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Easy as Pie: New children’s ERs

February 6, 2013

Level one, go!

I always tell my parents to check the levels, and remember that levels differ from company to company.  But they also differ within companies too.  Step Into Reading’s level ones go from one to two words a page to simple sentences, sometimes more than one per page.  That’s a big difference!  So make sure you’re looking through them before you check them out for your new reader.

Bambi’s Hide-and-Seek by Andrea Posner-Sanchez is a very simple one, and cute, and effective.  Isn’t that all the book needs?  Well, with the hook of having a Disney character in it.  (Should’ve saved that for Peter Pan, made a pun.  Opportunity lost.)  The art, by Isidre Mones, is oddly flat and textured, like paintings transferred to the page.  I really should learn more about art.  But yeah, Bambi: recommended.

Dog Days, a Team Umizoomi book “by” Clark Stubbs (who did the episode, not this, I hope someone got paid), teaches me little to nothing about Team Umizoomi, but I’m not the intended audience.  I did notice that the boy character does everything and the girl character, though in the scenes, is never named.  So.  Yeah.

I’ve got two level one Curious George books.  One called Librarian for a Day, which is about an idiot who decides to leave a monkey in charge of a library, and Dance Party, which is actually really good and deals with George’s friend being afraid to go to a dance party because he doesn’t know how to dance.  Don’t worry, everything turns out okay.  But yeah, the first is supposed to be about “organization” and the second about “patterns.” I thought it was “overcoming fear,” but hey, that works too, I guess.  Plus, you can learn the box step.  Then you can teach your kids the Cha-Cha slide.

Fancy Nancy’s world of consumerism hits critical mass in Too Many Tutus, by Jane O’Connor (with the art by Robin Preiss Glasser–just the cover this time–and Ted Enik).  Nancy’s got so much imagination that even things that don’t fit her anymore can be used for SOMETHING, but that doesn’t help her closet door close.  Her school, however, is having a swap, and the idea of NEW tutus is better than OLD tutus, and she learns a lesson in, um, growing up, giving, and replacing old things with newer things.  As always, good for vocabulary, bad for simplicity.  I have to recommend it, though, because I’m always pro-getting rid of your stuff.

Dragon Goes Ice Skating is another dragon book with ugly, fuzzy art.  I don’t know why they make these things.  But I guess kids like them.

Fast Kart, Slow Kart is a Wreck-It Ralph concept book by Apple Jordan. Now, I’m going to like Wreck-It Ralph stuff no matter what, because it was my favorite movie of last year, but this is a good concept book.  It doesn’t give away any plot points (purposely), and focuses instead of the concept while choosing actual events from the movie.  So I’m all for that!

The Best Doghouse Ever is a Bubble Guppies book.  I have no idea what a Bubble Guppy is, but they have no names and don’t actually do any work–that’s left to the sea creatures that are actual sea creatures.  Oh, Nick.  Do something right, okay?  Even assuming the audience, there isn’t much going on here to let you know ANYTHING.

I Love My Mami! is a Dora the Explorer level one without Boots or Swiper or Map–my favorite kind!  It’s a simple little “my day with my mother” book, and then you have that added Dora bonus. Judy Katschke has created the most tolerable Dora book ever.

Monsters Munch Lunch! by Abigail Tabby, with illustrations by Louis Womble, is actually my least favorite Sesame Street book ever.  Some of the word choices–in a book that has so few words to begin with–are iffy.  It tries to tell a story, but it doesn’t quite work.  A level one needs to be succinct, and this could’ve been stronger.  Oh well.

Christy Webster gives us Peter Pan, which boils everything down from the movie into simple, two- and three-word sentences.  I actually think it’s an excellent job and the pictures give good contextual clues as to what’s going on.

Am I biased towards things I already like?  (Although my preference for Peter Pan is the one from the 2000s, not the Disney.)

Oh my gosh.  I always thought Phonics Comics must be good because parents take them out all the time, but I just read Pony Tales and it’s awful.  I mean, really.  I was making up better stories when I was seven (ask my sister).  The art is awkward and has weird outlines around it.  Why?  It looks like it was made with stickers.

Okay, okay, but I have two others.  I’m crossing my fingers that I like at least one of them.

Okay, so then we have Teeny Genie, which starts weak and ends funny, but the art, by C.S. Jennings, doesn’t work for me. Too samey.  Heyyy, it was written by Judy Katschke too!

Aaaand back to bleh for Princess School.  Needs more words or…something else.  The first story–about a princess who isn’t fancy or neat or anything proper–is good, but then…it’s hard to care.  Because it’s awful.  “A real princess never gets scared.”  So…she’s not a real princess?  Whatever.

Pinkalicious: Fairy House by Victoria Kann does not seem to give Pinkalicious a unique voice.  She could be any kid who wants desperately to see fairies.  And what did she actually see at the end?  I have no idea.   Making a fairy house sounds cool but that’s pretty much all I took away from this book.  And I don’t believe in fairies (sorry, Tink) so…I’d rather just have a dollhouse anyway.  This is a harmless one for your little girl reader who doesn’t know that there are other colors besides pink.

Finally, Truck Trouble, a non-fiction level one.  The Goodreads description says “hilarious,” but um, only if you’re really mean.  It’s pretty text-heavy for a level one, too.  But it’s good, with photographs and an overview of the things that can go wrong with trucking.

Level two, go!

Barbie: I Can Be a Baby Doctor makes me fairly sick.  First off, a “baby doctor”?


Take two snuggles and call me in the morning.

They also say “baby nurse.”


Finally, Scooby Doo scrubs make SENSE.

Also, it took THREE PEOPLE to draw characters this bland and expressionless.

I really hate Barbie books now.  I mean, I wasn’t always thrilled, but I thought the ones where they photographed the dolls were neat.  Now it’s like, how can we dumb things down for those dumb, pink-loving girls?  And add in things to buy?

Also, ALL THE BABIES NAP AT THE SAME TIME.  That’s hilarious.

Oh, and breast feeding?  Possibly there, but hidden behind bottles and gaps in time.

One day I’ll be able to recommend a Barbie book again.  This is not that day.

Spongebob Squarepants gives us a good one and a “huh?” one in Dancing with the Star (Alex Harvey, Stephen Reed) and The Great Train Mystery (David Lewman, The Artifact Group) respectively.  In the former, there’s a dancing contest and Patrick wants to enter but is afraid.  Spongebob helps him gain confidence.  In the latter…well, you have a mystery, except the book acts like you need to watch the episode to find out what happened.  So…not helpful, guys.  But you know kids may not complain.  The twists are funny, anyway.

My co-worker complained about DC Super Friends: Bizarro Day! and I have to agree.  Bizarro no speak normal–I mean, he doesn’t speak in opposites.  Also, co-worker asks why they all look so buff.  I said they’re probably based on toy designs.  Batman looks too cheerful for me, but hey.  Since the Timmverse sorta ended, my life hasn’t been the same.  I’ll take whatever I can get.

Tem Umizoomi: Super Soap ACTUALLY TELLS YOU WHAT THE GIRL’S NAME IS!  And her function on the team, too!  So there’s that.  But still…IDGI.  And I don’t really care.  (And her function is so…passive.)

Phonics Comics again!  The Fearless Four.  Again, not suuuuper crazy about the art (no pun intended).  There’s something missing, or there’s too much, or whatever.  Lots of boxes=cluttered art?  But the stories are cute.  Four friends become The Fearless Four when needed, including The Whiner.  Heh.  I know which one my kid would’ve been at that age.  This one would make a cute TV show.  Do they do that?  Hiro: Dragon Warrior seems like it was MADE to be a TV show.  Each of the three books we got–Dragon Warrior, Battle at Mount Kamado, and Flight or Fight–has flaws, and they’re definitely not great books, but the little kids reading them probably will just be like “Woo! Fighting!  Stuff!  Powers!”

Oh, so maybe it’s not so bad.  Barbie in The Pink Shoes: Ballet Dreams is about magical ballet slippers but otherwise, it’s not so bad.  For serious.  The lead’s hair turns FROM BLONDE TO SOMETHING ELSE (so of course she isn’t Barbie, but whatever) and something something ballet.  Look, I’m not going to say it’s high literature, but at least they aren’t shopping all the time.  They still live in a world where no one has a different body shape, but maybe that’s a doll thing?

So I guess Bubble Guppies is like Snorks without personality, or maybe that’s the Easy Readers doing that.  In The Spring Chicken, a chicken fish in sunglasses Groundhogs his way into spring by sighting the first blooming flower…look, it doesn’t make the most sense ever, but I’m guessing the kids who watch the show will like it.

Thomas and the Shark is a story about Thomas the Tank Engine (another one that never really had much of a personality to me) and, well, a shark delivery.  Thomas fans will love this one because–shark!

No one ever mentions the usual relationship between worms and birds in Lowly Worm Meets the Early Bird (originally titled The Early Bird).  But hey, it’s Richard Scarry, so what do you expect?  Cats and dogs, living together, am I right?  It’s a “Are you a worm?  Are you a worm?” kind of book, and it’s cute and harmless.  Once the bird finds the worm?  Sleepover time!  So…cute.

Wow, I didn’t remember the Alice in Wonderland book to be so different from themovie, but Disney: Alice in Wonderland is all movie and it’s way different, but well-adapted byPamela Bobowicz.  I would’ve added a few more words, but they probably have regulations against that.

Ha!  The description on Goodreads for Twin Magic: Lost Tooth Rescue is “GLITTER ON THE COVER.”  I had to move the book around under the light a lot before I realized where the glitter was.  Not a selling point.  This is the story of twins who move to a new town and make new friends and help one of their new friends find her lost tooth.  But then, for no reason that makes sense, they have to take the form of SUPER TWINS or whatever and use their POWERS to do something that could have been accomplished by a chair.  Weird.

Huh?  “It weighs about two and a half ounces, which is about the size of a chicken’s egg.”  I didn’t know we weighed things by size???  That’s from Itty-Bitty Animals by Joan Emerson, and the cuteness factor helps make up for the utter stupidity of that line.  Maybe.

Surprising Swimmers is an informative if sort of busy book by Emma Ryan, with a description of the (sometimes) surprising animals that like to take a dip.  Kids will like knowing these things, but not all of them were very surprising, especially if the child has ever been to a zoo or aquarium.

Finally, PUPPIES!  Mixed-Up Pups by Ed Masessa avoids the whole “weaknesses created by designer hybrid” issue (although it does say “designer” and “hybrid”) and instead sells–I mean tells–us about the combo dogs.  Some are SO FREAKIN’ CUTE.  But the whole thing reads like an advertisement, so best suggested to kids who are looking to make a pet choice.

That’s it for ones and twos.  I don’t have nearly as many threes, fours, and unnumbereds, so we can do that next time.

Until then…ughhh, my brain hurts.

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