Our first book is actually making me optimistic: it’s a Dora the Explorer book that doesn’t make me want to rip my own brain out. Yes, I hear her horrible voice in my head but at least she isn’t shrieking for her map and asking stupid questions. Instead, in the level one Easy Reader Benny Says “Achoo!”, she’s helping a friend try to get around his godawful allergies so that he can give his grandmother something he knows she’ll love for her birthday: flowers, his apparent nemesis. We all know Dora fans will love anything with her face on it, but kids with allergies might like this one too. Plus, it’s fun to make paper flowers. Good job, Farrah McDoogle! You’ve practically achieved the impossible: making Dora tolerable. (Actually, that’s not true; I feel I’m generally kind to the Dora books that don’t use the show’s formula.)
Annie and Snowball and the Surprise Day by Cynthia Rylant is ADORABLE. Annie’s dad tells Annie and her pet rabbit Snowball to pick a road and off they go for a lovely, low-key adventure together. Then they check in with Henry and Mudge (I giggled at “only one of them was drooling) and discuss the fun they had. CUUUUUUTE. Sucie Stevenson’s picture of Annie in her fabulous sunglasses brightened my day. It’s a level two, but a few pages in, you forget you’re reading an Easy Reader at all, which is the best kind of Easy Reader: where the story blends with the learning.
Dixie and the Class Treat isn’t as cute, but it’s still cute. A level-one reader by Grace Gilman, it tells the story of how a dog saves the day when the wrong spice is picked during the cookie-baking process. First off, wow, a class without allergies? You can use eggs and flour? Secondly, what’s wrong with spicy anyway? Bland and fatty is why kids don’t eat anything else. But I’m half-teasing. Like I said, cute story, although HIGHLY unrealistic–who doesn’t lick the spoon after it’s done, or taste-test the cookies before bed?
Ugh, Pony Scouts. In Runaway Ponies!, Meg is so enthusiastic about a WHOLE WEEKEND OF PONIES that she screws everything up, including letting all the horses go. Can horses open stalls from the outside, for reals? IDK. I wasn’t a horse person, and what little interest I had was killed by that romance author who writes all those books about horses, and then there’s always a scene where they’re breeding the horses and the book’s couple gets all hot because of it. Grosssss. Anyway, Meg’s a moron and kids who like horses will love this book and spend the rest of their lives declaring they love the animals they “break.” (Nice terminology, jerks.)
They call him Kipper…Kipper the dawwwww-wwg. Mick Inkpen’s Rollo and Ruff and the Little Fluffy Bird is cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuute. I loved watching Kipper with my kid and I loved reading this book. I love Mick Inkpen’s art and I love life.
Heh. I’m a little all over the place today.
Late Nate in a Race by Emily Arnold McCully is a bit too simple for me, but it’s still an interesting idea: Nate is the slowest of his family, but there’s a race today that they’re all going to participate in. What will Nate do?
My First BOB Books: Pre-Reading Skills by Lynn Maslen Kertell is really, really good. They’re cute, they’re sometimes funny, they’re clever in that they’re teachy but not preachy.
I kind of love A Bus Called Heaven, but I don’t know why. It feels like it doesn’t have a beginning, or an end–you don’t get to know anyone, but they’re there. Bob Graham does a fantastic job of–you know what it feels like? Hey Arnold! But without the super-silly. It has that this-is-what-a-city-is-like feel to it. Boy, did I love Hey Arnold! That football-headed kid was fastastic. This slice of city life book is fantastic too. In it, a broken-down bus becomes a neighborhood project/meeting spot/whatever, and sparks the friendship and imagination of a community that probably didn’t even know it was a community before.
Pugs in a Bug by Carolyn Crimi has super-cute art by Stephanie Buscema, and I think I’m going to test it out at story time next week. It’s got the same feel as that train book from the other day, I’m Fast! Lots of repetition, lots of dogs. Should really work. The dogs are on their way to a dog parade. The owner of the Bug picks them all up and they go. That simple.
Caillou is Sick by Roger Harvey is about Caillou getting chicken pox. This is good, because at first I thought it was going to be a bland story about how he couldn’t go outside, so he whined about it, but then he rested, and got to go outside. Instead, it’s a watered-down version of what it’s like to have chicken pox. Admittedly, I’ve never had chicken pox–and now I feel itchy–but I can’t imagine whiny Caillou not being a GIANT PAIN IN THE BUTT about something as itchy as chicken pox. Then Rosie had it. Rosie doesn’t scream her lungs out? Puh-leez!
WHAT IS WITH these Caillou books and their ridiculous art? Like, okay, maybe you have to match the show, but if you’re telling me you’re leaving footprints, SHOW ME THE FOOTPRINTS. Caillou and the Rain is about Caillou being irritatingly distracted by everything and everything’s fine at the end. ARGH, Caillou.
Thousands and thousands of years ago, Kali turns his bow in to a musical instrument, so everyone likes him best, and maybe they don’t kill a bunch of mammoths, but obviously they did because they’re not here anymore. So goes Kali’s Song by Jeanette Winter. Didn’t really like it, although I thought I was going to at first. But I’m old and cynical–I can’t imagine a society where everyone puts down their bows and arrows when the animals are enchanted, rather than using it as a great opportunity to get the mammoths in the eye.
Go West, Amelia Bedelia! is an Easy Reader version of a Herman Paris book that I don’t think I liked in the first place. I can’t figure out if it’s ANY different, except how the words are spaced out. Eh. Amelia Bedelia is just not a character I think can be in so many books. Yeah, it’s funny that she doesn’t get stuff, but it’s hard to imagine that time after time this woman is ridiculous and people just don’t know what to do with her. I know, that sounds silly, but I LIKED the first book–that this woman comes from nowhere and is so literal. WHY is she so literal? Unfortunately, the little Amelia books that are coming out now don’t explain anything, and they’re like the Star Wars prequels of children’s books, I swear.
Flat Stanley at Bat by Lori Haskins is cute, if you can get over the fact that Stanley is flat because a bulletin board fell on him. Isn’t that a bit grisly for a series that’s so cheerful? Is this because I haven’t been a kid for, like, decades? Stanley’s flatness helps him succeed as baseball, but the other kids wonder if it’s an unfair advantage, so Stanley bulks up for the next game and prove he’s awesome either way.
Finally, Biscuit Plays Ball by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. I like Biscuit, and I like adorable puppy Biscuit the best, but this book is inane. Two stars for Pat Schories making puppy Biscuit the cutest puppy ever. I’m not even a dog person.
Next up: back to non-fiction.
Happy National Library Week, everyone!