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McWib: More children’s book reviews

August 30, 2012

I guess I haven’t used that one yet? I probably have.

Non-fiction!

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers by Sarah Warren is a simply-told story of the life of a woman who fought for workers’ rights.  It’s a good book for introducting the concept of striking.  The illustrations, by Robert Casilla, left me confused as to WHEN it took place, but I guess that’s not a big deal.  Still, I had to look at the timeline.  It took me a while to figure out that a lot of time was passing during the course of the book, but sometimes I get wrapped up in the words and forget to look closely at the illustrations, so it could be that.

When Jackie and Hank Met by Cathy Goldberg Fishman is the story of Jackie Robinson and Hank Greenberg–two men in baseball who had to deal with prejudice.  Fishman does a great job of drawing parallels between the two men’s lives, and when they finally do meet, it’s not played for tension or climax, but told as straightforwardly as the rest of the story.  I really appreciate that.  Many illustrations in biographies look like they’re painted from photographs, and these, by Mark Elliott, are no different.  That kinda bugs me because I’d like to see something a little less static.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, retold by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand and illustrated in soft, warm colors by Tonya Engel doesn’t tell you any back story until the notes at the end, which…is a little weird for me.  I guess that’s cuz I’m white and used to dealing with white culture.  It’s like “Here’s the story!”  This is the story? “Yes, this is the story!”  But it’s so… “What?”  I dunno…religious?  “Well, it’s a religious story!”  I didn’t GET that it was going to be all ‘This is truth.’ “IT’S A RELIGIOUS STORY.”  Oh, right.  But even the book on St. Francis–“JUST TAG THE BOOK, WOMAN.”  There.  It’s tagged. 

I Have the Right to Be a Child by Alain Serres and illustrated by Aurelia Fronty is pretty French–what is with us getting all these French books lately?–but it rightfully points out that the US hasn’t agreed to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is…a pretty alarming fact to put into a children’s book, but since the focus of the end is “fight for it if you don’t have it, kiddos”…okay.

I, Too, Am America takes the Langston Hughes poem and collage work by Bryan Collier, and depicts the life of the Pullman porters.  I’m a little disappointed that in his end note, Collier spells out exactly what he’s doing with his art, but that’s okay.  It’s a children’s book.  It’s very well done.

Let’s Celebrate! Festical Poems From Around the World, edited by Debjani Chatterjee and Brian D’Arcy, is…a lot of poems.  And you know how I feel about poems.  I like the traditional ones best, but there are newer ones mixed in, all sorts of different rhyme schemes.  The art, by Shirin Adl, is beautiful in the background, but I don’t love her people, I have to say.

Nasty Bugs is a collection of poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Will Terry.  The poems are pretty descriptive in a gross/true way, and I must admit I didn’t make it through the book.  Because maggots and lice were coming up and stuff.  Couldn’t take it.  The pictures are almost too cartoony for the facts in the poems, and the poems are almost not-poemy in their factual…ness, but I bet there are kids out there who will love this book.

William Low’s Machines Go to Work in the City would be a cool book–with lots of neat fold-out pages–except that it has this “NO YOU ARE ALWAYS WRONG” sense to it.  “Question that seems like the answer is yes?”  “NO! This is the right answer instead.”  Also, it says that the “Big Flaps” are “perfect for little hands” but I gotta say, that last one’s going to be torn to shreds quickly.

Our House is Round: A Kid’s Book About Why Protecting Our Earth Matters is as akwardly done as it is titled.  The art, by Joan Brush, looks like it belongs in a brochure rather than a children’s book–too bright!  too cheerful!–but the whole book, by Yolanda Kondonassis, reads like a big brochure, except for the really bad poem at the end, right before the redone cast of Captain Planet says goodbye.  (The white boy has red hair!  The girl is blonde!  They’re missing Geordie but that’s okay.  I mean, Kwame.)

Another Marie Greenwood book here: Amazing Giant Dinosaurs.  Flaps and info and color color color!  (But they say they’re just picking colors on guesses, based on birds and stuff.)  I kind of skimmed because there are a LOT of facts jammed in here–it’s DK, after all–but I really like this one and I think the kids will too.  Technically, this one’s a board book but it’s big and I don’t think I’m going to put it in with the others.  Too flappy.

Hatchlings: Life-Size Baby Dinosaurs by Kelly Milner Halls, illustrated well by Adam Relf, says it’s facts, but it’s not facts.  It’s a lot of guesses, with no actual information to back it up.  It’s not “Scientists say…” it’s more like “IT COULD HAVE BEEN LIKE THIS.”

Picture books!

Hippos Go Berserk! by Sandra Boynton (more Boynton to come!) is a funny little counting book with rhymes and hippos and fun and more hippos.  I like Sandra Boynton.  I don’t know why we don’t have more.  But we will soon!

The Big Adventure of the Smalls by Helen Stephens gave me Flowers in the Attic flashbacks at first.  Big party!  Little kids!  Sneaking around!  I have to say, I think the story would’ve been a bit more effective with a different illustrator but it’s fun and I think kids will like it.

I can’t believe all these Christmas books are coming in already, but better now than the beginning of January (which could happen).  Barbie: A Perfect Christmas, has FOUR people doing the insipid drawings and tacky dresses, what the heck?  It’s from a video (I hate to say movie; sounds too classy), and you can tell because Justine Fontes has some problems shoehorning everything up.  I bet Skipper’s supposed to be “punk.”  Like the punk from the other Barbie book, where “punk” meant “colors in your hair.”  Dude, I ain’t punk and I’ve got colors in my hair every day.  Sigh.  Guess who will love it?  Fans of Barbie.  The end.

Santa Retires by David Biedrzycki is HILARIOUS.  And if the pictures feel a little static in their shininess, it’s FINE, because they work almost like postcards.  They’re not, but they still manage to give that feel (the size of the book, maybe?).  I loved this one.  Highly recommended.  A laugh on every page.

A Treasury of Princess Stories by Amy Ehrlich is has some oddities in the retellings–dwarfs, not dwarves kinda threw me off too, and Gary Blythe has drawn the dwarves to look like little boys, kinda, idk, weird?  At least the princesses aren’t all blonde and it’s got a good amount of stories, including non-Disney ones.  The pop-ups are great–the spinning wheel spins!  But the stories still have little weird things in them that are a storytelling thing, not a “here are the original details of the Grimm versions”-type issue.  I don’t love them.  I want to love them, but I don’t.

I guess these Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! books are in fiction because NO ONE TRUSTS THE CAT IN THE HAT TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH ABOUT ANYTHING.  I mean, he lives in a world with, like, snozzles or something.  Aye-aye took me a second to remember it was a real thing, and Trick-or-Treat! (flip side of the book; they do it like that) seems like a weird excuse to talk about what random animals eat–but only, like, three animals.  And it’s MEAN to call the aye-aye ugly.  MEAN.

Monster Mash by David Catrow is the actual song text with some pictures that I don’t think are fun enough to warrant being a book.  Maybe that’s just me.  Kids will probably like it.

Oliver by Judith Rossell is about a cute kid who has a lot of questions and wants to do a lot of things that he can’t do, so he imagines them instead, and it’s AWESOME.

Happy Like Soccer by Maribeth Boelts is about a girl who has to travel far just to play soccer, and the games are all on Saturdays, so her aunt can’t come see her.  Nothing makes her happy like soccer, but nothing makes her sad like it, either, when everyone else has someone to cheer them on but her.  This is a good book, and Lauren Castillo’s art–omg, the colors, the grays especially.  See, I don’t need all my art to be perfect, I just need it to FIT.  This fits.

Lori Mortensen’s Cindy Moo is about a cow who wants to jump over the moon, like in the rhyme.  But how can a cow jump over the moon?  Jeff Mack’s art is crisp and clear and colorful–you know, the way I usually like things–and I love it here because I think it goes so well with the silliness of the text.

James Proimos’s The Best Bike Ride Ever has utterly adorable art by Johanna Wright but I’m not really sure what the POINT of the story is.  However, I don’t think it matters.

Loooove the photos/characters combo in Diane Kredensor’s Ollie & Moon: Fuhgeddaboudit!  You know, like Knuffle Bunny.  Knuffle Bunnyyyyyy.  But the story’s like, “Eh.”  Are you trying to get the KID to laugh?  Because there are better books for that.  (I forget the title of the one that’s in the back of my head that I really like.  But there are.)

Mario Makes a Move by Jill McElmurry is…an okay book about a squirrel.  Acting out the moves would be fun, but I’m actually not crazy about the book.  The art’s okay too.  Wow, sorry.  I’m so good with words, yes?

Brave: One Perfect Day by Steve Purcell and Matt Nolte: a perfect example of how to do the movie tie-in.  1) It doesn’t use the animation from the movie.  It’s painted, and beautiful.  It allows the child to see the characters in another way.  2) The story does not retell the plot.  It’s not a sequel or a prequel.  It’s a lovely picture book that allows the child to discover Merida’s personality.  I’m really sad I haven’t seen Brave yet.  But such is my life right now.

Nikki McClure’s Apple is a red-on-black-and-white one-word-a-page story about the life and times of an apple.  I am enchanted by the starkness of the pictures and the bright of the red, but not so much the actual art of it.  I feel like–okay, you’re putting people on the page, but they are allowed no warmth, because all the color’s on the apple.  There’s information on the life cycle of apples and composting at the end.

Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops is probably a little too close to home right now.  My husband recently joined the military and a patron’s son is already being told he’s going to deploy right after training, so this may be my future.  Except the moving.  That’s not something we’re doing right now.  But my daughter’s older and, I think, a little more settled in who she is and what needs to be done.  This book follows Biden’s granddaughter (and, in part, grandson) through a deployment.  Great advice at the end of things you can say and do to help families with deployed soldiers.  More outstanding art from Raul Colon.

Oh good, something funny to cleanse the, uh, weeping.  Adam Rubin is here to tell us that Dragons Love Tacos.  This is a super-fun book–I need to do a dragon theme.  Daniel Salmieri’s illustrations cracked me up.  I feel better.  Thanks, guys!

Mole Had Everything, by Jamison Odone, is one of those anti-stuff books I like so much.  This one has a bit of quirk, a lot of color, and a happy, spare ending.

Um.  Isabel Abedi’s Farewell, Grandpa Elephant replaces a normal conversation about death with elephant characters, and it’s weird.  It’s weird because it seems like a weird way to present death, barely dipping into theology and barely giving any answers in any way.  It’s German, translated, and Miriam Cordes’s art is beautiful, but but but ELEPHANTS HAVING PEOPLE CONVERSATIONS ABOUT DEATH.  I don’t find this book comforting at all, just a bit surreal.

In case I needed another cheering-up book, I left Every Cowgirl Loves a Rodeo for last, because it’s so bright and fun-looking.  Rebecca Janni gives us the story of Nellie Sue, a suburban (?) cowgirl with a bicycle for a horse.    Lynne Avril makes every page fun.  I will use the word cute again, and I will mean it.

Easy Readers!

Splat the Cat: The Name of the Game is your usual Splat the Cat crap with a side order of ableist language.  [I like this link a lot; I chose it out of several for those who are unfamiliar with the term.  I haven’t seen Cars in forever and have no opinion on the movie, other than it’s the blandest of the Pixar movies I’ve seen.] Forget you, Amy Hsu Lin.

Nate the Great and the Boring Beach Bag is…wow, it’s been a while.  I didn’t remember Nate being…well, a jerk.  Or the people around him being jerks too.  So um, yeah.

So much for my happy ending.

I’m off to vacation.  Talk to you guys when I get back!

PS Joffrey Baratheon can diaf.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. rose49 permalink
    September 12, 2012 12:18 am

    Books having pictures are the best way to learn and get knowledge. Only by seeing these pictures, one can understand what the book is all about. They contain cartoon and natural pictures from real life.

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