Reviews: Picture Books for Lazy Summer Bedtimes

One of my favourite things in the world are well-written picture books. I am a firm believer that a quality picture book transcends age, and can be used in the classroom as well at bedtime. Fortunately, I have a number of publishing friends who agree with me, and they are kind enough to share some of the new releases from their respective publishing houses. As we are heading into a number of hot, sticky days and nights over the next little while, I thought I’d try to beat the heat for some of my friends with small children by recommending some new and interesting books for bedtime reading and beyond. If you are at the cottage, by the lake, at home or visiting family, these might be great new reads to pull out to soothe hot and cranky younger readers.

detective dogThere once was a dog with a keen sense of smell.
She was known far and wide as Detective Dog Nell.

Peter’s dog Nell has an amazing sense of smell. Whether it’s finding a lost shoe or discovering who did a poo on the new gravel path, her ever-sniffing nose is always hard at work. But Nell has other talents too. Every Monday she goes to school with Peter and listens to children read. So who better to have on hand when they arrive one morning to discover that the school’s books have all disappeared! Who could have taken them? And why? There’s only one dog for the job … and Detective Dog Nell is ready to sniff out the culprit!

Written by the brilliant Julia Donaldson and stunningly illustrated by the multi-talented illustrator and printmaker Sara Ogilvie, Detective Dog is a fast-paced celebration of books, reading, libraries, and the relationship between a little boy and his rather special dog.

A new Donaldson book is always cause for celebration, and The Detective Dog is a worthy addition to any family collection. Nell is a very clever dog with a keen sense of smell. When she joins Peter at school for the reading program and finds all the books are gone, she’s on the case! As Peter and Nell head off to find the books, they are joined by more and more people until it seems the entire town is on the case. I’ll confess to a secret fondness for the penguins!

The rhyming couplets keep the story flowing, and parents won’t find repeating this one again and again. Dog lovers will find traits of their own favourite pets in Nell, and the resolution will encourage families to check out their local library as a source of new reading material.

In addition to the lovely shout-out to the local library, and Ogilvie’s wonderful attention to detail in the illustrations allows kids the chance to pick up on tiny bits and pieces outside of the main story. As an added bonus, have your more advanced readers use their keen eyes look for some cute references to previous Donaldson books on the bookshelves of the library.

Published by Pan Macmillan and distributed by Publisher’s Group Canada. ISBN: 9781509801596, 32 pages. It is available now for purchase. 

my dad usedKeith Negley’s playful and emotional art tells this story of a new father who is no longer the cool guy he once was. He looks back wistfully on his crazy times playing in a band, riding a motorcycle, and getting tattoos. Those days may be behind him, but his young son still thinks he’s the coolest guy in the world.

Negley, author of Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) is back with a new book that explores if a dad can still be cool once he’s had kids. The child muses on the supposed cool factor of his father – a former member of a rock band who now keeps his drums behind closed doors, trading his motorcycle for a minivan – and wishes he could have seen it. His dad is still fun though, as they two head to the park and play together all day.

The stylish and clean illustrations tell as much of the story as the words, and kids will love exploring his brightly coloured artwork. Fold out pages extend the narrative and provide added dimension to the story. Fans of Negley’s first book will definitely want this one for the bookshelf!

Published by Flying Eye Books and distributed by Publisher’s Group Canada. ISBN: 9781909263949, 48 pages. It is available now for purchase. 

tidy emily gravettPete the badger learns that being tidy isn’t always the best thing in this save-the-environment picture book from award-winning author and illustrator Emily Gravett.

Pete the badger likes everything to be neat and tidy at all times, but what starts as the collecting of one fallen leaf escalates quickly and ends with the complete destruction of the forest. Will Pete realize the error of his ways and reverse his tidying habit?

I’ll admit to an author crush on Gravett and all her work, and this one had me in giggles. Beautiful die-cut pages (including a striking cover) will entice young readers to explore the pages, and the story of Pete the obsessively tidy badger will make parents smile. Charming illustrations such as badger using a porcupine to brush a fox tail and a bird bath to wash an owl (complete with shower cap!) will engage readers from the get-go.

There’s a lovely message in this one as well, but not so much of one that the story becomes preachy. Cooperation is key, and Pete soon learns that compromise is key for everyone to be happy with the life in the forest. Keeping things tidy requires everyone’s help and just as Pete can’t dictate how tidy things should be, other’s must respect his wishes as well. I especially loved the picnic at the end,with the ants taking away the cleaning supplies!

Published by Two Hoots and distributed by Publisher’s Group Canada. ISBN: 9781447273981, 40 pages. It is available now in Canada for purchase.