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Children’s book reviews, December: Week four

December 31, 2012

Le deluge!

Non-fiction!

Dr. Seuss’s Oh Say Can You Say? is a book of tongue-twisters. Not for the faint of tongue! Is probably very funny aloud, but I’m afraid people will, like, look at me funny.

The Tortoise and the Hare as adapted and illustrated by Janet Stevens  is a Reading Rainbow book, which is maybe why it was so popular, since I’m not really crazy about it?  Or maybe kids love to hear the story of how vanity and pride bring down the Hare–or is it actually not?  I mean, the moral isn’t about the hare, it’s about the tortoise, which is interesting because I think the kids learn more from the hare.  Anyway, it’s here if the kids want to read it, but I’ve seen better versions…by Bugs Bunny, at least.

Picture books!

I’m on the fence when it comes to David Slonim’s I Loathe You.  The monster wants to know it’s loved–or, rather, loathed–so it’s a fun twist on the “how much do you love me?” book.  It’s more like “I loathe you more than stinky socks.”  Kids will get a kick out of this, but it’s not hitting me right.  That could be because I’m tired, but I’m not sure.

Mary Logue’s Sleep Like a Tiger is a lovely, mellow good-night story with excellent illustrations by Pamela Gazarenski.  I’m probably going to read this to my little guys at the evening story time, even though they are my rowdiest bunch most of the time, heh.  Okay, maybe I won’t, but I’d read it to a little kid if I had one.

Ethan Long’s Up! Tall! and High! is more like an Easy Reader–a little Mo Willems, too.  If that’s what he’s going for, he’s missing a little something that makes you get invested in the characters, but otherwise, colorful and fun.

Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude is a recommended purchase from a patron whose children love this book, and I can see why.  It’s the hilarious back-and-forth between a boy and a girl who have to tell their class a fairy tale, except they can’t agree on how it goes.  The girl wants princesses and ponies; the boy wants “a cool motorcycle dude” and exploding volcanoes.  Will the story ever end in such a way that they can both agree?  There is one author, Kevin O’Malley, and three illustrators: O’Malley Carol Heyer, and Scott Goto.  One artist shows the kids, one the girl’s story, and one the boy’s.  Recommended.

Sigh.  No, David! is a book that a lot of kids like, and the idea is great.  David Shannon shows all the times little David is yelled at, and then the love is there, EXCEPT LITTLE DAVID LOOKS LIKE A GODDAMN MONSTER WITH TEETH THAT ARE ABOUT TO EAT ALL THE LITTLE CHILDREN WHO READ IT.  How they don’t see this kid in their nightmares is beyond me.  Can we get a No, David! with another illustrator?  Please?

Little Cub by Olivier Dunrea is a charming little story about how a little cub and an old bear adopt each other.  That’s really it.  There isn’t much there, just a little bit of charming.  That’s what I expect from Dunrea at this point.  He doesn’t write life-changers, that’s for sure.

Lalaloopsy: Halloween Surprise by Lauren Cecil is boring and flat because it’s Lalaloopsy and those things are awful.  The scariest part is when those creepy-eyed things are in the dark and all you can see are their creepy button eyes.  THAT was scary. Bah.

Dora and Boots are At the Carnival and while I think this book will confused kids who don’t understand why you GIVE tickets to go on rides, not GET tickets for going on rides, whatever.  It’s cute.  It doesn’t bug me too much despite having the show format.  But speaking of format, something’s off on the book and the last sentence is missing from the “Dear parents” page.  Not that you can’t figure it out.  Also, pulling ribbons is way better than whacking things with sticks…for certain ages.  The author of the episode on which the book is based, Leslie Valdez, is the author of the book.  That’s nice to see.

Inexpensive and thoughtful are good words to describe the presents for the dad in Natasha Wing’s The Night Before Father’s Day.  The kids work hard to make sure everything is perfect for their dad’s big day.  Then they spend time as a family.  I couldn’t think up a better book.  (Points for a children’s book where the mom knows cars without making it a Big Deal.) Fun illustrations by Amy Wummer.

The Berenstain Bears and Baby Makes Five is how Sister Bear got over being jealous of Honey Bear when she found out that she got all the attention Honey did when SHE was a baby.  I don’t know how realistic this is, but it’s nice to see a book that focuses on the fairness of babby-raising.

The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby, however, is the story of Sister Bear being born and it really isn’t as good.  It’s another book about some parents who don’t tell the older sib that the younger sib is about to be born until, like, a second beforehand, creating confusion and anxiety.  GOOD JOB.  But this was 1974.  Maybe Brother Bears couldn’t handle that kind of info back then.

Franklin is Messy by Paulette Bourgeois is simplistic but it gets the job done.  Franklin is a very messy turtle and can’t find anything.  He finds a way to clean his room and then can do everything he need to get done, get everything returned he needs to get returned, and makes his mom happy and proud.

I should get this for my daughter.  She’s a teenager, but hey.  She says she’s not ready to give up her kid stuff, but she will when she’s eighteen.

Sigh.

So you know how I was complaining about the Phineas and Ferb books I’ve read?  This one, Thank You, Perry! by Scott Peterson (really, dude?)  introduces the characters, explains things, and FINALLY I UNDERSTAND IT ALL.  AND it’s funny.  Rock on, Agent P!

Abe Lincoln’s Dream by Lane Smith is a trippy little book about a kid on a White House tour on President’s Day who runs in to Lincoln’s ghost and updates him on the state of the nation.  I don’t know if the kids will like this book as much as I do, but there it is.  I have a whole thing about Lincoln, I guess, and the Civil War.

When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth is Jamie Lee Curtis’s first book, illustrated chaotically by Laura Cornell, who is not one of my favorite children’s illustrators.  Everything is either too busy or too wiggly.  Curtis doesn’t quite have her groove going on yet, but there are a lot of good things about this book, and I think kids really enjoy it.

Todd Parr gets the simplicity of children.  His books don’t go on too long or tell you too much.  In The Thankful Book, he lists things that he’s thankful for–as necessary as school and as silly as ears–and it’s excellent.

Goldilocks and Just One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson is hilarious with a great ending.  I’m totally reading this one to the kids at the Fractured Fairy Tales program!  Love the art, too.

Miss Nelson is Back, by Harry Allard and James Marshall, is the sequel to Miss Nelson is Missing, which was always one of my favorite books growing up.  It’s funny.  I like it.  I got the other one too, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day, which I can’t remember if I’ve read before.  Let’s find out!  It’s definitely silly, and lighter than the other books, but with a good twist.  I wouldn’t read them out of order–the first one is more of a mystery, and this one’s more of a puzzler.  But kids love the Miss Nelson books, as well they should.

Matthew Van Fleet’s Spotted Yellow Frogs is a bit of a rhyme-y, not rhyme-y, lift-the-flap, name-the-animal, name-the-shape, too-much-going-on mess.  I mean, it’s not absolutely chaotic or anything, but let’s deal with, like, two concepts at a time, okay?  I’m pretty sure this one won’t get reordered if it ends up trashed again.

Emily Arnold McCully’s Mirette on the High Wire is a metaphor for, I guess, facing your fears or something.  It’s certainly charming, but in that Dunrea way of never really getting to me–or at least not really giving me the ending I want.  Yes, I know, it’s all in the picture, but but but…I don’t know.  It’s a Caldecott winner, so there’s that, and I think kids who are going to get obsessed over it will, you know, get obsessed over it, and the other kids will pass it up, and that will be sad.

McElligot’s Pool is a Dr. Seuss book that’s chock full of imagination and optimism, just like I like ‘em!  Think outside the box, that’s what Seuss always seems to say, and this one isn’t any different.  Sure, it’s most likely that the kid won’t catch a fish in a crappy (not carppy) polluted pool, but it’s nice that he’s thinking logically (sort of) about the possibilities.

Madeline’s Christmas is bad.  Bad and racist.

The Berenstain Bears’ Funny Valentine is really the most relatable Bears book I’ve read.  It really makes them seem like (bear) people with (bear) thoughts and feelings and (bear) personalities.  Sister has a crush.  She also has a pest.  She bothers her brother to deflect from her bs.  Papa still hasn’t turned into Homer Simpson.  There’s no biiiig mysteryyyy, which is great.  There just is life.  For all that life is.  Complicated.  Confusing.  Romantic?

The Berenstain Bears and the Blame Game is almost as good, but as with a lot of the books, it has a bit of an abrupt ending, with not enough weight on the moral.  Some morals can just sit, but blame?  Well, that’s a tough one.  There’s a good message about dealing with the problem instead of wasting time tracing back a line of blame, but then…what?  How to determine?  Where do you go from there?  Eh.  Still, competent Papa again.  I love him.  I miss him.  (Also so romantic when he is holding Mama’s hand to help her with the flowers.)

Berenstain Bears and the Bad Influence, however, is pretty bad.  MIKE BERENSTAIN ON THE COVER, WHAT A SHOCK.  Sister acts totally out of character, and so does Mama.  And it’s rotten, just awful.  NO REORDERS FOR MIKE BERENSTAIN.  GO AWAY.

The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss is a toasty metaphor for nuclear war, and it’s a good one, but I wonder how the kids will feel at the end with that cliffhanger.  Then again, we LIVE the cliffhanger, so…

Chicken Sunday is a classic by Patricia Polacco, the story of some good kids who do some good things and then Miss Allie cries.  It’s been that kind of week.  I suck at the holidays and also this book is great.  I’m always sad that the kids tend to skip the Polaccos for the more bright and cheery books, because she’s quite good.

Caillou: A New Family seems to be growing the cast.  This is a we’re-playing-and-talking-about-divorce book.  It’ll do what it’s supposed to, but it doesn’t do it exceptionally well.  Written by Christine L’Hereux with a psychoanalyst.  Oh.  Is that where we’ve gotten to?

Board books

Ladybug Girl Feels Happy is okay.  I’ve always been on the fence about Ladybug Girl but the kids love her.

Caillou: 123 Train is a counting book that’s okay.  The cars of the train are a puzzle that fits together.  I’m hiding the pieces; they have to be asked for.  Caillou really has a big cast now.

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