Friday, June 11, 2021

62. Billie Someday


Billie Someday. Andy Graham. 2021. 160 pages. [Complete and total guess] [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It may have felt like an ordinary July morning high in this mountain valley, but you can be sure that it was not.This was a special day, because in the valley there happened to be a farm where, on a barn floor of well-trampled hay and mud, a proud mother goat lay chewing a bit of cud, waiting to give birth. She was alone for the moment, but soon there would be a sweltering gale of commotion, including a farmer, a doctor, wet nurses, dry nurses, congratulators—and a handful of nosy goats that would begin prodding for details.

Premise/plot: Billie Someday, our heroine, is a goat. A goat who feels it is her destiny to be the greatest of all time. Yes, our goat wants to be a G.O.A.T. Unsatisfied with her mundane life on the farm, this kid is determined to do something extraordinary: to return to the home of her distant ancestors. Billie Someday wants to be a mountain goat, or, perhaps a mountain climbing goat. But it won't be an easy journey. Far from it. Obstacles abound. Will Billie's dreams come true? Will she climb to the top of the mountain? Can she survive the oh-so-dangerous wolves that stand in between her and the mountain? Will she return to tell her tale?

My thoughts: Billie Someday is a middle grade animal fantasy. Since there is an animal on the cover, I do feel I need to mention that Billie (and friends) survive to the end of the novel. This isn't one of those books where you will need a box of tissues.

I do not have an adventurous bone in my body. I don't. But Billie does. Billie is all about ONE dream, and that dream will take her off the ordinary path so to speak. She's not like any other goat--well, farm goat, she knows. She's different and she has to fully and completely embrace her difference in order to realize her awesomeness.

The story is direct rather than cutesy. These farm goats are being kept for one reason only: for milk. The girls are kept, of course, and will go on to have kids of their own and be milk producers. But the boys, well, they aren't kept--or if they are kept, not intact. There for a while I thought this book was going to go semi-graphic in that department. (It didn't. Not really. Kids (human readers) may be curious about kids (the goats) and ask questions and look up definitions, but there's nothing inappropriate in the text itself. And it's certainly nothing that would be new to a farm kid.

I think my favorite character was the cat, Antoni.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

61. Finn Throws a Fit


Finn Throws a Fit! David Elliott. Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering. 2009. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Finn likes peaches. Usually. But today, Finn doesn't like peaches. Today, Finn doesn't like anything. Today, Finn is cranky. Anything could happen.


Premise/plot: Finn is having a bad day. Perhaps even a terrible, horrible one. No one knows why. Least of all his parents. Elliott writes to parents, and for parents in this one. The narrative is descriptive and practically perfect in every way.

Thunder in the nursery! Lightning in the kitchen!
He cries. The house floods.
He kicks. An earthquake shakes the world.

But I think my absolute favorite part is:
The FIT goes on and on. It lasts until it doesn't.

My thoughts: I love, love, love, LOVE this one. Who hasn't met a Finn? Who hasn't seen a Finn in action? (I know I've seen Finn in a couple of restaurants.) I love the narrative. I love the descriptions. I love how true-to-life it is. I love how it captures the wild, fierceness of emotions. Some times emotions do RAGE out of control. I love how quotable it is. So much can be communicated by these two simple sentences: "Finn likes peaches. Usually;" and "It lasts until it doesn't."

 This has to be one of my all-time favorite, favorite, favorite books. I think it perfectly captures what it feels like to be BOTH a parent and a child. I think you could easily relate to both at the exact same time.

I do think it captures how heavy and overwhelming emotions can be at times. I think children definitely need to learn from very young age how to deal with--in a healthy way--experiencing all sorts of emotions.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, June 7, 2021

60. Loveblock


Loveblock. Christopher Franceschelli. Illustrated by Peskimo. 2020. [October] 84 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Love is a journey...and I'll be with you every step of the way.

This board book celebrates love and loving relationships. The illustrations are all of animals. The text is super-sweet perhaps syrupy. It features a lot of flaps and fold outs. 

It is a board book in Abram's block series. Other titles include Alphablock, Countablock, Dinoblock, Cityblock, Buildablock, Farmblock, etc.

Like the other books in the series, it's a bit bulkier than other more traditional board books. It is more like a block. As I mentioned earlier, it features a lot of flaps, fold outs, and cut-outs. It isn't unwieldy like some board books that are more like a toy. 

There is text on every page but not really any story. Each page says something about love in general. 

I do like it. I'm not sure it is my favorite and best of the series. But I like it.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, May 27, 2021

59. Pancakes, Pancakes

 

Pancakes, Pancakes! Eric Carle. 1970. 36 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Kee-ke-ri-kee crowed the rooster. Jack woke up, looked out the window and thought, "I'd like to have a big pancake for breakfast."

Premise/plot: Jack wants a pancake--a BIG pancake. His mom tells him he'll have to help her if he wants a pancake. This help will include cutting wheat, taking it to the miller in town, having it ground into flour, gathering an egg from a hen, milking a cow, churning butter, and getting a jar of jam from the cellar. Some of these tasks take time--a good deal of time--and effort. Will Jack enjoy the pancakes more for all the work he invested in it?!

My thoughts: I like this one.  I do. I like the text more than the illustrations. The book is a very old-fashioned look at how we "get" our food. Flour, eggs, and milk don't come from the store. Pancakes don't come from a mix or restaurant.

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

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

58. Sloth & Smell The Roses


Sloth and Smell the Roses. Eunice Moyle and Sabrina Moyle. 2021. [January] 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: When everything is Go! Go! Go! Say hello to mindful Mo.  

This board book for little ones is about being more mindful. Do little ones need to learn how to be mindful? Or is the message "for little ones" really geared towards parents and caretakers learning to be more mindful? Is the mindfulness to help parents learn to cope with the ins and outs of caregiving for little ones?

Perhaps a bit of both? On the one hand, the book illustrates some skills helpful in learning how to cope with life. "When feelings start to grow and grow, let them be, let them out, then let them go!" On the other hand, the book gives caretakers (parents, etc) tips on how to teach young ones to meditate.

Think: Notice a thought.
Feel: Feel the feelings that the thought triggers in your body. Notice where they arise.
Act: Commit to an action that will bring you back to feelings peaceful.
Let go: Let go of the thought and return to the present moment with a grateful heart.
The illustrations of the spreads vary between super-super-super-busy-and-chaotic AND almost empty (except for sloth guide).

I think this one will appeal to some families, no doubt about that. Not sure it will appeal to every one. The text is simple, but definitely more lesson-y and didactic than not.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, May 23, 2021

57. Five Children and It


Five Children and It (Five Children #1) E. Nesbit. 1902. 237 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence:  The house was three miles from the station, but before the dusty hired fly had rattled along for five minutes the children began to put their heads out of the carriage window and to say, 'Aren't we nearly there?' And every time they passed a house, which was not very often, they all said, 'Oh, is this it?' But it never was, till they reached the very top of the hill, just past the chalk-quarry and before you come to the gravel-pit. And then there was a white house with a green garden and an orchard beyond, and mother said, 'Here we are!'

I have now read Five Children and It four times. It's a children's book that I love and adore. It is not the fact that it is absolutely perfect, that it is flawless. It was very much written in 1902. There will be situations and/or sentences that reflect the times in which they were written, and not our times. In Five Children and It, I'm referring to the chapter on the children "playing Indian" and warring with a "Red Indian" tribe who wants to scalp them and eat them. The sad thing is that I almost mentally block this out every single time and so when I reread I'm cringing as if for the first time.

But. In spite of its flaws, in spite of the fact that its dated, I really do enjoy spending time with Robert, Cyril, Anthea, Jane, and Lamb.

Four children 'discover' a Sand Fairy (Psammead) one summer day. They learn that he can begrudgingly grant wishes. They have a wish per day, sometimes if they get into BIG trouble, he'll allow an extra wish or two. Do these children get into big trouble with their wishes?! Of course!!! Their wishes always have HORRIBLE consequences. They try and try to be smart and clever about their wishing, but some things can't be helped!

Favorite quotes:

Grown-up people find it very difficult to believe really wonderful things, unless they have what they call proof. But children will believe almost anything, and grown-ups know this. That is why they tell you that the earth is round like an orange, when you can see perfectly well that it is flat and lumpy; and why they say that the earth goes round the sun, when you can see for yourself any day that the sun gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night like a good sun as it is, and the earth knows its place, and lies as still as a mouse. Yet I daresay you believe all that about the earth and the sun, and if so you will find it quite easy to believe that before Anthea and Cyril and the others had been a week in the country they had found a fairy. At least they called it that, because that was what it called itself; and of course it knew best, but it was not at all like any fairy you ever saw or heard of or read about.
Each of the children carried its own spade, and took it in turns to carry the Lamb. He was the baby, and they called him that because “Baa” was the first thing he ever said. They called Anthea “Panther,” which seems silly when you read it, but when you say it it sounds a little like her name.
“You don’t know?” it said. “Well, I knew the world had changed — but — well, really — Do you mean to tell me seriously you don’t know a Psammead when you see one?” “A Sammyadd? That’s Greek to me.” “So it is to everyone,” said the creature sharply. “Well, in plain English, then, a Sand-fairy. Don’t you know a Sand-fairy when you see one?” It looked so grieved and hurt that Jane hastened to say, “Of course I see you are, now. It’s quite plain now one comes to look at you.” “You came to look at me, several sentences ago,” it said crossly, beginning to curl up again in the sand. “Oh — don’t go away again! Do talk some more,” Robert cried. “I didn’t know you were a Sand-fairy, but I knew directly I saw you that you were much the wonderfullest thing I’d ever seen.” The Sand-fairy seemed a shade less disagreeable after this.
It is wonderful how quickly you get used to things, even the most astonishing. Five minutes before, the children had had no more idea than you had that there was such a thing as a Sand-fairy in the world, and now they were talking to it as though they had known it all their lives.
We Sand-fairies used to live on the seashore, and the children used to come with their little flint-spades and flint-pails and make castles for us to live in. That’s thousands of years ago, but I hear that children still build castles on the sand. It’s difficult to break yourself of a habit.
I daresay you have often thought what you would do if you had three wishes given you, and have despised the old man and his wife in the black-pudding story, and felt certain that if you had the chance you could think of three really useful wishes without a moment’s hesitation. These children had often talked this matter over, but, now the chance had suddenly come to them, they could not make up their minds. “Quick,” said the Sand-fairy crossly. No one could think of anything, only Anthea did manage to remember a private wish of her own and Jane’s which they had never told the boys. She knew the boys would not care about it — but still it was better than nothing. “I wish we were all as beautiful as the day,” she said in a great hurry. The children looked at each other, but each could see that the others were not any better-looking than usual. The Psammead pushed out his long eyes, and seemed to be holding its breath and swelling itself out till it was twice as fat and furry as before. Suddenly it let its breath go in a long sigh. “I’m really afraid I can’t manage it,” it said apologetically; “I must be out of practice.” The children were horribly disappointed. “Oh, do try again!” they said. “Well,” said the Sand-fairy, “the fact is, I was keeping back a little strength to give the rest of you your wishes with. If you’ll be contented with one wish a day among the lot of you I daresay I can screw myself up to it. Do you agree to that?” “Yes, oh yes!” said Jane and Anthea. The boys nodded. They did not believe the Sand-fairy could do it. You can always make girls believe things much easier than you can boys.

“Humph!” said the Sand-fairy. (If you read this story aloud, please pronounce “humph” exactly as it is spelt, for that is how he said it.)
And that, my dear children, is the moral of this chapter. I did not mean it to have a moral, but morals are nasty forward beings, and will keep putting in their oars where they are not wanted. And since the moral has crept in, quite against my wishes, you might as well think of it next time you feel piggy yourself and want to get rid of any of your brothers and sisters. I hope this doesn’t often happen, but I daresay it has happened sometimes, even to you!
It was a long day, and it was not till the afternoon that all the children suddenly decided to write letters to their mother.
“Darling Mother, — I hope you are quite well, and I hope Granny is better. The other day we....” Then came a flood of ink, and at the bottom these words in pencil — “It was not me upset the ink, but it took such a time clearing up, so no more as it is post-time. — From your loving daughter “Anthea.”
Robert’s letter had not even been begun. He had been drawing a ship on the blotting paper while he was trying to think of what to say. And of course after the ink was upset he had to help Anthea to clean out her desk, and he promised to make her another secret drawer, better than the other. And she said, “Well, make it now.” So it was post-time and his letter wasn’t done. And the secret drawer wasn’t done either.
Cyril wrote a long letter, very fast, and then went to set a trap for slugs that he had read about in the Home-made Gardener, and when it was post-time the letter could not be found, and it was never found. Perhaps the slugs ate it.
Jane’s letter was the only one that went. She meant to tell her mother all about the Psammead, — in fact they had all meant to do this, — but she spent so long thinking how to spell the word that there was no time to tell the story properly, and it is useless to tell a story unless you do tell it properly, so she had to be contented with this — “My dear Mother Dear, — We are all as good as we can, like you told us to, and the Lamb has a little cold, but Martha says it is nothing, only he upset the gold-fish into himself yesterday morning. When we were up at the sand-pit the other day we went round by the safe way where carts go, and we found a” — Half an hour went by before Jane felt quite sure that they could none of them spell Psammead. And they could not find it in the dictionary either, though they looked. Then Jane hastily finished her letter — “We found a strange thing, but it is nearly post-time, so no more at present from your little girl, “Jane. “P.S. — If you could have a wish come true what would you have?”
Anthea woke at five. She had made herself wake, and I must tell you how it is done, even if it keeps you waiting for the story to go on. You get into bed at night, and lie down quite flat on your little back, with your hands straight down by your sides. Then you say “I must wake up at five” (or six, or seven, or eight, or nine, or whatever the time is that you want), and as you say it you push your chin down on your chest and then whack your head back on the pillow. And you do this as many times as there are ones in the time you want to wake up at. (It is quite an easy sum.) Of course everything depends on your really wanting to get up at five (or six, or seven, or eight, or nine); if you don’t really want to, it’s all of no use. But if you do — well, try it and see. Of course in this, as in doing Latin proses or getting into mischief, practice makes perfect. Anthea was quite perfect.
“I was always generous from a child,” said the Sand-fairy. “I’ve spent the whole of my waking hours in giving. But one thing I won’t give — that’s advice.” “Child,” said the Sand-fairy sleepily, “I can only advise you to think before you speak” — “But I thought you never gave advice.” “That piece doesn’t count,” it said. “You’ll never take it! Besides, it’s not original. It’s in all the copy-books.”

Anthea was late for breakfast. It was Robert who quietly poured a spoonful of molasses down the Lamb’s frock, so that he had to be taken away and washed thoroughly directly after breakfast. And it was of course a very naughty thing to do; yet it served two purposes — it delighted the Lamb, who loved above all things to be completely sticky, and it engaged Martha’s attention so that the others could slip away to the sand-pit without the Lamb.
© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, May 22, 2021

56. Colors: My First Pop-Up


Board book: Colors My First Pop Up. Matthew Reinhart. Art by Ekaterina Trukhan. 2021. [May] 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: My favorite color is red. It's ladybugs and cherries, lobsters and berries. 

Premise/plot: What do you need to know about this one? It's a concept board book--the concept being colors. It's for toddlers who are careful with books or preschoolers who don't mind revisiting colors. It has some pop-ups thought not for each spread. There are some additional interactions--tabs to pull, flaps to lift, etc. The text is simple and predictable.

