Sunday, May 26, 2019

Review - Sleepy Time

Sleepy Time
by Gyo Fujikawa
Date: 1975
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 18
Format: e-book
Source: Open Library

As night approaches, sleepy children prepare for bed. Also shows how different animals sleep.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I haven't read a Gyo Fujikawa title in decades! I know I had a few of her books when I was little. I don't recall this one, though. It's really cute, a simple bedtime book that shows adorable children getting ready for bed. It also shows how a few animals sleep.

I can see this being a bedtime favourite for winding down after a long day. The pictures are relaxing to look at, and the text isn't too overwhelming.

Overall, this is a lovely bedtime book for young children.

Quotable moment:


Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.83 out of 5

Review - A Man Called Raven

A Man Called Raven
by Richard Van Camp
illustrated by George Littlechild
Date: 1997
Publisher: Children's Book Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

A mysterious man tells two Indian brothers why they must not hurt the ravens that pester them.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I don't know. Something about this story just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it's because the resolution is facile and unrealistic. Maybe it's because I don't like the illustrations. In any case, I'm struggling to find much that I like about this one.

The book starts out with an appalling display of animal cruelty by two little boys. They're beating a raven with broken hockey sticks, and the poor thing can't get away because they've broken its wing. I'm sorry, but I doubt telling a couple of budding psychopaths a story is going to alter the trajectory of their lives. Because that's what happens: a man suddenly shows up and gets the boys to take him to their house, where he smokes and drinks coffee and tells the boys a story about a man who got turned into a raven after abusing ravens.

Like I said, I find it difficult to believe that kids who are already that callous and have that little empathy would be swayed from committing further acts of animal cruelty. At the very least, they have terrible problem-solving skills. (Their excuse for beating up the bird is because it gets into their garbage. Hello?! Bird-proof your garbage cans. It's not that hard.)

The illustrations aren't to my taste, but your mileage may vary. I'm not a fan of the rough, colourful style on display here.

Overall, this was kind of a disappointment. I've enjoyed some of Richard Van Camp's other books, but those have been for much younger readers. A Man Called Raven is probably aimed at older children, although I don't know if I'd want to give it to any child because of the bad example the two boys set. (We never really find out if the boys change their ways. They say they understand, but... then again, they lied about beating the bird when they were caught. So I don't know if I'd trust them.)

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.17 out of 5

Review - Sir Kevin of Devon

Sir Kevin of Devon
by Adelaide Holl
illustrated by Leonard Weisgard
Date: 1963
Publisher: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 36
Format: e-book
Source: Open Library

The rhyming story of a young lad Kevin (not quite 11) who dreams of being a knight and his chase after a clanking dragon that terrorizes the land.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This out-of-print book is sort of a gem. Its bouncy rhythm reminds me of Dr. Seuss, but without all the nonsensical words.

This is the story of Kevin (not quite eleven) who longs to be a knight. He gets his chance when a monster starts terrorizing the countryside and all the other knights chickens flee. But Kevin is brave, and so the king gets him all kitted out with a suit of armour and sends him out to battle the monster. Kevin soon learns, though, that the monster isn't quite what it seems.

The illustrations are all done in shades of black, grey, and orange. They look like they're from the '60s (and they are!) but they work well with the subject matter.

There are some fun books out there that are no longer in print. Sir Kevin of Devon is one of them. If you get a chance, I'd recommend taking a look.

Quotable moment:


Premise: 3/5
Meter: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.57 out of 5

Review - Max's Box

Max's Box
by Brian Wray
illustrated by Shiloh Penfield
Date: 2019
Publisher: Schiffer Kids
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Max's parents give him a very special gift: a tiny, magical box that will hold everything, from his toys to his feelings. Max learns, however, that feelings can't be put away as easily as toys. Each negative emotion he feels—anger, embarrassment, sadness, loneliness—gets added to the box, which grows and grows. Eventually it is so large that it keeps him from doing what he loves, like riding his bike and climbing trees. With some help from his friends and family, Max is able to turn the box into something beautiful and let it go. A parents' guide explains how well-intentioned adults often encourage children, especially young boys, to ignore and “put away” their feelings instead of learning to fully live with them. This simple but powerful story not only teaches children how to “control” their emotions but discourages suppressing them, the illustrations becoming more colorful and vibrant as Max moves out from his box’s shadow.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book is just plain confusing. I get what the author is trying to do here (I think), but the writing fails the message.

Max's parents give him a box and tell him that everything will go inside it. All his toys. Everything. Max eventually learns that his emotions go into the box, too. The problem is, whenever something gets put into the box, the box grows. Soon, Max can't do anything anymore because he's weighed down by this giant, heavy box that he has to take everywhere.

The confusing part for me is because his parents tell him that everything goes in the box... and yet, it appears to be only the negative emotions that get stored and weigh him down. So maybe the author could've said that only negative stuff goes in the box... but then, that doesn't explain why all his toys are in there. (Everything is in there, remember?) So I'm really struggling to understand this part of the story.

I'm also struggling to understand why only Max appears to have one of these boxes. It makes his parents seem kind of cruel and abusive, giving him this box without letting him know how to use it so that it doesn't end up being a ball and chain that he has to drag around. (It's even worse because his father eventually tells him it's okay to let his feelings go once they've done their job. Gee, thanks, Dad! Could you not have pointed that out before the box got too big to even be hauled around by the family car?)

There are a number of grammatical issues in the text, and the illustrations feel really uneven to me. (The first one of his parents kind of took me by surprise. His dad's eyes are simply vertical lines, while his mom's eyes are fully detailed round orbs, complete with eyelashes!) I like the way Max is the only bit of colour for most of the book (his shirt is blue), until the last few pages when more colour creeps in as everyone helps him lighten his load of feelings.

I'm afraid I can't really recommend this one, though. It's supposedly aimed at helping kids deal with their emotions, because emotions can be confusing. Well, this book is confusing. I'm still wondering why Max is the only one who has one of these boxes, why it only holds negative emotions and toys, and why his parents gave it to him without warning him about the consequences of stuffing his negative emotions in a box. That seems like a pretty twisted mind game.

Thank you to NetGalley and Schiffer Kids for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.17 out of 5

Review - The Guinea Pig ABC

The Guinea Pig ABC
by Kate Duke
Date: 1983
Publisher: Dutton Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: Open Library

Each letter of the alphabet is illustrated by a word which applies to pictured guinea pigs.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I think there's probably an alphabet book for every theme under the sun! This one covers guinea pigs, and highlights the 26 letters of the English alphabet with cute, cuddly cavies.

The selection of words is quite nice, and each illustration provides a basic definition of the word in question. Q, X, and Z are always tricky when it comes to alphabet books, and this book falls back on the oft-used "Zzzzzzzzz" for the last letter. (The X page is even more of a stretch, but the accompanying illustration is so cute that I'll give it a pass. Besides, even though the word doesn't start with X, the X is highlighted so that it's easy to see the letter.)

I don't think I've come across Kate Duke's illustrations before, but her guinea pigs here are adorable. This is a pretty strong alphabet book that adults will probably enjoy perusing as much as kids.

Quotable moment:


Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5

Review - A Church for All

A Church for All
by Gayle E. Pitman
illustrated by Laure Fournier
Date: 2018
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

This simple, lyrical story celebrates a Sunday morning at an inclusive church that embraces all people regardless of age, class, race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. All are welcome at the church for all!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

The premise of this book is good. The execution, not so much. Sure, it celebrates diversity, but only certain kinds. With the line "weak and healthy" (as a comparison of opposites), it becomes an ableist text. Disabled people aren't weak. Honestly. You don't write a book celebrating certain marginalized communities by insulting other marginalized communities.

I just can't get past that bit. Teaching children that people who aren't healthy (and that could mean someone with a mental illness, a chronic illness, or even just a cold) are weak doesn't seem like something a picture book should be doing.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: 3/5
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.43 out of 5

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Review - The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig

The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig
by Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter & Caprice Crane
illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld
Date: 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book biography
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

The true story of social media sensation Esther the Wonder Pig and her two dads that inspired the New York Times bestselling memoir for adults is now available in a picture book with adorable illustrations and a message of love.

When Steve and Derek adopted a mini pig named Esther, they had no idea that she would turn out to be not-so-mini after all. When her new family saw just how big and wonderful Esther really was, they fell in love--and their lives changed forever. Esther would soon grow too large for her bed, and their small apartment. She got into everything, including her neighbor's tasty garden. So the whole family moved from a small apartment to a big farm, where Esther and her animal friends could fit happily (and get into a little less mischief). Eventually, that farm would become the Happily Esther After animal sanctuary, home to rescued animals of all kinds.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a cute little... well, biography, I guess. It's about Esther the Wonder Pig. It tells the story of her piglethood and growing up with her two dads. She's a beloved member of the family, even though she won't stop growing! Soon, Steve and Derek are forced to relocate to accommodate their rather large "daughter", and in so doing, they open a farm sanctuary so they can help more animals.

It's a cute story, highlighted by Cori Doerrfeld's adorable illustrations. There's even a little blurb at the back about Steve, Derek, and Esther, and a few photos of the pig herself.

The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig would be a great book for animal lovers, or for anyone who enjoys real-life stories about humans trying to make a difference for the animals they love.

Quotable moment:


Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5