Jenny's Library

Archive for October 2013

cover image for Are You My Baby?Are You My Baby? by Kathleen Rizzi

Cute little board book featuring a series of adult animals asking baby animals if they are theirs.  The first baby each adult asks is clearly the wrong kind of animal, but underneath a large flag is the correct one.  It’s a simple board book and a common theme, but the execution is enough to make this version stand out.

(Despite the use of comic sans. Really, people? comic sans?)

cover image for All Creatures Great and SmallAll Creatures Great and Small by Naoko Stoop

As a general rule, I find most Christian board books to be authoritarian, overly sappy, and not very well written.  While I’ll grant you that the first may be a matter of personal preference, the truth is that most Christian books for very young children are more concerned with message than language, and the illustrations lean more towards a bland sort of precious than anything with character.

This particular board book is very much the exception.  The words are, of course from the lovely hymn All Things Bright an Beautiful.  And while the illustrations are the roundish sort of cute so often found in books for little ones,  they have personality as well, and a wonderful variety of colors throughout the book.  Highly recommended.

cover image for Baby Loves to Rock!Baby Loves to Rock! by Wednesday Kirwan

The fox likes to trot and the weasel likes to pop, but who likes to ROCK? Baby does!

The rhymes are nice and the illustrations are bright, but it doesn’t really flow as you read it aloud.  Cute, but not a must buy.

cover image for 1, 2 at the Zoo1, 2 At the Zoo by Sue DiCicco

Bright Illustrations, big flaps, and lots of repetition make this counting book a solid choice, but not quite memorable.

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Giftmas is almost here!

Well, ok, it’s still a few months away.  But I thought now would be a good time to start posting suggestions for books to buy for the kids in your life this Giftmas.  Or any other gift giving celebration throughout the year.

This week – gifts for toddlers!  (and sometimes babies too)

I know I know, what toddler wants a book for Giftmas instead of a toy?  But remember that for very young children, everything is a toy.  Also, regular sized board books cost as much or less than mass market paperbacks, so they can also be a good extra gift to give in addition to the toy you already picked out.

Books You Will Probably Need to Order

If you are doing your shopping early enough, I suggest ordering one of the books below. You’re less likely to duplicate someone else’s gift and more likely to impress the parents.   Also, they’re awesome books.

cover image for Moo Cowcover image for Puppy Bookcover image for Piggy Book

inside page for Moo Cowinside page of Puppy Bookinside page for Piggy Book

Moo Cow Book, My Piggy Book, My Puppy Book by Sandra Boynton

These are more expensive than most books for babies (about $15 rather than $4-$8) but that’s because they’re cloth, which makes them perfect for the littlest ones on your list.  They’re also adorable and full of all kinds of textures, which babies love.

cover image for Gossiecover image for Gossie and Gertie

Gossie, Gossie and Gertie by Olivier Dunrea

Some of my favorite stories for toddlers ever, in board book form.

cover image for Hide and Seekcover image for Wigglecover image for Peekaboo!

Hide and Seek, Wiggle, Peekaboo! by Tarō Gomi

Yes, the author of Everyone Poops has a new(-ish) set of board books out.  So cute!

cover image for You Are My CupcakeWe Belong Together

You Are My Cupcake, We Belong Together by Joyce Wan

Joyce Wan has only two board books out (and a couple of other picture books for older kids), but she’s already one of my favorite authors for toddlers.  Her books are clever, sweet, and bright – without resorting to primary colors.

cover image for Everyone Eatsinside pages for Everyone Eats

Everyone Eats by Julia Kuo

With this single title Julia Kuo has joined my list of “female children’s book authors/illustrators to watch/who deserve more attention.”  It’s superbly done – readable, endearing, and the ending will make you smile.

Books That Should Be In Stock

I can’t promise that these books will be in stock at your local bookstore, but I can tell you that they usually were in stock around Giftmas time at the bookstore I worked at for several years.

cover image for Tailsinside pages for Tails

Tails by Matthew Van Fleet

One of the more expensive books on this list, but it’s also one of the few pop up books that are sturdy enough for toddlers.  If it’s too pricey, Van Fleet has a few smaller ones that should be cheaper, but they may not be in stock in most brick and mortar stores.

cover image for Gallop!cover image for Waddlecover image for Star Wars

Gallop, Waddle, Star Wars Scanimation Books by Rufus Butler Seder

Another gimmick book (the images move as you turn the pages) and also more expensive than the normal book for kids this age, but any of these will delight and intrigue toddlers.  And their parents.

cover image for Dear Zooinsider pages for Dear Zoo

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

This is such a wonderful book for toddlers.  It has everything that’s best for toddlers: readable pictures, flaps, animals, pattern sentences, great vocabulary building language, and plenty of humor.

cover image for The Very Hungry Caterpillarinside pages for The Very Hungry Caterpillar

cover image for The Very Busy Spiderinside pages for The Very Busy Spider

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle

Yes, I know everyone knows about Eric Carle – but these stories are especially good as board books for toddlers because they are so tactile.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar has the little holes and different sized pages, of course, while the webs in The Very Busy Spider are slightly raised and will delight little fingers.

cover image for ABC Zooborns

ABC Zooborns! by Andrew Bleiman

Yes, there is a ZooBorns board book. You’re welcome for bringing this to your attention.

anything by Sandra Boynton

If all else fails, grab the first Sandra Boynton book (or box set) that catch(es) your eye, and make sure to include a gift receipt. :p

Going Above and Beyond: Flannel Stories

If you really want to give a toddler a present that is both memorable and educational, buy or make them a flannel story.

(You will, of course, need to be careful of the size and sturdiness of the pieces, depending on the age of the child the story is for.)

You can buy them from stores like Lakeshore Learning (The Napping House is good choice for toddlers) for about $30 or so, or on etsy for the same price or cheaper – I found several flannel stories for The Very Hungry Caterpillar on sale on easy quickly and easily.  (Keep in mind you may also want to buy the book, and the flannel stories usually don’t come with a copy.)

The Napping House felt storyThe Very Hunger Caterpillar felt story

(The Very Hungry Caterpillar felt story above was designed and made by Cake In the Morn)

If that sounds expensive, remember that you can always make one yourself! Michael’s sells letter sized sheets of craft flannel for less than a dollar each.  Depending on the story, you may only need a few sheets.

Stories about counting, colors, or other basic concepts often make good flannel stories.  And especially for counting stories (such as nursery rhymes like Five Little Monkeys), you can usually get away with making just one pattern and cutting out several copies of that same pattern.  Stories that have bright graphics and/or are about things that go (such as Freight Train) are also easy-ish to copy.

Five Kites felt storyFreight Train felt story

(The Five Little Kites felt story above and left was designed and made by Fun Felt Stories)

(The Freight Train felt story above and right was designed and made by Felt Resources)

If you’re feeling more ambitious, cumulative tales (There Was An Old Lady, The House That Jack Built, Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain) and pattern books (Are You My Mother? Brown Bear Brown Bear, Dear Zoo) usually make good stories for children to retell on their own with flannel pieces.

You can buy the toddler a flannel board or not; they should be able to play with the pieces on a blanket.  If you do decide to make/buy a flannel board to go with the story you bought/made, I suggest one that rolls up like these I found on etsy.  The stands you see in school supply stores are usually meant for librarians and teachers and can be heavy and sharp.

(This was the week of the LA Times Festival of Books, so I was busy buying books rather than reading them. Still, I managed to read through this short picture book before buying a copy for my mom, who likes moose for some odd reason.)

cover image for This Moose Belongs To Me

This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers

When Wilfred finds a moose, he decides to name it Marcel and keep it as a pet.  Wilfred has lots of important rules for Marcel, to help him be a good pet. But Marcel isn’t always good at following them.

Jeffers writes and illustrates the silliest books, and this is no exception.  The mix of art styles – Jeffers usual cartoonish style and the more traditional and realistic looking landscapes – fit the story quite well.

cover image for DogsDogs by Emily Gravett

Do you love dogs? I love dogs.  All kinds of dogs. Big ones, little ones. Slow dogs and fast dogs.  And so does our narrator – who isn’t quite what you expect!

Using opposites and her signature humorous style, Emily Gravett shows us a wide variety of pooches to admire and delight over.  As wonderful as the canines themselves are, it’s the surprise at the end that gives Dogs that extra something that makes Gravett’s books so memorable.

cover image for Igraine the BraveIgraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke

All Igraine has ever wanted to be was a knight.  Instead, she’s stuck with a family of magicians.  Her parents don’t discourage her hopes, but they really wish she’d pay more attention to her magical studies.  But when Osmund the Greedy shows up at the castle door right after a failed spell turned both her parents (temporarily) into pigs, will it be up to Igraine to save the day?

This book and I did not click, at all.  I don’t know if it was the book or me, but I just kept wanting it to all be over.  If it was a longer book, I wouldn’t have bothered to finish it.

cover image for Moneky and MeMonkey and Me by Emily Gravett

A little girl and her stuffed monkey pretend to be all kinds of animals.  What will they be next?  Turn the page and see!  But watch out, because all this jumping and swinging around makes little girls very tired…

Monkey and Me isn’t quite as witty as some of Gravett’s other books, but it’s playfulness and repetitive structure make it perfect for little ones.

cover image for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your AssYaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

One morning, out the blue, a classmate tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, much less why she wants to fight Piddy.  The first thing Piddy quickly learns as she searches for answers – and a way out – is that Yaqui Delgado is not someone you want to as an enemy.

As more teen fiction novels about bullying are published, I’m becoming more critical of them.  Thankfully, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is very well done.  It shows just how damaging bullying can be, and talks about why victims are hesitant to ask adults for help.  It also – to a certain extent – centers the bullying Piddy experiences within the larger violence that’s done to teens and their communities, an aspect of bullying that needs more adult attention.

15 great books for Halloween, in no particular order:

cover image for Mouse's First Halloween cover image for Boo to Youcover image for Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie

Mouse First Halloween by Lauren Thompson, Illustrated by Buket Erdogan

Boo to You! by Lois Ehlert

Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie by Jill Esbaum

cover image for Ollie's Halloweencover image for Can You Make a Scary Face?cover image for Bunnicula

Ollie’s Halloween by Olivier Dunrea

Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas

Bunnicula by James Howe

cover image for Creepy Carrots!cover image for Go Away Big Green Monstercover image for Leonardo, The Terrible Monstercover image for In a Dark, Dark Wood

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown

Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

In a Dark, Dark Wood by David A. Carter

cover image for Pumpkin Eyecover image for Aaaarrgghh! Spider!cover image for Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming

Aaaarrgghh! Spider! by Lydia Monks

Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch by Mary Peterson

cover image for The Bone Dogcover image for Extreme Pumpkins

Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann

Extreme Pumpkins by Tom Nardone

cover image for Being Henry DavidBeing Henry David by Cal Armistead

A teenager wakes up a train station with no memory of who he is or why he’s there, with only $15 in his pocket and a copy of On Walden Pond in his hand. After falling in with some “street kids” and escaping from their unsavory “protector,” the boy with no name heads for the woods, hoping to find some answers at Henry David Thoreau’s cabin.

I’m not entirely certain why authors/publishers keep making books about middle class white kids having meaningful experiences when circumstances force them to slum it, but they do. Again and again. Verdict: skippable, very skippable.

cover image for The GiverThe Giver by Lois Lowry

Jonas’ world is comfortable and orderly.  Like all other children in The Community he got his front-buttoned jacket when he was seven, and his bicycle when he was nine, and now that he’s becoming a twelve, he’ll be assigned an occupation.  But when Jonas isn’t picked to be an Engineer or a Nurturer or any of the other typical occupations, but instead is chosen to be the next Receiver of Memories, his world is turned upside with the truth that his training reveals.

The world-building here is rather sparse, leaving more than a few holes, but it works for the intended audience.  It’s definitely a child’s point of view that we get of this dystopian world, which actually makes a certain amount of the opaqueness not only believable but necessary.  It’s clearly meant to raise questions more than answer them, and does a good job of that.  Lowry does an excellent job here of not only slowing revealing the communities secrets but also pacing out reader’s exposure to customs that will seem strange to them, encouraging children to get to connect to Jonas and his family despite their differences.

What fascinated me the most while reading The Giver was how clearly you can see traces of Lowry’s modern classic in so many of the currently popular young adult dystopias.  It makes me want to spend the next few months just writing about the influences of modern science fiction for middle grades and young adults, and most particularly the extent to which the latter is dictated by readers experiences with the former, as opposed to being shaped by trend in adult genre novels.

cover image for Betsy and Tacy Go DowntownBetsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace

Betsy, Tacy, and Tib are now twelve, which means they are finally old enough to do things like walk downtown by themselves and go sledding after supper – in the dark!  The whole world seems to be growing up as well, now that the first horseless carriage has come to town.  But are Betsy, Tacy, and Tib quite as ready for all these grown-up adventures as they think they are?

I will always remember this as the book in which the girls go to the Opera House. To see Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Which meant that blackfaced minstrelers provided the entertainment during intermission. (One assumes the actors in the play were in blackface as well.)  Other than that, it’s just as lovely as it’s predecessors. But, well…that’s not precisely a small thing to overlook.

cover image for Keeping the MoonKeeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

Colby, North Carolina isn’t where Colie Sparks expected to spend her summer. She was supposed to spend it at home, with her friends. Instead, her mother has shipped Colie off to spend the summer with her aunt, Mira, while Kiki Sparks tours Europe selling her multitude of fitness products. But could Colby be just what Colie needs?

(hint: this is a Dessen novel, so the answer, of course, is yes)

Small town. Quirky characters. Wisecracks followed by heart to heart conversations. Just what you’d expect from a Dessen novel. This isn’t my favorite of hers (it didn’t click for me the way others have, and parts of it rubbed me the wrong way), but it was a light, quick read.

cover image for BarrayarBarrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cordelia Naismith never thought that marrying Aral Vorkosigan would be without its ups and downs, but neither did she expect to end up married to the Regent for Barrayar’s four year old Emperor.  Risking her own life is nothing new for Cordelia, but when her family is threatened as well she decides that she may have had just enough of Barrayan politics.

How much do I love this book? Too much to write a proper review for it.  It’s just excellent. If for some reason who haven’t read this series yet, you need to do so now. Also, I want more books about Cordelia and more heroines like Cordelia.

cover image for Snorkeling With Sea-BotsSnorkeling With Sea-Bots by Amy J. Lemke

Kolten is having fun but typical day at the beach with his family when a robot appears out of the ocean!  And not just any robot, Rip is one of the robots that lives under the sea and make the waves that come crashing to shore.  Best of all, he’s here to show Kolton how they do it.

I wanted to like this story.  It’s a cute idea – both the premise and the idea of chapter book level comics as a bridge between picture books and graphic novels.  And the main character is delightlfully non-WASPy, which we desperately need more of in chapter books.  But the story – the text, really – just didn’t flow and the there was absolutely no logic or substance to the fact that it’s robots that are making the waves.

cover image for A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic NovelA Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson

I’m going to assume you all have read the original already (and if you haven’t, you need to – right now!) and so instead I’ll skip straight to analysis.

There are a few missteps in Larson’s adaptation; I’ve never been a huge fan of the faces she draws (Charles Wallace in particular looks creepy – long before he’s supposed to) and the panels are sometimes a bit text heavy, especially in the beginning.

pages 1 and 2 from A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novelpage 40 from A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novelpage 184 from A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel

That said, Larson totally gets Meg.  She also kept all the right bits in and many of the panels are just absolutely perfect.  Especially the first few pages and in the second half of the book, once the trio have made it to Camazotz and then later meet Aunt Beast.

cover image for WolvesWolves by Emily Gravett

Rabbit knows just where to get books on interesting topics: the library!  But when he checks out a book about wolves, he may just get more than he bargained for.

Wolves invites readers to imagine what might happen if non-fiction books were a different kind of “real.”  The sparse and straightforward text lets Gravett’s always excellent illustrations shine.  The three different styles of art (graphite pencil sketches for the wolves, pastels for Rabbit, and photography for the book) all expertly reinforce both plot and theme.

BlueChameleonBlue Chameleon by Emily Gravett

Chameleon is blue. Or pink. Or yellow. Or brown.  It all depends on who or what is nearby.  But mostly, Chameleon is blue – because Chameleon is lonely.

The story structure is very similar to Lionni’s A Color of His Own, but Gravett’s illustrations and humor really makes this tale hers.  Chameleon doesn’t merely wander from place to place, changing only colors, he works hard at becoming just like a snail, sock, or shoe.  Making his new friendship at the end of the book not only comforting but triumphant.