Thursday, June 27, 2019

Bath Book: Swim with Little Fish!

Swim with Little Fish! Lucy Cousins. 2019. Candlewick Press. 8 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hello! I am Little Fish happy as can be. I love to splash and splish. Come and swim with me!

Premise/plot: Lucy Cousins has several series for children. One of her series stars Little Fish. This book in that series is a bath book. While there are many board books published each year, there aren't as many bath books to be found. In this one, Little Fish swims with his many friends.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I like Little Fish. I do. The book is very colorful and fun.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Board book: Dream Big

Board book: Dream Big. Joyce Wan. 2019. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Dream big, dream high, dream brave dreams.

Premise/plot: This inspirational board book features female trailblazers--dreamers. Each page features a dream-themed inspiration--"dream wild," "dream probabilities" etc. The illustration provides a clue to the trailblazer. Hidden within each illustration is the name of the woman. The last spread gives mini bios for the women included. (Zaha Hadid, Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, Valentina Tereshkova, Maya Angelou, Jane Goodall, Florence Griffith Joyner, Eugenie Clark, Frida Kahlo, Ellen Degeneres, Junko Tabei, Rosa Parks, Katherine Johnson, Chien-Shiung Wu, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, and "you.")

My thoughts: If they were really going to end the book with a "YOU" message...perhaps a mirror would have been appropriate?! Just a thought. I didn't dislike this one. I didn't. But I didn't love, love, love it either.

The text can easily be read on its own without bringing up the featured real-life women. The amount of detail you want to bring into the conversation is completely up to you--the parent or guardian. The mini biographies give you just the tiniest bit of information. Not nearly enough to educate parents with those they may be unfamiliar with. Yes, Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks, Jane Goodall, Maya Angelou, Harriet Tubman may be known well enough to further the discussion. But chances are that some of these trailblazers will be new to you. (I don't know about you, but I am not well-versed in architects, mountain climbers, and nuclear physicists.)

I think these women are worthy of talking about, learning about, etc. I'm just not convinced that toddlers and preschoolers are ready to dig in and learn about history in a meaningful way. (The text is simple enough that it's essentially a non-issue unless you want to add your own commentary to the text.)

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Pignic. Matt Phelan. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It's a perfect day for a pignic.

Premise/plot: A family of pigs set out to have a picnic pignic. Will things go smoothly?

My thoughts: This one has super-simple text and a fun story. Little problems never become big ones, there's a solution for every problem. For example, there's no wind to fly the kites?! But no worries! The "big, bad" wolf is there to provide some huffing-puffing wind! Those kites will fly after all!   Sometimes the best things that happen are unplanned.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Pawed Piper

The Pawed Piper. Michelle Robinson. Illustrated by Chinlun Lee. 2019. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I wanted a cat to cuddle. A great big furry fluff ball, like the cat in my book.

Premise/plot: A little girl REALLY wants a cat of her own. She comes up with a plan that seems sure to work...
So I laid a trail. Balls of wool, ribbon...bowls of milk...tiny balls that jingled...and soft cushions. Now, what else do cats like?
But will her plan work? Will a cat turn up at her house, in her room? How many cats will she "catch" in her "trap"? What if ALL the cats in town come?!

My thoughts: One of my favorite books growing up was MILLIONS OF CATS. The Pawed Piper could easily be its successor. I found it to be a delightful read and one that I can't wait to share with the cat-lovers in my life.

The end papers do some foreshadowing on this one! Readers see dozens of LOST CAT posters on the opening end papers.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, June 24, 2019

Let's Play, Crabby!

Let's Play, Crabby! (Crabby #2) Jonathan Fenske. 2019. Scholastic. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Today is just another day at the beach.

Premise/plot: Jonathan Fenske has a new early reader series starring Crabby and his friends. The first book in the series was Hello, Crabby! The second book is Let's Play, Crabby! In this one, Plankton persists in wanting to play with Crabby. As persistent as Plankton is in their friendship, Crabby is resistant. The first chapter, "The Guess," has them playing GUESS WHO. The second, "The Game" has them playing Simon Says--I mean Crabby Says. The third, "The Other Game" has them playing Hide and Seek. The fourth, "The Other Other Game" has them playing TAG.

My thoughts: BARNACLE IS BORED is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite stories to read aloud. I just love it. I enjoyed Plankton is Pushy. I would definitely recommend this series of books. I liked both Hello, Crabby! and Let's Play, Crabby! I believe other books are soon to be published in this series. Of course, I will read them all. I would love to see Barnacle make a special appearance in the next book. He was sadly missing from Let's Play, Crabby.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Walt's Imagination

Walt's Imagination: The Life of Walt Disney. Doreen Rappaport. Illustrated by John Pomeroy. 2018. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:  Walt wandered the family farm and saw rabbits, foxes, raccoons, bobwhites, crows, and cardinals. He bottle-fed his favorite pig, Skinny, and rode hogs into their muddy pigpens.

Premise/plot: This is a picture book biography of Walt Disney. Though Disney movies might appeal to young toddlers and preschoolers, this picture book biography is best shared with elementary-aged readers with a good-sized attention span. It is TEXT-HEAVY.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I loved, loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the illustrations. There is a lot of text--as I mentioned above--but it is for the most part interesting. I also love the inclusion of quotes. The first quote is shared on the opening end pages, "I do not make films primarily for children. I make them for the child in all of us, whether we be six or sixty." I think children's authors often have the same philosophy.

They sure didn't publish biographies like this when I was a 'young reader.'

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Berenstain Bears' New Baby

The Berenstain Bears' New Baby. Stan & Jan Berenstain. 1974. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Down a sunny dirt road, over a log bridge, up a grassy hill, deep in Bear Country, lived a family of bears--Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Small Bear. They lived in a large tree which Papa Bear had hollowed out and made into a house.

Premise/plot: Small Bear wakes up to discover that his once just-right bed is now too small. Papa Bear and Small Bear go out to the woods to chop down a tree to make a new just-right bed. Mama Bear--still silent--smiles contentedly as they go out for the day. But what will happen to Small Bear's bed?! Could Mama Bear have a secret?!

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. Sister Bear is adorable as a baby. This is an essential to read if you're going to read any of the books in the series.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

The Bears' Picnic

The Bears' Picnic. Stan and Jan Berenstain. 1966. 72 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mother Bear, put your apron away. We are going to go on a picnic today!

Premise/plot: Papa Bear is treating his family to a lovely picnic. He has the PERFECT spot in mind. Or does he?! Will the Berenstain Bear family EVER get to actually eat their picnic lunch? Or will a series of misadventures prevent them?

My thoughts: I don't remember reading The Bears' Picnic growing up. I think I would have approved! It is in many ways quite similar to the Big Honey Hunt. Mama Bear doesn't say a word in this one. But she doesn't really have to--readers, especially observant readers--will be able to guess how she's feeling and what she's thinking! Perhaps Mama Bear is thinking IF YOU CAN'T SAY SOMETHING NICE, DON'T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL. Maybe. Regardless, this rhyming early reader is a hoot.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Bears on Wheels

Bears on Wheels. Stan and Jan Berenstain. 1969. 33 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: One bear. One wheel. One bear on one wheel. Two bears on one wheel. Three on one. Four on one.

Premise/plot: Bears ride things on wheels.

My thoughts: This book isn't all that thrilling. It isn't. Perhaps it is super-super easy to read if you're a beginning reader who knows basic sight words. It does end in a crash, boom, bang. Perhaps that could prove thrilling if that's your thing.

What does make this book slightly more thrilling is imagining it being read in a Scottish accent. If Neil Oliver, for example, wanted to narrate this one I'd be okay with that.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Bears Vacation

The Bears' Vacation. Stan and Jan Berenstain. 1968. 72 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hooray! Hooray! We're on our way! Our summer vacation starts today!

Premise/plot: The Berenstain Bear family is on vacation. Pa and Small Bear have many, many adventures--or should I say MISadventures. It all starts with Pa's lectures on how to stay safe. Despite his safety rules, Pa (or Papa Bear) gets into trouble time and time again. He's not so great at following his own advice. OR he's simply not observant and self-aware.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. It was funny. All the humor is at Papa Bear's expense. He's just not very bright. It is written in rhyme like the Big Honey Hunt. I am enjoying reading some of these older titles in the series. I do not think I'll bother reading the newer titles.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, June 14, 2019

Old Hat, New Hat

Old Hat, New Hat. Stan and Jan Berenstain. 1970. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Old hat. Old hat. New hat. New hat. New hat. New hat. New hat.

Premise/plot: A young bear--a bear that may or may not be part of the Berenstain Bear family--goes into a hat store. Will he buy a new hat or decide that his old hat is best?!

My thoughts: I'm not sure if the bear cub in this one is actually-actually Brother Bear. But even if it isn't him, it's likely a chum of his. As I mentioned, this one features a young bear looking for a new hat. Before the book is done, he'll try on EVERY SINGLE HAT in the shop.

This one surprised me. I found it FUN. He has an opinion on EVERY hat he tries on. It was also fun to watch the expressions on the store clerk's face.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Inside, Outside, Upside Down

Inside, Outside, Upside Down. Stan & Jan Berenstain. 1968. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Going in/ Inside/ Inside a box/ Upside down/

Premise/plot: A young bear cub (whom would later be named "Brother Bear") will have quite an adventure to tell his Mama at the end of the day. His adventure begins when he gets INSIDE a box...

My thoughts: This is an early book in the "series" of the Berenstain Bears. The story it tells--if indeed it tells an actual story--is told SIMPLY with a few words. This was one of the books I had growing up. I never "bonded" with it like I did The Big Honey Hunt.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Athena and the Magic Land (Little Goddess Girls #1)

Athena & The Magic Land (Little Goddess Girls #1) Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams. Illustrated by Yuyi Chen. 2019. Simon & Schuster. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Tap. Tap. Athena pushed the buttons on the tablet she held.

Premise/plot: Athena, the heroine, is transported from the 'real' world to a magical one--Mount Olympus--in this early chapter book published by Simon & Schuster.

The first chapter is called "Hello Brick Road!" That should give readers a BIG, BIG, BIG, BIG clue as to what the plot is in this one. 

My thoughts: My true first reaction was WHY?!?! I guess I was expecting MORE (actual) Greek mythology and less imitation Wizard of Oz. Because let's be honest, the story, the characters, everything is essentially just a remix of Wizard of Oz. Medusa stars as the Wicked Witch. And she's after the SANDALS with wings that have tied themselves to Athena's feet. Athena, meanwhile, just wants to GO BACK HOME. So she's told by a good goddess--not a good witch--to just follow the road to see the great god, Zeus. She's told she'll make A LOT OF NEW FRIENDS if she stays on the road.

Perhaps if I was seven or eight. Perhaps if the writing was A+++. I don't know. It shouldn't come as a big surprise that as an adult I found this one a little lacking. I am not the target audience. And reading is subjective. There is nothing inappropriate or "wrong" with this one. I am just a little confused as to why this story needs to be retold with "Greek" inspired names.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Board book: Anne's Numbers

Anne's Numbers. Kelly Hill. 2018. 22 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: 1 cherry tree

Premise/plot: This concept board book is inspired by L.M. Montgomery's Anne series. The concept being taught is counting one to ten. Anne Shirley can be found in every illustration. The scenes often celebrate nature much like the novels do.
1 cherry tree
2 butterflies
3 stepping stones
4 trees
My thoughts: I find the illustrations cute, precious, adorable, delightful, fun. The text is super-simple and not exactly spectacular. But the illustrations are appealing--at least to adults.

I would recommend this one to parents--probably mothers--who love, love, love, love Anne Shirley.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Board book: Little Book About Colors

A Little Book About Colors (Leo Lionni's Friends). Leo Lionni. Jan Gerardi. 2019. Random House. 28 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Red a bright red balloon

Premise/plot: This board book is inspired by the work of Leo Lionni. As far as I can tell, Lionni did not actually write or illustrate any of the book. It is a concept book teaching colors. It stars Lionni's mice.

My thoughts: I liked this one fine. I think my favorite was GRAY. The accompanying sentence was just one little word: ME! There are only three marks of punctuation in the entire book--two exclamation points and one period. Part of me is annoyed that this board book lacks proper sentences. (I don't think little ones will care about that.)

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, June 10, 2019

Bach to the Rescue

Bach to the Rescue. Tom Angleberger. Illustrated by Elio. 2019. Harry N. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hey, it's me! Bach, the greatest composer ever! Have I ever told you the story about Goldberg and the Rich Dude Who Couldn't Sleep? It happened about 225 years ago, but I think it's better to start a story like this with Once Upon A Time...

Premise/plot: Is Bach to the Rescue a picture book biography? Probably not technically. The focus is not on Bach's life, or any other person's life, not really. It is a behind-the-scenes story of how Bach composed the Goldberg Variations. Is it a true story? Maybe, maybe not. But it is 'loosely' based on a legend first recorded by Albert Schweitzer. IT may not be a picture book biography, BUT it is without a doubt a lesson on the IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP.

So, because "Rich Dude" couldn't one could sleep....trying to get this guy to sleep each night was a full-time job for many, many, many people. EVERYONE was super-super-super-cranky because they were all sleep-deprived. Can Bach save the day?

My thoughts: I will always be thankful that I read this one. I looked up the Goldberg Variations and I've enjoyed listening to them. I honestly can't imagine trying to fall asleep to many of them. Has this picture book convinced me that Bach is the greatest composer ever....probably not. (I'm Team Mozart.) But it was an entertaining read. IF a reading of this one is paired with the music itself, I could see it being a hit.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Big Honey Hunt

The Big Honey Hunt. Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain. 1962. 72 pages. [Source: Own]

First sentence: We ate our honey. We ate a lot. Now we have no honey in our honey pot.

Premise/plot: When the Berenstain Bear family runs out of honey, what should they do? Well, if they listen to Mama Bear, they'd go to the store and buy some. But is Papa Bear likely to listen to his wife? He thinks the BEST honey to bring home is the kind that they hunt for themselves. So he takes his son along on a bee hunt. But can they find the right kind of tree?

My thoughts: This early reader is BELOVED. It wasn't that I loved, loved, loved the series in general. This was the first book in what would become a series. But it wasn't written--if Wikipedia is to be believed--with a series in mind, let alone a super-super-super long series. But there is just something DELIGHTFUL and FUN about the story. I think the rhythm and rhyme of this one helps make it memorable, quote worthy, a true classic.

I also LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one because just like the bears in this story, I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED honey and often found we were running low on honey in our own honey pot. 

Favorite quotes:
Is that a bee?
He went, "Buzz! Buzz!"
He looks like a bee.
Why, yes!
He does.
Are you getting honey?
Are you getting a lot?
Will we take home honey
In our honey pot?
Well, it it looks just so.
And it feels just so.
Looks so. Feels so.
So it's SO!
When a bear is smart,
When a bear is clever,
He never gives up.
And I won't, ever!
The best sort of honey
Never comes from bees.
It comes from a store.
I would like some,

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, June 6, 2019


Daddy-Sitting. Eve Coy. 2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This is Daddy. Today I'm Daddy-sitting.

Premise/plot: A little girl spends a LOVELY day with her Dad.

My thoughts: It had me at hello. My love for this one started early with the END PAPERS. This lovable, adorable, show-stealing cat isn't the one and only reason I adored Eve Coy's Daddy-Sitting. Though spotting the cat on each spread to see what he/she is up to is oh-so-satisfying. (You don't need words to read this cat!)

I loved the relationship between parent and child. It was loving, sweet, tender.

I loved the celebration of the ordinary. This book celebrates the joys of daily family life--mess and all.

I loved reading between the lines. The text tells a definite story. But the illustrations hint at MORE. The narrative shows HER perspective of the day. The illustrations perhaps comes closer to an objective account.

I loved how full of life, full of action, full of IMAGINATION this one is.

I loved how relatable it is.

Also how quotable!
Daddy is very smart. I tell him he can do anything when he grows up. He could be a lion tamer or an astronaut. He could be a famous chocolate maker, or a detective on the case of the missing chocolates...or a nurse treating children who have eaten too much chocolate. 
It's just a joy to read.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Rabbit, The Dark, and the Cookie Tin

The Rabbit, the Dark, and the Cookie Tin. Nicola O'Byrne. 2019. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Once upon a time, there was a rabbit who didn't want to go to sleep. "Oh, no!" squeaked Rabbit when it started to get dark. "I'm not tired and I don't want to go to bed!" Then a bright idea popped into his head. "I don't want to go to bed," said Rabbit, "and if it doesn't get dark, I won't have to."

Premise/plot: Rabbit IS NOT tired. Rabbit IS NOT cranky. Rabbit IS clever, right?! I mean who else would think up a way to TRAP THE DARKNESS to put off bedtime?!?!

My thoughts: I really LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this story. It is a PROPER story. I love the play between Rabbit and the Dark--their dialogue/conversation. It's just a super-fun and delightful read. It probably isn't a bedtime story that will make your little ones sleepy. It probably is a story-time story that will make you LAUGH.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Board book: Future Astronaut

Future Astronaut. Lori Alexander. Illustrated by Allison Black. 2019. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Ground control to Major Baby: Could you be an astronaut?

Premise/plot: Does BABY have what it takes to be an astronaut? Through a series of checks, BABY is put to the test. 
Astronauts can swim--even in their flight gear.
Baby swims with gear, too.
Astronauts live and work in small spaces.
Small spaces are Baby's favorite places!
My thoughts: I thought this one was ADORABLE and FACT-FILLED. I enjoyed reading it.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, June 3, 2019

Beware of the Crocodile

Beware of the Crocodile. Martin Jenkins. Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura. 2019. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: If there's one thing you should know about crocodiles, it's that they've really scary--or at least the big ones are. They've got an awful lot of teeth.

Premise/plot: This is a nonfiction book about crocodiles. It opens with a crocodile getting ready--waiting--to eat...
Sooner or later, something passing by, something with a bit of meat on it, will decide that it's thirsty and needs a drink. And then? Then they'll be a sudden lunge and a tremendous splash. And then? Oh, dear. What happens next is rather gruesome. In fact it's so gruesome that we should skip the details. Let's just say there's a lot of twirling and thrashing, and then things go a bit quiet.
It also includes details on the life cycle of the crocodile. 

My thoughts:  I am not a crocodile enthusiast--or a reptile one either for that matter. This one has a narrative style that is far from dry. But even so I can't say that this is an incredible, must-read for story time for little ones. I think for those that are super-curious about wild animals this one would definitely hold some appeal.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers