Sunday, April 4, 2021

Review - The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

by Charlie Mackesy
Date: 2019
Publisher: Ebury Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 128
Format: e-book
Source: library

Discover the very special book that has captured the hearts of millions of readers all over the world.

'A wonderful work of art and a wonderful window into the human heart' Richard Curtis

A book of hope for uncertain times.

Enter the world of Charlie's four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared millions of times online - perhaps you've seen them? They've also been recreated by children in schools and hung on hospital walls. They sometimes even appear on lamp posts and on cafe and bookshop windows. Perhaps you saw the boy and mole on the Comic Relief T-shirt, Love Wins?

Here, you will find them together in this book of Charlie's most-loved drawings, adventuring into the Wild and exploring the thoughts and feelings that unite us all.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm not usually a fan of picture books that are aimed at adults. And despite the fact that this is about a little boy and a trio of animals, I can't really see this appealing to very young children. It's mostly just a collection of insights and sayings, accompanied by rather abstract, scribbly illustrations, that would be perfectly at home on coffee mugs and t-shirts.

But, you know what? It's still incredibly charming.

Aside from the questionable grammar and the sometimes hard-to-read text (cursive-impaired millennials should have fun!), the book is strong, with a lovely premise and engaging characters. The plot is thin, but this is a book that's focussed more on "being" than on "doing"... so it works.

This is a book that's pretty much all quotable moments, so it was hard to choose a favourite! But I think the horse's advice is very wise...

Quotable moment:


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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Review - Camelea Like a Seagull

Camelea Like a Seagull
(Camelea #1)
by Frank Chaput & Suzanne Gohier
illustrated by Suzanne Gohier
Date: 2013
Publisher: Camelea inc.
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: Kobo

After a great birthday celebration for her brother, Camelea is too excited to sleep. Replaying the events of the day in her head, she finds a way to calm down. Camelea’s fantasy hairdo helps her fall asleep easily.

Using the power of her imagination, Camelea finds within herself the confidence to face her fears. Her enthusiasm and resourcefulness are an inspiration to children as they learn to meet the challenges of everyday life.

Immerse yourself in the fantasy world of Camelea. Discover the ways she has found to build her confidence and feel good about herself.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm really not sure what to make of this. It's free, inoffensive, and colourful. It's also not that interesting.

The actual book really doesn't deliver what the blurb promises. Basically, Camelea is waiting for her brother's birthday party. She sees some flowers. Her mother braids her hair to resemble them. She sees a seagull and gets mesmerized by the waters of the lake. She dances at the party. There are fireworks. Everyone is too excited to sleep... so Camelea imagines that her hair is water.

Got that?

The "plot" (such as it is) is meandering and rather vague. The ending is trippy. And the whole thing reads as if we're dropped into the middle of the series, when this is actually the first book. Characters are just named, and you're supposed to figure out who they are. (I'm still not sure who Carl is. Uncle? Cousin? Who knows?)

The illustrations are... strange. There are drawings combined with photographic elements, and while the end result is colourful and not awful to look at, it also has a weird, surreal sort of quality, and all the characters look like Lilo from Lilo & Stitch. (I did like the illustration of all the boys in their sleeping bags, though. That was cute.)

Overall, this is probably a book I'll soon forget. It's not completely terrible, though, and it's free, so there's no harm in giving it a try.

Premise: 1/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2 out of 5

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Review - Spring Stinks

Spring Stinks

by Ryan T. Higgins
Date: 2021
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Ruth the bunny is excited to share the smells of spring with Bruce, but Bruce thinks spring stinks!

Fans of the best-selling Mother Bruce series will cheer for this festive book blooming with visual humor just right for our littlest readers.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

While this isn't quite at the same level as the Mother Bruce books, it's still an entertaining little book about an exuberant bunny named Ruth who tries to engage Bruce the bear with all the scents of spring.

There's not much of a story like there is in the other books. This would probably be more suited to very young readers. The illustrations are great, though, with funny facial expressions and cute critters romping through the pages. I can't really find much to fault there.

While I was hoping for another story about the curmudgeonly bear and his geese kids, I'm not too disappointed by this little diversion. Fans of Bruce will surely eat it up.

Quotable moment:


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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Review - ABCs of Economics

ABCs of Economics

by Chris Ferrie & Veronica Goodman
illustrated by Chris Ferrie
Date: 2020
Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 26
Format: e-book
Source: library

Chris Ferrie's bestselling scientific series is expanding!

It only takes a small spark to ignite a child's mind! The ABCs of Economics introduces babies (and grownups!) to a new economic concept for each letter of the alphabet. From asymmetric, business cycle, and capital, all the way to zero sum. It's never too early to become an economist!

With scientific and mathematical information from an expert, this is the perfect book for enlightening the next generation of geniuses.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

It's never too early to become an economist? Um... I think it can be.

I laughed my way through this one. It's a board book about economic principles. Teach your toddlers about Keynesian Economics and Nash Equilibrium! Make sure your infant knows all about zero-sum situations. Seriously? This is one of those books that's aimed squarely at adults, a book they can leave out when their friends are over to signal how brilliant Junior is. Never mind that the baby would rather chew the thing than listen to anything that's between its covers.

Also, X is not for eXternalities. If you're aiming an alphabet book at an audience that doesn't even know the alphabet yet, don't confuse them.

I question the value of this even for older children. I found parts of it confusing as an adult. Formatting it as a board book limits the audience, too, as older kids will probably turn their noses up at it. This is for pretentious, virtue-signalling parents who want the world to know how special their baby is. Really, though, they're probably the only ones who will get anything out of the book.

Premise: 1/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.83 out of 5

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Review - People Don't Bite People

People Don't Bite People

by Lisa Wheeler
illustrated by Molly Idle
Date: 2018
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Lisa Wheeler and Caldecott Honor–winning illustrator Molly Idle remind overeager little biters that biting is for food in this hysterical read-aloud picture book. Learning good behavior has never been so fun!

It’s good to bite a carrot.
It’s good to bite a steak.
It’s bad to bite your sister!
She’s not a piece of cake.

Cause…
People don’t bite people!
That’s what this book’s about.
So if you find
you’re tooth-inclined—
you’d better check it out!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I read the companion book, People Share With People, back in 2019 and have wanted to get my hands on People Don't Bite People ever since. While I did enjoy this book, I don't think it's quite as strong as its successor, and it may appeal to a more limited audience.

In jaunty rhyme, this book explains all about how you shouldn't bite others. Accompanying the cute text are Molly Idle's charming illustrations. I really can't fault the premise here, although biting was never an issue with me (or anyone I knew). This might make the book little more than an amusing diversion for many children if they're not biters. I'm also not loving the first rhyme that tells kids it's good to bite a steak. Alienating vegetarian readers on the very first page probably isn't the wisest thing to do.

Overall, though, I would recommend this one... but I'd recommend People Share With People even more strongly since it's liable to be applicable to more readers overall. Fans of Molly Idle's art will definitely want to check this book out, too. (Also, check out the dedication to see where Lisa Wheeler found the inspiration for this book!)

Quotable moment:


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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Review - Where Children Sleep

Where Children Sleep

by James Mollison
Date: 2010
Publisher: Chris Boot
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 116
Format: hardcover
Source: library

“Where Children Sleep” presents English-born photographer James Mollison’s large-format photographs of children’s bedrooms around the world—from the U.S.A., Mexico, Brazil, England, Italy, Israel and the West Bank, Kenya, Senegal, Lesotho, Nepal, China and India—alongside portraits of the children themselves. Each pair of photographs is accompanied by an extended caption that tells the story of each child: Kaya in Tokyo, whose proud mother spends $1,000 a month on her dresses; Bilal the Bedouin shepherd boy, who sleeps outdoors with his father’s herd of goats; the Nepali girl Indira, who has worked in a granite quarry since she was three; and Ankhohxet, the Kraho boy who sleeps on the floor of a hut deep in the Amazon jungle.

Photographed over two years with the support of Save the Children (Italy), “Where Children Sleep” is both a serious photo-essay for an adult audience, and also an educational book that engages children themselves in the lives of other children around the world. Its cover features a child’s mobile printed in glow-in-the-dark ink.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

After I read and reviewed Gregg Segal's Daily Bread: What Kids Eat Around the World, this book was recommended to me by a Goodreads friend. While I can't say that I liked Where Children Sleep as much, I'm not sorry I read it (though I doubt I'd ever pick it up again).

Unfortunately, this is a very depressing children's book. Focussing on the extreme ends of the economic spectrum, the book shows us children either living in squalor or residing in privileged (or spoiled) excess. There's not a lot in between, and I—having grown up squarely in the middle class—found it difficult to relate to any of the children. The photos don't help. I'm not sure if it's the lighting or a particular filter that was used, but there's a distinct post-apocalyptic feel to the photographs that I do not like. Even the mansion bedrooms look dark and dingy, and I wouldn't be surprised to open the curtains and see something out of a nightmare.

As an adult, I found this to be a fascinating—if sometimes horrifying—read. This book is supposedly aimed at children, but I would definitely suggest parental guidance as there are some disturbing images and text (though, thankfully, not always together). I'm thinking mainly of the children in Kenya who must go through circumcision as teenagers (without crying out, so as to not bring shame on their families), the little girl who works in a quarry, and the girl who sleeps in an attic prison in her employer's home (the sleeping space even has bars). These things could be confusing and frightening for an eight-year-old (which is where the recommended reading age begins).

I do appreciate the fact that more ground was covered in Where Children Sleep than in Daily Bread. However, the offerings were still pretty sparse and an opportunity was missed to show children of different levels of privilege in more familiar places. Where are all the aboriginal children? Entries from places such as Canada and Australia wouldn't have been that difficult to create, and would have provided some good information to children who live in those countries but might not know that much about how their neighbours live. Unfortunately, I've yet to see a book in this genre that has a really diverse selection of children.

The premise is good. The information (and the writing it's presented with) is decent. I'm not a fan of the photographic style, but your mileage may vary. This is an important book that highlights the living conditions of some children in our world... but I'd be hesitant to give it to actual children unless a parent is going to sit down and read/discuss it with them.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.83 out of 5

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Review - B Is for Baby

B Is for Baby

by Atinuke
illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
Date: 2019
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 34
Format: e-book
Source: library

Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank, creators of the award-winning Baby Goes to Market, pair up again for a bright and beautiful first book of words.

B is for Baby. B is for Brother. B is for going to see Baba!

One morning after breakfast, Baby's big brother is getting ready to take the basket of bananas all the way to Baba's bungalow in the next village. He'll have to go along the bumpy road, past the baobab trees, birds, and butterflies, and all the way over the bridge. But what he doesn't realize is that his very cute, very curious baby sibling has stowed away on his bicycle. Little ones learning about language will love sounding out the words in this playful, vibrantly illustrated story set in West Africa.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I thought this was going to be an alphabet book, but it's not. Instead, it's an exploration of words that start with "B" that's set in West Africa.

A baby goes with her brother on his bike to visit Baba (their grandfather) and bring him some bananas. The journey is populated with lots of "B" words (including some doozies that even parents might have trouble pronouncing, like "bougainvillea"). The colourful illustrations bring the setting to life.

This is only the second of Atinuke's books that I've read. There are definitely some culture shocks (like, who thinks it's a safe idea to toss a baby in the banana basket on the back of a bike and ride it through baboon-infested areas?) but it's still interesting to see the settings.

Overall, this is a nice title for very young children that really does give plenty of examples of things that start with "B". They'll probably love the cute baby and her ride to Baba's house (even if it does make adults cringe a little).

Quotable moment:


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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5