Book Reviews: Kids Like Animals

If 13 is a baker’s dozen, what’s 11?

Creature Files Reptiles: Come Face-To-Face With Twenty Dangerous Reptiles
This book is filled with photos of fearsome looking creatures full of fangs and claws, with small diagrams that show what part of the planet to find them, how big they get, and a fang file. There’s also a danger gauge, and even though the Gila monster’s spit is venomous, that only ranks a two. The undisputed winner is the black mamba.
I’m old enough to be surprised when I come across an animal I’ve never heard of, in this case the tuatara. Native to New Zealand, called a living dinosaur, luckily is a 0 on the danger gauge. The gharial I’ve seen, even if I’ve never heard the name. That long skinny snout is a dead giveaway.
Most astounding fact: the green anaconda can grow up to thirty feet! And a book like this can’t end without everyone’s favorite, the Komodo dragon.
But I would have given the leatherback turtle at least a one rather than a zero; those babies can bite!
4/5

Ultimate Expeditions Rain Forest Explorer
In 1924, a jungle explorer went into the Amazon, keeping a journal of the animals he encountered for a display at the museum that paid for his expedition.
Each page contains diary entries, a big photo of the animal in question, a few small ones, drawings, and fun facts, such as the jaguar having the strongest teeth of any cat.
The tapir always scores high on the weirdness scale, especially the fact they can hold their breath underwater for a good ten minutes. His encounter with a river dolphin is hilarious. And if you’ve ever wondered about Amazonian bats, they’re just as disgusting as any others.
Have to say, though, the photos, especially the dark ones, are too sharp to have been made with 1920s photographic technology. And some of the drawings have captions in small italics that are difficult to read.
3.5/5

The Girl Who Said Sorry
This is a book about teaching young girls to express themselves with confidence and without apology. The young protagonist here has to deal with people telling her she’s too girly, too boyish; too thin, don’t eat that cookie, all kinds of contradictions. Worst of all, she apologizes every time regardless of how ridiculous the dichotomy.
“You say sorry a lot!” So I said sorry.
The artwork is simple pencil sketches on a white background, until she has her epiphany. At that point it turns psychedelic, her words now coming in rhymes.
The funniest part was the bio, where, because she’s Canadian, the author admits she apologizes all the time.
3.5/5

Northstars Volume 1: Welcome to Snowville!
The appropriately named Polaris—at the North Pole—is the home of Santa Claus’s town, Snowville. His daughter, a cute redhead, is just as appropriately named Holly. She’s happy to have a princess visiting, though she’s not what she expected. After some getting-to-know-you they take off to the underworld with a little green guy and get mixed up a plot to take over Snowville.
Yetisburg Address? Wonder how many kids will catch that one. Grammar gets them past a dragon somehow. I like how there’s a little emoji face next to the dialog when the speaker isn’t pictured.
“Huh. That could’ve gone better.”
The moral is right to the point and very true.
The artwork doesn’t try to be realistic, but that’s okay. It has more of an old-school comic book feel, which isn’t much of a surprise since it seems to be targeted for younger kids.
3.5/5

The Anger Volcano
The first half basically runs through a bunch of metaphors for the topic, showing all the ways anger can manifest. Then come the solutions—like counting to ten, slow breaths, think of something else—followed by the results, hopefully. There’s a couple of repeats in there, or I guess reinforcement. Best part of it is that each page is done in triple rhyme, which proves very effective. Also helpful are the not-so-simple line drawings, which don’t try to overdo things and take attention away from the words.
4/5

Annabel and Cat
A story of friendship between a little girl and her cat. They put on plays, do arts and crafts; I can see a cat holding up a mustache to its face, but using scissors is too much. They also like to jump into piles of leaves, usually a dog activity, amongst many other adventures.
The prose is easy for little kids, as is the artwork. Can’t help but wonder, though, why this was done with a cat when a human best friend would have worked just as well, if not better.
3.5/5

Kit and Kaboodle
If there are two animals that really enjoy peanuts, it’s elephants and monkeys. So what happens when an elephant has a bag of yummies and won’t share?
If you go through the pages fast when the monkey’s juggling the dishes, it looks like a little movie. No matter what he does, and some of the attempts are pretty impressive, the elephant is not enthralled.
In the end the elephant did have a point, and the monkey’s revenge was kinda harsh. But yeah, they could have both done better.
3.5/5

Mi Gato, Mi Perro/ My Cat, My Dog
Told in both English and Spanish with a drawing in between, this tells the similarities between cats and dogs as seen by humans, though the cat might have different opinions. In the end they figure out how to coexist.
With its simple language and artwork, this is right in the wheelhouse of preschoolers.
3.5/5

My Favorite Animal: Dolphins
What are the odds that I open this book just as Flipper is on TV? (Seriously, that just happened!)
As it should be, the title tells you what you need to know. Told with plenty of lovely photos, and despite this being for children, I did learn some interesting facts about an animal I have studied thoroughly for years.
There are small tests given throughout with the answers in the back, along with a glossary.
4/5

The (Not) Sleepy Shark
Like the title says, Amelia the Shark is not sleepy, wandering around talking to her friends and doling out common-sense advice.
When the school of fish said they were hungry and the shark said, “I know the feeling,” I thought the next page might not be appropriate for kids, but luckily it didn’t go there.
Kind of a strange setting for a story, and I don’t know how educational it is, but in the end it was okay.
3/5

Superheroes Club
Lily wakes up happy to go to school, then promptly gets buried under a pile of clothes. She’s still happy, though, because she comes out of the pile fully dressed exactly as she wants to be. From there it moves to “What I did last summer” at school, and ends up with a bunch of her classmates helping her help others.
There’s a clever moment where the script is positioned to include the name on the dog’s collar.
I really liked the teacher, even if he was wearing a bowtie. He ends up getting wet.
The artwork is as bright and colorful as the message, like an 80s superhero cartoon, which just might be its inspiration. And I can’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite musicians, Lindsey Stirling, when I see this little girl. . .
4/5

;o)

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Book Reviews: Plenty of Kids’ Stuff

Chatur and the Enchanted Jungle
Chatur and his usually trusty donkey Gadhu are back for another adventure. Will the human turn out to be the bigger ass like last time?
Of course he does. Chatur is just as impatient as ever, and Gadhu just as laid back as ever, as they go from town to town looking for work, only to find some genie mojo in the forest. It takes little for Chatur to go overboard again.
Classic Twilight Zone ending made it all worth it.
4/5

Riley Can Be Anything
A short story about. . . well, look at the title. Cousin Joe, who’s slightly older, asks Riley what he wants to be when he grows up; Riley has no idea, so they think about it, in pictures and rhyme. Cook, musician, doctor, pilot, all are examined. The ending is a little bit of a surprise.
I appreciate how well the rhyming was, but at the same time the rhythm itself seemed off. Either the author or the illustrator has no idea what a trumpet looks like (hint: not like a sax).
The artwork is all big bold colors and simplistic shapes. Feel like this could have been done better.
3/5

The Monster at Recess: A Book about Teasing, Bullying and Building Friendships
Shy nonconformist Sophie would rather be playing with the monsters from the school that shares a playground with hers than deal with her mean classmates and misunderstanding teachers.
First and foremost, this isn’t a typical children’s book; there’s no artwork or photos, it’s all written (Though there are monsters drawn on the cover). This story would have benefitted from visuals, considering all the monsters an artist would have enjoyed inventing.
As it stands, Sophie breaks rules and lies to go play with the monsters, which isn’t surprising, considering they’re a far better lot than the human girls. Still, I’m not sure parents will appreciate the lengths this author has her going to.
3/5

The Field
A little girl soccer-dances her way through a forest, finally arriving at a field with cows and goats. She gathers everyone she can find for a game, after setting up the goals and shooing the animals off the playing field.
It’s funny that it’s even a question as to whether the game would stop because of rain. Ask any kid and they’ll tell ya it’s more fun playing soccer in the mud. And like the professionals they get a long soothing bath once their dirty clothes are off.
At the end there’s a two-pager of every character playing with a ball, including the moms and the cows. This includes a little blonde girl, who is treated no differently by all the other inhabitants of what I assume to be a Caribbean island, from the Creole-looking version of French tossed in every once in a while (confirmed at the end, with a page of translations).
The artwork is broad, with no attempt at realism, but that’s fine. It’s colorful before the rain hits, and every character is drawn distinctively.
4/5

For Audrey With Love
An unusual story about the friendship between Audrey Hepburn and Givenchy, a fashion designer. Their dual stories play out one above the other, from childhood—with his mom being positive about him wanting to be a fashion designer while her mom tells her she’ll never be a ballerina—on through their careers and their eventual meeting. Once she becomes famous she brings him along.
But the story doesn’t always make sense. On one page he says he doesn’t have time to design for her, but she can buy from the rack; next page it says she appeared in Breakfast at Tiffany’s in dresses he designed for her. An editor missed that blooper.
The artwork is in a broad 60s watercolor style. In some ways this is indeed for kids, especially in the prose, but at the same time it seems more geared for adults.
3/5

Let’s Clean the House
A story told in photos, not more usual types of artwork, about. . . exactly what the title says. It starts in an incredibly messy bedroom, where even the bunkbed is loaded with stuff. . . how can anyone sleep on that?
How messy is the place? There’s an actual line: “Can you find the floor?”
There’s photos of a tidy closet and a laundry basket, but it doesn’t show the effort to get them there. Is this supposed to inspire kids to tidy up? Doesn’t seem like it would do any more than telling them to do it. The tag even says “Want to get your kids excited about clean-up time?” but I don’t see how this will do it.
The formerly messy bunkbed now looks like something in a showroom. A little girl is perched precariously on a bookcase that looks like it’s never been used. Even when you clean up it never looks this good in real life.
Next up is the kitchen, and I’m happy to say it looks worse than mine. The toilet looks like something out of a mansion, or a space station.
Ends with a photo of kids jumping for joy.
All in all, pretty bland.
3/5

Nursery Rhyme Time
Large drawings frame classic stories, like The Cat and the Fiddle; seeing a cat holding a violin is not nearly as unusual as I thought it would be. Others include a nattily depressed but dour Humpty before the fall, Little Miss Muffet, Three Blind Mice, and so on. These are the original versions of the stories; can’t help but picture a child asking, “Why did the old woman who lived in a shoe whip the kids before sending them to bed?” And did the pumpkin-eater kidnap his wife and hold her captive?
The artwork is drawn in childish exaggeration, but not so much that you can’t tell how it fits in the story. Some of the rhymes were unknown to me; perhaps they were selected for visual appeal.
3/5

Queen Quail is Quiet
This is the usual alphabet runthrough, with each letter supplying a phrase full of alliteration, though most are too simple to be called genuine tongue-twisters, as the book claims.
A little disappointed in G, which features a giant bunny rather than a giraffe. J seems to be the best one. Some are right on the mark, others are too silly, like the robot radish. I’m sure I’ll never hear about a Zen zucchini being in the zone ever again.
The author/illustrator must have had fun with these, as she paints not just animals but all sorts of things in anthropomorphic form; some of them have to be seen to be believed.
3.5/5

Science Candy
Two kids try to be innovative with their school science project, but spend most of their time at the candy store. The candy man seems to know more about science than their teacher, using his wares to show refraction and geology, amongst other things.
Mostly written with drawings here and there. Some of the scientific descriptions seem to be at least of a junior high level, if not high school. If this is targeted for smaller kids it might go over their heads.
4/5

Discover Cats
Photos of different types of cats—including the skeletal hairless ones that look like the feline version of a Chihuahua—are augmented by small sentences. Other than some factoids, like eye color and how cats don’t like to be alone, that’s it.
The first cat looks quite surprised.
Seems like something small kids would like, as in preschool age.
3.5/5

Chirp
Chirp is a chick—wonder what the others are called—who goes off on an adventure while Mom and siblings are asleep, avoiding cats and falling into buckets of paint, which lead to mistaken identity and crisis.
The chicks are drawn as simple fluff balls on leg sticks, but keep a lookout for the little girl, especially her hair.
4/5

Secret Agent Josephine in Paris
As I always say, it’s good when the title tells you everything you need to know.
All it took was the first sentence to include the phrase “mermaid piñata” for me to know how quirky this was going to be. After all, when the villain is nicknamed “The Cupcake Kid” and likes stray puppies. . .
A flower shop is a good place for a villain to hide as he observes the ditzy agent sent to catch him. Wasn’t at all surprised by the supposed twist. Bug’s arm would have given out long before the fifty-seventh yarn throw. From a story point of view, it’s not well-plotted, to the point where even kids would question some of her decisions.
The flower shop showed a lot of beautiful colors, but some pages were just too cluttered.
2.5/5

Sleep, Baby, Sleep
Different cultures are shown putting their babies to bed. There’s archaic language and attempts at rhyme, but other than that the words do not stand out.
This is all about the visuals, taken from a German poem written out at the end. The artwork shows every brushstroke, and comes off as something a child would do in kindergarten, which I’m sure was the intention, but it’s a bit jarring at first.
3/5

The Tooth That’s on the Loose
With an Old West sheriff narrating, we get an allegory of a tooth that needs pulling. The tooth in question not only wears a cowboy hat, gloves, a gunbelt, and boots, it’s sporting a mustache and bushy eyebrows. That cannot be at all pleasant inside a mouth.
Would have been a tighter story if the sheriff and the tooth fairy were the same person.
That is the strangest-drawn sun I’ve laid tired eyes on in a month of Sundays. . . wow, that lingo is catching!
3.5/5

Amazing World Sea Creatures: Encounter 20 Light-Up Animals
I don’t know how young this is meant for, but with plenty of percentages and words like bioluminescence bandied about on the first page, it can’t be for really small tykes.
There are plenty of photos and graphs. The firefly squid is intriguing, but if it wasn’t so colorful, it would feel like a textbook.
3/5

Amazing World Stars & Planets
A colorful primer on the planets and other objects in the solar system. Each page contains a photo and an interesting fact about the subject. Being giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune get more pages. There’s a whole section on different types of nebulae.
Can’t help but wonder who named the Sombrero Galaxy.
Ends with a one-page glossary. The whole book is big and bright and hard to miss the information.
4/5

Creature Files Dragons: Encounter 20 Mythical Monsters
“They are the real stars in stories about knights rescuing princesses.” Wow.
European dragons have bad reps, so it’s nice to see the Asian nice ones included here. Ethiopian and Armenian dragons were the most interesting, but none as weird as the cockatrice (which is okay with spellcheck, oddly enough), though the tarasque is close (and not in spellcheck).
The font is difficult to read, but other than that it’s a fun intriguing book with plenty of angry dragons drawn beautifully.
4/5

Creature Files Predators
Not just predators, but apex predators. (Apex predators are the only ones who don’t have other animals hunting them.) Seems like they all have claws, though the most awesome ones belong to the non-predatory sloth.
What is a fossa? I didn’t think there were any animals left in the world I hadn’t heard of, not counting those not yet discovered in the Amazon or such.
Well-illustrated in bright colors.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Kiddie Twenty Pack

Superfail
Wow, this is a pretty dark premise for a children’s book: a kid with superpowers can’t use them because he’s cross-eyed and gets motion sickness, which is definitely worse than not having superpowers at all. And then an old has-been superhero enlists—blackmails—him to help deal with his archnemesis.
Some of the more interesting points:
“Fine, whatever. You hired me for my directorial experience, but you don’t listen to me. Don’t blame me when you don’t get any views on You Tube!” Henchmen have sure come a long way.
The blonde kissing the startled raccoon. . . on the lips. . .
Saw that last cross-eyed laser shot coming. . . but not the very last twist, which was inspired.
But there just wasn’t enough here to keep my interest. Seems like they go through every possible situation from comics and movies in pursuit of. . . halfway through I couldn’t remember what/who they were after. Can’t shake the feeling this could have been better, or at least more concise. The good moments were not enough to offset all the filler.
2.5/5

My Wounded Island
In a story originally in French. a little girl—I’m guessing Inuit, since the island is close to Alaska—is scared of a monster that is forcing her family to move further inland by raising the water level around their island. It’s an invisible creature, though its outline is in the shape of a giant jellyfish.
This book might introduce you to a new term: climate refugees. You can’t help but feel the heartbreak in her words as she tells us the monster is forcing them out of their homes, and giving her nightmares. As a metaphor for what the world’s going through today it’s very effective, and the pastels are lovely in an impressionistic sorta way.
4/5

A Bear’s Life
One of those books where the title, as simple as it is, tells you all you need to know.
It starts with a beautiful photo of a forested island. The text is straightforward and easy to understand. “Cubs want to play, just like you.” Good to see the author highlighting the similarities so that kids will be more disposed to helping nature. Another such occurrence was the “eating barnacles like popcorn” bit; humorous to read, but I wouldn’t want to see it.
White ursines are called spirit bears, which is of course appropriate because they do look a little spooky. Of course there has to be a story where Raven—the Trickster—has a hand in turning some bears white.
The photos are exquisite, though that’s to be expected in such a place as uninhabited northern British Columbia. I had to smile when I saw some of the close-ups were taken from above, so either the photographer was in a plane/chopper or using a drone. There’s also a perfect action shot of a bear catching a fish.
Simple storytelling, with the photos the main draw.
4/5

A Message for Grandma
In the 1890s three branches of the same family share a farm, with each having double-digit children; that’s a lot of cousins! Grandma also lives on the farm, one of the original immigrants who never learned to speak English, whereas the third generation Alice—the little protagonist—belongs to doesn’t speak German. Alice is tasked with going to Grandma’s house to get some flour—not borrow it, as it says in the book—but has to memorize how to say it in German. The verbal contortions she gets into trying to remember the phrase as she travels the roads and paths are hilarious, especially when the goose chases her and she screams, “Can’t nip my bottom!”
Though it’s mostly text, there are some beautiful high-tone barely-there paintings, mostly farm scenes. It’s a sweet story, funnier than expected, but I have to mention that even though I don’t know much German, I do know “I love you,” and the pronunciation given is wrong.
4/5

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos
Before the Selma Hayek movie came out, you’d have to be a huge student of art to know who Frida Kahlo was. Now she’s pretty much as famous as her husband Diego Rivera, if not more so. This book takes the young reader through Frida’s early life, where the animals in her menagerie were her best friends. Each animal is compared to her, both physically and mentally/emotionally.
You don’t associate the word “cute” with Frida, but these childhood stories certainly belie that. (And yes, the unibrow is faithfully recreated.) My fave moment is her breathing on the window so she could doodle on it.
It’s easy to miss, but on the page where Frida is painting in bed, you can see an artificial leg standing there, waiting to be used.
Recently I saw an art exhibit where she was referred to as the Queen of Selfies. The artwork in this book is nowhere near realistic, but then Frida’s wasn’t either. Interesting that she started her artistic career as a photo colorist for her dad. More than anything, I have to say I was amazed to discover her paintings have been in the Louvre.
3.5/5

The Tea Dragon Society
A little girl who wants to learn blacksmithing from her mom finds an injured tea dragon; it doesn’t take long to figure out what that is. Her father knows who it belongs to, and when she takes it back she finds something else she loves as much as blacksmithing.
The girl is a goblin, according to an aside from her mom. The tea dragons don’t look like usual dragons, more like tiny unicorns without the horns. Minette. . . can’t tell what she is, with her tail and hooves—maybe a deer—but she’s really cute, and she has my fave dragon, Chamomile.
“This is kinda relaxing, when they’re not trying to bite your fingers off.” That leads the normally placid teashop owner to snark, “That should have been our slogan.”
Sweet kids, good people, and one bad giant dragon, all there to tell you that memories matter.
The artwork is almost child-like, though with great skill.
Ten pages from the Tea Dragon Handbook to end it.
4/5

Little Pierrot V.1: Get The Moon
There’s no actual narrative here; each page is its own story, like a comic strip. But basically it revolves around a kid with a huge imagination who wants to go into space and explore the stars. There’s also a talking snail who’s like a snobby unappreciative guru, almost an evil Mr. Miyagi or Yoda.
It’s hard to get a sense of this. Some pages are philosophical, some are funny, some try to be funny but don’t make it. Just a kid with his snail going through life, or trying to. Nothing to grasp, and the earth-tone artwork doesn’t help. Except when he dresses as Batman or an astronaut—complete with Chucky T’s—the clothing is remarkably drab.
Wow, those kids are extremely studious; all except the protagonist paying attention to their work in class. The physics lessons are both funny and painful.
Right away before the story starts there’s a double page of kids walking a row, and they are drawn extremely cute. But that’s the highlight of the visuals. Worse, the font is not easy to read; there’s one page where I couldn’t make out the last word and missed the punchline.
3/5

The Little Red Wolf
In a classic switch, or perhaps better said a reversal of roles, the Little Red Wolf is actually Little Red Riding Hood, and humans are the wolves. He’s charged with taking a rabbit to his toothless grandmother, but of course gets distracted. Not only does he get lost, he eats grandma’s dinner. A human girl finds him and leads him out of the woods, but not all is as it seems. Like most wars, each side has their own version of the truth.
The story is intriguing, but the overly stylized artwork—all lines and sharp angles, maybe a Navaho influence—is strange enough to distract from the story.
3/5

Merry Christmas, Little Hoo!
On Christmas Eve the little owl hears noises and instantly assumes they’re associated with Santa—the sleigh, the reindeer, so on—only to find it’s something more mundane. It’s all very cute and brings memories of gift anticipation.
The last page contains a surprise, but other than that there’s no real payoff to the story. He just goes to sleep and misses all the fun. Kind of a letdown.
The artwork is bright and blocky.
3/5

My Nana and Me
A little girl spends a day with her grandmother, through tea parties, hide and seek, hairstyling, bath time, and bedtime reading. Feels like a lot of this comes from the author’s personal experiences, which makes it all the sweeter.
The artwork is kinda beige and purposefully a little out of focus, but it makes for a bit of a dreamy quality.
4/5

Nonnie and I
A little girl in Africa confesses to her best friend—who just happens to be a giraffe—that she’s feeling anxious about the first day of school. Enjoying that last day of freedom, they wander—with the little girl on Nonnie’s back, which I didn’t think was possible—taking in the rest of the wildlife, especially the grinning meerkats. The next day at school she makes a new friend, and so does Nonnie.
Except for the giraffe not talking, this reminds me of the comic strip “Phoebe and Her Unicorn.” It’s sweet.
The artwork is nothing spectacular, kinda rudimentary, but I like how the colors are accurate, at least to how the animals are usually portrayed.
3.5/5

Petunia, the Girl who was NOT a Princess
The title already has me loving this. Yes, she’s adamant about not being a princess, even though she’s lonely being the only tomboy in town. Then another girl moves in who completely dresses like a princess, but has the heart of a tomboy (though I’m suspicious of how her dress never gets dirty, even in the mud). So Petunia—neither a princess nor a tomboy name—learns not to judge as well as try new things.
Nothing spectacular in the art work, but then it’s better that it doesn’t stand out.
4/5

Pop Pop and Me and a Recipe
A little boy has fun in the kitchen with his grandpa; they’re having a fantastic time, according to the drawings. Never realized there were so many things you could do with utensils and the ingredients themselves.
The best part is the rhymes, though some are forced. This is one of those books meant to be read out loud.
The artwork leans toward the magical, with seemingly every inch filled.
There’s a recipe at the end.
4/5

Safari Kids
Two kids dressed in stereotypical jungle gear, complete with those annoyingly uncomfortable pith helmets, go out to photograph wild animals. Turns out they’re going to the zoo rather than on safari, but for a kid I guess it’s pretty much the same thing.
There are some really good rhymes, and others not so much. Similarly, some of the stanzas are perfectly in rhythm and others are not. The one thing I most love is that they’re siblings of different races, and nothing is said about it.
The artwork is totally cartoon, with bold colors. Feels like meerkats are in every book I read these days.
3.5/5

The Children at the Playground
Kids play at the park and make sound effects. The book’s PR says this is set to the “Wheels on the Bus” song, so there’s a lot of repetition, especially of the noises; every stanza follows a pattern with the sound effect repeated so much it takes up half of the lines. At first it feels like a learning song, but after a while it smacks more of a lack of creativity.
The artwork is the most rudimentary I’ve seen, but that doesn’t make any difference.
3/5

The Dream Dragon
As the title states, the dragon appears when the little boy’s asleep, and is jealous of all other dreams, chasing them away. But then he’s beat, and then that dream gets beat, and so on. Luckily the dragon found someone else’s dream to inhabit.
The PR claims the dragon chases away the nightmares, but it’s clearly stated that he doesn’t stand for nice dreams either. His replacement isn’t any better, as well as being much scarier. I’ve probably missed the point of this, or perhaps there is no point and it’s just a book of drawings to get a kid to go to sleep, though it might have the opposite effect if kids think they’re going to encounter some of these dreams when they close their eyes.
3/5

There’s a Dog on the Dining Room Table
A cute little pigtailed redhead is shocked to see. . . well, the title spells it out. She has no idea how the dog got there, and wonders what to do with it: give it a meal, a bath, a poker game, a flamenco dance? The answer is much simpler than she could have imagined, if she’d just looked up earlier.
Cute story, with the rhymes executed perfectly. The artwork is pretty standard, but at least it’s humorous. The little girl’s expressions are particularly well drawn.
4/5

The Backup Bunny
This story is narrated by Fluffy, who explains that when Max’s stuffed bunny is no longer available, he steps in and fills the spot, adding that it’s that simple. . . except it isn’t.
It’s kinda heartbreaking to see Fluffy go splat on the floor, even more so than the rejection; yes, he’s just a stuffed bunny, but because he’s the narrator it feels like he’s alive.
According to one of the panels, sometimes you gotta fall in the mud to get some respect. . . though I wouldn’t recommend actually trying that.
Just when you think everyone’s got their happy ending. . . plot twist and cliffhanger!
4/5

Where Is My Coat? Farm Animals
A sequel to Jungle Animals, this one figures to be more familiar, and probably less exciting because of it. Like the first one, there’s black silhouettes and the reader has to figure out what animal it is.
It’s only 12 pages, and not all of them are story. It’s over in a flash, and if the kids like it they’ll instantly want more.
3.5/5

You Hold Me Up
The entire book consists of different ways a person can hold another up: being kind, sharing, so on. It is the simplest of the simple, and therefore should appeal to small children; its simplicity is what makes it so appealing.
The artwork barely approaches rudimentary—the cheek spots are particularly distracting—but I suppose it doesn’t matter.
3.5/5

;o)

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)

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)

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)