Book Reviews: Kiddie Mice, Soccer, Art

Edison: The Mystery of the Missing Mouse Treasure
A mouse finds out about an underwater treasure and wants to go find it. He enlists the aid of a professor who in a previous story went to the moon, so he seems to be the right one to ask. The title gives you a hint as to where it ends.
The first page is giant and colorful, all the more for it being a bookstore. When a customer comes in and distracts the clerk, all the mice scurry behind the wall to the University of Mice. (Makes me wonder what they were doing out in the bookstore in the first place.)
Interesting that, at least in the beginning, it’s not about the quest, but the research. Rather than outsource, the professor takes the time to learn all the crafts needed. There’s one moment where it says they worked on the submarine during the night, because they didn’t want humans to catch them during the day. Where exactly were they building it? You’d think if there was enough room in the walls to have a whole university, the professor would find a place to build it. He is the only employee of the place, as far as I can tell, and there’s plenty of room.
Some of the words and ideas here are not likely to be understood by most kids, and the wordiness and length might turn off some with attention span issues. It’s twice as long as most children’s books, but there’s a lot of full-page art. There’s also a lot of text, but it’s small and generally fits on one side of the page.
The requisite front illustration page has old-fashioned blueprints—sepia, not blue—of all the steampunk-y equipment the rodent in question uses for his deep-sea diving expeditions. My favorite artwork is the humpback whale; got this one right, as it’s the only whale that sings.
The idea is great, but there’s too many little things niggling at me that keep me from giving this a higher grade. This is the third in a series, so maybe the author’s got the audience niche down, but I wouldn’t recommend this for any but the brightest of grade schoolers.

My Birthday
A bear throws himself a birthday party and invites all his friends, only to be disenchanted by the low turnout. He goes out looking for them, only to find them doing other things, then gets a surprise when he arrives home again.  Because of some of the things the other animals are playing with or making, it’s easy to see where this is going.
Bear has only one expression: disappointed surprise. He looks that way even before the bad news. I suppose the artwork is fit for a small child, but there were spots that could have had. . . more.

Sammy in the Fall
While I like this author’s writing, I’ve never been impressed by the artwork. These books are as simplistic as you’d expect them to be, considering the age group, but this one is even more so. It basically follows the lead cat as it goes around seeing and doing things that happen in the autumn, usually helping other animals in the process.
It’s really weird seeing a horse that small, especially with reins and a saddle. Sure, a talking horse is fine, but this takes some getting used to.

Joann and Jane: Who Made This Mess?
Two little girls play detective to find out who went into their rooms and made messes. Mom is more concerned with making breakfast, but grandpa offers some help.
At one point one of the girls lifts up the beagle’s ear and asks the dog if it was the culprit. When called on it, she says, “It was worth a try.” Adorable.
The story’s cute enough. The artwork is okay as well. Nothing is made about the family being mixed-race, which is as it should be.

Soccer Stars: Meet 40 game changers
The title tells it all. I suppose since it doesn’t say these are the forty best players in history, I shouldn’t grumble too much about some of the selections, but they’re still weird.
The first image we see is an 8-bit version of a player doing a bicycle kick. It looks hilarious.
It starts with the player the great Pele called the best ever. That means a lot more than, say, fellow Argentinian Maradona saying it. (Of course I hold Maradona in such contempt that there’s no way I’d believe anything he says, but still. . .)
The most interesting fact is that Matthews, who played until he was 50, in over 700 games never received a yellow card, let alone a red. Similarly, Maldini only received one red card in 20 years and over 900 matches. These are the kind of stats I like!
As mentioned, the artwork is on the simple side, in keeping with previous volumes in this line.
As a huge fan of women’s soccer, there are many I would choose before two of the included ones. It leans heavily on present players. I am quite happy that Ronaldo—the original—was included in here, as he should be, but also with enough to show that it’s a different guy than the current Ronaldo.
As expected, heavy on forwards and low on defenders, but more goalies than I would have thought. As a former goalie, that’s fine with me!

Ranger Rick Kids’ Guide to Hiking
This opens with places to hike, starting with national parks and forests, state parks, and the like. After some big photos the graphics settle down into locations on a map of the United States.
There’s what to look for as far as time, elevation, distance and such, followed by sections on what to wear, what to have in your pack, and so on. “How can I have the most fun?” is sure to be the most popular for the kiddies, with plenty of arts and crafts. Hopefully your child won’t feel like they’re in school.
Can’t imagine anyone, especially kids, memorizing all this, so it’s probably intended as a reference guide. Solid, if not exactly attention-getting.

Outside: Discovering Animals
First part is about tracking animals by following clues. Then it goes into bugs. Ugh. I found the amphibian section most interesting.
The presentation is kinda boring. Maybe it’s the lack of bright colors compared to other books like these. The drawings are really simple! Some are simple sketches, others have color.
It’s fine as far as facts go, but I didn’t get much fun out of it. I don’t think this’ll keep kids that interested.

A Boy and a House
A little boy who really shouldn’t be walking alone in that neighborhood at night finds an open door and doesn’t hesitate to go in. (There’s a sign just inside that says “Close the doors.”) After finding a kid’s drawing in the lobby, he follows a cat up the spiral staircase and into someone’s apartment. Other than picking up more drawings, he basically ignores all the paintings and knickknacks and books, instead heading right for another stairs, and then another, always following that cat.
It’s important to note that there’s no words in this entire book, other than what’s written on the walls, and that’s minimal. It’s like watching a vintage silent movie. I wish the kid was more interested in his surroundings, but children’s books are always short on space.
The artwork has a grainy quality—from a photography perspective—and the colors are muted, but that tone works here.

How to Catch a Bear Who Loves to Read
Bored with more typical animals, Julia wants to meet a bear. Having read it a book—not Winnie the Pooh—to get it to show up, she sets out some honey. It doesn’t help, but she keeps trying.
Why would anyone have a farting contest with a skunk? Not only are you bound to lose, but. . . does she have a nose?
I guess in a world where animals talk, a treehouse that big isn’t so unrealistic. Getting a bear up there, though. . .
The artwork feels strange. It’s not trying to be realistic, and that’s fine, but somehow the little girl’s face is too pronounced. But the colors are bright and enticing.

The United States of Sports
In this book written by those  geniuses from Sports Illustrated,  The states go in alphabetical order, so the first thing you see is a full-page photo of the Alabama football coach. There’s stuff on stadiums, whether they’re pro franchises or college, rivalries, and so on. “Enemy of the state” was funny. Loaded—or overloaded—info graphics saturate the pages.
For most states they give equal billing to all the universities. For California they featured u$c and gave only a tiny blurb to UCLA, Cal, and Stanford. Even in the index they only mention the Trojans. The authors are dead to me.
There’s a full two-page photo of a dog surfing; neither a sport nor a stadium, just sayin’.
This is supposedly for kids, but I doubt the creators had them in mind when they made this. Especially when you consider the state of today’s youth and their short attention spans, this is more likely to be boring rather than interesting even to the most ardent sports fan.

The People Awards
If there was some criteria to how these selections were made, it eludes me. While I appreciate Ellen DeGeneres and what she’s accomplished, she’s next to Nelson Mandela. Cleopatra and Pele are another curious pairing.
Every entry receives an award; Abraham Lincoln gets the “Stopping slavery” award, so you can see how specific this gets. Nobel gets the “giving out prizes” award.
Lots of interesting stories, but nothing stands out.

The Know-Nonsense Guide to Space
A not-well-thought-out alien in a tiny spaceship takes a trip through the solar system. One page of facts is followed by a drawing of the planet, or whatever the chapter is about. It made me smile to see Earth gets the Goldilocks story. The asteroid belt was the most interesting, from shapes to distance between them. And there was a fascinating definition of the Oort cloud.
“Milkomeda (groan).” Nice. Self-deprecating and meta at the same time.
There’s also a section on technology, from telescopes to the space station.
Unlike a lot of children’s books I’ve read recently, this one does feature the simple language and short sentences that would make it easy for kids. Mercury with a thermometer is cute, but for the most part the drawings are kinda silly, especially Uranus.
Science and humor mix nicely here.

If I Had A Dog
This story is of a little girl who either wants a dog or doesn’t, mainly changing her mind because she likes to rest and not get slobbered all over.
The intro notes that this isn’t so much a book to be enjoyed for its story as much as to help learning to read. At the end is a list of words featured in the book, which the child now knows how to read.
The illustrations are done in a throwback style that at times is too cute, if that’s possible. You get that sense right from the little girl on the cover.

Little Hoo Goes to School
A very simple story in which an owl is going to his first day of school and is reassured of all his questions before he can ask them. I’d be more concerned as to why Momma Owl is feeding her kid pickles, but all seems to end well. It’s part of a long series, and without reading any others I can’t tell if this is meant to entertain or simply provide a bit of psychology for those kids starting school.
As expected for such a young audience, the artwork is all exaggerated broad strokes, making things easy for the little ones to understand.

Discover Nests
Like the title shouts, this is a small primer for little kids on what nests are all about. From building materials to size and occupants, it shows just about everything there is to nests, because if you think about it, there really isn’t all that much to it.
As expected, most of this is taken up by bird nests, but other animals have their pages as well. I think a rabbit’s hole is more likely to be called a warren, but why quibble? Other than the gross closeup of a slug, the photos were well-chosen. Perhaps a penguin would have been a better inclusion than some of those in the latter pages.

I Like Art: Renaissance
As always, I like books a little more when the title tells you everything you need to know.
The little redheaded guide is drawn as far as possible from the style the book describes, hopefully on purpose. She does have a huge smile. But she talks in big words, probably above the heads of the kids reading this.
Botticelli is mentioned, but the examples are religious rather than his most famous works. For those who know art, a lot of the selections are suspect. There does seem to be a religious undercurrent to them.


Tell me what you think I need to know. . .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.