Showing posts with label Sally Huss. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sally Huss. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Princess in My Teacup by Sally Huss

Rating: WORTHY!

Sally Huss has almost consistently turned out, in my experience, works of originality, upbeat attitudes, educational in equal measure with colorful and bright, and with fun rhymes to boot. Thus one merely continues her proud tradition.

One could argue here that this is aimed at white female audiences, and plays heavily into the Disney Princess syndrome, which are negatives, but we cannot have every book flooded with every type of person and every kind of wish for our children. There simply isn't room. One simple theme, well-presented with one simple message is fine, and it's up to parents and guardians to seek and pursue diversity by buying (or checking out of the library) a diversity of books! It's really not rocket science! Please don't always expect all options to be covered in one short children's book!

This little girl begins seeing a princess in reflected surfaces: a cup of tea, a bowl of soup, a filled bathtub, and so on. The princess always wants her to do something. The things she wants her to do are always aimed at helping other people: befriending them, being nice to them and thoughtful of them, and each time she does this, the girl helps and thinks she's seen the last of the princess, but the princess never leaves her. I think perhaps you know why. This was delightful, short and easy read, and I recommend it.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

One Green Omelet Please by Sally Huss

Rating: WORTHY!

My first positive review out of my last nine! Eek! Of course it has to be Sally Huss, writer and illustrator of young children's books who never lets me down. Told in rhyme with joyful colored pictures, this tells the story of the family who went out to eat. Jenny orders a green omelette, which frankly sounds disgusting, but it turns out it's not so bad.

The important thing is that Jenny takes a minute to ponder the origin of everything from which the omelette is made. Eggs of course, but also broccoli and spinach, green onions and peas. There's a tomato and some cheese. I'm not sure why Jenny says a prayer of thanks, since it's the farmers who ultimately provide all this stuff, but at least she took the time to be grateful for it all. Another fun and useful book from a writer who seems never to run out of ideas!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Everyone Has a Mother by Sally Huss

Rating: WORTHY!

Just in time for Mother's Day, Sally Huss's young children's book celebrating motherhood in all its varieties and glory. The book focuses on animals - of all kinds. Even spiders are moms! There are all kinds of animals - every class is covered - but no bacteria, fungi or plants - or invertebrates (other than the spider)! The animals, mostly mammals - are sumptuously colored and playfully drawn all in celebration of motherhood. I think this makes a fine read for very young children.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Easter is Cancelled by Sally Huss

Rating: WORTHY!

How about that title? Easter is cancelled by Sally Huss? Sally Huss cancelled Easter? Yikes! This is just a thought to be careful how you title your novel, otherwise anything could happen! And don't we writers all hope it will?!

I've reviewed almost a dozen books for young children, written in doggerel verse (and illustrated by) Sally Huss, and I liked very nearly all of them. Everybody Loves Valentines got a worth rating back in January 2016. Everything Has a Heart did similarly that same month. The Big Witch's Big Night scored in November of 2015 - although a bit late for Halloween, I confess, but What's For Thanksgiving Dinner? was on time that month! Mr Getaway and the Christmas Elves was another success in December that year. Princess Charlotte and the Pea was reviewed favorably in September 2015. What's Pete's Secret? failed to score in August of that year, but the month prior to that, Plain Jane was a worthy read. One Hundred Eggs For Henrietta did well in March 2015, but Who Took My Banana? fell completely flat a month later.

But the author rebounds! Here comes a timely and positive review for an Easter offering from this same author. It's getting close to Easter, and all the animals are busy making decorations and candy, but the Easter Bunny has gone on strike and cancelled the whole event! How the owl got to be considered wise, I don't know. They have no dentition, so we know it's not from wisdom teeth! Anyway, when he's asked, rather than come to the rescue he (why it's always a male I don't know either) pretty much cops out and tells them to get a kid to talk to the bunny. Talk to the bunny; the owl's not listening! Will it work? I can't give out spoilers like that!

Ending on a very positive note (oops, I gave it away!), this story book is perky and colorful, with fun verse and amusing pictures. I recommend this one. It was nice to see that there was no sappy religious mythology here. Easter is a pagan festival which the early Christians purloined, but it's really a celebration of spring and fertility - hence the eggs and the rabbits. There used to be a month named after the god Ä’astre before the Romans stole that and renamed it after their god of war, but that's Romans for you - get a celebration of rebirth and they name it for war! This book is very much faithful to the original unspoiled tradition, not to latecomers and usurpers and I was happy about that!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Everybody Loves Valentines by Sally Huss

Rating: WORTHY!

It's early, perhaps, for a valentine-oriented book, but if the stores can bring out the Valentine's Day massacre of goods the day after New Year's, then surely I can review a couple of children's books on the theme in January, before I forget!

This and the other I review today are both by Sally Huss, and I've had good success with liking those. They're perky and light, colorful and entertaining for the age group. They're poetic (after a fashion, but in a way which children love) and most importantly, they carry always carry a positive message.

This one is dedicatedly about sending valentines, and it doesn't discriminate in any way as to who you should give one to. Everyone is eligible. The author spells out 'valentines', and offers a warm idea as to what each letter really means. I liked the way this was put together and the fact that it was longer than some children's books tend to be, so there's lots to see and read. It's really a valentine to valentines, and it's a worthy read.

Everything Has a Heart by Sally Huss

Rating: WORTHY!

It's early, perhaps, for a valentine-oriented book, but if the stores can bring out the Valentine's Day massacre of goods the day after New Year's, then surely I can review a couple of children's books on the theme in January, before I forget!

I've had good success with liking Sally Huss books. They're perky and light, colorful and entertaining for the age group. They're poetic (after a fashion, but in a way which children love) and most importantly, they carry always carry a positive message.

This one is a real heart-to-heart, from the hearts of people and animals, to the heart of an apple. even a butterfly, as Sally points out, has a heart - after a fashion. I liked it and think it's a great idea as long as you share it with your kid so you can both enjoy it and each other. it's what makes your heart beat.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mr Getaway and the Christmas Elves by Sally Huss

Rating: WORTHY!

This is a nicely drawn and colored, and poetically told story about a school class which gets a substitute teacher. Mr Getaway loves to do field trips (and evidently doesn't worry too much about permission slips!), and this particular excursion spirits the children away to the snowy wilds, where Santa's elves are busily creating this year's crop of toys, games, books, musical instruments and other assorted joys.

Sally Huss books often carry a message, and this one is to the effect that taking pride and joy in your work is a good thing. This is actually a wonderful lesson to impart to children, as long as it's not all work and no play! These children find themselves impressed that the elves are a happy bunch even when at work. They're sad that the elves don't get to play with the toys they make, but they learn that an elf's happiness comes from a job well done, and from giving without thought of receiving. These are good ideals at any time of the year.

We learn what Santa does the rest of the year and it turns out that he's really the Greek god Apollo, riding with the sun, or maybe the Egyptian god Ra, whose blessings come down on the sunbeams. I had no problem with this, until I read this advice: "remember when you look at the sun, think of me." It's not a good idea to look directly at the sun! Maybe "When you enjoy the sun, think of me" would have been wiser? That aside, I liked this story and recommend it. Since my blog is about writing as well as reading, here's a writing issue to ponder: For whom the who tolls?!

When Santa showed up, I read, "And whom do you think appeared in that space?" I think this should be 'who', not whom. Note that I am far from expert on this! Indeed think it's time to ditch 'whom' from the language altogether. No one speaks like that! But which use is correct? The trick, apparently, is to see if you can substitute a 'he' or a 'she'. If you can, then it's 'who', not whom. If, instead, you can substitute 'her' or 'him, then it's 'whom' which should be employed. If that's right and I translated this reasonably, then it's really asking, "Do you think he appeared?" To use "Do you think him appeared?" is clearly ungrammatical, which is why I'm going with 'who' as opposed to 'whom'. Whom knows?! 'And who do you think appeared?' just seems right to me, even if it's technically wrong!

But that's a writing issue to wrestle with. I'm not too worried about it here, because I liked this story. It was perky and colorful, and promises a fun read to enjoy with your children.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What's For Thanksgiving Dinner? by Sally Huss

Rating: WORTHY!

Being a foreigner, I've lived in the US with three strikes against me at Thanksgiving. It never was a tradition in England, where I grew up, so it never was a tradition for me. I was three thousand miles from my family (who didn't celebrate it anyway!), so it was hardly possibly to drive over and spend the day, and I am a vegetarian, so the idea of eating Turkey was as disgusting as having to sit with other people who were eating it. No one got this. While none of the palaver surrounding Thanksgiving impinged on me at all, there were those who sought to force it upon my against my will. It was annoying when friends rather rudely insisted that I must participate on this family occasion, and overbearingly insisted that I join them. I felt annoyed, even angry at times, when I would rather be doing something else. Rather than hurt their feelings or make them think I was anti-social I would join them, but soon learned to make excuses - lying that I had other plans, just so I could be alone with my pets and my movies and my books. England has a harvest festival, as I am sure many northern nations do, but it's nothing like Thanksgiving.

Now, of course I have my own family, who are all Americans, so I'm outnumbered and it would be churlish to fight it, so Thanksgiving has become a part of my life now. My family is liberal enough that it's no big deal (which is why they're my family and I love them!) so it's a fun occasion which does not suffer the stiff confines of stodgy and inhibiting tradition. Friendship and cooperation! That's why I wanted to read yet another Sally Huss book, which definitely set itself free from tradition in many ways while still holding to it in others. I'm not sure there's much educational value in this book, but there is a strong story of acceptance - and a vegetarian message! I'm not convinced that was the author's intention, but who knows?

The three main characters are a duck, called Duck, a goose named Goose, and a turkey named Beauregarde (I may have made that last name up). Duck traditionally eats goose for Thanksgiving (let's not get too naturally correct here), and Goose traditionally eats duck, so these two are definitely intent upon capturing each other, but as their doomed quest becomes evident, they make a pact to go after Turkey. Once again they fail, and all three becomes friends and decide on pumpkin pie. A great little story and a sweet (literally!) ending. It's a story of friendship and cooperation (so maybe I was wrong about the educational value!), and I recommend this one.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Big Witch's Big Night by Sally Huss

Rating: WORTHY!

I have a mixed relationship with Sally Huss books. I dislike about as many as I like, so at least I know that if I hated the last one, there's a really good chance that I'll love the next. That's what happened here. This one was thoughtful and funny and educational. The premise is Halloween (yes, I know this is one of several I'll be reviewing late! Sorry! At least I'm getting them out of the way before Xmas reviews, which I'll no doubt post in January!)

The poetic meter is that of Clement Clarke Moore's A Visit from St. Nicholas, but here it's all about Halloween so instead of "'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse" we get "'Twas the night of Halloween and all through the house every creature was stirring, even the grouse."

The witch is greeting trick or treat-ers by offering them dead fish or worms, and she seems to be having little luck until one particular kid finds a way through her thorny exterior - and that;s the end, but not the end of being kind! It's a fun story; it's well told, and I recommend it.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Princess Charlotte and the Pea by Sally Huss

Rating: WORTHY!

I've had mixed success with Sally Huss books. This is the fifth one of hers I've read, and now on balance she writes a worthy book, because I recommend this one. One Hundred Eggs for Henrietta, which I reviewed back in March 2015 was a good one, Who took my banana? from April 2015 not so good. Plain Jane reviewed in July 2015 was another winner, but What's Pete's Secret? from August 2015 was lacking verve, so batting .500 I went into another adventure and this brought-up the score to .600.

This one is obviously based on the Princess and the Pea, so I was curious to see what this author did with this venerable Hans Christian Anderson story. Written in poetry, the story begins with the prince demanding a sensitive princess. My problem with this was that there was no definition offered for children as to what sensitive means, and we jumped straight from that to the prince's lackey stacking-up mattresses without any discussion as to how they will discover if a princess is sensitive or not. We learn that the plan is to use a pea, but not how they arrived at this decision; there's also the not-so-subtle change in the definition of sensitive - from an implied mental state to a purely physical one. This is bait and switch! But it's the same as the original story (except that sensitivity isn't mentioned until afterwards in the original).

There is also no indication that the pea is a dried one in either story. I assume it was in the original - or at least a fresh one which is a lot sturdier than the peas most of the potential audience has likely encountered. My fear is that they will think the pea is just like the ones they eat off their plates - soft and squishy. There was a real potential for humor here, but we never saw it, which to me was a sad omission. Also, in this story the prince is the one obsessing on the princess's 'sensitivity' whereas in the original, it's the prince's mom. There's no word in either book on what the prince's dad - the king - was doing during all this time.

All of the princesses appear to be informed beforehand that their pea is there under the mattresses, which is also not in the original story. What's to stop them lying about what they feel when they're lying there - the mere fact of their royal birth? Plus the girls all fall in line with this prince's obsession. I felt that a dose of feminism would have been nice here, and I was pleased to see it pop up at the end in that the princess has a similar challenge for the prince. This elevated the story sufficiently for me to label this one a worthy read.

Kudos to the author for turning it around. I would have liked to have seen it turned around a lot more, but this will do as a start. I think it would be a fun thing to examine the original story (which I do on my website, if you're reading this elsewhere) and see what's wrong with it from a modern perspective. Meanwhile I recommend this book as an amusing take on the original.

Here is pretty much the original story (it's very short!):

There was a prince who wanted to marry a princess, but she would have to be a real princess. He travelled all over the world to find one, but nowhere could he get what he wanted. There were princesses enough, but it was difficult to find out whether they were real ones. There was always something about them that was not as it should be. So he came home again and was sad, for he would have liked very much to have a real princess.

One evening a terrible storm came on; there was thunder and lightning and the rain poured down in torrents. Suddenly a knocking was heard at the city gate, and the old king went to open it. There was a princess standing at the gate, but good gracious! what a sight the rain and the wind had made her look. Water ran from her hair and clothes; it ran into the toes of her shoes and out again at the heels, and yet she said that she was a real princess.

Well, we'll soon find that out! thought the old queen. She said nothing, but went into the bed-room and took all the bedding off the bed. She laid a pea on the bottom; then she took twenty mattresses and laid them on the pea, and then twenty eider-down beds on top of the mattresses. On this the princess had to lie all night; in the morning she was asked how she had slept.

"Oh, very badly!" said she. "I have scarcely closed my eyes all night. Heaven only knows what was in the bed, but I was lying on something hard, so that I am black and blue all over my body. It's horrible!"

Now they knew that she was a real princess because she had felt the pea right through the twenty mattresses and the twenty eider-down beds. No-one but a real princess could be as sensitive as that, so the prince took her for his wife, for now he knew that he had a real princess; and the pea was put in the museum, where it may still be seen, if no one has stolen it.

This princess seems to be of extraordinarily high-maintenance to me - she's black and blue after sleeping on forty layers of bedding and the only thing causing her discomfort was the pea? Of what value would the princess be if she was so delicate? The prince (or his mom in this case) seems to be conflating fragility with sensitivity, yet he's hypocritically completely insensitive to putting all of these princesses through this nightmarish and precarious night on forty layers of bedding.

Plus he's insensitive to the feelings and condition of all of his female subjects if he's so insistent that not a one of them is good enough for his hand in marriage. Only a princess will do? What a royal pain he is! What an aristocratic snob! They drag the princess in from the pouring rain, and not a word about drying her off or offering her a warm bath? And what kind of princess is she if she's standing out in the pouring rain knocking on the door? There was no royal carriage for her to ride in? There were no footmen or servants to knock on the door? No one to hold her umbrella? That hardly strikes me as a real princess! LOL! So no, the original story made no sense to begin with, so anything has to be an improvement, but I think Sally Huss gave it a fair shot.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

What's Pete's Secret? by Sally Huss

Rating: WARTY!

I've had mixed results with books by Sally Huss, and with regard to this particular one, I have to say that the answer to "What's Pete's Secret?" is that Pete is a frigging moron. He's so unreactive as to be catatonic and therefore is the very last person children should seek to emulate. I can see that her intention here was to have children behave in a more zen-like and less frantic manner, which is all well and good, but the extent she shows it here is not only stupid, it's dangerous. I cannot recommend this children's book.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Plain Jane by Sally Huss

Rating: WORTHY!

"...not one colored foks could be seen in the fray."? Maybe "none of the colored folks could be seen in the fray."?

I reviewed two previous books by Sally Huss, one of which I liked, the other I didn't. This third one I liked.

This is a wonderfully affirming and self -possessed book about a plan ordinary person - just like the rest of us - in this case a girl whose name is Jane and she's real plain. This book is a real blues beater, told in odd poetic meter, we learn that she had to leave her previous town because it was simply getting her down. Now she's moved to a new location just in time for a big celebration.

This town is populated by colored folks - I make no insult, I make no jokes - they rainbow-colored as if it matters, and more than that they've covered in patterns. Jane feels even more like she can't fit in when she sees the bright colors on everyone's skin.

But the town likes Jane and now she's in place, they have a great plan to color her face! But as the crowd begins to jam her she calls a halt to their fuss and clamor, asking, "Why color myself to look like you when I can be unique with my very own hue?"

Now Jane learned a lesson: even plain has resplendence! Why emulate others when she can have her independence? So as the bombs burst overhead and the rockets glared red, she was happy you see in the land of the free!

I recommend this one for it exuberance, and even for its uberance before it became an ex.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Who Took My Banana? By Sally Huss

Title: Who Took My Banana?
Author: Sally Huss
Publisher: Amazon
Rating: WARTY!

I liked the previous outing I'd read by Sally Huss, who both writes and illustrates her books, but this one failed for me. Note this book is not to be confused with Prentke Romich's Who Took the bananas? (which I haven't read).

When it comes to children's stories, I apply somewhat different rules than I do for reviewing young adult and mature novels, of course. Obviously novels have to be realistic, unless they're something like a fantasy, or a paranormal or sci-fi story, but even then they have to make some kind of sense within their own framework. I don't hold a children's story to that level of rigor.

Children's stories can be much more fanciful, as are children's imaginations, and even nonsense stories are fun to read and useful in helping children to think outside the box - not that most of them need any help there! I do like children's stories to have some sort of educational component, but I'm not absolutely rigid with that requirement. Sometimes it's fine just to have fun, and even random play is a learning experience for the young.

In a case where a children's story features animals, I don't mind that animals talk or behave rather like humans, but where the animal is located in its natural setting, even if it's having an adventure that no real animal would, I do like the story to be faithful to its origin. This is why it bothered me to see a Green Mamba snake depicted in this story. This snake isn't found where orangutans are found, so why not use one which is?

I did not get the thinking here, and this wasn't a lone slip, either. The sloth isn't found in Asia, which is the only place where the tragically dwindling orangutan populations are found. Neither are chameleons and toucans found in Asia. Again, there are scores of animals which could have taken these roles, including interesting Asian lizards and stunningly colorful and distinctive Asian birds, so I didn't get why the author felt a need to bring these things into the story when there are plentiful alternatives.

If the story had been set in a zoo, then any kind of animal could have been introduced, so if you want to use those animals, why have it take place in the wild? I agree that it's not necessary to be spot-on accurate for younger children because they're not discriminatory (bless 'em!) or exacting when it comes to stories (not for the most part anyway), but it's just as easy to get it right as it is to be misleading! For me, this matters.

The story is about a mom orangutan who wakes up to find her banana gone. She hikes through the forest asking one creature after another if they took her banana and at the end of the day, she returns to her tree nest to discover that her baby took it. This is a mom who abandoned her baby for the entire day in pursuit of one small banana, which isn't even the primary food of an orangutan!

To me this was the wrong approach to a story entirely, especially in a book which carries a banner extolling a mother's love, and goes right on to depict mom abandoning junior for selfish reasons. I think it could have been told in a much better way (and more accurately!), and I don't honestly feel I can support a book which could have been significantly better. For those reasons, I cannot recommend this book.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

One Hundred Eggs For Henrietta by Sally Huss

Title: One Hundred Eggs For Henrietta
Author: Sally Huss
Publisher: Huss Publishing (no website found)
Rating: WORTHY!

I was rather late with my valentine children's novel review this year, so I decided to whisk this one out more quickly to beat the Easter deadline....

Some might argue that this children's story has rather cannibalistic overtones to it, with it featuring a chicken collecting eggs for the Easter egg hunt. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire! It ignores the fact that those eggs are in fact potential baby chickens! However, if the eggs aren't fertilized, they're going nowhere, so let's pretend that's the case. I'm not so hard-boiled, so it certainly made my conscience feel better. Not to crow about it, but I also feel that we don't have to bear this yoke, since there was no rooster in sight.

Obviously this was a women's collective. Collective? Get it? Never mind...and Henrietta, who is clearly in the catbird seat here, is rushing around like, like, well, like a headless chicken, trying to gather enough eggs for the children's Easter egg hunt, and she has a problem. Suddenly her quota has been doubled, the egg-timer is running, and she's at a loss for how to get all her eggs into one basket! If I had an egg for every time that's happened to me, I'd have to shell out to buy more.

Henrietta is merciless, approaching every chicken until she can see the whites of their eggs, demanding ever more, and hoping none of her co-workers are feathering their own nest with the profits, but she's still not feeling sunny-side up. What's to be done? Fortunately her brain isn't fried, and she remembers that birds of a feather flock together. She scrambles to approach the swans and the ducks, who prove they aren't bird-brains and provide a good eggs ample.

This is all well and good, but if Henrietta doesn't want to end up with egg on her face, she has to get these eggs painted - all one hundred of them. Fortunately, rather than sit around rabbiting on about her problems, she takes action, and approaches the local lagomorph cooperative. They happily agree to paint the eggs for her. Furrah!

To keep things purring along, the help of the local felines is sought, to avoid a cat-astrophe. As I'm sure you've gathered, by egging-on everybody, Henrietta managed to get her ninety nine eggs...wait a minute, who provided the hundredth egg? Hum, that would be a spoiler, but the clue is in the minute! I loved this story. The bunnies were particularly bunn-a-licious and Henrietta, the best chicken in a century, is a sterling example of how to avoid fowling-out. It's good to know that the chickens are not afraid to cross that road when they come to it!