Sea This and Sea That by Jeremy Billups: Plenty of Goodness for the Picture Book Reader to Sea

Sea This and Sea That

Sea This and Sea That

by Jeremy Billups

Hardcover, 44 pg.
2017

Read: September 12, 2019


Off the top of my head, there are essentially three types of Picture Books:

  1. ABCs/123s
  2. Stories told simply (usually with pictures helping the text tell that story)
  3. Odd little collections of interesting/goofy pictures with some text to tie them together.

Myself, I prefer the stories—I’m always on the side of a narrative. But from my observation of my kids, niece, and other children, the third seems to be the most popular. They don’t need a grown-up around to “read” the book on their own, they can just pick it up and flip through the pictures, and the text (usually rhyming) sounds entertaining enough, even if they don’t really get what’s being said. I really know that’s true for my kids, they’d request demand them far more frequently—I can still probably rattle off Boynton’s But Not the Hippopotamus with only a prompt or two, despite not having picked up the book for 12-13 years.

It’s also the kind of book that Billups provides here—it’s set in a “crowded, hectic and gruff” city under the sea, with one quiet spot—The Sea This and Sea That Below the Seashore. Missus Bluffington gives a couple of kids (and the reader) a through her very unusual place, full of all sorts of sea creatures, sea plants, fish, and an octopus that shows up in some unusual places.

The rhyming text is fun, and I can imagine a good parent/adult/caregiver can get a good rhythm going while reading it to entertain their audience, but the star of the show is Billups’ illustrations. They’re just great—there’s plenty of color, while still feeling like you’re looking through blue-green water. The octopus’ tentacle alone is great to keep an eye out for, and I love Missus Bluffington’s glasses. But there’s plenty for a child’s eyes to take in while listening to the text being read to/at them.

I can’t forget to mention that it also includes some great back cover book blurbs that’ll amuse the parent/reader, as well as a couple of visual jokes.

This is a fun little book that’ll appeal to kids who love the look of Finding Nemo/Dory and aren’t quite ready for that other city under the sea, Bikini Bottom. I had fun with it, and I bet adult readers for those kids will, too.


3.5 Stars

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The World’s Greatest Mousetrap by B.C.R. Fegan, Fanny Liem: A Cute Little Story about a Bookshop under Siege

The World's Greatest MousetrapThe World’s Greatest Mousetrap

by B.C.R. Fegan, Fanny Liem (Illustrator)

Kindle Edition, 44 pg.
TaleBlade, 2019
Read: June 4, 2019


I can’t believe I did this, but I noticed a couple of months ago that there was a new B.C.R. Fegan book out and since TaleBlade didn’t offer one to me, I ponied up a little cash for it. Clearly, TaleBlade’s following a tried and true business model, get someone hooked on some free samples and they’ll pay for more (and I’ll happily do it again).

This is the story of Reginald, a pleasant-seeming bookstore owner who loves to read in quiet when not selling books. One day he hears a mouse in his shop and goes about setting a series of traps, each more complicated than the last, to catch it. He can’t have a little animal ruining his peaceful reading time. The mouse is cleverer than any outside of animation or children’s literature so it evades the traps — up to and including a Rube Goldberg-esque device—leading to calamities for Reginald and his customers. Whatever will Reginald do? How will he enjoy a book?

Maybe it’s just me, but the text seems a bit denser than is typical for a Fegan book. Not dense as in complicated, don’t worry, this is still picture book territory. But there seems to be more of it—a more involved story than usual. That’s not good or bad—just an observation. I didn’t find it as full of whimsy as usual, but it’s an okay story.

Liem’s illustrations are beautiful, incredibly detailed, and will likely keep young readers captivated. I’m not sure if it’s different in the hard copy or not, but it seems to me that they don’t always sync properly with the text—sometimes depicting events the text hasn’t gotten to for a couple of pages. That bothered me a bit, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

A charming little tale, but didn’t seem to have the typical Fegan magic. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad book, just not a great one. Not every hit has to be a home-run or triple, a good on-base single gets the job done, and that’s what we have here (and probably a month’s worth of sports analogies for me). A cute little book that will be a favorite of some kids, I have no doubt, but that didn’t have the magic some of Fegan’s others do. I recommend it, but I know he’s done better, so get those, too.

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3 Stars

P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever by Raj Haldar, Chris Carpenter, Maria Beddia: Twisted, Fun and even Educational

P Is for PterodactylP Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever

by Raj Haldar, Chris Carpenter, Maria Beddia (Illustrator)


Hardcover, 40 pg.
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2018
Read: December 20, 2018

One of the first books printed in the American colonies was The New England Primer, filled with catchy lines like “In Adam’s Fall / We Sinned All.”

Since that time, many alphabet-type books have been published in the same — or similar — vein. One of the latest is P Is for Pterodactyl, which carries the subtitle, The Worst Alphabet Book Ever which doesn’t seem that complimentary, but when it includes lines like:

” is for Jai Alai.

or

” is for Ewe.”

or even

U is not for You.

and maybe you start to think there’s a little truth in advertising.

It’s actually an amusing book with some examples of the oddities and vagaries of English spelling/pronunciation that will stick with you. I’m not crazy about some of the selections (V’s a good example), but by and large, I really liked each “for” that the authors selected.

The artwork is great — it compliments the text well and will help keep shorter attention spans focused.

For everyone who enjoyed BNL’s “Crazy ABC’s”, this Picture Book entertains as well as educates. I’m not sure how well it’d work for the 7-and-under crowd, but for older elementary kids — and adults who just want a chuckle, this book will be just the ticket. I had a fun time reading it — as did my whole family. Unlike most of the picture books I post about here, you’ll note tat this one doesn’t carry any kind of disclaimer — I bought this one after seeing a couple of pieces about it online, and am glad I did. I imagine you will be, too.

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4 Stars

Kitties Are Not Good To Eat by Cassandra Gelvin: and other useful and cute advice on feline care for the younger set.

Kitties Are Not Good To EatKitties Are Not Good To Eat

by Cassandra Gelvin
Kindle Edition, 14 pg.
2018
Read: November 17, 2018

This is just adorable. That’s really all I have to say.

This is a board book — I’d honestly forgotten those existed — so dial those expectation in to the correct channel. This is a collection of cute cat pictures (you know, the things the Internet was full of before we entered the era of heightened political discourse we’re now in) that are sure to delight little kids. Accompanying these pictures are handy rhyming tips like, “Kitties were not made to fly / And they do not want to try.”

Maybe not advice you need, but for a 2 year-old this could be life changing stuff — life extending, even.

The photos are fun, the text is, too. I can’t imagine that the target audience of a board book (or their electronic equivalent) wouldn’t love to hear this read to them a few times a day. Potentially more importantly, this won’t become really annoying to the reader all that quickly (it will eventually, but what doesn’t?)

A cute book that will entertain and/or not annoy — that’s pretty much all you can hope for with a board book. Give this a shot.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest take.

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3 Stars

Be Brave, Little Puffy by Arline Cooper: A Cute Fish Tale

Be Brave, Little PuffyBe Brave, Little Puffy: Promoting Positive Body-Image and Self-Esteem

by Arline Cooper

Kindle Edition, 28 pg.
Ofek, 2018
Read: November 8, 2018

Puffy is a puffer fish with a little problem — he’s not terribly fond of his spines, if for no other reason than he’s frequently poking his friends with them. He leaves his fellow puffer fish to go on a journey to find other friends — maybe fish he won’t bother as much. Puffy encounters many other fish of various species in his effort to find a new group of friends he can live with. Eventually, naturally, he finds a way to win back his friends, and learn to accept his spines.

Each encounter is captured in a colorful drawing depicting the new species — attractive, fairly accurate and eye-catching.

