Gnu and Shrew (Danny Schnitzlein)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Gnu and Shrew, written by Danny Schnitzlein and illustrated by Anca Sandu, a tale of ingenuity and perseverance.

As pals Gnu and Shrew rest beside a wide, crocodile-infested river, Gnu relates a tale he has heard – that in a cave on the opposite bank, there hides a wealth of diamonds. Gnu decides that he will find a way to cross the dangerous river and procure the diamonds, and then he and Shrew can reap the rewards of newfound wealth. However, Gnu’s attempts are half-hearted at best: he begins to dig a tunnel, but either he is too tired, or the weather is too rainy, or he is too busy with other distractions to finish it. Shrew, however, is busy industriously building a sturdy boat to brave the waters, using his friend’s musings on how to spend their wealth as inspiration (and ignoring Gnu’s repeated insistence that Shrew is too small and weak to accomplish anything on his own). Which of the friends will make their way to the diamonds first?

An interesting twist on a classic parable. Much like Aesop’s “The Ant and The Grasshopper”, the resolution of the tale shows that Gnu’s lack of follow-though and preoccupation with dreams over action is ultimately fruitless, while the inventive and ingenious Shrew’s efforts net him both the riches and and a happily-ever-after. Minor differences – such as the character’s enduring (if confusing) friendship and the focus on inspiration and innovation give the story a unique twist. The illustrations are cute, giving the characters – especially Gnu – a great deal of expression and charm. The length is fine for a quick storytime, and JJ enjoyed it. An effective re-telling of a timeless lesson, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Lana Lynn Howls At The Moon (Rebecca Van Slyke)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Lana Lynn Howls At The Moon, written by Rebecca Van Slyke and illustrated by Anca Sandu, a tale of lamby rebellion.

While the other sheep may be content to spend their days grazing in the fields or napping in the shade, Lana Lynn longs for more. Her best friend Shawn tries to encourage her to follow the norm, but Lana Lynn can’t help her thirst for adventure. Sneaking off one night, she discovers a strange, furry blanket the farmer has left out (actually a wolf-skin). Donning her “wolf’s clothing”, Lana runs though the deep dark woods, howling at the moon and living her dreams. She’s so convincing, in fact, that a wolfpack invites her to run with them, then back to their den for dinner. Lana is excited… until she realizes what – or rather WHO’S – on the menu.

This is a strange little book; entertaining, but occasionally and questionably dark. Finding that an innocent squirrel and bunny – as well as her BFF Shawn – are on the dinner table, Lana grabs her pal and skedaddles (leaving the other two animals to be devoured, presumably). There’s also the glossed-over fact that, you know, Lana is wearing the SKIN of a dead wolf during her escapade. That’s not to say that the story doesn’t have its charms: the lesson in moderation, the adorable characters, the clever twist on the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” fable, and a SOLID pun in the form of Lana Lynn’s name. However, it may also lead to some rather uncomfortable questions for the unprepared caregiver. Still, JJ really liked this one, and honestly, I did too; it’s a fun mix of dark humor with an intrepid female protagonist at a good storytime length. Definitely skim this one first to decide if it’s right for your little reader, but for us, it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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