Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Everything Else: Cybils Nominations: The S's

Did you miss Calvin Ramsey's Ruth and the Green Book from the R list the other day? Well, that's just one of the amazing books I've set aside to do a little more chattering about. It's a stunning, powerful book by the way, and one which I recommend highly.


We've still got lots of amazing books here in the S's - just 'cause I can't think of more to say doesn't mean there's not some great choices here for your library or classroom!
  • Sally's great balloon adventure by Stephen Huneck. I don't really get the appeal of the Sally stories. I find the illustrations static and the plots without much interest. I prefer Calhoun's Henry stories or Alexandra Day's Carl, both of which are similar. But if you have Sally fans you'll want to add her latest adventure. Review copy provided by Abrams.
  • Santa Christina and her sled dogs by George William Kelly. There are the bones of an interesting plot in this story, but unfortunately it rambles in the middle and has a hard time getting back on track. We start out learning about Santa Christina, wife of Santa Claus, and her sled dogs. Very good. Brisk, short text, interesting art. Then we get a short history lesson on Balto and the plot starts disintegrating. Santa Christina and her sled dogs go to New York and take part in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade and see the statue of Balto in the park and....then Santa's reindeer challenge them to a race. Ah, back to the plot. It's a tie and they decide to share the distribution of gifts that year. Amy Cameron's art looks best in the Alaskan vistas and the depictions of the various sled dogs. The Macy's scenes look crowded and over-colored. I would be interested in seeing more from this small press - and this particular author - but the plot derailed for me throughout the middle of the book. Review copy received from publisher, McRoy & Blackburn.
  • Sea of Sleep by Warren Hanson. It's illustrated by Jim LaMarche, so we know it's going to be beautiful and it is. Lyrical, exquisite writing paired with LaMarche's soft, glowing watercolors (yeah, I know they're made with acrylics and so on, but they look like watercolors to me). The perfect bedtime story - create a great family tradition with this lovely book. Borrowed from the library.
  • Seaside Dreams by Janet Costa Bates. Cora feels she has a special bond with her grandmother, so she's not sure how she feels about the many relatives arriving for Grandma's 70th birthday party. Cora doesn't even have a present! But after some of their traditional beach walks, she thinks of the perfect present to give Grandma, who misses her sister, still living in Cape Verde. This is a warmly written story of a family who has adapted to hard times, a new country, and a new life while still maintaining their family's strength. Recommended for grades 1 - 3, as the text is lengthy for a read-aloud. Review copy provided by Lee & Low.
  • Shadow by Suzy Lee. I love, love, love Suzy Lee's amazing wordless books. Her art is fascinating and endlessly new. However, I've had trouble circulating Wave, which is the most accessible of her books. I would say Shadow and her other similar titles; Wave and Mirror, are the kind of books you buy for that small, special group of children who appreciate unique and complex books. I wouldn't suggest filling your collection with these - we need some Fancy Nancy, and plenty of trucks and dinosaurs! But there are special books you add with one or two specific children in mind and this is one of those special ones. Borrowed from the library.
  • Short tale about a long tale by Marilee Crow. Poorly written and badly illustrated. Not recommended. PDF provided by Guardian Angel Publishing.
  • Sick day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead. I didn't care for this one the first time I read it, but it grew on me. Amos McGee is a quiet and friendly zookeeper, who lives an orderly life, doing the same thing each day. Part of his routine is to spend some special time with his special animal friends; playing chess with the elephant, racing the tortoise, etc. When Amos gets sick, his friends help and cheer him in their own special ways. It took me a while to fall in love with the illustrations, drawn in shades of gray and brown with gentle washes of color. This is a quiet book that will slowly become a steady favorite. Borrowed from the library.
  • Sid the Squid and the search for the perfect job by David Derrick. Although it has some rough patches, this was a surprisingly fun and enjoyable story. Sid the Squid (am I the only person who started hearing the Batman theme song?) is looking for the perfect job. He tries directing traffic, working in the movies, walking dogs, etc. but each job ends in disaster. Finally, he discovers the perfect job that uses all his talents and which he's perfectly suited for. There are a few rough edges to the text and a few overly didactic passages, but for the most part it moves briskly with plenty of humor provided by the interplay between the text and the broadly comic illustrations. I'd be interested in seeing more work from this author. PDF supplied by Immedium.
  • Signed, Abiah Rose by Diane Browning. This story is beautifully written and has an intriguing subject, but I can't think of a single child under the age of 10 who would be interested in reading about 18th - 19th century folk artists and women's involvement in a very anonymous movement. I personally found the story fascinating and the pictures beautifully expressive of the time period, but it wouldn't circulate in my library. This might be a choice for a larger library, where there's a wider range of interests among the kids. Borrowed from the library.
  • Sister Exchange by Kevin McNamee. Poorly written and badly illustrated. I was personally appalled by the idea of lying to and frightening a child to get them to get along with their sibling. Shades of Struwwelpeter anyone? PDF provided by Guardian Angel Publishing.
  • Sivu's six wishes by Jude Daly. A stonemason named Sivu creates masterpieces - but is embittered by his lack of wealth and power. Suddenly, his wishes come true and he is the businessman he envies...then the mayor...then the sun...then a rain cloud...then the wind...then a rock...and he realizes it is the stonemason who is the most powerful. The brief note at the end says this is based on a Taoist tale "The Stone Cutter." I know very little about Taoist philosophy, so I suppose it is coming from a completely different culture that makes this story confusing to me. In each more powerful incarnation of Sivu, he makes more and more people miserable and they curse him for his cruelty and power. But...at what point did he decide to abuse his new power? Why couldn't he have used it to help? The message of the story seems to be twofold; that no matter how lowly, everyone has power over something, but also that power = oppression. There were a couple funny bits, as when as a businessman "he would declare that a shipment of wool was too woolly." I wouldn't suggest this unless you have a segment of patrons familiar with Taoist and/or Eastern philosophy. Unless I'm generalizing and the themes I see aren't Taoist, just what I saw in the story. Borrowed from library.
  • Smoky and the Feast of Mabon by Catherynne M. Valente. Smoky, on a journey into the woods at night, discovers the meaning behind the Wiccan harvest holiday of Mabon. The writing was bland and a bit choppy and while some of the illustrations are pretty, many are appear awkward and unskilled. However, there aren't a lot of Wiccan picturebooks out there. If this is something your library needs, it's an acceptable addition. PDF supplied by Magical Child Books.
  • Snow happy by Patricia Hubbell. The author's various books on trains, cars, boats, etc. are popular in my library, as are illustrator Hiroe Nakata's pictures for Lynne Berry's Duck series. This was an interesting pairing, as I'm used to seeing Hubbell's books with Megan Halsey and Sean Addy's sleek, modernistic art. In brisk, cheerful rhymes and colorful splashes across the white snow, children celebrate all the ways they are "snow happy." This is a sweet and fun treat, whether or not you live in a snowy area. Borrowed from the library.
  • Socksquatch by Frank Dormer. This utterly unique, funny, weird little picturebook is about a socksquatch. Who is looking, naturally, for a sock. Can any monster help him? The humor and appeal of this book will depend on your readaloud abilities - practice monster moans first! Recommended for Halloween and monster storytimes. Borrowed from the library.
  • Soggy Town of Hilltop by Kevin McNamee. Poorly written and badly illustrated. Not recommended. PDF provided by Guardian Angel Publishing.
  • Space Cadet Topo: The day the sun turned off by DGPH. Although the text is cliched and clunky, the illustrations are complex and sleek. There are lots of interesting little details and ideas in the pictures. The text was a little too heavy-handed for my taste, but the pictures were interesting. PDF supplied by Immedium.
  • Spartacus the Spider by Etienne Delessert. Spartacus the spider is a failure. Flies laugh at him, his webs fall apart, and he hasn't lived up to the grand and exciting name his parents chose. So, with some inspiration from human scientists, he sets out to build the strongest and best thread ever...and succeeds. Then he worries that everything in the world will get caught in his unbreakable web and all life will end so he goes back to spinning his sloppy, useless threads and being "simply Spartacus". Huh? No, I don't know what to make of this one either. Review copy provided by Creative Editions.
  • Subway by Christoph Niemann. This is a great book about the subway...if you live somewhere with a subway. For my subway-less kids, I'd probably choose something with photographs or more realistic illustrations. But if you live in a city with subway amenities...it's a very cool book. Borrowed from the library.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Everything Else: Cybils Nominations P - R

I took a break from Cybils and visited the fabulous Golden Book Exhibition at the Chicago Public Library on Saturday. It's not a huge exhibition, but every single illustration and book is carefully selected; you're guaranteed to see something that touches off childhood memories. And now...into the home stretch...

  • Paulie Pastrami achieves world peace by James Proimos. Paulie Pastrami achieves world peace one small step - and cupcake - at a time. I'm a little confused about the point of this story, but I have a suspicion kids won't care - they'll just think it's hilarious. Swim Swim is still my favorite Proimos book though...Borrowed from the library.
  • Pete the cat: I love my white shoes by Eric Litwin. Pete the cat loves his white shoes but as he walks and sings, his shoes change color...but Pete doesn't mind he keeps walking along and singing his song "because it's all good." I didn't care for this book the first time I read it, but repeated readings have worn their way into my heart. James Dean's simple illustrations and Litwin's cheerfully lilting text are sure to be a hit at storytimes. Borrowed from library.
  • A place where hurricanes happen by Renee Watson. Adrienne, Michael, Keesha, and Tommy live in New Orleans, a place where hurricanes happen. But their city, their neighborhood is so much more than that. Each child talks about the things they love - and don't - in their homes and neighborhoods and how the hurricane affected them. In the end, they all return and remember the ways things were and look forward to a new future. Recommended for classroom reading. Borrowed from library.
  • Pobble's Way by Simon Van Booy. A little named Pobble goes walking with Daddy one winter evening. They banter and enjoy some silliness, then drop a mitten as they leave. Various animals argue over the mitten's purpose until Pobble and her father return and everyone goes home to bed. This is a pleasant retelling of the classic lost mitten story with a healthy dose of silliness. I wouldn't have named the child "Pobble" which brings to mind Edward Lear's poem, "The Pobble Who Has No Toes". The illustrations are detailed and richly colored. Review copy received from Flash Light Press.
  • Potty Animals: What to know when you've gotta go! by Hope Vestergaard. Various animals make mistakes and are corrected in the toilet-training process. This book appears to be specifically targeted at preschool and possibly kindergarten age children in a school setting and deals with a variety of issues and rules surrounding toilet-training, including remembering to wash hands, close the door, and issues in sharing a bathroom with other children, like remembering to knock and wait your turn. The digital illustrations are perky and attractive. Some parents will be unhappy with the book's format of showing and then correcting problems, since it may give kids...ideas, but most daycares and preschools will want to have a copy of this on hand for frequent reading to refresh little memories. Borrowed from library.
  • The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark by Deborah Diesen. Fans of the Pout-Pout Fish will be pleased to see him return in an irresistably rhymed new adventure. The Pout-Pout Fish has promised to help retrieve Mrs. Clam's pearl, but though he's strong and brave...he's also scared of the dark! With the help of a friend, he conquers his fears and retrieves the pearl. It was nice to see a "scared of the dark" story where the character doesn't have to conquer his fear alone. Recommended if your library owns the first volume, since there are sure to be fans asking for the sequel! Borrowed from library.
  • Quackenstein hatches a family by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Quack the duck is a lonely misanthrope, until he decides to brighten his days with an adopted egg. But when his egg hatches, it's no duck! It's a monster and Quack flees for his life...when the baby monster catches him, it's all over...or is it? Funny, slick, with a tantalizing surprise ending. Recommended. Review copy provided by Abrams.
  • Queen's Secret by Frieda Wishinsky. This Canadian offering from Scholastic has "toy tie in" written all over it. Static illustrations in bright pinks and yellows illustrate a cloyingly rhymed story of a little girl who discovers she has something in common with the queen - they both keep a teddy bear in their purse. Wishinsky's Canadian Flyer chapter books are fairly popular in our library, especially with Magic Tree House fans, and I would say her chapter books are her strength. Not recommended. Review copy received from North Winds Press, imprint of Scholastic Canada
  • Reach for the stars by Serge Bloch. Graduation novelty gift. Borrowed from library.
  • RV Mouse by Mary Jean Kelso. Poorly written and badly illustrated. Text is far too lengthy for a picturebook. Not recommended. Reviewed from pdf supplied by publisher, Guardian Angel Publishing.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Everything Else: Cybils Nominations N - O

Into the home stretch! Of course I still have that longer review stack, and then I have to take my massive shortlist and make...decisions. The hardest part of course! So many great picturebooks this year...

  • Nabeel's new pants: an Eid tale by Fawzia Gilani-Williams. After Nabeel finishes his work and buys presents for his family, he purchases some new pants - but they're too long. He asks his wife, mother, and daughter to fix them, but each one is busy with Eid preparations, so he fixes them himself. Later, each of them come back to shorten the pants and Nabeel ends up with shorts. There is a brief glossary of terms at the beginning of the story. This book is not an introduction to the holiday, but a "companion" story. Recommended if you have a Muslim presence in your community who would like books about the Eid holiday. Review copy provided by publisher.
  • Nathan Saves Summer by Gerry Renert. There is nothing Nathan the hippo wants more than to be the lifeguard at the small pond his friends play in during the summer. But despite his best efforts, no one will let him be the lifeguard. Finally, they tell him - he's just too big! When Nathan "saves" a tiger cub, all the water gets spilled out of the pond and the summer fun is over...until two penguins discover the water has trickled down and created a bigger lagoon. And...then the animals say Nathan saved summer. Um...how exactly did he fix the problem he created in the first place? The illustrations have the same odd yellowish cast as the other Raven Tree Press books, which makes me wonder if it's something in their publishing process? Not recommended. Review copy received from publisher.
  • A night on the range by Aaron Frisch. A little boy is ready to camp out all night and be a real cowboy, sleeping out on the plains...but camping out turns out to be too scary! Can he still be a real cowboy? This is a fun story about letting your imagination run away with you. The illustrations are all shadowy, especially showing the various scary creatures Cole imagines outside at night. The major drawback is I haven't met a kid interested in cowboys since...well, ever. Even the popularity of Toy Story doesn't seem to have gotten kids interested in cowboys as a general character. But it's a fun, scary story to read before - or maybe after - a first camp out. Review copy provided by Creative Editions.
  • No T. Rex in the library by Toni Buzzeo. Tess is out of control in the library, ramping and roaring like a wild t. rex! But when a real t. rex comes out of a library book, she realizes sometimes it's possible to get a little too wild, especially in the library. There's not really a moral to this story, it's just a fun dinosaur tale with lots of roaring and various people and creatures popping out of books. Fun! Review copy received from Simon & Schuster.
  • Oh No! (Or how my science project destroyed the world) by Mac Barnett. This homage to classic monster movies has a small but stubborn girl dealing with the havoc her science project is wreaking on the city. Dan Santat's illustrations are the perfect fit for Barnett's straight-faced humor. This isn't ideal for a read-aloud, since most of the humor is incorporated into the details of the illustrations. Hand it out for one-on-one delectation. Borrowed from the library.
  • Ollie's Halloween by Olivier Dunrea. Ollie, Gossie, Gertie, and all their friends enjoy a fun-filled Halloween night. I would have preferred this in a board book format, since most of my Gossie and Gertie fans are familiar with the characters in that format and this small book is the right size. A poster is included in the book. A sweet Halloween story for younger children. Borrowed from library.
  • On a windy night by Nancy Raines Day. Heavily textured illustrations show a little boy in his skeleton costume going home...but something is following him! The tension grows with each repetition of the frightening refrain, until it turns out to be just a little cat. This story is scary enough for older readers, and too scary for little ones...but the cat is a let-down. I would have liked to see an actual skeleton or something, in keeping with the scary tone of the story. Review copy provided by Abrams.
  • Once upon a royal superbaby Kevin O'Malley, Carol Heyer, and Scott Goto. In this sequel, two students with very different storytelling ideas are again arguing over how to create a fairy tale. They eventually compromise, including motorcycles, muscles, animal speech powers, unicorns, and more. A fun book for older children to practice their writing skills - or just create a fun story. Borrowed from the library.
  • Orange Peel's Pocket by Rose Lewis. A little girl nicknamed Orange Peel was adopted from China as a baby. One day, her class is studying China and all the kids want her to tell them what it's like. Orange Peel realizes she doesn't know anything about her birth country and accompanies her mom on a series of errands to the stores of various Chinese-Americans. Each one tells her something about China and slips a souvenir into her pocket. She's nervous when she returns to tell her class about what she learns, but when she finds the treasures in her pocket, she regains confidence and tells everyone the interesting things she has learned. There are some positives about this story - it's a new take on the few adoption books I've seen and has some good ideas for children and parents to learn about a birth country. But...why on earth did the author put in that weird nickname for the little girl? It makes no sense and kept jarring me out of the story. I was also puzzled by the little girl's complete ignorance of China, when it's made clear that she and her mother regularly visit several stores with very strong Chinese connections. Review copy provided by Abrams.
  • Otis & Sydney and the best birthday ever by Laura Numeroff. Otis and Sydney are best friends. Otis plans a special surprise party for Sydney, but makes a mistake with the date and no one comes. It's still a great birthday party though, Sydney assures him, because Otis was there. A pleasant, if forgettable, read parents and children will enjoy. Review copy provided by Abrams.
  • Over at the castle by Boni Ashburn. "Over in the meadow" is retold in a castle setting. We see all the occupants of a medieval castle as well as two dragons who are waiting for the right moment...to let off fireworks. I kinda wanted them to eat somebody. A nice counting story. Review copy received from Abrams.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Everything Else: Cybils Nominations: The M's

The half-way point! Yay! Of course, over and above The Stacks, I still have yet another stack of books I want to spend a little more time sharing. But I'm getting there!

  • Mama, is it summer yet? by Nikki McClure. In answer to a little boy's questioning, a mother talks about all the beauties of spring. A squirrel building her nest, planting seeds, birds returning, and blossoming trees. The language is simple and lyrical and the elaborate paper cuts are fascinating. I still think the lines around the faces are weird though. Review copy supplied by Abrams.
  • Man gave names to all the animals by Bob Dylan. The text is a song, so it doesn't really work well as a read-aloud - you'll need to sing it or listen to the accompanying cd. But the pictures, ooooooh. Arnosky's gorgeous art is simply splendid and children can spend long hours poring over the exotic animals he has pictured to accompany the song. Recommended. Borrowed from the library.
  • Maneki Neko: The tale of the beckoning cat by Susan Lendroth. Retells the Japanese folktale of a cat who befriends a monk and brings him good luck - thus becoming legend and creating the traditional beckoning cat statues which are supposed to bring the owner good luck. The tale is told simply but engagingly and the illustrations blend traditional Japanese art styles with a more modern feeling to appeal to a wide range of children. There is one apparent typo "the sun shown with great heat". Not necessary, but a nice addition to your collection if you have parents or children interested in Japanese folklore or an audience for read-aloud folktales. Review copy received from publisher.
  • Martha doesn't share! by Samantha Berger. Martha doesn't share, says everything is "mine!" until she realizes how lonely she is and how it's not fun to play alone, so she shares with her parents and baby brother. Pretty much the same plot as every other "learning to share" book ever written. Bruce Whatley's plump otters and purple-themed illustrations are mildly amusing. If you need more "how to share" books, go ahead and add it. They're kinda like potty-training books. You know, they make parents feel like they're DOING something to train their kids. Borrowed from library.
  • Medio Pollito: A Spanish Tale. Eric Kimmel retells the rather strange and very moralistic Half-Chick story. In the original story, Half-Chick thinks he's better than everyone else. Rude and selfish, he refuses to help others and is eventually trapped and almost eaten, until one of the elements he has refused to help feels sorry for him and whisks him up to a roof where he becomes a weather cock. Kimmel's retelling makes Half-Chick an adventurer who willingly helps the various elements and is helped in return in his desire to see the world. It's still a fun story, but the original packed more punch. A couple Spanish words are included. Received review copy from publisher.
  • Memoirs of a goldfish by Devin Scillian. A misanthropic goldfish is happily swimming in endless circles when new creatures are added to his bowl one by one. Finally, it becomes insanely crowded and everyone leaves....and the goldfish realizes he is lonely after all. Happily, they all end up in a nice big tank and the goldfish meets a new friend. It's kind of funny, although the purist in me would like to point out that so many creatures would have died in that small bowl - and what's wrong with wanting to live by yourself? Amusing though and will be a good choice for a read-aloud for older kids. Received review copy from publisher.
  • Miss Brooks loves books! (and I don't) by Barbara Bottner. All my previous remarks about picturebooks about libraries apply...but I have to say I feel a lot of sympathy with the bored little girl who's not interested in reading, despite Miss Brooks crazy, over the top efforts. Seriously, Miss Brooks would drive me batty also. Does she have to wear kooky costumes and behave like a hyperactive toddler? Why are librarians pictured in books always young, skinny, and eccentric? Is it necessary for teachers and librarians to be constantly upbeat, cheerful, exciting, and do increasingly crazy things to attract kids' attention? Anyways, most librarians will coo over this one, and a few kids might chuckle a bit at it. Libraries will buy it of course. Borrowed from library (see?)
  • Miss Bubble's Troubles by Malaika Rose Stanley. This one seems to have sneaked in by accident - according to the publisher, it's part of a series of readers. Meh, whatever. In plodding rhyme, we hear the story of Miss Bubble, an unbelievably excellent teacher, who loses her memory after an accident. Her students' bring it back and all ends happily. The sudden switch from color to black and white illustrations midway through the story and then back again is disconcerting and the whole story seems a bit pointless. Maybe British kids are better readers than USians, because the vocabulary and rhyme scheme is going to be too advanced for the age group that would appreciate a reader about the superlative joys of school. Reviewed from copy provided by publisher.
  • Miss Tutu's Star by Leslea Newman. An exuberant, pudgy little girl expresses her love of dance and her fierce determination to succeed on every page of this ballet-centric book. This won't appeal as much to the Fancy Nancy crowd who want to see pretty-pretty's, but little girls and boys who are really interested in a fun story about the hard work and determination that goes into dance will love this - as well as all the kids who don't have the "perfect" bodies that show up in so many other ballet books. Review copy provided by Abrams.
  • Monsters eat whiny children by Bruce Eric Kaplan. Two whiny children get stolen by monsters, just as their father threatened. However, the monsters are even whinier than the children and they simply can't agree on how to serve them. Salad? Whiny child burgers? While they're arguing, the children run away, having learned a lesson....sort of. This book will appeal more to adults and older children who won't mind the longer text and Kaplan's signature minimalist illustrations and will pick up on the subtle humor. Get this one for school visits. Borrowed from library.
  • Moon child by Nadia Krilanovich. Elizabeth Sayles' soft illustrations, rendered in pastels and acrylics, show a series of animals playing little games with the moon as they drift off to sleep. A sweet and pleasant bedtime story with simple text. Borrowed from library.
  • Mr. President by Rick Walton. The president is having a hard day; basically, nobody can get along and his favorite ping-pong table has been chopped up for firewood! So he sneaks back to his old elementary school and has a day off. When he returns, he applies the rules he learned there as a child to his current problems, serving milk and cookies to warring nations sitting on the carpet, and having everyone do the hokey-pokey. The next day, when tensions erupt again, he's off to school, apparently for more wisdom. This silly story might be enjoyed by some kids, and teachers will probably enjoy the illusion that national problems can be solved by elementary school rules for getting along. Reviewed from ebook provided by publisher.
  • My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete. A little girl talks about how much she loves her twin brother and all the ways they are the same. She also talks about how they are different, because her brother Charlie has autism. She explains how their family adjusts and copes and how Charlie shows his love for them in different ways. This book is based on the authors' son and brother and an author's note at the end explains how their family has dealt with autism. I would put this in a tough topics or parenting section as it deals with a very specific issue. I'd recommend reading this in any classroom with an autistic child or to introduce children to some of the ways they can connect with an autistic sibling or peer. Borrowed from library.
  • My friends the flowers by William Lach. I was really taken aback by this book and checked twice to see that it was, indeed, published by Abrams. It was...really awful. I'm not quite sure what to say about it. Borrowed from library and hastily returned in case it leaked onto my other picturebooks. Later received a review copy from Abrams. It's still...awful. Was an editor having an off day?
  • My garden by Kevin Henkes. Henkes' new style, as seen in Old Bear, is certainly popular! This delightful, imaginary tale has been a hit in storytime and, oddly, sends the kids into gales of laughter every time I read it. Go figure. Borrowed from library.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Everything Else: Cybils Nominations: The L's

Ha, who says I can't review every nominated book? Well, there are about 20 I haven't been able to find, but I'm still hoping they'll show up in the mail, or my library system will purchase them

(not me at my library, because I kinda spent all my money this year. kinda spent over the budget. But only $4.31 over, and then i had three items cancelled, so technically i still have approximately $34.31, although with the budget squinching down to the last penny, I'm being generous and letting it go. yeah, i'm obsessed with budgeting and collection development. it has frequently been remarked upon.)
  • Ladybug Girl at the beach by David Soman and Jackie Davis. Ladybug Girl loves the beach - even though it's her first time. She can't wait to swim in the waves...until she sees how big they are! She finds lots of fun and exciting things to do on the beach - far away from the water. But then her favorite pail is floating away. Can Ladybug Girl save the day? Charming pictures and an attractive plot introduce children to fun at the beach and facing your fears. Parents may be puzzled by the complete absence of adults - Ladybug Girl's parents are nowhere in sight for most of the story as she wanders about the beach and tests out the water, but children will be happy to see the little girl face her fears on her own. Recommended. Borrowed from the library.

  • Legend of the Golden Snail by Graeme Base. I never cared for Base's convoluted Baroque style, but I rather liked this story - probably because it's simpler than his earlier works. Wilbur's favorite story is the legend of a snail ship, captured and eventually hidden by a mighty enchanter. So he sets sail to find it. Along the way, he helps three creatures and then encounters three perils from which he is saved by the ones he helped. Of course, it's Graeme Base using this familiar fairy tale trope, so the creatures are butterflies that blossom out of flowers, a giant crab-island, and lantern fish whose light bulbs are being stolen. When Wilbur arrives at the magical island and discovers the Golden Snail, he decides kindness is more important than being a Grand Enchanter and wins a marvelous reward. This is a rich fantasy tale with a firm moral, which fits well into the fairy tale theme. Fans of Graeme Base and older children who enjoy fairy tales and fantasy will love this one. Review copy received from Abrams.

  • Library Mouse: A world to explore by Daniel Kirk. I've never really seen the point of "the library is wonderful" picturebooks. That's a discussion for another day, but I will merely say - if you're in a library, reading a book about how wonderful the library is, why do you need a book about how you should use the library since you're already using it? Kirk's illustrations are too static for my taste and I found the plot of Sam, the Library Mouse, meeting another library mouse who is adventurous and loves exploring but hasn't realized the books are readable, rather bland. But this is a beloved character (mostly by librarians and parents hopeful of cultivating reading) and you'll probably buy it. Review copy received from Abrams.

  • Life of Shouty: Good Habits by NeonSeon. Badly rhymed and heavily didactic text shows a strangely lumpy creature attempting to throw off his post-adolescent laziness and bad habits and become a self-disciplined and happy person. Not recommended. Review copy received from publisher.
  • Lily's Victory Garden by Helen Wilbur. This is an interesting story of historical fiction which does a good job balancing its many plots, victory gardens, growing up, wanting to help but being told you're too young, the effects of soldiers' deaths on their families back home, and dealing with depression and grief. It's a good introduction to life on the home front during WWII with some interesting perspectives we don't often see. Use this one with older children - 3rd grade and up - to introduce studies in this area. Recommended. Review copy received from publisher.
  • Little Black Crow by Chris Raschka. A little boy sitting on a fence asks a little black crow a series of questions. The questions aren't directly answered, but the little black crow ends the story sitting companionably on the fence with the boy. The birds are squiggles of black paint in a swirling pastel landscape with explosions of color. The book is interesting from an artistic perspective, but it's not something I can ever see actually reading to a child. Review copy received from publisher.
  • The little weed flower by Vicky Whipple. Disconnected and overly sentimental text and cartoonish illustrations. There appear to be several morals jockeying for position. Not recommended. Review copy received from publisher.
  • LMNO Peas by Keith Baker. Baker, author of our library's favorites Big Fat Hen and Potato Joe (among others) is back with a rollicking alphabet adventure. In brisk, bouncy rhymes, a group of energetic peas introduce themselves alphabetically by career. The letters are large and the text brief, making this suitable for toddler storytimes, but there's also plenty of detail in the peas' activities, so this is a great choice for older children as well. Highly recommended for your concept books collection! Review copy received from publisher.
  • Looking like me by Walter Dean Myers. Working with his son, Christopher Myers, Walter Dean Myers has created a jazzy celebration of family connections and everything a child can be. The collaged photos and neon figures dancing through the book aren't my particular taste in illustration, but they perfectly fit the beat of the story. It has a very urban feel to it, so this might work best in an urban library, but older kids, especially those who are fans of music with a strong beat, like rap, will enjoy this and want to make up their own connections. Recommended. Borrowed from library.
  • Lots of dots by Craig Frazier. The author, a graphic designer, has created a simple picturebook celebrating the humble dot. Each page shows a different activity or item that incorporates a dot. The colors are bright and exuberant and the text brisk and short. Read this to toddlers and have them point out the dots, or to older children and have them create collages using shapes. Recommended. Borrowed from library.
  • Lunch Thief by Anne Bromley. Rafael doesn't know what to do when new kid Kevin steals his lunch - and then starts stealing other kids' lunches. He's not a fighter and the new kid looks pretty scary. So he decides to take his mother's often repeated advice "Use your mouth before your fists" and tries talking to Kevin. He finds out that Kevin's from an area devastated by wildfires and later sees him coming out of a cheap motel. His mom says there are people made homeless by the fires living there. After a little thought, he decides to share his lunch with Kevin and the two become friends. This is a thoughtful story, suitable for kids in older grades. It would be a good talking point for a discussion on not making assumptions and on how to defuse potential fights or work as a mediator between peers. Review copy received from publisher.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Everything Else: Cybils Nominations, I - K

If I had a camera, I would show you my piles...half a shelf of already reviewed review copies, a quarter shelf of to-be-reviewed review copies and library books (for which I am being rather annoyedly dunned by various libraries in my system. heh). One giant stack of L - M, one stack of N - P, one giant stack of S's, a stack of T's, a little bit of W, and a misc. pile. And then there's the I - K stack, right here on my desk.

Somewhere amidst the stack is some middle grade books which wake me up at night, crying quietly. Poor Just Desserts and Nathaniel Fludd. I loved you very much and I promise to present you to the world in January.

But for now...

  • I can be anything by Jerry Spinelli. I'm not a Spinelli fan anyways, and this picturebook just derailed into the ridiculous in my opinion. I didn't care for the relentless rhymes either. Illustrations were pleasant but unremarkable. Borrowed from library.

  • I don't want a cool cat! by Emma Dodd. Now THIS is what a rhyming picturebook should be. Lots of fun, snazzy words, infectious rhythm and strong beat, and delightfully silly illustrations. In my opinion, rhyming picturebooks are meant to be read out loud - so they should sound great, and this one definitely fits my criteria. Recommended. Borrowed from library.

  • I dream of an elephant by Ami Rubinger. A simply rhyme on each page introduces an elephant of a different color. I was a little confused at first, because the ellipsis made it seem as though the color name, which completes the rhyme, would be found on the next page. But the next page had the next color. Once I figured out how the book was arranged, it was a cute read. The illustrations range from bright colors to pastels, showing elephants, flowers, birds, and strange creatures in a psychedelic style. Recommended for toddler storytimes and concept collections for kids to practice their colors. Review copy received from Abbeville Press.
  • If I could be anything by Kevin McNamee. Poorly written and badly illustrated. Not recommended. Reviewed from pdf supplied by publisher.
  • If Wishes were Fishes by N. A. Sharpe. Poorly written and badly illustrated. Not recommended. Reviewed from pdf supplied by publisher.
  • In my bath by Beth Reinke. A fun concept and idea, but poorly executed. Not recommended. Reviewed from pdf supplied by publisher.
  • Instructions by Neil Gaiman. Adult and teen fans will be most appreciative of this picturebook version of Gaiman's poem, illustrated by Charles Vess. Younger children will be baffled and possibly frightened by the fairy tale references, elaborate creatures, and oblique references. I suggest adding it to your graphic novel collection or juvenile or teen section instead of picturebooks. Borrowed from library.
  • Is your buffalo ready for kindergarten? by Audrey Vernick. This is a delightful and unique addition to the "first day at school" canon. First-time kindergarteners, apprehensive or not, will giggle over the ways a buffalo's fears are calmed and how he and his new classmates adjust to each other. The straight-faced humor will appeal to older children as well, who will enjoy remembering their first days at kindergarten. Preschoolers should also enjoy the cartoon-style illustrations of a massive, and clearly nervous buffalo, learning to navigate the confusing rules of school. Recommended. Borrowed from library.
  • It's a book by Lane Smith. Smith's picturebooks are increasingly targeted towards adults, this one more so than others. Few kids care about the print vs. electronic argument and although some older kids might giggle a little over the donkey's attempts to turn on and manipulate a book like various online programs and electronic devices, the appeal is limited. Buy it as a gift for your local librarian or publisher who's stressed out over ebooks, but don't bother adding it to your picturebook collection. Borrowed from library.
  • It's Christmas, David! by David Shannon. The popular toddler is back, this time acting up around Christmas time. After a series of increasingly naughty deeds - and an ever-lengthening list of no's, there's no Christmas for naughty David....phew, it was all a dream, Christmas is here, and David has a wonderful time! I'm not a fan of the David series myself, but plenty of parents and children adore the little stinker, so add this to your holiday book section. Borrowed from library.
  • Jellybeans and the big book bonanza by Laura Numeroff. The Jellybeans, a group of furry friends, are very different but they still go well together - just like jellybeans. When they're assigned a book report, Anna, the Jellybean who loves to read, is excited to introduce her friends to the library, where the librarian finds each one a special book. When it's time for their report, Anna is too scared to get up and talk, but her friends help her out. A sweet story, with Lynn Munsinger's furry and comforting illustrations. Nothing outstanding about this one, but it will be a pleasant favorite with many parents and children. Review copy provided by Abrams.
  • Just Because by Rebecca Elliott. Toby loves his sister Clemmie and thinks she's the best ever, although she can't move, talk, or respond much. He lists all the things they do and feel together. This simple story of two loving siblings is a warm and pleasant read with enjoyable illustrations. It's nice to see a story with a disabled child whose disability is not the focus of the text. Review copy received from publisher.
  • Just like mama by Leslea Newman. A little girl lists all the things her mother does - that nobody can do "just like Mama." From tea parties to brushing hair, Mama is unique. I don't care for Julia Gorton's illustrations - I think the staring eyes in the faces are kind of creepy - but many parents will want to check this one out, especially around Mother's Day. Review copy provided by Abrams.
  • Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems. The beloved Knuffle Bunny stories come full circle in this story. Parents, be prepared for sniffles as we see Trixie grow up and move on into the exciting world awaiting her. Children will fall in love with Trixie and Knuffle Bunny all over again as they get ready to try new things and put aside some of their childhood toys. I'm not even going to bother to recommend it, because duh, every library in the country has already bought it. Borrowed from library.
Another stack finished! Oh, Happy Thanksgiving. Or whatever. I'm not much of a holiday person myself. Although I won't say no to a couple days off and some turkey sandwiches...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Everything Else: Cybils Nominations, The H's

I'm not even looking at the S and T pile. Too, too, daunting. I would also like to know why none of my dear, kind friends told me I was an idiot to bake 15+ gingerbread houses and why didn't I just use graham crackers?

Oh, wait, I think some of them did. No one but myself to blame. Well, onto the books.

  • Hello goodbye and a very little lie by Christiane Jones. Fun little story about a compulsive liar who meets his match and decides to change his ways - maybe. Cute illustrations, not quite as didactic as parents asking for "how to make my child tell the truth books" will probably want, but would be a fun read aloud. Review copy received from Picture Window Books.

  • Hey, Rabbit! by Sergio Ruzzier. I just don't like Ruzzier's art. Not my style or taste. I don't like Peter Sis either. This is a rather odd little story of a rabbit who pulls things out of a box for his friends. If you like Ruzzier, go for it. Borrowed from the library.

  • Hide!!! by Jeff Foxworthy. So...does it count as a celebrity picture book if you have NO IDEA who the celebrity is? The back jacket flap says he's a respected and successful comedian. Somehow, I've never associated respect with comedians. Ok, enough of the side chat. On to the story. In relentless Seuss-ish rhyme, a neighborhood of kids play a giant hide and seek game. The illustrations are lots of fun, tons of details to find, bright and colorful, very fun cartoons. The text is just...painful. Why do celebrities have the urge to write rhyming picture books? If this guy is a comedian, he must be able to write normally, right? Great illustrations, a fun concept, kids will love finding the details in each picture, but I'd be embarrassed to read this out loud. Even if I could, which is doubtful because of the occasionally choppy rhythm. Looks like Foxworthy had some trouble channeling Seuss. I would have recommended this if it had been a wordless book done entirely by Steve Bjorkman. Review copy provided by Beaufort Books.

  • Home by Alex Smith. Four animal friends decide they want change and adventure away from home - unfortunately, they all want different things. They each take a part of the house, have some adventures, miss each other, and return and rebuild their home, this time with wheels so they can adventure together. Nice but unremarkable. Borrowed from library.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Everything Else: Cybils Nominations, G

The reading continues...and continues...and continues...I wish I could put cover pics in these, but the thought of the time it would take to find and add them all makes me moan. Sorry folks.


  • Garmann's Street by Stian Hole. Pigman, picturebook style. A boy gives into peer pressure and basically sets an old man's yard on fire. This was a very, very strange book and I thought the illustrations were unnattractive verging on creepy. Maybe it would make more sense if I'd read the first Garmann book, but I can't imagine handing this to children, especially young children. Borrowed from library.

  • The Golden Pathway by Donna McDine. Although this book was nominated in the picturebook category, the publisher suggests it for ages 8 - 12. It's definitely not appropriate for younger children, as it includes descriptions of a slave being beaten. The author's intentions are good, trying to tell the story of a boy who fights back against his father's abuse by helping slaves escape, but the writing is labored and filled with cliches and unrealistic dialogue. Picture books for readers above 2nd grade are always a hard sell and this isn't one I would choose. Not recommended. Reviewed from pdf supplied by publisher.

  • Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora. At this point Blogger deletes my reviews. I scream in frustration. I can't face writing them again! So...this is a really cool book, I like the illustrations, basically a little boy talks about things he's grateful for, but it's also very funny, and it would be great to read around Thanksgiving and have kids make their own lists. I recommend it. Review copy received from Lee and Low.
  • Grandma's pear tree/El Peral de Abuela by Suzanne Santillan. Already had this review written in another place so I could copy it again. This is the same publisher as The Little Weed Flower, but I would recommend this bilingual story. It has a brisk, folktale-ish repetition and a healthy dose of humor. The Spanish words are seeded a little awkwardly in the text, but most children will still be able to follow the story and pick up some basic Spanish vocabulary. The illustrations are rather heavy on the yellow and green shades, but have a pleasantly humorous appeal. I'd be interesting in seeing more from this author.
  • Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub. Why, blogger, why? Anyways, this book is packed full of facts about groundhogs, mammals, weather, seasons, shadows, and more. It's a very busy style with panels, speech bubbles, etc. so not really a good choice for storytime, but perfect for classroom use where you have more time, or one-on-one reading. Recommended. Borrowed from library.
I'm going to bake another 5 gingerbread houses and sulk before I write any more reviews. *retires, muttering*

Friday, November 19, 2010

Everything Else: Cybils Nominations, The F's

My next installment of short reviews! I'm working my way through the alphabet, reading many gorgeous, interesting, and delightful books!






  • Fabulous Fair Alphabet by Debra Frasier. Living in a town which hosts one of the largest county fairs in the Midwest, I never, never have enough fair books! There just aren't any contemporary books about this classic event. I was really excited to see this one. Each letter of the alphabet covers a different aspect of the fair, from the food to the activities, lights, people and happy exhaustion at the end of the day. The illustrations were very busy with multiple letters in different styles crammed onto every page. I thought they were rather too busy and it was hard to focus on the words - or find them. However, this is such an empty gap in my library that I'm not going to be picky at all - and kids will love finding all the different things they do at the fair. I would recommend reading the story several times before storytime so you find and memorize the basic text and don't have to search for it while reading aloud. From a distance, the pictures are much more cohesive, so it should work better for storytime than one-on-one reading. Review copy received from Simon and Schuster.

  • Famous Nini: A mostly true story of how a plain white cat became a star by Mary Nethery. I liked John Manders curving illustrations (at my library we really like his collaboration with Carolyn Crimi on Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies). The story was interesting and I appreciated the author's note about the inspiration in historical fact. Older children, kindergarten and up, will probably appreciate this the most. Review copy provided by publisher.
  • Firehouse Light by Janet Nolan. Nolan takes the true story of a little light bulb in a firehouse that has been burning over 100 years and builds around it the history of a town and a country. The reader sees the changes from horses to automobiles, from small town to city, as shown in the changes in the firehouse. Information on the real firehouse light bulb is given at the end. Lafrance's illustrations strongly reminded me of Barbara Cooney's lines and colors. They have a primitive but modernistic style. This story would be a good fit for one-on-one sharing or for classes studying American history. Borrowed from library.
  • Floating on Mama's song/Flotando en la cancion de mama by Laura Lacamara. A little girl loves her mama's songs, but when she turns seven her mother's singing makes everyone who hears her float. The little girl's grandmother - backed up by complaints from the neighbors - makes the mother stop singing. The mother grows sadder, the neighbors' animals are unhappy, and the little girl decides she has to help. She finds out that her Grandma also made people and animals float with her song, but stopped singing and now her "heart is a bitter grapefruit." The three generations sing and float together and everyone is happy. How, exactly, does this work? Are her neighbors willing to trade an occasional float for their animals' well-being? How do they keep from floating off into the sky? It's nice to see a multi-generational story, and I need more books with Hispanic children and adults, but this one is too...floaty for our patrons. The artwork has artistic merit, but isn't what I would choose to attract a child to a book, since it's mainly figures in different positions, set against different landscapes. The Hispanic kids in our community don't live in a cultural vacuum - they watch plenty of TV and movies, attend preschool, daycare, and Head Start, and absorb information from their older brothers and sisters in school. They like plenty of movement and detail in their illustrations, plots they can follow, jokes they can laugh at, and kids they can relate to. I would like to see less magical realism and high concept books and more realistic stories with contemporary kids of color in the picture books I buy for my library. This could be a good fit for a library with kids coming from a very rural background, or for a large collection, but it's not a good fit for my library. Borrowed from the library.
  • Forever Friends by Carin Berger. This is also a high concept book, but works better than the previous title for a variety of reasons. The illustrations work better for me, personally. I like the clean lines of the cut paper and the more muted and the varied colors. The main reason this book works better is the focus is on the illustration with minimal text. The simple story is told in only a few lines on each page, but the emotion and subtext are shown in the characters and backgrounds of the illustrations. The text and illustrations need each other to become a complete book; both complement and improve the story. This won't be a huge favorite like Fancy Nancy, but will certainly find fans among parents, librarians, and teachers looking for a quiet book to end a busy day. Borrowed from the library
  • Frankie Stein starts school by Lola Schaefer. I felt like I was missing something in the storyline, but maybe that's because it's a sequel. Frankie Stein, a "normal" human boy by human standards, sticks out in monster school. He finally fits in when he demonstrates a hidden talent. A cute book for Halloween or starting school. Review copy received from Marshall Cavendish.
  • Franklin's Big Dreams by David Teague. Kulikov's dreamy blue illustrations are delightful, but this I thought the story was rather weird and confusing. Although I figured out quite soon that Franklin is dreaming, the bits of the story just didn't match up and I'm doubtful about a preschool audience understanding what's happening. Not recommended. Borrowed from library.
  • Fur and feathers by Janet Halfmann. Sophia is enjoying a bedtime story about animals with her mother when she falls asleep. In her dreams, the animals lose their fur, feathers, and scales and she has to replace them. She first tries clothes, but then realizes the animals need special coverings. With her grandma's sewing basket, she makes just the right thing for each animal. Information on classification, various animal skin coverings, and more as well as activities are included. I like Laurie Klein's cheerful illustrations. The animals losing all their fur etc. is a bit strange, but on the whole this is an interesting story with a neatly woven nonfiction element. Recommended, especially for school libraries. Review copy received from Sylvan Dell.

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.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cybils Picture Book Nominations: Books and Babies

I, personally, consider more than one "mommy loves her baby" book one too many. However, my guru of all things baby and "normal", our adult services librarian, informs me you cannot have too many "mommy loves her baby" books. Annoyingly, she appears to be correct. Of course, this particular one, Who loves the little lamb by Lezlie Evans is also illustrated by the versatile but unmistakable David McPhail, so we will make an exception. Just this once. One by one, we see fussy, messy, clumsy, naughty animal children - and one by one we see a loving mama for each animal.

Verdict: Charming McPhail illustrations and a theme that never fails to attract parents of babies and toddlers make this a definite must for your library collection.

ISBN: 9781423116592; Published January 2010 by Hyperion; Borrowed from the library

Every time I decide I'm not interested in John Burningham any more, he goes and does something amazing, like this lovely collaboration, There's going to be a baby by John Burningham, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. It's a fascinating collection of dialogue and layout styles. There's question and answer format, as the mother tells her young son about the baby and when it's going to arrive. There's wordless comic panels, as the small boy imagines things the baby might do when it gets older - and from there goes into a wild spree of nonsensical imagination. The little boy isn't sure how he feels about this new person coming into their lives, but the mother's warm and steady love and the boy's imagination reconcile him to his new sibling at the end of the story and "We're going to love the baby, aren't we?" He asks his grandad at the end of the story. Oxenbury's clean, simple lines and classic comic panel illustrations are an excellent fit for this warm, joyful, and funny story.

Verdict: If you get one "new baby" book this year, this should probably be it. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780763649074; Published September 2010 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

What happens when that baby grows up a little? You get Once upon a baby brother by Sarah Sullivan, illustrated by Tricia Tusa. Lizzie is a storyteller. She writes them, she tells them, and she's the center of attention. Until her little brother, Marvin, comes along and suddenly there's no one to listen to her stories anymore except her loyal dog, Big George. Marvin loves Lizzie, but she can't stand this little creature who has taken away all the attention - and messes up her room, and is just annoying. So she writes stories with herself as the hero and Marvin as the villain. She writes and writes and writes...until one day Marvin goes to visit Gramma. Suddenly, Lizzie doesn't have anything to write about anymore! Will she get her inspiration back? Will she ever write again?

Verdict: You don't have the option to buy one younger sibling book this year - you have to get two. Flora's Very Windy Day and Once upon a baby brother are the definite must haves of the year! Lizzie's feelings, dreams, and responses are perfectly spot-on and this is an excellent book for reading aloud to kindergarten through 2nd grade.


ISBN: 9780374346355; Published June 2010 by Farrar Straus,and Giroux; Borrowed from the library

In Fiesta Babies by Carmen Tafolla, illustrated by Amy Cordova, simple rhymes surround babies of different ethnicities celebrating an unnamed Hispanic festival. There are a few Spanish words mixed into the story and what appear to be several different elements of Mexican fiestas. The colors are bright and charming and the rhymes vigorous and rhythmic.

The audience for this appears to be toddlers. It would be a good book to use in a storytime about celebrating and have the children try out some of the different actions - using shakers, dancing, etc.

It would be best used with a group that at includes at least a few Spanish-speaking parents and children. If your whole audience only speaks English and has never seen a fiesta of any kind, they're probably not going to get much out of this book. Children old enough to appreciate the idea of different celebrations and languages will be too old for this book.

Verdict: Optional, depends on your audience and community; it has worked well with our toddlers

ISBN: 9781582463193; Published March 2010 by Tricycle Press; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Boss Baby by Marla Frazee is hilarious. A stubborn, egotistic little boss has showed up - and he's working those adults into the ground! When his management techniques stop working, how will he get his employees' attention? Frazee's trademark pencil and gouache illustrations create soft backgrounds and humorous expressions throughout this story of infant tyranny.

While some older children will appreciate the humor of this story, it's really aimed at parents - especially new parents. But it's always good to have at least a few picturebooks adults can chuckle over!

Verdict: Buy this one and display it - circulation guaranteed.

ISBN: 978442401679; Published August 2010 by Beach Lane; Review copy provided by the publisher for Cybils

The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Tracy Dockray. Maybe it's my state of complete exhaustion, but this book really didn't make sense to me. A horde of babies are crawling, toddling, and riding downtown. They are revolting against bedtime, baths, having to be quiet, being fussed over, naps, being clean, eating vegetables, being cuddled, etc. etc. etc. They finally make it to the stage, proclaim that they are smelly, whiny and messy, and the parents applaud their cuteness and "spunk." Then they want to be cuddled and promise not to be bad-tempered babies for long.

There are a few adult jokes, like the babies refusing to play with smart toys to make them skip a grade. But the things the babies are revolting against are so random. I just don't understand what the point of the book is. It's partially in rhyme, partly not, which creates a jarring effect. There are a variety of ethnicities shown, especially in the individual complaints, but the closest the minorities get to the front of the parade is one girl who might be Asian helping to carry the secondary banner and one African American child is part of a group at the front of the stage. It looked to me like all the "leaders" were white. Also, there only appeared to be two African American children total, they just got reused. The art is created in photoshop, with photographs and illustrations mixed together.

Maybe I'm just feeling tired and cranky, but I didn't see the point of the "plot", and the illustrations looked washed out, probably because most of the kids were white. Anybody else have any thoughts on this one, or take longer than I did to study each child and count up how often they appeared?

Verdict: Optional, might want to add it if you have lots of fans of the author's Pout-Pout Fish series.

ISBN: 9781582462745; Published March 2010 by Tricycle Press; Borrowed from the library