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The twouble with twibbles! (heheheh): More children’s book reviews

August 15, 2012

Picture books!

Miracle Melts Down is the story of a girl who gets rewarded for breaking the rules and freaking out with, like, crowns and ice packs and stuff.  Kindergators means well, but I definitely see it as the kind of book that tries so hard to make sure everyone feels soooo special because everyone’s sooo special.  It’s definitely a reflection of the times.  There are good strategies in here but I’m not sure I feel like they’re the best classroom choices.  After all, if you take a girl who’s breaking the rules, and you GIVE HER A CROWN, what does that tell her? Rosemary Wells’s Kindergators hasn’t impressed me yet.

One, Two, That’s My Shoe! is a cute little book that I’m going to read to the toddlers.  Alison Murray has created a simple twist on “one, two, buckle my shoe” and I think the little guys will really like it.

Wow, Barbie: The Princess and the Pop Star: Best Friends Rock is really, really bad.  I am SO glad there was only, like, one or two crappy Barbie movies out when my daughter was little, instead of however many (TOO MANY) are out today.  There’s, like, a magic hairbrush AND a magic microphone?  Okay.  Also, there’s a bad guy shoved into the end?  Okay.  Whatever.  But FUCK the “punk rock hairdo” thing.  Seriously, go to hell.

I don’t often recommend a Caillou book, but sometimes I do, and Caillou Puts Away His Toys is one of them.  Was the last one I recommended Joceline Sanschagrin too?  I think it was.  In this, Caillou can’t have his pudding until he puts away all his toys, and then he helps his father build a chest for them.  Cleaning AND organization AND putting off dessert until chores are done?  I’m all for it!

Caillou: Show and Tell is by Sarah Johnson, and it’s good too, but not as good.  Maybe because it’s not about cleaning.  And because the surprise is on the cover.  I dunno.

Grammy Lamby and the Secret Handshake by Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise is about finding your grandmother embarrassing, until you don’t.  This twee little book, with adorable art, moves a little too fast for my liking, but I think the kids will like it.

The Giant Seed by Arthur Geisert is like those Fox and Hen books I spoke about before, except that the pigs look way too happy when their town is being destroyed by a volcano so (say it with me) OH, OKAY.  I’m not seeing the charm.  A story doesn’t need words, but then the art needs to be perfect, and this isn’t.

Easy Readers!

National Geographic Kids: Halloween by Lauren Marsh is a level one reader that starts with a cute, if awkward, rhyme, then moves onto basic factual information about the holiday.  I liked it a lot, although I could have lived without the rhymes.

Was it Thea Feldman I liked so much?  The Kingfish level one Butterflies is really good!  It’s definitely going to be my go-to for little guys who want to learn about butterflies.  (Speaking of awkward rhymes…)

I Spy: School is about as awkward in fitting its topic as the other in this series have been.  Also, there are some serious fuzz/lighting issues which make it difficult to find some of the things.  Solid word games at the end, but didn’t love it.

Dixie and the School Trip by Grace Gilman is about a dog who gets to go everywhere despite it not making sense, and who breaks rules and gets praised for it. No no no no no no.

Splat Takes the Cake is still-creepy looking like all the other Splat books, but it didn’t bug me quite as much as the others do.  Maybe because it’s an Easy Reader?  Condensed Splat?  This is written by Amy Hsu Lin rather than Rob Scotton.  So it could be that, too.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Alvin Gets an A by Kirsten Mayer is a nice departure from the really irritating Alvin movie adaptations.  It’s drawn, with no creepy animation-style art, and is about Alvin solving a school dilemma—WITH SONG.  Aww, just like the old cartoon.  The old, irritating cartoon.  It’s a nice-and-easy level 2, too.

LALALOOPSY IS TOTALLY CREEPY AND I WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.  It’s like someone crossed the creepiest of Coraline with the worst of Strawberry Shortcake.  In School Day, a bunch of creepy-looking creepsters with ridiculous names talk about all sorts of neat stuff, if you didn’t want to scream every time you turned the page.  DEAD DEAD EYES…

Oh, here’s another series I don’t like: Pony Scouts.  In Trail Ride, the girls disobey and NOTHING HAPPENS (it’s like the Gilmore Girls discussing The Donna Reed Show), including any sort of punishment.  Sigh.

We got two Level 2 readers about, of all things, The Dark Knight Rises.  Guess what?  I enjoyed the movie (despite its flaws), but if your kid is too young to see a movie (and if they’re a level 2 reader, they are), he or she is too young to read books based on it.  For serious.  Let’s see how this works…Okay, so the first one is called Tools of the Trade, and it’s like a mashup of TDKR and Random Other Batman Stuff.  For one thing, it refers to Selina Kyle as “Catwoman,” a name that isn’t used in the movie AT ALL.  NOT ONCE.  Also, it stops before the Bane fight, which is probably because the next book is about Bane but mostly feels like “Sorry, we can talk about all these machines and a guy who punches people, but we can’t talk about back injury.”  (Bat injury?)  Jodi Huelin does as good of a job as she can, barring the weird non-canon mistakes, but STILL.  On to Bane.  OMGGGGGGGGGGG  I REFUSE TO GET INTO HOW MANY THINGS THEY ARE IGNORING/CHANGING AROUND TO MAKE IT KID-FRIENDLY.  SO RIDICULOUS.  No breaking of the Bat, either.  I think they don’t go that far into the story, AND FOR GOOD REASON.

Just don’t bother, companies.  Don’t bother.

Monster School: Fight Day Frights by Dave Keane IS charming!  And gross!  Grossly charming!  Norm is normal, which at Monster School is abnormal.  How can someone as normal as Norm fit in?  Kids will love this level 2 reader.

Amelia Bedelia, Cub Reporter has a lot of cute wordplays in it, unlike most of the Herman Parish Amelia Bedelia books.  There’s one that falls totally flat and ruins me loving this book (she’s supposed to be literal, remember?  Not Worth the Joke), but it was entertaining!

Non-fiction!

How Things Work in the House by Lisa Campbell Ernst is a really odd book, in that it doesn’t really seem geared for one age or another, making me wonder–who do I suggest this to?  Older kids with anxiety disorders?  Younger kids who want to learn really big words?  Some of the definitions I disagree with (like “cat”) and sometimes it’s oddly simple followed by oddly complex, one after the other (mirrors are simple, spoons are complicated?).  Still, it’s a really INTERESTING book, and I think the kids will like it, but I’m interested in seeing WHICH kids.

The Boston Tea Party, written by Russell Freedman (heh) and illustrated by Peter Malone, is a book that’s probably not going to be taken out much, because it’s written for the very oldest of my kids–the ones who don’t waaaant picture books.  It’s a book a parent would take out to read with a child, and I think there will be a lot of questions.  Or maybe it’s best read in a classroom setting; I don’t know.  But it has that scholarly quality to it.  It reminds me of some of the stuff I read as a kid, stuff that only cared if I could read it, not how much it entertained me.  Malone’s art is really good, except when he’s trying to draw teenagers–all the young men and old men look to be of an age.

My Very First Mother Goose, edited by Iona Opie and illustrated by Kindergator headache-inducer Rosemary Wells, is a good starter for Mother Goose.  There’s a lot of those really popular ones, and the ones we’ve forgotten or never heard.  (I was once told I MUST know one of these; I did not.  Sorry?)  For those children who are familiar with Wells, her pictures will enhance the book.  For those who aren’t–well, they’ll like it anyway, with all those fwuffy animals.

WHERE ARE WE GETTING THESE BOOKS?  Brave Little Starling by Don V. Booty is one of those tiny-publisher-or-we-pay-them books that I am not generally fond of.  This one doesn’t have a million typos (like other books I’ve mentioned) but it still has that weird, flat look to the colors, and honestly, in general, it looks like someone took photographs and then made them look fuzzy and/or (AND/OR) drew over them.  But the story itself is cute, about how two starlings build their nest in a traffic light tube, and then have babies, and then, at the VERY end, there’s a brave little one, which is kind of like–lead with it?  But whatever.  The non-fiction thing is a little odd too, but okay.  See how I let his name go?  That was very big of me.

Go, Go, Grapes! is the sequel to Rah, Rah, Radishes!, which I LOVE!  I am super-excited to see if there are any fruits I don’t know.  Let’s find out!  YESSSSSSSSSSSS and LOVE IT!!!  So happy.  April Sayre makes my day–cheers me up without making me feel too ignorant.  Although I know less of these than the veggies; I’d have to look some words up to make sure I was saying them right if I read them at storytime.

Aw man, and my last book has a dinosaur holding the ISBN.  Love it!  Tracey Fern’s Barnum’s Bones is about the discovery of the T. rex by Barnum Brown.  It’s suuuuper cool and the dinosaur-lovin’ crowd will eat it up.  I really like the art, too, by Boris Kulikov.  It’s old-timey but not so much that it will bore the kids.  I’m so happy to end on a good one today!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Cartoon Songs permalink
    August 26, 2012 11:43 pm

    First of all I would like to say superb blog!

    I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was interested to find out how you center
    yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing.
    I have had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my ideas out.

    I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are
    wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin.

    Any recommendations or hints? Thank you!

    • August 27, 2012 8:45 am

      The children’s book posts are simple because the books are right in front of me, and I need to catalog them for work anyway. (I have my own personal cataloging system as well as the library’s, for which I use Goodreads.)

      The other posts–I don’t. I’ve been sitting on one post for almost 9 months now. That’s pathetic.

      But I DO have a personal journal where I just WRITE, and that’s because I talk about my life and I have something to say. When you have something to say, you should be okay. You just go. If you’re not crazy about the beginning, that’s what “Save Draft” is for when you’re stuck. Go back to it later. It doesn’t have to be posted the second you write. But be clear about your intention–if you feel like you’re stuck, write your intention down on a slip of paper next to the computer. You should be answering the question “What am I trying to do/say here?” Say the answer is “Inform my readers about the books I just read.” Well, then you dive in, write until you feel finished, and then save the draft and walk away. Come back a little later and see if rereading your words will entice you to write something with more of an opening and a closing, but it may not be necessary. I used to do more intros to my book reviews; now, I don’t care. It’s more fun to get to it.

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