Monday, April 29, 2019

Review - Monsters Go Night-Night

Monsters Go Night-Night
by Aaron Zenz
Date: 2016
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Bedtime means brushing your teeth, putting on pajamas, snuggling, and kissing your family goodnight. But for monsters, bedtime looks a little different. They brush their teeth, but not with a toothbrush. They get dressed for bed, but not in slippers and nightcaps. They snuggle, but not with a blankie or a teddy bear. Monsters Go Night-Night takes readers through the bedtime ritual of seven friendly monsters while making each step of the routine a guessing game. Getting ready for bed has never been so much fun!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book is surprisingly good. It's obviously intended for very young children, but I found myself smiling as I was reading it. Basically, we have a number of non-threatening monsters getting ready for bed. They wash up, brush their teeth, put on "pajamas", go to the bathroom, and say goodnight... but most of those things are done with a twist. It's a bit ridiculous in spots, but also pretty amusing.

The surprise factor will be gone after the first read-through, so I don't know how often kids will want to read this one. But it definitely seems like a good book for winding down at bedtime.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

Review - There's a Nightmare in My Closet

There's a Nightmare in My Closet
by Mercer Mayer
Date: 1968
Publisher: Dial Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

The pesky nightmare in the closet won't stay in there at night, even with the door closed all the way. When he gets out, what do you do? Comfort him and put him to bed, of course! The ultimate afraid-of-the-dark story has helped generations of kids deal with the nightmares in their own closets. A perennial favorite.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm conflicted. For what it is, and taking into account when it was written, it's a cute story.

However, we live in an age of school shootings and people thinking that guns will solve all their problems. Showing a child solving the problem of a nightmare by shooting it with a rifle might not play well to a 21st-century audience. In this case, yes, it's a toy gun. But there are kids out there with real guns, and I don't think we should be encouraging them to shoot at things that come through the door.

From a 1960s perspective? This is probably a four-star book. The way the boy comforts the nightmare (the poor thing just got shot at, after all; he's allowed to be upset) is sweet.

From a 2010s perspective? The kid shouldn't have been shooting nightmares in the first place. And since the nightmare isn't really a bad guy, there could've been other ways of handling the conflict in the story.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3 out of 5

Review - A Dog's Breakfast

A Dog's Breakfast (The Nightmare Club #3)
by Annie Graves
illustrated by Glenn McElhinney
Date: 2011
Publisher: Little Island
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 64
Format: e-book
Source: library

The Nightmare Club is not for just ANYBODY. Only the spookiest, scariest stories get told at Annie's Halloween sleepovers―and if you can't take it, well, tough!

Getting lost in the woods is no big deal for Glen. It's just one more thing he can whine and complain about. But then he encounters a strange creature―and gets on its bad side.

Not long afterward, Glen disappears. What happened to him? Did his mysterious adventure in the woods have something to do with it?

Only the members of the Nightmare Club will find out...

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm not even sure how to categorize this. It's more like a chapter book than a picture book, except there are no chapters. Let's just call it a text-heavy picture book.

Surprisingly, the writing itself isn't that bad. Unfortunately, the story is silly and not scary at all. Glen is annoying (he's supposed to be) and it's difficult to feel bad for him because he's just so unpleasant.

The idea of these books being written by a twelve-year-old orphan is probably supposed to appeal to kids, but it's clear that it's just a gimmick. "Annie Graves" has a better grasp of the English language than many adults. Her narrative reads like an adult pretending to have a child's voice. (Now, if I'm wrong and there actually is an Annie Graves, I apologize. I find it doubtful, though, considering the copyright for the text is held by the publisher.)

This is the third book in the series, but it appears to be self-contained. That's just as well. I'm not in any rush to read any of the other books. If they're anything like this one, they're probably pretty forgettable.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

Review - Llama Llama Home with Mama

Llama Llama Home with Mama (Llama Llama)
by Anna Dewdney
Date: 2011
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: hardcover
Source: library

Llama Llama, morning light.
Feeling yucky, just not right.
Down to breakfast.
Tiny sneeze.
Sniffle, snuffle.
Tissues, please!

Ah-choo! Uh-oh, Llama Llama's nose is feeling tickly, his throat is feeling scratchy, and his head is feeling stuffy. Back to bed, no school today for Llama Llama! Instead, he's home with Mama. By lunchtime, though, he's beginning to feel a tiny bit better. But now someone else has the sneezes... Mama! And who will help her feel better? Why, Llama Llama, of course! Anna Dewdney's fun-to-read rhymes are sure to help children and their parents get through those under-the-weather days.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Here's another cute Llama Llama book, perfect for reading aloud when the kids are feeling under the weather.

Llama Llama wakes up feeling gross. He's got a cold, so he has to stay home from school. Mama takes care of him, feeding him soup and making sure he gets enough rest. But just when he starts feeling a little bit better, Mama comes down with the same thing! Although Llama Llama is feeling kind of bored, he steps up and tries to make his mom feel better.

It's a sweet book with a sweet message. I could've done without some of the rhymes about snot, but kids will probably love them. This is yet another wonderful Llama Llama book to add to your collection.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.86 out of 5

Review - Festival of Colors

Festival of Colors
by Kabir Sehgal & Surishtha Sehgal
illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Date: 2018
Publisher: Beach Lane Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: hardcover
Source: library

Learn all about Holi, the Indian Festival of Colors, in this lush picture book from bestselling mother/son duo Surishtha Sehgal and Kabir Sehgal.

Spring is here, and it’s almost time for Holi, the Indian Festival of Colors. Siblings Mintoo and Chintoo are busy gathering flowers to make into colorful powders to toss during the festival. And when at last the big day comes, they gather with their friends, family, and neighbors for a vibrant celebration of fresh starts, friendship, forgiveness, and, of course, fun!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is the second picture book about Holi that I've read, the first being the underwhelming Holi Colors by Rina Singh. Unlike that book, which was basically just a bunch of photographs of children with coloured powder on their faces and some insipid rhymes, Festival of Colors has more of a story, with siblings Mintoo and Chintoo preparing for the festival by gathering flowers.

Flowers, you say? Well, as it turns out, those coloured powders are traditionally made from dried and powdered flowers. (I thought it was just coloured powder that was bought at a store!) So the beginning part of the book is basically a book that teaches colours as the siblings go about collecting the flowers to make their powders: irises for blue, marigolds for orange, etc. Then, when they have their powders, they join with their family, friends, and neighbours (all dressed in white) and begin the celebrations.

There's an author's note at the end that explains more about the festival, but the book itself already does a decent job of showing what goes on during Holi. And the illustrations are cute, intensely colourful, and immensely appealing.

I would definitely recommend this book for young children (or anyone, for that matter) who's interested in learning about Holi and what happens. It's also a colourful feast for the eyes, so people who appreciate good illustrations in picture books might want to take a look as well.

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 - Hotel Bruce

Hotel Bruce (Bruce #2)
by Ryan T. Higgins
Date: 2016
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 38
Format: hardcover
Source: library

When Bruce gets home from a southern migration trip with his goslings, he is tired. He is grumpy. And he is definitely not in the mood to share his home with the trio of mice who have turned his den into a hotel.

There's a possum pillow fight wreaking havoc in one room, a fox luring guests into a stew in the kitchen, and a snuggly crew of critters hogging the bed. Bruce growls and grumbles and tries to throw them all out, but the entrepreneurial mice just can't take a hint. Bruce is in a little over his head, especially once the goslings join the staff. Will this grumpy bear ever get his quiet, peaceful den back to himself?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Our library only had books #1 and #3 in e-book format, and I already read those, so I'm going back and trying to read the ones I missed in hardcover.

This is the second book in Bruce's series. It doesn't really stand on its own. I mean, I guess it can, but it's a lot more fun when you've read the first book and you understand the relationship between Bruce and his goslings. In this installment, he's just come back from taking the kids south (on a bus!) and returns to find that three enterprising mice have turned his house into a hotel. The intruders have even put up new wallpaper!

There are plenty of clever little things to look at in the pictures, and I loved the fox chef trying to coax the turtles into the "bath". Bruce's reaction is predictable, both for a bear and for someone who's had his space violated.

