Tag Archives: book review

Two balls of clay

claymatesTake a deep breath and imagine what you’d do if you had two balls of clay.

This book would be my dream scenario, since honestly, no animals I’ve ever made from clay look remotely like this.  You could probably figure out my elephant from the anatomically incorrect long trunk, but otherwise, good luck.

And that’s why I love this book so much. It’s beautiful, packed with creative and easy-to-pick-out animals and shapes and things.  Kids will love it, too, because it’s kind of sassy and funny, and the unseen artist’s attempts to create one thing might turn into something else.  Definitely worth a look and possibly a great one for a kindergarten book lady day next year.

Claymates by Dev Petty and Lauren Eldridge

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A new favorite book to give

welcomeNew parents need books almost as much as their babies do.  What’s wonderful about this one is that it’s maybe for the baby, but maybe even more for moms and dads.  There are fantastic mirror-like pages and bright colors for infants to gaze upon, but the words – happy and sad — speak to parents.

You will get it if you read the book, and I fear any attempts I make to describe it further would pale in comparison to the book.  So, just read the book.  And maybe buy a copy for a friend who’s a new parent.  (I did.) They’ll appreciate it.

Welcome: A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals by Mo Willems

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3 simple reasons to give York a look

york

  1. Puzzles — also clues, ciphers, and  mysteries to solve.
  2. Quirky public transportation options and elevators that go sideways.
  3. Kids out to save their world from an obnoxious developer.

Fun, fun, fun.

York: the shadow cipher by Laura Ruby

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What is said and what is unsaid

beyondthebrightseaLauren Wolk is a master of atmosphere and setting.  There, I’ve said it.  Why not just put it up front and out there, right?  I found her earlier book,  Wolf Hollow, dark, titling my review of it “A lingering toxic fog,” not maybe what you’d think was a positive review. (It was not my typical positive review, but still…)

But apparently, she has a skill for this, and she’s able to dredge up a whole yard full of emotions in whatever she writes.  You might be pulled there slowly… or an angry, violent thief might materialize pounding on your door.  You’re never quite sure of anything.

Some mysteries are solved – Crow, the abandoned infant who’s now trying to find out more about her parents, does learn what has happened to her parents and that she has a brother.  But other questions are not solved as neatly or with happy endings.  Some characters are revealed; others stay a step back and out of the limelight.   And that is just fine.

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

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Wordless, wonderful

little foxA girl.  A stuffed animal/cuddly toy.  The toy goes missing.  Will it be found?

It’s not a revolutionary idea for a picture book; all kinds of great books have started with this simple idea:  Knuffle Bunny and Hitty, Her First Hundred Years (a Newbery Medal winner in 1930) to name two.

Little Fox in the Forest takes this and moves it to a whole different level.  It turns out the fox who’s stolen the toy lives in a little town of animals – complete with soda fountains and grocers – and even finding it may not mean it returns to its owner.

The ending is sweet, and the illustrations are wonderful—full of light and shade and colors that fit the scenes perfectly.  This would be a great book for early readers who are a little afraid of the printed word.  They can “read” the story and tell it without getting slowed down by those pesky letters.

Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin

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More on pants

green-pants-coverAre pants – wearing them or not? – a theme in picture books now?  Hard to say.  It’s probably just a coincidence that I just read Pete With No Pants by Rowboat Watkins, and here we are with Green Pants now.

They’re very different books.  In one, an elephant is taking off his pants.  In the other, a boy will only wear green pants.

Every parent I know has some version of the green pants in their life.  In our house, certain young people had a strange fascination with wearing all red for a while – red shirt, red sweatshirt, red sweatpants, red underwear, red socks and red shoes.  Actually, it was a bold fashion move, and I approved.

Jameson’s problem comes when he’s asked to be in a wedding and wear a tuxedo – no green pants.  Yikes!  What to do?  There will be disco moves.  That’s all you really need to know.

Green Pants by Kenneth Kraegel

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When you are young and you have an imagination….

petewithnopantsHere’s what I love about Pete With No Pants:

·         Pete is an elephant.  Pete does not want to wear pants.

·         Pete uses his imagination to become a boulder and a squirrel, because they’re gray and they don’t wear pants.

·         Pete’s mom is cool, although she wears hats and dresses and–I’m sorry to say this–old lady pajamas.

This is a sweet book, with a lot to look at.  I don’t think I could pull off a read-aloud with it – the details are too small to really share well with a group.  But it’s funny and cute and ends with a rainbow, even if I secretly wish Pete’s mom was wearing yoga pants and a ball cap.

Pete With No Pants by Rowboat Watkins

 

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Change, loss, hope…again.

100stringsSometimes it’s enough to read a story that could take place next door to you.  No magic, no long-lost rock star parent, no spy agency looking for kids to recruit.

Steffy is that kid you know who likes to cook and is kind of quiet but a good friend.  She likes her sister, at least most of the time, and she loves her Auntie Gina who has taken care of her since her mom’s accident years ago.  Mom is living in a care facility for people with brain injuries.  Dad is gone.  Until he isn’t.

Is it a good thing Dad is back?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Lives are so complicated.  Grief and loss and change are complicated.  Cooking is simple.

I’ve started a lot of realistic fiction lately, but I haven’t made it past the first few chapters very often.  This book was different.  It’s a quick read, but not one you have to read all in one sitting.  Steffy and the other characters are people with flaws, who make mistakes and then make other mistakes while they’re trying to fix things.  Kind of like all of us. It has a happy ending, but maybe not the happy ending you expect.  Like life, I guess.  I think that’s why I liked it so much – its imperfections make it special, and it doesn’t force a predictable happy ending on what we see around us every day.

And there are recipes.  That’s good, too.

One Hundred Spaghetti Strings by Jen Nails

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The LEGEND of Rock, Paper, Scissors

rps“Drop that underwear and battle me, you ridiculous wooden clip-man!”

Really, this entire book is one ridiculous name-calling incident after another.  Is Rock kind of a bully?  Is Paper a master of printer jams and angry outbursts?  Is Scissors a little too snippy?  Maybe.  Do I care?  I do not.

Perhaps I would use this book as a teachable moment.  You could winkle a message out of the book about how bullying behavior doesn’t make anyone (Rock, Paper & Scissors included) very happy.  You could talk about balances of power or appropriate behavior.

Or you could just read it over and over on your own, also with your spouse and your adult friends, and then laugh some more with the kids. Honor the legend, my friends.  Honor the legend.

The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt and Adam Rex

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Bird, Balloon, Bear – nature lovers, friends

bird balloon bearBear is just hanging out watching ants while waiting for a friend to appear.  I have been thinking a lot about science in picture books lately, but I don’t even care whether that’s scientifically accurate or not.  Maybe this is a whole new sub-genre for me to explore – animals who are nature lovers.

Anyway, both Bear and Bird are looking for friends.  Expectations are low.  Bear is willing to accept friendship with Balloon, who gets there first and doesn’t speak but is always there for Bear.  Bird is too shy to say anything and then inadvertently causes a disaster.  I actually gasped when I turned the page.  I did not expect THAT to happen, but then it was late at night and I was about 5 minutes from falling asleep.  That woke me up.

Will Bear and Bird overcome this?  Can they be friends?  They can.  They must.

Bird, Balloon, Bear by Il Sung Na

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