Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Monday, December 21, 2015

Book 504: 101 Dalmatians

101 Dalmatians, Disney, Bendon, 2013

For a few months my then six-year-old son was on a 101 Dalmatians kick.  He found this book in a thrift store, so we bought it.  And he loved it -- until we read the original story.

This book is a good introduction to the story of the 101 Dalmatians, but don't miss the original book by Dodie Smith.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Book 503: Come Look With Me -- Exploring Landscape Art with Children

Exploring Landscape Art with Children, by Gladys S. Blizzard, Charlesbridge, 1996.

We used this book for my son's first grade Art class.  He loved all the beautiful pieces of Art, and the landscapes chosen were a good representation of different styles of Art. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Book 502: Sheep in a Jeep

Sheep in a Jeep, written by Nancy Shaw, illustrated by Margot Apple, published by HMH Books, 1986.

This book is excellent for teaching young readers about ending rhymes, because:

1.  Emerging readers can read it.
2.  Emerging readers want to read it (repeatedly)
3.  The listening adults don't mind hearing it (repeatedly)

And such fun artwork!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Book 501: The Water of Life

The Water of Life, by the Brothers Grimm, first published in 1812.

This is such a good story, but it doesn't often make it into Grimms Fairy Tale collections.  Maybe because of its length?  Anyway, this story has everything:  action, suspense, deceit, peril, gold, and a beautiful princess.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Book 500: Arthur's Reading Race

Arthur's Reading Race, by Marc Brown, Random House 1996.

A good OLD book about Arthur, reading, and family dynamics.  Arthur still looks like an animal of uncertain origin, but, other than that, the illustrations are quite good.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book 499: Amelia Bedelia

Amelia Bedelia, written by Peggy Parish, illustrated by Fritz Siebel, Greenwillow Book, 2012, originally published in 1963.

This ridiculous little book had my first grade son in hysterics.  And he read it entirely on his own.  The delight illustrations only enhanced the story.  Definitely a perfect book for emerging readers.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Book 498: Down Comes the Rain

Down Comes the Rain, by Franklyn Branley, illustrated by James Hale, Harper Collins, originally published in 1963.

This is a very good book for learning about the water cycle.  I do wish the author had used all three terms of the water cycle, though.  "Precipitation" is conspicuously absent.  This book also contains a very good description of how hail is formed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book 497: The Prince of Ravenscar

The Prince of Ravenscars, by Catherine Coulter, G.P. Putnam and Sons, 2011.

I bought this book for a dollar at my local thrift store.  I want my dollar (and four hours of my life) back.

If you have ever been wondering was a strangely-written, poorly-researched, badly-edited historical story with a plot so ridiculous it borders on insane would read like, this is the book for you.  There are flashes of brilliance and sparks of repartee that are sharp enough to slay, so this novel isn't a torturous waste of time, but it is a waste of time, all the same.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Book 495: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly!  by Lucille Colandro, illustrated by Jared Lee, Cartwheel Books, 2014.

This book is probably my favorite version of that ridiculous children's song that everyone knows and loves.  Why?  The illustrations are hilarious, and everyone lives!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Book 494: No Roses For Harry

No Roses For Harry, written by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham, HarpersCollins, 1976.

I remember reading this book to my younger sister and being amused by it, although I was far too cool to show my amusement.  Now I can laugh openly because I'm a mom.

Harry is an adorable white dog with black spots.  Grandma made him a green sweater with pink roses on it for his birthday.  Silly Grandma.  Kudos, though, to Grandma for not getting upset when she saw what Harry did with his sweater, and even more Kudos to Grandma for giving Harry exactly the right present for Christmas.

Book 493: Dracula

Dracula, by Bram Stoker (with illustrations by Edward Gorey), text originally published in 1897, illustrations in 1979.

My edition of Dracula is decorated with illustrations by Edward Gorey, which is exactly why I bought that particular edition.  The illustrations came from Dracula's Toy Theatre.

I remember not being able to finish this book the first time I tried to read it -- I was that caught up in it and terrified.  Finally, I read it completely some time in my 20s, before the painful Gary Oldham movie version was released.  And now, about twenty years later, I've re-read it. Bram Stoker wasn't a brilliant wordsmith, but he knew how to tell an incredibly dramatic, suspenseful, and rather ghastly tale.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Book 492: I Can Fly

I Can Fly, written by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Mary Blair, Golden Book 1951.

An entire college course, if not curriculum, could be taught using Mary Blair's illustrative style. Her artwork is sheer perfection.

I had this book when I was very young -- maybe four or five -- and I didn't remember the text entirely, but I never forgot the illustrations.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Book 491: Harry, the Dirty Dog

Harry, the Dirty Dog, written by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham, originally published in 1956.

This book was every bit as charming tonight when I read it to my son as it was when I first read it myself about forty years ago -- the very definition of a timeless classic.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Book 490: Born in the Wild

Born in the Wild, by Lita Judge, Roaring Brook Press, 2014.

This picture book is pretty darn near perfect.  It was on my son's teacher's wish list, so I bought it, and I am so glad that I did.  It's a pretty simple book:  mother animals love their baby animals, and a few facts about the mammals in question.

The illustrations, however, ARE perfect.  The cover is eye-catching, and the internal illustrations are just as good.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book 489: The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett, 1930.

The Maltese Falcon is a very good movie.  It is beautifully directed, and the cast is perfect.  But there are subtleties in Hammett's writing that are missing in that movie.  Those subtleties, of course, are what makes the book so much better than the movie.

Hammett has an ear for characters -- all of his gangster-types sound very different, but in a way that is consistent with what we are told about them.  That ear generally marks an excellent writer.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Book 488: The Story of Ferdinand

The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson, Viking, 1936.

Some books are truly timeless -- this is one of them.  I loved Ferdinand when I was a child (and still as an adult), and my son loved Ferdinand tonight when we read it together.  Maybe because we would love to sit under a favorite tree and smell the flowers.

The artwork is anything but simple, even though the drawing are only black and white.  The illustrations are complex, and rich, and animated, and, in short, as perfect and timeless as the text.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Book 487: Pout Pout Fish Goes to School

Pout Pout Fish Goes to School, by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.

This book is definitely nowhere as good as the first Pout Pout fish, but it still has some good qualities.  The message of perseverance and not giving up is always appropriate, especially for children who are struggling in school at times.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Book 486: Six by Seuss

Six by Seuss, Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1991.

One Dr. Seuss story in a book is good; Six (eight if you count the separate fables) in one book are even better.  The only way to top a Dr. Seuss story is with another Dr. Seuss story (or five).


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Book 485: Octopuppy

Octopuppy, by Martin McKenna, Scholastic, 2015.

If this book hadn't have been on my son's teacher's wish list, I would not have picked it up. I was afraid it would be too gimicky. But it was on my son's teacher's wish list, and I did pick it up. And read it. And fell in love with story. And fell even more in love with the illustrations. So I bought it. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Book 484: Pierrot's ABC Garden

Pierrot's ABC Garden, Anita Lobel, Little Golden Books, 1992.

I bought this book because it was a "vintage" Little Golden Book.  It was, however, from the LGB dark ages, and, therefore not one of the better offerings.

I was really liking this book until I reached the letter "U".  I usually forgive lame entries for the letter "X", but it really isn't that hard to find fruits or vegetables (or plants) for the letters U, V, W, Y -- OK, maybe Z is hard, too.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Book 483: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1957.

I can't believe I haven't written about this book before -- I even have Grinch Chucks!  And when I finally do, it would be in September, but there you go.  Maybe it's because I want to start wearing my Grinch Chucks in September.

I'm pretty sure there is nothing I can say about this book that hasn't already been said many times, so I will just tell you my favorite part:  Max the dog.  Even when the Grinch was at his Grinchiest, there was Max, faithful and true.  If the Grinch had just been paying the slightest bit of attention, he would have learned early on what love looked like.  Eventually the Grinch did learn, and there was Max, still faithful and true.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Book 482: The Big Brag

The Big Brag, by Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1998.

I did love this little Dr. Seuss fable.  The moral is clear, the story is funny, and the illustrations are perfection.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Book 481: The Mark of Athena

The Mark of Athena, by Rick Riordan, Hyperion, 2012.

I didn't expect too much from this book because the second book in the series had a story told in fits and starts, but this book was exciting from cover to cover.  It was a brilliant set up for the fourth book.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book 480: The Son of Neptune

The Son of Neptune, by Rick Riordan, Hyperion, 2011.

 I know that this book is setting up the next two books.  It felt a bit sluggish in places. In spite of that pace, however, what a great story!

And how fast does Rick Riordan write?!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book 479: Gertrude McFuzz

Gertrude McFuzz, by Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1979.

Poor Gertrude McFuzz.  How plainly does Seuss illustrate the dangers of covetousness in this cautionary tale.  And, yet, with so much humor and silliness, it is not only palatable, but delightful.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Book 478: The Lost Hero

The Lost Hero, by Rick Riordan, Hyperion, 2010.

About eight or nine years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Rick Riordan and hearing him speak.  He was intelligent, articulate and funny -- just like his writing.  Percy Jackson was just starting to take off, so he probably had no idea how popular he would become, or that he would need to write a whole new series. But he did write (more than one series).  This, the first book of his second series is intriguing, engaging, and fun, from start to finish.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Book 477: A Handful of Dust

A Handful of Dust, Evelyn Waugh, originally published in 1934.

So, um, is satire supposed to break your heart and make you cry?  Just wondering.

The first half to two-thirds of this book does read like a spoof of Henry James or Edith Wharton.  The ending, however, is achingly sobering.

This is satire perfectly done.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book 476: Just Big Enough

Just Big Enough, by Mercer Mayer, Harper Collins, 2004.

I liked this book -- I like all of Mercer Mayer's books -- but this one wasn't a favorite.  The topic was good, and Little Critters attempts to grow were funny, but I wasn't satisfied with the resolution.  In real life, the big kids would probably win a running race.  Now if the kids had raced through tunnels or other small places, that would have had a different outcome and Little Critter would have been happy that he was little, or just big enough.

The illustrations, however, are perfect.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Book 475: Yertle the Turtle

Yertle the Turtle, by Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1958.

Poor Yertle:  He wanted to be king of all he could survey, so he climbed on the back of more and more other turtle to get higher and higher to survey more and more.  Finally, the stack of turtle backs gave out and Yertle was dumped in the mud, and that was all he could survey.

Hmmmm.  Not too hard to read a deeper message in that.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book 474: Son of a Witch

Son of a Witch, Gregory Maguire, HarpersCollins, 2006.

I liked this book.

The fact that the story is rather disjointed works, because the story is told in broken memories.  Throughout his life, and throughout this book, Lur never really knows who he is, or what he is capable of doing or becoming.  And, yet, he does some pretty amazing things.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Book 473: Before the Beast

Before the Beast, by Karen Fyke Kirchel, 2008.

Um... I wrote this book, so I probably don't get to actually review it.  I will say that I just finished retyping it, editing it, and proofing it to turn it into an e-book, and it still was a great story.  :)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Book 472: Wicked

Wicked, by Gregory Maguire, 1995.

I have actually bought two copies of this book:  One I bought and read about ten years ago, and one I bought recently because I loaned the first copy to someone and it never came back and I wanted to read the sequel.

Yes, this book is dark.  It is also intriguing.  And, quite frankly, I find the book a whole lot less terrifying than the move The Wizard of Oz.  Knowing the motives may not change someone's actions, but it does go far in explaining them and even arousing sympathy for the Wicked.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Book 471: Horton Hears a Who

Horton Hears a Who, by Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1954.

I've said it before, but I do love Horton the Elephant.  He risks so much to save an entire world that he can't even see.  He, again, is a paragon of kindness.

And only in Seuss world would an elephant and a kangaroo share a jungle, but they are so delightfully drawn.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Book 470: Horton Hatches the Egg

Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Seuss, Random Books, 1940.

I love Horton the elephant so much.  He is probably the kindest character in all of Seuss world.

In this book, Horton states "an elephant's faithful, one hundred percent".  And he was.  Even when hunting rifles were pointed at his heart.  Even when he was taken from his home and put on a boat.  Even when he was forced into a circus.  And he was rewarded for his kindness and faithfulness.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Book 469: American Lady -- The Life of Susan Mary Alsop

American Lady:  The Life of Susan Mary Alsop, Viking, 2012.

I like reading about fascinating people, so when I saw this book, I bought it.

This book presents a interesting slice of history and politics.  I felt like history was brought to life, but the woman who was the subject of the book was not.  After reading this book, I know whole lot about Susan Mary Alsop's, but still very little about Susan Mary Alsop.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Book 468: A Murder, A Mystery, and a Marriage

A Murder, A Mystery, and a Marriage, by Mark Twain, published in book form in 2001, by W.W. Norton & Company.

I read this story back when it appeared in the Atlantic Monthly (complete with illustrations from Peter de Seve.)  When I saw the story in book form, I bought it, although I did not re-read it right away.  I have to say that the Foreword and the Afterword by Roy Blount, Jr., add much to the story by giving it a context and a history.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Book 467: Tom Sawyer and the Buried Treasure

Tom Sawyer and the Buried Treasure, by I. M. Richardson, Troll Publication, 1984.

I found this book in a thrift store for less than a dollar.  It looked interesting, so I bought it.  While the text in this book doesn't have the flair of Twain's original, it is a good introduction to the Tom Sawyer character for younger readers.  It is of one of the most memorable scenes in Tom Sawyer.  And the illustrations are appropriately dark and tension-filled.

I'm hoping that since my son likes this book at six, he will love Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer at ten.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book 466: Bye-Bye, Mom and Dad

Bye-Bye, Mom and Dad, by Mercer Mayer, HarpersFestival, 2004.

Little Critter has a pretty great day with his grandparents while his mom and dad are away.  He even made lunch for them all.  It is the expressions of the grandparents, however, that make this book truly funny.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Book 465: The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, by Dr. Seuss, Random Books, 1938.

Unlike most Dr. Seuss books, this one doesn't rhyme.  And also unlike most Dr. Seuss books, this one has a hint of violence and a threat of danger -- a near-beheading of a child -- oh my!  Maybe that is why this is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books.  Or maybe because it is shot through with fantasy and magic.  Whatever the reason, this is a great book.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Book 464: The Purple Shroud

The Purple Shroud, by Stella Duffy, Puffin Books, 2012.

I bought this book for a dollar because it looked interesting. 

This novel took me FOREVER to read -- OK, maybe it was only three days but it felt SO much longer. 

I kept waiting for the portrayal of Theodora to become sympathetic -- that never happened.  Instead we are reminded at every turn that she used to be a prostitute.  And an actress-prostitute.  And an acrobat-prostitute.  And now she is an empress (who used to be a prostitute), who wears purple and makes people kiss her feet.  And, in case you missed it, she used to be a prostitute.  Honestly, Wikipedia gives a more sympathetic portrayal of Theodora than this book gives. 

I want my dollar back. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Book 463: The Happy Prince and other stories

The Happy Prince and other stories, by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Norman Bancroft Hunt, Templar Books, 1995.

My six-year-old son has decided that his favorite story is The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde -- it is mine, too.   We had one version at home, but he wanted more, so I found this edition.

This collection is only lacking The Selfish Giant, but the stories contained are perfect, and the artwork in gorgeous in an Art Nouveau sort of way.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Book 462: Merry Christmas, Splat

Merry Christmas, Splat, by Rob Scotton, HarperCollins, 2009.

My six-year-old son finished the library reading program last week so he was allowed to pick out a book.  Since it was the beginning of July, naturally he picked out a Christmas book.  I couldn't really blame him, though, because Splat is so darn adorable.

I kind of really liked that Splat didn't have earn his Christmas present -- although he did try -- his family gave him a present because they loved him.  I probably wouldn't have received too many Christmas presents either if they truly were given on the basis of merit.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Boo 461: And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street

And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street, by Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1964.

Just in time for the Fourth of July parades, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street.

As the mother of a highly imaginative six-year-old boy, I get this book.  It makes perfect sense to me.  Our house often sails away to exotic locations, so why should a parade suddenly appear on Mulberry Street.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Book 460: Officer Buckle and Gloria

Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathmann, Scholastic, 1996.

We own a version of this book that is narrated by John Lithgow -- that probably makes all the difference in the world.  I could read this book, and it would be amusing; John Lithgow reads it and it is downright hilarious.  Still, even when I read it, there are some good features to the book.  The book is a great way to teach about safety.  And a great way to teach that, even though things may not go exactly as we've planned, that doesn't mean they didn't work out right.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Book 459: The Lorax

The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1971.

As an adult, this is my favorite Dr. Seuss book.   The illustrations are supremely good.  The rhyming scheme is excellent.  But that story... oh, that story... it stays with you and haunts you for years.  And that is a very good thing.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Book 458: The Magic School Bus Gets Ants In Its Pants

The Magic School Bus Gets Ants In Its Pants, adapted by Linda Ward Beech, illustrated by John Speirs, Scholatic, 1996.

The Magic School Bus series does a great job of making information on a subject accessible to young readers -- keeping it funny, and light, and educational -- without talking down to them or preaching to them.  It's a talent.  My six-year-old son WANTS to read this book about ants, and I don't mind re-reading it to him.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book 457: Little Red Riding Hood, My First Fairy Tales

Little Red Riding Hood, My First Fairy Tales, by Mara Alperin, illustrated by Loretta Schauer, Little Tiger Press, 2014.

I really like this series of retellings of classic fairy tales.  They contain a whole lot of humor, and, although they stay true to the spirit of the originals, no one dies.  Little Red and the wolf in this book are especially adorable.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Book 456: Walt Disney's Peter Pan

Walt Disney's Peter Pan, adapted by Eugene Bradley Coco, illustrated by Ron Dian, Little Golden Book, 1995.

In our house we love Little Golden Books, and London, and pirates.  We love fairy tales and any other stories that spark the imagination.  While this book does not tell the story of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan perfectly or completely, it does make a very good introduction to the immortal character of boy who didn't grow up.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book 455: The Reluctant Witch

The Reluctant Witch, by Sally O. Lee, 2014.

I ADORE Sally O. Lee's books because of the vibrant, seemingly simple, colorful illustrations.  I would want her books just for the illustrations.  But the stories are very often something special, too.  The stories, as in this book, tend to be gently told, and, while they have a moral, they avoid preachiness. And, they come with a heaping dose of humor.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Book 454: Walt Disney's Mother Goose

Walt Disney's Mother Goose, by Al Demspter, Little Golden Books, 1952.

This book is a fun and silly collection of Mother Goose stories illustrated in Disney's style and using many of Disney's famous characters.  I'm not always in love with Disney work, but, oddly enough, little six-year-old boys are very fond of fun and silly books that they can read by themselves.  I do, however, very much like the illustration for Old King Cole.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Book 453: I Love Mom

I Love Mom, Tasha Percy (editor), Sandy Creek Press, 2014.

Full disclosure:  I bought this book for my six-year-old son to read out loud around Mother's Day.   I would have bought it anyway for the adorable animal photos, but the text was great to hear.