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Wibber to sea: more children’s book reviews

August 3, 2012

Seriously, I’ve gotta stop doing that.  You can only shove so many words around to make silly titles.  After a while, they stop being silly and start being forced.

I do like “Ewibabeth Wakefield” but I felt like that should be for a teen one, which I haven’t even TOUCHED this YEAR, which hurts my feelings.  Well, soon my husband will be gone for weeks (boot camp) and soon I’ll have a lot of time to myself, especially on the weekends when my daughter tends to crash with her bff.

But on to the books.

Board books!

DK’s Touch and Feel: Bathtime doesn’t even have a rubbery toy.  Call me disappointed.  But the towel is nice.  Too bad it’s on the cover AND the last page.  This is not the work of Dawn Sirett.  Home, however, is great.  Ponies isn’t.  The blanket just looks like someone cut out a square of the pony.  It’s a bit creepy.

DK’s My First Busy Day is pretty darn busy.  With a seek-and-find and a lot of words and a few stuck-in questions to guide parents in the learning process, there’s a lot going on here.  I’m not crazy about it.

Hm.  Caillou My First Dictionary: Jobs People Do has a female school principal, a male secretary, a male librarian…and an Asian IT guy.  This big board book doesn’t pull any punches in being clear on what people do (“Agricultural what now?”), and pulling the actual pictures of the people from the scenes helps add a “seek and find” quality to the book.   I have no idea why that book has no author name but Outside My House has Joceline Sanschagrin as the author, especially when the back doesn’t mention her name anywhere.  Man, Caillou goes every place.

Picture books!

The Hueys in: The New Sweater by Oliver Jeffers is a cute little story not like Mo’s Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed.  However, the story takes a turn when everyone else WANTS to be different.  Good discussion starter; maybe a good combo storytime with the Naked Mole Rat?

Ten Blue Wrens and what a lot of wattle! by Elizabeth Honey calls itself “An Absolutely Australian Counting Book” and I completely agree.  However, I think it’s too Australian for our library.  Seriously.  I don’t remember ordering this, and I think we had another Honey the other day, so this might be one of those “We discovered a new author at the main branch” orders.  But this book is by Aussies for Aussies, and even I, with my history of reading Australian romance novels in the ’90s, wasn’t sure what some of the things were.  There’s no glossary in the back–and I’m not complaining–so I don’t see it being taken out often.

Flower Girl by Barbara Bottner, with gorgeous photographs by Laura Grier, seems to be one of those books you just buy your flower girl as a thank-you gift.  It’s gorgeous, and the pictures give a good idea of what your role is and what you wear and do, but…but…it kind of looks like an advertisement for Grier’s wedding photo work.  Seriously.  So, let’s call it, like, a little kid coffee table book, and not high literature.

Speaking of a lack of high literature: Dora the Explorer.  I Love My Abuela! by Christine Ricci should only be read by children who have great relationships with their grandmother, because Dora sets a really high bar with her own.  Dora Loves Boots by Allison Inches (wow, what a name, but then so is Christine Ricci) is an adaptation of an episode, but it doesn’t set off my grate-o-meter, so I guess they both pass.

If Suryia Swims! by Bhagavan Antle, Thea Feldman, and Barry Bland is a true story (of How an Orangutan Learned to Swim) , then why is it classified in fiction?  Hm.  It’s a very simple story, told in photographs, showing the progression of Suryia from bubbly bather to happy swimmer.  This would be a good story for kids before they learn to swim.  Of course, then they’ll believe they should be going swimming with tiger cubs.  But I think *I* should be going swimming with tiger cubs, so.

Mooshka: A Quilt Story by Julie Paschkis makes up for bland faces with bright colors, fabulous patterns, and a truly wonderful story about a talking quilt that tells the history of its squares.  I don’t really get quilting, but I think the result is neat (I miss my baby quilt to this day; thanks for puking all over it, daughter dearest).  For quilters, this might be a good one for your littles.

The Hand-Me-Down Doll by Steven Kroll is a strange, anchronistic sort of a tale (until you get the end) about a doll who just wants to be loved–oh, and also not to be dirtied or given away or sold.  I don’t know.  The doll is kinda endearing, but then sometimes she seems as bratty as her original owner.  The anachronism is in Dan Andreasen’s art, I think, although maybe not by his fault.  It’s just…off.  It’s like “Here’s the story if Sara Crewe had been awful to Emily.”  I don’t know.

If there’s one thing I don’t like about rhyming books, it’s when word order is messed around with in dialog in such a way that no one would ever say those words aloud.  In the text itself, fine, but when people speak?  Just stop that.  Sheila S. Cunningham’s Willow’s Walkabout: A Child’s Guide to Boston does this, and it’s LONG.  That’s a lot of rhymes.  They’re not perfect.  I would like crisper, more modern-style pictures to balance it out, but the art by Kathie Kelleher is a bit old-fashioned.  I would only suggest it for families going to Boston, not as a fun read for anyone.

I don’t like Splat, so I didn’t like Rob Scotton’s Secret Agent Splat.  I think it could be more clever, or more clear, or the backgrounds could be less boring half the time.  Otherwise, I really do enjoy the art, but the words…eh.  Kids will like Splat far more than adults, if you care about that sort of thing (and, if you’re reading to your kids, you probaby do).

Emily Gravett’s Wolf Won’t Bite is really neat, sort of a sequel to The Three Little Pigs, but the ending is SO abrupt.  I don’t even know. Reading it aloud would be awkward, I think.  Too bad, I kind of liked the idea of it for story time until the end.

A patron told me that Surfer Chick by Kristy Dempsey was cute, and it is.  The pictures, by Henry Cole, are cute.  The words are cute.  The book is just cute.  It’s fluffy, like the chick herself, but has a good message about believing in yourself, not giving up, that sort of thing.  And it’s all in rhyme, for those who prefer that sort of thing.  Not awkward rhyme either, which is nice.

Okay, totally loved Melanie Walsh’s Living with Mom and Living with Dad (one book).  The flaps reveal life with Mom or Dad, respectively, showing the contrasts and comparisons between the parents without taking sides.  Instead, the child sees that life is not split down the middle but doubled when both parents care for the child and work together.  The parents are separate in this book, but neither one seems primary as caregiver in the child’s life.  This is a great book for the children of divorced parents.  Also, the art is simple and adorable.

Meet Cherry Jam! is the new Strawberry Shortcake book.  In it, a city gal with a great career gives it up for a makeunder to become a resident of literature’s most boring and sexist cities. Ugh.  Poor Amy Ackelsberg.  She tries, I think?  But it’s still awful.

Roni Schotter’s All About Grandmas is a little repetitive, a little awkward in rhyme, and a little cute.  Janice Nadeau does a good job of illustrating the diversity of the wome.  The book begins with a page of different ways to say “grandmother” in other languages/cultures, which is cool.  You can sit down with it and see which countries are close and whether their words are close too.

Deb Lund’s Dinosauring is cute without being cutesy, but I kindc of wish Howard Fine’s pictures were sharper.  That would say “fun” to me a little more.  I’m going to read this one to the toddlers this month.

I Know a Wee Piggy by Kim Norman tries a little too hard for me, but kids will like it.  Hey, more Henry Cole.  The art’s great again, but “a rinse of red”?  Eh.  It’s like “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly” but it’s a pig at a fair.

Does Dora look slimmer to you now than she did when she first started?  Dora Saves the Snow Princess is kinda insipid but at least there’s a real story there.  When things are supposed to be scary, they’re just…cheerful.  Even the polar bear that you’re supposed to guess looks mad only looks barely annoyed.

Non-fiction!

Earthquakes and Tsunamis by Emily Bone is an informative book, but I don’t know if it’s a good one.  There are some character choices I’m not sure I agree with, and then it doesn’t have a wrap-up page like I prefer with children’s non-fiction.  There’s a heavy reliance on pictures from Japan, which is understandable, but then the book doesn’t really discuss the context of the photos, which is a mistake.  Otherwise, the book is chock full of info, and some of the pictures are quite moving.

Out of the Blue: A Book of Color Idioms and Silly Pictures by Vanita Oelschlager is an odd little book.  It gives the meanings of the phrases but not necessarily the, like, MEANINGS of the phrases, or the origins.  Some of Robin Hegan’s art is cute, some is odd, and the horse of a different color cracked me up.  Also, you have to flip the book over to get the meaning and phrase used in a sentence, but I don’t really see what that does besides give the kids something to do.  There’s no REASON for it.  It’s not a PUNCHLINE.

Don’t think I don’t have more, but this post is getting really long…

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