Sunday, December 9, 2018

Review - Bread and Milk and Salt

Bread and Milk and Salt
by Sarah Gailey
Date: 2018
Publisher: Tor.com
Reading level: A
Book type: short story
Pages: 25
Format: e-book
Source: Tor.com

Not all things are built to obey…

Tor.com reprint of “Bread and Milk and Salt,” originally published in Robots vs. Fairies (edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe, published by Saga Press, 2018).

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm just not sure if I really like stories about fairies. This one was simply okay for me. It was really more about two horrible people getting what they deserve. From the beginning, we know our fairy narrator is hoping to steal the little boy named Peter. She (?) talks about all the horrible things she'd like to do to him, like a sadistic serial killer taking pleasure in their own gruesome creativity. But as Peter ages, he wises up to what this creature really is, and the tables get turned. Actually, this story is just a turntable, with the abuse flowing back and forth... because Peter isn't such a great guy, either. The ending wasn't really a surprise; it was mildly interesting, but that's really about all I can say.

The writing was just mediocre for me. Aside from a few technical errors, I didn't really like the way I couldn't place the time period. When the story began, I thought it must've been set long in the past. But when Peter grows up to engage in really high-tech pursuits (like implanting interfaces into cockroach brains so he can control them wirelessly), I had to reevaluate my initial assessment. I guess it's supposed to take place in the present day... but that just makes the emphasis on all the old folklore about fairies kind of odd. (How many children of the last few decades grew up with their parents basically giving them lessons on how to outwit the fairies?)

This wasn't my favourite short story, but it wasn't terrible. It was just average. I can't really feel much about it one way or the other.

Quotable moment:

He walked out the door without a backwards glance, and I screamed into his pillows. Every time I inhaled, I breathed in the smell of his hair, and I had to scream again to rid myself of it.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 ladybugs

Review - I'll Follow the Moon

I'll Follow the Moon
by Stephanie Lisa Tara
illustrated by Lee Edward Födi
Date: 2005
Publisher: Wee Words LLC
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon.ca

On a quiet, moonlit beach, a baby green sea turtle stirs from a dream of home. Slowly, slowly, with a tap, click, crack, the baby turtle embarks upon a mysterious nighttime journey. Gentle, tender verse and enchanting illustrations carry this tranquil tale from sand to sea.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book has been kicking around in my Kindle library for a while, so I thought I'd read it and cross it off the list. I'm honestly baffled as to why it has such high reviews. Aside from the gentle rhythm and repetition that would make it a good bedtime read (I found it a bit of a soporific myself), this book doesn't have much to recommend it. The pictures are just okay, and the whole premise is flawed.

This is a very unrealistic depiction of baby sea turtles. The reality is far more brutal and depressing, and I have my doubts as to whether this subject could even be turned into a decent children's book while still remaining factual. The baby turtle hatches in the sand, and from there is driven toward the sea, guided by the moon, to find its mother. The problem is, sea turtles (from the information I could find) are pretty much crappy parents. They lay their eggs, and then have to go recover for a year. They don't raise their kids, or even have happy reunions with them in the water. In fact, many of the babies will get picked off by predators before they even make it off the sand. Maybe 1 or 2 in a thousand survive to sexual maturity. (See what I mean about this being questionable subject matter for a feel-good children's book?)

Also, this has nothing to do with the actual text of the story, but I noticed that in all the accompanying text (author bios, reviews, etc.) the word "it's" was continually used as a possessive, as if someone had gone through and edited every instance of "its", thinking it was a mistake. Like I said, it has nothing to do with the story... but I found it really irksome. This is basic English grammar, and I would expect better from an author who makes picture books for a living.

So, overall, I wasn't impressed. I wouldn't give this to a child, because it seems like lying. A baby sea turtle's life is precarious... and this book just glosses over all the danger for the purposes of a saccharine story.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.43 out of 5

Review - The 12 Days of Christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas
by Xist Publishing
Date: 2012
Publisher: Xist Publishing
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 29
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon.ca

"On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." So begins one of the most famous Christmas carols in the English language. In this edition, the iconic images are paired with the poetry of the song to ensure that future generations will stack outrageous gift upon gift for years to come.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Well, I think I've found the worst Christmas picture book yet! This was absolutely appalling. Not because the song is problematic or the illustrations are necessarily bad. But the whole thing is just so lazy. The publisher couldn't even be bothered to find decent pictures. I don't know who the artist is, because the copyright page just says the illustrations were licensed from Fotolia. I have a feeling they're all from one particular artist, because they all have a similar feel; it would've been nice to give that artist credit!

