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

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wanda Gag

Ray, Deborah Kogan. 2008. Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Loved To Draw.

I grew up loving Millions of Cats. It was one of my favorites and my best. I can still hear my mom reading it to me if I close my mind and think about it. There's just something magical about the story, about the art. So when I read that there was going to be a picture book biography about Wanda Gag, the author of Millions of Cats, I became very excited!!!

The book is well written. One of my favorite things about the book is the fact that it uses Gag's own words to tell the story. I won't lie and say that each and every word is taken from Gag's work--either private or previously published--but much more than I was expecting. (If I'm going to be honest. I can think of very few examples of picture book biographies where primary documents or first-hand narratives are used directly. I'm not saying that other author's don't do research. But it's not often you see this much of it clearly shown.) Gag's words appear italicized. Ray's words appear in normal font.

The book is the story of her life. It follows her from her childhood years up through the publication and success of her novel Millions of Cats.

Who is the book for? Well, I'd say it was for kids in the elementary grades. It's not a book you'd read aloud for preschool story time. While the illustrations are wonderful--such that would draw you into the book--there are simply too many words per page to hold a child's attention. But for those in grade school, it would be a good choice. (This one would pair nicely with The Boy on Fairfield Street by Kathleen Krull (the biography of Dr. Seuss) and The Road to Oz also by Kathleen Krull, which is the biography of L. Frank Baum.)

(Just so you know, Gag rhymes with jog not bag.)

This one is definitely recommended.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Composer Is Dead

Snicket, Lemony. 2009. The Composer Is Dead. Illustrations by Carson Ellis. Music by Nathaniel Stookey. (The book comes with a CD lasting just almost 58 minutes. The story itself comprises about thirty minutes of the CD.)

From the publisher:

The Composer Is Dead is a collaborative effort by the San Francisco Symphony, Stookey and Mr. Snicket, also allegedly known as Daniel Handler. The goal of The Composer Is Dead commission, book, and CD is to build upon the wild popularity of Mr. Snicket’s inventive humor and Stookey’s new score to introduce the orchestra to young listeners in an original and entertaining way.

The Composer Is Dead engages listeners with a gripping plot—in this case, a whodunit murder mystery—while the music and Snicket’s narration work together to provide an entertaining introduction to the instruments of the orchestra, in the vein of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.

My thoughts: Wow. Maybe even super-wow. This may be the best "music-appreciation" book I've ever come across.

What is the story? An investigator (the narrator) is trying to solve a murder mystery. He is trying to figure out WHO killed the composer. Each of the instruments from the orchestra is being interrogated.

"I will begin by interviewing all the usual suspects," the Inspector said. "Like all people in his line of work, this Composer had many enemies lurking in the orchestra. They can lurk all they like, but I will find them wherever they are lurking.
I will find them if they are lurking in the strings.
I will find them if they are lurking in the brass.
I will find them if they are lurking in the woodwinds.
I will find them if they are lurking in the percussion section.
I will find them wherever--wherever they are lurking,
I will find them!"

Each instrument is giving its time in the hot seat, and in the process readers can learn a bit about each--their sound, their purpose within the orchestra at large, etc.

If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the violas.
"Well, I guess that takes care of the strings," the Inspector said, "Oh--the Violas! I forgot all about you."

"Everyone forgets about us," said the Violas bitterly.
"We play the notes in the chords that nobody cares about. We play crucial countermelodies nobody hears. We often have to stay late after performances and stack up all the chairs. We spent last night feeling sorry for ourselves as usual."
This one is definitely recommended. I know I'm *mean* highlighting it now when it's not due to be released until MARCH 2009. But I just couldn't resist.

I've listened to this at least half-a-dozen times already, and I just *can't* get enough. Seriously. I wouldn't be surprised if I have this one memorized by the end of the week.

Did I mention that I love the illustrations by Carson Ellis? Well, I do. They're great.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Houdini Box

Selznick, Brian. 1991/2008. The Houdini Box.

The Houdini Box was Brian Selznick's first book, I believe, and it has recently been republished (and updated) following the incredible success of his illustrated-novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

It's a short book. More than a picture book. Not quite a novel. Definitely fiction. (Yet not really an easy reader either.) It's an illustrated book with substance. It tells the story of a ten year old boy, Victor, who idolizes Harry Houdini, the magician and escape artist. The boy briefly meets his idol one day, is given an invitation to visit him, in fact, but on the day of the visit, he arrives only to discover that Houdini has died. He's given a mysterious box by Houdini's wife, but it's true worth is not discovered for many decades.

The strength of this one is in the illustrations. If you loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and you haven't yet read Selznick's previous works, then this one is for you.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Lump of Coal

Snicket, Lemony. 2008. The Lump of Coal.

This is actually my first Lemony Snicket book. This is a short little book, a holiday book at that. The illustrations are by Brett Helquist. The star of this one is a lump of coal that can walk and talk, and so forth. (You can actually read the story in its entirety here. As it appeared in USA Weekend back in 2004.)

Here's how it starts off,
The holiday season is a time for storytelling, and whether you are hearing the story of a candelabra staying lit for more than a week, or a baby born in a barn without proper medical supervision, these stories often feature miracles. Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them you find more than you ever dreamed you'd see, and this holiday story features any number of miracles, depending on your point of view.

The story begins with a lump of coal, who for the sake of argument could think, talk, and move itself around. Like many people who dress in black, the lump of coal was interested in becoming an artist. The lump of coal dreamed of a miracle--that one day it would get to draw rough, black lines on a canvas, or more likely, on a breast of chicken or salmon filet by participating in a barbeque.

As I mentioned, it's a short story. It won't take you long to read at all. It's enjoyable enough. I don't know that it's particularly outstanding, but for fans of Snicket and Helquist, it might make a nice gift.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, October 13, 2008

ABC Dentist

I may not like dentists all that much. But that doesn't stop me from appreciating them either. This is an alphabet book about dentists, teeth, and good dental hygiene. It may not be a "fun" book, but it does provide a good amount of information.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers


This is an interesting take on the traditional alphabet book. Look and see for yourself.

I liked many things about it actually. I thought it rang true for one thing. It was fun and playful for another. I didn't love the illustrations (which some might see as the drawing factor I suppose) but I didn't dislike them either.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, October 12, 2008

ABC x 3

This is a rather unique alphabet book. It's the alphabet in triplicate--English, Spanish (Espanol), and French (Francais).

It's international too since it was published in Canada.

This book is simple and bright. You've got each letter on display (including a few sounds that aren't found in the English alphabet) being illustrated through bright and colorful pictures and through text as well. Some words are the same--Qq and Rr for example--others are quite different. The brightness of the illustrations and the simplicity of the design are what makes this one stand out in my book.

I liked it.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Aa A was an apple pie

Aa: A Was An Apple Pie. Illustrated by Etienne Delessert.

This picture book is actually an English nursery rhyme from the 1660s. Something used by children to aid in learning the alphabet. It is illustrated by Etienne Delessert.

Aa A was an apple pie
Bb B bit it
Cc C cut it
Dd D dealt it
Ee E ate it.
Ff F fought for it

To read it in its entirely, visit here.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, October 10, 2008

Elephant Elephant: A Book of Opposites

Pittau & Gervais. 1999/2001. Elephant Elephant: A book of opposites.

Originally published in France in 1999, the book was translated into English and published in 2001. It is a strange little book of opposites. Some of the pairs work well. Really well. Others are just very very strange. A fact that didn't quite make sense until I got to the end and discovered that this is a French book. The French sense of humor doesn't necessarily translate perfectly for American audiences. (Some of the pairs seem almost twisted or warped. In particular they're "plugged" and "unplugged" illustrations.)

You've got your typical opposite pairings (big/small, wide/narrow, start/finish, long/short, top/bottom, etc.) alongside some more unusual ones (furry/feathered, angular/curvy, plains/mountain, plugged/unplugged, smart/stupid, broken/repaired, lit/extinguished, etc.). Some of the pairs were a bit disturbing. The illustration of an elephant on fire was just twisted, in my opinion.

Some wit was involved. I must admit to smirking a bit at the illustrations of the smart/stupid elephants...seeing as there were no differences to distinguish the two.

But generally speaking, this isn't necessarily the best choice of opposites to put in the hands of a small child or young reader. I know I would have been disturbed by several of the ill

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Pioneer ABC

Downie, Mary Alice. 2005. A Pioneer ABC.

Several things make this book an interesting choice. First, it's Canadian. The "pioneers" in reference here are Canadian pioneers. Settlers who were loyal to Britain during the American Revolution. Settlers who chose to move to Canada after the war instead of remaining in the United States under the new government. Second, there are a few details about this book that make it more nonfiction or informational. I loved the detail given in the back matter. This back matter is almost like a glossary--in a way--providing more details on the items (alphabetical) in the story. For example, we learn that bandalore (one of the B's) is another word for yo-yo. " the old name for "yo-yo," which was invented over two thousand years ago, possibly in Ancient Greece. Yo-yos have been made of terra-cotta, silver, gold, horn, and wood. In the past, adults liked to play with them too. In 1985, a yellow plastic yo-yo was taken up in the Space Shuttle Discovery as part of an experiment with "Toys in Space."" See there are hidden I-didn't-know-that facts to discover!

The book is straightforward. "A is for Abigail and Anna, my two sisters. Even though they are awful, I'm making them an alphabet book." Each letter is presented and several examples are used within the narrative sentence.

The book is also beautifully and intricately illustrated by Mary Jane Gerber. The illustrations have an old-fashioned, traditional feel about them (though they are color).

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Play Nice, Calico!

Wilson, Karma. 2008. Play Nice, Calico.

This Calico adventure--once again narrated by the talented Buket Erdogan--is all about learning to play nice with others. In other words, about learning how to treat others. Learning how to act and behave in a "nice" way so that your friends will want to spend time with you.

Puff and Scruff are back in Play Nice, Calico. These three friends are supposed to spend the day laughing and playing together. Can Calico remember her mama's instructions to "play nice?" Or will she be tempted to say "I told you so!", tease her friends, and refuse to share?

The rhyming fun continues in this one. And I must admit it I liked it even more than Friends for Calico.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Friends for Calico

Wilson, Karma. 2008. Friends for Calico.

Calico is a cat. And she's pretty adorable, I must admit. There seem to be four books in the Calico series so far: Hello, Calico!, Uh-oh, Calico!, Friends for Calico, and Play Nice, Calico!. I've only received Friends for Calico and Play Nice, Calico!

With bright illustrations by Buket Erdogan, Calico's playful adventures unfold. In this one, Calico is on the hunt for her missing teddy bear.

A kitty cat named Calico
is searching high and searching low.
She's peeking here, she's peeking there.
She's lost her favorite teddy bear.

During her hunt, she meets new animals and makes some new friends.

Here's how she meets Scruff the dog.

What's that fur
beneath the chair?
Could that be her teddy bear?

She grabs the fur
and hears,
"Ruff, ruff!"
She's scared the fuzzy
puppy, Scruff.

Anyway, I won't spoil this one for anyone. (Will she find him? Will she???) But it was a fun little book.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, October 6, 2008

Rock-a-bye Farm

Hamm, Diane Johnston. Rock-a-bye Farm. Illustrated by Alexi Natchev.

In this silly bedtime book, a farmer takes great pleasure in rocking his loved ones to sleep. It starts off with him gently rocking his baby to sleep, but by the end, he's rocked his dog, his hens, his sheep, his pig, his cow, his horse, etc. It's a bit silly and a lot playful. But it has a charm all its own. Especially the illustrations.

I liked this one. Didn't love it. But I liked it.

This book was originally released as a picture book in the early nineties. It has now been released in board book format.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Room For A Little One

Waddell, Martin. 2008. Room for A Little One. Illustrated by Jason Cockcroft.

A nativity board book told from the animals point of view. It's told by Martin Waddell, an author that I usually adore. And this one isn't an exception. I enjoyed it. A lot. With great illustrations, simple and straight forward text, the message of Jesus' birth is a memorable one.

It was a cold winter's night.
Kind Ox lay in his stable,
close to the side of the inn.

Old Dog came by.
He stopped and looked into the stable.
"I need somewhere to rest," said Old Dog.
"Come inside," Kind Ox said.
"There's always room for a little one here."

"There's always room for a little one here," is the refrain of the text and its theme as well.

Definitely recommended. It's now available in board book. (It was first published as a picture book.)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, October 4, 2008

All Pigs Are Beautiful

King-Smith, Dick. 1993. All Pigs Are Beautiful. Illustrated by Anita Jeram.

This is a fun book. A book all about pigs. Big pigs. Little pigs. Pigs with spots--and those without. It's a fact-filled book as well. But it has a great narrative to it as well. Here's how it starts out:

I love pigs. I don't care if they're little pigs or big pigs, with long snouts or short snouts, with ears that stick up or ears that flop down. I don't mind if they're black or white or ginger or spotted. I just love pigs.

Here's an example of how conversational the narrative is:

Pigs, like people, enjoy a good talk, so don't just stand there saying nothing. "Piggy-piggy-piggy" will do if you don't happen to know the pig's name. If I'm talking to a big fat sow and don't know what she's called, I usually call her "Mother" or "Mommy." They like that.

Here's my favorite part:

Those who don't know much about them just hear grunts and squeaks, but there are all kinds of things a pig might be saying to you if you understood the language, such as: "How kind of you to admire my children," or "Scratch a little harder, please--up a little, a little to the left, down a little. Yes, that's it!" or "Well, no, actually you're not the first person to call me beautiful," or "This food is really excellent, yum, yum. Thanks a lot."

If you love pigs--or if you have a child that loves pigs--I'd definitely recommend this one for story time.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, October 3, 2008

When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat

Weinstein, Muriel Harris. 2008. When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Quick summary of this one...a girl listens (along with her mother) to Louis Armstrong on the radio and becomes interested in scat. That night in bed, she imagines having a private scat lesson (or should that be session?) with Satchmo himself. This scat session is all about bubble gum in all its gooey wonder.

This leads to some wonderfully rhythmic poetry (I'm only going to quote a bit of it. It goes on much longer than this.):

Rippety wrapper
Glittery new
Pinkety sweet
Stickety chew
Gummity thick
Blowity quick!

I just loved that. Isn't it great??? There is much to love in this one. Then again, I love Louis Armstrong, so that may prejudice me a little. But I just really really enjoyed this one.

Last year, I simply fell in love with Jazz Baby. I loved, loved, loved the rhythm and the rhymes. It just worked really well. But one of the things I loved most about it were the illustrations. This book, When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat, is illustrated by the same man: the great and wonderful, R. Gregory Christie.

According to Amazon, this one doesn't release until Christmas Eve.

From the publisher:

When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat -- In a CRACKITY-SNAPPITY-POPPITY-POP bubblegum dream, a young girl learns to scat from the master himself, Louis Armstrong! Written in prose and scat with wild and wonderful illustrations by R. Gregory Christie, this joyful tribute is downright contagious. CHEW-ITEE CHEW-ITEE CHEW-ITEE CHOP, CRACKITY SNAPPITY POPPITY POP!

A former elementary school teacher, Muriel Harris Weinstein has taught children's poetry, prose, and playwriting at the United Nations School and the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts. She lives in Great Neck, New York. R. Gregory Christie is a three-time recipient of a Coretta Scott King Award in Illustration, and two of his books, Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth and Stars in Darkness, were named New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Illustrator's website.
© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Knuckle Heads

Holub, Joan. 2008. Knuckle Heads. Illustrations by Michael Slack.

Odd and quirky. Knuckle Heads is odd and quirky. The book is an adaptation of several fairy tales (or folk tales): Hansel and Gretel becomes Handsel & Gretel; Cinderella becomes Handerella; Thumbelina's still Thumbelina; Snow White is Nose White. This book revolves around the funny--or should that be punny--illustrations. The problem is...are the illustrations good enough--funny enough--to carry it off? That's something that is very subjective. That could vary from reader to reader, from kid to kid, teacher to teacher, etc.

The humor is a bit over-the-top obviously pun-filled. The concept is what if these story characters had heads that were body parts--hands for heads, feet for heads, noses for heads, etc. It then throws a hundred-and-one puns at you that will either make you giggle or groan.

For example, in one two page spread we've got:

"Meanwhile, the stepsisters were having a ball. But things turned to toe jam when Handerella showed up. Soon the stepsisters were feeling like two left feet."

"This is one toe-tapping sock hop. Love that sole music!"
"Yeah, and that Prints is no heel. He's totally cute-icle!"
"My tootsies hurt. Someone call me a toe truck so I can go home."
"Why is the Finger Prints ignoring me? Did I forget my odor-eaters or something?"

It's got a few cute moments here and there. I like it, for example, when Handerella and Finger Prints were dancing. The text reads, "Handerella and the Finger Prints danced hand in hand. They spoke the same language. All the signs were there. It was true love." The illustrations show hands (hands-as-people) spelling out the word love in sign language. And I admit that it was a bit funny to see two characters thumb wrestle. But....

Generally speaking, I didn't end up liking this one. It was just too un-funny. Too many puns. Maybe I've just outgrown that stage of humor in my life. Maybe the six year old me would have loved it.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

A Big Treasury of Little Animals

Spangenberg, Judy and Phoebe Dunn. A Big Treasury of Little Animals. Random House, 2007.

This collection of animal stories was written between 1977 and 1987 by Judy Spangenberg. Six stories separately follow the adventures of a lamb, a puppy, a kitten, a rabbit, a duck, and a pig. Each story is accompanied by photographs taken by Phoebe Dunn. The photos vividly capture the text, which considering the artist was working with animals is quite a feat.

The stories are a bit too long for one sitting with little ones; each story is about 30 pages. But the photographs kept Snugglebug interested in the story for the entire length of his short attention span. Each story is strongly formulaic in that it begins at the animal's birth, continues with a child being the new owner, and is followed by the animal making all types of discoveries and getting into various types of mischief. Ladybug was a bit bored with the formula after the first two stories but Snugglebug didn't seem to notice.

Overall, Ladybug and Snugglebug would say this is a good collection of stories but not the greatest. The photographs definitely make up for the lack of diversity within the text.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Nominations are open for the Cybils!

What you need to know about Cybils nominations:

The links:
Nomination questions, Young Adult Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction Picture Books, Nonfiction MG/YA books, Graphic Novels, Fiction Picture Books, Middle Grade Fiction, Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Please remember to read ALL the nominations in the comments BEFORE you post your own nomination. Extra votes help no one. Also remember that there might be several pages of comments when you go to nominate, so keep hitting "next" (or "previous") until you've read them all.
The rules:

Oct. 1-15: Nominations are open.
Jan. 1: Finalists announced.
Feb. 14: Winners announced.

In between, we publish excerpts of book reviews from around the kidlitosphere of the titles you nominated.

Just a few rules:

1. One nomination per genre per person.
2. The book must be published between Jan. 1 - Oct. 15 this year.
3. English or bilingual books only (the second language doesn't matter).

Here's how you nominate:

On Oct. 1, we publish all nine genres* as separate posts. You leave your nomination in the comments section of each post.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Welcome Winter!

Welcome Winter is a delightful book; it is one of the Little Scholastic books published by Scholastic. It's designed to appeal to the baby to two crowd. It's a board book. It's a touch-and-feel book. And it's a concept book--the concept being winter one of the four seasons of the year.

Texas babies may not find much familiar with Welcome Winter. (Though of course there was that snow storm last year that surprised everyone.) But whether you are expecting snow or not, this book is a fun little addition to your library.

Here is how it begins, "It's winter! Snowflakes fall in front of your eyes."

There is much to do in this one. I loved running my fingers across the crinkled plastic (not sure of exact medium???) to make the snow crunching noise. And the plush hat that was oh-so-soft was fun as well.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers