I’ve had three interviews since my last book reviews, two I didn’t get. The third one is for a temporary FT library position, which I did today, so fingers crossed for that one. Other than that, I’ve just been reading a lot. I’m making real progress with this Caldecott Challenge, though a lot of the early books are hard to find. Luckily my local public library has a collection of supposedly all the honor and award winners, so sometime soon I’m going to go there one Saturday and try to read as many as possible. I finally got to read the new Rick Riordan book 3 of the Kane Trilogy and I’ve got my hands on the latest Artemis Fowl book by Eoin Colfer. I’m still waiting for Mary Hoffman’s new book to come in, but I’m the first on the wait list for that, so hopefully it’ll be in soon. Ooh and I’m also listening to the audiobook of Erak’s Ransom (Ranger’s Apprentice #7) by John Flanagan. My dad complains that I’m always reading “all those kiddie books,” lol. Well what can I say? I am a youth services librarian, even if I’m not employed as one at the moment. I know he’s just teasing me. I do occasionally break the spell with some adult books, just a lot of good children/YA books have been coming out recently. On to the book reviews. As always, I rate things from 1 – 5 stars, one being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The Caldecott Challenge is my attempt to read all of the Caldecott Honors and Award winners from 1938 – the present.
Maisy Goes on Vacation: A Maisy First Experiences Book by Lucy Cousins
I really like these Maisy and friends First Experiences books. My son liked the bright colors of the illustrations, even though he was a bit fidgety for the story. Maisy the mouse and her friend Cyril the squirrel are going on vacation to the beach. They take the train there and build sand castles and play in the water. This book shows kids who may not have ever gone to the beach, or have gone for the first time a good glimpse of what they can do there. Recommended for ages 1-5, 4 stars.
Hans my Hedgehog: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm by the Brothers Grimm, retold by Kate Coombs, illustrated by John Nickle
I had heard of this folktale before from the TV series Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, and enjoyed it, so when I randomly found the book the other day in the children’s section, I picked it up. Yes, the real Grimm fairy tales are usually dark and frequently do not have happily-ever-after endings. That’s kind of the point though, as most of them were supposed to be moral tales. I wasn’t a huge fan of this retelling as it made the story too Disneyfied, with parents that were kind and loving and a easy-to-digest ending. I think the real story is just more interesting. I think I will read the real story. I did like the illustrations though, which is why this book got 3 instead of 2 stars. Recommended for ages 5-9, 3 stars.
Purple Little Bird by Greg E. Foley
This was a very cute and colorful book about Purple Little Bird (aka Pierre) who thinks there is something missing from his house, so he travels all over to find that something special. My son liked the illustrations. Highly recommended for ages 1-5, 5 stars.
Boy and Bot by Ame Dychman
A very cute book about a young boy and a robot he finds while collecting pinecones. They play together until the robot is accidentally switched off, and the boy tries to nurse him “back to health.” The boy’s parents check in on him while he is asleep and turn Bot back on, and then he thinks there is something wrong with the boy, so he tries to take care of him. I loved the bright colorful but simple illustrations, as did my son. Highly recommended for boys ages 1-7, 4 stars.
The Man in the Moon by William Joyce
I had seen this book somewhere online and decided I wanted to read it and then forgot about it. Today, while I was walking into the Children’s section of the library, I saw it on display and immediately picked it up. Words alone cannot describe how much I absolutely love this book, the concept and the illustrations! The whole premise of the book (and the upcoming series) is that the Man in the Moon (MiM for short) is the first of the Guardians of Childhood. He creates the other Guardians after losing his family and being raised by servants on the moon, and discovering that other children like him lived on the Earth. These Guardians include Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and Mother Goose. He makes them vow to “watch over the children of Earth, guide them safely from the ways of harm…guard with our lives their hopes and dreams.” Highly recommended for older kids ages 5-10, 5 stars. Can’t wait to start the rest of the series!
Old Bear and His Cub by Olivier Dunrea
A bit over-the-top in the cutesy factor, this repetitive book shows the love between a father/grandfather and his son/grandson. The Old Bear is always taking care of and looking after the Little Cub, even when the cub thinks he knows better. Little Cub can finally show his appreciation by taking care of Old Bear when he gets sick. While I wasn’t a fan of the story, I absolutely loved the illustrations! Recommended for ages 1-6, 3 stars.
Chicken Little by Rebecca & Ed Emberely
This book was a cute version of the Chicken Little story, though they only thing that stood out in this book were the brilliant and colorful illustrations that looked almost like they were done by kids, hence the appeal. Recommended for ages 1-5, 2 stars
Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems
It’s hard to find Elephant & Piggie books in my library, they’re so popular, they’re always being checked out! I loved these books, so as my son and I were walking out of the library and I saw this new one, I had to read it. Gerald is having a conundrum. He got some ice cream, which he loves, but can’t decide if he wants to share it with his best friend Piggy or not. He waits so long the ice cream melts and falls off his cone. He is destroyed, until Piggy comes by and offers to share her ice cream with him and cheers him up. I just love how many things go through Gerald’s head while he is making a decision, and his facial expressions. Recommended for ages 1-7, 4 stars.
Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho
This book won a 1997 Caldecott Honor. A young mother is trying to keep her baby asleep, but all the animals of the jungle are preventing her from doing so. I loved the illustrations, which were cut-paper collage and ink, that just popped with the colors Holly Meade used. I thought the story was just too long. The age group for this book is supposed to ages 2-6, but trust me when I say that their attention would be gone after the second animal (and there were 10 in all). Given that, I would recommend this book for ages 4-6, 3 stars.
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback
This book was 1998 Caldecott Honor, and is about the classic children’s poem of the same name. The illustrations were very bright and lively, and had the die-cut center for the old lady, so you could see what she just ate while reading along. I actually preferred some of the animal comments to the actual poem. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Despite having watched the cartoon, I had never read the original book until now, when I’m doing my Caldecott Challenge. This book won a 1940 Caldecott honor. The story is simple and rhyming, but it is still great for kids today. It tells the story about a boarding school ran by Miss Clavel, which has twelve little girls in it, who go everywhere together in two straight lines. They see people and locations all over Paris. One day, Madeline is not feeling well and it turns out her appendix had burst and she is rushed to the hospital. After being there nearly two weeks, the girls come to visit and then everyone wants a scar, just like Madeline. Recommended for ages 1-8, 4 stars.
Sam, Bangs and Moonshine by Evaline Ness
My version was a May 2011 paperback reprint of the 1966 original. The book won the 1967 Caldecott Award. I had never heard of this book before, but picked it up today at the library in the new children’s books section. This was really weird story. It makes me wonder how crappy the rest of the books selected that year were if this was the one to win the award. The story is supposed to be moralistic, but it just goes about it in a odd way. Samantha (or Sam as she is normally called) is a liar. She’s always telling fantastic fibs about everything. One day her lies puts a young boy named Thomas, who adores her, as well as her cat Bangs in jeopardy. She tells her father in time and the boy is saved and Bangs eventually comes back to Sam. The girl learns her lesson. I hated the illustrations, which just looked like they were thrown together before the book was published. Recommended for ages 5-8, 2 stars.
Animals of the Bible edited by Helen Dean Fisher, illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop
This book won the very first Caldecott Award in 1938. Despite the fact that it is not an actual story, just direct quotes from the King James Bible concerning animals, it is actually a pretty good book solely because of the illustrations. Dorothy Pulis Lathrop, who began illustrating children’s books in 1919 and continued into the 1960s, did these gorgeous black and white drawings of the animals from the Bible. For more examples of her illustrations, check out this website. Recommended for ages 5-10, 3 stars.
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
The version that I read is the 1976 reprint of the 1948 original hardcover. This book won a 1949 Caldecott Honor award. Sal and her mother are on Blueberry Hill picking blueberries, or at least that’s what Sal is supposed to be doing, instead of picking one and eating the rest. Sal’s mom wants to save the berries to can for the winter. Little Bear and his mother are also eating blueberries to prepare for the upcoming winter. The children get mixed up and start following the wrong mothers, but eventually are restored to the correct parent. While I liked his illustrations, the story just went on for too long, which made me lose interest as I was reading aloud to my son. Recommended for ages 4-8, 2 stars.
Frederick by Leo Lionni
This book won a 1968 Caldecott honor award. It was a cute story about a group of five mice preparing for the winter by gathering food, all except for Frederick. He gathers the warmth of the sun, the colors of the spring and a poem for his mice companions. I like this quote that famous children’s author Eric Carle wrote about this book: “In Frederick, a mouse who is a poet from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail demonstrates that a seemingly purposeless life is indeed far from that—and that we need not live by bread alone!” Recommended for ages 1-7, 3 stars.
McElligot’s Pool by Dr. Seuss
This was the first Dr. Seuss book to win an award, in this case a 1948 Caldecott honor. It was the sixth book he published, but it definitely shows Seuss’s brilliant imagination in the number and kinds of fish that young Marco believes that he can catch in McElligot’s Pool, despite the farmer warning him that it’s a trash dump and he won’t catch anything. It is an interesting book because Seuss not only employs his traditional black and white drawings, but also some of this color paintings as well. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.
Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss
This book won a 1950 Caldecott Honor, the second of three for the author/illustrator. This is not your typical Seuss book as instead of being a really fantastical tale, it’s more like a fairy tale about a king who is not happy with the weather he’s been getting. So he orders his magicians to cook up a new kind of thing to fall from the sky, which comes in the form of an oobleck, a incredibly sticky substance that will attach to anything it touches, be it king or farmer. The king apologizes for creating this kerfuffle that he has gotten the entire kingdom into and the stuff magically disappears. As I’ve not yet read the rest of the books from 1950 awards, I have no idea of the competition. This book was a sequel to Seuss’s earlier book The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Recommended for ages 5-8, 2 stars.
If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss
This book won Seuss’s third Caldecott Honor award in 1951. This is a much better book than his previous honor award winner, in my opinion. Although a bit long and dated, it is another excellent imaginative book where the main character Gerald McGrew decides that a traditional zoo isn’t good enough, so he will go all over the world to find new and bizarre species to add to his collection and bring in loads of people. I do have to wonder if Seuss was the first person to come up with the word “nerd” in this book though. Highly recommended for ages 4-8, 4 stars.
Children and Young Adult
The Serpent’s Shadow (Kane Chronicles #3) by Rick Riordan
I have been waiting forever to read this, as the wait-list was a good fifty people long before I got on it. Worth the wait though, as I really enjoyed the story. A continuation of the previous two books, Sadie and Carter are trying to stop the God of Chaos, Apophis from destroying the world. They think they may have found a way, one that not involve them both dying (with luck and a lot of the gods’ help). They end up getting this shady (pun not intended) dead magician named Setne to help them, but he keeps trying to get them killed. Then there’s the whole Sadie-Walt-Anubis love triangle to sort out (which was an interesting plot twist), as well as will Carter and Zia ever figure things out. People are getting possessed by gods willingly, and all kinds of crazy mayhem breaks out. Overall, very good end to the trilogy with a hint at a “Heroes of Olympus” crossover book. Highly recommended for ages 9+, 4 stars.
Star Trek: The Manga Ultimate Edition by David Gerrold, Troy Lewter, Wil Wheaton
Originally when I found this, I thought it was a comic book from the most recent Star Trek movie, as that is something I can seen teens getting into (which is where it was shelved). They seem to be putting manga on everything these days, though they aren’t really manga (just on newsprint, but not in the traditional Japanese manga format). It was actually a selection of the “best” stories from Vol 1-3 of the Star Trek original show with Captain Kirk series. The first couple were alright, but then it just started to get boring. I did like the one Wil Wheaton wrote about the Klingons and Captain Kirk. I never really watched the original show, although I do like the movies. I think I might do better with the Star Trek: Next Generation manga series Tokyopop is doing next. Recommended for ages 14+, 2 stars.
Lirael (Abhorsen #2) by Garth Nix
I have been listening to this forever, like over a month, because I hardly ever travel by car anymore and it was 13 discs. I finally finished it this morning and I feel a little annoyed by it. It’s one of those in-between books, so it carries on the story from the previous book but doesn’t quite finish its own (plus it takes absolutely forever to get to the point). Lirael never knew her father and her mother died when she was 5. She lives at the Clayr glacier, and waits way past her childhood for the Sight, which will allow her to see glimpses of the future. She eventually becomes an assistant librarian and creates the Disreputable Dog (which has to be one of my favorite characters in literature to date). Meanwhile, it’s been about 19 years since Sabriel married Prince Touchstone and they became king and queen of the Old Kingdom. She is still the Abhorsen, and is always having to leave to fight the dead. They had two children, Ellimere and Sameth. Since Ellimere is the eldest, she has been trained to be queen, while her younger brother Sameth is to be the Abhorsen-in-waiting, a role he has taken to very well. In fact he hates it. Eventually Lirael and Sameth’s paths cross and they realize that they are seeking out the same thing. What lies on the edge of the Red Lake that the Clayr cannot see, but even the Abhorsen knows is bad? A hint is given in the epilogue of the book.
I figured out who Lirael was about halfway through the book, though it is not revealed until the end. While I really enjoyed Lirael’s exploration of the vast Clayr library and her job as a 2nd and 3rd Library Assistant, the progression to these stages was very slow. That strategy, which continues throughout the book, is what made me give this book 3 1/2 stars instead of 4. Recommended for ages 14+
Rubbish!: Reuse your Refuse by Kate Shoup
I actually went to the library to check another book called “Alternacrafts” and thought this one looked more interesting. This would be a great book for library teen programming craft projects as I’ve seen similar projects on Pinterest boards. This book is a good way to recycle every day items like old LPs, license plates, corks, credit cards, board games etc. 4 stars.
Bitchin’ Kitchen Cookbook: Rock Your Kitchen–And Let the Boys Clean Up the Mess by Nadia Giosia
I really enjoyed her show on TV and jumped when I found out she had a cookbook. She’s got this rockabilly Next-Gen don’t-take-crap-from-no-one thing that I really like. Although I did bookmark a couple of her recipes, overall most of the recipes were pretty generic and all the TV gimmicks (half-naked men, the Greek boy etc) were a little over the top and made the whole thing just too busy. She has released another cookbook since this, so maybe it will be better. 2 stars.
The DASH Diet Cookbook: Quick and Delicious Recipes for Losing Weight, Preventing Diabetes, and Lowering Blood Pressure by Mariza Snyder
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and is also supposed to help with obesity and diabetes. Since that runs in my family, I thought I might give it a try. I picked this up hoping it would be something different, but it is very similar to the Anti-Inflammation diets that I’ve been reading up on lately. I’m also looking for healthy recipes and it did include some good ones such as several breakfast smoothies, Asian Quinoa Salad, Homemade Granola, and Spinach-Artichoke Dip. 2 stars.
The Zen Monastery Cookbook: Stories and Recipes From a Zen Kitchen compiled by the Monks at the Zen Monastery Practice Center under the guidance of Cheri Huber
I am always looking for new vegetarian recipes, and this looked like a good book to check out. They definitely know how to cook tofu at this place, as apparently they eat as much as 60lbs a week! I did find quite a few recipes I want to try, such as the Sweet Potato Biscuits, Curried Mushrooms and Chickpeas, a Miso Sauce for Tofu, Spiced Tomato Chutney, and Tofu-Mushroom/Tofu-Avocado/Tofu-Ginger-Sesame Spreads. There are also a lot of stories from the monks in the monastery, as well as people who have gone to retreats. 4 stars.
Taste of Home Kid-Approved Cookbook: 300+ Family Tested Fun Foods by Taste of Home
A rather generic cookbook with traditional American recipes, this book did have pictures of almost all the food produced, which was nice. I found about 4 recipes I would try. 2 stars.
Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes by Mark Bitterman
I really wanted to like this book, as it has after all, been on my to-read list forever. I like the author and his cooking. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this was And it is very apparent from this manifesto, that the man knows his salt and how to use it. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of salt (over 100) or so many ways to get it. It was a little bit too detailed and over the top for my needs, but for those wanting to know more about salt, this is a great reference guide. It seemed a bit like a plug for his store that he opened in Oregon, i.e. use fancy salt, which you can buy here. 2 stars.