Friday, January 24, 2020

13. Welcome, Baby!

Welcome, Baby! Karen Katz. 2019. 14 pages. [Source: Library] [Board book]

First sentence: When you came home, we dressed you in the softest...pajamas.

Premise/plot: Karen Katz is a prolific writer of books for the very young, for babies. This board book with flaps is for parents to share with little ones as they perhaps look back on when Baby was very new. The text is simple, near timeless, but perhaps not universal. (For example, not every baby will be fed a bottle upon arriving home. No doubt some will. But not all. Every baby will need burping and diapering. But this book doesn’t go there!)

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I did. I think it would be great to share with your little one on your lap. Parents can read the text and perhaps elaborate with stories of their own to make the story more personal. The story is sweet.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

12. The Crayons' Christmas

The Crayons' Christmas. Drew Daywalt. Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. 2019. 52 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book; Christmas; Novelty]

First sentence: One snowy December day, Duncan was making Christmas cards with his crayons when the mail carrier brought a letter, only it wasn’t for him...

Premise/plot: As a novelty Christmas book this one offers a good time, especially if your little one already loves Duncan’s crayons. It offers several built in activities: peach crayon paper doll with wardrobe, a game board, punch out Christmas ornaments, a dreidel to assemble, etc. The crayons receive a good amount of mail and a box of decorations is fetched from the attic.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. I recognize it for what it is—a novelty holiday themed read—not exactly great literature. The story is flimsy at best. But all the activities are cute. I loved the “recipe” that Beige receives from his parents for gluten free cookies. (Beige is now intolerant of gluten because he’s colored in too much wheat.) The first step is to go to the store and buy gluten free cookies. But there are four more steps.

Text: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Total: 6/10

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, January 20, 2020

11. Keeper of the Lost Cities

Keeper of the Lost Cities. Shannon Messenger. 2012. 496 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Fiction. MG Fantasy. MG Speculative Fiction, J Fantasy, J Speculative Fiction]

First sentence: Blurry, fractured memories swam through Sophie’s mind, but she couldn’t piece them together. She tried opening her eyes and found only darkness.

Premise/plot: Sophie, our heroine, has spent her life—all twelve years—trying to be invisible, stay invisible. This isn’t easy since she’s a prodigy—a senior in high school at age 12. But on a class field trip she’s mesmerized by a stranger and his message to her. His name is Fitz and—like her—he’s an elf. She may live with humans, been raised by humans, but she’s an elf and belongs with her own kind. Surprise! Sophie believes him realizing all the zillions of clues in her life pointing to how she’s not like her parents, her sister, or even her classmates. Of course she’s an elf!!! So away to a lost city and elf school she goes...her life may never be the same. But her gifts may not protect her from those that wish her harm. (She’s a telepath.)

My thoughts: As an adult who has read hundreds of middle grade fantasy novels this one has a same same feel to it. This isn’t terrible, especially if you’re in the target audience. If you enjoy this one there are literally dozens of other series that are similar. You can move from one series to the next, enjoying them all immensely. No doubt this one is enjoyable and entertaining. Plenty of humor, a dash or two of suspense, a sprinkling of surprises. I didn’t love, love, love it as an adult reader. But I definitely liked it. Just not as much as say The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. I would recommend it to kids.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, January 17, 2020

10. The Bad Guys: The Baddest Day Ever

The Bad Guys: The Baddest Day Ever (#10) Aaron Blabey. 2019. [December] 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Early chapter book; Graphic Novel; Animal fantasy]

First sentence: That’s lovely.

Premise/plot: Question: Should readers be able to pick up any book in a series and make at least some sense of it. Should they be able to grasp at who the main characters are, how they relate to each other, and what the general plot of this specific book is?! This book is the tenth in the series. I couldn’t tell you anything about the characters—though my guess is that it is a team of somethings (could not for the life of me tell you what animal/creature any is supposed to be). Nor could I tell you anything about the plot with the exception that a character named Snake is dead and then not dead?!

My thoughts: Answer: I think good writers make an effort with each series book to help readers out. Even a little effort is a good thing. Because the truth is readers don’t always read books in a series in order. Even if they’ve read book one in a series, they may pick up book seven or eight next. It might be a case of what books are on the library shelf—either school or public. The more popular a series, the greater the chance that the books won’t be able to be checked out in order. Even if readers have read most if not all the books in the series, time might have elapsed between books. If it has been months even a year since reading the last book, readers can start a series a bit fuzzy with only a vague recall of what happened last. Recaps can be woven into many books seamlessly or near so. This book is a total fail in my opinion.

This one will appeal to fans of the series who have read the previous books and who enjoy the graphic novel style.

As an introduction to the series it is a terrible.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, January 16, 2020

9. Pig the Tourist

Pig the Tourist. (Pig the Pug #7) Aaron Blabey. 2020. [February] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Animal fantasy; picture book]

First sentence: Pig was a pug and I’m sorry to say, when he went on vacation he’d cause great dismay.

Premise/plot: Pig the Pug has his own series. It is a long series. Blabey is kept busy writing this and other series. The story is written in rhyme. In this adventure, Pig causes trouble, trouble, and more trouble.

My thoughts: I am not a fan of the series. I think the illustrations keep me from actually enjoying the books. The text is enjoyable enough. For little ones that do love the series, that do love dogs, that do like comic mischief...this one will probably be a hit.

Text: 4/5
Total: 5/10

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

8. The Return of Thelma the Unicorn

The Return of Thelma the Unicorn. Aaron Blabey. 2019. [December] 36 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Picture book; animal fantasy]

First sentence: Thelma felt a little shocked. In fact, she felt quite torn. You see, she’d made the whole world sad—WE MISSED OUR UNICORN!

Premise/plot: Thelma, our heroine, returns to “being” a unicorn, returns to the spotlight, in Blabey’s sequel. This time Thelma has the support of a very good friend, Otis.

My thoughts: I have not read the first book. (If I have it was so forgettable that I don’t remember doing so.) I enjoyed this one. I enjoyed Thelma and Otis. I thought the rhyming worked well. Did I love it? I would not go that far. Unicorns aren’t quite my thing. I thought it was cute and enjoyable. Little ones that do love all things unicorn will find it super appealing.

Illustrations: 4/5
Total: 7/10

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

7. A Trio of Tolerable Tales

A Trio of Tolerable Tales. Margaret Atwood. Illustrated by Dusan Petricic. 2017. 52 pages. [Source: Library] [Short stories; children's book; humor]

Premise/plot: A Trio of Tolerable Tales is a collection of three short stories—or tales. The stories are Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes, Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda, Wandering Wenda. Each story is premise driven. This is how I imagine the book’s origin: I dare you to write a story using alliteration! Atwood: I accept that dare! I’ll write THREE stories and show you who’s boss!

Each story is an adventure if you define adventure loosely. The characters aren’t really shaped in any traditional way—the characters , the plot, everything is driven by the need to start with a particular letter. In the first story, it’s the letter r with a few wr words thrown in. In the second it is the letters b and d. In the final story, it’s the letter w.

My thoughts: If the use of obscure or mostly obscure vocabulary words matters more to you than story, sense, or characters...then do I have a book for you. There’s nothing wrong with premise driven books, I just wish it wasn’t marketed to young readers. I doubt that a new reader—say second grade—would have the patience to endure such a tedious, no, TOLERABLE book. The more reluctant a reader is, the worse this one will go. I do see it being appealing to the Matilda-like and Amy-like precocious and voracious reader.

But essentially I don’t recommend this one to most young readers. It would be a tiresome read aloud, I imagine.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers