Monday, November 30, 2009

The Sound of Music

A Classic Collectible Pop-Up: The Sound of Music. By Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lindsay & Crouse. Adapted by Bert Fink. Illustrated by Dan Andreasen. Paper Engineering by Bruce Foster. 2009. Simon & Schuster. October 2009. 14 pages.

If you love the Sound of Music, then this really is a must-have. I love, love, love the Sound of Music. So this book made me giddy. Very, very giddy. In the must-show-to-all-my-friends way. This book brings all your favorite movie scenes to life. Each scene pops-up to reveal in wonderful detail the oh-so-magical story of Maria. (It would be hard to pick a favorite spread. Though the twirling Maria from the opening spread is a wonderful representation of how right this one is.) The story has been adapted and is told within the book--very cleverly in my opinion--in the mini-pop-ups/flaps. All the lyrics are included as well. Which was very nice.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Scarecrow's Dance

Yolen, Jane. 2009. The Scarecrow's Dance. Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Simon & Schuster.

The Scarecrow's Dance is a seasonal picture book in verse. Jane Yolen can be quite poetic at times. And some of her books really wow me. (But this one wasn't one of them.)

Here's how it begins:

An autumn eve,
The moon was high,
As yellow as
A black cat's eye.

Out in the field,
Stiff and forlorn,
The scarecrow stood
And watched the corn.

This scarecrow is about to be brought to life by the wind. And oh how he loves dancing and prancing--being free. But can a little boy's prayers bring the scarecrow back to his pole in the field?

What I liked best about this one is the art. I love Bagram Ibatoulline. His artwork wows me every time. It's oh-so-amazing. The richness of the colors and the details. The way he has in bringing the heart of any story to life. So I appreciated that aspect of this one. But the story itself--the text--didn't move me.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekly Geeks: 2009-43 (Top Ten Lists)

My top ten children's books:

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas (Picture Book)
My Elephant by Petr Horacek. (Picture Book)
1000 Times No by Tom Warburton (Picture Book)
A Mighty Fine Time Machine. Suzanne Bloom (Picture Book)
All God's Critters by Bill Staines. (Picture Book)
Binky The Space Cat by Ashley Spires (Picture Book)
Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman (Picture Book)
How To Get Married by Me the Bride by Sally Lloyd-Jones (Picture Books)
Max Spaniel: Dinosaur Hunt by David Catrow (Early Reader)
Where's Tumpty by Polly Dunbar (Early Reader)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Here Comes The Big, Mean, Dust Bunny!

Thomas, Jan. 2009. Here Comes The Big, Mean Dust Bunny! Simon & Schuster.

I loved the dust bunnies first adventure: Rhyming Dust Bunnies. And I loved this second one as well. Who knew that rhyming could be so very fun?! So very entertaining?! Ed, Ned, Ted, and Bob are back! And there is plenty more rhyming fun to be had. But someone doesn't like all the rhyming. Someone in their midst is in a very bad mood. That someone would be the BIG and MEAN dust bunny. For some reason, he just doesn't want to sit around playing rhyming games. And because that's the kind of guy he is, he doesn't want Ed, Ned, Ted, and Bob to have any fun either.

Want to play a rhyming game?
Come on!
What rhymes with fit?
I know!
Yes, the big, mean dust bunny squashes the other four by sitting on them! Can these dust bunnies make a new friend out of this grump?

This one is fun and playful. Definitely recommended!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rhyming Dust Bunnies

Thomas, Jan. 2009. Rhyming Dust Bunnies. Simon & Schuster.

I don't think I've always been good when it comes to reviewing Jan Thomas, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Jan Thomas. And this one is no exception. In this book, we are introduced to four very colorful (and rhyming) dust bunnies.

Hello! We are Ed, Ned, Ted...and Bob. We rhyme all the time!
As you can see--from the start--one of the dust bunnies isn't quite like the others. Poor Bob! But it is because he is different from the others that makes this one so very funny and charming.

What do I mean? Well, let's go back to the text:

Hey! What rhymes with car?
Anyway, this one is a LOT of fun. These lovable little dust bunnies are guys I would have just been crazy about as a kid. Hey, I love them now!!!

I would definitely recommend this one.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales

Cousins, Lucy. 2009. Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales. Candlewick Press. 121 pages.

Lucy Cousins (perhaps best known for her Maisy books) brings us eight (familiar) tales in this bright and bold collection for young readers. The tales included are: Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Enormous Turnip, Henny Penny, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Little Red Hen, The Three Little Pigs, and The Musicians of Bremen. (I only wish she'd chosen to include The Gingerbread Boy.)

Cousins' stories are a bit more violent than some contemporary retellings. She doesn't shy away from death and violence. (Though not each tale is violent. It's really just Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs that are. Her wolves are definitely in the big and bad category.)

The text of each story is simple and straightforward.

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Little Red Riding Hood. Her mother asked her to take a basket of food through the woods to her grandmother, who was ill. Little Red Riding Hood had not gone far when she met a wolf.
What did I like best about this one? The illustrations! If you like Cousins' bright, bold, and colorful and larger-than-life (almost) illustrations. (Illustrations that command your attention right from the start.) Then you'll appreciate this collection of stories.

This is another impressive title by Candlewick Press.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cat On The Mat Is Flat

Griffiths, Andy. 2007. Cat On The Mat Is Flat. Illustrated by Terry Denton. Feiwel and Friends. 167 pages.

This early reader is heavily illustrated. So don't be intimidated by its length! It's a fun little collection of stories--rhyming stories--that are just about right. Mostly. I read The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow first. So I was comparing this earlier effort with his newest effort. But I *still* think this one is a lot of fun. There are nine little rhyming stories in all. Some stories have more substance than others. But all are simple and meant to appeal to a young audience.

My personal favorite is Bill and Phil and the Very Big Hill. I just thought that one was hilarious.

Here's how it starts out:

There was a man.
His name was Bill.
Bill had a friend.
His name was Phil.

One day Bill and his friend Phil
climbed to the top of a very big hill.
"I dare you to roll down the hill,"
said Bill.
"I will if you will, Bill,"
said Phil.
"I will if you will, Phil,"
said Bill.

So Bill and Phil rolled down the hill.

Of course that is just the start of this story. With nine stories, there is something for everyone, I think. You may not love all of the stories. But there will probably be a few--at least--that you think work.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Beast of Blackslope

Barrett, Tracy. 2009. The Sherlock Files: The Beast of Blackslope. Henry Holt. 174 pages.

This is the second in a mystery series. The first is The 100 Year Old Secret. Xander and Xena are a brother-sister detective team. Descendants of the great Sherlock Holmes. They inherited his book of 'unsolved cases' in the first book, and are back for their second adventure. These two (along with their parents) are visiting a not-so-cozy bed and breakfast in the country. They hear a strange and frightening noise one day, and then begin to hear rumors of a beast. Thanks to a superb memory, one of the two remembers that Sherlock Holmes tried to solve this case a hundred years ago--a case of a strange beast in this area--but couldn't. Can these two figure out both mysteries--the identity of the beast then and now?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No Girls Allowed (Dogs Okay)

Trueit, Trudi. 2009. Secrets of a Lab Rat: No Girls Allowed (Dogs Okay). Simon & Schuster. 118 pages.

I think this one might work for the younger crowd (especially boys). But the immature humor could limit the appeal for everyone else. What this one has working for it is some kid appeal. I think the easy-and-obvious jokes (bantering) could appeal to some readers. Not to this reader. But to some readers. Our hero is a young boy, Scab, who loves, loves, loves to drive his sister (his twin sister), Isabelle, crazy. He's always thinking of a hundred different ways to annoy, frustrate, and/or torture his sister. These pranks and inventions are never-ending. (Which is tiresome in a way.) This book is about one of his inventions. He wants to invent a spray (or perfume) to drive away sisters. He accidentally is successful on this one when he starts selling this sister-repellent to other boys at his school. Unfortunately, it's named after his sister, and she's not laughing about it. Can this brother grow a heart and work up an apology? Or is he a hopeless case?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Funeral Director's Son

Paratore, Coleen Murtagh. 2009. The Funeral Director's Son. 136 pages. Simon & Schuster.

This one falls into the cute but not quite for me category. What it does have going for it, in my opinion, is its light, conversational often-humorous narrative style. I think you'll see what I mean right from the start:

I spend a lot of time thinking about f-words.
Food. Friends. Fun.
And funerals.
That's right, funerals.
Our narrator is Christopher (Kip) and he's just turned twelve. He doesn't want to go into the family business. He doesn't care how many generations back the business goes. He knows there must be more to life than burying other folks.

How does Kip contribute to the family business? Well, he talks to dead people. (In a way. He hears a voice that tells him what the dead person *needs* to cross over to the other side.) So he helps the dead take care of their unfinished business; he helps unburden the dead. So there are several different adventures in the book where he does just that.

The narrator does make this a fun and easy read. So I can see why readers could get hooked.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dessert First

Durand, Hallie. 2009. Dessert First. Simon & Schuster. 151 pages.

I don't know if Mrs. Howdy Doody is her real God-given name or not, but on the very first day of third grade, our teacher told us to call her that She also told us, on that very first day, to march to our own drummers.

This book was satisfying. Dessert Schneider, the narrator, just charmed me through and through. It's one of those books that I wished I could have read as a kid. Because I know that while I liked it now as an adult, I would have been crazy about it as a kid. I'm not sure exactly why. Sure it is a great book that is passionate about food--about desserts to be exact--but I think it goes beyond that. I think it is Dessert herself. I can see myself in her. She's so perfectly imperfect. So lovably flawed. She doesn't always do the right thing, say the right thing. She makes mistakes. And, on a good day, she recognizes that and tries to fix it. I like that she's unique. That she has her own way of seeing the world.

I don't know that I can pinpoint exactly what this one is about. It sounds silly to say it's about an 8 year old learning some important life lessons. Because while Dessert does learn from some of her mistakes, the book isn't about her learning from mistakes. (In an oh-so-didactic way). It's about Dessert, about her family, about her teacher, about a school project, about life itself.

The project is asking the students to give up something that they love for two weeks. Each day they succeed, their sponsor(s) give a designated amount of money. ($2 a day for not doing whatever it is, for example.) Dessert struggles with what to give up. Because while she thinks the prize is good (they're raising money for something for the playground I believe), she doesn't want to give up something too big (like desserts), but she can't be too obvious about giving up something too small. (Like mayonnaise.) What's a girl to do?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dog Whisperer: The Rescue

Edwards, Nicholas. 2009. Dog Whisperer: The Rescue. Squarefish. 216 pages.

Emily was drowning.

I'll be honest right from the start. I just didn't like this one. The premise--just so you can decide for yourselves if this is something you'd want to pick up--is that Emily is a young girl who finds a stray dog, Zach. The two are psychically (telepathically) linked. (She feels what he feels, smells what he smells, dreams what he dreams, craves what he craves, etc.)
Emily doesn't just find him, she rescues him. She was having a recurring dream of drowning, and awakes with the knowledge that there is something (or someone) that needs her. So she goes out exploring on the coast in the dark--in the middle of a storm--and finds this large dog. She risks her own life to save this dog. And it's touch and go for a bit on whether Zach will survive the trauma. But with Emily by his side, with her strength and love and hope guiding him, maybe just maybe he will.

I think the book has several issues. I think in some ways it tries to do too much. There in the middle it gets a bit muddled. It becomes more than a girl meets dog story. Emily, a biracial child who was adopted by a white couple, has some moments. The book focuses in on the "issues" of being biracial, being biracial in a mostly-white town, being biracial and adopted, and just plain old being adopted. I don't have a problem with the introduction of these issues. But they weren't evenly woven into the plot. (At least not that I can recall. I could be wrong though).

