Thursday, August 30, 2018

Freight Train

Freight Train. Donald Crews. 1978. 26 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

First sentence: A train runs across this track. Red caboose at the back. Orange tank car next. Yellow hopper car.

Premise/plot: Freight Train is a concept book teaching colors, a train-themed concept book teaching colors. It received a Caldecott Honor in 1979, I believe. If I had to guess the most memorized picture book ever, I bet it would be Freight Train or Goodnight Moon. What do you think it would be?

My thoughts: What's not to love about this children's classic? It wasn't the first train book, it certainly won't be the last. What is it about kids and trains?!

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Millions of Cats

Millions of Cats. Wanda Gag. 1928. Penguin. 40 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

Once upon a time there was a very old man and a very old woman. They lived in a nice clean house which had flowers all around it, except where the door was. But they couldn't be happy because they were so very lonely. 
"If we only had a cat!" sighed the very old woman. "A cat?" asked the very old man. "Yes, a sweet little fluffy cat," said the very old woman. "I will get you a cat, my dear," said the very old man.
And he set out over the hills to look for one. 

Millions of Cats is a Newbery Honor book from 1929.

Premise/Plot: A very old man and a very old woman long for a cat. The husband goes on a quest to bring back a "sweet little fluffy cat" to please them both. Is his quest successful? Yes. A little too successful. For in fact he finds

Cats here, cats there,
Cats and kittens everywhere,
Hundreds of cats,
Thousands of cats,
Millions and billions and trillions of cats.
How is he ever to choose just ONE cat from so many?! Especially since as he picks up or pets each one he sees, he finds it to be the prettiest cat. He can't bring himself to leave any of the cats behind. But it isn't practical to bring home hundreds, thousands, millions, billions, and trillions of cats. You can probably guess what his wife's response will be! Surely, they can't keep them all. For better or worse, he lets the cats decide amongst themselves. One scrawny cat remains, but, it may be the best one of all.

My thoughts: I loved this one growing up. I loved the repetition. I thought it was a fun story. I didn't--at the time--take the man's conclusion that the trillions of cats ate each other up literally. Is the book violent? Perhaps. Perhaps not. See for yourself.  "They bit and scratched and clawed each other and made such a great noise that the very old man and the very old woman ran into the house as fast as they could. They did not like such quarreling." This one might pair well with Eugene Field's "The Duel." (The gingham dog and the calico cat).

Have you read Millions of Cats? Did you like it? love it? hate it?

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, August 24, 2018

A Girl Named Helen

A Girl Named Helen: The True Story of Helen Keller. (Amercian Girl) Bonnie Bader. 2018. [October 9] Scholastic. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Helen Keller became deaf and blind when she was a small child in the 1800s. At that time, not many deaf people learned to communicate. But Helen did. Not many blind people learned to communicate. But Helen did. Helen wrote books, gave speeches, and traveled around the world.

Premise/plot: A Girl Named Helen is an early chapter book biography of Helen Keller. It has seven chapters, a timeline, and a glossary.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I did. I would have loved, loved, loved it as a kid--for two reasons really. I *might* have been a wee bit obsessed with the film adaptations of The Miracle Worker. I might have watched it on VHS a couple dozen times. I *might* have started finger spelling as a hobby. I also was always looking for biographies with illustrations and big print as a kid.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Ashlyn's Fall Fiesta

Ashlyn's Fall Fiesta. Scholastic Reader, Level 2. (AmericanGirl, WellieWishers) Meredith Rusu. 2018. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The wind is blowing. The leaves are changing colors. Fall has come to the garden. And that means it’s time for a party; Ashlyn’s Fall Fiesta. Ashlyn makes sure everything is just right.

Premise/plot: Ashlyn’s party is a HUGE fail…or is it? Do things have to go according to plan to be fun?!

My thoughts: Ashlyn thought she was taking EVERYTHING into account. But pride goes before a fall sometimes. Such is the case with this American Girl themed early reader. She may have the decorations and the food planned down to the last little detail, but Ashlyn apparently didn’t check the weather forecast. Also she didn’t have a plan B. Plan B could have been—should have been—moving the party inside the garden playhouse. But everyone relaxes in this one and perhaps that is the point…to not have a plan.

I liked it okay. I think I like the early readers better than the picture books. I’m not sure why! 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Board book: I Love You Through and Through at Christmas, Too

I Love You Through and Through at Christmas, Too. Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak. Illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church. 2018. Scholastic. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I love you at Christmas -- shopping and wrapping, making and baking, smiling and eating.

Premise/plot: This board book is a holiday-themed follow up to I Love You Through and Through.
It is written in verse.

My thoughts: Caroline Jayne Church's illustrations are adorable. Adorable--as always. If you have been reading or reviewing board books for any length of time, chances are you're familiar with her sweet, adorable, precious illustration style. If you love her work then you should definitely read this one.  

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, August 20, 2018

Kendall's Snow Fort

Kendall's Snow Fort. Scholastic Reader Level 2: AmericanGirl WellieWishers. Meredith Rusu. 2018. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

First sentence: Brrr! It’s a cold winter day. Snow covers the ground in the garden. But the WllieWishers are not cold. They are nice and warm inside their playhouse!

Premise/plot: It is winter. The WellieWishers think it would be a great idea to build a snow fort. Especially Kendall. It was her idea after all. But there are a couple of problems. Kendall isn’t sure they have time to finish before the snow storm arrives. Kendall doesn’t trust her friends to help her and stay on task. Will her friends follow through on their commitment or will they get distracted? Will the gang finish before the storm arrives?

The WellieWishers series includes paperback picture books and paperback early readers. The picture books usually include stickers. The early readers usually include a paperdoll. By collecting them all, you’d have the whole WellieWisher’s gang in paper dolls.

My thoughts: I like the idea of collecting all the paper dolls. I do. As a kid I loved playing paper dolls. I like the story well enough. Again it may not be oh-so-amazing in terms of being literature. But why should a book for this age group or any age group have to be.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, August 17, 2018

Sunny Day Scavenger Hunt

Sunny Day Scavenger Hunt (American Girl, WellieWishers) Meredith Rusu. 2018. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Splish-splash. Splash-Splash. Emerson stomps through the puddles in the garden. She sings as she goes.

Premise/plot: This paperback picture book stars the American Girl WellieWishers: Camille, Willa, Ashlyn, Kendall, and Emerson. The WellieWisher gang is going on a scavenger hunt for colors. It’s a competition—so expect a little friction between the girls.

My thoughts: At the very least you can say this might be a good party gift for a friend who LOVES American Girl dolls. Probably one of the most affordable American-Girl products you could gift. And it includes stickers. It may not be amazing literature. But not all books have to be amazing. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Firefighters to the Rescue (Lego City)

Firefighters to the Rescue (Lego Nonfiction) Penlope Arlon. 2018. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Emergency! Someone needs our help. Let’s go!

Premise/plot: LEGO City: Firefighters to the Rescue is one of the books in the LEGO Nonfiction series. It blends nonfiction narrative—straightforward facts about firefighters and fire stations—with dialogue between LEGO characters. It blends photographs from the real world with illustrations from LEGO City. It also includes suggestions for how to play with LEGO.

My thoughts: I like it. I like the nonfiction narrative better than the LEGO dialogue. But I think both have their place.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Board book: Good Night, My Love

Good Night, My Love. Sandra Magsamen. 2013/2018. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Good night, my little buttercup. It's off to bed for you. Good night, my precious baby bear. May all your dreams come true.

Premise/plot: Good Night, My Love features a squishy, sparkly moon. The board book also features flaps to lift. It is a bedtime themed board book for little ones.

My thoughts: The text is sweet. The illustrations are as well. Is it my absolute favorite bedtime book? NO. Not really. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Joyce Wan's You Are My Cupcake which was published in 2012. Though technically You Are My Cupcake isn't bedtime-themed. It can be read--perhaps should be read--morning, noon, and night.

Reading to little ones is essential. Your child is never too young to start. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Police in Action (Lego City Nonfiction)

Police in Action: A Lego Adventure in the Real World. Penelope Arlon. 2018. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Police officers are always ready for action. Stop, crooks! I've got this! They can't outrun my speedy motorcycle.

Premise/plot: This LEGO City book is part of Lego's nonfiction series. This one is about the police. It blends a nonfiction narrative with dialogue between LEGO minifigures. The nonfiction text is straightforward facts. The dialogue, well, it tends towards silliness and bad jokes. The book does feature photographs as well as illustrations.

My thoughts: I liked it okay. I like the nonfiction bits. I do. I just am not overly crazy about the joking dialogue of the LEGO figures. I think kids might enjoy both. After all, I'm not in the intended age group!

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Lego City: Stop That Train!

Lego City: Stop That Train. Ace Landers. 2018. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One day a young man rushes through LEGO City to catch his train.

Premise/plot: Will the young man catch his train? If he misses it what will he do? Where is he going anyway?

My thoughts: The young man DOES miss his train. It would be a VERY short book if he didn't. In fact, if something could go wrong, it does. That's just how some days go, right?

This one isn't great literature. But. For little LEGO lovers I do think it will be an enjoyable read. It's a paperback book that comes with a small poster. This is the kind of book that is often available at school book fairs and in book catalogs. I do think those programs are good overall.

It is the young man's birthday. The book ends with him arriving at a surprise birthday party. This book might make a great inexpensive party gift. 

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Board book: Have You Seen My Lunch Box?

Board book: Have You Seen My Lunch Box? Steve Light. 2017. Candlewick. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Time for school. Where are my socks?

Premise/plot: The star of this one is having trouble finding things! Can you help him out?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. It is a seek-and-find board book. Little ones are asked to help find an object on each page or spread. Often this is phrased as a question. (But not always). The text is simple and straightforward. The illustrations are silly and delightful. If little ones don't fully appreciate the illustrations--in all their details--perhaps parents will.

For example,
I need to find my crayon.
In this one he is looking in the bathroom. The crayon is mixed in with toothbrushes.
Is my robot here?
In this one, his robot is in the refrigerator of all places!

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, August 6, 2018

Board book: I Love the Nutcracker

Board book: I Love the Nutcracker: My First Sound Book. Marion Billet. 2018. Scholastic. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: On Christmas Eve, Clara receives a special Nutcracker toy. Can you find it?

Premise/plot: This interactive board book introduces six songs from the Nutcracker Suite to little ones. The songs are: "The March," "Chinese Dance," "Russian Dance," "Dance of the Mirlitons," "Flower Waltz," and "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy."

The board book does not seek to share the somewhat complicated, almost surreal story of the Nutcracker ballet. This board book is not an adaptation of the ballet's story.

The text is kept very simple. And it even asks questions. For example,
Watch the pandas leap and twirl. Who is watching the teapot?
The dance gets faster and faster! How many dancers do you see?
My thoughts: The way most people feel about BACON is the way I feel about The Nutcracker. To qualify that statement I'll add: I'm talking about the music and not necessarily the ballet. I like the ballet. But I love, love, love, CRAZY LOVE the music. I listen to the Nutcracker year round. Perhaps because I don't always associate it with the ballet itself. (After all, its interpretation in Fantasia is NOT holiday related.)

Each spread has a button for little ones to press. Press the button to hear the song--there are six total songs. The song will play once through and stop on its own. But if your little one has fast fingers and wants to go through the book quickly, you may press the button again to stop the song before turning the page. BEFORE the reading experience, you will need to turn the book ON. Can I just say that I love, love, love the fact that this book has an off/on switch. I'm hoping this will help preserve the life of the battery.  I can see the pros and cons of having an off/on switch. You will need to remember to turn it off when you're finished.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Bonus NOVELTY: 5 out of 5
Total: 11 out of 15

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, August 3, 2018

Peanut Butter's First Day of School

Peanut Butter's First Day of School. Terry Border. 2018. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Peanut Butter was scared. Tomorrow was the first day of school! Peanut Butter was new in town, but he had already made some friends.

Premise/plot: This LEVEL 2 early reader is narrated by an open face peanut butter sandwich. Peanut Butter is more than a little worried about starting school and making friends. On the day before school starts, Peanut Butter practices his walk to school, on the way he meets a few people who are also starting school: a cupcake, an egg, a bowl of soup, and Jelly (an open face jelly sandwich). He even ends up joining a soccer game. (Readers don't properly meet ALL the people on the field.) The book then shows his first day of school.

My thoughts: What a strange book. I say strange, and I mean it, yet even though I was never sure at any given time if I was "liking" it...I remained mesmerized by the illustrations. Each page proved interesting or fascinating. Even when the story was less so. The story, as you can imagine, isn't all that unique. The illustrations are.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Board Book: On the Go with Mother Goose

On the Go with Mother Goose. Iona Opie, editor. Illustrated by Rosemary Wells. 2017. Candlewick Press. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
Down at the station,
early in the morning,
See the little puffer-billies
all in a row;
See the engine driver
pull his little lever--
Puff puff, peep peep
off we go!
Premise/plot: This is a themed Mother Goose collection for parents to share with their little ones. The theme is ON THE GO. There are rhymes about going, coming, and arriving. Some of the rhymes may prove familiar to adults, though don't expect every poem to be an old friend. There are SO many Mother Goose rhymes and this collection just shares a few of them that fit this theme.
To market, to market,
to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again,
To market, to market,
to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again,
My thoughts: It's probably best not to come to this one with expectations of what should be included. I'm not sure if the 'missing' rhymes are missing because they've been included in other board book collections by Opie and Wells OR if perhaps the nursery rhymes are not Mother Goose but come from another source. Are all nursery rhymes by 'Mother Goose'? For example, I am thinking of "This Little Piggy," "Wee Willie Winkie," "Rub-a-dub-dub."

The book features illustrations by Rosemary Wells.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers