Book Reviews: Kid Detectives and Monsters

Little Detectives At School
Like they did in their previous book at home, the Little Detectives are tasked with looking for specific items from a list, this time in crowded classrooms. It’s a simple concept but a popular one, as there are plenty of similar computer-based games for the kiddies to graduate to when they’re older. For now, this should keep them occupied.
4/5

Nile Crossing
Even more than three thousand years ago kids had anxieties about the first day of school. Here we follow a small boy as his father takes him across the river to his new school. He’s excited for something new, but wants to cling to the old.
“The words we do not say fill the hush of dawn.” Kind of an oxymoron—though you can argue it works the same as “The silence speaks volumes”—but sounds beautiful. I recommend you read it out loud. Another line I love: “Not a bad start, as the serpent said when he swallowed the toe of the hippopotamus.” The whole story has a very poetic style, though I’m wondering what age group this is recommended for, as it might be too much for most.
The painting style isn’t meant to be lifelike, especially as far as the humans, but the landscapes, and particularly the skies, are beautiful.
At the end it leaves the first-person perspective and visual style to talk about the classroom and his making a new friend. The author’s and illustrator’s notes are quite informative, making me want to read it all over again from this new perspective. It even includes a glossary.
4/5

Plume
For those who read this blog regularly—stop laughing—this book is by the same author as The Blue Hour, which featured more style than substance while portraying beautiful landscapes. That kinda happens here too, although with a very different subject.
The book starts with a spread containing numerous feathers, to show how different they can be. Each page after that has a painting of a bird and its feather on a white background. And in every shot there’s a bit of a cat stalking it. That’s it.
Thought it’s beautifully drawn, I don’t know how entertaining this would be for kids. The plumes might be dissimilar, but a little one would have to be looking really hard to get that. Maybe they’d have more fun finding the cat on each page.
2.5/5

Roger Is Going Fishing
Roger is riding his bike with Emily in back and Bob (a dog) in the basket in front. They’re loaded down with fishing gear, which makes that much weight on a bike not a good idea even before you throw in the cobblestones. Either bored and evil or not watching what she’s doing, Emily is hooking people and stuff as they bike through town in a heavy rain. Roger always tells her not to fish until they get to the lake, for all the good that does. Pretty soon there’s an angry mob following them like a Benny Hill skit. Even the cow is after them. I feel sorry for the sax player in those high heels.
Cute enough, but not much to it. Seems like everyone was too forgiving in the end.
The artwork isn’t meant to be realistic, so it looks a bit strange to start. It basically comes across as drawings on a white background with some parts watercolored.
3/5

The Call of the Swamp
A couple told they couldn’t have kids find Boris by the edge of a swamp and claim him as their own, without actually checking to see if his real parents are around. After a few years he smells his previous environment and wonders how his life would have been had he grown up there. But after he’s been in the swamp a while he feels homesick for his human parents and house.
Right away it was mentioned that Boris had gills, yet he lives out of water without a problem. I guess the author doesn’t expect kids to get that, but then why bother mentioning it?
As an allegory for adoption, it’s pretty good. Some of the details could have been better, though.
The art is somber gray and yellow, not visually appealing at all, certainly not the bright colors kids expect.
3/5

The Warli People
A rare children’s non-fiction book, about a society that existed in what is now India in 10th century BCE.
In addition to farming and hunting and fishing, they also harvested salt from the sea; hadn’t heard of a civilization doing that so early. The women were artists, drawing on the mud walls. . . or would that be carving? The background of the mostly stick-figure art is orange, which does look enough like mud, as well as brown and other earth colors.
This is like Anthro 101 for pre-schoolers, with more older-level info at the end.
Interesting point: no myths or gods in the artwork, only regular people doing their daily tasks.
4/5

When a Wolf Is Hungry,
A wolf has a hankering for rabbit and heads into town to find a perfect victim. He’s dressed in a tux, then rides a bike; that would be weird even for a human.
On his way to the rabbit’s apartment, he forgets his knife in the elevator, where it’s scooped up by a literal turkey. Every time he goes back home for another weapon, each bike ride increasing his hunger, a friendly neighbor in rabbit’s building co-ops the instrument of death.
The final twist was unexpected, both food and social wise. But I was never convinced as to his carnivore credentials; he’s far too much of a pushover to be a real wolf.
The artwork is perfectly cartoon.
3.5/5

It’s Hard to Swim
Ellie, a purple weinerdog, thinks canines don’t belong in the water, but despite that Doggie is placed in some kind of swimming device and pushed in. Then she’s imagining all the things in the deep water that would enjoy a doggie snack before realizing there was nothing to worry about at all, just the opposite.
A cute little story told in rhyme; don’t be afraid to try out new things is what it’s basically saying. The artwork is exactly what you would expect.
3.5/5

Max and Bird
Max is a cat who wants to be friends with Bird. . . and then eat him. Bird doesn’t think that’s a great idea, mostly because he’s so young he hasn’t learned to fly yet. They make a deal to postpone the eating and be friends for a while first.
They go to the library, which has a whole section on flying. . . but it’s so big they can only reach the bottom shelf. Too bad they can’t fly. . .
It took so long to finally fly that Max forgot all about eating his friendly snack, and wouldn’t have remembered had Bird not been dumb enough to remind him. But then Max wouldn’t have had his existential moment. . .
It’s a rather silly story; I can just picture little kids saying, “That doesn’t make sense!” Compared to most others, this artwork is rudimentary.
3/5

Boston Monsters
In another edition of the “find monsters, not Waldo” books, the hunt leads the reader to places like the ducklings sculpture in the Public Garden, New England Aquarium, Bunker Hill, and the Tea Party port, and ends up being subversively educational. If you’re a monster in Boston, where would you hang out? Fenway, of course, home of the biggest of all monsters.
These were harder to find than the previous books, because I couldn’t tell if some of them were monsters or not; not enough detail, or too far away.
4/5

Texas Monsters
Don’t know why they chose Texas, as there are places with a lot more famous landmarks, plus this covers a whole state when previous editions were in only one city. Even then there weren’t that many famous places; the Alamo—the only obvious one—Houston Space Center, and Route 66 are the features.
On the bright side, more monsters per page!
3.5/5

Washington DC Monsters
DC would seem the most logical choice to set a find-the-monsters book—other than El Lay—though sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart from the politicians.
The first puzzle is at the Capitol, but the scene is so big depth-wise it’s hard to make out if those are monsters in the back or not. There’s a similar problem with the Lincoln Memorial, where the people look tiny and it’s hard to differentiate. On the other hand, the Air and Space Museum, Zoo, and Museum of Natural History were easier to discern as well as beautifully painted.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Why Do I Read So Much Kid Stuff?

Some people are just allergic to logic. . .

Pirate John-Wolf
Plenty of ominous skull and crossbones wallpaper to start, but the first thing seen is a kinda goofy-looking dog dressed as a pirate while the text tells us about how he always feels weak. The only time he feels strong is when he’s playing and singing in his room. Then he’s whisked away to be a real pirate, where he needs to work on his courage. Luckily the pirate captain needs a musical biographer.
A silly quick story intended to help little ones overcome their fears.
3/5

The Wolf
The cover shows a family of smiling wolves, the pups roughhousing and basically being kids. It’s already apparent that this book wants people, especially kids, to look at the wild canines as something other than hungry monsters in the woods.
The text basically asks a question, such as “Where does the wolf live?” and then answers it, thereby imparting knowledge. Reviewers have mentioned the spelling mistakes, but since this was originally published in Belgium and Holland it seems to be more of a problem of translation. Still, I do wonder if the original used “coniferous” and “deciduous,” amongst other big words that are a good decade ahead of being taught in school.
Some of the artwork is beautiful and would not be out of place in a gallery of the West, like in the Autry Museum.
3.5/5

Want to Know. The Romans
At the start there’s a cartoonish drawing that displays most of the clichés about Romans, like lying on a couch drinking wine and eating grapes while slaves wash their feet; all that was missing was the palm frond fans.
After some more drawings of kids both today and in the past there’s disparate facts, beginning with the army and how they liked to inspire fear so no one would want to fight them. There are also sections on how the Romans lived, going to the market, taking a bath, the various temples, and so on.
Even the kids drank wine. Slaves are treated as a matter-of-fact occurrence. The story of Romulus and Remus is told to the very gory end. There’s an elaborate street scene that looks beautiful despite the slightly goofy style. There’s even a test at the end to see if you’ve been paying attention.
There sure are a lot of blonde and redheaded people in these drawings! With the author being Dutch, there’s a last section on Roman antiquities found in the Netherlands.
Kind of a mishmash. Not at all sure if kids would go for this, since this book is thinly veiled as opposed to those that don’t look like they’re educational.
3/5

What Can Your Grandma Do?
There’s an upcoming talent show at the grade school, but in a twist that I’m glad we didn’t have when I was that age, it’s for the grandparents. There are cooks, painters, dancers, and so on, but Jeremy has no idea what his grandma’s special talent is. The book shows them trying several things, all failures, which makes both of them sad.
Perhaps they should have looked at the cover, where grandma is spinning a basketball on her finger. Pretty sure that even with the ballerinas and hula hoopers, she’s gonna win.
Simple story with effective artwork. Doesn’t try to overdo anything.
3.5/5

I’m Just a Little Someone
A cute little doll sitting on a shelf in a toy store is lonely, despite having all the other toys to play with; unlike Toy Story, apparently only the human-shaped toys can pretend to be people. For some reason—maybe because she looks so sad—no kids want to buy her. Finally she notices another semi-human doll across the way and invites him over to play (Sorry, it’s told in rhyme, so I had to).
It’s a cute touch that the page numbers are given as counting blocks. The art is cartoonish more than any type of realistic, but exactly the brightly-colored no-subtlety kind you’d expect for little kids. The last pages are activities—a lot of them—and author bios.
3.5/5

The Adventure of Thomas the Turtle
Between bright illustrations of forest and water a mama turtle tells her son not to go to the forbidden zone, where his dad was lost so long ago. He’s a kid, one who roughhouses with his sister; guess what happens.
Pretty simple story well told, with a message parents will love, if not kids. Even the humans come off well in this one.
4/5

Beauty and the Beast
I didn’t need to be told this was by the same illustrator as Baba Yaga, for the cover shows the same kind of extremely cute little girl face. The cover also features Beast as a goat.
The prince had a heart of stone, spoiled and selfish, and got what was coming to him from a witch who turned him into a beast. Belle’s older sister is similar, which already differs so much from the more famous version of this fairy tale. And Belle is her nickname, not given name. I’m not familiar with the original story, but I figure this was in keeping with it; do not expect the Disney version here.
Belle is a little too good to be true, but I suppose she had to be in order for her love for the Beast to be convincing.
The drawings, colored pastel-like, are gorgeous, and are of course the highlight.
4/5

My Potty
The premise of this story reminds me of the old movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, only with a little kid’s potty rather than a Coke bottle. Every animal who comes across it uses it for a different thing, none of them knowing what it’s actually for. So after finding out what it really is, does Dog feel a little bit sick after having it on his head? (Well, maybe not a dog.) And how did it not break with the elephant balancing on it like that?
Cute story, well-drawn.
3.5/5

Tobor
Ben has four animal friends to play with, but it’s boring because they don’t have minds of their own. So on his next birthday he gets a robot. Tobor is a full service babysitting/kid-playing AI in a boxy body on legs. But after a long day of playing Ben is tired of his new companion and goes back to his previous pals. And then in the middle of the night he wants to be with Tobor again.
Tobor falls from a tree and goes dark, but it doesn’t take much for a 5-year-old to repair him. Guess he just needed a reboot. And it’s a little creepy how the robot’s always smiling.
If there’s a moral here, I don’t see it.
Artwork is fine, much like a lot of others, awash with bright colors, of which Ben’s curls are the best. There’s a cool page at the front that looks like a circuit board, but much more beautiful.
3.5/5

Nick the Knight, Dragon Slayer
It’s all there in the title: kid wants to be famous by killing a dragon, goes off to fight one, but things don’t work according to plan.
The knight is barely as tall as a dragon tusk. And he’s woefully unprepared, and would be even if the dragon was much smaller. Sword too small, no shield, no armor. Every time the dragon tells him he’s lacking something, he goes back to the village to get it, but there’s always something else.
“Fighting a dragon was not as much fun as he thought.” Even though he hadn’t fought him yet. Finally they fight, albeit on a smaller field of honor.
Boy, those are some big rampant curls! Can’t fit a knight’s helmet over all that. . . oh, he doesn’t have one. Never mind.
Though it feels like a good idea, the story isn’t all that entertaining, in fact gets repetitive (and it’s only 18 pages long!). The writing is tiny even when there’s plenty of room. The artwork is the best part, bright and cheery even on the red dragon.
3/5

When Will Fall Arrive?
A bunny is worried he’ll be lonely without his best friend the hedgehog, who will be hibernating when it’s autumn. So he comes up with an elaborate plan to keep fall from happening: hide the red leaves.
His idea is heartwarming yet incredibly selfish, but of course it works out in the end.
As you might imagine, the artwork is dominated by red, especially at the end when all the leaves are gathered. Like certain cartoon ducks, they were shirts or jackets but not pants.
3/5

Little Detectives At Home
This is like the series of find the monsters books that are popular right now, but simpler, for younger children. It actually reminds me of the app game where you have to find a number of objects hidden in a landscape in a certain amount of time. The difference here is that the scenes are populated by animals acting as humans, though it’s a bit strange that, for example, you have to find a mouse, but it’s the tiny mouse, not the human-sized mouse having breakfast with the other animals. There’s bonus games at the end, to see if you were paying attention.
Simple and clear.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: More Kids’ Stuff

I think I’ve read more kiddie books this year than in my entire life, including when I was a kid.

Want to Know. Whales
Pretty watercolor drawings of a small boy who spends his time looking for whales at the beach.
From there it turns into factoids about whales—why they’re not fish, different types, etc.
All cutesy as expected, but can’t help but wonder if it might be too advanced for five-year-olds, especially at the end with the quizzes.
3.5/5

Princess Lemonella
From grumpy baby to sullen teenager, this princess never smiles. When the kind and queen put her up for royal marriage, princes from other fairy tales show up, asking her to let down her hair, offering her glass slippers and mattresses, and so on, but she’s not buying it.
It’s not till one guy ignores her by riding by that she gets interested, stopping him to find out why he’s not in the princess sweepstakes. Turns out he’s a sullen prince who’s also being forced to marry, and when they discover they’re exactly the same they. . . laugh. It’s beautiful.
If I had to describe this artwork I would go with mildly Impressionistic. Certainly not bad, just a tad different than most other kiddie books. It’s too bad the only time we can really like her doesn’t happen until the end; I wonder if kids will be able to keep their attention on this till then.
3.5/5

The Five Fierce Tigers of Rosa Martinez: A Tale of Healing
A sick little girl has five guardian tigers in her head, each with a different job/quirk/personality. There’s a leader, the efficient one, the funny, the one who was “far more interested in being right than being happy,” and the one who has trouble staying in one place. Thankfully there’s a flashback as to how they came into being, thanks to her grandfather/shaman.
Somewhere in the middle the job of the tigers is revealed, then it all makes sense.
Really nothing much to say here. The good is in the world building, as well as the characters. The plot itself is straightforward. The artwork is good enough, and thankfully the tigers are easy to tell apart.
3.5/5

A Wish Come True
Sick little boy—so sick his friends can’t see him in the hospital—gets a visit from the wish fairies, also known as the Make-A-Wish® Foundation. What he wants to do is catch bad guys, and when he’s better he gets his wish, starting with a visit to a fire station. That’s followed by some police training, including cuffing his own dad.
When they go out on a call I instantly thought it had been set up so the kid would catch the bad guy, but no, it was an actual police call! What? You let a little kid do that? Even though it turned out okay in the end, that’s just ridiculous, and ruined what was looking to be a very good book grounded in reality. Dropped a point.
Ends with the history of the Make-A-Wish® Foundation.
3/5

Kobee Manatee: Shipwreck Sea Friends
A manatee and his buds swim off to play in a shipwreck, meeting all kinds of sea creatures along the way. The manatee wears a vest and beret, the seahorse has a huge red bouffant. While exploring the wreck, the manatee gets trapped inside and needs to be rescued. Many try to help, but it takes size to save the day this time.
Each page had fun facts, with the first one the most interesting: the wreck they explore, despite being over 100 years old, was made of steel and had electricity! The sawfish is a ray, even though it looks like a shark, so even adults can learn stuff here.
As you might expect, blue is the predominant color. Having never been in water further down than a couple of feet—except for the ride at Disneyland—I’d imagine the sea is not so bright and colorful that far down, which should have been included in the fun facts, but kids will enjoy looking at this strange new world.
4/5

My Brother Tom
Tom is not like other brothers, being born premature and having to stay in the hospital. Angels appear outside the window. Nice simple paintings make the text easy to follow for the very young, though I wonder if this is a situation too scary—or too hard to grasp—for that age.
This is not a book about coping with loss or anything like that. In fact, it’s a fundraiser for a charity that provides support for those who find themselves in this situation.
3.5/5

Little Kangaroo
Not-so-little Roo doesn’t want to leave Mom’s pouch, where it’s warm and she gets fed and doesn’t have to do her own jumping. Mom tries to convince her that there’s so much beauty in the world, but she’s not interested. The art shows them in all kinds of places—forests, deserts—and they even share an ecosystem with elephants, whom Little Roo calls stupid. Birds, butterflies, monkeys, none of them get her attention until at the end she finds something that’s fun to do. . . outside.
The dedication states “For all the little ones who will let go of their moms (and for all the moms who manage to let go of their little ones)” and that pretty much says it all.
3.5/5

The Only Way I Can
A rabbit sees a bird flying and wants to do that. When he asks for help, the bird pretty much screws with him until Rabbit figures out how to use his powerful legs in another way. At the end the bird is impressed by rabbit’s running ability, but goes home before he gets any crazy ideas.
The artwork is fine, but if there’s a point to this story, it eludes me. Perhaps be happy with what you have or who you are?
3/5

My Good Morning
A rhyming story about how a little girl manages to get up and be ready for school every morning before her parents, without the benefit of coffee. Proves that you have to be born that way in order to be a morning person.
There’s a lot of cuteness here, from her mismatched socks to the artwork to the fact no big deal is made that this is a mixed-race family. The ending is particularly “Awwww!”
4/5

I Don’t Want a Rabbit
The little boy really doesn’t, but not for any reason you’d expect, unless you were a social worker trained to deal with sad kids.
Not much to say about this one, other than the artwork is incredibly cute, starting from the cover. Eventually the kid figures it out and accepts his new pet, but has to do it without any guidance from his parents, which seems weird. The bunny was almost human in the way it acted, and was able to withstand all of the kid’s plots to get rid of him. It’s a cute story, but something seems missing.
3/5

Come Be Wild With Me
In this case the wildness of the title is not in how you act, but where you go. “You must unplug to reconnect” is the first thing you read, while the last is, “When we’re good and ready, we’ll return to the world—happier boys and girls.” In between is all the things that can be done when you go for a walk in the woods.
The artwork is black and white with the sun and leaves in color. Looks quite stark.
3.5/5

Chocolate Mixer
A little girl sings—and rhymes well—about her parents and which parts of her body come from each, like her nose and toes. She has friends who are both chocolate and vanilla—her words—but seems fascinated the most by those things that are mixed like her.
Basically saying “Be yourself” with a lot of bright artwork.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: For the Kid In You

“Did you say hell pit or help it?”

Sarah at the Wedding
A little girl and boy are thrilled to participate in a wedding. The book takes you through all the stages from the kids’ point of view.
First of all, the little girl on the cover is so adorable, thrilled to be kissed. And before the story starts there’s a page of various items that might be found at a wedding, with questions like “What did they eat?” and my fave, “What did Dad lose?”
As expected it’s a simple telling, for kids who have never been to a wedding. The best part would obviously be getting to eat cake at the reception, as well as blowing bubbles and staying up late. There’s even an arts and crafts table at the reception, which is a new one to me. Everything’s done in a very cute style, with bright colors.
At the end there’s a page that shows how to make a veil and top hat, for all those play weddings kids love to do.
4/5

A Puppy’s Dream Comes True
A tiny dog narrates how he’s afraid of humans because they’re so big. He falls for a cute redhead and happily goes home with her, especially when he finds the shoe closet. What he can’t find, however, is a bathroom. And he gets named BabyDoll, which is fitting, because “I love looking cute!” The artwork feels like it’s out of the 60s, which makes the dog’s thoughts all the more interesting.
Then things turn weird. For one thing, this is a rich famous couple that walks red carpets. When they talked about adopting a baby girl—human, though it doesn’t make it clear—I thought Jolie or Madonna. And at the end there’s a message to help adopt children, which starts with “Thank you for your interest in our foundation.”
Um. . . what foundation? I thought I was reading about a dog. What does that have to do with a foundation? Great idea, so why not write about the joy of adopting a human? But I suppose the story is for kids and only the last page is for adults. Still, jarring enough to take me out of the enjoyment and drop it a point.
3/5

Georgie Makes a New Friend
A boy made out of gingerbread lives in a house made of sugar cookies—not gingerbread, because he’s weird, it’s pointed out—in the forest. Georgie didn’t like doing anything that was expected. He meets a nutcracker wisely named Bartholomew, who is just as unconventional as Georgie. They’re not all that smart, being easily distracted and trapped by a toymaker who wants to make them conventional.
Cute enough, though it feels really weird to have a gingerbread creature eating muffins. The theme of being yourself could have been tighter.
3/5

Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs
Short but sweet picture book showing how to deal with separation anxiety. Moonbeams, sunrays, rainbows are all used to carry love.
This may be the best children’s book I’ve ever read. Beautifully drawn, beautiful colors, great writing, especially the rhyming.
5/5

Beautifully Different
A paean to the joys of daydreaming and inclusion as a little boy wonders why some people make fun of others just because they look or act different. His father directs a daydream in which he flies to a world full of flowers and helps them survive a weed attack.
Bright colors, exaggerated human features. But what was the point of the gate?
4/5

Dreamland with Mommy
Imagination Time Travel: Mom directs her little son’s dreaming, but lets him choose the details, such as diving into a giant cherry pie and getting showered by elephants. The main point is solving a riddle, which from the end notes appears to be from the Koran. Not sure how many kids would have been able to solve it, or adults, for that matter.
Sometimes it rhymes, but not always.
3.5/5

A Cup of Tea?
Kid wants to play with his parents, who are too tired when they get home from work. At other times it seems like it’s going to happen when another interruption takes place, with tea always a part of it.
The artwork is watercolor-y and a bit strange, even though it’s mostly in a style I’ve seen from other children’s books. The writing is small and hard to read, at least on the electronic version. There is excellent rhyming, which is becoming a lost art. “Once again my adventures were undone by a kettle/it gets so much use now I know why it’s metal.” Wonder if a kid that young would know what a kettle is, or at least the name for it, but okay.
Can’t help but think that if this was written in the US, it would be a beer instead of tea.
Hadn’t realized I’d read another book by this same author; just like this one is about tea, that one was chocolate. This is a cute story, but I think the chocolate one was better.
3.5/5

Ya know what?
When a story starts in the bathroom it can only go up from there. Little Oliver would rather talk than go to sleep, and luckily for him he has a patient mom! Especially for a redhead. He’s also got all kinds of cute stuffed animals, which made it easy to understand why he wasn’t afraid of what was under the bed; good reveal of what was really going on under there.
“For little chatterboxes age 4 and up.” Perfect description.
Incredibly cute in all ways.
4/5

Welcome Home, Beaver
Already on the cover there’s a lot of stuff going on, but. . . why do beavers need scuba gear?
An adventurous young beaver—dressed like a lumberjack, of course—is on a log, rowing along a giant city with skyscrapers. Quickly he becomes homesick, so Akita the Adventure Dog! (must have exclamation point) takes him around the world in his balloon searching for it. I hope Akita is doing it on purpose, because if he can’t tell there’s no way Beaver could possibly live in a honeycomb then he’s the dumbest superhero ever.
Again, there’s a lot going on in each artwork. My fave is when they’re in the Arctic and the seals are playing ring toss with a narwhal. On another page there’s a prairie dog playing the accordion—that’s just evil.
On the other hand, some of this background material, added to make things funny, isn’t very realistic. (Yes, this is about a beaver and a dog in a balloon going around the world, but still.) For example, Fox has three kids in his cave. . . and a liquor cabinet with the bottles on top, where anyone can get at them. And a pantry but no real kitchen. Maybe it’s more my attention to detail that’s at fault here. I supposed the author/artist doesn’t expect kids to catch all this. For them it will be fine and fun—don’t want anyone to think this sucks in any way—just felt like a little more thought could have been put into the details.
The couplets certainly rhyme, though forget about the meter. Don’t know how big this real-tree book will be, but the print is tiny. (This rhyming stuff is catching!)
At the end there’s a map of all the places they visited.
3/5

This Is a Book Full of Monsters (or This Book Is Full of Monsters)
With this title, there’s nothing else I need to tell you. With books like these I have to keep reminding myself they’re for children, as sometimes the most painfully obvious thing is spelled out. For example, the very first page says if you get scared you can stop reading at any time.
Monsters are cute when they’re babies, but even then have sharp teeth. Some monsters get you with their smell, others with their banshee wail. But yeah, that slime guy might be the worst of all.
At the end there’s a certificate for making it through.
Wasn’t sold on this. Not all the monsters were given a “superpower” of evil, so to speak. Some were simply mentioned as looking scary, though they really didn’t look it. I read another of this author’s books, where a dog has to find a place to go potty, and frankly that felt scarier.
2.5/5

But I Wanted a Little Sister
Title says it all, doesn’t it?
“My brother always smiles. He never cries.” True. That is the calmest baby ever. It takes going around to see what little sisters are like for her to appreciate her brother.
I am going to be accused of thinking of things too logically, but it’s what I do. And this was never set as a fantasy, completely made to look like real life, where you don’t get adults saying, “We don’t sell babies. Perhaps you should try next door.” Wow. This little girl is pushing her brother in a tram all around town and no one wonders where Mom or Dad might be? By now I’m familiar with this author, who has done much better than this elsewhere.
3/5

My Name Is Caillou
In what could be called a prequel, the latest in this long series goes back to the beginning, with the little imp introducing himself to say he’s just like you.
The best part is how it shows his parents thinking of his name before he was born. Another is the pride he takes in now being big and able to dress himself.
Simple “Day in the life of a little kid” story.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Mounds of Kiddie Stuff

“I did my doody,” the toddler intoned solemnly, then grinned.
“He might be a prodigy after all. . .”

Sun Dragon’s Song #2
I’ve read the first, and more importantly remember it; that doesn’t happen often.
Despite now being a dragonrider in training—or more likely because of it—Ho Yi is still getting bullied. Before he was just an easy target, but now jealousy gets added and he gets a huge beatdown. Much more endearing is how much he likes his new digs: not having to share a room, his own bathroom, so on. That changes quickly as training sets in, leaving him homesick and in pain, but with new friends.
You can’t be a dragonrider if you’re afraid of heights; maybe shoulda thought about that beforehand. . .
I like the artwork here more than I did in the first one. I don’t remember if the first was so watercolor-y, but it definitely works here.
Ends in a cliffhanger, but since it’s the 2nd of 4 chapters that’s to be expected.
3.5/5

New York City Monsters
Bright landscapes of Noo Yawk are interspersed with info bubbles and monsters for you to find in a Where’s Waldo fashion. Some are pretty tricky, like the one dressed in a business suit on the street. Toward the end I missed some, much to my everlasting chagrin; some three-year-old is bound to find it and make my embarrassment complete.
4/5

Princess Lila Builds a Tower
A young version of Rapunzel—shorter blonde hair, of course—is sad; much like Buddha, she has everything she wants but is not allowed to go outside. So she gets the great idea to build an observation tower, seemingly modeled after the one in Copenhagen, so she can see past the dangerous forest she’s forbidden from entering.
Personality trait that will tell you all you need to know about her: “Princess Lila blushed with happiness.” Though she doesn’t even take the crown off to sleep. And in the end she finds a friend with a much bigger crown than hers.
The print is a bit small, despite having plenty of room in the beautiful page-size drawings.
3.5/5

The Bear
Learn about ursines in question and answer method. Example:
WHERE DOES THE BEAR LIVE?
There are rocks, trees…. And look! There’s a cave!
Nicely descriptive without getting verbose. I’m liking this for adults, other than the simple language, though it’s perfect for kids. Small and simple but bright colorful paintings tell most of the story.
Facts and glossary at the end.
4/5

Mama Bird Papa Bird
In full page drawings with few words, the story of how a pair of birds suddenly find an egg in their nest is told. They have no idea how it got there. Mama got fat and then she wasn’t. (What exactly is the attempted lesson here?)
At some point it occurred to me there was rhyming going on, but it didn’t hit me at the beginning, which is unusual.
Ends with the parents squabbling over baby’s career path, so to speak. But after that there’s a bible bit that seems to imply the whole book was about keeping to old-fashioned gender roles. What was a simple and almost-boring story becomes rather chilling.
As usually happens, the artwork is the best part, though the birds smile way too smugly.
2/5

Chicago Monsters
Each page of this book contains monsters, not many of them scary; it’s up to your kid—or you—to find them. Period. That’s all there is to this, and it’s beautiful. Some are of course easy, but it’s hard to get them all on the first try, especially in the latter pages.
Since this is the Chicago version they start with the Bean. Not as many well-known places as the NY edition; can’t wait for them to get to El Lay.
The whole thing is done in big bright colors that make it a joy to look through.
4/5

San Francisco Monsters
As always, each page contains not-always-scary monsters to find. That’s the entire game, and really all you need. Each setting is brightly colored yet realistic, as the Golden Gate Bridge, Painted Ladies, and brickwork of Ghirardelli Square attest to.
Maybe it’s the locale, but I enjoyed this one a little more than the previous editions in Chicago or Noo Yawk.
4/5

My Favorite Word: Arcane
Text alternates with paintings as a little girl—seemingly too little to know a word like that—tells of how she wishes her friends would be nicer to her, even if it takes arcane magic.
The poor dog is wondering what she’s doing with his bones.
It’s definitely cute and worthwhile, but I’m not sure the target audience would learn the actual meaning of the word through this. It’s not exactly spelled out, and seems to be used for many different things throughout.
3/5

Little Tails in the Savannah
As with the first, a squirrel takes a relatively dimwit dog for a trip to find out about animals. As the title tells you, this one takes place in Africa. Each page contains a three-panel comic strip with a full color painting of the animal discussed taking up most of the page.
What kind of plane gets destroyed crashing into a giraffe? A cardboard one, of course. And yes, that ball is a pile of poo. Great start. . .
Baby elephant grabbing mom’s tail=intense cuteness.
Bit of an abrupt ending; barely got to say hi to the uncle they were visiting before they were gone again in their somehow fixed air machine. Would have preferred a few more pages to make the ending better.
3.5/5

The Knights of Boo’Gar
A spoiled princess interrupts a ridiculous chess-like game between the king and his wizard—best thing that could have happened to it—to wail that the royal goat has been stolen, possibly by a cheese lover.
Example of the kind of line you can expect here: “She sobbed and sobbed, just like anyone would if they lost their goat.” The narrator’s princess-y attitude, along with the wizard’s snark. . . the king would have called it subversive, if it didn’t go over his head.
Childish puns abound. My favorite character early on, as expected, is the turtle, who likes to watch her human go crazy. (But I haven’t met the goat yet.) The princess is not just wearing a tool belt, but her favorite tool belt. (Yet she’s still majorly spoiled!) Lest you forget this is for kids, there’s plenty of boogers and farts.
“We have names and feelings just like you. We not just scary plot device.” This author really wants to get something off his chest, but then that’s no surprise when he makes religious figures the bad guys.
There’s a chapter at the end on medieval devices, which doesn’t seem to fit the story.
With only a few cartoony drawings, mostly of the king, amongst the large-print prose, it’s not enough to call this a picture book. What it is is a silly and occasionally funny story for pre-teens.
3.5/5

Sea Creatures: Reef Madness #1
Awesome subtitle that kids won’t get.
Sunday comic strip-like cartoons explain the quirks of different types of fish, with a twist comical—or attempt at comedy—ending. All the creatures think and speak, and for the most part get along, though there’s always some bad guys.
The thought of a humpback whale approaching discreetly blows my mind. . . especially while singing (though as I remember he only sings when mating).
The humor is mostly groan-inducing if you’re over 12, but since this book is meant for younger than that, it feels right. Can’t help but think, though, since this was originally done in French, something was lost in the translation.
3.5/5

The Smurfs: The Village Behind the Wall
A collection of shorts stories featuring the usual guys and one gal finding a new group of blue girls, apparently as an introduction to the new movie coming out soon! (said in announcer voice).
All the new Smurfs get a full page intro—awesome.
The new gals are terrific dancers, and good at curing the aches and pains afterward. “Hanging out with girls looks smurfly exhausting.” If you only knew, bro. . . so much for being the smart one.
Hefty is, as always, easily manipulated. “Why do I have the impression that’s exactly what she wanted?” Because you’ve never talked to a girl before, dude?
A kissing flower gets slapped for being forward. Almost feel sorry for it, considering how sad it’s drawn.
I hate it when the character is narrating what’s obviously happening, as occurred in one of the last stories. At least make it an inner monologue.
A few pages at the end tell how the Smurfs first appeared, with the humans in the story pretty much asking the same questions I did.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Kiddie Megapack

“There is no happiness, only moments of happiness.”—Spanish proverb
“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”—Cesare Pavese

Grandfather Whisker’s Table
A teaching story masquerading as a history lecture, set around the famous dangerous-looking horse race in Siena, Italy. A kid who just bought his little brother a toy woodpecker is worried about losing it, so he leaves it with the moneylender, only to now worry about losing the receipt. I feel ya, bro.
The story is cute and sweet, but the artwork is strange, like the heads don’t fit the bodies and have to be tilted. And though this claims to be the forerunner to modern banks, does that automatically make it the first one? Pretty sure the word “moneylender” is in the bible.
There are small articles on the first banks, the city of Siena, and other stuff, along with a timeline, at the end. Some of it might even interest the kids reading it.
3.5/5

Lion, King, and Coin
In ancient Turkey—Lydia, to be exact—there’s a golden river, where a boy named Laos gathers the fungible metal so his father can make ornaments and his uncle can sell them. When someone wants just a piece of fruit but can only pay with a cow, Uncle has an idea, and so money is born. Nice piece on how the coins are made, along with the legend of King Midas.
The artwork is fine, but there’s one long painting of the marketplace with Laos photobombing from the side that is truly excellent. As expected, there’s a lot of golden hues.
At the end are articles on the invention of the coin, the local geography, history of commerce, and a timeline. Kinda strange topic for a history lesson for little kids, but effective.
4/5

A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech
A bare-bones bio of the great president, zeroing in on his civil rights activity, for kids. Beautiful in its simplicity as well as its watercolor paintings. It might be a call to action for those far too young to know much about the Sixties but who might draw comparisons to the present-day tensions in this country.
For someone who’s as big a fan of counterfactuals as I am, throwing in the phrase “History isn’t a straight line” is pure catnip. In this case, had older brother Joe not died in WW2, it’s possible JFK would never have become president. Try to imagine life today without, for example, a moon landing.
In the beginning the author calls him out on not doing more to support civil rights, and as a bonus at the end she explains exactly why she felt the need to do this. Had it not been for this, the book might not have been as good, or at least complete.
4/5

Hold Your Temper, Tiger!
As you can tell from the title, Little Tiger is quite the brat when he doesn’t get his way. He finally learns his lesson because, like most of us, he’s scared of Mom: “Little Tiger didn’t know what ‘or else’ meant. He didn’t want to find out.”
In the artwork there’s a red blob that stands for his temper. He doesn’t know where to hold it, but finally figures something out, saying, “I’ll never lose my temper again. I know exactly where it is.”
Simple but effective story told with simple watercolor drawings.
4/5

Sloppy Wants a Hug
As told in the title, Sloppy the Tree Dragon wants a hug, but Dewdrop the Sprite isn’t about to give him one.
It takes a while to find out why not, which hurts the story a little because Dewdrop comes off as mean; she reminded me of Lucy from Peanuts. In the end we finally find out her “very good reason,” but hey, you’re supposed to put up with your friends’ idiosyncrasies.
3/5

You Can’t Win Them All, Rainbow Fish
The pub calls this “A lighthearted look at accepting loss without losing your sparkle!” Heaven forfend someone lose their sparkle!
Rainbow should know by now that he’s not gonna be good at Hide and Seek, given his bright colors, but he’s a sore loser anyway. Hide and Seek seems kinda pointless among fish anyway, but okay. Besides, it’s the simplistic but colorful artwork that’s the best part of this story.
3/5

Use Your Words
Despite knowing numerous languages, two brothers like to talk gibberish, which pisses Mom off enough to ground them. They don’t care, they go to their room and bounce on the bed until it’s broken so bad they open a hole in reality and end up with some not-so-scary looking creatures who also like to talk gibberish.
Here’s a line you don’t read often: “Then it bent over and held both of its noses.”
The cartoony drawings are helped by the fact the story is Holi (the Indian festival) themed.
I found it a little silly at times, went to extremes for what could have been an easily-taught lesson.
3/5

Wake Up to Love, Lessons on Friendship from a Dog named Rudy
Simple paintings of a dog and his human girl: playing, relaxing, cuddling, licking. Nothing more, but then for the really small kids this is intended for, that’s all that’s needed.
3.5/5

The Magical Forest
A young boy named Wayta has come from far away to check out the forest when he meets another boy, Penjaga, who turns out is the guardian of the jungle.
The opening poem starts with the forest itself saying what it is—mountains, river, etc.—before ending with the classic “We are one, we should play together.” This leads to a beautiful if somewhat overdone painting of a rain forest that foreshadows the coming chapter, as happens throughout the book.
There are some lines that come across as clichés—like “Hear the voice of your heart, your voice will guide you”—but since this might be the first time a kid is reading it, that’s okay. Another is, “Be patient, brave, and have faith in yourself.” Plus be pure of heart, clear of mind, and expect the unexpected. Only by learning each lesson will he—and you—find the magical places he seeks. Much more philosophical than expected, but still at a level that children can understand.
Probably intended as a textbook, since it has discussion questions after each chapter.
Accompanying music is also available.
3.5/5

(As you will no doubt quickly notice, the following book is the Spanish version of the one above.)

El Bosque Magico
Un joven nombrado Wayta ha jornado al bosque para investigarlo cuando conoce a otro muchacho, Penjaga, quien es el guardian de la selva.
El poema que empieza el libro tiene el bosque diciendo lo que es—montañas, rios, etc.—antes de acabar con el clasico “Somos uno, deveriamos jugar juntos.” De alli sigue una bella aunque muy elaborada pintura de la selva que da idea a lo que va a pasar en el proximo capitulo; este escenario continua por todo el libro.
Hay veces que las lineas suenan como clichés—como “Que la sabiduria de tu corazon te guie en cada momento”—pero como esta es la primera vez que un niño lo esta leyendo, sale bien. Otra es, “Debes ser paciente, ser valiente, y tener fe en ti mismo.” Mas tener pureza de corazon, tener una mente clara, y esperar lo inesperado. Nomas con aprendiendo cada leccion se puede encontrar los lugares magicos que se buscan. Este libro es mucho mas filosofico que lo esperaba, pero de todos modos a un nivel que niños pueden entender.
Probablemente intentado como libro de escuela, proque tiene preguntas de discusion despues de cada capitulo.
Tambien ay musica que va con el libro que se puede comprar.
3.5/5

A Chocolate In My Pocket
A cute loving story about a father and daughter brought closer together by chocolate. Also a lesson to parents to not take their kids for granted, certainly don’t put work above them.
I’m a fan of rhymes, and these are intriguing, especially the pattern.
This sweet girl is far too good to be believed. . .
4.5/5

Danny Dingle’s Fantastic Finds: The Metal-Mobile
Pencil-like drawings, almost doodles, are interspersed throughout the story of a schoolkid whose only skills, despite his huge belief in himself, are goofing off and farting.
I think Superdog is a great name for a toad. My favorite line is “A tumbleweed rolled past.”
But seriously, there’s a lot of farting going on. And there’s only so much you can get out of a mediocre kid pretending he’s smart. The beginning of the egg chapter had me cringing.
Not sure what the message is here. Be an idiot, ignore your parents and your schoolwork, still win at the end?
2.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Giant Kid Edition

The blog entry is giant, not the kid.
Yes, instead of the usual four you get an even dozen. . . but not a baker’s dozen, don’t be greedy.

Baba Yaga
Another retelling of the old Russian legend used to scare children, told mostly in nice little watercolor paintings. Warning: Little Olga, with her round face and red pigtails, is extremely cute. I’ve always thought Baba Yaga wasn’t very smart, and here she proves it again.
An excellent book for the very young, which I’m told I act like sometimes.
4.5/5

Ian at Grandma and Grandpa’s House
Originally from Belgium, though it sure doesn’t read like it, this is a fun and reassuring picture book about a toddler who likes to spend time with his grandparents. There’s a running conceit about how Ian thinks everyone’s silly, except himself, of course. Curly the Dog wins with three sillies; too bad there wasn’t a rabbit in the story.
The drawings are cute and colorful, though at the beginning and end there’s random pictures of objects floating about that made me think my digital edition was screwy.
4/5

Star Light, Star Bright
Wishing upon a star gets you to Mars. . . that almost rhymes. This book leads you on an incredibly quick tour of the solar system, with one or two facts about each planet and the moon.
The artwork looks digital, computer stuff done to look almost 3-D.
Last third of the already short book is fact file, glossary, biblio, websites, and index.
3.5/5

Puggle’s Problem
In this short picture book, “Pipp Puggle was as plump and healthy as a baby echidna should be.” Don’t know how many American kids will know what an echidna is, but this baby can’t wait for his spines to come, becoming very anxious about it. He even asks other animals how they got their signature body parts or traits, and tries them all, which only leads to more frustration. When Mom tells him the only thing that can help is patience, he thinks, “I haven’t tried that yet. Where can I find some?” And wouldn’t we all like to know the answer to that one?
The drawings are sparse watercolor, which I imagine would be just right for the targeted age group.
3.5/5

Laura Monster Crusher
In this relatively long prose book probably targeted to teens, Laura is a young girl whose taller than all her classmates, which makes her a pariah even before she finds an elevator hiding in her closet that takes her to a mystical magical underground land. . . eh, why not? I’ve seen weirder, and this makes more sense than a cabinet.
Oddly enough, nothing much happens in this story—some battles, but mostly her thoughts—but it’s still enjoyable. I thought her brother being blind made things more interesting, and in a way it did near the end. The monster fighting book she was forced to read sounds like it would sell better than this one. But the best part is the psychological insights into an early teen girl with body image issues and how she overcame them.
There’s a lot of world building for what turned out to be a small plot, but you can tell sequels are planned.
4/5

#BabyLove: My Toddler Life
With some simple rhyming verses, for really young kids—three or four—this book tells the story of a toddler who can’t wait to get his hands on mommy’s phone. When Mom finds out she tries to impart a life lesson, though I’m not so sure the kid is listening.
Basically a reminder to put down your phones and connect with real-live people.
3.5/5

Bedtime for Buzzy
Simply put, Buzzy doesn’t want to go to sleep, despite all his toys urging him to. He imagines all the adventures he could be having with them until he’s reminded dreams are good for that too.
One of the first brightly colored paintings that caught my attention featured toy astronauts and dinosaurs. . . so immediately I thought Toy Story. The drawings of Moon Man’s perpetually shocked face are priceless and the highlight of the whole book.
3.5/5

Everton Miles Is Stranger Than Me
In this story, which is a sequel—I have not read the first—a young teen spends her evenings flying around town with Everton, who can also fly. They have protectors, both human and mythological, but there’s also a bad guy who wants to kidnap her for some reason that ties in with the disappearance of her dad.
Strange when the person in the title is not the main character, although you can argue “Me” is in there. There’s an interesting twist near the end that delves into pure fantasy; most of this story takes place in our world, where people can’t fly and there’s no beautiful ancient beings fighting celestial battles.
Despite this being targeted for pre-teens or teens, I can hear a kid’s voice as I read this. Most importantly, it was actually pretty fun. Gonna needta go back and read the first.
3.5/5

Pilots and What They Do
This story that was first published in Amsterdam in 2009 starts with cute drawings of seemingly random objects, though there is an airplane and an apple-cheeked pilot who looks about 8. Everything you need to know about it is right there in the title.
“The tower tells the pilot he is allowed to take off. How exciting!” There’s a lot of detail, covering every aspect of takeoff and how amazing it must be to fly off to faraway lands all the time.
Most of the drawings are watercolors that look drawn by children, which renders them very cute.
An instructive engaging picture book for toddlers. . . “toddlers” being the key word.
4/5

Dreaming of Mocha
First published in Amsterdam in 2015, this is a strange one. I don’t know if there’s supposed to be a story here. Seemingly random watercolor paintings of a girl with a dog, playing with but definitely not dreaming about. Perhaps there isn’t supposed to be a story, in which case just give this to the kid so they can enjoy the drawings.
3/5

Little Man on Campus: The Jimmy Williams Story
This story of a short young man heading off to college seems to belong in the YA section rather than kids, but that’s where I found it.
Everything you need to know about him is encapsulated here, especially the last word: “I don’t need my mother going around and beating up bullies anymore.” On his first day of college he falls in lust with the first girl he meets, finds out his roommates are giant jocks, and acquires his own personal Yoda. Yes, he falls in love with the prettiest girl in school and still is shocked she already has a boyfriend; thought he was supposed to be smart. It’s a good thing the cafeteria guy takes him under his wing and teaches him life lessons, because some of his. . . cluelessness is just painful, bordering on cruel. I’m not a fan of butt monkeys. There are points when he’s even beyond clueless. On the Big Bang Theory scale of nerdiness, first he’s Sheldon, then he’s Howard.
The scene with Susan dancing in front of mirror is my fave. There’s some fun stuff in here, but you can tell it’s a first book.
3.5/5

Gross Greg
Greg lives up to his moniker and then some!
“They taste like chicken,” Greg likes to say///“Ewwwww!” screams his little sister as she runs away.
You’ll find out soon enough what they’re talking about.
This is an extremely short book, only 40 pages, and even then a rhyming couplet or drawing takes up a whole page and leaves a lot of white. The best artwork is of Mom, who’s clad in a multi-colored dress that looks simply brilliant. But that’s one of the few highlights.
Put it this way: if this makes ME queasy, I can only imagine what it does to kids. And with kids being so impressionable, what parent would want to read this to their kid?
2/5

;o)