Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, etc.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals, and Other Fatal Circumstances. Lenore Look. 2011. Random House. 198 pages.

Call me Alvin Ho. I was born scared and I am still scared. And this is my book of scary stories.

This is the fourth book in the Alvin Ho series for young readers. (These are illustrated chapter books for those just getting comfortable with reading novels.) The first three books in the series are: Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary ThingsAlvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters, and Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-Made Catastrophes.

In this Alvin Ho book, Alvin gets in a horrible, terrible predicament. The truth of the matter is that his grandfather's best friend, Charlie, has died. In a rare moment of bravery he volunteers to go with his grandfather to the funeral. Almost from that very second he regrets it. But his grandfather seems so genuinely touched, so very pleased at Alvin's response, that he is too scared to say he's scared. The next day, in another rare moment--on the bus, I believe--he blurts out that he's going to a funeral and going to see a dead body. He never once says who. At least not that I can recall. But everyone assumes that his grandfather has died. And they tell the teacher who tells the principal who tells just about every other person at the school. So in a matter of hours, everyone has come together for Alvin and wants to honor his grandfather. So much so that they want to have a memorial service at the school the next day. Poor, poor couldn't-speak-up-at-school-to-save-his-life Alvin, he finds himself unable to say hey wait, he's not dead!

So the novel is about that big misunderstanding...and about his fears of losing someone he loves--like his grandfather, like his father--to death.

I didn't really like this one. Not when comparing it with earlier books in the series. The third and fourth books in the series just haven't excited me. It's not even that this book is 'bad' or inappropriate. It's just that I'm not sure Alvin Ho is as charming as he used to be. To me.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Clementine and the Family Meeting

Clementine and the Family Meeting. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrations by Marla Frazee. 2011. Hyperion. 164 pages.

The very first thing Margaret said when she sat down next to me on the bus Monday was that I looked terrible.

The fifth Clementine novel may just be the best. (Or do I say that each time a new Clementine?!)  The first four novels in this wonderfully-delightful-must-read series are: Clementine (2006), The Talented Clementine (2007)Clementine's Letter (2008), Clementine, Friend of the Week (2010).

I love and adore Clementine. I do. I love her personality, love her narration, love her family, love her neighbors (Margaret and her older brother, Mitchell), love her friends, love her classmates, love her teachers, love her principal.

I love seeing Clementine with her family. I love seeing the interaction between family members. Her conversations with her mom, her conversations with her dad. And then there's Clementine's little brother. She calls him a different vegetable name every single time she refers to him. And most of the time, well, she thinks of him as a little bother. Someone not really worth having a relationship with. But things begin to change...perhaps a bit slowly...in this fifth novel. For she begins to see, perhaps just a bit, that her brother is a person. There's a very, very sweet scene--though not mushy by any means--where her brother chooses HER to read to him his bedtime story. Another favorite scene of mine shows Clementine with her Dad at Home Depot, I believe. She wants a tool belt exactly like his.

Anyway, Clementine and the Family Meeting is a novel about changes, about how it's okay to have conflicting feelings about changes. That changes can bring a mix of emotions and feelings. You might be scared, worried, happy, sad, or even mad. Changes might make you more confused than anything else. There's going to be a BIG, BIG, BIG change in July for the family. Clementine will be getting a new brother or sister. And how does Clementine feel about the situation? Well, you'll just have to read and see for yourself!!!

But Clementine isn't just worried about one not-so-little thing. Clementine wouldn't be Clementine if there weren't more going on in her life to distract her. She's also worried about her science project and her science partner. About the rat, Eighteen, which was her and Waylan's project. Eighteen escaped and can't be found anywhere....

So I definitely recommend this one. If you've read the first few in the series, you probably don't need me to convince you how great the books are. If you haven't met Clementine yet, you should seek her out. But start at the beginning. That would probably be best!!!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mary Poppins Comes Back

Mary Poppins Comes Back. P.L. Travers. 1935. Harcourt. 315 pages.

It was one of those mornings when everything looks very neat and bright and shiny, as though the world had been tidied up overnight. 

In the spring, I read (and loved) P.L. Travers Mary Poppins. I found it delightful and thoroughly satisfying. I also found it quote-worthy!!! I was surprised by how much I loved it.

There are a handful of sequels to the original novel, and I hope to read them all!!!

The first sequel is Mary Poppins Comes Back. Mary Poppins returns when the Banks family needs her most. Mr. Banks is losing it--a little bit--and Mrs. Banks is having putting up with her husband and all four kids. (Turns out there may be a reason! A fifth child makes an appearance halfway through this one!)  The chapters are a bit episodic as in the previous novel, but for me they are even more delightful!!! By far my favorite chapter was the second one, "Miss Andrew's Lark" in which Mr. Banks' governess arrives for a visit...

Some of my favorite quotes (from the whole book):

"I want to know how you've been behaving since I went away," remarked Mary Poppins sternly. Then she took out the Thermometer and held it up to the light.
"Careless, thoughtless, and untidy," she read out. Jane stared.
"Humph!" said Mary Poppins, and thrust the Thermometer into Michael's mouth. He kept his lips tightly pressed upon it until she plucked it out and read.
"A very noisy mischievous, troublesome little boy."
"I'm not," he said angrily.
For answer she thrust the Thermometer under his nose and he spelt out the large red letters.
"A-V-E-R-Y-N-O-I-S---"
"You see?" said Mary Poppins looking at him triumphantly. She opened John's mouth and popped in the Thermometer.
"Peevish and Excitable." That was John's temperature.And when Barbara's was taken Mary Poppins read out the two words "Thoroughly spoilt."
"Humph!" she snorted. "It's about time I came back!"
Then she popped it quickly in her own mouth, left it there for a moment, and took it out. "A very excellent and worthy person, thoroughly reliable in every particular." (22)

"She was called Miss Andrew and she was a Holy Terror!"
"Hush!" said Mrs. Banks, reproachfully.
"I mean--" Mr. Banks corrected himself, "she was--er--very strict. And always right. And she loved putting everybody else in the wrong and making them feel like a worm. That's what Miss Andrew was like!" (32)

"Well?" she said gruffly smiling a thin smile. "I don't suppose you know who I am?"
"Oh, yes we do!" said Michael. He spoke in his friendliest voice for he was very glad to meet Miss Andrew. "You're the Holy Terror!" (39)

"Doing nothing takes a great deal of time! All the time, in fact!" (156)

I would definitely recommend this one!!!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 7, 2011

Llama Llama Home With Mama

Llama Llama Home With Mama. Anna Dewdney. 2011. Penguin. 40 pages.

Llama Llama, morning light. Feeling yucky, just not right. 
Down to breakfast. Tiny sneeze. Sniffle, snuffle. Tissues please!
Llama's head is feeling hot. Llama's throat is hurting lots.
Achy, fever, stuffy head...Llama Llama, back to bed.

Llama, Llama Home With Mama is the newest in the Llama Llama series by Anna Dewdney. The first Llama Llama book--perhaps the best of the bunch--is Llama Llama Red Pajama. All of the books are good. (The holiday drama is perhaps my least favorite.)

In Llama Llama Home With Mama, Baby Llama wakes up sick. He is too sick to go to school. He is too sick to have any fun. No, he'll be spending all day with Mama Llama. She takes care of him, but, then Mama Llama starts feeling horrible as well. Good thing, Baby Llama is feeling well enough to take care of Mama in return.

If you've read even one Llama Llama book you know exactly what to expect from this one. That's what makes series books so much fun, in a way. Anna Dewdney offers plenty of rhymes in her Llama Llama books. And if you love the rhythm of them, then they're a real treat!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happy Pig Day

Happy Pig Day. An Elephant & Piggie Book. Mo Willems. 2011. Hyperion. 64 pages.

Gerald!
Gerald!
I am so happy!
Today is the best day of the year!

Today is free ice cream day?

No. Today is...
HAPPY PIG DAY!

I am a big, big, big fan of Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie series. I just love and adore these two characters. The series as a whole is practically perfect in every way. They're just that good, that charming, that FUNNY! With very few words, Mo Willems gives CHARACTER (life) to these two friends: Gerald, the elephant, and Piggie, the Pig.

Piggie is super-super excited about celebrating Pig Day. Pig Day is the best day to have a pig party, eat pig food, sing pig songs, dance pig dances, etc. But Gerald isn't quite as excited about Pig Day. He thinks that you have to be a pig to celebrate Pig Day. He thinks that Piggie is going to have all this fun without him. He feels sad and left out. Can Piggie show him what Pig Day is really all about?

So what did I think of Happy Pig Day? Well, I liked it. I really liked it. I wouldn't say that it is my favorite or best. I mean it's hard to top Should I Share My Ice Cream and We Are In A Book. (Those two are my favorites, which ones are yours?)

I Will Surprise My Friend
Can I Play Too?
Elephants Cannot Dance
I Am Going
Pigs Make Me Sneeze
Watch Me Throw The Ball
Are You Ready to Play Outside
I Love My New Toy
I Am Invited to A Party
My Friend is Sad
Today I Will Fly
There Is A Bird On Your Head
We Are In A Book
I Broke My Trunk!
Should I Share My Ice Cream?

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Is Everyone Ready for Fun?

Is Everyone Ready for Fun by Jan Thomas. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages.

Look! It's Chicken's sofa! PLOP!
It's time to...
Jump!
Up and down,
up and down.
Let's all JUMP
up and down!
On Chicken's sofa!

I love Jan Thomas. I do. I just love, love, love her books. There is just something happy-making about them; they're simple, true, but oh-so-much-fun. There's just something pure and simple and wonderful about them all!

This book stars three cows and a chicken. The three cows are ever so excited about jumping on chicken's little red sofa. (I love how this is illustrated!) But Chicken, well, Chicken has a different perspective on the matter. She wants it to stop. NOW.

They hear her. They do. So they get ready to have fun in a different way...or do they? You be the judge!!!
Is everyone ready for more fun?!
It's time to...
Dance!
Back and forth,
back and forth.
Let's all DANCE
back and forth!
On Chicken's sofa!
Highly recommended if you love funny books!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Bippolo Seed And Other Lost Stories

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss. 2011. Random House. 72 pages.

I love Dr. Seuss. I do. And I was oh-so-happy to discover that Random House was publishing a new collection of Dr. Seuss stories. These seven 'lost' stories were originally published in magazines in the early 1950s.

The seven stories are:

The Bippolo Seed
The Rabbit, the Bear, and the Zinniga-Zanniga
Gustav, the Goldfish
Tadd and Todd
Steak for Supper
The Strange Shirt Spot
The Great Henry McBride

I enjoyed almost all of these stories.

The Bippolo Seed is about greed. A duck finds a magical seed. He's told to make a wish and plant the seed. But before he can make a wish--a practical, simple wish--a cat stops him. He must want more than just a week's worth of food. How unimaginative a wish is that after all? So with a little encouragement, this duck named McKluck gets a little out of control. 

The Rabbit, The Bear, and the Zinniga-Zanniga is about a rabbit NOT wanting to become the bear's dinner. The rabbit has to think quickly to make sure that does not happen! But it's not enough for the rabbit to manage an escape, it has to be done in style!

Gustav, The Goldfish. It didn't take me long to recognize that this was FISH OUT OF WATER. What I didn't know was that this story inspired it. And that the author of A Fish Out of Water was Dr. Seuss's first wife, Helen Palmer. Seuss' story rhymed, Palmer's didn't. But essentially the same story about a boy and a fish and the importance of following directions very very carefully!

Tadd and Todd is a story about twins. One of the twins just loves to look exactly like his brother. The other twin isn't quite so pleased. In fact one of the brothers will do just about anything to be different. But that isn't always easy. I liked this one because it used the phrase: "which one was what one, and what one was who." It is an outlandish tale, of course. And it just gets more and more elaborate...what one brother will do to stand out from his brother. So it's enjoyable.

Steak for Supper introduces some fun animal-like characters--much like Wocket in My Pocket. It introduces the Ikka, the Gritch, the Grickle, the Nupper, and the Wild Wheef. The moral of this one is don't brag too much...you see, the little boy was going around saying that he had steak to eat every Saturday night. Well, one Saturday, these fanciful creatures decide to join him because they want steak too! Of course, the little boy doesn't know how he'll ever explain all this to his parents...

The Strange Shirt Spot is a very interesting story in that it introduces the idea of a spot that just WON'T go away. It is the inspiration, if inspiration is the right word, for the pink cat ring in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. The spot even gets on some of the same things.

The Great Henry McBride celebrates imagination and daydreaming. In this case a little boy dreams about what he wants to be when he grows up...

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, October 3, 2011

Toys Come Home

Toys Come Home. Emily Jenkins. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. 2011. Random House. 144 pages.

StingRay has missed the birthday party. She didn't mean to. It was her first party, first party ever in the world to be invited to--and she missed it. She didn't even know she was missing it. She didn't know anything about the party until now, when it is already over. 

The full title of this delightful prequel is "Being the Early Experiences of An Intelligent Stingray, A Brave Buffalo, and a Brand-New Someone Called Plastic." Of course, if you've read Toys Go Out and Toy Dance Party, you know all about Stingray, Lumphy, and Plastic. But what you may not know is how they all three came to belong to the Little Girl.

I love the premise of this one. I do. I definitely wanted more stories about these three friends. And these 'early' stories are just perfect!!! The six stories:

In Which There Is Nowhere Nice To Sleep
The Story of an Ear
What Happened to Bobby Dot
You Can Puke On Me
In Which Lumphy is Brave With a Tuna Casserole
The Arrival of Plastic, and Also The Reason We Are Here

The main character of this one happens to be Stingray. In the first story, we learn of how she arrived too late for the little girl's birthday party, but just in time to arrive on the ACTUAL birthday. As a new toy, she hasn't really found her place in the bedroom just yet. She's getting acquainted with the other toys, the other stuffed animals. She's learning--observing--everything.

Two new characters introduced are Sheep (was Sheep in the other two books? Have I forgotten?) and Bobby Dot. There's a good reason why Bobby Dot, the walrus, is NOT in the later books. At first, I wasn't exactly sure why Bobby Dot's story is included in Toys Come Home. Then I thought about it and thought about it some more. Things like that just happen. Not to be overly dramatic, but that's just a toy's life. And I definitely liked how that story is REDEEMED with a very familiar character, Lumphy.

It was so much fun to see the Little Girl shopping. There's just something oh-so-true about these books. In this one, one of the things I loved was HOW very individual the toys were. How when she was shopping she just knew, she just could tell, which (stuffed) ANIMAL was for her. Because the toys are so very-very real to her. Maybe not every reader can relate. But I can!!!

So some of the stories are just good fun, and one or two are slightly more serious. (Though not as tragically sentimental as say The Velveteen Rabbit).

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Umbrella

Umbrella by Taro Yashima. 1958/2004. Penguin. 40 pages. 

Momo is the name of a little girl who was born in New York. The word Momo means "the peach" in Japan where her father and mother used to live. On her third birthday Momo was given two presents--red rubber boots and an umbrella! They pleased her so much that she even woke up that midnight to take another look at them.

Umbrella by Taro Yashima IS my favorite, favorite, favorite picture book. I can't remember a time when I didn't love and adore this one.

Umbrella is the story of a little girl, Momo, who is oh-so-excited about her birthday presents. On her third birthday, Momo received red rubber boots and an umbrella. But Momo has to learn some patience. For the rain is SLOW in coming. And her parents aren't going to be easily persuaded that her umbrella is a must for dealing with sun and wind.

But, of course, the rain does come. And the wait was worth it. For Momo gets to use her new boots and umbrella. And she gets to walk all by herself without holding onto her mother's or father's hands.

Perhaps it is the rhythm of the rain that makes this such a memorable story? With it's oh-so-lovely refrain:
On her umbrella, the raindrops made the wonderful music--

bon polo
bon polo
ponpolo ponpolo
ponpolo ponpolo
bolo bolo ponpolo
bolo bolo ponpolo
boto boto ponpolo
boto boto ponpolo

all the way home. 
As much as I love the text--and I do LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the text--I must say that I really, really LOVE the illustrations. I do. From cover to cover. Even the end papers. I just LOVE Taro Yashima's artwork. His style made a definite impression on me--and it's one that has stuck with me through the years. There's just something unforgettable about each page--almost each page.

It's just a sweet, sweet book that continues to charm.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Time to Nominate for Cybils!

I just wanted to let everyone know that it is time to nominate books for Cybils!!! Nominations close October 15th. Be sure to read the NEW eligibility rules

The categories are:

Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books
Fantasy and Science Fiction (Middle Grade)
Fantasy and Science Fiction (Young Adult)
Middle Grade Fiction
Young Adult Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Nonfiction Picture Books
Nonfiction Middle Grade and Young Adult
Graphic Novels (Middle Grade)
Graphic Novels (Young Adult)
Poetry
Book Apps

All nominations must be intended for children or young adults.
To be eligible the book must have been published between October 16, 2010 - October 15, 2011.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Charlie the Ranch Dog

Charlie the Ranch Dog. Ree Drummond. Illustrated by Diane Degroat. 2011. HarperCollins. 40 pages.

Oh, hello. My name is Charlie. I live in the country. I'm a ranch dog. This is Suzie. She's my best friend. We sure don't look much alike, do we? Suzie, unfortunately, doesn't have the paws I have. Or the droopy eyes. Or the floppy skin. Or...the big dangly ears. Suzie's ears don't dangle. Never have. Never will. I try not to hold that against her.

I really liked this one! I thought it was a very cute dog story. Charlie may talk the talk, but does he really do as much work around the ranch as he claims?! One of the things I liked best about this one was Charlie's voice. It just felt right to me! I especially loved this scene:
The first thing we do every day is get out of bed early. Too early. Dark early. I'd better go wake up Suzie. She's never been much of a morning dog. 
And then there is this little gem:
After breakfast, I usually go help Mama in her vegetable garden. Mama loves her garden. I don't really understand all the fuss. I'd prefer a bacon garden myself. But I go ahead and lend a hand anyway.
Of course, half the fun is spotting the differences between the text and the illustrations!

I really, really enjoyed both the text and the illustrations. You might enjoy reading the back story of this picture book.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore

17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore. Jenny Offill. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. 2007. Random House. 32 pages.


I had an idea to staple my brother's hair to his pillow.
I am not allowed to use the stapler anymore.


I had an idea to glue my brother's bunny slippers to the floor.
I am not allowed to use the glue anymore.

I liked this one. I was hoping to love it. I mean I just loved 11 Experiments That Failed--the second book--which just released yesterday. And it was a decidedly cute and clever book. One with an original premise. A girl who just CANNOT stay out of trouble. She's always, always picking on her brother. And she's PASSIONATE about beavers. And she doesn't exactly like school. (I imagine her teacher has quite an opinion about her!)
I had an idea to do my George Washington report on beavers instead.
I am not allowed to do reports on beavers anymore.
I had an idea to dedicate my report to all beavers that ever lived.
I am not allowed to dedicate my report to beavers anymore.
 I thought there was a little too much emphasis on beavers. I would have enjoyed a little more variety perhaps. (Like there is in the second book!!!) But still, beavers and all, this one is a fun read.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters. Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Kelly Murphy. 2011. Candlewick Press. 32 pages.

Monsters creep, monsters crawl,
Over the meadow and up the wall.
Monsters run, monsters stumble,
Monsters hip-hop, Monsters tumble,
Monsters slither, monsters wave,
All in a hurry to get to their cave...

It is time for these monsters to go to bed...but are they ready to go to bed without a fight?!

I like this one. It was fun. It is definitely not your cute-little-bunnies-getting-all-ready-for-bed bedtime story book. Which is a nice change! Is it my favorite bedtime book ever? Of course not. But I think it's a fun little book that you and your little ones might enjoy!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Binky Under Pressure

Binky Under Pressure. Ashley Spires. 2011. Kids Can. 64 pages.

This is the third graphic novel for young readers in the Binky series. And I did enjoy it. I'm not sure that I loved it as much as the first adventure--when Binky was such a surprise, such a delight. But I definitely am always excited to see a new Binky adventure. I love this cat, I do. I love seeing him "fight" aliens and "protect" his humans. I love seeing the world through his eyes. There's just something funny about reading something from a cat's perspective! (Maybe not every reader agrees.)

In this third adventure, Binky faces new dangers. There's a NEW CAT in his house space station--a feline named Gracie. And her presence changes everything. She is eating HIS food, drinking HIS water, playing with his toys, getting his humans attention, etc. So he does what he can to discourage her, but it may not be easy to intimidate her, because she may just be a cat on a mission!

Is Gracie a friend or foe? Is she on his side ready to battle aliens and protect the space station? Or could she be an enemy robot controlled by the aliens?

I liked this one. It was funny and clever. The first adventure is Binky the Space Cat. The second is Binky to the Rescue.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Reaching





Reaching. Judy Ann Sadler. Illustrated by Susan Mitchell. 2011. Kids Can Press. 32 pages.

Mama is reaching
Lifts Baby up high
She swings him and sings him
A sweet lullaby.


Daddy is reaching 
To kiss Baby's nose
He laughs and he tickles
Plump tummy and toes.


Sister is reaching
Wants in on the huddle
More kisses and tickles--
A fun family cuddle.

I love this one. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. Is it sweet? Yes. Is it precious? Yes. Is it too cute for its own good? I don't think so. I *know* everyone has their own cute-tolerance. And, for some, a sweet picture book can become sickeningly sweet. But for me, Reaching is JUST RIGHT.

Reaching is about a family welcoming a new baby--a new baby boy--into the family. EVERY member of the family is excited--thrilled--with his arrival. They just can't get enough of their dear, dear, sweet baby boy. But this isn't exactly a book about a 'newborn' baby. The baby is seen sitting and taking some small steps, etc. Instead it is a celebration of life, of love, of family.

I love the text. I love the rhyming. I know I can be a bit picky when it comes to rhymes. Something either works for me, or it doesn't. But in this case, I thought it was just about right, just about perfect.

And the illustrations. I am ABSOLUTELY loving the illustrations. I just LOVE them. They're super-sweet, super-cute. Just delightful!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10


© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Pretty Princess Pig

Pretty Princess Pig. Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple. Illustrated by Sam Williams. 2011. Simon & Schuster. (Little Simon). 24 pages.

Pretty in pink is Princess Pig.
Her trotters are tiny. Her snout is big.
She loves to eat. She loves to dig.
Pretty Princess Pig.


At the first pink light of dawn, 
she snorts one enormous yawn,
then throws her flowered party dress on.
Pretty Princess Pig.

At first, I hated it. I'll be honest. The first few pages, I was like this book is NOT for me. It's too pink, too glittery, too rhyming. But I kept reading. I looked past the pinky-pinkness of it. I looked past the princess nonsense, and what I discovered was that it is actually a funny story about a pig who keeps getting messier and messier and messier as she prepares for a gathering of her friends--tea, cookies, scones, crumpets, etc. The messier she got, the messier her home got, the more I liked her.

So while I wouldn't say this book is a new favorite. I ended up liking it more than I thought I would.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10


© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

My Name is Elizabeth!

My Name is Elizabeth! Annika Dunklee. Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe. 2011. Kids Can Press. 24 pages.

My name is Elizabeth.
I really like my name. I like that it's nine letters long.
And I like all the neat things my mouth does when I say it.
I also like that there is a queen named after me!
But I don't like it when people call me names other than Elizabeth.

Don't dare call this Elizabeth Betsy, Liz, Lizzy, Beth, or Eliza. She is ELIZABETH. Can this little girl convince the people in her life--her family, her friends, her classmates and teachers, her neighbors, to get her name right?!

I liked this one. I did. I thought it was cute and clever. I won't say that I loved it. But it was fun!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye

The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye. Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Jim LaMarche. 2011. Random House. 32 pages.


The day Tiger Rose said goodbye was a soft spring day, the sun only half risen. Little brilliant butterflies, like bits of colored paper, floated among the flowers. Tiger Rose had been born in the city, but now she lived in the country in a house filled with laughter and cat treats. There, a boy and a girl loved her, a dog named Rowf tolerated her, and two grown-ups called Mom and Pop let her sit on the sofa as long as she did not use her claws.

If you're looking for a picture book about a pet cat that dies, AND The Tenth Good Thing About Barney* disgusts you, then The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye is the book for you. 

I'll be honest, I don't like books about pets that die. I really, really don't. Why? Because it's MISERABLE when a pet dies, and any book that talks about it just makes you feel all sad. Even if you've gotten over it--or you think you've gotten over it--reading about it can make you feel sad all over again.

BUT. If you're going to read about a cat dying, then The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye is a fine choice. I like that it is quiet, gentle, passive. There's a sweet certainty to it. It's not OVERLY dramatic, but it is final. Tiger Rose knows that this is the day, that her time has come. And she is saying goodbye to her life, goodbye to everything she loves. The fact that the humans in her life don't quite 'get' that she is saying goodbye with her meow, well, it doesn't change her sentiment.

The illustrations are my favorite part I think. They're just beautiful, I think. Very expressive. Yet gentle. Almost reflective. If the cat had had a fluffier tail, I'm not sure I could have finished this one with dry eyes.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Busy Beaver

The Busy Beaver. Nicholas Oldland. 2011. Kids Can Press. 32 pages. 

There once was a beaver who was so busy that he didn't always think things through. This beaver's carelessness was becoming a problem. His dams leaked, and he always made a mess of the forest--he left trees half-chewed, and worse, he felled more than he needed. Perhaps worst of all, the beaver went about his work with so little thought that a tree landed right on top of a bear. And once he even chewed a moose's leg thinking it was a tree. The beaver was just that careless.

Beaver is so busy being busy that he's become horribly careless. He's careless with his friends. He's careless with nature. But there is a price he has to pay for being so careless--he ends up in the hospital. Will his time mending teach him to slow down and do things right?

I did not really like this one. I didn't hate it. It just felt too like it was too much of a lesson.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Call of the Cowboy

The Call of the Cowboy. David Bruins. Illustrated by Hilary Leung. 2011. Kids Can Press.  32 pages.

The cowboy was a good friend to the ninja and the bear. He was kind. He was caring. He was fun. He was funny. But sometimes he could cause a ruckus. One day his noisiness came between him and his friends...

I definitely enjoyed the first two books in this series: The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear and The Way of the Ninja. So I was happy to see the release of a third book. All three books are about friendships: how to be a friend, how to keep a friend, etc.

Cowboy can be a fun friend, it's true. But sometimes he can be a little TOO LOUD. Sometimes he doesn't know how to be quiet, OR in other words, sometimes he doesn't know how to respect his friends wish for peace and quiet. Ninja, for example, wanted to read a book. But Cowboy--without exactly meaning to disturb the peace--was making it too hard for him to concentrate and appreciate the book. Bear, for example, wanted to take photographs of birds. But Cowboy didn't know that his noise would keep Bear from getting the photographs he wanted.

Will Cowboy learn his lesson? Can he come to like and appreciate silence?

I liked this one. Yes, it's all about a lesson or moral. But I like the three friends.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Welcome to the World

Welcome to the World by Valerie Wyatt. Photographs by Lennette Newell. 2011. Kids Can Press. 24 pages.

Dear Baby,
Welcome to the world and all its wonders. You will feel the sun on your skin and be warmed by it. You will see light chase darkness as clouds pass by. You will hear the wind in the trees and feel cool raindrops. You will see flowers in bloom and smell their sweet scent...

If you love looking at lovely photographs of babies, then you may enjoy this little picture book. The photographs are lovely. I could look at photos of babies all day long. There's just something adorable and sweet and precious about it all. The text itself is a 'welcome' message of sorts, introducing babies (supposedly) to the world around them. There is a strong emphasis on nature.

This one is not a board book. It is a 'delicate' book in that its pages could be ripped by young hands. So your audience needs to be young enough so that they are not reaching and grabbing or chewing and sucking. OR old enough that they know how to treat books well--gently.


I don't think the text of this one is 'entertaining' enough for preschoolers to appreciate or enjoy.(Because the text isn't a story so much as it is a sentimental letter.) Though of course that depends on YOUR child. I think the text may appeal more to adults--because it means something more to adults.

Text: 2 out of 5
Photographs: 4 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Princess and the Pig

The Princess and the Pig. Jonathan Emmett. Illustrated by Poly Bernatene. 2011. Walker. 32 pages.


Not that long ago, in a kingdom not far from here, a farmer was traveling home from the market with a cartload of straw. The farmer was so poor that he didn't have a horse and had to pull his own cart. In the back of the cart lay a tiny pink piglet. Nobody wanted to buy the piglet at the market, but the farmer had taken pity on it. "I'll call you Pigmella," he decided, as this seemed like a good name for a pig.

The Princess and the Pig is a delightful book; one that I just loved and adored! The royal princess, Priscilla, is dropped from the tower--the Queen being so disgusted by the smell coming from the baby's diaper--the baby lands quite safely in the farmer's cart. The pig goes up, up, up in the air and lands in the baby's cradle. Because EVERYONE in the kingdom seems to read the right kinds of books--the kinds of books with fairies--good and bad--the kinds of books where the unexpected happens all the time--it's assumed by all that a bad fairy has turned the princess into a pig and a good fairy has turned the pig into a baby girl because she knew that the farmer and his wife are good, hardworking people who haven't been able to have a child of their own all these years.

So the story of course follows both the princess and the pig through the years...and it's quite an entertaining read!!! Very satisfying I must say!!!

It's a great story, very fun, very delightful! Loved all the details! Loved the highlighting of all the books. I'd definitely recommend this one!

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Naamah and the Ark at Night

Naamah and the Ark at Night. Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Illustrated by Holly Meade. 2011. Candlewick. 32 pages.

As rain falls over the ark at night,
As water swirls in the dark of night,
As thunder crashes the seams of night,
As Noah tosses in dreams of night,
As restless animals prowl at night,
As they pace and roar and growl at night,
Naamah sings all through the night.

Susan Campbell Bartoletti imaginatively and poetically retells the story of Noah's Ark in her newest book, Naamah and the Ark at Night. In this picture book, readers meet Noah's wife, Naamah, whose singing through the night brings comfort and peace to everyone on the ark.

At first, I was puzzled by the repetition--the emphasis on the word night. But after reading the author's note, my curiosity was satisfied. The author is writing in a poetic form called ghazal which dates back to the seventh century. It is a disciplined Arabic form of poetry.

I liked this one. I was able to appreciate it. I've read a handful of Noah's Ark books in the past few years that have annoyed me, that I found too irreverent, too silly, too obnoxious, too whatever. (And it does bother me when Noah is presented WITHOUT his wife or without his wife and children.) This book I found interesting.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Hungry Ghost of Rue Orleans

The Hungry Ghost of Rue Orleans. Mary Quattlebaum. Illustrated by Patricia Castelao. 2011. Random House. 32 pages.

Fred lived alone at 28 Rue Orleans. Once the house had been a jazzy-snazzy, sweet-and-spicy spot, but now? The floors squeaked, the roof leaked, and dust coated the chairs. But Fred liked his rickety house. All night he moaned and clicked his fingers and tended his tiny cactus. If he got hungry, he gobbled some air. The perfect life for a ghost.

Books--even picture books--can surprise you. I didn't think I'd like this one--at all. And I'm not saying that I love it, but when you begin a book with big, big doubts, thinking that it most probably won't be for you, when that turns out not to be the case, well, you can't help getting a little excited about it! (The opposite of how you feel when you expect to love, love, love a book and end up being frustrated, disappointed, etc.)

Anyway, this picture book is about what happens when an old house in New Orleans is bought and turned into a restaurant. Fred is used to haunting a house--a wonderfully dusty, creaky house. But Fred is NOT happy about haunting a busy, noisy restaurant! And haunts it he does. But while he intended--perhaps--to scare the guests away, he ends up being the unique charm of the place. People see him as a little something extra that makes this restaurant worth eating at. How does Fred feel about all this?! Well, his mind might change once he gets a taste of powdered "ghost" puffs!

What I liked about this one was the language. With phrases like "munchers and clankers" to describe the customers, it had me at hello. I just thought the language, the style, was lovely. I still don't necessarily "like" ghost stories. But this one, well, it worked for me.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Yellow House

The Yellow House. Blake Morrison. Illustrated by Helen Craig. 1987/2011. Candlewick Press. 32 pages.

Every day we passed the yellow house on our way to the park, Mom and me and my little sister, Jenny. The house was on its own. It looked old, sad, and rather scary. 

I'll try to keep this one short. After all, why waste time with a book I'm not eager to recommend?! This picture book was just odd to me. I haven't decided if the intent is just to be odd, or if the intent is to be odd and CREEPY. Is it a seemingly simple book about a young girl with an active imagination? Or is the "little boy that beckons to her" meant to be creepy? I found him VERY creepy. But that could just be me.

So. There's this abandoned house that the heroine passes often. She feels a little sad--if sad is the right word?--that no one lives there. That the house doesn't have a family, a family with little children. One day the little girl passes the house and stops. She "notices" a little boy in the yard. He wants her to play with him. And they have an over-the-top, completely unbelievable adventure together. But. Of course she never sees him again because no one lives there, the place is abandoned and will likely always be abandoned.

Anyway, the book is weird. I suppose it could just be unusual or quirky or peculiar. I didn't like it. But you may like it more than I did. Are you a fan of this one? If you like it--love it--I'd love to hear why. I would appreciate seeing it through someone else's eyes!

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 4 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, September 26, 2011

Shoe-La-La

Shoe-La-La. Karen Beaumont. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2011. Scholastic. 40 pages.

Party dresses, party hair...
Need new party shoes to wear.
Emily, Ashley, Kaitlyn, Claire!
Let's go find the perfect pair!
Shoe-la-la!
They're everywhere.
Rows and rows!
These or those?
Up, up on our tippy toes.
Can't wait to choose new shoes.
Here goes!

Could I really be liking a book with SO MUCH glitter on the cover? I'm not a glitter-loving girl after all. But. I was pleasantly surprised by Karen Beaumont's Shoe-la-la! I found this book about four friends to be so much fun! The rhythm-and-rhyme of it worked for me. (I can be a bit picky, I know!) And the illustrations by LeUyen Pham, well, they were fantastic!!! I just love, love, love her work so very much!!! I don't know that I've ever read a book she's illustrated (or written) that I didn't end up loving!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Be Quiet, Mike!

Be Quiet, Mike! Leslie Patricelli. 2011. Candlewick. 40 pages.

This is a story about a monkey named Mike, who started drumming as a tiny little tyke. He played with his fingers; he played with his feet--a funky little monkey with a beat, beat, beat.
Bing, bong, bing, his rhythms would sing, but poor Monkey Mike heard only one thing...
He heard it from his parents; he heard it from his sis; he heard it from the neighbors, and it sounded like this:
BE QUIET, MIKE!

At first I wasn't sure about this one. It was never a case of liking or not liking; no, it was a do I like this?, do I really like this? or do I love it? Leslie Patricelli is one of my favorite authors for young readers. I've loved--often loved, loved, loved--many of her simpler books like Higher, Higher; Tubby; Potty; Yummy Yucky; Quiet Loud; No No Yes Yes; Baby Happy Baby Sad; The Birthday Box, etc. Be Quiet, Mike definitely has more words than any of those books I just mentioned!

But the more I read Be Quiet, Mike! the more I liked it. And I think it is because of the rhythm of it. It's a simple story of a loud little monkey who has to find the right way to express himself. He finds it through music--a drum set--as you might have guessed. Anyway, there is something musical about Be Quiet, Mike. I'm not saying that it is as musical, as magical, as say Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins (one of my favorite, favorite, favorite, favorite books of all times), but it works. There is something fun about reading this one.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

11 Experiments That Failed

11 Experiments That Failed by Jenny Offill. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. 2011. Random House. 40 pages.

Question: Can a kid make it through the winter eating only snow and ketchup?
Hypothesis: Ketchup and snow are the only food groups a kid needs.
What You Need: Ketchup, Snow
What to Do: 1. Make snowball, 2. Dip in ketchup, 3. Eat, 4. Repeat three times a day until spring.
What Happened: Stomachache, brain freeze, love of ketchup wavering.

And that is just the first (failed) experiment our passionate young scientist is trying...

I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. I did. I loved it because it was funny. It was just hilarious. It was fun and quirky and unexpectedly wonderful. (Though if you're familiar with 17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore, then it may not be so unexpected. I'm not completely sure I've read the first book with this oh-so-quirky, oh-so-trouble-prone heroine, so I plan on reading it soon--just in case!)

There were MANY great experiments in the book. My personal favorite just happens to be:
Question: Can a live beaver be ordered through the mail?
Hypothesis: A live beaver can be ordered through the mail.
What You Need: Five dollar bill, envelope, stamp.
What to Do: 1. Fill out mail-order beaver form. 2. Attach five dollar bill, 3. Place form in stamped envelope. 4. Mail.
What Happened: Allowance withheld until further notice. House declared No Beaver zone. 
All eleven experiments are great. And the book is just FANTASTIC. I just loved, loved, loved it cover to cover. I would definitely recommend this one!!!

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

All The Way to America

All The Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel. Dan Yaccarino. 2011. Random House. 40 pages.

My great-grandfather Michele Iaccarino grew up on a farm in Sorrento, Italy. When he was a boy, his father gave him a little shovel so he could help tend the zucchini, tomatoes, and strawberries that his family sold in the village. They worked very hard but were always very poor. And so when he was a young man, Michele left Italy and went all the way to America in search of new opportunities. "Work hard," his father told him, handing him the little shovel. "But remember to enjoy life." "And never forget your family," his mother said. She hugged him and gave him their few family photographs and her recipe for tomato sauce. 

Dan Yaccarino tells a very personal story in All the Way to America. He shares his family history--the history of four generations: his great-grandparents, his grandparents, his parents, and himself, how he's passing on the legacy to his own children. It's a picture book that celebrates family, family values, and life. The good advice being passed on through the generations just as much as that one little shovel. It was a very simple, very sweet story. (I really liked seeing how the shovel was used by each generation.)

I would definitely recommend this one. I really loved it.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Best Birthday Party Ever

The Best Birthday Party Ever. Jennifer LaRue Huget. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2011. Random House. 40 pages.

My birthday is 5 months, 3 weeks, 2 days, and 8 hours away. Today I started to plan my party. It is going to be the best birthday party ever. I will make the invitations myself. They will have a picture of me dressed like a princess on the front. My mother will help me color them in. We will put gold glitter in the envelopes so when people open them they'll get showered with fairy dust. I am inviting all my friends--57 of them, counting some kids I just met at the grocery story. Plus my grandmas. And the mailman. And the lady at the bank who gives me lollipops.

So begins this charming picture book by Jennifer LaRue Huget. The heroine of this one is super-super excited about turning seven. As the months, weeks, days, and hours go by, readers get to learn all about her plans for celebrating the big day. The heroine is very exuberant, very passionate; she is very easy to love! And the thing is she can "plan" all of this party without being a big brat, without whining or crying. Does she get her elephants? Does she get her two magicians? Does she get a birthday card from the President or the Queen? No, no, no. Her real birthday party is great enough, simple enough, to treasure. It's the little things that matter--like how her mom makes extra frosting just for her so she can eat it out of the bowl--that make this party a big success.

I loved this one. I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. It was funny and sweet and just about perfect. I just loved the illustrations. LeUyen Pham is without a doubt my favorite, favorite, favorite illustrator. I just LOVE and ADORE her work. I do. I can't help myself. I am just a big, big fan of her work. And the illustrations make this one extra special.

It really makes me happy to see a book with a great story AND great illustrations. That isn't always the case.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Edwin Speaks Up

Edwin Speaks Up. April Stevens. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 2011. Random House. 40 pages.

Mrs. Finnemore was racing around the house.
"Gloo poop SHOE noogie froo KEY," Baby Edwin was babbling. He was all dressed and ready to go to the supermarket.
"Mommmmmy," Finney whined. "Can't we just go?"
Suddenly Mrs. Finnemore stopped short.
"Oh, for Pete's sake, there they are!" she said, and she reached into Fergus's shoe on the hall table and pulled out her car keys.

Baby Edwin, the youngest of five Ferret children in the Finnemore family, can't talk yet, so everyone thinks. But if he can't talk, why does he have all the answers?! Time and time and time again his babbling reveals that he is much more OBSERVANT than his distracted mama. And he does try to help her out all he can. For example, when she loses her pocket book, she just can't see how helpful Edwin is being when he says: "Figbutton noo noo POCKY BOOKY froppin ROOF."

So Edwin Speaks Out is a picture book about a family trip to the grocery store. Mrs. Finnemore is taking all five children to the grocery store with her. And she's told everyone to remind her to buy sugar so she can make Edwin a birthday cake. Well, of course one thing after another after another distracts her from the task at hand, and well, they are almost out of the store when....

Will Edwin finally get everyone's attention?! Will Edwin get the recognition he deserves?!

I honestly don't know how I feel about this one. I haven't read it aloud yet; I haven't given it an audience. And Edwin's babble could prove funny or amusing especially when read aloud. But the book definitely is a bit odd as well. I've seen really, really, really odd and peculiar books--this isn't that odd. But it's not quite your usual picture book either. A scatterbrained mom who just doesn't have it together--at all. And a babbling baby that can be a charmer.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Zoozical

ZooZical by Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Marc Brown. 2011. Random House. 40 pages.

One blustery morning, when frosty winds blew, 
When families stayed home, and when field trips were few,
The midwinter doldrums arrived at the zoo.

The zoo animals are bored, bored, bored. It's winter and the weather is keeping visitors away from the zoo. But with one little bounce--or hop--all that changes. The hop in question--from a small hippo--not the bounciest animal, perhaps, but wouldn't you hop out of the way if a BIG hippo was about to collapse on you? Inspired by this hop, the animals decide to put on a show. And this show--this talent show--brings in visitors once more.

I am not a big fan of Judy Sierra. I think her rhyming--her rhythm--is lacking quite a bit. The rhymes feel unnatural and the story feels forced in places. The rhymes hold this story back. The premise of this one--performing animals, silly animal tricks, animals singing, dancing, laughing, etc. isn't a horrible one. It could actually be fun (think Dooby, Dooby Moo). And I always appreciate a good zoo story.

The strength of this one is in the illustrations by Marc Brown. I thought they worked well with this one. The illustrations alone kept me reading this one.

Have you read ZooZical? What did you think? Do you have a favorite zoo book?

Text: 1 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 4 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Grump

Grump. Janet Wong. Illustrated by John Wallace. 2001. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.

Look how tired this Mommy is
Tired and frumpy
Grouchy chumpy
Oh, what a grump!


Look at Baby
Smart, good Baby
Happy Baby
Making gravy
Applesauce and ketchup gravy
Not too lumpy
Not too bumpy
Squish squish
DUMP!

Grump is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite books. I almost don't even need to make the qualification of favorite picture book. It's a book that begs to be read aloud again and again and again. The rhythm of it is almost magical--at least to me! I love the use of language, I do. I love the way it sounds, the way it feels on my tongue. It's real life. It's poetry. It just works.

The story of this one is simple. It's been a LONG, LONG, LONG day for this Mom and her Baby. And even if the Baby doesn't think he needs a nap, he needs a nap. But will this baby go down for a nap? Not without an all-too-familiar-struggle!

Baby's going to take a nap now
Baby's going to take a nap now
Baby's going to take a nap now
Take a nap now
Little lump.

She puts him in his crib and...

And oh of course that baby cries
Cries and whimpers
Cries and whimpers
Cries and whimpers
Play with me!
So Mommy sits 
And reads to Baby
Reads so pretty
Reads so softly
Reads and reads and reads until--

Can you guess what happened to the oh-so-tired, oh-so-grumpy Mommy?

This one is such a GREAT book. I loved how true-to-life it was. Not only for the baby, not only for the mommy--but it captures the ups and downs of the whole relationship.

This one has been a favorite going on ten years. Today I was looking to review some board books, hoping to find something great to share with you, when I thought again of Grump. Why isn't Grump still in print? Why hasn't it been reprinted? Why??? It's just a WONDERFUL book. And it would be a great board book!!! The combination of this story with that format would be just perfect!!!!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

I Like Vegetables

I Like Vegetables. Lorena Siminovich. 2011. Candlewick Press. 10 pages.

Above
Below
Carrots


Inside
Outside
Peas

I Like Vegetables is one of four titles available in Lorena Siminovich's Petit Collage series published by Candlewick. Previous titles include: I Like Toys (a concept board book about shapes), I Like Fruit (a concept board book about colors), and I Like Bugs (a concept board book about counting to five). And I must admit it is one of the best in the series. I thought it was really clever to use vegetables to show opposites! That harvest time is a great time to learn about opposites. The opposites included in the book are: above/below, inside/outside, tall/short, big/little, and empty/full.


It is a touch-and-feel book. And I enjoyed those elements on these pages. I especially liked the carrots and the peas! Well, for that matter I loved the corn too! If I'm being honest, I loved it all! I just *wish* that a touch-and-feel book would try a little harder to get the pumpkin right. Because I am relatively sure that most pumpkins do not feel velvet-like.

It is easy to recommend this one, to recommend the whole series! I just love the art and design of these!!!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

I Like Toys

I Like Toys. Lorena Siminovich. 2011. Candlewick Press. 10 pages.

Circle
ball
yo-yo
car


Triangle
playhouse
spinning top
sailboat

I was a big, big fan of Lorena Siminovich's I Like Bugs and I Like Fruit. So I was super-excited to learn that there were two new books in the  Petit Collage series: I Like Toys and I Like Vegetables.


I Like Toys is a concept board book about shapes. The circle shape can be found in a ball, a yo-yo, and the tires on a car; the square shape can be found in a jack-in-the-box, a box, and a tower of blocks. Four shapes are includes in all: triangle, rectangle, square, and circle. Each page has a touch-and-feel element to it (the tires on the car, the sail on the sailboat, a block in the block tower, etc.

The art and design of this one makes it fun. While I wouldn't say this is my favorite book in the series, I can easily say that I'd recommend the series as a whole. The whole series is high quality.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator

Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator. Mo Willems. 2011. HarperCollins. 72 pages.

First sentence of the first story: Amanda was at the library getting her books for the week. Her alligator was not. He was waiting for Amanda to get back.

Want to read 6 1/2 surprising stories about 2 surprising friends? What if those stories are written by Mo Willems?!

I am a BIG, BIG fan of Mo Willems. I am. So I was so excited to read Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator. I was happy to discover six (and a half) stories about a little girl, Amanda, and her best friend, a stuffed toy alligator. It was wonderful to see how many stories highlight Amanda's love for reading. Willems' shares with readers the titles of Amanda's library books: How to Raise a Tiger, Whale Songs for Beginners, Climbing Things for Fun and Profit, and You Can Make It Yourself: Jet Packs! (I thought the titles were clever--my favorites being Climbing Things for Fun and Profit and You Can Make It Yourself: Jet Packs!) The stories are just fun and imaginative and--at times--sweet.

For example, in "A Surprising Value," Alligator is worried--and a bit sad--to discover that he's only "worth" seven cents. That he, in fact, came from the sale bucket. But Amanda reassures her dear friend that there was a very good reason no one else wanted to buy him,
"No one wanted to buy you because they knew you were meant to be my best friend." After that, Alligator felt better. (And that's the truth.) (44-45)
I also enjoyed the last story, "A Surprising Discovery." In that story, Alligator is again worried. This time he's worried because Amanda has brought home 'a surprise' from her day at the zoo. She's brought home a new toy, a stuffed panda. This panda does NOT look like it was from the sale bucket. No, the panda definitely cost more than seven cents. So Alligator isn't all that happy about this new friend. Not until he realizes that Panda is great fun. Alligator used to spend his time waiting for Amanda; spent his time being bored, bored, bored. But with Panda around? Well, it's fun to "wait" for Amanda! Here's one of my favorite quotes from that story:
When Amanda comes home, we will have fun, thought Alligator.
We will sing songs!
We will dress up!
We will make discoveries!
Maybe Amanda will have another surprise for me!
Alligator smiled.
"Surprise!" yelled Amanda, swinging open the door. "Look what Grandpa got for me at the zoo!"
It was a panda.
The panda was huge.
The panda was fluffy.
The panda did not look like it came from the sale bucket.
Alligator did not like Amanda's surprise. (58-60)
I enjoyed all the stories. I did. And I would definitely recommend this one.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet

If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet. Leslie McGuirk. 2011. Random House. 48 pages.

A is for Addition
B is for Bird
C is for Couch potato
D is for Dog
E is for Elephant

What a fun and creative book. Leslie McGuirk shares her unique rock collection with readers in If Rocks Could Sing. She spent years searching for rocks in the shapes of all 26 letters in the alphabet, along with other fun shapes to pair with them. My favorite letters? O is for Ouch!,  D is for Dog, and P is for Penguin.

Yes, this is an alphabet book, a concept book. But it is so much more than that. It's just fascinating to look at all the rocks, to learn how this project came together after years of work.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustration 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, June 20, 2011

Squish Super Amoeba

Squish Super Amoeba (Squish #1) by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. 2011. Random House. 96 pages.

Squish is an amoeba was first introduced as a science fair project in Babymouse Mad Scientist. After the science fair, Babymouse returned Squish to the pond. In his first adventure, Squish has to decide if she should do the right thing--stand up for a friend and protect her from harm--or the easy thing--allow the bully to get away with it so that he doesn't become the bully's next target. This dilemma is slightly complicated by the fact that the one "needing" protecting is Peggy the Paramecium. (She is so over-the-top, she may just be my favorite character of them all.) The narrator is quite opinionated and very straightforward. This is a little of what he says about Peggy and her fate: Super sweet! Super clueless! Not Going to live Long!"

I can't say that I love Squish. I can't say that he appeals to me in the same way that Babymouse does. But. I think for the right reader, the right age group, for those looking for GREEN graphic novels instead of pink ones, this might be a good match. I did like that the graphic novel addresses serious issues like bullying and cheating.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Babymouse Mad Scientist

Babymouse Mad Scientist (Babymouse #14). Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. 2011. Random House. 96 pages.

In this adventure, Babymouse braves science class and learns how much fun the science fair can be. At first she's not exactly sure what she wants to do for her science project. But eventually she decides on amoebas. Babymouse collects a water sample from the pond and studies it with a microscope. What she discovers is a little green blob named Squish. Will Babymouse learn to like science? Will her Dad forgive her for breaking his microscope? Can Babymouse get a good grade on her science project?

Squish: I am not a blob!
Babymouse: Huh? Who said that?
Squish: I am not a blob! I am an amoeba!
Babymouse: Um, okay, what's your name?
Squish: Squish. What's your name?
Babymouse: Er, Babymouse.
Babymouse: Wow! This is just like that book, you know, when the elephant hears--A person's a person, no matter how small!
Narrator: That's Horton Hears a Who. Not Babymouse Hears a Blog. (63-64)

I have grown very fond of Babymouse through the years. I've enjoyed her runaway imagination. She's a fun character with many quirks. And it's just satisfying to spend time with her and her friends. I did not love Mad Scientist as much as some of the others in the series. But I still have enjoyed the series as a whole.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Press Here

Press Here. Herve Tullet. 2011. Chronicle. 56 pages.

Ready?
PRESS HERE and turn the page.
Great! Now press the yellow dot again.
Perfect. Rub the dot on the left...
Gently.
Well done! And now the one on the right...
Gently.

Press Here is creative and unique. How many interactive books depend on a child's imagination? In this "interactive" picture book, readers are invited to play with a yellow dot. To watch the dot do some amazing things. Each page turn reveals something special that the child has 'helped' to bring about. (Rubbing the dot on the left turns it blue; rubbing the dot on the right turns it red. Tapping the dots five times multiplies the dots. Etc.)

Press Here is different, perhaps. There aren't all that many picture books out there like it. And it's definitely not your traditional picture story book. But I think there are readers out there who can appreciate this one.

Originally published in France.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Back to School With Betsy


Back to School with Betsy. Carolyn Haywood. 1943. 176 pages.

It was a warm evening in August. Betsy was sitting on the top of the wall that ran back of the garden.

In 2008, I reviewed Carolyn Haywood's B is for Betsy. At the time, I wasn't all that impressed. I thought the book--originally published in 1939--was dated and old-fashioned. And it is both. But I've since come to appreciate such books, at least more than I used to! (For example, I've discovered Mary Poppins, Henry Huggins, and Five Children and It, etc.) So I was pleased to see two more Betsy books on the library shelf: Back to School with Betsy and Betsy and the Boys.

Betsy all dressed up!
Back to School with Betsy, like B is for Betsy, is episodic for the most part. It opens with a worried Betsy. She's sad that Miss Grey will no longer be her teacher, and she's worried that she'll never see her. Her mother assures her that even though Miss Grey is getting married (and thereby retiring from teaching) that they'll still be able to see each other. Maybe not as often as they would in the school setting. But Miss Grey will still care about seeing Betsy and her friends. Betsy can't see any reason in the world why her teacher would want to go and do a silly thing like get married. Her friend, Ellen, tries to convince her that this is a good thing. They'll get to go to the wedding! They'll get to eat cake! Billy and Betsy don't really see why weddings are fun outside of the cake-eating opportunity, but that is just enough to cheer them up for the moment. 

Betsy has also been worried about the creepy house next door. A house that hasn't been lived in for quite a while. But within a chapter or two--at most--Betsy learns that the house has been bought! A Mr. Jackson is moving in, and he has a job or two for Betsy. The thought of earning enough nickels to buy Miss Grey a present is motivation enough to overcome her worries.

Any guesses as to who Miss Grey is marrying?! It may surprise Betsy and Billy and Ellen. But this reader saw it coming from the start! 

Betsy wants a black baby sister.
The first four chapters of Back to School with Betsy deal with the wedding and the new neighbor. The remaining chapters focus on Betsy and her friends at school. In chapter six, for example, "The Tale of the Blackboard Picture" Betsy and her classmates learn about Mexican Indians and create a blackboard picture to illustrate everything they've learned about this exotic culture. 
Betsy bringing home Lillybell.
And in chapter nine, readers learn exactly what Betsy has always wanted, a black baby. Not just a brother OR a sister, a black baby brother or black baby sister. When her mom tries to explain to her that that won't be happening, that they'd have to adopt a baby to get a baby of a different color, Betsy remains determined. She does bring home a black little girl, but her parents won't let her keep her. And she is returned safely to her mom--who was very worried. The illustrations are in black and white, and it is interesting how they try to portray ethnicity solely through hairstyle. (Looking at the illustration, you'd never guess, unless you read the text, that one of the little girls was supposed to be black.)
"But couldn't we get one all ready made? I forget what you call babies that you get all ready made."
"You mean 'adopt' a baby," said Mother.
"Yes," replied Betsy. "Couldn't we 'dopt one?"
"No, dear," said Mother. "We already have a baby."
"I'll bet if a little baby could talk, it would say it would like to be 'dopted by us."
"Well now, we won't talk about it any more," said Mother. "You have a dear little baby sister to play with."
"Yes," said Betsy, "but I want a lot of babies. And I like all different colors." (143)
The book covers Christmas and Easter too.
 
Is this children's book dated? Is it old-fashioned? Yes. But I am glad to have read this one. I have become interested in reading these older books, interested in tracing the history of children's books.


In case you were curious, the book is illustrated by the author, Carolyn Haywood.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers