Saturday, January 19, 2019

When We Were Very Young

When We Were Very Young. A.A. Milne. 1924. 100 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: At one time (but I have changed my mind now) I thought I was going to write a little Note at the top of each of these poems, in the manner of Mr. William Wordsworth, who liked to tell his readers where he was staying, and which of his friends he was walking with, and what he was thinking about, when the idea of writing his poem came to him.

Premise/plot: When We Were Very Young is a collection of poems dedicated to A.A. Milne's son, Christopher Robin Milne, aka Billy Moon. It was, I believe, Milne's first work for children. It wouldn't be his last.

My thoughts: If I loved poetry more, I think I would appreciate When We Were Very Young more than I do. I found the introduction charming. It does contain plenty of poems that I like, love, or even adore. Poems that are easier perhaps to adore if you were lucky enough to have heard them sung. (Winnie the Pooh: 17 Songs from the Pooh Song Book: Starring Jack Gilford. The album features: "Sing Ho! For the Life of A Bear," "Cottleston Pie," "Lines Written By A Bear of Very Little Brain," "Oh! The Butterflies are Flying," "I Lay On My Chest," "3 Cheers for Pooh," "They All Went Off To Discover the Pole," "Christopher Robin is Going," "Missing," "In the Fashion," "Halfway Down," Buckingham Palace," "Politeness," "The Christening," "Brownie," "Lines and Squares," and "Vespers."). My favorite poems from When We Were Very Young are:
Buckingham Palace
Lines and Squares
Halfway Down
Teddy Bear

From Teddy Bear
A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat
Which is not to be wondered at;
He gets what exercise he can
By falling off the ottoman,
But generally seems to lack
The energy to clamber back.
From Missing
Has anybody seen my mouse?
I opened his box for half a minute,
Just to make sure he was really in it,
And while I was looking, he jumped outside!
I tried to catch him, I tried, I tried...
I think he's somewhere about the house.
Has anyone seen my mouse?
From Buckingham Palace
They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace--
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Alice is marrying one of the guard.
"A soldier's life is terrible hard,"
Says Alice.
Do you have a favorite Milne poem? 

Original audience born circa 1918-1922. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Board book: Jungle Animals

Jungle Animals. Xavier Deneux. 2018. Twirl. 20 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence word: crocodiles

Premise/plot: Jungle Animals is a board book in Twirl's Baby Basics series. It was created with very young ones in mind. Each spread shows a jungle animal--or jungle animals. There's just a word or two per spread.

My thoughts: This one features high-contrast illustrations. Think bold and bright. There's also a tactile element to the illustrations--there is usually something on every page that little hands can reach out and touch. (For example, the three ants about to be eaten by the ant-eater). I found the book to be engaging. The illustrations are just stunning.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Board book: 1 Grumpy Bruce

1 Grumpy Bruce: A Counting Board Book. Ryan T. Higgins. 2018. Disney-Hyperion. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: 1 Grumpy bear, 2 uninvited skunks, 3 mice throwing a party, 4 geese helping...

Premise/plot: BRUCE is ONE grumpy bear. He is NOT having a good day. Will he still be grumpy at the end of the book?!

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved Ryan T. Higgins' Mother Bruce. If you haven't read that picture book, you should seek it out. It's WONDERFUL. I really enjoyed revisiting this character in this counting board book. Bruce is a FABULOUS character. The illustrations are super-fun.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Finding Winnie

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear. Lindsay Mattick. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 2015. Little, Brown. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Could you tell me a story?" asked Cole.

Premise/plot: Cole, the author's young son, asks for a story--a TRUE story; he wants a true story about a BEAR. What the author shares with her son--in the story--and with readers--in the book--is indeed a true story. The story of how a young soldier on his way to war--the author's great-great grandfather finds a bear at a train station, buys it, and takes it with him. The bear's name is WINNIE. And when Harry Colebourn goes to the front, he leaves Winnie in the London Zoo. Many people loved going to see Winnie, but, the best known perhaps is A.A. Milne's young son.

My thoughts: I love several things about this one. I love the personal connection. The author is sharing her own family history with readers. Older readers may enjoy looking at the album at the back of the book. Many photos and captions are included. This grounds the book very well as being a TRUE story. It brings the story to life.

But I also enjoy the framework of this one. It is a book that celebrates storytelling and families. I believe it is a bedtime story he's asking for. I love the idea of parents sharing their own stories with children, and true stories at that! Throughout the story, readers hear the mother and son chatting. It works.

I also just genuinely love the writing of this one!

ETA: I read this first in 2016. I reread it again in January 2019. I love it just as much this second time reading it. I may even love it more. The author has now written a new book for young readers a fantasy novel from the bear's point of view.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, January 14, 2019

Sprinkle Sundays #3 The Purr-fect Scoop

The Purr-fect Scoop (Sprinkle Sundays #3) Coco Simon. 2018. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I knew it had to be there somewhere! I just had to find it.

Premise/plot: The Purr-fect Scoop is the third book in Coco Simon's Sprinkle Sundays series for young readers.  In the first book, Allie's parents get divorced. Allie moves with her mom and brother to a nearby town. She misses her best friends Tamiko and Sierra very much. Fortunately, these three friends find a way to be together each and every week. The second book is narrated by Tamiko. The third book is narrated by Sierra.

Sierra loves spending time with her best friends at the ice cream shop, but she doesn't always find it easy to get there on time. She's got a hundred things on her mind, and, all are calling for her attention. It doesn't help her focus any when her parents--vets--bring home a mama cat and her three kittens to foster. There is much adorableness to be had at home. Plus there is increasing tension between her and her twin sister. Will Sierra find a way to balance her super-busy life?

My thoughts: This may be my favorite of the three books. I love character-driven novels. This seems more character-driven than the previous two. I thought the characterization of Sierra and her family was well done. I would recommend this series. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Meet Miss Fancy

Meet Miss Fancy. Irene Latham. Illustrated by John Holyfield. 2019. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Frank loved elephants. He loved drawing elephants and talking about elephants. He loved their hosepipe trunks and their flap-flap ears, their tree-stump feet and their swish-swish tails. But not once, not ever, had Frank seen a real elephant.

Premise/plot: This picture book is set in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1913. It is loosely based on a true story. There was an elephant, Miss Fancy, whom schoolchildren helped to purchase from a circus for Avondale Park. Miss Fancy lived in her new home from 1913 to 1934. Birmingham, Alabama, as adult readers will no doubt know was segregated at that time--only whites were allowed. Frank, our fictional hero, is not allowed in the park nor allowed to visit Miss Fancy. But where there's a will, is there a way? 

My thoughts: I loved this one. First I just have to say that I love, love, love Frank. We're kindred spirits. I also love, love, love elephants. I love their hosepipe trunks and their flap-flap ears. Which brings me to the second thing I love: the writing or the narrative. What else did I love? The illustrations. The author's note. The fact that this is based on a real elephant and keepers. I found it a satisfying read. Frank did find his own way. In all honesty, I enjoyed it all.

The book is a good example--in my humble opinion--of an author showing instead of telling.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

This Is My Fort

This Is MY Fort! (Monkey and Cake #2) Drew Daywalt. Illustrated by Olivier Tallec. 2019. [February] 56 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hello, Cake. Hello, Monkey. What are you doing? I am making a fort.

Premise/plot: Monkey and Cake are friends, best friends. In their second adventure, Cake is making a fort. Before Monkey even asks if he can play in the fort, Cake states:
I am making a fort to keep out Monkeys. No monkeys are allowed in my fort.
 Does Monkey get upset and throw a fit? Does he fight his way into Cake's fort? Does he call names? NO. No. No. Monkey gets clever.
The wall to your little fort is also the wall to my "rest of the world" fort.
 Will Cake realize that his way of playing fort is no fun at all? Will Cake want to join Monkey in his fort?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this second adventure. (The first adventure is WHAT IS INSIDE THIS BOX?) The back and forth dialogue is fun. (Perhaps a tiny bit repetitive, but still fun.) I think most--if not all--can relate to this story. It is a story about forts, playing forts. But it is also a story about inclusion and exclusion. It's no fun being left out and excluded. It offers a different perspective on play. For example, the wall that keeps Monkey out of Cake's 'no monkey' fort, is also a wall keeping him [Cake] inside. It's a wall between him and the rest of the world.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers