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Sir Wibble of Wibblesley: More children’s reviews

December 20, 2011

I’m never going to catch up on my reviews because I’m still getting new books in the delivery every day.  Between our last order, the starred review books that come out of a separate line, the Christmas books they’re sending me, and the random books they ordered probably because they had money left, there’s an influx every day–from a few to a lot.  So here’s this week’s:

Dragon’s Sledding Adventure by Becky Matheson is about as insipid as the other Dragon books, which I assume suffer from being from some sort of TV show I don’t watch because my kid is fourteen now.  The staticness (is that a word?) of the clay creatures only makes the story more dull.  This one’s not as bad as some of the others, but in the middle there’s a throwaway page about eating lunch, I assume because it follows the progression of an episode, because there’s no other reason for it to be there.  If your child likes Dragon, he or she will want Dragon no matter how blah these books are.  But if your child is anything like mine used to be, he or she has truly terrible taste.  This book, and indeed this series of books, seems to have no redeemable value except to put words on pages for kids who need to see familiar characters to want to read.

We Both Read: Oh No! We’re Doing a Show! by Dev Ross is the story of how stage fright can be conquered by quitting.  We Both Read is a great series–on the left side, parents read the wordier passages, and on the right, there are simple sentences for the emerging reader.  Sometimes, certain words on both pages are in bold, which for me is always an indicator of emphasis, which is always funny.  “Look at the people.”  See?  But I don’t like how this one goes at all.  Keesha’s class is asked to put on a show.  Keesha gets stage fright at the idea.  She withholds this information from the teacher until she’s almost in tears.  Then she’s asked to be stage crew instead.  This makes her happy because she never has to confront her fear.  If Keesha was told to, say, sing, and she didn’t have a good singing voice (which we’re told she doesn’t, when she’s trying to find something she can do–which she does, but then the stage fright gets in her way and she never even attempts it in public), then I would totally be behind this story.  But she does have a talent: she tells a funny joke.  She’s just never coached to do it in public.  Does this mean Keesha will never have to, say, give an oral report?  Will her teacher excuse her from that too?  Instead of the story of how to cope with these feelings, we’re given a girl who never has to confront them.  This isn’t something I want to teach kids.

Carl and the Kitten by Alexandra Day is another cute Carl the Dog story.  When dogs take care of puppies, I’m happy, and this simple Easy Reader charms while teaching.  Good dog, Carl.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked: Too Cool for Rules by J.E. Bright is a movie-based Easy Reader that is awkward to begin with, then eventually settles into decent storytelling.  It doesn’t, unlike other movie-to-ER adaptations, work hard to avoid spoilers, thus leaving gaping holds in the plot.  As always, it’s best for those familiar with the source material.  I never saw the first movie, but I have to say, the Chipettes look really cute.  And they get their treehouse!  The old-school Chipette fan in me is happy, although I wonder if Brittany’s ambition has been replaced by stereotypical girliness, as it the usual nowadays.

No Two Alike, a book by Keith Baker, is a lot of best-of lists for the year, but not mine.  Perhaps because it was because there ARE two snowflakes that are exactly alike, so the whole premise for the book goes out the window, you know?  But it’s still the cute tale of how things that are the same aren’t exactly the same, and how things that are different are good too.

Lala Salama: A Tanzanian Lullaby by Patricia MacLachlan is all soft colors and sweetness, even in the midst of a work-based life.  It’s nice.  That’s pretty much all I can say about it.

Mittens, Where is Max? by Lola M. Shaefer is another Easy Reader that puts a cat with a dog.  I’m sold.

Carol Ottolenghi’s Pinocchio is a rather rushed version of the story which adds little to its telling.  The pictures are okay, the story is okay.  You’d do better with another version, really.

Marla Frazee’s Santa Claus, The World’s Number-One Toy Expert: A Send-a-Story is SUPER CUTE.  You should send this story for Christmas.  Why someone ordered it for the library, I have no idea, and I had to cut off the part of the cover that lets you stamp and seal and send, so no one got ideas.  Love the art in this one, love the story too.  How adorable.

I wanted John Burningham’s Avocado Baby to do a bit more than it did, but I think kids will like the story of a baby raised on avocados more than me.  Who knew avocados gave you such strength and bravery?  I don’t even think I had anything with avocados until I was in my 20s–no wonder I’m such a wimp.

That’s all for the other day.  That barely hits the surface of all the books that came in this past week, but it’s all I have time for now.

More tomorrow, maybe.

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