Book Reviews: Semi-Sweet Sixteen Kids Books

Little Tails In Prehistory
In this edition of the adventures of the studious squirrel and ditzy puppy—don’t know how many there are in this series, but this is my third—they trade in their cardboard box plane for a cardboard box time machine, going back to check out dinosaurs instead of present animals.
As always, each page has a comic strip combined with a beautifully colored painting, usually devoted to the wildlife they’re talking to (it’s not enough that the animals can speak, but now dinosaurs from so long ago can too, in English). In an unusual twist, the usually scatterbrained puppy knows the names of all the dinosaurs, including the hard to pronounce obscure ones.
“Whew, finally a cute animal!” Forget about the giant dinosaurs, the worst animals are the tiny insects. There’s even a rudimentary attempt at explaining evolution, for the young‘uns. And their time-travel device is a new one, and this from a fan of Somewhere In Time.
As always in these books, as well as the Love series by the same author, the artwork is the whole point of this, simply beautiful renditions of animals that could hang in an art gallery, if zoos had them. The last four pages have further details on each dinosaur they encounter.
When it says that Cro-Magnons invented the comic strip, I thought they were talking about BC, then realized it was cave paintings. Duh.
3.5/5

Lalo Wants a Real Name
When his grandmother calls him to dinner Lalo pretends not to hear, because he’s playing with his white friends and he doesn’t like that name. Really though, he could have chosen much better than Bobby Brown. Still, his grandparents play along, calling him by his new moniker as they wonder if he likes the same things as Lalo did, which finally gets him thinking.
One thing I didn’t like was that even though he’s the one who lied, it was him being rude to the other kids. But at least he learned his lesson. This one hits close to home, though my ending was different; I didn’t have a little blonde girl who wanted to play with me either.
3.5/5

Discover Castles
An intriguingly different take of a tour through a castle. Starts with what needs to be done to get into the building, like crossing the moat and finding the doors, and once inside there are other things to find, like the dungeon and the crown.
Kids this age might not know all those words, but most of the pages are taken up by big photos that perfectly show what they mean.
It’s incredibly simplistic, but that’s the beauty of it, especially for the age group intended.
And in case a reader was wondering where this castle is located, that’s a Croatian flag up top in one of the shots.
4/5

Soccer is Fun
As always, good to have a title that explains it all. According to the blurb, “This book features less than 50 words and uses repetition to build confidence.” I’m not sold on that technique; I think it’s more likely to inspire boredom.
And indeed it’s incredibly simplistic, which should make it good for about three-year-olds. The rhyming was nice.
3.5/5

The Sad, Sad Monster
Small story of a hairy ball of a monster who would be sweet and happy if the other kids gave him a chance, but they’re afraid of him, which makes him. . . you guessed it, title drop. It takes a brave little girl befriending him to take away the sadness.
No beating about the bush here, the story is plainly drawn and easy to grasp. The moral: be Sara, who’s incredibly cute, even in the foreword.
4/5

It’s Snot Fair
Can you guess where this book is going from the title? If not, it’s probably for you.
Around 30 jokes featuring all sorts of bodily functions, with skeletons, snowmen, poor dumb toads, beans, the Queen, and more. Yes, they’re juvenile, but that’s the point, though I will give an extra “Yuck!” to the punchline about what’s worse than finding a worm in an apple.
I like that the author is a woman who knows exactly what she did here, as evidenced by the last page. Some of these would probably get chuckles from some teenagers, but if your husband laughs. . . you have my sympathy.
3.5/5

The Fairy in the Kettle
Told in bright watercolors, this story features a fairy named Leona Rose—living in Fairyland, of all places—who’s happy all the time, partially because she lives in a kettle. She’s decorated it from all the stuff she finds in the forest, painting her walls and making her bed and all kinds of goody stuff. Even the sound of rain on her metal roof made her want to dance, though it irritates her neighbors. That changes when the town is suddenly in need of a storm shelter.
That’s quite an imagination this author has, to come up with this story. Everything is perfect, from the art to the plot to the words. One of the best children’s books I’ve ever seen.
5/5

Cutie’s Big Adventures
Cutie lives in a house in the desert along with her six-year-old human—who is called Mom here—and her family. Because the kid goes to school every day, the curious  kitty . . . I mean, Cutie goes exploring to pass the time. Being also tired of dog food, the Chihuahua turns the expedition into a hunt for, of all things, spaghetti and meatballs. First mission is to find a way out of the house, and thankfully she’s smart enough to climb onto the windowsill rather than simply jump through the window.
Even talking animals seem to be just as bad as humans at communicating. And anyone who’s spent time around a Chihuahua knows that they don’t need to be scared to shake, though in this case climbing down a tree will certainly do it.
So remember to be happy for what you have, because there’s nothing like a bowl of live ants to make you long for the same ol’ puppy chow.
3.5/5

Chatur the Laundry Man
The title describes the job of the lead character perfectly: he rides around on his donkey, looking for people who need their clothes cleaned. Too bad he doesn’t work in my neighborhood. (Which reminds me I have to do laundry today; thanks!)
The donkey says, “Ya gotta take it easy, man.” More than once. His lazy attitude gets him replaced with a subservient elephant, who’s the answer to the laundry man’s entrepreneurial dreams. . . until he screws up on the day of the royal wedding.
On the one hand, karma did bite him in the ass—his ass, not the donkey—at the end, but at least the royals didn’t kill him.
The cartoonish artwork makes it just right for little kids, though I doubt many of them need to know just yet not to place their friends over profit.
3.5/5

Finding a Friend
A dog at the pound hides under a blanket while all the happy pups get adopted. When he’s curious enough to peek his snout out, a kid sees him and instantly wants him. He ends up going home with his family, though no one told him a cat would be part of the bargain. The kid and the boy grow up together. . . and that’s the whole story. At the end they ask for the reader’s help in choosing a name.
Pretty simple and easy for a little one to understand, with good rhyming.
3.5/5

The Big Plug (And How Plants and Spiders Saved the World)
The vegetation talks! And feels pain, especially when you boil them. They also like poetry and TV, and hate rats. Narrated by a cherry tree, not even the top ranked one, the story’s about global warming and how only a giant spider can do something about it.
This is a short easy read for an adult, not so much for a kid (no pictures!). Probably meant to be read out loud.
3.5/5

A Book for Benny
What do you do when you want to read but your dog doesn’t, and is hounding you to play in the rain? Take the woof to the library, of course. Not that dogs are allowed inside, but she selects several books and plasters them against the window so doggie can choose.
The most surprising thing here is that Benny the dog has a mustache. The ending, the book the dog chose, isn’t as startling, but at least it’s cute. The artwork is bold watercolors, drawn so kids can enjoy it.
3.5/5

Benji and the 24 Pound Banana Squash
A little kid is anxious to get his squash seeds planted, but when he finally does he just stares at the dirt, expecting it to grow right away, not having been told before this that such things don’t work instantaneously. Finally, after many weeks, things happen.
All the cute little animals watch, none of them taking a bite of the squash, though the ladybug does like riding it. He wants to keep what he’s grown, but that’s obviously not a good idea, so dad takes a photo and then they eat it with butter and brown sugar, which as we all know will make anything taste good. Even the dog has some. . . and speaking of the dog, the funniest part of this story is the drawing of the woof lying in a hammock.
Cute story, designed to inform little ones as to how vegetables grow, with a subtle environmental message.
4/5

Let’s Go, Bobby!
Bobby is apparently a dog who will ride any vehicle placed in front of him, and he’s always appropriately dressed for them.
The crux of this book is that the reader—little kids, that is—has to use their finger to trace the route of the vehicles. Surprisingly enough, if you don’t mind your screen getting a bit dirty, it works almost as well on an e-book, though the tactility the author wants the kid to have is not the same. Still, it’s an entertaining little jaunt amongst vehicles, from bicycles to rockets. The race track, though. . . only in a demolition derby would you have a figure eight.
3.5/5

Squirrel in Autumn
Brightly colored pages full of outdoor splendor are the backdrop for a search game as a squirrel wanders around looking for stuff to eat. In this reality, foxes and squirrels get along; of course animals talk, so I guess it’s not so strange.
Kids of this target age might not know what a toadstool is, but once they see this one they’re unlikely to forget it. . . which is good, because it needs finding on every page. Luckily there’s other stuff to search for too, mostly based on color.
Fun stuff, and subversively educational.
3.5/5

This Way to Christmas
An unknown narrator asks each animal—one per page—what they’re carrying in their hands or backpacks. Since the title pretty much gives it away, you can guess where this is going.
Each animal gets an adjective before its species name, with Rabbit getting the worst of it with “silly.” Owl gets to be “wise,” of course, and has the easiest job.
The artwork is as rudimentary as any I’ve seen, but that works here with the usually bleak winterscapes. The prose is also simple, fitting the age group this is going for.
4/5

;o)

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