Thursday, September 27, 2018

Good Rosie

Good Rosie. Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. 2018. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Rosie lives with George. Rosie is a good dog. Every morning, Rosie and George eat breakfast together. George has two poached eggs. Rosie eats kibble from a big silver bowl.  When the bowl is empty, Rosie can see another dog staring back at her. "Hello!" says Rosie. Ruff! "Hello?" says Rosie. The other dog never answers. That makes Rosie feel lonely.

Premise/plot: Will Rosie make a friend? Will Rosie make two friends? Essentially that is the plot of Good Rosie! Will this shy dog be brave enough to make friends with the other dogs at the local dog park. At first Rosie is not a fan. Why did her person, George, bring her here?! Why doesn't George understand that she is NOT happy and wants to go back home?! Will Rosie learn how to make friends?

My thoughts: I like this one. The dog park is a bit intimidating. Rosie is a lot braver than I would be in her situation. For Rosie to witness what she did and to forgive Maurice and be his friend is something. (Maurice is a giant of a dog.) Same goes with Fifi/Fif. Perhaps this says something about the nature of dogs? I'm not sure.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise. David Ezra Stein. 2018. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was after school for the little red chicken. "Well, Chicken," said Papa, "did you have a good day at school?" "Yes, Papa! And today my teacher told us every story has an elephant of surprise. So let's read a story, and we'll find the elephant." "Chicken, she wasn't talking about an elephant. She was talking about an element of surprise.

Premise/plot: The Interrupting Chicken is back for a second book. In this picture book sequel, Papa is trying to teach his daughter, Chicken, about the ELEMENT of surprise. He reads her three stories: The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid. There are no elephants in those stories. Or are there?! Will Chicken introduce ELEPHANTS to these classic fairy tales?!

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved the first book. I didn't know how much I NEEDED a sequel until I saw this was being released. I don't know that I've ever put myself on the hold list so fast for a book.

This picture book did not disappoint. I loved every page of it. It was just a fabulous read. I adore Chicken and her Papa. I love their relationship. I love their dialogue. There is just something funny and sweet about these two.

I loved the illustrations. I enjoyed Chicken's illustrations for Papa's original story as well. Both text and illustrations are ADORABLE.
Once there was a Papa whose daughter LOVED elephants. And she thought she saw them everywhere. But there were no elephants! Every day, he got her dressed, but there were no elephants in the dresser. Every day, he fixed her breakfast, but there were no elephants in the refrigerator. And every day, he packed her off to--
 Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, September 21, 2018

Board book: Will Ladybug Hug?

Will Ladybug Hug? Hilary Leung. 2018. [October 30, 2018] Scholastic. 38 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Ladybug loves hugs! She hugs to say hello. She hugs to say good-bye...but will her friends let Ladybug hug?

Premise/plot: Ladybug loves to hug. But not all of her friends like to hug. Some friends would much prefer to high five than to hug. As Ladybug greets each of her friends, the narrator asks, "Will ... let Ladybug hug?" Each of her friends has a special way to hug.

My thoughts: I like this one. I recognized some of the characters because I've also read Will Bear Share? and Will Sheep Sleep? Because I already love these characters, I found this one charming and cute. I like that Sheep does not do hugs. I like that instead Ladybug gives six high-fives.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, September 20, 2018

I Am Human

I Am Human. Susan Verde. Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. 2018. Abrams. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I am Human. I am always learning. I'm finding my way and choosing my path on this incredible journey. I have BIG dreams. I see possibility. I have endless curiosity. I make discoveries. I have a feeling of wonder. I am amazed by nature. I have a playful side. I find joy in friendships. I am Human.

Premise/plot: What you see is what you get.

What does it mean to be human? That is the question tackled in Susan Verde's newest picture book. It is very much a message-driven book. When a book's message is especially well-received, readers--critics--praise it. Otherwise message-driven books are called didactic.

The book is a good reminder that all books--even picture books--have a world view.

My thoughts: If I could unread the author's note, I might have a more open mind. But I can't. The author's note is a "guided meditation." Will children read the author's note? Will parents? Will teachers? How important is the author's note to the text as a whole? I can't answer all those questions. Obviously.

I was bothered by the capital H. This may or may not be Significant to the Message. I'm assuming it is. On the one hand, I suppose "Human" could be the proper name of narrator. There is no hidden-meaning or significance. On the other hand, it could be making a statement--spiritual, psychological, or philosophical.

I admit this could be an overreaction but. It felt like humanity was being elevated to deity, to God. I am Human. I am the Center of the Universe. I answer to no higher power. I define my own meaning; I make my own place in the universe. I am who I say I am. The book screams humanism. I read an article on humanistic psychology and it captured the message of the book perfectly.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Stealing the Sword (Time Jumpers #1)

Stealing the Sword. Time Jumpers #1. Wendy Mass. Illustrated by Oriol Vidal. 2018. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Sold!" Chase shouts. His younger sister, Ava, hands the cat sculpture to their latest happy customer.

Premise/plot: Chase and Ava are a brother and sister about to embark on quite an adventure. It starts at a flea market when they chance upon an old suitcase. The owner is reluctant because it's a locked case--she doesn't have the key--but when the case opens, as if by magic, for the kids, it soon has a new owner after all. The contents of the case are unusual without a doubt. The two soon find themselves traveling back in time....

My thoughts: Ava and Chase love history AND adventure so they are quite excited that this case found them.

I definitely liked this one. I like time travel stories. I would recommend this one easily--to children. Adults seeking time travel stories should probably look elsewhere. But for adult readers who love, love, love time travel and can't wait to introduce the genre to the children in their lives (their own children, nieces, nephews, etc.), it's worth considering.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Sloth at the Zoom

Sloth at the Zoom. Helaine Becker. Illustrated by Orbie. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: One bright day, a truck whizzed up to the front gate of the Zoom. There was a new animal being delivered. It was a sloth.

Premise/plot: The sloth was supposed to be delivered to the Zzzzoo. Instead the sloth is delivered to the ZOOM. She was looking forward to all the REST and RELAXATION promised to her at the Zzzzoo. She'll have some adapting to do. Her animal neighbors at the Zoom are....well, zoom-y.
At the Zoom, the zebras galloped so fast they left their stripes in puddles.
The monkeys climbed so fast they forgot to stop at the treetops.
And the parrots flew so fast their tails drew rainbows across the sky.
Will she ever make friends? Yes. But in her own time and in her own way.

My thoughts: I'm not sure if I'd rather visit a Zzzzoo where all the animals are sleeping or the Zoom where all the animals are crazy-busy-fast. The residents in this town--as evidenced by the end papers--don't have to choose. They have both.

I really enjoyed this one. I did. I enjoyed the writing style. The narrative was fun. I liked all the plays on words. I liked the theme of friendship as well. It does take time to make friends and to keep them. But friendship is worth slowing down for.

I loved, loved, LOVED the illustrations.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Itchy Book

The Itchy Book (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading) LeUyen Pham and Mo Willems. 2018. Hyperion. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Dinosaurs do not scratch." Who knew?

Premise/plot: The Itchy Book is an early reader in the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series. Each book in the series opens and closes with a few pages of Gerald and Piggie.
Gerald! Do you like books that make you feel things?
I do.
Do you like books that make you feel things all over?
Then I have a book for YOU!
"The Itchy Book"?
I feel you will love it!
The Itchy Book stars dinosaurs who really feel the need to scratch an itch...but...a sign reading, "DINOSAURS DO NOT SCRATCH" is holding them back. But for how long?! One dinosaur is insistent that HE would never scratch no matter how itchy he felt. The others are out to get him to see if he is really as "tough" as he claims.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I think my favorite part was when one of the dinosaurs asks, "If I say I am not a dinosaur, can I scratch?!" Did the book make me feel itchy? Not particularly. I think a book about yawning would work better perhaps. I almost always catch a yawn.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run!

Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run! An Alphabet Caper. Mike Twohy. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
I'll chase!
Living Room
Premise/plot: Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run! is an alphabet caper by Mike Twohy. Without using a single complete sentence, Twohy packs adventure and drama into his story. It stars a dog and a mouse.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed Stop, Go, Yes, No! A Story Of Opposites. So I decided to read the first book, Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run! Both books star this lovable dog. I really LOVED both books. They are great fun. They are good for pre-readers, early readers, and readers of all ages.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Daddy, Me, and the Magic Hour

Daddy, Me, and the Magic Hour. Laura Krauss Melmed. Illustrated by Sarita Rich. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: We're home! Thud go our backpacks on the front hall floor. Daddy starts cooking, while I run around like a super hero yelling, KAPOW! and Mommy feeds the baby.

Premise/plot: This picture book celebrates family life. A little boy LOVES, LOVES, LOVES the "magic hour" of the evening in which he gets to have alone time with his dad. After supper, the two go on an evening walk. Though this book just gives us one excursion, it is the ritual or tradition that comes through.

My thoughts: Love in action. That is what this picture book celebrates. It would be a shame if it only came out for Father's Day.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Stop, Go, Yes, No!

 Stop, Go, Yes, No! A Story of Opposites. Mike Twohy. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Premise/plot: A cat and dog star in Mike Twohy's latest picture book. Though this picture book doesn't have even one complete sentence, it does in fact have a story. Each page has a single word. Pre-readers could easily "tell" the story without having to read a single word.

My thoughts: I loved this one. I have not read Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run: An Alphabet Caper. But I do have it on hold now. That picture book appears to star the same exuberant dog. There is something joyful, exuberant, lively, spirited, just plain old-fashioned FUN about the story.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Fiona the Hippo

Fiona the Hippo. Richard Cowdrey. 2018. Zonderkidz. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On a cold winter's night, a baby hippo was born.

Premise/plot: This picture book is loosely based on a true story. It is the story of a premature hippo named Fiona who lives at the Cincinnati Zoo. The perspective is not from the zookeepers but from Fiona herself and other animals at the zoo. There is a LOT of dialogue. I would recommend Saving Fiona by Thane Maynard instead because it is more factual and realistic. It is also packed with photographs.

My thoughts: If you enjoy stories where animals at the zoo run free from their cages, where all animals are best good buddies, where animals talk to one another, then this is the book for you. Here is where I stand: I don't mind animal fantasy I don't. I really don't. Give me a picture book with talking animals, animals in clothes, animals going to school or having their tonsils out, I'm fine with it. It is clearly a story. But because Fiona is real and this is based--however loosely--on a true story, I'm bothered by it.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, September 10, 2018

Board book: Lit for Little Hands: Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland (Lit for Little Hands). Lewis Carroll and Brooke Jordan. Illustrated by David Miles. 2018. 16 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: One fine day, Alice saw a White Rabbit checking his pocket watch. Curious, she followed the rabbit down a deep, deep hole and found herself in wonderland.

Premise/plot: This one is part of the Lit for Little Hands series. Brooke Jordan has adapted Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for young readers. This is an interactive board book. The interaction starts with the cover. Notice the arrow on the top. Alice can grow! And that's just the start. The next page has her falling down, down, down the rabbit hole. But my favorite may just be the spinning wheel for the caucus-race. There is a surprise on almost every single page of this one making for a WONDERful read.

My thoughts: I love and adore this one. I was skeptical at first. Could a book be adapted down to a new, much younger audience? I'm not sure how little ones will respond--but if I'd let myself get carried away, I might have squealed in a couple of places. It's just a fun and delightful read.

Granted I may be a little biased. Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite books. As the youngest in my family, I often got to hear books twice. Once when she was reading them aloud to my sister and I was super-tiny, and again when I was "old enough." (For example, when my sister was three and I was a newborn, and then when I was three.)

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Board book: First French Words

First French Words. Sam Hutchinson. Illustrated by Clare Beaton. 2018. 20 pages. [Source: Library]

Premise/plot: Each two-page spread has a theme: Food, Toys, Family, Animals, Clothes, Transport, Colors, Numbers, Weather, and Wild Animals. On each spread a number of words are shared with little ones. The words appear in French and English. (There is a pronunciation guide). Each word is also illustrated.

Some of the words included:
  • le pain (bread)
  • la glace (ice cream)
  • le fromage (cheese)
  • les patins a roulettes (skates)
  • le tricycle (tricycle)
  • la mere (mother)
  • le pere (father)
  • les cousins (cousins)
  • le chat (cat)
  • la souris (mouse)
  • la poule (chicken)
  • le chapeau (hat)
  • le pantalon (trousers)
  • le tee-shirt (T-shirt)
  • le tracteur (tractor)
  • le train (train)
  • la pelleteuse (digger)
  • noir (black)
  • orange (orange)
  • blanc (white)
  • rouge (red)
  • un (one)
  • deux (two)
  • trois (three)
  • le soleil (sun)
  • le tonnerre (thunder)
  • la neige (snow)
  • le lion (lion)
  • l'elephant (elephant)
  • le crocodile (crocodile)

My thoughts: I liked this one. It won't really help you learn French. No one speaks just in nouns after all. And also the text is somewhat limited to what is easy to illustrate. There isn't a spread covering conversations or etiquette. I suppose there wouldn't be an easy way to illustrate phrases like "How are you?" "Yes" "No" "I don't know" "Please" "Thank you" "You're Welcome."

As a refresher course for adults who have studied French, it is fun.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, September 7, 2018

Board books: Nita's First Signs

Nita's First Signs. Kathy MacMillan. Illustrated by Sara Brezzi. 2018. 12 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Nita is in her high chair eating crackers. Nita likes crackers. All done? Daddy signs. Eat more, signs Nita.

Premise/plot: This board book is designed to teach caregivers and their little ones ten signs that they can use to communicate with one another. The ten signs included are: all done, eat, more, please, thank you, hungry, milk, ball, play, and love. The board book has sliding pages which reveal the signs and give a description.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I did. I'm not sure why Nita has blue hair--but other than that I liked it just fine! Parents can learn more about American Sign Language by visiting the author's website. There is a YouTube video of the author teaching these ten signs. 

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Board book: Hello Ninjas!

Hello Ninjas! Joan Holub. Illustrated by Chris Dickason. 2018. Simon & Schuster. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
Hello mask
Hello boots
Hello ninjas
wearing suits
Premise/plot: Ten ninjas are on a quest for TACO TREASURE. But will the Samurai get there first and take the tacos?

My thoughts: If I had to sum it up in one word: CONFUSED.  Clearly the book is teaching math facts--the ways to get to ten. 1+9, 2+8, 3+7, 4+6, 5+5. Clearly the book is doing this with NINJAS--ninja terms and themes. Clearly the author must love tacos--who doesn't love tacos? The book has humorous moments--a twist ending that resolves everything amicably. I'm just not sure it's for me. Then again, I am NOT the target audience in the first place.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Board books: Hello Knights

Hello Knights. Joan Holub. Illustrated by Chris Dickason. 2018. Simon & Schuster. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
Hello helmet
Hello knight
Hello armor shining bright
Knights run up
Knights run down
Take the queen the royal crown
Knights march here
Knights march there
Take the king his underwear
Premise/plot: This board book stars knights in a royal castle. But does it also star dragons?! Yes, yes it does!

My thoughts: I like it. I'm not sure I love, love, love it. (I don't there there is a bit of punctuation in the entire book.) I think rhyming works for the most part. The story was fun.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Tigers and Tea with Toppy

Tigers and Tea with Toppy. Barbara Kerley. Illustrated by Matte Stephens. 2018. Scholastic. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Fridays are the best days of the week. That's when Rhoda begins her weekends with Grandpa Toppy!

Premise/plot: Rhoda's Grandpa Toppy is famous wildlife artist Charles R. Knight. Readers learn more about him and his life work through the eyes of his granddaughter.

My thoughts: This is a nonfiction picture book. It doesn't fall into a traditional narrative pattern for a picture book biography. Readers learn facts about Charles R. Knight sure enough, but not in traditional way. He may be a famous artist--muralist, illustrator, writer--but to Rhoda he is TOPPY. Toppy and Rhoda love to spend time together--at the museum, at the zoo, at the Plaza Hotel, at his house.

I liked it. I did. The narrative was a nice twist. I think sometimes we forget that famous people are first and foremost people--with families and traditions of their own. This is a very human story.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, September 3, 2018

Zola's Elephant

Zola's Elephant. Randall de Seve. Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. 2018. [October 9]  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: There's a new girl next door. Her name is Zola. I know because our mothers met this morning and decided we should be friends. But Zola already has a friend. I know because I saw the big box.

Premise/plot: In Zola's Elephant, a little girl's imagination gets carried away. She imagines that the girl next door, Zola, has an elephant. She imagines ALL the things Zola and her elephant are doing in their new home. Readers, however, know the truth. There is no elephant and Zola is lonely. Will she make a new friend?

My thoughts: I have mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, I'm thinking DON'T TEASE ME WITH ELEPHANTS WHEN THERE ARE NO ELEPHANTS. If a book has the word 'Elephant' in the title and shows an elephant on the cover, I am going to expect an elephant. On the other hand, it is a nice enough book that celebrates friendship and the imagination.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers