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Children’s book reviews, third week of December

December 20, 2012

My husband comes home tonight!!!!


Janet Stevens’s Find a Cow Now! is the story of a dog who is restless, and his bird friend tells him to go find a cow to herd.  He doesn’t know what a cow is, but bird has heard they’re in the country, so he’s off on an adventure.  It’s a cute story, and I love Susan Stevens Crummel’s art, but I wasn’t quite feeling it today.

Pingo is creepy.  I haven’t read his first book, but I have Pingo and the Playground Bully, and I think it’s…uh, colorful and, um…yeah, no.  It’s bland, but Brandon Dorman’s stunning colors try to fool you into thinking Brandon Mull’s story is better than it is.  So…all the imaginary friends can see each other?  I don’t even know.  Anyway, Pingo is all, “Don’t compare imaginary friends!  Everyone is the best at what they do!” and then there’s a bully, late in the story, being bullying, and Pingo shoots them down and saves the day.  And doesn’t bask in the glory.  So the imaginary friends are…their own people?  Not an extension of the kids themselves?  I don’t even know, and it’s hard to bring myself to care too much.

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Illinois is slightly better than the other one I read, and we’re looking at different authors too, but Gina Bellisario still has problems blending the sheer amount of information with a child’s voice.  It’s no Harold Square, I tell you what.  Jeffrey Ebbeler’s art is fantastic, though.

The Herd Boy is an excellent book by Niki Daly, but I don’t know if it’s going to go out.  It’s the story of a boy and his herd, and follows him through a day.  It is pretty mellow even when there is danger, I have to say–or I’m just tired, I don’t know.  Either way, I think it’s one of those books that’s going to fly under the radar here.  Too bad.  There is a pronunciation guide in the back for all the Dutch, Afrikaans, Xhosa, etc words.  It assumes nothing, and gives everything, including a sense of pride and hope and the knowledge of another culture.  What could be better than that?

Hmm.  What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf? isn’t a learn-about-time book.  It’s sort of a semi-fractured fairy tale, and it’s clever but not clever enough, since there’s no real story going on.  Just a bunch of time-telling wandering until the end.  There are bits and pieces that kids might like though–picking out which characters are from which fairy tales–I feel like I felt the same general blah-ness about Debi Gliori’s last book I read, too.

Demolition by Sally Sutton, with excellent art by Brian Lovelock, has a musical quality to it that makes it capable of being read in several ways–kind of a “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” way, or a jazzy way, or a fun way.  I think it’s great.  The kids seem to love it too.

Easy Readers!

Level One:

Hey, my first post-watching-Brave book.  Oh Brother! sort of focuses on the triplets, sort of focuses on the story, and has a lot of Merida.  Not a good adaptation but kids will like reading it because it’s the triplets. I don’t think I usually like Apple Jordan anyway.  Merida looks especially tall on the cover, actually through the whole book, but that could just be me.

Amelia Bedelia Sleeps Over is one of those Young Amelia books by Herman Parish.  (Really?  He’s not just coasting?  Also, he lives a short drive away?  I’m conflicted!)  The literal-minded Amelia Bedelia is, in her own way, adorable, but this series does not gel with the adult Amelia.  While being literal-minded is often part of being a child, it’s hilarious and bizarre as an adult.  The old Amelia had learned, but if she was that bad as a kid, why had she never heard these expressions?  It’s just…jarring.  Anyway, that’s a thing.  Cute for those kids unfamiliar with the original Amelia, or too young to care.

My Little Pony: Tutus and Toe Shoes is one of those annoying books that has pictures where words should be (HOW does that help kids to read?) and gives the false impression that you can pretty much be a ballerina without much effort at all.  Ugh.  That’s not even with my natural hatred of the whole My Little Pony thing in play.

Ponies on Ice is the same thing with ice skating.

Very Lucky Ponies starts out promising, despite the pictures where the words should be (yes, I know what they’re called), and then the end sucks.  AND THEN THEY ATE PIE UNDER A RAINBOW.  Jesus.

Ughhh, two more.

The Greenest Day is probably the most inane book about recycling I’ve ever read, and in this one Lyn Fletcher’s ponies look anorexic.  Greaaaat.

WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY GRADUATING *FROM* in Caps in the Air.  Pony loses cap.  Pony mopes.  Nothing happens and then she’s fine about it.  Dear God.

The Super Secret Adventure Club by George Clements seems like a lot of work for a very little punchline.  It’s so short, it barely does anything–is it setting up a series?  I like his art.  I’d like to have seen the characters do more, but I know–it’s just a level one.

I may watch too much Top Gear (is there such a thing?) but Hot Wheels: Extreme Stunts didn’t bother me, even though it’s all action and no actual, like, content?  I don’t even know.  It’s written by ACE LANDERS, who I feel needs a nap in all caps.  Cars do things.  Book is over.  Kids who like extreeeeeme things will like this.  Everyone else will be all “Eh.”  At least it doesn’t read like a commercial.

Level Two:

A new copy of the original Amelia Bedelia!  So quirky and cute!  So…um…yeah.  Really?  Some literal-minded woman wrecks your house and you’re like “Yum, pie!”?  Huh. By Peggy Parish with illustrations by Fritz Siebel.

Monsters, Inc: Boo on the Loose by Gail Herman is a cute alternate-history version of Monsters, Inc.  It’s where a trip to the park creates a bond between Boo and Sully that makes everything better.  No bad guys, no nothing.  Where did this story come from?  Will kids like it even though it doesn’t follow the movie?  It doesn’t really feel like it’s a later adventure.  It really is just different from the movie.  Weird.  The art is cute; it’s not just movie stills or copies of movie stills.  It’s its own thing, like a Little Golden Book.

Fishing: A Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventure by Keith Baker is great!  Mrs. Green is upset because she hasn’t caught any fish, but she keeps trying until she finds the right thing to change her “luck.”  Adorabibble.  The Talent Show is great too!  Mr. Green is just the right combination of sweet and silly without, so far, falling into the Homer Simpson trap of being Some Dumb Male that Some Female Puts Up With.

I never watched past the first Cars, so I don’t know if this has anything to do with the second movie, but it says “adapted by Chelsea Eberly,” so maybe?  What if there’s a Cars show and I don’t even know about it?  Oh well.  I can’t know everything.  But I can READ everything!  Mater and the Little Tractors is a simple story of how Mater saves the day from a bunch of rampaging kids.  Yay, Mater! …Yeah, Cars was never my thing.

Cinderella by Melissa Lagonegro is as straightforward a telling of the movie as can be.  Good for those who are looking for accuracy, as far as I remember.  Which, admittedly, it’s been a few decades at this point, I think.

All right, that’s a lot, time to GO GET MY HUSBAND FROM THE TRAIN STATION.


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