book of the Blue.  Frankly, it was one of my favorites of the 140+ nonfiction books I read.  I loved the unique, fun illustrations and the playfulness of it. Plus, the information presented was spot on.

Now Zommer has out a new title the series, The Big Book of Birds.

This book has many of the same features I liked about The Big Book of the Blue.  The big size and the complex, engaging illustrations are the same. There’s also a challenge to search for and find a object, this time an egg, throughout the illustrations.  Those sort of games can bring a young reader back to a book again and again.

The topic overviews, such as a spread about bird migration, mix well with zoomed-in discussions of specific types of birds, such as parrots or owls. Again the text is interesting and informative.

There’s only one thing that puts me off loving this one as wholeheartedly as Blue. Weirdly, I don’t like where he placed the birds’ eyes in some of the illustrations. He gives each bird two eyes in a stylized way that sometimes makes one them appear to be on the bird’s neck. Eyes on necks may not work for me, but it probably won’t be a problem for most readers.

Everything is big about this book. Even the back matter is oversized. It includes the answers to the search-and-find, a fun glossary, and a huge index.

The Big Book of Birds is the type of book that begs to be shared. Grab a copy, find a quiet corner, and spend time with a young reader delving into each and every page.  They will be glad you did.

Related:

Want to read more children’s books about birds? Check our growing list at Science Books for Kids.

Age Range: 6 – 8 years
Publisher: Thames & Hudson; 1 edition (June 4, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0500651515
ISBN-13: 978-0500651513

Disclosure: The book was provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

#Kidlit Fall Writing Contest: The Empty Seat

Kaitlyn Sanchez over at Math is Everywhere (she’d love the picture book featured in our last post) is hosting a Kidlit Fall Writing Contest with some awesome prizes like critiques and children’s books.

The process is straightforward. Pick one of the photographs as a prompt on the contest rules page and write up to 200 words in any children’s genre (picture books to YA).  Then submit at this page by by Oct 11th 11:59 PM PST.

Although the pumpkin and sunflower photographs gave me ideas for nonfiction picture books (my usual genre), I decided to stretch myself with YA based on this autumn scene:

(Photo by Jake Colvin on Pexels.com)

 

The Empty Seat

by Roberta Gibson

During his break, Torin wandered to the practice field. The chill autumn air blew away the smell of food that clung to him. He sat at his usual bench by the water.

Three boys ran by, their footsteps swishing in the fallen leaves.

Unexpectedly, a girl sat next to him and stretched out her legs. “Do you know them?”

Torin shook his head. “I’m not a trainee. I work in the kitchen.”

“I know. I’ve seen you.”

“You’ve heard about me?” He veiled his disappointment. He knew what came next. They always wanted to know.

“Should I have?”

“No.” The bench was getting uncomfortable. “Of course not.”

She pushed her ginger-colored hair over her shoulder and grinned. “Now I’m curious. What’ve you done?”

“Nothing,” Torin said.

“You can tell me.”

“Okay. My darkest secret is I make a mean cherry cobbler. Would you like some?”

She laughed. At that moment a teacher beckoned her to the practice area.

She jumped up. “Sorry. Got to go.”

She leaned down and whispered in his ear, “I’m Maya. Raincheck?”

He didn’t have a chance to nod before she slipped away.

One seat would be empty tonight.

“Please be her,” he whispered.

#Nonfiction Monday I’m Trying to Love Math Succeeds

It’s about fear, it’s about math, it’s incredibly funny, it’s I’m Trying to Love Math by Bethany Barton.

For those who feel that math must have been developed by aliens, it seems appropriate that a space alien comes to Earth to help young readers figure out how math might be useful.  It is soon apparent there’s math in cooking, in nature, in navigation, and even in music. Math shows up in a lot of things people love.

Bethany Barton combines pen and ink with digital software to create lighthearted illustrations. Some of the illustrations are even interactive, involving book shaking or holding an ice cream spoon (you have to get the book to figure that one out).

I’m Trying to Love Math is for young people who aren’t sure why they need to study math. The book will help them discover how useful math is for everyday life. Realizing why something is important is often the first step to learning.

Pick up and shake a copy today!

Looking for more math books for kids? Try our Pi Day list at Science Books for kids.

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (July 2, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0451480902
ISBN-13: 978-0451480903

Disclosure: The book was provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.