Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Everything Else: Cybils Nominations A to E

    I'll be posting more reviews in the days to come, up through December 15 probably. But for now, here's...well, everything else! As always, these are my opinions and don't represent the Cybils panel, shortlist choices, etc. These aren't the books I thought were "bad", just the ones I could sum up more shortly.

  • 13 words by Lemony Snicket. Clever, but I think a limited, older audience would appreciate this. The book trailer is almost more fun than the book. Borrowed from library.

  • Andy & Spirit meet the rodeo queen by Mary Jean Kelso. Lengthy, didactic text and amateurish illustrations. Not recommended. Ebook received from publisher.

  • Animal House by Candace Ryan. The humor was too strange for my taste. I usually like Nathan Hale's illustrations, but this one was just too strange. However, I think some kids would probably really like this one - read it for yourself to decide if your library patrons would like it. Borrowed from library.

  • Arbor Day Square by Kathryn Galbraith. I liked the softly colored art and the story was pleasant, including many interesting details of pioneer life, but I was confused by the connection between the story and Arbor Day, or lack thereof. An interesting story on its own, but I wouldn't add it if you're specifically looking for Arbor Day books. Borrowed from library.

  • Art & Max by David Weisner. I recognize Weisner's amazing skill and genius, but he's just not a particular favorite of mine. While in some ways this latest book is his most accessible story for a young audience, I also felt the art references would completely pass over the heads of young readers. A fun story to read aloud and art teachers will probably love it, but I'm not really enthusiastic about it. Review copy provided by publisher.

  • Baby Jesus is missing by Dixie Phillips. Unrealistic, stilted dialogue, heavily didactic plot, and amateur illustrations, with particularly distorted faces. Not recommended. Ebook received from publisher.

  • Bag in the wind by Ted Kooser. I was disappointed by this book - I've come to expect more from Candlewick Press. Vaguely didactic, meandering plot, washed-out illustrations, and an awkward book size - it was unpleasantly reminiscent of the worst of picturebooks from the 1970s. I already have way too many of these on my library shelves - I'd be happy to add a book about recycling, but not this one. Not recommended. Review copy received from publisher.

  • Bats at the ballgame by Brian Lies. I don't know why I don't like these books - I certainly appreciate having some bat books for storytime and I can see why others like the glowing illustrations. I guess I just really don't like rhyming picturebooks unless there's something really outstanding about the rhymes/text and these just don't do it for me. Still a necessary purchase for the library though. Review copy provided by publisher.

  • Bear in the air by Susan Meyers. British-flavored, sweet story about a toddler's teddy bear and what happens when he's lost. Illustrations are a little bland, but will be enjoyed by toddlers and preschoolers. An additional purchase. Review copy received from Abrams.

  • Bear in underwear by Todd Doodler. A sure hit with kids who think "underwear" is the funniest word in the English language. I bought this one for our library because a nine year old patron assured me it was hilarious and "all the little kids will love it." Quite true! Review copy received from Blue Apple Books.

  • Because I am your daddy by Sherry North. I think this was meant to be sweet, but I found the exaggerated and weird things the father is prepared to do for his daughter more than a little strange. Just didn't really work for me. Review copy received from Abrams.

  • Bedtime for bear by Bonny Becker. I really loved the first Bear book, but this story tried too hard and didn't work. Kady Denton's pictures are still charming and perfect, but there are waaaay too many bedtime stories out there and despite the author's best effort to give this one a twist, Bear and Mouse's relationship is starting to feel like a gimmick. Please, I'd like to see something new and fresh from this author - we know she has it in her, after the charming and delightful Visitor for Bear! Review copy received from publisher.

  • Betsy Red Hoodie by Gail Carson Levine. This one probably works better if you're more familiar with the first book in the series. It's a fun fractured fairy tale take, but I felt the speech bubbles combined with the text to be too busy. Borrowed from library.

  • Bird and Birdie by Ethan Long. I think this would be better presented as an easy reader. The limited vocabulary, very large print, and simplified illustrations seem better suited to that designation. That being said, I felt like this was a poor imitation of Willems' Elephant and Piggie. The illustrations were static and the text repetitive and boring. Not recommended. Borrowed from library.

  • Birdy's Smile Book by Laurie Keller. Keller's art style isn't my favorite, but this is an irresistibly happy and silly book. Guaranteed to make you smile back at Birdy! Recommended for all libraries. Borrowed from library.

  • Book of big brothers by Cary Fagan. This would have made a hilarious and popular beginning chapter book. Unfortunately, it doesn't work as a picture book. It's obviously from the point of view of an adult looking back at his childhood and the huge chunks of text aren't suitable for a picturebook. I don't know how the publishing process works, but whoever decided to package this as a picturebook made a mistake. Borrowed from library.

  • Boy Had a Mother Who Bought Him a Hat by Karla Kuskin. This is a completely nonsensical and cumulative rhyme, telling the pointless but giggly story of a boy who insists on wearing and using every single gift of his mother's at all times. It's illustrated by the delightful Kevin Hawkes, whose rabbits in this book I adore. Plus, I can put this in the picturebooks where it will not, like most of my other poetry books, eventually become depressed and envious of Silverstein and commit death by noncirculation. Review copy received from publisher.

  • Calico Dorsey by Susan Lendroth. Kids who like "true" dog stories will enjoy this fictionalized account of a real dog and his brief exploits as a "mail dog". It's a bit long for kindergarten and below, but older grades would probably enjoy it. Borrowed from library.

  • Can Man by Laura Williams. This story does a fairly good job of personalizing homelessness and teaching kids a little empathy without being heavy-handed. Good to use in a school setting or when discussing this issue with your children. Review copy received from Lee & Low.

  • Chavela and the magic bubble by Monica Brown. I'm a bit doubtful about trying to explain magical realism to young children, which this seems to be. But the story is pretty straightforward on its own, without bothering with any of the underlying meanings and the various cultural elements and Spanish words many children might be unfamiliar with are smoothly integrated into the text. Could be fun to read aloud if in conjunction with learning about gum. Review copy provided by publisher.

  • Children make terrible pets by Peter Brown. I have to admit, I just don't really "get" Peter Brown's sense of humor. But I'm a minority of one and I can definitely see a lot of kids falling over laughing with this one. Borrowed from library

  • Cinco de Mouse-O! by Judy Cox. One is a feast for a mouse remains my favorite of Judy Cox's holiday books so far, but this is a cute take on the festival of Cinco de Mayo. I did have two reservations about this book - one, the humans pictured seemed to me to be generally more light-skinned than I expected. I grew up in Austin, TX, which has a large and diverse Hispanic population, so I am used to seeing more people at Mexican festivals with darker skin. Secondly, we never really find out what the celebration is about, only the way it is celebrated. I would have liked an author's note at the end for readers unfamiliar with Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Make this an additional purchase for readers already familiar with the festival and looking for a fun take on the various celebrations involved. Review copy received from Holiday House.

  • City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems. Willems' collaboration with Jon Muth is inspired. The excitement, exuberance, heartbreak and hope is vivid in every page, as is the author and illustrator's love of the country they portray so beautifully. A must for your library collection. Borrowed from library.

  • Crabby Pants by Julie Gassman. A funny idea and kids will find it hilarious, but the ending was weak - felt as though the author had gotten stuck in the plot and couldn't figure out how to round it out. But kids will find it hilarious! Review copy received from publisher.

  • Dancing Feet by Lindsey Craig. This infectious rhyming story presents a variety of animals and bugs tapping, creeping, slapping, and thumping their feet. Marc Brown's hand-painted cut paper collages are bright and cheerful. This is a must have for toddler storytimes, interactive and delightful. Borrowed from library.

  • Dear Primo: a letter to my cousin by Duncan Tonatiuh. Two cousins compare their lives on a rural farm and in the city. Spanish vocabulary is smoothly blended into the letters they share. Although primitive (I think that's the art style) is not my personal favorite, it fits the reflective mood of the story. Best for older children, especially those interested in how children in other countries live or those who have relatives in a different economic or cultural area. Review copy received from Abrams.

  • Dog loves books by Louise Yates. Dog loves books - so she opens a bookstore. But nobody comes! So she opens her beloved books and immediately she has the company of all her wonderful book friends...and then is eventually joined by a customer. I love the artwork and the story is very sweet but...the practical side of me wants to know how Dog is running a bookstore when her only customers are a little girl and a bunch of imaginary friends. Also, I admit to a certain amount of prejudice against "I love books" books. You see, the people who love books are already reading them and don't need to be convinced and the people who don't love books aren't reading them anyways, so...but the illustrations are very lovely and the text simple and sweet. Borrowed from library.

  • Don't call me Sidney by Jane Sutton. A poetic pig decides to change his name to improve his artistic standing. Kind of funny, but just didn't really grab me. Borrowed from library.

  • Don't slam the door by Dori Chaconas. I love, love, love Chaconas' Cork & Fuzz easy readers, but this story fell flat for me. It's a cumulative tale and has a nice folktale-ish flavor, would probably work quite well in storytime, but it just didn't stand out in any way to me. Probably at least in part because I've never really liked Will Hillenbrand's illustrations, for one reason and another. Review copy received from publisher.

  • Doug-Dennis and the flyaway fib by Darren Farrell. Weird and preachy. I'd go with Hello Goodbye and a very little lie if you want a new book about lying. Borrowed from library.

  • Drum City by Thea Guidone. Another fun interactive/music-based picturebook. Nothing particularly outstanding about it, but you can never have too many strong, rhythmic stories for children to join in with in storytime. Borrowed from library.

  • Easy as pie by Cari Best. I really liked this funny, foodie story. A small boy, obsessed with cooking, decides to follow his favorite cooking show host's advice and bake a pie. In his Easy-On Oven, an obvious substitute for an Easy-Bake Oven, I assume. However, I found it hard to believe he could actually bake a pie in a toy oven. Is this possible? It's not a toy I ever had - I was cooking for 7 by the time I was 12 and never considered cooking an amusement...I also felt the parents waiting to go out was extraneous to the plot and made it too lengthy and confusing. But I really liked the fresh concept and cheery illustrations. Borrowed from library.

  • Ebeneezer's Cousin by Kristen Zajac. An interesting concept, but there are too many plot points jammed in together - military father who is injured and becomes depressed, monkeys who assist the disabled, a primate sanctuary, children dealing with a parent in the military, etc. Some of the phrases are awkward and the illustrations have an amateur look. Not recommended. Ebook received from publisher.

  • Eddie Elephant's Exciting Egg-Sitting by Barbara deRubertis. This is apparently part of a series that focuses on one animal per letter of the alphabet. Eddie Elephant egg sits the Emus' egg every day until he becomes an expert eggsitter - and eventually hatches their egg. R. W. Alley's sketchy illustrations are charming as always and this is a simple and pleasant story. I wouldn't put it into a concept book collection unless you are purchasing the entire series though (books A - J are currently available). There are additional activities involving the "e" sound, as well as some information about elephants, at the back of the book. Review copy received from publisher.

  • The Day of the dead/El Dia de los Muertos by Bob Barner. Simple rhymes in English and Spanish explain the traditions and celebrations of the Day of the Dead. The pictures are vibrant and brightly-colored. Some of the rhymes felt forced and clunky - it would have been better if the text had chosen one language to rhyme in - probably Spanish, since the rhyme scheme appears to work better in the Spanish (I'm guessing on that, just reading it aloud). This is probably the best book to introduce very young children to this celebration and an excellent addition to the Spanish section of your library. Review copy received from Holiday House.

  • Elsie's Bird by Jane Yolen. This collaboration between Jane Yolen and David Small was absolutely inspired. They do an exquisite job of bringing the loneliness of the prairies to life - and how pioneers from urban centers would have felt in the isolated environment. Elsie and her father's different ways of dealing with grief are smoothly woven into the story and readers will rejoice as they both find new life and hope in the vast emptiness of the prairie. Borrowed from library.

  • The Exceptionally Extraordinarily Ordinary First Day of School by Albert Lorenz. This one was simply way too weird for me. I was very confused by the meandering plot and the pages were too busy with factoids, speech bubbles, crowd scenes, and text. The illustrations weren't to my taste - too like a child's drawings. Review copy provided by Abrams.


morninglight mama said...

We've got a whole lot of overlap on our first impressions of many of these books. I can't wait to start chatting about our favorites!

Jennifer said...

Awww, and I was so looking forward to some savage arguing! (-:)