Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Review - If You Want to Knit Some Mittens

If You Want to Knit Some Mittens

by Laura Purdie Salas
illustrated by Angela Matteson
Date: 2021
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

In this humorous picture book, a girl's desire to knit mittens leads to something even better: the warmth of friendship.

How do you knit a pair of mittens? The first step is to get a sheep of course! In this playful story, a girl follows 18 steps to knit mittens--from bringing home a sheep to carding, spinning, and dyeing the wool to knitting the mittens. But along the way, her mischievous sheep creates chaos and wins her heart. By wintertime, the girl has sunny-yellow mittens, the sheep has a sunny-yellow hat, and together they're ready for adventure. This tale of patience, creativity, and friendship is knitted from skeins of humor and love.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I have mixed feelings about this one. From a purely informational point of view, this is a really interesting book that outlines all the steps that it would take to make a pair of mittens from scratch, from the sheep to the knitting. As a vegan, though, I also find it a bit problematic.

The first step if you want mittens is to get a sheep. Now, I get that this is supposed to be a bit fanciful, but I don't really like the way we jump right into animal exploitation. You want a sheep so it can run around your farm and enjoy its life? Fine. You want a sheep so you can have a woolly friend? More power to you. But this poor sheep is bought because the kid wants a pair of mittens.

There are many, many steps required to produce this pair of mittens, including shearing, carding, spinning, dyeing, and knitting. What if the kid loses interest somewhere along the line? What if she turns out to be allergic to wool? What if knitting is too hard? What happens then? Does the sheep get tossed in the back of the closet along with all the other abandoned hobbies?

It is interesting to see all the steps involved (heck, these people even make their own dye out of marigolds!), but the entire premise is going to be problematic for some people, not least because of how the sheep is viewed (in the beginning, anyway) as little more than a commodity, a way for the kid to get a winter accessory. I might not have such a negative view of this one if the girl and her parents had simply bought the raw wool and then gone through all the steps. The way the sheep purchase is handled kind of makes me wonder what's next. Buying a cow just so the kid can have ice cream next summer?

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.5 out of 5

Review - We Are One

We Are One

by Susan Hood
illustrated by Linda Yan
Date: 2021
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts--and unity and connection are most important of all--in a beautifully illustrated counting book with a timely message.

One can be one thing all on its own--one star, one stream, one stick, one stone. But those on their toes, those using their smarts, know one can be more than the sum of its parts.

Consider the two slices of bread that make up one sandwich, or the three lines of poetry that form one haiku, or even the ten years that form one decade. From one to ten, from sandwiches to centuries, every part is necessary to the whole. In this fascinating concept book, a simple rhyming narration aimed at younger children is complemented by informational panels about subjects like the four compass points, the five acts in Shakespeare, the seven colors of a rainbow, or the nine innings in baseball. Award-winning author Susan Hood and debut children's book illustrator Linda Yan offer a mind-expanding look at early math concepts such as part/whole relationships, fractions, and addition--while underlying themes of cooperation, peace, and kindness make this beautiful volume one to be enjoyed by anyone at any age.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is an interesting picture book. You can read it with just the rhyming text, or you can stop and peruse the informative footers on each page that go into a little more depth about each concept. The numbers 1 through 10 are related to different things (such as poetry, sandwiches, or baseball). Cute illustrations accompany each concept.

There are lots of resources at the end for kids who want to learn more, along with lists of things that come in twos or fives or nines (and so on). Some of the language in the footer text seems a little advanced, but at least it isn't talking down to kids.

Overall, this is a strong little picture book. It reminds me a bit of titles like Elin Kelsey's You Are Stardust or Jason Gruhl's Everything Is Connected, but with the added bonus of the numbers.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Review - Wild Goose Chase

Wild Goose Chase: Funny Animal Phrases and the Meanings Behind Them

by Kathy Broderick
illustrated by Dragan Kordić
Date: 2021
Publisher: Sunbird Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 36
Format: e-book
Source: library

What do you think of when you hear wild goose chase or raining cats and dogs? Do you imagine geese running in circles, or kittens and pups falling from the sky? Dive into this imaginative picture book and explore some funny animal phrases and the dictionary definitions that help explain them.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I recently read A Wisdom of Wombats by the same author. Wild Goose Chase tackles animal phrases rather than collective nouns. While the subject is interesting, the execution is not nearly as entertaining here. I'm not sure if that's due to the pictures (this book uses a different illustrator). I did like the page about the geese... but, unfortunately, it's the first one, and the book kind of gets a little boring after that.

