Reviews of the 2023 Geisel Award Winners


I Did It! [I Like to Read: Comics]
by Michael Emberley; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Holiday    40 pp.    g
9/22    978-0-8234-4651-3    $14.99

A red-nosed creature wearing a green-and-purple-striped onesie attempts a series of activities: building a tall block tower, climbing a rope and a tree, catching a ball. Each try begins with optimism (“I can do it!” “Can I do it?” “I want to do it!” “I think I can do it”) but ends with frustration and discouragement: “I can’t do it!” Early efforts at bike riding seem similarly destined for disappointment — but the positive difference in outcome is a product of perseverance. Although the results aren’t yet mastery level, the protagonist — with a little help from friends raccoon, robot, elephant, penguin, and alligator — gains confidence and enjoyment without the pressure of perfection. The all-dialogue text, with just a handful of words in total, is easy to read and will give new readers, too, the self-assurance finally enjoyed by our main character. Lively cartoony illustrations with plenty of white space provide humor and relatability. The creature’s emotions are on full display (e.g., when it kicks over the block tower; walking, slumped shouldered, away from an uncaught ball), making its ultimate triumph that much sweeter. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

Gigi and Ojiji [I Can Read Book]
by Melissa Iwai; illus. by the author
Primary    Harper/HarperCollins*    32 pp.
5/22    9780063208063    $16.99
Paper ed.  9780063208056    $4.99
e-book ed.  9780063208070    $4.99


*HarperCollins Union members (UAW Local 2110) continue to be on strike.




Owl and Penguin [I Like to Read: Comics]
by Vikram Madan; illus. by the author
Primary    Holiday    40 pp.
9/22    9780823451500    $14.99








Fish and WaveFish and Wave [I Can Read!: Comics]
by Sergio Ruzzier; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    HarperAlley/HarperCollins*    48 pp.   g
5/22    978-0-06-307667-9    $16.99
Paper ed.  978-0-06-307666-2    $4.99

Fish (Fish and Sun, rev. 9/21) wakes up early to search for a new friend, and the first potential pal he finds is a wave. Wave starts as a nonthreatening little bump on the water, with a button nose and two dots for eyes. But then, as waves do, she swells, rising to several times her original size and crashing down on Fish, frightening him. ­Ruzzier’s illustrations feature minimal ink lines and watercolor washes in groovy pastels that bleed into each other and let the texture of the paper show through, adding warmth and visual interest to this comic for the newest readers. Each spread features one panel; the illustrations do most of the work, and the rest of the story comes in speech bubbles (one or two per panel) that lean heavily on sight words and repetition. When Wave rises again, she and Fish talk about their ­feelings and find a way to allow friendship to blossom and flourish through the cycle of a wave’s inevitable fluctuations. Unlikely duos sorting out how to have fun together are a staple of the beginning reader genre, and this story has added depth in its assertion that ­sometimes the best way to play is to go with the flow. ADRIENNE L. PETTINELLI

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

*HarperCollins Union members (UAW Local 2110) continue to be on strike.


A Seed GrowsA Seed Grows
by Antoinette Portis; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Porter/Holiday    40 pp.    g
6/22    978-0-8234-4892-0    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-5307-8    $11.99

With her latest science-focused picture book, Portis (Hey, Water!, rev. 3/19) continues to introduce very young readers and listeners to the wonders of nature. Here she details the life cycle of a sunflower in ten sequential steps. Each left-hand page features a single phrase (“a seed falls” / “and settles in the soil”), with the ­facing page showing a bright, uncluttered ­illustration mirroring the action. The story’s climax — the blossoming of a flower — is shown in a gorgeous vertical spread that lifts up to announce this glorious event. The patterned text creates an internal rhythm pleasant to hear, while the single phrases on each line help emergent readers focus on both the flow and meaning of the words. Key words (seed, soil, sun, rain) are color coded to the accompanying illustration, thus reinforcing the use of context clues. The narrative concludes with birds dispersing the seeds from our flower and beginning the process anew. Back matter consists of a pictorial life cycle of the sunflower, truncating the steps from the text to present a helpful visual capture of the book’s information. An accompanying diagram of the parts of a sunflower may require adult guidance, as may two charts: one showing the parts of a seed and the other listing what seeds need to sprout. A bibliography completes the book. Clear, engaging, beautiful, and perfectly pitched to its young audience — simply brilliant. BETTY CARTER

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


For more, click on the tag ALA LibLearnX 2023.

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