Monday, September 21, 2009

My Story Bible: 66 Favorite Stories

Godfrey, Jan. 2009. My Story Bible: 66 Favorite Stories. Illustrated by Paola Bertolini Grudina. Tyndale. (You can read the first four stories online.)

My Story Bible: 66 Favorite Stories is a good introduction to Bible stories and characters for young readers. It's simple, but not too simple. I think it is written at a level that preschoolers and early-school age children can enjoy and appreciate. As a read aloud that is. I think the text tries to engage young listeners. And I think it succeeds for the most part. It's rhythmic and repetitive where it needs to be. Yet this wordplay isn't too distracting from the story itself.

The selection. I liked that it was a nice blend of Old Testament and New Testament. I think it is easy for books to drift one way or another. To focus all on the early stories--for example. Genesis is such a rich book for stories. And to neglect the later stories of prophets. And when it comes to the New Testament, sometimes it becomes all about the gospels and nothing else. It was nice to see a fuller range with this collection. True, the book doesn't offer every story I'd like to see retold for children. But no children's story bible ever could. It would be impossible to tell them all. To simplify them all. Some stories just don't translate down into the simplest, most basic forms. Some concepts are just too big for little minds to grasp. So you have to prioritize. And you have to always, always keep your audience in mind. Parents familiar with their bibles may see that not all the details are there for each story. Some things have been simplified and shortened. (For example, with Moses and Pharaoh, we don't get the full picture. We don't see the plagues coming one by one by one with rejections and drama in between. We get an abbreviated account of the king's stubbornness.) But again, I think it was a choice to make this one work for the youngest listeners.

Here's an excerpt from one of my favorite stories "The Sound of Music."
Three friends were taken as prisoners to a place called Babylon, far away from home. They worshiped the one true God, but the king worshiped pretend gods.
One day the king told everyone to bow down and worship a golden statue.
"I won't," said Shadrach.
"I won't," said his friend Meshach.
"I won't," said his friend Abednego.
"There will be trouble if you don't!" said a messenger of the king.
"As soon as you hear music and instruments, you'll bow down to that golden statue, or they'll be trouble--you wait and see! If you don't bow down and worship it, you'll be thrown into a fiery furnace!" (54)
A little later on we read, "So they were thrown into the blazing, fiery furnace. It was very, very, very hot. But they did not die. They did not get burned. They didn't even smell smoky!" (54)

And here's how the collection handles the Ten Commandments (in part) and the Lord's Prayer (in full) respectively.

"The seventh day of the week is special," said God. "It's a rest day, a family day, a happy day, a holy day. It's a day when everyone can worship me together. Even the animals can have a rest!"
"Treat your moms and dads well," said God. "Be polite and loving and respectful and kind and obedient to them."...
"And don't tell lies or say mean things about other people."
"Don't look at the things other people have and want them so much that you can't think about anything else." (29)

"Our father in heaven, your name is great and holy.
We want to do what is right so that your love will spread all over the world.
Please give everyone enough to eat each day, and help us to be kind to each other always.
Keep us safe from harm and from doing wrong things.
For you are true and wonderful and glorious and your Kingdom will last forever and ever. Amen." (72-73)

So for the most part, I loved the way these stories were told. As I mentioned earlier, I thought they were engaging and kid-friendly.

The illustrations. As I've said dozens of times, I'm not *good* at judging illustrations. I only know what I like, what I love, and what I hate. I liked these illustrations. I found them refreshing compared to say the illustrations in the Read and Share Bible. (I haven't *read* that one cover to cover. So I'm not saying anything about the text. Just the illustrations.)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, September 14, 2009

Snuggly Time

This is a Fisher-Price board book published by HarperCollins. (I couldn't find any information on the author.) 2009.

Snuggly Time is "a soft to touch" book for babies. (Why they couldn't say that it was a touch-and-feel book, I'm not sure...) (The recommended age is 6 months and up.) What's this one about? The things in a baby's life that are soft and touchable. A blanket. A towel. A teddy bear. A pair of pajamas. Etc. It blends real photographs with cartoon illustrations. (I find that slightly strange, but that could just be me.)

My blanket keeps me warm and cozy.
Touch my soft blanket.

I love to crawl on the rug.
Feel the fuzzy rug.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Maisy's Snowy Christmas Eve

Cousins, Lucy. 2009. Maisy's Snowy Christmas Eve: A Holiday Board Book*. Candlewick Press.

This may just be my favorite Maisy yet. Not that I don't appreciate plotless Maisy books in all their bright, colorful splendor, but this one, you know, actually has a plot. And this one actually has Maisy's friends being an active part of the story. Having personalities.

I thought the writing of this one was clever.

Everyone was invited to Maisy's house for Christmas.
Cyril went on snowshoes and got there slowly.
Charley and Tallulah went by sled and got there quickly.
Eddie went by foot...and got stuck in the snow!

Everyone arrives at Maisy's house, and the fun is just getting started** when they realize that one of their friends isn't there. What's happened to Eddie?

Tallulah and Cyril hung stockings
But where was Eddie?
Maisy and Charley made mince pies and paper chains.
But where was Eddie?
Everyone helped decorate the tree.
But where was Eddie?

*Christmas is a holiday, and they want you to know it!
**I personally think they should have realized it a bit sooner. How could they not miss him???

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sweet Dreams, Maisy

Cousins, Lucy. 2009. Sweet Dreams, Maisy. A Bedtime Board Book*. Candlewick Press.

The sun is shining bright. It's a beautiful day! Maisy plays outside with Charley, Eddie, Cyril, and Tallulah. At sunset, the day ends. It's time to say good-bye. Look at all the colors in the sky.
How does this mouse get ready for bed? Read and see in Sweet Dreams, Maisy. A book about bedtime rituals and routines (like reading books, singing songs, etc.)

If you like Maisy (and friends) then you might like this one. It's about like every other Maisy book I've read: bright, colorful, simple.

*I like the fact that they tell you directly, this is a book for bedtime. :) I suppose the Sweet Dreams in the title, the pajamas, and the bed and pillow might not be clue enough for some.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Learn Spanish With Maisy

Cousins, Lucy. 2009. Maisy's Food. A Maisy Dual-Language Book.
Cousins, Lucy. 2009. Maisy's Clothes. A Maisy Dual-Language Book.
Cousins, Lucy. 2009. Maisy's Toys. A Maisy Dual-Language Book.
Cousins, Lucy. 2009. Maisy's Animals. A Maisy Dual-Language Book.

Want to learn Spanish with Maisy? Now you can with Candlewick Press's newest Maisy books: Maisy's Food, Maisy's Clothes, Maisy's Animals, and Maisy's Toys. What to expect from each one? Simple illustrations in very bright colors. Each spread features words in English and Spanish that go with the illustration.

In Maisy's Clothes, for example, we see Maisy and one of her friends standing in the rain. We learn these words: rainhat, rubber boots, umbrella, and raincoat. (El sombrero de lluvia, las botas de goma, el paraguas, el impermeable). Not all spreads have that many vocabulary words. Some are quite simple.

What I like about Maisy--in general--are the bright colors of the illustrations and the simple-and-sweet approach of the text. Nothing fancy. Nothing complicated. Just Maisy being Maisy.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Helen Oxenbury

Helen Oxenbury's All Fall Down.
Helen Oxenbury's Clap Hands.
Helen Oxenbury's Say Goodnight.
Helen Oxenbury's Tickle, Tickle.

Simon & Schuster is reprinting these four classic books written and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. (They were originally published in 1987). I believe they are available individually and as a collection. (Barnes & Noble, for example, has the gift set--due to be released this December--for $7.99)

What makes these books special? Well, they're short, sweet, and simple. How short is short? Four spreads (two pages = 1 spread) apiece. How sweet is sweet? The books features babies of all colors happily doing baby things. A book about babies for babies. In other words, adorable babies all. How simple is simple? Each book is just one sentence long. Yes, just one sentence. But that one sentence is a poetic little verse full of rhythm.

I'll just choose one to highlight...

Clap hands, dance and spin,
open wide and pop it in,
blow a trumpet, bang a drum,
wave to Daddy, wave to Mom.

My favorite is probably All Fall Down. But all of these are sweet in their own way.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Birthday Box

Patricelli, Leslie. 2009. The Birthday Box. Candlewick Press.

I love, love, love this one. I loved everything about it. The text. The illustrations. The true-ness of it. Its simplicity. It's a book that is just right. Someone has just had a birthday! And their enthusiasm for their present has no limits. What did the baby get? A box!

Look! I got a present!
What is it?
It's a box.
A big brown box!
I stand on my box.
I am taller than a tree.
I give my box a hug.

The fun continues, of course, and I loved every minute of it. Seriously. I was loving each and every line of this one!!! I found myself wanting to read this one again and again and again...and I'm an adult...most of the time. I can only imagine how much fun a toddler would have this one.

The picture book of this came out in 2007. But 2009 is the publication date for the first board book edition.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, September 7, 2009

I Love Fall!

Inches, Alison. 2009. I Love Fall! Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata.

I like the idea of this concept book. It's a touch and feel book about the fall season. I don't know about you, but there's something inviting about this little girl. It makes me want to like the book.

I love fall!
In the fall, the air is chilly,
but my scarf feels warm and woolly.
Scritch, scratch!
Rub my woolly scarf!
I think this one works for the most part. (Especially if you're not picky). But it's not quite right either. The scarf doesn't feel woolly. It feels soft and fleecy. Or perhaps soft and velvety. (Definitely not something you could scritch or scratch. Just saying.) And this is the case with so many of the touch-and-feel items. The "smooth pumpkin" doesn't come close to feeling like an actual pumpkin. It feels like plastic or vinyl. (It's shiny and reflective too.) Granted I haven't felt up all that many pumpkins in my lifetime, but smooth isn't the first thing that comes to mind. One other small thing that I noticed, and then I'll be quiet.

Grandma bakes pumpkins
and apple treats.
She gives me yummy pies
that are warm and sweet.

Crinkle, crinkle!
Feel the shiny pie tin that
I put in my basket.
Anyone want to tell me exactly how shiny feels? Shiny is something that you see with your eyes, not touch with your fingers. The pie tin--which is the touchable part of this spread--actually comes closest to feeling like the object it is supposed to depict (unlike the smooth pumpkin and dry leaves), but the feeling isn't shiny. (I should also note that they got the wicker basket part right of this touch-and-feel.)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Where is Baby's Beach Ball

Where is Baby's Beach Ball? by Karen Katz. 2009. A Lift the Flap Book. Simon & Schuster.

Lift-the-flap books can be fun now and then. Such is the case with this fun seasonal book. Yes, it's not quite the time to be reviewing summer books, it being Labor Day weekend and all, but better late than never, right?

The baby has lost her beach ball. Can you help her find it?

Baby is playing at the beach!
But where is Baby's Beach ball?
Is it behind the umbrella?
No! But here are some pretty seashells!
Is it in Mommy's beach bag?
No! But I found my sand pails and and shovel!
I liked this one. I think if you like Karen Katz especially, then this one is one to seek out. (Or if you're planning a beach vacation with your little ones along.)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Mortimer's First Garden

Wilson, Karma. 2009. Mortimer's First Garden. Illustrated by Dan Andreasen. Simon & Schuster.

This one is being reviewed slightly out of season. A book about spring time just weeks before the start of fall? Well, that happens sometimes. And I think better late than never. I really, really loved this one. It stars Mortimer the Mouse. And according to the jacket flap, Mortimer is a character first introduced in Mortimer's Christmas Manger. I haven't read that one. (Though if Mortimer is as Mortimer-ish there as he is here, then it's something I really need to get my hands on!)

Little Mortimer Mouse looked outside. "Brown, brown, brown," he squeaked. "Nothing but brown! Too dull, too drab, too dreary!" Mortimer longed to see something green. Anything green.

As the title suggests, this one is about Mortimer planting a garden. To be truthful, it isn't so much a whole garden as it is one tiny seed. Mortimer has decided--after eavesdropping on his humans--to plant one sunflower seed. He's not always sure that this was a good idea. But he's hopeful that something good might come of it. If he's patient enough. But it sure is hard to be patient sometimes!

What should you know about this one? Well, Mortimer is a God-loving little mouse. So if pictures of a mouse praying to God and being thankful for God's blessings offends you, then this might not be the book for you. I personally, thought the book was sweet and charming.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, September 4, 2009

Kisses on the Wind

Moser, Lisa. 2009. Kisses on the Wind. Candlewick Press. Illustrated by Kathryn Brown. (Releases September 2009)

Picture books with historical settings aren't all that common. This one is set in the pioneer-era. It stars a little girl, Lydia, who is struggling with just how to stay goodbye to her grandmother. Her family is going to Oregon--the wagon is packed, and nearly everything is ready to go, except for Lydia. How do you say goodbye to someone you love so very very much?

On the day we left for Oregon, I said good-bye to the barn cats. I said good-bye to the farmhouse. But I just couldn't say good-bye to Grandma. I watched Papa and Mama load the wagon. They packed barrels of cornmeal, the iron kettle, and Papa's tools. Mama said the trip would take months and months. I knew only one thing. This trip would take me a thousand miles away from Grandma.
It's a sweet story, bittersweet in places, but it's a good story. It's a story about priceless gifts like love and family. It's very heartfelt. I enjoyed this one very much. Loved the text. I also really loved the illustrations. They were perfect for this story. They made it just right.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Tiger Who Came To Tea

Kerr, Judith. 1968/2009. The Tiger Who Came To Tea. Candlewick Press.

I honestly still don't know what to make of this one. Candlewick's first edition of this UK classic is being released next week. It's a silly story, no doubt, about a tiger who comes to visit a girl and her "mummy" one day.

Once there was a little girl called Sophie,
and she was having tea with her mummy
in the kitchen.
Suddenly there was a ring at the door.

Apparently, this one is quite popular and well-known in some circles. Since it's being done "live on stage." I'm a bit more reserved in my opinion. Maybe you had to grow up with it? Anyway, it's available soon and you may just like it :)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

One Dragon's Dream

Pavey, Peter. 1978/2009. One Dragon's Dream: A Counting Book.

Candlewick's first edition of this is releasing soon--next week in fact. The first thing that struck me about this one is how similar (in some ways) the look and feel of it is to the old Sesame Street cartoons of numbers--the pinball song I guess you'd call it. And then I saw the video for "When I'm Sixty-Four" and I saw the counting sequence (You know, the one minute is a long time part.) So in other words, even if I hadn't found the "1978" copyright date, there's no disguising that this one is from a different era.

The numbers, I like. I'll admit that. But everything from that point on is just weird, weird, weird. You'll have to be the judge on if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Seriously, one person's weird is another person's awesome.

1 One dragon had a dream
2 That two turkeys teased him,
3 Three tigers told him off,
4 And four frogs seized him.
It's not exactly my kind of counting book.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Little Dump Truck

Cuyler, Margery. 2009. The Little Dump Truck. Illustrated by Bob Kolar. Henry Holt.

This is a sturdy picture book about dump trucks. (One of those that isn't quite a board book, the pages aren't quite that thick, yet they're thicker and sturdier than the average picture book making it perfect for preschoolers.) It's a simple book, brightly illustrated.

I'm a little dump truck
run by Hard Hat Pete,
driving down the street.

It rhymes, but it's the good kind of rhyme. The smart kind. The rhythmic kind. The kind that's fun to read aloud, again and again.

I'm a little dump truck
hauling stones and rocks,
bumping, bouncing, thumping,
crossing city blocks.

See, it's just fun to say bumping, bouncing, thumping. But the book isn't all about rhyming. It's about trucks--what dump trucks do, the kinds of work, the kinds of jobs they do. You see them in action.

I'm a little dump truck
backing to the right,
tipping down my dumper
at the garbage site.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers