The Shapes Of Spring (Jill Howarth)

Hello, friends! Hope you all had a hoppy holiday weekend! Our book today is The Shapes Of Spring by Jill Howarth, the latest in her series of delightful, season-themed board books.

Spring has sprung, and with it all sorts of things to do! Egg hunts, gardening, flying kites, and generally just getting out to enjoy the warming weather. And as one little bunny does all these things with her fellow animal pals, there are plenty of shapes all around to spot! Circles can be cabbages and fruits in the garden, diamonds are kites and fresh green leaves, and of course all those oval-shaped eggs in the basket! Come along and help little bunny spot all the shapes of spring!

Adorable. Howarth’s early-learning books – which have previously featured letters, numbers, colors, etc. for different seasons and their holidays – are always a bright and colorful treat. And with spring as the subject, her classic storybook- inspired artwork sings with every hue of the rainbow, creating vivid scenes with endearing animal characters and, of course, plenty of shapes to spot. In fact, one of the notable aspects are how MANY shapes included in each spread: there are dozens in each scene, allowing for the board book to be a quick read or a lengthy seek-and-find, depending on what the reader is in the mood for. An egg hunt is included yet not specified as an Easter celebration, and otherwise no specific secular holidays are highlighted. JJ loved the little animals, and I loved encouraging her to find shapes both obvious and more hidden; it made for some great critical thinking. Another winner, and we loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Circle (Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, third in their wonderfully odd Shape trilogy.

Circle is.. well, a circle. She is friends with Triangle and Square (the protagonists of the previous two books), and they often play together. One day, they meet up near Circle’s waterfall to play a game of hide-and-seek, and Circle warns them not to go behind the waterfall because it’s dark. Once she’s done counting, she opens her eyes to find Square in the exact same spot; he informs her that Triangle has gone behind the waterfall. Circle goes in after him, calling out his name as it becomes so dark that only the whites of her eyes can be seen. Spotting Triangle’s matching eyes, she scolds him for running off and worrying her and Square. Caught up in the moment, she insults him, but is quick to make amends. Triangle appears just in time to forgive her – but wait a minute. If those extra eyes weren’t Triangle’s…

I absolutely adore Barnett and Klassen’s work together, which is a perfect blend of Barnett’s hilariously dry, deadpan humor and Klassen’s simple and minimalist, yet rich and visually distinctive design. And for the majority of Circle, they do not disappoint: I found myself giggling at the dialogue (especially as Circle and Triangle realize they are not alone) or how Klassen can deftly convey a character’s intent or emotion with a slight tweak of their eyes. However, where the pair often nail their endings (Sam And Dave Dig A Hole’s is masterful), this one felt a little incomplete. Just as Circle makes a poignant observation that she and Triangle were afraid and ran from the strange shape, despite not knowing anything about it, the next page is an interactive line encouraging the reader to imagine what the strange shape may have been, then the book ends. As a conclusion, it was a little unsatisfying, and while the pair aren’t afraid of an open ending (again, Sam And Dave – read it), this one just felt too abrupt. Still, the rest of the book is just as enjoyable and odd as ever, the length is great, and JJ got quite a few laughs out of it as well. So overall, we’ll call this one Baby Bookworm approved!

Square (Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Square by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, another strange and funny story from the duo that brought you Triangle.

Square is a simple shape. Each morning, he wakes up, chooses one of the cube-shaped rocks from inside his cave, and slowly but surely pushes it up the hill to a pile he’s made at the summit. This is his work. That is, until one day Circle floats by. Mistaking the naturally square-shaped rock for a sculpture, she declares Square a genius, and asks for a likeness of her own. Square tries all night to carve a sculpture of Circle, but just breaks the rock into a mess of rubble. Despondent, Square falls asleep, being awoken by Circle the next morning. He shamefully shows her his work, but she has a unexpected reaction that leaves Square even more confused.

I’ve written before about how much I love Klassen and Barnett’s work, both individually and as collaborators. Their signature dry humor combined with unique stories that often unfold in bizarre and hilarious ways always makes us smile. Klassen’s minimalist art style of simple characters against rich backgrounds, impeccable use of white space, and using eyes and body language to convey emotion is always a treat, and JJ is always enthralled by it. This one has a sort of odd, existential ending that may not satisfy every little bookworm, but will do for plenty (I thought it was hilarious). The length is fine, and once again Barnett and Klassen have given us an amusingly peculiar tale that’s a welcome departure from the norm; we loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

Triangle (Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen)

Hello, friends! Today, we read Triangle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, a fun little adventure of two mischievous shapes and their unusual homes.

The book introduces us to Triangle, who is a triangle. He lives in a triangle house with a triangle door. One day, he leaves home to play a sneaky trick on his friend, Square, passing through landscapes of triangles (small, medium, and big), squares, and even some shapes that don’t have names. At last, he arrives at Square’s house, where he hides and makes snake noises to frighten his friend (Square is deathly afraid of snakes, you see). After his initial fright, Square scolds Triangle, giving chase and following him back across the distance to Triangle’s house, hoping to find some revenge.

Like many of Barnett and especially Klassen’s books, it’s really hard to do the book justice in a plot summary – the charm is in the unusual characters, strange environments, and deadpan humor. But this one is a charmer – a whimsically silly story with droll text, accompanied by offbeat yet oddly soothing art. It’s a good length for little readers, and JJ enjoyed it. This is a subtle book, but decidedly fun and silly, and makes for an enjoyable read. We can recommend it, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!