Showing posts with label animals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label animals. Show all posts

Monday, September 2, 2019

Happenings at Hookwood by Michael Wilton


Rating: WARTY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I made it a quarter the way through this, but had too many issues with it to continue. It may appeal to a certain set of readers, but I found it inappropriate for children and downright objectionable in parts.

The story is of a young rabbit named Startup who lives with his mom and dad in a community close by an old house. When a couple move into the house and bring their cat, an alarm runs through the wild community. This part I could get with because pet cats are in fact devastating our ecology. There are so many of them preying on wild birds and other animals that they're actually destroying wildlife at an alarming rate. Unfortunately that's not the thrust of this novel at all. On the contrary - rather than trying to do good with the fiction, it seems like the story is going in the opposite direction. More on this shortly.

My first problem with this is that while this is obviously a children's book, one of the rabbits smokes a pipe. Admittedly he does have it taken away by his wife later, but the fact that he had it at all is a problem in a children's novel. This is not the nineteen-fifties! I don't mind some anthropomorphization of animals in children's books, but if you're going to make them completely human, then why have them as animals at all? To me it makes no sense to divorce them completely from their nature. These rabbits - and other animals such as squirrels and owls, for example - were entirely human - so much so that they'd lost all connection with nature. That was a problem for me. This lack of a vision as to what their origin was, had become so all-encompassing that at one point Mrs Rabbit, Startup's mom, was making curtains. For a burrow. Which by definition is underground. Where there are no windows. I won't get into why mom is depicted in traditional female roles and so on.

The next problem was that Startup - who seems to be appropriately named, sought to trick a squirrel into paying him for recovering some nuts. I could not get my mind around exactly how this came to be despite going back and re-reading several pages, but clearly Startup's motives were hardly altruistic. I didn't think this was a good example to set before children.

Right after this we're introduced to a hare, the characterization of which is evidently heavily-influenced by the idea of 'mad as a march hare' and the creature is depicted as crazy which again to me was a highly inappropriate precedent to set before children when thinking about a person who appears to have to some mental health issues, or who is maybe simply a bit different in his approach to life. He was called 'Lenny the Looney' and Startup's attitude to him is described like this: "He had no desire to get caught up in a dotty duscussion with Hare'. That's about where I decided I didn't want to read any more of this book, and why I cannot commend it based on the portion of it I have read.


Winter Sleep by Sean Taylor, Alex Morss, Cinyee Chiu


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a sweet and charming book about animals who sleep their way through winter the better to creep out with the spring and renew their lives along with nature revitalizing itself each year. Visiting his grandmother, the unnamed boy in the story is taken to a secret glade in the nearby woods where he finds the charm and appeal of nature to be irresistible. But when he makes a return visit in winter, the entire glade has changed, and far from being a place of buzzing insects, flourishing flowers, and chirping birds, it lies asleep under a blanket of snow, soundless, lifeless.

Or so it appears.

Grandmother Sylvie points out though that even in the midst of the quietude, they're surrounded by sleeping nature: the bears and the bees, the dormouse, the bat, the beetles, the earwigs, the moths, the fish and the frogs, all hidden and awaiting the return of long days and strong sunshine to wake up and get moving. There's a section at the back of the book about how and why animals hibernate, and the illustrations by Cinyee Chiu are charming and well-wrought. I commend this as a worthy read.


Wild in the Streets by Marilyn Singer


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

A Singer writes poetry! I'm not a huge fan of the poetic despite having published a volume of my own short stories and poems, but you have to love this one which not only teaches about wild animals that have adopted a lifestyle among humans - for better or for worse, but which also teaches a bit about poetry, using several different forms to describe the various animals and discussing those at the end of the book.

As for the animals? Well! The book travels the world from Austin to Australia, Rome to Rio, and it looks at Coyotes in Chicago (although pick most places in the US and you'll find coyotes!), Agoutis in Brazil, Bees in Vancouver, Butterflies in California, Boars in Germany, Hyenas in Ethiopia, tree frogs in Taipei, badgers in burial grounds, and so on. The animals are fascinating: from charming to harming, and trooping to pooping. Just like the the pigeons with the deadly aim, you can't miss with this book, which was fascinating and engrossing. I commend it as a worthy read.


Friday, August 9, 2019

The Animal Awards by Martin Jenkins, Tor Freeman


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Written by Jenkins and illustrated by Freeman, this is a fun and educational book about animal world record holders. Some of the records are less to be desired than others, but are nonetheless interesting. The book covers axolotls to vampire bats, and scores of others in between, but it features only those who are outstanding in one way or another - and their closest competitors. It might be that they live longest - like an estimated 400 years for a Greenland shark! - or that they are the fastest on land - like the cheetah, or the fastest in the air, like the peregrine falcon.

Maybe they have the goofiest mating dance, or can make the loudest noise (from one of the smallest animals, too!). Maybe they dive deeper or travel further, or have the most boring diet. Whatever it is, they're very likely in here. The record holders are not always cute and cuddly-looking mammals either. They could be vertebrates or non-vertebrates, fish, molluscs, birds, insects, mammals, amphibians. They could live anywhere on land or sea, or in the air. They could live in the hot or the cold, the jungle or the plains. But they're out there, and this books tells you what's special about them, and with enough text to educate, without lecturing, and with colorful and useful illustrations.

We puff ourselves up with human achievements, and often forget that these animals were first in the field (and elsewhere!). I commend this as a worthy read.


Jerry the Squirrel by Shawn PB Robinson


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I'm a big fan of squirrels because they're so utterly insane and so proud of it to boot. I couldn't not read a book about them, and I'm glad I did in this case as it happens, because it was amusing and entertaining. Jerry is an inventor and while he doesn't necessarily always think things through, he does carry things through, and he never conceives of a solution to a problem without actually designing and building that solution. That's when the real problem starts, unfortunately.

Cold floor? That calls for super-duper slipper solution! Nut harvest time? That clearly calls for a nut-harvesting machine! Nut beetle invasion? That calls for...well, Jerry has some issues with the solution to that one!

The slippers, the first story in what, in effect, amounts to a collection of short stories about Jerry, was by far the most amusing to me. It was inspired, and I loved it. The impact of the subsequent stories seemed less after that one, but they were still eminently entertaining even when the rather-annoying Gary and his mom moved in upstairs.

If I have a complaint it was that I felt Jerry ought to have been granted some reward, somewhere along the trail, in some fashion or other, but the hapless squirrel never seems to get one. While this is amusing in some ways, I can't help but wonder if children who read this might be induced to feel that being creative is a forlorn and pointless exercise because of poor Jerry's singular lack of lasting success and recognition.

That aside, the stories were amusingly-written, inventive, and engaging and I commend this as a worthy read.


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Lord and Lady Bunny - Almost Royalty by Polly Horvath


Rating: WORTHY!

This audiobook was laugh-out-loud hilarious, and while there were some tame bits, for the most part it amused me highly. I'm not sure who it was aimed at. It seems a bit too mature for a middle-grade or earlier audience, and a bit too 'bunny' for older audiences, but none of that bothered someone like me who is completely insane.

It's read in fine style by the author, and she does a great job. She seems to take an unhealthy delight, it must be noted, in pronouncing bunny with an explosive beginning and a whimper of an ending. That word appears in almost every other sentence. 'Rabbit' not so much.

This is a sequel to Mr and Mrs Bunny - Detectives Extraordinaire! which I have neither read nor heard, but which deficit I intend to rectify at an early opportunity. Fortunately this one worked as a stand-alone so I didn't feel robbed at not having encountered the initial volume first. Once again it's a case of the publisher not having the decency to put something on the cover indicating it's a part of a series. This is why I self-publish. I do not trust Big Publishing™ one bit.

In this story the bunnies, Mr & Mrs, travel by ship to England to inherit a sweet shop, and hopefully a title - like Queen - along the way, and the story is about their travel across the ocean, their struggle to get to the shop, and get it up and running profitably, and endure assorted mishaps along the way including an unprovoked assault with acorns by squirrels along the way. I tell you, those squirrels. If I had an acorn for every time....never mind. I do.

I commend this as a funny bunny story and a worthy wabbit wead. Or wisten! Be advised: Do not let it get anywhere near marmots.


Thursday, August 1, 2019

A Girl, a Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon by Karen Romano Young


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher. This isn't out until January 2020, but again there are reviews appearing on Goodreads already. I refuse to post there since it's Amazon-owned, but I don't feel bad about posting this so early since everyone else apparently is already doing so!

This novel, aimed at middle-grade, was too long for my taste. It began interestingly enough, but after the initially flurry of excitement over the disappearance of the head from a statue in the grounds of an old and barely-used public library in New York City, things seemed to slow to a glacial pace with nothing really happening. There are some four hundred pages all told, but in the first one hundred, this was literally all that happened that had anything to do with the main plot, and I found that while the story wasn't exactly boring, I wasn't looking forward to reading another three hundred pages of this like I ought to have been.

The title and then the blurb is what drew me in because it sounded, fun, oddball, and intriguing, but the story didn't turn out to be any of those things, and the characters seemed so lifeless and uninteresting that I found no one to buoy me up and carry me along. Pearl is the main character. Her mom works at the library as the circulation librarian, but she's neither in charge, nor second-in-charge at the library, so why she's called in when there is an apparent break-in, I have no idea. She nonetheless comes in and drags her daughter, who is too young to be left home alone, at three o'clock on the morning which is just plain irresponsible.

It's weird, too, because the author has some oddball idea that she has to add footnotes every single time she mentions a book or a magazine. The story is set in a library, but really? Even commonly-known books, such as Harry Potter are referenced, like no one ever heard of them. Worse, there are sidebars for no apparent reason. The first sidebar is one which explains what sidebars are. The others have little or nothing to do with the story, but go off at tangents from it. One sidebar is about four times longer than the text on the page. Several more ran to two pages which is way too long for a sidebar. I quickly took to skipping the sidebars.

I did like the idea that raccoons had this secret life and produced their own newspaper, but it took way too long to get that part of the story moving - about a third of the way in, and right at the point where I was seriously thinking I should really let this book go and move on to something which would spark my interest more; however, the story became rather more intriguing after that. I still felt like it was too long and dragging, and I found myself really wishing that the characters would be less docile and a bit more motivated; less lackluster and more go get 'em.

To me they seemed like they were drifting through life letting things happen to them rather than being shakers and movers. This changed, but again it took forever to get there. The main character developed a friendship with this girl she initially found irritating, and those two combined made one interesting character as it were - like they were two halves by themselves - not completely and not wholly engaging, but almost interesting enough as a pair.

The big problem for the library staff wasn't the fact that their statue in the library grounds was missing its head, but that circulation was at an all-time low, and no one seemed interested in coming into the library any more. Bruce, the library branch head, seemed more interested in begging for more money from the city than ever he did in coming up with ideas to actually bring more people into the library. Never once did he say what he would do with this money if he got it (not until right at the end), so why would they give it to him?

I was disappointed in this approach because it quite frankly made the library staff look like idiots who could only bemoan the fact that the library was in grave danger of being closed and the building sold, instead of thinking positively and taking preventative action to thwart the threatened closure by stirring up interest in the library, or in putting on activities to bring people back. I've met one or two librarians who were idiots, but not many. This approach - that the entire library staff is idiotic - was a poor direction in which to drive a story about books.

The result of this was that rather than side with these people who I found tedious, I was starting to get fully on the side of the city who seemed to favor closing the library, because I'd been given no reason at all to root for the librarians. Why would I root for people who had let it all slide to this sorry impasse in the first place? The time to be thinking of solutions was months ago when circulation first showed signs of sinking, not when it had reached a nadir. Why would any city want to support a bunch of people who did nothing to help themselves and simply sat around whining about their sorry status and begging for handouts instead of showing signs that they were actively trying to make improvements in the things they had control over, but had let slip from their lax grasp?

So like I said, I was about ready to let this go, but then it all turned around and the last two or three hundred pages made up a lot for the sluggish writing in the first hundred or so. At that point the story became much more interesting and I became much more engaged, although I have to say the final reveal was a bit much. The early talk about the missing head was that it was solid stone and too much weight for someone to simply walk-off with, but then we see this little kid carrying around this replacement head like it weighs nothing, and this is a granite carving! Granite is one of the densest stones and weighs more for a given size than most other stone does, so it made rather disingenuous all this talk about how limited the pool of potential thieves was ! Had I known a kid could carry the head, it would have been easier to work out who was really behind it. I felt a bit cheated there!

So this review sounds negative because it is. It reflects my strong feelings over the first hundred and some pages, and my disappointment in the sluggish story-telling and poor pacing, and improbable ideas. And I'm not counting literate raccoons, which I enjoyed, as improbable at all. Not for this purpose! The rest of the story let them down though. So overall, I cannot commend this as a worthy read at all.


Monday, July 15, 2019

Wildwood by Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis


Rating: WARTY!

Written by songwriter Meloy this ebook is very long and very slow-moving unfortunately. The 540-some page print version is illustrated by his wife, Ellis, but I saw none of that in the audio version, which was read by Amanda Plummer in such a sweet voice that I think I kept it going longer because of that. Had the voice been less pleasing, I would have ditched it a lot earlier than I did.

This book exemplifies one reason I don't like longer books: too many of them seem to take forever to get anywhere. When I was about a quarter the way through it, nothing had really happened other than that this girl saw her toddler brother carried away by crows into this wild wooded area, and she went into it to get the kid back and discovered that it was home to a bunch of weird characters including a regiment of military coyotes.

So it was a charming idea, but it was moving like a slug. It had moved along quite quickly to begin with, but once Prue, the main female character had got into the Wildwood area, everything seemed to have the brakes slammed on and it really started to drag. I kept going until about a third the way in and lost patience with it.

There was a battle described between the coyotes and the bandits in the forest, and it was so gory that I couldn't believe I was reading a book written for young children. While I get that children see this kind of thing more often in video games, movies, and on TV these days than their counterparts used to, this still struck me as a lot of unnecessary detail. It's possible in a children's book to describe death without going into into loving detail. Again this is a problem with an overly long book - too much time on the author's hands.

The only amusing thing, to me, about this is that it was at this point that I chose to skip to the last few tracks and despite the skip, I came back into it to discover equally gory detail! I couldn't believe it. We have enough violence in schools these days without needing to extoll it in literature. It was like I was still listening to the same part of the book. On top of this was a baby sacrifice, and I decided this book wasn't worth spending any more time on, and quit listening.

I can't commend something like this as a worthy read or a listen, not even with Amanda Plummer's voice.


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Bird's Eye View The Natural World by John Farndon, Paul Boston


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Erratum:
"Pampas deer grass" should be ‘pampas deer graze' I suspect on the South American page.

This colorful and educational book is quite literally what it says: a bird's eye view of various places of beauty and fascination in the world, starting in the Florida Everglades and going down over South America, out to a Pacific atoll, then across the Pacific to Uluru Rock in central Australia, up over the Guilin Hills in China, across the Asian Steppes, down over the Himalayas, through East Africa, across to Wales, on to Northern Scandinavia, back to the Irish coast, and then to France.

At each stop we learn about the animals and plants that live there, and a little about the ecology and how the land got to be that way at that location. It was unusual, fun, and very interesting, and hopefully it will lure readers into learning more. I don't think anyone who has read this book or anything like it can fail to see what horrible things we're doing to our planet and how urgent it is that we stop doing those things and rectify the evil we've already perpetrated. I commend this fully as a very worthy read.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O'Neill


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I happily reviewed Katie O'Neill's The Tea Dragon Festival back in August of 2017, and while I felt this one did not quite match up to the high standard that one set (I really enjoyed that one!), I still think this is a worthy read. It expands on the original story and adds new folklore, and has some interesting new characters.

The author's artwork is of the same high standard as before, but the story felt to me a little bit more meandering. I should say up front that I'm not a fan of series because they tend to be little more than a retreading of the original story. Like retreaded tires, they're not worth the money, and are typically boring to me. This was not one of those sequels I was happy to see. It did have some more story to tell that was new and different.

As I said before, the tea dragon story book is everything that the overly-commercialized 'My Little Pony' garbage ought to have been, but failed so dismally to get there. The tea dragon stories do get there, and by a different and far more interesting route. The little dragons are renowned for the tea they produce through leaves which grow on their horns and antlers. Those leaves contain memories which the drinker can share, but they cannot grow without a true bond between the Tea Dragon and its care-giver. And no, you cannot buy that tea commercially!

Rinn, the protagonist here, grew up with tea dragons and is used to their being around and their habits and foibles, but in this outing she runs into a real dragon named Aedhan, who has been sleeping for a very long time. This enchanted sleep is a mystery that begs to be solved, and Rinn is up to the job! I commend this story as a fun and worthy read.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Confuchsia: An Early Bird's Tale by Alan J Paul


Rating: WARTY!

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

I couldn't get with this book at all and for a number of reasons. It's not accurate at all, and doesn't even try to be. Yes, it's aimed at young children, and no, it's not a science text book, nor should it be, but science education and understanding in the USA frankly sucks. It's consistently shown itself to be appalling and has fallen lately to where the combined math, science and reading scores in the US are way behind China, for example with whom a trade war is, as of this writing, in full swing, and even behind other places not renowned for their prowess, such as Estonia, Vietnam, Slovenia, Macau, and the Czech Republic, for example. Books like this are not to blame for those poor scores, but they sure don't lift a finger to help, and so are a part of the problem.

You can argue all you want that this is a children's book, not a science book, and it shouldn't be expected to teach children what they're obviously failing to learn in our underfunded schools, but the bare fact remains that it is just as easy to get facts right as to get them wrong, and you never hurt a child by telling the truth. On top of that, there was a strong religious element in this book which I didn't appreciate what with talk of a supreme being - which contributed nothing at all to the story and had no place in it, and with naming the characters after Confucius and Buddha! Why?!

The basic story is an old one of the 'ugly duckling' variety where a baby is born (in this case hatched) and doesn't fit in with the rest of the family - and so it's kicked out? This was the wrong approach to begin with. I hope no adopted child reads this. The child, Confuchsia, has to make her own way in the world very briefly, until she's rescued by a guy! Way to make a woman feel invalid until some guys saves her. The book buys right into the 'women are helpless playthings or property of men' garbage that women are still fighting, even in the west.

Confuchsia is obviously based on the fossil Confuciusornis, which contrary to this author's belief was not a bird and could not fly. Confuciusornis lived about 120 million years ago, and so would never have encountered a Brachiosaurus which lived thirty million years earlier, nor T rex, which lived sixty million years later, nor any velociraptor which also lived much later.

Obviously you don't want to spell out all these things in a children's book, or lecture them, but a modicum of research would have turned up a primitive bird such as Apsaravis which did live at the time of the velociraptors and T rex, and which could fly, along with Chiayusaurus which could have readily stood in for the brachiosaur. Also Confuciusornis was far from brightly-colored. It was a rather drab gray and brown color as far as science can determine. It took me five minutes to dig-up this information!

I'm sorry but this book could have done a lot better both in the factual parts of it and in how the story was told. As it was, it was passing on misinformation when it would have been just as easy to get it right and without even changing the arc of the story! I can't commend a book that so badly misinforms children and really doesn't tell that great of a story anyway.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Mouse With the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck


Rating: WORTHY!

Written in 2013 by an author who died almost exactly a year ago, this was a fun little audiobook which frankly dragged a bit for me towards the end, but given how short the book is and how much fun the first two-thirds of it was, I'm not about to mark it down for that, especially since it wasn't written for my age group!

This mouse not only has a question mark tail, he lacks a real name and is known as Mouse Minor for the most part - and he is minor - small for his age. It seemed so obvious that I don't see it as a spoiler to reveal that this mouse is royalty. He's sent to school but ends up getting in trouble over a caterpillars-in-lunch-boxes incident to which Mouse Minor neither confesses nor denies. He runs away instead and ends up on an adventure in which he's kidnapped by bats and eventually gets an audience with Queen Victoria herself who seems, I have to say, curiously unafraid of mice.

Richard Peck is an American and while he does for the most part get his 'Britishisms' right, there are times when he strays, but most Americans won't notice those, especially not children. Overall though, this was a fun romp and I commend it as a worthy listen, but I should warn you that this is an old style children's novel (Peck was in his late seventies when he wrote it) and so it contains some violent concepts which tend not to appear in children's books written by younger authors. These include a somewhat bloodthirsty discussion of the beheadings in the French revolution, which goes on a little bit too long, and also instances of Mouse Minor contemplating having his brains beaten to jelly by the school bullies - that sort of thing, so be mindful of that.


Friday, May 3, 2019

Who Laid the Egg? By Audrey Sauble


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a colorful little book for young children about eggs and the creatures that lay them. It poses a question at each egg illustration, and offers some possible solutions as to who laid it. Sometimes there are many suggestions, sometimes a few, sometimes only one! Children can have fun guessing who did what, and comparing the kinds of eggs to see if that can be used as a reliable clue. The animals include birds, turtles, dinosaurs, and even a mammal! This is a fun book for young children and I commend it.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

1, 2, 3, Who's Cleaning the Sea? by Janina Rossiter


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I don't personally know Janina Rossiter, but we've exchanged an email now and then, and I've favorably reviewed several of her books on their merit, most specifically the 'Tovi the Penguin' books. She's branched out into a different concept here: teaching counting and at the same time offering some environmental awareness to young children. I believe this is something of a companion to her 'ABC' book, although I haven't read that one.

In an era where we find trash islands floating in the ocean and beached whales with pounds of plastic in their gut, and as National Geographic reported last October, your table salt most likely includes tiny plastic particles no matter where in the world you buy it, it hits any rational, caring person hard in the head as to how badly we're making a mess of our environment.

The book aims to counteract some of that by educating youngsters about this nightmare of a problem. It starts with the number one and finds a marine animal to represent each number in one way or another. Obviously the 8 is an octopus, but what number is a Jellyfish collecting plastic bags? Children will have fun finding out which other animals have different numbers of legs or fins, but more importantly, they will learn how bad our ocean is and how desperately it needs help.

Yes the ocean is huge, but so is the problem. We've been tossing modern trash into it for decades, and like climate change, it's way past time to stop making things worse. Maybe a kid who reads this will grow up to take charge of the problem and fix what we have so poorly managed. I commend this book as a worthy read.


How to Be a Butterfly by Laura Knowles, Catell Ronca


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a gorgeously illustrated little book for young children about the Lepidoptera, better known to most as butterflies. Note that Lepidoptera also includes moths, and they get a mention here, but this is primarily all about butterflies. How to be one is a cute round-about way of describing what a butterfly looks like without turning it into a boring list of characteristics. It runs along the lines of you having to have colorful wings with smooth edges, but you can also have pale wings or ones with lobes and scallops. You have to have slim antennae with buds on the end, and so on. And of course you have to drink nectar and lay eggs in safe places on leaves your caterpillars can eat, and then they have to lock themselves up and pupate before they can be beautiful butterflies too.

I was seriously impressed by how much work Catell Ronca did in illustrating scores of butterflies of all kinds. It was epic! There are multiple and endlessly varied butterflies everywhere. It was almost like being in one of those lepidopterarium places where butterflies roam free indoors and breed and live out their unjustly short lives, and you can wander around in the middle of them and enjoy the spectacle! I think this book was excellent: educational, colorful, well-written, interesting and fun. I commend it.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a short and adorable audiobook. The original novel is both written and illustrated by the author who is, I'm sorry to report, a Newbery medal winner. I normally detest stories that have won Newberys and avoid them and their authors like the plague, but this novel is not itself a Newbery winner, and so is totally unpretentious and completely loveable. Inspired by this one, I'm planning on reading more work by this author.

Squirrels are not the most reliable of mammals, so it means a lot to have a friend who will go to great lengths - at least great groves of trees anyway, to save a squirrel who was snatched away by a hawk. When Jed is carried off by the hawk, who ends up dropping him, his best friend TsTs (sutsuh, who is a totally happening squirrel) talks their other friend Chai into going with her to find out what happened to Jed. They end up finding a new community of oddly-speaking red squirrels, and learn of a threat to their home from those evil forest-flaying humans

Nuts to You is actually a well-wishing gesture in squirrel, and this story is full of fun, humor, and squirrel lore. I delighted in it and commend it fully as a worthy read.


What on Earth: Birds by Mike Unwin, Paulina Morgan


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a fun and colorful book and you'll never guess what it was packed with information about! Birds, you say? How did you guess?! Seriously, this was a neat little book and a useful tool for young children interested in living things around them - and which kid isn't? In an age where climate change denial idiots simply do not get that the damage we are doing to Earth is critical and the dire fallout from it imminent, the more our young children know about the world, the better they will be prepared to fix it. After all these are the children who will be forced to grow up living with the awful mess we've made because we adults refuse to grow up.

Notwithstanding the educational content, the book isn't dull reading - far from it. It combines three facets inviting readers to explore, create, and investigate, so there is always something new and interesting in the flight plan - or the walking plan or the swimming plan depending on which birds we're talking about! Readers will learn about flight and migrations, about food and bird plumage, and about anatomy and behavior.

One minor quibble is that this is another book designed as a print book with little thought given to the ebook version. I read this on an iPad, and the double page spreads worked fine until page 13 which was printed lengthwise such that if you had the print book, you would rotate it ninety degrees to read the page in portrait format as opposed to landscape which all the other double spreads adopt.

This was hard to read on a tablet because every time you change the angle of the pad to look at it lengthwise, the image on the screen rotates and defeats your purpose! The only way to see it was to keep the tablet completely flat and slowly rotate it to see it as the authors intended. It was annoying, but as I indicated, not a deal-breaker. Overall I consider this a worthy read and a useful educational tool for children.

The Woods by Rob Hodgson


Rating: WORTHY!

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

How can I not want to read a book that's named after my family? No, it's not really named after me, you silly goose, but the book isn't about geese, either. Or about woods - excepting in that it takes place in the woods. It's really about foxes versus rabbits, and while foxes are supposed to be cunning and crafty, you'll find that maybe the rabbits can teach them a thing or two, especially since the foxes aren't too smart.

I read and enjoyed this author's The Cave and if you're familiar with that, you'll realize he likes to put a twist in the tale if not in the tail, so expect one here! The foxes, one tall, one small, one round, all clowns, are hunting rabbits, but they're not having much success no matter where they seek out these liberated lagomorphs. Observant children might be a bit better at spotting rabbits than the foxes are. They can even emulate the foxes by maybe climbing on a chair to simulate climbing a tree, and crawling under the table to simulate crawling through a tunnel.

It's all about fun, and like The Cave this was a fun book. I commend it as a worthy read for young children. No rabbits here indeed! I don't know what the foxes were rabbiting on about....


Friday, March 8, 2019

Mike & Spike by Diane Namm, June Goldsborough


Rating: WORTHY!

Mike and Spike are magpies and this story is about a race to migrate south for the winter. The problem is that magpies really don't migrate, so I'm not sure where the authors got that idea from. That aside, the story was fun and nicely-illustrated by Goldsborough. It's a bit like the tortoise and the hare, but there's a fun twist at the end.

One of the birds is a dedicated flyer, taking off with his little backpack and heading south, whereas the other is a bit lazy and wants to find the easy way, so we get to see a variety of vehicles (cars, trains, a fire truck), as he tries to cheat his way there by hitching a ride, but of course none of these vehicles are going the distance. He also naps and lollygags, and gets there last, but he doesn't know his friend also cheated - and was smarter about it!


Safari Babies by Lisa McClatchy, Cindy Kiernicki


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a sweet book for young kids talking about African animals (mostly mammals as usual - you won't find a crocodile here, but you will find an ostrich) and their young. It's brief, colorful, and informative, and covers a variety of critters starting with Lions and zebras, and going on through elephants, gazelles, hippos, meerkats, warthogs, and so on - the usual suspects. A bit more variety would have been nice. Some emphasis on threatened species would have been good (some of the species here are vulnerable or threatened, but there was nothing said on that topic). Overall, this isn't bad for kids to learn a bit about the world, so I commend it as a worthy ready for young kids.