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

Friday, February 17, 2017

March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World by Christine King Farris, London Ladd

Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated by the curiously-named London Ladd, this memoir is aimed at children and was written by MLK's sister, who wasn't there at the Lincoln Memorial rally in Washington DC that day he made his dream speech, but who had traveled with him on many other trips.

That day, she was home taking care of their parents, but she watched the story on TV, and it's clear from her writing how proud she felt of her brother and how much she loved him. It's depressing to think how she must have felt that day he was shot. There is now a stone marker at the Lincoln memorial identifying the place from which he delivered the speech. It's tragic that two people, one white, one black, and who were so influential in freeing people from slavery should both have been murdered, and are now memorialized in different ways at the same location.

The author writes passionately and very descriptively, bringing the stories to life, and the memories powerfully to mind. I thought it sad that the text of the speech wasn't included here, though, but it's easily found online, at places such as The Martin Luther King, Jr Research and Education Institute, and it's also available on You Tube I recommend this book for young children, to teach them an important piece of history in a struggle that sadly is still forced to continue to this day.

Platypuses by Megan Borgert-Spaniol

Rating: WORTHY!

I don't know of anyone who doesn't love a platypus, although the critters can be dangerous. The have poison spikes on their back legs that can do you up a treat if they stick you with one, although if you have one raised from infancy, it seems that it's not inclined to spike you, because I've seen people on TV handle platypuses without harm.

This book is part of a big series (Blastoff! Readers: Animal Safari) on different animals, but this same author and judged from this one, it looks like this is a fun and educational series. despite being quite short, it's full of informative text (although not too much!) and a bunch of photos of cute-looking platypuses. I recommend it for any kid who is interested in learning about a specific animal. Whether you'd want to get the whole series is another issue! That would be some investment.

How to Catch the Tooth Fairy by Adam Wallace, Andy Elkerton

Rating: WORTHY!

Gorgeously illustrated by Andy Elkerton, this was a riotous book about a cocky and adventurous little tyke who people are evidently trying to catch to take all her quarters, but she gives no quarter! She's too smart for them and knows all their tricks. It also dispenses sneaky teeth health advice along the way.

Written in rhyme, we learn of this pink haired tooth fairy who collects an average of 300,000 teeth in a night. She wears old time aviator clothes and rides a toothbrush! And she's very fast. I can't predict whether your kid will like this or not, but I loved it!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Little Tails in the Savannah by Frédéric Brrémaud, Federico Bertolucci

Rating: WORTHY!

Note that this is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I'd been a fan of the Brrémaud/Bertolucci graphic novel series titled 'Love', a text-free set of stories about life in the wild. For me that series went downhill, the stories no longer interesting, and even the art suffering, so I gave up on it. I gave the first in the Little Tails (not Tales!) series a try and I thought this was much better. Aimed at young children, adventurous and educational, this is a colorful series for young children that's worth the reading time.

Chipper and Squizzo are two little animal characters who take trips in their cardboard box airplane (something young children can readily emulate with any old cardboard box you have lying around). This part of the story is line drawings with a splash of monochrome color; it's refreshingly simple and will probably appeal to young readers, especially when its contrasted against the gorgeous full color images of the various animals they encounter.

The animals featured are biased toward mammals, and largely situated on land (we humans are a very class conscious society aren't we, even when it comes down to biological classes!), but there is the occasional foray into non-mammalian characters. Unfortunately the snake is described as poisonous when it ought to be described as venomous (you can withstand eating a snake because it's not poisonous, but you definitely don't want to be bitten by a venomous one!). Outside of the mammals, we get one beetle, two different birds, and two different reptiles, and that's it! There's nothing about plant life at all. I'd like to see that change. Since it's an airplane they have, why not a book on birds? Or how about a cardboard submarine next time, so we get to visit some ocean life?

Overall, though, the series is engaging and attractive, so I recommend this as a worthy read for young children.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Doctor Kangaroo by Gerald Hawksley

Rating: WORTHY!

I've enjoyed several of these crazy Hawksley books. They're not much for being educational, but not every book your kid reads has to teach something. Sometimes silliness is a valuable lesson to learn. In this story, Doctor Kangaroo's patented treatment is to send every patient to bed with a bandage round their head no matter what their complaint.

What I liked about this story is that it didn't know when to stop. Even after the Kangaroo story it plunged into yet more silliness, which felt like getting a couple of bonus books. I recommend this one for the fun and general all-around goofiness. The artwork is rudimentary but no one in need of a book like this is going to care about that.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What This Story Needs Is a Munch and a Crunch by Emma J Virjan

Rating: WORTHY!

I don't know if Emma, a fellow Texan, whom I've never met, was a Virjan before she got married or became one afterwards, or has been one all her life, but do doubt her name has contributed to her sense of humor because this book for young children is hilarious. The author also illustrates it and the idea of a pig in a wig is genius. (And yes, I know it's probably pronounced veer-yan. I'm just larking about!).

The colorful drawings are simple and funny, very easy for young children to take in, and the rhyming text is likewise. I thought this book was inspired, and if your child likes this one, then there are many others to choose from: What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig, What This Story Needs is a Hush and a Shush, What This Story Needs is a Munch and a Crunch, What This Story Needs is a Bang and a Clang, and What This Story Needs is a Vroom and a Zoom. You get the pigture. Or is it a porktrait?

In this particular adventure, there is a picnic in the offing, and it sure enough gets offed by the unexpected thunderstorm, but that's only the outdoor part. The indoor part continues with the Pig in a Wig's animal friends, so all is not lost. I recommend this one.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dream Big by Kat Kronenberg

Rating: WORTHY!

Set in Africa this was a colorful, fun, and inspirational book which encourages children that if they truly believe in their dreams and don't let negative people stop them, they will get their wish, like the caterpillar who wanted to fly, and the tadpole who wanted to hop and jump, and dance, and the flamingo who wanted colorful feathers.

Even the nay-saying baboon is forced to accept that he can dream big for his wish and it will come true. I liked the story for the colorful and entertaining artwork by Stephanie Dehennin, the fun characters, and the positive message.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Fox and a Box by Tanja Russita

Rating: WORTHY!

Not to be confused with A Pig, a Fox, and a Box by Jonathan Fenske, this consists of three short, illustrated stories with very simple text designed for young readers. The stories are fun and repetitive, aimed at getting the kids to get the words. The stories revolve around learning what an unusual new pet is, finding out what's wrong with someone's nose, and learning what the fox found in the box.

I couldn't stop thinking about that viral internet song, Box in a Box which was written and sung by the talented Leah Kauffman and acted in the video by Melissa Lamb & co, but it has nothing to do with this book. That's what happens when catchy rhymes get in your head, I guess! This set of stories though, is fun and seems eminently suited to achieving its aim, so I recommend it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Mom Goes For a Walk by Tanja Russita

Rating: WORTHY!

I liked this new take on an old story idea, whereby the child takes her parents for a walk rather than the other way around. It was different and inventive, and very playful, and the illustrations, in color, were great. It looked good on a tablet computer. I can't speak for the print version, but I have no reason to believe it wouldn't look good there too.

The child is all about mom and what she does on their walks - like reading while sitting on a swing, drawing wildlife, knitting, getting some sun. It's odd, but there seems to be very little actual walking going on here! I can confirm that the child is ensuring her mom gets fresh air and learns to play nice with the other moms! I liked this book for the watercolor art, the playful tone, and the fresh take on a story.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Snowman Paul at the Concert Hall by Yossi Lapid, Joanna Pasek

Rating: WORTHY!

Written in rhyme by Yossi Lapid, and illustrated with skill and love by Joanna Pasek, this next book in the Snowman Paul series for young children was an interesting one. Rather than being a secret friend, it's quite obvious by now that Snowman Paul is out there and everyone knows about him. He becomes even more famous in this volume, as he takes up musical instruments. The rhyming text once again is too small for a phone, so a print book or tablet is in order for this story as all the others in the series, but that aside, the pictures are fun and depict Paul learning a variety of musical instruments.

Perhaps this will stimulate a child to take up an instrument themselves. Learning to play music invigorates a mind whether it's a child's mind or an adult's, so I think it's great that, improbable as it is since he has no fingers(!), Paul shows a real interest in music. He has a hard time of it too, because few people welcome his practice sessions, but to his credit, he never gives up and it all works out well for in the end. I liked this story perhaps best of the four I've read, because it seems like, of all of them, it offered the most positive story to a child - that of perseverance in pursuit of your dream.

Snowman Paul Saves Kate's Birthday by Yossi Lapid, Joanna Pasek

Rating: WORTHY!

Written in rhyme by Yossi Lapid, and illustrated with customary finesse by Joanna Pasek, this book in the Snowman Paul series for young children was as a step up, I think form the previous volume I read. In this one, Dann was more involved, although the underlying story was all Paul again. At least Paul came to Dan's rescue proving what a good friend he is, but I had an issue with this - how good a friend is he is he doesn't take a minute to point out a problem with Dan's selfish behavior?

The rhyming the text once again is too small for a phone, so a print book or tablet is in order for this story too, and the story is about Kate's birthday. Dan isn't a very nice brother and he ends up eating the entire cake his mom made for his sister. In the end it all works out, and Paul steps in to create a snow paradise for Kate to play in, but this isn't a redress, it's a distraction, and Dan is never really taken to task for his misdemeanor I think that was a mistake.

Obviously a parent or guardian can step up here and discuss this with their child, but it would have been nice if Paul had stepped up, or if mom had said something, As it is, Dan gets away with very selfish behavior, scot-free! He doesn't even pay a price by getting sick from eating all that sugar and carbs. I think a better story would have been to have had Dan too sick from the stodgy cake to play on the snow toys Paul had created. It would have served a child's sense of justice, and offered a warning to kinds who might contemplate the same crime! That aside, the book was inventive and fun and with the caveat I mentioned here, I think it's good read for a child.

Snowman Paul at the Winter Olympics by Yossi Lapid, Joanna Pasek

Rating: WORTHY!

Written in rhyme by Yossi Lapid, and illustrated beautifully by Joanna Pasek, this book in the Snowman Paul series for young children was as much fun as the first one I read for the appropriate age range, in terms of crazy happenings, but I have to wonder if it will have the same appealing as the previous one because the first book featured the child, Dan, doing his thing, with not a whole lot of activity by the Snowman Paul until later. This book, however is different because it's all Snowman Paul and Dan has little to do but watch.

Joanna Pasek's illustrations are delightful as ever, but the rhyming the text once again is too small for a phone, so a print book or tablet is in order again, unless your child just likes to look at pictures, in which case the phone can be pulled out at a moment's notice and they can be entertained even if you were not prepared. If your child is a watcher more than a doer, then maybe the fact that Dan has little to do here might not be an issue. Even if your kid likes to do, it might well be enough for them to sit and watch Paul enter the winter Olympics, especially if they've had a tiring day and just want to kick back. I liked the story and thought it fun.

My Snowman Paul by Yossi Lapid, Joanna Pasek

Rating: WORTHY!

Written in rhyme by Yossi Lapid, and illustrated beautifully by Joanna Pasek, this introductory book to a Snowman Paul series for young children seems like it will be fun for the appropriate age range. Young kids love to make friends and have fun, and an unusual friend who brings a little bit of turmoil and adventure into a child's life sounds like he would be quite appealing.

Snow lay thick on the ground in Dan's neighborhood, and though he itched to go play in it, he was hesitant to head out and start building snowmen because his neighbor, Bill thinks they're lame. Personally I'd be more afraid of an attack from Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons as Bill Watterson would have it, but each to his own! Dan heads out and in the absence of critic Bill, he starts in on a huge snowman, but quits before he adds the head when he sees Bill out in his yard.

The snowman, however, has other ideas, and demands his head be placed properly, What can Dan do but comply? And this is how you literally make friends! I think this was a fun story and I liked it, but I don't recommend trying to read it on a phone. The images look wonderful, but the text is ridiculously small, so this is probably best read on a tablet or in print form. Unless of course your kid can't read, in which case offering the phone to keep 'em happy is a convenience because they can enjoy the images. As long as they don't start calling the weather forecaster on your dime to ask when it's going to snow!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

When I Wake Up by Joanne Liu, Ming Liu, Hattie Hyder

Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated entertainingly by Hattie Hyder, this short children's book expresses the exuberance of a young child wondering what the new day will bring - but first, she has to go to sleep to get to the new day. Hopefully this will work as a great bedtime read, persuade an over-active child of the benefit of going to sleep, and perhaps bring sweet dreams. Maybe in the morning she will dance or paint or sing, or play with friends, or bake, or blow bubbles, or do a host of other things. The possibilities for a child's mind are endless.

I have one complaint about this book, which is that it sockets mom and dad into gender roles which I don't think is a healthy thing to brainwash children with. Must it be mom who is in the kitchen and dad who takes the child to the zoo? No. There's no reason at all that dad couldn't do the baking and mom go to the zoo. Or both of them do both. It saddens me to see women in the kitchen, perhaps barefoot, but not, thankfully in this case pregnant. There's no reason they cannot be of course, should they choose it, but to lard up a young child's mind with the idée fixe that this is their place, as this book does, is simply wrong.

However, in view of the other qualities this book offers, I'm overlooking that one problem and rating this as a worthy read. Perhaps parents can use that baking scene as a talking point?!

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Invisible Man by Arthur Yorinks

Rating: WORTHY!

Alas! Poor Yorinks! I knew him Horatio; a man of infinite jest, and here's another one: this guy, a fruit-seller in a market, finds himself becoming invisible, not metaphorically like in Jeanne Ray's Calling Invisible Women which I positively reviewed (yes I'm positive!) back in November 2016, but for reals.

He slowly starts disappearing, and his cat isn't at all happy with it. Despite visiting the doctor for advice, and pursing other ideas, he can't find a cure until something really rather miraculous happens! I liked the humorous idea, and the way it was written and presented, and I recommend this for a fun read with your kids.

Sad Santa by Tad Carpenter

Rating: WORTHY!

All the Christmas stories I've seen, especially children's stories, are about the anticipation of Christmas, and about Christmas Day and the opening of gifts, but this one asks the logical question: what happens to Santa the day after Christmas? In the US, the day after is nothing. In Britain and the so-called commonwealth countries, it's called Boxing Day. Historically, this was the first weekday after Christmas Day when mail-carriers ('postmen'!), delivery boys, and servants were given a small gift-box as a thank you for their services. Religiously, it's the feast of Stephen, when Good King Wenceslaus (which Google thinks should be spelled 'audiences' LOL!) looked out.

For Santa, though, as this author tells us, it's a horrible, miserable day when he's out of work! There's nowhere he has to be, and nothing to do when he gets there, so what's a Santa to do? It's quite a to-do! As the blurb has it, "His reindeer and elves can't lift his spirits, and even a vacation with Mrs Claus doesn't do the trick."

Printed in four-colors, this book hits the right note in text and artistry and provides a different and entertaining perspective on this interesting time of year. I like the idea that the author is a Carpenter - evidently it's a family trait, but since he was only a Tad Carpenter, he decided to become a writer instead?

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Little Mermaid Against the Shark by Chloe Sanders

Rating: WORTHY!

I really did not like Chloe Sanders's My T-Rex Gets a Bath, but this story was altogether different.

Frankly, this book sounded from the title like it was a rip-off of the Disney Movie or of the original story itself which Disney ripped-off, but it wasn't. I can't blame it for the title: every author needs to try and get an edge, after all - and the story was original, fun, instructive, and has a wry sense of humor running through it. It was faultlessly-written, and beautifully illustrated (by the author, who is a talented artist - and who is not to be confused with the actor of the same name!).

Celia the mermaid is out looking for her friend Billy the dolphin so they can go play, and as the two of them set out, they encounter a bullying shark. Here is where the book departs from what you might have expected at this point, and Celia really comes through and shows her smarts, making a friend instead of an enemy. A great lesson in diplomacy! I recommend this one.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Rating: WORTHY!

Grahame was a Scot who grew up with his grandmother and ended up not going to Oxford as he wished, but working in a bank, and doing a good job, but when he retired due to ill health, he pursued an interest he'd had in writing, and out of that came The Wind in the Willows in 1908. The story features Toad of Toad Hall, Ratty (who is actually a vole), Mole, Badger, and Otter, although Otter is only a walk-on; it's the other four who are the main characters. The animals are very anthropomorphized, wearing clothes and in Toad's case driving a "motor car" - albeit badly! They behave very much like humans.

According to Wikipedia, this is what I would characterize as another example of the shameful cluelessness of both critics and of Big Publishing™, which turned down what is now considered a classic with the blinkered and dedicated complacency with which record companies turned down The Beatles. We have no idea how lucky we are that self-publishing (of not only written works, but also of music, movies, and art) is available to us now. According to Wikipedia, The Wind in the Willows was finally published by Methuen and Co after some agitation by Theodore Roosevelt, although how he became involved isn't specified. The moral to that story is: never give up!

At the beginning of the story, Ratty meets mole one day in early spring and invites him onto his boat. They go out for a picnic, and mole ends up in the water. Grahame evidently doesn't know that moles can swim quite well (they spend their time swimming through packed dirt, so water isn't going to be a problem for them! LOL!). Or maybe he conveniently forgot it just for this story. Anyway, the animals meet up with otter and later end-up riding out a snowstorm at badger's place. Later still, they have to try and talk Toad out of buying any more cars. He's evidently crashed seven and is about to take delivery of a new one.

Despite trying to talk him out of it and trying to keep him imprisoned until this driving "poison" works its way out of his system and he gives up, Toad isn't vanquished so easily! In fact, it's readily arguable that their ill-advised intervention precipitates a serious decline in Toad's behavior. Toad escapes their confinement, steals a car, inevitably crashes it, and ends up with a prison sentence which is steep by any standards. Badger and Mole, meanwhile, are enjoying the vacated Toad Hall and living there!

Toad busts out of prison with the help of a jailer's daughter, and goes on the run. Escaping on a train, he's pursued by another train full of police and prison wardens! He disguises himself as a washer woman and gets a ride on a barge only to be outed by his own incompetence, and tossed into the canal! Rustling the horse which pulls the barge, Toad escapes once again, and eventually ends up at Ratty's house where he learns that weasels and stoats have taken over Toad Hall!

The difference between weasels and stoats is simple: a weasel is so weasely distinguished, and stoats are stoatally different! The four friends manage to sneak into Toad hall via a secret tunnel which badger knows of, and retake his home.

This is a delightful story, full of adventure and bravado and not a little craziness. It's not told in the same way modern stories like this are. Which modern author would name such a book "The Wind in the Willows"? It doesn't happen. It's likely to be named after one of the animals - and be a series. And which modern children's writer has animals stealing cars, having crashes, and busting out of "gaol"? Reaching back to 1908 to read this makes for a refreshing story (in my case a refreshing listen to the audiobook, which is very effectively read by Martin Jarvis). I recommend this, especially for any hopeful writers of children's books who are looking to find a fresh take on such stories instead of cloning every other children's author's oeuvre that's out there today.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Dalmatian in a Digger by Rebecca Elliott

Rating: WARTY!

I really can't approve of a book for young children which shows such dangerous and destructive behavior, although I do thank the publisher for this advance review copy.

I can understand the impulse to write a book for young children about heavy machinery. Who isn't impressed by the power of these machines we've built? They're loud, and colorful and mighty, and they're especially impressive to children, but when you get right down to it, such machines could equally be defined as destruction machines as they are typically defined as construction machines, right? I think it's interesting how we choose to consistently define them positively when what they really do is remake nature in our urban image.

It's a necessary evil, I admit, but I would question how necessary. I think it's arguable that these are not the answer to everything. In relation to this specific story though, all we are really celebrating here is the mindless destruction of a virgin forest by these machines, for no better purpose than to build a tree house, which in the end seems to make use of nothing that these machines have done! So why was this pristine forest pillaged and razed?! I think it sends entirely the wrong message to a young generation.

It's a bad precedent when we as a race are destroying our climate through our thoughtless activities, to present as a positive thing, the destruction of nature in so frivolous a fashion, but the sad thing is that this isn't even the worst problem with this book. We have here four very dangerous (if useful) machines: a bulldozer, a crane, a dump truck, and an excavator, and the young Dalamation, who stands in as surrogate for our own child here, is shown clambering all over them as they operate. Seriously? There is no warning to be found anywhere how dangerous this is, or how the kid should stay clear.

I think it's a mistake to show children playing on machinery like this and and especially thoughtless to show them on these things when they're actually working! If you wouldn't show the kid holding a working chainsaw, then why show this? I can't recommend this book. I really can't!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Lila and the Crow by Gabrielle Grimard

Rating: WORTHY!

Young Lila is new in town. With her darker skin, jet black hair, and onyx eyes, she might have felt different, but on that first day she has no thoughts of anything but making friends. It's not to be. Once one kid starts the chant that Lila's hair is dark as a crow's feathers, it seems her dreams have been broken. No matter how she tries to hide her differences, the kids find new ways to tease and bully her.

When her despair is at its peak, she realizes this crow, which seems to have been following her around, is really trying to tell her something. When she finally, truly, looks at the bird, she sees something new there - something she never saw before, and it's this insight and her determination not to give up which finally wins her the friends she has dreamed of.

This is a beautifully illustrated book in watercolors, with well-written, heartfelt text, and a fine story to tell. I loved it.