It all began with that shoe on the wall. A shoe on a wall . . . ? Shouldn't be there at all!
Then I looked up. And I said, "Oh, MAN!"
And that's how Wacky Wednesday began.
Dr. Seuss both wrote and illustrated his most famous works, but he did create a few books illustrated by others, usually using a pseudonym. He wrote Wacky Wednesday under the name Theo. LeSieg--his own name, Theodore Geisel, turned around. It was illustrated by George Booth.
Wacky Wednesday tells of one Wednesday when everything was wacky: shoes on the wall, bananas growing on an apple tree, worms chasing birds, and much more. Seuss's text is very much secondary to Booth's illustrations. The text of each two-page spread announces the number of things that are 'wacky' in the accompanying illustration, inviting the reader to find them all.
The number of wacky things in each scene increases as the book goes along, culminating in a final two-page spread with twenty wacky things:
"Only twenty things more will be wacky," he said.
"Just find them and then you can go back to bed."
The type of wackiness varies, exercising different skills: counting (how many wacky things have we found?), spelling ('schoul' is not the right way to spell 'school'), domain knowledge (a portrait of Abraham Lincoln should not be labelled 'George Washington'), and simple attention to detail (turtles do not belong atop trees!).
Wacky Wednesday is a great book that encourages participation from the reader. It's appropriate for April Fool's Day or any day.(less)
A Caldecott Honor Book. Sal and her mother go out to pick blueberries to store for the winter. A bear cub and its mother have the same idea, and the m...moreA Caldecott Honor Book. Sal and her mother go out to pick blueberries to store for the winter. A bear cub and its mother have the same idea, and the mothers and children get mixed up. Excellent line art and a cute story. The parallel between the bears storing up fat for the winter and the humans preserving blueberries is a good one, and their actions, too, parallel one another satisfyingly.(less)
Cast your mind back, all the way to the year 1997. There were some 50 million people with access to the internet, and nearly 10 million of them used...more
Cast your mind back, all the way to the year 1997. There were some 50 million people with access to the internet, and nearly 10 million of them used America Online. We were so naive as to unironically call the web the 'information superhighway.' Google was brand new, and we mostly used Yahoo, Lycos, or Altavista to search the web. Facebook wasn't even a glimmer in Mark Zuckerberg's 13-year-old eye. We didn't have Twitter or Tumblr, or even Myspace or Livejournal.
What we did have was email. Back then, we hyphenated it, as a sign of respect for and discomfort with the impressive technology. "E-mail is delivered much faster than regular mail (which some people call 'snail-mail')," writes Brimner. "A keypal in another state or even another country usually will receive your e-mail in minutes. That's great news!"
E-Mail is full of the kind of advice that most of us take for granted, these days. For example, you'll need a network card or modem, which will "take the signals from your computer and get messages ready to travel over the Information Superhighway." Brimner helpfully provides a picture of an IBM 7852 model 10 modem, which around that time had dropped in price to only $486.
It's also got the kind of information we probably should know, but might need to keep in mind: "If you are not careful, you might write and send angry words to somebody else and later wish you hadn't." Truth.
E-Mail explains what a flame war is, how to find and subscribe to mailing lists, what emoticons are, and much more. Sprinkled throughout are e-mail addresses that kids might want to try, like Sea World (email@example.com), the USGS (Ask-A-Geologist@usgs.gov), or the President of the United States (firstname.lastname@example.org). The author even includes his own email address (Lbrimner@aol.com).
This book is certainly a product of its time. Besides the screenshots of Eudora circa 1996, it's got a dated approach to dealing with people you meet on the internet. "Most of the people you'll meet on the Internet are nice. But be smart. Bad people sometimes hide out on the Internet, and you may not be able to tell who they are . . . If your keypal wants to meet you in person, meet in a public place like a mall. And take an adult with you."
If that advice had been written today, I imagine it'd go more like "If your keypal wants to meet you in person, run. Don't stop until you're surrounded by police. Make sure the police have never used the internet. It's the only way to be sure."
Books like E-Mail are fascinating as a view back into how we thought about technology in the past. It's been about 17 years since this book was published. In some ways, it's still perfectly correct and even useful. In others, it's hopelessly dated. How will things look in 2031? I don't dare to guess.(less)
Cohen's book contains facts about Star Trek, but there's nothing strange or amazing therein. The facts are mostly in the form of very brief summaries...more
Cohen's book contains facts about Star Trek, but there's nothing strange or amazing therein. The facts are mostly in the form of very brief summaries of a few episodes or (similarly very brief) biographies of a few principal actors. Almost everything in the book will be known to anyone who bothered to watch the show ("When the series begins Kirk is in his mid-thirties, and holds the rank of captain with a starship command."), and the little that might not be is generally of little interest ("Another of Bill Shatner's current enthusiasms is the horses that he rides and breeds on his southern California ranch.").
The most interesting part of this book is the chapter on the fans, which talks about the letter-writing campaign to save Star Trek from cancellation, fanzines, conventions, and the broader impact of Star Trek in the years since its cancellation.
The book concludes with a 22-question trivia quiz.
The eighth Arthur book. Arthur is put in charge of the Thanksgiving play. Arthur's friends are extra nice to him, to be sure they get the parts they w...moreThe eighth Arthur book. Arthur is put in charge of the Thanksgiving play. Arthur's friends are extra nice to him, to be sure they get the parts they want. This is nice, until Arthur realizes that nobody wants to play the turkey--and he can't have a play called The Big Turkey Hunt without a turkey! I was expecting a lesson about leadership, or standing up to your friends, or something, but in the end Arthur just plays the turkey himself, and his friends are kind enough to join him in his embarrassment. Disappointing. Another average book.(less)
The seventh Arthur book. Another holiday themed book, and we're not done with those yet. Arthur must deal with a bully while preparing for the April F...moreThe seventh Arthur book. Another holiday themed book, and we're not done with those yet. Arthur must deal with a bully while preparing for the April Fool's assembly. He's very nervous, but in the end, he manages to play a trick or two on the bully. It's unfortunate that none of the adults around Arthur, including those aware of the bullying, do anything to help, but I expect that's more truth in fiction than anything. Rather average book.(less)
The sixth Arthur book. Halloween themed, obviously, with a rather tired 'old lady who isn't actually a witch, gasp!' plot. Plenty of Arthur being afra...moreThe sixth Arthur book. Halloween themed, obviously, with a rather tired 'old lady who isn't actually a witch, gasp!' plot. Plenty of Arthur being afraid of his shadow, though he does overcome his fear to go after his sister, which is a point in his favor. Most of these books, so far, are about Arthur being afraid or otherwise insecure. Is that what the series is all about? It'd be nice if Arthur could occasionally be a bit more straightforwardly admirable.(less)
The fifth Arthur book. The art has continued to evolve, and by this point Arthur should look quite familiar to viewers of the TV series. The story is...moreThe fifth Arthur book. The art has continued to evolve, and by this point Arthur should look quite familiar to viewers of the TV series. The story is that Arthur goes to camp, is sure that he will hate it--does hate it--but, in the end, he accidentally wins a scavenger hunt for his team, and decides he loves camp. It's meant to be funny, I guess, but it doesn't work for me, and the story's not very interesting. Much boys vs. girls, followed by a new antagonist: an entire camp of villains. Not to my taste.(less)
A little break from all these picture books seems to be in order, so let's go with something completely different: The Entropy Effect by Vonda N. McI...moreA little break from all these picture books seems to be in order, so let's go with something completely different: The Entropy Effect by Vonda N. McIntyre, which is #2 in the Pocket Books line of Star Trek novels.
The Enterprise has been in orbit of a singularity for six weeks, Mr. Spock making careful observations of this unusual phenomenon, when they are called away to Aleph Prime by an ultimate override command--to be used only in the most dire of situations.
They arrive to find no great emergency at all. Instead, they're asked to transport a criminal a short distance to a rehabilitation facility. Captain Kirk would have angrily refused, but Spock asks him to accede to this request. It seems that the criminal in question is a scientist of Spock's acquaintance, and there's something fishy about the situation. Spock's investigation uncovers a threat to the entire universe, which he must handle covertly, if he can.
The Entropy Effect focuses on a few characters only: Spock, McCoy, Kirk, and Sulu, plus Mandala Flynn and Hunter, characters original to the novel. The bulk of the novel follows Spock as he deals with the situation, but it takes time to give us some insight into the others, as well. Importantly, in Trek history, it is in this novel that Sulu is given his name, Hikaru (which wouldn't be officially confirmed until a decade later, in The Undiscovered Country), and promised a promotion to lieutenant commander.
The original characters are the high point of the novel. Flynn and the security officers under her command are each interesting: Flynn's desire to prove herself is admirable; Jenniver's difficulties fitting in inspire sympathy; Neon's unusual language (consisting only of nouns) and Snnanagfashtalli's loyalty to Jenniver each merit a mention, as well. Hunter, Kirk's past love, is of little import to the plot, but she does add some needed variety. She has a child, and is part of a nontraditional family arrangement--it's good to show that humans, too, are diverse. There are as many ways to live as there are people on the Earth, and space travel doesn't do anything to simplify that.
Is it odd that each of the characters I identified as being of particular interest is female? Early Trek is certainly a story of men, and this novel, for all its focus on Spock, does somewhat counterbalance that.
The Entropy Effect's plot eventually revolves around time travel, and it's handled fairly well, in a Star Trek sort of way. It's shown to be difficult and far from consequence-free, and there's a bit of suspense as we wonder how (though--let's be honest--not if) Spock will manage his task.
All told, The Entropy Effect is an average book: not great, but fun enough to read once. I understand that several of the original characters show up in other Trek novels; I'll look forward to reading those, some day.(less)
The fourth Arthur book, though he scarcely appears. This time, Francine is in the spotlight. It's nice to see her get a positive showing, here. The mo...moreThe fourth Arthur book, though he scarcely appears. This time, Francine is in the spotlight. It's nice to see her get a positive showing, here. The moral is that honesty is the best policy, but I'm not sure I agree with the book's position that Francine shouldn't reveal when her friend is lying. Loyalty is one thing, but... anyway, it's still a pretty good book, though I liked Arthur's Valentine a bit better.(less)
Third Arthur book. Nice art, and this one even has a real story. Francine is secretly sending Arthur valentines, but Arthur hopes it might be the new...moreThird Arthur book. Nice art, and this one even has a real story. Francine is secretly sending Arthur valentines, but Arthur hopes it might be the new girl, Sue Ellen, sending them. Francine has teased Arthur in the previous books, and he gets her back with a little trick, once he discovers that she is his secret admirer. This is the best Arthur book so far.(less)
Second Arthur book. Arthur needs glasses, and is teased because of them. Eventually he learns that they are very helpful, and don't look so bad after...moreSecond Arthur book. Arthur needs glasses, and is teased because of them. Eventually he learns that they are very helpful, and don't look so bad after all. Better art than the previous book, and generally improved.(less)
When Chrysanthemum was born, her parents thought she was perfect, and wanted to give her the perfect name. Chrysan...moreThis review also appears on my blog.
When Chrysanthemum was born, her parents thought she was perfect, and wanted to give her the perfect name. Chrysanthemum loved her name. She loved everything about her name. Until the first day of school, that is. The others don't love her name--it hardly even fits on her name tag! What will poor Chrysanthemum do?
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is about dealing with bullying when you don't quite fit in.
Chrysanthemum loved her name.
She loved the way it sounded when her mother woke her up.
She loved the way it sounded when her father called her for dinner.
And she loved the way it sounded when she whispered it to herself in the bathroom mirror.
Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum.
Unfortunately, when Chrysanthemum went to her first day of school, she finds that the other children don't share her high opinion of her name. "It's so long", says Jo. "You're named after a flower!", exclaims Victoria. Chrysanthemum is discouraged.
Chrysanthemum's parents reassure her that her name is beautiful--"and precious and priceless and fascinating and winsome"--just like she is. And the other children are simply jealous--"and envious and begrudging and discontented and jaundiced". And who wouldn't be jealous of a name like Chrysanthemum?
When the children tease Chrysanthemum during music class, Mrs. Twinkle, who they especially like, reveals that she, too is named after a flower--Delphinium Twinkle is her name. And she's thinking of naming her child (if it's a girl) Chrysanthemum as well.
Chrysanthemum could scarcely believe her ears.
Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum.
Chrysanthemum has a fine story and a good lesson, supported by absolutely charming watercolor illustrations. It's recommended for ages 4-8.
Henkes has also written a number of other picture books featuring mice, including Owen, a Caldecott Honor book.(less)
This review also appears (with more sample images) on my blog.
The evil daughters of Zamora, intent on conquering the world, seek the Viridian Scepter,...moreThis review also appears (with more sample images) on my blog.
The evil daughters of Zamora, intent on conquering the world, seek the Viridian Scepter, a powerful magical artifact which was used to destroy their mother. It has been broken into three pieces, and its handle stolen, taken by a ghost wolf to another world, the nexus. There, it is found by a girl who can, mysteriously, wield it, although it should be possible only for the most powerful of Highborns.
Does this story sound familiar to you? Let me describe it again.
Young Dorothy Gale, who lives on a farm in Kansas, finds a wolf, which she names Toto, and determines to keep it as a pet. Soon after, her house is lifted by a tornado and Dorothy finds herself in the land of Oz, where the Wicked Witches of the East and West terrorize the land. Dorothy accidentally kills the Wicked Witch of the East using a rod that Toto carried, which is sure to cause the witch's sister to target her. So Dorothy sets out on a journey across Oz to complete the scepter, of which Toto's rod was a part, and use it to destroy the Wicked Witch of the West and return home.
That's probably more recognizable, isn't it?
Grimm Fairy Tales presents Oz is a hardcover collection of the six issue miniseries of the same name from Zenescope Entertainment. The series ran from July 2013 to February 2014, and was written by Joe Brusha, with pencils by Rolando di Sessa, inks by Glauber Matos, and colors by Ulises Grostieta.
The Grimm Fairy Tales series presents re-imaginings of fairy tales, set in a crossover-friendly universe consisting of Earth (called the nexus) and four other worlds: Myst, Neverland, Wonderland, and Oz. The miniseries in this book, as the title implies, is concerned only with the final of these. I've never read any other entries in the Grimm Fairly Tales series, so I can confidently say that this book works as a standalone story.
The story is, in broad stokes, the one we're all familiar with. Dorothy from Earth shows up in Oz, meets some traveling companions, and eventually defeats the wicked witches, freeing Oz from their tyranny. At last, Dorothy goes home. All of the details, though, have been changed.
Rather than setting out alone, Dorothy begins her quest in an RPG-approved cliche party consisting of a magic user (Glinda, the Good Witch of the North), a warrior (Thorne, a member of the lion-like Kavari tribe), and three short comic-relief types (Sparky, Crumb, and Crank, who are Boggers--don't call them munchkins!).
Unfortunately, cliche is rather the name of the game, for this story. Dorothy is mysteriously very powerful. Glinda, the knowledgeable, powerful, and very useful leader of the party (at the outset), ends up conveniently unconscious for the latter part of the story. The third chapter's opening is narrated by a positively painful letter home from Dorothy, in the venerable writing-that-everything-is-fine-while-actually-in-a-pitched-battle style. And the ending is rather spectacularly unsatisfying.
The adaptation isn't without its clever bits, and in particular it does a reasonably good job with the lion, scarecrow, and tin woodsman, but overall the writing is just not up to par.
The artwork is fairly good, but quite variable. Dorothy, in particular, never seems to have quite the same face from panel to panel.
The many faces of Dorothy, from the first two chapters.
I've seen some complaints about the sexualized outfits and poses of the female cast of this book, and I gather that it's something of a staple of the series. The characters certainly wear impractical clothing, and the artist is clearly not above taking advantage of this.
This is certainly not a problem that's limited to this book--it's a common (and valid) criticism of comics in general. That said, I don't think that it's the biggest problem the book has, nor a particularly egregious example of it. The worst of it is all in the alternate covers, but that's not an issue, here.
Grimm Fairy Tales presents Oz is not by any means an excellent comic, but it's not a terrible one, either. It's worth the 45 minutes or so it takes to read, if only that.
Mei Li wishes to go to the New Year Fair in the city, but little girls always have to stay home. Undaunted, she sn...moreThis review also appears on my blog.
Mei Li wishes to go to the New Year Fair in the city, but little girls always have to stay home. Undaunted, she sneaks out to visit the city, following her brother. What adventures await?
Thomas Handforth's Mei Li is the winner of the 1939 Caldecott Medal. Unlike the previous winner, Animals of the Bible, Mei Li is a real picture book.
The story centers around a young Chinese girl, Mei Li, who is unsatisfied with remaining at home, while the New Year Fair is going on. "If I always stay at home," she asks, "what can I be good for?" So off she goes to have adventures like her brother, San Yu. He wonders what a girl could do at the fair, but she bribes him to take her with him, all the same.
The fair is as exciting as Mei Li had hoped, and she shows her doubting brother all the things that a girl can do, at the fair. Looking at a group of circus performers, she tells him, "They can walk on stilts. They can balance on a tight-rope. They can throw pots and pans in the air with their feet. And so can I!"
Mei Li doesn't juggle pots and pans with her feet, but she does ask a strong circus girl to lift her upside-down in the palm of her hand; she feeds a bear a bit of bean-cake; and she dances on the back of a circus pony. Later, a fortune teller predicts that Mei Li will rule over a kingdom--naturally, she believes him. Soon after, they must hurry home, so they will be in time to greet the Kitchen God.
When she returns home, Mei Li's mother refers to her as "the princess who rules our hearts." She is surely a princess, but what sort of kingdom will she rule over? That night, the Kitchen God explains:
"This house is your kingdom and palace. Within its walls all living things are your loyal, loving subjects."
Mei Li sighed happily, "It will do for a while, anyway."
Mei Li is based on Handforth's experiences while living in China for six years, beginning in 1931, the characters and drawings are based on people he knew, and the titular heroine is based on Pu Mei Li, a four-year-old girl he met there. Much more information about this, including a photograph of the real Mei Li holding Handforth's picture book, can be found in this article from The Horn Book Magazine by Kathleen Horning (who, coincidentally, wrote From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books, which I read almost exactly two years ago).
The illustrations are in ink, done with a brush, which Handforth felt better captured the spirit of China. Few of the illustrations feature any background, but the figures represented are generally very dynamic. The book does feature a number of two-page spreads, varying text positioning depending on the artwork. The illustrations depict the actual scenes in the book, making Mei Li much more of a 'real' picture book than its predecessor for the Caldecott Medal.
Mei Li has been criticized for sexism. Not without grounds: Mei Li is told that her 'kingdom' is the home, and the book ends with a poem extolling the virtues of a woman who keeps a good house:
This is the thrifty princess, Whose house is always clean, No dirt within her kingdom Is ever to be seen.
Her food is fit For a king to eat, Her hair and clothes Are always neat.
Furthermore, Mei Li is shown to be frightened of fireworks, allowing San Yu to set them off while she plugs her ears, and she gives her last lucky penny to San Yu to throw at a bell (for the promise of money all year), since she is sure that she could never hit it.
I think these criticisms are a little misguided; at least, they don't look at the whole picture. Compare what Mei Li does at the fair to what San Yu does: while Mei Li balances upside down on a circus performer's hand, San Yu dresses up as a wise man for a play; while Mei Li feeds a real bear a cake, to show her bravery, San Yu pretends to hunt a lion that is really two boys with a mask; Mei Li dances on the back of a prancing horse, after which San Yu throws her penny at a bell and goes off to buy a kite (a fake hawk, which he later uses to frighten Mei Li). Mei Li's adventures at the fair are real, and San Yu's are merely imaginary. Certainly it is Mei Li who comes off best in their little competition!
Too, Mei Li gives her first lucky penny to a beggar girl she meets when entering the city, and it's that girl who holds the gates open so that she can leave the city and return home to greet the Kitchen God, "And even five policemen and five soldiers could not force her away until Mei Li was through the gate." Not so easily cowed, this girl!
Finally, though the statement of the Kitchen God that the house is Mei Li's kingdom may be reinforcing the domestic role of women, Mei Li responds that it will do "for a while, anyway", which also means that eventually, it won't be enough. And Handforth wrote, of the real Mei Li:
No Empress Dowager was ever more determined than she. A career is surely ordained for her, other than being the heroine of a children’s book.
Certainly some older children's books do not stand the test of time, as cultural values march on (The Five Chinese Brothers or Shen of the Sea, both coincidentally also dealing with China, are examples of this, for different reasons), but I wouldn't fear to recommend Mei Li.
The first entry in the venerable Arthur series. Arthur is teased because of his nose, and considers rhinoplasty, but ultimately decides that he's fine...moreThe first entry in the venerable Arthur series. Arthur is teased because of his nose, and considers rhinoplasty, but ultimately decides that he's fine just as he is. Not too bad art, decent message. The highlight is Arthur trying on various other animals' noses to see which he likes. Not a bad book, but the series does improve.(less)
Cute picture book in not-so-excellent verse. "Wings of many sizes/Big and small/and short and tall." just doesn't flow well. That aside, it's got nice...moreCute picture book in not-so-excellent verse. "Wings of many sizes/Big and small/and short and tall." just doesn't flow well. That aside, it's got nice illustrations and it's pretty funny. I did enjoy that one of the things that had wings was a wingback chair.(less)
A family of trolls, having a lie-in after a late-night rude noises contest, is awakened by a huge billy goat with...moreThis review also appears on my blog.
A family of trolls, having a lie-in after a late-night rude noises contest, is awakened by a huge billy goat with a bad case of Random Hostility Syndrome. It stomps across their bridge, shouting "Beware, beware, the Bully Goat Grim! Nobody better not mess with him!" However will they get back to their peaceful existence?
The Bully Goat Grim, written by Willy Claflin and illustrated by James Stimson, is a "Mother Moose Tale" loosely inspired by the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. In Claflin's version, it's the trolls living under the bridge who are the heroes, and the huge, mean goat who is the villain.
This goat, called Bully Goat Grim, is in the habit of finding unsuspecting woodland creatures, lowering his oversized head, and charging them. Soon enough, all the creatures around are in bandages and slings, hiding from Bully Goat Grim, so he takes out a map and heads for greener pastures.
On the way to said greener pastures is a bridge, under which lives a family of trolls: the mother with three heads, the father with two, and the daughter with only one. Bully Goat Grim makes a nuisance of himself, waking the family. The father gets into an argument with himself over how to deal with the situation, and ends up knocking himself out, and the mother discusses with herself until all three heads fall asleep, so it's up to the baby troll to solve their problem.
The baby troll realizes (being very clever for such a young troll) that "Nobody better not mess with him!" is a double negative, which means that she should mess with Bully Goat Grim. So she finds a pillow and constructs herself a parachute, then taunts the goat into charging her. When he does--poof!--the pillow absorbs the blow and the baby troll gets a free air ride.
Before long, all the animals in the forest have adopted the baby troll's idea.
Now there is nothing worse than having Random Hostility Syndrome and not being able to injure anybody. It was distremely depressing to the Bully Goat Grim, and so finally he just give up and slunk away. He slunk, and slunk, and slunk, until he was completely away.
The artwork in this book is very appealing. Not only are the illustrations funny, most are filled with interesting little details. When discussing what to do about the goat, for instance, the mother troll is eating Odin brand tyttebær syltetøy--Norwegian for lingonberry jam. Very appropriate, since the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff is originally Norwegian!
The writing is unusual, but funny. It's got a lot of fake words (like 'distremely', above) sprinkled in, which the book explains is from the original story, told in the Moose language--the book's conceit is that Claflin is merely translating the stories told to him by Maynard Moose--and the grammar is nonstandard. If the story is performed, rather than merely read, these will work well, but they're a little distracting, when reading.
Willy Claflin is not only an author, but a singer and storyteller as well. With the aid of a number of hand puppets, he has performed full-time since 1983. For a sample, you can see him perform at the UMSL St. Louis Storytelling Festival 2012. The book comes with an audio CD recording of the story, though my review copy did not include this.
This is an activity book. The reader is encourage to fill in the pages with information about himself (or herself), from "I am ____ feet, ____ inches...moreThis is an activity book. The reader is encourage to fill in the pages with information about himself (or herself), from "I am ____ feet, ____ inches tall." to "There are ____ forks in my house.", plus things to draw, and two lined pages on which to write a story. Very fun book. It's still in print (of course, since it's a Dr. Seuss book), so you can still get a nice, fresh copy of your own to deface (can you tell I don't like writing in books?). Recommended for young children.(less)
One day, the Seven Dwarfs receive a letter from the castle. It's from Snow White, letting them know that she'll be...moreThis review also appears on my blog.
One day, the Seven Dwarfs receive a letter from the castle. It's from Snow White, letting them know that she'll be visiting. The dwarfs are very excited to see her, but their house is a mess! Will they be able to clean up in time for Snow White's visit?
The eleventh book in the Disney Fun-to-Read Library, Welcome Back, Snow White is about working together to accomplish something too difficult to do alone. When the dwarfs attempt to clean the house individually, they cause a bigger mess than they started with. But when they coordinate their efforts, they're able to get the job done and impress Snow White with their cooperation.
The art, as usual for these, is nice enough. It looks very like the film transferred to the page. Of course, what made Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs a great work of animation was the realistic, fluid quality of the movement--it's not enough for a book to copy its character designs. This book, like the others in this series, has high-quality art and decent writing, but it isn't a strong example of a picture book. For a picture book to be great, the art and text need to work together to form a greater whole. The art in Welcome Back, Snow White perfectly illustrates the scenes, but it doesn't do anything more than that. Of course, this is the quibble of an adult fan of literature--I don't think I had any complaints about these, twenty years ago.
Welcome Back, Snow White seems never to have been reprinted, but it is still readily available used. Though one must wonder about all the comments like "Minor shelf wear. Never read." that show up on Amazon--each a tiny tragedy!(less)
I first read this years ago, in school. It's a story of clashing cultures: an American sailor and a Japanese schoolgirl fall in love, and fear to eat...moreI first read this years ago, in school. It's a story of clashing cultures: an American sailor and a Japanese schoolgirl fall in love, and fear to eat with the other, not knowing how to use chopsticks (resp. a fork). This book isn't bad, but I think most of my enjoyment was from nostalgia. The art is nice, but pretty flat, and the story boils down to "different cultures have different customs, but we shouldn't be afraid to learn from each other". Nothing really wrong with it, but this isn't a book I'd want to re-read often.(less)
Winner of the 1987 Caldecott Medal. Al and his dog, Eddie, live in a tiny one-room apartment, and Eddie isn't happy. They're led by a large bird to a...moreWinner of the 1987 Caldecott Medal. Al and his dog, Eddie, live in a tiny one-room apartment, and Eddie isn't happy. They're led by a large bird to a kind of paradise, but they begin to turn into birds themselves, so they escape and are happy with their old apartment. "Paradise lost is sometimes Heaven found."
The art is cleverly fit into rectangles, with bits poking out at the edges. Extremely nice. There's good emotional impact when Al believes he's lost Eddie, too. An altogether very good book.(less)
The three Noonan children, mistakenly left at home without a babysitter, decide to spend their day helping out by...moreThis review also appears on my blog.
The three Noonan children, mistakenly left at home without a babysitter, decide to spend their day helping out by painting the house. Oh, won't their parents be happy!
Peter Spier's Oh, Were They Ever Happy! follows the children from beginning ("I do not know who thought of it first, but there was plenty of paint in the garage.") to end ("Sure looks swell! Won't they be happy when they come home and see what we've done!"). As the children go along, they gradually become messier and the house gradually becomes more colorful, as the children use as many colors of paint as it takes to finish the job.
The children even clean up, when they're done! Won't their parents be happy!
This is a very fun book. They story's amusing as the children go along, happily 'helping' by painting their house (windows and all!). With each passing page, it hardly seems that the mess could get any bigger, but turn the page and it's messier still. The art is simple, colorful (and how!), and perfectly pleasant. Altogether, this book rather reminds me of Wacky Wednesday.
Spier won the Caldecott medal in 1978 for Noah's Ark, which is (mostly) wordless, but has a similar style of art.
Strangely, Oh, Were They Ever Happy! seems not to be in print, and the prices at Amazon are higher than expected, but if you do come by a copy, it's surely worth a read.(less)
Animals feature prominently in the Bible. Animals of the Bible: A Picture Book collects passages from the King Jam...moreThis review also appears on my blog.
Animals feature prominently in the Bible. Animals of the Bible: A Picture Book collects passages from the King James Bible, selected by Helen Dean Fish, that relate to animals, and pairs them with illustrations by Dorothy P. Lathrop.
For children's literature, two awards are preeminent: the Newbery Medal, first awarded in 1922, for children's literature; and the Caldecott Medal, first awarded in 1938, for picture books. Each has been awarded to some truly outstanding literature, over the years.
It has also, apparently, been awarded to some less-than-excellent books.
Animals of the Bible is less of a picture book, and more a series of drawings, each with an (extended) epigraph selected from the Bible. One can hardly criticize the quality of a set of Biblical quotations, each at most, perhaps, a dozen verses together, but it can be said that the text certainly forms no story, nor teaches anything in particular, nor has any coherent theme. It's more what I would expect from a Bible-themed calendar than a Caldecott winner.
Even the illustrations are something of a mixed bag. The animals are, as the introduction insists, generally relatively lifelike. The humans, though... well, just look at them. The prodigal son, there, looks as flat and oddly-posed as a thirteenth-century Madonna. Worse, really--especially in comparison to the substantially more realistic swine.
I suppose it was overly optimistic of me to assume that this book must be very good, just because it was a Caldecott winner--particularly since it was the first Caldecott winner. It's remained in print, all these years, on strength (I imagine) of that award. But it doesn't measure up to its successors.(less)
Donald Duck and his nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie are headed for Grandma's for vacation. When they arrive, she t...moreThis review also appears on my blog.
Donald Duck and his nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie are headed for Grandma's for vacation. When they arrive, she tells them that her farmhand has gone, and now she has no one to do the chores. The kids enthusiastically offer to help, but Donald is more reticent--farm work was not in his vacation plans! Donald suffers a series of mysterious injuries and ailments, which conveniently clear up just about the time the work is done. Will Donald get away with his laziness?
Wise Grandma Duck is the tenth book in the Disney Fun-to-Read Library, and the title pretty much gives away that Donald isn't going to be successful in his trickery. The fun of this book is in seeing the ways his subterfuge is revealed, and how he gets his comeuppance in the end. Like Mickey Meets the Giant, this is a story of the triumph of the clever. Also like Mickey Meets the Giant, this is one of the best books in the Disney Fun-to-Read Library.
Grandma Duck shows her cleverness in little ways throughout the story. When Donald is pretending to have a sore arm, she asks his nephews to throw him an apple. When he, unthinking, catches it with his 'sore' arm, she simply comments that she's glad his arm is better. She might have believed him the first time he claimed to be unable to work, but he didn't keep her in the dark for long.
In the end, Grandma Duck prepares a huge feast for everyone, giving each what he's worked for: corn on the cob for Louie, apple pie for Huey, and pumpkin pie for Dewey--and a tray of medicine for Donald!
Like the other books in this series, the artwork is high-quality and on-model. It's got a few illustrations that are fairly amusing, but there's nothing really outstanding.
Wise Grandma Duck may not be the best children's literature has to offer, but, as the series promises, it is fun to read. The series seems not to have been reprinted, but there are still many copies available used, if you're trying to complete your collection.(less)