Tag Archive: children


Book Reviews March 2015

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.

Children

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

Red Knit Cap Girl to the Rescue

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

Harriet Dancing

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

Meet Einstein

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

Shark and Lobster's Undersea Adventures

^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

What to do if an Elephant Stands on Your Foot

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

Down at the Dino Wash Deluxe

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.

Young Adult

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.

Adult

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.

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The Case of the Cursed Dodo

The Case of the Cursed Dodo

The Case of the Cursed Dodo (The Endangered Files #1) by Jake G. Panda

Published Dec 15, 2014

Jake G. Panda is a private detective at The Last Resort, a hotel for endangered animals. He gets a call from his friend, the Professor (a Himalayan hare), asking for his help. The Professor has uncovered a mysterious suitcase with a jade dodo inside when he suddenly goes missing. Jake is on the case and out to find his friend. He quickly becomes involved with the Underground Resistance movement against poachers, a group of sketchy rats, and a couple of mysterious dames. Recommended for ages 9-13, 3-1/2 stars.

I rather enjoyed this quick read. I was curious how the author was going to turn classic film noir into a book for kids because the genre is  kind of gritty and full of alcohol swigging, which isn’t very kid friendly, but I think he managed it with this “jungle noir”. I personally didn’t like the whole “book pretending to be a screenplay” thing, but it did its job setting the stage. While I’m not sure most kids would get all the jokes, overall, I think the book really worked and would definitely draw a child’s attention in. Plus there were all the endangered animals, most of whom I’d never heard of and found myself browsing Wikipedia whilst reading it. Maybe if it was being read by a class, you could do a nonfiction tie-in after reading it and get the kids to report on one of the endangered or extinct animals. I look forward to reading more books in the series!

I received a copy of the book from the author, in exchange for my honest review.

Feb 2015 Book Reviews

I honestly have not read much this month as I keep starting and stopping books after I get bored or don’t like the book. But I have mostly caught up with the majority of my previous reviews from 2014 and Jan 2015, just a bit behind on this month’s reviews, but overall I’m pretty happy with that. I’ve managed to read 50 books so far this year. Right now I am listening to the very hilarious and bawdy Shakespeare re-telling of King Lear by Christopher Moore, entitled Fool. The book does have a bit of Macbeth and Hamlet thrown in for good measure as well. I might try his brand new book about the same character named Pocket, though the new book (The Serpent of Venice) is a re-telling of Othello and The Merchant of Venice with a bit of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of the Amontillado. I have heard very mixed reviews on it so far. With Fool, I actually had to wait until I could laugh properly again (without having a coughing fit because of the bronchitis I just got over). I had tried listening to Eoin Colfer’s book The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P. #1), which has been on my to-read list forever, but I just couldn’t get into it (which really sucks because I loved all of his Artemis Fowl books). So that will be going back in my donated books pile. I’m about to finish up a Children’s Advanced Reader’s copy (ARC for short) mystery book entitled The Case of the Cursed Dodo, by Jake G. Panda. I’m super psyched because I finally got approval to read Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1) by Gail Carriger, the newest book and the first in the series about Alexia Maccon’s (from her Parasol Protectorate series, which I adore) daughter. I’m actually pretty good until probably the end of March set up with sounds-really-interesting ARCs. Fingers crossed that they are.

On to the book reviews. As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add illustrations from picture books that I particularly liked.

Children

Hooray for Hat! written and illustrated by Brian Won

Hooray for Hat

I loved the illustrations, though the concept was a little too simplistic for my taste. Basically, Elephant wakes up grumpy and is so for the day until a surprise package arrives at his door with 6 hats inside. He puts all of them on at once and feels better. Hooray for hat! he says. Then he goes around distributing the unique hats to his grumpy friends until they are all happy. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Dancing with Dinosaurs written by Jane Clarke, illustrated by Lee Wildish

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.

Found written and illustrated by Salina Yoon

Found

My son really likes this book and it has been a frequent repeat read lately. Bear finds a floppy bunny toy in the woods and wants to keep it, but feels it probably has a family somewhere. So he puts up “Found” flyers all over the forest but no one is claiming the bunny. Bear has fallen in love with it and spends his whole day playing with it until it is seen by Moose. Bear very reluctantly gives it back, but is pleasantly surprised when Moose gives it back, saying “special toys should be passed along for others to enjoy”. Bear goes home happy with his new toy. For those who like this author/illustrator’s work, you will notice a profusion of pinecones and an occasional penguin in this book (which refers to her other Penguin books). This would be a great book for a toy storytime. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Baby Bear’s Big Dreams written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Baby Bears Big Dreams

I found this book when I was getting ready for my Toddler Bear Storytime and just had to read it aloud. It is an adorable book about growing up, or at least what a small bear believes happens when you grow up and outlines all the things he will do. He’s going to bed late, not picking up his toys because he’s going to play all the time, living in a treehouse surrounded by honey and berries and writing his “grown up” poem. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

If I Had a Dragon written and illustrated by Tom Ellerly

Morton does not like playing with his little baby brother, until he imagines him as a dragon. Only every time he imagines trying to play something with his dragon, it doesn’t quite work out. Morton discovers that maybe a brother isn’t so bad after all. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Hug Machine written and illustrated by Scott Campbell

hug+machine+spread

Me and my son thought this book was funny. The little boy on the cover is the Hug Machine. He hugs anyone and everything, from his family to dogs to blue post boxes. He refuels on pizza. He does it all day and almost never gets tired. This is a cute book to read with your little hug machine, and you will definitely get a lot reading it. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Dinosaur Rescue! written and illustrated by Peggy Dale

Dinosaur Rescue

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.

Read It, Don’t Eat It! written and illustrated by Ian Schoenherr

readitdonteatit_cover

I enjoyed this cute rhyming book, which told kids about how to handle books and going to the library, though some of the terminology needed to be explained further. Book discussions are always good though, and this book got my son thinking about right and wrong, which is always a good thing. Promoting the library is always something I try to do, not only as an employee, but as a parent and lover of libraries. The illustrations were adorable, and my favorite was the one with the sweatered bunny in the magic hat with a wand and the phrase “Rips and tears won’t magically heal”. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

A Library Book for Bear written by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

Bear does not want to go the library and thinks he has all the books he could ever want at home, all seven of them. His friend Mouse convinces him to go, but he is determined not to like it. He only wants to pick books at the library on pickles, honeybees and kings and queens. That is, until he overhears a storytime told by the librarian and is enraptured by it. Soon he is changing his tune and checking out all kinds of books. This book would be great for a preschool storytime about the library and how to behave at one. Apparently this book is the sixth in a series on Bear and Mouse. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Speed written and illustrated by Nathan Clement

I probably would’ve liked this book more if the copy we borrowed from the library wasn’t completely torn up and I didn’t want to get charged for it. My son loved it, as it is all about stock car racing. It plays out pretty much just like a Nascar race, or in the case of my son, the movie Cars. The stock cars are lined up behind the pace car to start, then roar around the track, racing each other and even crashing. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

Annie Hoot and the Knitting Extravaganza written and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Annie Hoot

Annie Hoot loves to knit, especially for other birds. Her friends don’t appreciate her gifts though, so she travels around the world knitting for other birds and animals. Eventually she decides to come home where her friends had missed her and her knitting and finally agreed to be taught how to knit themselves. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Ok, first off, I love books about owls and especially children’s books that add crocheting or knitting to the story. The distance between the different animal habitats was totally off, but I’m guessing the author made them closer to move the story along. Also, penguins and polar bears do live on opposite ends of the Earth, but are two animals that kids can identify so that’s why they’re in the story together (I’m guessing). And of course there’s the whole how can knitted vessels fly and float question. Aside from all that, I thought it was a cute rather imaginative story.

Hansel & Diesel written and illustrated by David Gordon

This was a bit of an odd adaptation of the Hansel and Gretel story, with two trucks named Hansel and Diesel. They are out of fuel and stumble into the junkyard surrounding their house. Soon they are lured to a gas stop by the Wicked Winch who nearly captures them, until they are saved at the last minute by their parents who get rid of the Winch and set up shop at the gas station. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Maude: The-Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton written by Lauren Child, illustrated by Trisha Krauss

All of the Shrimptons go out of their way to be noticed, whether it is with a outrageous hat, facial hair, or sense of humor. Maude is completely different. She goes out of her way to blend in, literally, to the furniture. She asks for a goldfish for her birthday, but her mother thinks that is too bland and gets her a pet tiger instead. This immediately causes chaos and everyone gets eaten except the girl who can blend in. This was a weird and kind of morbid, almost an Edward Gorey-like story. Recommended for ages 5-9, 2 stars.

Young Adult

Silverwood (Silverwood, Book 1) by Betsey Streeter

Adult

Did She Kill Him?: A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery, and Arsenic by Kate Colquhoun

Geez, I can’t believe it took me three weeks to read this book! Part of the reason was because the book rather dragged in the beginning as it was setting up the story before the trial. I was completely absorbed in reading about the last part of the story about the trial and its outcome. I especially enjoyed the debates for and against Florence because of her gender, outward sexuality, the feminist movement she unwittingly became part of and the changing attitudes of women in regards to marriage and family during the late Victorian era.

The book is the story of Florence Maybrick and her marriage to the significantly older Liverpudlian cotton merchant James Maybrick, and his subsequent murder trial. Death by arsenic poisoning is what she was convicted of, although they never actually proved that and really what she was being punished for was her adulterous affair with another man. The all-male jury and biased (possibly mentally deficient) judge, in addition to the inability to testify on her behalf (something that apparently wasn’t allowed in court until after her trial), in my opinion, contributed to her guilty verdict. Was she guilty of murder? I don’t think so, as the author clearly outlined James Maybrick’s addiction to poisons such as arsenic and strychnine, which were prescribed for everything in those days as they were thought beneficial to one’s health. Read the book and decide for yourself whether she was guilty or not. 4 stars.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris

Renee is a 54 year old concierge of a very ritzy apartment building in Paris. She maintains the aura of simple mindedness and routine that people in her profession are supposed to exhibit, but in private she is really quite brilliant. Despite only going to school till age 12 (as was common in her rural agricultural village), she has a passionate love of books, especially Russian literature. Paloma is a genius 12 year old that lives in Renee’s building. Her family is full of stupid Socialist-leaning individuals and she has decided that enough is enough. If she doesn’t find something worth living for, she will kill herself and set her apartment on fire. In the meanwhile, she has these two journals of profound thoughts that she daily adds to. One of the long-term residents has died and the family sold his apartment to a mysterious Japanese gentleman named Kakuro Ozu. Renee accidently befriends Mr. Ozu. He in term befriends Paloma, who are both convinced that Renee has “the elegance of the hedgehog”, i.e. one that is not expected but you see touches of it in unusual ways. Will Renee be able to let herself truly be friends with Mr. Ozu? To find out, read this book. 3 stars.

This was a pretty pretentious book. I would consider myself pretty educated but discussing philosophy is something I have just never been able to wrap my head around. And there was a lot of it in the beginning of the book, almost enough to put me off. However, thanks to Barbara Rosenblat’s excellent narration (really I think I would listen to her read anything, she’s that good), I decided to keep listening to the story. I rather enjoyed the middle and up to the very end of it, but not the ending (though I can see why the author ended it like she did). Renee was my favorite character, although I liked Kakuro as well. The whole scene with the bathroom toilet and the Mozart Requiem was so hilarious, and definitely my favorite one in the book. The book was all about class warfare, philosophy, beauty, life and death, and other complex material. All in all an interesting read.

Jan 2015 Book Reviews

I feel like I’ve been kind of slow this month with reading. I haven’t gotten through as many as I would’ve wanted, especially in regards to adult level books. Ever since they moved the new nonfiction upstairs at my library, I don’t go through them as much. My current tally is 29 books read for the year. I’m getting better with my reviews this year, and have only not completed 5, mostly for picture books. I am almost finished listening to The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, which started slow but I am rather enjoying right now (again narrated by the wonderful Barbara Rosenblat). I will follow this for the audiobook of The Curse of the Pharaohs (Amelia Peabody #2) by Elizabeth Peters, which  I had started listening to before. I am also reading the badly titled but fascinting Did She Kill Him? A Victorial Tale of Deception, Adultery, and Arsenic by Kate Colquhoun.

As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add illustrations from picture books that I particularly like (and this month there were a lot).

Children

Quiet! There’s a Canary in the Library written and illustrated by Don Freeman

Whenever I think of Don Freeman, I always think of Corduroy the Bear (which I’ve somehow never read), although I did enjoy his book “Fly High, Fly Low”. This book was adorable. Although a little long, I think it would be great for a toddler storytime on reading or the library. Cary is a young girl who loves going to the library and picking out books to read, recommended by Mrs. Curtis the librarian. One day, as she is reading a book about the zoo, she imagines that she is a librarian. The first thing she does is have a day that all the animals and birds can visit the zoo. My son loved naming all the different animals in this book and liked that they all liked to read too. Pandemonium almost breaks out when some mice come in the library, but the day is saved by a canary. After accidently shouting, Cary realizes that she is still in the library and picks out a book to read at home. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Dinosaur Zoom! written and illustrated by Penny Dale

I picked up this book after enjoying another of the author’s books, Dinosaur Dig. This one was actually cuter than that book. Dinosaurs come from all over, in all different kinds of vehicles, bringing party supplies and birthday presents. They assemble in the forest and get ready for little Dinosaur’s surprise birthday party. My son liked all the cars and of course, the dinosaurs. Would be a good book for storytime. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Doodleday written and illustrated by Ross Collins

doodleday02b

My son loved this one! Harvey’s mom warns him not to draw on Doodleday, but the temptation is just too much. He draws a fat hairy fly and it comes to life! He needs to get rid of it, so he draws a huge spider, who quickly looses interest in the fly and instead tries to eat his dad. Then he draws a bird to get rid of the spider and a giant squid to get rid of the bird, which of course immediately starts destroying the neighborhood. So he calls for the one person who can save him, his mom. Can she save the day? To find out, read this adorable book. Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Dog Loves Drawing written and illustrated Louise Yates

Dog Loves Drawing

Dog loves reading and books, which is why he opened his own bookshop. One day his aunt sends him a blank book to draw in, so he starts creating a fantastical adventure with some new friends. This was a cute follow-up to “Dog Loves Books,” which I adored. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

King Jack and the Dragon written by Peter Bently, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

King Jack and the Dragon

Three young boys play at being a King and his knights, building a mighty castle and fighting dragons and other beasties, before they are taken away by “giants” and brought home. King Jack lasts the longest before he is scared by “the Thing” and is later brought home. A cute book about imagination and play, would be a great book for a preschool storytime. Loved the illustrations. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Otto: The Boy Who Loved Cars written by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Scott Magoon

I picked this up at the library because my son loves cars, almost as much as Otto does. Otto eats, sleeps, breathes and plays with cars. One day he becomes one and is frustrated that no one understands him and he can’t eat or play with his friends (who all have car names), and he is obviously upset. When he wakes up the next day (not as a car), he is relieved and vows to be more open to other things. It didn’t seem to penetrate my son, that he can like more than one thing, but then again he is only three, lol. Anyways, it was a cute story. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Turtle Island written and illustrated by Kevin Sherry

Turtle Island

I picked this up for my son because it featured turtles (which he loves), but I ended up liking it more than he did. The book was about a giant turtle who is very lonely until a group of animals shipwrecks and builds a house on top of him. They live together for awhile and become like a family, but eventually they build a ship and go back to their original home. The turtle is sad until they come back with more animals to live on the “turtle island”. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Monster Needs His Sleep written by Paul Czajak, illustrated by Wendy Grieb

Monster Needs His Sleep

This was a cute bedtime book with a young boy and his friend Monster. The boy is trying his hardest to get Monster to bed but he keeps stalling. The boy eventually realizes that his friend is afraid of the dark and dutifully brings a night light to help him. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Hi, Koo!  written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth

Jon J. Muth always does awesome books, so I’m not surprised that this one is great too. This book is about seasonal haikus and is a great introduction for children. I love his watercolor and ink illustrations of Koo and the two children (based off the author/illustrator’s twins). Highly recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

The Book with No PicturesText from the book

I’d been hearing about this book for a couple of months, from librarians who loved it, before I was able to get a copy. It didn’t really capture my son’s attention, like I wanted it to, but I loved it. It is a great chance for parents to just be silly while reading a book to their kids because since the book has no pictures, you have to say everything (no matter how crazy) that is on the page. Highly recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend written and illustrated by Dan Santat

beekle_2

I adored this book, especially the imaginative illustrations, though I’m not sure how much my son really understood it. Beekle is an imaginary friend who lives on a magical island. He keeps waiting to be created by a real child, but is never picked. So he decides to take matters into his own hands and goes to find his creator, who finally names him. Recommended for ages 4-7, 4 stars.

The Muppets: Bunsen and Beaker Save the Show written and illustrated by Lucy Rosen

It definitely helps to have an appreciation of the Muppets before reading this book, but it can be read by those who have never heard of them. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker of Muppet Labs are always coming up with ways to improve life, and tonight they want to help the Muppet Show. First they invent a combination ticket/timer/inflatable pillow to replace the regular tickets, then they show Kermit the Curtain clapper (the curtain falls when it hears applause), and last but not least, the Burning Bulbs of Brilliance. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

Autumnblings written and illustrated by Douglas Florian

I’ve had this forever, well since I did my Autumn Preschool storytime back in November, so I figured it was about time I stopped renewing it and started reading it. Since Autumn is my favorite season and I love poetry, this book seemed like a good fit. The book is a very creative group of short poetry about Autumn, and also has original painted illustrations by the author. I especially like the concrete poems. My favorites were “Apple Picking”, “Up and Down”, “Geese Piece”, and “The Colors of Autumn”. Recommended for ages 5-9, 5 stars.

Children and Young Adult

Smek for President! (Smek #2) written and illustrated by Adam Rex

Adult

A.D. 30: A Novel by Ted Dekker

Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody #1) by Elizabeth Peters, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat

Amelia Peabody is an English independent woman of means. She inherited her father’s small fortune, plus his love of Egypt, and so travels with a companion to that country following his death. Unfortunately her companion gets sick and she is on the lookout for a new one. While in Rome, she discovers a beautiful young woman abandoned in the Forum. The woman, whose name is Evelyn, tells Amelia her sad story of ruin and despair and thinks she will be rejected by her as she has been by everyone else. Amelia is not that kind of person though and quickly adopts Evelyn and makes her a companion. While in Alexandria with Amelia, she falls in love (though she will of course not admit it) with a young handsome man named Walter Emerson. He and his brother Radcliffe (who goes by Emerson) are set to dig at Armana, at the court of the heretic king Akhenaten, which is where Amelia and Evelyn eventually follow. Amelia cures Emerson from a nasty infection and fever, and they stay on to help with the archaelogical dig. After staying for a few weeks, they are terrorized by a mummy. Who is the mummy and what does he want? Is he really a priest of Amon (the king of the gods and the wind) set on cursing all those who set foot in the heretic king’s realm or something else? To find out, read this amazing first book of the series.

Barbara Rosenblat was an excellent narrator as the haughty but incredibly perceptive Amelia Peabody and I loved her narration of the other characters as well. I understand that this book was written in 1975, and was set a century earlier, so that would technically excuse the racially insensitive attitudes of all the characters. I did find it a bit offensive at times though. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and was surprised how much the author could really get into the stiff-upper-lip Britishness of the book, as she was American. Amelia is definitely my favorite character as she is witty and hilarious, as Evelyn was a bit too sighing and girly for my taste. I loved the interactions between Amelia and Emerson, and was honestly surprised at the ending (though I had figured out parts of it earlier). I am looking forward to reading more books in the series. 4 stars.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Georgie McCool’s marriage is in trouble. She loves her husband Neal and he loves her but they’re not sure it is enough. Georgie is a TV writer in Los Angeles and two days before leaving for Christmas in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and two daughters, she finds out she has to stay. Relations have been very strained with Neal and this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. He refused to speak to her once he’s arrived in Nebraska, and she goes to stay with her mother. After trying unsuccessfully to get in touch with Neal on her cell phone, she tries an ancient rotary phone in her mother’s house and somehow manages to contact Neal in the past before he proposed to her. Will she be able to work out things with Neal in the future by talking to him in the past? 5 stars.

After reading “Eleanor & Park” and enjoying it, I decided to give her adult book a chance after reading the synopsis. I can’t even express how much I loved this book. I finished it in 2 days. I could totally identify with Georgie. She is a woman whose career is of utmost importance in her life, and but who also feels like sometimes she is a bit lost. She loves her husband but sometimes wonders if she screwed up his life by insisting he move to LA permanently even though he hates it. I even agree with the way she thinks about love and marriage. On page 203, Georgie says this about love, “It’s more like you meet someone, you fall in love, and you “hope” that that person is the one–and then at some point, you have to put down your chips. You just have to make a commitment and hope you’re right.” There was also this great quote about kids and marriage on page 220. “Georgie was pretty sure that having kids was the worst thing you could do to a marriage. Sure you “survive” it. You could survive a giant boulder falling on your head–that didn’t mean it was good for you. Kids took a fathomless amount of time and energy…And they took it first. They had the right of first refusal on everything you had to offer.” And then there was that glorious moment at the end of the book on page 253 when Georgie is looking at pictures of Neal from her Save Box and thinking about when he proposed and he said “I think I can live without you, but it won’t be any kind of life.” Le sigh. Anyways, I really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it especially if you’re married with kids.

Men’s Pie Manual: The complete guide to making and baking the perfect pie by Andrew Webb

I love British pies! I know everyone likes to complain about British food, but one thing that they do really well is pies, especially cheese/onion/potato pasties and Melton Mawbry Pork Pies. So when I saw this book that was geared towards guys, but really is just a good beginner guide to creating all sorts of predominantly savory British pies. It breaks it down into the basics like equipment, good crusts, sauces and stocks, and then onto the fillings. It even goes into recipes for sausage rolls, Beef Wellington, and other almost pies. 4 stars.

Smek for President!

Smek for President

Smek for President! (Smek #2) by Adam Rex

To be published: Feb 10, 2015

Even though it was Tip (real name Gratuity) and J.Lo (the Boov alien not the celebrity) who actually saved the world from the Gorg invasion two years ago, they get no credit for it. Instead, most humans think Dan Landry is the real hero. The Boov blame J.Lo for sending the signal which alerted the Gorg to Earth originally, which was a total accident, and have nicknamed him “The Squealer”. J.Lo is determined to clear his name, and so he and Tip hop into their flying car Slushious (which J.Lo recalibrated in the last book) and head for New Boovworld, his homeworld on one of the moons of Saturn. They go to see the infamous Captain Smek, who contrary to popular opinion, isn’t as welcoming as they thought. The Boov are in the middle of an election for the first time ever and Smek has to fight for his title of HighBoov. He believes that J.Lo is a threat to Boov security and has him thrown in prison. Will Tip be able to save him? Will she also be able to get back to earth? Will J.Lo ever be able to clear his name and Tip get the recognition she deserves for saving the Earth? To find out, read this crazy journey into an alien civilization. Recommended for ages 9-13, 3 stars.

I really loved the first book, so when I saw the second one, I jumped at the chance to read it. I don’t know if the author was rushed to finish it or they demanded he split it into three books, but it just wasn’t as good as the first one. Don’t get me wrong, it had its moments of absolute hilarity, but mostly it just came across forced. The comic-like illustrations greatly added to the hilarious parts of the book, as well as helping to explain some Boovish terms and accessories that would otherwise have been lost in translation. My favorite part of the book was the explanation of Stickyfish, a Boovish sport, listed in Appendix A at the end of the book. Random and uproarious, it kind of reflected the political commentary of the rest of the book. I also liked Tip’s interactions with Bill the advertisement bubble and her description of hell.

I am quite excited to learn that they are planning to make a movie (unfortunately named Home) about The True Meaning of Smekday, so hopefully it will bring new fans to the series (despite the fact that they have changed our favorite Boov’s name from J.Lo to O). The trailer looks really adorable though.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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