Showing posts with label young children's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label young children's. Show all posts

Friday, March 8, 2019

Doc's Mobile Clinic by Marcy Kelman

Rating: WORTHY!

Based on a TV show created by Chris Nee, and illustrated by the so-called 'Character Building Studio' which appears to make heavy use of computer-generated imagery, this book actually wasn't half bad as it happens. It's also from Disney (although the show was produced by Brown Bag Films, it was shown on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior). The book was even mildly amusing.

Doc McStuffins likes to take care of injured toys and now she has a mobile clinic which hooks on the back of her bike, she can travel to where the injured toys are and fix them up, which is exactly what she does. This book depicts a kid of kolor who is actively pursuing her own goals and not afraid to wield the tools she needs to do it (and that's not a metaphor!). She's a self-starter and definitely not a princess, and she deserves some recognition as a much better and more realistic character than some of the whitewashed and flimsy female abuse that Disney has served up over the years and doesn't seem like it's going to give up on any time soon!

Perhaps this character only grew to be what she is because she didn't originate in Disney studios? Anyway, I commend it as a fun and worthy read and I hope Disney learns something from it.

Enchanted Moments by the Disney Product Marketing Team

Rating: WARTY!

This seemed to me to be a cynical offering from Disney. I have mixed feelings about this mega-corporation. They're way too big for one thing. Worse than that, they insist on churning out Star Bores movies that are so derivative as to be pathetic, and turned me permanently off the whole space opera.

But I do like what their Marvel unit puts out. The problem with Marvel is the same as it is with the 'princess' movies: it's all about the guys even though those princess movies superficially appear to be dedicated to their respective princesses! Most of the time, the stage is occupied by the male characters at least as far as speaking roles go. Apparently the princesses have little to contribute according to Disney. This weekend Marvel makes a major move to redress its deficit. What's its parent going to do?

This book, however, was just too much. It's nothing more than an advertisement for their Disney princess product line which is a part of the three billion dollar Disney product marketing machine. I have zero respect for the princesses despite Disney's limp efforts to retcon these girls into feminine powerhouses.

These days, if not always, Disney is all about retconning, taking public domain properties and turning them into movies and products, and then incestuously and endlessly feeding off of those same products by nothing more inventive or imaginative than repackaging. There's no originality here at all. Just how many times have they remade Cinderella? And now it seems they're embarking on a massive remake of everything. The only fresh thing they've had for years is Frozen, which I had a sneak preview of and enjoyed, but now they're essentially remaking that by adding a limp sequel.

This particular book consists of five thick cardboard pages, each starring a 'princess':

  • Cinderella, not really a princess, but certainly the girl with the smallest shoe size on the planet, yet whose movie stands alone in the Disney canon by actually giving her close parity with the male characters in terms of exposure, but the truth is that Cinderella really did nothing for herself. She had it all handed to her by her fairy godmother and her animal slaves.
  • Ariel was disobedient from the start, putting herself first and foremost in everything, and completely disregarding her father and the rest of her family in pursuit of her own selfish ambition.
  • Belle's actual name was Beauty in the original (contrary to Lady Gaga's dilemma, early Disney movies were all about the Shallow). Again, she wasn't a princess, and she curiously seemed to favor the beast in his animal form, but her worst trait is that she despises everyone else in her village!
  • Snow White was demoted from princess by the queen, and I've heard that she was Hitler's favorite Disney character. Perhaps the limpest of all princesses, she needed not one guy, but seven to validate her. And all she had ambition to do was clean house.
  • Aurora slept (and didn't even walk) her way through life until some dude kissed her without her permission - which admittedly would have been hard to give. She has the least to say of any major Disney character.

I find none of these inspiring and cannot rate this as a worthy read. It's really just a marketing tool

The Looking Book by PK Hallinan

Rating: WORTHY!

I loved this book. It's a great idea especially if, like the somewhat beleaguered, but upbeat woman in the story, you have kids who are glued to the video screen whenever they get a chance. It encourages them to get to the other side of the screen - the screen door that is! - and enjoy the great outdoors.

Mom hands the kids a pair of eyeglasses each, but there are no lenses in them! She advises the kids to put them on, and to go outside to see what they can see through these special 'glasses'. It turns out that the kids notice more wearing them than they're used to seeing - especially on the highly restricted and biased canvas of a video screen! It also turns out that they learn they can see just as much even without the glasses, so their whole world opens up. I think the story is a great and inventive idea to encourage kids to pay attention to the world around them and get away from the idiot box for a while. I commend it.

Me by Tony Bradman, Bill Brandon

Rating: WORTHY!

In the Care Bears Big Wish Movie, there;s a scene where Me Bear accidentally catches sight of herself in a mirror and exclaims in surprise, "Oh! Me!" which fro me, watching this with my kids years ago, was the funniest thing in the whole movie and made having to sit through the rest of it worthwhile! Maybe that's why this book title caught my eye (don't worry, there was no injury - I still have my sight!).

There's an interesting juxtaposition of last names between the author (Bradman) and the illustrator (Brandon) here! The book itself was very short and simple, and aimed at lending some identity to young children who may have been befuddled one time too many by peoples' tendency to tell them they have their mother's eyes, and their father's ears and this that and the other thing.

If all her parts 'belong' to someone else, then who exactly is she? It's a good question, and this book has her decide that she's not anyone, but herself, which is the only valid and rational conclusion! I think this might be a good read for kids who have been told one too many times that they're made up of bits of other people! I commend it.

Eloise and the Very Secret Room by Ellen Weiss, Tammie Lyon

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fun book based on Kay Thompson's 'Eloise' stories. I've never read any of those, but I have an audiobook on reserve from the library. There were only five original books, one of which was published posthumously. They were originally illustrated by Hilary Knight. I did see a movie based loosely on them some time ago which was entertaining. I think it was titled Eloise at the Plaza. Thomson, who was born Catherine Louise Fink in 1909 died two decades ago, but her legacy evidently lives on.

The very secret room turns out to be the hotel's lost and found closet, and there is so much stuff in there that Eloise can spend all day hidden there playing games and dress-up using the various items she discovers in the closet. She's inventive and playful and has a good time, and so will any kid who reads this - or who has it read to them. I commend it as a fun book, with nicely rambling illustrations by Lyon.

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.

The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins

Rating: WORTHY!

This was an amusing and nicely illustrated story that's really about math. Or is it really about sharing a plate of cookies? Anyway, it's really about generosity of spirit.

One or two kids are sitting down to enjoy a large plate of cookies, but that doorbell rings. More kids come in, and each time they divide up the cookies, the doorbell rings again. Finally they're down to one cookie each when that pesky doorbell rings again! Are they going to have to divide the individual cookies into pieces? Or maybe some good Samaritan will help them out?

This was a fun story about interruptions, good nature, and sharing, and I commend it as a worthy and educational read for kids.

Jamaica's Find by Juanita Havill, Anne Sibley O'Brien

Rating: WORTHY!

Jamaica (who may actually be from Jamaica for all I know!) is a young girl who likes to ride her bike and ride the swing in the park when there are few other kids around and no one is crowding to use the swings. This one afternoon on her way home she does just this, and discovers a couple of things that got left at the park. She returns one of them to the lost and found, but the little plush dog, which has seen better years, she takes home.

Then she feels guilty about it, and the next morning she hands it in to lost and found as well. Returning to the park she meets another little girl and on befriending her, learns that this girl lost something at the park the day before! I wonder what it could be? It's a perfect friendship. I enjoyed this story about honesty, integrity, and friendship, and I think it's perfect for young kids.

Deputy Dan and the Bank Robbers by Joseph Rosenbloom, Tim Raglan

Rating: WORTHY!

I can feel a bunch of children's book reviews coming on, and there aren't many more amusing ones to start it off with than this one. I rather suspect that the author had more fun writing this one than any kid will reading it, but it amused me at any rate. Some would argue that's easily done....

Deputy Dan is new to the job and unfortunately, he's rather a literal kind of guy. You tell him to answer the door and he'll go say "Hello" to it. You tell him to cover the door, and he'll fetch a blanket and hang it over the door. But when it comes down to finding criminals like the scrambled egg gang, he's willing to go to no lengths to catch them, and he doesn't! You tell him they're dirty crooks and he'll make 'em take a bath!

This was amusingly illustrated by Tim Raglan and even more amusingly written by Joseph Rosenbloom. My kids are too old for this now (or maybe not!), but they would have loved it when they were younger. I commend it as a fun read.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, EG Keller

Rating: WORTHY!

Written amusingly by Jill Twiss, and illustrated beautifully by EG Keller, this fictional account of a gay bunny is 'presented by Last Week Tonight by John Oliver'. How he got involved I do not know. I'm not a fan of his show; it's a little pedantic, tedious, obvious, and over the top for my taste, but that's really not relevant to the content of the book.

Marlon Bundo is a rabbit owned by the evidently homophobic vice president's family, and one day he's out and about, as rabbits will be, when he encounters another male bunny with whom he forms an instant friendship. The two hop and skip, and run around and decide they enjoy each other so much that they want to get married, but the stinkbug is thoroughly against it. Fortuantely he's an elected official and the one thing you can do with them (other than ridicule them) is vote them out of office, so all ends well.

In an era where hatred, biogtry, and all manner of genderist phobias are all-but given the official stamp of approval by the two highest elected officials in the country, we desperately need books like this. I commend it thoroughly.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs by Susan Schaefer Bernardo, Courtenay Fletcher

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a warmly-written kids book which offers way to feel close to someone you love when they're not right there before you - or when they may even be far away. Told poetically by Bernardo, and illustrated equally poetically by Fletcher, it advises turning to nature - which is usually a good idea provided we don't destroy it first. It was a fun read and I commend it.

The School of Numbers by Emily Hawkins

Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a comprehensive and fun book with quite a few tips, pointers (indicators - not the dogs, which I found a bit disap pointer ing...), and hints along the way, and it covered a surprising array of mathematical concepts from simple math to powers, and from geometry to negative numbers. It even finally got me a visual that clarified in my mind why the so-called Monty Hall problem makes sense!

This 'problem' is where a person offered a choice to open one of three doors (or maybe boxes). One of the options contains a nice prize, the other two contain a booby prize or nothing at all. The person chooses which door or box to open, then the host (Monty Hall in the original show, although the problem predates his show) opens one of the booby prize doors showing you that it was wise not to choose that one. Then he gives you the option to change your choice. Should you change? It seems counter-intuitive, but the fact is that you will more than likely improve your odds of winning if you change. Many people (even some mathematicians) find this hard to believe. I did initially, and even when I decided that changing your choice was the indeed the better option, I still couldn't get my mind around why! Now it's clear thanks to this book!

But the book contains much more than that, and it explains things clearly and simply, with good examples, and little exercises for the reader to follow (with the answers!). There were a couple of errors in the book - or at least what seemed like errors to me, but math isn't my strong suit, so maybe I'm wrong. I'll mention them anyway. There was a section on geometric progression which used the old story of starting with one grain of rice on a chess board, and doubling the number of grains on each subsequent square. It's a great demonstration, but on page 47 it's seemingly implied that a chess board has only 62 squares! Wrong! Eight squared isn't 62!

The other issue was on tessellation (I told you this book was comprehensive!) which is a fascinating topic and really only a fancy way of saying 'tiling', but it suggests that triangular tessellation requires adding 6 walls whereas hexagonal tessellation requires only 3 and this is what makes bees so smart? I could not get my mind around that concept at all - not the smart bees, but the walls. I had no clue in what context this was supposed to be true. I mean if you draw a triangle and want to add another triangle, you have to draw only two more walls, and there's your second triangle making use of an existing wall from the first. If you have one hexagon and want to add another, you have to draw five more walls!

If you have two hexagons side-by-side, you need to draw four walls to make another, whereas if you have two triangles, you need draw, again, only two walls to make a third! Admittedly, if you have three existing hexagons, making a shallow cup shape, then it's true you need add only three more walls on the concave side to make a fourth hexagon, but with three triangles, depending on how they are joined, you still need add only two walls - or perhaps even just one wall. Now maybe I am missing something or maybe the concept that was being conveyed here wasn't worded very well for clarity - or was over my head(!), so like I said, I may be wrong but it seemed to me this needed something more to be said!

But that was a minor issue and I'm happy to commend this as a worthy read and a great math tutor for young minds.

What Do Machines Do All Day? by Jo Nelson

Rating: WORTHY!

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

The title of this book amused the heck out of me so I had to request it and see what was up. The book is about various scenarios (the farm, the building site, the mine, the mall, and so on), and in each section we learn about several machines you might find there and what these machines do.

I have to say the initial picture, introducing the scenario and showing all the machines, was a bit busy and hard to take in at first glance, but perhaps this was intentional because there is a breakdown after that page which shows the individual machines and vehicles and explains what they do (in first person voice!), then you're challenged to go back and find them in the big picture. I imagine young children will have fun with this and enhance their seek and find skills to boot, which is never a bad thing.

The text was simple and straight-forward, and the drawings were somewhat stylized to keep them simple too. They were very colorful. It would have been nice had there been a word about safety here and there, and oddly, my ebook ARC version of this (I don't merit a print book!) was doubled - so when I got to the end of the book, it started over again, and was therefore twice as long as it needed to be. Presumably that will be fixed in the final edition.

Overall I thought this was a fun book and a worthy read for young children.

Wish by Chris Saunders

Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a fun story about sharing, written for young kids. The artwork is spectacular and really caught my eye. The story itself is poetic and brings a reader right into the unfolding tale.

The cute rabbit on the cover manages to end up with three wishes and doesn’t quite know what to do with them, and so seeks advice from friends who relate what their own wish would have been. In the end, each of them gets their wish through a very generous lagomorphic donation and they, in turn, share their dream with their friend, so everyone is rewarded. It’s a short, easy read, a fun story, and it’s a story with a message that’s beautifully illustrated by the author. I commend it as a worthy read.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Cave by Rob Hodgson

Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was an entertaining story about a persistent wolf and an anonymous denizen of a cave. The amusing wolf is hungry and quite sneaky. He tries several schemes to lure out whoever is in the cave, but without success. He ought to wish the success would forever evade him because when it doesn't, he discovers he really didn't want to meet this cave-dweller! It was nicely-drawn and colored, and the story carries a valuable lesson to the effect of being careful what you wish for! I commend it as a fun story for young children, especially if they like surprises!

Bright Start - Feel Better Daddy by Nancy Loewen; Hazel Michelle Quintanilla

Rating: WARTY!

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

After the bad experience I had with a companion book in the "Bright Start" series, I really thought this one was misnamed. Bright start is exactly the opposite of what I had, and this volume was no better: there was an appallingly long opening time for the book to even come up on the screen at all, and then a comprehensive inability to swipe from the cover to page one. As before, this was this was on a new iPad using Adobe's Digital Editions reader.

I'd beee looking forward to this having been sick myself a couple of weekends ago, but after my experience with the companion volume, I was not about to waste any time on this, so after trying to swipe to page one several times with no effect, I DNF'd this one just as I had done with the companion volume. I cannot commend a book, clearly designed for a print version, and to which zero thought has quite evidently been given for the electronic version. It's impossible to read, much less enjoy as an ebook.

Bright Start - A Thank You Walk by Nancy Loewen,Hazel Michelle Quintanilla

Rating: WARTY!

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

I am sorry to report that this book was a disaster. I could not get it to open past the double-spread cover illustration. No amount of swiping would bring up the first page, and this was after I had waited for nearly twenty seconds for the thing to open at all. And this was on a new iPad.

Clearly this is yet another print book designed without an ounce of thought given to the electronic version. Amateur reviewer that I am, I do not merit the print version of books, so the e-version is all I can comment on and my comment here is: avoid this like the plague. I rarely have problems with ebooks, even ones consisting entirely of images, but this one was a doozy. When I killed the application (Adobe Digital Editions reader) and reopened it, I was able - after the statutory wait of twenty seconds for it to open so I could to swipe to page one - after multiple tries, but then it locked again, and I killed it again, since it would not let me recover or return to the library.

On the third try, when it took even longer to open (close to a minute). I managed to get to page two, whereupon it locked up again. I gave up on it at that point. I cannot commend a book that is so badly-designed that it won't let you actually read it!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Let's Celebrate Valentine's Day

Rating: WORTHY!

A day late, for which I apologize, but this apparently authorless book is full of interesting things for kids to make and do on Valentine's Day. It's full of of greetings and best wishes you can exchange with friends, parents, grandparents on this day, as well as hosting a few puzzles which curiously have nothing to do with Valentine's Day!

Of course you should express your love for your loved one(s) every day in one way or another, but there's nothing wrong with having a special day dedicated to it. I commend this book as a fun read for children who might wonder about this day and what to do on it!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Super Scientists by Anne Blanchard

Rating: WARTY!

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

This was a very confusing book because Net Galley has it listed as "by Anne Blanchard," as does the cover (with illustrations by "Tito") but the book itself internally lists it as "by Hervé Guilleminot & Jérôme Masi." Those latter two have written at least one book in this series, and I wonder if their names somehow got in there by mistake? It's very confused and one of many problems I ran into.

This initially seemed to me to be a neat and useful book giving brief details about well-known (at least to me!) and some lesser-known scientists, but the more I read of it, the less enamored I became. I was pleased by the inclusion of several female scientists, less pleased by the lack of scientists of color. I think that the problem is that the book focuses more on scientists of yesteryear, and less on more modern scientists. Carl Sagan is excluded, but Neil deGrasse Tyson is included, and I got the impression this was done solely to include a lone African-American scientist in the list (Brahmagupta is included and is a person of color, note, but he's Indian).

There were also multiple problems of errors in spellings or grammar in the text on the pages covering Darwin, Mendeleev,
Hawking, Tyson, and some others. On the Tyson page, for example, the text mentions gravity, but that refers to a movie title, so it should have an initial capital: Gravity. Strictly speaking, Einstein did not invent E=mc2, BTW, nor did he discover it. In fact he never used it in any of the papers which made him famous! He only made the formula famous by association.

To my knowledge it was first used by JJ Thomson around 1881, when he derived it inaccurately as E = 4/3mc2. Olinto De Pretto, an Italian, also derived it independently and equally inaccurately, but used 'v' instead of 'c' for the speed of light. It was used (although again with an error in it) by Friedrich Hasenöhrl before Einstein, and these people derived their work from earlier discoveries by such as Max Abraham, Oliver Heaviside, and Henri Poincaré.

There are confusing errors too, such as having Thales be the first to determine that the Moon merely reflected the sun's light, and then five or so pages later, having a different scientist, Zhang Heng, be credited with this primacy. This book definitely needs a serious effort at editing and correction. Some of the wording, such as that on Darwin's page is nonsensical. This may be because of translation errors or may be just sloppiness. Either way there is no excuse for it.

It brings together a brief assessment of the progress of science and the scientists who enabled it over the years:

  1. Thales
  2. Pythagoras
  3. Aristotle
  4. Euclid
  5. Archimedes
  6. Zhang Heng
  7. Hypatia
  8. Brahmagupta
  9. Avicenna
  10. Alhayzen
  11. Roger Bacon
  12. Nicolas Copernicus
  13. Galileo Galilei
  14. Johannes Kepler
  15. Isaac Newton
  16. William Harvey
  17. Rene Descartes
  18. Antoine Lavoisier
  19. Mary Anning
  20. Michael Faraday
  21. James Clerk Maxwell
  22. Charles Darwin
  23. Gregor Mendel
  24. Louis Pasteur
  25. Dmitri Mendeleev
  26. Ada Lovelace
  27. David Hilbert
  28. Marie Curie
  29. Ernest Rutherford
  30. Albert Einstein
  31. Neils Bohr
  32. Alfred Wegener
  33. Alan Turing
  34. Rosalind Franklin
  35. Vera Rubin
  36. Franchise Barre-sinuossi
  37. Tim Berners-Lee
  38. Stephen Hawking
  39. Neil deGrasse Tyson

I confess I am not sure what order the list is in exactly! Yes, it's chronological, but Tim Berners-Lee, who codified the World Wide Web, was born over decade after theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, yet he precedes him in the text, so maybe some chronology other than birth order is employed. That's a minor issue. You will notice that there is only 39 names in the list. This is because the fortieth is, inexplicably, the human genome project!<\p>

The single name most closely associated with that is Craig Venter, but evidently because he was running a private genome scan in competition with the public one, he gets no credit here. There are a lot of scientists who do not, including many of color who have made major contributions to science. Women are represented, but could be more so. Emmy Noether gets a mention, but not a page to herself, and Lise Meitner gets no mention at all, for example.

While as of this writing, no black scientist has won a Nobel prize (although many people of color have won one for endeavors outside of science) there are women and people of color who could have been mentioned for their contributions such as Samia Al-Amoudi, Alice Ball, Benjamin Banneker, Satyendra Nath Bose, George Washington Carver, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Charles Drew, Joycelyn Elders, Ernest Everett, Sunetra Gupta, Indira Hinduja, Manahel Thabet, and so on.

I think this book could have done a lot better in its selection, and it certainly could have been a lot better edited. Given it is what it is, I cannot commend it as a worthy read.