Tag Archives: book review

Letters we all could write

dearf451Dear Dear Fahrenheit 451,

You showed up on my desk that extremely cold Saturday when almost no one came in.  Did I read you then?  No, I did not, because unlike the popular (and completely wrong) stereotype, library workers do not sit around reading at work.  I may have spent quite a long time discussing kidlit and graphic novels with a coworker I rarely see that afternoon, but you rested quietly in the stack of books in my locker until I headed home.

When I opened you later from my warm nest on the couch, I laughed frequently enough that my husband and son wondered what was up.  They were watching Game of Thrones (also in my stack) and things were particularly bloody and violent, so it probably seemed a little jarring.  What can you do?

I especially appreciated your letter to Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as told by Christian, because I have also been told, enthusiastically and repeatedly, that I would just LOVE that book or the previous books in the series by people who don’t know me at all.  I’m not snippy about many books, but let me tell you, that’s one of them.  (Sure, there’s a book for every reader, but that doesn’t mean I’m the reader.) I would be more likely to read Sexy Beast VIII or any of the other originally and uniquely titled Sexy Beast books.  I try to keep an open mind, really I do, but I’m just not all that successful sometimes. But that’s a rant for another day, probably.

What amuses me most about you, however, is that three or four of my favorite patrons suggested you to me, although two were careful to note that some of your language is a little profane.  One handed you to me to check in and commented that she just didn’t think it was appropriate for a librarian to swear that much, but that just makes me love you more, because honestly, there are days when it’s all I can do to wait for the door to close behind the late-in-the-day-angry-at-the-world-and-taking-it-out-on-everyone-jerk-of-the-month to mutter “@#$^%!!!” and head home.

Yours  very truly…

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

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Smartypants rabbits and persistent wolves — together again

when a wolf

Some days those pesky little bunnies seem to do nothing but foil hungry wolves.  It’s easy to see how you might just give up and become a vegetarian at some point, acquiring some new friends and taking on leadership in the neighborhood association.  As with everything, life can bring unexpected joys to your doorstep (or balcony).  Take advantage of them, wolves.  Leave the rabbits alone and grill some veggies instead.

When a Wolf is Hungry by Christine Naumann-Villemin and Kris Di Giacomo

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When your shadow goes all rogue on you

I’m sure many someones have already written many a dissertation on the way our reflections disappoint us. But has anyone thought to take a look at our shadows?  What if they buck the system, refuse to follow us around, or ask for a snack?  What if they tire of our boring behavior and decide to strike out on their own?  Will they come back? What if they decide they don’t like us?  Will we be happy or lonely?

So much to consider!  And apparently, some picture book authors and artists have been considering the same questions.  Smoot‘s got a shadow on the run — equipped with moonlight, shade and some underpants — off to wonderful adventures with other bold and daring shadows.  George and his Shadow is quirky and a bit silly, but it’s a fun combination of styles and colors.  Hortense and the Shadow has captivating art of a different kind, but the amount of detail adds to rather than distracting from the story.

No worries, kids.  Friendship between the shadows and their humans wins in the end.  And if you find yourself looking for green plaid suits in your size or imagining what your own shadow might do in its free time, do not be surprised.

Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia and Lauren O’Hara

George and his Shadow by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch

Smoot, A Rebellious Shadow by Michelle Cuevas and Sydney Smith

Note:  I wrote this blog some time ago and never quite got it posted.  In the meantime, the New York Times Book Review also noticed this trend and had an article on the same theme here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/15/books/review/smoot-smith-cuevas-shadows-kids.html





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Some days you want to be a unicorn

thelma coverThelma’s a horse with a dream.  With just a carrot and a swerving truck full of pink paint and glitter, she will become her dream – a unicorn.  Famous, beloved, watched all the time, exhausted by the demands of fans and paparazzi… you get the picture.  Being a unicorn is not all it’s cracked up to be, and being yourself might just be the answer.  Your friends and family will still love you when the sparkle’s gone, kids.  Remember who you are.  Appreciate who you are.

Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

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Biodiversity, bad days, and you

life-9781481451628_hrLife can be amazing, even when it seems like you’re in a dark wilderness, right?  Maybe?

This book is sure beautiful, and it’s inspirational, too, in the best possible way.  We’re reminded that life starts small, but it grows – plants and animals and humans, too.  At our worst moments, can we think of the beauty and hope and remember what we need to care for and protect and be awed by?   It’s a lot for a child to commit to on a crappy day, but it could spark some interesting conversations about the power of nature to take us outside of ourselves and our bad moments.  It might not solve a big problem, but a trip outside to look at a tree or the clouds or a city-dwelling hawk circling in the sky might just give us a chance to breathe, regroup, start again.

Wonderful illustrations.

Life by Cynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel

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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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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


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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