The only thing I'm not really sure about is the ending. It's kind of abrupt, and it almost seems like there's something missing. Having read the next book in the series--which is about the mice--I'm even more confused. I guess I'll have to read the fourth book to see what happens to Bruce and his family.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4.17 out of 5

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Review - Goodnight, Good Dog

Goodnight, Good Dog
by Mary Lyn Ray
illustrated by Rebecca Malone
Date: 2015
Publisher: Harcourt Brace and Company
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

It's time to say goodnight. But what if a dog isn't sleepy? Intimate and accessible, this young dog story captures how a reluctant pup warms to bedtime in a way that children will recognize immediately--and find as reassuring as their own beds.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a rather fanciful story that attributes human thought processes to a dog who doesn't want to go to bed. I get that it may be a metaphor for children not wanting to go to bed yet; they'd rather stay up and play, just like the dog.

And I might've been able to go along with the conceit if the pictures had blown me away. Unfortunately, they didn't. They look so rough to me, almost as if someone has taken a paintbrush and traced over some photographs of dogs. There's both too little detail and too much texture. I'm really not a fan of the style.

I can think of a number of other books about bedtime that are much better than this. Try Bedtime 123 by Eric Walters & Josée Bisaillon, A Bedtime for Bear by Bonny Becker & Kady MacDonald Denton, or I Want a Bedtime Story! by Tony Ross for some lovely bedtime books.

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

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.83 out of 5

Review - I See a Cat

I See a Cat
by Paul Meisel
Date: 2017
Publisher: Holiday House
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

A dog barks at everything he loves--a cat, a squirrel, and his favorite boy! This Level A book is perfect for new readers.

I see a cat. I see a bird. I see a fly.

Easy-to-read text and fun pictures follow a dog through his happy day. Sitting inside his house, the dog watches other animals pass by the glass door... until his beloved boy comes home, and the two pals dash outside, determined to get up close and personal with all the backyard wildlife!

2018 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book
American Library Association Notable Book
Junior Library Guild Selection

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book may be perfect for new readers... but it's probably not going to appeal to anyone else. It's literally just a dog seeing stuff around him and occasionally barking his head off. Kids may feel accomplished when they finish reading this book all by themselves, but they're probably not going to be very satisfied by the story. I actually kept trying to turn the pages on my e-book copy when I got to the end because I thought there must've been more! It just ends. That's all, folks!

The illustrations are somewhat amusing, even if a little rough. I probably enjoyed them more than the "story".

While this might be fine for absolute beginners, I can't see it having much appeal beyond that. It's too simple even for a book you'd read out loud.

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

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2 out of 5

Review - Mother's Day with Snowman Paul

Mother's Day with Snowman Paul
by Yossi Lapid
illustrated by Joanna Pasek
Date: 2018
Publisher: Yosef Lapid
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 38
Format: e-book
Source: author

Dan and Snowman Paul are getting ready to celebrate Mother's Day in grand style! But who is Snowman Paul's mother and how can they both celebrate Mother's Day together? Join Snowman Paul and Dan in this charming new adventure where they explore the meaning of Mother's Day and Earth Day and in the process they learn new things about how families and nature work.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This rhyming picture book combines Mother's Day and Earth Day. It sounds a little unusual at first, but it actually works. After Snowman Paul tells Dan what a great mom he has, Dan asks the snowman about his mother. Snowman Paul's answer is a little bit educational, quite a bit philosophical, and a whole lot cute. The interconnectedness of everything is highlighted, which is a great message for Earth Day... but the importance of mothers is showcased, too, which also makes this a nice Mother's Day book.

The rhythm of the text is fairly good. I did have a few issues with the punctuation, but I'm a stickler for that sort of thing. (It's not something you'd notice if you were having the book read to you, so it won't be an issue for most kids.) The illustrations are a perfect complement to the text. I particularly like Snowman Paul with his tree necklace and funky twig hair. The overall message is a good one, and it's interesting to see how the author combined the two holidays to make a sweet picture book about nurturing and nature.

If you're looking for a Mother's Day book that's a little bit different, you might want to give Mother's Day with Snowman Paul a try.

Thank you to Yossi Lapid for the e-book copy of Mother's Day with Snowman Paul.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.71 out of 5

Review - Roly Poly Pangolin

Roly Poly Pangolin
by Anna Dewdney
Date: 2010
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: hardcover
Source: library

Roly Poly, very small, doesn't like new things at all.

Meet Roly Poly Pangolin: a little pangolin who'd rather stick close to his mama instead of facing anything unfamiliar. Whether it's a line of ants, a friendly monkey, or a loud noise, Roly Poly runs the other way. Then he hears something that really scares him. So he does what all pangolins do when they're frightened: he rolls up into a tiny ball. But Roly Poly is surprised when he finally peeks out, because another ball is peeking back... it's a small pangolin just like him!

Anna Dewdney has created another irresistible character to reassure children about the world around them.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Anna Dewdney stepped away from Llama Llama for a moment to bring us Roly Poly Pangolin, a story about a nervous pangolin who doesn't like new things.

The story is okay, I guess. It's better than Scaredy Squirrel, in any case, when it comes to picture books about being afraid to try anything new. I found it a little repetitive in the beginning, but once the rhyming story really got going, it was a little better. The little bit of scientific information about pangolins at the back will also satisfy readers' curiosity about this strange little mammal; including this was a nice touch.

I think I know why there's only one book about this little pangolin, though. He must've been a nightmare to paint! All of those individual scales... This book must've taken ages for Dewdney to put together.

While it doesn't quite measure up to the Llama Llama books, it's still a decent picture book and young children will probably enjoy the bouncing rhythm and repetition (even if it drives their parents a little nuts).

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.29 out of 5

Review - Cece Loves Science

Cece Loves Science
by Kimberly Derting & Shelli R. Johannes
illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Date: 2018
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: hardcover
Source: library

Cece loves science! This STEM-themed picture book, the first in a series, follows inquisitive Cece as she poses one of life’s most pressing questions—do dogs eat vegetables? With her best friend, Isaac, Cece uses science to uncover the answer. This entertaining and educational book is perfect for readers who love Andrea Beaty’s Ada Twist, Scientist and the companion volumes.

Cece’s parents say she was born asking questions. Why? How? What if? So when her science teacher, Ms. Curie, assigns a project about zoology, Cece has the perfect question: Do dogs eat vegetables? Working from their treehouse lab, Cece and her best friend, Isaac, investigate, research, and collect and analyze data, using Cece’s adorable (and hungry!) dog, Einstein, as their case study.

In their picture book debut, authors Kimberly Derting and Shelli Wells and illustrator Vashti Harrison have created a diverse and charming cast of characters who love school and science. This engaging and educational STEM picture book is just right for readers of Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do With an Idea?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

While I appreciate the premise of this book, I found it just a little basic and kind of young.

Cece loves science! And she loves her teacher, Ms. Curie. When the teacher assigns the class a project to do in pairs, Cece and her friend Isaac come up with a question and then use the scientific method to answer it.

I like that this book demonstrates the scientific method in an easy-to-understand way. The kids' experiments with trying to get the dog to eat his vegetables are kind of amusing, too. What really brought up this book's rating for me, though, are Vashti Harrison's adorable illustrations. I first came across her work in her duo of books featuring strong women from history. The style is a little different here, but no less cute. The kids and the dog, as well as Cece's treehouse, are drawn in a colourful, animated way that's likely to appeal to young readers.

It's nice to see a book about a girl so interested in science. I would recommend it; even though it read kind of young for me, I'm sure kids will enjoy it.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

Review - The Elves and the Shoemaker

The Elves and the Shoemaker
by Jim LaMarche
Date: 2003
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: hardcover
Source: library

Here is the classic tale of elfin magic, loved by generations of children and made new by an artist of international acclaim. Jim LaMarche's stunning paintings, reminiscent of his earlier work in The Rainbabies, are the perfect compliment to this favorite Grimm fairy tale.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a great book for lovers of fairy tale retellings! While I wasn't that impressed with the text (it has a few technical issues), that's more than made up for by Jim LaMarche's gorgeous illustrations. The elves (who look very much like a couple of cute little children, save for their pointy ears) are adorable. Actually, the shoemaker and his wife are kind of adorable, too, and the settings are rendered beautifully.

This would be fine as a read-aloud, but make sure the listener gets to look at the pictures. They're what make this book a winner!

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Review - Wind

Wind (Weather)
by Ann Herriges
Date: 2006
Publisher: Bellwether Media
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: library

Simple text and supportive images introduce beginning readers to the characteristics of wind. Intended for students in kindergarten through third grade.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is an okay non-fiction title that explains the concept of wind and how it works. I don't really have a problem with the information that's included, or even how it's presented. I do, however, think the book is a little bit boring (it's definitely not as engaging as a previous children's book I read about weather, Fly Guy Presents: Weather). It's also rather Americocentric in that when it talks about hurricanes, it only mentions those in the Atlantic and Caribbean. (Such storms occur all over the world, but they're called different things depending on where they are. This little bit of information was left out.)

I like how this book explains how wind is formed. That's probably the strongest part (as it should be, given the title). But I just wasn't all that interested in the subject matter. It's a bit bland, like a textbook, despite the nice photos that are used throughout.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.67 out of 5

Review - Fly Guy Presents: Weather

Fly Guy Presents: Weather (Fly Guy Presents)
by Tedd Arnold
Date: 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 37
Format: e-book
Source: library

It's time for a field trip! Fly Guy and Buzz are going to a weather station to learn all about weather. With straightforward text, humorous asides, and kid-friendly full-bleed photographs throughout, young readers will love learning about tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, and much more! Award-winning author/illustrator Tedd Arnold really brings nonfiction to life for beginning readers! And this book has eye-catching holographic foil on the front cover!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is actually a surprisingly strong non-fiction title about weather. I'm not familiar with Fly Guy, but you don't really need to be to get something out of this book. It's full of facts and pictures, teaching kids about weather and climate in an easy-to-understand way. We learn about precipitation, wind, jobs to do with weather, climates, and even a bit about climate change. The book makes the same ineffectual suggestions for saving the planet as most other children's books I've read (i.e., turn off lights, take shorter showers, plant a tree), but I've resigned myself to the fact that that's all we're going to get.

The information is laid out quite nicely, so it's all clear and easy to digest. Pronunciation of more difficult words is included (although, I found it kind of hilarious; when I said some of the words out loud, I found myself speaking with an American accent).

I didn't learn much that I didn't already know, but I can see this being a great title for kids. And if they're already fans of Fly Guy... that's even better!

Quotable moment:


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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

Review - What Do You Do With an Idea?

What Do You Do With an Idea? (What Do You Do With...)
by Kobi Yamada
illustrated by Mae Besom
Date: 2014
Publisher: Compendium Inc
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 36
Format: hardcover
Source: library

This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child's confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens. This is a story for anyone, at any age, who's ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult. It's a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space to grow, and to see what happens next. Because your idea isn't going anywhere. In fact, it's just getting started.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

The subject matter here might seem a little esoteric for a picture book, but it actually works really well.

The story is told in the first person by a small child who has an idea. The idea is drawn as an egg with legs wearing a crown. It's always surrounded by a bit of colour, as if anywhere it steps it brings new life with it. The other illustrations are black and white... but as the book progresses, the idea's colour starts to rub off on everything around it. The idea grows, too, becoming larger and larger until it can no longer be contained. And what happens when an idea can't be contained? I won't spoil it for you.

This was actually a really pleasant surprise. It's a relaxing sort of book, almost meditative. Mae Besom's illustrations are really special; they're cute, creative, and perfectly capture the magic of ideas (both big and small).

I see that there are two other books in this series, What Do You Do With a Problem? and What Do You Do With a Chance? I'm definitely going to be seeking those out.

What Do You Do With an Idea? is a book I'll be thinking about for a while to come.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4.5 out of 5

Review - Llama Llama Time to Share

Llama Llama Time to Share (Llama Llama)
by Anna Dewdney
Date: 2012
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: hardcover
Source: library

Llama has a sharing drama!

Build a tower. Make a moat.
Nelly's dolly sails a boat.
What can Llama Llama add?
Maybe sharing's not so bad.

Llama Llama has new neighbors! Nelly Gnu and her mama stop by for a play date, but Llama's not so sure it's time to share all his toys. Maybe just his blocks? It could be fun to make a castle with Nelly . . . But wait--Nelly has Llama's little Fuzzy Llama! The fun turns to tears when Fuzzy Llama is ripped in two, "all because of Nelly Gnu!" Mama comes to the rescue and fixes Fuzzy, but she makes it clear: "I'll put Fuzzy on the stairs, until you're sure that you can share."

Fun to read aloud and helpful to children and parents alike, Llama Llama Time to Share is for any child who needs a little encouragement in sharing.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Now this is the Llama Llama I know and love.

This adorable story in rhyme is about sharing. When Nelly Gnu comes over for a playdate, Llama is forced to share his toys. That's all fine, really, until he sees Nelly playing with Fuzzy Llama (his little doll that he takes everywhere). A tug-o-war ensues, and poor Fuzzy Llama gets his arm ripped off! It's a "llama-mergency"!

Not to worry. Mama fixes Fuzzy Llama, but she sets him aside until Llama Llama is ready to share. Eventually, he learns that sharing isn't so bad, and he and Nelly have lots of fun playing together.

Unlike the last Llama Llama book I read, the posthumously published Llama Llama Loves to Read, this one captures the soul of the characters through the wonderful illustrations and bouncy rhymes. There's a lesson here (as there is in most of the Llama Llama storybooks), and I love that it's not preachy. It's just there, in the background, waiting to be absorbed as you read the cute story.

This is yet another wonderful book about the little llama and his family and friends. Highly recommended to fans of the series... or to anyone who needs a little encouragement to share.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Review - Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come True

Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come True (Uni the Unicorn #2)
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
illustrated by Brigette Barrager
Date: 2017
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: hardcover
Source: library

Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Brigette Barrager reunite to bring us a sparkly, magical sequel to Uni the Unicorn!

The Land of Unicorns is in trouble -- it has been raining and raining for what seems like forever. This is a big problem because there are only three ways that unicorns can get their magic: from the golden sun, from magnificent rainbows, and from the sparkle of believing.

Luckily, Uni the Unicorn has always always always believed...that little girls are REAL. Join this very special unicorn and the little girl who believes right back as they finally meet and work together to save a magical land and all who live there!

Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Brigette Barrager reunite to revive this world glowing with possibility and hope that is the stuff of childhood fantasies.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I found this second installment in the Uni the Unicorn series rather underwhelming. The charm of the first one was the unique premise. In this book, the plot is that it's raining in the Land of Unicorns, so there's no magic. So Uni ends up using the power of belief to get her human friend there, and then the unicorns are all saved from the rain. Frankly, I'm not clear on the plot (it didn't really stick in my head after the first read-through, and I don't really feel like going back and reading it again).

The illustrations are (I think) done in the same style as the previous book, but they seemed simpler and more garish here. They're not bad, but I'm not loving them as much as I did in Uni the Unicorn.

This isn't a terrible book, so I might recommend it to people who've read the first one so they can have a complete set. But it's nowhere near as unique as the original, and as such, is kind of disappointing.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.33 out of 5

Review - The Loud Book!

The Loud Book! (The Quiet Book)
by Deborah Underwood
illustrated by Renata Liwska
Date: 2011
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: hardcover
Source: library

BANG!
CRACKLE!
BOO!

Just like there are lots of quiets, there are also lots of louds:

Good louds

(HOORAY!)

and bad louds

(CRASH!)

And louds that make you feel like you are the center of attention

(BURP!).

The Loud Book compiles all these kid-friendly noises from morning to night, in a way that is sure to make readers CHEER!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Here's another fun entry in The Quiet Book series. I've still yet to read the first one, but I'm really enjoying these others.

Like The Christmas Quiet Book, which I read last year, The Loud Book! features a cast of fuzzy critters engaging in everyday activities... some of which are LOUD. The illustrations by Renata Liwska are adorable, and the facial expressions on the characters' faces are absolutely priceless. (I particularly liked the page with the bears glaring back at the reader in the movie theatre; I actually felt like I'd made too much noise with my candy wrappers!)

I can't wait to get my hands on The Quiet Book so I can see how this all began. The premise of these books is simple, but they're really lovely to look at.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Review - Nancy Clancy: Super Sleuth

Nancy Clancy: Super Sleuth (Nancy Clancy #1)
by Jane O'Connor
illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
Date: 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: C
Book type: illustrated chapter book
Pages: 124
Format: e-book
Source: library

Nancy Clancy is growing up and ready for a whole new adventure... in her chapter book debut!

Nancy and her best friend, Bree, have everything they need to solve a mystery, from their totally professional trench coats to their top-secret code.

But when crime strikes in their classroom, will these super sleuths be able to crack the case?

Find out in the glamorous start to an all-new chapter book series featuring everyone’s favorite fancy girl!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Since I've been enjoying the Fancy Nancy picture books, I thought I'd give one of the chapter books a try. This is my first foray into the Nancy Clancy series, and I have to say, I'm not that impressed. They may be aimed at a slightly older audience than the picture books, but I actually found this book more difficult to enjoy than the books featuring six-year-old Nancy.

The illustrations, while still done by Robin Preiss Glasser, are all in black and white, so some of the magic is lost there. I also don't like the fact that these chapter books are written in a third-person point of view, unlike the picture books (which are in the first person); it distances the reader from the main character a little too much. Also, I found the "mystery" way too simple, and the culprit was way too obvious. I've often been surprised by the events in the Fancy Nancy picture books, because they're often not what one would expect. In this book, however, things are foreshadowed or hinted at too much, and it leaves little room for the reader to come up with imaginative alternate scenarios.

Part of the charm of Nancy is her over-the-top fanciness. That always played a role in the picture books. Here, though, that isn't the focus. Aside from the established background of these characters, there's really nothing to make them stand out. They might as well be original characters (and kind of boring ones, at that).

I've sated my curiosity for now. I doubt I'll be reading any more of these chapter books. While they might be okay for young readers, I wonder if the plots will even be too young for kids who are reading chapter books by themselves.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 2.88 out of 5

Review - Razzle Dazzle Unicorn

Razzle Dazzle Unicorn (Heavenly Nostrils #4)
by Dana Simpson
Date: 2016
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Reading level: MG
Book type: comic collection
Pages: 184
Format: e-book
Source: library

Dana Simpson's Phoebe and Her Unicorn is back with more sparkles than ever! In this fourth volume, join in the adventure as Phoebe and Marigold confront messy rooms, trouble at school, and a nasty case of “Sparkle Fever.” Follow the pair back to Camp Wolfgang, where their old pals Sue (a.k.a. “Monster Girl”) and Ringo, the lake creature, remind them that being weird is WAY more fun than being normal.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

These books are just so much fun!

In this installment, Marigold gets "Sparkle Fever" (sort of like a cold for unicorns), makes Phoebe's room temporarily vanish, and follows her friend to another year of summer camp.

I enjoyed the summer camp scenes a little more in this one. When we first met Sue, she freaked me out. (She came across as a little psychopath.) In this book, she's more odd than frightening. The interactions with the lake monster, Ringo, are kind of fun, too. (Marigold even gets a crush!)

The back matter in this volume features the author talking about the creative process and how she puts together a comic strip. There's also a glossary of tricky words to help kids figure out what some of the panels are trying to say. I still don't think this is really a series for young children, in part due to the complex language and the jokes that will go over their heads. (It's not inappropriate for children, it's just a little too advanced. When you have words like "feign", "prescient", and "schism" in a book, it's probably not for early readers!)

Overall, this is another fun book about Phoebe and Marigold. On to the next one!

Quotable moment:


Writing & Editing: 4/5
Illustration: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 ladybugs

Review - Scaredy Squirrel

Scaredy Squirrel (Scaredy Squirrel #1)
by Mélanie Watt
Date: 2006
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

The first book in the Scaredy Squirrel series is a comical story of an endearing squirrel who learns what can happen when he’s brave enough to take a risk.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I was hoping I'd enjoy this, but unfortunately it's kind of problematic. Even the title is insulting.

Scaredy Squirrel has a lot of phobias. He reads like someone with anxiety or OCD. He's agoraphobic. He's constantly worrying about things that aren't likely to happen (like getting attacked by a shark). For all of this, he's slapped with the epithet "Scaredy". Now, I don't know about you, but that's bordering on offensive name-calling. Would it be okay to name a character with cerebral palsy Spastic Squirrel? No? Then why is it okay to mock this particular character's disability?

This isn't even a book about overcoming your fears. When Scaredy Squirrel finally "ventures" from his tree, it's not because he's decided to take a risk. He's making a mad grab for his emergency kit, and he falls from his tree. That's right. The main plot point about overcoming your fears is actually based around an accident.

I'm more sensitive to this sort of thing because of my own anxiety and phobias, so your mileage may vary. But, speaking as someone who can relate to many of Scaredy Squirrel's issues, I'm not amused to see something so difficult to deal with so cavalierly treated. Humans can't overcome their anxiety by figuring out they can fly. All this book seems to do is mock the squirrel for being silly about his irrational fears, and then present an unrealistic solution (unrealistic for the humans who might be reading the book, anyway) to the anxiety issue.

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

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2.17 out of 5

Review - Yara's Tawari Tree

Yara's Tawari Tree (Yara's Rainforest #1)
by Yossi Lapid
illustrated by Joanna Pasek
Date: 2019
Publisher: Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA)
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: author

Yara lives with her Mama in the Amazon jungle trying to rescue her beloved but increasingly troubled rainforest home.

When Yara falls gravely ill, the forest returns the love and saves Yara’s life.

Written in rhyme and featuring vibrant watercolor illustrations by Joanna Pasek, this is the introductory volume to a new picture-book series showing children how all living things on our beautiful planet depend on one another.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I read an earlier version of this book (titled Yara and her Mystery Tree) back in January. At the time, my feelings were mixed. I had some issues with the plot and writing. Recently, I was contacted by the author with an offer to read the updated version, now called Yara's Tawari Tree. I'm happy to report that the book is now a lot better; the story is tighter, the potential invasive species issue has been resolved, and the message about the value of the forest and its trees is a lot clearer.

As part of the forest is being cleared and burned, Yara comes across a tawari tree seedling in need of help. She carefully digs it up and transplants it to a safe place. Later, when she becomes sick, the tree returns the favour and helps to save her life with medicine from its bark.

The illustrations are as lush and lovely as ever, and the rhythm of the rhyming text seems to have improved. A book about a little girl in the Amazon rainforest is rare and wonderful as it is... but the improvements made by the author now make this a book that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Thank you to Yossi Lapid for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.57 out of 5

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Review - No, No, Nora!

No, No, Nora!
by D. M. Darroch
illustrated by Sara Parrett
Date: 2019
Publisher: Sleepy Cat Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Nora is a not-so-big cat who shares her not-so-big house with a woman, a man, and a sharp-eyed boy. She alone knows that the legendary cheese thief Gustave has invaded the house. The harder Nora tries to protect her family, the more they believe her to be naughty and destructive. But when marauding aliens descend upon the not-so-big town, only Nora's little cat powers can save the day.

No, No, Nora! is a storybook about the love and loyalty of our animal friends served with a healthy dollop of humor.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book just isn't for me. I struggled with it even when it was just a book about a cat who gets in trouble for trying to protect the house and its contents from a wily mouse. But I was completely unable to find any love for this book after the aliens came into the picture. That part was just so silly, nonsensical, and contrived that I couldn't understand the point of it all.

Why are the aliens "dishonest"? We're told this more than once, but they appear to simply be harvesting natural resources (just like humans do all the time without being accused of dishonesty). How did the mouse get into the spaceship at the end? How does cheese dust protect an alien ship from being detected? Too many unanswered questions...

The stupid (the idea of a finger-sized laser pointer being able to fit into a cat's nostril) is somewhat offset by the clever (the aliens' spaceships looking like cheese graters, which I found amusing), but not enough for me to really enjoy this one. Some kids might find the ridiculous story funny, but there are probably others who won't want to slog through all the text for such a silly payoff.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sleepy Cat Press for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

Review - David Bowie

David Bowie (Little People, BIG DREAMS)
by Mª Isabel Sánchez Vegara
illustrated by Ana Albero
Date: 2019
Publisher: Lincoln Children's Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

New in the critically acclaimed Little People, BIG DREAMS series, discover the life of David Bowie, the starman who dazzled audiences with his music.

As a child, young David had a head full of songs and ideas. He was inspired by the pop and mod scenes in Britain to pick up the saxophone. After earning his stripes in some of the coolest bands in London, David splashed onto the solo scene. His songwriting talent and musical skill made him one of rock and roll's all-time greatest artists. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the musician's life.

(synopsis from NetGalley; see it on Goodreads)

The books in this series have been hit or miss (mostly miss) for me, but this one is up there among some of the better ones I've read. It talks about David's early life, his passions for music, art, and performing, and even how he ended up with his distinctive eyes.

The main weakness this book has is its insistence on remaining vague. For example, it refers to "Space Oddity" in the main narrative as simply "a song about a lonely astronaut". It's a famous song! Could its name not have been mentioned in the main text?

The illustrations here aren't my favourite, and there's one confusing one where David's looking in a mirror and the wrong eye looks brown, but the rest of them help tell the story of this performer's life quite well. There aren't any obvious anachronisms, either (as there are in some of the other series titles).

Overall, this appears to be one of the stronger books in the series. I'd recommend this one to those looking for a simple biography of this legendary star.

Thank you to NetGalley and Lincoln Children's Books for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5