Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Charlie the Ranch Dog

Charlie the Ranch Dog. Ree Drummond. Illustrated by Diane Degroat. 2011. HarperCollins. 40 pages.

Oh, hello. My name is Charlie. I live in the country. I'm a ranch dog. This is Suzie. She's my best friend. We sure don't look much alike, do we? Suzie, unfortunately, doesn't have the paws I have. Or the droopy eyes. Or the floppy skin. Or...the big dangly ears. Suzie's ears don't dangle. Never have. Never will. I try not to hold that against her.

I really liked this one! I thought it was a very cute dog story. Charlie may talk the talk, but does he really do as much work around the ranch as he claims?! One of the things I liked best about this one was Charlie's voice. It just felt right to me! I especially loved this scene:
The first thing we do every day is get out of bed early. Too early. Dark early. I'd better go wake up Suzie. She's never been much of a morning dog. 
And then there is this little gem:
After breakfast, I usually go help Mama in her vegetable garden. Mama loves her garden. I don't really understand all the fuss. I'd prefer a bacon garden myself. But I go ahead and lend a hand anyway.
Of course, half the fun is spotting the differences between the text and the illustrations!

I really, really enjoyed both the text and the illustrations. You might enjoy reading the back story of this picture book.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore

17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore. Jenny Offill. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. 2007. Random House. 32 pages.

I had an idea to staple my brother's hair to his pillow.
I am not allowed to use the stapler anymore.

I had an idea to glue my brother's bunny slippers to the floor.
I am not allowed to use the glue anymore.

I liked this one. I was hoping to love it. I mean I just loved 11 Experiments That Failed--the second book--which just released yesterday. And it was a decidedly cute and clever book. One with an original premise. A girl who just CANNOT stay out of trouble. She's always, always picking on her brother. And she's PASSIONATE about beavers. And she doesn't exactly like school. (I imagine her teacher has quite an opinion about her!)
I had an idea to do my George Washington report on beavers instead.
I am not allowed to do reports on beavers anymore.
I had an idea to dedicate my report to all beavers that ever lived.
I am not allowed to dedicate my report to beavers anymore.
 I thought there was a little too much emphasis on beavers. I would have enjoyed a little more variety perhaps. (Like there is in the second book!!!) But still, beavers and all, this one is a fun read.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters. Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Kelly Murphy. 2011. Candlewick Press. 32 pages.

Monsters creep, monsters crawl,
Over the meadow and up the wall.
Monsters run, monsters stumble,
Monsters hip-hop, Monsters tumble,
Monsters slither, monsters wave,
All in a hurry to get to their cave...

It is time for these monsters to go to bed...but are they ready to go to bed without a fight?!

I like this one. It was fun. It is definitely not your cute-little-bunnies-getting-all-ready-for-bed bedtime story book. Which is a nice change! Is it my favorite bedtime book ever? Of course not. But I think it's a fun little book that you and your little ones might enjoy!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Binky Under Pressure

Binky Under Pressure. Ashley Spires. 2011. Kids Can. 64 pages.

This is the third graphic novel for young readers in the Binky series. And I did enjoy it. I'm not sure that I loved it as much as the first adventure--when Binky was such a surprise, such a delight. But I definitely am always excited to see a new Binky adventure. I love this cat, I do. I love seeing him "fight" aliens and "protect" his humans. I love seeing the world through his eyes. There's just something funny about reading something from a cat's perspective! (Maybe not every reader agrees.)

In this third adventure, Binky faces new dangers. There's a NEW CAT in his house space station--a feline named Gracie. And her presence changes everything. She is eating HIS food, drinking HIS water, playing with his toys, getting his humans attention, etc. So he does what he can to discourage her, but it may not be easy to intimidate her, because she may just be a cat on a mission!

Is Gracie a friend or foe? Is she on his side ready to battle aliens and protect the space station? Or could she be an enemy robot controlled by the aliens?

I liked this one. It was funny and clever. The first adventure is Binky the Space Cat. The second is Binky to the Rescue.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers


Reaching. Judy Ann Sadler. Illustrated by Susan Mitchell. 2011. Kids Can Press. 32 pages.

Mama is reaching
Lifts Baby up high
She swings him and sings him
A sweet lullaby.

Daddy is reaching 
To kiss Baby's nose
He laughs and he tickles
Plump tummy and toes.

Sister is reaching
Wants in on the huddle
More kisses and tickles--
A fun family cuddle.

I love this one. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. Is it sweet? Yes. Is it precious? Yes. Is it too cute for its own good? I don't think so. I *know* everyone has their own cute-tolerance. And, for some, a sweet picture book can become sickeningly sweet. But for me, Reaching is JUST RIGHT.

Reaching is about a family welcoming a new baby--a new baby boy--into the family. EVERY member of the family is excited--thrilled--with his arrival. They just can't get enough of their dear, dear, sweet baby boy. But this isn't exactly a book about a 'newborn' baby. The baby is seen sitting and taking some small steps, etc. Instead it is a celebration of life, of love, of family.

I love the text. I love the rhyming. I know I can be a bit picky when it comes to rhymes. Something either works for me, or it doesn't. But in this case, I thought it was just about right, just about perfect.

And the illustrations. I am ABSOLUTELY loving the illustrations. I just LOVE them. They're super-sweet, super-cute. Just delightful!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Pretty Princess Pig

Pretty Princess Pig. Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple. Illustrated by Sam Williams. 2011. Simon & Schuster. (Little Simon). 24 pages.

Pretty in pink is Princess Pig.
Her trotters are tiny. Her snout is big.
She loves to eat. She loves to dig.
Pretty Princess Pig.

At the first pink light of dawn, 
she snorts one enormous yawn,
then throws her flowered party dress on.
Pretty Princess Pig.

At first, I hated it. I'll be honest. The first few pages, I was like this book is NOT for me. It's too pink, too glittery, too rhyming. But I kept reading. I looked past the pinky-pinkness of it. I looked past the princess nonsense, and what I discovered was that it is actually a funny story about a pig who keeps getting messier and messier and messier as she prepares for a gathering of her friends--tea, cookies, scones, crumpets, etc. The messier she got, the messier her home got, the more I liked her.

So while I wouldn't say this book is a new favorite. I ended up liking it more than I thought I would.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

My Name is Elizabeth!

My Name is Elizabeth! Annika Dunklee. Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe. 2011. Kids Can Press. 24 pages.

My name is Elizabeth.
I really like my name. I like that it's nine letters long.
And I like all the neat things my mouth does when I say it.
I also like that there is a queen named after me!
But I don't like it when people call me names other than Elizabeth.

Don't dare call this Elizabeth Betsy, Liz, Lizzy, Beth, or Eliza. She is ELIZABETH. Can this little girl convince the people in her life--her family, her friends, her classmates and teachers, her neighbors, to get her name right?!

I liked this one. I did. I thought it was cute and clever. I won't say that I loved it. But it was fun!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye

The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye. Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Jim LaMarche. 2011. Random House. 32 pages.

The day Tiger Rose said goodbye was a soft spring day, the sun only half risen. Little brilliant butterflies, like bits of colored paper, floated among the flowers. Tiger Rose had been born in the city, but now she lived in the country in a house filled with laughter and cat treats. There, a boy and a girl loved her, a dog named Rowf tolerated her, and two grown-ups called Mom and Pop let her sit on the sofa as long as she did not use her claws.

If you're looking for a picture book about a pet cat that dies, AND The Tenth Good Thing About Barney* disgusts you, then The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye is the book for you. 

I'll be honest, I don't like books about pets that die. I really, really don't. Why? Because it's MISERABLE when a pet dies, and any book that talks about it just makes you feel all sad. Even if you've gotten over it--or you think you've gotten over it--reading about it can make you feel sad all over again.

BUT. If you're going to read about a cat dying, then The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye is a fine choice. I like that it is quiet, gentle, passive. There's a sweet certainty to it. It's not OVERLY dramatic, but it is final. Tiger Rose knows that this is the day, that her time has come. And she is saying goodbye to her life, goodbye to everything she loves. The fact that the humans in her life don't quite 'get' that she is saying goodbye with her meow, well, it doesn't change her sentiment.

The illustrations are my favorite part I think. They're just beautiful, I think. Very expressive. Yet gentle. Almost reflective. If the cat had had a fluffier tail, I'm not sure I could have finished this one with dry eyes.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Busy Beaver

The Busy Beaver. Nicholas Oldland. 2011. Kids Can Press. 32 pages. 

There once was a beaver who was so busy that he didn't always think things through. This beaver's carelessness was becoming a problem. His dams leaked, and he always made a mess of the forest--he left trees half-chewed, and worse, he felled more than he needed. Perhaps worst of all, the beaver went about his work with so little thought that a tree landed right on top of a bear. And once he even chewed a moose's leg thinking it was a tree. The beaver was just that careless.

Beaver is so busy being busy that he's become horribly careless. He's careless with his friends. He's careless with nature. But there is a price he has to pay for being so careless--he ends up in the hospital. Will his time mending teach him to slow down and do things right?

I did not really like this one. I didn't hate it. It just felt too like it was too much of a lesson.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Call of the Cowboy

The Call of the Cowboy. David Bruins. Illustrated by Hilary Leung. 2011. Kids Can Press.  32 pages.

The cowboy was a good friend to the ninja and the bear. He was kind. He was caring. He was fun. He was funny. But sometimes he could cause a ruckus. One day his noisiness came between him and his friends...

I definitely enjoyed the first two books in this series: The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear and The Way of the Ninja. So I was happy to see the release of a third book. All three books are about friendships: how to be a friend, how to keep a friend, etc.

Cowboy can be a fun friend, it's true. But sometimes he can be a little TOO LOUD. Sometimes he doesn't know how to be quiet, OR in other words, sometimes he doesn't know how to respect his friends wish for peace and quiet. Ninja, for example, wanted to read a book. But Cowboy--without exactly meaning to disturb the peace--was making it too hard for him to concentrate and appreciate the book. Bear, for example, wanted to take photographs of birds. But Cowboy didn't know that his noise would keep Bear from getting the photographs he wanted.

Will Cowboy learn his lesson? Can he come to like and appreciate silence?

I liked this one. Yes, it's all about a lesson or moral. But I like the three friends.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Welcome to the World

Welcome to the World by Valerie Wyatt. Photographs by Lennette Newell. 2011. Kids Can Press. 24 pages.

Dear Baby,
Welcome to the world and all its wonders. You will feel the sun on your skin and be warmed by it. You will see light chase darkness as clouds pass by. You will hear the wind in the trees and feel cool raindrops. You will see flowers in bloom and smell their sweet scent...

If you love looking at lovely photographs of babies, then you may enjoy this little picture book. The photographs are lovely. I could look at photos of babies all day long. There's just something adorable and sweet and precious about it all. The text itself is a 'welcome' message of sorts, introducing babies (supposedly) to the world around them. There is a strong emphasis on nature.

This one is not a board book. It is a 'delicate' book in that its pages could be ripped by young hands. So your audience needs to be young enough so that they are not reaching and grabbing or chewing and sucking. OR old enough that they know how to treat books well--gently.

I don't think the text of this one is 'entertaining' enough for preschoolers to appreciate or enjoy.(Because the text isn't a story so much as it is a sentimental letter.) Though of course that depends on YOUR child. I think the text may appeal more to adults--because it means something more to adults.

Text: 2 out of 5
Photographs: 4 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Princess and the Pig

The Princess and the Pig. Jonathan Emmett. Illustrated by Poly Bernatene. 2011. Walker. 32 pages.

Not that long ago, in a kingdom not far from here, a farmer was traveling home from the market with a cartload of straw. The farmer was so poor that he didn't have a horse and had to pull his own cart. In the back of the cart lay a tiny pink piglet. Nobody wanted to buy the piglet at the market, but the farmer had taken pity on it. "I'll call you Pigmella," he decided, as this seemed like a good name for a pig.

The Princess and the Pig is a delightful book; one that I just loved and adored! The royal princess, Priscilla, is dropped from the tower--the Queen being so disgusted by the smell coming from the baby's diaper--the baby lands quite safely in the farmer's cart. The pig goes up, up, up in the air and lands in the baby's cradle. Because EVERYONE in the kingdom seems to read the right kinds of books--the kinds of books with fairies--good and bad--the kinds of books where the unexpected happens all the time--it's assumed by all that a bad fairy has turned the princess into a pig and a good fairy has turned the pig into a baby girl because she knew that the farmer and his wife are good, hardworking people who haven't been able to have a child of their own all these years.

So the story of course follows both the princess and the pig through the years...and it's quite an entertaining read!!! Very satisfying I must say!!!

It's a great story, very fun, very delightful! Loved all the details! Loved the highlighting of all the books. I'd definitely recommend this one!

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Naamah and the Ark at Night

Naamah and the Ark at Night. Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Illustrated by Holly Meade. 2011. Candlewick. 32 pages.

As rain falls over the ark at night,
As water swirls in the dark of night,
As thunder crashes the seams of night,
As Noah tosses in dreams of night,
As restless animals prowl at night,
As they pace and roar and growl at night,
Naamah sings all through the night.

Susan Campbell Bartoletti imaginatively and poetically retells the story of Noah's Ark in her newest book, Naamah and the Ark at Night. In this picture book, readers meet Noah's wife, Naamah, whose singing through the night brings comfort and peace to everyone on the ark.

At first, I was puzzled by the repetition--the emphasis on the word night. But after reading the author's note, my curiosity was satisfied. The author is writing in a poetic form called ghazal which dates back to the seventh century. It is a disciplined Arabic form of poetry.

I liked this one. I was able to appreciate it. I've read a handful of Noah's Ark books in the past few years that have annoyed me, that I found too irreverent, too silly, too obnoxious, too whatever. (And it does bother me when Noah is presented WITHOUT his wife or without his wife and children.) This book I found interesting.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Hungry Ghost of Rue Orleans

The Hungry Ghost of Rue Orleans. Mary Quattlebaum. Illustrated by Patricia Castelao. 2011. Random House. 32 pages.

Fred lived alone at 28 Rue Orleans. Once the house had been a jazzy-snazzy, sweet-and-spicy spot, but now? The floors squeaked, the roof leaked, and dust coated the chairs. But Fred liked his rickety house. All night he moaned and clicked his fingers and tended his tiny cactus. If he got hungry, he gobbled some air. The perfect life for a ghost.

Books--even picture books--can surprise you. I didn't think I'd like this one--at all. And I'm not saying that I love it, but when you begin a book with big, big doubts, thinking that it most probably won't be for you, when that turns out not to be the case, well, you can't help getting a little excited about it! (The opposite of how you feel when you expect to love, love, love a book and end up being frustrated, disappointed, etc.)

Anyway, this picture book is about what happens when an old house in New Orleans is bought and turned into a restaurant. Fred is used to haunting a house--a wonderfully dusty, creaky house. But Fred is NOT happy about haunting a busy, noisy restaurant! And haunts it he does. But while he intended--perhaps--to scare the guests away, he ends up being the unique charm of the place. People see him as a little something extra that makes this restaurant worth eating at. How does Fred feel about all this?! Well, his mind might change once he gets a taste of powdered "ghost" puffs!

What I liked about this one was the language. With phrases like "munchers and clankers" to describe the customers, it had me at hello. I just thought the language, the style, was lovely. I still don't necessarily "like" ghost stories. But this one, well, it worked for me.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Yellow House

The Yellow House. Blake Morrison. Illustrated by Helen Craig. 1987/2011. Candlewick Press. 32 pages.

Every day we passed the yellow house on our way to the park, Mom and me and my little sister, Jenny. The house was on its own. It looked old, sad, and rather scary. 

I'll try to keep this one short. After all, why waste time with a book I'm not eager to recommend?! This picture book was just odd to me. I haven't decided if the intent is just to be odd, or if the intent is to be odd and CREEPY. Is it a seemingly simple book about a young girl with an active imagination? Or is the "little boy that beckons to her" meant to be creepy? I found him VERY creepy. But that could just be me.

So. There's this abandoned house that the heroine passes often. She feels a little sad--if sad is the right word?--that no one lives there. That the house doesn't have a family, a family with little children. One day the little girl passes the house and stops. She "notices" a little boy in the yard. He wants her to play with him. And they have an over-the-top, completely unbelievable adventure together. But. Of course she never sees him again because no one lives there, the place is abandoned and will likely always be abandoned.

Anyway, the book is weird. I suppose it could just be unusual or quirky or peculiar. I didn't like it. But you may like it more than I did. Are you a fan of this one? If you like it--love it--I'd love to hear why. I would appreciate seeing it through someone else's eyes!

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 4 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, September 26, 2011


Shoe-La-La. Karen Beaumont. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2011. Scholastic. 40 pages.

Party dresses, party hair...
Need new party shoes to wear.
Emily, Ashley, Kaitlyn, Claire!
Let's go find the perfect pair!
They're everywhere.
Rows and rows!
These or those?
Up, up on our tippy toes.
Can't wait to choose new shoes.
Here goes!

Could I really be liking a book with SO MUCH glitter on the cover? I'm not a glitter-loving girl after all. But. I was pleasantly surprised by Karen Beaumont's Shoe-la-la! I found this book about four friends to be so much fun! The rhythm-and-rhyme of it worked for me. (I can be a bit picky, I know!) And the illustrations by LeUyen Pham, well, they were fantastic!!! I just love, love, love her work so very much!!! I don't know that I've ever read a book she's illustrated (or written) that I didn't end up loving!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Be Quiet, Mike!

Be Quiet, Mike! Leslie Patricelli. 2011. Candlewick. 40 pages.

This is a story about a monkey named Mike, who started drumming as a tiny little tyke. He played with his fingers; he played with his feet--a funky little monkey with a beat, beat, beat.
Bing, bong, bing, his rhythms would sing, but poor Monkey Mike heard only one thing...
He heard it from his parents; he heard it from his sis; he heard it from the neighbors, and it sounded like this:

At first I wasn't sure about this one. It was never a case of liking or not liking; no, it was a do I like this?, do I really like this? or do I love it? Leslie Patricelli is one of my favorite authors for young readers. I've loved--often loved, loved, loved--many of her simpler books like Higher, Higher; Tubby; Potty; Yummy Yucky; Quiet Loud; No No Yes Yes; Baby Happy Baby Sad; The Birthday Box, etc. Be Quiet, Mike definitely has more words than any of those books I just mentioned!

But the more I read Be Quiet, Mike! the more I liked it. And I think it is because of the rhythm of it. It's a simple story of a loud little monkey who has to find the right way to express himself. He finds it through music--a drum set--as you might have guessed. Anyway, there is something musical about Be Quiet, Mike. I'm not saying that it is as musical, as magical, as say Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins (one of my favorite, favorite, favorite, favorite books of all times), but it works. There is something fun about reading this one.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

11 Experiments That Failed

11 Experiments That Failed by Jenny Offill. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. 2011. Random House. 40 pages.

Question: Can a kid make it through the winter eating only snow and ketchup?
Hypothesis: Ketchup and snow are the only food groups a kid needs.
What You Need: Ketchup, Snow
What to Do: 1. Make snowball, 2. Dip in ketchup, 3. Eat, 4. Repeat three times a day until spring.
What Happened: Stomachache, brain freeze, love of ketchup wavering.

And that is just the first (failed) experiment our passionate young scientist is trying...

I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. I did. I loved it because it was funny. It was just hilarious. It was fun and quirky and unexpectedly wonderful. (Though if you're familiar with 17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore, then it may not be so unexpected. I'm not completely sure I've read the first book with this oh-so-quirky, oh-so-trouble-prone heroine, so I plan on reading it soon--just in case!)

There were MANY great experiments in the book. My personal favorite just happens to be:
Question: Can a live beaver be ordered through the mail?
Hypothesis: A live beaver can be ordered through the mail.
What You Need: Five dollar bill, envelope, stamp.
What to Do: 1. Fill out mail-order beaver form. 2. Attach five dollar bill, 3. Place form in stamped envelope. 4. Mail.
What Happened: Allowance withheld until further notice. House declared No Beaver zone. 
All eleven experiments are great. And the book is just FANTASTIC. I just loved, loved, loved it cover to cover. I would definitely recommend this one!!!

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

All The Way to America

All The Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel. Dan Yaccarino. 2011. Random House. 40 pages.

My great-grandfather Michele Iaccarino grew up on a farm in Sorrento, Italy. When he was a boy, his father gave him a little shovel so he could help tend the zucchini, tomatoes, and strawberries that his family sold in the village. They worked very hard but were always very poor. And so when he was a young man, Michele left Italy and went all the way to America in search of new opportunities. "Work hard," his father told him, handing him the little shovel. "But remember to enjoy life." "And never forget your family," his mother said. She hugged him and gave him their few family photographs and her recipe for tomato sauce. 

Dan Yaccarino tells a very personal story in All the Way to America. He shares his family history--the history of four generations: his great-grandparents, his grandparents, his parents, and himself, how he's passing on the legacy to his own children. It's a picture book that celebrates family, family values, and life. The good advice being passed on through the generations just as much as that one little shovel. It was a very simple, very sweet story. (I really liked seeing how the shovel was used by each generation.)

I would definitely recommend this one. I really loved it.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Best Birthday Party Ever

The Best Birthday Party Ever. Jennifer LaRue Huget. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2011. Random House. 40 pages.

