Book Reviews: Families, Animals, and Science for Kids

Herodotus the Hedgehog
Herodotus likes to go on nature walks, observing his fellow wildlife. He comes across a bear worshipping; for a moment I thought he would eat the offering, but luckily he moved on. . . or unluckily, as he comes across a fox and makes the cute ball thing hedgehogs do for protection. Even cuter is his dancing.
But his encounter with the bear and his talk with the fox, coupled with a visit to the local old wise hedgehog, leads him on a spiritual quest to hear all the animist—literally!—religions. Of course everyone thinks their god is better, until he meets a monotheistic animal, and then another shows up to argue, and. . . you can imagine. But in the end it takes a 180-degree twist from what I was expecting, so I liked it.
Drawings are rudimentary; some look like they’re done with chalk, but they come off as kinda cute.

The Fishing Lesson
A tourist sees a sleeping fisherman and wonders why he’s not out fishing. Taking him for lazy, he builds an elaborate fantasy of wealth. I knew where this was going, as this is a story I’ve heard before, albeit much simpler. That being said, most kids probably haven’t, and the illustrations of course add to it. The first one looks like something out of Escher, with orange fish, but after that they’re brightly colored.
In this world the click of a camera is a hostile sound, so as a photographer I take offense to that, but it’s still well done.

Stars and Planets. Mack’s World of Wonder
A book of very simple astronomy lessons. My fave is the moon chapter, described alternately as a pie and a banana. Each page ends in a simple question. After a thorough accounting of the features surrounding the earth, it moves to the rest of the solar system, followed by the whole universe and space travel.
Fave facts: Mars’ moons look like potatoes, and Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is bigger than Mercury and looks like a pizza. And here’s one I didn’t know: most of the moons around Uranus are named after Shakespeare characters, including Juliet and Miranda.
The coloring here is strange. Sometimes the outer space sky is white, other times orange. (Maybe the author—Mack—is Dutch!) One illustration shows the moon over Monument Valley, but other than that most of the artwork is relatively abstract.
This is actually excellent. It’s for kids, but I learned some things too.

Want to Know. The Bicycle
Even as a former cyclist I never knew there was so much to learn about bikes. Informative, though I doubt most kids would care about famous cyclists. Even shows how to fix a flat.
Liked this a lot. Well done.

Smallest kid in the family doesn’t know what an air show is when Dad says they should go. They try to explain about helicopters and jets and so on (then he trips over the dog). He doesn’t want to go because the descriptions make him think of monsters; guess no one had photos or the internet to show him.
There’s a great shot of him gazing skyward in wonder from the backseat of the car as they approach the show. Some of the aircraft are lovingly rendered, especially the fighters with animal faces painted on the front. There’s even an Osprey, everything done in bright watercolor.
I loved the helicopter pilot. It’s a short kids’ story, but she still stood out. The book was well told; it might have even been the author’s story of how he became a pilot.
As a bonus, there’s a list of airplanes featured throughout the book at the end.

Discover Ancient Egypt
With text explaining a photo, or a photo helping the text, this book expounds the latest theory on how the pyramids were built, then talks about mummies and sphinxes. It’s really simple, which makes it perfect for the age level it targets. I remember getting into Egyptology as a teen, but it would have come sooner if there’d been a book like this around.

Pandora’s Box
Told in rhyme, it’s the story of a female penguin who finds a box under the ice, then tries all manner of ways to open it. Everyone warns her not to, but once they see she’s not going to stop they help her. It’s kinda adorable, especially the whales and their useless fins.
Pandora is a great name for a penguin, especially one with a polka-dot bow on her head; she might be buddies with Minnie Mouse. She can also ice skate instead of waddling like her brethren and sistren, of which there are many.
That’s a surprised-looking fish in her mouth.
Mmmm, the jackhammer was a little too much. (Surely the fact that my neighbor is using one at this moment has nothing to do with that opinion.) Another annoyance is that the author admits the Northern Lights can’t happen at the south pole, but it would have been a lot easier just to say Southern Lights, which is a thing too.

Good for You, Ladybug
Apparently this is a series written forty years ago in Italian, so unfortunately it has nothing to do with Miraculous Ladybug. Instead it’s a little kids’ book about a fun-loving polka-dot bug who uses umbrellas, hats, giant spoons, and trumpets in her everyday life.
Of all the children’s books I’ve reviewed, this has to be the simplest yet. Whatever the youngest age a child can read and comprehend pictures is, this is the book for them. And that’s not putting it down in any way, in fact it’s kinda beautiful in its simplicity.

Hoppy’s Big City Adventure
Hoppy the Frog takes a nap in the middle of the pond, so of course a storm floats him off to the big city.
The first three pages are completely alike except for a different animal giving Hoppy the same warning about the storm. Did not like that; could have at least used different words. Smacks of laziness more than repetition for the sake of learning.
In one page the author used “Began to—” four times! Argh!
This is perfectly fine for kids, but in comparison to most other children’s books, this just isn’t as well written.

Hooray for Mommy
The little girl wonders what her mom does while she (kid) is at school, picturing her (mom) doing things she (kid) would do, like watch fish or getting ice cream. In reality she has a corporate-looking job, though she’s certainly no conventional mother, which looks like the point of the story: don’t be afraid to be different. In fact, the book starts out saying that some moms are perfect, though it’s not meant as a compliment.
Nice improv with the pirate hook hand.
Activities at the end include dressing up a drawing of yourself, selecting books, making a shopping list, and animal match-ups.

Hooray for Daddy
This book starts by stating that every daddy is different, and that’s a good thing. After that it shows things the kid likes doing with his dad. The most memorable is a funny shot of sad dad with his kite stuck in a tree while the kid laughs his ass off. At the end there’s activities such as drawing and going through a maze.
In general I preferred the Mommy book, which simply had more heart to it. Not that this one’s bad, but it’s inevitable when there’s two books in the same series to compare them.

My Mum the Police Officer
The title is pretty clear on what this is about.
I like that the kid says “The sun is still asleep.” Adorable. Also adorbs is grandma plays cops and robbers with him, and when the boy looks incredibly happy when Mom—I mean, Mum—calls, and I can’t help but notice it’s not on a cell phone.
Very diverse police force; even the K-9 unit is represented. Mom is shown doing traffic duty, and there’s a pigeon at her feet mimicking her arm motions. There’s a list of jobs police do, although I’m sure they’d rather not include paperwork. Even more so, the last job shown is cleaning the street with a broom; the union’s gonna have something to say about that. . .
The artwork is almost modern Impressionistic, with thick brush strokes. Beautiful in its own way.

Hooray for Grandpa
Boy hangs out with grandpa. Their entire relationship seems to consist of the kid saying something and grandpa listening, then offering some advice. They do some things together too, but not much compared to that dynamic.
Oh no! Gramps is one of those idiots who plays music full blast! Try to make him sympathetic after that! Even the cat laughs at his air-conducting.
Like the others in the series, there’s activities at the back. The first one’s the toughest, though the stringed instrument one is a trick question.
Overall I just got the feeling this one wasn’t quite as good as the others, but still acceptable.

A small bearlike creature is working on a construction site while teaching the young reader about moving dirt from one place to another.
I’ve said this before, but this might indeed be the most simplistic book ever, even if it is for kids. There’s one small line of dialogue on each page, describing what’s being shown, but in the fifteen pages of this book, it takes till page eleven for the scenery to change. Every one features the scoopy truck Diggy is using, without it changing position; other machines move around a bit behind it, but the truck stays there the whole time. Probably just me, but that smacks of laziness. That dropped my enjoyment of it, though of course a child would have a completely different point of view.

Sir Tim Wants a Dragon
Tim is a little kid who thinks he’s a knight. Told he can have a pet, he decides on a dragon, though his logic is faulty; knights kill dragons, not keep them as pets. Plus it’s really hard to find a dragon at the local pet store.
Mom looks amused throughout, except when mice enter the discussion, so that’s a plus.
Pretty lucky coincidence to end it, but a cute story overall.

The Captain’s Favourite Treasure
I appear to be in a nitpicky mood, as I can’t help but notice on the opening illustration that the main kid character is wearing a paper hat in a rainstorm.
Wow, whole families of pirates! And they’re all so polite! Captain Crank is actually Bluebeard, or maybe Tealbeard.
Um, which are the Jigs and which are the Saws?
Trying to put myself in the mindset of the kid, I would think he’d be pretty mad about going on such a wild goose chase. He might have enjoyed visiting all those places if he wasn’t so worried about finding the treasure.


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