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

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Who Will Roar if I Go? by Paige Jaeger, Carol Hill Quirk


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Illustrated beautifully by artist Carol Hill Quirk, and written poetically by the author with the highly appropriate name of Paige Jaeger (Jaeger in German means 'hunter'! Page Hunter? Great name for a writer! LOL!), this book highlights some of the endangered animals on the planet, and we really need to start paying close attention.

We need to focus not just on the species charmingly depicted in this book, but to entire ecosystems that we are despoiling not only through hunting, poaching, and habitat destruction, but also through climate change, which notwithstanding our idiot president's delusional view of science, IS caused by humans, IS happening right now, and IS dangerously affecting the entire planet.

The lion is considered a 'vulnerable' species, which is only one step up from endangered. The gorilla is critically endangered, which is one step below 'merely' endangered. Well over a thousand rhinos were killed by poachers in 2015. Their population cannot remotely sustain such wanton murder. The western black rhino and the northern white rhino are already extinct along with a sub-species of the Javan rhino. We will never see their like again. The rest of the Javan, and also the Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered, and the Indian rhino is vulnerable.

In the mid-nineteen thirties - Ernest Hemingway's puffed-up 'Great' White Hunter era - there may have been as many five million elephants in Africa. Now there is far less than a million. The tiger is Asian, and it's endangered. There is much less than four thousand of them left in the wild. Most zebra species are endangered. One of them, the quagga, is already extinct.

The quetzal bird is much better off, being 'only' near-threatened, while the Chinese giant salamander is critically endangered because the idiot Chinese hunt it for food and medicine. The North American Karner blue butterfly - which I have to be honest and say the art in this case does not do justice to (sorry, Ms. Quirk!) - is vulnerable, and all eight species of the pangolin - which live across the southern hemisphere and which are utterly adorable - are threatened with extinction. Despite China doing the right thing (but perhaps only because it's a national treasure) the panda is still considered vulnerable.

This gorgeous picture book is the beginning of what I hope will be a successful and informative series because it has a lot of potential not only to do good, but to be inventive in how it informs readers. This first makes a colorful statement and a plaintive call for help.

There's a glossary of long words in the back. I would have liked to have seen a short section giving some details - for the grownups! - in the back along with some ways they could help - for example by means of listing URLs of conservation and wildlife protection organizations, but any enterprising adult ought to be able to find those for herself these days. Other than that I though this was a treasure and I commend it for its message and its presentation.


Friday, November 2, 2018

I Don't Want to Eat Bugs by Rachel Branton


Rating: WARTY!

Illustrated rather oddly by Tim Peterson, this book for young children didn't impress me. The story is supposed to be about a young girl curiously-named Lisbon. Maybe she should have been named Lisbon-bon since she's so hungry! Reporting to her mother, the poor child finds no solace there.

Her mother informs her that dinner is almost finished (by which I assume she means it's almost ready), but instead of offering her a small snack though, or advising her to wash her hands and take a seat at the table, and having her maybe eat a little salad or fruit, mom sends Lisbon out to play?

The oddity about this image is that Lisbon looks pregnant, despite being little more than a toddler. I found that a curious illustrative style. Maybe it's part of the eccentricity of the depictions, because Lisbon also looks like she shares a condition of macrocephaly with Joseph Merrick.

When she goes outdoors, Lisbon is offered a bug by a bird and she declines. The illustration of the bird makes it look like it has a trunk. it took me a minute to see that the bird is extending a wing to offer the bug. Next her cat offers her a mouse it has caught. The dog recommends catching a hedgehog, but failing that, offers her some of its dry food. Finally she decides on ice cream which her mom promises her after she eats dinner, which is now, of course, ready. Lisbon doesn't wash her hands.

This book could have been a great opportunity to educate readers. It offers no reason for Lisbon to reject the food other than the mouse is cute, for example, but neither does it explain that there are cultures which do eat bugs, and hedgehogs, and mice, but it was wasted. It didn't really tell a story, and certainly it wasn't educational, to say nothing of unhygienic, so I can't commend this at all.


Peter & Ernesto a Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable


Rating: WORTHY!

I can see why the publisher didn’t want to let a reviewer like me at this story when I requested it from Net Galley: it wasn’t very good. But they can only delay my review – they can’t silence it! The story, I’m guessing, is aimed at a very young mindset, but even so it really fails to tell any kind of a story. Peter and Ernesto are sloths, and curiously-hued sloths too, given how drab and alike their cookie-cutter compatriots are.

One of them - and I forget which - decides he wants to head on out and see the sky – like he can’t see it from the top of his tree. He wants to see the sky from other parts of the world – for a certain highly constricted values of ‘world’ - so he sets off walking - on two legs - to see what he can see. Curiously everyone he meets is nice and seeks to help him.

He makes a short and seemingly pointless journey - not really looking at the sky or noting how or even if it changes, and then he abruptly turns around and heads back, meeting his pal on the way. That’s it! That’s the entire pointless story. It’s neither entertaining nor educational, and the artwork is childish - perhaps deliberately so, but I see no redeeming value in this story and cannot commend it.


Collage Workshop for Kids by Shannon Merenstein


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Not to be confused with College Workshop for kids (which I just made up), this is collage workshop aimed at a young audience! Kids love to do this kind of thing and it was interesting to me because I've been toying with an idea of doing a collage episode of my Little Rattuses series (which I'll then of course have to photograph since I'm not going to create a score of original collage books to sell! LOL! So while you never always know where you'll get good ideas and tips - which is why it's a good idea to read lots and keep your eyes open, you do now, because this book is full of them!

The book contains everything you need to know - the supplies you'll have to bring yourself! But once you have them, this book will tell you - and your kids - in easy, illustrated steps how to turn them into some pretty cool collages that any young child would be thrilled by and proud of. You can create anything in collage, and make it look pretty darned real by choosing the right materials, and once you get the bug, you can move on to creating your own entirely original collages. I commend this book as a fun adventure which will teach kids to be creative and leave them with some nice art skills and a wealth of confidence. Plus who knows - maybe a new hobby, too? Or even a career!


Build Your Own Chain Reaction Machines by Paul Long


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Subtitled "How to Make Crazy Contraptions Using Everyday Stuff--Creative Kid-Powered Projects!" this book is ideal for the kid who loves to tinker and invent. Using cardboard, mostly, with a few other items, some tools, a bit of glue, and the ability to measure, cut, and follow instructions closely, your boy or girl can build some amusing, entertaining and educational toys, and more than likely come up with their own future inventions using the skills learned here.

The book opens with a section on the essential tools, techniques, and mechanisms you will need or need to know in order to embark upon these projects. Three subsections cover basic tools, DIY tools, and basic techniques. This is only ten pages and filled with photographs, so no worries there. Once through that, you get to start your projects.

The first section of these is titled 'machines for your Room' such as a door knocker, a door opener, and a light-switcher. There are three more such sections covering machines for around the house (water your plants? Squeeze your toothpaste?), machines for fun and nonsense (launch a marble? make music?), and machines for food (vending machine, candy dispenser), so there's a lot of different projects you can undertake - assuming you have enough cardboard...and the determination to get it done!

I thought this was a fun, safe, and relatively cheap way to provide educational entertainment for your kid and I commend this book.


ABC for Me: ABC What Can She Be? by Jessie Ford


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a sweet and fun (and full of color in more ways than one) book for young children about a girl dreaming of what profession she might follow when she grows up, and unlike for far too many women of older generations, everything is open to her, but it's curiously in alphabetical order! So two ways to teach!

She imagines one thing after another and appropriately she doesn't shun traditional feminine occupations, but neither is she afraid of exploring professions where women have been scarce or absent in times thankfully past. This is entirely how it should be because in the end, it is her choice what to do with her life! That's the whole point: she can be anything she chooses. She's not afraid to take charge of that choice, and no one has any right to condemn or even judge her for what she chooses.

