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Reviews of books written for children aged 0 to 8. Board books, bath books, picture books, early readers, chapter books, etc.
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1. A Nest In Springtime

A Nest in Springtime: A Mandarin Chinese-English Bilingual Book of Numbers. Belle Yang. 2012. Candlewick Press. 24 pages.

Wild geese come to nest.
Busy, busy.
How many eggs?

A Nest in Springtime celebrates the arrival of spring. Two wild geese have arrived and they are preparing to hatch eight eggs. This one is a concept book--readers count from one to ten; eight goslings, the goose, the gander. But it is also a simple story just celebrating spring and nature. The art is very nice, very gentle.

For those ambitious enough who want to read the story aloud in Chinese, the book includes some help. The last page includes pinyin pronunciations for the Mandarin Chinese text.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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2. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, etc.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals, and Other Fatal Circumstances. Lenore Look. 2011. Random House. 198 pages.

Call me Alvin Ho. I was born scared and I am still scared. And this is my book of scary stories.

This is the fourth book in the Alvin Ho series for young readers. (These are illustrated chapter books for those just getting comfortable with reading novels.) The first three books in the series are: Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary ThingsAlvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters, and Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-Made Catastrophes.

In this Alvin Ho book, Alvin gets in a horrible, terrible predicament. The truth of the matter is that his grandfather's best friend, Charlie, has died. In a rare moment of bravery he volunteers to go with his grandfather to the funeral. Almost from that very second he regrets it. But his grandfather seems so genuinely touched, so very pleased at Alvin's response, that he is too scared to say he's scared. The next day, in another rare moment--on the bus, I believe--he blurts out that he's going to a funeral and going to see a dead body. He never once says who. At least not that I can recall. But everyone assumes that his grandfather has died. And they tell the teacher who tells the principal who tells just about every other person at the school. So in a matter of hours, everyone has come together for Alvin and wants to honor his grandfather. So much so that they want to have a memorial service at the school the next day. Poor, poor couldn't-speak-up-at-school-to-save-his-life Alvin, he finds himself unable to say hey wait, he's not dead!

So the novel is about that big misunderstanding...and about his fears of losing someone he loves--like his grandfather, like his father--to death.

I didn't really like this one. Not when comparing it with earlier books in the series. The third and fourth books in the series just haven't excited me. It's not even that this book is 'bad' or inappropriate. It's just that I'm not sure Alvin Ho is as charming as he used to be. To me.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers 

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3. Clementine and the Family Meeting

Clementine and the Family Meeting. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrations by Marla Frazee. 2011. Hyperion. 164 pages.

The very first thing Margaret said when she sat down next to me on the bus Monday was that I looked terrible.

The fifth Clementine novel may just be the best. (Or do I say that each time a new Clementine?!)  The first four novels in this wonderfully-delightful-must-read series are: Clementine (2006), The Talented Clementine (2007)Clementine's Letter (2008), Clementine, Friend of the Week (2010).

I love and adore Clementine. I do. I love her personality, love her narration, love her family, love her neighbors (Margaret and her older brother, Mitchell), love her friends, love her classmates, love her teachers, love her principal.

I love seeing Clementine with her family. I love seeing the interaction between family members. Her conversations with her mom, her conversations with her dad. And then there's Clementine's little brother. She calls him a different vegetable name every single time she refers to him. And most of the time, well, she thinks of him as a little bother. Someone not really worth having a relationship with. But things begin to change...perhaps a bit slowly...in this fifth novel. For she begins to see, perhaps just a bit, that her brother is a person. There's a very, very sweet scene--though not mushy by any means--where her brother chooses HER to read to him his bedtime story. Another favorite scene of mine shows Clementine with her Dad at Home Depot, I believe. She wants a tool belt exactly like his.

Anyway, Clementine and the Family Meeting is a novel about changes, about how it's okay to have conflicting feelings about changes. That changes can bring a mix of emotions and feelings. You might be scared, worried, happy, sad, or even mad. Changes might make you more confused than anything else. There's going to be a BIG, BIG, BIG change in July for the family. Clementine will be getting a new brother or sister. And how does Clementine feel about the situation? Well, you'll just have to read and see for yourself!!!

But Clementine isn't just worried about one not-so-little thing. Clementine wouldn't be Clementine if there weren't more going on in her life to distract her. She's also worried about her science project and her science partner. About the rat, Eighteen, which was her and Waylan's project. Eighteen escaped and can't be found anywhere....

So I definitely recommend this one. If you've read the first few in the series, you probably don't need me to convince you how great the books are. If you haven't met Clementine yet, you should seek her out. But start at the beginning. That would probably be best!!!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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4. Mary Poppins Comes Back

Mary Poppins Comes Back. P.L. Travers. 1935. Harcourt. 315 pages.

It was one of those mornings when everything looks very neat and bright and shiny, as though the world had been tidied up overnight. 

In the spring, I read (and loved) P.L. Travers Mary Poppins. I found it delightful and thoroughly satisfying. I also found it quote-worthy!!! I was surprised by how much I loved it.

There are a handful of sequels to the original novel, and I hope to read them all!!!

The first sequel is Mary Poppins Comes Back. Mary Poppins returns when the Banks family needs her most. Mr. Banks is losing it--a little bit--and Mrs. Banks is having putting up with her husband and all four kids. (Turns out there may be a reason! A fifth child makes an appearance halfway through this one!)  The chapters are a bit episodic as in the previous novel, but for me they are even more delightful!!! By far my favorite chapter was the second one, "Miss Andrew's Lark" in which Mr. Banks' governess arrives for a visit...

Some of my favorite quotes (from the whole book):

"I want to know how you've been behaving since I went away," remarked Mary Poppins sternly. Then she took out the Thermometer and held it up to the light.
"Careless, thoughtless, and untidy," she read out. Jane stared.
"Humph!" said Mary Poppins, and thrust the Thermometer into Michael's mouth. He kept his lips tightly pressed upon it until she plucked it out and read.
"A very noisy mischievous, troublesome little boy."
"I'm not," he said angrily.
For answer she thrust the Thermometer under his nose and he spelt out the large red letters.
"You see?" said Mary Poppins looking at him triumphantly. She opened John's mouth and popped in the Thermometer.
"Peevish and Excitable." That was John's temperature.And when Barbara's was taken Mary Poppins read out the two words "Thoroughly spoilt."
"Humph!" she snorted. "It's about time I came back!"
Then she popped it quickly in her own mouth, left it there for a moment, and took it out. "A very excellent and worthy person, thoroughly reliable in every particular." (22)

"She was called Miss Andrew and she was a Holy Terror!"
"Hush!" said Mrs. Banks, reproachfully.
"I mean--" Mr. Banks corrected himself, "she was--er--very strict. And always right. And she loved putting everybody else in the wrong and making them feel like a worm. That's what Miss Andrew was like!" (32)

"Well?" she said gruffly smiling a thin smile. "I don't suppose you know who I am?"
"Oh, yes we do!" said Michael. He spoke in his friendliest voice for he was very glad to meet Miss Andrew. "You're the Holy Terror!" (39)

"Doing nothing takes a great deal of time! All the time, in fact!" (156)

I would definitely recommend this one!!!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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5. Llama Llama Home With Mama

Llama Llama Home With Mama. Anna Dewdney. 2011. Penguin. 40 pages.

Llama Llama, morning light. Feeling yucky, just not right. 
Down to breakfast. Tiny sneeze. Sniffle, snuffle. Tissues please!
Llama's head is feeling hot. Llama's throat is hurting lots.
Achy, fever, stuffy head...Llama Llama, back to bed.

Llama, Llama Home With Mama is the newest in the Llama Llama series by Anna Dewdney. The first Llama Llama book--perhaps the best of the bunch--is Llama Llama Red Pajama. All of the books are good. (The holiday drama is perhaps my least favorite.)

In Llama Llama Home With Mama, Baby Llama wakes up sick. He is too sick to go to school. He is too sick to have any fun. No, he'll be spending all day with Mama Llama. She takes care of him, but, then Mama Llama starts feeling horrible as well. Good thing, Baby Llama is feeling well enough to take care of Mama in return.

If you've read even one Llama Llama book you know exactly what to expect from this one. That's what makes series books so much fun, in a way. Anna Dewdney offers plenty of rhymes in her Llama Llama books. And if you love the rhythm of them, then they're a real treat!

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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6. Happy Pig Day

Happy Pig Day. An Elephant & Piggie Book. Mo Willems. 2011. Hyperion. 64 pages.

I am so happy!
Today is the best day of the year!

Today is free ice cream day?

No. Today is...

I am a big, big, big fan of Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie series. I just love and adore these two characters. The series as a whole is practically perfect in every way. They're just that good, that charming, that FUNNY! With very few words, Mo Willems gives CHARACTER (life) to these two friends: Gerald, the elephant, and Piggie, the Pig.

Piggie is super-super excited about celebrating Pig Day. Pig Day is the best day to have a pig party, eat pig food, sing pig songs, dance pig dances, etc. But Gerald isn't quite as excited about Pig Day. He thinks that you have to be a pig to celebrate Pig Day. He thinks that Piggie is going to have all this fun without him. He feels sad and left out. Can Piggie show him what Pig Day is really all about?

So what did I think of Happy Pig Day? Well, I liked it. I really liked it. I wouldn't say that it is my favorite or best. I mean it's hard to top Should I Share My Ice Cream and We Are In A Book. (Those two are my favorites, which ones are yours?)

I Will Surprise My Friend
Can I Play Too?
Elephants Cannot Dance
I Am Going
Pigs Make Me Sneeze
Watch Me Throw The Ball
Are You Ready to Play Outside
I Love My New Toy
I Am Invited to A Party
My Friend is Sad
Today I Will Fly
There Is A Bird On Your Head
We Are In A Book
I Broke My Trunk!
Should I Share My Ice Cream?

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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7. Is Everyone Ready for Fun?

Is Everyone Ready for Fun by Jan Thomas. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages.

Look! It's Chicken's sofa! PLOP!
It's time to...
Up and down,
up and down.
Let's all JUMP
up and down!
On Chicken's sofa!

I love Jan Thomas. I do. I just love, love, love her books. There is just something happy-making about them; they're simple, true, but oh-so-much-fun. There's just something pure and simple and wonderful about them all!

This book stars three cows and a chicken. The three cows are ever so excited about jumping on chicken's little red sofa. (I love how this is illustrated!) But Chicken, well, Chicken has a different perspective on the matter. She wants it to stop. NOW.

They hear her. They do. So they get ready to have fun in a different way...or do they? You be the judge!!!
Is everyone ready for more fun?!
It's time to...
Back and forth,
back and forth.
Let's all DANCE
back and forth!
On Chicken's sofa!
Highly recommended if you love funny books!

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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8. The Bippolo Seed And Other Lost Stories

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss. 2011. Random House. 72 pages.

I love Dr. Seuss. I do. And I was oh-so-happy to discover that Random House was publishing a new collection of Dr. Seuss stories. These seven 'lost' stories were originally published in magazines in the early 1950s.

The seven stories are:

The Bippolo Seed
The Rabbit, the Bear, and the Zinniga-Zanniga
Gustav, the Goldfish
Tadd and Todd
Steak for Supper
The Strange Shirt Spot
The Great Henry McBride

I enjoyed almost all of these stories.

The Bippolo Seed is about greed. A duck finds a magical seed. He's told to make a wish and plant the seed. But before he can make a wish--a practical, simple wish--a cat stops him. He must want more than just a week's worth of food. How unimaginative a wish is that after all? So with a little encouragement, this duck named McKluck gets a little out of control. 

The Rabbit, The Bear, and the Zinniga-Zanniga is about a rabbit NOT wanting to become the bear's dinner. The rabbit has to think quickly to make sure that does not happen! But it's not enough for the rabbit to manage an escape, it has to be done in style!

Gustav, The Goldfish. It didn't take me long to recognize that this was FISH OUT OF WATER. What I didn't know was that this story inspired it. And that the author of A Fish Out of Water was Dr. Seuss's first wife, Helen Palmer. Seuss' story rhymed, Palmer's didn't. But essentially the same story about a boy and a fish and the importance of following directions very very carefully!

Tadd and Todd is a story about twins. One of the twins just loves to look exactly like his brother. The other twin isn't quite so pleased. In fact one of the brothers will do just about anything to be different. But that isn't always easy. I liked this one because it used the phrase: "which one was what one, and what one was who." It is an outlandish tale, of course. And it just gets more and more elaborate...what one brother will do to stand out from his brother. So it's enjoyable.

Steak for Supper introduces some fun animal-like characters--much like Wocket in My Pocket. It introduces the Ikka, the Gritch, the Grickle, the Nupper, and the Wild Wheef. The moral of this one is don't brag too much...you see, the little boy was going around saying that he had steak to eat every Saturday night. Well, one Saturday, these fanciful creatures decide to join him because they want steak too! Of course, the little boy doesn't know how he'll ever explain all this to his parents...

The Strange Shirt Spot is a very interesting story in that it introduces the idea of a spot that just WON'T go away. It is the inspiration, if inspiration is the right word, for the pink cat ring in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. The spot even gets on some of the same things.

The Great Henry McBride celebrates imagination and daydreaming. In this case a little boy dreams about what he wants to be when he grows up...

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9. Toys Come Home

Toys Come Home. Emily Jenkins. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. 2011. Random House. 144 pages.

StingRay has missed the birthday party. She didn't mean to. It was her first party, first party ever in the world to be invited to--and she missed it. She didn't even know she was missing it. She didn't know anything about the party until now, when it is already over. 

The full title of this delightful prequel is "Being the Early Experiences of An Intelligent Stingray, A Brave Buffalo, and a Brand-New Someone Called Plastic." Of course, if you've read Toys Go Out and Toy Dance Party, you know all about Stingray, Lumphy, and Plastic. But what you may not know is how they all three came to belong to the Little Girl.

I love the premise of this one. I do. I definitely wanted more stories about these three friends. And these 'early' stories are just perfect!!! The six stories:

In Which There Is Nowhere Nice To Sleep
The Story of an Ear
What Happened to Bobby Dot
You Can Puke On Me
In Which Lumphy is Brave With a Tuna Casserole
The Arrival of Plastic, and Also The Reason We Are Here

The main character of this one happens to be Stingray. In the first story, we learn of how she arrived too late for the little girl's birthday party, but just in time to arrive on the ACTUAL birthday. As a new toy, she hasn't really found her place in the bedroom just yet. She's getting acquainted with the other toys, the other stuffed animals. She's learning--observing--everything.

Two new characters introduced are Sheep (was Sheep in the other two books? Have I forgotten?) and Bobby Dot. There's a good reason why Bobby Dot, the walrus, is NOT in the later books. At first, I wasn't exactly sure why Bobby Dot's story is included in Toys Come Home. Then I thought about it and thought about it some more. Things like that just happen. Not to be overly dramatic, but that's just a toy's life. And I definitely liked how that story is REDEEMED with a very familiar character, Lumphy.

It was so much fun to see the Little Girl shopping. There's just something oh-so-true about these books. In this one, one of the things I loved was HOW very individual the toys were. How when she was shopping she just knew, she just could tell, which (stuffed) ANIMAL was for her. Because the toys are so very-very real to her. Maybe not every reader can relate. But I can!!!

So some of the stories are just good fun, and one or two are slightly more serious. (Though not as tragically sentimental as say The Velveteen Rabbit).

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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10. Umbrella

Umbrella by Taro Yashima. 1958/2004. Penguin. 40 pages. 

Momo is the name of a little girl who was born in New York. The word Momo means "the peach" in Japan where her father and mother used to live. On her third birthday Momo was given two presents--red rubber boots and an umbrella! They pleased her so much that she even woke up that midnight to take another look at them.

Umbrella by Taro Yashima IS my favorite, favorite, favorite picture book. I can't remember a time when I didn't love and adore this one.

Umbrella is the story of a little girl, Momo, who is oh-so-excited about her birthday presents. On her third birthday, Momo received red rubber boots and an umbrella. But Momo has to learn some patience. For the rain is SLOW in coming. And her parents aren't going to be easily persuaded that her umbrella is a must for dealing with sun and wind.

But, of course, the rain does come. And the wait was worth it. For Momo gets to use her new boots and umbrella. And she gets to walk all by herself without holding onto her mother's or father's hands.

Perhaps it is the rhythm of the rain that makes this such a memorable story? With it's oh-so-lovely refrain:
On her umbrella, the raindrops made the wonderful music--

bon polo
bon polo
ponpolo ponpolo
ponpolo ponpolo
bolo bolo ponpolo
bolo bolo ponpolo
boto boto ponpolo
boto boto ponpolo

all the way home. 
As much as I love the text--and I do LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the text--I must say that I really, really LOVE the illustrations. I do. From cover to cover. Even the end papers. I just LOVE Taro Yashima's artwork. His style made a definite impression on me--and it's one that has stuck with me through the years. There's just something unforgettable about each page--almost each page.

It's just a sweet, sweet book that continues to charm.

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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11. Time to Nominate for Cybils!

I just wanted to let everyone know that it is time to nominate books for Cybils!!! Nominations close October 15th. Be sure to read the NEW eligibility rules

The categories are:

Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books
Fantasy and Science Fiction (Middle Grade)
Fantasy and Science Fiction (Young Adult)
Middle Grade Fiction
Young Adult Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Nonfiction Picture Books
Nonfiction Middle Grade and Young Adult
Graphic Novels (Middle Grade)
Graphic Novels (Young Adult)
Book Apps

All nominations must be intended for children or young adults.
To be eligible the book must have been published between October 16, 2010 - October 15, 2011.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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12. Charlie the Ranch Dog

Charlie the Ranch Dog. Ree Drummond. Illustrated by Diane Degroat. 2011. HarperCollins. 40 pages.

Oh, hello. My name is Charlie. I live in the country. I'm a ranch dog. This is Suzie. She's my best friend. We sure don't look much alike, do we? Suzie, unfortunately, doesn't have the paws I have. Or the droopy eyes. Or the floppy skin. Or...the big dangly ears. Suzie's ears don't dangle. Never have. Never will. I try not to hold that against her.

I really liked this one! I thought it was a very cute dog story. Charlie may talk the talk, but does he really do as much work around the ranch as he claims?! One of the things I liked best about this one was Charlie's voice. It just felt right to me! I especially loved this scene:
The first thing we do every day is get out of bed early. Too early. Dark early. I'd better go wake up Suzie. She's never been much of a morning dog. 
And then there is this little gem:
After breakfast, I usually go help Mama in her vegetable garden. Mama loves her garden. I don't really understand all the fuss. I'd prefer a bacon garden myself. But I go ahead and lend a hand anyway.
Of course, half the fun is spotting the differences between the text and the illustrations!

I really, really enjoyed both the text and the illustrations. You might enjoy reading the back story of this picture book.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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13. 17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore

17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore. Jenny Offill. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. 2007. Random House. 32 pages.

I had an idea to staple my brother's hair to his pillow.
I am not allowed to use the stapler anymore.

I had an idea to glue my brother's bunny slippers to the floor.
I am not allowed to use the glue anymore.

I liked this one. I was hoping to love it. I mean I just loved 11 Experiments That Failed--the second book--which just released yesterday. And it was a decidedly cute and clever book. One with an original premise. A girl who just CANNOT stay out of trouble. She's always, always picking on her brother. And she's PASSIONATE about beavers. And she doesn't exactly like school. (I imagine her teacher has quite an opinion about her!)
I had an idea to do my George Washington report on beavers instead.
I am not allowed to do reports on beavers anymore.
I had an idea to dedicate my report to all beavers that ever lived.
I am not allowed to dedicate my report to beavers anymore.
 I thought there was a little too much emphasis on beavers. I would have enjoyed a little more variety perhaps. (Like there is in the second book!!!) But still, beavers and all, this one is a fun read.

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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14. Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters. Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Kelly Murphy. 2011. Candlewick Press. 32 pages.

Monsters creep, monsters crawl,
Over the meadow and up the wall.
Monsters run, monsters stumble,
Monsters hip-hop, Monsters tumble,
Monsters slither, monsters wave,
All in a hurry to get to their cave...

It is time for these monsters to go to bed...but are they ready to go to bed without a fight?!

I like this one. It was fun. It is definitely not your cute-little-bunnies-getting-all-ready-for-bed bedtime story book. Which is a nice change! Is it my favorite bedtime book ever? Of course not. But I think it's a fun little book that you and your little ones might enjoy!

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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15. Binky Under Pressure

Binky Under Pressure. Ashley Spires. 2011. Kids Can. 64 pages.

This is the third graphic novel for young readers in the Binky series. And I did enjoy it. I'm not sure that I loved it as much as the first adventure--when Binky was such a surprise, such a delight. But I definitely am always excited to see a new Binky adventure. I love this cat, I do. I love seeing him "fight" aliens and "protect" his humans. I love seeing the world through his eyes. There's just something funny about reading something from a cat's perspective! (Maybe not every reader agrees.)

In this third adventure, Binky faces new dangers. There's a NEW CAT in his house space station--a feline named Gracie. And her presence changes everything. She is eating HIS food, drinking HIS water, playing with his toys, getting his humans attention, etc. So he does what he can to discourage her, but it may not be easy to intimidate her, because she may just be a cat on a mission!

Is Gracie a friend or foe? Is she on his side ready to battle aliens and protect the space station? Or could she be an enemy robot controlled by the aliens?

I liked this one. It was funny and clever. The first adventure is Binky the Space Cat. The second is Binky to the Rescue.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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16. Reaching

Reaching. Judy Ann Sadler. Illustrated by Susan Mitchell. 2011. Kids Can Press. 32 pages.

Mama is reaching
Lifts Baby up high
She swings him and sings him
A sweet lullaby.

Daddy is reaching 
To kiss Baby's nose
He laughs and he tickles
Plump tummy and toes.

Sister is reaching
Wants in on the huddle
More kisses and tickles--
A fun family cuddle.

I love this one. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. Is it sweet? Yes. Is it precious? Yes. Is it too cute for its own good? I don't think so. I *know* everyone has their own cute-tolerance. And, for some, a sweet picture book can become sickeningly sweet. But for me, Reaching is JUST RIGHT.

Reaching is about a family welcoming a new baby--a new baby boy--into the family. EVERY member of the family is excited--thrilled--with his arrival. They just can't get enough of their dear, dear, sweet baby boy. But this isn't exactly a book about a 'newborn' baby. The baby is seen sitting and taking some small steps, etc. Instead it is a celebration of life, of love, of family.

I love the text. I love the rhyming. I know I can be a bit picky when it comes to rhymes. Something either works for me, or it doesn't. But in this case, I thought it was just about right, just about perfect.

And the illustrations. I am ABSOLUTELY loving the illustrations. I just LOVE them. They're super-sweet, super-cute. Just delightful!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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17. Pretty Princess Pig

Pretty Princess Pig. Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple. Illustrated by Sam Williams. 2011. Simon & Schuster. (Little Simon). 24 pages.

Pretty in pink is Princess Pig.
Her trotters are tiny. Her snout is big.
She loves to eat. She loves to dig.
Pretty Princess Pig.

At the first pink light of dawn, 
she snorts one enormous yawn,
then throws her flowered party dress on.
Pretty Princess Pig.

At first, I hated it. I'll be honest. The first few pages, I was like this book is NOT for me. It's too pink, too glittery, too rhyming. But I kept reading. I looked past the pinky-pinkness of it. I looked past the princess nonsense, and what I discovered was that it is actually a funny story about a pig who keeps getting messier and messier and messier as she prepares for a gathering of her friends--tea, cookies, scones, crumpets, etc. The messier she got, the messier her home got, the more I liked her.

So while I wouldn't say this book is a new favorite. I ended up liking it more than I thought I would.

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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18. My Name is Elizabeth!

My Name is Elizabeth! Annika Dunklee. Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe. 2011. Kids Can Press. 24 pages.

My name is Elizabeth.
I really like my name. I like that it's nine letters long.
And I like all the neat things my mouth does when I say it.
I also like that there is a queen named after me!
But I don't like it when people call me names other than Elizabeth.

Don't dare call this Elizabeth Betsy, Liz, Lizzy, Beth, or Eliza. She is ELIZABETH. Can this little girl convince the people in her life--her family, her friends, her classmates and teachers, her neighbors, to get her name right?!

I liked this one. I did. I thought it was cute and clever. I won't say that I loved it. But it was fun!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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19. The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye

The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye. Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Jim LaMarche. 2011. Random House. 32 pages.

The day Tiger Rose said goodbye was a soft spring day, the sun only half risen. Little brilliant butterflies, like bits of colored paper, floated among the flowers. Tiger Rose had been born in the city, but now she lived in the country in a house filled with laughter and cat treats. There, a boy and a girl loved her, a dog named Rowf tolerated her, and two grown-ups called Mom and Pop let her sit on the sofa as long as she did not use her claws.

If you're looking for a picture book about a pet cat that dies, AND The Tenth Good Thing About Barney* disgusts you, then The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye is the book for you. 

I'll be honest, I don't like books about pets that die. I really, really don't. Why? Because it's MISERABLE when a pet dies, and any book that talks about it just makes you feel all sad. Even if you've gotten over it--or you think you've gotten over it--reading about it can make you feel sad all over again.

BUT. If you're going to read about a cat dying, then The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye is a fine choice. I like that it is quiet, gentle, passive. There's a sweet certainty to it. It's not OVERLY dramatic, but it is final. Tiger Rose knows that this is the day, that her time has come. And she is saying goodbye to her life, goodbye to everything she loves. The fact that the humans in her life don't quite 'get' that she is saying goodbye with her meow, well, it doesn't change her sentiment.

The illustrations are my favorite part I think. They're just beautiful, I think. Very expressive. Yet gentle. Almost reflective. If the cat had had a fluffier tail, I'm not sure I could have finished this one with dry eyes.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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20. The Busy Beaver

The Busy Beaver. Nicholas Oldland. 2011. Kids Can Press. 32 pages. 

There once was a beaver who was so busy that he didn't always think things through. This beaver's carelessness was becoming a problem. His dams leaked, and he always made a mess of the forest--he left trees half-chewed, and worse, he felled more than he needed. Perhaps worst of all, the beaver went about his work with so little thought that a tree landed right on top of a bear. And once he even chewed a moose's leg thinking it was a tree. The beaver was just that careless.

Beaver is so busy being busy that he's become horribly careless. He's careless with his friends. He's careless with nature. But there is a price he has to pay for being so careless--he ends up in the hospital. Will his time mending teach him to slow down and do things right?

I did not really like this one. I didn't hate it. It just felt too like it was too much of a lesson.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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21. The Call of the Cowboy

The Call of the Cowboy. David Bruins. Illustrated by Hilary Leung. 2011. Kids Can Press.  32 pages.

The cowboy was a good friend to the ninja and the bear. He was kind. He was caring. He was fun. He was funny. But sometimes he could cause a ruckus. One day his noisiness came between him and his friends...

I definitely enjoyed the first two books in this series: The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear and The Way of the Ninja. So I was happy to see the release of a third book. All three books are about friendships: how to be a friend, how to keep a friend, etc.

Cowboy can be a fun friend, it's true. But sometimes he can be a little TOO LOUD. Sometimes he doesn't know how to be quiet, OR in other words, sometimes he doesn't know how to respect his friends wish for peace and quiet. Ninja, for example, wanted to read a book. But Cowboy--without exactly meaning to disturb the peace--was making it too hard for him to concentrate and appreciate the book. Bear, for example, wanted to take photographs of birds. But Cowboy didn't know that his noise would keep Bear from getting the photographs he wanted.

Will Cowboy learn his lesson? Can he come to like and appreciate silence?

I liked this one. Yes, it's all about a lesson or moral. But I like the three friends.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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22. Welcome to the World

Welcome to the World by Valerie Wyatt. Photographs by Lennette Newell. 2011. Kids Can Press. 24 pages.

Dear Baby,
Welcome to the world and all its wonders. You will feel the sun on your skin and be warmed by it. You will see light chase darkness as clouds pass by. You will hear the wind in the trees and feel cool raindrops. You will see flowers in bloom and smell their sweet scent...

If you love looking at lovely photographs of babies, then you may enjoy this little picture book. The photographs are lovely. I could look at photos of babies all day long. There's just something adorable and sweet and precious about it all. The text itself is a 'welcome' message of sorts, introducing babies (supposedly) to the world around them. There is a strong emphasis on nature.

This one is not a board book. It is a 'delicate' book in that its pages could be ripped by young hands. So your audience needs to be young enough so that they are not reaching and grabbing or chewing and sucking. OR old enough that they know how to treat books well--gently.

I don't think the text of this one is 'entertaining' enough for preschoolers to appreciate or enjoy.(Because the text isn't a story so much as it is a sentimental letter.) Though of course that depends on YOUR child. I think the text may appeal more to adults--because it means something more to adults.

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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23. The Princess and the Pig

The Princess and the Pig. Jonathan Emmett. Illustrated by Poly Bernatene. 2011. Walker. 32 pages.

Not that long ago, in a kingdom not far from here, a farmer was traveling home from the market with a cartload of straw. The farmer was so poor that he didn't have a horse and had to pull his own cart. In the back of the cart lay a tiny pink piglet. Nobody wanted to buy the piglet at the market, but the farmer had taken pity on it. "I'll call you Pigmella," he decided, as this seemed like a good name for a pig.

The Princess and the Pig is a delightful book; one that I just loved and adored! The royal princess, Priscilla, is dropped from the tower--the Queen being so disgusted by the smell coming from the baby's diaper--the baby lands quite safely in the farmer's cart. The pig goes up, up, up in the air and lands in the baby's cradle. Because EVERYONE in the kingdom seems to read the right kinds of books--the kinds of books with fairies--good and bad--the kinds of books where the unexpected happens all the time--it's assumed by all that a bad fairy has turned the princess into a pig and a good fairy has turned the pig into a baby girl because she knew that the farmer and his wife are good, hardworking people who haven't been able to have a child of their own all these years.

So the story of course follows both the princess and the pig through the years...and it's quite an entertaining read!!! Very satisfying I must say!!!

It's a great story, very fun, very delightful! Loved all the details! Loved the highlighting of all the books. I'd definitely recommend this one!

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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24. Naamah and the Ark at Night

Naamah and the Ark at Night. Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Illustrated by Holly Meade. 2011. Candlewick. 32 pages.

As rain falls over the ark at night,
As water swirls in the dark of night,
As thunder crashes the seams of night,
As Noah tosses in dreams of night,
As restless animals prowl at night,
As they pace and roar and growl at night,
Naamah sings all through the night.

Susan Campbell Bartoletti imaginatively and poetically retells the story of Noah's Ark in her newest book, Naamah and the Ark at Night. In this picture book, readers meet Noah's wife, Naamah, whose singing through the night brings comfort and peace to everyone on the ark.

At first, I was puzzled by the repetition--the emphasis on the word night. But after reading the author's note, my curiosity was satisfied. The author is writing in a poetic form called ghazal which dates back to the seventh century. It is a disciplined Arabic form of poetry.

I liked this one. I was able to appreciate it. I've read a handful of Noah's Ark books in the past few years that have annoyed me, that I found too irreverent, too silly, too obnoxious, too whatever. (And it does bother me when Noah is presented WITHOUT his wife or without his wife and children.) This book I found interesting.

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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25. The Hungry Ghost of Rue Orleans

The Hungry Ghost of Rue Orleans. Mary Quattlebaum. Illustrated by Patricia Castelao. 2011. Random House. 32 pages.

Fred lived alone at 28 Rue Orleans. Once the house had been a jazzy-snazzy, sweet-and-spicy spot, but now? The floors squeaked, the roof leaked, and dust coated the chairs. But Fred liked his rickety house. All night he moaned and clicked his fingers and tended his tiny cactus. If he got hungry, he gobbled some air. The perfect life for a ghost.

Books--even picture books--can surprise you. I didn't think I'd like this one--at all. And I'm not saying that I love it, but when you begin a book with big, big doubts, thinking that it most probably won't be for you, when that turns out not to be the case, well, you can't help getting a little excited about it! (The opposite of how you feel when you expect to love, love, love a book and end up being frustrated, disappointed, etc.)

Anyway, this picture book is about what happens when an old house in New Orleans is bought and turned into a restaurant. Fred is used to haunting a house--a wonderfully dusty, creaky house. But Fred is NOT happy about haunting a busy, noisy restaurant! And haunts it he does. But while he intended--perhaps--to scare the guests away, he ends up being the unique charm of the place. People see him as a little something extra that makes this restaurant worth eating at. How does Fred feel about all this?! Well, his mind might change once he gets a taste of powdered "ghost" puffs!

What I liked about this one was the language. With phrases like "munchers and clankers" to describe the customers, it had me at hello. I just thought the language, the style, was lovely. I still don't necessarily "like" ghost stories. But this one, well, it worked for me.

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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