It was a little wordier than most books for 4-8 year olds tend to be. Which isn’t a bad thing — just something I noticed. The thing that bothered me the most about this book was the pictures. I want to stress that this might just be a Kindle Version thing, and that other formats may not have the issue. But the pictures about each episode follow the encounter with the fish — so the visual aid comes too late. So you have to flip to the next screen before starting to read so you can see or show the fish in question, and then flip back to pick up the narration. Is this a problem? No, but it’s a pain — especially if your child/audience is impatient.

The pictures are also a little on the small side (yes, I know that can be changed for each picture as you go along, But it’d be nice if you didn’t have to do anything) — and they deserve a closer look than is easily possible.

Arline Cooper has the goods — story and pictures bother — to produce quality picture books, hopefully we see more. Quibbles aside, this is a fun book, a book I can see parents reading frequently — and kids demanding frequently. Nicely told, attractively illustrated, with a positive message — that’s a good combination.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion, as seen above.

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3 Stars

Bearded by Jeremy Billups: A Charming Picture Book about a Bearded Bear

Bearded

by Jeremy Billups

Hardcover, 34 pg.
Billups Creative, LLC, 2015
Read: September 5, 2018
Picture books about bears are everywhere — I have a hard time believing many kids get out of the picture book stage without exposure to at least 4 of them (and that’s before they’re at the Pooh or Paddington stage). But how many of those bears have been bearded?

Enter Jeremy Billups and his little book.

This is the story of a little red-haired girl (no, not that one) traveling the world with her bearded bear, having all sorts of adventures and meeting a bunch of different animals. There really isn’t a lesson, moral or much of a plot — just a bunch of quick looks at the pair. A few quick lines and a picture on each pair of pages.

The art is simple and arresting. They just pop off the page — this is one of those times I wish I had the necessary vocabulary to describe why I like the drawings, but I don’t. I bought a print of what turns ot to be page 16 before I even picked up the book to flip through. I’ve bought a handful of prints this year, and it’s my absolute favorite — I like it even more now that I’ve read the book. Also, If you ever see a better picture of someone making buffalo wings, I’ll eat my hat.

Oh, and the endorsements on the back cover are a lot of fun. If that doesn’t convince you to try it out, I can’t imagine what will.

Great art, cute story, fun rhymes — everything you want in a picture book. Even better — animals with beards are the best animals that aren’t dogs. This is a charming little book that’s sure to please.

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4 Stars

The Day That A Ran Away by B.C.R. Fegan, Lenny Wen: The Best Reasons (Excuses?) Schoolwork wasn’t Done that I’ve Ever Read

The Day That A Ran AwayThe Day That A Ran Away

by B.C.R. Fegan, Lenny Wen (Illustrator)

Kindle Edition, 32 pg.
TaleBlade Press, 2018
Read: July 9, 2018

Things are going bad for poor Jet — his teacher has noticed that he hasn’t finished his assignment of writing out the Alphabet. So he explains to Mrs. May that he did, in fact, do it, but . . . well, did you read the title? A ran away.

From there, Jet goes on to explain why each letter isn’t on his paper. D was scared, I just didn’t want to, something nefarious might have gone on with L, and so on. Each letter gets its own page with a fantastic picture personification and a line or two describing (in rhyme) why that letter didn’t make it onto the work.

Wen’s art is never not delightful, but I really enjoyed this one and have flipped through it a couple of times just to look at the drawings — I love the T and O characters in particular. I’m not sure I can describe it, it might take away from the value if I could — but T’s teeth are about the best bit of art I’ve seen this month. The details he fills the pages with are wonderful, eye-catching and will entertain adults as much as kids.

I’m a little surprised that I’ve become, at this stage in my life (my kids are teenagers or older) to become a fan of picture book creators — but these two have turned me into one. This book demonstrates why. Typical of Fegan and Wen, The Day A Ran Away this is imaginative, fun, and well-written. I cannot imagine a child of picture book age (and maybe a little older) not being entranced by the art, there’s plenty going on for parents/others to point out, and a story that’s fun enough to read that someone wouldn’t mind repeating a few dozen times — which is more important than non-parents can realize.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinions about this book.

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4 Stars