Friday, December 31, 2010

The last Cybils reviews post!!!

The final stretch! Don't think these books are any less for coming at the end though...I've saved some really strong stuff for the last! Cybils shortlists will be announced tomorrow - it's been a LOT more work than last year, but totally worth it!

Waiting out the storm by Joann Early Macken, illustrated by Susan Gaber is a little gem I'm afraid has been overlooked this year so far. Lovely, atmospheric acrylic illustrations decorate a simple question and answer text as a mother reassures her daughter before and during a storm. This is a perfect read aloud for toddlers or for any child who's nervous about storms. There are also beautifully shown pictures and text about what various animals do during the storm. Pair this one with Shutta Crum's Thunder-Boomer for a delicious stormy story time or for a good cuddle before bed.

Verdict: Absolutely recommended, especially for toddler story times and rainy days.

ISBN: 9780763633783; Published March 2010 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils

I was surprised by how much I liked Snook Alone by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering. I had heard a lot of gushing about it, but it sounded too high concept-y for my taste, plus most people were talking about Ering's illustrations and I haven't cared for what I've seen of his work in the past. Obviously, I haven't looked closely enough or seen enough of his work because this was a lovely book, quiet and reflective, with illustrations that shone with emotion and humor. This is a fairly lengthy book and won't work as a read-aloud, unless you're looking for a longer story to read to a classroom of 1st - 3rd graders.

Verdict: Recommended if you have the audience for longer, more complex and quiet picture books.

ISBN: 9780763626679; Published September 2010 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by the publisher for Cybils

The Dollhouse Fairy by Jane Ray. When have we last seen a really strong fairy book for young children? Or a dollhouse book for that matter? This is a delightful combination of both, sure to please any lover of the miniature.

Rosy and her father have lovingly built and furnished a dollhouse - working on it together is Rosy's most favorite pastime. But then her father gets sick and Rosy can't help but worry...until she finds a remarkable inhabitant in her dollhouse. Thistle is a garden fairy who has hurt her wing and decided to move in for a few days. Rosy is excited and delighted, even though Thistle doesn't quite fit her idea of a fairy. She prefers potato chips to rose petals, spills fairy dust everywhere, and is messy, noisy, and mischievous. But Rosy loves her anyways and Thistle's presence takes her mind off her father's illness and absence. When he returns, Thistle is gone, leaving only her messiness behind.

Verdict: Delicate, intricate illustrations give this story warmth and fascination. It's a lovely story for fans of fairies, dollhouses and miniatures, or for a child dealing with a parent's illness. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780763644116; Published May 2010 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by the publisher for Cybils

Oscar and the very hungry dragon by Ute Krause. A hungry dragon demands a princess...but no princess is available! So the dragon gets Oscar instead. Skinny Oscar is no fit meal for a dragon! He needs to be fattened! Oscar begins cooking marvelous meals and the dragon gets hungrier and hungrier...will Oscar trick the dragon out of his meal in the end? Or will the dragon get the better of Oscar?

This is a delightful take on the feeding-a-dragon-meals-to-wean-him-off-humans plot. It's the details that give this story it's charm - the dragon getting glasses, Oscar riding a donkey to his doom whilst wearing a baseball cap backwards. Krause's long-nosed people are the perfect mixture of silly and dramatic and the lengthier parts of the story are beautifully paced so younger children won't lose interest.

Verdict: Definitely add this to your dragon picture books! A new story time favorite!

ISBN: 9780735823068; Published September 2010 by NorthSouth; Review copy provided by the publisher for Cybils

Joha makes a wish, adapted by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Omar Rayyan. Another excellent retelling by Eric Kimmel. I didn't care for his change of the ending of Half-Chick, but I really enjoyed this story. Joha, on his way to Baghdad, finds a mysterious wishing stick. He tries out a few wishes but they backfire horribly. Things get worse and worse until a wise man solves Joha's problems with a simple observation. Of course, that's when the Sultan steals the wishing stick...
This is a fun folktale with a twist for older readers and listeners. An author's note at the beginning explains the story's origin - a combination of a Jewish folktale from Yemen and the Arab wise fool Hoja, or Hadji as I've seen it spelled. Children old enough to appreciate the understated humor of the story will enjoy this folktale. I haven't seen many middle eastern Jewish folktales and this was an interesting and well-told one.

Verdict: A good addition to your middle eastern folktales and a fun read aloud for older groups.

ISBN: 9780761455998; Published March 2010 by Marshall Cavendish; Review copy provided by the publisher for Cybils

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