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A wibble-wibble here, and a wibble-wibble there: More children’s book reviews

July 24, 2012

New summer reading books!

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day!  There’s a reason it’s a classic.  Judith Viorst gives us just another one of THOSE days with no excuse, no explanation–and not even the better next day.  It’s life as it is.  I must admit that I replace Ray Cruz’s art in my head with my friend’s son Alexander.  Hee, Xander.  He’s so cute.

Paul Galdone’s The Gingerbread Boy is a retelling of the old story–a very straight one.  The art is nice and old-fashioned too.  I sort of want to say, I don’t know, I’d run away too if people wanted to eat me, so the end is kind of horrifying.  I always thought that the Boy ran because he was a little jerk, not because he was trying to save his life.  The old couple always seemed nice.

Wow, The Chalk Doll by Charlotte Pomerantz.  This is the kind of book where you will read it many times over the course of your life and get so much more out of it each time.  It’s the story of a sick little girl who wants her mother to tell her stories–stories of growing up in Jamaica (although I don’t think they ever say that).  It’s obvious to an adult the mother grew up in poverty; the child never has to worry about that.  But to the kids, especially with Frane Lessac’s simple, childlike art, Rosy’s mom’s life will be exciting in its difference.  Isn’t it funny how we see things as we get older?

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister is about giving away almost everything that makes you feel good so you can be popular.  Really??

Listen Buddy by Helen Lester is about a bunny that doesn’t listen, until he’s almost killed.  Am I just being crabby today?

Move Over, Rover! by Karen Beaumont is a cute little rhyme for kids.  I can see why it’s on the summer reading list.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes probaby would’ve bothered me if I’d been in the mood I was before, but I’m not.  You could say it’s a book about peer pressure and how having one cool person like something about you that everyone teases you for is enough.  Which–is kinda true, I guess?  Not really.  It’s really about you get down sometimes when people are down on you.  And how you have to deal with bullies directly.  The classroom teacher does not.  The music teacher does.  And Chrysathemum herself is pretty awesome–with an awesome name, too.

Board books!

A Crack in the Track and Blue Train, Green Train are two Thomas the Tank Engine board books.  Maybe too many words for tiny books, but you know how kids are with Thomas.  I liked the latter better than the former, although the end, the first one turns out with a good message.

Okay, so even though it’s only feel-y on one side, DK’s Touch and Feel 1, 2, 3 was winning me over until…those are CHERRIES?  Really?  Huh.  Let’s see how A, B, C stacks up.  Five feelable things in the entire alphabet.  Sigh.  BIGGER BOOK, GUYS.  Recycling pics too?  Sigh.  Not that I’d mind it terribly, but in a little series?  No.

Hello, Dawn.  DK’s Little Hide and Seek: Animals is one of those beginner I-spy books.  Dawn delivers the goods.  Very cute, with a great big pop-up in the back.  I wonder how long that will last.

(We’re friends now, in that I’ve read so many of her books I feel like I can use her first name.  Like Jenny Crusie.)

More from her, too: My Little Carry Books.  They have handles just for little hands.  We got Farm and Puppies and Kittens.  They’re cute.  You probably know by now how I feel about puppies and kitties.  They rhyme, too.

Picture books!

So, Fancy Nancy.  Sometimes I love you, and sometimes I really hate you, but today I’m kinda “oh okay” about you.  Jane O’Connor’s Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet is the usual French-laden, vocab-building, can’t-tell-if-it’s-adorable-or-tacky, how-much-money-did-my-SIL-pay-when-my-niece-was-in-her-Fancy-Nancy-phase-because-this-kid-looks-expensive self, but she’s also kind of a butthead in it.  Nancy and her bff Bree want to be mermaids in their upcoming ballet performance, but of course there are Complications and everyone has to be happy with themselves and each other.  You know who will love this?  Fancy Nancy fans.

Speaking of hit or miss characters: Dora the Explorer’s Little Star by Sarah Willson.  Erghhh, so irritating.  This time a star gets hit out of the sky (oh God) and Dora and Boots have to put it back.  Yes, indeedy.  It’s exactly as insipid as it sounds.

Peter McCarty’s Chloe is the kind of book that parents like a lot: it has an anti-TV message.  Chloe has lots of brothers and sisters and loves when her family is all together, but she doesn’t like them sitting in front of the TV even though they just bought it.  It’s not, like, the story of how everyone gets too attached to the TV and stops spending quality time together.  IT’S THE FIRST DAY THEY HAVE IT.  Maybe I’m just crabby because my daughter and I have been bonding over TV since she was little.  We watch together; we discuss it together; I use it as a teaching tool: she can’t watch something unless she can discuss it.  Second season Buffy?  Great about discussing sex and relationships.  Now that she’s almost an adult, we watch Torchwood and discuss homo- and bisexuality.  (And aliens.  And how much I love Rhys.)  So I kind of take offense at the book, but not much.  They do end up having a great time with a cardboard box and bubble wrap, but I wish McCarty had made a distinction between family fun time and zombie TV time, because in the beginning it looks like they’re all doing their own things.  At least they were watching TV together.  The art’s adorable, though.

Aliki’s All By Myself is a cute, simple rhyming book about the milestones that maybe kids take for granted after a while.  Definitely going to read this to my toddlers; they’ll love it.

That’s Not a Daffodil! by Elizabeth Honey is totally charming.  It’s another “wait and plants grow” book but I feel that it does much more than that–the child involved, Tom, is very imaginative (“That’s not a daffodil!  It’s a finger/rocket/etc!”) and the Turkish man who gives Tom the bulb has his own story going on in the background.  Definitely the one to pick for plant patience.

Watch Out! Big Bro’s Coming! by Jez Alborough is really funny and colorful and cute.  Older children may recognize when the size of the feared big brother must be completely wrong, but little kids might be confused at the end.  Let’s find out at the 3-5 storytime!

Wait, what just happened here?  Ballerina Swan by Allegra Kent starts out SO CUTE.  A real swan sees children learning ballet and wants to join in.  Emily Arnold McCully’s pictures are fantastic.  But then there’s a mean dance teacher, then a nice dance teacher, then the swan’s supposed to know to flip the cast list over to find her name?  What the heck?  Such promise; such a let-down.  Kids will like it better than adults though, because they can put up with unexplained narrative weirdness.

Okay, that’s enough for now.  I have other things to do.  So I’ve heard.

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