Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Picture book mini-reviews 38

What Floats in a Moat?
by Lynne Berry
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
July 2013

 Here is a rather lengthy picture book take on Archimede's bath. Archie the goat tries to float across a moat. For science! In rhyming text, Skinny the Chicken gains much weight from downing all the buttermilk in their efforts to get the barrel properly afloat. I liked the angry queen pig. The pen and ink and watercolor illustrations are reminiscent of William Steig's work. The story is appended with an author's note on water displacement.

I borrowed this book from the library.

That is Not a Good Idea!
by Mo Willems
Balzer + Bray
April 2013

Mo Willems has struck gold again with another very funny, action packed story. Where's the piano music for this take on an old black and white silent film? A trio of baby chicks repeat, "That is not a good idea!" as a sweet and silly goose is seemingly lured in by a unctuous fox. Similar in theme to Richard Waring's classic picture book Hungry Hen, children will love the fabulous surprise ending.

 I borrowed this book from the library.

No Fits, Nilson!
by Zachariah O'Hora
Dial Books
June 2013

Let's blame an imaginary friend for tantrums. Nilson is a charming gorilla, who sometimes causes his friend Amelia problems when he decides to go ape. I appreciated small details such as Amelia staring him down and repeating the words "banana ice cream" over and over. Tiny text emanates from her eyes, as she hypnotizes Nilson with the promise of a treat for good behavior. Any child who's ever struggled with self-control will relate to this humorous offering.

I borrowed this book from the library.

What Makes a Baby?
by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
Triangle Square
May 2013

This matter of fact volume describes all the ways how modern-day babies are made. It's informative and welcoming for any and all kinds of families - gay, lesbian, adopted, conceived by IVF or surrogacy, etc. Very literal-minded little ones may struggle with the poetic license, "they swirl together in a special kind of dance... the egg tells the sperm all the stories it has to tell about the body it came from..." Bright neon illustrations of yellow, purple and green people are reminiscent of Todd Parr or Keith Haring's work. Highly recommended, as it gets across the message to a child that they are loved and appreciated for who they are with questions such as, "Who was happy that it was YOU who grew?" and "Who was waiting for you to be born?"

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Picture book mini-reviews 37

Dig, Dogs, Dig
by James Horvath
Harper Collins
April 2013

Go, Dog, Go meets your favorite construction book in this entertaining rhyming picture book. The dogs living situation is a bit reminiscent of a firehouse - but these dogs are ready for some construction work instead. Even the lines such as, "Run, dogs, run!" and "Dig, dogs, dig!" reminded me of Go, Dog, Go. They uncover a dinosaur bone, while building a park that eventually the whole community can enjoy. Colorful digital illustrations with plenty of full-bleed pages are vibrant and appealing. Endpages feature a lineup of the dogs, each posed with their tools.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Soup Day
by Melissa Iwai
Henry Holt and Co.
April 2010

Multi-media collage illustrations depict a happy little girl's day and the soup she makes with her Mommy on a wintry day in the city. This is a nice multicultural family and plenty of concepts such as counting or shapes are included throughout. The story is appended with a recipe for soup.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Penguin on Vacation
by Salina Yoon
Walker Childrens
April 2013

Here is an adorable story about a penguin who gets tired of the cold and decides to head for warmer climes. In the tropics, he's no good at vacationing - the sunny beach is not the place for skiing, sledding and skating, like he's used to. Fortunately, he makes a new friend, a crab who is able to show him the ropes. Penguin returns the favor by hosting Crab when he comes to visit the Antarctic. Endpages feature crabs on a beach... and crabs bundled up for the snow. Colorful full-bleed pages featuring digital art with thick lines make the pictures easy to see from a distance. This is a natural pick for group story times.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Pirates vs. Cowboys
by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by David Barneda
Knopf Books for Young Readers
March 2013

In this wacky tale, pirates and cowboys have an unlikely showdown in a saloon in Old Cheeanne. Older children will enjoy the heavy use of vernacular from both the pirates and cowboys. Pegleg Highnoon is the only character who can speak both fluent Pirate and Cowboy - and finds the only thing they all really have in common is the need for a bath! The dialect is what makes this a favorite at storytime for me, especially with children old enough to get the sense of humor. Endpages feature pirate treasure maps and a map of the Old West.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Great Wall of Lucy Wu review

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu
by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
January 2011 

First line: "When I think back on it, I'd have to say that it all started with the Golden Lotus."

Chinese-American middle-schooler, Lucy Wu, is conflicted when her old-fashioned relative moves in... right into her bedroom. There are plenty of books out there about a put-upon kid who has to cope with sharing a room but this book succeeds in making all of the involved parties sympathetic and well-realized. Even though she's extremely short, Lucy has a passion for basketball, something her traditional (read: scholastics obsessed) parents simply don't understand.

Lucy's been
living under the oppressive perfection of her snotty older sister Regina for years and can't wait until Regina takes off for college so she can finally have her own room. Unfortunately, her plans are foiled when her parents inform her that her grandmother's long-lost sister from China will be coming to stay with them. Enraged, Lucy decides to erect a "wall" consisting of her bookcase, desk and bureau clearly demarking her space. As the year goes on, and her parents insist that she take Chinese language lessons (further cramping her schedule and endangering her ability to stay active on the basketball team.) Lucy really begins to grow frantic with the pressures that she's put under.

Lucy and her parents seem to be gearing up for an all out war. But, a sensitive, reasoned look at things eventually brings both sides closer together. 
I was heartened by Lucy's sincere concern about having her father leave on an extended business trip to China. She's quite ill at ease until he's safely home again. Lucy realizes that after school Chinese lessons turn out to be more fun than she thought. Lucy's mom comes to see that Regina has been far more insufferable than she had originally supposed, and sympathizes with how Lucy must feel about having her sixth grade school year turned topsy-turvy. And Lucy's great-aunt, although mostly silent throughout the book, also shows some spirit, not letting Lucy push her around, but realizing what a big adjustment this is for her, too. The Chinese phrases incorporated into the book add a lot, and this is a realistic middle-grade fiction with broad appeal - any kid who's ever felt academic pressure (and who hasn't these days?), sports fans, anyone who's ever had to measure up to an older sibling, or anyone who is interested in reading about how it feels to grow up in a multicultural environment will find that this book is a real winner.

Compare to:

Penny Dreadful - Laurel Snyder
The Whole Story of Half a Girl - Veera Hiranandani
The Star Maker - Laurence Yep
Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley - Stephanie Greene

I borrowed this book from the library.


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