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

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Where is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz


Rating: WORTHY!

Talking of stimulating a child's mind, which I was in my last few reviews as it happens, here's another fun book that's aimed at very young children, which can do just that. It also teaches about parts of the body such as eyes, feet, hands, and of course, navel gazing! Each page asks a simple question and on the color illustration lies a flap that can be lifted and which will, I promise you, answer the question! The cute pictures of the children are wonderfully diverse, so no child will feel left out. I thought this was fun and appropriate for young children and I recommend it.


Little Owl's Night by Divya Srinivasan


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a simple story, simply, but cutely illustrated in color, of the very charming little owl who starts the night flying around the countryside and greeting fellow animals as little owls are wont to do. It was a sweet and a speedy read for sending a child off to noddy-land, perhaps with dreams of themselves flying around the forest. There's no better way to put a child down for the night than by reading (or just telling) them a story which may in turn give them fun, imaginative, and sweet dreams, and this one is a worthy read. There's no better way to stimulate a child's imagination than to read to them, and no better thing you can do for a child's mind than to make it think outside the box.


Malala's Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, Kerascoët


Rating: WORTHY!

I favorably reviewed Malala Yousafzai's I Am Malala back in August of 2015, and also Raphaële Frier's book about her, aimed at young children, back in October of 2016. This is a book for younger children still, and was penned by Yousafzai and illustrated by Kerascoët, which is the joint nom de plume of artists Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset.

Beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated, it tells an autobiographical story of Malala's childhood fancy and dream, and of what she wished for in a world which was and still is extremely hostile to half the population. I think it makes a worthy read for anyone. I'm truly sorry that it may not reach those children who are most in need of hearing these words.


Friday, April 13, 2018

I Am Enough by Grace Byers, Keturah A Bobo


Rating: WORTHY!

This was an amazingly strong book aimed at encouraging inner-strength, confidence, and independence in young girls. It was sweetly worded by Grace Byers, and beautifully illustrated by Keturah Bobo, with a short text and a large, colorful drawing on every page. It showed a diverse cast of characters, all of them expressing themselves fearlessly, making friends, being nice, and being unafraid to be themselves and to explore everything they could, including themselves as friends, explorers, and human beings! I think this would make a great gift for any young girl, and I recommend it.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Let's Play Yoga by Márcia de Luca, Lúcia Barros, Bruna Assis Brasil, Ana Ban


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher. Note that there is a website for this book if you want to take a look at that before deciding whether this is for you! It's at http://www.letsplayyoga.com.

This book is translated from Brazilian by Ana Ban, and it's a fun and colorful book with some playful illustrations and a diverse cast of kids shown doing yoga poses. It begins with a lot of well written and fun advice on what yoga is all about and how it should be approached. Anything which encourages kids to be mindful, thoughtful, considerate of themselves and others, and to stay limber in a safe way, is to be recommended in my opinion!

The book is easy and gentle, and it has a lot to say about how yoga arose and what it's all about without going into too much detail on any one topic; then it goes on to show some simple yoga poses which any kid can work at. Not that it's treated as work! The authors talk of it as play, which is a great approach, because this should appeal to any kid. The book is very portable, too. it worked as well on my phone as it did on my tablet, although I have to say that some of the pages were a little hard to read not because of small text (the pages enlarge), but because of a bright green page background with off-white text! But that was only for a couple of pages.

On a personal note, I tried a yoga class one time, a while ago, and I was so disappointed in it that I never tried anything else along those lines! Unlike this book, the instructor didn't offer anything about the history and practice, and he gave no preparation, no advice, and no stretching. His sole purpose seemed less aimed at teaching us than it was at showing off what he himself could do. He offered no suggestions as to a daily regime or organized system for people to follow, and the entire class felt like a waste of my time.

I could have used a book like this when I was a kid, as well as in place of that class! It was nice to read a thoughtful and useful introduction to it. I was pleased to discover that something like this was available, aimed at kids, and which takes a holistic approach to the entire practice, discussing it in some detail but not too much, and advising kids to enter into it gamely, confidently, but cautiously, so no-one accidentally injures themselves by trying things too quickly, too strenuously or too enthusiastically!

Kids are not urged to try to get everything right from day one, but to enter into it in a spirit of can-do, and to keep practicing until the stretches and poses become second nature. It covers mindfulness, breathing (which an be employed in stressful situations away from the yoga mat!), and the poses or sanas. It's perfect for kids who may have problems exercising, because they're not required to do everything at once or to do it perfectly, or to run marathons! All they're asked is to give it a try, and to simply do as well as they can.

It's a nice philosophy to go with some nice relaxing exercises that will juice your joints, limber your limbs, spark your spine, and generally make you feel like you're doing a little something to make life better. There's nothing back-breaking or too hard here, so any child ought to be able to join in. To that end I would have liked to have seen the admirably diverse group of kids pictured here also include someone who was overweight or perhaps handicapped in some way to show that this can be done by everyone to the limits of their individual abilities and restrictions. All you need is a yoga mat - or something that will work as one - comfortable clothes, bare feet, and a willingness to give it a try! I think this is a great book, and I highly recommend it.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Upside Down magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, Emily Jenkins


Rating: WARTY!

Prior to this novel, Sarah Mlynowski was batting a thousand with me after two novels. Emily Jenkins, aka E Lockhart, was batting five hundred after six books, and I'd never read anything by Lauren Myracle. This one has besmirched each of their escutcheons.

To be fair, it's not aimed at me, but it was written so badly I have to say you would have to be a kid with truly low standards to find this limp and frivolous effort entertaining. The main character is simply stupid, and this turned me off her right away. I don't mind a character who starts out stupid and wises up, but when the character remains dumb, and especially if it's a female character, I find the book irksome and want to remove its spine, to put it into 'Drax the Destroyer' terminology.

This is the story of three young kids who fail to get into a prestigious magic academy which is run by the father of one of the characters. Instead they go to the Upside Down magic school and they don't like it. They're incompetent, and it takes them forever to figure out what's wrong. This means that the school has failed them badly and is obviously really, really awful at teaching, but this disturbing proposition is never addressed in the writing.

This novel is a clear case of too many cooks spoiling the broth and I do not recommend it.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Wnaethom Ni Ddim Rhoi'r Gorau Iddi by Richard Carlson


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a book that's currently free on barnes and Noble. The English title is We Didn't Give Up. It's described as a "Children's Picture Book" although the pictures are few, and are simple black and white line drawings that look more like chickens than ducks! That aside, the text is in English and then Welsh. There are other versions, such as Dutch, Haitian Creole, Italian, Spanish, Thai, and so on. The author also has other books created along these same lines, but this is the only one of his I've read.

The story tells of a mom and her three ducklings heading to the pond for a swim, being repeatedly interrupted by a very strong wind, but the mom and her ducklings do not give up and of course eventually are blown into oblivion. April Fool! I'm kidding, Of course they make it to the pond. I think this is a great idea for kids who want to learn English - or a second language, but there's no pronunciation guide given to the lingo either for the English version or the foreign (to me!) language version interspersed with it.

That said I still think it's a fun simple story that can help learn a new language and so I recommend it. Learning another language - and it doesn't matter which, or even if it's a computer language or music, which is another language, or math, which is yet another language - can really improve a child's mind and help them to think outside the box, so it's worth the effort.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Harry's Lovely Spring Day by Nathan GK, Janelle Dimmett


Rating: WORTHY!

This is an out-and-out old-fashioned romantic fairy-tale starring Harry the Mouse who lives in a box on a street in what looks a lot like a French town, although the author is British and the artist American! Janelle Dimmett's illustrations are painstakingly detailed, even down to individual leaves drawn on trees!

I enjoyed Harry's Spooky Surprise by NGK, not to be confused with scientist GK Nathan, so it was perhaps to be expected that this one would also pass muster. Harry is helped by passer-by Katie the mouse when his house is blow away in a storm. Those refrigerator boxes are not what they used to be since Trump's steel tariff, are they?! LOL!

Anyway, Katie kindly donates her umbrella top Harry to help him out. She doesn't need it, she claims, because she's off to the country to live where it evidently never rains! She hops on the bus and away she goes (mice can hop really, impressively high!). Harry decides he must find her and thank her and well, romance happens!

Told in simple rhyming couplets, the story is quite charming, and will doubtlessly and endlessly entertain young kids. I read in an author interview about the concept of paying it forward, although Harry actually isn't paying anything forward here, he's really just taking advantage of a kindness - but not in a mean way. He is thankful Katie and that's important too. But for readers and kids, the story doesn't have to end when the book does. Kids and their grown-ups can take the story on, discussing how it might unfold if Harry had donated his newly-acquired umbrella to someone else, and so on!


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf


Rating: WORTHY!

This book was a bunch of bull - young bulls growing up with the idea of fighting in the bullring in Spain - except for Ferdinand that is, who much preferred to sit in the shade under a tree, enjoying the flowers. I must confess I was truly curious to see where the author took this and so I read on!

When the ring managers showed up to pick fresh young bulls to go up against the toreadors and matadors, all the bulls except Ferdinand played their game and were ready to run and fight. Ferdinand was under his tree, that is until something seriously disturbed him, and then the managers were very interested in how feisty he was, and took them with him. But in the ring, all Ferdinand wanted to do was to sit and enjoy the flowers tossed down into the ring by the spectators.

This was a fun and colorful book with a great ending, and a positive message. It's okay not to ask "How high?" when someone orders you to jump! It's okay to stop and smell the roses! I recommend it.


Red Car Green Car by Mara van der Meer, Penny Worms, Amy Oliver, Adria Meserve


Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated in fine young-child fashion with bright primary colors, and beautifully created and worded, this book looked to me like a great and fun book for very young children. There are things to pull on that change the color of the car you're looking at, and lots of sturdy pages to chew on...er to turn happily. The book looked well-made and seems to me like it will occupy a kid for some time. It kept me occupied anyway! Certainly it will take long enough to grab a quick break and a soothing cup of tea. I recommend it!


Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Elephant's Child by Rudyard Kipling, Karen Baiker, Davin Cheng


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a Rudyard Kipling story adapted by Karen Baiker, and illustrated nicely by Davin Cheng. I reviewed Kipling's Just So Stories a long time ago on this blog, and this one was included in that book under the title How the Elephant Got His Trunk which is the subtitle of the present story. As this newer author and illustrator have shown here, there is probably a rich and free vein of children's stories to be mined there now that Kipling is out of copyright. I'm going to get on it right away. Kidding! I have too much on my plate as it is.

The story is that of an annoyingly curious young elephant who, as all elephants did back then of course, had a snub nose. He was constantly asking questions of his older relatives: the baboon (who is shown incongruously hanging from a tree for which baboons are not really well-known!), the giraffe, the hippo, but none of them can spare him any time, so he takes the advice of a very possibly maliciously-inclined bird, who advises him that his last question, 'what do crocodiles eat?', could best be answered by hiking over to the Limpopo river and asking a croc directly.

The elephant in his innocence thinks this is a brill idea and heads off forthwith. The croc advises him that he will not only be happy to tell him, he will show him what he's going to eat for dinner and snaps at the elephant. This was very probably the first sound bite. Or perhaps more likely, an unsound bite since the croc only manages to grab the elephant's nose. In the ensuing tug of war, the nose is stretched and stretched of course (you knew this was coming, didn't you?!).

Unlike his elders, the young elephant is happy to take the time to relate his story of how his nose grew so long. And there you have it! So while this isn't an original story, it is nicely told and beautifully illustrated, and it's in a nice child-sized...er...bite, so I recommend it.


A Crack in the Sea by HM Bouwman


Rating: WARTY!

This audiobook was a sorry mess. It seemed like it might be a fun children's fantasy, but it turned out to be a lecture about slavery. Slavery was horrible, period. It should never have happened, but Christian people perpetrated these crimes on innocent Africans (the Bible supports slavery - or at the very least doesn't condemn it), and these obnoxious criminals set in motion issues we're still dealing with today, particularly in the USA.

The problem with a book like this is that slavery has been so done that there's nowhere else to go with it unless you offer a viable new perspective as the Black Panther movie did for example, and this novel did not. Just to harp on it again as this story does is a serious mistake in my opinion because all it does is make people's ears glaze over. The story is lost on the audience. It becomes background noise and it fails to shock or motivate as it should. That's not acceptable, and I think it would have been more à propos if the novel had dealt with modern ongoing issues, which admittedly are rooted in the slave trade, but which have much more relevance and currency today.

While there were some amusing parts and some interesting parts, overall this novel in the end was just a jumble of disconnected and ill-fitting parts which really spoiled the story for me. I grew bored with it quickly and started skimming, then I simply jumped to the end and listened to it for a little while, but I became bored even with it, and gave up on it. The basic story is that there are two worlds, and some slaves who either jumped overboard or were tossed overboard because they were sick, are rescued by magical characters and who walk line-astern, holding hands, on the seabed until they arrive in the second world. I think slaves deserved a better memorial than this.

In this second world there are islanders and rafters, and the Raft King wants to take his people back to the original world and repatriate them. In order to do this he kidnaps Pip, and adoptee child, who can talk to fish and whom the king believes can open the portal to the first world. Why he'd ever want to go back to such a cruel, brutal, and racist world is a complete mystery that isn't unraveled in any of the parts I listened to.

So once Pip is gone, his adoptee sister, Kinchen, wants to go after him. She's aided in this by a girl the Raft King left behind in an "exchange" for Pip. This story might have been fine had the author not continually derailed it by having some old dude tell stories which were frankly boring, about two other kids, Swimmer and the "Water Drinker who will become Venus" (or words to that effect). If I heard that last name once I heard it a gazillion times. It was mind-numbing. Apparently there were also two other siblings, refugees from Vietnam, Thanh and his sister Sang, but I never got to that part and frankly I am glad I didn't because it seems to me the author had no faith in her original story and felt she had to lard it up with two other stories. Bad idea, especially in a children's story.

I cannot recommend this mess.


Poetry for Kids: William Shakespeare by Marguerite Tassi, Mercè López


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy, for which to the publisher I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks!

This book was a little bit different from what I expected, but there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. For me, I thought it might be Shakespeare's words altered somewhat to facilitate children's reading, but in fact the text was untouched. What editor Marguerite Tassi (on the faculty of University of Nebraska-Kearney, and much published on many aspects of Shakespeare's work) did was to choose the pieces, include them unaltered in any way, but to add a short glossary after each to explain some of the more obscure or more readily misunderstood terms. Language use and meaning changes significantly in four hundred years!

There is also included some notes at the end on "What William was thinking," and an index. I read this on an iPad and what I would have liked to have seen was a means to get back to the contents page from a given excerpt. From that screen you can get to any item with a tap, but once you've shuffled off this mortal contents, you can't get back except by sliding the bar at the bottom of the page which oft trigger'd Apple's pop-up bar, and it was annoying. To link or not to link, that is the question!

Talented and Spanish-born artist Mercè López contributed illustrations for many of the excerpts. The illustrations, well-aimed at children, served to leaven what otherwise would have been a landscape solely of text and perhaps, because of that, a tragically undiscover'd country. It's a pity the editor doesn't hail from the same place as the illustrator, because then it could have been billed as 'Two Gentlewomen of Barcelona'. But it was not to be!

There are over thirty selections here, so there is no arguing over what was the most unkindest cut of all, because if they are mark'd to read, they are enough. Let us not wish for one choice more; the fewer options, the greater share of honour each derives! The excerpts were a fine selection in my amateur opinion, and made for some great reading if you're at all a fan of Shakespeare. The choice selection (There's a double meaning in that!) is as follows:

  • All the World’s a Stage from As You Like It
  • O, for a Muse of Fire from Henry V
  • We Were, Fair Queen from The Winter’s Tale
  • Over Hill, Over Dale from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Round About the Cauldron Go from Macbeth
  • Under the Greenwood Tree from As You Like It
  • Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day? (sonnet)
  • O Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou Romeo? from Romeo and Juliet
  • Now Is the Winter of Our Discontent from Richard III
  • If Music Be the Food of Love from Twelfth Night
  • How Sweet the Moonlight Sleeps Upon this Bank! from The Merchant of Venice
  • O, She Doth Teach the Torches to Burn Bright! from Romeo and Juliet
  • O Mistress Mine, Where Are You Roaming? from Twelfth Night
  • What Light Is Light, if Silvia Be Not Seen? from The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • But Soft, What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks? from Romeo and Juliet
  • My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun (sonnet)
  • The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds (sonnet)
  • Cowards Die Many Times Before Their Deaths from Julius Caesar
  • Once More Unto the Breach from Henry V
  • All Furnish’d, All in Arms from Henry IV, Part 1
  • The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strain’d from The Merchant of Venice
  • Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ears from Julius Caesar
  • All That Glitters Is Not Gold from The Merchant of Venice
  • That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold (sonnet)
  • To Be, or Not to Be, That Is the Question from Hamlet
  • Blow, Winds, and Crack Your Cheeks! from King Lear
  • To-morrow, and To-morrow, and To-morrow from Macbeth
  • Why, Man, He Doth Bestride the Narrow World from Julius Caesar
  • If We Shadows Have Offended from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Our Revels Now Are Ended from The Tempest

But soft, what a great way to get kids involved, especially if they can read and you can get them to get all dramatic and really speak these words from the heart with spirit and energy. O for a muse of fire! Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious reading by this daughter of Baltimore! I recommend this.


Great Polar Bear by Carolyn Lesser


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a beautifully-rendered (using elegantly torn paper) and charmingly-written novel for young children about the hard life of a polar bear. If I had a criticism I would say it was that climate change, while referenced in a note at the end of the book (which can be used as a talking-point with your child of course), wasn't really factored into the story. I felt it should have been because despite the liars who nay-say it, climate change is real, it's affecting people's lives now as well as the very existence of hundreds of species of plant and animal. It's already affecting Polar bears.

That said, this story tells, in gorgeously-written prose and pulling no punches, of the tough existence of this bear in the frozen north, sleeping in wind-sheltering snowdrifts for warmth, and hunting seals. It describes some of the means by which Polar bears stay warm, including the hollow hairs on their pelt. I think it might have gone more into the fact that it's getting harder for bears to find sufficient food as climate changes, but it does tell a stirring story and if it gets childrens' interest warmed to this icy, precarious life, then it will have served Polar bears well.

In the USA, as I write this, there is a movement - finally - to protect our schools from deranged people with automatic weapons. This is long overdue and shames our politicians that they love the NRA more than they do the lives of young children, but as many lives as are sacrificed to political self-interest and inertia, those lives, awfully tragic and irreplaceable as they are, are a tiny portion of what will be lost if climate change is not addressed. It is the most critical crisis facing humanity today, but selfish business interests are literally buying-off right-wing politicians and these callous, cynical low-lifes are sacrificing our children's future for short-term personal profit. They are also sacrificing nature, Polar bears along with it.

I would like to have seen climate changed addressed more directly here because Polar bears are utterly dependent on the ice-floes which are fast disappearing. While these magnificent animals are technically not considered endangered, they are rated as vulnerable and as the North Pole warms (it's thought that it will be ice-free by mid-century at the present rate of warming), their territory shrinks. If the North Pole melts, since it is already floating on the ocean, it will contribute little to sea-rise, but it will rob Polar bears of a major hunting ground. Because the Greenland ice sheet is all on land, if it melts, it will raise sea levels by over twenty feet. Coasts will be inundated and Polar bears will be left with nowhere to go.

If this book does anything to educate people, especially youngsters, about this crisis, then it will have served us well. I liked the book, loved the prose, found the images quite entrancing, and I highly recommend it.


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.