Showing posts with label young children's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label young children's. Show all posts

Friday, September 22, 2017

The ABC Animal Picnic by Janina Rossiter


Rating: WORTHY!

Note that this is an advance review copy. In honor of full disclosure, I should say that I while I am not a personal friend of the author's, I was asked by her if I would review this one, and I freely confess that I was happy to do so having had on balance, such a good experience with her books in the past.

It would be easy to favor this one for the sake of past positive perspective (get used to the alliteration - it's in the book!), but I honestly believe she would not appreciate it if I did so on that basis, and I certainly would not rate a book positively were it one I had not felt was worth reading. Fortunately for both of us, she made it very easy for me to not only really like this one, but to feel sure it was a worthy read in terms of educational value for children.

It was gorgeously-illustrated to begin with, which engendered positive feelings about it before I had begun really getting into it. The illustrations - by the author - truly are remarkable. I know a few graphic novel artists who could take a page of out Janina Rossiter's artbook! I wish I had her talent.

Whereas many children's artists are content to draw simplistic pictures, these line drawings of assorted animals, and they were very assorted, were very realistic. Usually you get only mammals in a book like this but while fish and amphibians were not present, the often neglected insects were represented, as well as one from the even more often neglected, yet crucially important Annelida phylum. We also got molluscs and even Cnidaria! Try saying that when you have an allergy going on! These drawings honestly would not have looked out of place in a Victorian-era natural history book, although they were rather more playful here, than you'd find in a book like that!

The book is aimed at helping children with their ABCs, so each four-word sentence alliterates on the key letter. The first, for example, is Andy Ant Adores Apples. I don't normally do this, but I'm going to give a huge spoiler here: the last letter is Z! There I did it! Can you guess which animal that is? I also loved the British spelling of Yoghurt, although I am sure she didn't put that in there for my benefit!

Each illustration is set in a brightly-colored background that looks like water-color, and it makes the image even more striking. There are commonly-known animals and much lesser-known ones which was appreciated, and they were not all tied to mammals, although those were prevalent. To be honest, I'm quite sure that one of them is mythical, although I am equally sure that many of us wish it were not!

So overall I am happy to rate this as a worthy read and recommend it: buy it for the educational value, Keep it for the artwork. If you can interest your kids in learning to draw like this, then you will definitely kit them out to have a career as a children's book illustrator, graphic novel artist or whatever they want! The sky isn't even the limit - and isn't that what we all want for our children?


Friday, September 15, 2017

Phones Keep Us Connected by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld, Kasia Nowowiejska


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a great little children's book about the history of phones, including how they work, and how they've been developing and changing over time. It's done in a simple (but not too simple!) and colorful way that will allow any child of the appropriate age range to understand it.

It includes simple instructions to make your own phone (the cup and string method!) and ways to experiment with your design to see if your 'improvements' make it perform better or worse. I think this is a pretty darned good book to get your kids interested in science and experimentation as well as educate them about a small, but ubiquitous piece of technological history. The book is diverse and fun, and nicely done. I recommend it.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Princess in My Teacup by Sally Huss


Rating: WORTHY!

Sally Huss has almost consistently turned out, in my experience, works of originality, upbeat attitudes, educational in equal measure with colorful and bright, and with fun rhymes to boot. Thus one merely continues her proud tradition.

One could argue here that this is aimed at white female audiences, and plays heavily into the Disney Princess syndrome, which are negatives, but we cannot have every book flooded with every type of person and every kind of wish for our children. There simply isn't room. One simple theme, well-presented with one simple message is fine, and it's up to parents and guardians to seek and pursue diversity by buying (or checking out of the library) a diversity of books! It's really not rocket science! Please don't always expect all options to be covered in one short children's book!

This little girl begins seeing a princess in reflected surfaces: a cup of tea, a bowl of soup, a filled bathtub, and so on. The princess always wants her to do something. The things she wants her to do are always aimed at helping other people: befriending them, being nice to them and thoughtful of them, and each time she does this, the girl helps and thinks she's seen the last of the princess, but the princess never leaves her. I think perhaps you know why. This was delightful, short and easy read, and I recommend it.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Bear and Squirrel by Elsa Takaoka, Catherine Toennisson


Rating: WORTHY!

This team of writer (Takaoka )/illustrator (Toennisson) had a .75 batting average with me, and that's now gone up to .80 with this one, so it's a pretty good record, although in the interests of full disclosure, I tend to be a lot more lenient with young children's books than I do when rating more grown up material.

I love squirrels; not so keen on bears, but this one was a fun story about a squirrel who was industriously working on building a swing, and a bear who was obsessed with collecting things - including the swing - while squirrel was out looking for that final piece for her creation. Squirrel tries everything to get the la-la-land bear's attention, and finally hits on a winning strategy only to have the outcome skew in an unexpected way! The book was fun and quirky, and colorful, and I enjoyed it. I arrogantly assume young children will too, since I often look at life the same way they do! I recommend this as a fun read.


Three! by Tia Perkin


Rating: WORTHY!

This felt more like it was written for parents than ever it was for three-year-olds, so I'm not convinced that this approach made sense, but each to her own! The author, who has a really perky name and who illustrates her own books quite colorfully and competently, has at least one other book out of this nature, titled Two!" (reviewed by me in March 2017).

While I thought the approach slightly odd and noted that two pages (the getting stuck in his pajamas, and getting dressed by himself) were in the wrong order in my crappy Kindle app from Amazon, the rest of the book was fine. It's very much into chanting and rhyming, and if this is your thing - or more to the point, your child's thing - then I think this book would be a worthy read. It's very short, so whether you deem that a good thing or not is up to you of course. With these caveats in mind, and at the risk of this book giving your child some mischievous ideas you may wish she or he had not been exposed to, I deem this to be a worthy read!


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Tucker's Apple Dandy Day by Susan Winget


Rating: WORTHY!

I adore this author's name! I've always been fond of 'Susan' and I had to wonder of this one whether or not she might wing it with her writing? If so, it works! This book was the polar opposite of Dinosaur Kisses and exactly what a young children's book should be. A warm fuzzy story with warm fuzzy characters, beautifully illustrated in sweetly warm, fuzzy autumnal colors!

Tucker gets to visit a farm on his school field trip, and they all get the chance to pick their own bag of apples to take home, but Tucker is so busy helping others to get their share that he never has chance to get any for himself. All the people he helped, though, rally around and donate a few of their apples to him so he gets a few for himself after all. It's beautifully told story about the selflessness of helping others without expectation of a reward, and it's delightfully illustrated. I fully recommend this one.


Blue Sky by Audrey Wood


Rating: WORTHY!

Couldn't fail to review a book by a namesake now, could I?! Not that I know this author, or am any relation to her (as far as I know!). This book was about what's in the sky and how beautiful and fulfilling it is to contemplate it in all its facets. The book is very light on text and very heavy on vibrant colors and eye-arresting depictions.

What little text there is though, is quite gripping, because it also illustrates the very idea it conveys: 'cloud sky' is made up of clouds, rather like my own Cloud Fighters (evidently it runs in the Wood family! LOL!), and 'rain sky' is dripping with precipitation, and so on.

You'll want a cold drink and ice cream after seeing 'sun sky'. The book is slightly whimsical and doesn't fail to consider a dream sky towards the end, inviting children to fall asleep and experience it for themselves! Great idea! I loved this book and thoroughly recommend it.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Don't Wake Up the Tiger by Britta Teckentrup


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a cute and whimsical tale of several animals in the jungle, sporting a bunch of balloons and heading for a party, when they encounter a rather large tiger sleeping across the path. They dare not wake it and so they have to figure out how to get over it - not in the sense of giving up, but in the sense of bypassing the beast!

They light upon a risky but plausible (in this story anyway!) solution, but can they carry it off? Or can it, more accurately, carry them over? And what happens when the tiger awakens?! I really enjoyed this because it's so wild and crazy, and has such a great ending. And the author has a really awesome name! I recommend it.


Turtle Island by Kevin Sherry


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a great fantasy tale told in brief text and bold simple colors, about a giant turtle and its lonely vigil out in the middle of the ocean.

One day a nearby boat-wreck deposits four young people on the turtle, and they have a great relationship hanging out together while pursuing their own favorite pastimes, but soon the visitors are wanting to go back home. Does this mean it's the end of beautiful friendship for the lonely giant? No! The ending swings it all around in a big way for a big friendly reptile. I recommend this one.


Jangles A Big Fish Story by David Shannon


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a great story told by an older man to a young boy about a really big fish and the attempts by the locals to catch it. This was the original one that got away, and it had the barbed hooks attached to its lower lip to prove it. Well, this man had an interesting encounter with this fish which is harder to believe than any actual tale of the one that got away.

Gorgeously illustrated and with a steady text driving it assuredly through the deep water, this story is definitely one to encourage your children to read. It's full of inventiveness and fantasy and carries a sweet message. I recommend it.


Happy by Pharrell Williams


Rating: WORTHY!

Yes, that Pharrell Williams. This is simply the words to his number one hit song of the same title, which was the best-selling song of 2015 in the USA and sold some fourteen million copied worldwide. Personally, I'm not a fan of it, but you cannot deny his success, not just with this song but with a host of others he released under his own name and which have been recorded by others.

This book takes the lyric and illustrates it with pictures of real kids of diverse ethnicity, having fun against brightly colored backgrounds, so it's an inspiring and fun book with a very light touch and I recommend it for a fun read that can lead to a number of activities, such as dress-up, dancing, and otherwise exercising. I also recommend it because it's not a common thing to have a children's book based on the lyric of an adult-oriented performer, so it's interesting for that, too!


The Bridge of the Golden Wood by Karl Beckstrand, Yaniv Cahoua


Rating: WORTHY!

It's time to review some children's books again! This one was rather an oddball story - a business primer for young children! The story is intended to show how a money-making an opportunity can arise from helping people. I felt it was a mixed message - and a little too pat, but who knows, if it inspires some kids to make a little something for themselves, and help people into the bargain, then maybe it's not so bad, so I'd recommend this as a worthy read.

For some reason it's set in China, in a time before modern. An inventive child who has a reputation for imaginatively recycling and re-purposing, is walking by a creek one day when he encounters a woman he's never seen before. She was bemoaning the fact that there was debris from the trees in the water, blocking the fish from feeding. The woman tells the boy she sees trouble and treasure in one place. The boy locks onto the treasure portion of that, but he doesn't see how clearing the path for the fish can lead to a reward. The book tells how he finds out. This is where the 'pat' comes in: his solution is a little too rewarding and convenient - improbably so, but this is how he begins to make money to support his family.

The book contains a page or so of suggestions and tips about ways a child might make some money for themselves by providing a service. The story is very short (only eight pages overall) and is more illustration than text. From a slightly cynical point of view, it really isn't all that inspiring, but like I said, I'm not about to stand in the way of someone who might get a winning idea from reading this, so I recommend this on that basis!


Dinosaur Kisses by David Ezra Stein


Rating: WARTY!

Didn't like this one at all! It felt way too violent for such a sweet title, depicting a young dinosaur, fresh out of the egg, running around looking to kiss someone...or something? I have no idea where the author cooked up this bizarre idea, but it was a fail for me mostly because it featured this hefty dino barging around invading personal space and assaulting creatures and objects, including squashing one small critter to death? It's entirely the wrong message to send to young children, inviting inappropriate behaviors, and I can't recommend it.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Teddy's Camp by Peter Liptak, Pascal


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fun and entertaining, and brightly colored rhyming tale of Teddy's adventures in campland, with striking artwork by Pascal, the famous French inventor, mathematician, physicist, writer, and Catholic theologian. No I'm kidding, that was a different Pascal. I think.

Teddy heads off to camp where he meets a bunch of new friends and has endless days of fun riding horses, paddling canoes (and definitely no canoodling with paddles in case you're worried), swimming, exploring, arts, crafts, and sailing. I'm ready for my nap now! I recommend this as a fun read, and it looks just as good on a smart phone as it does on a tablet computer, so you're covered no matter what you have to hand, if your kid gets a hankering for some camp entertainment. Wait, that didn't come out right....


Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Mystery at Lilac Inn by Midred Wirt aka Carolyn Keene


Rating: WARTY!

Having read about the women who fostered Nancy Drew's birth and healthy upbringing (Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak), I decided I wanted to read one or two of the novels. I grew up never having heard of her, and I'd had no desire to read them before. Now I know why: they're really not very good!

Or to put it more kindly, I listened to volume number two as an audiobook, and I found it so bland and dated that I could not listen to all of it, nor did I even try to listen to the second one I borrowed from the library. It was sad, but it was a different world back then, and it's not one I feel a part of. Had I been a juvenile (or lived in the fifties or earlier!) I might have enjoyed it more. This of course takes nothing away from Mildred Wirt's admirable work-ethic or her sterling ability to multi-task and turn in a novel on a deadline while caring for two different ailing husbands (not at the same time!) and a baby! She was much more heroic than ever Nancy was and she deserves a lot more credit than she's had.

The story is about ghostly happenings at an inn, which are quite obviously being staged by villains intent upon some scheme or other. It's also about identity theft long before that became an issue. And of course, it's about Nancy Drew, spoiled-rotten heroine, without a care in the world, who saves the day.

I didn't listen to enough of it to find out what the bad guys wanted. The writing was too bland for my taste and did not engage me, so I cannot recommend it. It's from a different age and I think it belongs there, although very young readers might find it entertaining. Laura Linney read this and did a decent job for what that's worth, but for me the problem with it, in addition to its blandness, is that Nancy Drew is such an institution in the US that people tend to give her a bye when they really should be more critical, and I mean critical in an analytical sense, not necessarily in a pejorative one.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Cutie meets Mr Lizard by Felicia di John, Terence Gaylor


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

The first in a planned "Cutie's Big Adventures" series, this story is about a Chihuahua named Cutie, who lives in the desert and is just finding her legs as a little adventurer. She also lives up to her name! In her first trip outdoors, bored with her puppy chow and looking for some excitement, Cutie sneaks down the tree outside the upstairs window. If the cat can do it, why not the dog? No argument from me!

Cutie heads out and meets the lizard family, who seem to enjoy eating ants. As hungry as Cutie is, she isn't that hungry. She returns home and enjoys her puppy chow after all!

I liked this story, and Terence Gaylor's 3D-effect artwork and fun, colorful pictures were cute as a button that's really cute, and has a button nose. The story by Felicia di John is simple and easy to understand for young kids, and teaches a lesson that maybe the grass isn't always greener - especially in the desert! I recommend this one.


Prym and the Senrise by PS Scherck, Sheng-Mei Li


Rating: WORTHY!

Note that this is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a simple story which I was unsure about when I began it, but which I ended up enjoying immensely even though it’s written for a younger audience than I represent. I felt the story was slightly lacking in 'magical' although now I think about it, I have a hard time trying to define what I mean by that, and I'm not going to let vague feelings get in the way of a positive review for a story that well deserves it. The writing was engaging, and Sheng-Mei Li's artwork was a joy - one I would have liked more of.

The characters were delightful, and interesting, even though the story has its roots in established mythology of supernatural and fantasy characters. I had never heard of the Steigens, so this was a fun and new revelation, and I liked how they were represented. They're a sort of underwater fairy people, who live in the deeps and are related to vampires in that they cannot be exposed to sunlight on the surface, or they will suffocate.

This limitation does not please Prym, who has heard tales from her fishy and mollusc-y friends Daeggar and Seffy, that the senrise is the most beautiful thing, full of joy and color. Prym, who loves colors, cannot get the idea of watching a brilliant senrise out of her head, and so she sets about learning how it is she can get to see one.

I loved Prym, who is sensible despite her adventurous streak. She's a strong character who is possessed of self-confidence and derring-do, and she starts her quest in a library, which is admirable. And she succeeds, not by machismo, but by thoughtful approaches and inventive solutions.

There were a couple of minor issues with the text. I read, "...an arrow of pure energy would appear, knocked and ready...." An arrow is 'nocked', not 'knocked'. This is a common error and no big deal; most people probably wouldn’t even notice it. The other issues is more of a pet peeve of mine rather than an outright error because I've seen this done so often it’s actually becoming an accepted part of the language, but to me a book is 'titled' - not 'entitled'. Entitlement is something different entirely. Or is it tirely?!

The book worked both on the smart phone and on a tablet in a Kindle app, although the cover was broken inexplicably into about fifteen pieces on both devices. The rest of the artwork looked fine, especially on the tablet. One odd thing I noticed on both the tablet and the phone was the appearance of strange capital letters such as 'P' and 'H' apparently randomly in the text, such as at location 81, where it read (or red!): P"You know what I said...", at location 159, where I read, "...a skull Pthat looked...", and at location 180, where I read, "Cold hands Phad wrapped...".

There were several instances of this kind of thing. In the iPad they were red letters, on the phone they were the same color as other text (white on black by my choice because it saves the battery!). Part of the problem in my opinion is Amazon's truly crappy Kindle app which cannot handle anything that contains pictures or fancy text with any reliability at all. Barnes & Nobles's Nook does a much better job in my experience.

I don't know where the 'P's and 'H's came from, but the red 'I' at location 6 appears to be a drop-cap from the top of the page. It was missing from the start of the chapter, which began, "n the farthest reaches...' rather than "In the farthest reaches...". The 'I' which should have been up there was several lines below, between "In the beginning," and "there was only one magic creature". Weird, but that's Kindle for you. This is why I detest Amazon. The book was viewed on an iPad in the Kindle app and on an LG smart phone in the Kindle app.

But hopefully these issues will be fixed before publication. Or you can play it safe and buy the print version! I checked this out in the PDF version in Adobe Digital editions on my desktop computer and it looked beautiful there. The text looked (I imagine!) exactly as the author imagined it, and the images in particular were gorgeous, especially the one of Prym watching the sunrise. That needs to be a screensaver or a wallpaper!

In conclusion, I recommend this book for a fun read for younger children. It's great fantasy tale, well told, and even adults can enjoy it, especially if they're young at heart.


The Adventure of Thomas the Turtle by Stuart Samuel


Rating: WORTHY!

Note that this is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a fun trip - literally - although Thomas, heedless of the good advice he was given, probably didn't think so as he was swept from the placid waters of his boringly calm pond, down the creek and over a waterfall. Can he get back home? Don't you just hate book blurbs that ask questions with the obvious answer "Yes"?! Fortunately this one had no such dumb blurb because it wasn't a dumb story. Although I have to say that the 'turtles' here looked far more like tortoises to me! But who cares? Maybe tortoises are just turtles with a dry sense of humor....

Thomas's father disappeared a long time ago when he went down the dangerous end of the pond. Thomas of course cannot resist following his lead, and he has a slightly scary adventure tumbling downstream. Just when he thinks he might never get home, fortune, as they say, favors the brave. He gets a piece for good luck and doesn't have to...shell out for a bus ride back home!

The book worked equally well on a smart phone as it did on a tablet (both in a Kindle app which is frankly not the best way to look at picture books). But if you're caught without the tablet, you can get by with the phone, which is always nice, although the pictures aren't shown at their best on the smaller screen, and the phone doesn't allow enlargement of the pictures for a closer look, whereas the tablet does.

The story was amusing, and a bit scary, and engaging. The artwork was adorable. I'm not an artist. In fact I'm about as far from one as you can get without going all the way around the other side and backing into it by mistake, but this was at least reminiscent of watercolor and oddly maybe mixed with crayon, and it looked really great. I recommend this book for young children who like adventure - and who doesn't as long as you can be safe at home reading about it?!


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Uninvited Ghosts by Penelope Lively


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a very, short story from a collection titled Uninvited Ghosts and Other Stories. It's playful and sweet, and slightly tongue-in-cheek.

Marian and Simon Brown have moved into a new house with their parents, and the family is so worn out they all troop off to bed, which is when the first ghost arrives from out of the chest of drawers. The children order it to leave, but it argues that it's lived there longer than they and so has precedence! The next night, there are two ghosts and the third night, three ghosts along with a ghost dog which has ghost fleas and scares the cat!

The ghosts won't leave. The children get a chance to visit with their well off Uncle who has a beautiful home and a nice TV, and they lure the ghosts into taking a trip with them but the ghosts won't stay. They prefer to be around children, and that wouldn't be so bad if they didn't appear out of nowhere and try to help with homework, or sit on top pf the TV, dangling their legs in front of it, or if one of them didn't suck peppermints and leave the smell lingering so their parents thought the children were sneaking candy into bed!

Fortunately the whole thing is resolved as the ghosts fall in love with a neighbor's noisy newborns, both of which calm down considerably when the ghosts begin paying them attention. eventually, Marian and Simon manage to persuade the ghosts to move a few doors away to the neighbor's house, where the children are pacified and peace and quiet reigns in the Brown house! This story was gorgeous and delightful, and I recommend it.

Penelope Lively has written about thirty children's books and a host of adult novels as well, so no doubt there is much more to mine there.


Perfectly Precious Poohlicious by Mary Elizabeth Jackson, Thornton Cline, Alice Antime


Rating: WARTY!

Written by Jackson, illustrated by Antime, with some song scores by Cline, this book was reasonably-well illustrated, but the 'story' telling was way too sugary for my taste, and wasn't even a story. it was much more like some sort of self-hypnotic mantra about how perfect, and precious, and beautiful, a baby was. I can see maybe a market for giving this as a gift to someone who has a new child in the family, but whether they would actually want this as a gift is another issue. Other than that, it fell completely flat for me. Knowing now what's in it, I would neither want to buy this nor get it as a gift.

I don't get the title, either - poohlicious? It sounds like you're comparing your baby with poop and delighting in the similarity. Pooplicious? There's nothing beautiful, perfect, or precious in a dirty diaper, trust me. The title just doesn't work.

Everyone thinks their own child is precious and perfect and beautiful, and there's nothing wrong in that as long as - when the child grows - beauty is not the criterion by which she's measured, and perfection is not the target she's forced fruitlessly into chasing. There is nothing wrong with striving to be your best, but demanding these things and setting them up as the only things worth living for is absurd. Therein lies insanity, broken dreams, and suicide, and promoting shallow ideals as worthy goals in life, especially in a mindless self-affirmation of a chant like this, is far too self-obsessed for my taste. I cannot recommend this.