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

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Goodnight Baby Moon by James Mitchem, Clare Patane


Rating: WARTY!

This was a lot of book for little content. The Moon lights up, but not very well, and the light doesn't translate to any of the interior pages, which were quite dark in coloring (illustrations by Clare Patane, who quite obviously did the bulk of the work involved in creating this story), so I had to wonder what the purpose was, plus the button isn't amenable to little fingers pressing it, so a young child might have trouble lighting that Moon.

That said, the story inside, which was very short and light on text, was quite charming, aiming at showing a child that things which go away (like the Moon appears to), always come back, so it offered reassurance and a touchstone for children who might have separation anxiety.

For me, this story could have been done better, and the lighting didn't seem like it was worth the extra expense and bulk. This was quite a fat and heavy book for a young child to manipulate, and you would not want such a child gnawing on this book because of the electrics and battery. If you can afford to pay for mostly show and not much tell, then go ahead, but for me this seems like it might be an unworthy burden on a family paying all the attendant bills a young child brings with her. In that light (pun intended!), I'm not going to recommend this one, even given how charming and useful the story was.

I think you'd be better off showing your child the real phases of the real Moon. You could take a series of pictures and tell your own story to the same effect and make it a much more engrossing and enveloping story for the child. A better story is that the Moon doesn't actually go away and come back - it's there all the time even when you can't see it! This might offer much more reassurance for a young child than this book does.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Goldfisch Manga Vol 1 by Nana Yaa


Rating: WARTY!

This is form an advance review copy for which i thank the publisher.

This I got thinking it looked interesting, but in the end it was truly a confusing read and contained nothing that entertained me. It's the kind of comic book which makes it clear that 'issue' has more than one meaning, and you do not want to be publishing an issue which has issues! The story is about Morrey Gibbs who is effectively King Midas. Almost everything he touches turns to gold, but there seems to be no rule as to how and when it happens. Why he has this power remained a mystery to me throughout the graphic novel.

On top of this, the story is set in Waterworld, but thankfully without Kevin Costner. Morrey has a pet otter which immediately turned me off the story. I detest stories of any stripe that feature oh-so-cute animal sidekicks, because it is way overdone. I much prefer writers who take the road less traveled, but this author evidently has absolutely no idea where that road is.

On top of that, there's the stock inventor friend, and at that point I gave up. I honestly cannot tell you what the story is about because I have no idea despite gamely plowing through to the end. It was that confusing. Morrey is apparently trying to avoid bounty hunters, but since he can create all the gold he wants out of literally anything, he could have bought off those guys (or conversely, turned them into god), and also the guy who hired them. In fact, he could have flooded the world with so much gold that it made gold literally worthless, but he was evidently too stupid to figure any of that out. Stupid main characters are ten-a-penny, especially in young adult novels. The world does not need them appearing in graphic novels, too. So the book was simply a mess and I cannot recommend it.

On a technical note, it's increasingly clear to me that comic book authors have not yet clued-in to the fact that books are published electronically and the book had better work on a pad. Instead, both they and publishers are still evidently unable to think outside the box: the cardboard box in which print issues are snail-mailed. They're landlocked in a print world, and if that's the case, they should quit trying to publish electronic versions and send the reviewers a print version.

This story was rendered even more irritating than it already was by two problems. The first of these was that the screen image was significantly smaller than my iPad screen, and the text illegible until I'd enlarged it, but once enlarged, Bluefire Reader (my reader of choice for ebooks, since Amazon's crappy Kindle app truly sucks, and virtually no one offers review books in B&N's much better Nook app), would not let me swipe the page until I had reduced it back to it's original tiny size! This was irritating at best. Publishers really need to take the time to smell what they're shoveling out to people.

A second problem was that some pages, for reasons unknown at least as judged by their actual content, were 'printed' at ninety degrees to upright, and the since pads are programmed to re-orient instantly when they're turned, the image merely shrank when the pad was turned to read it unless I took pains to keep it completely flat. Yes, you can lock the image, but his can create other problems so i typically do not do this except with Amazon's truly crappy Kindle app, which is useless for reading anything other than plain text anyway. This re-orientation once again made the images too small! Frustrating at best.

So, a note to authors and publishers: if you're going to offer your graphic novel in electronic format, give some thought to how it's created and what it will look like in the intended reading environment for the sake of your readers - if you want to keep them reading your work, that is. But disregarding the technical issues, I can't recommend this based on the poorly put-together content.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Mr Hoopeyloops and His Amazing Glass by Andi Cann, Fabrice Bertolotto


Rating: WORTHY!

I wasn't sure what to expect from this title, but it intrigued me! Was this a children;s book about a drunk for goodness sakes? Or was it more likely about someone who had an awesome spyglass? Wrong on both counts, but this was a fun children's book with a good story told on one page and a colorful illustration on the next, and so it went.

Mr Hoopeyloops was an odd sort of a guy who liked to retreat into his barn with bags of sand, and sometimes pipes. At other times he would drive around and make comments about the details of places he visited in town - like nice windows or pretty bowls. When other people weren't pointing at him they were ignoring him. But he certainly was up to something and they were about to find out what!

This was a nice, educational read about a topic rarely covered in children's books, and it had plenty to interest and intrigue young readers. You can play guessing games about what Mr Hoopeyloops is up to. I recommend it.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Little Tales on the Farm by Frédéric Brrémaud, Federico Bertolucci


Rating: WORTHY!

This was yet another winner from a talented team. Beautifully drawn and colored (except maybe for the chickens and the large feet on the two girls!) by Bertolucci, and amusingly written by Brrémaud, this is another story of Chipper and Squizzo, this time on their quest to find milk. Of course the farm is the place to go - when you say grace at mealtimes, don't thank a god who didn't do squat to put food on your table, thank the farmers.

The story consists of parallel parts: a running cartoon strip consisting of cute, sketchy line drawings in which Squizzo the squirrel and Chipper the dog plan how to get milk, and then below these a gorgeously colored...well, painting is the best word to describe it, of life on the farm, related to what has just been discussed by the intrepid pair. In their quest, they meet pretty much every type of common farm animal, and eventually they get their milk from an unexpected source. Which seems to have improbably large feet, but some people do, I guess!

I've followed this pair for some time and I am a fan of their work. I think this is perhaps the best one they've done. It was, as I said, highly amusing to see the interactions and comments between these two characters, and I'm envious of Bertolucci's talent with pen and brush. Like I said, the chickens struck me as a bit odd, but maybe that's just me. The thing is that on the very next page was a rooster which was awesome in its ferociousness. Don't ever mess with roosters, especially not this one! The illustrations simply flowed and were so well done.

It was a pleasure to read this and I recommend it highly.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman


Rating: WORTHY!

Read in fine style by Liz Morton, this was a charming book for very young kids about Kate and her fine steed Cocoa. They live on a ranch and there are always things to do on the ranch. I was slightly perturbed by the fact that, on the one hand the ranch was "naturally" run by a guy, but on the other hand, it was a girl, Kate, who was doing a bunch of the chores. Is that genderist? Make of it what you will!

Other than that, it was read at a pedantic pace for grown-ups, but at a good pace for children. There were two disks: one being the story and the other being the story augmented with a little 'ding' each time you should turn a page - obviously meant to be listened to in conjunction with with the print book so the child can follow along. Presumably the print book is illustrated, too, as a further aid. This is a great book for kids learning to read.

I liked Kate and loved Cocoa and I recommend this as a fun read for kids.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K Arnold


Rating: WARTY!

I like this author's name! 'Elana K' sounds deliciously like anarchy, but in the end, this was another audiobook experiment which fell flat. The story is aimed at a much younger audience (6 - 10 yrs) than the one I represent, but that wasn't the issue.

First was the reading of it by Patrick Lawlor. I cannot stand his voice so this automatically turns me off a book (I got this without realizing he was the reader otherwise I would have passed on it), but the voice itself was not so much a problem as the way this reader read it. It seemed thoroughly inappropriate for the subject matter, and I did not get any impression from it at first that Bat was autistic; I thought he was just a poorly-raised child and a bit of a jerk. I think that's on both the author and the audiobook reader! Even had the voice been great, I would still have rated this novel negatively.

Bixby Alexander Tam, aka Bat, is somewhere on the autism spectrum, but for me this was the only commendable thing about the story: that the story isn't about his communication difficulties, it's about everyday things in the life of a kid who happens to have difficulties. After that though, I couldn't get onboard.

Worse than this is the kid's name. I know the author probably thinks it's cute and fun, but to call a boy who has communication issues 'Bat', like maybe he's a bit batty, wasn't wise in my opinion. We're told he gets his name not from his initials, but from the way he flaps his arms when he gets exited, but why Bat? Why not bird? It made no sense and felt abusive.

Worse than this, though was the 'adoption' of a wild animal. I don't think it's wise to teach young kids that we can take animals from nature and make pets of them! I know in this case, the skunk was a rescued animal, but then it became a pet, like this animal was something to be divorced from its nature and possessed, even after it became appropriate to return it to the wild where it belonged and was at home. That's just plainly wrong. It's for this reason as well as the others mentioned, that I cannot recommend this.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Drawing Cute with Katie Cook by Katie Cook


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This book is an awesome introduction to illustrating, aimed at younger children. And even adults for that matter who might want to get into the fun business of creating a cute children's book. I had never heard of Katie Cook, but despite looking barely older than a teen herself, she's a mature illustrator who has worked on a variety of projects for, for example, Marvel comics and on My Little Pony, so she's well-known in the business for her illustration skills.

She should also be known for her writing skills since she's also a writer and her comments throughout this book were hilarious and it was worth reading it just for those. The illustrations are really the cherry on top though, because in a handful of steps she shows how to create a bewildering variety of images of animals (would that be bewilderbeasts?), assorted inanimate objects, sports and hobbies, and food - which seems to be a special favorite of hers despite her trim figure. Maybe Cook isn't just a name?!

The steps are easy. As she says, if you can draw a potato, you can draw anything, and anything and everything populates these pages. The chapters cover Animals, Foodstuff, Hobbies and Sports, Holidays and Seasons, and Handy-Dandy Objects. There's getting on for a hundred thirty pages of illustration, and each page contains about two things to draw, including domestic and wild animals, flying and swimming animals, cute and scary animals, and even fantasy animals. And insects and arachnids are animals, remember, no matter how much you might want to dissociate yourself from that end of the family.

There are cakes and ice creams, teapots and milk cartons, pineapples and avocados. You'll like her grapes a bunch! When you see her apples you'll say "Core!" Drawing peppers will no doubt ring a bell. The broccoli looks very cubby, but it's with the sandwiches that you'll earn your bread. Okay, enough pun-ishment! There are also kayaks and racquets*, knitting and football, jigsaws and books - enough to keep you busy making variations on a theme until before long, you're launching into your own original drawings in short-order Cook style! (Okay, I lied about the puns).

I really liked this, the drawings are good and simple enough for anyone to follow and create your own. The results are very cute, just as the title promises. The supporting text is, well, supportive, and funny, and this book makes for a great gift! If there's one thing we really do need, it's a lot more talented illustrators, especially of cute, and from a diverse background. This book is a great way to encourage that and I recommend it.

*Isn't racquet a weird word? Seriously? Who would even think up a word like that? Just sayin'.


Rebecca Finds Happiness by Gina Harris, Hayley Anderson


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a short, sweet tale which I thoroughly enjoyed. It's about a young girl who can't seem to be happy no matter what. She has toys and candy, but nothing she tries, not even dancing seems to make her happy except for the very short term; then she meets and befriends Tara who seems to be happy no matter what. In emulating Tara, Rebecca finds a way to be happy herself.

I liked the story and the positive and useful message from Gina Harris. I liked the easy style of the colorful illustrations by Hayley Anderson. I felt this could have stood to have been longer, but it's fine as it is and sends a good message. The illustrations were rather small, even when viewed on an iPad in Bluefire Reader. I could enlarge them by spreading a thumb and forefinger over each image, but it felt like they ought to be maximized to begin with when viewed in large format. it was the same in Adobe Digital Editions, and on my phone it was so small it made reading rally hard. Just FYI!

Those quibbles aside, I liked this story and I recommend it.



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Pie for Chuck by Pat Schories


Rating: WARTY!

This was in some ways quite a charming story about a bunch of small rodents aiming to steal a freshly-baked pie. Do people really sit freshly-baked pies out on the window sill anymore? It's a bit of a trope, and maybe they really did at one time, but I doubt they do now! Most people just buy these sugar-loaded concoctions at the store ready-made, and microwave them! LOL! Anyway, the pie is there and so is Chuck, who daydreams about the flaky pastry and the gooey filling. Chuck has to have it, but he can't get it by himself, so he recruits his friends, and they each try but fail. It's only when they cooperate that they can enjoy the literal fruits of their labors.

Normally I like to cut children's authors some slack and try to find positive things to say about their stories, but in this case, and despite the fun book and the nice illustrations, and the story about cooperation, I have to give this a thumbs down because it's about theft! There are ways to tell a story to children about cooperation, without teaching them that thieving is okay, and even fun and rewarding. I can't rate this positively because of that. The author could just as easily have added a moral to this tale and had the animals get sick because fruit pie is not their natural food! There could have been a health message too for that matter: about eating right, but he author left it at 'thievery brings its own rewards' and to me, that's the wrong idea to pass on to children.


Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi, Betheny Hegedus


Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated impressively by Evan Turk employing a dazzling variety of inventive techniques, this was a fascinating book. How do you ever cope with having a close relative who is as famous and renowned as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, aka Mahatma Gandhi? This is written by Arun Gandhi, son of Manilal, who was Mahatma Gandhi's second child to survive; conditions were harsh back then and still are for many people, and not only in India.

Arun describes an event which obviously must have made an impression on him. It was when he went to visit his father as a young child and was abused on the football (soccer) field. He became very angry at being pushed, and then ashamed that he was unable to emulate his grandfather, but in talks with Gandhi-ji, he learns a few things about how to live his life non-violently and turn his anger into a light, not a thunderous darkness.

If only we could all learn this! All of us struggle with anger and frustration at times. The book might have offered more, but it's aimed at young children and I think it at least lights a candle, so I recommend this book as a beginning for children trying to deal with all of that.


Getting to the Bottom of Global Warming by Terry Collins


Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated well by Cynthia Martin and Bill Anderson, this book teaches young kids about climate change, aka global warming. 'Climate change' is a better term because 'global warming' confuses stupid people, who seem to think it means that everywhere will get dramatically hotter. No, it means climate change.

In general, the planet will warm (and has been warming because of human induced pollution), but not everywhere will warm up and become a tropical paradise. It's more a case of extremes becoming more extreme, so while some areas are becoming hotter, others are seeing serious winter storming. On top of that we're seeing flooding from more extreme rainfall and rising oceans, and we're seeing plant and animal life changing in terms of the areas it's normally found. We're also seeing tropic diseases spreading beyond their historical boundaries. In short, it's a mess.

This book features the novel idea of time-traveler, Isabel Soto who is "an archaeologist and world explorer with the skills to go wherever and whenever she needs to research history, solve a mystery, or rescue colleagues in trouble." One has to wonder why she can't fix climate change if she can go back into the past, but it's a lot to ask one person, so I decided to let that pass! Maybe she tried and no one would listen. We've sure seen way too much of that. Yes, Republicans, I'm looking at you.

We have a president who is obsessed with saving coal-mining jobs when he ought to be proposing retraining programs to find work for all those people in sensible and forward-thinking technologies like solar energy which is the fastest rising portion of the US economy, or in other renewable energy employment which will, given resources and time, solve the energy and pollution crisis. Now there's a case of a man who cannot think out of the box and who is obsessively-compulsively offering knee-jerk non-solutions instead of thinking it through, and looking to the future. That's why books like this are important: so children can learn that they do not have to be hide-bound by tradition and blinkered by the erroneous, selfish, and tunnel-vision thought patterns of yesteryear and politicians who, despite being past their sell-by date have nonetheless sold out to corporate interests.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Luz Makes a Splash by Claudia Dávila


Rating: WORTHY!

This author is a Chilean who now lives in Canada, and this is a great children's story about community activism, pollution, and taking charge. It's evidently the first in a series, which consists (as of this blog post) of two books: this one and a sequel called Luz sees the Light, a title which amuses me because light is the very meaning of Luz! Light is the meaning of Luz, Luz is the meaning of light! And on and on like the Neil Innes Beatles song parody he did for The Rutles (aka All You Need Is Cash).

In this book, Luz becomes concerned when there is a drought and she discovers that the refreshing little natural pool she and her friends used to visit on hots days like these, is all dried up! A nearby corporation is responsible. it's been using the water to manufacture its cola product! So yes, corporate responsibility and malfeasance also get a look in here. Luz learns many things about recycling, preserving and protecting water, and how to organize a protest.

The book is quite long and well-written, and nicely illustrated. It tells a smart and realistic story, and it offers an education along the way. I recommend it.


Imagine a World by Rob Gonsalves


Rating: WORTHY!

This is volume four in a series. I have not seen the others, but if this is anything like the previous three were, then it's an epic series and an awesome book to give to a child. The only problem with it is that it is not very ethnically diverse.

Each page consists of a large double page image, all of them done in the manner of Maurits Escher. If you're familiar with his work, you will know the kind of thing to expect here, but this is aimed at younger set, and will definitely draw children in so much that they might not wonder why a person with a wonderfully diverse name like Rob Gonsalves doesn't incorporate more of it into his illustrations. Among the author's influences were Dali, Escher, and Magritte. I recommend this for the artwork.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Adventures in Veggieland by Melanie Potock


Rating: WORTHY!

Subtitled "Help Your Kids Learn to Love Vegetables with 101 Easy Activities and Recipes", this was an awesome book. It's beautifully presented, colorful, full of pictures, and it's aimed at persuading kids in the 3 - 8 age range to eat their greens. My feeling is if you follow this and that doesn't succeed, then nothing will! Not that I have three to eight year olds to test it on, but I sure intend to try some of these recipes. The blurb says the book "features 20 vegetables" although some are technically fruits (which the author makes clear in her text, which is full of interesting snippets). The book is divided up by season, so there's going to be something all year to try.

I liked the way she incorporates games into the cooking and offers hints, tips, asides, and advice, always explaining why she suggests this method rather than that method. I found the book to be an engaging read just for those items, regardless of whether you try the recipes, but why wouldn't you try them? They sound great! I loved the way she incorporates suggestions about which part of the food preparation that kids who are younger and kids who are older can help with. Obviously this is common sense, but it doesn't hurt to get a reminder when it comes to kitchen safety and good hygiene practices.

I would not recommend this for the phone! The text is too small to read and if you enlarge it, the page is randomly jumping all over the place forcing you to reselect the area you were reading. It's readable on that device, but a nuisance. Obviously, it's really designed as a print book, but it worked fine on a tablet. I really liked this and I recommend it.

You can never over-estimate the importance of good nutrition for raising healthy adults-to-be, but in doing so, one cannot afford to overlook the element of stress which so few health books address. I'm happy to recommend one that automatically seeks to eliminate stress by making cookery - and eating - fun!


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tovi the Penguin Goes Trick or Treating by Janina Rossiter


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a bit late for Halloween, but I thought I'd already posted my review. Sorry! This is another in the Tovi series, nearly all of which I've liked (of the ones I've read). I liked this one as well. Not only was it an amusing story which told an interesting tale, and only a wee bit scary, it was also beautifully-drawn and brilliantly-colored by the author herself.

One of the delights is that it was legible on a smart phone so you can access it anywhere, and the double-page spreads, which all-too-often in the non-print version are given short shrift and end-up chopped into individual pages, thereby losing the sweep of the double image, were maintained here, and they looked gorgeous. I fully recommend this, not just for next Halloween, but for any time you want to curl up with your kid and a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy a warm tail!


Goodnight Swampy the Little Monster by Ellie J Woods


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fun book for young children about the problems Swampy's mom has getting him ready for bed. I liked the twist in the tale (not in Swampy's tail!) in that it's Swampy's older brother who steers him right in this story, not his mom. I didn't like that neither dad nor a second mom were in sight, but there are families in that situation, so I guess it worked on that level intentional or not.

The book is clearly intended as a print book, but it worked well on a tablet, and was even legible on a smart phone, so you can get your child set-up to read (or at least look at the pictures) no matter what. I say its aimed at print because on the tablet, the double pages were all separated into singles thereby losing the impact of the double spread. Sad but true.

That said, I liked the story and I think children will too. I recommend it.



Sunday, October 29, 2017

Bubby's Puddle Pond by Carol Hageman


Rating: WORTHY!

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

The purchase price of this book is a little steep, but it runs to 33 pages of story and support material, and it's a fully-colored and illustrated (by Nate Jensen) book. The story is rooted in the real-life creatures resident in the Sonoran desert and additionally, a dollar of the purchase price is donated to the Arizona Game and Fish Adoption Program.

The story is based on a tortoise adopted by the author's daughter, and tells of Bubby, who settles into his new home and meets several friends: a wren, a quail, a rabbit, a small dog, and a gecko (which is actually not a native, but technically an invasive species which has spread across the world adapting to similar climes outside of its origin - rather like the rat, although geckos are not usually considered pests!).

Bubby has several adventures, not least of which is going into hibernation each winter - yes, even in Arizona, where winters can be distinctly chill (as I experienced one New Year's Eve - but the hot tub helped!). The story is sweet and easy-going with the emphasis being on friendship and the 'crises' being very minor and not scary. I recommend this for young children who enjoy nature and animal stories, and perhaps as an introduction to such stories for children who are not yet endeared to them (if there are any!).


The Monster at Recess by Shira C Potter


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This story, by the author of The Friendly Monster (anyone spot a trend here?!) was very short (only 13 pages), and it had a bit of an abrupt ending, but it had heart, and I liked it. It's aimed at kids who are just beginning to read with confidence by themselves, and tells the tale of Sophie (the name means 'wisdom'!). It is a text-only book - no illustrations.

Sophie is in elementary school and she isn't happy there. Everyone seems the same to her, stuffy and dull. Even the name of the school is Grey Stone Day School, and she seems to be the only one who stands out with her red hair. Worse, people are mean to her and she doesn't know why. Sophie is a bit of a day-dreamer, and she eyes the monsters from the school next door - a school which shares its recess yard with Sophie's school - with envy because they seem to get along and have fun, but her school has a fear of monsters and this is why they do not share their recess time.

Sophie however, finds a colorful hat - just like the ones the monsters wear - and she's determined to return it to its rightful owner, even if it means braving the monsters at recess. Well, you know what Robert Burns said? "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley" or as we know it, go sideways! Unlike in her own school, the monsters (most of them anyway) celebrate difference, not conformity, and Sophie starts to feel like she fits right in.

I had two views of this story! On the one hand I liked it and I liked that it showed Sophie learning that you do not have to fit in to be happy with yourself; it's OK to be different. On the other hand, I wish that Sophie had done something about the bullying in her own school instead of running away from it! What to do, what to do? The book also depicts her breaking some rules and lying to a teacher, but on the other hand the teacher isn't doing anything to control the rampant meanness, and is in fact mean herself, so what choice does Sophie have?

There are different ways of dealing with problems, and running is certainly a valid one in many regards, when there seems to be no alternative and no one to turn to, but I would have liked to have seen Sophie address that; however, she doesn't run very far, just towards friends who will accept her. So is that really running?

On the other hand, I didn't like that the bullies got away with their meanness while it was Sophie who was portrayed, indirectly, as the monster (because that's who she hangs out with). I would have liked to have seen that addressed, but one step at a time: Sophie does show bravery in stepping out at recess when only the monsters are playing out there.

I think this is a great start to a book, or perhaps a series, but it felt like it was missing a bit here and there. If it were to turn into a series which shows how Sophie faces the problems and deals with them, this would make a great story. But Rome wasn't built in a day (some parts of it, like the Colosseum, just look like it was!), and I consider this a worthy read for young children, especially if it's used as a discussion springboard to address how a young child should deal with bullying and with people who just don't want to be friends.

The book references a website, www.heartlabpress.com, but the site isn't really up-and-running as of this posting. Not that I'm one to talk! LOL! I still have some serious work to do on my stuff, but writing has been calling to me of late far more strongly than dressing up websites ever does, so I can't blame an author for that! I wish Shira Potter all the best with her stories.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Kid Authors by David Stahler


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I could have done without the illustrations by Doogie Horner, but maybe those will appeal to the age range at which this is aimed. The actual content on the other hand was at times entertaining and interesting, but the racism and genderism inherent in the choice of writers featured here bothered me immensely, and it's why I cannot recommend this book. It's long past time to take a stand against white American males being the only important people in the world. We see it on TV, we see it in movies, and we see it in books. It needs to stop.

The book is not about children who are authors, but about the childhood of now well-known authors. The details are necessarily brief: each author gets ten or eleven pages on average, of quite large, liberally-spaced print and some of that space is taken up by the illustrations. At the back there is a half dozen or so pages with one paragraph 'also-rans' which is interesting because it includes writers like Alice walker and Maya Angelou who apparently didn't make it into the 'big time' here, but even in this section, most of the writers appear to be white American males like no one else is worth listening to.

The book has an introduction which I skipped as I routinely do, because introductions (prefaces, author's notes, forewords, prologues and so on) are wasteful of paper, are antiquated, and really tell us nothing useful. I rather get right into the body of the work than waste my time on frivolity.

Some of the stories are upsetting, when you realize what some kids had to go through to get where they got, and that isn't over today either, but how much more of a struggle is it for some authors to get ten pages in a book like this? Other stories are endearing or amusing, so there's something for everyone, but that said, the vast preponderance of coverage is of white American male authors which represent eleven out of the sixteen - almost seventy percent - who get ten pages here. Four of the others are British, and one is French.

That's a seriously limited coverage in a world where two-thirds of the planet's population is Indian or Chinese, fifty percent of the planet is women, and most of the planet isn't white. There are only three are non-white (two African Americans and one American Indian) authors represented here so it bothered me that children reading this might get the impression that only America (and maybe Britain) has anyone who can write, and nearly all those who can write are white men. This is neither an accurate nor a realistic impression, nor is it a useful one to give children in a world where whites are the real minority.

This is a skewed view which is already being hammered into young peoples' heads by the appalling number of novels coming out of the US which are also set in the US (or if they're set abroad, they star Americans, like no one else ever has anything to say or any adventures to write about), and largely written about white characters.

This Trump mentality is isolationist and very dangerous, so I would have liked to have seen a much wider coverage and more female authors (who get less than forty percent representation here). Also the youngest writer represented here was born in 1971! Almost half of them were not even born last century! 13 of the sixteen were born before the 1950's! It's not being ageist to ask for a sprinkling of younger writers! And could there not have been more females, more people of color, including an Asian or two?

Could there not have been a Toni Morrison or an Octavia Butler? A Clarice Lispector or a Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? A Zadie Smith or an Elena Ferrante? A Lu Min, a Zhang Ling? No Jenny Han or Tahereh Mafi? No Jhumpa Lahiri or an Indu Sundaresan? There are so many to choose from, so it's a real shame that this book evidently went with the easiest, the commonest, the path of least resistance? It felt lazy to me at best.

These are the authors which do appear:

  • JRR Tolkien (white, English, b. 1892)
  • JK Rowling (white, English, b. 1965)
  • Edgar Allen Poe (white, American, b. 1809)
  • Sherman Alexie (American Indian, b. 1966)
  • Lewis Carroll (white, English, b. 1832)
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder (white, American, b. 1867)
  • Zora Neale Hurston (black, American, b. 1891)
  • Mark Twain (white, American, b. 1910
  • Judy Blume (white, American, b. 1948
  • Langston Hughes (black, American, b. 1902
  • Jules Verne (white, French, b. 1828)
  • Roald Dahl (white, Welsh, b. 1916)(
  • Stan lee (white, American, b. 1922)
  • Beverly Cleary (white, American, b. 1916)
  • Lucy Maud Montgomery (white, American, b. 1874)
  • Jeff Kinney (white, American, b. 1971)

The book had at least one inaccuracy: it proclaims that Joanne Rowling (now Murray) was Joanne Kathleen Rowling, but she never was. It was only Joanne Rowling (pronounced 'rolling'). The 'Kathleen' came about because her weak-kneed and faithless publisher declared that boys wouldn't read a book written by a girl. They insisted that she use her first initial and a fake middle initial. Not having any clout back then, she chose the 'K' for 'Kathleen', the name of her grandmother.

This is why I despise Big Publishing, but at least I have the knowledge that a dozen idiot publishers turned down her Harry Potter series and thereby lost a fortune. The sad thing is that now they're trying to make up for it by buying every idiotic magician series ever produced, which is cheapening the whole genre. This why I self publish. I refuse to let blinkered publishers try to tell me what my name should be. I'd rather sell no books than deal with people like that.

So, in short, this could have been a hell of a lot better and I cannot recommend it.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Harry’s Spooky Surprise by NGK


Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated charmingly by Janelle Dimmit, this is the story of Harry’s plan to have a fun Halloween, and rather than go out grabbing candy, he’s not thinking of himself, but of others! It’s a great theme to have for a book about a holiday that kicks off a fall and winter season during which it all too often seems that our lives revolve around “What can I get for myself?” be it candy at Halloween, feasting at Thanksgiving, or receiving presents at Christmas.

Harry is a bit of a nervous nelly, since it’s dark out and he sees a lot of strange shadows, but the mildly scary bit is soon resolved as he realizes that not every shadow is a problem. Few are as it happens! He ends up meeting his friends, preparing his surprise, and then surprising his unprepared friends! I think this is a sweet, fun book, and it tells a worthy tale for Halloween.