I Really Want to Be First!: A Really Bird Story

Really Bird promises to deliver surprise twists, high drama, and a lot of laughs, but it falls flat.

This story begins with an introduction of our three main characters. Really Bird, our protagonist who really wants to be first and his friends, Pup, and Cat. They banter back and forth through a couple of different scenarios like climbing up a tree. This situation is pretty unfair to Pup, the dog, who isn’t not only not good at climbing, but he’s terrified about being up on top of a tree. Really Bird has Cat help Pup down and then Cat celebrates herself for helping Pup. Pup is the only polite and considerate character in this book, as we see him say thank you to Cat for helping him down from the tree that he was peer pressured to climb up. 

Next, we see the characters argue about who was first on the ground. This short story concludes with Really Bird declaring that he was first, and that he is going to be the leader to take them all home. Really Bird wraps up this tale by happily announcing that he wanted to be first today and he was. 

This was a very poorly written book. It delivers a terrible message to young readers and fails to hold your attention despite it being such a quick read. I read this to my child and he was bored and confused with the ending. Additionally, I wish that the text used a consistent sentence case for young readers to see correctly written English, however many words or letters are capitalized when they are not part of a name or a title, for example “OKay” or “Today I really REALLY want to be First”. This may be providing a poor example for the children that this book is designed for to start learning correct sentence structure.

The artwork is very cute. The style is sure to please any child from the beginning inside cover showing our three main characters walking into the story, to the three of them leaving together on the back cover. The drawings are simple, cute and have a bright color theme throughout. This is a picture book, so there are no panels or typical graphic novel page organization. Lastly, the text is a cute, but a large and easy to read font. 

Overall, this book shows selfish characters getting what they want, an example of peer pressuring a friend into a dangerous situation, and celebrating getting to be first. The lesson for children to take away from this story is unclear, perhaps it’s that being first is the best? On the back cover it states that, “Really Bird adventures deliver surprise twists, high drama, and a lot of laughs. Friendship and emotional learning are at the heart of every book.” I missed where there was a plot twist, as the plot was completely predictable, there were absolutely no jokes or obvious humor, and I hope that children don’t learn anything about how to treat others in friendship from the examples in this book. As an avid reader, mother, and librarian, I have read thousands of picture books and this one unfortunately, I couldn’t possibly recommend. 

I Really Want to Be First!: A Really Bird Story Vol. 1
By Harriet Ziefert
Art by  Travis Foster
OtherRed Comet Press, 2022
ISBN: 9781636550183

Publisher Age Rating: 5-7

NFNT Age Recommendation: Picture Books (3-8)

The flower garden

This colorful graphic novel, a blend of beginning chapter book and picture book, opens with the ringing of an old-style cordless phone in a house in the woods. Tess, a little Black girl, hurries over to the house of her friend Anna, a white girl with a sweep of knee-length red hair.

Anna has heard that bees are in trouble and wants to help them, but Tess is kinda scared of bees! But Anna doesn’t have time to listen to her friend and drags her outside, along with her cat Tiger, to hastily plant some flower seeds, then fall asleep waiting for them to grow…

The next thing they know, they’ve shrunk in size. They meet Maple, a gnome with a pointed red hat and Asian features. Anna is thrilled to go on an adventure and explore with their new friend May, but Tess isn’t so sure it’s a good idea. Will Anna start listening to her friend or will Tess have to stand up for herself? And will they ever get home—and back to their right size again?

The art is definitely a draw here, with vibrantly colored flowers and lush greens popping off the page. Even the gnomes show a diversity of skin colors and all are drawn with the same, simple rectangular-shaped body. Various creatures appear on the pages, from spiders to foxes, and readers who like miniature items will be delighted by the cozy details of the gnomes’ underground dwelling.

There is an attempt at a gentle lesson, with Anna learning to listen to her friend Tess, but Tess is still somewhat stereotyped as the sidekick with Anna as the main character. On the one hand, Black girls are often portrayed as extroverts and quieter Tess breaks stereotypes in that way. On the other hand, she’s still not the main character in the story and even when exuberant Anna is apologizing, she still makes herself the center of attention. I would love to see a sequel with Tess as the main character.

This makes a sweet read-aloud or a gentle and engaging story for readers ready for simple chapters and those who enjoy nature, imagination, and detailed art. Fans of Poppy & Sam or the Moomins will enjoy this quiet story.

The Flower Garden
By Renee Kurilla
Abrams Amulet, 2022
ISBN: 9781419750205

Publisher Age Rating: ages 6-9

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Picture Books (3-8)

Tiny fox and great boar, vol 1: There

This collection of gentle, thoughtful stories paired with skillful watercolors will be visually appealing to certain audiences.

The first story is titled simply “Here.” With a burgundy leaf and a swipe of rich brown the reader is introduced to Tiny Fox who lives happily alone under an apple tree. Then Great Boar appears and Tiny Fox has to learn to share, but it is only when they are separated at the end of the chapter that Tiny Fox comes to appreciate his new companion. In the following brief stories, “Together,” “Apart,” and “There,” the two experience the beauties of autumn and the cold and hunger of winter, Together they find the courage to travel to find new adventures.

Tiny Fox’s coloring changes from pale browns to rich orange, but Great Boar retains his reddish brown hue throughout the story. Their comparative sizes vary; on the cover, Tiny Fox sits daintily on Great Boar’s snout, but throughout the story he appears at only a fraction of Great Boar’s size, curled in a disconsolate ball, or trotted cautiously behind his new friend. Great Boar, shown with a scattering of bristles and a fang-like tusk, trots about on short, stubby legs, but nevertheless is able to scale a tree, roll down a hill, and curl up comfortingly beside Tiny Fox.

There is no translator listed, although the text appears to have been translated from the Polish; an edition was also published in Spanish in 2021. Besides the illustration for a picture book, That Night, A Monster, this appears to be the first appearance of award-winning artist Kolomycka in a mainstream US press. The beginning of each story has text boxes with simple explanatory sentences, explaining that Tiny Fox is happy alone, that winter is coming and it is cold. The large panels and full-page spreads transition to smaller panels, sometimes wordless, showing the two friends navigating the seasonal challenges and quietly discussing whether they should leave their apple tree, where to find food, and which direction they want to travel in. Only one other creature, an owl, appears near the end of the story to offer advice after they quarrel. Both Tiny Fox and Great Boar use male pronouns.

There’s a gentle humor in the illustrations of Great Boar and Tiny Fox rolling down a hill, their wary, sidewise glances, and their scrambling attempts to climb a tree, but this is more of a gentle story of friendship and the changing seasons. Readers who are more familiar and comfortable with the raucous humor of Dog Man or the clear-cut art and brief text of beginning graphic novels like Cranky Chicken and Narwhal and Jelly are unlikely to be drawn towards this more European conception of comic art, but those who enjoy quieter, more reflective stories and the slow passage of seasons will find this a restful and satisfying story.

Hand this to young readers who enjoy the variety of art styles seen in Toon Books or the quirkier stories of Graphic Universe. This would also pair well with units on art styles and watercolors and the timeless, philosophical story will appeal to some older readers as well.

Tiny Fox and Great Boar, vol 1: There
By Berenika Kolomycka
Oni Press, 2022
ISBN: 9781637150207

Publisher Age Rating: age 6+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Picture Books (3-8)
Creator Representation:  Polish

Glam Prix Racers

Get ready to race alongside the Glam Prix Racers! This beginning graphic novel, first in a trilogy written by Deanna Kent with art by Neil Hoosan, is a rip-roaring fun time in a sparkly, candy colored world made up of magical creatures and their very animated cars. 

The story kicks off with our announcer, Zyah, showing us the map of the worlds where the Glam Prix is raced. We meet who we’ll be rooting for, the titular Glam Prix Racers, ten teammates who work in pairs together to score the final prize, the Glam Prix Cup. Each team of two is introduced via their skill measurement bars, along with their motto. It’s a quick, memorable introduction to the characters and works well for younger readers who will want to flip back to remember who is the best at what. 

Before the race itself can kick off, all team members must check in at headquarters by a certain time or else their entire team will be disqualified. Things really get moving as Mio and Mudwick go up against the clock, a swarm of bubblebees, and mysterious gears on the ocean’s floor to make it to headquarters on time. Once everyone is checked in, Queen Tallulah introduces all the teams participating and lays out the details for the race ahead of them. 

The Glam Prix Racers quickly realize winning this season of racing might not be as easy as expected when they meet their newest rivals, the Vroombot Crew. This team of mischievous robots, led by a tiny mastermind, has evil plans to destroy the chances of their opposition and are our heroes’ main foes. There is one member of the Vroombot Crew who really just wants to dance it out, which is a fun running gag through the book. 

As the first race of the season begins, readers find more of this magical world coming to life as the racers drive into the Fancy Forest. Coming in first place time wise isn’t a guaranteed win in these races. Teams must also complete side quests along the way. These side quests bring even more characters into the world, including a confused ogre, excitable glittershrooms, and extremely irritated hangry monsters. The introduction of the side quests also give the story more detail, so readers aren’t just reading along with a simple race against the clock. 

Even with this race finished, the Vroombots promise their revenge, setting readers up for another visit to the Glam Prix Racers world. At its heart, this story is about teamwork and how friendship can help you always win. Young readers who enjoy playing Mario Kart will find themselves drawn to this enchanting world, as will ones who appreciate a story about working together or ones with fantastical creatures of all sorts. There’s even a fun hidden gnome search at the end of the book, giving readers the chance to go back through the world all over again! 

Kent’s writing is silly and fun without being too saccharine and works well with Hoosan’s colorful, bubbly art. The color palette fluctuates with each new challenge the racers face. There’s some great work with darkness and shadows in the spookier parts of the story. The characters jump off the page and will certainly inspire some readers to give drawing them themselves a shot. 

Fans of stories with adventure, fantasy worlds, and friendship will find an exciting read in Glam Prix Racers and will find themselves ready to follow the team as they start their next adventure. 

Glam Prix Racers Vol. 1
By Deanna Kent
Art by  Neil Hoosan
Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, 2021
ISBN: 9781250265388

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Picture Books (3-8)

Every Little Kindness

Every Little Kindness is a gorgeous wordless picture book that shows how a small act of kindness can spread. The book opens with a girl preparing posters of her lost dog to place around town. Along her way, she offers an apple to a street musician. A passerby sees this gesture and follows suit by picking up garbage. This action is seen by a small boy who in turn buys a balloon for a girl whose balloon has floated away. The chain of kind deeds continues throughout the book and comes full-circle when someone returns the lost dog to its owner.

The illustrations, created in pencil, ink, acrylic, and watercolor are primarily gray hues with accents of red, yellow, and blue. The city setting is muted and soft, while the doer of each kind action is highlighted with an article of red. This draws the eye to the important action in this wordless story. The effect of the color scheme is also to show how hope and beauty can be found even in dreary surroundings, or difficult situations.

Every Little Kindness is a stellar example of the power of a wordless book to communicate both a plot and theme with absolute clarity. Not only is this book a joy to experience, but it is an excellent tool for helping young people practice visual literacy. The illustrations are winsome, drawing the reader into the story of each character, especially the lost dog and its owner. Overall, this book is an excellent addition to any collection for young readers.


Every Little Kindness
By Marta Bartolj
Chronicle Books, 2021
ISBN: 9781797207926
Publisher Age Rating: 5-8

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Picture Books (3-8)
Creator Representation: Slovak

Sir Ladybug

Tiny hero Sir Ladybug and his friends are always in search of a grand quest, aiming for truth and justice to be served, with a laugh or two along the way. Here, we have a brand new graphic novel series to add to your elementary library collection.

This tale starts off with lots of comedy, as we’re introduced to Sir Ladybug, Pell the herald (a bug who hollers about things) and Sterling the snail. These chatty friends are in search of a worthy quest when one stumbles upon them, but it turns out to be a much bigger quest than they were expecting or hoping for. They have to keep their wits, so that they can stick together to face this big monster, or, as it’s more commonly known, a Chick-a-dee. They all take cover in Sterling’s snail shell which turns out to be quite the spacious abode, with a hot tub room and a vroom closet. However, they quickly find themselves stir crazy and work to hatch a plan to get out of the shell safely. The plan, of course, involves cake. This delightful and short story closes with more cute comedy. 

Adorable bugs, birds and snails fill the pages of this children’s comic, with a simple color palette of just a handful of shades used throughout the entire work. Full page chapter title pages divide up the story, and are filled with subtle jokes, foreshadowing, and fun. Corey R. Tabor, winner of the prestigious American Library Association’s Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, brings his experience creating imaginative adventures with plucky little birds and zooming foxes to life for young readers. 

The Sir Ladybug series is off to a strong start. I see a lot of potential for silliness from these characters in the future installments. I would highly recommend adding this comic book to your collection. It’s a wonderful short read about friendship, working together through big challenges, and cake.


Sir Ladybug
By Corey R. Tabor
Balzer + Bray, 2022
ISBN: 9780063069060
Publisher Age Rating: 6 – 10

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11), Picture Books (3-8)

Wildflowers

Author and illustrator Ricardo Liniers Siri, better known as simply Liniers, gives us a glimpse into his magical, imaginative mind in this delightful beginner reader comic. He is becoming more and more of a well-known name in the literary world as he receives more acclaim with each work he publishes. He won the Eisner Award for Best Comics for Beginning Readers for his second book, Good Night, Planet

Wildflowers starts off with a page of wordless panels showing dramatic smoke coming from a lone tropical island. The smoke turns out to be coming from a plane crash where, luckily, three sisters have survived unharmed. They find themselves in a magical kind of world, full of exotic and wild plants. Are the plants speaking to them? Are there dragons on the island? The girls have so much to explore. The adventure really picks up when they discover a tiny home built into the bottom of a tree where it’s beginning to split into large, old roots. There they find a pocket gorilla living inside. Every page of this story is filled with creative wonders that readers of any age will enjoy.

What a delightful, beautiful little book. The artistic style brings you back to older style gardening books with lots of lines to indicate shadow and details in the leaves, petals of the flowers and insects. Yet, there is a modern take to this style that includes the adorable characters. It is filled with vibrant colors and a lot of detail to catch the eye. 

Overall, this is a wonderful short comic. I would certainly check out the rest of Liniers’ Toon Books, including the books, The Big Wet Balloon, Written and Drawn by Henrietta, and Good Night Planet. Wildflowers is a level 2 reader which is recommended for grades 1-2, reading recovery level 11-18, and guided reading level G-K. This makes it very easy to determine if the reading level is appropriate. The story is fun and the characters are colorful in personality as well as in artistic style. It would be a superb addition to any children’s library collection.


Wildflowers
By Liniers
TOON Books, 2021
ISBN: 9781943145539

Publisher Age Rating:  6 – 9
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11), Picture Books (3-8)