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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Random House, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Review of the Day: Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

fivechildrenwesternFive Children on the Western Front
By Kate Saunders
Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House)
$16.99
ISBN: 978-0-553-49793-9
Ages 9-12
On shelves now

Anytime someone writes a new prequel or sequel to an old children’s literary classic, the first question you have to ask is, “Was this necessary?” And nine times out of ten, the answer is a resounding no. No, we need no further adventures in the 100-Acre Woods. No, there’s very little reason to speculate on precisely what happened to Anne before she got to Green Gables. But once in a while an author gets it right. If they’re good they’ll offer food for thought, as when Jacqueline Kelly wrote, Return to the Willows (the sequel to The Wind in the Willows) and Geraldine McCaughrean wrote Peter Pan in Scarlet. And if they’re particularly talented, then they’ll do the series one better. They’ll go and make it smart and pertinent and real and wonderful. They may even improve upon the original. The idea that someone would write a sequel to Five Children and It (and to a lesser extent The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Story of the Amulet) is well-nigh short of ridiculous. I mean, you could do it, sure, but why? What’s the point? Well, as author Kate Saunders says of Nesbit’s classic, “Bookish nerd that I was, it didn’t take me long to work out that two of E. Nesbit’s fictional boys were of exactly the right ages to end up being killed in the trenches…” The trenches of WWI, that is. Suddenly we’ve an author who dares to meld the light-hearted fantasy of Nesbit’s classic with the sheer gut-wrenching horror of The War to End All Wars. The crazy thing is, she not only pulls it off but she creates a great novel in the process. One that deserves to be shelved alongside Nesbit’s original for all time.

Once upon a time, five children found a Psammead, or sand fairy, in their back garden. Nine years later, he came back. A lot has happened since this magical, and incredibly grumpy, friend was in the children’s lives. The world stands poised on the brink of WWI. The older children (Cyril, Anthea, Robert, and Jane) have all become teenagers, while the younger kids (Lamb and newcomer Polly) are the perfect age to better get to know the old creature’s heart. As turns out, he has none, or very little to speak of. Long ago, in ancient times, he was worshipped as a god. Now the chickens have come home to roost and he must repent for his past sins or find himself stuck in a world without his magic anymore. And the children? No magic will save them from what’s about to come.

A sequel to a book published more than a hundred years ago is a bit more of a challenge than writing one published, say, fifty. The language is archaic, the ideas outdated, and then there’s the whole racism problem. But even worse is the fact that often you’ll find character development in classic titles isn’t what it is today. On the one hand that can be freeing. The author is allowed to read into someone else’s characters and present them with the necessary complexity they weren’t originally allowed. But it can hem you in as well. These aren’t really your characters, after all. Clever then of Ms. Saunders to age the Lamb and give him a younger sister. The older children are all adolescents or young adults and, by sheer necessity, dull by dint of age. Even so, Saunders does a good job of fleshing them out enough that you begin to get a little sick in the stomach wondering who will live and who will die.

This naturally begs the question of whether or not you would have to read Five Children and It to enjoy this book. I think I did read it a long time ago but all I could really recall was that there were a bunch of kids, the Psammead granted wishes, the book helped inspire the work of Edgar Eager, and the youngest child was called “The Lamb”. Saunders tries to play the book both ways then. She puts in enough details from the previous books in the series to gratify the Nesbit fans of the world (few though they might be) while also catching the reader up on everything that came before in a bright, brisk manner. You do read the book feeling like not knowing Five Children and It is a big gaping gap in your knowledge, but that feeling passes as you get deeper and deeper into the book.

One particular element that Ms. Saunders struggles with the most is the character of the Psammead. To take any magical creature from a 1902 classic and to give him hopes and fears and motivations above and beyond that of a mere literary device is a bit of a risk. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve not read “Five Children and It” in a number of years so I can’t recall if the Psammead was always a deposed god from ancient times or if that was entirely a product from the brain of Ms. Saunders. Interestingly, the author makes a very strong attempt at equating the atrocities of the Psammead’s past (which are always told in retrospect and are never seen firsthand) with the atrocities being committed as part of the war. For example, at one point the Psammead is taken to the future to speak at length with the deposed Kaiser, and the two find they have a lot in common. It is probably the sole element of the book that didn’t quite work for me then. Some of the Psammead’s past acts are quite horrific, and he seems pretty adamantly disinclined to indulge in any serious self-examination. Therefore his conversion at the end of the book didn’t feel quite earned. It’s foolish to wish a 250 page children’s novel to be longer, but I believe just one additional chapter or two could have gone a long way towards making the sand fairy’s change of heart more realistic. Or, at the very least, comprehensible.

When Ms. Saunders figured out the Cyril and Robert were bound for the trenches, she had a heavy task set before her. On the one hand, she was obligated to write with very much the same light-hearted tone of the original series. On the other hand, the looming shadow of WWI couldn’t be downplayed. The solution was to experience the war in much the same way as the characters. They joke about how short their time in the battle will be, and then as the book goes along the darkness creeps into everyday life. One of the best moments, however, comes right at the beginning. The children, young in the previous book, take a trip from 1905 to 1930, visit with their friend the professor, and return back to their current year. Anthea then makes an off-handed comment that when she looked at the photos on the wall she saw plenty of ladies who looked like young versions of their mother but she couldn’t find the boys. It simply says after that, “Far away in 1930, in his empty room, the old professor was crying.”

So do kids need to have read Five Children and It to enjoy this book? I don’t think so, honestly. Saunders recaps the originals pretty well, and I can’t help but have high hopes for the fact that it may even encourage some kids to seek out the originals. I do meet kids from time to time that are on the lookout for historical fantasies, and this certainly fits the bill. Ditto kids with an interest in WWI and (though this will be less common as the years go by) kids who love Downton Abbey. It would be remarkably good for them. Confronting issues of class, disillusion, meaningless war, and empathy, the book transcends its source material and is all the better for it. A beautiful little risk that paid off swimmingly in the end. Make an effort to seek it out.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

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2. Full of Beans

Full of Beans. Jennifer L. Holm. 2016. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Look here, Mac. I'm gonna give it to you straight: grown-ups lie. Sure, they like to say that kids make things up and that we don't tell the truth. But they're the lying liars.

Premise/plot: Full of Beans is the prequel to Jennifer L. Holm's Turtle in Paradise. Both books are set in Key West, Florida. Full of Beans is set in 1934, and Turtle in Paradise is set in 1935. Bean, a character first introduced in Turtle in Paradise, narrates the book. And WHAT A CHARACTER Holm has given us!!! I wish Bean starred in a dozen books! That is how much I love and adore him.

So what is it about? It's the Great Depression and Bean and his family--the whole community, the whole nation--is in need. Bean does what he can to help his family out while his Dad is off crossing the country looking for any job he can get. But it isn't until the end of the book that Bean's inspiration pays off. Until then, he too is prone to trying anything and everything to bring home what nickels and dimes he can.

Bean has two brothers: Kermit and Buddy. He has a very hard-working mother and a MEANIE of a grandmother.

The book opens with Bean trying to determine if the government's visitor to Key West is good news or bad news....

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I'm not sure the plot is wow-worthy on its own. But. Because it's BEAN I was engaged start to finish. The characters make this novel well worth reading. Even if you don't love, love, love historical fiction.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Home Sweet Motel

Home Sweet Motel (Welcome to Wonderland #1). Chris Granbenstein. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Like I told my friends at school, living in a motel is always exciting--especially during an alligator attack.

Premise/plot: P.T. Wilkie loves the attention that storytelling brings him. The wilder, the crazier, the better--in his opinion. Some of the adults in his life--namely his teachers--have little tolerance for P.T.'s obvious lies. But P.T. may come by all of it--his love of stories, his wacky sense of humor--honestly. He's just like his grandpa in many, many ways. Essentially, the whole book chronicles one family's fight to keep their motel from closing. They have ONE month and only one month to raise $100,000 to pay back the bank.

My thoughts: The plot is over-the-top ridiculous. There is not one believable thing that happens in this one from start to finish. The characters? Well they fit right in with the plot. I didn't believe in them for a minute. That being said, though I spent the first half of the book rolling my eyes and predicting exactly how it would all end, I spent the second half going with the flow and almost, almost enjoying it. I think it depends on what you value in a book. There is very little--if anything--real about this book. It's no window into anyone's soul. But there is a lot that is comical in an elementary way. And with hundreds of SAD books being published and pushed on this audience, you almost have to like a book that doesn't even try to be remotely SERIOUS.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Pretty Minnie in Hollywood

Pretty Minnie in Hollywood. Danielle Steel. Illustrated by Kristi Valiant. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Minnie is a white, long-haired, teacup-size Chihuahua.

Premise/plot: Minnie and her owner live in Paris, France. Francoise (the child owner) and Minnie travel with the Mom to Hollywood to hand deliver a beautiful, glamorous dress to an actress for a movie. Most of the 'plot' of this one focuses on the trip there and back. While in Hollywood, Minnie gets her big break and stars in a movie of her own.

My thoughts: Could the cover of this book possibly have even more glitter? I didn't think so. The plot is what it is. It isn't horribly creative or clever or new or unique or compelling. More frivolous and predictable and obnoxious in a cutie-sweetie-pie way. Now, if the book had been a super-sweet story about a cat instead of a dog, would I feel differently? Maybe. But I don't see a cat dressing up and following directions. That would have been a whole different story. Several pages might have even been spent on trying to get the cat into traveling bag.

I was unimpressed with the writing of this one. But what slightly saves it are the illustrations.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. 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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6. 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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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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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15. 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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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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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19. 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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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. 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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24. 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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25. 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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