Parents and caregivers will find a cute, handy source for helping their children grow accustomed to a new baby in the house. Babies and bunnies are li...moreParents and caregivers will find a cute, handy source for helping their children grow accustomed to a new baby in the house. Babies and bunnies are likened to each other in this picture book, making it a rather irresistible way to anticipate and empathize that newborn stranger and render him or her in more familiar terms.
Honestly, some of the illustrations were so cute I nearly started to cry. (less)
An enterprising mole decides to bring more beauty to his life by learning how to play the violin. Oh, if only that were the limits of this ultimately...moreAn enterprising mole decides to bring more beauty to his life by learning how to play the violin. Oh, if only that were the limits of this ultimately disappointing picture book. The illustrations are gorgeous, but the message is not one that I'd be really enthusiastic for my child to internalize: the mole begins to dream about becoming a concert violinist, performing for queens and presidents, touching peoples' lives and changing the world...
...and then he laughs at himself, talks himself out of it, thinking that no one has even ever heard his music, not realizing that in the world above, rich and poor, king and peasant alike have been touched by his music.
I get that this is a charming tale of the change we can bring to peoples' lives without ever knowing it, and THAT is a good message, but there's a little too much humility and self-effacement going on here, and not enough pursuing of big dreams.
Or maybe I've just read too many picture books this month, and I'm seeing negative stuff where there is none. (less)
It’s Lemony Snicket, so it’s a given that this book is going to be a bit offbeat. To begin with, in this story your child will be exposed to several n...moreIt’s Lemony Snicket, so it’s a given that this book is going to be a bit offbeat. To begin with, in this story your child will be exposed to several new words—mezzo-soprano, panache, haberdashery, and so on—but more to the point, your children will subtly be taught the troubling concept of despondency, and how nothing—not keeping busy, not solicitous friends nor special treats—can necessarily cure this. It’s a troubling lesson to learn, but I suppose in general, it’s a lesson gently taught.
Softening—or at least distracting from--this rather bleak storyline are the illustrations: a riotous assortment of seemingly random depictions (although with Snickett, is anything truly random), ranging from a work of Kafka to an angel to a kangaroo to a painting of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino. The end result is a work that is essential Lemony Snickett--the man knows how to balance important life lessons with big words and surreal, quirky illustrations.(less)
When a rather indigent family lucks upon a little abandoned goat in the mountains one Christmas, one might be forgiven for thinking that this goat’s g...moreWhen a rather indigent family lucks upon a little abandoned goat in the mountains one Christmas, one might be forgiven for thinking that this goat’s goose is cooked, as it were. But restraint and sacrifice pays off in an unexpected way when the little Christmas goat begins to shed its Christmas coat and brings the family (and the village!) a very pretty little profit.
Delicate, gorgeous illustrations—detracted by rather a lot of text for a picture book—make this a pleasant tale for children. (less)
Wemberly’s mother and father have a big worry: their little Wemberly worries about everything. No matter how much her parents and her grandmother urge...moreWemberly’s mother and father have a big worry: their little Wemberly worries about everything. No matter how much her parents and her grandmother urge her not to worry, to go with the flow, she still worries—and rubs at her stuffed rabbit’s ears, which she is worried she will rub away. But there’s a bigger worry coming up that eclipses all others: Wemberly’s first day of school is coming up! What will happen when she’s surrounded by dozens of other children who might not understand her worrying ways? A sensitive teacher orchestrates an introduction to a similarly anxious peer, and all comes right at the end.
For those of us adults who remember those childish fears—both founded and unfounded—Wemberly’s anxious faces and her parents’ loving embraces might twist your heart in the best and worst ways possible, but chances are your child audience will find a comfort and connection in the pages of this book. (less)
Imaginative Jim has a great idea— “Let’s make gingerbread pirates!” he proposes to his mother on Christmas Eve. Captain Cookie, Jim’s favored creation...moreImaginative Jim has a great idea— “Let’s make gingerbread pirates!” he proposes to his mother on Christmas Eve. Captain Cookie, Jim’s favored creation, even has a peg-leg (in the form of a toothpick) and even comes to bed with Jim rather than being set for Santa to eat. But as we all know, animals talk and inanimate items come to life on Christmas Eve. And Captain Cookie, devoted to his gingerbread men, and is appalled to hear that Santa Claus is coming to eat them.
Never fear, for a happy ending is in store for everyone. After all, the magic of Christmas is for everyone! (Including “That cannibal, Santa Claus”—be sure you are ready to explain that concept to your children.)
For another good anthropomorphic Christmas read, try Lynn Hollyn’s Christmas Toyland. (less)
Warning: Don’t read this in bed. Or when you’re tired! The rhythmic, lulling nature and flow of the story, and the peaceful images of Teacher, Librari...moreWarning: Don’t read this in bed. Or when you’re tired! The rhythmic, lulling nature and flow of the story, and the peaceful images of Teacher, Librarian, Farmer, Fireman, and so on sleeping soundly after a hard day’s work, will (hopefully) leave the intended audience on the verge of a sound sleep. I don’t have much experience with toddlers, but I think this book has as good a chance as any to put your kid to sleep. And maybe you, too! For maximum benefit, read in a soothing, low tone of voice.
Perhaps a better alternative than Go the X*F& to Sleep. But certainly a viable alternative is The Napping House by Audrey Wood remains a favorite. (less)
In this simple “early concept book”, finger-painting style illustrations, and simply, alliterative, sometimes rhyming lines show a group making their...moreIn this simple “early concept book”, finger-painting style illustrations, and simply, alliterative, sometimes rhyming lines show a group making their way through a farm, seeing cows, sheep, chicken, and bees doing their daily business of grazing, buzzing, laying, and so on. Afterwards, they settle down to a picnic of farm product by the stream and a nap on the “good green grass”. A quaint, simple lesson to children about the process of “from farm to table” (or in this case, picnic blanket), this left me yearning to find the nearest (non-corporate) farm and do an outing there. If no farms are available to you…I suppose this book makes a pleasant alternative.(less)
“The way to a dragon’s heart is always through his stomach…” proclaims the back cover of this goofy book, but be sure not to give the dragons anything...more“The way to a dragon’s heart is always through his stomach…” proclaims the back cover of this goofy book, but be sure not to give the dragons anything spicy! Robbie learns this the hard way when he invites all his beloved dragon friends over for a Taco Party, and despite his best efforts, ends up serving “Totally Mild Salsa…now with Spicy Jalapeno Peppers!” The results are dismaying in the least…But at least we know now why dragons breathe fire .
Watercolor illustrations and plenty of endearing facial expressions make this a fun, funny book that teaches about hospitality, friendship, obligation…and the ways in which creatures that seem very different might not be so different at all. (less)
Since the summer I turned 12, I have been immersing myself in the world of historical fiction. Cynthia Harrod Eagles' The Dark Rose was my gateway int...moreSince the summer I turned 12, I have been immersing myself in the world of historical fiction. Cynthia Harrod Eagles' The Dark Rose was my gateway into this world, and through her I began to learn terms like "bastardized" and "hanged, drawn, and quartered."
Unfortunately, in the years that have lapsed since then, I haven't really gotten much more of a solid grasp on the various cousins and houses and factions and families of the 100-Years War...and I hate to say it, but Philippa Gregory's latest book, while entertaining, doesn't exactly make it any easier. Consider the following sentence, pulled from page 43: "My uncle the Duke of Suffolk and his sons John and Edmund de la Pole all become faithful Tudors and are no longer Yorkists, though their mother, Elizabeth, is a daughter of the House of York and sister to my Richard and to my late father."
(It's worth noting here, although one can infer it, that "my Richard" was both her uncle and her lover from one of Gregory's previous books, and was possibly responsible for the murder of her brothers--his nephews.)
Anyhow. Fortunately for all of us who don't specialize in genealogy, Gregory doesn't burden us with many sentences like that, as they take the backseat to a more pressing problem: Elizabeth of York must marry Henry Tudor, the man who killed her Richard and usurped her family's claim to the throne of England. How can she make a successful marriage in these circumstances? Particularly when he likes her family little and trusts them even less--and rightly so, as her family inspires, funds, or fuels various plots against him, and keeps Elizabeth in the dark. Meanwhile, as Elizabeth begins to bear Tudor heirs, her own loyalties become more and more complicated.
Highly readable and entertaining, if somewhat fanciful and bloated, this work of Gregory's is like an episode of Maury Pauvich, with plague and sumptuous costumes.(less)
I tried. I tried for 178 pages and three weeks, but I couldn't do it anymore. This book is an extremely academic and contemplative look not at the his...moreI tried. I tried for 178 pages and three weeks, but I couldn't do it anymore. This book is an extremely academic and contemplative look not at the history of California as such, but rather the concept of California in the minds of the nation, its citizens, its explorers, its minister and miners and intelligentsia, etc.
At this point in my life, it's simply not a particularly engrossing read. Maybe at some other point, I'll try again.(less)
One day in 1936, a woman sits in one of the bleak migrant camps of California. There she waits, nursing her sick baby and watching her two youngest ch...moreOne day in 1936, a woman sits in one of the bleak migrant camps of California. There she waits, nursing her sick baby and watching her two youngest children and waiting for…what? It is then, at this most desperate and careworn moment, that an ambitious young photographer, Vera Dare, notices her and captures her image. (Think Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother). The woman is named Mary Coin—strong and stoic mother of seven, who, along with thousands of other Americans, has watched her fortunes (scant though they are) decline during the years of the Great Depression. From farm to farm, she and her family have traveled, their living conditions declining with each place they visit. But that photograph—a mere second in time—is the starting clue that will help a man unravel a half-century old secret.
When Walker Dodge’s emotionally distant father passes away, the family thinks it’s only fitting that Walker, a social and cultural historian, take on the chore of emptying and selling the family home. But this humdrum and saddening task takes on great significance when Walker uncovers a copy of an iconic image and some cryptic information about the woman in the photograph. How does she tie into Walker’s family, and what secrets doesn’t he know about his family?
This is a thoughtful reflection on the concepts of image and memory, personal and public history, and the ownership of information. It’s also a good, solid read-alike for The Grapes of Wrath. (less)
This is a painfully realistic (for some of us with childhood traumas, TOO REALISTIC) view of the first love of teenagers who are confronted with the p...moreThis is a painfully realistic (for some of us with childhood traumas, TOO REALISTIC) view of the first love of teenagers who are confronted with the problems of adults.
Eleanor is a misfit of the first order, without a hope of ever being accepted. Everything about her is all wrong--her awkward looks, her big red hair, her lack of cool clothes (her lack of many clothes at all, really), her neglectful mother, and her chaotic homelife make her a prime target for the bullies. She realizes this the first moment she steps on the school bus and sees that no one is going to let her sit with them. Except Park.
Park is a quiet misfit, a Korean-American with vague claims to coolness (thanks to dating one of the cool kids a long time back), and he's barely hanging on to that social capital. Extending kindness to Eleanor is social suicide. So what will falling in love with her do?
He's vaguely surprised to find he doesn't care. What does it matter? He’s in love.
As for Eleanor, she does care--Park's the only good thing she's got going in her life, and that's frightening to think about when you stop and consider how unlikely it is that your first love lasts--particularly when Eleanor's life is, through no fault of her own, perpetually on the edge of catastrophe. Through the love story of Eleanor and Park, the reader will experience, once more, the frightening powerlessness of youth in the face of love—and in the face of life issues. (less)