I’ve discussed my problem with P.C. Cast before, and I’m not going to go over it again, but my fifteen-year-old is reading another one of her books (not the series I read) and is reading problematic lines aloud. Without me asking her to. Without me choosing what’s problematic.
So far: calling baking an inherently feminine thing, and mentioning needing to diet/lose weight in or around the same paragraph as dismissing women who want to be thin.
Stay classy, Cast. Or, rather, LEARN YOU SOME GODDAMN FEMINISM. You get the right to define your own femininity, but you don’t get to perpetuate stereotypes without being called out for it.
Kiddo also says that the main character’s bff is such a gay stereotype it’s off-putting. Can we just get over the idea that gays are all one specific way?
Megan and I have promised to finish up our recap of Secret Vampire. I need to finish that last recap of Dark Reunion. I bought a copy of the new Christopher Pike at an overstock place (because I surely was not paying full-price for that) to recap. I am going to set aside the romances for the project I’ve been talking about for like four years. On top of that, I finally unpacked the broken laptop that doesn’t make me sick to look at it–but I’m supposed to start homeschooling my daughter soon. And she and I have started going to the gym. And I joined two local book clubs and three other meet-ups. And there are library programs to attend. And a social life to have! Friends to meet!
And the house to unpack. Have I mentioned that? And I need to buy new bookcases. Since we moved out of the house where my FIL built those gorgeous shelves, we haven’t even been able to unpack most of our books. And then one case is wonky and leans unsafely, and then my daughter killed another one in a way she won’t want me to talk about here because she’s still embarrassed about it. It was a silly mistake; I would’ve made it myself, and not at fifteen; probably at like 25. But yeah, it looks like I’ll have to make an IKEA run, and IKEA is FAR.
And I really wanted to finish the book I’d been working on!
AAAAND I am getting through The Well of Loneliness SO SLOWLY. It’s really, really good, and it breaks your heart how little and how much has changed over the past hundred years. But it’s a slow book, it is. And I’ve been reading it for like…a week and a half now? That’s a lot for me. I’m ready for new things. A zillion new books.
I’ll get there. I’ll get to all of it…in time. I’m pretty sure sitting talking to my bff on Facebook most of the day doesn’t help though. So, yeah, soon more stuff.
I was going to ignore the two new books I got today, until I realized it wasn’t only two. (I ASKED if there were more than two, and was told “I don’t see any.” There were more than two.)
Sofia the First is based on a Disney show, I think, which you can tell, because it’s as flat as most “from the episode” books. I really wanted to like it, and the art is cute, but fairly uninspired as well. Basically, it’s there to make kids who watch a lot of TV read. It is not there to be a good story. So it should just have had TV show art, I think. Disney people, you need to talk to the person who did the Brave: One Perfect Day book to see how it’s done.
Allen Ahlberg’s The Goldilocks Variations, or Who’s been snooperink in my woodootog? is…insane. Seriously. It’s batcrazy. It’s all difficult-to-pull tabs and pop-ups and the stories are wonderfully madcap and wild. First, you have Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Then 33 Bears. Then Aliens. Then a play which is a book within a book (heh), with its own pop-ups and whatnot and…it just keeps going and being sillier and more wonderful. I loved it. Jessica Ahlberg’s art is adorable, but it’s really the way the book is presented that takes that to a whole other level. It really shows you what children’s books can do.
WAHHHHH! Sheri Sinykin’s Zayde Comes to Live is a sweet, sad story of a girl and her grandfather, who’s moved in because his time is almost up. She learns and comes to terms with his death, and the traditions of her religion and the religions of her friends. So good, so helpful. I wasn’t sure about Kristina Swarner’s art at first, but of course the softness is perfect for the story. Duh.
Virginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is an oldie but goodie that I don’t remember ever reading before. It’s from the 1930s but is far less annoying then The Little Engine That Could. There’s a reason the classics are classics, I suppose, and of course, hey, anything with building, digging, etc.
Bunnies on Ice is about a cute but full-of-herself little rabbit who looooves ice skating, but is sadly an anthropomorphized rabbit so she has to wait until winter to get snotty about her supposed talents, instead of always having a rink nearby. But she has a scarf. Come on, bunnies! Industrialize! For serious, it’s really cute, even if the bunny’s a brat. Text and art by Johanna Wright.
Aaron Meshon’s Take Me Out to the Yakyu is fantastic! You get to see side by side how baseball is in America and Japan–the sounds, the food, the different game play. The language is simple enough for any child to follow along with, but never feels repetitive. And then you’ve got a couple of extras at the end which teaches you even more, hurray! Highly recommended!
Grumpy Goat has great art, a grumpy goat, and some awwww moments. What else do you need from a children’s book? Something to laugh at, something to warm your heart, something that catches the eye. And a grumpy goat. Brett Helquist makes some really clever art choices here–the title page made me laugh aloud with delight. Another book I can recommend wholeheartedly.
Eva Moore’s Lucky Ducklings feels like Make Way for Ducklings, and acts like Make Way for Ducklings (if I remember it correctly, which who knows?), and has this old-fashioned feel to it, and I liked it. It’s based on a true story, and kids dig that, right? RIGHT? Maybe they can then Google the story and see if anyone took a picture of the actual ducks in question? Look, the book may be old-fashioned but I’m not.
Carole Lexa Schaefer’s Monkey and Elephant Get Better is like Gerald and Piggie mixed with Timon and Pumbaa, but nowhere near as funny. Basically, Gerald & Piggie if they were written for a younger, less savvy audience. Cute, though, in sort of a chilled way. Galia Bernstein’s art has a lot to do with that.
Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein has the feeling of a true story, but doesn’t cite its sources. It’s pretty much Lucky Ducklings, but funnier. Ol’ Mama Squirrel scares off anything that she thinks might be a threat to her babies–dogs, bears, kites. Hee.
Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack Prelutsky, with sometimes cool, sometimes creepy illustrations by Carin Berger, is actually quite good for a poetry compilation. Some of the poems are inspired; others are good but not as good as the rest, you know? Stardines, bluffaloes, plandas, etc. Hee. Good for National Poetry Month. I should make a display before I go.
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike of 1909 is the story of Clara Lemlich, a girl off the boat from…um…and then she works a lot and apparently learns English (which I got from the description on Goodreads, not the book itself)…look, it’s not perfect. But it sort of works to help kids have their eyes open about how children used to be treated. (New way to make your kids stop being so selfish: “If this were 1908, you’d be in a factory right now!” Oh wait, you can still say that about overseas sweatshops…) So yeah, Michelle Markel’s book isn’t perfect, and neither is Melissa Sweet’s art–sometimes Clara looks young, sometimes she doesn’t. LOVE the picture of the girls in the factory all crammed together and the stitches around the pictures, but like I said, I wish there were a less childish-looking, more CHILD-looking Clara consistently through the book. This is going right in my Women’s History Month display, of course.
Good Manners at Home, Good Manners in Public, and Good Manners on the Phone came in today. These books, by Katie Marsico, don’t really work hard to make sure children understand why they need good manners, but they do an adequate job of giving examples of good manners, at least, and that’s what I was looking for when I ordered them. John Haslam’s art is generic and even looks a bit dated already–another thing I knew going in–but hey. Even the amazing facts aren’t often amazing. But the books fill a gap. Sort of. They fill in a section that needed refills, at least. Good Manners on the Phone is the strongest one, with a clear script on how to take a message and whatnot.
Jean Craighead George’s The Eagles are Back is the story of a kid who saw the bald eagles die off and come back, and his role in helping to save them. It gets a little explain-y, but I guess that’s why it’s in the non-fiction section and not the fiction. Gorgeous paintings by Wendell Minor.
Okay, I really tried to read Valerie Worth’s Pug and Other Animal Poems, but honestly? They don’t seem to be written for the little kids who browse my section, and I’m bored. Steve Jenkins’s art is pretty cool.
Lego DC Universe Super Heroes: Super-Villains is another sure-you’re-selling-things-but-I-can’t-tell Lego book by Victoria Taylor. Hello, Catwoman! Hello, Harley! Hello, Ivy and her curves! (She doesn’t have the drawn-in wasp waist I was expecting.) Happy happy!
Yay! Veggieman! I mean, Wedgieman to the Rescue! Shea is back in my heart again! This is the origin and defeat of Bad Dude, and I love how Wedgieman will beat him down but not give him a wedgie. I mean, come on, man, that’s just evil. So yeah, I like this series, it’s goofy fun.
Of course I do. SUPERHEROES.
…Oh, that’s it. I’m done here forever.
I’m running low on new books, and I’m done at the library at the end of the month. This is weird.
But let’s get to it.
Joy Berry’s Help Me Be Good: Being a Bad Sport is a simple book in a simple series that helps kids with character development. The book’s insides look like they’re repackaged older books, but I have no idea. (The illustrator’s name is simply “Bartholomew.” Huh.) This one focuses on how being a bad sport inevitably leads to people playing with other people, and then shows examples of how to be a good sport even if you feel bad about losing. Good lessons, all.
Mathstart’s Mighty Maddie is about a girl who has to clean up before her birthday party, so she dons a superhero outfit and figures out what’s light and what’s heavy. Maddie is cute, the art is cute, it’s a very basic introduction to weight, but it knows it is. Written by Stuart J. Murphy and illustrated by Bernice Lum. I like Mathstart.
Brick By Brick is Charles R. Smith Jr’s poem about the building of the White House using slave labor. It’s moving and the art, by Floyd Cooper, is stunning. Great for Black History Month. (Oops.)
A Rock is Lively is another one of those A ___ is ____ non-fiction books from Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long. As always, I’m not super-crazy about them. A rock is NOT creative; we’re creative WITH them. Lots of info, good use of space on the page, but they’re just not my favorite series.
Rachel Isadora’s There Was a Tree is one of those rebus books that I can’t read aloud because I’ll trip over the pictures. Other than that, it’s a very well-done version of a song I know as “The Green Grass Grew All Around” or something like that. Isadora’s setting for the song is Africa, and that’s pretty neat, but I could live without the rebus stuff.
Jerry Pinkney’s Puss in Boots is EXCELLENT. It’s a great retelling of the tale AND the cat is very cat-like for all his human actions. Check out the picture of him lying in wait for the rabbit. Hee! Kitty! Love the period clothes, love it all.
Kadir Nelson’s book Nelson Mandela is very moving, and the art is stunning. I would’ve liked a glossary in the back, just for reference, and maybe a map, but that’s just the non-fiction extras-lover in me. In fact, I don’t think the author’s note at the end really adds much of anything at all. It’s mostly a retelling of the story for a slightly older audience. But yeah, those are my only complaints. Love the colors, the use of space. Really, gorgeous book, powerful story.
Saving Yasha: The Incredible True Story of an Adopted Moon Bear is a great book for kids. Unlike the ERs I reviewed…last time?…this book can delve into the process of getting an animal back to the wild. The end note from the scientist involved, Liya Prokrovskaya, really shows the difference between being a scientist and being anyone else who works with animals, and why the difference is very important. Loved all the photographs, loved the way the book was written (by Lia Kvatum).
Lego DC Universe Super Heroes: Ready for Action! is a level one that is basically there to sell you some sets, but like other some Lego books and not others, you feel like you’re getting information as you do it (rather than a bit advertisement). I maybe wouldn’t have even recognized the pitch as quickly as I did except that I am sadly aware of all the Lego Batman sets (I covet them, but I already learned my lesson with $100, the Black Pearl, and less than two hours of work). So, good job, Victoria Taylor!
Chicks! is a super-cute level one by Sandra Horning, with not-cutesy (but not bad–just not cartoony/fwuffy) art by Jon Goodell. It’s the story of chicks being purchased, being cared for, and growing up. Good story, good use of limited words.
Grace Gilman’s level one Dixie and the Big Bully is interesting. It targets “mean girl”-talk as the bullying it is. But I’m so used to it being handled so differently from when boys bully that I thought to myself “BIG bully? Really?” Yes, really. Tue story is good. But I don’t like Sarah McConnell’s cover. I just think it’s too bleh.
Disney Princess: Princess Hearts is a cute rhyming story for Valentine’s Day (so why did I get it today?). Some of the presents the princesses get are hugs, chocolates, etc. This is better than the last one I read, I think, where it’s all STUFF STUFF STUFF. This is a level one by Jennifer Liberts Weinberg and illustrated by Francesco Legramandi, who makes Belle look way too classy.
The Muppets: For the Love of Piggy is the Muppet book I’ve been waiting for! It’s got the old-school humor and whatnot! Piggy has a secret admirer, and it’s driving Kermie crazy! With Valentines and a twist ending! It doesn’t SAY Valentine’s Day though…so, yay! You can just have a LOVE day anytime you want!
Elly MacKay’s If You Hold a Seed really did nothing for me. I thought the kid-paper-doll thing looked creepy, and science isn’t magic.
Same thing with Oh So Tiny Bunny by David Kirk. First off, WHERE IS ITS NECK. Secondly, there’s a lot of bunny butt in this, and carrot/sperm creations. Thirdly, eh. Why does David Kirk always let me down? Wait, no, that’s Daniel Kirk. Any relation? Anyway, nice use of color, at least.
The Berenstain Bears: Trick or Treat is a Stan-and-Jan, but it feels like it’s missing a page, or suspense, or something. It’s the “the neighbor is a scary witch but really she’s all right” story again, and this one brings little new to the table, but it’s the Berenstain Bears so you know the kids are going to read it.
The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks is a Jan-and-Mike book, and…well, it’s like watching the Lisa Goes Vegetarian episode of the Simpsons without anything that taught a lesson. I often get down on the Mike books, and Zonderkids in general, and I think this book is a good example of why. Mama’s advice is basically “Wait and see, even though you’re already nervous,” which is so not like the wise and wonderful advice Mama usually gives. Sister, after all her stressing about eating turkey, is like OH THANK THE LORD ABOVE, FISH. Um. Yeah. It doesn’t work for me.
If you think it’s a Christian thing, don’t worry: I wasn’t crazy about The Longest Night: A Passover Story either. Laurel Snyder gives us a poem that starts with two lines that threw me off (WHY was the day like night? because it was early? because the work was hard?) and made it so that I couldn’t settle into the story, which otherwise does fairly well telling the story of the plagues. And from a cool perspective too: a child slave. But it didn’t gel for me. It didn’t flow right. Catia Chien’s art is good, although I was unimpressed by her parting of the Red Sea. Again, not really sure why. It just didn’t inspire awe in me like it should, I suppose? So, I’m an equal opportunity meh-er.
Froggy’s World Playdate is–gasp!–probably the least irritating Froggy story IN THE WORLD, and it’s not sexist. Froggy doesn’t seem to be making a fuss about hanging out with a girl (despite what the Goodreads description says); he just doesn’t like Frogilina. Even I know that. Except then he gets dressed up and then sends her little-kid mixed signals. However, the parents still yell at the kid from across the house, and make me feel horrible ever time I yell at my kid from across the house (although I say “Fishie” not “Froggy”), because it’s IRRITATING. My husband is right.
Eileen Spinelli’s When No One is Watching is about a girl who is the bravest, most talented, exciting kid–when there’s no one else around. When she’s in a crowd–whether family or relatives–she’s shy as can be. This book is sorta rhyme-y, sorta poem-y, in a way that doesn’t really bother me (when usually that kind of thing does). I believe this has something to do with David A. Johnson’s wonderful art. I LOVE this little girl. Her hair is awesome, her shoelaces are awesome, her kitty is awesome, everything is awesome. Yes indeedy.
Debi Gliori is an author I’ve said “meh” about in the past, and I’m saying it again. The Tobermory Cat is just not a book I fell in love with. There are some clever things, but…eh. They’re in a sea of meh. AND I LOVE CATS. THIS SHOULD’VE BEEN A NO-BRAINER.
Next up: I GOT A NEW SHIPMENT IN. OF COURSE I DID. I was hoping to duck out of here between orders, but no such luck.
My Story Time program and my Toddler Time program are very similar, with a few exceptions. For Story Time, we sometimes use our parachute or play London Bridge. Toddlers are too young to follow instructions well with either, or they get freaked out, I’ve noticed. We also read longer stories (of course) and sing more involved songs. We also dance to this. But the biggest change is that we do crafts.
I am a big fan of little kid crafts, but it’s incredibly difficult to find good crafts for little ones even in the age of Pinterest. The main reasons for that are time limitations and child limitations. I do not–DO NOT–choose crafts where the parents do most of the work. The goal of crafts are to get the kids following instructions and using scissors. Many parents, especially of the children at the young end of the group, do all the cutting for the kids, and end up putting the craft together for them. Actually, it’s not usually the parents. It’s the grandparents. But hey, that’s their call. With the threes, I totally get it, but by close to five, they should be attempting it, however poorly, by themselves, unless they have motor issues. It happens. And, in case you were wondering, yes, almost every kid does the “hold the scissors kinda backwards?” thing for a while. I never realized how weird holding scissors is for the first time until I started doing crafts with the littles. Their natural instinct is to hold the scissors in a way I call “backwards” but only because I have no other word for it.
So, anyway, we end up doing a lot with paper plates and sometimes Oriental Trading crafts (but only if they’re lying around, because I’m cheap and also I don’t think they’re as creative), handprint crafts and paper bags. The crafts almost always tie into a theme.
My elementary school story time came about in an interesting fashion. I was doing an outside story program at the local Barnes & Noble and I realized that, because of all the distractions of books, toys, and other kids, the only ones who were really focused on my stories were the children’s older brothers and sisters. They were so interactive, and they loved it. It occurred to me that, DUH, kids don’t stop wanting to be read to just because they are in school now. So I began the Older Kid Story Time (OKST). Eventually, due to scheduling issues, I combined it with my craft program and made it a yearly program.
The stories are not only longer, they are often from the non-fiction section. Over the first summer we had the program, we read Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella by Paul Fleischman. Afterward, we flipped through the book and practically read it all over again to see the different countries and how the story was told. We talked about different foods and clothes and customs in other parts of the worlds, and then we talked about elements of the story that were the same. It was a hit. Another hit was Librarian on the Roof!, which is a true story by M.G. King. Again, there was a lot of discussion.
With OKST, I like to find games that fit the themes of the books. My OKST was originally an hour and a half, but unfortunately had to be pared down to one hour, which made both crafting and gaming difficult in the time alloted. But it’s do-able. And the kids still love being read to.
So that’s my four-tier story time system. If you have any other questions about it, let me know in the comments.