Sunday, October 21, 2018

Review - Bink & Gollie

Bink & Gollie (Bink & Gollie #1)
by Kate DiCamillo & Alison McGhee
illustrated by Tony Fucile
Date: 2010
Publisher: Candlewick
Reading level: C
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 88
Format: e-book
Source: library

Meet Bink and Gollie, two precocious little girls--one tiny, one tall, and both utterly irrepressible. Setting out from their super-deluxe tree house and powered by plenty of peanut butter (for Bink) and pancakes (for Gollie), they share three comical adventures involving painfully bright socks, an impromptu trek to the Andes, and a most unlikely marvelous companion. No matter where their roller skates take them, at the end of the day they will always be the very best of friends. Full of quick-witted repartee, this brainchild of Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo and award-winning author Alison McGhee is a hilarious ode to exuberance and camaraderie, imagination and adventure, brought to life through the delightfully kinetic images of Tony Fucile.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I was searching my library's e-book selections for more books by Kate DiCamillo because I've found her to be a reliably good author when I want a children's book that's written well and isn't condescending. I'd never even heard of the Bink & Gollie books before, but the library had #1 and #3 (typical), so I picked up the first one to give it a try. As soon as I was done, I downloaded the third book as well.

This is a super-cute depiction of friendship. The pictures themselves are adorable (I love Gollie's house up in the tree and Bink's wild hair!), but combined with DiCamillo and McGhee's wonderful writing, I felt like I was watching an amazing animated film. I could almost hear Bink's cute little voice in my head (she has some of the best lines). DiCamillo never shies away from using big words, trusting that kids are smart enough to figure out what is meant through context. The result is a story that is enjoyable for a much wider age range than one might normally find in a children's book.

The stories are simple, but they all tie together by the end, and the girls' friendship is reinforced even more. I wish my library had all of the books in the series, because I'd love to read about more of Bink and Gollie's adventures.

Quotable moment:

"Hello, Gollie," said Bink. "Do I smell pancakes?"

"You do not," said Gollie.

"Will I smell pancakes?" said Bink.

"Perhaps a compromise is in order, Bink," said Gollie.

"What's a compromise?" said Bink.

"Use your gray matter, Bink," said Gollie. "You remove your outrageous socks, and I will make pancakes."

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

Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.75 out of 5 ladybugs

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Review - Alfie: (The Turtle That Disappeared)

Alfie: (The Turtle That Disappeared)
by Thyra Heder
Date: 2017
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: library

Nia loves Alfie, her pet turtle. But he’s not very soft, he doesn’t do tricks, and he’s pretty quiet. Sometimes she forgets he’s even there! That is until the night before Nia’s seventh birthday, when Alfie disappears! Then, in an innovative switch in point of view, we hear Alfie’s side of the story. He didn’t leave Nia—he’s actually searching for the perfect birthday present for his dear friend. Can he find a gift and make it back in time for the big birthday party?

From the author-illustrator of Fraidyzoo and The Bear Report comes a warm and funny ode to friendship—even when the friends see the relationship, and the world, very differently.

(synopsis from Goodreads)


This book, told in two parts, is just adorable. The illustrations are perfect and tie the narrative into a cohesive whole, and there's a pretty good story, too. I loved Alfie's point of view.

I've read a few picture books about pets lately that haven't exactly put the pets or their owners in a very good light. But in this case, Alfie and Nia are both so sweet, and their friendship is wonderful. After seeing all the trouble Alfie went to in order to find the perfect present, you can't help but be impressed... and rather amused, when you see the twist at the end.

This would be a great addition to any picture book collection, especially for someone who likes books about animals (the dog and the snail are great characters in this book, too). I'd definitely recommend this one!

Quotable moment:


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

Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4.83 out of 5

Review - Why Am I Me?

Why Am I Me?
by Paige Britt
illustrated by Sean Qualls & Selina Alko
Date: 2017
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Presented as a thoughtful, poetic exchange between two characters -- who don't realize they are thinking and asking the very same questions -- this beautiful celebration of our humanity and diversity invites readers of all ages to imagine a world where there is no you or me, only we.

If the first step toward healing the world is to build bridges of empathy and celebrate rather than discriminate, Why Am I Me? helps foster a much-needed sense of connection, compassion, and love.

(synopsis from Goodreads)


I'm really getting tired of these picture books that are supposedly for children, but are just pretentious vehicles for the author to look smart and woke (or so they think). Merely portraying diversity in the illustrations does not a good book make.

This book could have been interesting, but it's so spare and unsatisfying that it really fails. All it does is repeat a bunch of simple existential questions, provides no answers, and calls it a day. Why am I me and not somebody else? It's something to think about. Who would other people be if they were me? Um... they'd be me, wouldn't they? (Besides, that's a moot point because you can't be anyone else. I really don't see the point of that question.)

For a book that's supposed to make kids think about how we're connected, it's not very strong. As an adult, I was confused by the message and wondered why the book kept asking such weird questions. Yes, it can be good to imagine putting ourselves in other people's shoes, and empathy is important... but there are other ways to get there that aren't so blatant, and other questions to ask that aren't so confusing.

The pictures were just okay for me. The characters are sort of blotchy and uneven, and I get that it's a style choice, but I don't like it here any more than I did in You Hold Me Up, another picture book that aims high but doesn't quite get there.

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

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 0.83 out of 5

Friday, October 19, 2018

Review - Lines

Lines
by Suzy Lee
Date: 2017
Publisher: Chronicle Books (CA)
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

It starts with a line. Whether made by the tip of a pencil or the blade of a skate, the magic starts there.

And magic once again flows from the pencil and imagination of internationally acclaimed artist Suzy Lee. With the lightest of touches, this masterwork blurs the lines between real and imagined, reminding us why Lee's books have been lauded around the world, recognized on New York Times Best Illustrated Books lists and nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international honor given to children's book creators. This seemingly simple story about a young skater on a frozen pond will charm the youngest of readers while simultaneously astounding book enthusiasts of any age.

(synopsis from Goodreads)


Sorry, but... I don't get it.

I'm not new to wordless picture books. I actually quite like them. But this one fell really flat for me. Unlike books like I Walk with Vanessa (which has a story with a message), Journey (which is just a great adventure), or even Flora and the Flamingo (which can be forgiven for having a thin story because its pictures are so darn cute), Lines didn't have anything to engage me. The pictures were rather boring, and the "story" wasn't really anything. And I found it confusing. Was the skater the artist? Or was it the person holding the pencil? What's the significance of the pond at the end? Or the stack of drawings? This is a children's picture book; I shouldn't have to think so hard for it to make sense.

I have a feeling that, had I encountered this as a kid, I would've read it once and then promptly forgotten about it. It's the sort of thing that adults will probably appreciate more than kids (although, I can't say that this adult enjoyed it that much, either).


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

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.6 out of 5

Review - Pillowland

Pillowland
by Laurie Berkner
illustrated by Camille Garoche
Date: 2017
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Laurie Berkner, “the queen of children’s music” (People), pairs the lyrics of her beloved hit with Camille Garoche’s gentle illustrations in this winning bedtime picture book—a must-have for fans of Laurie’s music and all things soft and sweet.

I know a place, a kingdom far away,
where people wear pajamas every night and every day.
Where all the houses, the buildings, and the trees
are made of fluffy pillows that are soft as they can be.

Laurie Berkner’s treasured song “Pillowland” is now a beautiful picture book! Featuring magical, lush art by Camille Garoche, Pillowland carries readers away to a feather-fluffed dream world where bedtime is always a grand adventure.

We’re going to land in Pillowland!

(synopsis from Goodreads)


This is a book based on a song, which makes a straightforward reading a little awkward. When there's poem-like text, I'd like it to flow a little more; since this is a song rather than a poem, it's not entirely in one form (like couplets or quatrains), which makes it a little difficult to read aloud and have it sound right.

The pictures, though, I thought were really cute. They're a combination of photographs and cut-out drawings, which really gives a unique mixed-media look. The characters are cute and diverse, and the whole colour scheme is very relaxing and perfect for bedtime reading.

Sheet music for the song is included at the end of the book, but I think a book like this needs to come with the actual music (either a CD, a digital file, or a link of some sort). I looked up the song on YouTube and found a video of Laurie Berkner singing it, and that really helped me wrap my head around the meter and timing of the words.

Overall, it's a cute book, but it could definitely be improved by adding a way for kids to experience the song while they're looking at the pictures.


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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.57 out of 5

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Review - Ferocious Fluffity: A Mighty Bite-y Class Pet

Ferocious Fluffity: A Mighty Bite-y Class Pet
by Erica S. Perl
illustrated by Henry Cole
Date: 2016
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Mr. Drake’s second grade class has a new class pet. Fluffity appears to be a cute and docile hamster—but the kids soon discover that she is not the cuddly pet they expected. From the moment her cage door opens, Fluffity becomes FEROCIOUS—biting and chasing everyone down the hall and into the library! Will the class be able to tame this beast and bring peace back to their school? The bestselling team behind Chicken Butt! and Chicken Butt’s Back! has crafted another laugh-out-loud tale that’s sure to be a hit with any child who’s ever wanted a pet. Erica Perl’s pitch-perfect rhymes and Henry Cole’s over-the-top animal character make for the perfect classroom read-aloud.

(synopsis from Goodreads)


This is pretty funny, and teaches a valuable lesson about respecting your pets. Sometimes, children's books try too hard to be funny, and they just end up seeming stupid. Ferocious Fluffity strikes just the right balance, however; it's relatable, it's cute, it has hilarious illustrations, and there's a great rhyming text to top it all off.

Don't be fooled by that innocent little face, though: Fluffity is a beast.


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

Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4.29 out of 5

Review - There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey!

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey! (There Was an Old Lady)
by Lucille Colandro
illustrated by Jared D. Lee
Date: 2016
Publisher: Cartwheel Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

The old lady is at it again, and this time she's swallowing a Turkey... she's always been quirky!

You won't believe why this old lady swallowed a turkey, a ball, a hat, a balloon, a boat, some wheels, and a horn of plenty!

Read this book and find out why!

(synopsis from Goodreads)


Okay, I get that this is based on that poem about the old lady who swallowed a fly. But this is just bad. And the old lady, with her hinged jaw that she uses to gobble up (heh) a live turkey is just disturbing. She swallows turkeys and boats and balloons and hats because she's "quirky"? It sounds to me like the old lady has pica, and she really should get that checked out.

And there's a whole series of these books? Yikes. I wasn't that impressed with what I saw here. A ball, a hat, and wheels aren't exactly interesting things to swallow, and I couldn't figure out how they were even connected at first. She eventually regurgitates them all to make a parade float, but... Actually, no. Just no. This is ridiculously stupid.

If you like watching old people swallow things and then barf them back up, you might like this book. Otherwise, you probably won't.

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

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 1.17 out of 5