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Eleanor Wibby: More children’s book reviews

February 6, 2012

Board books!

Caillou Visits the Circus (Sarah M. Hensley) is more exciting yet somehow less of a fun read as Caillou’s Castle (Heather L. Williams).  Maybe it’s because I think the rhyming in the former is unnecessary.  Maybe it’s because in the latter, they create their own fun.

Pooh’s Easter Basket by Catherine Hapka feels like old-school Winnie the Pooh, and even though Pooh has never been my favorite, I’m fine with that.  Cute story, cute basket-like shape.

Easy Readers!

Gus Makes a Friend, by the illustrator of the hated (by me) Froggy series, Frank Remkiewicz, is insipid.  Simple sentences but they don’t make a good story–which, yes, is possible.

Karen Wallace’s Wild Baby Animals, on the other hand, shows you how far apart two level ones can be.  Several sentences on a page, so informative, with the occasional big words.  Like many non-fiction books, no sense of closure on the last page.

Martha Speaks: Good Luck, Martha by Susan Meddaugh (or at least she’s taking home the paychecks) is another story about how superstition isn’t real.  But it’s a good one, even though it has that creepy talking dog in it.  It’s a level 2, but it has as many sentences as the Wallace book.  Different companies, I keep telling people.

Gabrielle Reyes’s Odd Animal Helpers is an odd one indeed–it’s only a level 3, but some of the words are really big and not defined in the glossary.  Also, sometimes the description of the symbiotic pair is unclear, and then there are a few pages where only one animal benefits from the partnership, but they aren’t grouped together.  Good information, but poorly presented.

Yay, we have the Lego Star Wars version of The Phantom Menace as written by Hannah Dolan.  Boo, the story is just as overcomplicated and boring as when I first watched the movie years ago.  AND it skips over the whole queen thing with Natalie Portman being, like, her own slave or something?  At least it only SORT OF comes off like an advertisement.  Trying to write out the story of The Phantom Menace as a kids’ story is a lot like trying to write up the Indiana Jones books, but worse.  Props to Dolan for trying, anyway.

Star Wars: Battle for Naboo by Lisa Stock doesn’t have cute Legos, but it gets a chance to tell the story a little more coherently, AND mention the handmaiden thing.  It’s a level 3 rather than the Lego book’s level 2, so it gets more words and a bigger glossary.  Jeez if someone had given me this book years ago, maybe I would’ve understood what I was watching!  Not that it makes it sound that interesting.  Anakin only gets about two and a half pages too, which is nice.

Oh God, how did I ever watch wrestling when I was a kid?  (Answer: GLOW.)  The WWE biography of Hornswaggle just hurts to read, from an adult perspective.  It really reads no differently than a Wikipedia description of a soap opera plot, only more cringe-worthy.  (Really?  The “Little People’s Court”?)  Kevin Sullivan, I know you’re just writing a bio, but…blargh!

I can’t take it anymore.  Away, Easy Readers!

Olivier Dunrea’s Gideon appears to only have two expressions, but still manages to carry off the cute story of a gosling who doesn’t want to nap.  The next book is Gideon and Otto, which is mostly focused on Gideon’s possibly-sentient possibly-stuffed octopus.  Gotta admit, I was thinking both books would be cuter.  But they’re still cute.  More kid-cute than we-can-all-enjoy cute.

Angelina Loves… by Katherine Holabird seems to be based on a lot of other Angelina Ballerina books, so I’m not sure why you’d get it when you can get the other ones separately.  To save money?  For shorter versions of the stories for younger readers?  But you lose all the fun, and you’re reading them altogether anyway, so it makes no sense to me.  But there you go, we have it, and I read it.

The Easter Bunny’s Assistant by Jan Thomas is hilarious as always.  It’s kind of my go-to Mo Willems light.  (Quick backlog: I also read Pumpkin Trouble and loved it, and Is Everyone Ready for Fun? was a great storytime read.)

Pig Pig Meets the Lion by David McPhail is a simple, funny tale that will crack kids up, because kids like nothing more than adults who aren’t getting the point.  A lion is missing from the zoo, and climbs into Pig Pig’s window!  Will the lion attack, or will Pig Pig make a new friend?  I think I’m going to set this one aside for storytime.

Lia-Ria Meets the Angels by Jodi J. Fiore is one of those books I’m conflicted on.  It’s obviously there to teach children important things, but it’s awkwardly written and illustrated as if by a child.  I’m assuming Fiore isn’t a child.  There’s too much information for little guys, who might like the pictures, and you don’t get the usual more-information thing at the end that’s written for adults, which I believe is awesome because it really helps the adults get a stronger grip on what’s going on, to put them in the position of being able to answer their children’s questions.  But unless a parent is specifically looking for a book on Angelman Syndrome, I don’t see them taking this out, especially because a quick read of the title gives the impression that Lia-Ria is a terminally ill child.  (“Meets the angels”?  Really?)

Caillou: Careful! is a quick, insipid story, which is weird because I usually like Caillou books more than I’ve ever liked watching the show–mostly because of Caillou’s painfully irritating voice.  But I think this one bothers me because it feels like an extended lesson in the middle of a boring story.  Why would you do that, Joceline Sanschagrin?

The revised world of Strawberry Shortcake continues to disappoint me with Mickie Matheis’s Babysitting Blues.  Apparently, the creepy little berry-headed baby keeps changing the colors on everything, and instead of punishing him, they pass him off from place to place until they manipulate him into doing the right thing.

GOD DAMMIT, Strawberry Shortcake people.

Peter Catalanotto (do you know how hard it is not to type “Catalano”??) introduces us to the obnoxious Question Boy and the bratty Little Miss Know-It-All in the book Question Boy Meets Little Miss Know-It-All.  I’m not really sure how I feel about this.  On one hand, it’s pretty funny.  On the other, I wanted to punch the kids.  On my third hand, which I keep for instances just like this, none of the adults can do a thing about these kids.  Why not?  Why not, say, send them both to the library?

So conflicted.

Ilanit Oliver’s SpongeBob Tees Off is pretty cute, and I have to admit Jessica Albacore almost made me laugh aloud.  SpongeBob thinks that golf is like mini-golf so he pits his talent against a famous golfer.  Patrick seems to know some things and is completely wrong about others, which is pretty much par for the course.  SpongeBob fans will enjoy it, of course, but it reads fine on its own, I think.

Finally, Kate and Jim McMullan’s I’m Fast! is a race between a car and a train.  This is all I could think of as I read it, but I think kids will like it a lot.  I’m definitely going to read it for my All Aboard! train party.

Okay, I’m done for the day.  See you next time, when maybe I’ll write something that doesn’t have to do with reviews.  This blog used to do more…I think…I forget…

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