I haven’t done one of these posts since July and I’m still not caught up in my book reviews, though I am trying. I have pretty much given up on the Caldecott and Newberry Challenges. Not exclusively because I am bored with them, but also because I just want to do something different. I’ve also been keeping fairly busy with advanced reader’s copies. I am currently reading a book from a local author called The Risk of Sorrow: Conversations with Holocaust Survivor, Helen Handler. I’m also listening to Sula by Toni Morrison, which is a very odd read and I’m still not 100% sure I know what is going on all the time. I think I will have to pick up some kind of guide to double check, definitely before I’m going to write the review. I’ve decided to try to read all the Nobel Prize winners for Literature, because it is always good for me to read more adult and international book. The only thing is that from what I’ve observed from my list and starting to search for some of the books in my library, most of the books seem rather depressing. I’m not sure if this is a case of all great writers create hard-to-read masterpieces or what. For this Nobel Prize Challenge, there are 110 winners and I’ve only read a book from 5 of them (and 1 poem from another). So this will probably take me forever, but should provide some interesting material. As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add pictures from books I like. I promise I have been reading more adult books, and will add them to next month’s reviews.
Herman the Helper written by Robert Kraus, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey
This is a great book to show toddlers how to be a good helper. Although the story is a bit simple, I love it because of Aruego and Dewey’s illustrations; they make such a great team with Robert Kraus. Herman the octopus loves to help everyone: his parents, his friends, even his enemies. Once he is home for the day, he helps himself to some dinner. Recommended for ages 2-5, 4 stars.
Tea with Grandpa written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg
This book would make a great companion to Tea Rex by Molly Idle, as part of a teatime storytime. This was a cute book about a little girl having tea long-distance with her grandfather. I love the interactions between them, you never would guess it was between two computer screens. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.
Something to Do written and illustrated by David Lucas
This was an overly simplistic book, but with cute illustrations. Baby Bear is bored and there is nothing to do, that is until his Papa Bear finds a stick and then they start using their imagination to create their own fun all day. Then Baby Bear is hungry so they go home to Mama Bear. Recommended for ages 2-6, 2 stars.
Lola Love Stories written by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
One of the books I looked at for a Toddler Storytime on Imagination, I rather enjoyed this one. It could also be used in a Reading/The Library theme as well. Little Lola loves getting books from the library and hearing the stories read to her by her parents. Everytime she is read to, she uses that story to influence her play afterword, like her mother reads to her about tigers and she spends the next afternoon chasing her friend through the jungle. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.
Hugs From Pearl written and illustrated by Paul Schmid
I would love to use this book as part of a porcupine storytime. It is so adorable! Pearl loves giving hugs to the other animals in her class, and they love receiving them, even if they get ouchies from them. Pearl feels bad about this, so sets about to creatively solve the problem. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.
Petunia Goes Wild written and illustrated by Paul Schmid
After reading the first Petunia book, I couldn’t wait to read this one. Super cute illustrations, though I liked the first book better. Petunia is convinced that she is a wild animal and doesn’t want to be human because it means you are “too clean, have to have good manners and too many haftas”. She is determined to ship herself to Africa until she hears her mother singing in the kitchen. She realizes how much she would miss that and determines that being human isn’t so bad, as long as you get to wild every now and then. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.
Me Want Pet! written by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Bob Shea
I picked this book for my first Toddler Storytime. It was the cute story of a young caveman who wants a pet but his family is not enthused with his choices of Wooly Mammoth, Saber Tooth Tiger, and a Dodo. These animals come in handy though when the family is attacked. So Cave Boy gets three instead of one pet. Loved the illustrations, they were very cute. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.
You Will Be My Friend! written and illustrated by Peter Brown
I know this is supposed to be a children’s book, but you definitely need to be a bit older to get the sarcasm in the book. I loved the illustrations in this book. Lucy, a young bear, is determined to make some friends in the forest. Her forceful personality is preventing her from doing so in the way she wants, and nothing seems to be going her way. She tries to befriend frogs, rabbits, a giraffe, and a beaver, though she shies away from befriending little kids. She has almost completely given up when a lonely flamingo boy finds her and asks to be her friend. They do somersaults, enjoy a picnic, and have a dance party. They are the best of friends. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.
Children Make Terrible Pets written and illustrated by Peter Brown
Written in the same vein as You Will Be My Friend, this book has underlying sarcasm that makes it more palatable for parents reading the books to their kids. Lucy, a young bear, desperately wants a pet though her mother warns that she must take of it herself. She finds a young human boy and decides to take it home as her pet, even though her mother warns that “children make terrible pets”. They do everything together until one day he runs off back home to be with his own family and Lucy doesn’t have it in her to take him back. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.
Risky Rails! (Thomas and Friends) written by Wilbert Awdry, illustrated by Tommy Stubbs
Normally I hate Thomas books for being too wordy. This one was the exception. Based off the Thomas movie The Blue Mountain Mystery, we learn the true story of a young Narrow Gauge engine named Luke (which my son has at home, but I’d never heard of him before) and how he believes he is responsible for the yellow engine’s fate. As Thomas investigates, he learns the truth and goes to help his new friend Luke from Diesel’s treachery. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.
Machines Go to Work in the City written and illustrated by William Low
This was obviously a well-loved book (from the number of taped pages) that we picked up after DiscoveryTime at one of the branch libraries. My son is fascinated by this book, might have to pick it up for him. It talks about all the cities that work in the city and even gives little info bits on each vehicle in the back end pages. The kids learn about trash trucks, bucket trucks (which my son automatically names telehandlers – thank you “Dinosaurs Dig!”), tower cranes, commuter trains, airplanes, and baggage carriers through nice fold-out spreads. This would be a great book to use for a Transportation DiscoveryTime. Recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.
Before You Were Mine written by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by David Walker
I was searching for a book to use with my Pet ToddlerTime, when I came across this book. I absolutely love it, though it is too long for toddlers. It is about a young boy talking about his dog, who he absolutely loves. He wonders about what life was like for his dog before they picked him. I nearly cried when they talked about the child’s previous dog dying and getting to pick up a new dog from the shelter. Such a great story and it is great for introducing a child to the concept of adopting shelter animals. Recommended for ages 4-8, 5 stars.
The Octonauts and the Sea of Shade written and illustrated by Meomi
I liked this book but it just didn’t have the flow of the other books and my son quickly got bored with it, as did I. The Octonauts realize that there are no shadows anywhere in the ocean, and go beseech the King of the mythical Sea of Shade to release the shadows back into the world, as they have been missed. Recommended for ages 5-8, 2-1/2 stars.
The Octonauts and the Frown Fish written and illustrated by Meomi
I love the Octonauts, but this book dragged a little bit. The Octonauts are having a gloomy rainy day at the bottom of the ocean when they happen upon a new species of frowning fish. They try everything that makes them happy, including baking, playing on the playground, reading, singing/making music, all in an attempt to make him smile. My favorite parts was probably a couple of the Octonauts trying to deciper “Frownese” and reading in Professor Inkling’s library. The ending was surprising. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.
The Octonauts and the Great Ghost Reef written and illustrated by Meomi
This is probably my favorite book in the Octonaut series. The Octonauts go on holiday to Great Reef City, only to discover it abandoned and colorless. They find one lonely inhabitant, Mr. Slowtache the turtle, for whom they try to help find different accommodations for. As a result,we get to see many different kinds of ocean and freshwater habitats for turtles. In the end, he decides to stay in his home and the Octonauts decide to help find out why the reef has no color. They soon realize that the entire reef has organisms living in it, which have been completely covered by the buildings, which block out the sun and drains the color. They remove some of the buildings and soon the reef explodes in color again. As usual, I loved the illustrations and the way they presented the facts. Recommended for ages 5-8, 4 stars.
Fractions in Disguise: A Math Adventure written by Edward A. Einhorn, illustrated by David Clark
The Door in the Mountain by Caitlin Sweet
Lockwood & Co., Book 2: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud
The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen by Tosca Lee
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder That Shook the Nation by Harold Schechter
I have been feeling like some narrative nonfiction and so when I saw this, I snapped it up. I always enjoy a good true crime story as they examine how someone came to be the way they are and why they did it. I’ve never heard of this case, but found it fascinating. The title refers to Robert “Bob” Irwin, a brilliant but mentally disturbed sculptor, who in 1937 brutally murdered his former landlady Mary Gedeon, her model daughter Veronica, and an English boarder named Frank Byrnes.
The author set up the story by explaining that Beekman Place, the location of the triple murder, was the site of two previous murders in the past year and we are introduced to the man who would become Irwin’s lawyer, the undefeated Samuel Leibowitz. We get a very thorough look at Irwin’s parents and how their religious fanaticism impacted his childhood, in particular Pentacostalism. His two brothers both ended up in prison. He showed artistic tendencies early on and went to work for some famous American sculptors, though he never stayed long at any job due to his violent temper and crazy ideas. The most prominent idea was “visualization” in which he tried to remember minute details of particular piece of art, though this eventually led to him believing he could harness energy and become a god. In any case, it was a major reason why people avoided him and part of the reason, along with Congenital Syphilis, why he was institutionalized several times before committing the murders. Once he moved to Manhattan, he became obsessed with Edith Gedeon, the daughter of his landlords. This obsession lasted for the rest of his life, and was the reason he killed Edith’s mother, sister and Frank Byrnes.
The majority of the book is about Irwin’s capture by the police, which took several months, and his subsequent trial and sentencing. The book goes into great detail about the sensationalism of the press, particularly newspapers, in exploiting everyone involved (including the murder victims). I thought the section on how to determine if a defendant could plead insanity or not was particularly fascinating, as well as the fact that both Irwin’s attorney and the prosecutor both agreed that Irwin should be imprisoned for life. 4 stars.