Wednesday, September 23, 2020

99. Up On Bob

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


First sentence: This is Bob. Up on the bed Bob has work to do. The work is hard. But Bob does not mind. Bob likes hard work. Hard work pays off.

Premise/plot: Bob, the dog, has a plan. A good plan, I might add. A plan that involves NAPPING in a bed. (Looks like a child's bed since it has a LOT of toys--hence his "hard work" in the opening sentences in clearing off his napping place.) But Bob's plans might be the cat! Bob calls the cat 'Someone' and that Someone also has a plan--a good plan for how to spend the day.

 My thoughts:  I really loved this one. Sullivan's story is simple--whether deceptively so or not--and hilarious. None of the sentences are complex. My guess is that it would be good for new readers or even pre-readers. (I do think that you get a good idea of the story based on reading the illustrations.) I love, love, love the repetition--the similarity between Bob's good plan and Someone's good plan. I also like the moral of the story--that sometimes life's unexpected "problems" or "obstacles" lead to something better than the original plan. I say the story has a moral, but, to clarify it isn't a preachy message. Readers have to conclude that for themselves.

 Text: 5 out of 5

Illustrations: 5 out of 5

Total: 10 out of 10


© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

98. The Candy Mafia

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

First sentence: The sun was bright through my office window in the backyard of our house.

 Premise/plot: Imagine a city where candy is outlawed--aka prohibited. Nelle Faulker, our twelve year old heroine, lives in such a place. Her occupation--every child seems occupied somehow--is private detective. Her current case has her investigating the whereabouts of a stolen teddy bear belonging to one Eddie de Menthe. de Menthe is one of the big players in this candy mafia. Remember how I said all the children seemed to be occupied somehow--well many of the children are involved in the delivering, distributing, and selling of illegal candy brought into the city. Nelle's investigation is anything but simple and it takes her much closer to the mafia than she's comfortable with...

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one! I loved the narrative. I loved the characters. I loved how the plot comes together. (I didn't love, love, love the cover though I liked the interior illustrations better.) It was a fun way to spend a couple of days. Definitely recommended.

This one was originally published in Great Britain in 2018. The first American publication is September 2020.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

97. DJ Funkyfoot: Butler For Hire

DJ Funkyfoot #1

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

First sentence: My phone rang. “Greetings,” I said. “I am DJ Funkyfoot, and I am at YOUR service.” “Good,” said a prickly voice. “I’m Cactus Kwame of Cactus Kwame’s Roller Rink and Disco Rodeo. I need a DJ for our big Disco Rodeo Roller Boogie Contest tonight!” “Ah,” I said. “I’m afraid you have made a common mistake, sir.” “No way!” said Cactus Kwame, and he was extra prickly. “I never make a mistake.” “Yes, sir,” I replied, even though I knew he HAD made a mistake. I am a butler who serves tea, not a DJ who plays music.

Premise/plot: DJ Funkyfoot is looking for work as a butler. Unfortunately for him those are seemingly hard to come by--at least where he lives. Fortunately for us readers, however, since this leads to DJ Funkyfoot taking a job as a NANNY. (DJ Funkyfoot takes a job as a nanny for ShrubBaby or "M'Lady ShrubBaby" as she comes to be called.) There is a BIG difference between the two:

“So,” said the small shrub. “What is the very important difference between a nanny and a butler?” “Well,” I said, “a nanny’s job is to say no. A butler’s job is to say yes.”
“A nanny’s job is to be wise and wonderful and to help a child grow up safe and sound. This may require the nanny to tell a child no or even ‘Absolutely not!’” 
“Sounds awful,” said the small shrub. “What about a butler?” “Well,” I said, “a butler’s job is to do whatever they are asked. This may require them to say, ‘Yes, ma’am’ or ‘Absolutely, sir.’” “Sounds a lot better,” said the small shrub. “Can you give me an example?”

The book chronicles their many misadventures of the day...some of which ends up on the television!

The show’s studio looked like a giant kitchen, but it was full of chickens with cameras and microphones. One enormous chicken came running over to us. “I’m Little Red Hen, the host of this show. One of our contestants just quit, and we need a new one. Who will help me? Who will be on my show?” “We will!” hollered ShrubBaby. “One moment,” I said “Would you please tell us why the other contestant quit?” “He thought it was too dangerous,” said Little Red Hen. “Now put on these hats, and let’s start baking!”
“Welcome to Extreme Cake Bakers Showdown: Ultimate!” clucked Little Red Hen. “Today we have the country’s best bakers taking on our toughest challenge yet: the world’s tallest wedding cake!” Chickens started hauling out huge pans, big bags of flour, barrels of frosting, and fifty-two-foot-tall ladders. “Our contestants today are the best of the best. Jacques Raptor from Paris, Datrice the Camel from Rome, and . . . what was your name again?”
“Sorry, hip-hop star, there’s no time for chitchat. You only have twenty-two minutes to bake your cake. Starting . . . NOW!” It ended badly.

My thoughts: DJ Funkyfoot was so over-the-top absurd that it was hilarious. I loved, loved, loved every moment of it. The world is entirely peopled with PLANTS and ANIMALS. (There's not a human in sight.) This one was a joy to read. I look forward to recommending it when it releases next spring.



© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, September 14, 2020

96. Amelia and Me

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

 First sentence: EVEN IN AUGUST the early morning in Newfoundland was cold. I snuggled under my quilt until the grandfather clock in the parlour struck three. Then I swung my legs over the side of the bed and reached into the warmth under the covers for my clothes. I wiggled out of my nightgown and quickly pulled on my navy dress and red sweater.

 Premise/plot: Amelia and Me is a historical middle grade novel based on the author's own family. The main character, Ginny, is the author's aunt. The novel opens in 1931 and is set roughly 1931/1932 during the Great Depression. Our young heroine is obsessed with airplanes and wants more than anything to take flying lessons and fly herself. Yes, it's awesome to watch other people fly planes, to keep up with all the news stories and headlines as pilots break one record after another after another. But she wants to FLY herself. The problem? She's young, still in school, and her mother is dead set against it. So what's a girl to do???? Well, if you are Ginny Ross you write the world's most famous woman pilot, Amelia Earhart, and get her advice....

My thoughts: I really loved seeing the photographs at the end of the book. I loved knowing that these characters were real people--even if this is historical fiction and should not be considered strictly nonfiction. 

I went through a period where I read ANYTHING I could get my hands on about Amelia Earhart. Not because I was fascinated with flying or wanted to fly myself, but, because it was my sister's research project and I just happened to read all of her library books. Once I read one or two, well, the rest just seemed to come naturally. I think part of the appeal to me was the mystery surrounding her final flight. Of course, this book is set a good many years before that tragic ending. 

I am curious how many books will be published telling Ginny Ross' story. I am curious, for example, to see if Ginny Ross became a flyer and perhaps flew for the WASP during the second world war??? Of course I don't know the answer to that question! 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

95. Star Wars Unfolds

Star Wars: The Saga Unfolds: An Illustrated Timeline. 2020. Abrams. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

  First sentence: "I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father." Luke Skywalker

Premise/plot: Star Wars Unfolds is an illustrated timeline--focusing on key quotes and key scenes--for the original trilogy of films. It isn't a thorough timeline; it doesn't capture everything. Not every relationship, not every scene is conveyed. It celebrates the original trilogy without focusing on telling a story that makes sense. Because let's be honest, the target audience probably already knows the original story backwards and forwards. If little ones have questions, then parents can fill in the answers.

As you turn the pages, one epic and seamlessly captivating illustration, printed on an accordion fold, moves forward with you—each section transitioning into the next to tell the story of a galaxy far, far away.

My thoughts: I do find it odd that it doesn't end with a celebration and clear victory. The end of the movie is joyous and satisfying. This book ends darkly and in the midst of conflict. It goes full circle in that it ends with Luke proclaiming, "I am a Jedi, like my Father before me." But for those that know WHO his father was (and that is one of the scenes of the book) that isn't all that comforting.

This one is for adult fans who have children of various ages. Though I imagine most parents won't be sharing this one with the very young because all it would take is a tear or two and it would be over.

Perhaps older readers could look closely at the storytelling and discuss why certain scenes were included and others left out?

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

94. Bathtime with Ducky Darling

Bathtime with Ducky Darling. Lucy Cousins. 2020. Candlewick. 8 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Oh, goody! Hooray! It's bathtime today! Into the water to splish-splash and play!

Premise/plot: It's a bath book by Lucy Cousins. It stars a duck and his (or her) friends. It is very much typical Cousins' artwork: bright, bold, colorful. Being a bath book it is waterproof. Little hands and little mouths can rejoice.

My thoughts: It is relatively easy--relatively--to get my hands on board books to review. (Though not in COVID years). But cloth books and bath books are much rarer to receive as review copies. (Probably because fewer are being newly published.) I do enjoy cloth books AND bath books because I believe babies should have options people!!! Board books are not drool proof let alone teeth proof. And cloth and bath books hold up better. Also board books have a bad tendency to get their pages stuck together. Some books are really, really, really bad about that. I remember one book I had read about a dozen times before I discovered that two pages had been stuck together all that time!!! (The little one didn't seem to miss the story on those pages.)

So I love the format. I welcome it. But the text itself, well, it's almost neither here nor there. It's nothing special and amazing. But the fact that it's an opportunity to have special happy times with your little one makes it a good choice. 

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, September 4, 2020

93. Too Many Lollipops

Too Many Lollipops. Robert M. Quackenbush. 1975. 32 pages. [Source: Book from my childhood]

First sentence:  One sweltering Sunday Henry the duch had a headache. So he called his doctor. The doctor told him to wear a woolen bonnet, and rest...and EAT A LOT OF LOLLIPOPS. Out shopping on muggy Monday Henry the duck was caught in a flash storm and got a sore throat. The doctor told him to wrap a scarf around it, and rest...AND EAT A LOT OF LOLLIPOPS.

Premise/plot: Will Henry the duck need a new doctor, a better doctor by the end of the week?!?!

My thoughts: Too Many Lollipops is one of my favorite books from childhood. It is definitely one of the more memorable. It has lollipop end papers. The repetitive text which just keeps building and building and it is just DELIGHTFUL. I love the illustrations as well.

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

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

92. Umbrella

Umbrella by Taro Yashima. 1958/2004. Penguin. 40 pages.  [Source: Childhood Copy]

Momo is the name of a little girl who was born in New York. The word Momo means "the peach" in Japan where her father and mother used to live. On her third birthday Momo was given two presents--red rubber boots and an umbrella! They pleased her so much that she even woke up that midnight to take another look at them.

Umbrella by Taro Yashima IS my favorite, favorite, favorite picture book. I can't remember a time when I didn't love and adore this one.

Umbrella is the story of a little girl, Momo, who is oh-so-excited about her birthday presents. On her third birthday, Momo received red rubber boots and an umbrella. But Momo has to learn some patience. For the rain is SLOW in coming. And her parents aren't going to be easily persuaded that her umbrella is a must for dealing with sun and wind.

But, of course, the rain does come. And the wait was worth it. For Momo gets to use her new boots and umbrella. And she gets to walk all by herself without holding onto her mother's or father's hands.

Perhaps it is the rhythm of the rain that makes this such a memorable story? With it's oh-so-lovely refrain:
On her umbrella, the raindrops made the wonderful music--

bon polo
bon polo
ponpolo ponpolo
ponpolo ponpolo
bolo bolo ponpolo
bolo bolo ponpolo
boto boto ponpolo
boto boto ponpolo

all the way home. 
As much as I love the text--and I do LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the text--I must say that I really, really LOVE the illustrations. I do. From cover to cover. Even the end papers. I just LOVE Taro Yashima's artwork. His style made a definite impression on me--and it's one that has stuck with me through the years. There's just something unforgettable about each page--almost each page.

It's just a sweet, sweet book that continues to charm.

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

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

91. Dragon's Fat Cat

Dragon's Fat Cat (Dragon #2) Dav Pilkey. 2019. (1992) Scholastic. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One snowy day in January, Dragon heard a funny noise. "Meow!" "That sounds like a cat," said Dragon.

Premise/plot: Dragon makes a new friend in this early chapter book by Dav Pilkey. That friend is, you guessed it, a cat, a FAT, GRAY CAT. There are five chapters in this one:

  • "Meow!" 
  • Life With Cat
  • Problems
  • Left Behind
  • Home Again
In the first chapter, Dragon meets a fat, gray cat and invites him inside.

In the second chapter, Dragon takes the cat inside and names him, "Cat." Dragon prepares a special bed for his new friend/pet. (The Cat takes Dragon's bed.)

In the third chapter, readers learn just how much Dragon does NOT know about owning a cat.
(Dragon does NOT know that his cat needs a litter box, for example.) He eventually finds himself at a pet store.

In the fourth chapter, Dragon realizes that he left Cat behind at the pet store. He must find and "rescue" Cat. When he finds Cat, he finds a big surprise! The reason why Cat was so FAT...

In the fifth chapter, Dragon returns home with Cat and her kittens. He starts preparing beds for all the little ones--he's named each one KITTY. Will Cat and kittens sleep in their beds?! Or will they still have ownership of Dragon's big bed?!

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, loved, CRAZY-LOVED this one. I enjoyed the writing very much. It was funny.
Dragon liked living with Cat,
and Cat liked living with Dragon.
But Dragon did not know
how to take care of Cat.
He did not know how to train Cat.
That was a problem.
Dragon did not know what to feed Cat.
That was a big problem.
And Dragon did not know what to do
about all the yellow puddles Cat made.
That was a smelly problem.
 I think this one will hold great appeal for young readers. I first read and reviewed this one in 2009. It has been newly republished this year.   

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers