Monday, August 31, 2009

The Boy Who Invented TV

Krull, Kathleen. 2009. The Boy Who Invented TV. Illustrated by Greg Couch. Random House.

Who is Philo Farnsworth? Why, he's the one who invented TV, and in Kathleen Krull's The Boy Who Invented TV, you'll learn all about him. From the antique TV endpapers--fabulous, in my opinion--to the author's note, this one had me hooked. (And it's not because I'm a science geek.) Here's how it starts off:
"No sooner did Philo Farnsworth learn to talk than he asked a question. Then another, and another. His parents answered as best they could."
Krull presents a biography of this little known and under-appreciated genius. At first glance, he may seem like just an ordinary kid, a farm kid at that, but his curiosity and fascination with learning--especially learning how things work on the technical/mechanical side made him stand out. I love the fact that it was while he was doing his farm work that inspiration struck.

One bright, sunny day, fourteen-year-old Philo plowed the potato fields. It was the best chore for thinking--out in the open country by himself. Back and forth, back and forth...the plow created rows of overturned earth. He looked behind him at the lines he was carving--perfectly parallel. Then he almost fell off the plow seat. All his thoughts fused together. Instead of seeing rows of dirt, he saw a way to create television: breaking down images into parallel lines of light, capturing them and transmitting them as electrons, then reassembling them for a viewer. If it was done quickly enough, people's eyes could be tricked into seeing a complete picture instead of lines.
What did I like about this one? I think it has appeal to those that love the human side of science as well as appealing to those that like science science. I fall into the first category. Show me a documentary on scientists and inventors, and I'm there, I'm hooked. I like the human side of science, the people behind the ideas. I did try this one out on my dad who's closer to falling into the second category. He enjoyed this one as well.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, August 24, 2009

What is the Bible?

Bostrom, Kathleen Long. 2009. What is the Bible? (Part of the Little Blessings series by Tyndale). Illustrated by Elena Kuchank. Tyndale.

This August, Tyndale is releasing two more stories in the Little Blessings series by Kathleen Long Bostrom. (I reviewed a four-in-one collection back in January.) These two new titles are What is the Bible? and Who Made the World?

I've heard people talk
of the Bible in church.
It seems extra special,
so I'm on a search.

Who wrote the Bible?
One person? A few?
What does it say?
Can you give me a clue?

Is it a book
I will need as I grow?
Does it tell stories
of people I know?

This one is about the Bible. Or perhaps I should say the B-I-B-L-E. (I don't know why that song popped into my head just now, but it seems a little fitting, doesn't it?)

This book is divided into three parts. The first part is a question-poem written from a child's perspective. These are simple questions, questions that may be a bit familiar to parents with curious kids with a heart for God. The second part is an answer-poem written from an adult's perspective. The third part is for Bible references. What I love about this last section is that it goes through line-by-line of the answer-poem, and it provides a verse or two to back up the rhyme.

The illustrations by Elena Kuchank are traditional and cutesy. The types of illustrations that you might find on greeting cards. One plus to the illustrations is that her illustrations are multicultural.

Are you a Christian parent? Have you read any books in this series? What do you think?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Who Made the World

Bostrom, Kathleen Long. 2009. Who Made The World. (Part of the Little Blessings series by Tyndale). Illustrated by Elena Kuchank.

Earlier in the year--way, way back in January--I reviewed Questions from Little Hearts, a four-in-one collection of stories by Kathleen Long Bostrom. (The book contains: What is God Like? What is Prayer? What About Heaven? and Are Angels Real?) This latest book is in a similar format.

1) a question-poem written from a child's perspective.
2) a small transition-type poem written from an adult perspective--something that points the child towards God
3) An answer-poem written from God's perspective
4) Bible references for parents and older children.

As you could easily guess, this one is all about creation. Here's how it starts off...

The world is so pretty!
There's so much to see.
A rainbow! A river!
A flower! A tree!

So who made the world?
God, I think it was you.
Did you have a helper?
If so, tell me who!

What was the first thing
you made, and the last?
Did you snap your fingers
to make it go fast?

Of course, that's only the beginning...

I really enjoy this series. And this one is no exception. While I don't love, love, love the illustrations--they're not bad by any means but they're not incredibly amazing either--I do love the text. I'm so happy to have discovered these books because I think they are great for Christian families.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nathaniel Fludd: Flight of the Phoenix

LaFevers, R.L. 2009. Nathaniel Fludd: Beastologist: Book One: Flight of the Phoenix. Houghton Mifflin. 136 pages. September 2009.

It was one of the most important moments in Nathaniel Fludd's young life, and he was stuck sitting in the corner.

I love that first line. (What say you? Does it make you want to know more?) Nathaniel Fludd, our hero, is about to learn that his parents have died--they're presumed dead at least. They left him several years earlier--in the care of his governess, Miss Lumpton--and went off adventuring. Promising him that they'd write. That they'd send for him when he was old enough to have gotten an adventurous spirit (and heart.)

"You need a little more time to grow up," his father had said. "When you're old enough to travel well and your sense of adventure has developed, we'll send for you then."
Time had passed. On his eighth birthday, Nate had been excited, but nervous, too. He wasn't sure his love of adventure had shown up yet. But his parents' letter asking him to join them never showed up, either. "Just as well," Miss Lumpton had sniffed. "Their job is much too important to have a youngster tagging along, getting in the way."
On his ninth birthday Nate had been hopeful. Miss Lumpton told him not to be silly. His parents' work was much too dangerous for a young boy. Especially a young boy like himself, one who liked quiet walks, reading, and drawing. Clearly he wasn't suited to a life of adventure. Nate was a little disappointed--he thought he had felt the smallest beginning of an adventurous spark.
By his tenth birthday, Nate had buried the memory of his parents and never took it out anymore. Much like a toy he'd outgrown, he told himself. But the truth was, thinking of them hurt too much. (3-4)
After Miss Lumpton is given a tidy sum, Nate is sent to live with his father's cousin, Phil A. Fludd. Phil, surprise, surprise, is a woman. But that doesn't mean she can't live up to the Fludd name and be a great adventurer. She's a bit shocked that Nate hasn't been taught the trade, he knows nothing about being an adventurer, about living an exciting and dangerous life. But she's determined to train him up right!

Thus the adventure begins...

I liked this one. It features black and white illustrations by Kelly Murphy. It's a nice blend of mystery, adventure, and humor.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, August 21, 2009

Come Back Soon

Schallau, Daniel. 2009. Come Back Soon. Houghton Mifflin. September 2009.

Every day from Icetown, hundreds of fish letters are delivered far and wide around the world. Postwhales deliver most of the long-distance letters, and penguins do the rest.

I didn't really get this picture book. It stars a somewhat-clumsy Elephant and an ever-forgiving group of penguins. Elephant, the star of the book, receives a letter from a friend inviting him to visit. He's excited to receive the letter--the envelope was most tasty--and he immediately begins making plans for his trip. Most of the book concerns the visit itself. The things these two do together. The trouble Elephant gets into while he's there.

I don't think I'm the ideal audience for this one. I suppose some readers might enjoy it.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Big Bear Hug

Oldland, Nicholas. 2009. Big Bear Hug. Kids Can Press. September 2009.

There once was a bear so filled with love and happiness that whenever he roamed the forest and came across another living thing, he would give it a hug.

I didn't like this one. I'm not sure if that's because I'm being cranky. Or if there is something just a teeny bit too goody-goody about this one. Part of me felt this was one a bit didactic, that it tried too hard to get its feel-good message across. The book features a friendly bear that hugs anything and everything. (He reminded me of Garfield's Buddy Bears if I'm being honest.) He hugs animals--big, small, scary or tame--and trees. He loves, loves, loves to hug trees in all shapes and sizes.

But one day he comes across someone that he absolutely does not want to hug. A man with an axe. A man in the act of chopping down a tree.

He realized that no matter how angry he was, he simply could not eat the man. It just wasn't in his nature. The bear sighed. And then he decided to do what he did best.

But though he's tempted to act like a bear--a regular bear that is--he decides that love is the best medicine. He gives the man a nice hug, and he runs away leaving the axe behind. The bear then hugs the tree so that it will "feel better."

This is a self-proclaimed, "environmental fable." While I didn't like it overall, I did think the writing worked well in places. I liked the rhythm of it.

The bear never met a tree he did not like.
Big trees...
Little trees...
Apple trees...
Pear trees...
Peach trees...
The bear hugged them all.
© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Christian the Lion

Bourke, Anthony (Ace) and John Rendall. 2009. Christian the Lion. Henry Holt.

Chances are good that you've already met Christian the Lion via YouTube.

But you can get a more detailed look at the story by reading the book. Oh the photographs. If this story touched you at all, then you'll want to look at all the photographs. The book is written as if it's from Christian's perspective. That is the lion is given a voice. This is sometimes very cute. Where this works best is in the photographic captions. But in a way, it subtracts a tiny bit from this being genuine nonfiction.

John and Ace quickly became my friends. They visited me a lot when I lived at Harrods and spent a long time playing with me. When they asked if I'd like to live with them, I said, "Yes, please!" right away.
I liked this one and would definitely recommend it.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Don't Want To Go To School

Blake, Stephanie. 2009. I Don't Want To Go To School. Random House. (Translated by Whitney Stahlberg)

This is a fun little book about going to school starring Simon the "Super" Rabbit.

There once was a mischievous little rabbit named Simon. With a big smile, his mother told him, "Tomorrow is your first day of school, my dear!"
Simon answered, "No way!"

Simon answers, "No way!" a lot throughout the book. He is one nervous rabbit. One of my favorite sequences is when Simon can't fall asleep that night. In a series of comic-strip-like illustrations, we see Simon alternates between being scared and not scared. But rather Simon likes it or not, the day comes and he's off to spite of his continuing protests. Will Simon like school? Will he love learning new things? Meeting new people? Read and see for yourself in I Don't Want To Go To School!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wilson and Miss Lovely

Stadler, John. 2009. Wilson and Miss Lovely.

"Wilson was very fond of his new teacher.
'Miss Lovely! Miss Lovely! Miss Lovely! was all he could think about."

Wilson loves school. Loves it. He has just finished his first week of school. And he is so excited about going back for more. He just loves--is crazy about--his teacher Miss Lovely. He wakes up excited and looking forward to the school day. But Wilson is in for a couple of surprises. No one else at his house is up yet. No one is at the bus stop. So he runs to find it completely empty. What happened? Where is everyone? Throughout the book, there are fold-out pages that show an ominous-looking creature--a green dragon of sorts.

"Yet, not so very far away, something else could be seen quite clearly. Closer, closer, and closer it came!"

The text is melodramatically mysterious. It's a cute story really with a few fun twists.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, August 7, 2009

The True Story of Goldilocks

Baruzzi, Agnese. 2009. The True Story of Goldilocks. Illustrated by Sandro Natalini. Candlewick Press. (August 2009)

What I liked best about this one was the fact that it was a pop-up book. (Well, partly a pop-up book. It's definitely more in the interactive family of books than not. With flaps to open, wheels to turn, and a page or two that pops.) Are you curious about this so-called "true story?"

In this version, Goldilocks is beloved of Mama and Papa bear. Well, mostly. She's a good child, well-behaved. Baby Bear is a different story. He's a brat. End of story. Goldilocks to set out to reform him, to teach him some manners. But in the end, she learns something from Baby Bear as to be a brat.

While fractured fairy tales are nothing new, they can be great fun every now and then.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The True Story of Little Red Riding Hood

Baruzzi, Agnese. 2009. The True Story of Little Red Riding Hood. Illustrated by Sandro Natalini. Candlewick Press.

Little Red Riding Hood is used to being popular--the nicest person in the forest. But all that changes when she gives lessons to the Big Bad Wolf. He writes her a letter--very sincere, but containing many misspellings--begging her to help him out. He wants to reform. So the lessons begin. And they work! They really work. But now that he has what he wants, Little Red gets mighty jealous! Can she un-reform this big baddie?

This fractured fairy tale is fun.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lulu's Pajamas

Papineau, Lucie. 2009. Lulu's Pajamas. Illustrated by Stephane Jorisch. Kids Can Press.

Lulu is a mouse who loves her pajamas. Her pajamas "smell as good as a pink dream. They are as soft as a butterfly kiss." In her pajamas, her mama tells her stories. In her pajamas, her papa sings her songs. In her pajamas, she snuggles down with Lili-poo, her ladybug. One day, Lulu decides that life would be much better if she could wear her pajamas ALL the time. Her parents let her wear her pajamas to school, but life isn't as perfect as she'd hoped. Her pajamas are now dirty, stained, and smelly. Maybe she shouldn't wear her pajamas at all if they're only going to be like that. Can Lulu's parents show her that pajamas are best worn only sometimes--at night?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Pickle Gets A Sippy Cup

Veggie Tales: Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah's Umbrella. (August 2009)

This is Minnesota Cuke's second adventure. And while I remember enjoying the first--quite a lot actually since it was one of the first Veggie episodes I watched--I really, really loved this one. I loved everything about it. Larry stars as 'Minnesota Cuke.' And this time the search is on--a bit reluctantly at first--for Noah's Ark. Mr. Muffet ( is building a goldfish pond for his backyard, and he thinks Noah's Ark will complement it perfectly. But he isn't Muffet's first choice--Professor Rattan, his first choice, has gone missing. It is because of his friendship for Rattan--not Muffet's eccentricity--that he takes on the case. The first clue takes him to Mexico where he is reunited with the beautiful Julia. But this reunion is brief as Julia is kidnapped... Now he's off to find Julia, Professor Rattan, and if time permits...Noah's ark. This one introduces a new villain, Wicker, who is wicked and wily. This villain isn't after the ark, he's after Noah's umbrella.

The silly song. Not every silly song works for me. Some are funnier or should I say sillier than others--The Monkey Song currently holds the #1 spot in my heart. But I really, really, really loved this Sippy-Cup themed silly song.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli

Hicks, Barbara Jean. 2009. Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli. Illustrated by Sue Hendra. Random House.

Predictable and silly are the two words that describe this one best. The book features monsters who are adamantly opposed to eating broccoli. These monsters might eat tractors or wheely, steely stew, but you'll never find them eating broccoli. How absurd to think these monsters ever would. But by the end of the book, these monsters have transformed into kids...and they're happily munching on broccoli. Of course, they claim to be eating crunchy, munch trees.

The waitress in this restaurant
just doesn't have a clue.
Monsters don't eat broccoli!
How could she think we do?

Books about picky eaters aren't new. Of course, neither is the problem of having youngsters who are picky eaters. This book wouldn't be my first choice on the topic--that would be I Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato by Lauren Child--or even my second choice--that would probably be Little Pea by by Amy Krouse Rosenthal--but it's a nice enough book.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers