Jenny's Library

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Giftmas is creeping ever closer!

Which means it’s time for another “literary gifts” booklist.  Today’s booklist is for pre-readers.  As in: kids that are no longer toddlers, but are not yet reading aloud themselves.

As before, I’ve divided the main list into books that you have to order and books that you can probably walk into a bookstore and buy off the shelf.  If you choose from the first group of books, you are less likely to duplicate someone else gift, or give a child a book they already have.  But the books in the second group can be bought at the last minute.  Probably.

However, partway through typing all this up I realized that this list was getting way too long for one post, so this time I’ve broken the list up into several parts.

Today, you get:

Books You Will Probably Need to Order:

cover image for The World Is Waiting For YouThe World is Waiting for You by Barbara Kerley

National Geographic has some amazing picture books for children, and this is my absolute favorite.  Lyrical in a way that non-fiction picture books rarely are, filled with breathtaking photographs, and expertly designed, The World is Waiting for You encourages to children to explore and treasure the world around them.

It’s also not the kind of book most kids would pick up for themselves, yet it is the kind of book that becomes a cherished favorite over time, making it a perfect gift book.

cover image for Kitten's First Full Mooncover image for Old Bearcover image for A Good Daycover image for Little White Rabbitcover image for My Garden

Kitten’s First Full Moon, Old Bear, A Good Day, Little White Rabbit, My Garden by Kevin Henkes

Henkes initially made his name with some great picture books meant for elementary age children, but I absolutely adore these newer, more preschool friendly books.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a sucker for illustrations with high contrast, gorgeous colors, and thick lines.  All four of these books also have great stories for younger children – ones that engage their imagination and encourage them to predict what will happen next.

cover image for Wavecover image for The Zoocover image for Shadow

Wave, The Zoo, Shadow by Suzy Lee

Suzy Lee’s wordless picture books are incredibly beautiful and clever. Her wonderful use of color and contrast keeps the illustrations readable while allowing her to include the kinds of details that reward repeated viewings.

cover image for Hondo and Fabiancover image for Bark, George!cover image for Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime

Hondo and Fabian by Peter McCarty

While not a wordless picture book, the illustrations are readable, informative, and expressive enough to work as one.  McCarty also has a very gentle and distinctive style as an illustrator, making his books both intriguing and memorable.

Bark, George! by Jules Feiffer

This story never fails to make any crowd I read it to giggle and laugh hysterically.

Dinosaur vs. Bedtime! by Bob Shea

Particularly good for younger preschoolers, children will love roaring along with Dinosaur, and parents will love the fact that Dinosaur “wins” by getting everyone to roar with him.  I mostly love how silly and cute the books are.

cover image for Dogscover image for Orange Pear Apple Bearcover image for Blue Chameleon

cover image for The Odd Egg

Dogs, Orange Pear Apple Bear, Blue Chameleon, The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett

Gravett’s books are clever (Orange Pear Apple Bear works as an “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” for kinders) and the illustrations are elegant, even when the subject matter is comedic.

cover image for Thank You Bearcover image for Don't Worry Bearcover image for I Miss You Mouse

Thank You Bear, Don’t Worry Bear, I Miss You Mouse by Greg E. Foley

These are probably the most “typical” books for preschoolers on this list, but they are so very well done.

cover image for Little Peacover image for Little Hootcover image for Little Oink

Little Pea, Little Hoot, Little Oink by Amy Krause Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace

For some strange reason, you can get this series more easily as board books than as picture books, but I think they are better for preschoolers than toddlers. They also work really well for younger elementary school students, so the picture book format is a more useful investment, in my opinion.

cover image for The Handiest Things in the WorldThe Handiest Things in the World by Andrew Clements, photographs by Raquel Jaramillo

A lovely, lovely book about what it means to be human – and all the new things little hands are learning to do.

cover image for The Warrior's ApprenticeThe Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold

Miles Vorkosigan is determined to serve in the Barrayan military, just as his father and grandfather did before him.  No one expects him to be able to make it, what with his short stature, easily breakable bones, and other physical impairments – the result of an attempt to assassinate his mother with poisoned gas when she was pregnant with him.  But then, no one expected him to even survive long enough to be born, either.

If this were a middle grade novel, Miles would accomplish his goals with plucky determination.  Everyone would learn their lesson and go home happy. Thank god this isn’t a middle grade novel.

