Friday, March 29, 2019

Little Monster At School

Little Monster At School. (A Golden Look-Look Book) Mercer Mayer. 1978. Golden Books. 24 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Early in the morning, Mom wakes me and says, "Get up, Little Monster, it's time for school."

 Premise/plot: Little Monster goes to school and makes a new friend, Yally. Yally isn't the most likable or outgoing--in fact, for most of the day (most of the book) he's pout-y and grumpy. But Yally and Little Monster end the day friends at last.

My thoughts: When I think of Mercer Mayer I typically think of Little Critter. I love, love, love, love Little Critter. I remember so many Little Critter books clearly. I had a vague memory of his other series, the Little Monster series. When I saw a couple of these at the local charity shop, I decided to buy them and read them.

I liked this one. I liked Little Monster. Little Monster is empathetic to Yally; Little Monster's kindness--persistent kindness--leads to a new friendship.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Caterpillar to Butterfly

Fold Out and Find Out: Caterpillar to Butterfly. Frances Barry. 2019. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Tiny egg, on a leaf. What will you be? A caterpillar hatching out, just big enough to see. Caterpillar munch away. How hungry you must be! One bite...two bites...another makes three.

Premise/plot: This is a rhyming picture book that folds out.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. I liked how the book folded out. It was fun. Rhyming books don't always work well for me, but this one did.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, March 25, 2019

Board book: Marvel Alphablock

Marvel Alphablock: The Marvel Cinematic Universe from A to Z. Peskimo. 2019. [April] Harry Abrams. 106 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: A is for Ant-man. B is for Black Panther. C is for Captain America. D is for Doctor Strange.

Premise/plot: Abrams has published some lovely block books in the past including: AlphaBlock, CountaBlock, BuildaBlock, CityBlock, and StarWarsBlock. Their newest stars Marvel characters. It is still an alphabet book. But it's a fun-and-clever alphabet book. I like turning the letter-shaped pages to reveal the story. I also like seeing the other characters featured throughout the book. (B isn't just for Black Panther...Bucky and Black Widow appear as well. G is for Gamora and Groot. Agent Carter can be spotted before Captain America as well.) The illustrations are packed with details from all the movies. The last spread has a list of all the characters featured throughout the book. There are fifty-four in all.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I did. I don't love, love, love, love all the Marvel films equally. I have my favorites. I, of course, have my favorite characters as well. There are some characters that I just love and adore. Reading this one makes me want to revisit some of the movies I haven't seen in a while.

The audience for this one is fans of ALL AGES. The Marvel movies are not particularly appropriate for young kids...especially preschoolers. When you see board books you almost naturally think toddlers or preschoolers. But if picture books can be for older readers, why not board books too? (Also, there is nothing inappropriate about sharing this one with little ones. They are just names.)

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Board book: Ready, Set, Drive!

Ready, Set, Drive! (Paw Patrol Drive the Vehicle) Courtney Carbone. 2019. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Can you help the PAW Patrol race to the rescue?

Premise/plot: This one does not have an overall story. (Don't die of surprise, please) Every spread is a different scenario. The first scenario:
Paw Patrol, there's been a rockslide on the old trestle bridge. A train is trapped! Rubble, I need you and your bulldozer to scoop the boulders off the track. 
Each scenario offers readers an opportunity to "drive" one of the vehicles. The dashboard of each vehicle is a pop-up.

My thoughts: Does your little one love, love, love the Paw Patrol? Does your little one have a favorite pup? This one is a toy--let's just be honest and up front about that. There is a flimsy story on each spread, but that's about it in terms of story. Little ones may even want to make up their own stories--additional stories--if they enjoy "driving" the vehicles.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Board book: Pups Save a Pinata

Paw Patrol Water Wonder: Pups Save a Pinata. 2019. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It's almost time for Alex's birthday party.

Premise/plot: Mayor Humdinger steals Alex's pinata. Can the pups save the day? Will Alex have a happy birthday?

My thoughts: As an adult it is easy to dismiss this book as more toy than book. But children do sometimes needs a distraction. And parents sometimes--if not always--prefer distractions that are not messy. This one allows children to "paint" in color with just water. And it's reusable. So there is that. 

If your little one loves Paw Patrol, this might be a good treat.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, March 22, 2019

Texas Trail to Calamity

Texas Trail to Calamity: A Miss Mallard Mystery. Robert M. Quackenbush. 1986/2018. Simon & Schuster. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Miss Mallard, the world-famous ducktective, was on vacation at a dude ranch in Texas.

Premise/plot: Miss Mallard is vacationing in Texas this time; she sure does LOVE to travel, doesn't she?! When a horse-riding accident leaves her stranded in the prairie, Miss Mallard takes refuge with a family living in an old house. It turns out this family is descended from one of the first duck families to settle in Texas. There is even a celebration the next day at the Alamo to recognize the first THREE HUNDRED (duck) families. But all is not as it seems, someone is out to steal an important document. Will Miss Mallard find out WHO wants to sabotage the event?

My thoughts: I liked this one. Quackenbush has created an interesting world peopled entirely by ducks. I'm not sure it does the real Texas justice--but I'm willing to overlook that I suppose. I prefer other books in the series to this one. But it was fun to imagine how different history would play out if ducks ruled the world. But one thing we know--they'd be crimes to solve. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Board book: Where's the Duck?

Where's The Duck? Ingela P. Arrhenius. 2019. Candlewick Press. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Where's the butterfly? Here it is! Where's the frog? Here it is!

Premise/plot: Where's The Duck is a lift-the-flap book featuring felt flaps. It is also a hide-and-seek book. Little ones can "find" all the creatures--animals--that are "hiding." The last spread asks "Where are you?" and features a mirror hidden behind a flap.

My thoughts: I like hide-and-seek books. There is just something happy about the formula. Little ones seem to really enjoy it. And their joy is contagious. Little ones also tend to like mirrors. So this one is definitely one worth sharing with the little ones in your life.

Other books in this series include: WHERE'S THE LADYBUG? WHERE'S THE GIRAFFE? WHERE'S THE OWL? and WHERE'S THE HEN?

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Bicycle to Treachery

Bicycle to Treachery: A Miss Mallard Mystery. Robert Quackenbush. 1985/2019. Simon & Schuster. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: While on a bicycle tour of Holland, Miss Mallard--the world famous ducktective--took a wrong turn. She became separated from the other cyclists.

Premise/plot: Miss Mallard stumbles--or perhaps I should say cycles--into this mystery quite by accident. She never intended to stay at an inn or meet Julia Pintail. Julia is in danger; she's being followed by ducks in trenchcoats! She lets Miss Mallard know that she has something important to tell her...soon. Miss Mallard later discovers Julia has been ducknapped! She also discovers that Julia slipped her a little black book--written in code. Will Miss Mallard be able to decode the message and save her new friend?

My thoughts: I really LOVE this one. I love, love, love Miss Mallard. The series is just too much fun.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Gondola to Danger

Gondola to Danger: A Miss Mallard Mystery. Robert M. Quackenbush. 1983/2019. Simon & Schuster. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Miss Mallard, the world-famous ducktective, was at the opera festival in Venice when the Italian police asked for her help. A priceless masterpiece had been stolen from the Doge's palace.

Premise/plot: Miss Mallard is back for another adventure. This time readers find the ducktective in Italy. The authorities suspect an artist, El Ducko. But Miss Mallard has met El Ducko before; she believes that El Ducko is being set up. Will she be able to find the art thief in time?

My thoughts: I really love this series. I wish I'd known about it as a kid. This was an enjoyable installment in the series. In fact it may be one of my favorites. (I liked that it didn't discuss "ghosts" or "demons.")

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sparky & Spike

Sparky & Spike: Charles Schulz and The Wildest, Smartest Dog Ever. Barbara Lowell. Illustrated by Dan Andreasen. 2019. Cameron Kids. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Sparky's dog, Spike, is a white dog with black spots. He's the wildest and smartest dog ever. Spike rings the doorbell to come inside. He only drinks from the bathroom faucet. And he knows more than fifty words.

Premise/plot: This picture book stars a young--very young--Charles Schulz, a.k.a "Sparky." Sparky loves, loves, loves his dog. But he's also interested in drawing. He is especially interested in drawing cartoons. But it isn't easy--will he ever be good enough to get published?!

My thoughts: I liked this one. It is not a picture book biography necessarily. Though it is biographical. Readers catch a glimpse of Schulz as a young boy with a dream. Perhaps readers will have dreams of their own that seem--at this moment--impossible. This is a great inspirational read. And I personally LOVE Peanuts and Snoopy.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Lost Horse

The Lost Horse. Mark Nicholas. 2019. Harry N. Abrams. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: People came from far and wide to see the sculpture of the man and his horse. Legend had it that the sculpture changed position when no one was looking. It always drew a big crowd...that was until the day the horse vanished.

Premise/plot: A horse statue goes missing; meanwhile a little girl is lonely. The statue which has come to life visits the girl--they become good friends. Will the statue stay lost forever?

My thoughts: This picture book is 'taste-specific' as my mother would say. I don't doubt that somewhere out there in this wide, wide world there is a reader that will connect with this one and just love it. This one is certainly peculiar and unique. The story though certainly very odd is beautifully written--from a literary point of view alone. The illustrations are striking.

Text: 2.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 2.5 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, March 14, 2019


Square. (Shapes Trilogy #2) Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. 2018. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This is Square. This is Square's secret cave. Every day, Square goes down into his cave and takes a block from the pile below the ground.

Premise/plot: Square is enjoying life until a visit from Circle has him start doubting everything. Circle sees his blocks as perfect sculptures and asks Square to do a sculpture of her. Square is stumped. He's no artist. And he hasn't a clue how to shape a square block into a circle. Can he find a way to please Circle?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I think it may be my favorite of the three books in the series. I have now read all three books--though not Triangle recently. I think with each new book I read by Barnett or Klassen I become more accustomed to the quirky humor.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Circle. (Shapes Trilogy #3) Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. 2019. Candlewick Press. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This is Circle. This is Circle's waterfall. One day, Circle and Square and Triangle played a game near her waterfall. "Here are the rules," Circle said.

Premise/plot: What will happen when one of her friends breaks a rule while they're all playing a game?!

My thoughts: For those that have read and loved this duo's previous work--Triangle (2017) and Square (2018), this one is worth seeking out. Triangle, Square, and Circle are a trilogy. So if you love the odd and quirky nature of the previous books, you'll probably love it in Circle as well. If you weren't a big fan of the previous books--if they weren't quite your cup of tea--Circle may not suit your taste either. Picture books are after all super subjective.

I liked Circle. I really did. I didn't love, love, love it perhaps. But I found the story enjoyable.

I remember not quite liking Triangle. And though I was confident that I'd read and reviewed Square....apparently I never did.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Board book: Little Fish and Mommy

Little Fish and Mommy. Lucy Cousins. 2019. Candlewick Press. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hello! I am Little Fish, swimming in the sea. Today we have a special day--just Mommy Fish and me!

Premise/plot: Little Fish and Mommy is a rhyming board book. Little Fish has appeared in other books--namely Hooray for Fish. This book celebrates the relationship between parent and child.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I really liked Hooray for Fish and am glad to see Mommy Fish and Little Fish in another book. (There are other books as well: I Am Little Fish! Where Is Little Fish? and Count with Little Fish.) I like the characters. Though rhyming books can be tricky--not every writer truly grasps the importance of rhythm--this one was well-written.
We play a game together.
First Mommy shuts her eyes.
I hide behind the seaweed,
then swim right out.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, March 11, 2019

Dig To Disaster

Dig to Disaster. Robert M. Quackenbush. 1982. 81 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Miss Mallard, the world famous ducktective, ran through the rain across the narrow rope bridge.

Premise/plot: Dig to Disaster is one of the books in the Miss Mallard mystery series for young readers. This juvenile mystery is set in South America. Miss Mallard is a tourist traveling with archaeologists and explorers. But it's not been an easy trip--in fact, the trip seems cursed. But is it really? Or is this a case of sabotage?!

My thoughts: I am LOVING this series so much. I love, love, love Miss Mallard. The books are a bit silly but they are also so much fun.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, March 8, 2019

Marguerite Makes a Book

Marguerite Makes a Book. Bruce Robertson. Illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt. 1999. 44 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence:  In a small house in Paris, nearly six hundred years ago, lived a man who made beautiful books. His name was Jacques the Painter, but he was affectionately known as Papa Jacques because he was the oldest and most famous book painter in all of Paris.

Premise/plot: Marguerite Makes a Book is a picture book for older readers. It is set in the Middle Ages in France. The heroine is a young girl, Marguerite, the daughter of a book painter--or illustrator. When her father becomes unable to finish his work, she steps up to completes his order. She knows just what to do and how to do it. In fact her own embellishments make it even more beautiful.

My thoughts: This one is text-HEAVY. It is definitely for older readers. The text is packed with details and information--fascinating stuff for the most part. Not every reader will be interested in book making or this time period in general. But for those that are--it's an excellent read.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Crayon Man

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons. Natascha Biebow. Illustrated by Steven Salerno. 2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: Once there was a man who saw color everywhere.

Premise/plot: The Crayon Man is a picture book biography of Edward Binney the creator of crayons.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved this one. The narrative is well written. It's packed with information--which I loved. Plenty of information is included within the sidebars. But at its heart it remains an entertaining story.
Edwin invented a new kind of inexpensive slate pencil that wrote very smoothly--it was gray. Children loved it! He invented a kind of chalk that wasn't dusty and didn't crumble--it was white. Teachers loved it! He invented a wax crayon that would write on wood and paper packaging. It was really, really black. People loved it. 
Edwin's wife was a former school teacher. She told him that children needed better, cheaper crayons. So he set about inventing something that would work.
In a large tub at the mill, Edwin's team measured out the ingredients: melted wax, clay to thicken, something for texture, colored powders, each in just the right amount every time to make...a top secret formula. Slowly, carefully, stirring by hand, they poured the special formula into thin, crayon-shaped molds, smaller than any other inventors' just the right size for children's hands. The mixture cooled and hardened. Edwin watched, and Edwin waited.
The illustrations are fabulous.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Hooray for Babies

Hooray for Babies! Susan Meyers. Illustrated by Sue Cornelison. 2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: I'm glad that I'm a baby. I love my baby face. Two eyes, two ears, one mouth, one nose, each in the perfect place. I love my tickly baby toes, my fingers big and little. I love my baby belly. There's a button in the middle!

Premise/plot: Hooray for Babies is a rhyming picture book celebrating BABIES.

My thoughts: If you find babies irresistible, then you might love this book. The illustrations are cute, sweet, adorable, precious, delightful, lovely--the expected bunch of adjectives that like to hang around together in books for this age group. Some people love and adore cutey-cute books. Some people don't. There is much to love in this one. The illustrations. The cutesy text. (To name just two.) I personally liked this one. The pages showing off belly buttons is a special favorite of mine.

We're babies making baby friends.
We love to play together.
We take our turns.
We share our toys.
At least until we don't.
Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Board book: Baby Love

Baby Love. Sandra Magsamen. 2019. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: What did the mommy bunny say to her baby bunny? You're some bunny special.

Premise/plot: Baby Love is a board book with a mirror.

My thoughts: The text of this one is formulaic and predictable. A mommy animal is professing her love to her baby on every single page. The animals are all ones you'd expect to find in a board book: bunny, elephant, cat, and dog. The last spread, of course, is not an animal at all. It features the mirror. (Babies do love mirrors.)

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, March 4, 2019

Night Train, Night Train

Night Train, Night Train. Robert Burleigh. Illustrated by Wendell Minor. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Train ride! Bump-bump. Chug-chug. Slow. Faster. Faster. Off we go.

Premise/plot: A little boy goes on a train night. This picture book is told in rhyming verse.

My thoughts: I love, love, love, love, love the illustrations. I do. But I--as an adult who isn't particularly a train enthusiast--was disappointed with the rhythm and rhyme of the text. I guess part of me was hoping it would be more like Freight Train...only at night. This one does focus on colors--gray, black, red, blue, white, orange, purple, green, yellow.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Dust Bunny Wants A Friend

Dust Bunny Wants A Friend. Amy Hevron. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hi! Bye!

Premise/plot: The dust bunny that stars in this lovely new picture book is LONELY and in need of a few friends. But making friends--when you're a dust bunny--isn't the easiest thing in the world...or is it?!

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I loved, loved, loved the illustrations and the premise. This dust bunny may not be a rhyming dust bunny--like Jan Thomas' dust bunnies--but there is something sweet and adorable and funny about this one. It made me smile.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers