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You knew this was going to happen: new children’s books

March 29, 2013

I was going to ignore the two new books I got today, until I realized it wasn’t only two.  (I ASKED if there were more than two, and was told “I don’t see any.”  There were more than two.)


Sofia the First is based on a Disney show, I think, which you can tell, because it’s as flat as most “from the episode” books.  I really wanted to like it, and the art is cute, but fairly uninspired as well.  Basically, it’s there to make kids who watch a lot of TV read.  It is not there to be a good story.  So it should just have had TV show art, I think.  Disney people, you need to talk to the person who did the Brave: One Perfect Day book to see how it’s done.

Allen Ahlberg’s The Goldilocks Variations, or Who’s been snooperink in my woodootog? is…insane.  Seriously.  It’s batcrazy.  It’s all difficult-to-pull tabs and pop-ups and the stories are wonderfully madcap and wild.  First, you have Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Then 33 Bears.  Then Aliens.  Then a play which is a book within a book (heh), with its own pop-ups and whatnot and…it just keeps going and being sillier and more wonderful.  I loved it.  Jessica Ahlberg’s art is adorable, but it’s really the way the book is presented that takes that to a whole other level.  It really shows you what children’s books can do.

WAHHHHH! Sheri Sinykin’s Zayde Comes to Live is a sweet, sad story of a girl and her grandfather, who’s moved in because his time is almost up.  She learns and comes to terms with his death, and the traditions of her religion and the religions of her friends.  So good, so helpful.  I wasn’t sure about Kristina Swarner’s art at first, but of course the softness is perfect for the story.  Duh.

Virginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is an oldie but goodie that I don’t remember ever reading before.  It’s from the 1930s but is far less annoying then The Little Engine That Could.  There’s a reason the classics are classics, I suppose, and of course, hey, anything with building, digging, etc.

Bunnies on Ice is about a cute but full-of-herself little rabbit who looooves ice skating, but is sadly an anthropomorphized rabbit so she has to wait until winter to get snotty about her supposed talents, instead of always having a rink nearby.  But she has a scarf.  Come on, bunnies!  Industrialize!  For serious, it’s really cute, even if the bunny’s a brat.  Text and art by Johanna Wright.

Aaron Meshon’s Take Me Out to the Yakyu is fantastic!  You get to see side by side how baseball is in America and Japan–the sounds, the food, the different game play.  The language is simple enough for any child to follow along with, but never feels repetitive.  And then you’ve got a couple of extras at the end which teaches you even more, hurray!  Highly recommended!

Grumpy Goat has great art, a grumpy goat, and some awwww moments.  What else do you need from a children’s book?  Something to laugh at, something to warm your heart, something that catches the eye.  And a grumpy goat.  Brett Helquist makes some really clever art choices here–the title page made me laugh aloud with delight.  Another book I can recommend wholeheartedly.

Eva Moore’s Lucky Ducklings feels like Make Way for Ducklings, and acts like Make Way for Ducklings (if I remember it correctly, which who knows?), and has this old-fashioned feel to it, and I liked it.  It’s based on a true story, and kids dig that, right?  RIGHT?  Maybe they can then Google the story and see if anyone took a picture of the actual ducks in question?  Look, the book may be old-fashioned but I’m not.

Carole Lexa Schaefer’s Monkey and Elephant Get Better is like Gerald and Piggie mixed with Timon and Pumbaa, but nowhere near as funny.  Basically, Gerald & Piggie if they were written for a younger, less savvy audience.  Cute, though, in sort of a chilled way.  Galia Bernstein’s art has a lot to do with that.

Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein has the feeling of a true story, but doesn’t cite its sources.  It’s pretty much Lucky Ducklings, but funnier.  Ol’ Mama Squirrel scares off anything that she thinks might be a threat to her babies–dogs, bears, kites.  Hee.


Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack Prelutsky, with sometimes cool, sometimes creepy illustrations by Carin Berger, is actually quite good for a poetry compilation.  Some of the poems are inspired; others are good but not as good as the rest, you know?  Stardines, bluffaloes, plandas, etc. Hee.  Good for National Poetry Month.  I should make a display before I go.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike of 1909 is the story of Clara Lemlich, a girl off the boat from…um…and then she works a lot and apparently learns English (which I got from the description on Goodreads, not the book itself)…look, it’s not perfect.  But it sort of works to help kids have their eyes open about how children used to be treated.  (New way to make your kids stop being so selfish: “If this were 1908, you’d be in a factory right now!”  Oh wait, you can still say that about overseas sweatshops…)  So yeah, Michelle Markel’s book isn’t perfect, and neither is Melissa Sweet’s art–sometimes Clara looks young, sometimes she doesn’t.  LOVE the picture of the girls in the factory all crammed together and the stitches around the pictures, but like I said, I wish there were a less childish-looking, more CHILD-looking Clara consistently through the book.  This is going right in my Women’s History Month display, of course.

Good Manners at Home, Good Manners in Public, and Good Manners on the Phone came in today.  These books, by Katie Marsico, don’t really work hard to make sure children understand why they need good manners, but they do an adequate job of giving examples of good manners, at least, and that’s what I was looking for when I ordered them.  John Haslam’s art is generic and even looks a bit dated already–another thing I knew going in–but hey.  Even the amazing facts aren’t often amazing.  But the books fill a gap.  Sort of.  They fill in a section that needed refills, at least.  Good Manners on the Phone is the strongest one, with a clear script on how to take a message and whatnot.

Jean Craighead George’s The Eagles are Back is the story of a kid who saw the bald eagles die off and come back, and his role in helping to save them.  It gets a little explain-y, but I guess that’s why it’s in the non-fiction section and not the fiction.  Gorgeous paintings by Wendell Minor.

Okay, I really tried to read Valerie Worth’s Pug and Other Animal Poems, but honestly?  They don’t seem to be written for the little kids who browse my section, and I’m bored. Steve Jenkins’s art is pretty cool.

Easy Readers!

Lego DC Universe Super Heroes: Super-Villains is another sure-you’re-selling-things-but-I-can’t-tell Lego book by Victoria Taylor.  Hello, Catwoman!  Hello, Harley!  Hello, Ivy and her curves!  (She doesn’t have the drawn-in wasp waist I was expecting.)  Happy happy!

Yay!  Veggieman!  I mean, Wedgieman to the Rescue!  Shea is back in my heart again!  This is the origin and defeat of Bad Dude, and I love how Wedgieman will beat him down but not give him a wedgie.  I mean, come on, man, that’s just evil.  So yeah, I like this series, it’s goofy fun.

Of course I do.  SUPERHEROES.

…Oh, that’s it.  I’m done here forever.


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