Also, the "11 pipers piping" page showed... a solitary trumpet. I might've given a flute a pass, but a trumpet?! Come on. Maybe if they weren't being so lazy with the illustrations, they could've found a set that actually fit the subject matter.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. Even the insipid note at the end was a waste of time. After reading this and the horrid Jingle Bells (also from this publisher) and being disgusted with the lack of effort that was put into both books, I think I'll be staying far away from Xist Publishing in the future.


Premise: 2/5
Meter: 2/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 1/5
Originality: 0/5

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 1.14 out of 5

Review - That's Not Hockey!

That's Not Hockey!
by Andrée Poulin
illustrated by Félix Girard
Date: 2018
Publisher: Annick Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

The legendary goalie who revolutionized the game of hockey

Young Jacques Plante’s way of playing hockey may look different from everyone else’s. Instead of a puck, he uses a tennis ball, and his shin pads are made out of potato sacks and wooden slats. But that’s not going to stop him. He loves the game.

Jacques is drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in his mid-twenties. Fans love the unstoppable goalie as he leads his team to one victory after another. But there’s a price to pay: pucks to the face result in a broken jaw, broken cheekbones, multiple stitches, and even a skull fracture.

One day, Jacques has had enough. He goes on the ice wearing a fiberglass mask. The coach orders him to take it off.

Finally, at a game against the Rangers, when yet another puck hits Jacques square in the face, he puts his foot down. He will not continue to play unless he’s allowed to wear a mask.

Young hockey fans will enjoy this story of Jacques Plante, whose determination and love of the game brought about a revolutionary change to how it is played.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Even though I'm Canadian, I'm not a hockey fan. At all. (Does that make me a bad Canadian?) However, I do like learning about history, and that includes the history of sports. This little book is a great way to teach kids about the evolution of hockey.

Jacques Plante was a goalie who was tired of getting injured. So he started wearing a mask. This was at a time when none of the players were even wearing helmets. The reaction at first was pretty negative; hockey fans didn't like change, and they expected players to risk injury for their entertainment. You can definitely see parallels between this fight for masks and the current fight for better recognition of concussions (although that's not discussed in this particular book).

The illustrations are okay, but nothing special. I did appreciate, however, that they weren't too gory... and they definitely could've been, given the subject matter!

Overall, this is a nice non-fiction picture book that teaches readers about the advent of face protection in hockey. Hockey fans (and non-fans) will find this one interesting.

Quotable moment:

A fan asks him:
"Are you scared to play without a mask?"
The goalie replies:
"If you jumped out of a plane without a parachute, would that make you brave?"

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.83 out of 5

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Review - Two for One

Two for One (Bink & Gollie #2)
by Kate DiCamillo & Alison McGhee
illustrated by Tony Fucile
Date: 2012
Publisher: Candlewick
Reading level: C
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 96
Format: e-book
Source: library

The state fair is in town, and now Bink and Gollie — utter opposites and best friends extraordinaire — must use teamwork and their gray matter while navigating its many wonders. Will the energetic Bink win the world's largest donut in the Whack-a-Duck game? Will the artistic Gollie wow the crowd in the talent show? As the undaunted duo steps into the mysterious tent of fortune-teller Madame Prunely, one prediction is crystal clear: this unlikely pair will always be the closest of pals. Get ready for more laughs in this wry, warmhearted sequel to the New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book Bink and Gollie, written by the award-winning, best-selling Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee and featuring the exuberant visual humor of illustrator Tony Fucile.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I read the other two Bink & Gollie books earlier this year, since they were the only ones the library had. I requested Two for One last week, and now the library has the full series... so people can read the books in order. That said, there's really no need to read them in order, since the stories are all self-contained. There are little touches here and there (like that rainbow sock from the first book) that continue throughout the series, but knowing the origins of those things isn't necessary for enjoying the rest of the books.

In this installment, Bink and Gollie go to the fair. There didn't seem to be quite as much witty dialogue in this one as in the other two, although the pictures pick up the storytelling slack. The first story, where Bink tries to win a giant donut by playing Whack-a-Duck, is pretty funny. The poor Whack-a-Duck man! But the girls show their kindness in a heartwarming way, turning what could've been a tragedy into a sweet episode.

The last story involves Bink and Gollie visiting a fortune teller. It's a cute ending that wraps up everything that happened that day, and reaffirms the girls' friendship.

As always, the illustrations are great. The expressions on the girls' faces are priceless, and I love how their clothes reflect their personalities (without them always wearing the exact same thing, as characters in comics sometimes do).

While it wasn't my favourite of the series (that honour goes to the first book), I still really liked it. I wish this trilogy had been around when I was a kid. And I wish there were more books about Bink and Gollie's adventures as best friends!

Quotable moment:

"What's next?" said Bink. "The Ferris wheel? The Big Daddy Octopus? The Bump-a-ramabumper cars?"

"Destiny," said Gollie.

"Destiny?" said Bink. "Is it a ride?"

"In a manner of speaking," said Gollie.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.38 out of 5 ladybugs

Review - The Worst Twelve Days of Christmas

The Worst Twelve Days of Christmas
by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
illustrated by Ryan Wood
Date: 2011
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

In this spirited reworking of the classic song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” Joy has to deal with her first Christmas with a new baby brother—and nothing could be worse. He drools on the ornaments and ruins the presents, he eats all the cookies and smashes the snowmen, and he’s on the verge of taking over the whole holiday. Joy’s patience runs out as the baby’s mishaps pile up. A sweet surprise turns the tables on Joy, who eventually appreciates what her baby brother adds to the holiday.

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Ryan Wood pair perfectly for this funny holiday book with a sibling-appreciation message that will make readers laugh and sing along with every reading.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I don't know how to rate this one. More precisely, I don't know how to rate the pictures. On the surface, I really liked them; they're cute and luminous and warm, perfectly capturing a holiday feel. But they also don't match the text in one glaring way: Joy is six years old... but she's drawn to look like a teenager.

This coloured my reading of the whole book. I don't know why Joy had to be six, because that age made the rest of the book extremely unrealistic. A six-year-old wouldn't be the one making the baby's stocking, single-handedly building seven snowmen, hanging mistletoe from the ceiling, or assembling the light-up reindeer in the hallway. For a while, I wasn't even sure if these siblings had parents. It turns out they do, but that kind of makes it worse. Where were they when Sam was destroying everything? Why didn't they stop him from ruining a whole batch of gingerbread men, slobbering over the candy canes Joy was going to give to her friends, and smashing all the ornaments? I hate it when picture books show kids getting away with bad behaviour just for the cuteness factor. Sam's too young to discipline, but he should've at least been supervised.

So... I'm torn. The illustrations are beautiful, even though they don't match the text. The rhymes are clunky, even though I can see the author was going for a version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". I just don't think this one clicked... which is a shame, because it had potential.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.43 out of 5

Friday, December 7, 2018

Review - Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons

Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons
by Laura Purdie Salas
illustrated by Mercè López
Date: 2019
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Reading level: C
Book type: illustrated poetry collection
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

you gasp as I roar,
my mane exploding, sizzling--
lion of the sky!

Haiku meet riddles in this wonderful collection from Laura Purdie Salas. The poems celebrate the seasons and describe everything from an earthworm to a baseball to an apple to snow angels, alongside full-color illustrations.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I wasn't sure if I was going to like this one. Books of poetry for kids don't always work. But after flipping through the first few poems and pictures, I was sold.

This book is comprised of what the author calls "riddle-ku". Basically, they're haiku that describe something, only it's not explicitly spelled out. The reader then has to figure out what each haiku is referring to. I think it would be great fun for a kid to sit down and try to figure these out. Some are easier than others (but if you do get stuck, there's an answer key at the back).

The illustrations are a perfect complement to the poems. Some of them would be beautiful as framed art pieces. I'm going to have to see if I can find more of the illustrator's work.

This is a beautiful book that introduces haiku to readers who might not be familiar with it. It's also a fun set of riddles. Evocative illustrations tie everything together. I highly recommend this one!

Quotable moment:


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

Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.57 out of 5 ladybugs