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Wibberace: More children’s book reviews

May 29, 2012

Easy Readers! – Level 1!

The Princess Twins and the Birthday Party by Mona Hodgson is the first Princess Twins book I’ve actually liked.  It is a simple story, not heavy-handed with the religious message, and, in a word, sweet.  As always, the art by Red Hansen is boring and generic.

The Princess Twins and the Tea Party, however, is dull.  And not about politics, as I first suspected.

The Berenstain Bears and Mama for Mayor! has a very simple message in it: “don’t promise what you can’t deliver”–wait no.  It’s “campaign hard and win”–wait no.  It’s, um, “set your goals high and”–erm.  Hold on.  Jan & Mike Berenstain (rather than Jan & Stan) bring forth another book that disappoints.  I thought this one was going to go somewhere, but it ends with a wah-wah-wahhh of the trombone.  It’s a stepping stone to a conversation about politics, sure, but even as that, it could be a better one.  Still, you know the kids are going to read it, because it has those bears.

Jane O’Connor and Fancy Nancy charm me again with Fancy Day in Room 1-A.  Even though I think that in real life, this child would be a tacky nightmare (and a super-shopper), I appreciate her vocabulary-building.  The cover’s a bit creepy, since her friend in the background looks like some weird cracked out flapper giving her best stupored come-hither, but um, yeah.  The interior art is by someone else, and nothing there freaks me, although I think I’d like the art a little sharper.  But I have a headache, so I probably want everything either much sharper or wayyyy fuzzier.  Preferably with orange juice.  Boy, am I not feeling well.

Usually, I like the We Both Read books.  But not The Mouse in My House by Paul Orshoski.  The wording is soooo awkward, although the story itself is funny.  And what’s with not capitalizing Mom and Dad?  I am just not okay with that.  I wasn’t super crazy about the art either.  Nice to see a family of color as the leads, although the mouse is white and gets the better of them AND forces them out of their house eventually–METAPHOR?!?!?!


I almost didn’t want to read the new Brave Easy Readers because I’m afraid they’ll tell me too much about the movie, but Brave: Big Bear, Little Bear is basically the most boring Easy Reader ever.  It’s just “Merida is young.  The witch is old” kind of stuff.  But the kids will watch the movie and want it, you know?  It’s also a terrible title.  There are bears at the end, but, um, it’s all very disconnected.  You could put anything in place of the Brave characters and have the exact same book.  Lazy.  Maybe I wouldn’t even be disappointed if it had Brave: Introduction to Reading or something on the cover instead of something about bears.

PS Merida is totally my bff Jen, if Jen’s hair were a bit curlier.  I KNOW she looked at the preview and went “MEEEE!”

Level…My First Shared Reading?  I don’t even know.

What a Good Kitty by Mercer Mayer is your usual big-eyed monster child, big-eyed miserable cat story.  I WANT to like Little Critter, but I do not.  Mercer Mayer’s art creeps me out.  This is the story of a cat that does bad things, but one good thing wipes all the bad off the score card.  Such is the way of cats.  Kind of the way of kids too.

Level 1-2!  (Yes, that’s what it says.)

OMG I WILL NEVER SWIM AGAIN EXCEPT IN A POOL THAT HAS NEVER BEEN IN ANY WAY CONNECTED TO A RIVER.  Sharks! by Sindy McKay is horrifyingly honest, wonderfully easy to read, and incredibly informative.  Cannot recommend it enough.

Level 2! (Fight!)

Okay, so Lego Hero Factory: Meet the Heroes by Shari Last gives me noooo desire to ever have anything to do with this ridiculously-named world.  At least when we had Transformers, they turned into stuff and LOOKED like they had personalities.  (And GO BOTS.  Because I’m a heretic.)  I mean, I just want nothing to do with the thing.  It looks and sounds godawful.  It looks too complicated to be cheesy, but looks too cheesy to be interesting.  Conflict of interest–well, no conflict, really; I have no interest.  And intro book should make me interested.  Ah well.

Also, these robots have feelings?  Why?  How?  They’re made by a bigger robot?  How?  Why?  When they go to other planets, are there no people ever?  How? Why?

Yeah, no.

In Martha Bakes a Cake, two dogs–one of whom talks in a creepy way (not like Clifford, who is awesome)–make a gross unhygenic cake.  They could’ve asked all the human adults who helped them do everything else, but no.  Instead, we have to look at gross hairy cake.  Blarghhhh.  I know you’re a dog, Martha, but why can’t you understand how awful that is for humans?  I am done talking about this book, and perhaps ever eating cake again.  Oh, except for the Oreo cake at Vegan Treats.  OMGGGGGG.

Brave: A Mother’s Love is the TOTALLY SPOILERIFFIC story of the upcoming movie Brave.  GOD DAMMIT.  But it’s a good little story, for an adapted Easy Reader.  Gets the point across, doesn’t feel disjointed like some of them do.  Melissa Lagonegro writes a lot of ERs and I think she usually gets it right.

Gilbert and the Lost Tooth by Diane deGroat is the story of how there’s really a Tooth Fairy and how she brings you stuff for your lost teeth and if your friend steals his teeth he’ll be hit in the face and end up with a loose tooth.  Except that that’s not a GOOD kind of loose tooth, but I guess when you’re little you’ll take whatever you can get.  Eh.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Chewbacca and the Wookiee Warriors actually spends more time talking about Chewbacca’s Jedi friend, but whatever.  The title is as complicated as the story, in which there’s a war or something, and then Chewbacca gets a hit in against the person the token girl was going to hit.  Oh well.  Yup, that’s all I got from it.  But I don’t blame author Simon Beecroft.  I blame George Lucas.

Level 3! (More Star Wars, more…sigh…Hero Factory)

Heroes in Action is the next Hero Factor book.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me the character named Jimi isn’t voiced by a black actor.  Oh cool.  N/M.  …Wait, he’s a HICK??  (I did, I did just go look it up.)  Looks like this book is a novelization of the episode Breakout.  I’m just saying.  UGHHH, no wonder they’re such heroes.  They get everything they could ever need to defeat the bad guys.  Even James Bond didn’t get this specialized with his toys.  EVEN BATMAN.  What the hell is a hero core?  THIS IS LIKE READING STAR WARS.  NO WONDER THESE KIDS GROW UP AND READ ROBERT JORDAN.  WHY WOULD THEY NEED CLARITY WHEN THEY’VE NEVER HAD IT?  (Kidding about Jordan.  I did read the first three Wheel of Time books, but then I got pregnant and stopped caring.  Seriously, that’s just how it went down.  I was trying for dense fantasy or sci-fi, and Jordan was the first I thought of.)

Can we just talk for a second about how Splitface is half-organic and that makes him, like, incompatible with himself?  No, let’s not; I’ll read too much into it.  He’s just a robot Two-Face without any depth.


My problem with Star Wars is that it gets denser and denser and no one will do anything about planets named Mon Calamari.  Ackbar’s Underwater Army is…well, Simon Beecroft does his best, I’m sure.  Man, Ahsoka gets around, doesn’t she?  And is the prince’s name supposed to be, like, leecher?


The Stinky Giant by Mel Friedman and Ellen Weiss is super-cute.  It’s about two young shepherds, a brother and sister, who have to answer a riddle to rid themselves of a particularly yucky neighbor.

Hee.  How is this ALSO a level three, when I just had to plod through all this Star Wars bleh?

Pretty Penny Comes Up Short by Devon Kinch is about a world where no one has necks and popcorn doesn’t cost anything.  And what is a Small Mall?  If this is a series or based on a show, I have no idea, and it doesn’t really explain anything.  But other than that, it’s a solid book with a couple of good lessons threaded through.

Pearl and Wagner: Five Days Till Summer by Kate McMullan is a cute little story about worrying about the next school year.  Pearl talks herself into disliking getting a new teacher, and has to be talked out of it with reason and time spent with the new teacher.  This is great.  All the kids should visit the next grade up and down like this do in this series.  Highly recommended.  Cute art from R.W. Alley too, although nothing so special–just makes me feel a little nostalgic.

Picture books!

One-Dog Canoe by Mary Casanova is a cute little rhyming story about a girl who needs to learn to say no to all the animals that want to crowd into her tiny canoe.  But she doesn’t and they climb in and topple the thing, and she’s never a bit upset at them or her inability to assert herself.  I think some kids will really get into it, because it’s funny and repetitive.  Cute but unremarkable art by Ard Hoyt.

Rick & Rack and the Great Outdoors by Ethan Long has a sort of Mo-ish feel to it, so it’s enjoyable but I feel like the punchlines could be awesomer.  You know what I mean, if you’ve read Mo.

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo is HILARIOUS, and the illustrations by David Small are just perfect.  Elliot reminds me of a friend from high school, except that he never wore a suit and never, that I know of, got a penguin, and his name was spelled differently, buuuut they both have dark hair and are cute and crack me up.  Elliot is very proper and polite, and when he asks for a penguin from the aquarium, his father thinks he’s buying a plushy.  Not at all, it turns out.  Also, bonus points for having an awesome librarian.  LOVED this book!

Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D.B. Johnson is one of those books I think adults (especially reviewers) like the best because they “get it.”  It’s like watching a cartoon with your kid and the cartoon makes an ’80s reference or something.  I’m not sure how kids will feel about this book because I think you have to understand at least a little about Magritte to submerge yourself in the surrealism–there are too many references to just indulge in the book for its own surrealness, which you can do with other books, you know?  So.  The art is so crisp and beautiful, though.

Anyway, that’s everything from me for now.  I’m on vacation!!

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