Showing posts with label animals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label animals. Show all posts

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O'Neill


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I happily reviewed Katie O'Neill's The Tea Dragon Festival back in August of 2017, and while I felt this one did not quite match up to the high standard that one set (I really enjoyed that one!), I still think this is a worthy read. It expands on the original story and adds new folklore, and has some interesting new characters.

The author's artwork is of the same high standard as before, but the story felt to me a little bit more meandering. I should say up front that I'm not a fan of series because they tend to be little more than a retreading of the original story. Like retreaded tires, they're not worth the money, and are typically boring to me. This was not one of those sequels I was happy to see. It did have some more story to tell that was new and different.

As I said before, the tea dragon story book is everything that the overly-commercialized 'My Little Pony' garbage ought to have been, but failed so dismally to get there. The tea dragon stories do get there, and by a different and far more interesting route. The little dragons are renowned for the tea they produce through leaves which grow on their horns and antlers. Those leaves contain memories which the drinker can share, but they cannot grow without a true bond between the Tea Dragon and its care-giver. And no, you cannot buy that tea commercially!

Rinn, the protagonist here, grew up with tea dragons and is used to their being around and their habits and foibles, but in this outing she runs into a real dragon named Aedhan, who has been sleeping for a very long time. This enchanted sleep is a mystery that begs to be solved, and Rinn is up to the job! I commend this story as a fun and worthy read.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Confuchsia: An Early Bird's Tale by Alan J Paul


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I couldn't get with this book at all and for a number of reasons. It's not accurate at all, and doesn't even try to be. Yes, it's aimed at young children, and no, it's not a science text book, nor should it be, but science education and understanding in the USA frankly sucks. It's consistently shown itself to be appalling and has fallen lately to where the combined math, science and reading scores in the US are way behind China, for example with whom a trade war is, as of this writing, in full swing, and even behind other places not renowned for their prowess, such as Estonia, Vietnam, Slovenia, Macau, and the Czech Republic, for example. Books like this are not to blame for those poor scores, but they sure don't lift a finger to help, and so are a part of the problem.

You can argue all you want that this is a children's book, not a science book, and it shouldn't be expected to teach children what they're obviously failing to learn in our underfunded schools, but the bare fact remains that it is just as easy to get facts right as to get them wrong, and you never hurt a child by telling the truth. On top of that, there was a strong religious element in this book which I didn't appreciate what with talk of a supreme being - which contributed nothing at all to the story and had no place in it, and with naming the characters after Confucius and Buddha! Why?!

The basic story is an old one of the 'ugly duckling' variety where a baby is born (in this case hatched) and doesn't fit in with the rest of the family - and so it's kicked out? This was the wrong approach to begin with. I hope no adopted child reads this. The child, Confuchsia, has to make her own way in the world very briefly, until she's rescued by a guy! Way to make a woman feel invalid until some guys saves her. The book buys right into the 'women are helpless playthings or property of men' garbage that women are still fighting, even in the west.

Confuchsia is obviously based on the fossil Confuciusornis, which contrary to this author's belief was not a bird and could not fly. Confuciusornis lived about 120 million years ago, and so would never have encountered a Brachiosaurus which lived thirty million years earlier, nor T rex, which lived sixty million years later, nor any velociraptor which also lived much later.

Obviously you don't want to spell out all these things in a children's book, or lecture them, but a modicum of research would have turned up a primitive bird such as Apsaravis which did live at the time of the velociraptors and T rex, and which could fly, along with Chiayusaurus which could have readily stood in for the brachiosaur. Also Confuciusornis was far from brightly-colored. It was a rather drab gray and brown color as far as science can determine. It took me five minutes to dig-up this information!

I'm sorry but this book could have done a lot better both in the factual parts of it and in how the story was told. As it was, it was passing on misinformation when it would have been just as easy to get it right and without even changing the arc of the story! I can't commend a book that so badly misinforms children and really doesn't tell that great of a story anyway.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Mouse With the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck


Rating: WORTHY!

