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!


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