This is a great book for young girls who might appreciate having some cool ideas put into their heads and any possibly perceived limitations shredded. I commend it as a worthy read.


STEAM Stories: Robot Repairs (Technology) by Jonathan Litton, Magalí Mansilla


Rating: WORTHY!

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

These stories are aimed at introducing kids to concepts of physics and engineering in a light, entertaining, yet instructive way. If there's one thing this world needs, apart from a total absence of inflammatory so-called leaders of the free world, it's more girls looking towards a career in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math. Girls may feel they don't need those subjects, but those professions definitely need girls' minds, ethics, sensibilities, and team-work skills.

That's why I thought this was a fun and useful book, again by the team of writer Jonathan Litton, artist Magalí Mansilla to introduce young people to these professions, and why it was good to show a female character being proactive and sharing equally in a project.

The story is simple - this old robot falls apart and a boy and a girl decide to use their smarts to see if they can put it back together again and make it work. Of course they do, but they have to think about what they're doing and make smart choices to get it right. This is a positive thing for young children to be exposed to, and I commend this book as a worthy read.


STEAM Stories: The Great Go-Kart Race (Science) by Jonathan Litton, Magalí Mansilla


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Written simply by Jonathan Litton, and colorfully illustrated by Magalí Mansilla, this is another in a series aimed at promoting young people's interest in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math, and this one takes an engineering and a problem-solving approach, teaching a little physics and intelligent thinking along the way. Girls are sadly underrepresented in these fields and the professions suffer from that, so anything that serves to promote an interest in these subjects as a path to a profession, is to be welcomed.

It's the big go-kart race and our diverse boy-girl team are competing, but it's not simply a matter of steering the vehicle around a track! There are unexpected problems along the way and some very inventive and thoughtful efforts at solving them are required. Our boy and girl are equal though, and equal to the challenge, both of them contributing to the solutions. It's this team work, even in the midst of this highly-competitive race, that pays off, as it always will. I commend this as a worthy read for young children of both genders and all shades.


Around The World in Every Vehicle by Amber Stewart, Duncan Beedie


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Written well by Amber Stewart, and illustrated equally well by Duncan Beedie (both good Scots names I have to say!) this short story picture book was a fun romp across the globe employing an assortment of vehicles to make the trip.

It's educational as to geography as well as to different habits across the world when it comes to transportation, as we follow the rather foxy-looking Van Go family on a trip that's a trip! They set off from home on their bicycles and consult their map with seven major destinations marked all across the globe. They take an open-topped tour bus (see, it's not always raining in London!) past a hoard of traditional and distinctive-looking London taxis, and Freddie Van Go is moved to consult a book (yeay Freddie!) to discover what other kinds of buses there are.

This sets the tone for the other pages of the book, many of which are double-page spreads, so I wouldn't rely on your smartphone to read this in ebook form (Unless your kid is just looking at the pictures). You'll need a tablet - and a preferably regular-sized one rather than mini to read the small text.

I'm not sure it quite covered every vehicle (I saw no tank in there, for example!), but it sure covers a host of them: sea, air, land - and under the land! Yes, there is a trip through the Chunnel! It made for a colorful, varied, educational and fun read for young children. I commend it as a worthy read.


Animosaics: Can You Find It? by Surya Sajnani


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I'm currently working on a children's book that contains puzzles, so I've been idly noting what's out there for a while, and I was curious about this one. The puzzles here are nothing like those I'm using though, so it was interesting to see another approach. It's all in color here, and though I'm not sure how it would work for anyone who is color-blind, the puzzles are not as easy as you might think, even for someone with all his opsins in a row!

The pages are each a single color - very bright and rainbow colors to be sure, but only a single color per puzzle. Hidden in the color and disguised by a mess of shapes and patterns are certain specific items you must find, different on each page. Some of them were a pain to uncover! Not that I'm especially great at puzzles, but unless you're a puzzle solver of Olympic proportions, this will certainly occupy your time pleasurably and satisfyingly, assuming you enjoy puzzles to begin with, and perhaps even if you haven't found your kind of puzzle yet! I commend this book as a satisfying and colorful brain exercise!


How to Think Like an Absolute Genius by Philippe Brasseur, Virginie Berthemetv


Rating: WARTY!

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

I have to say up front that I wasn't impressed by this book. For one reason it was overwhelmingly white male - as though there are so few examples of other genders and ethnicities that the author couldn't find them. I call bullshit on that. He simply didn't look, and instead of finding a diversity of modern cutting-edge exemplars, it seems he took the lazy route and fell back on historical figures.

The book is divided into three sections, the first, 'Be Curious', is all white males. The second, 'Be Imaginative', is all white males. The third, 'Be Determined', is all white males save two token people: Martin Luther King and Agatha Christie, but what is the point of being determined if authors determinedly exclude you in books like this? Each individual section had up to half-a-dozen 'also-ran' names listed, but again these were overwhelmingly white men - around sixty of them, and white women - around forty, with a literal handful men and women of color. This book needs to be shunned on that basis alone. I'm surprised the publisher allowed it to be published like this in this day and age.

Even with the white folks, the author talked only about the positive, like every one of these people was a paragon. He never brought up anything negative about his heroes, such as that Einstein made a major blunder in his calculations precisely because he did not have the courage of his convictions, or about Charlie Chaplin's predilection for juvenile females, or America's darling Edison (barf), who cruelly electrocuted animals for no other reason than to try to 'prove' that his rival Tesla's AC power transmission system was dangerous and Edison's own limp DC current was the only intelligent way to go. Guess who won?

Edison was not a genius. A genius does not blindly try out hundreds of filaments to figure out how to make a light work. In fact Edison wasn't actually the one who tried all those - he had his more than likely underpaid workforce do all the work. Maybe that was his genius: getting others to labor for him while he took all the credit? But the real genius was the guy who invented the light bulb before Edison 'did': Sir Joseph Wilson Swan. Can we not find better inspiration and better, more diverse people to seek to emulate than these? I refuse to believe we cannot.

The short response to this title is: No, you can't teach someone to be a genius. The problem is that part of it is nature, which is really hard to change unless you become the scientist who does figure out how to change that. The other part though, is nurture and it's highly malleable, especially in young children.

In short you can encourage people to think in ways that might lead to important insights and inventions, but just as with a horse being led to water, you can only do so much. That doesn't mean you can't be inspired by those who have gone before, but it's a lot easier to be inspired by someone who is in some way like you, and the majority of people on this planet are not white males - they're half female and largely non-white! I cannot commend this book at all. It's entirely wrong-headed, unless the author really only wants white male children to be moved by it.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Peep by Maria von Lieshout


Rating: WORTHY!

This is another in what appears to be a series of confidence-building books by this author. I have no idea how many there are in the series. I know there are at least three and this author, who is Dutch by birth, has published over a dozen children's books on various empowering themes. I just happened on them by accident in my local library while checking out a display of kid's books the librarians had set up. Unlike the Goodreads 'librarians' for example, who don't appear to do a damned thing, the librarians in my local libraries are fun and inventive and hard-working, and their efforts pay off.

This one concerns a young chicken name Peep, who is following her brothers and sisters, who are in turn following mom, line-astern, on an outing, but when they reach the curb it seems to be so very high for a little Peep who wouldn't say Bo to a sheep. Mom and the siblings seem to have no trouble with it, but Peep can't handle this at all. However, with encouragement, pluck and determination, Peep makes the leap and does not regret it - that is until she reaches the other curb and has to figure out what to do next - which is delightfully where this tale ends.

I really liked this story. Just like the previous volume I read by this author, this one is also colorful, simply but competently drawn, amusing, and playful. I liked the humor and the lesson, and I commend it as a worthy read for young children.


Splash by Maria von Lieshout


Rating: WORTHY!

This playful and amusing little book for young children tells the story of a seal who can't seem to do much and feels very disappointed in itself until one day the sun falls into the ocean and it's up to the seal to replace it. The seal discovers that it can do things when those things are very important to it, and this leads to reconnecting with its friends. Fortunately for small and delicate flippers, the sun is only the size of a small beach ball and not too hot (it was cooled off by the ocean no doubt!), so this task isn't too arduous.

This is a colorful book (not all the seals are navy, for example...) and proved inventive and quite entertaining. The author appears to have a series of these, and I shall be reviewing one other like it by the same author. I commend this one as a worthy read.


My Amazing Dinosaur by Grimaldi


Rating: WARTY!

Translated by Carol Klio Burrell, this was a kids comic about a cave family's child named Tib and his absurd and anachronistic dinosaur playmate, Tumtum. Playing into the idiotic creationists hands by allowing that humans and dinosaurs co-existed (they did not, by some sixty million years or more) is only acceptable if the story-telling makes it worthwhile by being informative, and/or educational, and/or entertaining, and these stories were none of the preceding.

If I'd known Kirkus had praised this I would have avoided it and thereby saved myself the time it took to read it! The stories were trite, predictable and of the Sunday not-so-funnies quality, which is dismal at best and even more dismal at worst. I'd recommend steering clear of this Tyrannosaurus wreck.


Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey


Rating: WARTY!

This tells of the envy of the Moon wanting to have a chance to be the Sun for one day. The sun is harsh though and will only agree to swap if the Moon agrees to make the swap permanent. The Moon has one night to make the decision. Paying extra attention to everything that takes place in the night, the Moon of course realizes that nighttime has many charms, and in the end decides not to swap.

Normally I cut children's books some slack, and let them get away with more than I would a book written for older children or adult audiences, but this one didn't impress me at all. The first problem is that the Moon was a 'he' when the Moon has typically and traditionally been associated with femininity and goddesses. The sun's gender wasn't made clear, so conceivably it could have been female, but I couldn't help but wonder why the Moon was masculinized here.

On top of that, the story suggests how stupid the Moon is - having failed to notice all that beauty which 'he' notices on that one night; the observations lead to the Moon resolving to stay. What bothered me about this was that it suggests that a person should be content to 'stay in one's station in life' and never strive or hope for more. I don't think this is good advice to pass on to children.

Admittedly, this would have been worse had the Moon been given a female gender which would then suggest that the masculine sun was dictating what the feminine Moon should do: stay below that glass ceiling as it were, because it couldn't handle a tough day job. I don't have any idea if the author saw it that way, but it still doesn't change the point about ambition. Too much ambition, or ruthless or blind ambition is a bad thing, but healthy ambition - a desire to improve one's station and an aim be the best one can be at something is a good thing, and this book seemed intent upon slapping that down.

I think this same story could have been much better written: for example as a joint decision by the two to swap for a day/night, and then by mutual agreement decide to return to their original stations, having learned they are both happier where they were. I just did not like the way it was handled here. For this reason, I cannot commend this one as a worthy read.


I Am Peace by Susan Verde, Peter H Reynolds


Rating: WORTHY!

Subtitled "A Book of Mindfulness" this book aimed at younger children, is intended to teach them how to be in the moment and not let extraneous worries or concerns tip them off their balance. I just reviewed a children's book called Verdi. Now I review one written by a Verde - and illustrated well by Reynolds. The book is short and to the point and offers advice on how to enjoy the now and not let worries and fly-away thoughts distract too much. The book is simple and modestly colored, with nice drawings and good advice for people who tend to let things get in the way of living life to the fullest. Everyone could use a little of that, and I commend this book as a worthy read.


Verdi by Janell Cannon


Rating: WORTHY!

This young children's book was hilarious. A hardback with glossy colorful pages and limited text, it tells the story of a young snake by the name of Verdi, who loves his yellow coloring and doesn't want to mature to the usual green scales. He tries to fight this, but in the end he loses and realizes that change isn't necessarily a bad thing.

As far as I can tell, Verdi is Indonesian - supposed to be a green tree python (Morelia viridis) based on his coloring, his life in the trees, and his residence on an island. These pythons are actually under threat because of smuggling to feed the pet market, and pythons like these do not travel well - many die before they ever reach the pet store.

What impressed me about this book was the beautiful artwork which manages to be colorful and realistic without looking like it belonged in a biology book. What amused me was the text and the snake commentaries from various other members of the local Pythonidae family. Verdi isn't impressed with these adults and decides to strike his own course, but no matter what he does he doesn't seem to be able to stop the spreading o' the green! He is determined, but nature beats cherchez.

His antics are amusing, especially the way he catapults himself off the top of a tree by holding a branch in his mouth and tightening his coils until he lets go and springs into the air. I laughed out loud at that. His 'spa treatment' with the mud was also amusing. I liked this book very much and commend it as a worthy read for young children - and even a few adults!


How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food by Jane Yolen, Mark Teague


Rating: WORTHY!

I'm not a huge fan of this author, but this short, amusing, and colorful pasteboard book for young children was a worthy read I thought, and the art by Mark Teague was great.

I think Dinosaurs are overdone these days, but this was a different take: working on the assumption of something which never happened in real life - that humans and dinosaurs existed together. This book amusingly takes that farce one step further by turning dinos into fellow citizens, who have lives and like to go out to eat - which seems to be true based on fossil evidence. Their al fresco dining habits are well documented.

Unfortunately their manners leave a lot to be desired and this is not so well-attested by fossil evidence, which is why this book is important! I found it entertaining, especially for the intended audience, and I commend it as a worthy read.


Hair by Leslie Patricelli


Rating: WORTHY!

This was an amusingly written and colorfully illustrated young children's pasteboard-style book about hair, which I found amusing. I can't speak to whether young kids will find it the same, but my best guess is they will enjoy it. It's the perfect read when you're readying to take them to the hairdresser for the first time. It was actually in a hairdresser's that I found this in a rack for the very purpose of entertaining young visitors. It covers several aspects of haircare and hair interests and I thought it was fun and a worthy read for the intended audience.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve, Sarah McIntyre


Rating: WORTHY!

This was an hilarious middle grade (or lower) illustrated sci-fi chapter book about Astra, the only child of a space-traveling family who were put into cryogenic sleep for the 199 year trip to Nova Mundi, the planet where they will live. Philip Reeve, better known for his Mortal Engines series (the movie for which is due out this year - 2018), does a fine job with the writing, and Sarah McIntyre goes to town on the charming, somewhat sepia-tinted illustrations which literally run riot through the story.

Unfortunately, Astra was a bit peckish before settling down, so she headed off to the dining hall to request that the AI there bake her the most scrumptious cake ever - a cake unequalled. It did exactly as she requested. As passengers slept, it experimented with making cakes and eventually created ravenous cakes - not cakes that you want to eat ravenously, but cakes that will eat you! These cakes begin roaming the spacecraft, and poor ardua ad Astra, who wakes early, has to do battle with them.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the spacecraft is drifting off course and is overtaken by multi-eyed pirates who are seeking to rob it of all its spoons. Yes, spoons. Don't give me that - like you have no idea how valuable spoons truly are. You're fooling no one with your feigned ignorance. Can Astra save the day?! Of course she can. Why even ask such a dumb question? Well, to tell the truth, I'm working on my blurb writing skills and they consistently ask ridiculous questions like that. You have to really disrespect the reader to be a successful blurb writer, and treat them like morons, so how did I do?

But seriously, I thought this book was a joy! Some readers might find it a bit trite or silly, or caked with sugar, but I'm guessing the readership at which this is aimed will love it. I did, and I'm not ashamed to admit it! I commend this as a worthy read, and I promise you it's not half-baked.