I will admit, besides the numerous picture books I’ve been reading with my son for the Winter Reading Challenge (we managed to read 20 minutes a day for 30 days, granted not consecutively but still impressive to keep a 3-year old in one location long enough to get it done), I’ve not read a whole lot this month. Most of that was because the last couple of ARC’s (with the exception of Prudence) I’ve really had to wade through as they dragged about halfway through. I am a little behind with reviews again this year, but most are picture books, so I will try to catch up ASAP. I just started a newer translation of Geoffrey Chauncer’s The Canterbury Tales, as it is something I’ve always been meaning to read but have never gotten around to, on audiobook. I’m trying to read A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin again, as I have started watching Season 4 of the show.
Hedgehog’s Magic Tricks written and illustrated by Ruth Paul
I have been trying to find books for my “Prickly Things” Toddler Storytime, and this book came up. It was an alright story about a young hedgehog who is trying to do some magic tricks for his friends but they keep not working correctly. So his friends bring a cake and distract him long enough so that they can eat it, so he thinks he can do magic. Recommended for ages 2-6, 2 stars.
Red Knit Cap Girl to the Rescue written and illustrated by Naoko Stoop
I love this character and the original and adorable illustrations on plywood. Red Knit Cap Girl is playing in the forest with her friends when she spots something crying for help far out on the lake. It’s a little lost polar bear cub, and with the help of her forest friends (plus her friend Moon), they take their new friend to his mama in the North. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3-1/2 stars.
Dancing with Dinosaurs written and illustrated by Jane Clarke
I picked this up as a possibility to read for my Toddler Dance Storytime, but it was really bad. The premise is the whole book is a dance contest with all sorts of dinosaurs, which is okay, until the judges start disappearing and the host is eating everyone, contestants and judges. Plus the rhyming just wasn’t funny. Recommended for ages 2-6, 1 star.
Mr. Prickles: A Quill-Fated Love Story written and illustrated by Kara LaReau
Another book I picked up for Prickly Things Toddler Storytime, but decided it was probably too long to us. Plus I don’t think they would pick up on the subtleties of the story. It is about a porcupine named Mr. Prickles, who just wants to show the other animals (racoon, skunk and squirrel) that he is cool and fun to hang out with. Sadly, they do not agree and the more they exclude him, the angrier (pricklier) he gets on the inside. One night he is glaring at them for excluding him, when he sees another porcupine, named Miss Pointypants (love the names!). They start hanging out and soon they are in love and she lets him see that he doesn’t need the other animals; the two of them together do just fine. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.
Hedgehog, Pig, and the Sweet Little Friend written and illustrated by Lena Anderson
It is rather hard, I’ve discovered, to find books about hedgehogs and porcupines for toddlers. This was another attempt of mine to find a book for a Toddler Storytime on Prickly Things. It was a short cute story, but one thing just rubbed me the wrong way. Hedgehog is settling down to some tea and crocheting after putting her baby to bed, when she hears a tiny squeak. She goes outside and calls out for whomever it is to come in, but no one comes. Eventually after her friend Pig has come over for some dinner, she realizes that the squeak was from a tiny girl pig. They invite her inside and realize she is lost and hungry. They feed her and she spends the night. In the morning, they realize that her mom is the town baker, who awards them with 100 sweet rolls for returning her daughter Fia. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2 stars.
My problem with the book is the questionable relationship between Pig and the little lost girl pig Fia. I assumed because he was eating late at night with Hedgehog that he is an adult, but he is wearing sort of little boy clothing so I’m not sure. At any rate, based on his size, he looks substantially older. Pig keeps saying that Fia is “the sweetest thing” and he is in love with her, and the whole relationship just came off as kind of creepy. She looks to be a toddler or perhaps as old as five. I’m not sure that the author intended it to be that way, but that’s the way it looked to me.
Harriet Dancing written and illustrated by Ruth Symes
I originally picked this book up to possibly read for a Toddler Storytime on Prickly Things, but decided it was too long. It would work for a Preschool Storytime, though. My son and I enjoyed the book, and thought it was a cute story.
Harriet the hedgehog is going to her friend Ivor’s house and on the way she says hello to all the animals. She sees a group of butterflies dancing and cheerfully joins them dancing all around until she realizes that they’ve stopped. They only want to dance with other butterflies, hedgehogs aren’t allowed. She is very sad at this news and leaves to find her friend. One the way, she trips and falls down a hill and is covered with the petals of flowers. When she arrives at Ivor’s door, she tells him about what happened and he says she looks like a flower, which makes her so happy that they both start dancing, and eventually all of her friends, and even the butterflies, join in. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.
Meet Einstein by Mariela Kleiner, illustrated by Viviana Garofoli
I picked this book up as part of my Gravity DiscoveryTime, for preschoolers, as Albert Einstein is one of the three scientist who did major work on the subject. In this book, kids learn about what a scientist does, who they are, and the kinds of things Einstein studied, such as light and gravity. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.
ZooZical written by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Marc Brown
It is the middle of the winter and all the zoo animals are bored. So they decide to put on a show, a musical. All of the animals are dancing and singing variations of popular children’s songs and even the snakes are real hula hoops. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.
Dinosaur Rescue! Written and illustrated by Penny Dale
Another awesome book from Penny Dale, which of course my son loved, this one is all about rescue vehicles. A group of dinosaurs in a pickup truck have broken down on the train tracks. They call Dinosaur Rescue to help them. The police car tells the Engineer Dinosaur that there is a truck on the tracks up ahead and he needs to stop. Once the train finally does stop (just in time!), there is a fire truck to help put out the pickup fire, an ambulance to make sure they are okay and a helicopter helping to monitor the scene. At the end of the day, the rescue dinosaurs go back to their compound to rest and relax. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.
Shark and Lobster’s Amazing Undersea Adventure written and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz
^Lobster talking about tigers
I originally picked this up as a possible book for my upcoming Shark DiscoveryTime for Preschoolers, but decided it probably wouldn’t work well for storytime (though it was nice to find a non-scary picture book about sharks). This was a very silly story, but both my son and I rather enjoy reading it together. The whole book is longways, so it is top to bottom vs left to right pictures.
Shark is very afraid of the tiger, a stripey, teeth-filled monster. His fear makes his friend Lobster afraid and they decide to built a fort. They are joined in the fort by a small cuttlefish who just happens to overhear their conversation, along with the cuttlefish, his friends and their families. Then they decide that the fort isn’t enough, they need an even bigger monster to combat the dreaded tiger. So they go down to the deepest ocean and find the biggest monster they can find and bring the sleeping beast up to their fort to protect it. Only things don’t go exactly as planned. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.
What To Do If an Elephant Stands on Your Foot written by Michelle Robinson, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
My son loved this book so much, he asked me to read it to his Preschool class on Dr. Seuss Day (March 2)! We’ve been reading it a lot since we first read it in February. It is a pretty funny book, though it did go over the heads of most of the kids in his class.
An elephant stands on a boy’s foot and he naturally screams in pain, which frightens the elephant and alerts the nearby tiger. The rest of the book is basically the kid screwing up and doing the absolutely wrong thing and getting a huge number of animals to chasing him. The boy makes too much noise with the tiger, and a rhino hears and starts chasing him, and then he runs up a tree (which is full of snakes of course). Finally he’s about to be eaten by a crocodile when he is rescued by the monkeys. Remembering his manners, he thanks them and is about to apologize to the original elephant, when he accidentally starts the whole thing over again. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.
Mousetronaut written by Mark Kelly, illustrated by C.F. Payne
Meteor is part of a group of mice training to go in space with the astronauts. No one thinks Meteor will get picked because he is so small. But he does. When they first breach the earth’s atmosphere, the other mice are scared of the weightlessness of space, but not Meteor. He relished it. One day, an astronaut notices the control panel key is stuck between monitors. All the astronauts try to get it out, but then Meteor says the day and everyone congratulates him. He truly is a Mousetronaut! Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.
I used this as part of my Gravity DiscoveryTime for preschoolers. It was suggested by my supervisor and I thought it was a cute little story, plus it was written by Arizonian Astronaut Mark Kelly (most would probably know him as husband of former US Representative Gabby Giffords). Apparently it was based off a real mouse that Kelly flew with in a mission that enjoyed the weightlessness of space. The kids liked the book especially counting down till blast off!
Down a the Dino Wash Deluxe written by Tim J. Myers, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan
Another of my son’s favorites, this book is all about washing different kinds of dinosaurs in the city. I just like saying Quetzelcoatlus (a kind of giant flying pterosaur), plus it’s a fun story for different voices. A young boy owns a dino wash with a bunch of his friends. We meet an ankylosaurus, a pachycephalosaurus, a finicky stegosaurus, and a spinosaurus. They warn the protagonist, a young boy who works at the dino wash, that a T-Rex is coming into town. The boy is scared, especially when the T-Rex demands to know how he will be cleaned. Turns out, he is afraid of getting shampoo in his eyes, but the boy knows just what to do to take care of him. Afterwards, he is a big softie. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.
Love from Paddington written by Michael Bond, illustrated by Peggy Fortnum
Surprisingly I’ve never read any Paddington before. So when I saw this little book in the children’s fiction section, I just had to pick it up. This is a new book, but it goes back to the beginning and tells Paddington’s backstory through letters to his Aunt Lucy in Peru (where he is originally from). He was named Paddington as that was the label he was wearing and called that by the family that ended up adopting him. He never tries to get into so much mischief, but it seems to find him nonetheless. A short quick read and a good introduction to Paddington. Recommended for ages 6-9, 4 stars.
Saint-Saens’s Danse Macabre written by Anna Harwell Celenza, illustrated by Joann E. Kitchel
I thought this biography picture book could’ve been a lot better, as the biographical info was a little sparse. The story was interesting though. Apparently compose Camille Saint-Saens was walking through the Parisian catacombs with his friend when he became inspired to write about Death and his dancing skeletons. At first the music comes off too romantic, so he redoes the whole piece. Audiences are a bit shocked to say the least at the final production (I figured it was probably similar to the reaction gotten from Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”). The book also has a CD so the kids can hear Saint-Saens’s “Danse Macabre” themselves. Recommended for ages 6-10, 3 stars.
Children and Young Adults
Here There Be Monsters: The Legendary Kraken and the Giant Squid by H.P. Newquist
I have had a longtime fascination with cephalopods, and was excited to see this book in the library. I had picked it up for myself, but my 3 yr old son got so into it, we ended up reading it together for his Winter Reading Challenge. The book is essentially the story of the Kraken, a sailor’s tale of a giant sea creature that attacked ships. Later on, scientists realized that the Kraken is essentially the giant squid (scientific name: architeuthis), though never near as big as the stories would have you believe. The book goes into great depth about how scientists first started studying architeuthis by discovering that once a hundred years, they would start washing up on shore. It also goes on to explain how they discovered the existence of the an even larger squid, called the colossal squid, and how they were finally after about 150 years, able to capture a live giant squid on film and video. They did finally in about 2008 manage to get a colossal squid, albeit a dead one, to study. It was a very fascinating read and included information on the films and books that feature the giant squids. Highly recommended for ages 10+, 5 stars.
Prudence: The Custard Protocols, #1 by Gail Carriger
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1: Cosmic Avengers (Guardians of the Galaxy #1) written by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Steve McNiven and Sara Pichelli
I was hoping this was the original series but it seems to be a spinoff, following the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie (which I really enjoyed). The comic also features a bit of backstory and a hint of things to come for the other members of the Guardians: Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Drax the Destroyer and Gamora. We get a bit of a backstory on Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, which explains how his father came to Earth, what really happened to his mother (it wasn’t cancer), and how the Guardians were working together with Iron Man. Peter’s father, as King of the Spartax, has decided that Earth is now off limits to outsiders and this includes Peter, who is half-human himself. This of course doesn’t stop the Badoon from attacking the planet and it is up to the Guardians to save it. Peter’s father is up to something, but no one is quite sure what his master plan is and as a result, Peter and the Guardians are captured by his father’s own men and imprisoned. Just what is the King of the Spartax up to? To find out, read this exciting first volume of the series. Recommended for ages 15+, 3 stars.
Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy
The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand by Elizabeth Berg
The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore, narrated by Euan Morton
“The Serpent of Venice” is based off of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of the Amontillado”, and Shakespeare’s “Othello” and “The Merchant of Venice”, with a bit of original Christopher Moore thrown in to make the stories flow better and frankly to make them funnier. Pocket, the title character from Moore’s “Fool” is sent to Venice as the English Ambassador to Venice to make sure the Venetians know Queen Cordelia’s view on another Crusade (she’s against it). Because of her and her husband Pocket’s meddling in the affairs of Venice, Cordelia is poisoned and they try to kill Pocket as well. They send his apprentice Drool and monkey Jeff away as well. Pocket miraculously survives with the help of what he thinks is a mermaid. He vows revenge and starts plotting it against all the men who have wronged him and his queen and the rest of the book involves his and other’s revenge on various Venetians and other characters. 5 stars.
I adored this book, but not quite in the same way as “Fool”. There was a lot more backstabbing, plotting, and crazy shenanigans happening in this book than in the previous one. I did miss Drool and Pocket’s interactions, which were less in this book as Pocket spent the majority of the text trying to find his apprentice and Jeff. The addition of Marco Polo was an interesting twist, but makes sense when you connect him to the infamous Serpent. I have honestly not read “The Merchant of Venice,” but of course have heard of it, so it was interesting to see how he handled discussions of greed and racism. There is an in-depth discussion at the end of the book, by the author, about racism in Shakespeare’s time, which was pretty fascinating. I did enjoy the twisted Othello ending and the whole last scene with the Doge. Moore did leave it wide open for a third book, and I’m curious to see if he pursues it. Euan Morton was a fabulous narrator as per usual.
The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, The Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar by Gail Carriger
Alessandro Tarabotti works for the Templars neutralizing supernatural elements and was sent to Egypt to do just that and leave no records behind. An archaeologist contacts Mr. Tarabotti and he goes to investigate. But the British government also has eyes on the situation and send one of their agents. Just what will they discover in an ancient Egyptian tomb? 3 stars.
I picked this up after reading the author’s newest book “Prudence: The Custard Protocols, #1”, though I have had it on my to-read list for awhile. I sort of wish that this book was full-length as there are so many questions I have for the author in regards to Alexia Tarabotti Maccon’s father, and she just agonizingly scratched the surface with this short story. The reader does find out how Alexia’s father and mother managed to get together though, I must say I was curious given how crazy she acts in “The Parasol Protectorate”series, I always wondered what Mr. Tarabotti ever saw in her.
Poetry Aloud Here!: Sharing Poetry with Children in the Library by Sylvia M. Vardell
I’ve been wanting to incorporate poetry into my Kids Cafe program for April, since it’s National Poetry Month. There are so many great suggestions in this book. For example, I’m thinking about becoming an ESL tutor and was pleased to know that you could use poems to increase fluency, especially in reading aloud. There’s a list of twenty classic poems not to be missed, plenty of examples of good multicultural poetry to use with kids (which is excellent as my program tends to be pretty diverse), lists of fifty children’s poets I should know, ten picture book poems I should definitely use, online resources I could use to find poetry, as well as ways to celebrate National Poetry Month. There are also ways to pair classic and contemporary poems, pairing nonfiction and poetry, ten strategies for sharing poetry out loud, ways to pair art and poetry together, as well as an example of how to do biography poems. So I should be set in trying to find activities and ways to share poetry with the kids. Highly recommended, 5 stars.