Tag Archives: book review

Humpty Dumpty self-help

AfterTheFall_JCKT_09a.inddHumpty’s life is shattered, much like his shell.

The freedom he felt at the top of the wall?  Gone!  The power of looking down on the city and seeing the birds fly?  Vanished!

Fortunately for Humpty, a serendipitous accident will bring him back to his true self and set him free.

After the Fall by Dan Santat

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Where is my BEST FRIEND DISCO BONANZA?

snappsy 2Snappsy the Alligator is back, and Bert (a chicken) seems determined to have fun with him.

Snappsy does not seem too worried about Bert’s pressing issues:

  • the previously noted disco bonanza
  • a sleepover
  • pinochle
  • matching shirts

Have you ever had a friend who wants to be your friend way too much?  This would be Bert.  Eventually Bert leaves in a huff – “I’m sure I can find another best friend somewhere.”

I feel like Snappsy could have just let Bert go at this moment, reading in peace and living a quiet life.  But Snappsy is apparently not like me and misses Bert.  They might have to navigate some issues in their journey to best-friendship since they are so very different.  Like that moving truck in Snappsy’s driveway, for example.

Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever (Probably) by Julie Falatko and Tim Miller

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How all occasions do inform against me…preschool version

There’s nothing really mind-shattering or new going on in either of these books, but this should not matter to any of us.  It’s always good for kids to see things that can be connected to their real lives, right?  (Blah, blah, pontificate about themes, ramble on about character development, blah, blah.)

Here’s the thing.  Charlie (a rabbit) can’t get to sleep.  Other animals keep messing it up with noisy interruptions.  Charlie has a routine, darn it!  Why won’t they just cooperate?

Meanwhile in another book, someone is trying to get their shirt off.  It’s stuck.  How will we live our lives if we can’t get this darn shirt off?

So really, nothing is new or exciting here.  But kids will love these books.  Why?

The stories are simple but funny and perfectly illustrated to bring out even more smiles.  That is all.  That is all we need some days.  Today.  So, perfect for today.

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake

Sleep Tight, Charlie by Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo

 

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Oh, Mary Anne, sweet Mary Anne

big machinesMike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel and The Little House were favorites of mine.  Imagining Mary Anne digging out a building in just one day – whew! – and watching the changing world grow up around the little house – oh my!  Such fun for a little kid back in the day.

So it’s a joy to see Mary Anne (steam shovel), Katy (snowplow), Maybelle (trolley) and the Little House all over again, and to learn more about the clearly joyful woman who created them.

Big Machines: the story of Virginia Lee Burton by Sherri Duskey Rinker and John Rocco

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Resistance is futile

wishtree

Or not.  The pen is mightier than the sword, right?

What do we do in times of strife?  When neighbors and good people are being singled out for persecution or isolation or bullying?

Some writers write.  Katherine Applegate writes.

She’s written about cruelty to animals (The One and Only Ivan) and homelessness and hunger (Crenshaw).  Now Wishtree seems to be calling out to a moment troubled by anger and anti-Muslim sentiments, among other things.   Does it solve any problems?  No, not really.  Could it start some discussions?  Maybe.  In 211 pages, it manages to weave together a history of caring for each other with a tree, its residents, and the people of a neighborhood who might be on the edge of forgetting how we live together and care about each other.  It does this all quietly, with exactly the kind of stillness and humor you’d expect from a red oak.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

 

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Another odd book I really like

the-antlered-ship-9781481451604_lgSometimes when I’m mentally working on a poem while I’m driving to work*, a strange question will cross my mind.  Whatever happened to the kid who told me about his plans to be a criminal mastermind in the line for free breakfast?  Why did my great aunt hide money in the tops of her support hose?  Why did Sister Margaret think I couldn’t be trusted to sweep the floor?  Things like that.

I think I respect Dashka Slater and the Fan brothers for finding a way to take an equally odd concept and making it into a picture book.  There’s a fox, you see, with a lot of questions.  An antlered ship appears.  The fox, some deer, a pigeon wearing a bandana, and some others decide to board it and go off on an adventure.  Okay.  Was that ship appealing because it had antlers?  Doesn’t that ship look a little antler-heavy?  Why antlers?  I am clearly thinking about this more than the average six year old would.  Their response to an antlered ship would probably be more along the lines of AWESOME.

So, it’s a little odd, but stretch your minds, people, and take a look.  That antlered ship is pretty cool.

* Yes, I do wait until I hit the parking lot before I write the poems down.

The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater and Terry Fan/Eric Fan

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Almost wordless but full of meaning

LettersToAPrisoner_cover_screenRGB_1024x1024You don’t need words to understand what’s going on here, although I get that it might be confusing for kids with a limited understanding of geopolitics.

It’s a starting place, I guess, and a reminder that being free to think and say what you want is something that we should cherish and protect everywhere we can touch.

Letters to a Prisoner by Jacques Goldstyn

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Labyrinths, friends, being Bea

waytobeaMiddle school:  obstacle course or performance art?

It can be painful either way, right?  Bea is special and creative and perfect, but she doesn’t see that herself after she loses a friend over the summer before seventh grade.  She desperately wants to find a place for herself, but she questions everything.  These people can’t really like me!  No one will understand!  You almost wish you could jump ahead and know her as the really amazing young woman she’s going to turn out to be—the kind of friend who embraces the quirky in everyone and is kind and open-hearted and funny.

The Way to Bea is one of the best middle grade books I’ve read this year, because it finds such simultaneously light and deep moments in its middle school characters at such a confusing, awkward, and sometimes painful point in their lives.  Our daily lives are not all extraordinary, but we might just be extraordinary once in a while.  It’s also very, very nice to see supportive and equally quirky teachers who are looking out for kids and not part of the problem.  I know so many great teachers that I find it kind of upsetting to read fiction that paints them as unfeeling, annoying, demanding, checked out, or creepy – the kinds of teachers who will always believe a bully because his dad is rich or just do not want to get involved at all.  I don’t know teachers like that – really – so it bugs me when writers use them as an easy target.

So read this one, and then spend a few minutes with Bea creating your own haiku.  Mine?

mazes and labyrinths

blind alleys or peaceful still

which path will you choose?

The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh

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The only thing I’ve ever wanted since right now

i-have-a-balloon-9781481472500_lgOwl and Monkey.  Balloon and Bear.  Can we trade?  Can we share?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  The world is full of changing needs and wants.  But be careful what you choose, because all your plans might come to nothing when the ring-tailed lemur shows up with an ice cream cone.

Snarky.  Fun to read.  Not a sharing book.

I Have a Balloon by Ariel Bernstein and Scott Magoon

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Bad seed? Baaaaaaaad seed.

bad seedNice play on words, Jory John.  This bad seed is a happy sunflower seed gone gloriously wrong.  He plays the drums in the library, lies about pointless stuff, tells long jokes with no punch lines, and has some super-duper big eyebrows for a seed.  Deep inside, though, is a good seed trying to get out.  We’re not our reputations, people.  We can be seeds of change if we like.

The Bad Seed by Jory John and Pete Oswald

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