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

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Scavenger Scout: Rock Hound by Shelby Wilde, Yana Popova


Rating: WARTY!

This was a children's book that was available for free in ebook format, so I got hold of it because it had a similar theme to a children's book I'm working on (over three-quarters the way through it!) and I was curious to see how another writer was doing on this topic, and I have to say I was not impressed. This book was rooted in fantasy - mermaids and space travel which is not my thing - not for my book anyway, and while this one started out rhyming, it soon devolved to prose text.

The book opened with a promise that this azurite rock would be on every page to give a child something to search for - make 'em feel part of the adventure, which is fine, but the rock wasn't on every page at all. It wasn't even on every double-page spread, so any kid taking that advice literally was going to be disappointed or frustrated; not a nice thing to do to a child.

That wasn't the worst part though, and I don't know if this is the author's fault or yet another example of Amazon's crappy, Kindle conversion process, so I'll blame both equally: the author for not checking how well or poorly this worked, and Amazon for adding another sick joke to its bloated mega-empire of such jokes. They're unapologetically listening in on you now! Did you know? If you run Alexa, Amazon employees can, without warning or permission, listen in on your conversations in your own home, ostensibly to help Alexa to comprehend you better. This is yet another reason why I will have no truck with Amazon or its publishing business.

But I digress. I typically read books on my phone, and this works great for text books, but for children's picture books, not so well. In the iPad it's better, although still unsatisfactory since most books are still created as print books with little thought given to the electronic format. That's what happened here. The book announces, proudly up front, that it contains "pop-up text" which is a feature that pops up a plain text box with the text in black and white so that on a phone or small tablet for example, you can read it without enlarging the page, which brings its own set of issues. The problem was that once you've triggered the pop-up box - which seemed to happen at the slightest touch of the page - you could not get rid of it, and it blocked the image, not just on that page but on every page after that, too.

There seemed to be no way at all to get rid of it! I tried swiping it away, tapping it away directly on the pop-up, and tapping off the pop-up elsewhere on the screen - which as often as not, swiped the page to the previous one or the next one. I tried a host of other ideas, but nothing worked. This rendered the entire reading experience as an exercise in irritation and aggravation. The only way to get rid of these text boxes that I could find was to go to the contents and tap the next page there, which seemed to remove the pop-up, but as soon as you accidentally tapped on the page again, that blessed sticky text box came right back. I tried spreading the page with a finger and thumb to enlarge the text so I could see it that way instead of having to use those annoying text boxes, but that failed and simply popped-up a text box. It was intensely annoying

That said the fantasy adventure itself wasn't bad, but I had lost interest in this book by that point. The illustrations by Popova were cute and colorful (she can pop-over and illustrate one of my books any time!), but the reading experience sucked. I cannot commend it for that reason.


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.


I am Amelia Earhart by Brad Metzler


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a very short book for young children which skipped a huge part of Earhart's life and harped a bit overmuch on her purportedly dedicated lifelong devotion to flight, which actually didn't happen in real life. She took something of a scattershot approach to her career, aiming vaguely toward medical service until she saw this guy fly an airplane at a show. He must have spotted her and her friend standing on the ground watching, and aimed the plane straight down at them before swooping by quite closely. It was at that point, when she was in her early twenties that she really decided she wanted to fly, not when she was a child, but it doesn't hurt to stir up kids' ambitions here and there, or encourage them to aim higher than they might otherwise do, so I wasn't too focused on that.

Other than that, the book was largely factual, amusingly and colorfully illustrated, and an enjoyable read, so I commend it as a worthy read for young children.


Zachary and the Great Potato Catastrophe by Junia Wonders, Giulia Lombardo


Rating: WORTHY!

Junia Wonders sounds like a made-up name for a children's book writer, but apparently it isn't! So we have Junia and Giulia, who is the accomplished artist. This was a cute children's picture book based, purportedly, on a true story! This rat named Zachary in the story, lived under the wooden floor of a bakery, which is never a good thing. Anyone who's read any of my The Little Rattuses™ series can't fail to see that I love rats, but I'd wouldn't want to buy anything from a bakery that has rats living on the premises, pet or otherwise!

Anyway, Zachary was in the habit of coming out and taking just one cupcake or whatever, which he would sneak back to his lair and consume. He lived a solitary life and didn't want anyone else around. He wasn't into sharing, not even with his hosts, so when he found a large sack of potatoes, which were different from anything he'd tasted before, he brought one back with him, and discovered that they were so addictive, even without being chipped, fried, and salted! He started bringing all the potatoes home, until he had a bed of them under the floorboards.

Potatoes keep remarkably well, but they don't keep forever. Zachary discovered this when his supply began turning green and stinky. The smell even reached the baker who seems to have been extraordinarily lax with his stock-taking in that he never missed a whole sack of potatoes until a rotting smell alerted him. He uncovered the rat hole in the wall then, and a startled and terrified Zachary, who despite an attempted assault with a saucepan, managed to escape into the sewer where he gave up his solitary life and lived happily among friends - although this part of the story hasn't been officially confirmed yet.

I enjoyed this story and consider it a worthy read for kids of any age.


The Grown-Up's Guide to Making Art with Kids by Lee Foster-Wilson


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Subtitled "25+ fun and easy projects to inspire you and the little ones in your life" this book was just what it claimed to be, although I have to say this is an artist working here so she might well make many of the rest of us look less than stellar; that said, she does generously offer tips hints and shortcuts to improving our work.

The book has a clickable "Tables of Contents" but there's actually only one table. I never got 'table of Contents' although many books use it. It's really a list of contents, isn't it?! That's why I never bother with such a thing, but this one does offer an easy jump to any chosen chapter. You don't get that in a print book! LOL! There's no jump back to the content page though, in case you jump to the wrong chapter, but the slide bar at the bottom will get you into easy swiping distance.

The book charts a steady course between a drawing tutorial and then a connected project, and so on, and you don't need a professional set-up for this; just some inexpensive paints you can buy at any big store, and/or some colored markers or pencils, or even crayons, along with some paper or card stock you can get from cardboard food packaging if you want. The important thing isn't the high quality materials, but the creativity, fun, confidence-building and sense of accomplishment children will feel when you work though these projects with them. I'm behind that 100%.

The book opens with some discussion of colors and how to work with them and mix them. There's a glossary at the back which explains some terms, although I'd take issue with the comment about orientation - which merely means which way your painting surface lies - if it's wider than it is tall, then it's landscape - imagine a sweeping vista. If it's taller than it is wide, then it's portrait. You'll know this if you take pictures with your phone, and that's my point - the last sentence claims orientation has nothing to do with the subject of the painting, but I disagree with that. Perhaps children won't much care, but to me letting them see that the orientation of the finished image can contribute a lot to how that image is perceived when it's done isn't a wasted endeavor. Anyone who's tipped their phone to the side or held it straight-up to take that picture understands this. It's the same with a painting, but that's a quibble.

The book covers animals, people, flora (if you haven't met flora you have no business being an artist!), buildings, and robots! The projects are a delight, and includes pop-up image like you might find in some children's book, and a shadow puppet theater - and many more. Don't feel dissuaded when you see how easily this artist throws together a sweet image. With practice and following her instructions, you'll get there, and even if you don't your kids will be inspired to strive for the little bit better look to their own work. I commend this as a worthy read.

On a slight downer, just as an advisory, I think this was yet another book designed as a print version, but of which I only get to see the ebook version, and even on a medium-sized iPad, some of the image labels were dissociated from the image they discussed. I think this is because the label came before the image instead of after it and wasn't tied to it, so I'd read, for example, "A cow has a similar structure, with slightly different shapes" but this would appear underneath the sketch outline of the horse. I had to swipe to the next page to see a sketch of the cow. This potentially may offer some confusion when following the step-by-step instructions for some of the projects, but with diligence, you'll master them.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Nifty Thrifty Music Crafts for Kids by Felicia Lowenstein Niven


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a great crafts book for kids because it allows them to make musical instruments (near enough!) out of household scraps. Stuff that would normally go into recycling can hereby be recycled into an instrument, and then when that's worn out, it can be recycled back to recycling!

The book gives illustrated instructions on how to make a xylophone, rhythm blocks, panpipes, finger cymbals (always fun!), a colonial drum (whatever that is! I suppose it's a drum that wants to take over and make you pay a tax on your tea imports?), American Indian clapper, tambourine, rain stick, maracas, and a rubber band ukulele! You could outfit a whole band with this book and each project gives you a double return because it offers a confidence-building activity for a child, and then a fun toy for that same child. Can't argue with that, unless you have rocks in your head instead of rock 'n' roll! Unless you have no soul! Unless you're tired of taking the rap! Unless you have a bad hip and can't hop! I commend this as an inventive and a fun book for children's activities.


Criss Cross by Lynn Rae Perkins


Rating: WARTY!

Having had success with two previous LRP novels, I ventured into this audiobook (read adequately by Danielle Ferland) with high hopes which were soon dashed. This novel won the 2006 Newbery Medal for excellence in children's literature, an assessment with which I beg to disagree. I normally void Newberys like the plague because - apart from one or two very rare exceptions, I've been almost consistently bored to tears with them, and this was no exception. It seems to me that Newberys are awarded based on how tediously boring a novel is, and from that perspective this one certainly earned it.

It's called Criss Cross because it's a mess. It makes you cross and then it makes you curse. Worse, it jumps around like a - what was the term that Elvis used in All Shook Up? Oh yeah, like a catfish pole-dancing (or something on those lines, I'm sure, but I;m fishing here...). Actually, the best version I've heard of that song was by Suzie Quatro who really knew which poles on a catfish to hook up to make it jump, and they're all positive. It was written by African-American song-writer Otis Blackwell, who also penned classics such as Fever (yes, that one!), Great Balls of Fire, and Don't be Cruel, which in my amateur opinion was best done by Billy Swan. But I digress.

This story jumped around between several characters which is almost, but not quite, guaranteed to annoy me. I like to read about a character I can invest in, but when all you get is julienned character cameos in this kind of a story, you really don't care about them that much - leastways I don't. If I'd known previously that Kirkussed Reviews had described this novel as a "tenderly existential work" I would have skipped it without hesitation. Since Kirkustomarily never has a criss cross word to say about any novel, their assessment is utterly worthless, so when they lard-up a review with this pretentious drivel, it's assuredly garbage.

So, in short, I can't recommend this because I couldn't commend it in the first place.


51 Things to Make With Egg Cartons by Fiona Hayes


Rating: WORTHY!

When I was a young kid, my younger brother and I used to use the cut-off bottoms of egg cartons as hoards of Daleks (the menacing robotic beings from the BBC's Doctor Who TV show which I have to say has rather taken a step backwards under Chris Chibnall's leadership - not because the Doctor is now a woman by any means - I like the new Doctor - but because we get fewer episodes and only every other year, it seems. Shameful!).

This author is much more inventive than we were, and this book was a great idea. With the ideas colorfully illustrated and explained in detail - but simply! - kids can end up creating a large variety of neat little toys from animals (chicken, bee, hedgehog, tortoise, octopus, bunny, and others) to vehicles (dump truck, fire engine, pirate ship and more), to flowers, face masks, treasure chests, rockets, and on and on. This will keep a kid occupied and render you broke buying enough eggs to generate all those cartons! LOL!

But approached as a bi-weekly project, once you've used all those eggs, it can be a cheap and fun way to spend your time, especially if it's raining or cold out. They may need some supervision depending on their competency and trustworthiness with glue, paints and scissors, but it's worth it to see their joy at making something themselves - something fun and practical - boosting their self-confidence and getting double the return - time well-occupied making a toy and then more time well-occupied playing with the toy! I commend this as a worthy tool to a child's happiness.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

David Bowie by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, Ana Albero


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Erratum:
“This made his eyes look like were different colors” should read look like they were different colors!

I've been following this series quite closely and enjoyed very nearly all of the books I've read in it so far. This is another one to add to the list of successes. David Bowie's career in playing music either as an amateur band member at fifteen or as a legend right before he died in 2016 at the age of 69, spanned over half a century. He constantly reinvented himself and in this spate of musical biopics (including the phenomenal Bohemian Rhapsody and then Rocketman, and the documentary on the Beatles by director Peter Jackson) which seem to be flourishing lately, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see one crop-up about him.

He's been in and out of musical success since he debuted The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in the early seventies, and resurged with Ashes to Ashes and Let's Dance in the early eighties, and in between he had a minor film career. He was also a controversial figure regarding his androgyny, but it's not completely clear (at least to my knowledge) whether this was more of an image he was portraying or more of the person he actually was, so I didn't feel that omitting it was a bad thing in this particular case. Overall I enjoyed this and thought it a worthy and educational read.


Mahatma Gandhi by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, Albert Arrayas


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Another in a children's 'Little People, Big Dreams' series which I've been following, this one tells a great story. Anyone who's watched the Richard Attenborough movie starring Ben Kingsley, and written by John Briley will realize how important it is for young children to be introduced to people like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as opposed to an excess of superhero movies where people typically beat the pulp out of one another. Not that those aren't fun in their place, but let's not ever take them seriously as solutions to problems!

Naturally a life like Bapu's cannot be adequately captured in a book of this nature, but I felt that author Vegara does a fine job in distilling the important stuff. This book, delightfully illustrated by Albert Arrayas, follows Ghandi's life from childhood through university in London, to South Africa and back to India, and it explains his philosophy and where it came from. For young children, that's an important start. I commend it.


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.


Boy oh Boy by Cliff Leek, Bene Rohlmann


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This colorful book, illustrated nicely by Rohlmann and written concisely, but informatively by Leek, takes a brief look at the careers of thirty men who have not exactly gone in for a career in a regular job in an office or a factory - although some may have begun their journey that way.

Some of them you will know by name - or certainly ought to know, and others will be more obscure if your experience is anything like mine. Personally I knew just over half of them. There were some others I'd maybe heard of, maybe not, but the important thing is that I'm a lot wiser now!

The mini-bio in each case gives important details about each person and explains why they're worthy of being included in such an august list. Listed alphabetically by last name, the 'boys' are these:

  • Carlos Acosta
  • Muhammad Ali
  • César Chávez
  • Luther Christman
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • John Dewey
  • Frederick Douglass
  • WEB Du Bois
  • Edward Enninful
  • Jaime Escalante
  • Grandmaster Flash
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • David Hockney
  • Ezra Jack Keats
  • Lebron James
  • Bruce Lee
  • Richard Loving
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Patricio Manuel
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • Freddie Mercury
  • Hayao Miyazaki
  • John Muir
  • Alfred Nobel
  • Prince
  • Bayard Rustin
  • Carl Sagan
  • George Washington Carver
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Kit Yan

Note that this isn't the order they're in in the book. I'm not sure what order they're in in the book since it begins with David Hockney, who has neither a first nor a last name that comes first in this list, nor was he born first. The list includes artists such as Hockney (painting), Prince (music), Miyazaki (film), and Acosta (ballet), sports such as Ali (boxing) and James (basketball), as well as union organizers such as Chávez and civil rights campaigners such as Ghandi, Loving, Mandela, and Rustin, so there's a variety, including two ftm transgender entries.

I have to note that most (60%) of the people in the list are Americans, with another 13% British, leaving the rest dotted around in an assortment of other countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia. I'd like to have seen better international coverage, but given who is in this list, it isn't too bad for a start, so I commend it as a worthy read, offering alternatives to boys who might be drawn to certain interests which some clueless people might foolishly seek to dissuade them from.


Supersize Cross Sections: Inside Engines by Pascale Hedelin, Lou Rihn


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Erratum:
There is a spelling error on the Hindenburg page. Item 04, about the keel, misspells the word 'structure'

Supersize cross-sections are not exactly supersize on an iPad, so my being only the kind of reviewer who doesn't merit a print book for review, I can only guess at how the final copy will look, but viewed in relatively small scale on a medium sized iPad, it looked swell, and would have fascinated me as a child, because I always enjoyed reading the 'how things worked' books, and especially ones with cutaways.

Starting with a pirate ship to get the saliva flowing, this book also covers the Orient Express (now that would have been useful when I wrote my parody!), The Titanic, the Hindenburg, a Sherman tank, the Saturn V rocket (always my favorite - modern rockets have nowhere near the same class that one did), the International Space Station, a submarine, a fire engine, and a host of other items, including a circus and totaling fifteen in all.

The drawings are in color, are crisp and clear, and each important part is numbered, with a key by the side of the drawing explaining what was going on in that section. It's perfect, and I commend it whole-heartedly!


The Dictionary of Difficult Words by Jane Solomon, Louise Lockhart


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I'm quite erudite and familiar with a lot of singular or putatively obscure words, but there were still some in here that I found new or otherwise interesting. I imagine this will be a useful book for any logophile - or if they were not one when they started reading this, they will undoubtedly be so by the time they're finished! The book devotes around two pages to each letter of the alphabet providing a total of some 400 words in all. It's illustrated amusingly by Lockhart and compiled by Solomon. Lockhart and Solomon sounds like a law firm doesn't it? Or an office of private investigators!

But I digress! This is definitely a book for anyone who loves words or who is interested in writing, and if you don't love words, you really have no business being a writer!


Planet Fashion by Natasha Slee, Cynthia Kittler


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Illustrated in style(!) by Cynthia Kittler, this book is an unusual one for children, but I think it will be well-received. Anyone who knows me well or who has read some of my reviews, will know I have no time for the fashion industry, but this book isn't about those pretentious and self-indulgent poseurs. It's a history book about how fashions have changed over the last century and who was wearing what and when. Naturally it's quite USA and Euro-centric, but it also covers other places, such as Australasia and Central America, which was commendable.

It's designed as a print book which means the tablet computer cannot really present it properly. It has to be enlarged to read the text, and then reduced to slide to the next double-page spread, and frankly this caused issues on occasion, with a page disappearing or appearing out of order until I swiped back and then forward again, which seemed to fix it. Do not proceed to page 33 or you will become stuck like I did, unable to swipe back from it! You have to use the slider at the bottom of the screen to get back. Those irritations aside, the book is fully-illustrated and very colorful, but it's not all imagery - there is a lot of text supporting each page and the book is quite long for a children's book, but it is packed with information and interesting facts, and the last few pages have timelines to augment the text.

There is a small boy and a small girl who appear on each double-page whom you're encouraged to look for, and who are dressed in the fashion of the time, and there is also a search exercise at the back where you look at a series of smaller images taken from the earlier pages and then try to find which page it came from. Doubtlessly that would be easier in a print book too. Little kids will have a blast with that while learning something important about how we humans love to adorn ourselves for better or for worse as each page transports them progressively to a different era, and often a different country. I commend this as a fun and education book.


D-Day by Michael Noble


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a nice overview of what was involved for those people who had to face the beaches on D-Day, June 6th 1944. It's told truthfully but not too graphically, so it tells the story, and how bad things were, without overdoing it or skipping the truth about what those men - and women - faced.

Yes, there are women featured here, including one who went onto the beach with the men. She wasn't supposed to, but Martha Gellhorn was resentful that her then husband, Ernest Hemingway, got to go, and she was passed over for a male journalist when it came to her publication's chance to send someone. Martha had an interesting history (not covered here). She was fired from a job after she reported a coworker for sexual harassment. After other adventures, She hid in a lavatory on a ship during D-Day, and then went up on the beaches disguised as a stretcher bearer. She was arrested on her return to England.

She's not the only remarkable woman covered here. We learn of others, along with many men from several nations, including Germany, who were involved in one aspect or another of the landing, either taking part in it on land, sea, or air, preparing weather forecasts for it, designing vehicles to deal with conditions they would find there, or defending the beach, and so on. One story was of a fifteen-year-old boy who was on a boat tasked with towing materials across the channel which would be used to create a temporary harbor for other ships coming later. This was another critical mission which, had it failed, would have hampered the effort.

One of my favorites is Dave Shannon, an RAF pilot who hailed from Australia. The book doesn't mention this, but he was part of the Dam Busters raid in May of 1943 that took down the Eder and the Moehne dams in Germany and dealt a severe blow to the Nazi war effort. On the night before the Normandy landings, this same squadron, used to difficult flying tasks, were assigned to fly progressively in precise order across the channel dropping what the Brits called 'window' which was material that would give a radar echo that made it look like a convoy was crossing the channel. They would fly so far, return, then fly the same route again, but advancing very slightly each time. This is where the precise flying came in. If they had not been exact, the radar signal would have jumped and given the game away, but they did not fail. The Germans were convinced that a large convoy was approaching and that this was where the landing would be, when it was in fact a hundred miles away. It was one of the greatest deceptions of the war.

All of these stories are remarkable, and all worth knowing. I commend this as a worthy read.


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.


Thor Ragnarok by Jim McCann


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a Disney-style audiobook based on the Marvel Movie of the same name. While I detest Disney's all-powerful mega-corporation status, and their lack of credit for the work people do on books like this, I do confess I'm a fan of the Marvel movies, and I was curious as to what they had done with this story which was aimed at younger children. In this case, the rewrite of the movie script was credited - to comic book author Jim McCann and the reading to narrator MacLeod Andrews who did a fine job.

It tells the story of Thor's battle against the Ragnarok beast, thinking he's won when he hasn't, of his return to Asgard to discover his mischievous stepbrother Loki has been impersonating Odin, and Odin's death, which permits the imprisoned sister Hela (whom Thor never knew he had) back into the world, and of her fight to take over Asgard and Thor's resistance to it - after he escapes confinement on a planet where the 'owner' captures tough visitors to make them fight one another for entertainment. It features the Hulk, and Valkyrie - an estimable addition to the Marvel pantheon of heroic women.

Apart from being tamed appropriately (and having some portions changed more than seemed necessary) it stuck to the story in the movie so it would make a decent read for young children who for whatever reason are not allowed to see the movie. So I commend this as a worthy listen.


Eloise by Kay Thompson


Rating: WARTY!

I saw an Eloise movie a while back and it was passably enjoyable, but nothing spectacular. Now having listened to most of these three short stories on this audiobook: Eloise first published in 1955, Eloise at Christmastime (1958), and Eloise in Moscow (1959), I am not impressed at all.

Why the collection did not include the fourth one, Eloise in Paris from 1957 I do not know, but it undoubtedly would have been as bad as the others, so no big loss. As it was, this was more than enough to bore me, which was unexpected since I had enjoyed the movie and the stories were read by Bernadette Peters who I loved as an actor. The problem with that was that Bernadette was in her late sixties when she read these and sounded like it, so it made the first person Eloise stories totally unbelievable.

The first story was tediously repetitive and juvenile in its approach. It made Eloise look like she was four instead of the more mature girl she supposedly was. The Christmas story was written in verse and was boring. The Moscow story was another short story that had Eloise sneaking into people’s rooms at night. I gave up on it at that point. No. Just no. I cannot commend this because it was simply awful: written poorly, read by an inappropriate reader for the character, and the stories had nothing interesting to offer.