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.
Hooray for Hat! written and illustrated by Brian Won
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.
written and illustrated by Salina Yoon
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
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
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
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
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 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.
Silverwood (Silverwood, Book 1) by Betsey Streeter
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.