Friday, October 20, 2017

Board book: I'm Grumpy

I'm Grumpy. (My First Comics) Jennifer L. Holm. 2016. 22 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This is Grumpy Cloud. Why are you so grumpy?

Premise/plot: Grumpy Cloud is grumpy. There are reasons, but, not reasons that cheery people like Sunny can understand. Sunny tries--and fails--to cheer up Grumpy. The harder Sunny tries to make Grumpy happy, the angrier Grumpy gets. The result? Thunder. Will Grumpy and Sunny make up after their fight?

My thoughts: I liked it. It was easy to relate to Grumpy's bad day. I can understand why Sunny's good intentions ended up failing. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a grumpy person is to give them space--plenty of space. That being said, Grumpy does a very nice thing to try to make it up to Sunny. This is one in a series of four books called My First Comics. I'd recommend the whole series. 

© 2017 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Imagine That!

Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat. Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. 2017. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: 1954 was a great year to be a kid. There were five-cent doughnuts and one-cent lollipops. Rock and roll had just hit the record shops. Bookstores brimmed with exciting new books, like Charlotte's Web, The Lord of the Rings, and Horton Hears a Who! 1954 was a great year to be a kid, unless you were trying to learn how to read.

Premise/plot: Imagine That tells the dual story of how Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat and the Hat (and Green Eggs and Ham) and  also how beginning readers got their start in the publishing world. The problem facing teachers--and parents--in 1954 was this: School readers were too boring--nobody wanted to read them. Therefore kids were struggling to transition from reading a few words to reading whole books. Dr Seuss was given a list of 236 words to use to write this new book, this beginning reader. Was he up to the challenge?
My thoughts: It is hard for me to imagine a world without beginning readers. I think my favorite thing about this one was that it showed the creative writing process.
Ted pondered how kids learned to read. He had a hunch that easy rhymes and funny drawings would help them guess the words they didn't know. He used tricks to coax readers to turn the pages. For example, he put the word BUMP in huge letters at the top-right edge of page five. What made that BUMP sound? Kids had to turn the page to find out. 
I enjoyed the illustrations. I loved the blend of new illustrations showing Dr. Seuss hard at work but also highlighting Seuss' classic illustrations.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Found Dogs

Found Dogs. Erica Sirotich. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: 1 dog, long and low. 2 dogs, silver and slow. 3 dogs, quivering, shivering. 4 dogs, dressed for snow.

Premise/plot: Found Dogs is set at a city shelter. First readers count from one to ten meeting all the shelter dogs. Then readers count backwards from ten as each dog is adopted and finds a forever family.

My thoughts: I liked it. I did. If you're a dog lover, then I think this would be a good choice to share with little ones. I think it would make a good read aloud. It rhymes. The language is quite descriptive as well.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3.5 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Follow The Track All The Way Back

Follow the Track All The Way Back. Timothy Knapman. Illustrated by Ben Mantle. 2017. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Today was a big day for Little Train. He was going out on the track all by himself for the very first time!

Premise/plot: Little Train's first day of independence leads to new adventures. But will Little Train remember how to get back home at the end of the day?

My thoughts: I liked this one. I am always glad to see new train books published. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. New train books mean a possible break from reading old train books, beloved old train books. The illustrations are wonderful in this one. The story is predictable. The title says it all. But predictable isn't always a bad thing. There are only so many things a train on a track can do.

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, October 16, 2017

World Pizza

World Pizza. Cece Meng. Illustrated by Ellen Shi. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The tall hill with the cherry trees and the soft grass for chairs was the best place to look for a wishing star. Mama found such a star, the first to be seen in more than one hundred years. It was not the brightest nor the biggest in the sky that night, but it was still a true wishing star. So Mama made her wish. "I wish for world peace-ah...ahh...ahh-CHOO!" said Mama.

Premise/plot: When Mama wishes for world peace, her sneeze interrupts the wish. Her wish does come true, but not exactly in the way she expects. Will a pizza for every family usher in world peace?!

My thoughts: This is a gimmick-driven picture book. Who would ever admit to wishing for something besides world peace though?! The Mama pictures world peace as "a world filled with kindness and love and no fighting." By the end of the book the fact that every single person "ate until their bellies were full and everyone was happy" brought about a "world filled with kindness and love and no fighting." I also found this one to be a little too wordy.

I found the book to have a ridiculous premise. The foundation of it is shaky at best. Can families even agree among themselves on pizza? For example, there's the question of crust: thin, hand-tossed, deep dish. Then there's the question of toppings. It can be difficult for even two people to agree on toppings--let alone a whole family. How many families have picky eaters?!

I also struggle to see pizza uniting the world because not every one can eat pizza. Not every one can eat wheat; not every one can eat cheese; not every one can eat tomatoes. Not everyone *should* eat pizza either. But that's a whole other subject, isn't it: eating healthy.

In this book, to be fair, no person is given a choice in the pizza. The pizza falls from the sky, lands where it wills, and it is what it is. You don't have a choice in toppings or crust. You also don't have a say as to if the pizza falls on you directly--or the ground, a car, a tree. I don't know about you--but even if I could eat pizza (I can't) I wouldn't eat one that had landed on the grass, on the sidewalk, on the street, on a car, on a bush or tree, on anything really. I don't think the "five second rule" would really come into play as far as I'm concerned.

I'm imagining a pizza landing right in front of me. And it would not make me happy if I couldn't eat it. The universe would be teasing me. Why couldn't the star deliver pizzas world-wide in a box?!

Also, keeping it practical. If world peace is established on full bellies, what happens when those full bellies are empty. If there's one thing you can rely on--it's the fact that no matter how much you stuff yourself, you will be hungry again. Or HONgry. I couldn't think of a shallower foundation for world peace than a full belly.

One last note, one of my favorite Garfield episodes features Garfield trying to force the Buddy Bears to fight. (Oh, we are the buddy bears we always get along...) He breaks these friends apart with pizza.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Not Quite Narwhal

Not Quite Narwhal. Jessie Sima. 2017. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Kelp was born deep in the ocean. He knew early on that he was different from the other narwhals. His tusk wasn't as long as everyone else's, he had different tastes in food, and he wasn't a very good swimmer. But his friends didn't seem to mind, so Kelp decided he wouldn't either.

Premise/plot: Kelp, the hero of Jessica Sima's Not Quite Narwhal, is a unicorn being raised by narwhals. Of course, he doesn't know he's really a unicorn. And he meets other unicorns almost by accident. He thinks they are land narwhals. Does Kelp belong in the sea or on land? Which family does he really belong to?

My thoughts: It was okay. I know that there are hundreds of reviews saying this is the best book ever. But me, I didn't feel it. I liked it okay. Perhaps I would have loved it if I had a special "love" for unicorns?

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, October 13, 2017

His Royal Highness, King Baby

His Royal Highness, King Baby: A Terrible True Story. Sally Lloyd-Jones. Illustrated by David Roberts. 2017. Candlewick Press. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Once upon a time, there was a happy family: a mom, a dad, a gerbil, and the most beautifulest, cleverest, ever-so-kindest Princess with long, flowing wondrous hair. (In fact, actually she is ME!)

Premise/plot: A big sister hates her new baby brother. Will these two ever be friends?

My thoughts: I liked this one. The focus is on two siblings. We have the big sister princess who goes from being the center of attention to an orphan servant girl, from her perspective. We have the baby brother, the "King Baby," who undeservedly takes all the attention even though he is horrible and boring and obnoxious, from her perspective. Readers always know exactly what this princess is thinking by paying attention to her ART. (Children may get the giggles by all the drawings of baby bottoms and POOP).

Speaking of art, in addition to the sister's art throughout we have the illustrations by David Roberts. I would hope Roberts' illustrations place this book firmly in the 1970s. Or else there's no excuse for this royal family's taste. I think my favorite thing is that the Princess' long, flowing hair is in reality a pair of hose. In every single picture, this child is wearing HOSE on her head. (To play a fairy, she switches to green tights.)

Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of the illustrations. On the one hand, they are not my style at all. All the characters have rosy cheeks, for example, and none of the characters look attractive (passably attractive.) On the other hand, the characters do have this over-the-top vintage vibe going for them. And the CLOTHES are out of sight.

Back to the text, this one is very wordy and descriptive. This one would probably be better for K-2 than for younger preschool. (Unless your child is gifted with a long attention span).

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Young Readers