Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Emerson is Mighty Girl

Emerson is Mighty Girl. (American Girl: WellieWishers) Meredith Rusu. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Ashlyn is Glitter Girl. She has a super sparkle wand. Camille is Agent Eagle Eyes. She has super vision. And Willa is Captain Quick. She has super speed. They are all looking for the Wicked Wellie of the West. Where, oh where, can she be?

Premise/plot: Do the WellieWishers always get along?! NO. A day of fun turns into a DISASTER when Emerson's "MIGHTY GIRL" role goes out of control. MIGHTY GIRL doesn't know when enough is enough. MIGHTY GIRL doesn't listen to her friends. MIGHTY GIRL is bossy and likes things her own way. Will Emerson stop being Mighty Girl and just be herself again?

My thoughts: I think this early reader deals with a very relevant topic. When kids play together--in this case it's girls playing together--it can get a bit out of control quickly. Kids don't always play well--play nicely--together. Sometimes there's a kid--like Emerson--who is bossy and takes over everything. Sometimes there's a kid--like Emerson--who stops listening and caring about how they feel. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, February 26, 2018

Sometimes You Fly

Sometimes You Fly. Katherine Applegate. Illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Before the cake...before the peas...before the laugh...before the seas...before the blocks...before the grow...

Premise/plot: Sometimes You Fly is a picture book for older readers. In fact, it is a picture book for young adults or "new adults." It is a reflective, near-poetic glance backwards at all of life's little-and-big moments of growing and coming-of-age. This sequence is carried mainly by the illustrations.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I'm not sure I loved, loved, loved it. But then again I am an adult that prefers reading picture books written for actual children. The first half of the picture book is leading up to graduation--perhaps high school, perhaps college. The second half of the picture book is the 'motivational' sequence reminding everyone--young and old--that life is full of mistakes that you learn from.

The illustrations definitely do the majority of the work in this one. The text is minimal. And in the first half of the book the text is often written in incomplete sentences or sentence fractures. The sequence works because of the illustrations, not because the text is super-amazing. The text improves in the second half of the book.

Overall, the illustrations show the universal aspect of growing up.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, February 23, 2018

Willa's Butterfly Ballet

Willa's Butterfly Ballet (American Girl, WellieWishers). Judy Katschke. 2018. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It's a sunny day in the garden.

Premise/plot: Willa's Butterfly Ballet is a Level 2 early reader. In the book, Willa and her friends discover five chrysalises almost ready to turn into butterflies. The girls decide to turn the occasion into a party. The girls will dress up and dance when the butterflies emerge. The girls ready their costumes and plan their dance moves, but all doesn't go according to plan. Willa's costume doesn't stay "perfect" for long. How will Willa cope with the situation?

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this early reader much more than the Meet the WellieWishers picture book. It includes a paper doll of Willa. I am assuming that there will be more books in the series so that by collecting the books one will soon have all five WellieWishers in paper doll format.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Meet the WellieWishers

Meet the WellieWishers. (American Girl) Judy Katschke. 2018. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The WellieWishers are a group of girls who each have the same big, bright wish: to be a good friend! Willa, Emerson, Camille, Kendall, and Ashlyn play together in a large and leafy garden cared for by Willa's Aunt Miranda. The girls all have garden boots known as wellingtons or "wellies." When they wear their wellies, the girls are ready for anything! Are you ready to meet the WellieWishers?

Premise/plot: Readers meet more than the WellieWishers in this new picture book. Readers "meet" the WellieWishers, the WellieWishers' playsets, and the WellieWishers' animals. Readers also "learn" about the four seasons.

My thoughts: American Girl books are nothing new, I suppose. But they've expanded their publishing market to include picture books and early readers. Previous titles in the chapter books series, seem to focus more on story and character than in marketing toys. I think the dolls are adorable. But I can't bring myself to think of this book as anything but an AmericanGirl catalog in disguise.

Text: 2.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 2.5 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Meet the Beanie Boos

Meet the Beanie Boos. Joan Emerson. 2018. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The Beanie Boos' world is full of beauty, wonder, and even a little magic. Beanie Boos live all over the world--in the Fantastical Forest, on the Mystic Mountains, in the Iridescent Islands, and even in the Shimmering Sky. Each bighearted Beanie Boo is unique, but they all have one thing in common: They love making new friends. These cute and cuddly creatures can't wait to meet you!

Premise/plot: This book introduces the current--as of Spring 2018--Beanie Boos available to purchase. Each Beanie Boo gets his or her own page. The book includes the names, the poems, other statistics, and a few sentences of story.

For example, Kiki is the grey-striped kitty with the pink bow. This is what we learn about her.
Personal poem: My friends call me kitty, kitty/Because they say I'm pretty pretty.
Likes: The color pink, bows, photography
Dislikes: Poor lighting, bad angles
Favorite food: Spinach
Hobby: Modeling
Motto: Vogue! Strike a pose!
Birthday: August 16
Kiki dreams of becoming a world-famous model. She practices her strut every day on the kittywalk and poses in the mirror. She doesn't just want to be in front of the camera, she wants to be behind it, too. She loves photography and is always snapping great pictures of her friends. 
My thoughts: It is what it is. What you see is what you get. If your little one loves Beanie Boos, then chances are they may want this one. It does include one page of stickers. It isn't fantastic literature in the grand scheme of things, but it may just get your little one excited about books.

I had very low expectations of this one--in terms of writing. It is better than I thought it might be. I have three of the Beanie Boos featured in the book. The book is not comprehensive. There are plenty of Beanie Boos not mentioned or included. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Two Mutch Sisters

The Two Mutch Sisters. Carol Brendler. Illustrated by Lisa Brown. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The Mutch sisters were collectors. It started when they were very little girls. First there were two toy teapots. One for Ruby, one for Violet. As the sisters grew, so did their collection....

Premise/plot: The Mutch sisters have TOO much stuff. At least one sister thinks so. Ruby, not so much. One day she has had ENOUGH. She's ready for a change. What will Violet do next....?!

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. It is a unique story. Usually when senior citizens appear in picture books, they show up as grandpas and grandmas. The focus is still mostly on the kid. But in this one, we have two heroines--a pair of sisters. And the focus is on their habits, their hoarding behaviors.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3.5 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Squash and a Squeeze

A Squash and a Squeeze. Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. 1993/2004/2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A little old lady lived all by herself with a table and chairs and a jug on the shelf. A wise old man heard her grumble and grouse, "There's not enough room in my house. Wise old man, won't you help me please? My house is a squash and a squeeze."

Premise/plot: Will the 'little old lady' learn a valuable lesson when she takes advice from the 'wise old man'?!

My thoughts: I really like this one. I remember hearing a similar story on Between the Lions back in the day. I enjoyed the rhythm and rhyme of it.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, February 16, 2018

Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy

Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy. Laurel Snyder. Illustrated by Emily Hughes. 2017. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: There was a knock. At the door. There was a knock at the door! It was Grumpy! "GRUMPY!"

Premise/plot: Charlie and Mouse are back for a second set of adventures. This early chapter book stars two lovable brothers and their grandpa, GRUMPY. The chapters are "Medium," "Pouncing," "Songs," and "Good-bye." In the first story, Mouse explains that he's "medium." He's bigger than he was--small--but he's not big like his brother.
"What is it like being medium?"
"When you are medium," said Mouse, "you can read some books. But also, people read books to you."
"What else?" asked Grumpy.
Mouse thought again.
"When you are medium, you can swim. But your mom sits on the steps and watches. Just in case."
"Ahh," said Grumpy. "It sounds very nice to be medium."
"It is," said Mouse.
"And how many hot dogs can you eat?" asked Grumpy. "When you are medium?"
"You can still eat three hot dogs," Mouse said. "But not with mustard. Mustard is not medium."
"That makes sense," said Grumpy.
 In the second story, Charlie and Mouse try to POUNCE Grumpy--but it's hard catching him asleep, or is it?! In the third story, Grumpy tries to put Charlie and Mouse to bed, but he's singing the wrong bedtime songs. In the fourth story, it is sadly time for Grumpy to go home from his visit. Even the blankets are sad.

My thoughts: I love, love, love, love, love, CRAZY love the Charlie and Mouse books. MORE PLEASE. I love the characters. I love the writing. I love the stories. I love the pacing. I love EVERYTHING.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Buster and the Baby

Buster and the Baby. Amy Hest. Illustrated by Polly Dunbar. 2017. [October 24, 2017] Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Thump, thump, thump. In the little red house, a dog ducks under the table.

Premise/plot: Thus begins one of the most perfectly-perfect picture books I've read this year. Buster and the Baby is a DELIGHTFUL action-packed adventure story. During the day, Buster hides and the baby finds and chases him; he loves it. These two are a perfect pair. But at night, well, she's tucked into bed...and it's his turn to "find" her.

My thoughts: I loved this one. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, CRAZY-LOVED this one. I loved the characters.  I love the writing. I loved the repetition. I loved the rhythm. I loved the pacing. I loved the JOY.
Out of the shadows she comes. Squealing and whirling and bumping his nose! Go, Buster. Go, Buster. Go, Buster, go! He wriggles behind the chair. Behind the blue chair is a good place to hide. (Maybe). He waits. And watches. And waits some more. Thump, goes his heart. Thump, thump, thump! Then... 
I loved the illustrations as well. Polly Dunbar has illustrated some of my favorite books.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Gorilla Did It

The Gorilla Did It. Barbara Shook Hazen. Illustrated by Ray Cruz. 1974. 32 pages. [Source: Childhood copy]

First sentence: Shhh! Go away. I can't play. I'm sleeping. Okay. But you've got to be quiet, or Mommy'll be mad.

Premise/plot: A little boy gets into trouble, but it's NOT his fault. The gorilla did it. Really. Or did he?!
Who made this mess?
The gorilla did it.
What gorilla?
The gorilla on my bike....
He didn't mean to.
It was an accident.
Just look! There's food all over the floor and grape juice under the radiator, and all your clean clothes are a sight! Don't tell me a gorilla did all this while you were sound asleep.
I wasn't asleep. He wouldn't let me. 
My thoughts: I loved, loved, LOVED this book as a kid. I consider it one of my prized possessions. And I always feel better when I know where it is. The illustrations date this one a bit. I think books from this era can be spotted practically a mile away. But I love it just as much as ever. Even if I do want to give the characters a makeover. The illustrations are in black and white except for the gorilla which is printed in blue. 

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Shake the Tree

Shake the Tree. Chiara Vignocchi. Paolo Chiarinotti. Silvia Borando. 2018. Candlewick Press. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: Mouse spots a nut. "Mmm," she says. "I'm going to gobble that up!" So she shakes the tree a little to the right...shake...and a little to the left. Shake, shake. Uh-oh.

Premise/plot: Shake the Tree is an interactive picture book originally published in Italy in 2015. The 'bells and whistles' of this one are provided by the imagination of the readers--parent and child. In this one, a mouse sets out to shake a delicious nut out of the tree. That isn't exactly what happens when she starts shaking the tree.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I can't say that I loved it as much as Silvia Borando's The Cat Book or The Dog Book by Lorenzo Clerici--both books in this same "Minibombo" series. But it's worth checking out of the library and sharing with your little ones. They may love it and want it again, again!

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, February 12, 2018

Make & Play Easter

Make and Play Easter. Joey Chou. Nosy Crow. 2018. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Easter is such a wonderful time of year!

Premise/plot: Make and Play Easter is a novely book for preschoolers. It includes sixteen pages of press out pieces to assemble and play with. Included are four children, bunnies, ducks, chickens, and sheep. (Also two enormously out-of-proportion-with-the-rest-of-the-set butterflies.) In addition to the press-out play pieces, it suggest seven Easter-themed activities that parents and children can do together. The activities range from simple--singing "Hot Cross Buns"--to more complex activities like making cupcakes and cookies or decorating Easter eggs.

My thoughts: This is a secular Easter book. For better or worse. For those looking to keep Easter focused on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is a distraction at best. There are plenty of people who would enjoy the book, however. Easter is both a sacred holiday and a secular one. Much like Christmas.

I enjoyed the two Make and Play books on Christmas more than this one.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, February 9, 2018

McBroom's Zoo

McBroom's Zoo. Sid Fleischman. Illustrated by Kurt Werth. 1972. 40 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Beasts and birds? Oh, I've heard some whoppers about the strange critters out here on the prairie. Why, just the other day a fellow told me he'd once owned a talking rattlesnake. It didn't talk exactly. He said it shook its rattles in Morse code. Well, there's not an ounce of fact in that. Gracious, no! That fellow had no regard for the truth. Everyone knows that a snake can't spell.

Premise/plot: How did Josh McBroom and his family get to have a zoo on their magical one-acre farm?! Well, it started one stormy spring day....when a tornado was spotted. That tornado sucks up ALL the topsoil from his farm, but McBroom won't be beaten by a storm. He'll chase it and see where his magical soil ends up... But the storm didn't just take...it also gave.

My thoughts: I LOVE the McBroom stories. I have read McBroom's Wonderful One-Acre Farm: Three Tall Tales (1966) and McBroom's Ghost (1971). I would read the whole series if I could find them. I love spending time with Josh McBroom who would "rather sit on a porcupine than tell a fib."

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Bobo and the Baby

Bobo and the New Baby. Rebecca Huang. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This is Bobo. Bobo likes his life. He likes to snooze. He snoozes on the sofa. He snoozes in the bathtub. He snoozes in the laundry basket.

Premise/plot: Bobo's life is just about perfect. Then Mr. and Mrs. Lee bring home a baby. Suddenly Bobo doesn't feel like he belongs in his own home. Nothing is the same. Will he ever adjust to the baby?

My thoughts: I liked this one. I thought Bobo was adorable. The book is on the predictable side. Bobo "saves" the baby by alerting the parents to the danger of a bee. When he stops being the perceived "dangerous threat" to the baby, he once again becomes their beloved Bobo.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3.5 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

My Friends Make Me Happy

My Friends Make Me Happy. Jan Thomas. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hi, Sheep! Hi, Friends! Can you guess what makes me happy?

Premise/plot: Sheep has asked his friends to guess what makes him happy. The clue? It starts with the letter F. Will Donkey, Dog, and Duck be able to guess?!

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I probably enjoyed My Toothbrush is Missing a little bit more. But. This one is still super-fun and a great addition to the Giggle Gang series of early readers by Jan Thomas. I love this gang of friends--always have, always will. And whether they are starring in picture books or early readers, they make me smile.

I do think that the more familiar you are with the characters, the more you'll get out of it. For example, I'm thinking about the turnips reference.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

My Toothbrush is Missing

My Toothbrush is Missing. (The Giggle Gang #4) Jan Thomas. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: My toothbrush is missing!

Premise/plot: Dog's toothbrush is missing! Will his friends help him find it. First he may have to explain exactly what a toothbrush is to Donkey. Once he does, well, Donkey is SURE he's seen it.

My thoughts: I love, love, love Jan Thomas. I do. I think she's written some crazy-funny-zany books for young readers. Some I love and adore. Some I just "really like." This early reader is in her newest series. If you've ever read a Jan Thomas book and smiled, I recommend this one. And if you're new to her work, well, this is just as good a place to start as any! 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, February 5, 2018

Amazing Animals

Amazing Animals: A Spin and Spot Book. Liza Charlesworth. Illustrated by Brandon Reese. 2017. Scholastic. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: NEIGHBORHOOD. Nature is right outside your door! The places people live are home to lovable pets and lots of other creatures, too. Can you spot all eight neighborhood animals?
FARM. Moo! Cluck! Baa! The farm is a noisy place filled with friendly creatures that give us milk, eggs, and wool for sweaters. Can you spot all eight farm animals?

Premise/plot: Each two-page spread provides another opportunity for parents and little ones to spot, to identify, different animals. The locales covered are neighborhood, farm, rain forest, desert, arctic, and ocean. Each spread has a wheel that turns that reveals each animal. (Technically there are three wheels; they have different animals printed on the front and back.

My thoughts: An amazing story, it is not. It is serviceable though, what more can you expect from a novelty book? I think there is potential for a quality reading experience--a shared time together--on a lap, in bed, wherever. I think little ones may enjoy turning the wheel and spotting the animals. This one may pair well with Baby Einstein's Baby Noah. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, February 2, 2018

One Fun Day with Lewis Carroll

One Fun Day with Lewis Carroll: A Celebration of Wordplay and a Girl Named Alice. Kathleen Krull. Illustrated by Julia Sarda. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Lewis Carroll was an expert at fun. A day with Lewis was always fabulous and joyous--as he would say, frabjous. Young Lewis could make anyone grin from ear to ear, like a Cheshire cat. His ten brothers and sisters adored him. He coaxed them into games of cards, chess, and croquet. He led adventures, galumphing across the leafy wonderland of the English countryside. They found rabbit holes to peer down, toads and caterpillars to befriend, flowers to talk to, trees to climb. Their burbles of delight would brighten the tulgey wood around them.

Premise/plot: Kathleen Krull's latest book is a picture book biography of Lewis Carroll, author of the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. 

Is there more that could be said about Lewis Carroll? Yes. Is a picture book the best place to give a complex and thorough treatment of the man and his work? Probably not. Some of what I've read about Carroll, I wish I could unread.

My thoughts: Alice in Wonderland was one of my first loves. We had multiple copies of it growing up--still do. It's hard to resist new or used copies of the book. My mother would read aloud to my sister and I. We'd each have a copy in hand. It was magic--pure magic. When this review copy came, I knew I would have to reread the books. I did. It was just as magical as I remembered.

I really love the narrative of this biography. It's fun, playful, joyous--a bit silly. 
His young friends never knew what a day with Lewis would hold. Sometimes he'd propose six impossible things before breakfast: Should they draw ridiculous things, like much of a muchness? Should they try to soothe the Jubjub bird? Should they argue with the mysterious twins Tweedledum and Twiddledee? Should they beware the dreaded Boojum? Should they go on a hunt for the Snark? Should they play with a vorpal blade as it goes snicker-snack?
I would recommend it to all ages. But in particular I would recommend it to reading families who have read Alice in Wonderland or who soon plan on reading it with their children. I was introduced to Alice at a young age, and cannot imagine a time without Wonderland. But if your family hasn't had that exposure, I could see why this book might not be appealing/interesting to children.

That being said, I really disliked the illustrations. Some of Krull's other picture book biographies have had beautiful, wonderful illustrations. That is sadly not the case with this one. 

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 1 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Henry and Mudge

Henry and Mudge The First Book. Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Sucie Stevenson. 1987. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Henry had no brothers and no sisters. "I want a brother," he told his parents. "Sorry," they said. Henry had no friends on his street. "I want to live on a different street," he told his parents. "Sorry," they said. Henry had no pets at home. "I want to have a dog," he told his parents. "Sorry," they almost said. But first they looked at their house with no brothers and sisters. Then they looked at their street with no children. Then they looked at Henry's face. Then they looked at each other.

Premise/plot: Henry and his dog Mudge star in Cynthia Rylant's early chapter book series. This is the first book in the series. It is about when Henry gets Mudge, or, perhaps when Mudge gets Henry. It is about what they mean to each other. Later chapters in this book explore this devotion. Mudge learns a lesson about staying close to home.

My thoughts: I really adore Cynthia Rylant's work. What do I love? I love her writing, her narrative style, her pacing. There's something delightful about her phrasing. "Every day when Henry woke up, he saw Mudge's big head. And every day when Mudge woke up, he saw Henry's small face."

I don't know that it would be fair to compare Henry and Mudge with the Mr. Putter and Tabby series. I'm glad both exist.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers