Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Life With My Family

Life with My Family. Renee Hooker and Karl Jones. Illustrated by Kathryn Hurst. 2018. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Life with my family is not always easy. So sometimes I wonder what else we could be... As a pod of pelicans, we'd soar above trees. No time to fight as a busy swarm of bees.

Premise/plot: A young girl imagines what her family life would be like if they were animals instead of humans. Essentially this is a creative way of showcasing collective nouns: pod of pelicans, school of fish, pride of lions, wisdom of wombats, etc. The author's note includes at least a dozen more examples.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. I didn't love, love, love the illustrations. However, I liked how characteristics or traits of the human family carried over to their animal family counterparts. For example, the baby is always, always, always shown with a pacifier no matter if he's a fish, a buffalo, or a lion. The illustrations also had a good amount of details. For example, on the last spread there are LEGO bricks all over the kitchen floor.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, October 22, 2018

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah. Emily Jenkins. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinksy. 2018. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When darkness comes, it will be the first night of Hanukkah, 1912.

Premise/plot: This new picture book stars Sydney Taylor's All-of-a-Kind family. It is set in New York City in 1912 during Hanukkah. It is told from the perspective of the youngest sister, Gertie.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. It has been years since I read the All-of-a-Kind family series. I remember reading them as a kid. And I have definitely reread the first book since I've started blogging. Reading this picture book makes me want to reread them all. I loved "meeting" the family again. I loved the historical setting. I loved the focus on family and faith.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, October 19, 2018

Little Brown

Little Brown. Marla Frazee. 2018. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Little Brown was cranky. Probably because no one ever played with him. Or maybe no one ever played with him because he was cranky. At this point, it was hard to know.

Premise/plot: Little Brown is the star of this picture book. When the book opens he is cranky and lonely. When the book closes he is cranky and lonely. In between Little Brown and the other dogs--whose names we learn on the end pages--wonder about life's complexities.

Why doesn't Little Brown have friends? Does his crankiness keep the other dogs from liking him, playing with him, being his friends? Or is it his loneliness--his lack of friends and playmates--making him cranky? If the other dogs were his friends--if they took the first step--would he stop being cranky? What if he took the first step--would they reject him? Wouldn't that make him even crankier to be rejected?

Here is a line that got to me, "But Little Brown did nothing and did it alone."

My thoughts: The first time I read this book I was frustrated. I didn't want to think about the complexities of friendship--of life--and the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you). I wanted a lesson tied up with a bow. I wanted Little Brown to return what he'd stolen. I wanted Little Brown to have been forgiven by the other dogs. I wanted Little Brown to have been accepted by the other dogs. I wanted him to make a friend. Or else I wanted another dog to step forward and make the first step of friendship. In short I wanted a happy ending--to be assured that even cranky, lonely people dogs are worthy of love and friendship. But that is not this story.

The second time I read this one I liked it better. I identified with it more. Who hasn't been Little Brown at some point? (Is Little Brown the dog version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day?!) Who hasn't experienced cranky days? Who hasn't experienced loneliness? The truth is that it is almost always scary to take that first step. I don't know that kindness is ever super-super easy. But. It is true that it easier to be a kind to someone who is "nice" and "friendly" and "cheerful." It is more difficult to be kind to someone who is "cranky" or "mean" or "sad" or "angry" or "lonely" or "bitter." The people who need our kindness the most can be the most difficult to reach out to.

"First of all," he said, "if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--"
"--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." (Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird, 30)
If there is a lesson in Little Brown, perhaps it's an interactive lesson in perception and empathy. When Little Brown is cranky what other emotions could he be feeling?

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Kindergarrrten Bus

Kindergarrrten Bus. Mike Ornstein. Illustrated by Kevin M. Barry. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Ahoy, boy! What? It be ye first day of kindergarrrten? Well, don't worry, laddie--it be my first day as a bus driverrr! Climb aboard!

Premise/plot: What if your bus driver was a pirate? Such is the case in this humorous picture book about important firsts. It is his first day on the job--will he run the bus like it is a ship? It is the boy's first day of kindergarrrten--assuming that the bus makes it to the school. The bus driver may just inspire some courage to the boys and girls, and the boys and girls may just inspire some courage to the bus driver. For he loses his courage when his faithful parrot, Polly, flies out the window.

My thoughts: This was a fun read. I think it would make a great read aloud--especially if you can do voices.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Curious Cares of Bears

The Curious Cares of Bears. Douglas Florian. Illustrated by Sonia Sanchez. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence;
The cares of bears
are curious indeed,
as you will discover,
if you care to read.
Premise/plot: The Curious Cares of Bears is a whimsical poem of a book. These curious bears are not your average bears. For example, in summer these bears play jump rope and hide-and-seek, go mountain biking, etc. In autumn, they build campfires and sing songs.

My thoughts: This one is written in rhyme. Some spreads worked better for me--as far as rhythm goes--than others. But overall, I liked the book. It begins and ends in spring. The book 'chronicles' what bears do in all four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

A Parade of Elephants

A Parade of Elephants. Kevin Henkes. 2018. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Look! Elephants! One, two, three, four, five. Five elephants. Marching. A parade of elephants! Big and round and round they are. Big and round and round they go.

Premise/plots: Does your little one love elephants? Kevin Henkes' A Parade of Elephants is a charmer. (At least this life-long elephant-lover found it to be so!) This picture book invites readers to spend the day with elephants. The book ends with a surprise: the elephants TRUMPET the stars up into the night sky.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I love, love, love elephants. This isn't a realistic elephant story. It's a fantastical one. The elephants are colorful: blue, yellow, purple, green, and pink. The text is more lyrical than factual. I love the ending.
And when the day is done, they are done, too.
They yawn and stretch. They stretch and yawn.
But before they sleep they lift their trunks...
and they trumpet--scattering stars across the sky.
Good night.
The illustrations are pastel and have a whimsical feel about them.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Bow Wow Meow Meow

Bow Wow Meow Meow: It's Rhyming Cats and Dogs. Douglas Florian. 2003. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
"Dog Log"
Rolled out of bed.
Scratched by mhead.
Brought the mail.
Wagged my tail.
Fetched a stick.
Learned a trick.
Premise/plot: Bow Wow Meow Meow is an animal-themed poetry collection by Douglas Florian. There are twenty-one poems in all. Eleven poems feature dogs. (One of the dog poems is about a wolf.) Ten poems feature cats. (Only four poems are about house cats. The other six are about BIG cats: lions, cheetahs, leopards, panthers, etc.)

One of my favorite poems is "The Siamese"
I am a cat.
A cat I am.
My ancestors
Were from Siam.
My ears are brown.
My eyes are blue.
And I'm the boss, you know,
Not you!
My thoughts: I really, really loved this one. I liked Zoo's Who, which I reviewed earlier today, but I LOVED this one even more. I had favorite dog poems and favorite cat poems. Overall, I think most readers will find at least one or two poems to absolutely love.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Zoo's Who

Zoo's Who. Douglas Florian. 2005. HMH. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
The Lizards
Lizards laze
And lizards bask.
What's their favorite food?
Don't ask!
 Premise/plot: Zoo's Who is an animal-themed poetry collection by Douglas Florian. There are twenty-one poems in all. Each poem is accompanied by an illustration--a painting--also by Florian. The poems are short, quite a few include word play. For example, "The Eagle."
I'm not a seagull.
I'm royal.
I'm regal.
All birds are not
Created eagle.
My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I did. I must admit that "The Eagle" is probably my favorite from the whole book. But there were plenty of other poems that I enjoyed as well. (I also really, really loved his poem about pigs.)  I would recommend this one.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Wall in the Middle of the Book

The Wall in the Middle of the Book. Jon Agee. 2018. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: There's a wall in the middle of the book. And it's a good thing. The wall protects this side of the book...from the other side of the book. This side of the book is safe. The other side is not.

Premise/plot: A knight is convinced that his side of the wall is safe...but is it really? Could the knights have his facts wrong?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. It is a quirky--but fun--read. Adults may enjoy this one just as much--if not more--than children. I loved seeing the action unfold on both sides of the wall. The text is very understated, in my opinion. The illustrations were quite revealing. (Dare I say that one could "read" this one without being able to read the text?)

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, October 8, 2018

Who Eats Orange?

Who Eats Orange. Dianne White. Illustrated by Robin Page. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Who eats orange? Bunnies in their hutches do. Chickens in the henhouse too. Who else eats orange? Goats. Pigs. Gorillas too. Gorillas? No! Gorillas don't eat orange. They eat...

Premise/plot: This nonfiction concept book focuses on the colors various animals eat.

My thoughts: I picked this one up because of the awesome cover. It said--to me--READ ME, READ ME. I had high expectations because of the cover. The book didn't meet those high expectations, but that says more about me than the book itself. If you choose a book based solely on a cover without reading any reviews, then that's a risk you take--being disappointed.

So this one goes through a rainbow of colors. White chooses a few animals to highlight per color. My slight issue with the book--again this says more about me--is that animals rarely eat just one color. So while bunnies do eat orange carrots--they eat plenty of other vegetables that are not orange. You could just as easily list them under green. I read the notes on each animal, and more often than not, the animals eat a rainbow of colors. It just seems arbitrary to me to assign one color per animal.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, October 5, 2018

Board book: Anne's Colors

Anne's Colors. Kelly Hill. 2018. 20 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Orange braids/ white blossoms/ black hair/ pink cheeks

Premise/plot: This color concept book is inspired by L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables. It stars Anne, Matthew, Marilla, Diana, and Gilbert. Each spread just has two words. Yet the illustrations capture moments from the novel quite well--all things considered. (I mean two words are TWO words.)

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I wanted to find a kindred spirit in this one. And I did--mostly. But I think it would be better if the colors were arranged differently. The current presentation is sequential--for the most part--except for one spread. They end the book dramatically with GREEN GABLES. Anne is bringing a bouquet of flowers to Marilla AND Matthew. I can see why--for the drama--they'd want to end with that. But. It would have been truer to the book if they'd ended with Anne and Gilbert's PURPLE TWILIGHT. So my preferred order: orange, white, green, black, pink, red, blue, brown, yellow, purple.

The illustrations are PRECIOUS.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Board book: Bath! Bath! Bath!

Bath! Bath! Bath! Douglas Florian. Illustrated by Christiane Engel. 2018. 18 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Today we had such fun! fun! fun! But now the day is done! done! done! You're so full of dirt! dirt! dirt! Take off your pants and shirt! shirt! shirt!

Premise/plot: Who's ready for BATH TIME?!

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I wish my library had Douglas Florian's Play! Play! Play! I'd love to compare these two. If the children in Bath! Bath! Bath! are the same children in Play! Play! Play! I bet they play hard. These kids are happy and filthy--absolutely filthy. The good news is that bath time is an extension of play time as far as they are concerned. Baths are FUN.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Peaceful Rights for Equal Rights

Peaceful Rights for Equal Rights. Rob Sanders. Illustrated by Jared Andrew Schorr. 2018. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Assemble. Take action. Create allies. Make buttons. Make banners. Make bumper stickers, too. Boycott! Boycott! Boycott! Chant. Cheer. Call someone. Campaign. Camp out. Demonstrate. Don't give up. Don't give in. Educate. Encourage. Be fearless. Fly a flag. File a lawsuit. Have faith.

Premise/plot: This is another case of what you see is what you get. This politically-driven (or human-rights-driven) picture book isn't about any one issue or any one fight. It isn't set in the past, and it's not specifically about the civil rights movement. There is a timelessness to this one--it could be set anywhere, anytime, and be about anything.

My thoughts: Perhaps a better description of this one would be verb-driven. You can't fail to notice all the verbs--the emphasizing on action, on doing. It's also arranged alphabetically. There is more than one way to "fight" or to "protest."

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Board book: Don't Wake the Tiger!

Changing Faces: Don't Wake the Tiger. Nathan Thoms. Illustrated by Carles Ballesteros. 2018. Abrams. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: Oh no! You woke the tiger! Quick, turn the page...Shhh...Don't wake the panda!

Premise/plot: Little ones "wake" up animals in this cute, new interactive board book. The turning of the pages opens the closed eyes of the animal. The animals readers wake up are the tiger, the panda, the lion, and the elephant.

My thoughts: If your little one LOVED Meet Happy Bear, then Don't Wake the Tiger! might be a great addition to your home library. I personally love Meet Happy Bear more. In my opinion it had more story to it. The changing faces is still fun in Don't Wake the Tiger, but there is definitely less story.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Dr. Seuss's You Are Kind: Featuring Horton the Elephant

Dr. Seuss's You Are Kind: Featuring Horton the Elephant. Random House. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: You are kind. You are an amazing friend. You always listen. If there's a problem, you help fix it. You stand up for what is right. You teach that everyone matters. You protect those who need it, no matter how small.

Premise/plot: This gift book is written in the second person. The publisher's description says this book would make a great substitute for a card.

My thoughts: I love, love, LOVE Horton the elephant. I've reviewed Horton Hatches the Egg, Horton Hears a Who!, and Horton and the Kwuggerbug. This is not a new Horton book. And it isn't really written by Dr. Seuss. So long as you know that this is a novelty gift book featuring illustrations of Horton, I don't think you'll be disappointed. The text is sweet and affirmative. It is definitely gift book quality.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

All Are Welcome

All are Welcome. Alexandra Penfold. Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman. 2018. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Pencils sharpened in their case. Bells are ringing, let's make haste. School's beginning, dreams to chase. All are welcome here. No matter how you start your day. What you wear when you play. Or if you come from far away. All are welcome here. In our classroom safe and sound. Fears are lost and hope is found. Raise your hand, we'll go around. All are welcome here.

Premise/plot: All are welcome at school. This picture book is written in verse. The first half seems to focus more on the school day. The second half seems to expand the focus and become more agenda-driven. 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: Do we really need a picture book affirming that all are welcome at school?! Maybe, maybe not. I haven't decided yet.

From a literary viewpoint, the text is quite excellent. The rhythm and rhyme work for me. (Again focusing just on the literary aspects of it.) There are some phrases that are just beautiful.

I did have a problem with the 'passing bread' phrase of the text. The idea of SHARING food may sound poetic and lovely. But with so many food sensitivities and allergies being present the idea seems unpractical and even dangerous.

I mentioned that this is in some ways an agenda-driven book. This happens, in part, because of the text. But mainly this is through the illustrations. The text states ALL are welcome. But it is the illustrations that reveal the many, many, many examples of all.

From a spiritual viewpoint, this one is slightly more iffy. Tolerance. It all depends on how you define--view--tolerance. Is tolerance about civility, respect, kindness, compassion, empathy, treating others the way you'd want to be treated? This view is the old school view of tolerance. It makes sense--on all levels--not to treat people with hate, with anger, with disrespect, with cruelty. Name-calling, finger-pointing, shouting, getting into someone's personal space--there is no good excuse for such behavior ever.  

But there's a new view of tolerance hanging around and taking hold. All absolutes have been done away with except one: there are no absolutes; all ideas, all beliefs, all philosophies, all lifestyles, all worldviews, all choices are equally true and valid--even when they clash, even when they contradict one another. To criticize an idea, a belief, a philosophy, a lifestyle, a worldview is not acceptable ever.

Which kind of tolerance is the book promoting? I'm not sure. I'm really not. 

That being my and school-related activities are not the time and place to battle out ideas, to have debates and discussions, to engage (civil or not) with those who may disagree with us. Especially elementary school. (The illustrations place this one in an elementary school.) It isn't a teacher's place to judge her students backgrounds. It isn't a parent's place to judge the backgrounds of other students. Indeed ALL should be welcome. Not just "welcome" but genuinely welcomed. (Just because school isn't an appropriate place doesn't mean that there isn't a time and place anywhere.)

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers