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

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.

Gracie Meets a Ghost by Keiko Sena

Rating: WORTHY!

Thus was a fun story originally written in Japanese, but which translates well in any language. Gracie is a smart bunny. She gets herself some eyeglasses (what they say about eating carrots isn't all true. Carrots are good for you, but they can't fix poor eye genes!). Now she can see very well, and has fun playing outdoors with her friends, but she's also a bit irresponsible, and ends up losing her eyeglasses. She knows where they probably are, but it's dark when she goes there, so her task seems doomed to an almost zen-like paradox! Without her eyeglasses, how can she see to find them?!

Unexpected aid comes from an unlikely and mischievous source. I think it would be fun to tease a child and stir-up their imagination with questions of what's likely happen when the eyeglasses find their way back onto Gracie's nose! But maybe this isn't a bedtime story! It's more like a wake-up and enjoy the sunshine story. I liked this book and the resolution it came to, and the artwork was fine: very pleasantly fluffy. I recommend this story. There are many lessons to be learned here.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Centurion and Emperador by Rob Schneider, Patricia Schneider

Rating: WORTHY!

I'm not sure what this story is called! Net Galley had it as Centurion and Emperador by Rob Schneider, but the downloaded advance review copy (for which I thank the publisher!) has the first page reading The Gamble Ranch with no author ascribed. Inside the credits are: story by Rob and Patricia Schneider, script by Patricia Schneider (not sure that that means!), art by Francisco Herrera, and colors by Fernanda Rizo (who is a remarkable artist in her own right, and definitley someone who I would want doing my artwork were I writing a book needing images, and if I could even afford her! LOL!). Hopefully those issues will be cleared-up by publishing time. Maybe what seems to be the cover in the ARC is actually an interior page - it was hard to tell.

None of this matters though, when compared with the story itself, which is magnificent and is actually based on real horses of the same names, which are owned by friends of the authors, and who reside at the Gamble Ranch. The horses really do dance. This story is perfect for young children and the art work is amazingly good. I mean really good - far better than you usually get in books for young children or even for older readers. Herrera's line work is gorgeous, and Rizo's coloring is beautiful. I was totally hooked from the opening image (of the 'it was a dark and stormy night' variety!). The vista of the farm, with the lightning in the sky, the slashes of rain falling across the picture and the mood lighting imbued in the artwork were magnificent.

Of course this would just be a coffee table book, albeit a beautiful one, if it were not for the story, too, and that was told nicely, beautifully worded for kids, and made sense in its own little world of anthropomorphized animals and gentle fairy-tale influences. The storks arrive at the wrong place with these two baby horses, but the mother duck, who sorely wishes she had children of her own, snaps up these two with a determination which Hilary Clinton probably feels Democrat voters had had more of on election day!

The horses prove to be unusual ones, however. They're really not very good at racing, and the other horses make fun of them, but come the Town Fair, they discover something the can beat anyone at, and they really come into their own. I love the way the story not only celebrates, but heartily embraces differences and teaches kids that being different isn't a problem or a curse, it's a source of wonderment and joy. I recommend this book for its horse sense! Quite frankly, if you don't like this story you're an equine dock (just kidding!).

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Super Fish 2 The Stare Wars by Mary Lee

Rating: WORTHY!

This book is a riotous sequel to a riotous first book, and once again features the mysterious tiny super hero girl fish, who wears a mask and sports a cape? Our host this time is an octopus who we interrupt in the middle of making a sandwich - with real sand. You just don't get that kind of service nowadays.

The octopus seems quite obsessed with having staring contests, but I would caution you severely against getting involved in a staring contest with an octopus on a smart phone. It's a worse proposition than getting involved in a land war in Asia. The only person ever to have beaten the octopus in the staring contest is in fact: Super Fish! You knew it, right?

This was a fun addition to the series, and I think more fun than the first one. What's more, it featured actual sharks! Yes!

Super Fish by Mary Lee

Rating: WORTHY!

I've had some good success with Mary Lee's books, although not every one of her's I've read is a gem. This one though, is a riot! How bizarre - a tiny fishy super hero! And a girl fish too! Who is that masked fish - and what's with the cape? As soon as I read the dedication (by a star fish, no less!), I knew this was a book for me. The wording reads, "Dedicated to the amazing fish that make our oceans beautiful, except for sharks and jelly fish. They don't make good choices." How can you not love a book that starts out like that?

With bright colors standing out against the deep, dark, ocean background, you can't fail to be impressed with how this lights up the characters. Our host is the turtle who was once rescued by Super Fish. He has stories about her and even a photograph. He can barely contain himself, and that jar with the fish in it...?

I thought this was fun and frivolous and very entertaining - and eminently readable on a smart phone in case that tablet isn't to hand.

Moo Knows Numbers by Kerry McQuaide

Rating: WORTHY!

I've been in love with Midge and Moo since I reviewed Lost in the Garden and A Day With Moo back in February 2016. In this one - another in a series of 'adventures', Moo helps children count from one through ten which is really easy route to find if you can just put your finger on it....

The illustrations are, as usual, adorable, and Moo's indispensable presence helps keep thing moo-ving. This is very much his book, starting right with number 1, the one and only Moo! there's color and action, and the pictures look great and the text is readily readable on my smart phone, so it will always be there to entertain your child even if the tablet is left at home. The print book is probably sweet, too, but I haven't seen it. If you're looking for a simple counting book for a young child, you can't do better than this one, especially int he adorability stakes (or steaks, if you want to get technical about Moo...).

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Book of Feelings by Tracey Ross

Rating: WORTHY!

Note that this was an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher! Note also not to confuse this one with My Book of Feelings by Desiree Kelley, which is evidently a book of poetry but which I have not read.

Here's a useful book for young children to have. The author explores and discusses what feelings are and how they might feel inside (fluffy or sharp), and what to do about them. I read this in the Adobe Digital Additions on a desktop computer, where it made me feel fluffy, and both on my smart phone and on an iPad. In both of those cases I used Amazon's crappy Kindle app and the book looked awful. My feelings about that were very sharp!

I haven't seen it as a Nook book, but my gut feeling about that is that it would be a lot better than what Kindle can do. But in absence of any real knowledge of that, I'd recommend buying this one as a print book to be safe. This kind of book is definitely not designed with the e-world in mind; they're designed for print, let's face it, and because of certain features in this particular one, a print book seems like the best way to go even if it's more expensive. Read on for more details!

The author begins by discussing what kinds of feelings you might have, and explains how you might get to feel that way. She also discusses the fact that you might have these feelings and not quite know why, or that you might have several mixed feelings. She then goes on to talk about what you might do to let feelings out in non-harmful ways. There's also lots of space to write down your own feelings and draw yourself experiencing them! That might be a bit hard on a tablet computer (unless your kid is unsupervised and has access to a Sharpie...), but in a print book it would be useful, and might even help a child to deal with those sharp feelings, too! I loved this book. It's a great idea, a useful tool, and is really good to look at except on the Kindle app!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dojo Surprise by Chris Tougas

Rating: WORTHY!

This story was an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher, and it's a little bit weird and off the beaten track, which is a good thing. I think that's why it appealed to me. it;s also part of a series of "Dojo" books, and I have to warn you that it did not look at all good on a smart phone, so you definitely want to read it on something else.

The kids of the Dojo Daycare want to throw a surprise birthday party for their rather nervous sensei, and their sneaking around does little for his mental health, but they succeed in creating the surprise using hard-won ninja techniques, and in the end have a great birthday party, and a much relieved sensei! I think it's fun and playful and very colorful, but be warned: it might put sneaky ninja ideas into young children's brains!

Abigail the Whale by Davide Cali

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a wonderful book which takes a positive-thinking approach to bullying. You can't control what other people do (although you can influence it for better or for worse!), but you can control how you see what they do and how you let it affect you.

Abigail is overweight and she loves swimming, and there, at the crux of these two contentions, is her problem: people make fun of her at the pool, and call her Abigail the Whale. She makes a big splash and it's not seen in a positive light by her classmates. I was tempted to wonder why the teacher didn't berate her classmates for their bullying and their mean 'fun-making', especially given that he's the one who turns around and introduces her to positive thinking, but I doubt young kids will be quite that analytical! It would have been nice had he said something to the other kids, though.

But this is about Abigail's problem, not the teacher's, and Abigail is smart and considers this new addition to her armory seriously. Once she tries it out and finds that it works, she embraces it whole-heartedly and starts to enjoy life again, and not just at the pool. I liked the way this book offered something for the child to do, and a way to think positively about herself. It's very simplified here, but maybe this will sow a seed or two which will grow, flourish, and blossom strongly later in children's lives. I love the illustrations by Sonja Bougaeva, and the book's overall tone.

I Am Josephine (and I Am a Living Thing) by Jan Thornhill

Rating: WORTHY!

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

"Inspired by science and nature writer Jan Thornhill's many classroom visits, this book is intended to help children recognize themselves as part of the natural world, with an emphasis on how all living things share similarities."

This was a great book which teaches a little taxonomy along with exhibiting a fun young girl who is the very embodiment of life. Josephine compares and contrasts herself with everything around her. Is she like this or different from that? In her comparisons and contrasts, we learn that she's a living thing (and definitely full of life!), and an animal, and a mammal, and a human being. We also learn what some other animals and plants are, as she skips and dances through her colorful world examining everything. The book is a joy to read and a delight to look at, and is educational to boot, with some interaction where young kids can search and count. All in all it's a great little book and I liked it very much.

Baba Yaga by An Leysen

Rating: WORTHY!

This is a familiar story since I read one similar to it not all that long ago. It's rooted in Slavic mythology and makes for a bit of a dire read for younger children given the threat of being eaten by a witch, though this isn't very different from quite a few of the better known and perhaps more beloved fairy tales, but it is worth keeping in mind when considering reading it to impressionable youngsters. On the up-side, it presents a tale of a self-possessed and brave girl who does what she has to, and wins out in the end.

It's a gorgeously illustrated book about this evil witch who flies around in a cauldron, eats little children, and lives in a cottage in the forest which sits on two chicken legs. The story was well written, and even when I was tempted to raise the issue of a man bereft of his wife being called a widow, which is the female form, rather than a widower, I realized that this is the very thing I rail against myself: why do men get to be called actors, that is, those who do the acting, but women are dismissed as actresses, which sounds more like something you sleep on? There are many genderist words like that, so I say, go for it! Widow it is!

The problem with this widow, though, is that he's been enchanted by Baba Yaga's sister who lures him into marrying her, and who holds him so entranced that he doesn't even see how abusive she is to his daughter who he loves and dotes on - or did. Olga's dad (mom isn't on the scene here, not in person, anyway!) falls in love under her spell, but his new wife doesn't want any step-children around. Why she didn't simply pick a guy who had no children goes unexplained, but the upshot of it is that she really doesn't like Olga's positive attitude and so sends her off to borrow a needle and thread from Baba Yaga, knowing that the child will be eaten, and she'll never have to be concerned with the little brat again.

What she doesn't know is that mom's love for Olga was so powerful that, like in the Harry Potter stories, it left behind a protection for her in the form of a nesting doll which mom bequeathed her daughter. This doll offers advice which might not seem valid at the time it's given, but which proves to be very useful when the right time comes. This doll is not about to let this child be eaten, and so with advice and guidance offered in this manner, Olga is able to survive and overcome the power of the evil stepmom.

Like I said, the story is a bit dire, but for feisty children of strong constitution, this tale will stir them to be confident and not fearful, and to be brave and resourceful. Hopefully! I liked it and I recommend it. Besides, the artwork is wonderful!

The Tale of Peter Rabbit By Beatrix Potter

Rating: WORTHY!

This was an unexpected delight. Peter Rabbit is the naughtiest rabbit ever - and naughty is precisely the correct term for him. He's off adventuring when he should be gathering berries with his sisters; he's getting into trouble with the local farmer; he's almost getting himself caught; and he's ending his day by losing all of his nice new clothes!

First published in 1902, this story has every ounce of quaint still clinging to it like a scent of pot-pourri, and it's not your modern bleached fairy tale either. It's also a best seller, having sold over a hundred fifty million copies, which isn't too shabby given that it started as nothing more than an illustrated letter aimed at cheering up the sick son of a friend. Based on an actual pet rabbit which Potter owned, and illustrated by the author quite charmingly, this tale is well worth a few minutes of any child's time - no matter how old the child is!

Tigers for Kids by Kim Chase, John Davidson

Rating: WARTY!

This book was a free special on Barnes and Noble, and I can see why. It was not very well written and rather sloppily edited in places. It read more like fan-fiction than any serious attempt to interest young children in tigers. A lot of it was repetitive and felt, at least, like it had been taken from some online source and the rest made-up. A lot of it actually read like it was a middle-grade essay. It was free, so you can't complain too much, but caveat emptor! Or in this case, cave-cat emptor?!

While the book gets a lot right, it's also a fount of misinformation. For example, on page 7 (the page number on my tablet in the Nook reader - the book itself has no page numbers), we're told the modern tiger is a descendant of the "saber tooth tiger" but that's not true. Tigers and their closest relatives, snow leopards, broke away from other cat species some three million years ago and are not closely-related to saber-toothed cats (not tigers!) at all - no modern cat is.

One of the things the introduction promises, is to explain why tigers have stripes, and it comes up with the obvious answer that tigers are better camouflaged with stripes than if they were all orange or all black or white. What this book doesn't tell you is that the basic reason for the coloration is that the tiger's skin is that color! If a tiger were shaved, it would not look as pretty, but it would still have the same stripes, and probably would be a lot cooler in the daytime heat!

But the thing which isn't addressed at all is that the tiger tends to be a crepuscular and nocturnal hunter, plus, it sees prey and prey sees it in ways it is hard for us to imagine with our sight, so the tiger's camouflage and hunting habits have to be pictured in a world of poorer daytime vision, better nighttime vision (be it greyscale), and a world inhabited by odors which we cannot even begin to imagine with our amateur and dysfunctional noses!

It's not true to say the tiger can see as well as a human during daytime. It can see as well as it needs to, but it doesn't have the acuity humans have for the simple reason it never evolved in tigers: it wasn't necessary for them to be able to conduct their business, which is hunting, and which is conducted at twilight or at night. During those times of day the tiger can capture six times more light (not "six time greater" as the book has it) than humans because they have six times the number of receptor rods in their retinas - just like your domestic cat does. They also have, like a domestic cat, a tapetum lucidum - essentially a mirror behind the retina which reflects light back onto the retina so they can 'double-dip' as it were. The cost of this is that they have poorer daylight vision - both domestic cats and tigers - and see color poorly if at all as compared with humans.

The "six time greater" spelling/grammar error is repeated in other places in the book in different ways, such as when I read on page 15 that "their black strips...hide them", when it should clearly have read 'black stripes'. There are awkward constructions such as "One form of verbal communication used by tigers is roaring. Other tigers from as far away as two miles can hear the roaring of other tigers." Another instance was "It is not uncommon for there to be a dominant or leader among the cubs."

Contrary to what the book tells us, that "Our current day tigers evolved into a subspecies that existed 25 million years ago," modern tigers have existed for less than two million years. About three million years ago they existed only as an ancestor species that eventually split into snow leopards on the one hand and tigers on the other, so I have no idea where the '25 million' figure comes from, and the book offers no references whatsoever to check.

In conclusion, if your kids absolutely adore tigers and can't get enough of them, and you can get this book free, then go for it, but I can't in good faith recommend it as a useful book on the topic. You should read my other non-fiction review posted today to see how a book on animals should be done.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Malala: Activist for Girls' Education by Raphaële Frier

Rating: WORTHY!

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

On National Wonder Woman Day I'm not going to get into the dire gender politics and hypocrisy of a UN which proclaims a woman's day whilst rejecting a bunch of female candidates for secretary general, but it seems only right we should celebrate the spirit of this day by looking at a real-life wonder woman. Back in August of 2015 I positively reviewed I am Malala, and this version of her story, aimed at a much younger audience, is a worthy read, too. It zeroes in on the facts of her life, what she did, what happened to her, and how she survived, without going into exhausting detail. The images are colorful and enticing, and bring the reader into the story, which is an important one, and a potentially tragic one which fortunately had a happy ending.

This book even looked good on a smart phone, with the images large and the text legible. It tells of Malala's early childhood, and the conditions in which she lived, which deteriorated dramatically after an earthquake that idiotic religious flakes decided was some god's wrath! You’d have to be a complete and utter moron to worship a god which is as capricious and childish as that, and you would have to be criminally fraudulent to try to argue that this god generates cruel earthquakes, but this is the kind of extremists these people are, and this is what they were promoting. They take power not because they are right, or respected, or admired, or favored by the majority, but because they can get guns and threaten people. These are no disciples of any god of love.

Malala was lucky in having a family which supported educating girls, but the Taliban fears women, and detests equality. They're not the only whack-jobs who do so. There are many nations where women are treated in this same way, although 'treated' is a bad choice of word to describe it. Not all of these nations are condemned as they should be. Some are close allies of the USA. These people have no concept of fun and relaxation, and none of equality or parity. They are control freaks and bullies who fear women garnering any sort of power for themselves, and they started bullying everyone, not just women, but women in particular. People like this are so disempowered that they can only be 'men' when they have 'their women' as the phrase goes: barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen - and uneducated in order to keep them that way. This is something my wife joked about some years ago when she was actually barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen! It’s no joke when it’s real life though.

Malala started a blog to speak out about the problems they faced, and she soon became a local spokeswoman and representative. The Tailiban were pushed back but not far enough, and when they resurged, they cracked down just as hard, and they decided that this little girl was emasculating them. They proved this to be actually true when the only response they could engender was to shoot her three times, but she proved stronger than they, and she resurged herself to become a more effective opponent of their bruitality and cluelessness than ever she had been before. This is an important story which needs to be heard, and children are never too young to start hearing about female heroes. This little book is a great start. I recommend it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ian at Grandma and Grandpa's House by Pauline Oud

Rating: WORTHY!

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

This is the story of my trip to my grandparents' house. Kidding! But I can't not review a book about a character who shares my name right? Ian is off to the grandparents for the weekend, and he packs his favorite book and his green gingham bunny. I want a green gingham bunny! He gets to his grandparents' house, which he is thrilled to visit, and he waves a cheery goodbye to mom.

Ian gets cake as his first meal. Does mommy know this is how they feed him?! Hopefully he'll have a good solid meal later and this is just a snack treat. At any rate, he gets to run it off in the park when they take curly for a walk. I'm not sure why the short-haired dog is called curly, but let's roll with it. Maybe his tail is curly? After the enjoyable walk they come home and make soup with fresh veggies! Yes, I knew there was more to this than cake! Ian gets a bedtime story and a nice nap. This is the way I like life! I wonder how the author knew?

This was fun, cozy, easy reading and a nice bedtime tale to put the little ones to sleep with. I recommend it.

Star Light Star Bright by Anna Prokos

Rating: WORTHY!

Note that this was an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher!

Illustrated nicely by Dave Clegg, this is one of an educational series for young kids. This particular volume is about planets in the solar system. Others in the series are about dinosaurs, Antarctica, volcanoes, seeds, and your own back yard!

Jackson and Wyatt wish upon a star, and find themselves in a cozy spacecraft with their dog pal and a license to explore the solar system. Starting with the baking heat of Mercury, they fly ever outwards, growing ever more chill, but learning some fun facts about each planet as they go. But don't worry, they return safely and get to bed on time!

The story is simple and straight forward, with brief interesting facts about each planet, snappy enough to command attention without overloading young brains. It's got adventure and a tiny bit of danger, and is a worthwhile read for young kinds to learn about how fascinating and alien our solar system is. There's a little index at the back, along with suggested further reading, and a short fact file. Great illustrations bring the planets home to young minds and hopefully stimulate a bit of a scientific interest for later in life.

A Gefilte Fishy Tale by Allison and Wayne Marks

Rating: WORTHY!

This might sound weird (then anyone who knows me will know this is par for the course), but a couple of days ago the term 'gefilte fish' was going through my brain. I know not from whence it came. Not on that day, but a few years back, I saw a greeting card in a store that featured 'gefilte fish' as part of a nonsense good wishes recital and I blame that for originally fixating it in my brain where it's been lodged comfortably ever since.

I know at some point - and assuming I live long enough - that it's going to come out in a story. All this, anyway, to indicate why I thought it was a good idea to read this young children's book beautifully illustrated by Renée Andriani, and rhymed to perfection by the Marks brothers, er, husband wife team! Although frankly, it might have been written by the Marx Brothers.

Bubba Judy buys a jar of gefilte fish, and all is well until they get it home and find they cannot get it open. This also turns out to be jar for the course as they resort to an assortment of friends to help undo it, and all of them fail. What's to become of it? Well you'll have an interesting time finding out. In addition to the story, you get recipe for gefilte fish mini muffins, which frankly sounds disgusting to me, but maybe they're nice. There's also an original song by Wayne Marks, Margie Blumberg, and Gavin Whelehan, and a very welcome glossary for the Yiddish-challenged, which includes me most of the time, although fans of Mel Brooks movies might recognize some of these words. I recommend this one for a fun read for kids and an educational experience!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

A Fish Called Blackbeard by Gillian Rogerson

Rating: WORTHY!

This was another charming young children's/middle-grade book from an author who is growing on me! Note that this is a text book - no pictures here - so while you can read it to young children, there's nothing for them to look at. Lilly desperately wants a pet, and her only hope is to win a goldfish at the fairground even if it uses up all her allowance. She finally wins with her last shot, she picks the more active of the two remaining fish. She notes a black ring around the fish's eye, she decides to name it Blackbeard after the pirate.

So far so good. But the thing is, she discovers the fish can talk, and when she talks to it, she discovers he's depressed. The other fish at the fairground was Blackbeard's girlfriend and now he's heartbroken to be separated from her! Can Lilly help her new friend? This story reveals all! I liked it. Written lightly and amusingly, it was different, fun, and inventive. It's exactly what you need to stimulate a young person's mind, and I recommend it.