Kids who are interested in sayings and what they mean might like this book. But I found it didn't live up to my expectations after reading A Wisdom of Wombats.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3 out of 5

Monday, November 29, 2021

Review - My Key

My Key

by Amal
Date: 2021
Publisher: Clavis
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

When two ordinary objects land on a city sidewalk, a little girl's dull day becomes an odyssey of new places and unusual faces. Led far away on a dragon boat, she makes use of her found objects to get past the locked library doors, where erudite elephants open her eyes to the beauty of books and faraway lands. Faced with fantastic animals and discoveries, has she found the secret to make dull days a thing of the past?

A magical book that celebrates libraries and the power of imagination. For brave explorers ages 5 years and up.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I think something may have gotten lost in translation.

The illustrations are the strongest part of this, although I had a tough time making them all out on my computer screen. (This is definitely not a good book to attempt reading on an e-reader or tablet!) The text started out confusing, and didn't get much better as time went on. The story starts like this:

I asked politely, "Please can we go to the movies, Timbuktu, a little kasbah in a big city? You know, one of those old Moroccan fortresses. Please?"

The story then goes into libraries and imagination, and I have no idea what any of that has to do with the movies or that grammatically strange sentence that appears to be talking to someone named Timbuktu.

I understand that this is about imagination, but I really don't like the narrative. The wording seems clunky and disjointed.

I don't think I'd recommend this one. The pictures are okay, but there are better books out there that celebrate libraries and imagination without devolving into such weirdness.

Thank you to NetGalley and Clavis for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.17 out of 5

Review - Pat a Cake Who?

Pat a Cake Who?

by J. T. S. Halvorsen
illustrated by Alice Pieroni
Date: 2011
Publisher: Xist Publishing
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 26
Format: e-book
Source: library

The Classic Nursery Rhyme Gets an Upgrade! Play pat-a-cake with new verses and cheerful illustrations in this new picture book. Each verse introduces new characters like Pat a Cake Farmer Jane, Dinosaur, Kitty Cat and Choo-Choo Train and breathes new fun into the classic rhyme. Here's a sample page: Pat a cake, pat a cake, Polar Bear. Bake me a cake in the arctic air. Roll it, pat it, grab it with your claws, and throw it in the air for Santa Claus. This book makes an excellent addition to a classroom unit on nursery rhymes or as a fun bedtime addition to a home library.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm not sure why this nursery rhyme needed an upgrade in the first place. I'm really not sure why it needed to be upgraded with dinosaurs, rat flavouring, trains, whales, and burying the cake in the yard.

The metre is, surprisingly, pretty good. Kids will probably like the bright illustrations and the silly rhymes.

But I'm not impressed with the text. Why do we need to fling the cake on the roof? I have no idea.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.71 out of 5

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Review - Dino Yoga

Dino Yoga

by Lorena Pajalunga
illustrated by Anna Láng
Date: 2021
Publisher: Happy Fox Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Dino Yoga is a fun and colorful guide that teaches young children how to do yoga with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions that explain how to perform basic yoga poses. With each yoga position is also a kid-friendly tip on how to better handle their emotions and personalities, including how to relax, how to focus, how to be calmer, and more.

Join Master Diplo and his students, Rex, Raptor, Trixie, and Dactyla, as they guide kids step-by-step through a variety of yoga poses and meditative exercises, including Tree Pose, Peaceful Warrior Pose, Plank Pose, Camel Pose, and more. These practices will help kids connect with themselves, calm their minds, and feel great! See how yoga helps each young dinosaur understand and manage the different emotions they experience, from anger and the inability to focus to overactivity and anxiety. Each pose builds onto the next so children can easily move through a yoga sequence before it closes with a meditative practice to complete the flow. These actions help children manage their emotions in a healthy and mindful way.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a great idea for a non-fiction picture book. Unfortunately, it commits one of the biggest sins when it comes to teaching a new skill to young readers: It's confusing.

The book starts by introducing us to four young dinosaurs, each with a quirk that gives them a bit of trouble. Rex has anger issues, for example. And Trixie sometimes loses focus. So they could all benefit from yoga, right?

The illustrations are adorable, colourful, and very appealing, which makes the book all the more frustrating when it comes to the actual instructions. I'm an adult, and while I'm no expert, I've taken a few yoga classes. So I should be able to follow directions like this. But some of the instructions aren't clear. Even worse, sometimes the instructions don't match the illustrations! In one spot, the order of the movements is different in the text and pictures. In another spot, the text refers to the right while the illustration shows the left.

And that might not be such a problem if these didn't seem like very advanced poses. Frustration over not being able to figure out what the book is talking about added to the frustration of falling over while trying to execute some of these movements doesn't seem like an activity conducive to calm. (Take, for example, the Sitting Hand Over Toe Pose. Basically, you stand on your right leg with your right arm in the air, grab the toes of your left leg with the other hand while extending the leg out in front of you, then lower yourself so your butt is resting on your right heel... and then somehow stand back up, all without losing your balance. I can't even accomplish that one in my imagination!)

This might be okay for kids whose parents are yogis themselves and can explain how to do the poses (including the Mountain Pose, which was mentioned but never properly explained). But I'm afraid this could cause quite a bit of frustration for those who are new to yoga. And that kind of defeats the purpose of the book.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.67 out of 5

Review - Holiday Spirit

Holiday Spirit

by wickedjr89
Date: 2021
Publisher: Archive of Our Own
Reading level: A
Book type: short story
Pages: 7703 words
Format: e-book
Source: Archive of Our Own

Christmas morning kids open their presents, only to scream in horror. Someone has ruined Christmas. Who? Why? Where is Santa Claus?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a bit of a confused (and confusing) story about a horrid Christmas morning, a centuries-old grudge, and the magic of belief. It... doesn't work.

I'll give the author an A for effort, but there are just so many problems with this. It's a story about believing in Santa Claus, and yet there are graphic descriptions of violent and some rather scary monsters. (Don't even get me started on the spiders.) I'm not sure who the audience is supposed to be; it seems like a story that should be for children, but it's completely inappropriate for them due to the graphic content.

The writing is also technically pretty bad. Most of the punctuation is wrong. Getting through it all was a bit of a slog.

I think the author was trying to make a statement here about the Christmas spirit and commercialism and believing in something good and pure... but the whole storyline that involved beating animals with sticks and somebody losing their hands didn't seem all that Christmas-like to me.

I did, however, love one bit at the beginning, though it probably wasn't intended to be so badass. Upon being beset by spiders on Christmas morning, the parents have the following exchange:

“What are we going to do!” mom yells.

Dad thinks for a few seconds, rubbing his chin and blowing a dangling hair out of his eyes.

“Bomb the house?”

Well, that escalated quickly. (They were talking about a bug bomb, but I still like to imagine they were talking about dynamite or something. With some spiders, that's the only reasonable course of action.)

Overall, this needs work. The heavy-handed messaging, violence, and poor editing combine to make this a bit of a chore to read. But I'm still chuckling over the mental image of this couple blowing up their house over a few spiders, so I did get some enjoyment out of it.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 1/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.14 out of 5 ladybugs

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Review - Go Out and Play

Go Out and Play

by Adam Ciccio
illustrated by Katrien Benaets
Date: 2021
Publisher: Clavis
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A cheerful and imaginative book that invites everyone to go outside. For adventurers ages 5 years and up.

The clouds are gone and the sun is out. It’s time to put the phones away and enjoy the sunshine before the sun goes down. There are so many things to explore outside. Play soccer, skateboard, or find new bugs! What will you do with your time outside?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

While I really appreciate the premise of this book, I'm not loving the execution.

Part of that is the way the book is written, in rhyme, but without any discernible metre.

Another part of that is the illustrations, which seem a bit uneven. On some pages, the little badger and his friends are adorable. On others, they look a little creepy.

The message about turning off screens and doing other stuff is great. No complaint there. Check out The Couch Potato by Jory John and Pete Oswald for another example of the "get your butt outside" premise for kids. We need more books that encourage offline activities.

Thank you to NetGalley and Clavis for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: 1/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.43 out of 5

Review - A New Home for Fox

A New Home for Fox

by Ellen DeLange
illustrated by Agnes Ofner
Date: 2021
Publisher: Clavis
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A great book about prejudice and being open to new neighbors, friends, and experiences. It's also a conversation starter about the immigrant and refugee experience. For brave little readers ages 5 years and up.

After fleeing his home, Fox arrives in a new forest. Tired and looking for a friend, Fox knocks on the first door he sees. Will Fox make a new friend?

(synopsis from NetGalley; see it on Goodreads)

I enjoy picture books about foxes, but this one kind of missed the mark for me. It's supposed to show the refugee experience, but it feels a little forced, and children who don't see the parallels might wonder why Fox doesn't just go home after the danger has passed.

One day, while Fox is sleeping, some nasty dogs get into his den, flush him out, and chase him out of his familiar forest. As he tries to talk to other animals, he's met with prejudice and shunning. But then a big boar comes along and chases the other animals. Fox tricks it into falling off a cliff, and the other animals celebrate Fox as a hero. He decides to stay and build a new life for himself.

Because Fox mentioned his old friends, I found it a little unrealistic that he'd just settle in the new forest without a second thought. Why can't he go back to his old den? The dogs are probably long gone, and Fox has a whole life there. That part was kind of weak for me.

I'm also not a fan of the writing. Aside from the continual comma splicing, there's a bit too much internal monologuing from Fox, which seems like a heavy-handed way to show what the story's all about (finding new friends in a new place). I don't think a lot of that was necessary.

I will say, though, that I enjoyed the illustrations. Fox's anthropomorphized den at the beginning is adorable, and the limited colour palette works nicely. I do wish that the climactic moment with the boar had been a little better executed (we go from Fox hearing the commotion to the boar falling off the cliff, completely skipping Fox's heroic moment where he leads the animals and devises his trick); the narrative explains it, but I would've liked to see it illustrated.

Overall, this isn't the best picture book I've read, either about foxes or about the refugee experience. It's not bad, but it has a few issues that would make me hesitant to wholeheartedly recommend it.

Thank you to NetGalley and Clavis for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.67 out of 5

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Review - Doris' Dear Delinquents

Doris' Dear Delinquents

by Emma Ward
Date: 2021
Publisher: Clavis
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Doris the gharial crocodile has her motherly hands full with twenty-six misbehaved hatchlings. Follow along on a journey through the alphabet as she tries to bring peace back into her home.

An amusing book about a crocodile and her cheeky hatchlings, whose names all start with a specific letter of the alphabet. For readers who know their ABCs ages 4 years and up.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I didn't know I would enjoy this alphabet book as much as I did. Doris and her hatchlings are cute (well, as cute as crocodiles can be) and their antics are amusing. The crocodiles also wear clothes, which is probably the most hilarious part of the book. So many hatchlings in overalls! Well, except for Lucas...

My one complaint is that the layout is not consistent, and some of the text seems to be misplaced, especially on pages where there's more than one thing going on. On more than one occasion, the text for one illustration seems to be swapped with the text for another illustration on the same page. You can figure it out if you look closely at the pictures, but there's really no reason for it to be this confusing.

That aside, this is a unique, entertaining alphabet book that kids will probably enjoy.

Thank you to NetGalley and Clavis for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Review - In the Clouds

In the Clouds

by Elly MacKay
Date: 2022
Publisher: Tundra Books (NY)
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A luminous journey into the sky for daydreamers and cloud enthusiasts big and small, from renowned paper-diorama artist Elly MacKay.

A bored and curious little girl wishes for a bit of sunshine on a cloudy day. But a friendly bird soon whisks her off for an adventure in the sky, where she can contemplate questions both scientific and philosophical in nature: how do clouds float? Or carry the rain? Where do they go when they disappear? Are there clouds on other planets? Do they have memories? Have they ever seen a girl like her?

This dreamy picture book from the inimitable Elly MacKay features her trademark stunning, light-infused spreads that beautifully capture the wondrousness of clouds and the power of nature to inspire and stimulate imaginations.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is essentially a book of questions, highlighted by charming illustrations of a little girl as she imagines being taken through and beyond the clouds by a bird.

The pictures are absolutely lovely, with luminous backgrounds and paper-and-ink characters that seem to transcend the scene as well as be part of it. I don't think I've encountered Elly MacKay's work before, but it's intriguing and pleasant to look at; I'd love to see some of her other books.

While I was reading, I was a bit concerned that the book was going to be all questions and no answers. But there is a cute little page at the end in which many of the questions are answered. There's also an informative graphic that shows the various types of clouds.

Highly recommended for the illustrations alone. But also check this one out for the imagination aspect as well as the info about clouds.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tundra Books (NY) for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4.5 out of 5

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Review - Why?

Why?

by Nikolai Popov
Date: 1995
Publisher: minedition
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

A frog finds a beautiful flower and picks it for himself. When a mouse sees him with it, his jealousy overcomes him, and he swipes it. Frog’s friends come to his aid and chase the mouse away. But before the frogs can celebrate, Mouse’s friends return for a counter-attack. Before long the conflict has devolved into a full-scale frog-mouse war. By the end of it, all either side can ask is: why? This seemingly simple book tackles an important subject and will be an invaluable way to talk to young children about conflict and warfare.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book has been around for decades, yet I can't recall ever hearing about it. It's a wordless picture book featuring a frog who's just minding his own business when a greedy mouse comes along and steals his flower. Things escalate from there as both recruit their friends to participate in battles that leave the landscape scarred. Nobody wins.

The allegory is clear and can probably be understood even by very young children. The illustrations are almost luminous, showing the ingenuity with which the critters come up with ways to destroy one another. If only they'd put their talents to use in a more constructive way!

It's kind of a sad book, but it carries an important message.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.6 out of 5

Review - Read This Book and Never Fart Again

Read This Book and Never Fart Again

by Tim Miller
illustrated by Matt Stanton
Date: 2021
Publisher: ABC Books AU
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: library

It's been almost a decade since the Fart Monster first entered the world, now he's back in this hilarious new book from bestselling creators Tim Miller and Matt Stanton.

When you've got a problem, who do you call?

The fart monster has spent years releasing a barrage of bottom bazookas onto the world. Now, in a surprising twist, he's here to help put an end to those roars from the rear!

Follow along at home as the fart monster leads us through his DIY guide to easing the common fart.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

From Down Under (heh) comes this "instructional" manual on how to stop your farts.

Great for prepubescent boys. Probably a bit of a miss for everyone else.

Aside from the various euphemisms for farting and a few interesting factoids, there's not that much to this book. The story is kind of weak. The illustrations are just okay. It sort of feels like a missed opportunity here; kids want to read about farts so they'll pick this up... only to find that there isn't much to this other than hot air.

Yes, sometimes farts are funny. But this book almost made them boring.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2 out of 5

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Review - Little Miss, Big Sis

Little Miss, Big Sis

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Date: 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

The big news is this--Little Miss becomes a big sis! In the perfect follow-up to Plant a Kiss, Little Miss learns the wonders of becoming a big sister as she and her family celebrate the momentous arrival of a new baby.

New York Times bestselling author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and award-winning illustrator Peter H. Reynolds have teamed up once again to create a charming story about Little Miss. Little Miss, Big Sis is the perfect gift for any child becoming a big brother or sister and any expecting families!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a cute companion to Plant a Kiss in which Little Miss becomes a big sis.

While it follows a similar format to Plant a Kiss and also features Peter H. Reynolds' charming illustrations, I didn't find Little Miss, Big Sis to be quite as strong as its predecessor. The text was sometimes confusing in that you couldn't always tell who was being talked about. And the focus on the sibling experience will narrow the audience for this book considerably. I much preferred the theme of Plant a Kiss, as it's a far more universal one.

Overall, though, this will probably work for families who are expecting a new arrival. Some books about new baby siblings aren't that great, but this one shows the relationship in a fairly realistic (though still sweet) way.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.17 out of 5

Review - Plant a Kiss

Plant a Kiss

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Date: 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Little Miss planted a kiss . . .

One small act of love blooms into something bigger and more dazzling than Little Miss could have ever imagined in this epic journey about life, kindness, and giving.

New York Times bestselling author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and award-winning illustrator Peter H. Reynolds have teamed together for the first time, creating what may soon prove to be a perennial favorite.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

What a simple, sweet idea for a picture book! A little girl plants a kiss, then waits for it to grow. When it sprouts, she takes the harvest and shares it throughout the world, in spite of the objections of her friends, who say she'll use it all up. But when all of the kiss has been distributed, there's a surprise waiting for the little farmer.

Peter H. Reynolds's lovely illustrations perfectly complement this simple rhyming tale of kindness from Amy Krouse Rosenthal. This would make a great bedtime read due to its short length and relaxing themes.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Friday, November 19, 2021

Review - Kunoichi Bunny

Kunoichi Bunny

by Sara Cassidy
illustrated by Brayden Sato
Date: 2022
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 20
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

The sun is out and the birds are chirping. It’s a beautiful day for Saya, her dad and her well-loved stuffed bunny, Kunoichi, to go to the park.

On their way, Saya stealthily stops a fight by flinging her floppy four-legged ninja-bunny between two snarling cats. Later, on the bus, Saya throws Kunoichi under the wheels of a child’s stroller, halting its dangerous roll toward the stairs. Dad doesn't notice as Saya uses Kunoichi to save the day time and time again on their outing and on the bus home, proving small actions can have a great impact.

This wordless picture book in graphic novel format by award-winning author Sara Cassidy and illustrator Brayden Sato will bring joy to every reader who believes in the magic of stuffed animals.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm not quite sure how I feel about this one.

The premise is fine. The illustrations are well done, for the most part. I guess I'm just struggling with the fact that this is aimed at kids 3-5. Without words, will children of that age understand all of the scenarios where Saya and Kunoichi save the day? Some of them are a little hard to catch. In one panel, the bunny is thrown into the path of a baseball that's supposedly about to hit a child in the head. (The trajectory, though, makes it look like the ball would sail right over the kid's head, so that might confuse some kids who pick up on what's going on there.) There's also a panel where the bunny saves an old lady from sadness, which seems a bit of a vague concept for a preschooler to grasp.

If a parent is willing to sit down with the child and make up a little story to go along with the panels, this might work. I'm just not sure if a 3-year-old sitting there looking at the book themselves will understand what it's supposed to be about.

Thank you to NetGalley and Orca Book Publishers for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.2 out of 5

Review - Thank You, Miyuki

Thank You, Miyuki
(Miyuki)
by Roxane Marie Galliez
illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh
Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: Kobo

Miyuki and her grandfather return in an enchanting intergenerational story enhanced by Seng Soun Ratanavanh's gorgeous Japanese-inspired illustrations. Miyuki's curiosity is piqued by her grandfather's morning meditation routine, and she is eager to learn this new skill. Her wise and patient grandfather first takes her on a walk in the garden. "When do we start to meditate?" she asks repeatedly. Grandfather enjoys the warm sun and stops to smell a rose, inviting Miyuki to join him. Their walk in the garden, filled with many tender moments, heightens their gratitude for each other and for the world around them. Miyuki comes to understand that in the small acts of mindfulness throughout her day, she learned how to meditate.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is the second Miyuki book I've read, the other being Patience, Miyuki. I didn't like Thank You, Miyuki nearly as much as its predecessor. (I've still yet to read Time for Bed, Miyuki... although, now I'm not sure if I really want to.)

The pictures here are lovely, if a little bit trippy. They're whimsical and imaginative, which is in glaring contrast to the narrative of the book, in which Grandpa ignores Miyuki's questions all day and seems to disparage her imagination. The whole point of the story is that Grandpa is going to teach Miyuki to meditate. But he doesn't communicate much with her about that, leading to Miyuki's incessant questioning of, "When do we start to meditate?" (Talk about annoying.) When they look at clouds, the child sees all sorts of shapes. Grandpa sees only clouds, and it's implied at the end that this is the "right" answer because that's what meditating is all about. (Meditation is supposed to be boring, I guess.) I really don't like seeing a child being discouraged from using their imagination, even if it's to meditate in some sort of "correct" way.

To be honest, though, I think I knew this book was going to annoy me from the very first line:

Lilac dew and mist on the grass, Grandpa wakes early to greet the wind.

I mean... what kind of grammar is that? (I thought maybe that first word was supposed to be "like", but it's probably just supposed to be poetic or something.)

That said, the illustrations are very pretty. A limited colour of palette of turquoise, red, yellow, pink, and green works to bring the characters and their fantastical world to life. (I likened the illustrations in Patience, Miyuki to something out of Alice in Wonderland, and that's true here as well.) I could see some of the pictures as framed prints in a child's room; that's how nice they are.

Overall, this was just okay. If you like the other Miyuki books, you'll probably like this. Personally, though, I'm only here for the pictures.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3 out of 5

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Review - A Wisdom of Wombats

A Wisdom of Wombats: More Collective Animal Nouns and the Meanings Behind Them

by Kathy Broderick
illustrated by David DePasquale
Date: 2021
Publisher: Sunbird Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

From a journey of giraffes to a gaggle of geese, come explore animals and the wonderful words we use to describe them. Featuring definitions, this picture book of collective nouns will grow your vocabulary and expand your understanding. Companion title to A Loveliness of Ladybugs, winner of The National Parenting Center Seal of Approval.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I love picture books that teach things in a fun way. A Wisdom of Wombats: More Collective Animal Nouns and the Meanings Behind Them is set up sort of like an illustrated dictionary with colourful, amusing illustrations that highlight the double meanings of the various words used to describe groups of animals. For example, a group of giraffes is called a journey, and the page shows these tacky tourists going on a safari. There are 16 different animal groups in all, many with collective nouns readers might not be aware of.

This is a great choice for readers who love studying animals and their groups, or for readers who enjoy learning about language and word meanings. The illustrations are sure to delight, too.

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

Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4.5 out of 5

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Review - Little Penguins

Little Penguins

by Cynthia Rylant
illustrated by Christian Robinson
Date: 2016
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Newbery Medal–winning author Cynthia Rylant and Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator Christian Robinson pair up to tell this wintry story about five little penguins enjoying a snowy day.

Snowflakes? Many snowflakes. Winter is coming. So begins this ever-so-simple story. As the snow starts to fall, the excited penguins pull out scarves, mittens, heavy socks, and boots, and Mama helps them bundle up. But when it’s time to go out, one timid penguin decides to stay home. Filled with waddling baby penguins, playful text, and delightful illustrations, this book feels like a young picture-book classic in the making.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I swear I don't actually dislike penguins. But I do dislike penguin books that conflate penguins with the Arctic region.

This is basically just a story about children (shown as extremely anthropomorphized penguins here) who experience a fun, snowy day. The illustrations left me cold (no pun intended) and I could not get past the penguins living in igloos. Seriously? Are we going to start our preschoolers off with confusion by showing an Antarctic bird living in a dwelling that's found in the Arctic?

The text is super simple and the illustrations colourful, and I can see little kids who don't know any better liking the book. But I wouldn't recommend it, simply because I don't think it's okay to appropriate Arctic culture to tell an Antarctic story. (Your mileage may vary, of course.) For better books about penguins, try Penguin and the Cupcake by Ashley Spires, Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima, and Polar Opposites by Erik Brooks.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.17 out of 5

Review - Singing Sisters: A Story of Humility

Singing Sisters: A Story of Humility
(The Seven Teachings Stories)
by Katherena Vermette
illustrated by Irene Kuziw
Date: 2014
Publisher: HighWater Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: library

Ma'iingan knows she is a very good singer. Conflict erupts when her little sister wants to sing just like her.

Singing Sisters is one book in The Seven Teachings Stories series. The Seven Teachings of the Anishinaabe—love, wisdom, humility, courage, respect, honesty, and truth—are revealed in seven stories for children. Set in urban landscapes, Indigenous children tell familiar stories about home, school, and community.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a simple picture book with a sweet message. Ma'iingan likes to sing, and she sings everywhere she can. Her little sister wants to sing, too, but Ma'iingan seems to worry about her sibling stealing the spotlight. When her mother convinces her that there's enough singing to go around, Ma'iingan decides she can share the gift of song and even helps her sister improve her skills.

There's nothing that really stood out to me, good or bad, about this one. The writing is solid and the pictures are okay. I was a little confused, though, about the pronunciation guide at the back for Anishnaabemowin words because, aside from Ma'iingan's name, there doesn't seem to be any Indigenous vocabulary in the book at all. That was a little disappointing.

Overall, though, this would be a good book for kids who might be having issues with sibling rivalry, reminding them that one person's talent doesn't necessarily diminish another's, and that singing is something that's meant to be shared.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.33 out of 5

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Review - The Runaway Bunny

The Runaway Bunny

by Margaret Wise Brown
illustrated by Clement Hurd
Date: 1942
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: library

A little bunny keeps running away from his mother in an imaginative and imaginary game of verbal hide-and-seek; children will be profoundly comforted by this lovingly steadfast mother who finds her child every time.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I think I may have read this (or had it read to me) as a child, because it wasn't entirely unfamiliar. But it was still fresh enough for me that I quite enjoyed it.

A little bunny decides (as kids sometimes do) that he's going to run away. But, no matter where he says he's going to run to, his mother always has an answer as to how she's going to keep him in her life because, after all, he is her little bunny.

The illustrations, a mix of black-and-white and full-colour pictures, are charming, showing the rabbits doing all sorts of things, from the anthropomorphized to the fantastical.

I love the ending. It's simple, quick, and oh, so perfect.

Those looking for classic picture books might want to check this one out. There's a reason it's still in print after so many decades!

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5

Review - The Moon Shines Down

The Moon Shines Down

by Margaret Wise Brown & Laura Minchew
illustrated by Linda Bleck
Date: 2008
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: library

Forgotten for decades in a dusty, tucked-away trunk, "The Moon Shines Down" brings to life once more the unmistakable voice of Margaret Wise Brown. This soon-to-be classic allows a whole new generation of children to discover, cherish, and enjoy the artistry of this beloved author.

Never before published, "The Moon Shines Down" on children all over the world from right next door to across the sea, from where a Dutch boy dreams and cowbells ring to across the sea in the Far, Far East, through the familiar prayer:

I see the Moon
And the Moon sees me.
God bless the Moon,
And God bless me.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Books like this make me think that, if were ever to achieve any level of fame, I would want to make sure I destroyed any half-finished manuscripts that I'd abandoned because they were complete rubbish. I would not want someone publishing them to try to make a quick buck.

The Moon Shines Down is pretty cringeworthy. It's dated as hell, with a Western slant that's rather off-putting. Laura Minchew may have tried to ameliorate some of the problems when she added some new text to the pages about the Far East and Africa to add a bit more specificity, but the book still refers to Africa as a country, and the Western countries each get their own stanza while the non-Western regions have to share some generalized poetry. The book also features some pretty stereotypical depictions of all the countries, which is disappointing.

I'm not a fan of the rhyming text here. It's clumsy, with little consistency in the metre. It focuses mostly on children, except near the end, where we're inexplicably praying for sea creatures. Why just sea creatures? No idea.

The illustrations are cute, even if what they're depicting is a bit problematic. But I don't understand why a koala is visiting all of these different countries, including Australia... since Australia is in the middle of the book. Wouldn't it have made more sense to start with Australia and show the koala setting off on his journey?

I don't know. This was just a bit weird. Books that are published posthumously are rarely any good... especially when they've been tinkered with by other people.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.43 out of 5

Friday, November 12, 2021

Review - Binky the Space Cat

Binky the Space Cat
(Binky #1)
by Ashley Spires
Date: 2009
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 64
Format: e-book
Source: library

Binky is a space cat - at least in his own mind. He's really a house cat who has never left the family "space station." Unlike other house cats, Binky has a mission: to blast off into outer space (outside), explore unknown places (the backyard) and battle aliens (bugs). Binky must undergo rigorous training so he can repel the alien attacks that threaten his humans. As he builds his spaceship, he must be extremely careful with his blueprints - the enemy is always watching.

Soon Binky is ready to voyage into outer space. His humans go out there every day and he's sure they need a certified space cat to protect them. But just as he's about to blast off with his co-pilot, Ted (stuffed mousie), Binky realizes that he's left something very important behind ... and it's not the zero-gravity kitty litter. In the first book in the Binky Adventure series, graphic-novel readers will delight in watching where this lovable and quirky cat's imagination takes him.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I've enjoyed many of Ashley Spires's picture books. I grabbed this one thinking it was another, but it's actually a short graphic novel about a cat who thinks bugs are aliens and that he must protect his humans from the alien threat at all costs.

The story is very simple, and many of the panels are just pictures of a rotund cat eating bugs and farting. But it's amusing and entertaining, and I'm sure kids (especially ones who like cats) will find a lot to like about Binky's quest to fight the aliens.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5 ladybugs

Review - Seasons: A Book of Poems

Seasons: A Book of Poems

by Charlotte Zolotow
illustrated by Erik Blegvad
Date: 2002
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: C
Book type: illustrated poetry collection
Pages: 64
Format: e-book
Source: Open Library

There is a special kind of quiet

Which every household knows;

We hear it in our sleep

Upon the first night that it snows.

With the signature warmth and insight that have made her one of the most heralded children's authors, Charlotte Zolotow has crafted her first I Can Read Book a beautiful collection of forty poems portraying the highlights and emotions of a child's year.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

It's amazing that this children's book of poems was only published in 2002. It has a quality to it that makes it seem much, much older.

I can't say that I was really wowed by any of the poems here, and the illustrations, old-timey as they are, are likewise just okay. Given some of the incredible illustrations in picture books today, this book may be a little too quaint for many of today's readers. However, it is easy to read, so it does serve its purpose as an easy-reader book.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 ladybugs

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Review - Bad Bye, Good Bye

Bad Bye, Good Bye

by Deborah Underwood
illustrated by Jonathan Bean
Date: 2014
Publisher: Clarion Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

“Bad truck, bad guy; bad wave, bad bye . . .” A boy and his family are packing up their old home, and the morning feels scary and sad. But when he arrives at his new home, an evening of good byes awaits: bye to new friends, bye to glowing fireflies, bye to climbing trees. The New York Times bestselling author Deborah Underwood's spare text and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner Jonathan Bean's lush, layered illustrations perfectly capture the complex emotions of moving day. The child-centric transition from dreary morning to cheerful evening comforts young readers facing big changes of their own.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I think my ovaries may have shrivelled a little while reading this. That beginning is so stressful! While it's a faithful representation of child angst and tantrums, I could practically hear the shrieking.

So, aside from a couple of parents who apparently did absolutely nothing to prepare their child for a move (he blames the movers, calling them "bad"), this story just shows, rather predictably, that change is good. The message might be new to some kids, but I've seen this done many times already (and in ways that didn't make me want to run out and stock up on birth control). I also really dislike the ending, which might be confusing to some kids; while adults will get the whole "bad bye, good bye" thing, a child might be fairly concerned at the final "good bye", thinking that the poor family is going to have to move again.

For much a more relaxing book about moving, check out Nicola O'Byrne's adorable Where Is Home, Daddy Bear?

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

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2.29 out of 5