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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Random House, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 897
1. 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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2. 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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3. 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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4. 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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5. Pizza Pat

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. What Pet Should I Get?

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

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

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

So they choose.

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

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

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

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7. Perfect Picture Book Friday SPECIAL EDITION! - There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight!

Hi Everyone!

I know.

I said Perfect Picture Book Friday was on hiatus until September.

And it is.


It's just that I had to interrupt the hiatus today to shout a fabulous new book from the rooftops and make sure you all knew about it in time to preorder!

It's not every day that someone you know - someone whose writing you've watched blossom and grow - releases a debut picture book, so when that happens it is truly cause for celebration!  In this case, that someone is a talented writer and poet, an entertaining blogger, always willing to jump in and help with any hair-brained schemes I happen to be cooking up :), and an all around fun person who I'm privileged to call a friend. . . the lovely and delightful Penny Klostermann!!!

Sit back and get ready to enjoy her splendiferous, tons-of-fun debut picture book: There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight!

Title: There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight
Written By: Penny Klostermann
Illustrated By: Ben Mantle
Random House, August 2015, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: retelling of classic tale, humor, greed

Opening: "There was an old dragon who swallowed a knight.  I don't know why he swallowed the knight.  It's not polite!"

Brief Synopsis: For some unknown reason (maybe he was hungry?! :)) a dragon swallows a knight... but apparently that doesn't quite do the trick, because after the knight he proceeds to swallow half the kingdom!  Eventually, though, the dragon has had ENOUGH!

Links To Resourcesactivity guides on Penny's website; make up your own "There Was An Old ____ Who Swallowed A _____" story!

Why I Like This Book:  Is there anything NOT to like??? :)  This is a wacky, fun, rollicking story that takes advantage of the familiar format of There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly while making the whole concept completely new and fresh.  The dragon is delightfully grumpy when he hollers, "I've had enough of this swallowing stuff!", and I dare any kid not to laugh when the dragon burps everything back out.  Well... almost everything :)  (You'll have to read the story to find out how it ends :))  The art is absolutely perfect!  Bright, engaging, and full of humorous details that are just right for the story - an author/illustrator match made in heaven.  There is so much to like in this book that it's hard to pick favorite things, but I am especially partial to the steed who, once he enters the story, goes clippity clippity clippity clop! on every page - so much fun to read :)  Race out and pre-order your copy today, and/or make sure your local library plans to carry it!!!

Penny Parker Klostermann is the author of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight. She loves all kinds of books, but especially loves very silly picture books that make her laugh. She has been known to hug her favorite picture books and seriously hopes that someday her books will gain huggable status too. Penny lives in Abilene, TX. Find out more about Penny on her website-https://www.pennyklostermann.com.

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF bloggers please be sure to leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!!! :)

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8. Fat Cat

Fat Cat. Robin Brande. 2009. Random House. 330 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed rereading Robin Brande's Fat Cat. I did. In some ways, it was just as good as I remembered. For example, the romance between Cat and Matt. I remembered this one had romance in it, and, it was giddy-making. And I do still love Matt. So what do I like about Fat Cat?

Well, I liked that Cat is fully developed. She loves science. She loves cooking. She loves swimming. She always makes time for her friends. She's a good daughter, and a great big sister. She is a work in progress, she's constantly learning and growing and becoming. She felt like a real person.

I liked that this novel about weight--about losing weight--isn't a "problem" novel. I like that never once do we get numbers. Readers have no clue what Cat's start weight was. Readers have no idea how many pounds she's lost at any given time. We have no end weight either. Readers watch Cat step on the scales, now and then, but never once do we get her private information. I think, perhaps, this makes it easier for readers to relate to Cat. Yes, I was curious at times. Mainly because it's so tempting to want to compare. But I think it's best we don't know.

I liked that one of the messages of the book is stressing the importance of knowledge and awareness. For example, knowing where your food comes from, and, what it may contain. The book does come across as taking a stand against some foods--meat, for example--but it does this relatively fairly. (For the record, I can't remember the book questioning vegetables, how they're grown, if they've been treated with various chemicals, how they've been modified, etc. And it would have been nice to have some balance, perhaps. Not to mention wheat and grains. Part of me wishes Cat had gone gluten-free.) I do think knowledge/awareness is critical and essential when it comes to changing your life and making big and small decisions. This book obviously can't give readers ALL the information out there about what to eat and how to be healthy. That would be silly to think it could. But it might possibly inspire readers to ask their own questions and start seeking answers.

So overall, I liked it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Mom School (2015)

Mom School. Rebecca Van Slyke. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: When I go to school, I learn how to cut and glue paper, count to 100, and sing silly songs. My mom says she went to school, too. I think she went to Mom School.

Premise/plot: A little girl is convinced that her Mom went to Mom School to learn how to be the BEST BEST mom in the whole world. She imagines all the things her Mom might have learned at Mom School. Things such as:
  • learning how to go grocery shopping without losing any kids
  • learning how to pitch a ball slowly so a kid can actually hit it
  • learning how to go on scary rides
  • learning how to talk on the phone and do hair at the same time
  • learning how to cook and listen to silly made-up songs at the same time
  • learning how to make forts out of couch cushions
And that's just a small sampling of one little girl's imagination.

My thoughts: This one was super-sweet and adorable. Predictably so, yes. But it's irresistibly charming in some ways. If you're looking for a sweet mom-and-daughter read that celebrates family life. I really love the little girl's pigtails. I do.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Seuss on Saturday #31

Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The time has come. The time has come. The time is now. Just go. Go. GO! I don't care how. You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!

Premise/plot: The narrator REALLY, REALLY, wants Marvin K. Mooney to GO. But will Marvin K. Mooney be so obliging?

My thoughts: I liked it. It is definitely one of the catchier Seuss books. (Though not as fun or as silly as say Fox in Socks or Green Eggs and Ham. Still. There's something pleasant about it.) It's just FUN to say phrases like "You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!" It just is.

Have you read Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! 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 In A People House. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Seuss on Saturday #32

In A People House. Dr. Seuss. (Theo LeSieg) Illustrated by Roy McKie. 1972. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Come inside, Mr. Bird," said the mouse. "I'll show you what there is in a People House...A People House has things like...chairs things like roller skates and stairs.

Premise/plot: Is there a plot? Perhaps a slight one. A mouse is showing a bird around a people house. Each page is filled with words of things in a people house. But there isn't exactly a compelling story. It seems a random waste, in my opinion.
My thoughts: Not a favorite. I didn't really like it at all. True, it's silly, especially at the end. True, it rhymes. But it doesn't seem as good as it should be if it's Seuss.

Have you read In A People House? 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 Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are.  

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Double Play

Double Play: Monkeying Around With Addition. Betsy Franco. Illustrated by Doug Cushman. 2011. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Br-iiing, the bell for recess time! The kids can gallop, race, and climb. Jill and Jake line up in twos. They peek outside. What will they choose? 1 friend + 1 friend = 2 friends

Premise/plot: Jill and Jake are two monkeys who love recess time. Readers are introduced to ten addition facts worked into the story in rhyme. The story is all about playing at recess time, playing with your friends, enjoying life. Here are some of the addition facts:
  • 2 knees + 2 knees = 4 knees
  • 3 kids + 3 kids = 6 kids
  • 7 bubbles + 7 bubbles = 14 bubbles
  • 9 players + 9 players = 18 players
The addition facts go up to twenty.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't love, love, love it. But it was an enjoyable concept book. I liked the rhyme, for the most part, I didn't find it super-annoying. (That can happen sometimes, unfortunately. Not every book needs to try to be Dr. Seuss.) Anyone looking for a math-themed picture book to share with children, should consider this as an option.

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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13. Missing in Action

Missing in Action. Dean Hughes. 2010/2015. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I definitely enjoyed reading Dean Hughes' Missing in Action. I think anyone who enjoys stories set during World War II or anyone who enjoys baseball stories will be able to appreciate this coming-of-age story.

Jay Thacker has recently moved from Salt Lake City to Delta, Utah. Jay and his mom are staying with his grandparents--his maternal grandparents. It is a bit of an adjustment for him--not that his life was perfect before--but starting over isn't always easy no matter one's past. Jay's father--who was half-Navajo--is a soldier currently listed as "missing in action." Jay is confused by this. Is his dad alive or dead? Is he a prisoner of war? Should he feel guilty if he starts moving on in his life? of thinking of his father as dead? how long should he cling to hope that he's alive? He doesn't want his dad to be dead, but, he's been missing-in-action for two or three years--a LONG time not to have heard. Still. There's always a chance that he is still alive...and Jay isn't one to rule that out. (Is his mom?)

So. Jay is new in town, and, he starts playing baseball with the other kids--the other boys. He loves playing with the others, he does, but, he doesn't like that he's called "Chief" because he's Indian. He feels that there is some stigma attached to being Indian, and, he doesn't want to 'be' anything...other than himself. Are these friendships real?

Complicating things in a wonderful way, Jay begins working with Ken, a Japanese-American teen, one of many being held at an Internment Camp in the desert. If his Dad happens to be alive, chances are, he is in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Wouldn't be friendly with Ken be a betrayal to his Dad? Then again, Ken isn't like Jay thought he "ought" to be. Ken is great at baseball, great at dancing, and so very American. Ken is easily one of the best characters in the novel. It's hard not to love him. Jay learns a lot about friendship from his time working side-by-side with Ken on his grandfather's farm.

Missing in Action is a great coming-of-age story focusing on identity and friendship. It's easy to recommend this one.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Railroad Hank

Railroad Hank. Lisa Moser. Illustrated by Benji Davies. 2012. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:  Railroad Hank and his fine little train rolled down the track. Chugga Chugga, Chugga Chugga, Woo Woo Woo!! Railroad Hank stopped at Happy Flap Farm to talk to Missy May. "I'm headed up the mountain to see Granny Bett," said Railroad Hank. "She's feeling kind of blue." 

Premise/Plot: Railroad Hank is on a mission to cheer up Granny Bett. But, he's a bit clueless how to go about it. He's more than willing to listen to some good advice from the people he meets as his train rolls along. But is he really understanding their advice?! Not really. For example, Missy May advises him to take some eggs to Granny Bets because "scrambley eggs" always makes her feel better. So Railroad Hank takes some of the CHICKENS from Happy Flap Farm. By the time he's made it to Granny Bett's place, well, it's been quite a TRIP.

My thoughts: This one was very funny in a cutesy, country way. It is a bit over-the-top, I admit. After the initial advice, readers--adults and children--can probably predict how the rest of the trip is going to go. Which is a good thing in many ways. By the end, it had charmed me more than I thought it would have. Still it's probably not for every reader. But no book is after all!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Seuss on Saturday #33

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Seuss on Saturday: #34

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. Seventh Most Important Thing

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Whittington

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Hilo - The Boy Who Crashed to Earth, by Judd Winick

There are never enough graphic novels for kids.  This is a simple truth. When I look to our circulation at school, out of the top 50 circulating titles during the school year 44 were graphic novels.  88%!  So I was pretty delighted when my colleague Karyn told me there was a graphic novel for kids I needed to check out.  I finally got my hands on the arc and sat down to give it a go.

DJ is just an average kid in the middle of an above average family.  The one thing he was really good at was being a good friend to Gina, but Gina moved away 3 years ago.

DJ is sitting on the roof of his club house when he sees something crash out of the sky.  Imagine his surprise when a blond boy in silver undies climbs out of the newly formed crater in the earth.  This kid has a lot of energy and even more questions since his "memory is a busted book" and he's not quite sure where he's from or what he's doing on earth.  DJ takes Hilo in without much of a plan, and quickly finds himself with his hands full.

DJ is surprised when Gina ends up back in town, and notices that she's changed quite a bit in the 3 years she's been out of Berke County which makes DJ notice that he hasn't really changed. At all.

As Hilo's past is revealed to him in his dreams bit by bit, it soon becomes apparent that danger is on the way.  And now maybe DJ will realize he's not so ordinary after all.

This outstanding graphic novel needs to be purchased in multiples.  Winick has created lovable, funny and real characters that readers will laugh with and cheer for.  The movement in the art is reminiscent of both Watterson and Gownley and I defy anyone to read Hilo without feeling moments of joy.  While reviewers have pegged this as a 9-12 title, I'm saying all ages.  I know we will have kids from 6 to 14 eager to check this one out.

I heart Hilo.

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20. Jack (2015)

Jack. Liesl Shurtliff. 2015. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I really enjoyed Liesl Shurtliff's Rump. I enjoyed this one as well, but, perhaps a tiny bit less. Still, it's easy to recommend both books to fans of fairy tale adaptations.

Jack is the hero. He's grown up hearing stories of his ancestor Jack who fought giants. But he's not truly expecting an adventure of his own. After all, giants aren't stomping around making threats as far as he can tell. At least until they are. When it rains dirt, watch out! For Jack's life has just become more dangerous and exciting. Giants have suddenly become a BIG, BIG problem. They are coming down from the sky, stealing crops, stealing buildings, stealing people. Jack's Dad is one of the taken. Jack is determined to go off and find his father, to perhaps 'save the day' as well. He plants magic beans, and his adventure begins...

I liked meeting Jack, and his younger sister, Annabella. I liked his adventures in the land of the giants. He meets other "elves" (humans). He meets a few giants. Some giants are nice, such as Martha, the cook. But not all giants are nice. One is HORRIBLE. He is the king, of course, King Barf (or King Bartholomew). And then there are the pixies!

As for the plot, it was really well done: lots of action and adventure. He's always doing something or going somewhere. There's never a slow moment. I also think there's a good bit of world development. It's just a fun read.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. The Cottage in the Woods (2015)

The Cottage in the Woods. Katherine Coville. 2015. Random House. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

The Cottage in the Woods, they called it. Later on that became the gatekeeper's lodge, yet they had been so happy there that they kept the name for their grand new manor house. Mr. Vaughn couldn't have been any prouder if he had built that place with his own two paws. It was his vision, his will behind it all, as if he'd wrestled it from rock and timber himself. It was no cottage either. The very thought is laughable. 

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Katherine Coville's The Cottage in the Woods. It was giddy-making.

So, you may think you know the story of the Three Bears. But do you know the true story of The Three Bears? How would you like to learn the true story from someone who witnessed it all: the governess of Master Teddy (baby bear). Her name is Ursula. and The Cottage in the Woods is her story.

Ursula is a recent graduate from Miss Pinchkin's Academy for Young Ladies. Her first job is as a governess for the upper-class Vaughn family. For the most part, she finds the family welcoming--or welcoming enough as is proper their station and hers. Her first impression of Master Teddy is pleasant enough. But her first impression of Master Teddy's Nurse?! Well, she feels disturbed and threatened from the start. But first impressions can sometimes be deceiving, for example, her first impressions of MR. BENTLEY.

If you enjoy drama, mystery, and romance, then The Cottage in the Woods may be just right for you. It is a retelling of The Three Bears that reads like a classic Victorian novel. 

I loved the premise. I loved the writing--the storytelling. I loved the characterization and the dialogue. I loved everything about it!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Seuss on Saturday #25

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet. Dr. Seuss (Writing as Theo LeSieg) Illustrated by B. Tobey. 1965. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
I wish 
that I had duck feet.
And I can tell you why.
You can splash around in duck feet.
You don't have to keep them dry.

Premise/plot: A young boy imagines what it would be like to have duck feet, antlers, a whale spout, a tiger tail, and an elephant trunk. He imagines first WHY it would be GREAT. But the more he thinks it out, the more he comes to see the potential problems. Yes, duck feet and a whale spout would be great, but, would his mother like either one on her son?! NO! By the end, the boy concludes that it's great to be himself.

My thoughts: I really love this one. I have always loved this one. The storytelling is just fun. Though I didn't realize as a kid that Big Bill might just be a bully bothering the young hero.

Have you read I Wish That I Had Duck Feet? Did you like it? Did you 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 Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew.   

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. A Fine Dessert (2015)

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat. Emily Jenkins. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 2015. Random House. 44 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A bit more than three hundred years ago, in an English town called Lyme, a girl and a her mother picked wild blackberries. Their hands turned purple with the juice. The thorns of the berry bushes pricked the fabric of their long skirts.

Premise/plot: A Fine Dessert shows four families from four different time periods making the same delicious frozen treat: blackberry fool. The first family is a mother and daughter living in Lyme in 1710. The second family is a mother and daughter--both slaves--living in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1810. The third family is a mother and daughter living in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1910. The fourth family is a father and son living in San Diego, California, in 2010. The recipe hasn't really changed, but, HOW they get the ingredients and HOW they use them has. (For example, how whipped cream is made.)

My thoughts: I liked this one very much. It was very well written. The premise is interesting, but, if it wasn't written so beautifully, I'm not sure it would work. I liked the family aspects of this one. It was a very sweet book.

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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24. Seuss on Saturday #27

The Foot Book. Dr. Seuss. 1968. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Left foot
Left foot
Right foot
Feet in the morning
Feet at night
Left foot
Left foot
Left foot
Premise/plot: Does The Foot Book have an actual plot? Probably not. It's a rhyming celebration of all sorts of feet, I suppose.

My thoughts: Probably not my favorite Seuss title. Not that I actively dislike it, mind you. It's just not going to make my top thirty.

Have you read The Foot 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 I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today and Other Stories.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. The Truth According To Us (2015)

The Truth According to Us. Annie Barrows. 2015. Dial. 512 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm tempted to say that The Truth According To Us would have made a better book than a movie. Or perhaps just that I would have been more likely to appreciate the story as a movie than I did as a book. I found the book to be long, a little too long. And the characters? Well, while they all started out with the potential for me to actually care about them, ended up falling short. Of course, you may feel differently.

Here is what the story is about:

1) Willa Romeyn is a child who has decided to become observant of the adults in her world. She's determined to be a people-watcher and find out secrets big and small.

2) Jottie Romeyn is Willa's aunt and probably primary caretaker. She lives with her brother, Willa, and Bird (her other niece). She runs the town's boardinghouse. She has a tragic back-story that perhaps is supposed to be the big mystery of the entire novel? Regardless, there are so very many flashbacks from her point of view, specific recollections of conversations and events.

3) Layla Beck is the new boarder at Jottie's boardinghouse. She thinks she's all grown up and independent. And in a way, she is. But she has SO MUCH to learn. The book is perhaps weighed down--in my opinion--by all of Layla's correspondence. Letters from Layla to her family and friends, even her ex-boyfriend. Letters to Layla from the same. Her job, her first-ever job, is to write the town's history. (The town is Macedonia, West Virginia.) The history will be for the Federal Writers' Project. She spends most of her time falling in lust, I mean "love" with Willa's father. But also, of course, interviewing residents of the town.

4) There are other characters, of course, like Sol and Emmett that readers get to know. Sol was a childhood friend of Felix (Willa's Dad) and Jottie. (Also there is Vause.) These characters mainly connect with Jottie and Layla.

There were so many characters competing to be the narrator in this one. I didn't properly connect with Jottie, Layla, or Willa. If the story had been from one perspective, perhaps I could have made a good, strong connection. Willa's story could have been about the threat of her father remarrying and life changing and general coming-of-age angst. Or Jottie's story could have been about her troubles, her struggles, to raise her brother's children while living under his control and dominance. Her love/hate relationship with him. Or Layla's could have been about her new independence, her struggle to be as grown up as she wants to be perceived, her not knowing what she wants, her love life, etc. But because the book was just a taste of all of the above, I didn't really care.

I do think it would make a better movie however. I think seeing flashbacks is almost always better. I think SEEING Vause and Jottie in their youth would have made a big difference in my impression. Movies tend to be more concise as well. A great soundtrack would also help!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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