Archive for Book Reviews

book review

Hokey Pokey: Another Prickly Love Story by Lisa Wheeler and Janie Bynum

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Filled with clever wordplay from beginning to end, this story of a porcupine named Cushion and a hedgehog named Barb will keep your little joke lovers laughing.  Cushion loves Barb, Barb loves to dance, and Cushion can’t rumba, waltz,or tango.  What’s Cushion to do?  He decides to “poke around” and appeal to his friends to teach him their favorite dances.  But after mashing the fox’s tail during the fox-trot (singing “I can do it! Trot-trot…No!”), stomping the rabbit’s foot attempting the bunny hop (“I can do it!  Hop, hop…Stop!”), and poking the hen’s backside trying the funky chicken (“I can do it!  Flap, flap…Whoa!), Cushion doesn’t “stick around” his friends any longer.  Luckily, friendship saves the day and Barb steps in to teach Cushion how to dance.  And of course, together they do the title dance, the Hokey Pokey (pokey, porcupine, get it now?), ’cause friendship and fun are what this book is all about.   Readers will love the slapstick-y wordplay, and the soft and simple pastel illustrations add another fun dimension to the book.

Lane Library info here

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book review

Grump Groan Growl by Bell Hooks and Chris Raschka

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Oh my, the child in this book is surely in a BAD MOOD.  In this obvious homage to the classic “Where the Wild Things Are”, a child must deal with a “bad mood on the prowl”, an emotion portrayed as a non-frightening, Sendak-like monster.  By both admitting (“grump/groan/growl/all I am is WILD”) and accepting (“can’t flee/can’t go away”) the anger, the child eventually calms that beastly feeling, and can “just let it slide”.   Many young readers may benefit from watching the child in this book consciously work to control those angry emotions that everyone feels from time to time.  Bold, eloquent illustrations tell as much of this story as the words do, with thick black lines and bold splashes of watercolors mirroring the strong emotions of the child.  Observant young readers will notice that the curly hair of the monster echoes that of the child, and the blue slashing line used for the monster’s mouth is also used for the mouth of the child when yelling the grump/groan/growl refrain.  Hopefully this will lead readers to the conclusion that the monster is not real, but instead represents the child’s angry feelings.   Most powerfully of all, the illustrations express the conquering of the child’s anger at the end of the story by showing the monster boxed up and napping beneath the seated and relaxed child.  Even readers in a good mood will have fun chanting “Grump/Groan/Growl”, and this alliteration can help develop your child’s phonological awareness, which is important in the development of early literacy skills.  So be sure to check out this strikingly dynamic book.

Lane Library info here

 

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book review

Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory Christie

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Jaunty and sophisitcated as Louis Armstrong and a good trumpet solo, this book resembles what a jam session would look like if one could be captured on paper.  You will want to sing rather than read the words, as the rhythms (“so they ROOT-TOOT-TOOT and they SNAP-SNAP-SNAP/and the bouncin’ baby bebobs with a CLAP-CLAP-CLAP”) dance right off the pages.   The story begins as baby wakes up to a family ready to party.  They put on a record album (no ipods here, so get ready to explain) and dance about vigorously (“Daddy jumps high/Mama bends low/Laughin’-limbo Baby says GO, MAN, GO!”), creating a scene of such fun and energy that readers will want to join the musical celebration.   The story ends with calming hugs and smiles and a “snoozy-woozy” baby falling fast asleep.  Angular characters and large slanting text romp across earth-toned backgrounds, reflecting the warmth and energy of the story.  Readers will want to be invited to this party again and again.

Lane Library info here

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book review

365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromenthal and Joelle Jolivet

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A penguin in the mail?  Readers will be immediately intrigued, especially after seeing the accompanying note: “I’m number 1.  Feed me when I’m hungry.”  By the time young readers realize this book is a giant math problem unfolding with every page (and each new pengun arrival!), they will be too hooked on this penguin adventure to care.   As the anonymous pengiuns arrive each day, one at a time and always with a note, an unsuspecting family must both make room for the everincreasing amounts of penguins and figure out what to do with them.  What should they name them?  (Alfred and Moose?)  How much fish should they feed them?  (Multiplication problems ensue)   What do they do about the smell and the noise?  (New storage solutions are required monthly, and air freshener, of course)  And who is sending them?  (Mother thinks she might know)    Dealing with math and ecology issues with a sense of humor, this book is both refreshing and thought provoking.  The illustrations for this oversized book are done in a retro style, and feature lots of black and white (of course!), with bright splotches of blue and orange serving as contrast.   The penguins, who play, fight over food, watch tv, and do yoga, among other activities, are not drawn realistically, but rather as 365 (eventually) identical and adorable toys.  This keeps the story lighthearted and cheerful, rather then overwhelming or from having too much of an educational tone.   Animal lovers, math lovers, or readers who just love to laugh should definitely check this one out.

Lane Library info here

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book review

Uh-Oh by Rachel Isadora

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As any parents of a toddler know, “uh-oh” is a common phrase associated with little ones.  The toddler in this book is certainly no exception.  His day is filled with “uh-oh’s”, from spilling his cereal on his head in the morning, to dropping his ice cream in the afternoon, to throwing his bath toys on the floor at night.   This sounds like a frustrating day indeed, but instead the child’s face reflects the sheer joy of a busy and normal childhood.  Young readers will enjoy and even be comforted by the book child’s routine.  The simplicity of the text, with a noun (toy box, ice cream, kitty cat) on the right of the pages and the ubiquitous ‘uh-oh’ on the left, lends itself to a number of successful ways to read this book.  Adult readers can read the noun on one page and let their young one guess what happens on the next (with a rousing chorus of ‘uh-oh’ after each page, of course), discussions of appropriate behavior are a natural extension of the story, and after repeated experiences with the book, young readers will begin to recognize events and even vocabulary and will be to follow along in the text with you.  Most importantly, of course, young readers will just have fun. The bright pastel illustrations add to the cheer, and Isadora’s toddler is expressive and simply adorable.  Be sure to check this one out!

Lane Library info here

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book review

Smash! Crash! by Jon Scieszka

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This first book in the Trucktown series was created with young male readers in mind, and any reader that likes to smash and crash will definitely be hooked.  From their messy encounter with Cement Mixer Melvin to their surprising meeting with Wrecking Crane Rosie, Jack Truck and Dump Truck Dan proclam their love of demolition with a refrain that kids will love to hear (and say with you) –“Smash! Crash!”  Young readers will love the friendly anthropomorphized vehicles and the bright, extremely energetic illustrations.   Truck lovers young and old will want to check out this “smashing” book!

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book review

Look! Seeing the Light in Art by Gillian Wolfe

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Mellow, gleaming, cloudy, flashing, electric…all words associated with the use of light in art.  These words and many others describing forms of light can be found on the endpapers of this fabulous book, which showcases paintings from artists famous and not-so-famous.  Simple descriptions accompany each painting , along with an exploration of how each artist used light to create another dimension in their work.   The author also makes looking at the art in the book a participatory experience, asking questions of the reader about the paintings and giving suggestions for further explorations of both the artwork and the concepts.  For example, readers will surely find the painting Three Worlds by M.C. Escher, used to introduce the concept of light reflection, fascinating.  The author gives a simple description of the painting, and asks the reader to guess why it’s entitled “Three Worlds”.  The reader is then directed to find other examples of reflected light in the book and to name some surfaces which are good for reflecting light.  It isn’t often that such a great book about art that is also appropriate for the younger reader comes along, so be sure to check this one out! 

(Lane library info here)

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