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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Random House, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 912
1. Mouse Scouts 1 and 2

Mouse Scouts. Sarah Dillard. 2016. Random House. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

What a cute start to a new series for young readers! I found Sarah Dillard's Mouse Scouts to be a delight. The book introduces us to two friends: Violet and Tigerlily. Both are in Mouse Scouts. To clarify, they are newly promoted from being Buttercups to being Acorn Scouts. The book introduces us to other mouse scouts, and their scout leader, Miss Poppy. By the end of the book, they'll have the opportunity to earn their first (presumably of many) badge. The badge they're aiming for? The "Sow It and Grow It" badge. Readers may learn along with Violet and Tigerlily a few facts about gardening.

I enjoyed this one. I did. It was a simple, straightforward story for young readers. I like the characters. And I really liked the illustrations. This is one series book that was genuinely pleasant to read, even as an adult.
Mouse Scouts: Make A Difference. Sarah Dillard. 2016. Random House. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I was so glad to have the opportunity to review both books in this new series by Sarah Dillard. After reading the first book in the series, I was ready to continue on with the series. The book stars Violet and Tigerlily. These two friends don't always agree perfectly on every little thing, but, they have a way of coming together when it really, truly matters. It was just a fun treat for me to spend time with these two again, and to get another opportunity to get to know the other scouts as well.

In this one, the mice are attempting to earn the "Make A Difference" badge. I was able to guess what one of their projects would be, but, I was pleasantly surprised by an additional way they all came together to make a difference. I wasn't expecting that at all!

Overall, both books are super-easy to recommend. I think both books will appeal to young readers--girls especially in first and second grade. 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Seuss on Saturday #52

Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories. Dr. Seuss. 2014. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories contains "Horton and the Kwuggerbug," "Marco Comes Late," "How Officer Pat Saved The Whole Town," and "The Hoobub and the Grinch." These stories were published, I believe, in magazines throughout the 1950s.

Horton and the Kwuggerbug
First sentence:
It happened last May, on a very nice day
While the Elephant Horton was walking they say,
Just minding his business...just going his way...
When a Kwuggerbug dropped from a tree with a plunk
And landed on Horton the Elephant's trunk!
Premise/plot: Horton makes a deal with the Kwuggerbug, but, it's a deal that he comes to regret making because the Kwuggerbug isn't exactly honest and fair. The deal is this: The Kwuggerbug will give Horton half the nuts off the Beezelenut tree, if Horton will carry him to the tree on his trunk. But a deal is a deal, right? Will justice be done?

My thoughts: This is the "second" Horton story. It was published in 1951 in Redbook several years before Horton Hears a Who. Horton is just as LOVABLE as always. I love, love, love Horton as a character. And this one is just as great as Horton Hatches the Egg and Horton Hears a Who! Definitely not as well known perhaps. But if it had been published as a book in the 1950s, no doubt in my mind that it would be just as beloved.

Marco Comes Late
First sentence:
 "Young man!" said Miss Block. "It's eleven o'clock! This school begins promptly at eight-forty-five. Why this is a terrible time to arrive!"
Premise/plot: Marco Comes Late is the sequel to And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. "Something" is happening on Mulberry Street once again, and this time it's on his way TO school.

My thoughts: This is a much shorter adventure for Marco. But I liked it. I don't think it would have been "enough" for a book of its own perhaps. But it isn't a disappointment either. It was originally published in 1950.

How Officer Pat Saved the Whole Town
First sentence:
The job of an Officer of the Police
Is watching for trouble and keeping the peace.
He has to be sharp and he has to be smart
And try to stop trouble before it can start.
Premise/plot: This little story is all about TROUBLE and how it can start out small but grows and grows. That's what the "moral" of it is, I suppose. But it is GREAT fun in the telling. And it's set on Mulberry Street.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, LOVED How Officer Pat Saved the Whole Town. This story also appeared in Redbook in 1950. Seuss signed a contract to have Officer Pat published as a book, but it was later replaced in the contract with the publisher with Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories. Here's one little bit from the story:
The trouble with trouble is...trouble will spread. The yowl of that cat will wake Tom, Tim, and Ted, Those terrible triplets of Mrs. McGown. Then they'll yowl a yowl that'll wake this whole town. When trouble gets started, it always starts more! Those kids with their racket and ruckus and roar will frighten the bird, and the birds will come flapping down Mulberry Street with a yipping and yapping!
The Hoobub and the Grinch
First sentence:
The Hoobub was lying outdoors in the sun,
The wonderful, wonderful warm summer sun.
"There's nothing," he said, "quite as good as the sun!"
Then up walked a Grinch with a piece of green string.
"How much," asked the Grinch, "will you pay for this thing?"
Premise/plot: The Grinch is trying to sell the Hoobub a piece of string....will the Hoobub be deceived by the Grinch's clever use of words?

My thoughts: It may be short--just TWO PAGES. But don't underestimate it's cleverness. Not that I love, love, love it. But it worked for me!

Have you read Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

What Pet Should I Get? Dr. Seuss. 2015. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
We want a pet.
We want a pet.
What kind of pet
should we get?
Premise/plot: Siblings--a boy and a girl--have trouble deciding which pet to get. Their parents said, "yes" to one pet, but, not to two, or, three, or four. The problem? The kids have only to see an animal in the pet store, and, then they WANT it. This book is all about having to make up your mind...

My thoughts: I liked it. I didn't love, love, love it. But I liked it. It ends with the reader not knowing what pet they finally picked. I'm not sure I like the mystery ending. Is it wrong that I almost preferred the notes from the publisher to the actual text?! I found the notes from the publisher to be fascinating. In particular,
Dr. Seuss's first "pet" was a brown stuffed toy dog given to him by his mother. Ted--whose real name was Theodore Seuss Geisel--named it Theophrastus. Ted would keep Theophrastus for the rest of his life. The dog was often perched near his drawing board. In 1991, just days before his death at the age of eighty-seven, Ted gave Theophrastus to his stepdaughter Lea Grey. "You will take care of the dog, won't you?" he asked her.
Have you read What Pet Should I Get? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

I'll be posting a list of my TOP TEN books by Dr. Seuss later this week.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Seuss on Saturday #51

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! Dr. Seuss and Jack Prelutsky. Illustrated by Lane Smith. 1998. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
I've always lived in Dinkerville,
My friends all live here too.
We go to Diffendoofer School--
We're happy that we do.
Premise/plot: Diffendoofer School is different from other schools. The teachers teach their students to think. And the teachers are all unique and have their own way of teaching and celebrating knowledge. But one day, the school is threatened by a TEST. If their students don't do well on the test, then, the students will have to go to other schools. Will the students do well on the test? Even if they haven't spent time especially preparing for it?

My thoughts: I liked it. I wish I knew how much of the text was by Dr. Seuss and how much was by Jack Prelutsky. The art is certainly different and unique and complements the text quite nicely.

Have you read Hooray for Diffendoofer Day? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it! 

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories. Dr. Seuss. 2011. Random House. 72 pages. [Source: Library]

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories contains seven "lost" stories by Dr. Seuss. They include: "The Bippolo Seed," "The Rabbit, the Bear, and the Zinniga-Zanniga," "Gustav, The Goldfish," "Tadd and Todd," "Steak for Supper," "The Strange Shirt Spot," and "The Great Henry McBride." All stories were originally published in magazines in the 1950s.

The Bippolo Seed
First sentence:
One bright sunny day, a young duck named McKluck
Had a wonderful, wonderful piece of good luck.
He was walking along when he spied on the ground
A marvelous thing that is quite seldom found.
Premise/plot: A duck finds a magical bippolo seed, but, unfortunately is led astray by a cat. The bippolo seed grants wishes when planted, but, the cat is strongly encouraging the duck to wish for more and more and more. Nothing good ever comes from such greediness, and such is the case here...

My thoughts: I liked it. I did. It didn't wow me with this is the best story ever. But it was good.

The Rabbit, the Bear, and the Zinniga-Zanniga
First sentence:
Once of upon of a time, way down south,
Lived a very big bear with a very big mouth
And very big teeth in his very big jaws
And very big claws in his very big paws.
Premise/plot: Can a rabbit outsmart a bear?

My thoughts: It didn't make the best first impression on me. But once the story really got started, once the rabbit started talking--quick-talking--it improved. I still can't say I loved, loved, loved it. But it was a nice enough story.

Gustav, The Goldfish
First sentence:
The man who sold Gustav the Goldfish to us
Had warned us, "Take care! When you feed this small cuss
Just feed him a spot. If you feed him a lot,
Then something might happen! It's hard to say what."
Premise/plot: What do you think might happen if you feed a fish too much?!

My thoughts: I really love A Fish Out of Water. Seuss's story came first, of course. Seuss's story rhymes. I don't know which is the "better" of the two. Because one is super-familiar to me, and the other is not.

Tadd and Todd
First sentence:
One twin was named Tadd
And one twin was named Todd.
And they were alike
As two peas in a pod.
Premise/plot: Do both twins like being "as two peas in a pod"? Maybe. Maybe not.

My thoughts: It was okay. I didn't especially dislike it. I just wasn't especially impressed either.

Steak for Supper
First sentence:
When I'm all by myself and there isn't a crowd,
I guess that I sometimes get thinking-out-loud.
Premise/plot: Do you know the consequences of bragging? Read Steak for Supper and find out!

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I did. It was very silly and fun. When a boy happens to "think out loud" that his family always has steaks for supper every Saturday night, someone--an Ikka--starts following him. The Ikka is soon joined by others--all with fanciful names, of course. They are all super-excited by the thought of eating STEAK. What will his parents think when they all arrive home?!

The Strange Shirt Spot
First sentence:
My mother had warned me:
"Stay out of the dirt."
But there, there I was
With a spot on my shirt!"

Premise/plot: A boy finds it nearly impossible to remove a stubborn spot from his shirt.

My thoughts: This idea was used again, and, perhaps used better in The Cat and the Hat Comes Back. I love, love, love that book. This one was fun, but, mainly because you could see where the idea came from.

The Great Henry McBride
First sentence:
"It's hard to decide,"
Said young Henry McBride.
"It's terribly, terribly hard to decide.
When a fellow grows up and turns into a man,
A fellow should pick the best job that he can."

Premise/plot: Henry McBride can't pick just one job he wants to have when he's all grown up...so he imagines having lots of jobs.

My thoughts: It was okay. I liked it fine.

Have you read The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it! 

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories and What Pet Should I Get. I'll be doubling up for the rest of the year each Saturday.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Seuss on Saturday #50

Daisy-Head Mayzie. Dr. Seuss. 1994. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:  It's hard to believe such a thing could be true, And I hope such a thing never happens to you. But it happened, they say, to poor Mayzie McGrew. And it happened like this...

Premise/plot: Mayzie McGrew shocks everyone--first everyone at her school, and, then later the nation--when a daisy suddenly appears growing out the top of her head. So many unanswered questions?! What's to be done?!

My thoughts: I had never read this one before. Was I missing out? Not really. The story is a bit out of control and all over the place. Which may sound like a typical Seuss story, and, in many ways--at least in theory--it was. It just lacked a certain something. 

Have you read Daisy-Head Mayzie? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

My Many Colored Days. Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. 1996. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Some days are yellow. Some are blue. On different days I'm different too.

Premise/plot: There's a color for each mood in My Many Colored Days.

My thoughts: I like the idea of this one, the premise of it. I like the exploration of moods and emotions and feelings. Of feeling many different ways, and, yet still being "me." I also appreciate the simplicity of the text. Some Seuss books are so very, very text-heavy.

Have you read My Many Colored Days? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Hooray for Diffendoofer Day and The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories. I'll be doubling up for the rest of the year each Saturday.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Seuss on Saturday #49

Oh, the Places You'll Go. Dr. Seuss. 1990. Random House. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!

Premise/plot: I'd describe Oh, The Places You'll Go as a motivational picture book for older readers. Not that young children don't need motivation, but, the advice, in my opinion, makes more sense for older readers--grown ups even. You are the you of the title. The whole book is written in second person.

My thoughts: I like this one. Do I love, love, LOVE it. I wouldn't get that carried away. But I do genuinely like it. I like how it's motivational and uplifting all the while being true-to-life and realistic.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest. Except when you don't. Because, sometimes you won't. I'm sorry to say so but, sadly, it's true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you. You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch.
Have you read Oh, The Places You'll Go! Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Daisy-Head Mayzie and My Many Colored Days. I'll be doubling up for the rest of the year each Saturday.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Seuss on Saturday #48

I Am Not Going To Get Up Today. Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by James Stevenson. 1987. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Please let me be. Please go away. I am NOT going to get up today! The alarm can ring. The birds can peep. My bed is warm. My pillow's deep. Today's the day I'm going to sleep.

Premise/plot: This little boy is GOING to sleep. Don't bother trying to make him get up and out of bed.

My thoughts: I like it. I don't love, love, love it. But who can really argue with, "My bed is warm. My pillow's deep"?

Have you read I Am Not Going To Get Up Today! Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Oh, The Places You'll Go 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Island of Dr. Libris

The Island of Dr. Libris. Chris Grabenstein. 2015. Random House. 242 pages. [Source: Review copy]

At times I loved it. At times I just almost loved it. Weeks from now, I'm not sure which feeling will be the one that lasts. I'll start with what I enjoyed most. Billy, the hero, is quite special. (Of course, he is.) When he reads books in the summer cabin, odd things happen on a nearby island, the island of Dr. Libris. He doesn't believe what he's hearing, and, sometimes seeing. So he takes a row boat to investigate the situation, and, indeed it seems true enough upon further investigation. The characters in the books he reads are coming to life on the island. When he visits the island, he interacts with fictional characters, and those characters interact with each other too. For better or worse. Since most of the books he's reading are packed with action and danger and good guys and bad guys, well, visiting the island comes with some risks. Billy doesn't automatically know how to solve these problems, it will take some thinking and some teamwork perhaps. Billy teams up with a not-quite-as-special kid, Walter, and things get even more exciting. At some point, Pollyanna gets read...and she starts interacting with everyone. (Some of these scenes made me laugh.)

What didn't I love? Well, the premise was interesting enough. But the dialogue didn't wow me. Bringing all these characters--from all these different genres--to life and making it REALLY work, making it believable, would take some great dialogue. I'd describe the dialogue as more fair to average than great. I just never got swept up in the story in a giddy-making way. The characters felt like weak, weak copies of their originals. And while it was fun to see which books got read, it wasn't quite as magical as I was hoping. Also, Dr. Libris himself remains shadow-y and flat.

Still, I enjoyed elements of this one. A book doesn't have to be the best book ever in order to be an enjoyable book.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Circus Mirandus

Circus Mirandus. Cassie Beasley. 2015.  Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I found Cassie Beasley's Circus Mirandus to be a compelling read. I'm not convinced that it's the best book ever, ever, or even the best book published in 2015.

First, I do want to mention that I went into this book with little to no expectations. I wasn't expecting it to be wonderful, marvelous, unforgettable, just wow-wow-wow. I'd not read any reviews at all. And I hadn't paid any attention to what others were saying about the book, for better or worse. I do think when you've heard so-much-gush about a book and you've seen all the five-star-reviews that it can change your expectations, and, can at times lead to disappointment.

Second, how I think when I'm actually reading the book sometimes differs greatly from what I think about a book a week or two later after reading. (Not to mention sometimes how great the difference between in-the-moment reading reaction and a year or two from now reflection.) I want this "review" to capture both if at all possible.

As I was reading Circus Mirandus, I was hooked, for the most part. I wanted to know what would happen next. Would the Light-Bender come? What would the Grandfather ask for? While I suspected strongly that the miracle itself would not restore him to oh-so-perfect health and enable him to live forever-and-ever, I hoped that something good would come from his writing to Light-Bender. One thing I greatly enjoyed was the devotion Micah had for his Grandpa, and, his belief in magic, in the circus that he's grown up hearing about. Yes, the book is sad, I definitely found it to be so. It isn't FUN to read about someone, someone that is your everything, dying slowly and painfully. And it particularly isn't fun to read about someone being kept from being with their loved one in the last days. So there were plenty of places in this one that just resonated with pure sadness. But then there were the other scenes: the flashback scenes where readers meet the boy, Ephraim, and the bird-woman, Victoria; and the scenes where Jenny and Micah visit Circus Mirandus themselves. These balance out the sadness, to some degree, by no means erasing or eliminating it. But relieving the situation somewhat. This novel isn't without hope. Sad novels without hope get little love from me. Though I will point out that just because a novel is sad doesn't mean that I will like it. Sadness is no reason to love a novel, and sadness is no reason to automatically hate a novel either.

So as I was reading, I found it compelling. I needed to know what happened next, what happened to the characters, how it all resolved. Once I started reading it, it was the one book I wanted to be reading. I wasn't tempted to pick up any other book. (And I do usually have several going at any time.) So there is something to be said for that.

But. How do I feel days after reading it? My enthusiasm is weakening in places. That's not to say, I don't really like it. But if you'd talked to me while I was reading the book, I'd be GUSHING to say the least. Wanting to tell you how great and wonderful it was. I can't say I'm in a gushing mood right now. It was good. And I'm very glad I read it. It SURPRISED me in some ways. I wasn't expecting it to be a contemporary read. I don't know where I could have gotten the idea that it was historical. I really don't. So it was refreshing to find out it was set relatively contemporary give or take a decade or two. (His grandfather was a child during World War II.)

This is one you should consider reading. You may love it. You may not. But it's worth trying.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. My Near-Death Adventures

My Near-Death Adventures. Alison DeCamp. 2015. Random House. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

While I can't easily say that I loved, loved, loved My Near-Death Adventures by Alison DeCamp, I can say--and quite easily--that I really, really liked it. Why? Because it was funny and it reminded me, in a good way, of Richard Peck. First, I do enjoy historical fiction. Historical fiction was probably my very first favorite genre before I even knew what "genre" meant. So, it doesn't take much convincing or persuading to get me to pick up historical fiction. Second, I do love to read, and, I've never been what you would ever call a reluctant reader. So my really, really liking a book doesn't mean it's right for your reluctant reader who hates history. That being said, I think there are plenty of appealing things about it.

The narrator, Stan, has a very unique, quite quirky voice. He is trouble-prone. He is always, always, always getting into trouble: whether it is actual, physical trouble, or, if he's just saying something he really should keep to himself. The book is just one comedic episode after another.

The basic plot: Stan's world is turned upside down by a recent move. Him and his mom have moved in with his aunt, uncle, and Granny, not to mention his girl-cousin, Geri. He is helping out his family by helping them cook and serve food to the lumberjacks in camp. (His job really isn't to cook so much as it is to help serve and clean up.) He doesn't particularly like wearing an apron, but, he likes even less wearing one of his granny's stockings once his own socks go missing. After all, he's recently decided that he must be a manly-manly man and be respected by one and all and recognized as a GROWN UP. But he is just eleven. And he isn't the brightest kid ever, and, you might say he's anxious and gullible, never, a good combination if you don't want to be teased by one and all. Still, despite all his mistakes--and he makes plenty--you can't help but like him.

I enjoyed the characterization. I did. Not every character is equally developed. But all of them are almost equally entertaining and/or interesting. Take, Granny, for example. She was a hoot. Not that I want her for MY granny, mind you. But still, one can't help but snicker as Stan keeps track of just "how evil" Granny is. She starts off, I believe, 99% evil, and, towards the middle, she shockingly becomes just 57% evil, I believe, but can she stay that way?! Another favorite character of mine was "Sneaky Pete" (aka Mr. McLachlan). I really, really couldn't help just LOVING him and I'm not exactly sure why. Sure, he's in plenty of scenes, but, Stan himself doesn't particularly like, trust, or respect him for most of the book. But readers--at least this reader--saw through Stan's narration and saw things as they really were. Mr. McLachlan is A GOOD GUY. And I hope that his mom gets a happy ending, she deserves it!

So the book is definitely a coming-of-age story...and it just worked for me.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Nightbird (2015)

Nightbird. Alice Hoffman. 2015. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

What one word best describes Alice Hoffman's Nightbird? I'd go with atmospheric. Did I enjoy it? Yes, for the most part. It's not a perfect fit for me, I'm not the ideal reader--the ideal match--for this type of book. But I enjoyed it and can easily recommend it to others knowing that they probably will enjoy it even more than I did.

The heroine of Nightbird is a young girl named Twig. (I have to say that I quickly came to love Twig.) Twig's life is a lonely one. For her family has a super-big secret that would endanger them all if it became known. Her mom trusts her to do what is best for the whole family. She can't invite friends over to her house, and, knowing that, she doesn't feel exactly comfortable going over to other people's houses. She knows that any "friendship" she begins would only lead to frustration and disappointment and misunderstandings. But when a new family moves in next door, a new family that isn't exactly "new" to the town, a family with historical roots in the community, Twig takes a chance and makes her first friend. Her mother may not exactly approve, so some discretion is needed, but Twig's life will never be the same...

The less you know about this one, the better, in my opinion.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Taking Action – Fun Books to Get Kids Moving

The beauty of children’s books is that they lend themselves to so many further experiences beyond the reading of the words. These three books contain just the right mix of language and animation to have you and your little ones practicing a few moves of your own.   Puddles are for Jumping, Kylie Dunstan (author, […]

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12. The Emerald Atlas

Emerald Atlas. John Stephens. 2011. Random House. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The girl was shaken awake. Her mother was leaning over her. "Kate"--her voice was low and urgent--"listen very closely. I need you to do something for me. I need you to keep your brother and sister safe. Do you understand? I need you to keep Michael and Emma safe." 

 Did I enjoy The Emerald Atlas? Yes, for the most part. This fantasy novel for middle graders opens on Christmas Eve, but there's nothing cozy, sentimental, or sweet about it. It is all action and adventure, for the most part. It stars three siblings: Michael, Emma, and Kate, who is the oldest. These three not-quite-orphans have a tough time of it from start to finish. Most of their childhood is spent in various orphanages, and, it is at an "orphanage"--albeit a very, strange one where they are the only three children--that the real adventure begins. And it all starts with a photograph and a blank book....

The Emerald Atlas is the first in a trilogy, and it has all the elements that would make for a successful series. Plenty of action, plenty of danger, a clear struggle between good and evil, magical creatures both good and bad, objects with magical powers, a mysterious wizard, and a team on a quest. I also like the time travel aspect of it. And the hidden, magical world within our world.

Did I love it? I'd say not quite--more of an almost. I think I might not have been in the right mood to really enjoy it and find it satisfying.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. A Poor Excuse for a Dragon

Poor Excuse for A Dragon. Geoffrey Hayes. 2011. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: When Fred was old enough to leave home, his father and mother gave him a list. HOW TO BE A GOOD DRAGON: run amok, eat people, roar, breathe fire, act scary.

Premise/plot: Fred, a newly independent dragon, tries his best to follow his parents' advice and find his way in the world. But Fred doesn't always have it easy.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't love it. But I have to say I didn't hate it either. It was cute in places. And was generally entertaining. It is a level four reader which, according to the publisher, means: challenging vocabulary, short paragraphs, exciting stories.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Seuss on Saturday #44

The Tooth Book. Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Joe Mathieu. 1981. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Who has teeth? Well...look around and you'll find out who.

Premise/plot: Readers learn a few things about teeth. Most of the facts that you'd expect are towards the end of the book. (Having two sets of teeth, taking care of your teeth, going to the dentist, etc.) The first half is just pure silliness.

My thoughts: I didn't expect much, and I didn't get much. It lived up to my expectations perfectly.

Have you read The Tooth Book?  Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Hunches in Bunches. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. All I Want For Christmas Is You (2015)

All I Want For Christmas Is You. Mariah Carey. Illustrated by Colleen Madden. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I don't want a lot for Christmas. There is just one thing I need.

Premise/plot: Using the lyrics of Mariah Carey's Christmas song, "All I Want For Christmas is You," a holiday-themed love story is told to readers. The love story is between a little girl and a puppy. For it is a PUPPY that she's dreaming of this holiday season.

My thoughts: The illustrations are by Colleen Madden. In my opinion, the illustrations do most of the work of telling the story. Chances are--adults and children alike--are already familiar, very familiar, with the lyrics of the song. The interest comes from the story told by the illustrations. How do the illustrations convey emotion and story? And how well do they do that?

I enjoyed the illustrations. I did. I liked following the little girl throughout the holiday season. Readers see her in all her festive activities: shopping, crafting, baking, playing in the snow, skating, singing, visiting friends and family, etc. One of my favorite spreads shows that while all the other children are making snowmen, she's making a dog out of snow. He has pine cone ears. And he's just adorable.

Text: 4.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Seuss on Saturday #47

You're Only Old Once! Dr. Seuss. 1986. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence: One day you will read in the National Geographic of a faraway land with no smelly bad traffic.

Premise/plot: An old man is "stuck" worrying at the doctor's office--or hospital--as various tests and procedures are done for his check up.

My thoughts: You're Only Old Once is definitely a picture book for older readers. Perhaps mainly adult readers. It is clever, in places, and overall I think it's a book worth reading. One example of the cleverness is the eye test or the "eyesight and solvency test" which reads:
HAVE YOU ANY IDEA
HOW MUCH MONEY
THESE TESTS ARE
COSTING
YOU?
Here's another favorite part:
Dietician Von Eiffel controls the Wuff-Whiffer, our Diet-Devising Computerized Sniffer, on which you just simply lie down in repose and sniff at good food as it goes past your nose....And when that guy finds out what you like, you can bet it won't be on your diet. From here on, forget it!
Have you read You're Only Old Once! Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is I Am Not Going To Get Up Today. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. The Only Child

The Only Child. Guojing. 2015. Random House. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the author's note: The story in this book is fantasy, but it reflects the very real feelings of isolation and loneliness I experienced growing up in the 1980s under the one-child policy in China.

Premise/plot: This is a wordless picture book. I'm tempted to call this one a picture book for older readers. Though I'm not sure that's entirely fair to the book. It may depend more on your child's attention span and interests. The art is without a doubt captivating and beautiful. The premise is simple: a young girl's loneliness ultimately leads to her getting lost. At some point, reality blends with fantasy. Where is that point exactly??? I'm not sure I can answer that!

My thoughts: Loved, loved, loved the art. It does a great job in conveying emotion, for the most part. I tend to struggle with finding the story in wordless picture books at times. The more complex a book is, the more I struggle. Ultimately I found The Only Child to be worth the effort it took to find and follow the story. But that being said, I'm not sure I fully got every page of the story. Still it's easy to recommend for the art alone.

Text 0 out of 0
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 5

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker. Retold by Stephanie Spinner. Illustrated by Peter Malone. 2008. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was Christmas Eve, Marie's favorite night of the year. She was so excited that she did a pirouette on her way to the drawing room, where she joined her brother, Fritz, at the big double doors.

My thoughts: I love, love, love the music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. I do. I listen to it frequently--all throughout the year. Why limit the music itself to just one time of year?! That being said, I like the ballet. I've only seen it performed once or perhaps twice. Though there are plenty of movie adaptations of it as well. Perhaps I should try to watch some of these. (Do you have a favorite? a least favorite?)

Stephanie Spinner's picture book retells the story of the ballet for young readers. It is not a retelling of the original Nutcracker story. Which I think is probably for the best! Since most people, I imagine, are more familiar with the ballet than with the original work by E.T.A. Hoffmann. (Hoffmann's work reads more like Alice in Wonderland.)

The illustrations. There were a few spreads that I just loved, loved, loved. But for the most part, I tended to "like" more than "love" the illustrations.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Seuss on Saturday #33

Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? Dr. Seuss. 1973. Random House. 47 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:  When I was quite young and quite small for my size, I met an old man in the Desert of Drize. And he sang me a song I will never forget. At least, well, I haven't forgotten it yet.

Premise/plot: The narrator shares with readers what an old man shared with him when he was a boy feeling down. Essentially: no matter who you are, no matter what your problem, there is always, always someone who has it worse than you do. Someone can always be found who is  'unluckier' than you. This is of course written all in rhyme.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I've never read it before. But I definitely liked it. Here are a few of my favorite bits:
And poor Mr. Potter,
T-crosser,
I-dotter.
He has to cross t's
and he has to dot i's
in an I-and-T factory
out in Van Nuys!
And suppose that you lived in that forest in France,
where the average young person just hasn't a chance
to escape from the perilous pants-eating-plants!
But your pants are safe! You're a fortunate guy.
And you ought to be shouting," How lucky am I!"
Have you read Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!


If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is The Shape of Me and Other Stories

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Seuss on Saturday: #34

The Shape of Me And Other Stuff. Dr. Seuss. 1973. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
You know...
It makes a fellow think.
The shape of you
the shape of me
the shape
of everything I see...

Premise/plot: The Shape of Me and Other Stuff is a "bright and early book" for "beginning beginners." It's a simple book about the shapes of...all sorts of stuff. Somewhat random, but, perfect rhythm and rhyme.

My thoughts: Not much of a story, but, pleasant enough overall. I like the illustration style. 

Have you read The Shape of Me and Other Stuff? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is There's A Wocket In My Pocket. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Seventh Most Important Thing

Seventh Most Important Thing. Shelley Pearsall. 2015. Random House. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall is loosely based on a true story. One of the characters in the novel was an actual person, an artist named James Hampton. An author's note tells more of his story. I do wish I'd known this at the start; that is one reason I'm beginning my review with this 'essential' information.

Arthur T. Owens is the hero of The Seventh Most Important Thing; the book is a coming-of-age story set in 1963. Arthur has not been having an easy time of it, life has not been the same for him since his father died. And one day he loses it. He sees "the junk man" walking down the street pushing his cart full of junk, and the man is wearing his father's hat. He picks up a brick, takes aim, and hits him. Fortunately, it hits him on the arm and not in the head. James Hampton is "the junk man" and he urges the court to show Arthur mercy, and sentence him to community service. His community service will be working for "the junk man." Arthur has a list of SEVEN items to collect each Saturday. And the list is the same week to week. To collect these items, he'll need to walk the streets and neighborhoods picking up trash and even going through people's trash. It won't be easy for him, especially at first, to lower himself like that. But this process changes him for the better. And there comes a time when readers learn alongside Arthur just what "the junk man" does with his junk. And the reveal is worth it, in my opinion.

The Seventh Most Important Thing is definitely character-driven and not plot-driven. It's a reflective novel. The focus is on Arthur, on his family, on his new friendships and relationships, on the meaning of life. I liked the characters very much. The story definitely worked for me.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Whittington

Whittington. Alan Armstrong. 2005. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Alan Armstrong's Whittington. This book celebrates two of my favorite things: storytelling and cats. The framework of the story really worked for me. The modern day story is of a cat, Whittington, and his friends living in a barn. The book tells of his arrival at the barn, his meeting of the other animals, their hesitant acceptance of him. Soon Whittington proves his worth. One reason why may be he is great at storytelling. He tells the story of Dick Whittington and His Cat to the others. So readers are treated to TWO equally delightful stories. The book also features a few children, a brother and sister, the young boy is having trouble learning to read. The book explores the concept of the Reading Recovery program.

I liked this one very much. I liked all of the stories. I liked the characters--human and animal. It was just a satisfying way to spend an afternoon.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. What Pet Should I Get?

It's been awhile since I last posted. What can I say? The summer got away from me. It didn't help that we moved house in July. Almost two months later, we're finally settled. So, it's fitting to start posting again with a review of the latest book from Dr. Seuss.

Latest book, you say? Yes. The manuscript, mostly likely from the late 1950s or early 1960s, was completed with the help of Random House art director Cathy Goldsmith and published in August of this year. Starring the brother and sister team from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, this work is most likely an early version of that book. But a new Seuss story is still cause to rejoice, and What Pet Should I Get? has all the Doctor's signature bells and whistles.

The narrator and his sister have an opportunity most kids would give their eyeteeth for: Their father has allowed them to get any pet they want. (We know we are in Seussland since neither parent accompanies their offspring to the pet store!) However, with this privilege comes a dilemma. Of all the animals that fill the store, which one should they choose? A dog, a cat, a bird, a rabbit, a fish? The possibilities are endless. As the narrator says: "Oh, boy! It is something to make a mind up."  He goes on to imagine the fantastical creatures that are out there. But at some point reality reins him in and he realizes: "If we do not choose, we will end up with NONE."

So they choose.

The ending is an ambiguously modern one and confirms Seuss as the mischief maker he was.

The book contains a postscript from the publisher describing the genesis of the book as well as a homage to Seuss the dog lover. All in all, What Pet Should I Get? is one for the Seuss canon.

What Pet Should I Get?
By Dr. Seuss
Random House  48 pages
Published: August 2015


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24. Pizza Pat

Pizza Pat. Rita Golden Gelman. Illustrated by Will Terry. (A Bright & Early Book) 1999. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

This is Pat.
This is the tray that Pat bought.
This is the dough, all stretchy and floppy,
that lay in the tray that Pat bought.
This is the sauce, all gooey and gloppy,
that covered the dough, all stretchy and floppy,
that lay in the tray that Pat bought.

Premise: Pat's making pizza! Pat looks like he loves pizza. Loves to make it, and loves to eat it. But will Pat get to eat THIS oh-so-yummy pizza? You'll just to have to read this one to see for yourself.

My thoughts: I loved it. I'm not sure I loved, loved, loved it. But I loved it a LOT more than I ever imagined possible. Why? Well, I'm not the biggest fan of The House That Jack Built. I'm just not. But this pizza-themed story, well, it was just FUN.

This one would pair well, in my opinion, with More Spaghetti, I Say! which also happens to be by Rita Golden Gelman.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans. Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder. 2015. Random House. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans is just good fun. It is. It is probably more for younger readers than older readers--think elementary school instead of high school. But I think this charming book could prove delightful to readers of all ages. Especially if used for a family read-aloud where a book needs to be both family friendly and entertaining--packed with interesting characters and/or action-packed.

The narrator is a dragon, Miss Drake, and she's a dragon in mourning. She's lost her pet, "Fluffy" (aka Great-Aunt Amelia). Fluffy's niece (great-niece actually) shows up to "claim" Miss Drake as HER pet saying that her aunt "left" her to her in her will. She's NOT happy about this turn of events. She's not quite ready for another pet, training a new human could prove quite trying and tedious, and more than the work itself, is she ready emotionally for a new human in her life? One human just can't replace another, right? But Winnie, the niece, seems quite persistent and strong-willed. Perhaps as strong-willed as Miss Drake herself.

Winnie and Miss Drake have quite an ADVENTURE together. And the book is very satisfying. I really enjoyed it very much.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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