What makes Bujold’s Miles novels so very excellent is that even when Miles comes out on top, it’s not necessarily in the manner he’d hoped to.  Persistence can’t change everything, it especially can’t allow him to pretend that he lives in a world that expects him to be different from what he is.  So Miles path to where he wants to be isn’t typical; it’s not even a typical underdog story.  Instead, Miles life is uniquely Miles.  Which is why Bujold’s books are so enjoyable, memorable, and popular.

cover image for Olivia and the Fairy PrincessesOlivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

Olivia doesn’t have anything against princesses, she just doesn’t understand why all of the other girls (and even some of the boys) all want to be the same pink, fairy princesses, with sparkles and ruffles.  Why not reporter or a nurse or…at the very least a princess in a blue sari instead?

It’s so very common, when it comes to books for young children about gender stereotypes, for them to drift into dissing feminine roles and characteristics instead of inspiring girls (and boys) to be more than what gender norms expect.  The latest Olivia book does nothing of the sort.  Instead, her worry is more about not standing out, and her desire to do so will encourage boys and girls to try new roles.

(There is a portion of the book where Olivia dresses up as princesses from other cultures.  It didn’t strike me as appropriative as the costumes looked well researched for a picture book, and the emphasis seemed to be on showing variety, possibility, and drawing inspiration from real princesses. That said, I’m not the best person to judge this sort of thing, which is why I’m mentioning it anyway.)

cover image for The Artist Who Painted A Blue HorseThe Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle

Why paint horses only brown or black or white or gray? This artist paints blue horses, purple foxes, and even green lions!

In this homage to artist Franz Marc, Carle’s unique style is once again put to excellent use, this time inspiring children to create books and art of their own.  The sparse text and repetition keeps readers focused on the bright pictures, while also helping develop language and vocabulary.

cover image for The Big Bad Wolf Goes on VacationThe Big Bad Wolf Goes on Vacation by Delphine Perret

Some kids are afraid of monsters hiding in their closet. Not Louis.  He doesn’t worry that something might be in his closet, he already knows that the Big Bad Wolf lives there.  This causes all sorts of problems, of course. Including the Big Bad Wolf insisting that he be taken along when he overhears that Louis is going on a trip with his grandfather.

Silly, unique, and sarcastic, this is one of the rare picture books that works better for older children rather than little ones. New readers may need help with the words, but can easily follow the pictures and will feel accomplishment in the use of chapters.  Older readers will find the comic like structure challenging but fun. Perret’s minimal sketches allow for personality and variation, but are uncluttered enough to keep their repetition from becoming chaotic or confusing.

cover image for I Need My Own CountryI Need My Own Country by Rick Walton, illustrated by Wes Hargis

Little brothers can be such a pain sometimes.  That’s when you need to take charge, and make a country of your own.  One he can’t join.

Hargis’s illustrations are well done, but the actual story is one of those that seems more for adults than for kids, who likely won’t be quite as entertained by this book as their parents will be.

cover image for A Good Night WalkA Good Night Walk by by Elisha Cooper

Evening slowly turns to night, as readers take a walk trough a friendly neighborhood.

Part of what makes Cooper’s books work so well is the way the illustrations giver personality to the text as the words explain the mechanics of farming, a day at the beach, or how ice cream is made.  While the illustrations here are wonderful, and the text is soothing, the two don’t work together in quite the way they often do in Cooper’s other books – they repeat rather than adding different information.

cover image for Quick as a CricketQuick as a Cricket by by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood

Are you as quick as a cricket? As happy as a lark? Or perhaps you are as strong as an ox.  Or maybe, like our narrator, you’re all of these things, depending on your mood.

With simple similes and rich illustrations, Don and Audrey Wood introduce young readers to a world rich in nature and imagination, as well as the idea that they can be more than just one thing.  This book is a classic for a reason; the sentences are lyrical and the pictures creative, while the message is both simple and profound.

cover image for Tumble BumbleTumble Bumble by Felicia Bond

A tiny bug takes a walk, but he’s not alone for long. Soon a while parade of critters joins him as they tumble bumble through the neighborhood – and into someone’s house!

Felica Bond is a whiz with subtle shades of color and engaging characters, as anyone who as seen her artwork for the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series knows.  It turns out that she’s really great at rhymes and humor as well, making this book a classic story for little ones.

cover image for Sam's SandwichSam’s Sandwich by David Pelham

When Samantha asks her brother to make her a sandwich, Sam agrees – and decides to make her one with all the fixings.

The design of this book is rather clever and cute, and if it was just a story about a sandwich with creepy crawly things in it, I would love it.  The characters are both incredibly annoying though, as are the gender stereotypes they perpetuate for no reason.

cover image for Jump, Frog, Jump!Jump Frog Jump by Robert Kalan

Fish, snakes, and mischievous children all want to catch the frog.  Jump, frog, jump!

The text for this book is just brilliant; it manages to use both pattern sentences and be a cumulative story.  However, the illustrations, while readable, leave much to be desired.

cover image for Good Night, GorillaGood Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

A zookeeper makes one last round through the zoo, saying saying good night to all the animals as he goes.  But watch out! The gorilla has a surprise for him.

This is such a fantastic story for preschoolers.  It’s not just that the jokes are obvious  enough even for four year olds – although that helps – it’s also because the repetition and engaging humor invites young children to try to predict what happens next.  Foreshadowing for pre-k!

Also, it’s just a tiny bit hilarious, particularly everyone’s expressions.

cover image for Ref-Eyed Tree FrogRed Eyed Tree Frog written by Joy Cowley, photographs by Nic Bishop

When the sun sets and other animals animals go to sleep, the red-eyed tree frog is just waking up and ready for breakfast.  But watch out, frog, or you might become someone else’s meal!

The detailed and close-up photographs are clearly what make this book, but the text is rather nice for a non-fiction picture book.  It’s not quite as clever as National Geographic’s Picture the Season’s series, but there is an actual story here and the sentences flow well enough to be read aloud to younger children.

cover image for Creature CountCreature Count by Brenda Huante, illustrations by Vincent Nguyen

Huante reworks the classic counting song, Over in the Meadow, to tell the story of a different kind of forest – one filled with dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.

Ngyuyen’s animals are nicely done, but the backgrounds are flat, making the creatures feel pasted onto the page instead of part of their environment.  Still, Huante’s rhymes will keep you turning the page and humming along.

How Do You Feel? by Anthony Brownecover image for How Do You Feel?

Do you feel bored? Lonely? Happy? Silly? Or maybe you’re feeling sleepy.

I’m not a huge fan of Anthony Browne’s books to begin with, and quite frankly this little monkey is creepy.  It’s not an awful book, but I don’t recommend it, there are so many other better books about feelings to choose from.

cover image for A Kiss Like ThisA Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy

How does a mouse kiss? A fish? A giraffe? Like this!

Simple, but sweet. The illustrations are full of bold strokes, bright colors, and an overall childlike quality.  A good choice for valentine’s day – or just to let your little ones know how much you love them.

cover image for Good Night!Good Night! by Benoit Marchon

Good Night one and all! Everyone has a chance to say goodnight as the face in the cutout remains the same, but the pages turn to reveal all manner of people and creatures.  Unlike Spoonful, the face is easy to recognize as such and there’s no obvious gender stereotyping going on.  Overall, it’s cute and unique enough that I may have to add it to my staple of bedtime books to give to new babies.

cover image for SpoonfulSpoonful by Benoit Marchon

Everybody gets a spoonful!  (Of what, I’m not sure.)  As the pages turn, the people and creatures change, but the face (a cut out) remains the same.  Unfortunately, the personality that makes the illustrations so delightful also makes the meaning of the cut out shape less immediately recognizable.  Even worse, there’s quite a bit of annoying gender essentialism going on.  The pages don’t just alternate between a cat and then a dog, but also include (in order) a witch, a (male) firefighter, a fairy princess, and a (male) superhero.  No. Just…NO.  We really don’t need to presenting to toddlers that boys are heroes and girls are either witches or princesses. WTF?

cover image for I Say You Say Animal SoundsI Say, You Say Animal Sounds by Tad Carpenter

I say cat.  You say…MEOW!

With bright and unique illustrations, Carpenter makes use of a familiar, but popular, idea for little ones.  It’s the combination of repeating phrases and large sized flaps that makes this book stand out – together they both encourage children to complete the sentences and give them enough time to do so.

cover image for Surprise!Surprise! by Liesbet Slegers

A typical but solid “where is [baby]?” board and flap book for little ones.  I was especially impressed with the way the back side of the flaps were illustrated so that they blended in with the rest of the page, rather than simply being blank.  It’s a nice touch that is indicative of the care that went into making it a quality rather than a gimmicky board book.

cover image for Go! Go! Go!cover image for Let's Get Dressedcover image for Who's Hiding?

Go! Go! Go! by Scholastic

Things that go done in bright colors.  Pretty standard, except for the addition of textures and the oversized format, both of which help make this book stand out, but don’t quite make it a must buy.

Let’s Get Dressed by Caroline Jayne Church

Getting dressed has so many complicated steps for toddlers.  Thankfully, the chunky pages and flaps in this book are much simpler.  Also, I’m a sucker for cute, toddler-like teddy bears.

Who’s Hiding? by Scholastic

Cute “where is” type flap book.  The text is rhythmic and engaging. The illustrations are nice enough, but don’t stand out.

cover image for Baby Be Kindcover image How Does Baby Feel?cover image for Little, Big!

Baby Be Kind by Jane Cowen-Fletcher

Manners for toddlers.  Appropriate, but not brilliant.

How Does Baby Feel? by Karen Katz

Wonderful, just like all of Katz’ board books, with distinctive illustrations and big, sturdy flaps that should last longer than most.

Little, Big! by Amanda Wood

Tiny, chunky, board book about opposites.  Not very memorable.

(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.

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.

cover image for Real Live BoyfriendsReal Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart

Boyfriends – real boyfriends, not narcissistic cheaters like Jackson – “do not contribute to your angst.”  They want to talk to you and spend time with you and kiss you!  They do not fail to call you on your birthday or act like pod-robots.  Ruby had a Real Live Boyfriend, emphasis on the had.   But lately Noel has been acting much like Jackson used to, and she’s not sure what to do or how to deal with it.  So of course Ruby decides it’s time to make lists.

I’ve always thought Ruby Oliver was rather adorable and fun, but this is the book that convinced me that she is really, truly, completely and totally awesome as well.  Possibly because this, her senior year, is when she learns how to stand up for herself without being so self-absorbed she refuses to listen, and also how to be helpful and supportive without letting people walk all over her.  Ruby still makes major mistakes, but for some reason her incremental improvements seem so much more monumental in this installment – possibly because by the end of it she has finally arrived at a fairly healthy and mature state of mind.

Lockhart comes out looking none too shabby either.  Not only is Real Live Boyfriends entertaining and insightful, but there’s a lot of deftly done foreshadowing, misdirection, and repetition going on.  The ending provides a wonderful bookend for  the start of the series and the tensions between Ruby’s parents are a wonderful echo of her own romantic troubles.

Even if the whole series hadn’t been a delightful read (which it has) this book alone would have made it worth my time.

cover image for The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Hazel Grace is slowly dying.  Very slowly, it turns out, as she was expected to have kicked it a couple years ago, but instead is still stuck being homeschooled and going to support group.  Her life is not without joy – books, especially one in particular, are welcome companions – but her life is certainly a lot more circumspect that of the typical sixteen year old living in Indianapolis.  Hazel may have a driver’s license like everyone else her age, but road trips aren’t in her future any more than a boyfriend is.  Until she meets Gus, who reminds Hazel that everyone is in the process of dying – and that dying is not a good excuse for refusing to live while you still can.

The problem with John Green’s books isn’t that they aren’t enjoyable or well-written, it’s that the hype doesn’t match the extent to which they fit my personal taste.  So I am left understanding why other people like them, in an abstract sort of way, but not really feeling the connection to them that so many others clearly have.  In short, The Fault in Our Stars didn’t make me cry, it just left me feeling slightly guilty about my dry eyes.

What I did love very much about this book was the awareness running through it that teens read more than just the literature designated for them, and that reading both above and below their sentence level comprehension abilities is both normal and useful – especially with regards to learning to read books more deeply.  The Fault in Our Stars is not just a book about loss and a rejection of sentimentality, it’s also about our relationships to books, authors, and other readers – and those parts made me very glad I read it

cover image for Also Known AsAlso Known As by Robin Benway

There are few places in the world that Maggie Silver hasn’t lived.  As the daughter of two spies and an expert safe cracker herself, Maggie’s life hasn’t ever been normal.  That may be about to change though – at least for a while – as a new assignment calls for her family to move back to New York City and for Maggie to go undercover as the typical high school student she might have been in another life.

I adored Benway’s first two books and I desperately wanted to love this one too, but I just didn’t.  I missed the down to earth sensibility that permeated her previous novels despite their unlikely plots, and it’s absence didn’t just make me sad, it made the whole premise come across as more incredulous than quirky.  It pains me to say this, but I would only recommend this to the most die-hard Gallagher Girl fans who have read every other teen girl spy books in print.

cover image for Pet Show!Pet Show! by Ezra Jack Keats

Archie is all set to enter his cat into the neighborhood pet show – if only he could find him!

Keats illustrations are beautiful as always and the ending is both sweet and imaginative. Unfortunately, the lack of contrast on some of the pages makes it less than ideal for story time.

cover image for Big Frog Can't Fit InBig Frog Can’t Fit In by Mo Willems, paper engineering by Bruce Foster

Both Willems the Big Frog break the mold in this “pop-out” book about a frog devastated by the fact that she is too large to fit inside the book.  Luckily her friends are there to help her – and their solution doesn’t involve changing a single thing about her.interior pages from Big Frog Can't Fit In

Like much of Willems work, this is a deceptively simple book that only grows richer with frequent rereads.  I’m very much looking forward to seeing what my preschoolers think of it.

(for those of you keeping track at home, these are the books I read between Feb. 1st and Feb. 7th – yes, I am very behind.)

cover image for Raven BoysRaven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue comes from a family of clairvoyants, all women, but she isn’t one herself.  Gansey is on a quest.  Mostly because he’s rich and therefore bored, but that doesn’t stop him from being obsessive about it. He’s also going to die before the year is over.  He doesn’t know this, but Blue does.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, Blue and Gansey (and Gansey’s gang of misfits) cross paths.  Hijinks ensue.

Intellectually, I have all kinds of issues and questions, mostly pertaining to my annoyance with Blue’s Smurfette status.  Did she have no friends her own age until she met the boys?  Does she ever manage to get some female friends? What did she do before the boys came along, besides hang out with her family? etc.

Emotionally though, I was totally and utterly sucked into this book.  The plot was likely full of holes and misuses of history and myth, but I honestly didn’t notice, I was too busy being distracted by the twists and surprises.  Also, the dialogue.  Blue (and Adam) skewering Gansey’s privilege, blindness, and self-absorption was an absolute delight. Centering Blue in a family of unique and talented adult women – and taking the time to show her relationships with them – was a huge plus.

Raven Boys was not a particularly deep book, but it was fun.

cover image for The Way We FallThe Way We Fall by Megan Crewe*

Kaelyn never really fit in at her school in Toronto, so when her family moves back to the island she grew up on, she’s relieved to say the least.  But just as things are getting to back to normal, a new and deadly sickness spreads through the island, disrupting life as it was and leaving death and devastation in it’s wake.

While Crewe’s slow moving crisis doesn’t sink to the levels of boredom found in Pfeiffer’s Life as We Knew It,** it’s not terribly gripping either. The plot is fairly decent and the idea (a new deadly disease, a race to find a cure, and an isolated community increasingly devolving into chaos) is interesting.  Unfortunately, the prose lacks any sort of punch or personality – especially considering the topic and that the story is narrated in first person.  And then there was the inexplicable conceit of having Kae address her diary/journal to an estranged crush/friend; that was annoying and confusing and odd.

cover image for What We Saw At NightWhat We Saw at Night by Jaquelyn Mitchard*

Murder! Misfits! Mystery! and parkour! All at midnight! This should be an awesome book! I don’t understand how this is not an awesome book.  No, really, I don’t understand how it was possible to make this book as boring as it was.  Plus! bonus slut shaming directed towards a victim of child sexual abuse.

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cover image for Hello, Animals!Hello, Animals! by Simriti Prasadam and Emily Bolam

Simplicity and a little something extra is the key to a great board book.  All too often the latter detracts from the former, but that’s not the case here.  Each page features a tiny splash of shimmer and color added to the black and white graphics.  Rather than merely being eye-catching, the addition is expertly done; the subdued jewel colors manage to accent rather than compete with the minimalist elegance of the illustrations.  The text is basic but lyrical, just as prose for babies should be.

cover image for You Are My CupcakeYou Are My Cupcake by Joyce Wan

Wan is definitely a talent to watch.  Her retro/kawaii style art works well for little ones; the bold lines makes the art easy to “read” and the cuteness is both appropriate and appealing.  The patterned sentences complement the artwork well and work in adjectives and nouns that aren’t often found in board books, but yet – being about food – are ones that babies might hear in other contexts.

*I’m so sad that these books were little and no fun, respectively – they both have main CoC and I was really hoping to find more good genre titles with CoC to add to my list of what to get for the library.

**Kae is often quite concerned with what is going on outside the island, as any normal person her age would be.  It is, in fact, a topic of conversation more than once.  This alone makes it ever so much better than Life As We Knew It.