Book Reviews: Kiddie Mega-Mega Pack

“Not a bad start,” as the serpent said when he swallowed the toe of the hippopotamus.

The Tide is Coming In
A family spends a day at the beach, some relaxing and others building a sand castle. . . a big fancy one. When the tide comes in there’s crabs and seaweed to contend with, and then of course the tide itself.
The best character is the really helpful dog.
Nicely painted, but not much of a story. I can almost hear the kiddies asking, “Then what happens?”
3/5

ABC Train
As you would expect from the title, this is in standard “A is for—” format, with the first page being “automobile” and “backup,” as in traffic jam. There’s two letters for each page, and they rhyme, which works well. The story is held together by the presence of the train, which rides from one land to another, entertaining the kids on board.
Some pages go sideways, but the worst is the one with the bats, with the lettering completely upside down. I’m usually pretty good at reading that way, but it was impossible to make this one out without giving up—sigh—and turning it over.
Painted in early 90s TV cartoon style, with a lot of edges.
4/5

Animal Family Portraits
If I understand this correctly, the author picks two animals who don’t seem to have all that much in common and combines them to a make a third, completely fictional animal. It’s written out and it doesn’t seem like it’ll work, but then you turn the page and see the family portrait—wonder if they had them made at the mall—and you think, “Yeah, okay.”
An antelope is wearing scuba gear. That might be the first time that phrase has ever been written. The toucan, penguin, and puffin wear silly hats. The most obvious, and therefore the best ones, are panda and platypus.
3.5/5

Annabel on the Go
Annabel likes to pretend she’s someone different each day. Each page shows her doing something different: artist, baker, detective, doctor, etc. Her cat usually joins in on the fun.
This is likely the most rudimentary art work I’ve ever seen, short of stick figures, but it actually doesn’t hurt. The girl has a giant imagination and it’s shown perfectly here.
3.5/5

Best Beast
A girl wants to win a contest so her family can go to the beach. Unfortunately it’s for pets, of which she has none and they’re too poor to get one. So the local crazy lady gives her a rock, and things go from there.
The artwork is more like colored sketches, but the newsflash here is the giant Pinocchio noses everyone on this family sports. Not the pet or the neighbor, just them.
This was cute, except for the part where her parents gave in way too easily.
3.5/5

Her Majesty: An Illustrated Guide to the Women who Ruled the World
“You don’t necessarily need a crown (but they sure are pretty).”
Mostly matter-of-fact with a few instances of trying to be funny. They read like a basic Wikipedia entry dumbed down for kids, which is fine, considering who the target audience is. Hatshepsut goes first (although it’s spelled “Hapshepsut” here) so it seems it’s going to be in chronological order. Boudica is another fave, but then I do love redheads. Lakshmibai was the most intriguing of those I didn’t know; not sure why the inclusion of Gandhi was there, as no other entry had a man sharing the splotlight.
Interesting tidbit: It was Victoria who started the white wedding dress trend, no surprise if you think about it. But too bad Queens Christina and Wilhemina, as listed at the end, didn’t make the cut, and it’s certainly a huge surprise Cleopatra wasn’t included.
The drawings are beautiful, and not an inch is wasted. It does make the script look small, though.
3.5/5

Letters from Santa: A Christmas Alphabet Book
The title is a great pun. Learn your ABCs with Santa, telling you about traditions of Christmas while rhyming well.
Some of the verses don’t say much, too abstract, but in general should be fun for the kiddies.
The illustrations are done on postage stamp backgrounds, with some throwback style; 50s or 60s or something like that. It’s cute.
3.5/5

We’re Going to the Farm
Simple singalong of all the things you can do on the farm: ride horses, roll in the hay, play with animals, etc.
Just as simple artwork, nothing fancy for the kiddies, but It shouldn’t matter as the singing is the highlight.
3/5

Once Upon a Tree
A small story, no doubt meant to be read out loud, about a leaf who’s happy at the top of a tree until birds and caterpillars and the like make him question the true meaning of his life.
This is by far the most emotional leaf I’ve ever known, prone to fits of drama and jealousy and most of all self-doubt. He finds himself at the end, but he’s gonna be in for a big surprise when a shoe crunches him. . . and no, that’s not a spoiler.
3.5/5

Tall Tall Tree
A Northern Spotted Owl introduces the book by saying that until recently humans didn’t know what a thriving ecology could occur so high up in trees, with many different animals living or visiting.
The rhymes are inventive, following the usually more hilarious conceit of what would be the last word in one stanza starting off the next. Each verse describes a creature that lives way up there, though there’s only so much information you can include in three lines (the fourth is always “And now comes number x”). The second line has to rhyme with the next number, so no doubt that was a little difficult for the author.
I can only describe the artwork as lush, with tree bark and green leaves, bushes, and ferns dominating. The owls are a little dark, but the detail is wonderful, the banana slugs just as horrifying as in real life (try eating a chocolate banana slug, I dare you). The ladybugs, on the other hand, were cute. But you really need a vertical view to understand the size of these trees, especially when there’s drawings of tiny humans at the bottom. I first read this on my desktop, then downloaded it to my tablet; the text is better on the former, the paintings on the latter.
At the end are many facts and details about redwoods, as well as an invite to go back and look through the artwork for other animals (I’m guessing the author didn’t bother to try rhyming any numbers further than ten).
4/5

Daytime Nighttime (All Through the Year)
Rhyming stanzas, surrounded by trees and plenty of greenery, tell the reader about what certain animals do, told chronologically with one daytime and one nighttime creature each month.
With the need to rhyme there’s not much room for description, making for a flowery pose that seems designed more for being read aloud than actual learning for the young’uns.
You don’t often find weasels included in kids’ books.
At the end there’s a match game to see if the reader remembers which animals are paired in which month, followed by more facts about each animal and a page actually called “Teachable Moments.”
3.5/5

I Give You My Heart
A little boy in what appears to be rural Japan finds a store on the way to school and zeros in on a wooden box. The owner gives it to him and then promptly disappears. The kid can’t get the box open until his seventh birthday, when he wakes up to find it ajar. Anything else would be spoiling, but it has to do with cycles of life and passing the torch from one generation to the next.
The artwork is kinda hard to describe; best I can come up with is muted watercolor, vaguely impressionistic but a little more lifelike than that. Sometimes I find it beautiful, others mundane. The only problem here is the incredibly tiny text.
3.5/5

Rivers, Seas and Oceans
Starts with a photo of an island with kid drawings of birds, the sun, a boat, fish, etc. added to it. After that it looks more like a textbook, with photos, drawings, fun facts, and little quizzes.
“A penguin is very tasty to an orca.” Don’t know why that made me laugh. And they’re drawn just as cute here, though only when their wings are out. . . then penguins, no the orcas.
After the intro there’s chapters on different kinds of water, oceans, and seas. The contrast between the Carib and the Med seem almost day and night. Iguazu Falls is featured a lot. Yellowstone makes an appearance, as does the Grand Canyon, along with more famous watery places like Venice and Hawaii.
3.5/5

Santa, Please Bring Me a Gnome
A little girl knows what she wants for Christmas and is not swayed by a trip with mom to the toy store. Grandma is much more understanding; the dog might not be, though. She doesn’t get what she wants in the end, but it all works out.
Sweet story.
The artwork is what you would expect for a pre-school level: simple and broad.
4/5

That Looks Good on You
A children’s book about the history of fashion. Okay. . .
What age group is this for when they’re expected to know what avant-garde means?
The rows of hairstyles and hats remind me of picking out the perfect emoji.
Then it actually does portray clothes throughout the ages, though the attempts at context aren’t enough. (At the end there’s a timeline that offers time, place, and what the clothing is.)
Hard to see the point of it, when you could be teaching kids something more valuable.
2/5

Where Is My Coat? Jungle Animals
Animal silhouettes want you to guess what they are. . . and help them find their coats, as the title spells out.
For the most part it’s incredibly simple, so this would be good for really young kids. The artwork is playful. I really can’t think of anything else to say, as it’s so simplistic and yet just perfect the way it is.
4/5

;o)

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