Friday, December 26, 2008

I'll Be Home for Christmas

Hobbie, Holly. 2001/2008. I'll Be Home for Christmas.

I'll Be Home for Christmas is a sweet and gentle story starring Toot and Puddle. The two, in case you haven't met them, are quite charming pigs--really as adorable as they can be. This particular Toot and Puddle story--set during Christmas--has Toot away visiting family during the holidays. Toot has promised Puddle to be there for Christmas. But this promise turns to be a bit difficult to keep...that is until of course a fortunate meeting with a man in red helps get him home just in time!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from Snugglebug!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hurry! Hurry! Have You Heard?

Hurry! Hurry! Have You Heard? by Laura Krauss Melmed. Illustrated by Jane Dyer.

When you think about the animals present at the nativity--the birth of Christ--I bet you don't think of lady bugs, bumble bees, tortoises, shrews, moles, and foxes, but in this imaginative retelling all of God's animals--well, some of the smaller and more neglected animals at least--gather together to worship the baby Jesus in their own unique ways. (Kittens purr, etc.)

Here's how it starts off,
A brand new star rose in the sky
And shone with all its might
To celebrate a baby's birth
One peaceful winter's night.

Three kittens sleeping in the straw,
All snug in downy fur,
Woke up to find the newborn boy,
And they began to purr.

A small bird nesting on a beam
Hopped down from up above,
And when the baby smiled at her,
Her heart filled up with love.

So out over the countryside
She soured on wings of joy,
Inviting friends from far and wide
To welcome the new boy.

"Hurry! Hurry! Have you heard?
A child was born tonight,
And every creature large or small
Is precious in his sight."

That should give you some idea on how this one will go. I have mixed feelings on this one in a way. There's something that seems a bit off about it. I think, for me, the problem is in the illustrations. The book doesn't feel like it is about the nativity. This is no first-century Bethlehem. This is a country-barn (with window panes) surrounded by fields of deep snow and pine trees and wooden fences. And the clothes that baby Jesus and Mary are wearing just don't feel right. (They don't look particularly Jewish either.) And it was odd that there was never once a mention of this being the baby Jesus and Mary. (Joseph wasn't in the book at all.) The animals are wearing clothes--the kittens are wearing mittens, the bird is wearing a scarf, the bunny is wearing a cap (as is the tortoise), the lambs are wearing bows, etc. And there's nothing wrong with that--plenty of children's books do it. And sometimes it works, other times it doesn't.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Golden Dreydl

Kushner, Ellen. 2007. The Golden Dreydl.

Before it was a book, it was a musical performance. It is performed live, and there are also radio productions of it. And a CD.

"The Golden Dreydl" is an award-winning family entertainment featuring the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, as interpreted by Shirim Klezmer Orchestra, with original story and narration by Ellen Kushner. Together, they have created a brand-new retelling of an old tale: Sara is a little girl with a problem: she hates the annual family Chanukah party! But when a mysterious party guest gives her the gift of a golden dreydl, Sara is catapulted into a magical world of demons and fools, sorcerers and sages.

Knowing that it is a "Jewish" interpretation of The Nutcracker helps when you're reading the book. You know in some ways what to expect.

Sara is a young girl who is not excited about Chanukah. She'd much rather be celebrating just like her friends--with Christmas trees and such. But Sara is on her way to a Chanukah celebration she'll never forget. A most magical time is about to be had--at least for Sara. And it all starts with a gift that is not what it seems. A gift that comes to life. A golden dreydl.

I really enjoyed this one.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers


Schotter, Roni. 1990. (Rereleased in October 2008). Hanukkah! Illustrated by Marylin Hafner.

This is a simple but joyful introduction to Hanukkah. It begins simply,

"In darkest December
Night steals in early
And whisks away the light.

But warm inside,
Mama, Papa, and Grandma Rose
Light the sun that is the menorah.

While Nora and Dan,
Ruthie and Sam
Sing a song that is a prayer."

That will give you some hint what the text is like. This one has won the National Jewish Book Award. Definitely recommended.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Annie and Simon

O'Neill, Catharine. 2008. Annie and Simon.

Annie and Simon is a cute-and-funny early reader about a dog, a sister, and a much-older brother. Simon is one patient brother. In each chapter, Annie and her dog, Hazel, get into trouble. It may not be easy to have such a trouble-making (trouble-finding team) but Simon loves them just the way they are. Most of the time. In "The Hairdo," for example, Annie decides she wants to be a hairdresser. Simon patiently allows her to style his hair. She then styles her own hair--and gets the comb stuck in it--Simon patiently rescues her and saves the day. Throughout the ordeal (for an ordeal is exactly what it is) Hazel is being Hazel. A dog that is not obedient or trained. A dog that has a mind of its own. (Much like Annie has a mind of her own and isn't trained or obedient!) There are four chapters in all. The first and the last are my favorites. In the last chapter, "The Falling Star" the two get in a big fight. Annie declares that she doesn't want to be his sister anymore. But the two do eventually make up and all is right with the world. Family drama--the ups and downs of sibling relationships--is what you'll find in Annie and Simon. A thoroughly enjoyable early reader/chapter book.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Andy Shane and the Queen of Egypt

Jacobson, Jennifer Richard. 2008. Andy Shane and the Queen of Egypt.

This is my first introduction to Andy Shane. (Other books include Andy Shane and the Pumpkin Trick and Andy Shane and the Very Bossy Dolores Starbuckle.) I enjoyed the cast of characters very much. Andy Shane is a bit on the quiet/shy side. At least compared to Dolores Starbuckle. So when both want to choose Egypt for their project on Africa, a lot of drama ensues. A lot. Can these two kids find a way to work together? Can they use their strengths and weaknesses to compliment one another and get the job done? Read and see. It's funny and true-to-life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Paddington and the Christmas Surprise

Bond, Michael. Paddington and the Christmas Surprise.

It's been a while since I've read any Paddington stories. And this book was a pleasant holiday-themed reintroduction to a lovable marmalade-loving bear. Paddington and family are off to the store to see Santa and visit the store's Winter Wonderland. But things don't go as planned. Paddington seems to be causing all sorts of trouble, but this "trouble" soon becomes the publicity the store needs to draw in new customers during the Christmas shopping season. So all is well, and well, Paddington gets his just rewards--Santa's homemade marmalade.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls is a new picture book featuring the lyrics to this classic holiday song paired with the artwork of Norman Rockwell--one of the most recognizable American painters of all time. The book includes illustration credits that--among other details--shows when each one was painted. The earliest, 1917, the latest, 1964. The book can be enjoyed on several layers: it's a great song--familiar to children and adults alike; and it's great artwork. Perhaps this could be an intro to 'art appreciation' during the holiday season.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, December 12, 2008

Priscilla And the Great Santa Search

Hobbie, Nathaniel. 2008. Priscilla and the Great Santa Search. Illustrated by Jocelyn Hobbie.

Chances are you'll either love the illustrations or hate them. You'll either find them cutsie-wootsie, sickeningly sweet, or dinky. OR you'll find them simply adorable, charmingly old-fashioned, or sweet as a baby's behind. I can't predict how YOU'LL feel about them. But they were a bit too cutsie for my tastes. That's not to say I think they're poorly drawn. It's just a stylistic choice.

This is not the first book starring Priscilla. It's the fourth. (Though it's the first Priscilla book that I've read.) It's written in rhyme. And while there were a few places here and there where the text flirted with being dinky, overall I must say it worked for me. The text won me over. I felt my heart thawing there by the end. Cutesie-wootsie style and all.

The book is a story about a little girl, Priscilla, and her best friend, Bettina, who go on a quest to the North Pole after being disappointed in all the fake Santas they find in town--especially at the local mall.

Does Priscilla find Santa? Do the two return triumphant? You'll have to read this one and see.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Keeping Holiday

Meade, Starr. 2008. Keeping Holiday. Illustrations by Justin Gerard. (192 pages). Crossway Publishers.

If there's a resounding theme (or echo) to this Christmas-themed allegory it's this: You can't find the Founder; he finds you. He's not just the Founder, he's the Finder too.

Dylan and Clare, his cousin, are the stars of this allegorical novel. Every year Dylan and his family journey to Holiday (Is it a city or town? I can't quite remember). The singing. The food. The parties. The lights and decorations. The gifts. The church services. Everything about Holiday seems to be magical. Seems to be more special. Dylan wonders why the feeling doesn't last. Why spending time with his family and friends on vacation in Holiday feels so wonderful and so right, but those same activities back home aren't as magical. What is it about Holiday that gives him--and everyone--such a high?

Dylan's curiosity is only deepened when he finds a flyer in the church yard. A flyer asking him if he would like to keep Holiday... and if he does ... to go through the church's garden gate to find out more. He does. But what he discovers is that the Holiday his family has been visiting all these years--the Holiday he's always known and loved--is not the real Holiday. There is a better, richer Holiday. Even more beautiful. Even more wonderful. But this Holiday isn't a place he can enter. Only authorized individuals--people authorized by the Founder--can enter this real city of Holiday.

So Dylan begins his quest to find the Founder. Now, several years later and with his cousin, Clare, by his side. Dylan and Clare discover visitor passes within Holiday's church or chapel--good for four days only--to visit the real city of Holiday. His parents send them off prepared with a big smile--they've been hoping to see him take this journey on his own for years. It's a journey they've already made.

But this journey to the real city of Holiday isn't quite as easy as Dylan hoped it would be. Along the way, Dylan finds out the true meaning behind the symbols of Holiday. Here is where the allegory begins to come in. He encounters talking evergreen trees, a talking mistletoe plant named Missy, a talking poinsettia named Penny, talking bells in a church bell tower, talking stars in the sky, a candle maker, etc. Through his conversations he learns more and more about The Founder and the creation of Holiday.

There are two ways to respond to Keeping Holiday. One is to see it as dinky and didactic. I must admit Missy the Mistletoe doesn't help matters here. But the other way is to appreciate the message--didactic as it may be--because it is important and true and good. I liked the message--finding the real reason for Christmas, learning about the Incarnation, discovering the Savior--a good deal. I think this book could be shared--read aloud perhaps--between parents and children. I appreciated that aspect of it. But I can't lie and say that it isn't a little dinky all the same. If you've read and enjoyed other allegories in the past like Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan or Hinds' Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard...or perhaps R.C. Sproul's line of picture books: The Princes Poison Cup, The Lightlings, The King Without A Shadow, The Priest With Dirty Clothes... then you may be just the right reader for Keeping Holiday.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tonight You Are My Baby: Mary's Christmas Gift

Norris, Jeannine Q. Tonight You Are My Baby: Mary's Christmas Gift. Illustrated by Tim Ladwig.

I enjoyed this one. It is a beautifully illustrated picture book of the Nativity story--the birth of Jesus. It is the story of the Savior's birth through Mary's eyes--her thoughts, her prayers, her hopes. The narrative is told largely through rhyme. (Perhaps not the most poetic and rhythmic verse ever penned, but not horrible by any means.) I enjoyed the main refrain, "Tomorrow you will be King, but tonight you are my baby..."

I liked this one a good deal. I especially loved the illustrations--they're beautiful. They complement the text well. And together they make for a charming read perfect for this time of year.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Where Are My Christmas Presents

Rives, J.G. 2007. Where Are My Christmas Presents. Illustrated by Dot Young.

When a young boy, Edgar, discovers that there are no presents waiting for him under the Christmas tree, he becomes upset. So Edgar sets out on a journey to find his Christmas presents and in thus doing unknowingly begins his journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas. It is a journey from thinking only about one's self to thinking about--and caring--for others. Edgar is not a very nice boy when we first meet him. He's selfish, rude, inconsiderate, blind to the real world--a hurting world, a needy world.

Here is just one of his exchanges:
Edgar went into a nearby hospital. He walked into one room where a little girl was lying in a bed. She was bald. Even though she looked strange, Edgar still had to ask, "Have you seen my Christmas presents?"
"No, I haven't. But I have been sick and haven't been able to get any presents lately."
"No matter," Edgar quipped, "I was talking about MY presents anyway!" He quickly left the room.
He has similar conversations with other stereotypically needy and less fortunate people as well--the sick, the poor, the homeless, the orphans, an old person, etc.

I won't go into all the details as to how this Scrooge-of-a-character has a change of heart. But it has a happy ending.

The book is all about the message. The message is a good one--to learn compassion, kindness, generosity--I'm not saying it isn't. But the message is still missing a little something from my perspective--for a book about 'the true meaning of Christmas' there is too much Santa and no Jesus--baby or otherwise. That's just my opinion, and you may think differently.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Mystery

The Mystery by Maxwell Eaton III. 2008.

This fun picture book is part of a series. The Max and Pinky series. This is the first I've read--but I'm sure they're all equally fun and playful. In The Mystery Max and Pinky are out to solve a mystery. During the day, the two are painting the barn. But each morning, they awake to discover that someone has mischievously done something--anything and everything--to the barn during the night that negates all their hard work. (They paint it red; they wake up to find it pink, etc.) Max does eventually solve this one...but you won't be hearing the ending from me!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Before John Was a Jazz Giant

Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2008. Before John Was A Jazz Giant. Illustrated by Sean Qualls.

I just loved, loved, loved this one! It just excites me through and through. It just works. So many things to love, so many reasons why. I don't think I can do it justice. But I'll try. I'll try. The book--beautifully illustrated, award-worthy illustrations in my humble opinion--is a poetic tribute to the legendary John Coltrane. Each stanza of the poem begins with the refrain, "Before John was a jazz giant..." Each stanza gives the reader information about John's life--his family, his childhood, his background, his surroundings, etc. Weatherford's writing is just incredible--beautiful, rhythmic, and oh-so-right. The images she creates just resonate. I don't want to quote too much, but I don't want to quote too little either. These are the first two stanzas...

Before John was a jazz giant,
he heard hambones knocking in Grandma's pots,
Daddy strumming the ukulele,
and Mama cranking the phonograph.

Before John was a jazz giant,
he heard steam engines whistling past,
Cousin Mary giggling at jitterbuggers,
and Bojangles tap-dancing in the picture show.

I just loved the ending--adored it. But I'm not going to share that here. You need to pick this one up on your own!

Both the illustrations and the text were outstanding on this one.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

M is for Mischief

M is for Mischief: An A to Z of Naughty Children by Linda Ashman. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. 2008.

This one is a fun and playful alphabet book. It's a poetry book as well. Each letter of the alphabet gets a poem--some better than others, but all enjoyable enough. My personal favorite is Untidy Ursula.

Untidy Ursula

As usual, Ursula's room is chaotic,
Piled with junk, mundane and exotic--
A wrecked ukelele; buckets of dirt;
An unused umbrella; a torn undershirt;
An old unicycle, encrusted with rust;
Unearthly cobwebs; unspeakable dust;
Sticky utensils; unraveling rugs--
An untidy universe perfect for bugs.

Father, upset at this unsightly scene,
Says, "It's unkempt! I urge you to clean!"
Ursula, peering from under a heap,
Utters, "I would, but I'm buried too deep."

I do recommend this both as an alphabet and poetry book. (The illustrations are fun as well!) But it's one for older children--school-age children.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Everywhere the Cow Says Moo

Weinstein, Ellen Slusky. 2008. Everywhere the Cow Says "Moo!" Illustrated by Kenneth Andersson.

Ever wondered what animals sound like in another language? Then Everywhere the Cow Says Moo might just be the perfect book for you! (Whether you've ever wondered that or not, it's sure to appeal to youngsters who love animals--particularly barn animals. Who doesn't love saying quack, quack or ribbit, ribbit?) The concept of this one is simple but wonderful. What do dogs, frogs, ducks, and roosters sound like in other languages--English, Spanish, French, and Japanese. This one also has a fun refrain...can you guess it...after we meet and greet (learn the representation of each animal's sound in a foreign language) the animal, we all join in and say, "But everywhere the cow says "Moo!" Isn't that fun? I just loved this one. Definitely recommended.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Very Marley Christmas

Grogan, Josh. 2008. A Very Marley Christmas. Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey. HarperCollins.

A nice and playful story about a dog who gets a little too excited about Christmas. In this wholesome story, we've got a loving family--Dad, Mom, brother, sister--with a very loving dog, Marley. The anticipation. The preparing. The joy. Marley is right there, front and center, willing and able to celebrate along with everyone else. But Marley doesn't always get it right. It was a bit too sweet for me--snow for Christmas morning and all--but it was nice. The illustrations are very cute and sweet. They were probably my favorite part of the book.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 24, 2008

So I've been bad...

I haven't been posting reviews here. There are reasons...mostly legitimate. I'm on the Cybils YA panel. Which means I've been reading, reading, reading YA books. And most YA books aren't that short. Sure, some are just under 200. But some are really, really long. And they're definitely more time consuming. Normally in my bloggy routine, I read one maybe two books a day. Which leaves plenty of time for picture books. Now, I'm reading three books a day thereabouts. Sometimes four. And while I do have *some* spare time in the day, I'm just not feeling inspired to review books here.

I could lie and say I plan to review a book a day here on the site. But chances are I'll stay sporadic for the duration. But I will be back to blogging as soon as I feel inspired to do so.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 17, 2008

Here Fishy Fishy: Fun Gift Ideas 2008

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss (also board book)
Fabulous Fishes by Susan Stockdale*
Ten Little Fish by Audrey Wood
Hooray for Fish! by Lucy Cousins
This Little Fish (board book) by R. Powell
Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
What's It Like To Be A Fish by Wendy Pfeffer
How Many Fish? by Caron Lee Cohen
A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer
Papa Fish's Lullaby by Patricia Hubbell
Feed Matisse's Fish by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo*
Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On by Lois Ehlert
Big Fish, Little Fish by Ed Heck
Not Norman by Kelly Bennett
The Birthday Fish by Dan Yaccarino
Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Dear Fish by Chris Gall
The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
The Fish Who Cried Wolf by Julia Donaldson
Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark by Will Grace
Fidgety Fish by Ruth Galloway
Fidgety Fish and Friends by Paul Bright
Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau
The Little Fish That Got Away by Bernadine Cook (illustrated by Crockett Johnson)
Pattern Fish by Trudy Harris
Fish Wish by Bob Barner

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, November 14, 2008

Family-friendly Gift Ideas 2008

The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition (Read-Aloud Handbook)The Read-Aloud Handbook (6th Edition) by Jim Trelease. "Since the publication of his first Read-Aloud Handbook, Trelease has made a serious avocation of spreading his gospel about the value of reading aloud to children and teens." You can find out more about Jim Trelease at his website. And you can even read excerpts from his books. (Small snippets are available from each chapter. But there is more than enough there to "sell" you on the idea of the book.)

How To Get Your Child To Love Reading: For Ravenous and Reluctant Readers Alike by Esme Raji Codell. "Codell gives an admiring nod to the work of Jim Trelease (The Read-Aloud Handbook), while presenting her own theory that interest (finding the right books for the childHow to Get Your Child to Love Reading: For Rave...), integration (using reading as a springboard into other disciplines) and invention (when a child's unique ideas are inspired by the writing) can make the difference in how a youngster approaches reading. Codell, a teacher and librarian, resists grouping books by age level, explaining, "don't let somebody else's scoring system define your child, and don't let reading levels level your child's love of reading." Instead, she offers a simple method for determining whether a book is too difficult while pointing out that kids may listen on a much higher level than they read." Visit her website.

Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives ForeverReading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox. "An introduction for parents about reading aloud to their children. Fox explains that babies are born learners, discusses the importance of books in the home, and stresses the value of a read-aloud ritual. She also includes a chapter on how to read aloud, which novice readers will find useful." Here is a site listing Fox's Read-Aloud Commandments. Mem Fox's website.

George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends Collector's Edition (George & Martha)George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends Collector's Edition. James Marshall. My thoughts? Best. Book. Ever. Seriously. Someone could easily write a book called All I Needed to Know About Life I Learned From George and Martha.Perfect for kids. Perfect for adults.

The Frog and Toad Collection Box Set by Arnold Lobel. My thoughts? These are timeless for a reason. I loved these growing up. I still love them.

Little Bear Boxed Set by Else Holmelund Minarik. My thoughts? I can't remember if I read each and every Little Bear book growing up, but I do know that the ones we had...I read and enjoyed a lot.

The Complete Adventures of Curious George by H.A. Rey. Who doesn't love a curious little monkey like George? How well do you speak monkey?

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-PoohThe Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne. There aren't enough words for me to explain all the reasons YOU need Pooh. I love, love, love this book. It's timeless. It's practically perfect. It's food for the soul.

Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales. Do I really need to explain this one?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Have you met Mrs. P?

Who or what is Mrs. P? It is a website--to be more precise it is a free children’s entertainment and educational website, celebrating books and reading.

Mrs. P, played by Kathy Kinney also known as Mimi on the hit sitcom, “The Drew Carey Show,” will read 15 classic fairy tales from her “Magic Library.” Some of the current fairytales available include: “Jack and the Beanstalk” "Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and more. A new story will be uploaded to the site every 3 weeks for your children’s reading pleasure!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Boy On The Bus

Dale, Penny. 2007. The Boy On the Bus: A Sing Along Storybook.

Sugarcookie told me I needed to review this one now so that it could be his for keeps. And since it isn't always the easiest thing in the world for a book to really grab his attention and keep him entertained and happy...there must be something about this one. (This is reading done within Sunday School hour--not reading at home.)

The book is based--loosely based--on the popular song for kids. But it introduces variations. Fun variations. Who is riding on this bus? Ducks. Pigs. Cows. Horses. Chickens. Goats. Sheep. Etc. You get the idea. It's silly. It's fun. It's playful. You've got singing. You've got animal noises. It has the potential to be truly interactive.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 10, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Snugglebug's review of Does A Cow Say Boo

Hindley, Judy. 2002 Does a Cow Say Boo. Illustrated by Brita Granstrom

Miss Becky reviewed this book in July, and now Snugglebug is taking his turn to review it. This is a cute book, and Snugglebug agrees that animal noises are fun. At 8 months, Snugglebug isn't old enough to make those noises yet, but one day he will be joining in as we read this book. He really enjoys this book. It is by no means a favorite, but he finds the noises and the illustrations entertaining. We do read it quite often, but not as often as aforementioned fish books. But, Ladybug thinks that is just a personal preference of Snugglebug. We recommend this book to those at least 6 months of age or older.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, November 7, 2008

Snugglebug's review of Welcome Winter

Ackerman, Jill. 2008 Welcome Winter. Illustrated by Nancy Davis.

Welcome Winter is an anomaly in Snugglebug's library at the moment. Miss Becky, who previously reviewed this book, shared it with Snugglebug because of its touch and feel characteristics that should appeal to infants his age. Ladybug would agree with this point since Snugglebug loves feeling the pages of the books and stroking the animals or fish as we read. But, Welcome Winter, oddly enough, does not attract his interest at all.

On the first page, the book begins, "It's winter! Snowflakes fall in front of your eyes." Soft snowflakes cover the page for the little one to touch. But Snugglebug finds no interest in this page or any other, and neither touches it or pays attention.

Ladybug likes this book, and reads it anyway for her own enjoyment. A kid at heart, she likes touching the snowflakes, crunching the snow, and feeling the rough wind. She hopes that 8 month-old Snugglebug will grow into it and enjoy the book with her later down the road. It could be the book would be more appealing to toddlers than infants.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hooray for Fish

Cousins, Lucy. 2005. Hooray for Fish!

Written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins, this book is cute, fun, and educational. Little Fish is a bright orange baby fish who introduces the reader to all his fish friends. The fish themselves introduce the baby reader to concepts such as colors, spots, and stripes and to opposites such as happy and gripy. By the end of the book, Little Fish has introduced, Spotty Fish, Stripy Fish, Happy Fish, Gripy Fish, Ele-Fish (yes, she looks like an elephant), and so many more. But alas, Little Fish asks,

So many friends, so many fish, splosh, splash, splish!

But, where's the one I love the best, even more than all the rest?

"Hello, Mom."

"Hello, Little Fish."

Kiss, kiss, kiss,

Hooray for fish!

What mom doesn't love that ending! For that reason, Ladybug loves this book. But Snugglebug loves it because he has a thing for fishy books. Big Fish, Little Fish by Ed Heck is still one of his favorites. The illustrations of this book are bright and fun and far from realistic, keeping Snugglebug's attention quite well. Ladybug loves the unique way Cousins introduces such ordinary concepts, making this book one of our everyday readers.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Big Book of Spanish Words

Emberley, Rebecca. 2008. My BIG Book of Spanish Words

Rebecca Emberley is a fabulous children's author and illustrator. She is one of Ladybug's favorites. Emberley's series of bilingual board books were first published in 2000 with more books added in 2002 and 2005. Each book originally had ten pages and one subject. The page had one illustration and the word in English and Spanish.

My BIG Book of Spanish Words is a compilation of 8 of her original books and three new ones. The pages are large with each page being the equivalent of one ten page book. Each page has the same vibrant illustrations that have captured Snugglebug's interest from the first time he saw one of her books, as well as the words in both English and Spanish. The subjects in this compilation are colors, food, toys, clothes, rooms, animals, things that go, shapes, numbers, bath time, and bedtime.

As readers of several of her original bilingual board books, Ladybug and Snugglebug highly recommend this latest publication.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Have you seen this yet?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 3, 2008

Walk Like An Egyptian: Fun Gift Ideas 2008

Fun With Hieroglyphs by Catharine Roehrig. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Includes 24 rubber stamps, ink pad, and full-color book.)

Pyramids and Mummies by Anne Bolton.


Egyptology Code-Writing Kit.

50 Hands On Activities to Experience Ancient Egypt by Avery Hart and Paul Mantell

Mummies Made In Egypt by Aliki.

Pyramid by David Macaulay

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, October 30, 2008

There's No Such Thing As Ghosts!

Eeckhout, Emmanuelle. 2008. There's No Such Thing As Ghosts!

This is a small picture book with big charm. I didn't think I'd like it all that much, but it surprised me in a way. I'll try to explain. It's very simple. And simple can sometimes be a very good thing. In this story, the words say one thing, but the illustrations say something very different. There are two stories going on essentially--one revealed by text, one revealed through art. And for some reason or other, this really worked for me. I can't quite explain why.

"When we moved to our new neighborhood, I had to promise my mother that I wouldn't go near the strange old house on the corner. "People say it's haunted," she whispered. Haunted? There's no such thing as ghosts! But if there is...I'm going to catch one!"

So this little boy goes on a ghost-hunt in this by room by room with no luck. But as the illustrations show, there were ghosts here, there, and everywhere.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Harry the Dog

This past week, I've had the pleasure of reading two of my childhood favorites: Harry the Dirty Dog and No Roses for Harry! Both books are by Gene Zion. Both are illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham.

In Harry the Dirty Dog, readers meet a lovable black and white dog named Harry. Harry, like some of his readers I'm sure, doesn't like to take baths. Harry much prefers staying nice and dirty to undergoing the ordeal that is bath-taking with a scrub brush. After a particularly dirty-day when Harry looks more like a black dog with white spots than a white dog with black spots, he succombs to the bath so his family will recognize him.

In No Roses for Harry, readers get another adventure. This time Grandma has made a sweater for Harry to wear. But it's a girly sweater with roses on it. Harry hates it. He tries to find ways to discard the sweater...but these attempts appear to be failing until a bird helps Harry out! This is a funny book.

I enjoyed both books and would recommend them.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Josh's Halloween Pumpkin

Lay, Kathryn. 2008. Josh's Halloween Pumpkin.

Josh's Halloween Pumpkin is the story of a brother, Josh, and a sister, Callie, who find a great, big, giant pumpkin in their Grandpa Frank's pumpkin patch. Both love the pumpkin and think it must be magic because it is so big. Josh has plans for this pumpkin. And they don't include selling it along with the others in the patch. But when Callie becomes lost in the woods on Halloween, Josh sacrifices his giant pumpkin in a rescue effort: a jack-o-lantern big enough to light her way back home.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, October 27, 2008

Gift Ideas 2008: Monster Mash

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Monster At The End of This Book by Jon Stone
Go To Bed, Monster by Natasha Wing
Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Anne Miranda and Ed Emberley
Bye-Bye, Big Bad Bullyburg by Ed Emberley
There's A Wocket In My Pocket by Dr. Seuss
When A Monster Is Born by Sean Taylor
My Monster Mama Loves Me So by Laura Leuck
There's A Nightmare In My Closet by Mercer Mayer
There Are Monsters Everywhere by Mercer Mayer
There's Something In My Attic by Mercer Mayer
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
Jitterbug Jam by Barbara Jean Hicks
Hungry Monsters: A Pop-Up Book of Colors by Matt Mitter
Monster Hug by David Ezra Stein
Little Monsters by Jan Pienkowski
Hungry Monster ABC: An Alphabet Book by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe
One Hungry Monster: A Counting Book in Rhyme by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe
Monster Goose by Judy Sierra
Monster Motel by Douglas Florian

For older children:

Monsterology: The Complete Book of Monstrous Beasts by Ernest Dr. Drake
Monster Mad Libs by Roger Price

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Trick or Treat On Monster Street

Schnitzlein, Danny. 2008. Trick or Treat On Monster Street. Illustrated by Matt Faulkner.

I used to be a scaredy cat
afraid to sleep in my own bed.
Late at night, when things went bump,
I'd conjure monsters in my head.

My brothers knew my weakness well.
Every time they got the chance,
They'd think of ways to make me scream,
and laugh when I would wet my pants.

But now I've changed. I laugh at ghosts.
Monsters fill me with delight.
It happened, as you might have guessed,
one dark and spooky Halloween night.

Thus the book begins. There were several things about the book that I wasn't so crazy about. I thought the rhyming was lacking. It felt unnatural and forced in places. It seemed the story was being directed--in a way--by what rhymed. Not all the time. Not every stanza. Not every spread. But enough that it bugged me. The second thing that I disliked was the lack of rhythm. Lack of rhythm in a picture book is offensive to me. Rhythm, contrary to popular opinion, doesn't necessarily correlate with rhyming. And despite me trying several different times, I couldn't find a rhythm to read this one aloud where it sounded it it worked. It was just all over the place.

The story itself--minus the rhythm/rhyming issues--was okay. A boy is scared of monsters until he learns that they are scared of him and new friendships are formed. The illustrations I didn't personally care for, but I think it is just personal taste.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mama's Kiss

Yolen, Jane. 2008. Mama's Kiss. Illustrated by Daniel Baxter.

Rhyming fun about kisses? And it's by Jane Yolen? It's got to be good! This one is fun and playful. The rhyming is quite good--as opposed to some others that are hit and miss--and the subject is just right for sharing with little ones.

Here's how it starts off:

Mama smiles and throws me kisses,
Most land right, but one kiss misses.
Mama says she'll throw another,
It sails off toward Baby Brother.
Baby burps, the kiss goes wide,
Through the window and outside....

Where this kiss goes'll have to read for yourself and see. This book is similar to another one that I read this year. The title of that one I can't quite remember on the spot. But I liked this one even better.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Toy Dance Party

Jenkins, Emily. 2008. Toy Dance Party: Being The Further Adventures of a Bossyboots Stingray, a Courageous Buffalo, & A Hopeful Round Someone Called Plastic.

Toy Dance Party is the sequel to Toys Go Out. (Full name is Toys Go Out: The Adventures of A Knowledgeable Stingray, A Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic.) Both books are illustrated by the much-beloved Paul O. Zelinsky. (I'll admit both of these covers I just absolutely adore. Both say "read me, read me.") As in the first book, this is a collection of loosely-collected stories featuring a young girl's favorite toys. The books are the adventures these toys have when the Girl (and the other family members) are out of sight.

I loved the first book. I mean I L-O-V-E loved it. It was one of my favorite books of the year. This second book while nice doesn't quite match up to my expectations. I think this is a personal reaction though. It's not that I didn't find the characters as charming or as playful or as fun the second time's just that the adventures themselves didn't quite live up to the glory of the first one. Most of the stories deal in one way or other with insecurities and jealousies and fears. For example, none of her favorite toys can imagine why the little girl would become so interested in Barbies all of a sudden.

Here is a scene where the Girl has a sleepover with some of her friends and Barbies are brought along...

Honey and Shay dress the Barbies,
and undress the Barbies,
and brush their hair,
and put their hair in ponytails,
and dress the Barbies,
and undress the Barbies,
and wonder why one of them have teeth marks
on its leg,
and why the other one has teeth marks on its hand,
and then forget about that
and dress the Barbies,
and undress the Barbies,
and brush their hair,
and dress the Barbies again.
For a very long time.

The toys just don't get the fascination. Some new characters are introduced...and Frank and Yuk-Yuk are there as well. So it's enjoyable. And I think it would make a nice read aloud.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Toys Go Out

Jenkins, Emily. 2006. Toys Go Out: The Adventures of A Knowledgeable Stingray, A Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.

Toys Go Out is a book that I loved. It is a book I love now as an adult. And it is a book I would have loved as a kid. It stars three lovable, unique characters: Lumphy, a stuffed buffalo, StingRay, a stuffed stingray, and Plastic, a red ball. The three share adventures in and out of the Little Girl's room--and on and off the High Bed. The book is told through six short stories.

"In the Backpack, Where It is Very Dark" explores the strangeness of going to school for show and tell through the eyes of toys that DON'T know where they are going or why. Did they do something wrong? Are they on their way to the dump? Why is it so dark? And why does it smell so bad?

"The Serious Problem of Plastic-ness" focuses on Plastic's identity crisis. Told that "the truth" can be found in books...and that the books hold the answer to everything. She tries finding out what kind of animal 'Plastics' are--their natural environment, what they eat, what they do, etc. What she finds shocks her. It seems that there are no animals named plastic. In fact, it says she's artificial. What does artificial mean anyway? As Plastic explores her environment and asks probing questions, she finally realizes who and what she is.

"The Terrifying Bigness of the Washing Machine" focuses on the adventures of Lumphy, who by chance gets dirty and has to brave the washing machine, Frank. What he finds through it all surprises him.

"The Possible Shark" focuses on StingRay as she is left home from the family beach-trip because she is "dry clean only." And follows the dangerous adventures of Plastic as she experiences some of what the ocean and beach have to offer.

"How Lumphy Got On the Big High Bed And Lost Something Rather Good-Looking" focuses on Lumphy and StingRay. Lumphy has always been jealous that StingRay got to sleep on the High Bed with the Little Girl. He wants his chance to become a favorite. A bedtime essential. He begs and begs to get his chance. Can StingRay deliver? Will Lumphy get his wish? Or will he find that sometimes you don't want what you wish for after all...

"It is Difficult to Find The Right Birthday Present" focuses on all three toys as the Little Girl's birthday approaches. It's hard to find a birthday present when a) you're a toy who can't leave the house b) you have no money or no clue as to what money even is or what it can buy and c) everything in the house already belongs to the Little Girl or her family. Are gifts of the heart just as exciting to receive?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ghosts in the House

This is a fun and playful Halloween book. Ghosts in the House Written & illustrated by Kazuno Kohara.

I thought this was fun. I liked how the "ghosts" in the house became useful-and-fun friends for the girl who lived in this "haunted" house. The illustrations are just cute.
© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Humpty Dumpty Jr: Hardboiled Detective: The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop

Humpty Dumpty Jr: Hardboiled Detective: The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop by Nate Evans, Paul Hindman and Vince Evans.

This is the first in a new series of chapter books published by Sourcebooks. Humpty Dumpty Jr: Hardboiled Detective is a mystery-detective series that is pun-filled and silly. Here's how the first book starts off: "Once upon a crime: There was a detective. Me. Humpty Dumpty Jr., Hardboiled Detective. I'm a good egg who always cracks the case. One morning, sitting at my desk, I watched the sun rise out my grimy window. Dawn light played peek-a-boothrough the tall skyscrapers of the gritty city. My city. New Yolk City. A crazy, dangerous, beautiful town." In this book, Humpty Dumpty is on the case of a missing baker--Patty from Pat-a-Cake Bakery has been kidnapped. Can this egg solve the case in time? He just might if he teams up with a down-on-his-luck boy named Rat.

As an adult, I found the humor to be of the groaner variety. (Just consider the closing words: "You definitely crack me up, kid. And, in my case, that could be fatal. Case closed.") But these books aren't written for adults. They're written for kids. And there is an age where corny-groan-worthy humor reigns supreme. And that's something to keep in mind. Do I think there are kids out there who would like this book? I think so. I really do. And I do think this book and series will fill a need.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Where's My Mummy?

Crimi, Carolyn. 2008. Where's My Mummy? Illustrated by John Manders.

What is Little Baby Mummy afraid of? The answer just might surprise you. In this tale, perfect for this time of year, we meet a character who does NOT want to go to bed. Little Baby Mummy wants to play. And on this night, he goes off on his own and encounters many spooky things, things that might be considered fearful or frightful. But is Little Baby Mummy afraid? NEVER! He's much too brave to call out to his mummy mommy. Isn't he....

I liked this one. It was light and fun.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Foggy, Foggy Forest

Sharratt, Nick. 2008. The Foggy, Foggy Forest.

This is a beautiful picture book that offers one delight after another. It's just beautifully put together. "What can that be in the foggy, foggy forest? What fantastic creatures are lurking there? Turn the clouded pages and see!" reads the back cover. I can honestly say that I've never quite seen a picture book (or any book for that matter) like it.

It's a repetitive book. By repetitive, I don't mean boring. I mean it has a refrain; it has a pattern. We first read the question, "What can this be in the foggy, foggy forest?" The picture provides a clue, albeit a clue in shadow or silhouette. The next page reveals the answer in bright, very vivid colors. (In text as well is the answer revealed.) This sequence is repeated again and again providing ample opportunities for children to have a guess and join in the refrain.

I loved the illustrations. This was just a fun concept of a book. I liked that the foggy, foggy forest was full of fairy-tale (or folk-tale) creatures like The Three Bears, Goldilocks, Snow-White, Cinderella, etc. This would be great book for story time.

This book releases in November 2008.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Little Monsters

Pienkowski, Jan. 1981/2007. Little Monsters.

Originally published in 1981, Little Monsters is a monster-filled pop-up book. You may (or may not) remember Jan Pienkowski's other pop-up book, Dinner Time, which I reviewed several months ago. (See that review here.) I liked both books. I can appreciate the work that went into creating the intricate pop-ups. But in the case of this book, there were two few pop-ups. Five pop-up spreads. Then again, I noticed that the suggested retail price is only $7. So maybe it's not too few after all...considering.

I liked it. I didn't love it. But I did like it. I especially liked the little monster who is very rude.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tucker's Spooky Halloween

McGuirk, Leslie. 2007. Tucker's Spooky Halloween.

Tucker is a dog. A dog who is tired of his owners dressing him up in cute outfits. This Halloween, Tucker has big dreams of dressing up in a spooky costume? Can this dog thwart his owner's plans? Will this be the Halloween that he can finally elicit a scare instead of an "awwww!"? You'll just have to read and see.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers