Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Crafty Llama

Crafty Llama. Mike Kerr. Illustrated by Renata Liwska. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was a lovely, sunny day! Llama knew there were so many things she ought to do: chores, this, that, and whatever. was such a lovely day that she wanted to do something special. Something lovely.

Premise/plot: Llama wants to spend her day CRAFTING. Soon others have joined Llama. She's inspiring nearly everyone to do something fun, something CRAFTY. But not all are on board. Beaver sees crafting as a waste--waste of time, waste of energy, waste of everything. He doesn't have a crafty bone in his body, or does he? Can Beaver's practicability come in handy after all?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. The Llama reminded me of my mom actually. (I won't say if the Beaver reminded me of someone....) This was a lovely book celebrating individuality...and generosity...and friendship.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Kitten and the Night Watchman

Kitten and the Night Watchman. John Sullivan. Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. 2018. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The night watchman hugs his wife and children...and drives to work. Every hour he makes his rounds, alone.

Premise/plot: A night watchman isn't alone one night--he discovers a kitten. This kitten is super-friendly and seems just as eager to make a new friend as he is. Will this be the start of a beautiful friendship? Has the kitten found a fur-ever home?

My thoughts: I liked this one. It was predictable in a good way. The illustrations are absolutely lovely. The text is simple.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Board book: That's Me Loving You

That's Me Loving You. Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Illustrated by Teagan White. 2018. [December] Random House. 28 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

First Sentence:
Wherever you are,
Wherever you go,
Always remember
And always know...
That shimmering star?
That's me winking at you.

Premise/plot: This book is openly and unashamedly sentimental. But don't discount it because it's about LOVE. A parent loving their child fiercely. Picture books about love are everywhere. That's true enough. But this one has its quirky humor too: "That persistent mosquito? That's me bugging you."

My thoughts: I really love this one. It was first published as a picture book in 2016. I had long been a fan of her books. This was her last, I believe. It was written after her diagnosis of cancer--ovarian cancer. It was published three months before her death. It is dedicated to her three children. It's a lovely, lovely--poetic message worth treasuring.  Children don't have to know the back story for this one. It is a joyful, reassuring book about the endurance of love.

NY Times article, "You May Want To Marry My Husband..." by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, December 14, 2018

Excellent Ed

Excellent Ed. Stacy McAnulty. Illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: All the Ellis children were excellent at something. Except Ed. And all the Ellis children were allowed to eat at the table, and ride in the van, and use the indoor bathroom. Except Ed.

Premise/plot: This picture book stars a dog named Ed. Ed is puzzled by a few things. Why isn't he allowed to eat at the table? Why isn't he allowed to ride in the van? Why isn't he allowed to use the indoor bathroom? Why is he the ONLY Ellis child excluded from family activities? Perhaps he's not EXCELLENT enough to fit in with such an awesome family? What is he good at anyway?!

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. It was fun. It was funny. Ed is a playful, silly narrator. I enjoyed getting to know him.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Board book: Decked Out for Christmas

Decked Out for Christmas. Ethan Long. 2018. Abrams. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:  It's time to decorate! First, the lights! Then, the garland!

Premise/plot: Mice help get Santa's sleigh ready to go.

My thoughts: This board book is nice enough. The text is super-simple, just a few words per page. The illustrations carry the story. Readers see these mice come together, have a LOT of fun, but still get the job done in time.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Board book: Can You See What I See? Christmas

Can You See What I See? Christmas. Walter Wick. 2015. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Can you see a basket, a chick, and 2 bears? Can you see a dog, a pig, and 2 chairs?

Premise/plot: Walter Wick has written MANY 'can you see' books for children. Most of these books are picture books or early readers, however. This one is in board book format for younger readers.

My thoughts: I have a confession. I am HORRIBLE at these types of books. In particular, I am terrible at finding Waldo in just about every 'Where's Waldo?' book that has been published. But this one seems to be much easier. In fact, some of them are easy enough to be obvious even to me.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Board book: Hanukkah A Counting Book

Hanukkah: A Counting Book. Emily Sper. 2001/2010. Scholastic. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence:
Worker candle
Light one more candle every night
to make EIGHT candles burning bright...
or NINE candles, if you count
the sha-MASH...or SHA-mes!

Premise/plot: This board book is an adaptation of a picture book. (The picture book is eight pages longer; I'm not sure if there are any changes or differences in the text or illustrations.) It is written in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. (There is a pronunciation guide for adult readers.) So this is a concept book doing at least double duty--if not triple. It teaches about Hanukkah. It teaches other languages. It teaches numbers.

My thoughts: I like this one. Can a book be both simple and complex? If that's possible this one is. At its simplest, it's a counting book that even the very young can enjoy. At its most complex, it offers information that can teach readers of all ages. (Learning numbers in Yiddish and Hebrew. There is one page explaining Hanukkah.)  I really like the candle cut-outs. Board books with cut-outs are fun.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Board book: All Is Merry and Bright

All Is Merry and Bright. Jeffrey Burton. Illustrated by Don Clark. 2018. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
Premise/plot:  I don't know that there is a plot. The text is sparse--sparse and lovely. This should be considered an illustrated poem in board book format. 

My thoughts: This board book is oversized. The pages are super-thick--much thicker than your average board book. The illustrations are bold and bright--or should I say MERRY and bright. Many--if not all--of the illustrations are embossed. If your little ones love to TOUCH everything and get giddy from feeling certain textures, this one should please and delight.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit. Margery Williams. Illustrated by William Nicholson. 1922/2014. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 First sentence: THERE was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen.

Premise/plot: Do you know what it is to be real? One little Christmas bunny will learn this and plenty of other life lessons in Margery Williams' classic tale The Velveteen Rabbit.

The Velveteen Rabbit opens with a young boy receiving a rabbit for a Christmas present. All is lovely for the rabbit that first day. But the toy is quickly forgotten. He becomes one toy of many, many, many toys. He's not exactly special to the boy or the other toys. In fact, I'd say the other toys bully him a bit. All except for the Skin Horse, the oldest toy in the nursery. It is this horse that tells the Rabbit all about being real, what it takes to be real, what it feels like, how it changes you, etc.

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit. "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt." "Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?" "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." "I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled. "The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always." (5-8)

My thoughts: The Velveteen Rabbit is one of my favorite Christmas books. I love the nursery magic. I love the ending. It was originally published in 1922. The story and illustrations in this edition are original. This is a beautiful edition of the book. One of the best I've seen.

The Velveteen Rabbit was published several years before A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh and House at Pooh Corner. Chances are if you enjoy one, you'll enjoy the other.

Do you have a favorite toy-come-to-life fantasy?

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Bramble the Hedgehog

Bramble the Hedgehog (Dr. KittyCat #10) Jane Clarke. 2018. Scholastic.  96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was a beautiful sunny day in Thistletown.

Premise/plot: Bramble the Hedgehog has a loose tooth, but that won't stop him from enjoying the carnival that has come to town....or will it?! What will happen when Bramble misunderstands ALL the advice given to him by his doctor and his friends?!

My thoughts: It's been a while since I've read the earlier titles in the series. This one struck me as extremely silly and requiring much suspension of disbelief. A carnival has come to town. The animals are riding roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, and a Ferris wheel. And eating, eating, eating carnival foods. I do enjoy the series. The moral--each one decidedly does have a moral or teaching point--is DON'T OVEREAT, especially don't overeat JUNKY junk food.  

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Ginger the Kitten

Dr. KittyCat #9 Ginger the Kitten. Jane Clarke. 2018. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was a beautiful sunny day in Thistletown.

Premise/plot: Dr. KittyCat and Peanut stay busy in the ninth installment of Jane Clarke's early chapter book series. The book opens with Dr. KittyCat giving many animals allergy tests. After all the results are in, it's time for the animals to go on a nature walk. On the nature walk, one animal may just need medical attention. (This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has read even a single book in the series.)

My thoughts: I do enjoy the series. I love the idea of loving the series anyway. They do require a certain suspension of disbelief if you're an adult reader. But I think this animal fantasy series is fun for young readers just starting out. They do have a certain public service announcement vibe going on. This one is all about allergies and allergic reactions.  

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers