Book Reviews: Sit The Kiddies Down

“Did you say corner store or cornerstone?”

Another mega-bundle of critiques on children’s books. You’re welcome.

Do Fairies Bring the Spring?
About 30 pages of rhyming couplets set in questions, most starting with “Do they. . .?” The prose is here to set up the lovely artwork. For instance, I’ve never seen a fairy wearing socks and shoes. I guess they need them, because very few of them are flying, instead walking with gardening implements; way to keep from being seen, mythical creatures. There are also animal helpers, such as a hedgehog, a ladybug, and bunnies. One of the tips at the end: make a sign to invite the fairies.
It’s really simplistic, I would guess to turn little kids onto gardening. The illustrations are beautiful and everything you can hope for. . . I just can’t put my finger on it, but there just seems to be something lacking.

Canticos: Elefantitos/ Little Elephants
Second in the series, the first being chicks. This one is about elephants balancing on a spider web, all of whom look surprised that they manage this feat. The same verse repeats, the only change being the number of elephants on it, until. . . you can probably guess the plot twist.
16 pages in English, then 16 in Spanish.
Much like the first one, and depending on the time of day, it’ll either help your toddler to count and speak, or put the baby to sleep.

Dream Big
A caterpillar, a tadpole, and a flamingo wish upon a star, regardless of what Baboon has to say about it. Of course those animals eventually morph into something bigger and better, as though proving the falling star’s power.
The rhymes are the best part. “Buffoon of a baboon!” When Tadpole wants to dance, he’s told, “You’ve got no feet to follow the beat!” “Ribbit, ribbit! Dream it, live it!” Baboon is basically the Eeyore of this group, but rather than take the twist you would assume, it develops into something far more meaningful.
For little kids who can’t yet read “The Power of Positive Thinking,” this will do.
Last 3 pages are “notes for two-leggers.”

The Adventures of Plonk
The Plonk is a weird creature, with the body of an ant—though more or less horse-sized—and a head similarly round, four feet clad in shoes and wearing a hat. Minimalist drawings showing just how goofy he is alternate with text.
The story is about how lonely he is, being the only creature on his idyllic island, until he finds out crying makes you vulnerable to witches. From there he goes from one bad situation to the next. I found it strange that he didn’t run away from the witch that captured him because he hates it there, but because he feels guilty at having stolen from her. But even more so, he always spends some time being abused before running away; if running away is so easy, why not do it immediately? Why put up with it even one day? Why allow himself to be captured, for that matter?
This just came across as silly, even for kids.

Drop the Puck: It’s Hockey Season
Cullen is the star of his hockey team, while his brother Blaine was born with Down syndrome but is still able to function as team manager. He likes squirting the refs, but in fairness they like squirting each other too. Can’t help but wonder how cold that must feel, especially when the story opens with the families bundled up to watch the game.
There’s some humor that sneaks up on you, my fave being, “His mom took plenty of photos of his record-setting game of penalty minutes.” The story seems to be about being nice to your brother, and those different from you, but it’s hard to believe that Cullen is already a teen and still has a problem with treating his disabled brother so mean. For kids I suppose it’s fine, but at times it felt too dumbed down. The drawings are thankfully few, because the faces look zombie-ish.
Last 20% is glossary of hockey terms, acknowledgments, commercials, etc.

I’m a Lot of Sometimes: A Growing-up Story of Identity
A humanized bunny goes through life showing how sometimes he fells one way and other times the contrary, all in a typical rhyming pattern of opposites: “Sometimes I’m big, sometimes I’m small, sometimes I’m short, sometimes I’m tall,” and so on. The subtitle basically explains its aim perfectly.
The artwork is okay, and the story hits its target, though there was room for more.

Kalico Jack
A story about a jackrabbit who, unlike the others, has more of a tabby cat coloring than white. So he gets teased a lot, which makes him take off to explore the world—or at least the western US—when he’s old enough. He makes friends wherever he goes, with cows, scorpions, snakes, even wolves, though he leaves before they get hungry, or as he puts it, before he became the featured entrée.
In a world where animals talk, aliens show up! Wow! And all those Bigfoot sightings? He’s a prankster, when he’s not out surfing. Jack even tries a stint as a superhero, but the market is saturated with them, so he passes the time surfing the internet and playing Sudoku (Hey, does the author have a camera in my house?). Eventually he gets to prove himself and save the day.
Some western paintings, no big deal; with his color scheme it’s tough to make out details. This was completely silly, but that’s its charm. The author forgot to include the kitchen sink, but managed to throw in everything else.

Little Professor and his Robot Factory
Robots have emotions, and form tight friendships with their fellow androids.
In the first story Magnet Man escapes the warehouse and ends up pulling metal things to him as he walks the streets, soon mistaken for a monster. But hey, it makes him the most “attractive” robot in the world. Then Electric Man is put in charge of a schoolroom, and things go downhill predictably. What to do if you ever get bored? Form a band and gig on the street.
Little Professor—he really is tiny—has a giant ego. At one point a robot worries because he’s not sure the prof can see over the steering wheel.
Mostly prose, with the occasional weirdly comical artwork, this book is cute and silly. And that’s all it really needs to be.

Dan the Biggest Dump Truck
The title is true: Dan’s so big he can hold 100 elephants in his bed! But because he’s too big for most construction sites, no one hires him, and he’s lonely. He goes to three different sites, where they all say the same thing, literally; guess repetition is good for kids. But eventually he’s needed for—you guessed it—a really big job. It’s a “Your shining moment will come” kinda story, so be ready for it.
All in all, cute.

Caillou Children’s Series
This is a Canadian series of children’s books featuring a red-beanie-wearing round-faced toddler with a big imagination, who learns all kinds of things and of course is now passing them on to other kids. That’s what children’s books are for after all, right? And even considering it started in the 90s, there’s still an amazing number of books in this series!
Here’s four of them.

Caillou: Good Night!
In this story our toddler hero loves the fact he’s older than his sister and can stay up later. After some games with his parents, daddy reads him a bedtime story, but then it’s time to sleep and he’s afraid of being alone.
The art is big and bright and sure to catch the attention of the little kids reading it. This is perfect for a two or three year old with separation issues.

Caillou: I Can Brush My Teeth
Here’s a kid who actually likes having his teeth brushed, but that’s mostly because he loves to spit and leave sparkles in the sink. But he’s even happier when he gets to do it for himself rather than having mommy do it.
The shot of him brushing the dinosaur’s teeth is hilarious. The art is big and bright and sure to catch the attention of the little kids reading it.

Caillou: The New Soccer Coach
In this one he’s a bit older as he enjoys playing with his grandpa. Then it’s time to go off to soccer practice, where he discovers grandpa is the new coach and gets jealous that he’d praising the other kids the same way that was reserved for him in their front yard.
This one isn’t as clear cut on the moral, or at least doesn’t explain it as well. Young readers might find themselves confused as to why they’d have to share their grandpa with the rest of the team. Like the rest of the series, the art is big and bright, unmistakable to the little kids reading it.

Caillou: The Road Trip
Just like the title says, the family gets in the car and wanders, which seems strange to him. Games are played, driving a big rig is imagined. Even more fun is had on a ferry, but of course blowing a horn is the ultimate joy for kids.
Apparently the moral here is it’s good to not know where you’re going sometimes. As always, it’s the art that shines, so big and bright.



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