Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Board book: How To Be A Cat

How To Be A Cat. Nikki McClure. 2013/2019. Abrams. 30 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Stretch.

Premise/plot: The little kitten that stars in How To Be A Cat has a LOT to learn, but she has a good teacher. Each spread of this board book--originally a picture book--features just ONE word. But somehow, someway there still manages to be a story conveyed.

My thoughts: I love, love, love cats. The black and white illustrations are striking, engaging, and expressive. The illustrations are at the heart of this simple story.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, February 25, 2019

Fast Forward to The Future (Time Jumpers #3)

Time Jumpers #3 Fast-Forward to the Future. Wendy Mass. Illustrated by Oriol Vidal. 2019. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Chase bolts upright in bed. What is making so much noise? Why are his bedroom lights flashing in the middle of the night?

Premise/plot: Chase and Ava have a THIRD adventure in Wendy Mass' newest early chapter book. This brother and sister team have traveled twice into the past. This will be their first jump to the FUTURE. The object the two must return to its proper time is a GLOWING CUBE. What will these two make of the future they see? Will they perhaps even catch a glimpse of themselves in the future? Will they get any more clues as to WHO is behind the suitcase and WHY Randall keeps following them?

My thoughts: I have enjoyed the previous books in the series. This may just be my favorite. I didn't think that visiting the future would be as fun as visiting the past--but it was. I loved seeing some of the advancements--especially in terms of clothes shopping. I definitely would recommend this series to young readers.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Little Rabbit

The Little Rabbit. Nicola Killen. 2019. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Ollie and her toy bunny had been waiting for the rain to stop for a long, long time.

Premise/plot: Ollie has quite an adventure with her bunny after the rain stops. But is her bunny a toy or a real bunny?

My thoughts: This little picture book is a lovely celebration of imagination. I enjoyed the text, I did. But I really loved, loved, loved the illustrations. Together the story they tell is fun.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Jolly Jingle Book

The Jolly Jingle Book. Leroy F. Jackson. Illustrated by Clare McKinley. 1951/1961. Rand McNally. 30 pages. [Source: Bought]

Premise/plot: The Jolly Jingle Book is a collection of rhyming poems for young children. The poems are often silly and focus on imaginative play.

Poems included:
"Away Down South"
"The Fuzzies"
"Milky Moo"
"The Banyan Tree"
"Going to the Fair"
"Whimpy Crimpy, Curl"
"Granny Faddle"
"Clatter Street"
"Wicked Willie"
"Isn't it Grand?"
"Chatter Chin"
"The House Beside the Mill"
"The Wooly Owl"
"Miss Topsy Turvy"
"Going Home"
"I Like the Moon"

My thoughts: I chose this one for the illustrations. I love, love, love vintage illustrations. The poems range from fun to extremely silly and ridiculous. These aren't poems that take themselves too seriously. I can appreciate that.

Ginger is a scalawag,
Ginger is a pup;
He got into the cellarway
And ate the sausage up.
He got into the cubbyhole
And carried off a shoe;
There's hardly any naughty trick
That Ginger doesn't do. 

The Wooly Owl
The wooly owl is very wise;
He says that sugar's good for flies,
That pumpkin seeds and Spanish moss
Will never make good applesauce.

I want sugar on my oatmeal
And sugar on my bread,
I'll turn into a sugar stick
Some day, my grandma said.
Sugar by the spoonful
And sugar by the bowl--
I wouldn't trade a lump of sugar
for a car of coal. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Arrr, Mustache Baby!

Arrr, Mustache Baby! Bridget Heos. Illustrated by Joy Ang. 2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: Baby Billy was born with a mustache. Baby Javier was born with a beard. Usually they were fine young gentlemen.

Premise/plot: It is always a joy to see Baby Billy playing well with others. But. Sometimes he doesn't. In this newest book in the series, Billy and his friend, Javier, become PIRATES. Will they end up in the dungeon?

My thoughts: I love, love, love this series. I think this book may just be my new favorite. The book opens with these friends at THE POOL. The text reads, "One day Javier and Billy set sail across the seven seas. Ahoy!" It continues, "As Captain and first mate, they rescued shipwrecked passengers..." the accompanying illustration reveals it's a Barbie doll. From the start, readers can catch on this one is going to be a HOOT.

I loved the story. I loved the text. I loved the illustrations. It just works.

My review of Mustache Baby and Mustache Baby Meets His Match.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, February 18, 2019

Tim and His Train

Tim and His Train. E.C. Reichert. Illustrated by Fiore Mastri. 1949. Rand McNally. 30 pages. [Source: Bought]

 First sentence: Tim loved trains. He and his Dad had just returned from a visit to the railroad yards. Tim's head was full of thoughts of streamliners, turntables, switching engines, signal towers, and all of the other interesting sights he had seen.

Premise/plot: Tim receives an electric train for his birthday. Does he love, love, love it? YES, yes he does.

My thoughts: This has a LOT of text. Dad has a LOT of information to pass along to his son before the real play can begin. At times this felt a bit like an advertisement for a toy train with a few instructions rolled in. But not necessarily in a bad way.

I am not particularly a train enthusiast myself. But I do know plenty of people in my life who are--of all ages.

I do LOVE vintage children's books. That is one reason I bought Tim and His Train. This one was originally published in 1949. I've seen it listed as 1959, but I can read Roman numerals. And I can't see how MCMXLIX could be anything other than 1949.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, February 15, 2019

Lights! Camera! Alice!

Lights! Camera! Alice! The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker. Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by Simona Ciraolo. 2018. 60 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Once there was a little girl named Alice, and she lived on stories. Her grand-mere fed her folktales as she stirred the cherry soup. Her nursemaid spun colorful yarns as she helped button up her boots.

Premise/plot: Lights! Camera! Alice! is a picture book of Alice Guy-Blaché. If you've never heard of her then you're in good company. But all shall be remedied with a quick read of this picture book for older readers. The story opens in France...

My thoughts: I found this an interesting read! I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves true stories and biographies. I thought the narrative was compelling. Nonfiction books don't "have" to be boring or dull. Facts can come alive on the page in the hands of a good writer. The illustrations are also wonderful.

"The Cabbage Fairy" (1896)
"The Birth, the Life, and the Death of Christ" (1906)
"The Glue" (1907)
"Madam's Fancies" (1907)
"The Cleaning Man" (1907)
"The Cruel Mother" (1908)
"Falling Leaves" (1912)
"Officer Henderson" (1913)

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, February 14, 2019

How To Give Your Cat A Bath: In Five Easy Steps

How To Give Your Cat a Bath in Five Easy Steps. Nicola Winstanley. Illustrated by John Martz. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence: How to Give Your Cat A Bath In Five Easy Steps. Step one: Fill the bathtub with warm water.

Premise/plot: So the plot is simple: a girl sets out to give her cat a bath. Are the five steps in this picture book really EASY? Maybe, maybe not. Okay definitely not. Is this one worth reading? YES. Especially if you're a cat lover.

My thoughts: This one was so cute and funny. I thought it was funny from start to finish. The text was fabulous. I especially love, love, love the ending. 
Maybe we should start again.
Find your--
Step One: Have some milk and cookies. You will need some energy!
Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

So Tall Within

So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth's Long Walk Toward Freedom. Gary D. Schmidt. Illustrated by Daniel Minter. 2018. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence: In Slavery Time, when Hope was a seed waiting to be planted, Isabella lived in a cellar where the windows never let the sun in and the floorboards never kept the water out. She had ten or twelve brothers and sisters--she couldn't be sure, since almost all of them were sold as slaves before she was old enough to remember.

Premise/plot: So Tall Within is a picture book biography of Sojourner Truth.

My thoughts: One word: COMPELLING. I thought the text--the narrative--was fabulously written. I didn't love, love, love every single illustration, but overall I thought the illustrations complemented the text well. This one would be for older readers since it is so text-heavy. But older readers need picture books. There is nothing wrong in using the picture book format to craft a compelling nonfiction narrative. Words and illustrations can work together in powerful, creative way.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, February 11, 2019

Fox & Chick: The Party and Other Stories

Fox & Chick: The Party and Other Stories. Sergio Ruzzier. 2018. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Knock Knock

Premise/plot: This early reader stars Fox and Chick. These two star in three stories: "The Party," "Good Soup" and "Sit Still." In the first story, Chick invites himself into Fox's house. Fox is reluctant at first because he is busy reading a book and doesn't want to be disturbed. But when Chick asks if he can use Fox's bathroom...well, Fox relents. But what is Chick doing in Fox's bathroom that takes SO LONG?!?! In the second story, Fox is in his garden harvesting vegetables. Chick is there--readers don't know if he's uninvited, but, if I had to guess I'd say he is uninvited. Chick has opinions on what foxes are supposed to eat--and vegetables and vegetable soup aren't it. But Chick realizes that he's thankful Fox is not your typical Fox. In the third story, Chick doesn't like that Fox is painting a landscape portrait instead of an exciting portrait--a portrait of him. Fox reluctantly agrees that he will paint Chick IF Chick can manage to sit still. But can Chick sit still?! What do you think?!

My thoughts: I like this one. I do. Fox and Chick are likable characters. A second book starring Fox and Chick will release in March 2019: Fox & Chick: The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories. I look forward to reading it.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, February 8, 2019

A Big Mooncake for Little Star

A Big Mooncake for Little Star. Grace Lin. 2018. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Little Star's mama laid the Big Mooncake onto the night sky to cool. "Now, Little Star," Mama said, "your Mooncake took us a long time to take, so let's see if you can make it last awhile. Can you remember not to touch this Big Mooncake until I tell you to?" "Yes, Mama!" Little Star said, nodding.

Premise/plot: Will Little Star be able to resist nibbling on her mooncake? Or will this mooncake get smaller and smaller and smaller with each passing night?

My thoughts: The book description calls this a 'whimsical origin story' for the phases of the moon. As such I suppose it works well enough--at least for most readers. On GoodReads, 80% of the ratings are four or five stars.

How did I feel about this one? Honestly, I can't say I loved the story or the illustrations. (For the record, I can't say that I hated the story or the illustrations either.) Indifference is the word that comes to mind. I just didn't find his Caldecott Honor book to be engaging. But as I've said a thousand times in the past--why not make it a thousand and one--picture books are super-super subjective. What one person loves and adores another person just doesn't get.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Chicken Talk

Chicken Talk. Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Farmer Otis and his wife, Abby, loved their chickens. Their children, Willie and Belle, loved them, too.

Premise/plot: The chickens on this farm are about to express themselves! These chickens have learned to write and they have OPINIONS to share. What will this family think of these amazing chickens?!

Some sample of their writing:
  • No more ARUGULA
  • The fox is not intelligent.
  • More stories about brave chickens.
  • You drive too fast. Cheerful chickens cross this road. 
My thoughts: I loved this one. It was fun and silly. I love picture books about chickens. There have been so many good books starring chickens.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Alma and How She Got Her Name. Juana Martinez-Neal. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela had a long name--too long, if you asked her. "My name is so long, Daddy. It never fits," Alma said. "Come here," he said. "Let me tell you the story of your name. Then you decide if it fits."

Premise/plot: After Alma hears the story of her name will she change her mind? This picture book celebrates families and individuality. Also storytelling.

My thoughts: I love, love, love the premise of this one. I love the story telling. I love the emphasis on family and belonging. I love the celebration of life.

Alma And How She Got Her Name is a Caldecott Honor book for 2019.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

See Pip Flap

See Pip Flap. (The Adventures of Otto) David Milgrim. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: See Tweet flap. See Tweet fly. Fly, Tweet, fly. Bye, Tweet, bye.

Premise/plot: Pip wants to flap and fly just like Tweet. Sadly Pip can't. Tweet is a bird. Pip is a mouse. Will Pip ever stop trying?!

My thoughts: How have I gone this long without discovering David Milgrim?! I think I've only read one of his previous books. This one proves you don't need many words to tell an entertaining story. The words in this one are on the simple side--it is an early reader. But the story is there and it's quite funny.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Rough Patch

The Rough Patch. Brian Lies. 2018. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Evan and his dog did everything together.

Premise/plot: Evan and his dog do everything together...until they don't. After Evan's dog dies, Evan enters a ROUGH PATCH. Will Evan ever want to live again? Will Evan ever be happy again?

My thoughts: The Rough Patch received a Caldecott Honor in 2019. I do like the illustrations. I'm not sure I loved, loved, loved the illustrations, but I definitely liked them. But do I like the story? Honestly I'm not sure that I do. Perhaps that says more about me than anything else.

The Rough Patch is a picture book about death, loss, grief, and depression. It is also a book about gardening. I am thankful that this book is NOT a copycat of The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst. I read the book with this dread that I'd turn the page and it would go there--the dog's decomposing body helped make the pumpkin grow so big. But thankfully it never did!

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Escape from Egypt (Time Jumpers #2)

Escape from Egypt. (Time Jumpers #2) Wendy Mass. 2018. [October 30] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Chase presses his pillow over his head. It still doesn't drown out the noise coming from the suitcase under his bed.

Premise/plot: In the first adventure, the brother-and-sister team of Chase and Eva traveled back in time to King Arthur's court. This second adventure has them traveling back in time--to Egypt. But to what time in Egypt?! These two are still super-new to time travel and much of the book has them trying to figure out the why and the how of it.

My thoughts: I like both books in this series. I love reading time travel stories in general. This is an early chapter series. It won't prove super-entertaining for adult readers. But for kids just starting to read chapter books on their own, it's a fine series to begin.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Hello Lighthouse

Hello Lighthouse. Sophie Blackall. 2018. Little, Brown for Young Readers. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse. It is built to last forever. Sending its light out to sea, guiding the ships on their way. From dusk to dawn, the lighthouse beams. Hello!... Hello! Hello, Lighthouse!

Premise/plot: Hello Lighthouse imagines what it might have been to be light keeper and live in a lighthouse. The picture book opens with the 'new' keeper arriving and closes with his retirement--he has been replaced by a machine. In between times there is a lot of living--ups, downs, highs, lows.  

My thoughts: Hello Lighthouse won the Caldecott Medal in 2019. I checked it out because it won. I'm not sure I would have sought out a picture book specifically about lighthouses if it hadn't won. But I am glad I did. What did I think of the text? the story? What did I think of the illustrations?

I'm honestly not sure what I think of the story. I think it was realistic in depicting the hardships. The more you think about it the more emotionally complex the story becomes--what it says, what it doesn't say. How did he feel about being replaced by a machine? Was he sad to go? Was he happy to go? Was he going to miss the lifestyle? How did his wife and daughter feel? Are readers supposed to be sad with the ending? Is it supposed to feel oh-so-bittersweet?

Is this a picture book for young readers or older readers? What is the right age for this book? It is on the text heavy side and as I mentioned before it offers some complexity to it. I am leaning towards thinking this one is for older readers.

As for the text itself, at times it felt poetic.

I do know what I think of the illustrations. I loved them. I thought they were beautiful.

One more thing. I read a library copy and was SAD, SAD, SUPER SAD to see that so much of the author's note--"about lighthouses" was hidden and covered up. This could have been avoided if only the author's note was not printed on the end pages itself.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Thank You, Omu

Thank You, Omu! Oge Mora. 2018. Little, Brown and Company. 34 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On the corner of First Street and Long Street, on the very top floor, Omu was cooking a thick red stew in a big fat pot for a nice evening meal. She seasoned and stirred it and took a small taste.

Premise/plot: Omu is making a thick, red stew. It smells AMAZING. The smell is so amazing that it brings people--one at a time--to her home. Omu begins to share her meal. Will she have enough for herself?

My thoughts: I really loved this one. Omu is such a sweet, generous soul. And as she opens her home and her heart to others, they are blessed indeed. This one has the best possible ending all things considered: though she may run out of her amazing stew, the community returns with their own gifts to thank her.

Thank You, Omu! is a Caldecott Honor book for 2019.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Fox the Tiger

Fox the Tiger. Corey R. Tabor. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "I wish I were a tiger," says Fox. "Tigers are big. Tigers are fast. Tigers are sneaky. Tigers are the best." Fox has an idea.

Premise/plot: Fox the Tiger won the Theodore Seuss Geisel Award for 2019. In this I Can Read early reader, Fox has an IDEA that becomes contagious. He wants to be a he paints on some stripes. He then goes out to face the world as a tiger...or does he? Will his paint fool anyone?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. It was FUN. I am glad that Fox's idea is so contagious. I loved seeing what would happen next. (For example, the turtle decides to become a RACE CAR and paints the number 4 on his shell.) I loved the text and story. I loved the illustrations. I loved the humor--and the heart. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, February 1, 2019

Board book: Animals With Tiny Cat

Animals with Tiny Cat. Viviane Schwarz. 2018. 30 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Cat. Purr. Mouse. Squee. Elephant. Toot. Bird. Tweet.

Premise/plot: Tiny Cat is playing dress up. She is dressing up as other animals. As her play continues, she discards the old and dons the new. But will her mess-making come back to haunt her?! Or will she be triumphant at the last.

My thoughts: I really liked this one. It was cute. Little ones who loved Counting with Tiny Cat should definitely seek this one out as well. Schwarz has written several other books starring cats--all of them delightful. I've reviewed There Are Cats In This Book and There Are No Cats In This Book.

The text of this one is simple, super simple. I liked the text, I did. But I loved, loved, LOVED the illustrations. They add all the silliness.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers