Monday, November 25, 2019

Look! I Wrote A Book!

Look! I Wrote A Book! Sally Lloyd-Jones. 2019. 34 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When you want to write a book, first you need a Good Idea. You can get one from: your brain, your notebook, people, all around wherever you go, staring out of the window.

Premise/plot: Sally Lloyd-Jones has written an absolutely hilarious nonfiction guide for children on how to write books. (My library shelves it as nonfiction; I will admit it’s more entertaining than most fiction storybooks.) It includes plenty of writing tips and great examples. It may be the most quotable book I’ve read this year.

My thoughts: Is this the best book Lloyd-Jones has ever written?! I’ll qualify my YES. (For Christian families, her Jesus Storybook Bible remains the absolute best, best, best book she’s given us.) Every page is perfectly perfect. The advice seems to genuinely be true and good. The examples are hilarious. Whether you want to write a book yourself or just have a good time...this is a great book.

Here’s what you also need to know: who’s it for. If you’re writing a book for your grandma, for example, but it’s all about tractors and dump trucks, she will be snoring because it is NOT EVEN INTERESTING to her! You should write about things grandmas LOVE. Like The Olden Days. Or tap dancing. Or you.

A speech bubble dialogue adds a little girl saying, “When I was a tiny baby...” and her grandma enthusing, “It seems just like yesterday.”

If you’re writing a bedtime book for babies, you can’t have scary monsters inside or they will be screaming and not sleeping.

The illustrations steal the show on this spread. The little girl is sitting on a couch with five babies. She’s reading aloud a book titled Monsters Will Eat You. Three babies are crying. Two more look near tears—their eyes drawn big to express terror. Only the stuffed animal grins on without a care in the world.

Now you need a title (which is what your story is called). Here are some Good Titles:

Again the illustrations combine perfectly with the text. The titles are shown in the illustrations. Commentary is provided in the text. About the title, Spiders on the Ceiling, she adds, “This is a Horror Story.” Cleaning My Room is described as a tragedy. When I Was a Baby is labeled a history book. Only One Shoe is called a mystery. Clearly Lloyd-Jones knows how to make readers laugh or smile.

From start to finish, this book is marvelous. Highly recommended.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Flubby Will Not Play With That

Flubby Will Not Play With That. J.E. Morris. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I have toys for Flubby. I have lots of toys for Flubby.

Premise/plot: Will Flubby like any of the toys?!?!?! It is looking doubtful. But cat lovers may be able to predict the one thing Flubby wants to play with that came from the pet store.

My thoughts: I loved this adorable early reader. The story is simple, predictable, yet always delightful. If you love cats, I think you would enjoy meeting Flubby! 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Books Reviewed in 2020

1. Two for Me, One For You. Jorg Muhle. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture Book]
2. The Favorite Book. Bethanie Deeney Murguia. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]

3. Sisters First. Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush. Illustrated by Ramona Kaultizki. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]
4. This is Baby. Jimmy Fallon. Illustrated by Miguel Ordonez. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]
5. Mary Blair's Unique Flair: The Girl Who Became One of the Disney Legends. Amy Novesky. Illustrated by Brittney Lee. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture Book Biography; Biography]
6. Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank's Diary. Meeg PIncus. Illustrated by Jordi Solano. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book biography; biography]
7. A Trio of Tolerable Tales. Margaret Atwood. Illustrated by Dusan Petricic. 2017. 52 pages. [Source: Library] [Short stories; children's book; humor]
8. The Return of Thelma the Unicorn. Aaron Blabey. 2019. [December] 36 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Picture book; animal fantasy]
9. Pig the Tourist. (Pig the Pug #7) Aaron Blabey. 2020. [February] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Animal fantasy; picture book]
10. The Bad Guys: The Baddest Day Ever (#10) Aaron Blabey. 2019. [December] 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Early chapter book; Graphic Novel; Animal fantasy]
11. Keeper of the Lost Cities. Shannon Messenger. 2012. 496 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Fiction. MG Fantasy. MG Speculative Fiction, J Fantasy, J Speculative Fiction]
12. The Crayons' Christmas. Drew Daywalt. Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. 2019. 52 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book; Christmas; Novelty]
13. Welcome, Baby! Karen Katz. 2019. 14 pages. [Source: Library] [Board book]
14. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Catherynne M. Valente. 2011. 247 pages. [Source: Libary] [J Fantasy; MG Fantasy; J Speculative Fiction; MG Speculative Fiction]

15. The City of Ember (Book of Ember #1) Jeanne DuPrau. 2003. 270 pages. [Source: Library] [futuristic; dystopia; mystery; series book]
16. Running Out of Time. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 1995. 184 pages. [Source: Library] [action, adventure, speculative fiction]
17. Owen. Kevin Henkes. 1993. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture books; love objects; security blankets; animal fantasy]
18. Chrysanthemum. Kevin Henkes. 1991. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [picture books; animal fantasy; school; friendship]
19. Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918. Don Brown. 2019. 96 pages. [Source: Review] [Graphic Novel; Historical; World War I]
 20. A Bear Called Paddington. Michael Bond. 1958. 159 pages. [Source: Library] [Children's classic; animal fantasy]
21. Remarkables. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2019. 304 pages. [Source: Library] [Speculative Fiction; Realistic Fiction; J Fiction; MG Fiction]
22. Pippi Longstocking. Astrid Lindgren. 1945. 160 pages. [Source: Library] [Children's Classic; J Fantasy]
23. Scary Stories for Young Foxes. Christian McKay Heidicker. Illustrated by Junyi Wu. 2019. 320 pages. [Source: Library] [Newbery Honor; J Fantasy; MG Fantasy; J Fiction; J Fantasy; Animal Fantasy]
24. Undefeated. Kwame Alexander. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [poetry; picture book; Newbery honor; caldecott medal]
25. My Father's Words. Patricia MacLachlan. 2018. 112 pages. [Source: Library] [coming of age; middle grade; children's book; realistic fiction; animals]
26. The Little Fire Engine. (Mr. Small #6) Lois Lenski. 1946. 56 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]
27. The Little Sailboat. (Mr. Small #2) Lois Lenski. 1937. 56 pages. [Source: Library][picture book]
28. Cowboy Small. (Mr. Small #7) Lois Lenski. 1949. 56 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]
29. The Little Airplane. (Mr. Small #3) Lois Lenski. 1938. 56 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]
30. Fry Bread. Kevin Noble Maillard. Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. 2019. 42 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book; poetry]
31. Red Riding Hood, Retold by Beatrix Potter. Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. 2019. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

32. The Door Before. N.D. Wilson. 2017. 240 pages. [Source: Library] [j fiction; j fantasy]
33. 100 Cupboards. N.D. Wilson. 2007. 289 pages. [Source: Library] [j fiction, mg fiction, j fantasy, mg fantasy]
 34. Bear Came Along. Richard T. Morris. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Caldecott Honor; picture book]
35. Snack Attack. Terry Border. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book; humor]
36. Exile. (Keeper of the Lost Cities #2) Shannon Messenger. 2013. 576 pages. [Source: Library][j fantasy; mg fantasy; j fiction; mg fiction; elves; magic]
37. The Willoughbys. Lois Lowry. 2008. 174 pages. [Source: Library][j fiction]
38. A Dog on Barkham Street. Mary Stolz. 1960. 192 pages. [Source: Library][j fiction; j realistic ficton; dogs; bullying; friendship; school]
39. Ducks! Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by T.L. McBeth. 2020. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]
40. The Bully of Barkham Street. Mary Stolz. 1963. 208 pages. [Source: Library] [j realistic fiction; realistic fiction; friendship; school; bullying]
41. The Explorer of Barkham Street. Mary Stolz. 1985. 179 pages. [Source: Library] [j realistic fiction; realistic fiction; friendship; school]
42. Orphan Train Girl. Christina Baker Kline. 2017. 234 pages. [Source: Library] [Children's Adaptation of an Adult Book; j fiction; j historical fiction; j realistic fiction]
43. Audrey (Cow) Dan Bar-el. 2014. 240 pages. [Source: Library][animal fantasy; children's book]
44. Casebook of a Private Cat's Eye. Mary Stolz. Illustrated by Pamela R. Levy. 1999. 128 pages. [Source: Library] [animal fantasy; mystery; children's book]
45. War Is Over. David Almond. David Almond. Illustrated by David Litchfield.  2018/2020. Candlewick Press. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Children's Book; Historical fiction; world war I; world at war]

46. Prairie Lotus. Linda Sue Park. 2020. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [historical fiction; j fiction]
47. Dandelion Fire. (100 Cupboards #2) N.D. Wilson. 2008. 480 pages. [Source: Library]
48. The Chestnut King. (100 Cupboards #3) N.D. Wilson. 2010. 482 pages. [Source: Library]
49. Bittle. Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. 2004. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book; animals; new babies]
50.  Don't Forget the Bacon. Pat Hutchins. 1976/1994. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
51. Pollyanna. Eleanor H. Porter. 1913. 304 pages. [Source: Bought] [children's fiction; orphans; classic]
52. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl. 1964. 155 pages. [Source: Library] [J fiction; j fantasy; children's classic]
53. Time School: We Will Remember Them. Nikki Young. 2020. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fiction; speculative fiction; time travel; history; World War I]
54. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Roald Dahl. 1972. 166 pages. [Source: Library] [sequels not worth reading]
55. The Search for Delicious. Natalie Babbitt. 1969/1998. 167 pages. [Source: Library] [J Fantasy; J Fiction; Children's Classic]

56. Matilda. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1988. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
57. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. Jonathan Auxier. 2011. Abrams. 397 pages. [Source: Review copy]
58. Family Reminders. Julie Danneberg. Illustrated by John Shelley. 2009. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy] [historical fiction]
59. Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen and Gemma Barder. 2021. [February 2021] Sweet Cherry Publishing. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Adaptations; Classic] 
60. A Long Road on a Short Day. Gary D. Schmidt. Elizabeth Stickney. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. 2020. [November 2020] 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] [winter; family; historical] 
61. The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp. Jonathan Auxier. Illustrated by Olga Demidova. 2020. [October] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fantasy]
62. No Ordinary Boy (Tales from the Round Table). Adapted by Tracey Mayhew. 2020. [September] Sweet Cherry. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fiction; j fantasy; chapter books]
63. Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard. Jonathan Auxier. 2016. Harry N. Abrams. 464 pages. [Source: Library]
64. The Story of Alexander Hamilton. Christine Platt. Illustrated by Raquel Martin. 2020. Rockbridge Press. 66 pages. [Source: Review copy]

65. Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster. Jonathan Auxier. 2018. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
66. Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian Left Behind. Cynthia Grady. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
67. The Willoughbys Return. Lois Lowry. 2020. [September] 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
68. Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Nikki Grimes. 2021. [January] Bloomsbury. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy] [poetry]
69. Just Beyond the Very Very Far North. Dan Bar-el. Illustrated by Kelly Pousette. 2020. [October] 272 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fantasy; animal fantasy; friendship]
70. Mr. Mensch and His Magical Meshugenahmobile: Stranger Danger. David Michael Slater. Illustrated by Michelle Simpson. 2020. 66 pages. [Source: Review copy]
71. The Wednesday Wars. Gary D. Schmidt. 2007. 264 pages. [Source: Library]
72. Silent Journey. Carl Watson. Illustrated by Andrew Bosley. 2020. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

73. My Thoughts Exactly: By Darcy Diggins, Middle School BioSpychologist. Jodie Randisi. 2020. 210 pages. [Source: Review copy]
74.  Don't Stand So Close To Me. Eric Walters. 2020. Orca. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
75. One Time. Sharon Creech. 2020. HarperCollins. [Source: Review copy]
76. Time Spies: Secret in the Tower. Candice Ransom. Illustrated by Greg Call. 2006. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy] (Lexile 540L)
77. Leo the Late Bloomer. Robert Kraus. Illustrated by Jose Aruego. 1971/1994. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
78. Bones in the Badlands (Time Spies #2) Candice Ransom. Illustrated by Greg Call. 2006. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
79. The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. Jon Scieszka. Illustrated by Lane Smith. 1989. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
80. Giant in the Garden. (Time Spies #3) Candice Ransom. 2007. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
81. Farmer Duck. Martin Waddell. Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. 1992. 33 pages. [Source: Library]

82. Magician in the Trunk (Time Spies #4) Candice Ransom. 2007. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
83. Signals in the Sky. (Time Spies #5) Candice Ransom. 2007. 119 pages. [Source: Review copy]
84. The Story of the Wright Brothers: A Biography Book for New Readers. Annette Whipple. 2020. 69 pages. [Source: Review copy]
85. A Christmas Carol. Adapted by Philip Gooden. 2020. [October] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
86. Horses in the Wind (Time Spies #7). Candice Ransom. 2007. 118 pages. [Source: Review copy]
87. Rider in the Night: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow (Time Spies #6) Candice Ransom. 2007. 119 pages. [Source: Review copy]
88. Gold in the Hills: A Tale of the Klondike Gold Rush. (Time Spies #8) Candice Ransom. 2008. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
89. Fables. Arnold Lobel. 1980. 48 pages. [Source: Bought]
90.  Pay Attention, Carter Jones. Gary D. Schmidt. 2019. 217 pages. [Source: Review copy]

91. Dragon's Fat Cat (Dragon #2) Dav Pilkey. 2019. (1992) Scholastic. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]
92. Umbrella by Taro Yashima. 1958/2004. Penguin. 40 pages.  [Source: Childhood Copy]
93.  Too Many Lollipops. Robert M. Quackenbush. 1975. 32 pages. [Source: Book from my childhood]
94. Bathtime with Ducky Darling. Lucy Cousins. 2020. Candlewick. 8 pages. [Source: Review copy]
95. Star Wars: The Saga Unfolds: An Illustrated Timeline. 2020. Abrams. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

96. Amelia and Me (Ginny Ross #1) Heather Stemp. 2013/2020. 207 pages. [Source: Review copy]

97. DJ Funkyfoot: Butler for Hire (DJ Funkyfoot #1) Tom Angleberger. Illustrated by Heather Fox. 2021. [March 2021] 112 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

98. The Candy Mafia. Lavie Tidhar. Illustrated by Daniel Duncan. 2020. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

99. Up On Bob. Mary Sullivan. Illustrated by Mary Sullivan. 2020. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]


100. No More Naps! A Story for When You're Wide-Awake And Definitely NOT Tired. Chris Grabenstein. Illustrated by Leo Espinosa. 2020. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

101. The Tattle-Tail (The Fabled Stables #2) Jonathan Auxier. 2021. [May] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

102. Apple. Nikki McClure. (Board Book) 2019/2012. 30 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

103. Into the Wind. William Loizeaux. 2021. [March] 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

104.  One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Dodie Smith. 1956. 199 pages. [Source: Childhood Copy]

105. The Starlight Barking. Dodie Smith. 1967. 160 pages. [Source: Bought] 

106. The Case of the Disappearing Pets (Mina Mistry Investigates) Angie Lake. Illustrated by Ellie O'Shea. 2021. [February] Sweet Cherry. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

107. The Hundred and One Dalmatians. Adapted by Peter Bently. Based on the novel by Dodie Smith. Illustrated by Steven Lenton. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

108. The Retake. Jen Calonita. 2021. [February] 272 pages. [Source: Review Copy]


109. Go to Bed, Monster! Natasha Wing. Illustrated by Sylvie Wickstrom. 2007. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

110. Noisy Nora. Rosemary Wells. 1973. 32 pages. [Source: Bought] 

111. Ann Likes Red. Dorothy Z. Seymour. Illustrated by Nancy Meyeroff. 1965. 28 pages. [Source: Bought]

112. Are You My Mother? P.D. Eastman. 1962. 64 pages. [Source: Bought] 

113. Stranger on the Home Front. Maya Chhabra. 2021. [January] 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

114. Ballerina Bess. Dorothy Jane Mills and Dorothy Z. Seymour. 1965. 25 pages. [Source: Bought]

115. Anne's School Days. Kallie George. Illustrated by Abigail Halpin. 2021. [July] 72 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

116.  Snail and Worm: Three Stories About Two Friends. Tina Kugler. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

117. Snail and Worm Again (Snail & Worm #2) Tina Kugler. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]


118. Snail and Worm All Day: Three Stories About Two Friends. Tina Kugler. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

119. Mrs. Noodlekugel. Daniel Pinkwater. Illustrated by Adam Stower. 2012. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

120. True Rescue: The Finest Hours: The True Story of a Heroic Sea Rescue. Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. 2020. [December] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

121. True Rescue: A Storm Too Soon. Michael J. Tougias. 2021. [July] 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

122. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Barbara Robinson. 1972. HarperCollins. 128 pages. [Source: Bought]

123. Nutcracker of Nuremberg. Alexandre Dumas. Illustrated by Else Hasselris. Translated by Grace Gingras. 1844/1930/2013. Pook Press. 172 pages. [Source: Bought]

124. The Velveteen Rabbit. Margery Williams. Illustrated by William Nicholson. 1922/2014. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

125. The Tailor of Gloucester. Beatrix Potter. 1903. 58 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

I Am Someone Else

I Am Someone Else: Poems About Pretending. Lee Bennett Hopkins, editor. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: There is nothing better than being yourself. You are unique and special in every way.

Premise/plot: This is a collection of poems that celebrates playing pretend or make believe. Many poems imagine what it would be like to be to be a grown up. Think...a police officer...a fire fighter... an architect...etc.

My thoughts: I wanted to love this one. I did. I loved playing pretend when I was little. I loved to pretend I was Laura Ingalls going west in a covered wagon. I loved to play going on vacation. I could go on, but I won’t. Instead of really being about pretend and make focuses instead on career options and choices.

I think careers are covered in many curriculums. This would be great for classroom use.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Toys Then and Now

Toys Then and Now. Nadia Higgins. 2019. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Toys help us play. Pretend. Think. Some even help us move.

Premise/plot: This nonfiction book is for young beginning readers. The subject is toys then and now. It has three chapters: “Simple Toys,” “New Features,” and “Fads and Favorites.”

My thoughts: Is it horribly mean of me to think how little do you have to know to find this informational?! It probably is. It includes very basic facts about toys. Though they do get one thing wrong—at least. It is LEGO not Legos. Adding an “s” is wrong, wrong, wrong. You can have LEGO bricks or LEGO sets but not LEGOS. I do think young readers might enjoy this one.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 18, 2019

Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound. Kathleen Cornell Berman. Illustrated by Keith Henry Brown. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mornings in East St.Louis, Miles Davis sits as close as he can get to the radio.

Premise/plot: The Birth of the Cool is a picture book biography of jazz musician, Miles Davis. It is written in verse. I should add beautifully written in verse with compelling illustrations. It is the story not only of how he became a musician but how he became his own musician with a new, unique style.

My thoughts: I enjoy jazz. I do. I love that there are many picture book biographies of many different jazz artists and musicians both male and female. I am glad to see this one published on Miles Davis. Reading this one inspired me to listen to the album Birth of the Cool. I would recommend that as an extension activity for all ages. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, November 15, 2019

Henry's Awful Mistake

Henry's Awful Mistake. Robert M. Quackenbush. 1981/2019. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Henry the Duck invited his friend Clara over for supper. All day he chopped, stewed, and stirred to make a fine meal. Just as he was about done, he saw an ant in his kitchen.

Premise/plot: What will Henry do when he sees an ant in the kitchen?! Can readers predict what will happen next as Henry faces down his nemesis?! Maybe. Maybe not. But chances off it will keep readers smiling.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved this one. I did. I could so relate to Henry and his predicament. I have felt just like Henry—in over my head. When you’re in situations like this, it is anything but funny. But afterwards, well, you just have to laugh and laugh hard. I laughed with this one. Then I shared it with my mom. I would love to share it with my dad too. No matter how young or old, this book might lead to a grin or two.

Text: 5/5
Illustrations: 5/5
Total: 10/10

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Kindness Book

The Kindness Book. Todd Parr. 2019. Little Brown Young Readers. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence: What is kindness?

Premise/plot: This picture book seeks to define or illustrate kindness for a young or very young audience. Every spread seeks to encourage or inspire acts of kindness. The book concludes that it is easy to be kind.

My thoughts: Didactic books are trendy these days—for the past few years actually. There was a time when virtue-driven teaching books would be frowned upon—at least by some groups. Books shouldn’t moralize. Books shouldn’t be teaching a moral, a lesson. That’s actually what I learned in college classes teaching children’s literature. But now things seem to have shifted. Many picture books now present quite clearly and openly a worldview, now want to teach little ones how to be good humans. Picture books communicate messages; that is finally being acknowledged. Authors and illustrators are teaching generation(s) of children how to interact with others, what to believe, who they are, who they might be, what is right, what is wrong.

For the record, I am pro-kindness. I don’t have a problem with this specific worldview. But I would challenge the conclusion. If kindness was “easy” why wouldn’t everyone be kind all the time. Kindness requires effort. It does. Kindness can become a habit—something the book is essentially pushing—and once a habit, it becomes easier. But kindness often requires a little extra, something that we are often too selfish, too busy, too scared to do. Certain acts of kindness require bravery: when you’re going against the crowd, standing up for what is right. If it was easy for kids to speak up when they see someone being bullied, then we’d live in a different world. Kindness is definitely more complex than the book presents. Also sometimes it is a kindness to speak up with an uncomfortable truth. Hey, you’ve got spinach in your teeth. Hey, you’ve got toilet paper on your shoe. Hey, your dress is tucked inside your underwear. Hey, your shirt is on backwards.

Text: 4/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Total: 6/10

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Who is the Mystery Reader?

Who is the Mystery Reader? (Unlimited Squirrels #2) Mo Willems. 2019. 96 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Who is the mystery reader? Let’s read and find out!

Premise/plot: The Unlimited Squirrels are starring in their second book. In this “adventure“ the squirrels are trying to discover the identity of the mystery reader wearing a mask and underwear. But perhaps I am rushing ahead. The squirrels see a stop sign and are puzzled by its meaning. What do the letters s,t,o, and p mean? The mystery reader—also a squirrel— comes to “save” the day by helping them read the word. The mystery reader knows how to sound things out. Most of the book is filler having very little to do with this.

My thoughts: Is the book intentionally busy-busy-busy to mimic a scatterbrained squirrel? Is it intentionally filled with a dozen or so distractions to be amusing? I am not amused. There’s enough story to fill about 24 pages. Unfortunately there are about 85 pages in the book. The rest of the book ranges from junk to junky-junk to super-junky. So much is needless.

I hate that I am not a fan of the new book, new series. I love, love, love Mo Willem’s books typically. But this, well, it reads like he was getting paid by the page. (I doubt that is true). I mean he’s a genius with his other series. I mean he writes with intent making every sentence count. So surely this change has a reason. I just don’t get it.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 11, 2019

I'm Not Grumpy

I'm Not Grumpy. Steve Smallman. Illustrated by Caroline Pedler. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mouse was in a grumpy mood.

Premise/plot: I’m Not Grumpy is a predictable yet enjoyable storybook for parents to read aloud to their children. Mouse, our hero, is misunderstood, right? Surely he’s not grumpy! And perhaps he is slightly cranky at the start, but doesn’t he have a good reason? I mean who could be cheerful when you discover that a HUGE bottom (badger bottom) was blocking all of their front door?! But Mouse doesn’t stay grumpy, as his kindness increases, his grumpiness decreases.

My thoughts: I had high expectations for this one based on the cover alone. Yes, I judged this book by its cover. I was not at all disappointed with the illustrations. I loved, loved, loved them so much. That opening spread where we see the badger bottom, the adorably fuzzy badger bottom, was great. There are many scenes that I love. But the story itself was only so-so for me personally. I found it predictable, a tad moralizing, a bit wordy. I liked it well enough, but didn’t love it.

Text: 3/5
Illustrations: 5/5

Total: 8 out of 10 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

I Will Race You Through This Book

I Will Race You Through This Book. Jonathan Fenske. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I am Book-It-Bunny, see? No one reads as fast as me! So turn the page and take a look.

Premise/plot: Book-it Bunny is a very fast reader. She is also quite competitive. She wants to race YOU to the end of the book. Can YOU read faster than Book-it Bunny? Can YOU keep pace?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. Granted I am a big, big fan of some of Jonathan Fenske’s books. Granted I too am a fast reader. But I loved it. I did. I admit that it is over-the-top silly, perhaps a bit gimmicky. But I loved it all the same. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, November 4, 2019

You Are My Friend

You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood. Aimee Reid. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. 2019. Harry N. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In the springtime, when everything was growing and green, Freddie Rogers had to stay inside.

Premise/plot: You Are My Friend by Aimee Reid is a picture book biography of Mr. Fred Rogers.

My thoughts: I have long wanted a picture book biography of Mr. Rogers. For years I have talked about the need for one. My expectations were super high since I love, love, love Mr. Rogers so very much. I thought the text of this one was good, very good. I loved some of the details it included about his childhood. I loved the emphasis on feelings and expressing your feelings. Exactly what you’d expect from a biography on Fred Rogers.

Text: 5/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Total: 9/10
© 2019 Becky Laney of Young Readers