I also think the plot could have been tighter. I think this one loses its way in a few places. There are paragraphs--pages even--where the text just rambles on and on and on and on. This information doesn't move the plot in any direction at all. We've got some irrelevant over-sharing going on. I don't know if this falls into the too much showing or too much telling side of things. I just think if the text had a bit more editing, it would help things out overall.

The ending. It was a bit too much for me. Maybe it wouldn't be if I was 8. But I felt it was oh so predictable, and way over the top.

I admit I'm way over the target age group for this one. This is a children's book. And if I was in grade school, I might have a completely different response to this one. (It's possible at least. Though I never was one for books with dogs on the cover because I was the child afraid (even from page one) that the dog would end up dying. And I couldn't handle that. So why risk it?!) It is the start of a series, I believe. And for young readers that love animals, love dogs, and are in a series-phase anyway, I could see this one having some appeal. So just because this one didn't thrill me doesn't mean it won't work for you.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ruby Flips for Attention

Barnes, Derrick. 2009. Ruby and the Booker Boys: Ruby Flips for Attention. Scholastic. 130 pages.

"Those are our seats. Right there! Right there!" I yelled, and pointed after I zoomed through the big red gym doors.

Ruby is super excited about seeing her cousin Kee-Kee's drill team perform. The uniforms. The dancing. The flipping. The stomping. Wow. Ruby is just wowed. She so wants to be like Kee-Kee. Wants to start her own drill-team. Wants to have her own flashy uniform. Wants to perform, wants to wow. But there are a few problems. There's not all that many kids in her neighborhood that are interested. And then there's the fact that Ruby doesn't know how to dance, flip, or cheer. Is there more to being on the drill team than dancing? performing? What is this spirit stuff all about anyway?

Can Ruby learn that it takes more than a few flips to be great? Ruby is an enthusiastic narrator with a big heart for her family and friends.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Young Readers Challenge

Young Readers Challenge
Hosted by Becky of Becky's Book Reviews
January - December 2010
Read 12 Children's Books

Think of this as referring to the "E" (Easy) and "J" (Juvenile or Junior) sections of the library.

Sign up by leaving a comment.
You do not have to have a blog.
You may keep in touch and leave links to your reviews.
*But* no reviews are required.

A list is not required. Choose what you like. Choose as you go. Or plan it all out now. Whatever you want.

You may leave LINKS TO REVIEWS in the MckLinky below. Sign up by leaving a comment though.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Under the Star

Yolen, Jane. 2009. Under the Star. Illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen. Key Porter Kids.

This one is a "Christmas Counting Story." It falls into the very simple category. (That's not a bad thing necessarily. Complex and busy aren't always good things.) It's repetitive. It follows a clear pattern. (Which can be a very good thing when reading to young ones.) This means that young ones (who can't *read* yet) can still join in on reading it.

Under the star, under the star,
One angel sees a manger afar.

Under the star, under the star,
Two shepherds see a manger afar.

Under the star, under the star,
Three wise men see a manger afar.

Because it is a counting book, it keeps the Christmas story very simple. This won't tell you much about who the Baby Jesus is--who his parents were--or anything. But it works, in a way.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Seeing Stick

Yolen, Jane. 2009. The Seeing Stick. Illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini. Running Press.

I just have to say that I was amazed by the illustrations. I mean Jane Yolen is still Jane Yolen. But wow, these illustrations! The book would not have been anywhere close to the same without these pictures! Here's how it opens:

Once in the ancient walled citadel of Peking there lived an emperor who had only one daughter, and her name was Hwei Ming. Now this daughter had carved ivory combs to smooth back her long black hair. Her tiny feet were encased in embroidered slippers, and her robes were woven of the finest silks. But rather than making her happy, such possessions made her sad. For Hwei Ming was blind, and all the beautiful handcrafts in the kingdom brought her no pleasure at all. Her father was also sad that his only daughter was blind, but he could not cry for her. He was the emperor after all, and had given up weeping over such things when he ascended the throne. Yet still he had hope that one day Hwei Ming might be able to see. So he resolved that if someone could help her, such a person would be rewarded with a fortune in jewels.
Can Hwei Ming be made to see? Is there a miracle worker out there for her? What can one old man with a wooden stick--even if he calls it a seeing stick--give to the greatest in the land?

As the story unfolds, we go from black and white (and gray) to these incredibly vivid, bright, majestic, rich color spreads. The change is subtle. It doesn't happen all at once, it starts with small shadings here and there. But before you know it the story (through the illustrations) is jumping off the page.

I enjoyed this one.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Pumpkin Baby

Yolen, Jane. 2009. Pumpkin Baby. Illustrated by Susan Mitchell. Key Porter Kids.

It had to grow on me a little, but by the third time through I had begun to see some charm in Jane Yolen's Pumpkin Baby. Here's how it starts,

When I was three years old,
old enough to know better,
Mama took a ripe pumpkin
from Auntie May's patch of land.
When Auntie May jokes that the mother is "gonna get a baby that way from all those seeds. A pumpkin baby." Our child narrator begins to imagine what a pumpkin baby would look like, be like. We read,

I thought about a pumpkin baby.
Would it be orange on the outside?
Would it be too heavy to pick up,
too round to run and play with me?
Would I,
could I,
ever love a pumpkin child?

Anyway, our story goes on with more instances and imaginings. Our narrator imagines not only a pumpkin baby but a cabbage baby and a stork baby as well. When the narrator finally gets a real baby (a little brother), we see that in a way some of the imaginings were correct. (The baby may not be orange and round, but it is too heavy to pick up and too young to play with, etc.)

This is a book about loving siblings. In this case, a big sister and a little brother.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow

Griffiths, Andy. The Big Fat Cow that Goes Kapow. Illustrated by Terry Denton. Feiwel and Friends. 124 pages.

This early reader is heavily illustrated. So don't be intimidated by its length! It's a fun little collection of stories--rhyming stories--that are just about right.

It's raining
big fat cows
How many cows?
It's hard to say.
A big cow here.
A fat cow there.
Big fat cows are
Cows underwater.
Cows in space.
Big fat cows
all over the place!

Of course that little story goes on...and you might have guessed big fat cow does explode with a big kapow.

If exploding cows aren't your cup of tea, perhaps the story of Brave Dave or Klaus the Mouse will suit you better! There's really something for everyone here. It's a cute and funny little book.

Definitely recommended.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear

Bruins, David and Hilary Leung. 2009. Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear. Kids Can Press.

I had low expectations for this one. I'm not sure why. But--and this is a good but--I was pleasantly surprised by this little story. The book is about three friends: a ninja, a cowboy, and a bear. These three friends get along great--despite their differences--for a long time. Until one day, each starts thinking about which one is really best. There are a series of competitions and contests throughout the book. But--and you've probably guessed where this is going--they discover that everyone is best at something. They all have different strengths. There's something special and wonderful about each of them.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 2, 2009

My Elephant

Horacek, Petr. 2009. My Elephant. Candlewick Press. (Releases November 2009)

What's a boy to do when his family is to busy to play with him? Why play with his elephant of course! Here's how it starts off:

I asked Grandpa to play ball with me, but he was too busy.
I went to see Grandma, but she was busy, too.
So I asked my elephant if he wanted to play with me.
The elephant agrees, of course, but this pair doesn't necessarily stay out of trouble. The flower bed gets messed up, the hallway gets messed up, the orange juice is spilled, the cupcakes get eaten, the bathroom gets all messy too. But no one seems to believe the boy's "my elephant did it" excuse.

I love, love, love this one. And those three loves still don't do it justice. I grew up loving The Gorilla Did It. But I think I might love this one a little bit more. Perhaps because it stars an elephant instead. (I love, love, love elephants.) But also because the illustrations are just incredibly fun and perfect and oh-so-right. Definitely recommended.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers