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Ms. Wibelli – More children’s book reviews

March 15, 2012


A Big Boy Now by Eileen Spinelli is a cute, harmless little book about growing up and making the right choices–whether in being polite or helpful or challenging yourself.  The art’s probably why I use the word “harmless” but I’m sure there are many children out there who would find the story and its art a comfort.

A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson really affected me, although…eh, make your own call.  It’s the story of Charles Dickens, the son of a man in prison, working ten-hour days to help his family survive.  It’s truthful without being scary; it’s sad without being upsetting.  I’m thinking of using it in my summer program (Dream Big, right?) but I’m not sure it’s good for my first graders.  Hmm.

Audrey Wood, the author of the nightmare fuel which is called Piggies, now brings us Blue Sky, a simple book with wet-looking “RAIN SKY” and fluffy “CLOUD SKY” and so on.  It’s all right.

OH MY GOD.  Do not forget I am a cat person, and yet…and yet…Homer by Diane deGroat and Shelley Rotner is HILARIOUS and ADORABLE!  A baseball-loving dog sneaks out of the house to join his doggie friends in a game.  And not just ANY game–I mean, these dogs are professionals.  And the puns fly and I kept laughing and laughing–love it!

Alexandra Day’s The Fairy Dogfather starts out so promisingly–a boy who keeps switching his d’s and g’s accidentally gets sent a dogfather instead of a godfather.  At this point I was cracking up.  Then came the dogfather: he uses big words and doesn’t seem to fix anything at first, but the next day turns out right after all.  That…was less fun.  I mean, it’s cute, but…I can’t imagine how much time I’d spend explaining the big words to the kids, and why the dogfather acts like he isn’t fixing anything when everything’s fixed the next day and…and…I don’t know.

E-Mergency! by Tom Lichtenheld and Ezra Fields-Meyer is…is…wow, I’m having some problems today.  It’s REALLY clever.  It reminds me a little of one of my favorite books when I was little: Zag, by Robert Tallon.  It’s FILLED with puns and jokes, but you definitely need a good reader to get it.  And there are a lot of little jokes too, hiding all around.  Maybe  not just a good reader, but an older reader.  P is peeing in the beginning, and there’s a number 2 in the bathroom at the end.  (Sorry to ruin it for you.  Not that that’s the story, but I mean the laugh.)  So yeah.  And reading it aloud would be a super-pain, since you have to stop using the letter E at one point.  So not a storytime read, but definitely something for the oldest picture-book readers.

WAHHHH!  Yoko Learns to Read by Rosemary Wells really got to me, probably because we have a lot of kids here whose parents’ first language isn’t English.  The fact that Yoko’s mother can’t help her here is understated but completely understood by any adult reading it to a child.  Yoko uses books from the library to acquaint herself with the reading process, and then–WAHHHH!–starts to teach her mom to learn to read English.

Really, just…just…WAHHHHH.

Brownie & Pearl Go for a Spin by Cynthia Rylant is another adorable Brownie & Pearl book, this one with them riding around in a tiny little pink car.  Simple words made this story fun and easy to read, but it’s Brian Biggs’s art that makes Brownie & Pearl so charming.

Lucky Luis by Gary Soto is pretty cute–it’s about a little rabbit who learns about superstitions just in time for baseball season, so he develops them and ends up psyching himself out–and I do like the art by Rhode Montijo, but the part where he overcomes his mental block is too rushed for my liking.

Pip’s Trip by Janet Morgan Stoeke is the sequel to The Loopy Coop Hens, which I wasn’t crazy about, and I’m not crazy about this too.  I don’t think every book needs to have some serious moral, but I think parents–and kids!–look for them.  The moral here appears to be: don’t leave.  You’re fine where you are.  Eh.  I liked this one better until the end, though, mostly because it wasn’t about a bunch of chickens drooling over a rooster, which felt really weird for a children’s book, I must say.

Just a Little Too Little by Mercer Mayer is about Little Critter.  I find everything Mercer Mayer draws to be creepy, but I still manage to like Little Critter.  I don’t LOVE him, but I like him.  In this one, he’s doing a bunch of things, some he can accomplish, some he can’t.  Can you really build a go-kart in the course of a day?  I guess you can.  They do.  For a second, I was disoriented because I wasn’t sure if we were in the same day.  We were.  Little Critter fans will like this one, of course, but what about everyone else?  Yes, probably.  It’s definitely got more heart than A Big Boy Now.

Why is Caillou’s sister a blonde when his parents have almost exactly the same dark hair color?  Ah, whatever.  Caillou: Happy Easter by Melanie Rudel-Tessier is a cute little read about Easter.  Your kids will be expecting a lot of very gorgeous eggs if they read it though.  Putting out carrots for the Easter Bunny isn’t something I think my mom would ever have thought of.  We went to the Knights of Columbus for our Easter egg hunt every year, so I don’t think there was ever a time that I didn’t think my grandfather and his friends were the ones to hide the eggs.  (It may have been the women, but it was hard for me to think that the women’s auxilliary really BELONGED there.  I mean, they weren’t KNIGHTS, were they?)

Vegetable soup has blueberries in it?  Apparently so, in 10 Hungry Rabbits by Anita Lobel.  It’s a simple little counting and color book, but those blueberries really throw me off.

I am no Curious George fan.  I always found him irritating.  In this book, Curious George Goes to the Zoo, written by Cynthia Platt, George acts like a jerk and breaks the rules and everyone forgives him.  What a terrible lesson.  He gets cake for breaking the rules.  Good idea, book-writer.

Silly Goose’s Big Story by Keiko Kasza is the story of a storytelling Goose whose friends are annoyed that he’s always playing the lead.  Great resolution, cute little story!

Shane W. Evans’s We March is a simple but moving story about a family who attends the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, who at the end see Martin Luther King Jr deliver his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  My only problem is my usual problem with Evans–whyyyy does almost no one have a neck??  It drives my nuts.  My eyes are always drawn to the neckless ones.  Sigh.

Okay, I think that’s it for my fiction.  Next time: probably a hodge-podge.

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