Friday, February 15, 2019

Review - Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking (Little People, BIG DREAMS)
by Mª Isabel Sánchez Vegara
illustrated by Matt Hunt
Date: 2018
Publisher: Lincoln Children's Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

New in the Little People, BIG DREAMS series, discover the life of Stephen Hawking, the genius physicist and author.

When Stephen Hawking was a little boy, he used to stare up at the stars and wonder about the universe. Although he was never top of the class, his curiosity took him to the best universities in England: Oxford and Cambridge. It also led him to make one of the biggest scientific discoveries of the 20th century: Hawking radiation. 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 brilliant physicist's life.

(see this book on Goodreads)

I've seen books from this series pop up from time to time on my Goodreads feed, but I'd never tried one before. This particular book is about the British physicist Stephen Hawking.

As a biography aimed at kids, it's pretty good. I didn't learn anything I hadn't known before (since I've seen The Theory of Everything, the biopic based on the memoir by his wife) but the book laid out his life and accomplishments in a nice, easy-to-understand format. There's a timeline in the back that offers a little more biographical information about the man and his disease (referred to only as ALS; this is a children's book, after all). Hawking had so many accomplishments that it must've been difficult to decide what to focus on. This book mainly talks about his discovery of Hawking radiation and glosses over most of the rest of the things he did.

I suppose this book is a good place to start for kids who don't know anything at all about the physicist. Luckily, there are some books listed at the end for additional reading, which is a nice touch. If this volume is indicative of the quality of simple, kid-oriented biographies in the rest of the series, then I hope to read some more of them in the future.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5

Review - Emiline: Knight in Training

Emiline: Knight in Training
by Kimberli Johnson
Date: 2019
Publisher: Oni Press
Reading level: C
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

In the tradition of classic children's books such as Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit comes a charming children's story about learning to read, told as a beautiful watercolor graphic novel!

Emiline is learning how to be a knight. There are many skills that knights need: sword fighting, unicorn riding, and PB&J eating! While Emiline is very good at these, she has a hard time reading. But when fixing a dangerous situation means Emiline must read some magic words, she discovers that with practice, curiosity, and help from her friends, she can improve at reading and save the day!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm not the audience for this book, so I don't know how it would actually be received by young kids with dyslexia. There does seem to be quite a bit of text in a book that's supposed to be for those who have difficulty reading, and some of the fantasy words and names might be kind of tricky.

The illustrations are quite lovely, and I can see why there's the comparison to Beatrix Potter's work in the synopsis. I really don't have much of a complaint with the illustrations. They're much more muted than I'm used to seeing in graphic novels, but they're pretty nonetheless.

I think, though, that I'm hesitating over the plot of the book, which has Emiline and her knight class moving a nest of dragon eggs. I don't think that's a good message to be sending to kids. The dragon laid her eggs in a certain place for a reason; it's presumptuous and kind of arrogant for the humans to think they know better. They go and move all the eggs somewhere warmer. First of all, though we do see the dragon curled up with her eggs at the end, for most of the story we don't see the dragon at all, which leads me to assume that she didn't know where her eggs had gone. Second, maybe dragon eggs need cold to hatch. None of that is explained, and I don't like the idea that kids might come away thinking that they know better than nature's intelligence. I'd hate to see children trying to move bird or sea turtle eggs, thinking they're doing the creatures some kind of favour.

Unfortunately, this egg-moving thing is the main plot of the story. I would've rather seen something else happening. Maybe with the ogre that was mentioned. Or with the ice giants who were throwing rocks. There are plenty of things that could've been part of a story where Emiline needs to use her reading skills to save the day, without messing with the balance of nature.

So, while I can't wholeheartedly recommend this one, I wouldn't mind seeing what else the author can do with this character. Emiline and her friends could potentially have many more adventures. It's an interesting world that's been set up here, with ample opportunities for more stories. Maybe next time, though, they can leave the dragon eggs alone.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.75 out of 5

Review - Safely Endangered

Safely Endangered
by Chris McCoy
Date: 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Reading level: A
Book type: comic collection
Pages: 144
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A collection of gloriously random and unexpected cartoons from the hugely popular webcomic Safely Endangered.

Created by UK-based artist Chris McCoy, Safely Endangered's brilliantly hilarious comics have an unexpected, twisted punch line with an adorable illustration. From relying far too heavily on Facebook to the struggles of sibling rivalry, Safely Endangered covers a vast range of ridiculously funny situations with humans, animals and even video game characters.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is definitely a collection for adults. Let's get that out of the way first. But, overall, these comics are pretty funny. The drawings are simple, but some of the panels are still pretty amusing. I'd never actually seen the Safely Endangered comics before, but I wouldn't mind seeing more of them.

I'm not sure what else there is to say about the collection. There are some gory, graphic panels, along with some rather astute observational ones. (Much of the book could be suitable for teens or even younger, but there are those few comics that push it right into the adult category, so be aware of that and don't get lulled into a sense of safety by the first tame one.)

Quotable moment:


Writing & Editing: 4/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall Rating: 3.8 out of 5 ladybugs

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Review - Llama Llama I Love You

Llama Llama I Love You (Llama Llama)
by Anna Dewdney
Date: 2014
Publisher: Viking Children's
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 14
Format: e-book
Source: library

With short and simple rhyming text, the Llama Llama board books introduce Llama Llama to babies and toddlers before they’re ready for longer full-length stories. And their small size and durable pages are perfect for little hands.

In Llama Llama I Love You, little llama shows his friends and family how much he loves them with heart-shaped cards and lots of hugs. What could be sweeter than Llama Llama on Valentine's Day?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

These board books may be short, but they're super cute. The rhymes are great, and the pictures are adorable. There really isn't any need for this book to be longer, as it still manages to show what Valentine's Day is all about in just a few pages.

Older kids will probably want more, but this is a great Valentine's Day book for younger children and toddlers.

Quotable moment:


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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.71 out of 5

Review - Peppa's Valentine's Day

Peppa's Valentine's Day (Peppa Pig)
by Courtney Carbone
illustrated by eOne
Date: 2017
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: library

Peppa Pig gets a pretty card in the mail from Zoe Zebra. It's a Valentine's Day card! Peppa learns about the meaning of Valentine's Day and decides to show all of her friends just how special they are to her.

(see this book on Goodreads)

This is, surprisingly, not terrible. I actually like it more than a non-fiction Valentine's Day picture book I read earlier today. It has just as little history about the holiday, but at least in this book there's a bit of a story.

When Peppa gets a valentine from her friend Zoe, she doesn't even know what it is. Her parents explain to her about the tradition of giving valentines, and then Mummy Pig suggests that they have a Valentine's Day party for the kids' friends (Mummy Pig is brave). So Peppa and Zoe set about delivering all the invitations. On the day of the party, all her friends show up and they dance, sing, and eat lots of sugar (Mummy Pig is very brave).

I'm still not a fan of the illustrations, but if kids like the TV show, they'll probably like the books based on it.

Overall, this isn't a terrible Valentine's Day picture book. It's not great, but it's certainly not the worst one I've read today.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 2.83 out of 5

Review - I Love You Already!

I Love You Already! (Bear & Duck #2)
by Jory John
illustrated by Benji Davies
Date: 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

From the creators of Goodnight Already!

Bear can't wait to spend a pleasant day alone.

But Duck wants to hang out.

Will Bear ever get to relax by himself?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm not sure what to make of this one. It's basically the age-old battle between introvert and extrovert. There's nothing wrong with the two types being friends, of course, but Duck's single-mindedness is kind of off-putting. He doesn't get the cues from Bear, and simply will not take "no" for an answer. All Bear wants to do is spend some quiet time alone, but there's Duck, quacking in his ear and being a general nuisance. When Duck suggests that Bear doesn't like him much, Bear reassures him that he does... which makes things even worse. Duck becomes even more insufferable.

I'm not sure what the message here is supposed to be. Bear can't win. If he tries to be a good friend, he just encourages Duck. If he were to say, "No, I don't like you. Go away, you annoying bird," he'd hurt Duck's feelings. There's really no resolution to the dilemma, which I would've liked to see in a children's book. Introverted kids are likely going to encounter such situations, and as it is, the message is basically to put up with your annoying extrovert friends, even if they're invading your space and grating on your nerves. It would've been nice for the book to show them other options for dealing with people like Duck, other than not answering the door.

The illustrations are colourful and a little bit retro. I liked seeing Duck's and Bear's houses, and the pages in the beginning when the two animals are getting ready for their day are cute. But I'm not sure if the illustrations really save the somewhat-weak story.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

Review - Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts (Ann Estelle Stories)
by Mary Engelbreit
Date: 2004
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon.ca

Making the best valentine box ever for her favorite holiday is Ann Estelle's newest school project.

It will have glitter, lace, feathers, and even wheels! There's just one thing that Ann Estelle has forgotten -- what could that be?

Valentine's Day will be your favorite holiday, too, when you enjoy this delightful tale with Ann Estelle and her friends as lovingly imagined by best-selling artist Mary Engelbreit.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Queen of Hearts is a cute story about a little girl who gets so wrapped up in being crafty and making the best Valentine's Day box for herself that she forgets to make valentines for her classmates. It's a scenario that I can easily see happening... but it's handled quite well in this story. Ann Estelle doesn't have some huge revelation, but she does figure out a way to solve her problem and make her classmates really happy, which in turn makes her really happy. It's a nice message about friendship and generosity.

As with all of Mary Engelbreit's books, the illustrations are adorable. While they might look a little dated to some readers, they at least have a decent amount of diversity, and even show little girls playing with stereotypically "male" toys.

Fans of Mary Engelbreit will probably love this book, but I think it holds some value for other readers as well, especially with the way the story was handled.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.83 out of 5