Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book 393: He's Just Not That Into You

He's Just Not That Into You, by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, Simon Spotlight, 2004.

I've been married, more or less happily, for a little over ten years now, so this book wasn't especially relevant to my life now.  I did, however, date for about twenty years before I got married, and I WISH this book had been around then.

Yes, the advice is simplistic and fairly obvious, but that doesn't mean that single women don't need to hear, or rather, read it.  I wasted a lot of time making excuses for the men I was dating.  It was very hard for me to be a single women when I was in my 30s, so I understand the excuses very well, but I did myself, nor the men, any favors by making the excuses.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Book 392: Over the Rainbow

Over the Rainbow, illustrated by Eric Puybaret, 2013, Imagine Books

We checked this book out of the library about two weeks ago, so we didn't listen to the CD. Instead, I just sang the text to my six-year-old son. 

The next morning, my son, without the book, starting making his own illustrations for Over the Rainbow. That was when I ordered him his own copy of this book. 

I am so in love with Eric Puybaret's gorgeous and whimsical illustrations -- I'm pretty sure that before long we will end up owning every book he has illustrated. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Book 391: The Night Before Christmas (Eric Puybaret)

The Night Before Christmas, story by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Eric Puybaret, Imagine/Peter Yarrow Books, 2010.

It's the day after Christmas and I'm reviewing The NIght Before Christmas, because that's just how I work.

I won't say anything about the text because it is perfect and everyone knows it.  The CD recording with this particular edition of the story was great and really fun to listen to.  The illustrations, however, are why I bought this version of the book (we own at least three others).

The illustrations in this version of the story are pure magic.  They are whimsical.  They are beautiful.  They are elegant.  They are SO very French.  Eric Puybaret's work only just recently popped up on my radar, but I definitely will be buying more books that he has illustrated.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book 390: Little Critter's Little Red Riding Hood

Little Critter's Little Red Riding Hood, by Mercer Mayer, Random House, 1991.

This is a slightly funnier, slightly gentler version of the classic Grimm's fairy tale -- at least the wolf survived, and nobody else was eaten.  And, as a bonus, it is a lift-the-flap book, so that means even more Mercer Mayer illustrations.

I bought my version through the Kohl's Cares program, so it was a great price, and for a good cause.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book 389: Questions and Answers about Animal World

Questions and Answers about Animal World, Capelli, 2008.

This book is great for beginning readers, who are young enough to ask the questions in this book and old enough to understand the answers.

There are some really great photographs in this book for any kid who is interested in the natural world.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book 388: Little Critter's Hansel and Gretel

Little Critter's Hansel and Gretel, by Mercer Mayer, Random House, 2010.

Again, three reasons to buy this book:

1. Little Critter

2. Lift-the-Flap

3. Fairy Tale. 

Add in the fact it was part of the Kohl's Cares program a while ago, that would be a fourth reason. 

I like how Mercer Mayer managed to stay true to the feel of the original while injecting humor, extracting goriness, and making the father's character a whole lot better. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book 387: Steam Train, Dream Train

Steam Train, Dream Train, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, Chronicle Books, 2013.

I bought this book for my six-year-old son for Christmas because there was a train, a giraffe, and a monkey on the cover -- in that order. I also bought it because I know a little of Rinker's writing. 

I can't comment on how much my son likes this book until after Christmas, but I loved it. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book 386: When We Were Very Young

When We Were Very Young, by A. A. Milne, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard, Dutton Books, originally published in 1924.

Last month, for his sixth birthday, I gave my son Now We Are Six.  It seemed to make sense to get him When We Were Very Young for Christmas this year.

Again, I had a copy of this book as a child.  It was given to me by someone I loved very much.  I read the book to death.  I loved the book to death.  And I look forward to reliving my memories, and creating new ones, with my son.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book 385: Little Critter Jack and the Beanstalk

Little Critter Jack and the Beanstalk, by Mercer Mayer, Sterling House Publishing, 2010.

I bought this book for my six-year-old son for a few reasons:

1.  It is a Mercer Mayer Little Critter book.

2.  It is a lift-the-flap book.

3.  It is a retelling of a classic fairy tale, one that he especially likes.

4.  He can read most of the words.

5.  It was offered through the Kohl's Cares program.

Five very excellent reasons for a book that cost me $5.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Book 384: Ralph Masiello's Robot Drawing Book

Ralph Masiello's Robot Drawing Book, by Ralph Masiello, Charlesbridge, 2011.

Christmas is less than three weeks away, so I'm writing about books that would make awesome gifts.

I love these "How to draw" books by Ralph Masiello.  Here is why:

First of all, because Masiello himself CAN draw -- amazingly well, in fact.  He is a remarkably gifted artist.

Second, Masiello breaks the drawings down into steps that a five- or six-year-old (active) boy can follow.  And by following the steps, my little boy has created some pretty great drawings.

Third, this particular book is about robots.  Robots!  Who doesn't love robots?  Who wouldn't want to create or at least draw his very own robot?  Pretty much every five- or six-year-old boy I know would.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book 383: The Chaperone

The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty, Riverhead Books, 2012.

I had read about this book about two years ago in a favorable review, so, when I found a copy at a local thrift store recently, I bought it.

I'll start off with what I like about the book.  The writing is deft and engaging.  The reader may not end up liking any of the main characters, but at least they, too, are engaging.  Because Cora was so long-lifed, this book does encompass many of the changing social mores in the US.

Cora being so long-lifed was also the problem with this book.  This book could have ended in 1942 and been complete with just a footnote about Brookes' book.  Instead, the book plodded forwarded, skipping over entire decades in a single breath at times, but somehow still managing to move at rather a ponderous rate.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Book 382: A Living Story Book Jack and the Beanstalk

A Living Story Book Jack and the Beanstalk, Crown Publisher, 1962.

It all started on my quest to find The Golden Goose book that I used to own as a child.  I did find The Golden Goose, but along the way, I stumbled over Tom Thumb and Jack and the Beanstalk.  When my son saw the photos of the book, he decided right then and there he needed those books, too.  So I bought all three.

Just like The Golden Goose book that I so fondly remembered from so long ago, this book, although sometimes described as being illustrated using puppets, is more akin with Rankin/Bass productions than the kind of creepy puppets in Mr. Rogers' neighborhood.  (I loved Mr. Rogers, but the puppets scared me.)

The story is competently told, but it is the illustrations that elevate this book from ordinary to extraordinary.  Just look at that cover!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Book 381: Rhinoceros Tap

Rhinoceros Tap, by Sandra Boynton, Workman Publishing, 1996.

I bought this book because I love my son.  Really.

This book and the CD are SO ridiculous I can hardly stand it.  Which, of course, is exactly why they have been among my son's favorites for over three years.

If you love the ridiculous, over-the-top style of Sandra Boynton, you NEED this book.  And I will say, that for as silly as the lyrics are, the music is surprisingly sophisticated, and features some very talented singers.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Book 380: Twenty-Six Pirates

Twenty-Six Pirates, by Dave Horowitz, Nancy Paulson Books, 2013.

This will be a very short review, because if I write more, it will be longer than the book itself.  This book falls somewhere in the middle of Argh and Ugh.  It's a cute idea, with fun illustrations, but perhaps a little on the slim side as far as story and text go.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Book 379: Tom Thumb, A Living Story Book

Tom Thumb, A Living Story Book, Crown Publishing, 1967

When I was a child, I used to have a few of these Living Story Books -- not Tom Thumb, but others.  Recently, I was trying to find some of the books I had when I was a child, and my six-year-old son was looking over my shoulder.  He decided he needed Tom Thumb.  Since he is sometimes "Tom" at school, I couldn't argue with him.

Tom Thumb was done just as well as the ones I remembered, including The Golden Goose, which I recently replaced.  The story was well told, and the illustrations should appeal to anyone who grew up with Rankin/Bass Christmas specials, like Rudolph and The Little Drummer Boy.  They are right on par with those.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Book 378: Once Upon A Cool Motorcycle Dude

Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude, by Kevin O'Malley, and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, Carol Heyer, and Scott Goto, Bloomsbury, 2005.

I was a little leery when I first heard of this book, and even when I first began reading it.  I never was a purple-and-pink princess type, and I like motorcycles -- well, I like vintage trucks more -- but I can appreciate a great motorcycle.

The beginning of the book does seem to put the kids in the color-coded toy aisles, but then there a shift, and the story becomes far more interesting.  The two wildly divergent stories merge into one very fun story.

And the artwork for the story again seems to be from two competitive art styles, that, by the end work very well together.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book 377: Albie's First Word

Albie's First Word, written by Jacqueline Tourville, illustrated by Wynne Evans, Schwarz & Wade Books, 2014.

I love this beautiful book for so many reasons that I'm making a list.

1.  It's a great and very well-told story.  Every word is perfectly chosen.

2.  It's based on a true story of a very famous person -- Albert Einstein, at around three years of age.

3.  It's a relatable story for kids of preschool and early elementary school age.

4.  In this day and age of constant comparisons, and growth and learning charts, it is a great reminder to parents, especially first-time parents, that every child will develop at his or her own rate.  I have one child, who is now six, and I still need to be reminded.

5.  It's a beautifully, wonderfully illustrated book.  The illustrations are absolutely perfect for the text and story.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book 376: Now We Are Six

Now We Are Six, by A.A. Milne, illustrated by Ernest Shephard, Dutton Children's Book, originally published in 1927.

I love this book.

When I was six, my great-aunt (whom I loved very much) gave me a copy of this book for my birthday.  Over the years, that copy was lost, but not before it was practically read to death.  I didn't remember any specific poems in this, but I've always remembered that I loved it.

Last week, my son, Thomas, turned six.  I gave him this book for his birthday.  Later that evening we read from it, and how perfect was it that we read about Sir Thomas Tom.  I didn't remember Sir Thomas Tom, but there is a good chance that my son will when he gets older.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Book 375: Dinosaur vs. Bedtime

Dinosaur vs. Bedtime, by Bob Shea, Disney-Hyperion, 2008.

How can you not love this book?  It has everything:  An adorable dinosaur with a wide toothy grin, ROARS on every other page, and a storyline.

This perfect little picture book would appeal to very young listeners of stories, and to beginning readers of stories, and to the parents of both.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book 374: Your Fantastic Elastic Brain

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain, by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., illustrated by Sarah Ackerley, Little Pickle Press, 2010.

It is hard to imagine a Kindergarten kid getting excited about a picture book about brains, but my son was very excited about this book.  He was so excited about this book that he picked it out when he earned a free book for reading 100 books in just over a month. (Yeah, my kid uses his brain.)  :)

I didn't read all of the denser writing when I read the book to him tonight, but the lighter text and the illustrations were so engaging that I think my son chose well.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Book 373: A Living Story Book The Golden Goose

The Golden Goose, A Living Story Book, Crown Publishers, Inc. 1967

You can't go back to your childhood, but sometimes you can revisit it.  And if you are lucky enough to find a book from your childhood that you read over and over again but has since fallen out of print, you have a passport for revisiting.

This book was such a book.  I was probably about three years old and I was grocery shopping with my mother.  There was a display of books in the grocery story, and this book was one of them.  I was allowed to pick out a book, and I picked this one.  My original copy was lost after many years and many moves, but recently I was able to obtain a copy of this very book.  I read the book to my almost-six-year-old son, and he loved it almost as much as I did.

Incidentally, I grew up to become a children's librarian.  I used to write screenplays using puppets to tell classical fairy tales and other children's stories, so this book may have affected me more than my mother could ever have guessed.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book 372: Alpha Bravo Charlie

Alpha Bravo Charlie, by Chris Demarest, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2005.

My Kindergarten son was allowed to dress up for Hallowe'en at his school, as long as it was as a character from a book.  My son wanted to be a pilot, and my first thought was "The Little Prince", but not many Kindergarten students read "The Little Prince".  Then I remembered Chris Demarest.    Chris Demarest is kind of my go-to guy for military-themed books, and mostly because of his amazingly timeless artwork.

My son dressed up as a pilot for the Storybook parade at his school, and he carried this book.   And he loves this book, because it is an alphabet book that features pilots.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Book 371: The Aviary Gate

The Aviary Gate, by Katie Hickman, Bloomsbury, 2008.

I found this book at a deep discount.  I read the back cover and then flipped through it to read random passages.  It seemed read-able, and since I knew absolutely nothing about Turkish harems in 1599, and very little about the Ottoman Empire, for that matter, I picked up this book. 

Some years ago, I read an article about how hard it is to write good beginnings. I'm starting to think this is not entirely true. I've read several books lately with good to excellent beginnings, that fell apart in the middle and were disappointments at the end. This is one of them.

This book has a very good, well-researched beginning. In fact, this entire book is obviously well-researched. But that beginning and all that research doesn't quite hold it together, especially when confronted by a rather abrupt and completely unsatisfying ending. This book didn't have to end happily for me to have liked, but it did have to end well. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Book 370: Struwwelpeter

Struwwelpeter, tales by Heinrich Hoffman, adapted and illustrated by Bob Staake, Fantagraphic Books, 2006.

It's Hallowe'en, so the perfect time to review one of the most disturbing books in my collection -- this one.

This book has been in my to-be-reviewed stack for a few months, and, even though I have a miniature dragon guarding it all that time, my almost six-year-old son keeps managing to find it and pull it out of the pile.  I've been having to to bribe him to put it back.  The truth is, I am less concerned about this book giving him nightmares than I am that he will like it -- he seems to have inherited a rather dark sense of humor.

I remember having a copy of an earlier translation of this book when I was almost six.  I didn't scare me at all; I was fascinated.  The stories are just as ridiculously macabre as they were when I first encountered them.  The illustrations, however, are delightfully and brilliantly playful, which makes them less terrifying, but somehow more disturbing.  In other words, absolutely perfect for anyone who possesses a rather dark sense of humor.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book 369: The Pepper in the Gumbo

The Pepper in the Gumbo, by Mary Jane Hathaway, 2014.

Full disclosure:  I did not buy this book.  It was sent to me electronically in exchange for a fair and honest review.  Further disclosure:  I hate reading books electronically.  More further disclosure:  I would buy this book in a heartbeat -- at least two copies, one for me and one for my mother.

As a rule, I don't like romantic fiction, so for me to not only like a romantic fiction book, but to love a romantic fiction book, that book has to be pretty amazing.   This book was pretty amazing.

I don't like romantic fiction, but I do like the movie "You've Got Mail" -- it's a Tom Hanks thing mostly.  This book is a smarter, sharper, sweeter twist on the classic tale that was used for the movie.  I also like really good writing and well-developed characters -- all that is present, and more, in this book.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book 368: The Count's Poem

The Count's Poem, written by Ray Sipherd, illustrated by Tom Cooke, Little Golden Books, 1978.

I found this very-appropriate-for-Hallowe'en Little Golden Book in a thrift store, so I rescued it.

There was an era of not-so-great Little Golden Books, and this book, unfortunately, was released during that era.  The present editor of LGB has done much to raise the standard by bringing in some highly talented writers and illustrators, so that era has now passed.  Still, even a subpar Little Golden Book tends to be better than a good many other picture books.  And there is that golden spine.

This book is, of course, a counting book, with a halfway decent rhyme and some rather good (in a 1970s way) illustrations.  And it is very good book to read with a Kindergarten student around Hallowe'en.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book 367: The Little Prince

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, originally published in 1943.

I was sixteen when I first read this book.  I was rather a cynical sixteen and exactly the wrong age to read this book.  It didn't help that I was reading this book in my French IV class, when in French III, I had read Les Miserables and La Chanson de Roland.  I didn't take anything seriously in my French IV class, including this book.

I read this book again in my twenties, and liked it, and then again in my thirties and really liked it, and again in my forties and absolutely loved it.  At sixteen, I was neither the prince nor the pilot.  In my twenties and thirties I was the pilot, and now, in my forties, I am either or both.

There is something so simple about this book that makes me want to read it to my five-year-old son.  And there is something so profound about this book, that I want to read it over and over again (but just not at sixteen).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book 366: The Queen's Lover

The Queen's Lover, by Francine Du Plessix Gray, Penguin, 2012.

I bought this book because I found a brand new copy for a dollar.  It was marked "bestseller", and it looked intriguing.

Did this book amuse me?  Um, yeah, sort of.  Until the TMI line was crossed.  Ew.  And most the time I wanted to slap Axel's dandified face.

Did I learn anything from this book?  Um, no.  To me, the French Revolution is one of the most confusing chapters in history.  I have read many books on the topic -- both fiction and non-fiction -- to try to understand what was going on at that time in history.  This book only muddied the issue.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book 365: The Emperor's New Clothes

The Emperor's New Clothes, adapted by Rebecca Bondor, and illustrated by Richard Walz, Little Golden Books, 1993.

There were some dark years for The Little Golden Books when the text was too convoluted for the LGB format and the illustrations lacked the whimsical charm that usually is standard in a Little Golden Book.

This book came out of that era.

I bought this book because I've loved Andersen's fairy tales for as long as I've been reading, and I've loved reading Little Golden Books when I first started reading.  This book falls a bit short on both counts.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book 364: The Hundred and One Dalmatians

The Hundred and One Dalmatians, written by Dodie Smith, Viking, 1957.

Before there was an animated movie, and Disney books based on the animated movie, and a live-action movie based on the animated movie, and sequel live-action movie that really had nothing to do with anything, there was the original The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith.

The original book doesn't read very much like the copy.  Or the copy of the copy.  Or the copy of the copy of the copy.  And that is a very good thing.  What feels silly and trite in the movie, feels fresh and original in the book -- Starlight barking.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book 363: Little Golden Book Rumpelstiltskin

Rumpelstiltskin, from Grimm's Fairy Tales, illustrated by William Dugan, Little Golden Book, 1958.

Rumpelstiltskin has never been my favorite Fairy Tale.  The miller was a braggart, the daughter was kind of whiney, and the king was horrible.  The only person who seemed halfway decent was Rumpel.  And he didn't fare very well.  Although in the daughter's defense, I would have schemed to keep my firstborn, too.

This telling of the fairy tale is quite good.  I was very amused by the William Morris reference. The illustrations for this version of Rumpelstiltskin are quite lovely and make the story worth the re-read.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book 362: Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts, by Louise Nottingham, 2014.

I have odd chunks of time throughout the day -- five minutes when I am waiting for the bus to circle the neighborhood after picking up my son; fifteen minutes when I am waiting for the bus to drop off my son; five minutes here and there when I'm baking or waiting for a load of laundry to finish.  There is not really enough time to get immersed in a book with a story.  But these poems are a perfect length for that time.

I grab my coffee if it's still morning, or water if it's afternoon, and I sit down with this book.  It's like sitting down with an old friend.  It's like those short snippets of conversation you have when you only have a few minutes, but it feels like enough because you are talking with a friend.

That is exactly what these poems are like.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Book 361: Thomas and Gordon

Thomas and Gordon, by The Rev. W. Awdry, Scholastic, 2001.

This story was one of the first Thomas stories we read to our son when he was very young -- around one or so.  Now his is five and reading a bit on his own, and this story is still charming.  And funny.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book 360: Thomas' Train

Thomas' Train, by The Rev. W. Awdry, Scholastic, 2001.

Such a fun book for a young Thomas fan!  Especially a Thomas fan named Thomas.  My five-year-old Thomas could read quite a bit of this book just by knowing a few words and being able to recognize his name.  And, as in all good Thomas books, there is a gentle moral to the story.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Book 359: Theodore Mouse Goes to Sea

Theodore Mouse Goes to Sea, by Michaela Muntean, illustrated by Lucinda McQueen, Little Golden Book, 1983.

This book has such a fun and exciting way of saying "There is no place like home".   At least, as readers, we get to along with Theodore on his bed-boat adventure.

Very sweet, 1980s illustrations.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book 358: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith, Grand Central Publishing, 2010.

Someone gave me this book, and I did not have high expectations for it.  So that I liked it at all rather surprised me.

I have a law/library background, so Abraham Lincoln is one of my heroes.  I was not going to like anything that made him appear ridiculous.  This book, amazingly does not.  It ties bits of Lincoln's personal history together with an underlying vampire story, and it works.  The book was rather well-written, fun to read, and somewhere between silly and thought-provoking.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book 357: My Little Color Book

My Little Color Book, by Bob Staake, Little Simon, 2001.

I bought this book at EXACTLY the same time and for EXACTLY the same reason I bought the numbers book and the opposites book -- to teach my five-year-old son how to use shapes to draw.  Oh, and because he LOVES Bob Staake.

The added bonus with this book is that colors are on his "word wall" in Kindergarten and he's been able to read the names of colors for well over three weeks (and he's only been in Kindergarten for five weeks).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book 356: The Dot and the Line

The Dot and the Line, by Norton Juster, Chronicle Books 1963.

I loved this very nearly perfect book.  It was, of course, a story so it was about words and wordplay.  And it was about Art.  And it was most definitely about Mathematics, and perhaps as advertised about "lower Mathematics", but I would argue that Norton Juster elevated the Mathematics to a much higher level.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book 355: The Boscombe Valley Mystery

The Boscombe Valley Mystery (Sherlock Holmes), by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

A delightful, although not insoluble, mystery.  Of course, it may be that I found this one so delightful because I was imagining Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock delivering some of these choice lines to Rupert Graves' Lestrade.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Book 354: Acquired Tastes

Acquired Tastes, by Peter Mayle, Bantam Books, 1992.

This book will not change your life.  That's OK -- It doesn't need to.  The writing is entertaining and fun, and very well done.  Mayle gives insight into the ways of the affluent from the point of view of a man of ordinary means.  I have never been wealthy, nor do I ever expect to become wealthy, but, just in case, I am so prepared.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book 353: Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book

Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book, written by Terry Jones, illustrated by Brian Froud, Turner Publishing, 1994.

I bought this book back in 1994, or 1995 at the latest. For the longest time I had a pressed fairy on the windscreen of my car (a Nova --the Chevy/Toyota mashup) until the fairy faded away into nothing. 

This book is hilarious (Terry Jones) and beautiful (Brian Froud) -- what more can I say?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book 352: Rose's Garden

Rose's Garden, by Peter H. Reynolds, Candlewick, 2009.

We checked out this book during "white cover book day" at our house; my five-year-old son picked up this book from the library. 

My son liked this book with its sweet story and lovely illustrations, but I LOVED this book. This title went straight to my "Must Own It Immediately!" list.  So I ordered myself a copy. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book 351: Botticelli's Bed and Breakfast

Botticelli's Bed and Breakfast, Jan Pienkowksi, Simon & Schuster, 1997.

I LOVE this brilliantly-designed pop-up book so much.  I bought this book back in 1997, before I worked as a children's librarian and before I had a child.  I read a review of it somewhere, so I tracked it down and bought it.  And I've loved it since then.  I have yet to show this book to my five-year-old son (because I love it so much and I'd like to keep it intact), but when he gets a little older, what a fun way to learn about works of Art!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book 350: My Little Opposites Book

My Little Opposites Book, by Bob Staake, Simon & Schuster, 2001.

I bought this book at exactly the same time and for exactly the same reason as I bought the numbers book -- to teach my son how to use shapes to draw objects -- so any detailed review I wrote would be pretty much exactly the same.  The added benefit is that my five-year-old son can read this book on his own.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book 349: Anansi Boys

Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman, William Morrow Books, 2005.

I laughed every time I saw the title, and I laughed several times while reading the book. Neil Gaiman skillfully weaves his story lines, from the sublime to the ridiculous, and brings them to tight central point, rather like Tom Robbins or Anansi himself. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book 348: The Happy Prince

The Happy Prince, story by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Jane Ray, Dutton Books 1995.

I love this book so much that I can't believe I haven't reviewed it before now.

When I was about six years old, my great-aunt gave me a story collection.  The book had a bright red cover and about 1000 gilt-edged pages.  My favorite story in that collection was "The Happy Prince". We moved around a lot when I was a child, and that book was lost.  Years later, I discovered Oscar Wilde's plays, but in no way connected them to that story from my childhood.  Then I happened on this gorgeous version of the story.

I love the story of the Happy Prince, but I never used this story for story time at the library -- I couldn't, and still can't, get through it without tearing up.  The story, even now, is deeply moving.

I wasn't sure about Jane Ray's illustrations when I first saw this book, but somehow the naivete and bright color and gilt do work wonderfully well.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book 347: A Case of Identity

A Case of Identity (Sherlock Holmes), by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

This Sherlock Holmes mystery is not hard to work out -- the answers are very much in the questions, but the story is still delightfully told and contains an intriguing cast.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book 346: Walt Disney's Lady

Walt Disney's Lady, based on the story by Ward Greene, illustrations by the Walt Disney Studio, Golden Book, 1954.

This was a bit of a clunky retelling of (most of) the Lady and the Tramp story.  The text choice wasn't especially strong and relied more on adjectives than verbs (Telling vs. Showing).  The illustrations, of course, were lovely.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book 345: The Fire Engine Book

The Fire Engine Book, illustrated by Tibor Gergely, Little Golden Books, 1950.

I bought this book for three reasons:

1.  Tibor Gergely's illustrations,
2.  Fire Engines, and
3.  The pretty gold spine.

My five-year-old son loves this book for three reasons:

1.   Tibor Gergely's illustrations,
2.   Fire Engines, and
3.   The pretty gold spine.

I love this book for one reason:  My son loves it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book 344: My Little 1 2 3 Book

My Little 1 2 3 Book, by Bob Staake, Little Simon (Simon & Schuster), 1998.

My son is five; I gave away most of his board books a year or two ago.  Yet, this year, I bought him this one.  He keeps it in a small, portable, bookseller's shelf on top of his "art" desk (or under the pillow of his bed).

I bought my son this book for two reasons:

1.  My son LOVES Bob Staake's work.  Not just the illustrative work in children's books.  He can see a Washington Post illustration or a New Yorker illustration and know it is Bob Staake's work.

2.  I've told my son that he can draw pretty much anything he wants by using the basic shapes that he knows.  I've shown him by drawing shapes and turning them into a cat or a dog or a cow jumping over the moon, but it wasn't until he saw the shapes used for the illustrations in this series of "Little" books that he really caught on.

These books are great for the purpose they were intended, i.e, teaching numbers to very young children.  They can also be used to teach colors and shapes.  And, while the illustrations may some lack the sophistication and finesse of Staake's later computer work, they are absolutely perfect for teaching a child to draw.