My birthday is 5 months, 3 weeks, 2 days, and 8 hours away. Today I started to plan my party. It is going to be the best birthday party ever. I will make the invitations myself. They will have a picture of me dressed like a princess on the front. My mother will help me color them in. We will put gold glitter in the envelopes so when people open them they'll get showered with fairy dust. I am inviting all my friends--57 of them, counting some kids I just met at the grocery story. Plus my grandmas. And the mailman. And the lady at the bank who gives me lollipops.

So begins this charming picture book by Jennifer LaRue Huget. The heroine of this one is super-super excited about turning seven. As the months, weeks, days, and hours go by, readers get to learn all about her plans for celebrating the big day. The heroine is very exuberant, very passionate; she is very easy to love! And the thing is she can "plan" all of this party without being a big brat, without whining or crying. Does she get her elephants? Does she get her two magicians? Does she get a birthday card from the President or the Queen? No, no, no. Her real birthday party is great enough, simple enough, to treasure. It's the little things that matter--like how her mom makes extra frosting just for her so she can eat it out of the bowl--that make this party a big success.

I loved this one. I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. It was funny and sweet and just about perfect. I just loved the illustrations. LeUyen Pham is without a doubt my favorite, favorite, favorite illustrator. I just LOVE and ADORE her work. I do. I can't help myself. I am just a big, big fan of her work. And the illustrations make this one extra special.

It really makes me happy to see a book with a great story AND great illustrations. That isn't always the case.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Edwin Speaks Up

Edwin Speaks Up. April Stevens. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 2011. Random House. 40 pages.

Mrs. Finnemore was racing around the house.
"Gloo poop SHOE noogie froo KEY," Baby Edwin was babbling. He was all dressed and ready to go to the supermarket.
"Mommmmmy," Finney whined. "Can't we just go?"
Suddenly Mrs. Finnemore stopped short.
"Oh, for Pete's sake, there they are!" she said, and she reached into Fergus's shoe on the hall table and pulled out her car keys.

Baby Edwin, the youngest of five Ferret children in the Finnemore family, can't talk yet, so everyone thinks. But if he can't talk, why does he have all the answers?! Time and time and time again his babbling reveals that he is much more OBSERVANT than his distracted mama. And he does try to help her out all he can. For example, when she loses her pocket book, she just can't see how helpful Edwin is being when he says: "Figbutton noo noo POCKY BOOKY froppin ROOF."

So Edwin Speaks Out is a picture book about a family trip to the grocery store. Mrs. Finnemore is taking all five children to the grocery store with her. And she's told everyone to remind her to buy sugar so she can make Edwin a birthday cake. Well, of course one thing after another after another distracts her from the task at hand, and well, they are almost out of the store when....

Will Edwin finally get everyone's attention?! Will Edwin get the recognition he deserves?!

I honestly don't know how I feel about this one. I haven't read it aloud yet; I haven't given it an audience. And Edwin's babble could prove funny or amusing especially when read aloud. But the book definitely is a bit odd as well. I've seen really, really, really odd and peculiar books--this isn't that odd. But it's not quite your usual picture book either. A scatterbrained mom who just doesn't have it together--at all. And a babbling baby that can be a charmer.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers


ZooZical by Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Marc Brown. 2011. Random House. 40 pages.

One blustery morning, when frosty winds blew, 
When families stayed home, and when field trips were few,
The midwinter doldrums arrived at the zoo.

The zoo animals are bored, bored, bored. It's winter and the weather is keeping visitors away from the zoo. But with one little bounce--or hop--all that changes. The hop in question--from a small hippo--not the bounciest animal, perhaps, but wouldn't you hop out of the way if a BIG hippo was about to collapse on you? Inspired by this hop, the animals decide to put on a show. And this show--this talent show--brings in visitors once more.

I am not a big fan of Judy Sierra. I think her rhyming--her rhythm--is lacking quite a bit. The rhymes feel unnatural and the story feels forced in places. The rhymes hold this story back. The premise of this one--performing animals, silly animal tricks, animals singing, dancing, laughing, etc. isn't a horrible one. It could actually be fun (think Dooby, Dooby Moo). And I always appreciate a good zoo story.

The strength of this one is in the illustrations by Marc Brown. I thought they worked well with this one. The illustrations alone kept me reading this one.

Have you read ZooZical? What did you think? Do you have a favorite zoo book?

Text: 1 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 4 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers