Children’s books, second week of December (continued)
Seriously, I got a lot of books this week.
Martha T. Ottersley’s The Muppets: Kermit’s Costume Caper has no caper, and isn’t really about Kermit, and has some funny jokes, and one good flap and one awkward flap. So, pretty much par for the course, if the course only contains the two new Muppet books I’ve discussed. They’re about as good as the new Muppet voices–not bad, but I was expecting so much more.
Charley’s First Night is pretty cute but…I dunno. Maybe I’m not in the mood for cute today? It’s TOO cute for me. Too sweet, like having too much sugar and then feeling hungover. (Everyone gets like that, right?) Helen Oxenbury illustrated this book by Amy Hest, and of course the pictures are lovely. I bet kids will love this one.
The Year of the Snake: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac is another offering from Oliver Chin and Jennifer Wood. These stories are bland, with cutesy art that I sometimes like and sometimes don’t. (I think we can come down on the side of “I like it but maybe not for this series.”) I don’t like these books, I think they’re a waste of time, but a couple of people take them out, so…yeah. In this one, a snake is very very helpful for reasons I cannot figure. Is the snake representative of children born in the year of the snake, sacrificing and sacrificing for people who don’t care? Huh, nevermind. I’m a Snake too and I don’t want to think about it.
Brenda A. Ferber’s The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever is about a sometimes-rhyming (you KNOW how I feel about that) Valentine that does not want to be given to its recipient. Why? Well, because, love is yucky. Candy’s great, but love? Yucky. This is pretty cute–despite the Gingerbread Man sometimes-rhyming–but Tedd Arnold’s art drives me batty in it! It’s all heads! Giant, enormous heads! Taking up the whole page! Bleh.
Michael Rosen has a new book, and it’s overly simple and, frankly, too big for its story, literally. The book is pretty large, but the text is so basic that it’s like…eh. It’s called Happy Harry’s Cafe, and very little happens. Yup. I like the art by Richard Holland but…eh. I imagine Michael Rosen inhabits a completely different world than I.
Oh, good, more Smurfs. Peyo brings us Marry Me, Smurfette!, a book that claims FORTY STICKERS, most of which are little hearts. What a let-down. So’s the story. But if I remember correctly, Smurf fans don’t need a lot to be happy, so…there you go.
The Story of Hanukkah by David A. Adler and illustrated by Jill Weber is the basic, yes-people-died go-to book for the holiday. It includes a latke recipe and the rules for playing with your dreidel.
Drummer Boy of John John by Mark Greenwood and Frane Lessage is an early story of Winston “Spree” Simon (not that you can tell that from the cover). It’s all about how he finds a way to make music despite being in poverty. Lots of sounds to make and recreate, and can inspire children to make their own instruments at home.
Rabbit’s Snow Dance by James & Joseph Bruchac with awesome art by Jeff Newman is the story of how Rabbit lost his tail. It’s also the story of pussy willows and why we don’t have snow in the summer. It’s a great tale–no pun intended–of patience and listening. Yup, I liked this one a lot.
Fun with Plex is a Yo Gabba Gabba! pre-level one reader by Orli Zuravicky. I don’t know anything about Yo Gabba Gabba! except that it looks terrifying, but I guess this book is annoyingly repetitive but fine for what it is. Lots to do, and all that. Also…are those the Aquabats???
Splat the Cat: The Rain is a Pain by Amy Hsu Lin is um–well, it’s Splat. And in this level one ER, Splat has a family and actual backgrounds in his pictures (art by Robert Eberz, not creator Rob Scotton), so this is better than the usual Splat. Splat wants to play outside, but it’s a rainy day, and he ends up getting in everyone’s way. Kids will like this one. Splat is much more endearing as a cat-child than a…whatever he is in the regular books. Irritating.
Zonderkidz, a company I usually dislike for reasons I’ll get into, has a level one series called The Princess Parables, which is by far the best thing I’ve read by them yet. In Princess Joy’s Party, Joy lives in a world where even the village children dress very well, and she invites them to her birthday party because her rich friends can’t make it. It is not a great story, but it’s still miles ahead of The Princess Twins. However, Zonderkidz is doing no one any favors by making the world bright and shiny and sort of unspecified as to when and where, and ONCE AGAIN, the Bible verse before the story begins is super-awkward, but the actual use of religion in the text is excellent. (Unlike The Princess Twins.) This gives me some hope for Veggie Tales. We’ll find out in a second. First: Princess Grace and Poppy is the story of how Grace is a klutz and she loses her cat. Okay, not as good as Joy’s story, but still. The verse fit, at least. Princess Charity’s Golden Heart is um, the story of helping someone who got hurt (really? the groom is her “friend”?), Princess Faith’s Garden Surprise cements the idea that these girls have way too many pets (and oddly unnecessary moments of eh–is this a video set or something?) and shoehorns in some more verses and now I’m starting to lose my faith, no pun intended, in this series. Finally, Princess Hope and the Hidden Treasure is—weird, but if you ignore the weirdness (how did the–never mind), then it’s a treasure hunt story which is well enough. But again, the verse…the verse. And she has a LAMB. Oh okay. Five kittens, a horse, a bunny, and a dog aren’t enough. On to Veggie Tales.
Yesss, Princess Petunia (no relation) and the Good Knight by Karen Poth, is a cute story! With a good moral! And the verse works! And it’s Veggie Tales! Whew. Pirate in Training is good too! Junior wants to be a pirate, in part because he doesn’t want to go to school, but the Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything prove that they actually do things. Gasp! Hee, Veggie Tales.
Wreck-It Ralph: Game On! is a level two reader by Susan Amerikaner. Usually, when I read these movie-to-book ERs, I have not seen the movie in question, and I’m looking for a sense of story and clarity. However, I have seen Wreck-It Ralph–twice!–and so I can’t be impartial, but the readers aren’t going to be anyway. This is too new to care whether it’s a good introduction; those who have seen the movie are going to read it. So how does it stack up? Quite well, I think! (Disclaimer: I love the movie. I looooove the movie.) It introduces the characters with a simple line a piece. It describes the story but does not give away an important part of the ending. It doesn’t have some of the movie’s scariest elements, and completely ignores one of the main characters, but I wonder if these are good things–for those few children unable to watch the movie but are allowed to read the book, there are still many more things to discover. Maybe it’s a little confusing at the end, because it’s got one of those “we’re only going to briefly mention the bad guy,” but I wonder–is that a terrible thing? The only thing I’m not crazy about is that the resolution ignores the bad guy entirely, even though there are two lines about him in the book. If children draw a conclusion about the end of the story themselves based only on this book, they’re going to be missing a lot. It’s interesting how this book can tell a story and it’s the story of Wreck-It Ralph, but it’s missing so much, and yet…it’s a story. So I guess this is a good way of doing it. Leave something for the audience to discover. (I wish the Brave books had done that.) Create a perspective of the movie that is simple enough for children without sacrificing the ability to put together a storyline. Um…yeah.
Wedgieman: A Hero is Born is by Charise Mericle Harper (Fashion Kitty) and Bob Shea (Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet/Dinosaur Vs), and so of course I like it. Wedgieman is really Veggieman but the neighborhood kids don’t care. Never mind his wonderful back story of eating all these veggies and ending up with superpowers–a random stick determines that he is, indeed, Wedgieman. Looking forward to other titles in this level-three series to see where this one is going.
Three Stories You Can Read to Your Dog by Sara Swam Miller, illustrated adorably by True Kelley, is GREAT. It’s all about the dog (great use of the second person–maybe the ONLY use of the second person I’ve really liked) and has topics like bones, and burglars, and exploring. There’s an intro to let the reader know how to read the stories to the dog (with lots of petting). So cute. No level number given.
All right, that’s enough for now. Next up: week three and a LOT of books.