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 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