Written in 2013 by an author who died almost exactly a year ago, this was a fun little audiobook which frankly dragged a bit for me towards the end, but given how short the book is and how much fun the first two-thirds of it was, I'm not about to mark it down for that, especially since it wasn't written for my age group!

This mouse not only has a question mark tail, he lacks a real name and is known as Mouse Minor for the most part - and he is minor - small for his age. It seemed so obvious that I don't see it as a spoiler to reveal that this mouse is royalty. He's sent to school but ends up getting in trouble over a caterpillars-in-lunch-boxes incident to which Mouse Minor neither confesses nor denies. He runs away instead and ends up on an adventure in which he's kidnapped by bats and eventually gets an audience with Queen Victoria herself who seems, I have to say, curiously unafraid of mice.

Richard Peck is an American and while he does for the most part get his 'Britishisms' right, there are times when he strays, but most Americans won't notice those, especially not children. Overall though, this was a fun romp and I commend it as a worthy listen, but I should warn you that this is an old style children's novel (Peck was in his late seventies when he wrote it) and so it contains some violent concepts which tend not to appear in children's books written by younger authors. These include a somewhat bloodthirsty discussion of the beheadings in the French revolution, which goes on a little bit too long, and also instances of Mouse Minor contemplating having his brains beaten to jelly by the school bullies - that sort of thing, so be mindful of that.


Friday, May 3, 2019

Who Laid the Egg? By Audrey Sauble


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a colorful little book for young children about eggs and the creatures that lay them. It poses a question at each egg illustration, and offers some possible solutions as to who laid it. Sometimes there are many suggestions, sometimes a few, sometimes only one! Children can have fun guessing who did what, and comparing the kinds of eggs to see if that can be used as a reliable clue. The animals include birds, turtles, dinosaurs, and even a mammal! This is a fun book for young children and I commend it.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

1, 2, 3, Who's Cleaning the Sea? by Janina Rossiter


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I don't personally know Janina Rossiter, but we've exchanged an email now and then, and I've favorably reviewed several of her books on their merit, most specifically the 'Tovi the Penguin' books. She's branched out into a different concept here: teaching counting and at the same time offering some environmental awareness to young children. I believe this is something of a companion to her 'ABC' book, although I haven't read that one.

In an era where we find trash islands floating in the ocean and beached whales with pounds of plastic in their gut, and as National Geographic reported last October, your table salt most likely includes tiny plastic particles no matter where in the world you buy it, it hits any rational, caring person hard in the head as to how badly we're making a mess of our environment.

The book aims to counteract some of that by educating youngsters about this nightmare of a problem. It starts with the number one and finds a marine animal to represent each number in one way or another. Obviously the 8 is an octopus, but what number is a Jellyfish collecting plastic bags? Children will have fun finding out which other animals have different numbers of legs or fins, but more importantly, they will learn how bad our ocean is and how desperately it needs help.

Yes the ocean is huge, but so is the problem. We've been tossing modern trash into it for decades, and like climate change, it's way past time to stop making things worse. Maybe a kid who reads this will grow up to take charge of the problem and fix what we have so poorly managed. I commend this book as a worthy read.


How to Be a Butterfly by Laura Knowles, Catell Ronca


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a gorgeously illustrated little book for young children about the Lepidoptera, better known to most as butterflies. Note that Lepidoptera also includes moths, and they get a mention here, but this is primarily all about butterflies. How to be one is a cute round-about way of describing what a butterfly looks like without turning it into a boring list of characteristics. It runs along the lines of you having to have colorful wings with smooth edges, but you can also have pale wings or ones with lobes and scallops. You have to have slim antennae with buds on the end, and so on. And of course you have to drink nectar and lay eggs in safe places on leaves your caterpillars can eat, and then they have to lock themselves up and pupate before they can be beautiful butterflies too.

I was seriously impressed by how much work Catell Ronca did in illustrating scores of butterflies of all kinds. It was epic! There are multiple and endlessly varied butterflies everywhere. It was almost like being in one of those lepidopterarium places where butterflies roam free indoors and breed and live out their unjustly short lives, and you can wander around in the middle of them and enjoy the spectacle! I think this book was excellent: educational, colorful, well-written, interesting and fun. I commend it.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a short and adorable audiobook. The original novel is both written and illustrated by the author who is, I'm sorry to report, a Newbery medal winner. I normally detest stories that have won Newberys and avoid them and their authors like the plague, but this novel is not itself a Newbery winner, and so is totally unpretentious and completely loveable. Inspired by this one, I'm planning on reading more work by this author.

Squirrels are not the most reliable of mammals, so it means a lot to have a friend who will go to great lengths - at least great groves of trees anyway, to save a squirrel who was snatched away by a hawk. When Jed is carried off by the hawk, who ends up dropping him, his best friend TsTs (sutsuh, who is a totally happening squirrel) talks their other friend Chai into going with her to find out what happened to Jed. They end up finding a new community of oddly-speaking red squirrels, and learn of a threat to their home from those evil forest-flaying humans

Nuts to You is actually a well-wishing gesture in squirrel, and this story is full of fun, humor, and squirrel lore. I delighted in it and commend it fully as a worthy read.


What on Earth: Birds by Mike Unwin, Paulina Morgan


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a fun and colorful book and you'll never guess what it was packed with information about! Birds, you say? How did you guess?! Seriously, this was a neat little book and a useful tool for young children interested in living things around them - and which kid isn't? In an age where climate change denial idiots simply do not get that the damage we are doing to Earth is critical and the dire fallout from it imminent, the more our young children know about the world, the better they will be prepared to fix it. After all these are the children who will be forced to grow up living with the awful mess we've made because we adults refuse to grow up.

Notwithstanding the educational content, the book isn't dull reading - far from it. It combines three facets inviting readers to explore, create, and investigate, so there is always something new and interesting in the flight plan - or the walking plan or the swimming plan depending on which birds we're talking about! Readers will learn about flight and migrations, about food and bird plumage, and about anatomy and behavior.

One minor quibble is that this is another book designed as a print book with little thought given to the ebook version. I read this on an iPad, and the double page spreads worked fine until page 13 which was printed lengthwise such that if you had the print book, you would rotate it ninety degrees to read the page in portrait format as opposed to landscape which all the other double spreads adopt.

This was hard to read on a tablet because every time you change the angle of the pad to look at it lengthwise, the image on the screen rotates and defeats your purpose! The only way to see it was to keep the tablet completely flat and slowly rotate it to see it as the authors intended. It was annoying, but as I indicated, not a deal-breaker. Overall I consider this a worthy read and a useful educational tool for children.

The Woods by Rob Hodgson


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

How can I not want to read a book that's named after my family? No, it's not really named after me, you silly goose, but the book isn't about geese, either. Or about woods - excepting in that it takes place in the woods. It's really about foxes versus rabbits, and while foxes are supposed to be cunning and crafty, you'll find that maybe the rabbits can teach them a thing or two, especially since the foxes aren't too smart.

I read and enjoyed this author's The Cave and if you're familiar with that, you'll realize he likes to put a twist in the tale if not in the tail, so expect one here! The foxes, one tall, one small, one round, all clowns, are hunting rabbits, but they're not having much success no matter where they seek out these liberated lagomorphs. Observant children might be a bit better at spotting rabbits than the foxes are. They can even emulate the foxes by maybe climbing on a chair to simulate climbing a tree, and crawling under the table to simulate crawling through a tunnel.

It's all about fun, and like The Cave this was a fun book. I commend it as a worthy read for young children. No rabbits here indeed! I don't know what the foxes were rabbiting on about....


Friday, March 8, 2019

Mike & Spike by Diane Namm, June Goldsborough


Rating: WORTHY!

Mike and Spike are magpies and this story is about a race to migrate south for the winter. The problem is that magpies really don't migrate, so I'm not sure where the authors got that idea from. That aside, the story was fun and nicely-illustrated by Goldsborough. It's a bit like the tortoise and the hare, but there's a fun twist at the end.

One of the birds is a dedicated flyer, taking off with his little backpack and heading south, whereas the other is a bit lazy and wants to find the easy way, so we get to see a variety of vehicles (cars, trains, a fire truck), as he tries to cheat his way there by hitching a ride, but of course none of these vehicles are going the distance. He also naps and lollygags, and gets there last, but he doesn't know his friend also cheated - and was smarter about it!


Safari Babies by Lisa McClatchy, Cindy Kiernicki


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a sweet book for young kids talking about African animals (mostly mammals as usual - you won't find a crocodile here, but you will find an ostrich) and their young. It's brief, colorful, and informative, and covers a variety of critters starting with Lions and zebras, and going on through elephants, gazelles, hippos, meerkats, warthogs, and so on - the usual suspects. A bit more variety would have been nice. Some emphasis on threatened species would have been good (some of the species here are vulnerable or threatened, but there was nothing said on that topic). Overall, this isn't bad for kids to learn a bit about the world, so I commend it as a worthy ready for young kids.


Saturday, January 19, 2019

You Can Do It, Squirrel by Kate Breuer


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This sounded like a fun picture book for young kids according to the blurb but unfortunately, Amazon's renowned crappy Kindle conversion process destroyed the book. I downloaded it twice, once to my phone and once to my iPad, and in both cases, the book delivered a cover and nothing else. Every one of the seventeen pages was a black screen, so there was on book to read. Not that I'm racist! I enjoy a mix - black text and white background, or vice versa. Either color on its own is a fail! We have to stand together on this!

This is therefore more a review of Amazon's pathetic process and its lousy, destructive, abusive Kindle conversion process than it is of this novel. It sucks. I urge all publishers and authors to abandon Amazon and their pathetic process altogether. We're just handing them more and more power and they do not deserve it. They haven't earned it and don't even try. Please use a process that works and that does not shred, spindle, and mutilate your book. Use something that works, such as PDF, Barnes's and Nobles's Nook system or something else. Anything but Kindle.

I can't commend a book that has quite literally been gutted by Amazon.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

I See a Bear, But... by KA Morgan


Rating: WARTY!

I tend to apply a different - but not a lower - standard to children's books in my reviews. I don't think they should offer less than books for grown-ups, but I cut them more slack in how they tell stories, in artwork, and sometimes in quality if the story is nevertheless good. I especially favor them if they're amusing, instructive, clever, or downright off the wall, which is probably why I love my own The Little Rattuses™ series so much. I couldn't do it with this one though.

I'm a great fan of puns and do not understand why something that was so beloved by Shakespeare has become such an object of derision these days, so I was amused by the title of this book and I had hoped the interior would deliver more of the same, but not exactly the same! The problem with this book was that all it did was essentially repeat the same butt joke eight times over, and the story didn't even deliver anything educational about the animals except the cliched general "knowledge" that everyone has about bears, moose, wolves, squirrels, rabbits, deer (even though a moose is in fact a deer!), raccoons, and skinks. And yes, moose is the plural of moose - not mooses, and certainly not meese.

The author has apparently made a rather extensive career out of this same shtick, because she has titles like "I See a Cat, But...", "I See a Chicken, But...", and "I See a Reindeer, But...", but it's the same thing endlessly repeated. There's nothing new or educational here and I cannot commend something as unimaginative and uninventive as this.


Friday, January 4, 2019

Kim by Rudyard Kipling


Rating: WARTY!

I've enjoyed several of this author's works, but I could not get with him on this one. I positively reviewed The Elephant's Child in February 2018, and his Just So Stories in December of 2014, and I even enjoyed the Jungle Book stories related to Mowgli, which admittedly I did as research for a novel, but nevertheless! This one was boring, I'm sorry to report.

Set in the late nineteenth century, this story has a great plot to begin with: Kim is Kimball O'Hara, an orphan whose Irish father and mother are both dead. He continues to live in poverty as did his parents, and earns a living (if you can call it that) from begging and running errands on the streets of Lahore, which nowadays is a major city in Pakistan in the Punjab pradesh. Kipling's story was set before the partition. Kim is so much a part of the local culture that he is routinely mistaken for a native. He sometimes does jobs for Mahbub Ali, who is a Pashtun horse dealer, but who also works for the British secret service.

Kim attaches himself to a Tibetan lama and begins traveling with him as the lama seeks to free himself from the never-ending wheel of life and achieve enlightenment, For some reason this necessitates a quest to find a certain body of water, but Kim is separated from the lama and sent to school when it's discovered that he is a British subject. Somehow this impoverished lama-beggar funds his education, and after he is done with school, he rejoins the lama on a trip, the lama still traveling, Kim now spying for the British government.

I never made it that far though, because the story bored the salwar off me. I cannot commend it as a worthy read.


Monday, December 31, 2018

Parfois by Emma Dodd


Rating: WORTHY!

Definitely the last review for 2018!

The author studied Graphic Design and Illustration at the famous Saint Martin's in London. This was a delightful novel which was perfectly intelligible even though written entirely in French (translated from the original English by Albin Michel Jeunesse). Why my local library had a book written entirely in French, I do not know, but since my French is very rusty and never was fluent, rest assured you would have an easy time too, no matter what state your lingo is in.

This colorful and short book is aimed at very young children, and depicts a naughty baby elephant getting up to antics as such offspring do. It was elphantastic. I predict that this young elephant is going to become very big.


Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson


Rating: WORTHY!

OK, so I'm willing to admit that I may have overdone it with the graphic novels lately! Anyway, here’s another one, this time aimed at a younger audience, but which entertained me despite that! It was amusing, decently-written, and contained some fun antics. I think kids will love reading or better yet being read to about the escape plans of these classroom pets, especially if you sit ‘em on your knee and activate the story by jogging the kid around a bit to match the pets’ escape activities. I commend it as a short, but colorful and fun story.


We Build Our Homes by Laura Knowles, Chris Madden


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a fun and educational story about animals that build. Be it homes or a means to attract a mate, they do a workmanlike and wonderful job, and they live all over the world.

In a series of colorful and beautifully-done illustrations by Chris Madden, and with some rather poetic prose from Laura Knowles, the story is told from the animal's perspective and describes (from the blurb): "mammals, birds, and insects [which] can be found building incredible things. From biggest beaver dams to tinniest caddisfly cases...." There are the exotic, such as ovenbirds, which build adobe huts on tree branches, and the amazing Darwin's bark spiders, which build gigantic webs, to the more mundane, such as moles, to the highly endangered by human stupidity and lethargy: polar bears, who can build a toasty home out of icy snow in bitterly cold weather, and then starve themselves for five months while their cubs almost literally suck them dry!

The book doesn't focus solely on fluffy mammals like too many children's books do, but covers some insects, reptiles, as well as birds, and features some more grown-up details in the back for interested adults - and every adult should be interested in what we're doing to our home even as these animals struggle to continue to build their own. Every kid needs to be raised with a deep appreciation for nature and for the damage humans can do when we think only of ourselves and not of our home - Planet Earth, Anything which can bring kids a keener awareness of nature, and how it works, and how delicate some of it is, is to be welcomed, and I commend this for being an important part of that education.


Saturday, December 15, 2018

Who are You Calling Weird? by Marilyn Singer


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a treasure trove of joyful illustration and rewarding information about weirdoes among the animal world. I'm quite well read about the natural world, and especially about oddball critters, but this book held some surprises for me. Some of these animals I had never heard of before; some I am quite familiar with, such as the narwhal, and the pangolin, but I'd never heard, for example, of the Pacific barreleye which is a startling creature to say the least. If someone had invented that for a sci-fi story you would never have believed it.

The book covers over twenty animals, including humans who are in some ways the weirdest of all. The illustrations were colorful and amusing, and the book very educational and eye-opening (barreleye-opening in my case!). I thought it was wonderful and a great way to fascinate a child with the wonders of our natural world, and how delicate and rare they are, and how much they need our love and protection. I commend it unreservedly.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Cookie Eating Firedog by Lida Sideris, Joan Young


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I could not help but want to like this one because of the title which was so absurd, and in the end I did enjoy this young children's colorful and fun story about a naughty firehouse dog - which is of course the traditional Dalmatian.

This is a departure from this author's usual line of writing, which is aimed at a much more mature audience and tends toward murder mysteries. Also do not confuse her with Lisa Sideris who is also an author and an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University.

Based on a twenty-year-old story that came out of something her young (at that time) son said, the book was created rapidly, but found no publisher. Now it has one, which is an object lesson in never giving up. Those firefighters should never have given up on their dog either, because while he was a lazy little critter, much preferring to eat cookies than fight fires, even when out on the truck at a fire, he learned his lesson when a fire started...at the station house! And with dogged determination, he came through! The Dalmatian escaped damnation! Give that dog a cookie!

I thought this simply yet sweetly illustrated (by Joan Young) story was a blast and I commend it as a worthy read for young children.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Who Will Roar if I Go? by Paige Jaeger, Carol Hill Quirk


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Illustrated beautifully by artist Carol Hill Quirk, and written poetically by the author with the highly appropriate name of Paige Jaeger (Jaeger in German means 'hunter'! Page Hunter? Great name for a writer! LOL!), this book highlights some of the endangered animals on the planet, and we really need to start paying close attention.

We need to focus not just on the species charmingly depicted in this book, but to entire ecosystems that we are despoiling not only through hunting, poaching, and habitat destruction, but also through climate change, which notwithstanding our idiot president's delusional view of science, IS caused by humans, IS happening right now, and IS dangerously affecting the entire planet.

The lion is considered a 'vulnerable' species, which is only one step up from endangered. The gorilla is critically endangered, which is one step below 'merely' endangered. Well over a thousand rhinos were killed by poachers in 2015. Their population cannot remotely sustain such wanton murder. The western black rhino and the northern white rhino are already extinct along with a sub-species of the Javan rhino. We will never see their like again. The rest of the Javan, and also the Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered, and the Indian rhino is vulnerable.

In the mid-nineteen thirties - Ernest Hemingway's puffed-up 'Great' White Hunter era - there may have been as many five million elephants in Africa. Now there is far less than a million. The tiger is Asian, and it's endangered. There is much less than four thousand of them left in the wild. Most zebra species are endangered. One of them, the quagga, is already extinct.

The quetzal bird is much better off, being 'only' near-threatened, while the Chinese giant salamander is critically endangered because the idiot Chinese hunt it for food and medicine. The North American Karner blue butterfly - which I have to be honest and say the art in this case does not do justice to (sorry, Ms. Quirk!) - is vulnerable, and all eight species of the pangolin - which live across the southern hemisphere and which are utterly adorable - are threatened with extinction. Despite China doing the right thing (but perhaps only because it's a national treasure) the panda is still considered vulnerable.

This gorgeous picture book is the beginning of what I hope will be a successful and informative series because it has a lot of potential not only to do good, but to be inventive in how it informs readers. This first makes a colorful statement and a plaintive call for help.

There's a glossary of long words in the back. I would have liked to have seen a short section giving some details - for the grownups! - in the back along with some ways they could help - for example by means of listing URLs of conservation and wildlife protection organizations, but any enterprising adult ought to be able to find those for herself these days. Other than that I though this was a treasure and I commend it for its message and its presentation.