Saturday, July 28, 2007

Today's new picture books


Yes baby, I am LIVE BLOGGING this book stack! How many kids' books can I review in 2 hours?

Don't squeal unless it's a big deal by Jeanie Franz Ransom, illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic.
Snatched this one up right quick. "It's 'Stop Snitchin'' for K-3!" I cried. But I didn't get to read it right off the bat... Token Boy Librarian did, however, and reports that it's not so much Stop Snitchin' as it is "I don't care about your damn problems". And so it is - the kids in Mrs. McNeal's class are running to her every second complaining about each other... and Mrs. McNeal explains patiently to each one that she is not going to get in the middle of yet another marker squabble or he-said/she-said tail-pulling episode. Thank god my children don't have tails.

Being Caribou: Five months on foot with a caribou herd, by Karsten Heuer.
Given this title, and the labor of love that it implies (not to mention the dissertation and the grant funding), this book would have to be pretty crappy not to get the thumbs up. It is not. Crappy, I mean. Beautiful pictures of a less-than-thoroughly-documented part of the world, and a comprehensive look at the life of a caribou herd.

Dino Pets by Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Gideon Kendall.
Sweet. Good. Well-illustrated. Silly. Informative (back page lists facts about each animal featured). My kids will like it.

Too Many Cooks, rhymes by Margaret McNamara, pictures by Nate Wragg.
Much better than your usual movie tie-in, this counting and cooking book features the rats of Ratatouille, done in the style of the movie's credits, reminiscent of 1950's jazz albums and novelty handkerchiefs. Personally, I thought the credits were the best part of that movie. Liberal use of terms such as "aioli" and "roux" might slow down any reading of this book aloud, but it does have a glossary. I'm a big fan of cooking books for kids - Pretend Soup and Revolting Recipes both get a lot of play in our house.

Penguin, by Polly Dunbar.
Oh, YES! It's simple, yet not predictable. Illustrations that go "ping"! I'm not going to spoil it for you except to say Trust Penguin. Love it, and 3 other grownups in the workroom have laughed out loud reading it too.

NĂºmero Uno, by Alex Dorros and Arthur Dorros, illustrated by Susan Guevara.
Meh. Overlong moral lesson about how both strength and intelligence are valuable, and arguing is not. Useful for all the Spanish words, and the colors are nice.

Heat Wave, written by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Betsy Lewin.
Whoa, strong team! Betsy Lewin is the art half of Click Clack Moo, and Eileen Spinelli, in addition to being Mrs. Jerry Spinelli, wrote In Our Backyard Garden and many other fine books. The illustrations of the various strategies the townspeople employ to beat the heat are clear and expressive, and I especially like the last few pages. As everyone sleeps through the hottest night, under the "silvery moonlight," they all dream of rain. The language and the pictures really pull that off.

Alligator Boy, by Cynthia Rylant and Diane Goode.
You can't go wrong by starting your book with a picture of the American Museum of Natural History. This book, along with Emily Jenkins' equally great Daffodil, Crocodile, explores the joy and freedom of stepping into another's skin for a while. There are a lot of books that preach, "Be Yourself," but these two give a kid the freedom to Be a Reptile sometimes as well. Nice.

Five Nice Mice, presented by Chisato Tashiro.
Love the illustrations, love the mice making their own instruments... the message about interspecial harmony, ehhh.

A Porc in New York, by Catherine Stock.
You may have to be a New Yorker, or former New Yorker, to love this book, in which Farmer Monmouton's animals fly from France to the Big Apple for a super-touristy vaycay (MoMA, Bloomingdales, Circle Line, etc. At least they don't take a carriage ride, that would be weird.). But you don't have to be a New Yorker to at least LIKE it, with its detailed, witty illustrations and good-natured sense of adventure.

"The Trouble with Dogs..." said Dad, by Bob Graham.
The family has one big lazy lay-around dog, and one small jumpy troublesome dog. They get some discipline for the little dog, then realize they liked him better as a troublemaker. Oh, but it's cute! Kids will love Dave (the jumpy dog), much as they love David Shannon's Fergus (and for that matter, David Shannon's David).

Hair for Mama, by Kelly A. Tinkham, illustrated by Amy June Bates.
I am going to hell. I saw this book, with a picture of a aspirational-looking little boy on the cover, and asked the room at large, "What do you think's gonna happen here? He's saving up all his pocket money to buy mama a new weave?" Oh, yeah. Going to hell. Mama has CANCER, and the chemotherapy has made her bald, and little boy gets all his hair shaved off so that he can give it to Mama and holy crap where do we keep that damn Kleenex? Add this one to your stock of Difficult Themes books.

Piglet and Papa, by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Stephen Michael King.
Yet another farm-animal bedtime story about how much we love our children. I'm getting sleepy myself.

Yes we can! by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Charles Fuge.
Nobody likes to be laughed at, in this little story about animal friends who each are good at something. Sooo sleepy.

Has anyone seen my Emily Greene? by Norma Fox Mazer, illustrated by Christine Davenier.
For very little kids who can't get enough of playing hide and seek with mom and/or dad. Did you get tired of that game? I did. Verrry tired.

My Dog Lyle, by Jennifer P. Goldfinger.
Lyle looks like an ordinary dog, but in fact he is an excuse to collect a dozen evocative adjectives. Kind of a fun book.

Rough, Tough Charley, by Verla Kay, illustrated by Adam Gustavson.
Interesting. A true story in verse, the biography of Charley Parkhurst, a stagecoach driver in Wyoming who was discovered to be a woman upon his death. I wonder about this book: is K-3 a little young for trying to explain cross-dressing and gender inequality?

Dadblamed Union Army Cow by Susan Fletcher, illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root.
Now here is a true story that seems a little more appropriate for a K-3 audience. Apparently, a cow traveled with a regiment of Indiana Volunteers during the Civil War, providing the soldiers with milk. The author has used the cow as a window on the various experiences of a Civil War soldier, employing enough colorful vernacular and funny animal stuff ("Dadblamed cow said, 'Moo.'") to make it a fun book about a serious subject. An author's note provides additional information about the cow.

Little Neighbors on Sunnyside Street by Jessica Spanyol.
This book reminds me of Richard Scarry. Remember how much fun it was to pore over the detailed drawings in Busy Busy Town or Cars and Trucks and Things That Go? God, we must have read Cars and Trucks and Things That Go to Big Man One Hundred Million times. That goddamn pig family... anyway. Nowadays his books seem pretty horrific - it's always the primates that are the miscreants, and every female wears an apron - so it's nice that Jessica Spanyol has provided this rich, full, funny alternative. It's the bugs driving their little cars that put me in mind of it.

Walter the Farting Dog: Banned from the Beach by William Kotzwinkle, Glenn Murray, and Elizabeth Gundy.
Glad I have a chance to weigh in on Walter. I am not against Walter. Some kids think Walter is THE SHIT. But not many. The fact is, the art in the Walter books is so ugly that most kids I know really recoil from it. The message, that no matter how disgusting you are (and let's face it, there are few beings more disgusting than a farting dog), you may have a good heart and perform heroic deeds... just gets more and more predictable as the series progresses. And apart from genius lines like, "Walter farted," these books are not even all that funny.

Haym Salomon: American Patriot by Susan Goldman Rubin, illustrated by David Slonim.
Well it's about time we had a juvenile biography of "the financier of the American Revolution." He was apparently a fairly important guy, even though "financier" doesn't quite have the dash of "general" or "spy." This book is well-researched and engaging, with cartoony illustrations that really enhance the story.