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Mainly reviews of children's and young adult literature. Primarily focuses on new literature, 2004-present, but may feature older titles if they are "favorites" of mine. Feel free to leave comments. I always enjoy reading what others have to say!
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1. Koko's Kitten

Koko's Kitten. Francine Patterson. Photographs by Ronald H. Cohn. 1985. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Koko's full name is Hanabi-Ko, which is Japanese for Fireworks Child.

Premise/plot: Koko's Kitten is a nonfiction picture book for elementary-aged readers. Though the book is called "Koko's Kitten," the picture book biography (of a gorilla) tells much more than just that one little snippet of her life. It tells of how Koko was/is the subject of a special project, how she started learning sign language, the special bonds she's formed with the humans in her life, etc. The climax of this one, is, of course, how she came to have a kitten of her own.

My thoughts: I remember learning about Koko in the 1980s. And I had fond but vague memories of Koko's Kitten. I remembered she had a kitten. A kitten named All Ball. I remembered that the kitten died and she wanted a new kitten. It turns out I remembered only *some* of this one. I still like it. But it is more wordy than I remembered.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Borden Murders

Borden Murders. Sarah Miller. 2016. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It happened every spring in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Premise/plot: Sarah Miller's newest book is a middle grade nonfiction book about Lizzie Borden and the 'trial of the century.' On August 4, 1892, Mr. and Mrs. Borden were murdered. Miller chronicles the events stage by stage. Her book is divided into sections: Lizzie Borden Took An Axe, Murder!, The Bordens, Investigation, Inquest, Arrest, Preliminary Hearing, The Waiting Time, The Trial of the Century, Aftermath, Epilogue.

My thoughts: This one was incredibly compelling and very well researched. (Over twenty pages of notes documenting among other things all the dialogue in the book.) Miller presents a balanced perspective of the case allowing readers to make up their own minds. Miller gives all concerned or connected the human touch. The press does not come out looking innocent.

Whether your interest is true crime, biography, or nonfiction set during the Victorian period, this one is worth your time.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. This Is My Dollhouse

This is My Dollhouse. Giselle Potter. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This is my dollhouse. It used to be just a cardboard box. But then I painted bricks on the outside and divided the inside into rooms and made wallpaper with my markers and it became almost like a real little house.

Premise/plot: Readers meet an imaginative young girl who loves, loves, loves to play with a dollhouse she created by herself. Readers also meet her friend, Sophie, who has a store bought dollhouse. The two do work out how to play together despite their differences.

My thoughts: I could relate to this one! For me and my sister, it was Barbie doll houses. (She had one. I didn't. She had a *real* refrigerator, mine was out of blocks. She had a *real* bed, mine was an egg carton.) I loved the celebration of imagination AND friendship. I loved the focus on PLAY. Part of me does wonder if kids are allowed enough PLAY time and encouraged to PLAY creatively. I think there is a huge difference between PLAYING and playing on. (I want to play ON the computer. I want to play ON the ipad.)

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. The World of Little House

The World of Little House. Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson. 1996. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: We know Laura Ingalls Wilder best through her nine Little House books, which tell the story of her life as a pioneer girl.

Premise/plot: This biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder would be perfect for upper elementary or middle schoolers. In some ways it's "just" a biography, but, in other ways it's so much more than that. One thing that I loved about it, for example, is the inclusion of HOUSE PLANS for all the houses Laura Ingalls Wilder lived! That plus the inclusion of crafts and recipes and extension activities really just made me happy.

For any reader who loves the book series or even the television series, this one is a fun and easy-going read.

My thoughts: While I didn't learn anything "new" about Laura Ingalls Wilder, I found it a fun, delightful presentation of what I already knew. The only book that truly was packed with I-didn't-know that information was the recently released PIONEER GIRL. This biography shares an intended audience range of the actual books. So one could go from the series to this biography smoothly. (I can't imagine a fourth or fifth grader picking up PIONEER GIRL and finishing it. Pioneer Girl just has SO MANY footnotes.)

Easy to recommend this one!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship

Louise and Andie. The Art of Friendship. Kelly Light. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Art, this is the BEST day ever! I'm so excited to meet our new neighbor. I hope she loves art too.

Premise/plot: Louise and Art are back in a second book! (Though the focus is on Louise and not her adorable, little brother Art!) Louise and Andie, the girl next door, become good friends quickly. But things don't stay wonderful long, soon, these two realize they have artistic differences. Can this friendship be saved?!

My thoughts: Loved this one. I did. I really loved it!!! It is so important--no matter your age--that you learn how to resolve conflict! I love seeing this friendship endure the stress of a big argument. I love that these two are able to work things out and really come to know and appreciate each other better.

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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6. Echo Echo

Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Josee Masse. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]


First sentence: Ancient Greece: an age of marvelous myths, gone, but not forgotten. Heroes that rise and fall.

Premise/plot: This is the third collection of reverso poems by Marilyn Singer. The first two were: Mirror, Mirror and Follow, Follow. Both of those were fairy tale inspired poetry collections. This third book is inspired by Greek mythology.

So what is a reverso poem? A poem that is both read top to bottom, and bottom to top. The two 'versions' of the poem might tell completely different stories! Word order and punctuation can accomplish a LOT. Much more than I ever thought about!!! Most of the reverso poems in this collection have two narrators. For example, with "King Midas and His Daughter," the first poem is from the daughter's perspective (top to bottom), and the second poem (bottom to top) is from the King's perspective.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I'm not sure I loved, loved, loved it as much as the previous volumes. But. It's been a few years since I've read them, and, I'd have to reread all three closer together to truly decide which is my favorite. I can tell you that I do like Greek mythology. (Thanks in small part to Edith Hamilton and good old Percy Jackson.)

I think my favorite poem might be "Pygmalion and Galatea."
Wondrous!/ How/ life-/ like! There is nothing in this world/ so perfect. Oh, these lips, hands, eyes!/ The artist/ is in love with/ his creation./ Let a heartfelt wish be granted,/ kind Venus:/ Only you could make this stone breathe!
Only you could make this stone breathe!/ Kind Venus/ let a heartfelt wish be granted./ His creation/ is in love with/ the artist./ Oh, these lips, hands, eyes--/ so perfect!/ There is nothing in this world/ like/ life! How/ wondrous!
*The book does have at least one typo. And I wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't chosen to share it. I would have just auto-corrected in my head without thinking twice. "There is nothing is this world." I include it here just in case it hasn't been caught yet and fixed already for future editions.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Board book: I'm Wild About You

I'm Wild About You. Sandra Magsamen. 2016. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I love the way you monkey around. I love the way you stomp up dand down! I love the way you waddle when you walk.

Premise/plot: An animal-themed board book for parents to read aloud to their little ones. The message from cover to cover is very sweet and affectionate. (Some readers might think it a little over the top with sweetness.)

My thoughts: I definitely like this one. It's for little ones--babies, toddlers--no doubt. I like the animals. I especially like the elephant!

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


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Board book: Itsy-Bitsy I Love You!

Itsy-Bitsy I Love You! Sandra Magsamen. 2016. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: review copy]

First sentence: My itsy-bitsy spider climbed up to snuggle me. Down came my arms, we hugged so happily.

Premise/plot: This board book reworks the classic song "Itsy Bitsy Spider."

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. This is definitely for little ones, and, not so much preschoolers. (Although if you have preschoolers and little ones, then both might enjoy it.) The illustrations are very bright and bold. The text is cute. You can still sing it as a song. This one begs to be acted out. (As did the original song!)

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


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Tom Sawyer Abroad

Tom Sawyer Abroad. Mark Twain. 1894. 108 pages.

First sentence: DO you reckon Tom Sawyer was satisfied after all them adventures? I mean the adventures we had down the river, and the time we set the darky Jim free and Tom got shot in the leg. No, he wasn’t. It only just p’isoned him for more. That was all the effect it had.

Premise/plot: Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Jim (now free) accidentally have an adventure together--in a hot air balloon--that takes them halfway across the world to Africa. The trip has its dangers certainly. But Tom is so smug and obnoxious that one of the biggest dangers is the size of his ego. The book's biggest weakness perhaps is its sudden and abrupt ending. I can almost imagine Mark Twain going, well, it was fun and interesting when it started...but I've got a new idea for a book now and I just don't care about this anymore. So let's type THE END and send it off to be published.

My thoughts: If the ending had been an actual ending, perhaps this one would have been worth my time--and your time. As it is, I can't really recommend it! Was it easier to get published back then? Was Mark Twain under contract? Did his editor not care either? Did he even have an editor? Instead of improving as it goes along, it does the opposite. Each chapter shows Twain's growing lack of interest in what happens on this balloon ride.

I don't think the fault is solely in the premise. I think it's just that when you start a book you should see it through to the end...or else not publish it.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Identifying Barbie Dolls

Identifying Barbie Dolls. Janine Fennick. 1998. 80 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Collecting Barbie dolls is one of the most popular hobbies today.

Premise/plot: Janine Fennick's book is a nonfiction guide for adults (primarily) about collecting Barbie dolls and caring for your doll collection. She essentially divides Barbie dolls into three categories. (The book was published in 1998; I'd argue there needs to be a fourth category). Her categories are: "The Ponytail Era" (1959-1966), "The Mod Era" (1967-1972), and "The Collectible Era" (1973-present).

The first fifteen pages essentially act as an introduction to doll collecting itself. The remaining three chapters focus on a specific era of doll production.

The writing is both technical and practical. A fun, swinging narrative it is not. If you want to know the difference between a #1 Ponytail and a #2 Ponytail (the first two dolls) this book will tell you ALL you need to know. If you want to know what year Midge got bendable legs, this book is for you.

My thoughts: I'll be honest, though she discusses all three eras, the author's bias for the first two eras is obvious. I wouldn't mind knowing what she thinks of the current state of Barbie. (I am disappointed not with the Fashionista line, but, with the other offerings. Almost all Barbies produced in the past five to seven years have the exact same face, almost the exact same makeup, almost the exact same hair. There is no point anymore to buying *more* dolls. To have two or three dolls with the same face is one thing. Twins! Triplets! But to have sixteen? That's just CREEPY. Instead of buying more dolls, you'd almost be better off just buying fashion accessories. But clothes can be very taste specific. (I always LOVED, LOVED, LOVED sewing my own Barbie clothes. In fact it's probably the number one thing I miss about playing with Barbies.) I miss the 80s and 90s. Yes, the author doesn't really see the point of it all. But I did and do.

Probably the biggest strength of this book is the use of COLOR photographs. So many dolls, so many fashions shared in FULL color. Some of the Barbie biographies (for lack of a better word) just have black and white photographs. Yes, the narrative might be more entertaining. But it's the PICTURES OF BARBIE that makes you want to keep flipping through the pages.

I should also note that I am and always will be a believer that Barbie is meant to be played with and loved. This view puts me at slight odds with the strict collector looking for everything to be in a never been opened box.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Slaves of Obsession

Slaves of Obsession. Anne Perry. 2000. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "We are invited to dine with Mr. and Mrs. Alberton," Hester said in reply to Monk's questioning gaze across the breakfast table.

Premise/plot: William and Hester Monk attend a dinner, and, soon most of the guests will be caught up in a murder case. The victim--one of several--is Mr. Alberton. And it looks like he's been killed by someone he knew, someone he entertained in his own home. Monk isn't directly on the murder case, so to speak, but he's hired by Mrs. Alberton to find her missing daughter and bring her back home, no matter what. And the number one suspect in the case is the daughter's love-interest. So chances are, if you find one you may find the other. So Hester and Monk have their hands full in this one. It takes place on TWO continents. (The daughter has fled to the United States....)

My thoughts: I really am enjoying this series again. I really like seeing Hester and William settle down into married life. I really love seeing these two love and respect and cherish one another! Yet the romance in the book is never in-your-face or time-consuming. Instead it is in the background, subtle. The issue in this book is "slavery" and whether it's right or wrong to sell guns to the South. Does someone who sells guns for a living have a moral obligation to sell guns only to people whom he agrees 100% with? Does he have the right to refuse to sell guns to interested buyers because he finds their cause distasteful? Who is really capable of deciding which causes are good or bad?

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Countdown to Christmas, day 25

So Kailana (The Written Word) and I are teaming up again...this time to celebrate CHRISTMAS. 25 days of answering questions! You are definitely welcome to join in on the fun!
What I love most about Christmas...Christmas greetings!

Merry Christmas to you all!




© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Peppa Pig and the Day at Snowy Mountain

Peppa Pig and the Day at Snowy Mountain. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Peppa and George wake up one day and look out the window. IT'S SNOWING! Hurrah! They can't wait to go outside.

Premise/plot: Peppa Pig and her family (Mummy, Daddy, and George) spend a LOVELY day on Snowy Mountain skiing, skating, and sledding. Adventures and misadventures are had by all. Many characters are there on the mountain too. (For example, Madame Gazelle, Miss Rabbit, etc.)

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. If you have seen an episode or two of the television series you know exactly what kind of comedy to expect. Peppa sings a song. Mummy and Daddy pig end up covered in snow. And there's a lot of laughing. For example, when Peppa and George want to sled down the mountain but don't have a sled, Peppa decides that DADDY PIG makes a good sled. Away they go.

Overall, this one is worth the read IF you already love Peppa Pig.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. The Sun Is Also A Star

The Sun Is Also a Star. Nicola Yoon. 2016. 348 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Carl Sagan said that if you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Premise/plot: Can you find your one true love and know it's your one true love in just a single day? Natasha is upset that her family is being deported and sent back to Jamaica. She's fighting for the chance to stay up to the very last minute. On this day--her very last day in New York--she meets Daniel, a guy with his own family issues. (Namely, his brother is horrid. Plus his parents want to make all of the decisions for him for the rest of his life.) Their meeting is by chance--or is it?

My thoughts: Objectively, this is a compelling teen romance with humor, heart, and drama. The chapters are short, making it even more appealing, and the chapters alternate narrators. The characters are all flawed. Not one perfectly perfect person in the bunch. That's what you want. That's what you need.

Subjectively, I think there is a very good reason I read little YA these days. Not because YA in and of itself is "bad." But because as I mature (aka get old) I find profanity and blasphemy more silly, obnoxious, and offensive, than cool. Particularly blasphemy. This book took the Lord's name in vain in various ways--often. Way too often for me to say WOW WHAT A GREAT BOOK. I am not old enough to go that any book with "language issues" is "bad" and should be taken off the shelves. I will never be that old. Just old enough that I say--No thanks, not for me.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes

Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes. Jennifer L. Holm. Illustrated by Matthew Holm. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was Christmas Eve. And Babymouse was putting out cookies for Santa. Babymouse! Mmf. I couldn't wait! They looked so tasty! (Sigh.) I certainly hope Santa likes Christmas crumbs.

Premise/plot: This picture book takes readers BACK to a time to when Babymouse (the star of a very popular graphic novel series) was LITTLE. After Babymouse "accidentally" eats Santa's cookies, she decides to do something different...and instead of baking more cookies...she decides to bake him cupcakes. But will all go according to plan?

My thoughts: I love Babymouse. I do. I think this is a fun introduction to Babymouse for younger readers. As you might have guessed, Babymouse's imagination was ACTIVE even way back when.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. The Princess in Black

The Princess in Black. Shannon Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2016. Candlewick. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was dawn. The Princess in Black had battled monsters all night. And so Princess Magnolia was tired.

Premise/plot: Fighting monsters keeps the Princess in Black (aka Princess Magnolia) exhausted, so when someone new THE GOAT AVENGER (aka Duff the Goat Boy) volunteers to fight monsters in her place, she hesitantly agrees to take a much-needed vacation. But will all go according to plan? Will the Goat Avenger face off with scary monsters? Will Princess Magnolia have a peaceful, relaxed, monster-free vacation AT THE BEACH?

My thoughts: The series is enjoyable. I love, love, love the illustrations. LeUyen Pham is my favorite and best. I adore her work. Shannon Hale's stories are nice. Are they thrilling for adult readers? Probably not. But I really like the characters--especially Princess Sneezewort--and don't mind the predictability and sameness.

(I think the all-caps are contagious.)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. Countdown to Christmas, day 24

So Kailana (The Written Word) and I are teaming up again...this time to celebrate CHRISTMAS. 25 days of answering questions! You are definitely welcome to join in on the fun!

A Christmas I'll never forget...

There are two or three Christmases that I'll never ever forget. But the most memorable would have to be last Christmas.

I spent twelve days in the hospital last December...including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And while I had always hoped that it was true...
It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
 I found out it was completely, positively true. I could write hundreds of pages of testimony on God's goodness to me, and, I'm tempted, really tempted to try. But essentially being alive is enough of a gift. People take so much for granted, but perhaps nothing more for granted than the fact that they are still alive, still breathing. There is always, always, always a reason to be found to be thankful.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Six Dots

Six Dots. Jen Bryant. Illustrated by Boris Kulikov. 2016. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: On the day I was born, Papa announced me to the village: "Here is my son Loo-Wee!"

Premise/plot: Six Dots is a picture book biography of Louis Braille. It is probably best for older readers because there is a lot of text.

Here's one of my favorite quotes, "I didn't want people to feel sorry for me. I just wanted to read and to write on my own, like everyone else."

The end papers include the braille alphabet, just not in braille. (It would have been great fun if the braille alphabet and the quote by Helen Keller, "We the blind, are as indebted to Louis Braille as mankind is to Gutenberg." had actually been in braille so readers--of all ages--could feel Braille for themselves.)

My thoughts: I liked this one. It is a very personal, compelling story.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Countdown to Christmas, day 22

So Kailana (The Written Word) and I are teaming up again...this time to celebrate CHRISTMAS. 25 days of answering questions! You are definitely welcome to join in on the fun!
Christmas traditions...

family time--eating together, opening presents, talking, listening to music, watching movies.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Lucky Lazlo

Lucky Lazlo. Steve Light. 2016. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Lazlo was in love. He bought a rose from the flower-seller. The last red one--how lucky!

Premise/plot: Lucky Lazlo follows the adventures--or misadventures--of a young man, Lazlo, in love. His love is starring in a play, Alice in Wonderland. In fact, she's the star of the show, Alice. The show is premiering on a Friday at the Peacock Theater. This picture book is a comedy. The simple act of buying a flower for the one you love becomes a chaotic, hilarious riot of a book. And it all starts with a CAT who snatches Lazlo's rose.

My thoughts: I thought this one was charming even before I read the author's note. But. After reading the author's note, it went from "really like" to LOVE. Light has taken a LOT of theater superstitions and woven together a story that uses just about all of them--for better or worse! And his illustrations are both simple and complex. His use of color is simple, understated. But his use of detail is very complex indeed.

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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21. Will's Words

Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed The Way You Talk. Jane Sutcliffe. Illustrated by John Shelley. 2016. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Dear Reader: We have to talk. I have failed you. I set out to write a book about the Globe Theatre and its great storyteller, William Shakespeare. About how the man was an absolute genius with words and wove those words into the most brilliant and moving plays ever written. But that's just the trouble. You see, I wanted to tell you the story in my own words. But Will Shakespeare's words are there, too, popping up all over the place. It's not my fault. Really. Will's words are everywhere. They're bumping into our words all the time, and we don't even know it.

Premise/plot: Sutcliffe's picture book for older readers does a great job introducing readers to the sixteenth century theatre. And her emphasis on "Will's Words" shows the relevance Shakespeare still has in today's world. It is part narrative. But on each spread, she focuses on words--phrases--Shakespeare either invented himself (coined) OR kept alive (sustained) through the longevity of his plays. She uses the word or phrase in her narrative, and then explains it. Each word is explained and/or defined. Sometimes this includes "what it meant then, what it means now." But she also always includes: WHERE it came from--which play, which act, which scene.

Words include:

  • for goodness' sake
  • what's done is done
  • too much of a good thing
  • outbreak
  • excitement
  • of a sudden
  • wild goose chase
  • fashionable
  • money's worth
  • hurry
  • with bated breath
  • a sorry sight
  • heart's content
  • well behaved
  • send him packing
  • good riddance
  • love letter
  • laugh oneself into stitches
  • foul play
  • make your hair stand on end
  • cold-blooded
  • hot-blooded
  • bloodstained
  • dead as a doornail
  • seen better days
  • into thin air
  • amazement
  • the short and long of it
  • not budge an inch
  • eaten out of house and home
  • green-eyed monster
  • household words

My thoughts: I really loved this one. It is for older readers. I don't think the typical preschooler is going to care about the word origin of the phrase "dead as a doornail." But for older students (mid-to-upper elementary on up) what a treat!!! Be sure to watch the Horrible Histories music video about Shakespeare!
 


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Walk This World At Christmastime

Walk This World At Christmastime. Illustrated by Debbie Powell. 2016. Candlewick. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Walk this world at Christmastime. Let's take a stroll around the world, to all four corners of the globe. Peek through windows, open doors, watch as Christmastime unfolds.

Premise/plot: Readers "visit" many different countries at Christmastime. Each two-page spread takes readers to a new destination. The stops include Canada and the United States; Mexico, Bolivia, and Brazil; Nigeria, South Africa, and Ethiopia; Spain, France, Italy, and Greece; Holland, Austria, and Germany; U.K., Sweden, Norway, and Finland; Poland, Ukraine, and Russia; Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, and India; China, Japan, and the Philippines; Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa. Each two-page spread features a riddle, of sorts, asking readers to guess where they are. Each two spread also features a LOT of flaps to open. Behind each flap is a fact.

Some of the things we learn on this journey:
  • During Las Posadas, children dress as Mary and Joseph and go from house to house asking to be let in.
  • Leave out your shoes to get presents from the Three Wise Men.
  • Calabar Carnival, in Nigeria, is Africa's biggest street party. Get ready for parades, masquerades, and dancing.
  • An old Greek custom, recently revived, is to decorate real and model ships with lights at Christmastime.
  • In Holland, leave out your clogs for Saint Nicholas. Don't forget a carrot for his horse!
  • A Nutcracker doll is a traditional German gift.
  • The first Christmas card was sent in the U.K. in 1843.
  • In Russia, Father Frost brings children presents, accompanied by the Snow Maiden.
  • In Iraq, Christian families light a bonfire and recite passages from the Bible.
  • In India, banana trees are decorated for Christmas.
  • The Chinese give gifts of apples on Christmas Eve.
  • In Samoa, people feast on December 24, then go to church, dressed in white, on Christmas Day.
My thoughts: This one is packed with information. I definitely found it interesting. I'm not the biggest fan of lift-the-flap books. But I think this one works.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. The Lost Gift

The Lost Gift. Kallie George. Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin. 2016. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One windy Christmas Eve, four little animals huddled on top of Merry Woods Hill. They were so excited, they barely felt the cold. They were waiting for Santa to fly by on his sleigh.

Premise/plot: Four animals (Rabbit, Deer, Squirrel, and Bird) are super-excited to see Santa fly past on his sleigh. But when Santa drops a present in the woods--by mistake--the animals have a decision to make. Will they find the present and help the present get delivered? Or will they let it be since it doesn't concern them?

My thoughts: I really loved this story! I loved how the animals worked together to get the present delivered to the new baby at the farm. I loved how glad the animals were to see the baby receive the present and open it! I loved how their thoughtfulness was rewarded by Santa, who always knows.

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


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Countdown to Christmas, day 23

So Kailana (The Written Word) and I are teaming up again...this time to celebrate CHRISTMAS. 25 days of answering questions! You are definitely welcome to join in on the fun!
Day after Christmas traditions...

Honestly. Does staying at home count as tradition? I don't really do much shopping if I can help it. A decade or two ago it was different. I remember getting gift certificates and wanting to spend them right away! Or there was always one or two things that Santa forgot that I wanted to see if I could buy for myself. But now, not so much.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. I Am Jane Goodall

I Am Jane Goodall. Brad Meltzer. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I am Jane Goodall. On my first birthday, my father bought me a cuddly toy chimpanzee named Jubilee.

Premise/plot: I Am Jane Goodall is a picture book biography of Jane Goodall for young readers by Brad Meltzer. It uses text and speech bubbles throughout to give details of her life and her work. It is packed with plenty of information, and a great message or two.

My thoughts: I found this one slightly problematic. Not because of the text itself necessarily. But because of the illustrations. Jane Goodall is illustrated exactly the same throughout the book. It doesn't matter if she's one or eighty. As a one year old, she's got white hair pulled back in a ponytail. As an adult working in the jungle, she's the exact same height as when she's one and in a baby carriage. She's surrounded by ADULTS, during ADULT WORK, supposed to be one of the best, most qualified, most experienced in her field, and she's the size of a toddler. Why is this okay?!

That being said. I found the text interesting enough.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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