Monday, October 29, 2007

Mary Engelbreit's Classic Library

The two books by Frances Hodgson Burnett are available now, and would, I imagine, make great gifts. The Anne of Green Gables book, below, isn't being released until mid-January 2008. And at only ten bucks apiece, I'd say that's reasonable since they're hardcovers.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Little House in the Big Woods

The 75th Anniversary Edition of Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I haven't seen this one but...

Book Description
This charming miniature theater invites children to create their own Nutcracker ballet — with the help of toy dancers to twirl, backdrops to change, a CD of musical selections, and a guide to staging scenes.

For every child who has ever imagined flying off with Clara to the Land of Sweets — and for every child ready to be transported to the magical realm of THE NUTCRACKER for the first time — this beribboned theater is the ultimate gift. Inside you'll find:

- A mini stage with changeable backdrops and scenery
- Six main characters on sticks, for twirling onstage
- Ten more characters available on punch-out sheets
- A booklet retelling the story of THE NUTCRACKER and offering scene-by-scene staging instructions
- A CD of musical selections from THE NUTCRACKER score
- Intriguing facts about ballet history, Tchaikovsky, and Christmas traditions
- Even a recipe for making sugar plums!

About the Author
Jean Mahoney is the author of three books for adults on Japanese
architecture and design. She has led a nomadic life and first had the
inspiration for the NUTCRACKER project while living in Vienna, where she attended the opera and often lamented over the dull librettos. She says, "There¹s nothing like sitting in a darkened theater when suddenly the orchestra pit lights up, and the sound of the instruments tuning up washes over the audience. THE NUTCRACKER BALLET THEATRE is that memory made tangible, a magical moment in miniature."

Viola Ann Seddon grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where her childhood
revolved around the performing arts, ballet, and opera. She has fond
memories of seeing THE NUTCRACKER ballet over and over again, memories that she combined with her love of doll-making to produce THE NUTCRACKER BALLET THEATRE. "I have sewn, painted, and dressed the performers in this set, and since Clara is the leading lady, she resembles my first childhood doll," she says. "I have spent a large part of my life making dolls, which invariably take on lives of their own." The illustrator of two children's books, Viola Ann Seddon currently lives in London.

Gift Idea #1 for 2007

Book Description
The ideal interactive gift for every child who likes dancing, theater, music, fairy tales, or make-believe.

Restage the romantic SLEEPING BEAUTY ballet — and invent your own creative embellishments — with the help of a charming miniature theater containing everything you need!

- A sturdy foldout theater
- Changeable scenery and backdrops
- A booklet that tells the full story and offers stage directions
- Nine twirling figures and a supporting cast
- An audio CD with selections from the musical score

About the Author
Jean Mahoney is the author of THE NUTCRACKER BALLET THEATRE and has written several books on interior design. She lives in Southampton, New York.

Viola Ann Seddon is the illustrator of THE NUTCRACKER BALLET THEATRE. She lives in London, where she works as an illustrator and dollmaker.

My thoughts: This interactive book is so great, so fun. It's a perfect gift for those able to appreciate it. My guess is that would probably not be anyone under seven or eight. (But you probably know your child best.) My age recommendation is based on the fact that the sets are made of paper (or cardboard) and it needs to be treated with care when using. That and the fact that you don't want the pieces strewn all over the place and lost. But that being said, this set is so cute, so sweet, so adorable. I think there are many adults out there who would love this as well.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Princess Pigsty

I just love Cornelia Funke's picture book, Princess Pigsty. Here is a princess that I can actually like for once! The story is of a royal family, of course, a household with lots of princesses. Isabella, our heroine, is the youngest of the bunch. Her older sisters are Druscilla and Rosalinda. The first few pages explain royal behavior. How the sisters are waited on hand and foot. How they have every luxury they could ever want or imagine. How perfect there life is. How they should be the happiest girls in the kingdom. But. (There's always a but in picture books like this...) But Isabella is not happy. No, not happy at all. One day she decides to do something about it. "I am tired of being a princess. . .I want to get dirty!. . . I don't want to smile all the time. . .I don't want to have my hair curled EVER again." And the list goes on and on throughout the text. She wants to have fun, get dirty, wear pants instead of dresses, actually interact with the world and learn to do things herself. When her father essentially asks what has come over her...what led her to throw her crown in the fishpond, she responds "Princesses don't do anything fun. Princesses don't even pick their noes. Princesses just stand around looking pretty. Yuck. I don't want to be a princess anymore!" Thinking that he can teach his daughter a lesson, he sends her off first to the kitchen and then finally the pigsty. The twist? He's the one that learns the lesson. Sometimes you've got to let kids be themselves. You can't always mold them into the exact image you want. (Some girls don't want to be girly-girls. They don't want to wear dresses with bows and laces. They might not want to wear pink tutus and take ballet and/or piano lessons.) The book ends with her compromising a little bit saying that she might wear a dress and crown occasionally, but that some lines aren't meant to be crossed. "Isabella never let anybody curl her hair EVER again!"

Whose Chick Are You?

While it doesn't really get better than P.D. Eastman's Are You My Mother?, Nancy Tafuri's newest picture book of a newly hatched bird is a cute addition to the field. What do I love about this book? I love the illustrations; they're beautiful. Really outstanding. The colors are subdued and soothing. (Nothing bright and cartoony going on here. This book is all about nature.) The text is simple and straightforward. There are only a few words per page, and the font is large. (I can't speak for everyone, but there is something so inviting about a picture book that is not afraid of being labeled 'too simple.') The book opens with the rising of the sun, the various birds in the area are waking up and exploring...and they each discover--on their own--a nest with an egg on the verge of hatching. Instead of a new baby bird seeking its mother, these are just curious birds anxious to find the right mama for this soon-to-be born chick. But the mother hasn't abandoned her nest, she is nearby and waiting to claim her young one. As I mentioned, the text is simple, and the message is a reassuring one about families, love, and belonging. Overall, a cute story.

Big and Little

Big and Little by John Stadler is a picture book that has thoroughly charmed me this past week. It is about a mouse and an elephant. Hence the title big and little. You might think you know where this is going, but you may just be surprised. Ellie, the elephant, is going to climb a tall ladder and dive into a small glass of water. The mouse is the ringmaster of the show. Read along as this incredible act unfolds...

From John Stadler's website:

Prepare to be amazed and astounded by how BIG on suspense, such a little book can be! You will gasp! You will laugh! You will not believe your eyes!

Be the first in your neighborhood to see for yourself how the magic unfolds!
Hurry! Hurry! Read it today!

(No one will be admitted to or allowed to leave the book during the last six pages so as not to ruin the ending for others.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

LittleMiss Reviews Baa Baa Bedtime

The second book that LittleMiss reviewed was Baa Baa Bedtime. This book appealed to her very much because each page had fluffy, fleecy little sheep to touch and grab. In fact, she was so enthralled with each page that her mama had a hard time turning the pages! LittleMiss' mama loved the illustrations, they are warm and the pages almost seem to glow. LittleMiss' Daddy was quite excited to have new books to add to her bedtime reading ritual.

Here is my take on Baa Baa Bedtime. It is by Susan Curtis. (LittleMiss didn't make that clear in her review. But give her a break, she is only six months! She still has plenty of time to learn about authors and publishers.) It is illustrated by Janet Samuel. Like LittleMiss, I loved the pictures of this one. The wooly sheep are just too cute to miss. And the illustrations, while cartoon-like, are very vibrant and fun. It's just a very user-friendly little book. The text is a bedtime story obviously, but it also introduces the concept of subtraction and/or counting backwards. First there's five sheep, then four, then three, then two, etc. Until all five little sheep are tucked in for the night.

And look at what the publisher website provides!

IF he were a baby book reviewer...

Here's a little guy that is NOT a baby reviewer, at least not yet. But if he were, I think I'd dub him Reads-Books-He Does.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

LittleMiss Reviews Ten In A Bed

Miss Becky gave LittleMiss some new books and LittleMiss could hardly wait to review them. She talked her mama into postponing naptime so she could read her new books. The first book she read was "Ten in the Bed" by Penny Dale. LittleMiss really loved this book, she held it in her lap while her mama read the pages. LittleMiss especially enjoyed the fact that each animal made a different sound as it fell out of bed. She laughed each time she heard the new sound that they made.

Here is my take on Ten In A Bed. LittleMiss did a great job with this one! This is a board book variation on a popular children's song "Ten in a Bed" while some of the words have changed...the concept is as fun as ever!

"There were ten in the bed and the little one said, 'Roll over, roll over!'
So they all rolled over and Hedgehog fell out. . . ."

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Song for Harlem

Patricia McKissack's Scraps of Time: 1928: A Song for Harlem.

A Song for Harlem is a chapter book--historical fiction chapter book--for young readers. Apparently, this is one in a series of books, but I haven't read the rest of the series. (The first apparently is Scraps of Time: 1960: Abby Takes A Stand. The second book is Scraps of Time: 1879: Away West. As far as I can tell, they can stand alone quite well. The main premise is that two children are going through things in the attic (or some other activity done with grandma) and are hearing stories about their family's past. In this particular book, the children are learning about their great-aunt (or maybe great-great aunt) Lilly Belle who spent a summer in Harlem going to a writer's workshop with Zora Neale Hurston as one of her teachers. The book is about Lilly's journey to finding her voice. It is a good read. And I would definitely recommend this series for young readers. Patricia McKissack is great like always.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Pennypacker, Sara. 2006. Clementine.

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker is a fun new chapter book perfect for young readers. (My guess second to fourth graders.) Our young heroine, Clementine is spunky and vibrant leaving a mark wherever she goes. Easily noticed by teachers and principals but not necessarily for the right reasons. But despite some behavior problems, Clementine remains a funny, lovable character.

When called to the principal’s office to explain how and why her friend’s hair got cut in the school bathroom, she answers:

“’I was helping’ . . . and then I told Principal Rice about how I’d helped her, too. ‘I answered the phone while you were gone. I ordered some new school pets, and I told the gym teacher we are never going to play dodgeball again, and I made two appointments for you. The phone kept going dead, so I guess it’s busted. But at least I helped you a little.’ That’s what I thought. There is a look they teach a person to make in principal school that is not very nice” (12-13).

The truth? Clementine always has good intentions, but sometimes her plans backfire or have unforseen-to-her consequences.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Rickshaw Girl

Mitali Perkin's Rickshaw Girl is a great early chapter book. Set in Bangladesh, the main character, the narrator, is a young girl named Naima. Naima is well-known for painting/drawing alpana patterns for the traditional Bangladeshi celebrations. But her skills may prove useful in another way, as she discovers just how much she is made of. Naima and her family are poor. Her father drives a rickshaw--that is their income. If he is sick or if business is low, or if something happens to the rickshaw--then their lives--their futures--are up in the air. Naima feels that it is all her fault, if only she hadn't been born a girl--if she'd been a boy--then she'd be out working side by side with her father. Able to help the family earn money to survive. But as it is, a girl's proper place is the home...or is it? Can Naima find a way to be true to herself without dishonoring her family and her culture? This book is an enjoyable read.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Roxie and the Hooligans

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. 2006. Roxie and the Hooligans.

In all honesty, I don’t read that many early chapter books. For one thing, they are rarely as entertaining as books for older readers. But occasionally one comes along like Clementine or Junie B. Jones that wins my heart. Roxie doesn’t win my heart. But she’s not bad either. Roxie is a young girl with many fears. Many fears and two big ears. Teased relentlessly by her classmates at school, she is determined to withstand the torture and torment calmly and bravely for the most part. But what happens when Roxie and her tormenters “accidentally” get dumped onto a deserted island where two robbers are hiding? Can Roxie’s knowledge of Lord Thistlebottom’s Book of Pitfalls and How To Survive Them get them out of this mess? And can she make friends with her enemies? I really enjoyed Roxie. It was the whole desert island being chased by dumb criminals thing that irritated me. More Roxie and less unrealistic adventures would make a great match. Show me Roxie in the everyday world. Show me Roxie at home with her family. Show me Roxie in school and on the weekends. Show her making friends. Show her having fun. But please no more Roxie eating grubs and leaves.

Time Warp Trio

Scieszka, Jon. 2006.The Time Warp Trio: Marco? Polo!. Illustrated by Adam McCauley.

In their sixteenth adventure, our time-traveling-trio of Joe, Fred, and Sam find themselves zapped out of the YMCA pool and transported back in time to a vast desert. Confused and disoriented, Joe finally realizes that playing the game Marco? Polo! might not have been the best choice with their magical book so near. Now they must team up with Marco Polo, go on a few adventures, and discover the location of the only magical book that is able to transport them back to their own time. Along the way, they have adventures and misadventures of course.

Knights of the Kitchen Table
The Not-So-Jolly Roger
The Good, the Bad, and the Goofy
Your Mother Was A Neanderthal
Tut Tut
Summer Reading Is Killing Me
It’s All Greek To Me
See You Later, Gladiator
Sam Samurai
Hey Kid, Want to Buy A Bridge?
Viking It and Liking It
Me Oh Maya
Da Wild, Da Crazy, Da Vinci
Oh Say, I Can’t See

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hair For Mama

Tinkham, Kelly A. 2007. Hair for Mama. Illustrated by Amy June Bates.

October is usually family picture time for the Carters, but this year is different. Mama has cancer and all of her beautiful hair is gone because of her chemotherapy treatments. She doesn't want to be in the photo. Eight-year-old Marcus knows that the photo won't be right without Mama, but what can he do?

The book was inspired by a conversation Kelly Tinkham had with her five-year-old son when she told him she had cancer and would be losing her hair. Hair for Mama is a loving, sweet story about a family facing the uncertainty of the future. Although many things are different know that the mother is sick, one thing remains constant: love. This family loves and cares for one another deeply. Marcus's determination to save the day and give his mother hope is a wonderful thing to see depicted in a picture book. While I'm sure it's not the only picture book out there depicting serious illnesses affecting a family, it is one of few. This is a topic that is just not addressed as frequently as it should be. The text and illustrations are just right.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Duck at the Door

Urbanovic, Jackie. 2007. Duck at the Door.

Knock. Knock. Knock! Someone's outside the door. . . But who? Meet Max--a duck for all seasons.

A duck shivering in the wintry cold. A duck making his way to the front porch of a cozy-looking house. Luckily for Max, this house is the home to LOTS of animals. And they just happen to be the ones to hear his arrival first.

It was a quiet night until...Thunk, Creak, and Knock, Knock, Knock!

All twelve animals--birds, dogs, cats--fly, run, leap as quick as can be to their owner--the boss of the place--Irene. Why? She always knows just what to do to make everything right around the house. She opens the door to find a snow-covered, miserably cold duck. He's brought inside and his story is told. Max stayed behind when his flock left because he thought winter would be fun. Irene and the gang welcome him with open arms--at least at first. But day after day, week after week, Max soon begins to take charge.

In January he learned to use the remote control. (He enjoyed Wild Kingdom and World Wide Wrestling.)
In February he discovered he had a flair for cooking.
By March he had made himself right at home.
but by April it was clear that Max had learned too much.

Duck at the Door is a fun book about finding your home, finding friends, finding your place in all seasons, all kinds of weather. I loved, loved, loved this book. And I loved the illustrations the best of all. Max is my kind of duck.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

One Little Chicken: A Counting Book

Elliott, David. 2007. One Little Chicken: A Counting Book. Illustrated by Ethan Long.

I have mixed opinions on One Little Chicken. On one hand, it is a fun, rhyming counting book. It is a concept book with a fun premise: a counting book with dancing poultry. The book features chickens doing all sorts of dances and having lots of crazy fun as the numbers get higher and higher. On the other hand, one thing that is slightly disappointing is the fact that while it rhymes it isn't really very rhythmical. Some books are so rythmical, so right, that the text seems to sing. This one doesn't. That's not a crime necessarily. It's not an unpardonable sin. But I think it would have more appeal if the words flowed a bit more smoothly. What this book really needs is insight from a kid. I am curious what kind of reaction this book gets from children. Do they laugh? Do they giggle? Do they count along? Do they do the dances? Do they wiggle and move and shake about while someone is reading it aloud? Do they interact with the text? If they do, then this book would be a success. Sometimes adults are more harsh with a book than they need to be. They notice things that wouldn't bother any kid. I'm wondering if that is the case in this situation. The second half of the book invites audience participation.

But one little chicken
will not bugaloo.
Who is that little chicken?
Oh my gosh! It's you!

The text then implores you to get up and boogie and shake.

Make your own music
with wax paper and a comb
and dance! dance! dance!
till the cows come home.

The last rhyme, the last little bit, seems forced to me. It doesn't seem natural for some reason. I don't know if it's the excessive use of exclamation points after each dance when commas would suffice. Or if it's the fact that instructing kids on wax paper and comb music skills seems out of place with the rest of the text...or what. I think if it had ended any other way, I would have enjoyed it better. What do I like about the text? I like the fact that it's chickens dancing. Yes, chickens are big this year. But I think there is a bit of a hidden, "clever" meaning. Those on the sidelines too scared to dance and have a little fun are being chickens. The text is saying stop being a chicken and get out there and have fun.

I'd Really Like To Eat A Child

Donnio, Sylviane. 2007. I'd Really Like To Eat A Child. Illustrated by Dorothee de Monfreid.

Achilles is a moody yet charming baby crocodile who is tired of eating bananas for breakfast every day. His mama was always telling him how big and handsome he was. And noticing what beautiful teeth he had. So one day, he decides that he is READY to eat a child. No more of this banana nonsense for him.
But one morning, Achilles refused to eat. This worried Mama Crocodile.
"Don't you want a tasty banana for breakfast?" she asked.
"No thanks, Mom," Achilles answered. "Today I'd really like to ead a child."
"What an idea, my little Achilles!" his mother cried. "Well, children don't grow on banana trees, only bananas do, and that's what I have for breakfast!"
"I know, but I'd really like to eat a child!"
The accompanying picture of Achilles making a sulking pouty (disgruntled) face is priceless! (I love the artwork by the way). And I had no idea there was a way to draw crocodiles where they would look genuinely worried or concerned.

This new idea takes hold and holds fast. No matter what his parents say, Achilles is insistent that a human child is the only thing he'll eat. There's no bribing him to each chocolate cake or anything else...his parents are distraught. What will they do with their poor baby who won't eat anything?

The answer comes in a strange way. A girl. A child. On her own near the river. Who is more in danger? The child or the crocodile? Is Achilles as big and fierce as he thinks he is? Is he really ready to match wits with a child?

I'd Really Like to Eat A Child is a fun picture book. The illustrations and text are both fabulous.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Forthcoming Reviews....

These are the picture books I'll be reviewing in the next month or so. Expect all of them by the first or second week of November. (If all goes to plan, anyway!)

The Wicked Big Toddlar by Kevin Hawkes
The Real Story of Stone Soup by Ying Chang Compestine
Papa and the Pioneer Quilt by Jean Van Leeuwen
My Little Grandmother Often Forgets by Reeve Lindbergh
How To Be A Baby by Me the Big Sister by Sally Llloyd Jones
The Old Woman And Her Pig by Margaret Read MacDonald
Princess Pigsty by Cornelia Funke
I Don't Like To Read! by Nancy Carlson
The Three Swingin' Pigs by Vicky Rubin
The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Three Billy Goats Gruff by Edward Miller
Big and Little by John Stadler
Mary and the Mouse, The Mouse and Mary by Beverly Donofrio & Barbara McClintock
Duck at the Door by Jackie Urbanovic
Some Pig by E.B. White. Illustrated by Maggie Kneen
20 Hungry Piggies by Trudy Harris
Coriander the Contrary Hen by Dori Chaconas
One Little Chicken: A Counting Book by David Elliott
Hair for Mama by Kelly A. Tinkham
Gator by Randy Cecil
I Don't Like Gloria by Kaye Umansky
The Secret World of Hildegard by Jonah Winter
Dog and Bear by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Pigs Love Potatoes by Anika Denise
The Princess and the Pea by Rachel Isadora
A Porc in New York by Catherine Stock
Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo & Diane Dillon
My Father's House by Kathi Appelt
The Nutcracker Doll by Mary Newell DePalma
Home Now by Lesley Beake
Christmas Tree Farm by Ann Purmell
Double Cheeseburgers, Quiche, and Vegetarian Burritos bty Loretta Frances Ichord
Christmas USA by Mary D. Lankford
Playground Day by Jennifer J. Merz
Thank You Bear by Greg Foley
Hedgehog, Pig, and the Sweet Little Friend by Lena Anderson
Ginger and Petunia by Patricia Polacco
Wolf's Coming by Joe Kulka
Whose Chick Are You? by Nancy Tafuri
17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore by Jenny Offill & Nancy Carpenter
I'm The Biggest Thing In the Ocean by Kevin Sherry
A Strange Day by Iris van der Heide
Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon
I'd Really Like To Eat A Child by Sylviane Donnio
The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers

Monday, October 1, 2007

Wednesdays and Fridays

Jenkins, Emily. 2007. What Happens On Wednesdays. Illustrated by Lauren Castillo.

While I loved the illustrations on What Happens on Wednesdays, I wasn't blown away by the text. The book is about a girl's sense of patterns or rituals. She doesn't keep track of time by looking at a clock. She makes sense of her world by sorting out how things fit into her daily routine--"what happens after lunch, after nap, after swimming, after the library" etc. While I can understand the concept, it was a bit confusing for me as well. The part that confused me was that the child kept referring over and over to the fact that "today was not a kissing day" and I just didn't know why. Does the child not like to be affectionate with her parents at all? If every day is "no kissing day" why make a big deal about it. And if the "no kissing day" is only one day a week, why have it? It's not like the parents stop hugging or kissing their daughter on 'no kissing day.' It just seemed silly. The overall concept is that a child is creating a "sensory" map of their neighborhood, of their life. What do they see, hear, smell, taste, touch in the process of a normal day. The book was fine in my opinion. It wasn't outstandingly great, but it wasn't bad. Just average. What I enjoyed most of all were the illustrations. I thought those were great.

Yaccarino, Dan. 2007. Every Friday.

I loved this book. Absolutely loved it. It is about family rituals. In particular it is about a father-son weekly ritual of having breakfast together at a local diner. Rituals are important in life. I think they are always important, but routine can be a great thing for a kid. This ritual starts with getting up extra-early, walking through the neighborhood to the diner, and eating pancakes. The text is simple. It doesn't need to be complex or wordy. Friday is my favorite day. Every friday, Dad and I leave the house early. Even if it is cold, snowing, sunny, or raining. There is beauty in simplicity. I loved the text. Loved it. But I loved the illustrations as well.

Duck, Duck, Goose

Hill, Tad. 2007. Duck, Duck, Goose.

What happens when your best friend makes a new friend? What if that 'new' friend is super-annoying? What if that new friend doesn't know how to stop boasting? What if that new friend never stops talking at all? What is a poor goose to do? Find out in Duck, Duck, Goose. Duck and Goose have always been best friends. Always. They like to do everything together. But one day all that changes. Duck brings someone new to meet Goose, Thistle. Thistle is a bit of a braggart. She never knows when to stop. She's a bit on the bossy side too. Can Duck and Goose's friendship withhold the strain of Thistle's domineering presence? It is a cute book. I think it's a book that almost everyone can relate to. [I bet we've all encountered a Thistle somewhere--whether at school, in the neighborhood, or at the workplace.] And maybe just maybe it will show kids how to interact with each other in a better way. How to NOT be a Thistle. Is Thistle a hopeless case? I hope not. She just needs someone to tell her that she's not the center of the universe.