Thursday, November 24, 2022

Review - Santiago's Dinosaurios

Santiago's Dinosaurios

by Mariana Ríos Ramírez
illustrated by Udayana Lugo
Date: 2022
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Santiago finds a way to connect to his classmates--through dinosaurios!

Santiago is new to the United States, and he doesn't speak English. On his first day of school, how will he connect with his peers? Santiago learns that even when you don't speak the same language, some interests are universal.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Moving to a new place can be tough, especially when you don't understand the language. Santiago and his family have just moved to the United States from Mexico. He doesn't speak much English, so he finds it hard to communicate with his classmates. But he loves dinosaurs... and he soon finds a way to use his passion as a way to break the ice with the other kids.

This well-written story is highlighted by delightful illustrations that clearly show Santiago's emotions as he tries to navigate his first day in a new school.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend this book. For another cute title with a similar theme, check out Aidan Cassie's The Word for Friend.

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

Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4.5 out of 5

Review - Wally the World's Greatest Piano-Playing Wombat

Wally the World's Greatest Piano-Playing Wombat

by Ratha Tep
illustrated by Camilla Pintonato
Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Wally was the world’s greatest piano-playing wombat—until he realized there was an even more talented piano-playing wombat in town! This funny picture book’s bright colors and imaginative musical scenes teach children to have self-confidence when faced with competition.

When Wally, the world’s greatest piano-playing wombat, hears Wylie play, he becomes envious. Wally tries toe-tapping and ball-twirling as he plays piano, but every time Wally thinks he’s one-upping the competition, he discovers Wylie can do all the same tricks.

Although Wally is discouraged at first, he soon realizes that competing with Wylie inspires them both to play better. And finding a friend to share what you love? That’s the best win of all. Both affirming and motivating, Wally’s story will resonate with young readers as they learn how to deal with competition and to do what makes them happy—even when they’re not the very best.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This picture book tells the story of Wally, a piano-playing wombat who wants to be the greatest. But when another wombat comes along and steals all of Wally's tricks, he gets frustrated and gives up. If he can't be the best, he doesn't want to do it at all! But Wally soon comes to realize that the competition with the other wombat was making them both better artists... so they hatch a plan to have the greatest show ever.

The story is fairly basic, but has a nice message. I didn't love the pictures, but they're colourful and work well with the text.

Overall, this is a strong picture book with a good message about competition and doing what you love.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Review - Dan Auta: An African Tale

Dan Auta: An African Tale

by José Ortega y Gasset
illustrated by Piet Grobler
Date: 2022
Publisher: Greystone Kids
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 56
Format: e-book
Source: library

Kids 9 to 12 will laugh out loud while reading this adventurous graphic novel, which brings an African folk tale to life for a new audience.

When Sarra’s parents die, they leave her with an important warning: never let Dan Auta, her little brother, cry. But Dan Auta loves to make trouble. He hitches a ride on the back of a bird, pokes the eye of the king’s son, and even pees on the king’s head. Making sure he doesn’t cry is much harder than Sarra thought!

But Dan Auta’s unbridled curiosity and determination may be exactly what everyone needs: a terrible monster called the Dodo is attacking the city… and Dan Auta is the only one with the courage to take him on. Dan Auta features:

A delightful celebration of mischief and bravery
A portrait of the extraordinary things kids are capable of when they follow their own paths
Lively illustrations from renowned illustrator Piet Grobler
Supplementary material that explains the folk tale’s significance, including a note from an Eritrean translator

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I honestly don't understand why this book has such good reviews. It's a horrifically sexist tale in which a spoiled brat nearly gets himself and his sister killed three times, and then he gets handsomely rewarded with half a kingdom while all his long-suffering sister gets is the luxury of a nap.

This may be a traditional tale, but I don't know how well it's going to play to modern or Western audiences where girls actually have value beyond their uterus. In this story, a couple has a baby girl and they name her Sarra. They have another baby, who is much more important from the start because he's a boy. They name him Dan Auta.

Well, soon the parents die, and though they leave the kids with enough food to last until Dan Auta is old enough to farm the land, they also leave Sarra with an order: Don't ever let Dan Auta cry. As a result, the boy grows up as a spoiled, selfish brat who gets to do whatever he wants (because telling him off makes him cry). First, he burns down the granaries with all their food. So Sarra has to take him and try to find someplace to live where they can eat. They come to a kingdom, and one of the king's wives agrees to take them in. One day, Dan Auta gets bored and uses a stick to poke out the eye of one of the king's sons (this story is totally suitable for children, by the way), so they have to flee. As they're being pursued by the king's guards, they hide in a tree. Dan Auta gets bored and wants to pee on the king's head (no, I'm not making this up), and Sarra, not wanting him to cry if he doesn't get his way, lets him. So the king gets angry and chops down the tree. They fall onto a hawk's back and the bird flies them safely away. But then Dan Auta gets bored again and wants to stick his finger in the bird's butthole (I can't believe I'm actually writing this), and this leads to another near-death experience.

Anyway, eventually they come to another kingdom where a monster is terrorizing the populace every night. So of course Dan Auta saves the day, even though he's proven to be nothing but a useless, dangerous burden up until this point. Oh, and we've also got greedy citizens needlessly slaughtering their animals, so it's just a great, wonderful story all around. (I hope you can sense the sarcasm.) Dan Auta is treated like a king for saving the day, and all Sarra gets for keeping her little brother safe is a long-needed nap.

Frankly, I don't care if kids think the peeing on heads and anal rape of birds is funny. This book is gross. The story should've stayed where the afterword said it came from: 1912.

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

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall Rating: 1.67 out of 5 ladybugs

Review - So Much Snow

So Much Snow

by Kristen Schroeder
illustrated by Sarah Jacoby
Date: 2022
Publisher: Random House Studio
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

A beautifully illustrated, rollicking read-aloud about forest animals who are caught--literally up to their ears and antlers--in a snowstorm.

On Monday, it starts to snow.
Silent swirling.
How high will it go?


Follow seven forest creatures, from a tiny mouse to a giant moose, as they hunker down in a snowstorm. As the week progresses, the snow piles up and up--even past Moose's antlers!

On Sunday, the sun starts to melt the snow, and it seems that, as the next week passes and it grows sunnier, spring has finally sprung. But wait...is that more snow?! This cumulative picture book is at once beautiful and lyrical and playful and joyful, with charming illustrations by a highly acclaimed illustrator.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a cute picture book that shows the progression through a snowfall and the subsequent melt, featuring cute animals interacting with the snow. After seven days of snow covering the landscape, the snowfall melts and the animals are revealed in reverse order. Everything looks green again, but then... there's a surprise.

The illustrations are cute, and the text, while spare, works as a nice accompaniment.

Definitely a winner for those looking for books about the seasons and/or cute animals.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Review - The Flamingo

The Flamingo: A Graphic Novel Chapter Book

by Guojing
Date: 2022
Publisher: Random House Studio
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 144
Format: e-book
Source: library

From a highly acclaimed illustrator comes a stunning graphic novel filled with adventure and wonder about an imaginative girl and her obsession with flamingoes.

A little girl arrives, excited for a beachy vacation with her Lao Lao. The girl and her grandmother search for shells, chase crabs, and play in the sea, but when the girl finds an exquisite flamingo feather in her grandmother's living room, her vacation turns into something fantastical.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm not sure why the subtitle of this one is "a graphic novel chapter book". It's more like a really long, (mostly) wordless picture book with two parts. There are no real "chapters" to speak of. In fact, there are only a few sentences of text, so the book could be suitable for pre-reading kids as well.

Actually, readers of all ages will probably find something to delight them in this story about a young girl who goes to visit her grandmother by herself. When she finds a pink feather in her grandmother's house, the old woman tells her a story about a little girl who finds a mysterious egg on the beach.

The art is charming. Done in two different colour schemes (a muted, pinkish palette for the real world and a brighter, full-colour palette for the fantasy scenes), the artwork is a showcase of whimsy, imagination, and very cute characters.

I previously read Stormy by the same author/illustrator, and was eager to read more of her books. I wasn't disappointed with this one.

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

Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 ladybugs

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Review - The Mermaid Moon

The Mermaid Moon

by Briony May Smith
Date: 2022
Publisher: Anne Schwartz Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

In this magical picture book perfect for all young mermaid lovers, two best friends--one who lives on land, the other in the water--share an exciting adventure on the night of the Mermaid Moon: the one time each year mermaids can leave the sea.

Once, there were two best friends. One was from the sea, a mermaid named Merrin, and one was from the land, a human named Molly. Of course Merrin has never been to Molly's house; how can she visit when she must stay underwater? But then comes the night of the Mermaid Moon, when sea creatures can fly through the air! And this year, Merrin is finally old enough to join in. Together she and Molly visit the Mermaid Moon festival, eat ice cream, and ride on a swing in Molly's backyard. But when it is time for Merrin to leave--the moon is sinking toward the sea--she is unable to get down from a tree the girls have climbed. And if she doesn't get back home before the moon sets, the Mermaid Moon magic will disappear from the earth forever.

Here is a delightful and dramatic picture book that makes every girl's dream of being friends with a mermaid come true!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I read Margaret's Unicorn a couple of years ago and thought it was absolutely charming. Briony May Smith is back with another magical tale, this time about two little girls—one human and one mermaid—who share a magical evening together on a very special night of the year.

The stakes are high. (Merrin's mother tells her that if she doesn't make it home to the sea in time, all the magic will be lost. No pressure.) But of course the girls manage to figure out a way to preserve the magic.

The illustrations are really cute. Since much of the story takes place at night, lighting casts a dreamy effect over the pictures.

This is another winner from Smith. It's sure to be a hit with mermaid lovers, as well as with those looking for sweet picture-book stories about friendship.

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

Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4.5 out of 5

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Review - Mariposa: A Tiny Seed's Big Transformation

Mariposa: A Tiny Seed's Big Transformation

by Leigh Anne Fortner
illustrated by Anastassiya Selezneva
Date: 2022
Publisher: Leigh Anne Fortner
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon

Growing Can Be Hard...Especially for a Seed!!!

In this beautifully illustrated story in rhyme, a tiny seed is just starting her life in the desert. It seems that nothing can survive in such a harsh environment, or at least that is what she is led to believe...

Can she survive the scorching desert sun?

Will she allow the negative opinions of others to shape her own thoughts?

Will the storm winds sweep her away before she discovers her true identity?

Come along and follow Mariposa's journey of transformation, and teach your kids that we are ALL created with purpose and love.

(synopsis from Amazon; see it on Goodreads)

Let me preface this by saying that I'm not the audience for this book. I don't read a lot of Christian fiction. And this book does have a religious bent to it, which isn't exactly clear from the synopsis. (Unless you look at the Amazon categories, it's not obvious.)

That said, I still want to share my thoughts on this picture book. It's a story told in rhyme about a seed in the desert who grows into a plant. Everyone around her is pretty negative, telling her she's worthless... or even telling her she's things she clearly isn't. (That part was confusing for me. Why was the coyote trying to convince the plant that she was a deadly snake? Is this a religious thing I'm not familiar with?)

The text started off just okay for me. The rhythm is fairly strong at the beginning, although it gets a little sketchy later on. The writing is less impressive. Comma splices are abundant, and though a child listening to the story won't know that, it's kind of annoying to adult readers who can see the words. Anyway, what starts off as a simple story headed in a good direction kind of goes off the rails as God starts booming down from above, solving all the main character's problems. It's literally a deus ex machina! I would've liked to see the flower come to her conclusions about herself on her own... not be told by God.

The illustrations by Anastassiya Selezneva are probably the best part of this book. The characters are cute and appealing, and the warm colour palette really evokes the scorching desert.

I would probably only recommend this to parents who are looking for Christian picture books to read aloud, and who don't mind all the protagonist's problems being solved by the literal voice of God.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.29 out of 5