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)

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: Southern and Brit Cops, Chickies, and Romeo

“C’mon, let’s have sex,” she grinned.
“You want to have sex with ME? Has every other man in the world died?”

Fixin’ to Die
In Cottonwood, Kentucky, the new sheriff thinks she’s taken over the law enforcement mantle from granddaddy, and quickly finds that’s not the case as she attempts to solve the murder of the town doctor as well as a jewelry theft.
These two lines will tell you what kind of story this is: “I grabbed the old beacon police light, licked the suction cup, and slapped it on the roof of the Jeep, grazing the side with my finger to flip on the light and siren.” And “Like any business in Cottonwood, the door to the funeral home was unlocked and I let myself in.” Reminds me of Magoddy, though not trying to be as funny.
I am not liking these townspeople, though I suppose this is true to life in a small Suthin’ town. I did like the sheriff, though; I always enjoy a story better when I can get behind the protagonist, even if she’s not the smartest tool in the law enforcement shed. Hopefully with more experience–possibly with her new cop buddy–she’ll get better results, especially considering her atrocious interrogation technique.
About three quarters of the way I thought {the eventual killer} was in on it, but more in a covering-up way, so I was half-right, and consequently half-glad. The other half of me was disgruntled; I guess the clues were there, but if the sheriff couldn’t figure it out–even with the help of the supernatural and all her local knowledge–how can the reader?
AND WHAT ABOUT THE BITE MARKS?
Enjoyed the writing, but ultimately not the plotting at the end.
3/5

Deadly Crimes
In this second novel featuring the wonderful DCI Sophie Allen, things get personal.
A long time ago a man walking in the rain runs into a robbery and is killed. Back to the present, a guy in a white slavery ring finds a relative is one of the victims. She escapes, he doesn’t. Over the course of the book everything ties together, but makes this the most emotionally difficult case she’s ever worked on.
I liked Sophie a lot in the first book, and she’s just as badass here. The difference is we see a new side of her, endearing, loving, and most of wracked by tremendous guilt for having made assumptions about her father that were horrifically untrue. She’s picking up new family from all directions, and at times it threatens to overwhelm her. Difficult watching a character I’ve come to love go through so much, but of course she comes out stronger in the end. On the flipside, we find out a lot more about her daughters, one of whom turns out be quite wild, though in a good way; she’d be exhausting to have as a daughter, but everyone else sure loves her.
Blossom turned into quite the interesting character, but the clues about Jennie weren’t quite subtle enough. Absolutely no doubt about who the dominatrix attacker was, with enough clues sprinkled about, though I like how the author made her fellow cops think it was Sophie. My only question is how this young woman with absolutely no investigative experience found the bad guy in the first place.
This one was as good as the first, though maybe not as focused. Some of the “new family” scenes were a bit awkward, and as strong as the poor victim was, she seemed to recover a bit too quickly, even with all the help she was getting. But those are minor nitpicks. Already can’t wait for next one.
4/5

Little Chickies/Los Pollitos
A famous Spanish nursery rhyme about babies and mommies is turned into visual, as well as translated into English.
This is only 25 pages, but not even that long, as the first half is in English and then the second is the same story in Spanish. As someone who can read both languages, I’m impressed at how well the story translated while still making it rhyme. The artwork is lovely, which is really what matters here, since I doubt kids of this reading age care how corny the rhymes are.
Since I read this on the computer, I went to the website to see how the book works in real life, finding the accordion style fitting well for the two-language format, as well as the inserts that give a little motion to the story. Also saw a video with the song, which is no doubt what the kids will remember the most.
4/5

Romeo and Juliet In Plain and Simple English
As the title shouts, this is a version of the classic Shakespeare play “translated” into modern English; apparently the author was unaware this has already been done on the internet. But since it reminded me of a hilarious scene in a Star Trek book where a hammy actor does Hamlet in modern language and the Klingons love it, I gave it a shot.
Here’s an example of the “translation”:
Original: I strike quickly, being moved.
New: I will fight in a minute, if someone messes with me.
Amusingly enough, after a while you forget the new syntax and it becomes normal.
Only the first 25% is the new version. Then comes the original, and finally both together at 57%. That shoulda gone first, and was really all that was needed.
3/5

;o)