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

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.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Josephine Baker by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, Agathe Sorlet

Rating: WORTHY!

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

This is a charmer of a book for young children, told by Vegara, and illustrated in charming simplistic color by Sorlet, it tells the spectacular story of Freda Josephine McDonald, a dirt poor girl from St Louis Missouri, who became known to the world as Josephine Baker, dancer, actor, and World War Two hero, who spoke out against racism and adopted a rainbow family of children to put her actions where her mouth was.

This book is part of a series (Little People, Big Dreams) aimed at young children, and relating the lives of outstanding people including:

  • Maya Angelou
  • Jane Austen
  • Agatha Christie
  • Marie Curie
  • Amelia Earhart
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Anne Frank
  • Jane Goodall
  • Audrey Hepburn
  • Frida Kahlo
  • Ada Lovelace
  • Georgia O’Keefe
  • Emmeline Pankhurst
  • Rosa Parks
  • Harriet Tubman

The list seems sadly more biased towards the arts than ever it is towards the sciences or engineering, or military or other public service, for that matter, but that really just reflects what a disproportionate influence celebrities have upon in modern society, doesn't it?

However, this book in particular tells a stirring story worth telling, and worth children learning, and I recommend it highly.

The Night Dragon by Naomi Howarth

Rating: WORTHY!

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

I recently favorably reviewed this artist's book Tug of War. I had slightly mixed feelings about that, but this book is not so much an order of magnitude greater, as it is in a different universe. It's a pure pleasure to read.

For some reason, this book did not want to download from Net Galley, but I'm glad I persisted. After three attempts it finally came down - dragons are like that! - and it turned out to be one of the most gorgeously-illustrated children's books I've ever read.

The cover looks like it's lit with neon lights, and the interior is one breathtaking image after another. Maud is a rainbow joy especially when compared with the earth tomes of the other dragons. I read this in my iPad, but out of curiosity I downloaded it to my iPhone too, and it still looked good on there although the text is too small to read without stretching the image on the screen, but the pictures are worth having in your pocket!

Maud is a very shy night dragon and while her four colleagues (they're not really friends) launch every evening to spew out soot and darken the sun for night time, Maud sits and dreams. Her only true friend is the mouse who urges her to fly, but Maud is shy.

One afternoon the other four dragons have a party - Maud isn't invited it needles to say - and afterwards the others are so sleepy that they fail to awaken to start the night. It's all up to Maud! It turns out that Maud really isn't like the other dragons after all. Instead of sooty, dark sunsets, she breathes out the most fiery orange, startling yellow, deep red, heliotrope, and gold sunsets you ever saw. She flies all around the world delivering this brilliant bounty of beauty, and finally comes into her own - as any artist will given sufficient encouragement and support!

I loved this book and I recommend it as a worthy read for children young and old.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Strong is the New Pretty by Kate T Parker

Rating: WORTHY!

This book consists of a series of sections showing the different ways that girls can be strong, from overcoming personal handicaps (so called) to being a good friend, excelling in some activity or other, and so on. There are pictures galore of girls who are strong, of all ages, ethnicities, interests, and social classes, and each has something pithy and engaging to say.

The sections include:

  • Wild is strong
  • Kind is strong
  • Resilient is Strong
  • Fearless is Strong
  • Independent is strong

This is a powerful and dangerous book and never has it been more important than in an era where we have a weak president who won his office on a minority vote against a strong female opponent. It would make a great gift for any young girl, especially one who might be going through a tough time. I recommend this as a great ego booster and confidence builder, and a team builder, too - to show your young girl she's not alone and she won't fail.

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.

Don't Dangle Your Participle by Vanita Oelschlager, Mike DeSantis

Rating: WORTHY!

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

Vanita Oelschlager taught school for two decades and now teaches children via books! I've favorably reviewed at least two of hers before: A Tale of Two Daddies and A Tale of Two Mommies. This one is precisely one of those teaching books - aimed at something that's really quite important for any writer who doesn't want to look like a complete goofball! Or perhaps more accurately, an incomplete goofball?! I've noticed errors of the type demonstrated here in published books which I've reviewed, so no one is free of this pitfall.

I can never think of 'dangling participle' without thinking of Tim Curry in the Sylvester Stallone comedy movie Oscar. He plays a speech therapist, Doctor Pool...oh wait! I need to re-arrange that sentence! Curry plays a speech therapist, Doctor pool, who is being employed by Stallone's gangster character, "Snaps" Provolone, who is trying to go legit. At one point, Connie, Snaps's henchman, says, "Congratulations Doc! Will there be a honeymoon following?" and Dr Pool replies, "Watch it there Connie, you've got a dangling participle!" which Connie completely misinterprets of course.

That movie didn't do so well, although I love it, but there's nothing naughty or risqué in this book. Using examples of everyday children's activities: going to the zoo, eating ice cream (hopefully not an everyday activity!), skateboarding and so on, we get to see the error and then the correction, supported by some amusing and colorful illustrations by Mike DeSantis and there's even a page at the end showing how to draw and color a lion! I liked this book and think it well worth sharing with your children.