Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November Favorites

Cows Can't Jump by Dave Reisman. Illustrated by Jason A. Maas. 2008. Jumping Cow Press. 44 pages.   
Rain School. James Rumford. 2010. October 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. 
The Hallelujah Flight. Phil Bidner. Illustrated by John Holyfield. 2010. Penguin. 32 pages.   
Anna Hibiscus. Atinuke. Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. 2010. Kane/Miller. 112 pages.
Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Best Friends and Drama Queens #3. Meg Cabot. 2009. Scholastic. 224 pages. 

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 29, 2010

This is the Stable

This Is The Stable. Cynthia Cotten. Illustrated by Delana Bettoli. 2006. Henry Holt. 32 pages.

This is the stable, dusty and brown,
in a quiet corner of Bethlehem town.
This is the star whose light shown down
on the quiet stable, dusty and brown.
This is the manger, filled with hay
to feed the animals sheltered away
from the chilly night when the star shone down
on the quiet stable, dusty and brown.

I liked this one. I didn't quite love it. But I liked it. I liked the poetic concept of it--the framework of it. I thought it worked for the most part. I also enjoyed the illustrations.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Best Friends and Drama Queens (#3)

Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Best Friends and Drama Queens. Meg Cabot. 2009. Scholastic. 224 pages.

The best part about the holidays is showing all the cool stuff you got to your friends. This is a rule.

Allie Finkle is back for her third adventure. In the second, Allie "tamed" Rosemary--the girl who was bullying her. In the third, Allie is up for an even bigger challenge. Cheyenne. The new girl from Canada who LOVES to boss the whole class around--at least at lunch and recess. Allie, Erica, Caroline, Sophie, and Rosemary are having none of it. At least at first. They don't want to be told that they "have" to chase boys around at recess and try to kiss them. They don't want to "have" to "go with" a boy or face the consequences--being called immature babies. But. The stress of dealing with Cheyenne is putting stress on other friendships. Can Allie and her friends "survive" this new bully?

I love Allie Finkle. I do. I love her family--her two brothers Mark and Kevin, her mom, her dad, her Uncle Jay. I love her friends. I love how "real" these stories seem. How authentically kid-like Allie's narrative sounds. I am curious about Allie's school, however, how relaxed it seems. How the kids get to go home every day for lunch. How they have morning recess and afternoon recess. How Allie talks about having time--at school--to read The Boxcar Children books in the classroom library. How the book doesn't really ever mention homework. (Of course, that doesn't mean that Allie doesn't do homework or study or take tests. But it just seems strange how stress-free this fourth-grade is.)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, November 26, 2010

Poetry Friday: The Carnival of the Animals

Camille Saint-Saens's The Carnival of the Animals. Jack Prelutsky. Illustrated by Mary GrandPre. 2010. Random House. 40 pages.

Inspired by Camille Saint-Saens' "The Carnival of the Animals", Jack Prelutsky has written a new collection of verses. In the accompanying CD, readers get the opportunity to listen to the poems and to the musical pieces that inspired those poems. (If you prefer an uninterrupted introduction to "The Carnival of the Animals," it is the last track of the CD.)

From the jacket,
The Carnival of the Animals has long been recommended as a playful way to introduce preschoolers to classical music. Children will enjoy acting out the animals roles as they listen to the music and the verses.
Poems include, "The Lion," "Rooster and Hens," "The Donkeys of the Wild," "The Tortoise," "Elephants," "Kangaroos," "Aquarium," "Personages with Long Ears," "The Cuckoo," "Birds," "Pianists," "Fossils," "The Swan." (Also an Introduction and Finale).

My favorite poem?
Personages with Long Ears

They love to loudly bray and bray,
And bray away both night and day.
Determined that their brays be heard,
They're both obnoxious and absurd.

They bray when it is calm and warm,
They bray throughout a raging storm.
To fill the world with coarse hee-haws
(Sometimes without the briefest pause)
Appears to be their only cause.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: The New Girl (#2)

Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: The New Girl (#2) Meg Cabot. 2008. Scholastic. 230 pages.

Mom didn't think I should wear a skirt with jeans on my first day at my new school.

Allie Finkle is nervous about her first day at a new school. True, she's already made a good friend, Erica, and met a few girls with good potential, Caroline and Sophie, but she's nervous all the same. Will the kids at Pine Heights Elementary like her? Or will they think she's weird? Will they want to be her friend? Or will they laugh at her?

The New Girl is all about the many changes going on in Allie Finkle's life. The changes going on at home and at school. It isn't easy getting along with two brothers--Mark and Kevin--especially when one of them insists on wearing a pirate costume after Halloween. And there's some tension in the house between Allie's mom and Dad. He's invited his mother to visit them a few weeks. Her mom is NOT happy. She's still unpacking, for one thing, and the house is far from being a cozy home. It's definitely still a work in progress. And Allie's grandmother, well, she's something else. (I really felt for Allie at Red Lobster--when her grandmother was criticizing her for not eating seafood.)

But while many things are changing, some things stay the same. Allie is still super-super excited about getting a kitten. But even that comes with a surprise or two!

I liked The New Girl. I am excited about continuing on in this series by Meg Cabot.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Moving Day (#1)

Cabot, Meg. 2008. Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Moving Day.
"I like rules. The reason why is, rules help make our lives easier. For instance, the rule about not killing people. Obviously, this is a good rule.
Another good rule is Everything that goes up must come down. This includes helium balloons. People don't know this, but you shouldn't let helium balloons loose outside, like at weddings or the Olympics or whatever, because what happens is eventually all the helium comes out and the balloons fall down, possibly in the ocean, and sea turtles eat them.
Then they choke to death.
So really that is two rules: Everything that goes up must come down and Don't let go of helium balloons outside.
Science has a lot of rules (like the one about gravity). So does math (like that five minus three will always be two. That is a rule).
That's why I like science and math. You know where you stand with them, rulewise.
What I'm not so crazy about is everything else. Because there are no rules for everything else.
There are no rules, for instance, for friendship. I mean, besides the one about Treat your friends the way you'd want them to treat you, which I've already broken about a million times. Like earlier today, when my best friend, Mary Kay Shiner, and I were making the strawberry frosting for her birthday cupcakes. (1-2)

Allie Finkle has lots of rules. Rules on how to live. But nothing has quite prepared her for the challenges ahead. You see, Allie Finkle is about to move across town and that changes everything. She's losing her best friend (for multiple reasons). She's losing her school. She's losing her room, her house, her neighborhood. And maybe just maybe it would be worth it all if only...if only the house where they're moving wasn't haunted, wasn't so spooky, so dark and uninviting and ugly. Allie, when she's honest, will admit that Mary Kay isn't a great best friend. She cries too much. That plus she will only play one boring game over and over day after day. And the thought of making a new best friend, a great best friend is tempting. So is the thought of a kitten. Her parents have promised--actually promised--to get her a pet of her very own, a kitten--if and only if she behaves during this transition. If she doesn't whine and complain and act out about how awful the move is. But there's one consistent concern as far as Allie is concerned, she knows that the new house has a zombie hand in the attic. She knows her family's life at risk--her mom and dad, her two younger brothers. So it's a definite dilemma. What's a nine year old girl to do?

I loved Allie. I loved her family. I loved how this one was written. Allie's voice is unique and wonderful and above all authentic.

I loved, loved, loved this book. And I can't wait to get to the second book in the series.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ten International Gift Ideas

I have missed highlighting international titles the past few years. And after recently watching (and rewatching and rewatching) the film Babies I've been "inspired" to share some gift recommendations with you. These were books originally published outside of the United States.

From South Korea:
Yoon-duck Kwon's MY CAT COPIES ME.

From China:
Zhaohua Ji and Cui Xu's NO! THAT'S WRONG!

From Australia:

From Spain:

From Belgium:

From Germany:
Alexander Steffensmeier's MILLIE WAITS FOR THE MAIL

From France:
David Merveille's JUKEBOX

From England:

From Taiwan:
Chih-Yuan Chen's GUJI GUJI

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

More Bears

More Bears! Kenn Nesbitt. Illustrated by Troy Cummings. 2010. November 2010. Sourcebooks. 32 pages.

Once upon a time there was a story.
This story was a lovely story with absolutely no bears in it--
not a single bear anywhere. Then one day...
What? Who said that? The author of the story looked around the room, wondering where those voices had come from. Were those the voices of children shouting? Then he went back to writing.
As I was saying, this story had absolutely no bears at all. The author was very certain about this.
The author tried very, very hard to ignore the children who thought that the story ought to have...

I liked this one. I did. I thought it was funny. A bit quirky--perhaps--but good fun, in my opinion, very playful. I think it would make a good read aloud.

The author begins KNOWING that his story has NO BEARS in it. Yet the voices persist. Children begging for a story with MORE BEARS. How many bears will he add to his story with "no bears?" How many bears are enough bears to satisfy his audience? Who is in charge of the story anyway?

I liked the repetition--the repetitive demands for MORE BEARS. I liked the simplicity of the concept yet the detail in the bears he adds to the story. For example, there's "Bobcat Sam, the bear who rode a pony, and Admiral Haversham, the English dancing bear, and Excellent Steve, the bear who just wanted to surf." 

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: A Book About Color

A Book About Color. Mark Gonyea. 2010. Henry Holt. 96 pages.

Chapter One: Welcome to the Neighborhood
This is Color Street.
On Color Street, the houses are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.
Red, yellow, and blue are called primary colors. 
Let's make those houses bigger.
You can use the three primary colors to make more colors.
Red and yellow make orange.
Yellow and blue make green.
Blue and red make purple. 
Orange, green, and purple are secondary colors because they're made with primary colors.

I have really enjoyed Mark Gonyea's previous books about design: A Book About Design: Complicated Doesn't Make It Good and Another Book About Design: Complicated Doesn't Make It Bad. These books are very reader-friendly, yet informative. Anyone interested in art--in design--no matter your medium or format--can benefit from reading these books.

The first chapter introduces readers to primary and secondary colors.

The second chapter discusses how different colors can represent different things. ("Red is loving. Red is dangerous.")

The third chapter discusses the concept of warm and cool colors.

The fourth chapter discusses the colors in relationship with one another. (Complementary colors, and analogous colors).

The fifth chapter discusses shades and values of color. In other words saturation and desaturation. ("Saturation is the amount of color in...well...color.") This is also where he discusses the "colors" black and white and shows how they can change the value in other colors--making things lighter or darker.

The sixth chapter presents the concept of the color wheel.

I liked this one. I would definitely recommend it along with his previous books to anyone interested in art and design.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Cows Can't Jump

Cows Can't Jump by Dave Reisman. Illustrated by Jason A. Maas. 2008. Jumping Cow Press. 44 pages. 

Cows can't jump...
...but they can swim.
Gorillas can't swim...
...but they can swing.
Giraffes can't swing...
...but they can gallop.

I liked this one. I really liked it. I especially LOVED the illustrations. In Cows Can't Jump readers meet a wide variety of animals--snakes, lizards, kangaroos, elephants, cats, fish, ducks, etc. Each animal has something they can do--and do well--but not every animal can do everything well. Each animal is presented as having differences. These differences are celebrated throughout the book. I enjoyed the concept of this one. I thought it worked well. (Perhaps it is a little too long--depending on your audience, of course, it may not hold attention spans throughout the entire book--but for the most part I really liked it.) I think children could easily adapt this one and create their own  story based on this pattern.

You can read sample pages of this one at Jumping Cow Press.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, November 19, 2010

Noodles: I Love Christmas!

I Love Christmas. (Noodles Series). Hans Wilhelm. 2010. Scholastic. 32 pages.

It's Christmastime. Everybody is so busy. Can we go for a walk? Can we play ball? Can I have a snack? No one has time for me. I don't like Christmas! Wait! I know what I can do!

Noodles, the dog who's the star of I Love Christmas--and many other early reader titles--does not like Christmas. At least not at first! Everyone is too busy to play with him! Everything seems so rushed, so hectic. Can Noodles find a way to be part of the Christmas preparations? Can Noodles find a way to love Christmas?

I like Noodles. It's fun to read his stories. I haven't read them all. But what I have read, I've really enjoyed! I would recommend this one.

Other Noodles titles I've reviewed: I Won't Share, No New Pets, No Kisses, Please.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Story of Christmas

Story of Christmas. Vivian French. Illustrated by Jane Chapman. 2010. Candlewick. 22 pages.
A long time ago God called for the angel Gabriel. God told Gabriel to go to the city of Nazareth and find a young woman called Mary. At first Mary was frightened, but Gabriel told her not to be afraid. "God sent me," he said. "God has chosen you to be the mother of His baby. His name will be Jesus." Mary smiled. "I'm happy to do whatever God wants," she said.
I really liked this one. It's a simple retelling of the Christmas story for little ones. But just because it's 'simple' doesn't mean it's not rich in detail! You get the whole story--most of it at any rate. Readers don't meet Elizabeth, Mary's cousin, the mother of John the Baptist. Also readers are not introduced to King Herod. Vivian French does a nice job of weaving together the narratives from Matthew and Luke.

I would definitely recommend this one!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Anna Hibiscus

 Anna Hibiscus. Atinuke. Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. 2010. Kane/Miller. 112 pages.

Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa. She lives in an old white house with balconies and secret staircases. A wonderful house, in a beautiful garden, inside a big compound. The trees are full of sweet, ripe fruit, and the flowers are full of sweet, juicy nectar, because this is Africa, and Africa can be like this.

This is the first in a series starring Anna Hibiscus, our young heroine. She comes from a big family--and she likes it that way. A family that is traditional and contemporary. The book contains four stories: "Anna Hibiscus on Holiday" which showcases her family--why every member of the family is important, "Auntie Comfort," which showcases the family's traditional values in a contemporary world, "Anna Hibiscus Sells Oranges" which showcases the importance of hard work and compassion, and "Sweet Snow" in which Anna makes a connection with her Canadian grandmother when she decides to visit her for the Christmas holiday so she can see snow for the first time.

I enjoyed reading these stories very much.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star

Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star. Petr Horacek. 2009. Candlewick. 32 pages.

It was Christmas Eve. Suzy Goose and her friends were gathered around the tree. It was beautiful. But it was missing one thing. "It needs a star on top," honked Suzy. "Just like that bright one in the sky. I will get it."

Suzy is one determined goose. When she decides that the Christmas tree needs to be topped with a star--even a star from the sky--she'll do anything and everything to do it. But can a goose--even a determined goose--bring a star down from the sky? Will this one end in disappointment? Or will Suzy's friends have a way of cheering her up after all?!

I liked this one. I liked the illustrations best of all. They were so well done. I just loved looking at each spread! Of course, I liked the story too! I liked meeting Suzy. She was very spirited, very determined! I would definitely recommend this one.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Hallelujah Flight

The Hallelujah Flight. Phil Bidner. Illustrated by John Holyfield. 2010. Penguin. 32 pages. 

The day I first met James Banning, he said, "Mr. Allen, my dream is to fly a plane from sea to shining sea, and this here 0XX6 Eagle Rock is our plane. But first I'll need you to overhaul the engine." 
I just about coughed up my coffee. "Replace the entire engine? How will we pay for that?" Times were hard, and most folks didn't have a nickel to spare.
"I've got an idea," Banning replied. "Whenever people give us food, fuel and supplies along the way, they can write their names on the tip of the wing.They'll fly into the history books right along with us!"
"That might just work," I declared.

Though The Hallelujah Flight is a work of fiction--historical fiction--it is based on a true story. It is based on the story of the first African American pilot to complete a transcontinental flight of the U.S. (Also, the first black aviator to obtain a license from the United States Department of Commerce.) The year is 1932, and the story is told from the point of view of his copilot-mechanic, Thomas Allen.

I liked this one. I really liked it. The author mentions how he was shocked that this story hasn't been told before--that it's not widely known--at least not as known as it should be. And I agree. I think more stories like this need to be written, brought to light.

I loved the illustrations. I just LOVED them. I think they are wonderful!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens. Illustrated by Brett Helquist. 2009. HarperCollins. 40 pages.

Marley was dead. There was no doubt whatever that Old Marley was dead as a doornail. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge.

A picture book adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It is abbreviated. In places it felt rushed--even more rushed than several of the cartoon adaptations--but it was able to keep the flavor of the original in a way most cartoon adaptations aren't. So it wasn't a bad read--just an incomplete one--for this adult reader.

I loved the illustrations. It's illustrated by Brett Helquist. And he does a great job with Scrooge! I liked this one. I would recommend it.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Hanukkah: A Counting Book in English, Yiddish, Hebrew

Hanukkah: A Counting Book. Emily Sper. 2010. Scholastic. 20 pages.

Worker Candle
Light one more candle every night
to make EIGHT candles burning bright...
or NINE candles, if you count
the sha-MASH...or SHA-mes!

This counting book celebrates Hanukkah--readers can learn more about Hanukkah on the final spread, in more detail than counting items like dreidels, jelly doughnuts, golden coins, latkes, etc. It teaches children to count to eight in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. There is a pronunciation guide.

It was first published in picture book format in 2001. It has since been reprinted (2003). This is the first year--I believe--for it to appear in board book.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, November 12, 2010

Here Comes Christmas

Here Comes Christmas! Caroline Jayne Church. 2010. Scholastic. 14 pages.

I go to bed on Christmas Eve and wonder: what will Santa leave?
A dragon who soars high with me?
A submarine beneath the sea?
A rocket ship up to the moon?

I was slightly disappointed with Here Comes Christmas! I remember liking Here Comes Easter more. I do like the illustrations. She's illustrated some great books for little ones--like I Love You Through and Through, How Do I Love You?, and Harriet Dancing.

In Here Comes Christmas, readers meet a little boy with BIG dreams. He's excited--anxious--about Christmas, about his Christmas presents. He CAN'T WAIT to see what Santa brings! He imagines so many different things. Will his dreams come true?

I can understand the wonder and anxiety of this one--a little boy who can't sleep because he's so excited about Santa coming--but I wanted a little more. Perhaps because I know the author has done more religious work in the past--Baby Jesus: A Touch and Feel Book, Creation: A Touch and Feel Book, Noah's Ark: A Touch and Feel Book, Lost Sheep: A Touch and Feel Book, Thank You Prayer, A Prayer a Day, etc. Still, I liked this one well enough.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, November 11, 2010

And I Love You

And I Love You. Ruth Krauss. Illustrated by Steven Kellogg. 2010. October 2010. Scholastic. 40 pages.

Big forests
little trees.
Big fields
little flowers.
Big monkeys
little monkeyshines
I love

I liked And I Love You. Yes, it's simple. Yes, it's sweet. Yes, it's cute. But. I like simple. Simple can be a great thing for a book. And cute--if not overdone--can be good too!

I found the illustrations wonderful. I love the colors. So bright, so expressive. There were a few spreads that reminded me of Reading Rainbow. Which definitely worked in its favor! (Big words love little words to fly around in...) And the fact that the stars of this one were cats, probably helped a bit too!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Guess How Much I Love You All Year Round

Guess How Much I Love You: All Year Round: Four Seasons, Four Stories. Sam McBratney. Illustrated by Anita Jeram. 2010. Candlewick. 72 pages.

Guess How Much I Love You All Year Round collects four previously published stories: Let's Play in the Snow, When I'm Big, Colors Everywhere, and A Surprise for the Nutbrown Hares.

Each story stars--of course--Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare. Each story is set in a different season: spring, summer, autumn, winter. Each story focuses on learning, growing, and being a part of the world around them. There's a focus on nature, for example, that just feels right. Like the original story, these stories are a bit wordy--very dialogue heavy. But, for the most part, I enjoyed this one. In some ways, I liked these stories more than the original.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Guess How Much I Love You

Guess How Much I Love You. Sam McBratney. Illustrated by Anita Jeram. 1994. Candlewick Press. 32 pages.
Little Nutbrown Hare, who was going to bed, held on tight to Big Nutbrown Hare's very long ears. He wanted to be sure that Big Nutbrown Hare was listening. "Guess how much I love you," he said. "Oh, I don't think I could guess that," said Big Nutbrown Hare. "This much," said Little Nutbrown Hare, stretching out his arms as wide as they could go. Big Nutbrown Hare had even longer arms. "But I love you this much," he said.

 Are you familiar with Guess How Much I Love You? Are you one of its many fans? I liked this one. I found it sweet and sentimental. If you're looking for a loving, affectionate parent-child relationship--within a picture book--it doesn't get much better than this. The dialogue between Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare--while repetitive--is undeniably sweet and loving.

But. While I liked this one. I don't feel that it is the best book ever. Or the most perfect picture book of all time. I liked it. I think it would be a good fit for most home libraries. And it's a sweet, gentle book that would be nice for bedtime. But. It's not one that I would want to again-again forever and ever.

It's available as a picture book and a board book. Don't forget the book-and-toy gift set and the baby book.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ivy Loves To Give

Ivy Loves to Give. Freya Blackwood. 2010. Scholastic. 24 pages.

Ivy loves to give.
Sometimes her presents are the wrong size,
don't fit properly,
taste funny,
or feel strange.

I really enjoyed Freya Blackwood's sweet story of an exuberant giver. I liked Ivy. In very few words--perhaps mainly through the illustrations?--we learn about Ivy and her family. It is a sweet story, a funny story. And it's not a story without twists! My favorite twist being that sometimes she likes to keep.

I enjoyed both the text and illustrations. It's definitely a story where you need to pay attention to the details for the full story!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Suggestions for Baby's Christmas

Are you looking for a gift for the little ones in your life? There are some great board books that I'd love to recommend!

First, I'd like to suggest Baby's Box of Fun. This is a boxed set of three Karen Katz books. Three of her very best books, I might add. It contains Toes, Ears, & Nose!, Where is Baby's Belly Button?, and Where is Baby's Mommy? These three would be a great introduction to Karen Katz. If your little one should happen to love them--to want to hear them again and again and again--to want to lift the flaps him/herself--then there are plenty of other titles you can buy next!

Another Karen Katz book that is a "must" in my opinion is What Does Baby Say? My review of this one.

Little Scholastic has a great series of board books for young readers age baby to 2. My favorites from that series include Numbers by Jill Ackerman and Colors by Justine Smith. (Also available, Alphabet by Justine Smith and Shapes by Justine Smith.)

You may also be interested in Little Scholastic's Five Little Ducks and Five Shiny Stars by Gabriella Buckingham. Both books sing!

Speaking of books that sing, you should definitely consider Lullaby and Good Night by Jill Ackerman! It's a fun choice for bedtime OR playtime!

Whether you choose to buy Leslie Patricelli's Baby's Book Tower, or the four titles individually--you really need to meet this adorable baby! I don't know if I could pick a favorite between No No Yes Yes, Baby Happy Baby Sad, Quiet Loud, Yummy Yucky.

And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Bouncy Baby by Begin Smarts Books. I do. It's so rhythmic, it practically begs to be memorized.

For books that aren't quite books--but aren't quite flashcards--I'd recommend Begin Smart's Baby Says and DK's My First Touch and Feel Picture Cards: First Words.

What do babies like to look at? Pictures of other babies! That's why I would definitely recommend David Salariya's All About Me! A Baby's Guide to Babies, Margaret Miller's Baby Faces, Margaret Miller's I Love Colors, Margaret Miller's Baby Food, and Margaret Miller's What's On My Head?

My final two recommendations are by Lorena Siminovich. There are two books in this series--so far! I Like Fruit and I Like Bugs! I was so excited to learn that they'll be other titles coming next year! Both are touch-and-feel books.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Clifford's First Christmas

Clifford's First Christmas. Norman Bridwell. 2010. Scholastic. 20 pages.

Back when Clifford was a really tiny puppy, we celebrated his first Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, we got out the decorations. 
I held down a branch so Clifford could hang a candy cane on it.
The tree looked beautiful.

I am not usually a Clifford fan. But I liked Clifford's First Christmas. More than I was expecting to at any rate! This board book--like so many other holiday titles--is a flashback. I don't "like" the illustrations. (That is one of the main reasons I don't like Clifford--the dog may seem cute enough--but the people, well, they're not all that attractive, especially at certain angles.) But I appreciated the details in this one. How disgruntled--how frustrated--the dad looks setting up the Christmas tree. He did win the battle--of how to get the tree in the stand--but it looked like it might have been a close call. And then there's the sneaking Emily and the playful Clifford. Both have trouble staying in bed. I liked some of the names of their presents too--like the Baby Boopsie "Tot in a Box" toy and the Crash Test Dummies set. Clifford's toy rat looks awful, horrifying--I can understand perfectly why he'd want Emily's presents instead.

Will Clifford and Emily meet Santa? What will they get for Christmas?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Duck & Goose, It's Time for Christmas

Duck & Goose, It's Time for Christmas. Tad Hills. 2010. Random House. 22 pages.

Goose, it is not time for catching snowflakes.
It is not time for sledding.
It is not time for making snow angels.

Despite the glitter on the cover, I liked Tad Hills' Duck & Goose, It's Time for Christmas. True, I like Duck & Goose. I've read a few of their books. But. Still, I liked the playfulness of this one. It is simple. It is predictable. It is fun. If it is not time for catching snowflakes, sledding, making snow angels, throwing snowballs, etc., what is it time for???? CHRISTMAS, of course!!!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

It's Christmas Time

It's Christmas Time! Salina Yoon. 2010. Scholastic. 8 pages.

At Christmas time, we'll build a nice, bright snowman!
We'll hang a wreath that sparkles and glows.
We'll make a gingerbread house with candies sweet and colorful.

It's Christmas Time is an interactive board book celebrating Christmas. Little ones can "dress up" cookies, christmas trees, gingerbread houses, snowmen, etc. by inserting six colorful (and sparkly) play circles into the book. I do like the way these circles shimmer and sparkle. They do appear to change color depending on how you hold them. (They look much better than the book cover pictured would suggest.) The circles can be securely stored in the book cover.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ribbit Rabbit

Ribbit Rabbit. Candace Ryan. Illustrated by Mike Lowery. 2011. February 2011. Walker. 32 pages.

Frog and Bunny are best friends.
Ribbit Rabbit.
Rabbit Ribbit.
They go swimming together.
Ribbit Rabbit.
Dip it, Dab it.
They fight monsters together.
Ribbit Rabbit.
Zip it, Zap it.

I liked this one. I really liked this one. It's a playful look at friendship. At what it means to be a friend when you're young--how difficult it can be to get along, but how very important it is that you do! Frog and Bunny are the stars of this picture book. They are best friends. But their friendship is tested--at times--sometimes by little fights, sometimes by big fights. But their friendship is worth it, isn't it?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rain School

Rain School. James Rumford. 2010. October 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages.

In the country of Chad, it is the first day of school. The dry dirt road is filling up with children. Big brothers and big sisters are leading the way. "Will they give us a notebook?" Thomas asks.
"Will they give us a pencil?" 
"Will I learn to read like you?"
"Stop asking so many questions and keep up," say the big brothers and big sisters.

 Thomas is excited about his first day of school--but a little nervous too! Their first lesson on that first day? Building their school. Rain School follows Thomas--and the other students--through the school year until the rainy season begins and their school washes away. But don't worry! There's always next season for the next school term! And next time Thomas will be one of the "big" boys!

Rain School celebrates education and the love of learning. I liked this one! I loved the illustrations!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The First Christmas

The First Christmas: A Changing-Picture Book. Illustrated by Sophy Williams. 2010. Candlewick. 14 pages.

Long ago, a star appeared in the East above a town called Bethlehem. Seeing the star filled some people with hope, but others--including Herod, the king--were worried. There was an ancient prophecy that a king would be born under a star and that he would be greater than even Herod himself. So Herod ordered his chief priests and scribes to find out all they could about any child born under the star.

The First Christmas is a beautifully illustrated picture book for children. It presents the 'Christmas' story for young readers. While it takes a few liberties* with what we know--from the Bible--it does no more than some traditional christmas carols we sing each year in our churches.

What makes this Christmas picture book unique are the illustrations. Not only are they beautifully done in gentle pastel colors, this is a "changing-picture" picture book. Readers by turning pages--flaps--"change" four pictures.

*I think Herod was more concerned with the fact the child was born in Bethlehem than he was with any child "born under the star." The prophecy was about a child being born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) The book also has three wise men who arrive shortly after the shepherds finding Jesus (and his parents) in a stable.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Can't Sleep Without Sheep

Can't Sleep Without Sheep. Susanna Leonard Hill. Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. 2010. Walker Books. 40 pages.

Ava had a hard time falling asleep.
Her mind was always so busy!
"Try counting sheep," suggested her mother.
So she did.

Ava depends on counting sheep to fall asleep each night. So it's no little matter when one night her sheep decide to quit. Oh, they won't go without at least trying to find Ava a replacement. But what animal can jump the fence so well as a sheep? How about a herd of buffalo? a flock of chickens? Ava tries counting pigs, chickens, cows, horses, even penguins and hippos. But the sheep are irreplaceable. Ava needs her sheep? Can Ava convince her sheep to stay?!

It's a silly bedtime book. I liked it! The illustrations were very fun! They matched the text well. Both being playful and exuberant.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bedtime Bunnies

Bedtime Bunnies. Wendy Watson. 2010. Clarion Books. 32 pages. 

Bedtime, Bunnies!

Bedtime, Bunnies is a simple bedtime book. Using few words--though the words are fun, playful, action-oriented--this bedtime story is conveyed through words and pictures. A story of five bunnies going to bed. We see their nightly routine--everything from bathing and brushing teeth to putting on pajamas and listening to their parents read stories. It's sweet; it's simple. I really enjoyed this one!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers