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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Random House, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 918
1. How To Be A Pirate

How to Be a Pirate. Sue Fliess. Illustrated by Nikki Dyson. 2014. Golden Books. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Ahoy, landlubber! Come with me. Board me ship upon the sea! Not a pirate? Don't know how? Ye can learn to be one now! Come in closer--I don't bite. A pirate ye shall be tonight!

Premise/plot: The title says it all, this book "teaches" how to be a pirate.

My thoughts: I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. I like the rhythm and the rhyme of it. It gets that part right at least!!! The plot is simple enough, and, in a way it's predictable enough. There is just something joyful and fun about this one.
Rules for pirates?
Let's just say...
ye can throw all the rules away!
No more toothpaste!
Farewell, bath!
once ye choose the pirate path.
Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig. Deborah Hopkinson. Illustrated by Charlotte Voake. 2016. Random House. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My dear reader, this is a story about a girl named Beatrix Potter and what happened when she borrowed her neighbor's guinea pig.

Premise/plot: As an adult, Beatrix Potter borrowed a guinea pig from one of her neighbors. She wanted, of course, to draw it. Unfortunately, it died while in her care. In this picture book, Beatrix Potter is a child when she borrows it. Instead of returning a live guinea pig, she "returns" a sketch, a drawing of it to the neighbor. The book concludes with the "fun" fact that one of Beatrix Potter's sketches--one of a guinea pig, possibly done around the same time as this story--recently sold at auction for a lot of money.

My thoughts: Is this a children's book, really?! I would make the distinction that this picture book is best shared with older readers, perhaps mid-to-upper elementary students. I don't think it would work for younger audiences. "Gather round, everybody, let's read a story about a guinea pig that dies!!!" I am fond of Beatrix Potter's own books. Some I love. Some I like. One or two genuinely puzzle me. The contents of this one would make a great author's note. When I was reading The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter, each story had a biographical sketch about when it was written, and what was going on in the author's life and such. This story would be great in a book like that. Or in a book for adults perhaps showcasing sketches, drawings, illustrations that never quite made it into a published book.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight

There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight. Penny Parker Klostermann. Illustrated by Ben Mantle. 2015. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: There was an old dragon who swallowed a knight. I don't know why he swallowed the knight. It's not polite! There was an old dragon who swallowed a steed that galloped around at a terrible speed. Oh, how the dragon wished it would stop, that clippity, clippity, clippity clop. He swallowed the steed right after the knight. I don't know why he swallowed the knight. It's not polite!

Premise/plot: A rendition of "There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly" starring a fire-breathing dragon...

My thoughts: For the record, I just have to say that I loathe "There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly." It is not a story or song that I particularly enjoy, and definitely not one that I like to see copied, adapted, parodied endlessly by other writers. But you might notice the five stars I gave it. Why? If I don't "like" the original, and if I usually don't like other renditions?! Because this one is fun, lively, and delightful. Half the book focuses on the 'old dragon' swallowing stuff--a knight, a steed, a squire, a cook, etc--and half the book focuses on the 'old dragon' burping all that stuff back up. Or does he?!

The text works--for me--because the rhythm and rhyme of it work. It is crucial for me to have it; it is that certain something that makes a book decidedly good. A picture book without a proper working of rhythm and rhyme, a natural flow--though not overly forced or it becomes embarrassingly unnatural and awkward--is just sad. A good picture book text should flow naturally enough that any one should be able to read it aloud easily and comfortably. Some books require a good amount of practice and experimentation and energetic effort to get the "reading aloud" just right.

The illustrations also work well for me. I love them. The illustrations were quite detailed and expressive. I loved the last spread.

Overall, I'd say this one was quite satisfying.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Wonder Woman at Super Hero High, by Lisa Yee

This super cutie book showed up in the post the other day, and I promptly snagged it to take it home. I constantly on the look-out for all things super hero, and when there is a girl power theme, I'm all for it.  Plus, Lisa Yee?  I'm all in.

Wonder Woman has lived on Paradise Island with her mother her whole life, and she has been happy there. But Wonder Woman actually goes behind Hippolyta's back and applies to Super Hero High. It's not that Wonder Woman wants to leave home and her mother, but she does want to spread her wings and figure out who she is.

Wonder Woman is ecstatic when she finds out she is accepted, and is even more thrilled when her mother lets her go.

The thing is, Wonder Woman hasn't exactly been around the block. Have you ever met someone who takes everything literally?  Well, that is Wonder Woman to a "t"!  When she is told to get a clue she goes looking for one! Imagine moving from Paradise Island to being roomies with vlog obsessed Harley Quinn?

Permeating the school are the regular high school cliquey concerns, but what is on the minds of everyone is the upcoming team selection for the elite Super Triathlon Team.  Whispers around the hallways say that Wonder Woman was recruited for this very task, and that she's a shoe in.  Wonder Woman is starting to believe it too, because someone is leaving her nasty notes encouraging her to leave the school.  Can Wonder Woman live up to her mother's standards while figuring out the ropes of high school?

Readers meet so many characters along the including Beast Boy, Bumblebee, Star Sapphire, Cheetah, Frost, Golden Glider, Katana, Green Lantern, Red Tornado, Crazy Quilt, Hawkgirl among others.  I was grateful for an internet search or two to figure out who is who.  Perhaps a back-matter listing of characters and attributes would be helpful.

Overall, this is a super fun start to a series that will fill a gap.  While the characters are over the top in a comic book way, their larger than life characteristics obviously fit the occasion.  Even though the books are branded as DC SuperHero Girls, boys will pick up these titles as well.  The pages are filled with plenty of action and drama, and I can't wait to see what comes next!




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5. Skinnybones

Skinnybones. Barbara Park. 1982/2016. 111 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Did I enjoy reading Barbara Park's Skinnybones, a middle grade novel originally published in 1982? Yes and no. First, as is obvious, I am not the target audience for this one. I am not in elementary school. I am not a boy. My sense of humor isn't that of a sixth grade boy. Also, I have absolutely no interest in baseball, or, in reading books about baseball. I didn't exactly want to like Alex Frankovitch, the hero nicknamed Skinnybones. But. At times I found myself liking him despite his obnoxious, attention-seeking ways.

Here are a few things you should know about Alex:

1) He has played little league for a good many years, but, he is horrible, absolutely horrible at baseball. I'm not sure *why* he keeps playing baseball when he's so bad at it. Perhaps he *likes* playing baseball, or, maybe he likes being part of a team. Perhaps his parents make him stay in baseball. Maybe he's afraid that by not playing baseball the other boys will think him strange, different, etc.

2) He loves, loves, loves attention. If he can focus the attention in on himself and make others laugh, then, he'll do it--no matter the situation. He can be very inappropriate, very loud, very annoying. The kids sometime laugh, usually laugh, his teachers and parents--hardly ever.

3) He hates one of his classmates and is in fierce competition with him. This is the focus of 90% of this book. The other kid, of course, is BRILLIANT at baseball.

I am glad there are books like Skinnybones being published--or republished. I am happy to recommend books like this to their target audience!
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. New Map ~ The Turn of the Tide

























It's always fun to get copies of a new book with a map I've worked on inside.
This is from THE TURN OF THE TIDE, by Rosanne Parry (Random House BYR, 2016).

Yay!

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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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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15. 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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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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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19. 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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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. 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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24. 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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25. 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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