Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

It Takes a Village by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Marla Frazee


Rating: WORTHY!

I have to say that yet again, Goodreads screwed up royally with a book blurb. Here's how it begins: "In Mrs. Clinton book..." - way to denigrate a female author by making her an appendage of a guy. Not 'Hillary Clinton', but Mrs (Bill) Clinton. Seriously? She might have forgiven him for his shameful conduct in the White Wash Ovum office, but I never will.

I know this illiterate blurb was more than likely hand-crafted by a reviewer whose doesn't know how to cut and paste from the publisher's book description, but isn't this kind of thing what the world's most useless librarians (Goodreads style) need to fix? Oh right, that's not what they do. Frankly, I have no idea what they do do, but I do know for a fact that it ain't much.

Finally comes the only one of the collection of young children's books by celebrities that I looked at today, that sent any kind of a decent message or had any kind of respectability to it.

Told in gentle, community-building tones and illustrated sweetly and diversely by Marla Frazee, whose work I enjoyed when I favorably reviewed Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker back in January of 2017, this book does the job it sets out to do and I commend it. Ignore the professional Clinton-haters and naysayers, take a look at it online and make up your own mind!


Give Please a Chance by Bill O'Reilly, James Patterson


Rating: WARTY!

Not a fan of O'Reilly or Patterson, especially not now I see the two have colluded on writing a children's book! After all the news we've had about O'Reilly and harassment allegations and multi-million dollar hush money, I don't see where he gets the chutzpah to write a book advising kids to say please. Seriously?

Several artists illustrated this, but I don't know which one of them got a juvenile into her underwear for this book. Talk about bad taste. I'm not for banning books as a general rule, but this one ought to be, based on hypocrisy alone. I don't care if they're both donating proceeds to charity. It's still not right. The guy's last contract with Fox was for what - $25 mill per year? Let him give some of that to charity and stay away from writing children's books. And let's boycott Fox for continuing to employ people like this, and Henry Holt publishers for publishing books by people like this. Some people just have no shame.

The book doesn't even do a decent job of sending the message it claims to send. The message it does send seems to be that you can bribe people to do what you want - in this case by saying please. I guess it works with simpletons on the extreme right.


The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton


Rating: WARTY!

This was another in a set of children's books written by celebrities that I'm reviewing and they're a sorry bag, I'm saddened to say.

I loved Tim Burton's Beetlejuice which I thought was inspired, and also his original Batman, both starring Michael Keaton, curiously! In my opinion, Micheal Keaton is underrated as much as Johnny Depp is overrated. That said, I did enjoy Burton's Ed Wood (no relation!) starring Depp.

I did like the movie of Nightmare. It was fun to watch once, but unlike Batman or Beetlejuice it doesn't compel me to go back to it. I'm acquainted, slightly, with one of the animators who worked on 3D clay sculptures for it, and I reviewed her book Lily Pond favorably very recently, and that work on this movie was exquisite, but I cannot say the same thing about Burton's book, both written and illustrated by him.

The illustrations, while perfectly competent, simply don't capture the presence of the characters in the movie. If your child adores the film and really, really, really wants the book then I guess they will not be so very disappointed in this, but for me it failed to capture the essence of the movie. It simply didn't have the weight and charm, and so I have to wonder why it was ever created in the way it was. As it is, I cannot commend it.


Naughty Mabel Sees it All by Nathan Lane, Devlin Elliot, Dan Krall


Rating: WARTY!

This was another in a set of children's books written by celebrities that I'm reviewing and they're a sorry bag, I'm saddened to say.

I'm a fan of Nathan Lane. I love him as an actor, but not as a writer of children's books. No idea who the other two guys are. Krall is an illustrator, but why it took two guys to write this I have no idea. That might explain though, why this book has a tone of burlesque about it which seemed to me to be thoroughly out of place in a children's book. Even the title sounds inappropriately risqué. This is one of those books that causes me to wonder, had it been submitted by a complete unknown instead of a celebrity, would it ever have got a toe in the door at Simon and Schuster? Somehow, I rather doubt it.

The story is that Mabel goes for a sleepover at her best friends' house - that of Smarty Cat and Scaredy Cat. Of course they're visited by monsters. I've seen some very cute efforts, but I have yet to really see a children's book that can deal with the bizarre subject of monsters in a truly original way.

Too many of them seem more likely to scare kids than to reassure them. And where the hell does the assumption come from that kids are scared of monsters? By that, I mean, who puts the idea of monsters into their heads in the first place that they need to reassure them in the second place? My kids never were scared of monsters under the bed, although once in a while they liked the light left on, but it went out as soon as they did and they soon grew out of that stage because they were raised rationally and objectively, and they're perfectly fine. They never needed to be reassured about monsters because they never were led to believe monsters were around or a threat. That's not to say they don't have wild and crazy imaginations now though!

So in short I wasn't impressed with this one either, and I cannot commend it.


Touch the Earth by Julian Lennon, Bart Davis, Smiljana Coh


Rating: WARTY!

Now it's time to review some children's books written by celebrities and we have a sorry bag, I'm saddened to say.

This one is by that Julian Lennon, son of John. This is a short but colorful book illustrated by Smiljana Coh, and co-written by Bart Davis. That's the first bit that I didn't get. Not to be confused with North Concord/Martinez, which is the closest BART station to Davis, or with the politician, this guy is an author who hasn't, prior to this (and to my knowledge) ever written a children's book. Lennon is a composer of some skill, so why did he need a co-writer/ghost writer, whatever this guy's job was? It made no sense to me. In fact, this entire book made no sense.

The idea of the book is to promote awareness in children of what their parents are unthinkingly doing to the environment, but if their parents don't give a damn about the environment, they're sure as hell not going to buy this book for their kids. If they do care, then they'll be educating their kids accordingly, regardless of what books are out there, and sending their money, if they have any to spare, to organizations that are going to use all of it - not 'a portion' to help the environment, instead of it going to publishers and book creators who root up trees, pulp them, and print books on them that talk about saving the environment!

The book is weird because the text tells the reader to tilt and turn it and to press (printed) "buttons" to do various things which magically - and with zero effort - fix the depredations of unrestrained capitalism, but unless your child can already read, this isn't going to work if you're holding the book to read to your child, because they can't do all these things while you're holding the book! It especially doesn't work if you want to read it to group of kids.

Lennon founded an organization called White Feather and the book advises that "a portion" of the profit will go to benefit it. it doesn't say 'all profits' or anything like that, so what this tells me is that most of what this book earns is going into the pockets of the creators and publisher and only a portion goes to the charity. I don't see any other rational way to interpret that, so what's the point of the book? To me it seems, at best, to be misguided. Why not just send the list price ($12 for the hardback) to the charity or to any charity of your choice and skip the book altogether? I can't in good faith commend this at all.


The Lonely Balloon by Gemma Mallorey, Cleoward Sy


Rating: WORTHY!

The very title of this made me laugh. I am so far out of the intended age group for it, yet I couldn’t help but read it! That’s the importance of a good title. Good art also helps, and the amazingly-named and equally talented Cleoward Sy definitely stepped up there. The illustrations are awesome: colorful and beautifully rounded as you’d hope for in a book about a balloon. The writing is good, too, full of question and feeling, replete with wonder about where this little balloon will end up.

The poor balloon seems to be above everyone. Is that why finding friends is hard? Birds aren’t interested, neither are the flags – but at least they wave! Maybe the toys in the little kid's bedroom will befriend a balloon? I liked this story and commend it for young children. It’s full of hope and persistence, and there isn’t a better combination to be had.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach


Rating: WARTY!

I came to this by way of the Netflix TV show of the same name which derived from it, and I have to say the TV show is significantly better in my opinion. I honestly could not for the life of me figure out why 11 publishers would bid for this novel (which is what The Guardian says happened).

I know it's very likely a debut author's dream to have that kind of demand for her work, but I'd be embarrassed to have anyone bid for this novel had I written it. I'd be more likely to post it for free on my website or in some fan fiction site. On the other hand I would never have written this. If that means I'll never have a bidding war, or a TV show made from one of my books, or a best-seller, it's fine with me. I don't work that way. I want to be proud of what I've written, not embarrassed by it a few years hence.

The problem was that the book simply wasn't interesting and was poorly written. Main character Leila discovers a chat board (how quaintly antique!) called Red Pill - named after the pill scene from The Matrix. She is groomed by the site's owner, Adrian, and then offered a job of impersonating Tess, who evidently wants to kill herself, but also to have her life continued by another person for a while before being slowly faded to black so that no one knows what happened to her.

None of this makes any sense given Tess's spastic, manic, random, scatterbrained personality. I assume it's because of that very personality that she cannot do this for herself, but to be told that someone with that same personality is planning this happening, stretched credibility too far. When did she ever plan anything? Why would she care if her life ended suddenly or was faded out? From what we learn of her, she wouldn't! The TV show scenario made far more sense.

Leila pretty much immediately volunteers for this role, and starts interacting with Tess for the purpose of learning her life. Never once does dumb-ass Leila think for a second that Adrian might be setting her up. Again the TV show did it better, and certainly better than the idiotic back-cover blurb writer who makes the brain-dead claim that this is an "ingeniously plotted novel of stolen identity."

Now admittedly I ditched this halfway through and had some suspicions of my own about what was happening, but up to the point where I quit reading, there was nothing stolen here! Tess voluntarily gave up her identity to Leila because she wanted this. The blurb outright lies as blurbs all-too-often do. Shame on blurb writers!

It occurred to me that Adrian might be behind this whole thing: that Tess had no intention of dying, and that Adrian planned on killing her, and while the exchange was confined to email and IM chat, this would have worked, because he could have readily impersonated her, but then Leila was having face-to-face skypes with Tess, so unless Adrian had access to some really good emulation software, this impersonation idea seemed a stretch, but maybe that's how it went.

Or perhaps Tess didn't plan on dying, just on disappearing, and had no idea Adrian planned on killing her, so this is why this seemed to work. Either way there was no identity stolen! I don't know what the plan was or how it actually played out, or even if Tess was dead at all, but by halfway through I wasn't even remotely interested, because the story had become such a drudge to read that I couldn't have cared less, and not one of the characters appealed to me.

The story actually wasn't too bad until Leila went to Spain trying to track Tess down. At that point, the entire thing came to a screeching halt and boredom set in like chilled molasses. The story was all over the place to begin with - not linear at all - so it was at times hard to follow. Here it was easy to follow but completely lacking in anything remotely interesting. The story literally did not move a millimeter. Leila constantly complained about the heat in Spain (which stays mainly in the plain), but when she had a chance to go to town and could spend some money, did she buy a cola, or ice water, or lemonade? Nope. She bought a bag of salty potato chips. Not realistic - unless of course my theory that Leila is a moron is correct.

This pointless bumbling around at this 'hippie' commune camp in Spain was a major turn-off. It went on endlessly and it was tedious in the extreme. I mourn the trees which were sacrificed because of this author's evident inability to self-edit or to know when enough is enough. It should be needless to say that I lost all interest and I quit reading. I cannot commend this book.


They say Blue by Jillian Tamaki


Rating: WORTHY!

I commend this book! Reading it was like reading a series of haikus. The theme is color and it meanders all over the world and the seasons, starting with the blue sky and ocean in summer, and drifting through the seasons. It was beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated and I fell completely in love with it. I enjoyed Jillian Tamaki's drawings in Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, which I favorably reviewed back in June of 2016. It's nice to see her out on her own. I recommend this nook, even if you don't have children!


A Dog With Nice Ears by Lauren Child


Rating: WORTHY!

I've been in love with Charlie and Lola ever since my own kids used to watch this children's TV show. They're way beyond it now, but I still love these characters. They're a fictional bro and sis who were created by the very imaginative and inventive English writer and illustrator Lauren Child in 2000AD. This is one of the books. Until this, I'd seen only the TV show, but I have to say that this captured the show perfectly - or perhaps it's more accurate to say that the TV show captures the books perfectly since they came first.

There are several fun books to be had, assuming this one is anything to judge the rest by, but in this episode we're focused on Lola's desire to own a dog. Her parents are dead set against it. Shame on them, but I can understand a parent not wanting to get a dog for a very young child, because it's going to die on them when they're in their teens and that could be traumatizing, let's face it. I know it did me in.

Anyway Lola's perspective on what the dog should look like and how it should behave are predictably - knowing Lola as I do - bizarre. It's only when she gets her pet home that everything falls into place, and the result amused the heck out of me. Did I mentioned I loved the TV show?! And the author's name is Child for goodness sake!

I recommend this for any parent with a slightly off-kilter sense of humor and any kids who need to be nudged outside of their comfort zone once in a while. It's good for them. My kids lapped up the TV show, but then they're my kids, so what would you expect! LOL! I commend this book and I'll bet the entire series is a worthy read.


Hedge Hog by Ashlyn Anstee


Rating: WORTHY!

I used to keep pet hedgehogs when I was a kid and I adored them. Naturally when I saw this book I was interested in reading it. The key to how this is going to play out is in the fact that in the title, hedgehog isn't one word!

Hedgehogs are known fro balling up, but no hedgehog balls up like this one did. The animals are all getting ready for winter (unnaturally it must be said, if verisimilitude is your goal in children's books!) and are bunking up together to stay warm, unlikely bedfellows snuggling down for winter. The only one who seems to be antisocial is the hedgehog who frankly is rather prickly, and who refuses to let anyone share his hedge.

Well things go south - and it's not the animals. Hedgehog suddenly finds himself without a bunk and the other animals are kind enough to forgive him and let him in. Lesson learned.

This was a fun and playful book with amusing images and I commend it for any child who might need to learn a little about sharing, or who might just like a sweet, fun book that can open up a great discussion about selfishness.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen Minor Works


Rating: WORTHY!

As I mentioned in the previous review, I checked this out of the library at the same time as the other, only to discover that they pretty much contain the same material, so you takes your library card and you pays your respects, I guess. These can probably be found online these days so maybe a trip to the bookstore or library isn't necessary.

This volume contains very much the same thing the other did, but in a different order, this one being more chronological, and largely in reverse order of the other, strangely enough. Up front is young Jane's 'juvenilia' so-called, which consists of literary efforts preserved (and thankfully so) from her childhood which are amusing and very interesting for Austen fans. This is followed by Lady Susan a very short epistolary story which may have been written as early as the mid 1790's when Jane wasn't even in her twenties, but which wasn't actually published until almost a century later. Lady Susan is quite different from her other work.

There is also The Watsons (rather a prototype of Pride and Prejudice) and Sanditon, aka The Brothers, which was uncompleted at the time of her death. This book also contains quite a few poems written by Austen which make for interesting reading. I recommend this as a worthy read.


Sanditon and Other Stories by Jane Austen


Rating: WORTHY!

I got this from my local library out of curiosity. I got a companion volume to it also, but both volumes contain pretty much the same thing: the Jane Austen works that didn't quite make it big!

This volume contains what is commonly called Sanditon, which was the novel Austen was working on when she died. Her own title for it was The Brothers. Many people have pretentiously tried to 'continue' this novel since it was incomplete, but unsurprisingly, it has never taken off as her other major works did.

It contains Lady Susan, about a very aggressive and self-possessed older woman, which Austen finished right before she began work on "Elinor and Marianne" which came to be known as Sense and Sensibility, and following which she began her second full-length novel, "First Impressions" which is known today as Pride and Prejudice.

It also contains The Watsons - the story of Sherlock Holmes's famous companion before the two of them met. Just kidding! Seriously, The Watsons is about an invalid and impoverished clergyman and his four unmarried daughters. Sounds remarkably like Pride and Prejudice, doesn't it?!

Additionally this collection contains what's come to be called "Juvenilia" which is material Austen composed when she was a juvenile. Some of this is really quite amusing. It also contains Austen's tongue-in-cheek 'plan of a novel' and opinions she evidently collected, expressed by friends over her (then) recently published work such as Mansfield Park and Emma.

I recommend this for real fans of Jane Austen.


The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding


Rating: WORTHY!

Subtitled "and the best burger in Los Angeles" this book tells the story of Abby, who is working a summer part time internship at a fashion store called Lemonberry not far from where she lives. Normally the store takes on only one intern, but the manager, Maggie, is expecting a busy summer and so takes on two this year, and therein lies the problem - the intern often gets to stay on at the store as a paid employee (how that works given that they;re already staffed isn't gone into), so it means that Abby in in competition with Jordana Perez, on whom she soon discovers, she's crushing.

If you don't like cute, you won't like this because this is a very cute relationship. But that said, it's also quite stereotypical. I've read too many YA novels where there's the girl and the bad boy, and while this is an LGBTQIA story, Jordi is definitely the trope bad boy, short-haitred, dressed in black, in complete contrast to Abby who wears bright colors, often with a fruit motif. It turns out that Jordi isn't as bad as she's painted, so there is an out, but it still seemed a bit been-there-done-that to me: Abby the femme with Jordi the butch. It's right there in the names! it would have been nice had they been named against stereotype, and the fact these these contrasts between them were never really explored was a minor problem for me.

Another contrast is that Abby is overweight and Jordi is far from it. Some reviewers have outright described her as fat, but I don't like to use that word, especially in a case where we never really get an idea of exactly what body type Abby has. Ultimately, it's not important what body a person has if they're healthy and are getting some exercise, but it felt like a bit of a betrayal in that Abby seems far too comfortable in herself for the real world, and we never really get any feeling that she's had a hard time for her body.

It would be nice if that was everyone's case, it really would, but it's not, so this felt a bit unrealistic to me especially set as it was in a teen/high-school environment. Literally everyone accepted her and no one ever had a remark about her? And this is when she's hanging around with jocks because her best friend is dating one? It seemed a bit too sunshine and rainbows, especially in an era of a shameful presidency where crassness and crudity and rampant misogyny, homophobia, and racism is positively encouraged. The book was published only this year, so yes, the author knew, and I was sorry she didn't do more with that.

That said, I really loved Abby for her humor and wit, and for her observations of life around her and even for being scatterbrained at times. Her relationship with her best friend Maliah was a solid one, and even what she develops with this new guy during the course of the story - one of the jocks, named Jackson, or Jax for short. He was pretty cool despite being a dick on occasion, and be warned there is an ulterior motive!

Abby seems to be fine with how she is, but there seems to be a lot of reference to her body in spite of this. She mentions it quite a lot in contrast to her profession that she's happy with how she is, and this isn't gone into either. Nor is her mother's shameful behavior towards her which seems inexplicable and particularly with regard to the kind of person Abby grew up to be.

Abby got her internship because she is a blogger with a lot to say about fashion for plus-sized women. Jordi got the job because of her photography and it's this which causes some grief later in the story - a plot point I found to be a little on the thin side which is ironic give the subject of the story! Once she and Abby begin dating, Jordi starts takign lots of pictures of Abby, and Abby never objects or questions to what use these might be put, not even when she realizes that Jordi likes to show the world how she sees it, and that she has an upcoming show at a local public display area.

Warning bells should have rung in Abby's head, which is sad, because they don't and this makes her look a lot less astute about trends and signs than she's been shown to be to that point. I'm not usually good at picking these things out, but even I could see exactly what was coming from a mile away.

The blurb tells us that "...when Jordi's photography puts Abby in the spotlight, it feels like a betrayal, rather than a starring role." Yes, Abby is the star of Jordi's show. This is not a spoiler because it's no surprise whatsoever. This is followed by the truly dumb, trademark question that utterly moronic blurb-writers cannot seem to keep themselves from asking: "Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her?" Hell no! The world will explode in a nuclear holocaust! Hell no! She's met a hot Internet celeb, and fallen in love, throwing Jordi over. Hell no, Abby is so offended by Jordi's pictorial that she's scared straight and starts dating Jax. Seriously? Of course Abby and Jordi will end up together - it's that kind of story. Duhh!

Book blurb writers must have a truly abyssal view of their readers' intellect to pose imbecilic questions like that. And they're so frequent, especially in chick lit. What does that say about how publishers view their readership?

Abby's reaction to Jordi putting her into the spotlight seemed disingenuous to me, and it completely betrays the relationship far more than Abby whines that Jordi has betrayed her. Grow a pair Abby! Her reaction is far too dramatic and written solely for the purpose of breaking them up so they can have a tearful reunion later, and this smacked of amateurishness to me. It read t this point more like fanfic than ever it did a professionally published novel.

This is the part of the book that I did not like and which seemed much more unrealistic than any other part. Some people have called out Jordi in their reviews, for her behavior, but she's behaving true to character. It's Abby who is willing to betray Jordi and her supposed love for this woman, over a thing like this which could easily have been resolved instead of discussing it with her. This relationship is doomed, trust me!

I think it would have been a better ending to have had Abby realize that she had overreacted, and had her go to reconcile with Jordi only to find that Jordi refuses, because Abby had betrayed her by showing such a ready willingness to completely ditch her and turn her back on her over a simple misunderstanding. That's how I would have ended this one.

I have to say a word about the fashion element too! On the one hand this book shows Abby as being very stylish and dressy, and on a budget too (although Abby never actually seems short of money, Where she gets it all goes unexplained). I have no problem with Abby wanting to be stylish and having an eye for it. She can be anything she wants. Even the anorexic, self-indulgent, fatuous and shallow world of fashion is waking up - begrudgingly and far too slowly - to the fact that people come in other sizes than Bulemic Zero.

But it bothered me that Abby (and the author) had nothing much to say on this topic. Just saying. It's this and the magazines, and Hollywood, and TV which contrive to make women feel ugly and poorly dressed, and unsexy and worthless, and it's shameful. This is why I have no tolerance for the fashion world. Its sole purpose is to make women feel inadequate and out of date, and thereby inveigle them into endlessly dieting and spending money they don't have on the endlessly updating latest fashions, and it's criminal, misogynistic, and disgusting. Women have enough to contend with in the academic ad business worlds without piling this on.

But all of that said, this book was cute and for the most part told a story I really liked and enjoyed. I just think that the predictable break-up was far too predictable and for the most predictable of reasons, and this betrayed the story. Plus I am not a huge fan of predictable! A little bit predictable yes, because it's comforting, and we can use a lot of that under this presidency, but not so glaringly so! That said I commend the novel as a worthy read overall.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

We Love the Library by Mike Berenstain


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a short, fun, colorful children's book about a trip to the library. There's not much to say about that, except that anything which encourages kids to read is to be encouraged itself! Reading is truly an important thing in a child's growth, and that;s why I think books like this are a good reading tool. I recommend it.


Splashdance by Liz Starin


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a book for children, about prejudice and determination, amusingly illustrated, beautifully written. Ursula and Ricardo are training hard for the water ballet competition. The prize is a million dollars and Ursula, who happens to be a bear, is confident they can win...until, that is, they see a sign "No Bears Allowed" at the pool! Other hairy animals are allowed in, but for some reason, bears are being profiled.

That's not even the worst thing to happen! Ricardo ditches Ursula for a giraffe - still hairy, but not banned! Thus provides some great talking points for a discussion with your child about prejudice and about lost friendships. Is your friend really a friend if they abandon you - especially when the abandonment stems from an unjust act against you? It's a good lead-in to talk about rumor and cruelty, and discriminating against people for unjust reasons.

The thing about Ursula though, is that she doesn't give up. She teams up with a bunch of misfit animals and they practice so hard, and sneak into the tournament anyway! In the end, fun is had, minds are changed, and a good lesson is learned. I liked this book and I recommend it as a worthy read for young children. I loved the title!


Round is a Tortilla by Roseanne Greenfield Thong


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a small format, short, fun book with a strong Latin influence, aimed at teaching young children simple shapes and encouraging them to find shapes in things they see. It was colorful with illustrations by John Parra that were unsophisticated, but without being too simplistic, and the text was an easy read, warmly written, and offered a look at Latin life as well at common shapes. I think this is a fun read for children and educational to boot. I recommend it.


Wanda's Better Way by Laura Pederson, Penny Weber


Rating: WORTHY!

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

In trying to decide what she wants to do with her life, young Wanda discovers that she's actually a scientist and an inventor. She doesn't just complain when she sees a problem, she also sees a solution and then goes and puts it in place by herself. Seeing a crowded, untidy changing room at dance class, she finds a fix. Seeing squirrels stealing bird seed, she finds a way to prevent it. Seeing dad separating egg yolks for a cake, she finds a better way to separate them!

I liked the go-getter character, and the fact that she fixed things herself, but there was much more than this. There was the analysis of the problem, which is explained at the end of the book, and the desire to do something - to be active, not passive. Wanda was also the child of a mixed-race family, which was a joy to see. There are so few books about diversity and it's as rare to see mixed-race parents in a children's book as it is to see same sex parents.

The illustrations were beautifully done by Penny Weber and the text by Laura Pederson was straight forward and evocative. The book had a great overall feel to it. I liked it very much and I recommend it.


Sloppy Takes the Plunge by Sean Julian


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Sloppy is a tree dragon, and as anyone who knows anything can tell you: tree dragons love being mucky and do not mix well with water. Unless it's well water...well, maybe. But. Dewdrop is a fairy and as anyone who knows anything will also tell you, fairies do not hug mucky tree dragons. So maybe Sloppy will take a bath? But what about sharks and crocodiles? But what about baby ducklings who are afraid of the water? Maybe sloppy can help?

This was a fun book designed to lure kids into the bathtub, and anything that can do that is worth a read! I liked the book. it was fun and boisterous, and colorful and playful. I also liked the characters, and I consider this a very worthy read.


Luke and Lottie. It's Halloween! by Ruth Wielockx


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This is a little out of season, it not even being July 4th as I post this, but October isn't that far away. My look forward in October is not to Halloween, but to the next season of Doctor Who, which features a female doctor for the first time, but this book is on my to-do list for today, so here goes!

I had a couple of issues with this one - the girl being scared of the spider, but the boy not, and mom being the stay-at-home while dad ventures out with the kids, but later the kids meet up with their aunts who are out trick or treating, so it evened up a bit. The story really doesn't offer anything new, but to me what won for this book was was the really amazing color scheme. It was replete with beautiful illustrations in rich, deep colors, and with lots of detail, so it was a very impressive work of art, and I recommend it!


Riley Knows He Can by Davina Hamilton, Elena Reinoso


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This is a great children's story by Davina Hamilton told in poetry, and remarkably illustrated by Elena Reinoso in an almost 3D effect. It was really nice to see a good mix of children - not all white folks - for a change. Riley is acting in the school play. He plays a benevolent king, but the real life Riley has nerves. Fortunately, his supportive family are there, and his big sister tells him that whenever he has doubts he should remind himself that he can do it. He takes her advice, and it works!

This was a nice, breezy, upbeat and supportive story that moved fast, made its mark, and was a pleasure to read. I recommend it.