My thoughts: To be honest, I felt that some of the features were a little too hard to manipulate properly. I get the idea that things weren't moving as smoothly as they should to get the full effect of the illustrations. In particular I had a horrible time with the duck pop-up. And the frog pop-up was difficult as well. Though to be fair, once I did eventually get the frog to jump out of the log, it stayed unstuck. Maybe I just didn't work hard enough to get the ducks swimming properly.

I think this one should probably be a supervised activity unless you just don't care how long the book lasts. But the book retails at close to $15 so I'm just not sure why you would buy the book (at least full price) if your little one tends to be rough at handling books. I think there are probably better books if you're looking just for a good, solid books about colors. 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, May 20, 2021

55. Comparrotives


Board book: Comparrotives. Janik Coat.  2021. [June] 36 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Noisy....noisier

Premise/plot: Comparrotives is a nonfiction concept book for little ones 'teaching' about comparative adjectives. Each spread features a PARROT illustrating the two. Think: messy AND messier, sleepy AND sleepier, etc. The illustrations really make this book work.

My thoughts: Apparently this book is part of a larger series (thought not all star a parrot of course). Other books include Hippopposites, Rhymoceros, and Llamaphones.

I think the concept being taught could be appreciated by a wider audience than just toddlers and preschoolers. For example, when you're learning to write and compose in elementary school (first, second, third, etc.) I'm not sure school teachers would want a board book to illustrate the concept or not.

I thought the book was surprisingly funny. Perhaps if I'd read the other books in the series I'd have had a better idea what to expect.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

54. A Secred Shared


A Secret Shared. Patricia MacLachlan. 2021. [September] 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I watch my mother spit into a plastic tube. A pot of fresh flowers sits on her desk. Every week she walks to the cemetery to put flowers on the grave of her best friend from childhood. “Flowers and spit?!” I say to her with a grin. “Funny combination! Why the tube?”

Premise/plot: Nora and Ben (twins) find out a family secret (about their sibling, Birdy). Should they share the secret? Is it their place to tell?

My thoughts: I typically love Patricia MacLachlan. I do. I had very high hopes for her newest book. I think that is where it gets tricky as a reader. Expectations set too high lead to disappointment in varying degrees. Expectations set too low and you might put off reading a book for weeks, months, years. Still, I typically *try* to keep expectations low. Primarily because then you can be surprised and really get the most out of a book. But it's hard to do with a favorite author. As you might have guessed I was slightly disappointed by this one. 

It is a quiet, slow-paced family novel. The plot--if it moves at all--moves very slowly. I do typically love, love, love character driven novels. So the fact that it's a slow, somewhat more mindful book shouldn't have put me off--in theory at least.

I think what did put me off was the number of times I had to suspend my disbelief and how the plot hinges on some somewhat implausible things happening time and time again. Particularly surrounding the DNA test. As an adult I wanted more details in places. (But at the same time I think unpacking those details would have been tedious for the actual target audience to read.) But the general idea is oh you spit a little in a tube, put it an envelope, and a few days later, poof, you get a piece of paper back.

Would these little things add up if I was reading this as a child? I'm not sure. I'm not. 

One thing I did like was how the mother's column often asked questions for her readers. And MacLachlan, of course, shares some of those responses. One column was about love or falling in love? And this was one of the responses. I loved it.

I met my husband in the backseat of the car driving us to preschool. We held hands between our car seats. We have never stopped.—Rose

Patricia MacLachlan is still a solid writer. This one just isn't my favorite of her books.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

53. Moon Camp


Moon Camp. Barry Gott. 2021. [May] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I had my summer vacation all planned out: sleeping in, playing video games, and having a whole lot of fun. But then....

Premise/plot: Lucas is not thrilled that his parents have signed him up for camp ON THE MOON. But will his misadventure turn into the adventure of a lifetime?

My thoughts: I thought this was a nice take on the traditional summer camp story. All the universal elements are there--including homesickness--but the setting is definitely 'out of this world.' Overall I enjoyed it. I loved that Lucas was finally able to make a new friend and redeem the camp experience.

I enjoyed the illustrations and the text.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

52. Wake Up, Crabby!


Wake Up, Crabby! Jonathan Fenske. (A Crabby Book #3) 2019. [November] 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Tonight is just another night at the beach.

Premise/plot: Wake Up, Crabby is the third book in the series. See also Hello, Crabby! and Let's Play, Crabby! You might also want to check out Plankton is Pushy. To keep it relatively concise, Plankton is always, always, always, always, always annoying Crabby. And, well, Crabby is always, always, always annoyed.

There are multiple stories per book. In this one, the stories are as follows:

  • The Dream
  • The Bath
  • The Song
  • The Story

The Song and The Story are about Plankton wanting a bedtime SONG and a bedtime STORY. But be careful what you ask for!

My thoughts: I love, love, love, love, love, love Jonathan Fenske. If he keeps writing books--books that make me happy and giddy--then I might just come to love him on the same level I love Mo Willems. Now Mo Willems retired his characters Elephant and Piggie. Jonathan Fenske is helping to fill that void.

I love his characters. I love his humor. I love that I know exactly what I'm getting when I pick up one of his books.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, May 17, 2021

51. Cookies: Bite Size Life Lessons


Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons. Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Illustrated by Jane Dyer. 2006. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy?]

First sentence: Cooperate means, How about you add the chips while I stir?

Premise/plot: Amy Krouse Rosenthal defines words (mainly virtues though not always) using cookies as illustrations. Each definition offers a 'bite-size' life lesson.

  • Respect means offering the very first cookie to your grandmother.
  • Trustworthy means If you ask me to hold your cookie until you come back, when you come back, I will still be holding your cookie.
  • Greedy means taking all the cookies for myself. 
  • Generous means offering some to others.

Sometimes the definitions involve dialogue. But she doesn't use quotation marks to mark it as such. She uses a different font--a cursive one.

Her book features human characters and animal characters. They seem to be very interchangeable.

My thoughts: I first read this one in October 2006. I did review it in 2006 on Becky's Book Reviews back when I didn't use book titles as post titles. I titled this one Can A Cookie Be a Teacher?

I loved it then. I loved it now. I think the definitions still ring true. The illustrations are still super-cute bordering on precious. There are other books in this cookies series. I'm not sure I'll be revisiting all of them. But I'll try to review more of her books if I can find them.

I honestly don't remember--the book was published in 2006--if I bought this book because I loved it so much or if it was a review copy. My memory is not that good!


© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, May 13, 2021

50. Something Stinks


Something Stinks. Jonathan Fenske. 2021. [June] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Pee-yew! Something stinks! Can you smell that? No? Well, you sure are LUCKY.

Premise/plot: Young readers can join the narrator of Fenske's newest picture book (a skunk) to help track down what STINKS.

My thoughts: I loved this one. I did. Confession: I have really LOVED a couple of his past titles. He's the author of BARNACLE IS BORED one of my all time favorite, favorite, favorite, favorite books to read aloud. It makes such a GREAT read aloud. (Especially if you add in your own Jaws-themed music). So to be fair, I am slightly biased in thinking his books are funny and appealing.

I loved how the skunk is talking directly to readers. It reminds me of Mo Willem's Pigeon books. I love how packed it is with kid-humor. I can see how this would appeal to kids--I was reminded of the things I thought was hilarious when I was a kid--and I don't think it is so over-the-top obnoxious that adults will groan if they have to read it again again. (At least I wouldn't complain if I had to read it again again.)

It was an enjoyable read and one that I recommend.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, May 10, 2021

49. Disney All Aboard! Mickey's Railway


Board Book: Disney All Aboard! Mickey's Railway. Nichole Mara. Illustrated by Andrew Kolb. 2021. [March] 8 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hiya pal! It's me, Mickey Mouse. My friends and I are hopping aboard the railroad for a trip to the countryside. Full steam ahead!

Premise/plot: Disney All Aboard is an activity book for preschoolers. The pages aren't as thick as a traditional board book for the very young (the age/stage where everything is chewed on). The pages unfold/fold. There are peep-holes and flaps. It is very much designed to be interactive. The text asks questions for little ones to answer. Questions like "How many red foods are on the table?"

The book can be a bit unwieldy (a lot unwieldy) so it's best read perhaps sitting on the floor with your little one. I think the traditional lap would be a bit too much. Once the book is unfolded it's a LOT.

My thoughts: I enjoyed the pictures and the simple text. I don't have little ones in this age group anymore. But I do love a little Disney now and then.

If your little one loves Disney AND loves trains AND loves more interactive seek and find books, then this one may be worth exploring.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, May 7, 2021

48. Pumpkin Heads


Pumpkin Heads. Wendell Minor. 2021. [August] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: October is here. It's time to pick a pumpkin!

Premise/plot: Pumpkin Heads is a picture book celebrating the carving of pumpkins for Halloween.

My thoughts: The text is simple and straight forward. Each spread shows off a...you guessed it...a pumpkin head. What makes this an interesting read--at least as an adult--are the illustrations. I absolutely love, love, love the illustrations. They are absolutely beautiful and so realistic.

I don't personally celebrate Halloween and I've never carved--or decorated--a pumpkin. But these illustrations are so wonderful.

I would recommend this one for those who *do* celebrate Halloween and do actually select pumpkins to carve.

The publisher, Charlesbridge, says it releases August 2021. But GoodReads has an earlier publishing date of 2000! My guess is this one is being reprinted.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, May 2, 2021

47. Baby Island


Baby Island. Carol Ryrie Brink. Illustrated by Helen Sewell. 1937. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: On the night of September twentieth, the S.S. Ormina, two weeks outward bound from San Francisco to Australia, was struck by a tropical storm and badly disabled.

Premise/plot: Mary Wallace (age 12) and her sister Jean (age 10) have a grand old time when they find themselves shipwrecked on an island in charge of four children under the age of two. Think about that for a minute--if you're an adult.

So as the ship is sinking, Mary decides to help rescue the babies she knows are on board. Apparently three of the four babies weren't with their parent(s) at the time. The two sisters end up with four babies (three of which are siblings): Elisha and Elijah (age 20 months) and Jonah (age 4 months) AND a little girl Ann Elizabeth (age 1). So these children end up in a lifeboat together--no other women (as you'd expect in a sinking ship). They are set adrift in the ocean. But don't worry, all will be well because we've got baby whisperers on board. Mary knows everything there is to know about babies. And she's willing to learn about lifeboats and islands, too, I suppose.

Eventually, the lifeboat comes to shore on a desert island. The kids persevere for a bit...having one grand adventure after another. Will rescue come?

My thoughts: My mom LOVED this book when she was in elementary school. She's always talking about how much she'd love to reread this book and how she hasn't seen a copy in years. So it was a Christmas gift to her this year. And after she reread it, I decided to read it for the first time. She has warm and fuzzy memories about it. I do not have such--for better or worse.

It's not that the book is bad--or "bad"--so much as the book is ridiculously naive and requires a long suspension of disbelief. So long as you don't think about what it would actually be like to be shipwrecked with babies on a desert island, you might enjoy yourself mightily. But this book doesn't really accurately cover the things babies are known for most. 

Is this because it wasn't polite to talk about dirty diapers in general in 1937? Or it wasn't appropriate for children to read about dirty diapers? But it wasn't just that these babies never made messes in their clothes/diapers. It was that they didn't really behave and act like babies at all. I mean taking care of young babies is HARD--as in exhausting, physically, mentally, emotionally demanding. Not that it isn't rewarding and worth it. Not that it can't be full of sweet, tender, lovely moments. But for all the sweetness and joy--there's a lot of clean up and work.

But forgiving that--and I can forgive that--it also doesn't feel realistic in terms of island survival either. Like this island has no insects or wild life that pose any dangers or risks whatsoever. Not that I wanted there to be poisonous, venomous creatures about--just the idea that this island was 100% baby-proofed and that it was so safe and so easy. (Also no one ever gets sunburned.) It's like super-easy to keep all four babies (and themselves) adequately nourished. It just doesn't feel realistic or likely.  

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

46. Ten Baskets of Biscuits


Ten Baskets of Biscuits. Kelly Kazek. Illustrated by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde. 2021. [April] 32 pages. [Best guess on pages][Source: Online YouTube video]

First sentence: The night before visiting Grandma Charley couldn't close her eyes. She was just too excited and full of butterflies.

Premise/plot: Charley is so very excited to be visiting her Grandma that she can't sleep. Her mom suggests that instead of counting sheep (to fall asleep) she should count the things she'll see at Grandma's house. Thus the counting begins:

One big Grandma kiss
And one big Grandma hug
That smelled like biscuits
And felt like love.

My thoughts: I really LOVED this one. I discovered it on YouTube. It appears to be the whole book. I could be wrong. But we do get all ten numbers. I'm confident that even if it wasn't the whole book exactly, my thoughts are so strong--LOVE, LOVE, LOVE--that I think any missing content wouldn't change my mind.

I love books that highlight the super-special-strong bond between grandparents and grandchildren. I love the imagery in this one. We get quite an idea of what this Grandma is all about! And the book is highlighting Southern grandmas. I love the narrative. Books written in rhyme don't always work well for me. I can be a bit harsh and judgmental if they don't. A rhyming book needs to really be a great read aloud. It needs to feel natural--not forced--and authentic--not fake. This one excels!

It was a sweet read. It captures dozens of joyful moments. And to be fair, the smell of gluten does resemble the feeling of love.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, April 26, 2021

45. A Home for Peanut Butter and Jelly


A Home for Peanut Butter and Jelly by Wendy Kaupa. 2020. [August] 90 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: “Mommm, I’m so borrred!” I whine. “Did you do your chores?” my mother asks, her eyes barely leaving the laptop screen. Honestly, I should have known better than to bother her during “blogging” time. My mother started a blog three months ago about cooking for a picky family, called “The Finicky Family!”

Premise/plot: Mia's mother volunteers her to be a volunteer at a local animal shelter during the summer. While volunteering, she falls in love with two small dogs: Peanut Butter and Jelly. Can she convince her parents that she *needs* to adopt them? How will the family adjust to their new family members?

My thoughts: We're told that Mia is about to enter ninth grade. Sadly, Mia has the emotional maturity of someone entering second or third grade. Mia was reading so young to me that I was absolutely shocked to learn she's about to enter high school! Now does she stay a baby? Not really. Getting the two dogs matures her--I imagine a montage scene with a peppy song--magically and makes her a kind, considerate, non-bratty human being.

A Home for Peanut Butter and Jelly is pure wish fulfillment. There's nothing wrong with a little wish fulfillment now and then. And I think it may be a stage that readers go through when they're young. It makes sense as an early chapter book for the seven to nine crowd. (But why is Mia aged the way she is???) It does not make any sense for a middle grade novel (for readers aged ten and up).

A Home for Peanut Butter and Jelly would be safe to hand to readers who are reluctant to pick up books with dogs on the cover. NO DOGS DIE in the book.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, April 15, 2021

44. Shhh! The Baby's Asleep


Shhh! The Baby's Asleep. JaNay Brown-Wood. Illustrated by Elissambura. 2021. [June] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Now don't make a peep....the baby's finally asleep.

Premise/plot: It may take a WHOLE family working together to keep the house quiet enough for the baby to sleep--and stay asleep!!! After half a dozen close-calls, will the baby finally wake up?!?!

My thoughts: I liked this one. It is fairly predictable, but in a good, fun way. The refrain is "shhh! the baby's asleep!" I like that the family is LARGE--including a set of grandparents. It is all about descriptions: creak! creak! creak! grumble! grumble! grumble! swish! swish! swish!

I will say this--for what it's worth--babies should sleep with some white noise so that the family doesn't have to be so careful!

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

43. The Eyeball Alphabet Book


The Eyeball Alphabet Book. Jerry Pallotta. Illustrated by Shennen Bersani. 2021. [May] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A is for Alligator. An alligator has eyes that stick up on the top of its head. It can look above the water while the rest of its head and body are hidden below the water.

Premise/plot: The Eyeball Alphabet book is a nonfiction picture book. It is an alphabet book, true, but not just any old ordinary alphabet book. It is an EYEBALL alphabet book. Each letter of the alphabet highlights the eyes of an animal. Animal facts, eye facts, and idioms galore. (Each spread features an eye-related idiom. An idiom is an expression that means something different from what it actually says. For example, "keep your eye on the ball," "in the blink of an eye," etc.)

My thought: I liked this one more than I thought I would. This is neither a cute, warm, and fuzzy animal book nor a strange, exotic, creepy animal book. It covers a wide range of animals. It has facts. Some facts are focused on the specific animal. But occasionally the focus is just on eye facts in general and has very little to do with the animal in question.

I found it an interesting read. I think it would be a good fit with school and classroom libraries in particular.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

42. Usha and the Big Digger


Usha and the Big Digger. (Storytelling Math). Amitha Jagannath Knight. Illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat. 2021. [June] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Usha loved trucks. She made them bump and roll.

Premise/plot: Everyone sees something different in the stars in this new picture book. Usha, our heroine, sees a BIG DIGGER. Her sister, Aarti, sees the BIG DIPPER. Her cousin, Gloria, sees a Big Kite. Usha, probably the youngest of the three, is upset that others can't see the Big DIGGER when it is so obvious!

Meanwhile, Usha is still struggling to learn to do a cartwheel. Both big sister and cousin can do cartwheels easily. Will Usha master the cartwheel and be able to teach her friends something as well?

My thoughts: Math is not my strong point. (That's an understatement.) When I first read the story, I was like WHERE IS THE MATH? How does this story relate to math? I probably never would have guessed the answer was teaching "rotation, orientation, and perspective." But there you have it! The back matter says, "young children with strong spatial skills can do better in math and science in school." If the two are connected, no wonder math has never been a strength.

I liked the story. I did. I liked how each girl--especially Gloria and Usha--use their imaginations and see the stars differently. I liked seeing the focus on family relationships. I liked how both the older girls helped Usha (eventually) learn to do a cartwheel. I liked how all the pieces of this one eventually came together as a whole.

It does include a list of suggested activities in the back of the book. 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, April 8, 2021

41. DJ Funkyfoot: Give Cheese a Chance


DJ Funkyfoot: Give Cheese a Chance. (DJ Funkyfoot #2) Tom Angleberger. Illustrated by Heather Fox. 2021. [September] 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: My phone rang. “Greetings,” I said. “I am DJ Funkyfoot, and I am at YOUR service.” “Oh, I’m sorry, sir,” said a polite voice. “I was trying to reach MC Funkyfoot.”

Premise/plot: DJ Funkyfoot is back for a second adventure. (You can read my review of his first adventure: DJ Funkyfoot Butler for Hire. Long story short, I adored it.) Our delightful hero is still looking for work as a butler! His short time as a nanny didn't convince him to change career paths! (Far from it!) 

In this second adventure, he finds work as a butler. But he isn't just going to be ANY butler. He's been hired on--for a day--to be the BUTLER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, President HORSE.

President Horse absolutely needs to stay focused on the task at hand--signing a peace treaty--but, well, he has other plans for the day. Plans that include mini-golf! Can DJ Funkyfoot find a way to save the day AND be a good butler?!

My thoughts: I really loved, loved, loved the first book. I think I still prefer the first book to the second. I mean the first book was just AWESOME and hilarious. The second book is good fun, perhaps even great fun. But it's definitely different. While I think the first book may have children's giggles in mind, this second book may be more geared towards adults giggling.

The President of the United States is neither a donkey nor an elephant. He's a HORSE. And, well, he's not a very effective president. In the course of one day, President Horse has a couple of tantrums!

Quotes: 

There was an iguana selling hats that said PRESIDENT HORSE IS GREAT! She had no customers.
Next to her was a komodo dragon selling hats that said PRESIDENT HORSE IS NOT GREAT.” He had a lot of customers. 
“Ever since he declared war on Wingland, everyone is mad at him. Especially people from Wingland.” “Are you going to go out of business?” “No, I’m just going to write ‘NOT’ on these hats with a Magic Marker,” the iguana said.
“I’m the President of the United States,” he said, “and I do what I want. And you are my butler, so you do what I want, too! Right?” “Yes, sir, Mr. President,” I said, clinging to his mane as he charged through the red light, right between two speeding Cousin Yuk Yuk’s Pickle Relish trucks.
  

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

40. The Story of Growl


The Story of Growl. Judy Horacek. 2008. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This is Growl. Growl is a little monster. She lives in a castle at the end of Eucalyptus Drive.

Premise/plot: The Story of Growl is....you guessed it...the story of Growl. Growl, our delightful monster-heroine, has a great life. She's as happy as can be. As is evidenced by her singing, skipping, hopping, and above all her GROWLING. But her neighbors, well, they don't love living next door to a monster. Especially a monster that growls. Can Growl become friendly with her neighbors?! Or will she be silenced....forever?!

My thoughts: Oh. How. I. Loved. This. Book. Growl is a monster, a purple monster, a monster who loves, loves, loves to growl. Oh. And she loves, loves, loves to sing about herself and her love of growling. Could a book be more perfect for me? Here is what the jacket flap says,

"What's wrong with a little growling--or a little singing--anyway? Plenty, if you ask Growl's neighbors. But sometimes, you don't know how important something is until you don't have it anymore.
A story of neighbors, compromise, monsters, and singing, that will having them shouting growling, "read it again!"
And this is how the book begins,
"This is Growl. Growl is a little monster. She lives alone in a castle at the end of Eucalyptus Drive. Growl likes to hop...and skip...and jump...and run around her garden. But most of all she likes to...GROWL."
That's just a small glimpse of what this monster is like. I loved this book so much. I could (but I won't) quote *everything* because I loved everything just that much. The text. The illustrations. Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.



Definitely recommend this one if you have little monsters of your own.

 

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, March 27, 2021

39. Cat Tales: True Stories of Fantastic Felines


Cat Tales: True Stories of Fantastic Felines. Penelope Rich. Illustrated by Isabel Munoz. 2021. [April] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Cats are the most commonly kept pets in the world. The relationship between people and cats goes back thousands of years, and the more we uncover about our past, the more we see that cats have been living alongside us for longer than we ever knew.

Premise/plot: Cat Tales highlights stories of...you guessed it...fantastic felines. Readers should expect short stories--or tales--starring cats throughout the ages. A few cats readers may be familiar with--especially adult readers--but plenty of the stars will be new names and stories.

Blended in with these stories are a few more generalized articles about cats. Descriptions. Behaviors. Advice.

My thoughts: I love, love, love the idea of this book. I'm not sure I love it as much as I'd hoped. That doesn't mean you won't enjoy it. This is a nonfiction book sharing true stories of cats. That means that all stories aren't happy-happy-joy-joy stories. Some of the stories are, well, the opposite of happy--as my sister would say: sad, sad, super sad. That doesn't mean sad stories aren't worth knowing.

As is the case with a book of stories--true or not--I found myself loving some, liking some, and well, not caring equally about each and every one.

Here is one of my favorites,

This is another story about a brave cat during World War II. Faith was the name given to a plucky stray cat who sought sanctuary in St. Augustine’s and St. Faith Church in the City of London. She became a much-loved member of the congregation, and in return for food, shelter, and affection, she kept the mice at bay. In August, the rector noticed she was getting fatter, and one morning, when she didn’t turn up for breakfast, Father Ross found her curled up in her basket with a kitten. It was white with black ears and tail, and because of its markings, the little tom was named Panda. On September 6, Faith pleaded with Father Ross to let her out of his study. She picked up Panda by the scruff of his neck and took him to a cold nook in the basement. Twice, Father Ross gently carried Panda back to the warmth of the basket, but each time Faith took her kitten back down. Realizing that Faith felt that Panda was in some kind of danger, Father Ross brought the basket down and left them snuggling together. Three days later, Father Ross was returning home when the air-raid sirens sounded. He spent the night in a shelter, and woke up to the news that many buildings had been destroyed. St. Augustine’s had suffered a direct hit and, a fire officer told him that no one could have survived, not even a cat. Risking his own life, Father Ross searched through the rubble for Faith until he heard a muffled meow. Faith was dusty but uninjured, and underneath her was Panda, safe and sound. Not long after, the church roof collapsed.
The story of Faith’s devotion to her kitten spread. She was proposed for a Dickin Medal, but as this was only awarded to animals in the armed forces, Faith was awarded a special silver medal instead—an event that was reported in newspapers worldwide. Father Ross had her photo taken, and his dedication to her began: “Faith… the bravest cat in the world.”

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

38. Sherlock Holmes The Hound of the Baskervilles


Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles. Stephanie Baudet and Arthur Conan Doyle. 2021. [October] 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The morning this strange case started was just like any other. Holmes was sitting at the table, eating his breakfast and mulling over the headlines of The Times. I joined him and poured myself some coffee. He had just taken a bite of toast when he stopped and looked towards the window. ‘I do believe a hansom cab has stopped outside, Watson. 

Premise/plot: This is an adaptation of a classic Sherlock Holmes story. Stephanie Baudet has adapted many of Doyle's stories for young children. 

Other adaptations include A Study in Scarlet, The Blue Carbuncle, A Scandal in Bohemia, Red-Headed League, Sign of the Four, The Reigate Squires, The Speckled Band, The Three Students, The Naval Treaty, The Six Napoleons, The Veiled Lodger, Charles August Milverton, The Sussex Vampire, The Engineer's Thumb, Silver Blaze, The Final Problem, The Stockbroker's Clerk, The Musgrave Ritual, The Copper Beeches, and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

My thoughts: I have watched more Sherlock than I've read. I really do need to get around to reading more Sherlock stories and novels. I enjoyed this adaptation. I haven't read the original--though I've seen film adaptations of this story--so I can't compare this adaptation to the original. But I liked the short chapters, the illustrations, the pacing.

If you are a fan of Sherlock, I would say this series would probably be a good way to introduce your child to these stories and characters.

 

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

37. Bubba and Beau Meet the Relatives


Bubba and Beau Meet the Relatives. Kathi Appelt. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 2004. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: "The relatives are coming!" cried Mama Pearl.

Premise/plot: In their third adventure, Bubba and Beau survive meeting the relatives! It all starts when Mama Pearl learns that family is coming to visit. That sets everything in motion. It is all good fun at first--especially the mud hole. But they won't survive this day without whining and tears.

She dressed Bubba in his brand-new sailor suit. Bubba hated that sailor suit. It was tight. It was stiff. It was scratchier than the toilet brush. Beau got a new bandana. Yuck!

But once the family arrives, then things really get going! 

My thoughts: Bubba and Beau Meet the Relatives is a GREAT addition to this series. I definitely prefer it to the second book. It is just as good as the first book, Bubba and Beau Best Friends. I loved every moment of this one. The narration is FUN, CUTE, CHARMING. Perhaps a tiny bit precious. But anytime the text starts to get too sweet and precious, enter the MUD HOLE.

I would recommend all three books in this series.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

36. Bubba and Beau Go Night-Night


Bubba and Beau Go Night-Night. Kathi Appelt. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 2003. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Bubba and Beau love to go bye-bye. Whenever Big Bubba went to town, he packed those two up in his trusty pickup, Earl, and off they went. 

Premise/plot: Bubba and Beau are back for their second adventure. In this one, Bubba and Beau spend their day with Big Bubba (Bubba's daddy, of course). It is a long, tiring day--with plenty of fun and excitement. So why aren't Bubba and Beau ready to go to bed?!?! How could they not be as tired as Mama Pearl and Big Bubba?!

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one! I would definitely recommend reading the first book first. (Bubba and Beau Best Friends.) This second book captures the fun and excitement of a summer day. (It is my best guess that it is summer. They go watermelon thumping and get ice cream too!) It is just as cute and charming as the first book in terms of narrative style.

I think my favorite part was when everyone got ice cream with PLENTY OF NAPKINS. There was just something JOYFUL and wonderful about the illustrations.

It was nice to see a father in a picture book doing a lot of the child care. That isn't always the case. Mama Pearl has a keeper in Big Bubba. 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

35. Bubba and Beau Best Friends


Bubba and Beau, Best Friends. Kathi Appelt. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 2002. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Meet Bubba. Bubba is the son of Big Bubba and Mama Pearl. Right after Bubba was born, Mama Pearl wrapped him in his soft pink blankie and whispered into both of his soft pink ears, "I love you, Bubba Junior." She sighed. He was the perfect little Bubba.

Premise/plot: Bubba (the baby) and Beau (the puppy) are BEST friends. This picture book is written in small chapters. Each chapter written to perfection to highlight the awesomeness of Bubba, Beau, and their blanket. There are many good and happy days in Bubbaville, but this picture book chooses to include a very SAD day in Bubbaville as well. What will happen when Mama Pearl dares to WASH the blanket?!?!

My thoughts: Bubba and Beau, Best Friends has to be one of my absolute favorite, favorite, favorite picture books. It is perfectly perfect I tell you. I love the setting. (It is set in Texas.) I love the characters. I love the illustrations. (Now when I see Arthur Howard I think Mr. Putter and Tabby.) But most of all I love the words--the narrative flavor and flow.

One of my favorite quotes:

It didn't take long for Bubba and Beau to become best friends. For one thing, they both went around on all fours. They were both keen on chewing. Neither one was house-trained. And they could howl to beat the band. They also had a mutual affection for MUD. And a mutual disdain for soap. Sister, those two got along.

Honestly, I could quote the whole book. That's how much I love it. The best books become part of the fabric of our lives, become a part of ourselves. Even though I was an adult in 2002--in library school to be exact--this book is part of me. 

ETA: There was a short period of time last year when I thought I lost my copy of Bubba and Beau Best Friends. And let me tell you IT WAS A SAD DAY IN BUBBAVILLE. Fortunately, I found it and all was right with the world again. 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, March 22, 2021

34. Incredible Hulk (My Mighty Marvel)


Board book: The Incredible Hulk (My Mighty Marvel First Book). Marvel Entertainment. 2021. [January] 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Meet the Incredible Hulk. He is the strongest hero of them all. Bad guys are always trying to stop him. Oh no! He's trapped! But nothing can hold the Hulk!

Premise/plot: This board book introduces the Marvel superhero The Incredible Hulk. In just twenty-four pages, readers get an overview and some insight/context for enjoying this character.

My thoughts: There is a whole series of board books introducing all the superheroes: Black Panther, Black Widow, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Thor, Spider Man, Captain America. Perhaps more will be forthcoming.

The board book is very much what you see is what you get. I think the strength is in the art itself. The art style is classic Marvel. (This is my best educated guess. I have never read Marvel comics. Though I have watched all the Marvel movies. The art style/costuming is different.)

Is it for children? Or is it for adult fans who want to share the love with children? I'm not sure I can answer that.

I think the books hold some appeal for fans regardless of age. I imagine elementary aged students would find the content appealing, but the format--a board book with flaps--off putting. 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

33. My Mighty Marvel: Black Panther


Board book: Black Panther (My Mighty Marvel First Book) Marvel. 2020 [December] 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Meet Black Panther. He is very brave and a great leader. He is always the first to take dangerous missions!

Premise/plot: This board book introduces the Marvel superhero Black Panther. In just twenty-four pages, readers get an overview and some insight/context for enjoying this character.

My thoughts: There is a whole series of board books introducing all the superheroes: Incredible Hulk, Black Widow, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Thor, Spider Man, Captain America. Perhaps more will be forthcoming.

The board book is very much what you see is what you get. I think the strength is in the art itself. The art style is classic Marvel. (This is my best educated guess. I have never read Marvel comics. Though I have watched all the Marvel movies. The art style/costuming is different.)

Is it for children? Or is it for adult fans who want to share the love with children? I'm not sure I can answer that.

I think the books hold some appeal for fans regardless of age. I imagine elementary aged students would find the content appealing, but the format--a board book with flaps--off putting.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

32. Billy Miller Makes A Wish


Billy Miller Makes a Wish. Kevin Henkes. 2021. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: When Billy Miller blew out the eight candles on his birthday cake, he made a wish. He wished that something exciting would happen.

Premise/plot: Be careful what you wish for. Billy Miller makes a wish on his birthday for life to be more EXCITING. What follows is an exciting summer that maybe is a little too exciting for his liking. 

My thoughts: Billy Miller Makes A Wish is a follow-up to The Year of Billy Miller. Don't worry if you haven't read the first book--which released in 2013. Billy Miller Makes a Wish makes a marvelous stand alone read.

What I enjoyed most in the first book, according to my review, were the home scenes. Since Billy Miller Makes a Wish is set in the summer, it is ALL home scenes. The book just made me HAPPY or GIDDY. It was such a joy to see Billy Miller at home with his family: his dad, his mom, and his younger (4 year old) sister. I picked up some authentic FAMILY vibes. Billy can still be tender and sweet with his sister one minute and want to be far, far, far away from her drama the next. (Especially in the grocery store!)

I did make a little guess about the ending halfway through the novel, but I doubt young readers will pick up on the same clues.

It was just a joy to read this one. 

Quotes:

“Can I use your markers?” Sal repeated. “Please?” Slatted sunlight striped her face. “I need to make a symphony card.” “What’s that?” Billy asked. He had never heard of a symphony card. “Well, I’m not sure,” said Sal. “But Mama’s doing one, too. It’s because Mr. Tooley died.” 
 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, March 14, 2021

31. Sydney and Taylor and the Great Friend Expedition


Sydney and Taylor and the Great Friend Expedition. Jacqueline Davies. 2022. [February] 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: Sydney and Taylor live in a burrow under Miss Nancy’s potting shed. Most days are quiet. Sydney likes to do crossword puzzles. Taylor likes to make acorn sculptures. But sometimes Taylor gets a Big Idea. Sydney wishes Taylor did not get so many ideas. He would rather stay home. 

Premise/plot: Sydney and Taylor are friends--best friends. But that doesn't stop Taylor from wanting to make other friends. And he wants Sydney to be just as excited to make new friends. He has a plan, a big plan. 

It is the third book in the Sydney and Taylor early chapter book series published by HMH. The first two are Sydney and Taylor Explore the Whole Wide World and Sydney and Taylor Take a Flying Leap. Both books are 2021 publications. (Sadly I didn't have access to review copies of those two).

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one! Though it was the third in the series, I think it works even as a stand alone. It did make me want to read the other two books. And I'd definitely want to read any future books starring these two friends. The books are funny, cute, charming. 

I identified most with Sydney:

“I don’t like adventures,” said Sydney. “They make me late for lunch.”  
“Sydney? Do you think the other animals like us?” “Of course they don’t!” said Sydney, cheerfully. “You’re prickly and I stink!” “Well, no one’s perfect!” said Taylor. “Exactly,” said Sydney. “That’s why we should keep things as they are.”  
“Sydney,” whispered Taylor, doing his best to keep his spine straight. “I am going to make pleasant conversation.” Taylor had read several books in which characters became friends by having a pleasant conversation.
 
 

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, March 12, 2021

30. Ways to Grow Love


Ways to Grow Love. (Ryan Hart #2) Renee Watson. Illustrated by Nina Mata. 2021. [April] 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Nothing is the same. Now that Mom is pregnant, everything has changed. Before school let out for summer, Ms. Colby said to my class, “Have a great summer. I hope you have fun and that it’s full of special moments. I can’t wait to hear all about it next school year.” The way summer is going, I won’t have any great or fun or special moments to share because all the summer plans we made aren’t happening.

Premise/plot: Ryan Hart is going to be a big sister! Yes, Ryan and Ray are getting a little sister. Ryan, our lovely, adorable heroine, is coping. On the one hand, a baby sister has potential certainly. On the other hand, it might bring about some CHANGES to her plans and routines. Will Ryan have the summer of her dreams if everything is baby, baby, baby all the time?

My thoughts: Ways to Grow Love is the second book in a series. Though I haven't read the first book--YET--I warmed up to the heroine quickly. Going to the library is one of Ryan's favorite, favorite, favorite things to do.

"But who can be quick in a wonderland of words and pictures? It’s not that I don’t like spending time with Grandma, it’s just that Mom and I go to the library at the end of every school year and we pick out books and have a book club, just the two of us."

 EXACTLY. Soon my feelings spilled over for the rest of her family and friends. By the end of the novel it was love.

I enjoyed the family dynamics of this one--the relationships the family has with one another. I enjoyed the narration--Ryan is great! 

I enjoyed the fact that faith is built into this one subtly-not-so-subtly. It's not that the novel is preachy--it isn't. It's just that faith is just as present and natural as breathing air. (In this one, Ryan goes to a Christian summer camp with some of her friends. Each cabin has to do a skit and Ryan and her friends choose the parable of the Good Samaritan for their skit.)

I loved the special father-daughter bonding. I've read two books in a row with excellent fathers--I could really love a trend like this if it continues!

“I want to write about one of the memories with my dad, but I don’t know which one to choose.” Ms. Anderson says, “Choose the one that you wish could happen again and again.”

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, March 6, 2021

29. Thirteen Ways To Eat A Fly


13 Ways to Eat A Fly. Sue Heavenrich. Illustrated by David Clark. 2020. [December] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Big flies, small flies, fat flies, thinner. Yum! These flies are someone's dinner. We might think of flies as pests. But many animals--and plants--depend on flies for food.

Premise/plot: The title says it all. What you see is what you get. The book depicts 13 flies getting eaten. It counts backward from 13 to 1. It definitely is not your traditional counting book, and the fact that it's counting backwards is the most traditional thing about it.

13
Zapped
In the blink of an eye, a wood frog snaps
out its tongue and catches a fly. The frog
closes its eyes and swallows, using its
eyeballs to push the fly down its throat.


Readers--interested readers drawn in by the weird, the gross, the I-didn't-know-that--can learn more about the different types of flies and all their predators. The last one may be the most disconcerting.

My thoughts: The narrative is enthusiastic and quirky. "If you eat out, make sure you're getting what you pay for. Unscrupulous chefs might be tempted to use substitute ingredients, so remember to count the wings. A fly will have only two wings; other insects have four. Study the menu carefully. There are more than 120,000 kinds of flies, but most establishments serve only a limited variety."

This one won't appeal to everyone. Few books do, same goes with picture books. Perhaps even more so with picture books. Kermit the Frog may LOVE this book, but Miss Piggy may not.

Personally, I'm not entertained by gross fly facts. But a lot of research did go into this one.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, March 5, 2021

28. Baby Loves (Political Science) Congress


Board Book: Baby Loves Congress. Ruth Spiro. Illustrated by Greg Paprocki. 2021. [April] 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It's beautiful weather for a bike ride...but pollution is not beautiful. It is unhealthy for people and our planet. Grown-ups and businesses must follow rules to keep our communities safe. These rules are called laws.

Premise/plot: Baby learns all about how a bill is made a law in Ruth Spiro's newest board book series for young readers. It starts with an observation--pollution is bad, bad news; something must be done. One way to get things done is to pass laws, but how are laws made or decided upon?! 

My thoughts: I definitely liked Baby Loves Congress more than Baby Loves the Presidency. I thought it was a straight-forward narrative that was simplified and easy to process. (I don't know that passing a law is *ever* this simple and easy.) Readers get a vision of what the process could look like if POLITICS didn't get in the way of running a country.

 

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

27. Baby Loves (Political Science) The Presidency


Board book: Baby Loves Political Science: The Presidency. Ruth Spiro. Illustrated by Greg Paprocki. 2021. [April] 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Baby likes going to work with Papa at the food pantry. The food pantry helps people in the community.

Premise/plot: This board book is part of a series of books published by Charlesbridge. There was/is a series teaching science, but also there is a series teaching political science. The other titles in the series (apparently) are Baby Loves Democracy, Baby Loves Justice, Baby Loves Congress. 

There are two stories for "Baby" to keep up with. First, Baby's own family where the Papa works at a food pantry and works as part of a team and helps the community. Second, the "lesson" or "concept" being taught to Baby and presumably to other babies/toddlers/preschoolers. Primarily it focuses on the executive branch of the government.

My thoughts: I wanted to like this one more than I actually did. I really LOVED some of the titles in the Baby Loves Science series. For example, I loved, loved, loved, LOVED Baby Loves Quantum Physics and Baby Loves Thermodynamics! I thought those books excelled because they were clever. They illustrated complex ideas in a super-simple, basic way that actually was age-appropriate. This is my first exposure to the Baby Loves Political Science series, but I'm not as impressed. I think the subject (and presentation) is way too complex for the intended audience. If you told me this text was written to teach second graders, I wouldn't have a problem with it. But what second grader would voluntarily read a board book? What second grade teacher would have board books on the shelf? The content isn't bad just not age-appropriate--not really.  There are no other reviews of this title, I'm curious to see what other reviewers have to say on this title.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

26. Bracelets for Bina's Brothers


Bracelets for Bina's Brothers. Rajani LaRocca. Illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat. 2021. [April] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Bina had three big brothers: Vijay, Siddharth, and Arjun. They sometimes annoyed her, but she loved them anyway. 

Premise/plot: Bina, our heroine, wants to make--instead of buy--bracelets for her three brothers. The occasion is Raksha Bandhan an Indian holiday celebrating the special bond between brothers and sisters. She sets out to craft each bracelet with a unique pattern keeping each brother in mind, but, patterns aren't always easy to design and carry out! 

My thoughts: This book is part of Charlesbridge's Storytelling Math series. The (math) concept being taught is patterns. Of course, there's more to the story than just pattern-making. It is also a celebration of family and culture.

I liked seeing the relationships of all four siblings! It was a cute read.

 

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

25. The Froggies Do NOT Want to Sleep


The Froggies Do NOT Want to Sleep. Adam Gustavson. 2021. [June] 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The froggies do NOT want to sleep.

Premise/plot:  If the froggies do NOT want to sleep, then what do they want to do?!?! In Adam Gustavson's new picture book, readers find out just what these froggies DO want to do. 

My thoughts: It's not unusual to have picture books where young children--or ANIMALS--do NOT want to go to sleep. The Froggies Do NOT Want to Sleep is a fun addition to the group. It is silly, delightful, zany, odd. 

It didn't take many pages for me to start loving it. 

They want to hop. They want to practice their accordions and ride their unicycles...and play dress-up. 

Perhaps these froggies are inspired by the Muppet Show?!?! 

They want to sing opera while firing themselves out of cannons.

I loved the text--no doubt about it. I didn't love the illustrations...at least not as much as I'd hoped. I'd still recommend the book.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, March 1, 2021

24. Leo Loves Mommy


Board book: Leo Loves Mommy. Anna McQuinn. Illustrated by Ruth Hearson. 2021. [March] 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: When Leo wakes up, Mommy's smile makes him giggle.

Premise/plot: Leo Loves Mommy is a board book celebrating the joys of an ordinary day. 

My thoughts: Leo and his mom are super adorable. The book highlights all the many, many, many things they do together throughout the day. (Though I did notice that this book doesn't highlight the joys of changing diapers!) Lots of love is shown through the illustrations. The text is simple enough which isn't a bad thing considering attention spans.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

23. Luna's Yum Yum Dim Sum


Luna's Yum yum Dim Sum. Natasha Yim. Illustrated by Violet Kim. 2020. [December] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It's Luna's birthday! Ma Ma and Ba Ba are taking Luna and her brothers to a dim sum restaurant for a special birthday lunch. 

Premise/plot: Luna's Yum Yum Dim Sum is a math problem in disguise--not really, it says right on the cover. Luna, the birthday girl, gets into a dilemma with her two brothers Kai and Benji. There are six pork buns (char siu bao) to divide between the three of them. (I'm guessing the parents ordered something different. Honestly the parents might as well not be in this one). So what will happen when ONE of the six falls on the floor? How will the three kids divide five between the three of them? Can they agree on what's fair?

My thoughts: I may not love, love, love math, but I do love to eat! I enjoyed this one. The children solve how to share/divide the food between themselves without any interference or input from the parents. (We never do learn what the parents ordered. I was curious.) Is that wishful thinking? Maybe. Maybe not depending not only on the kids' ages but on the kids' personalities as well!

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, February 25, 2021

22. Seaside Stroll


Seaside Stroll. Charles Trevino. Illustrated by Maribel Lechuga. 2021. [January] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Scruffy shoes, socks, sweater....scratchy, silly scarf. 

Premise/plot: Thus begins one wintry seaside stroll shared by a little girl and her mama. (Though perhaps I shouldn't forget the DOLLY that comes too!) Seaside Stroll is a narrative poem written entirely with words that begin with the letter S. 

My thoughts: I love the descriptive language in Seaside Stroll. I imagine (though I haven't tried it myself) that it would be a joy to read aloud!!! All the alliteration of the S's! Alliteration, to remind everyone, is "the repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables. But in addition to being a teacher's dream come true (when it comes to poetry units) it is also a joyful celebration of family life (not just the extraordinary moments but the ordinary ones too). 

I loved the writing and the illustrations.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

21. Summertime Sleepers


Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate. Melissa Stewart. Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen. 2021. [April] 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Yawn, stretch, blink! As warm weather spreads across the land, hibernating animals spring to life. But soon another group of animals searches for shelter. They settle into cool, snug spots and sink into a summertime sleep called estivation.

Premise/plot: Summertime Sleepers is a nonfiction picture book perfect for elementary age readers. Chances are you've heard--and read--plenty of books about hibernating animals: both fiction and nonfiction. Everyone knows about hibernation. But did you know that some animals sleep during the summer?!?! This nonfiction picture book highlights those animals that estivate! 

Some of the animals include: convergent ladybugs, mourning cloak butterflies, land snails, Christmas island red crabs, African lungfishes, Mangrove killifishes, California tiger salamanders, pixie frogs, spotted turtles, leopard geckos, desert hedgehogs, and yellow-bellied marmots.

My thoughts: Every generation gets better nonfiction in my opinion. This one is PACKED with information. And it delivers that information in a handful of ways. There is a primary narrative that tells a whole story. But there are also sidebars to provide further information. (Though these sidebars aren't in boxes, they are set apart from the primary narrative, and are in a smaller font.) Each animal is also highlighted in a sketch pad illustration with even more details. Some animals are shown in their actual size. But when they aren't shown in their actual size, there's a hint as to how big or how little they are.

The book concludes with several pages of back matter. (More about animals that estivate, estivation versus hibernation, continue your exploration, author's note, illustrator's note, selected sources). 

I really appreciate books that pack in as many I DIDN'T KNOW THAT FACTS as possible in forty pages. 


© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers