Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Book 403: Thurber's Dogs

Thurber's Dogs, by James Thurber, Touchstone, 1983 (from stories dating back to 1926).

I love so much about Thurber: his writing, his illustrations, his humor, but most of all, I might love that he loved dogs. 

These stories took place in another time -- early to mid-20th century -- so some of the stories are cringeworthy to our 'enlightened' era.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book 402: Toys in Space

Toys in Space, by Mini Grey, Random House, 2012.

I bought this book because of the title.  Sadly, the best thing about this book was the title.

The story starts off just fine -- it's good, even -- but then it tells to get way too busy and way too silly and it completely falls apart.  And then the ending falls flat.

The illustration does suit the story very well; so well, in fact, that it become just as annoying as the text.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Book 401: Savvy Chic

Savvy Chic -- The Art of More for Less, Anna Johnson, Avon Book, 2010.

I, like Anna Johnson, traveled quite a bit in my youth, never living longer than five years in one place.  Unlike Anna, though, as an adult, I like having roots and strong community ties (and a bank account, however small it is). I am not a bohemian, although I do love to travel.

Because I am not a bohemian, I had difficulties with parts of this book.  The traveling cheap section and flea market hunting section scared me a little  -- I have traveled cheaply, and have scoured flea markets, but these are not my usual way of life.  I would never sign up with art galleries for the free food, nor take advantage of other such offerings -- this strikes me as dishonest and unfair to the artists.

There is some good advice contained in the book, but what Anna Johnson sees as more for less, isn't always what I see as more for less.

I have many, many talented friends, so I'm more about the barter.  Just this week, for the cost of a handmade necklace, I scored six mismatched, handcrafted pottery bowls, one of which is perfect for my homemade yogurt.  One of the bowls broke in transit, so it has been glued together and contains ribbon-tied stalks of lavender.  Try to find something like that in a flea market!

There are ways to achieve the life you want.  Or you can realize how very much you already have.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book 400: I'm a Bulldozer

I'm a Bulldozer, written by Dennis Shealy, illustrated by Bob Staake, Little Golden Books, 2015.

I bought this book for my six-year-old son for two very good reasons:

1.   We have the misfortune of living at the top of the street where a one-year road construction project has been going on for over three years; and

2.   Bob Staake's illustrations.

For over half of my little boy's life, we been driving past road construction vehicles, sometimes standard yellow, sometimes shockingly pink -- most of them just parked  along the side of the road -- just to get from our stretch of road to another.  He has learned the names of all of them, especially the bulldozer.  Dennis Shealy did include some uses of the bulldozer that didn't include construction, so that made the book especially interesting.

A few months after the construction began, my son discovered books illustrated or written and illustrated by Bob Staake.  Staake quickly became my son's favorite illustrator.  After almost three years, my son is a connoisseur of Staake's work and would know it anywhere.  And he always says it's "beautiful".  And my son is right.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Book 399: The Girl with No Shadow

The Girl with No Shadow, by Joanne Harris, Harper, 2007.

This book is the sequel or follow-up to Chocolat, but it doesn't really feel like part of a series.

"The Girl..."  could stand alone just fine without Chocolat, and Chocolat was not originally intended to be more than one book.  While I liked this book and the returning characters, very much, it becomes problematic if I try to make it directly follow Chocolat.  Chocolat felt like it took place at an earlier time -- mid-20th century, whereas this book is very contemporary.  To go from one era to another with the same characters is jarring.  Also, Chocolat did not feel so much about magic -- just charm or glamor -- but the magic angle is very much played up in "The Girl..."

So, I did like this book, very much, but I might have liked it even more if I wasn't trying to make it work with Chocolat.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Book 398: The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker, retold by John Cech, illustrated by Eric Puybaret, Sterling Books, 2009.

This is a good and comprehensive retelling of the classic tale of The Nutcracker.  The text ran a bit too long to make it a single-sitting book for a six-yeear-old, but there is a place for longer picture books in our home library.

The illustrations are lovely, but oddly straightforward compared to some of the work in other books illustrated by Puybaret.  I would have that the story of The Nutcracker would lend itself perfectly to Puybaret's whimsical and magical style, but, instead, he kept the artwork comparatively subdued.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Book 397: Three Swords for Granada

Three Swords for Granada, by Walter Dean Myers, Holiday House, 2005.

I bought this book from our local library because 1)  I wanted to support the library, 2) this book looked interesting, and 3) I want to start reading more chapter books to my Kindergarten son.

I can't say that I loved this book, but I did mostly like it.  Obviously, an allegory, but I'm not sure how much kids will pick up on that.  Still, it might be a good way to introduce my son to historical events.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Book 396: Puff, the Magic Dragon

Puff, the Magic Dragon, words by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton, and illustrations by Eric Puybaret, Sterling Children's Books, 2007.

I reviewed this book for Goodreads a little over a year ago.  Then, this past December, I encountered "Over The Rainbow", also illustrated by Puybaret, and discovered his work all over again.

This is what I said in my original review:

My five-year-old son picked this book out from the library this week, because, you know, there was a dragon on the cover.

There was no disc in our copy of the book because it was a library book. I remembered the tune and the refrain to this song, so I started singing it. I didn't remember the last verse, so that caught me off guard. At first I thought that Jackie died, but as I keep singing it was clear that Jackie just grew up and Puff was forgotten. The text, because it is the same as the song, is a downer, but the illustrations at the end are not.

The illustrations were colorful, soft and playful -- they had a very dreamlike quality. They suited the text perfectly, even right up until the end, because, even though Jackie grew up and forgot about Puff, he was not abandoned. There are still other children in the world, so at the end of the book was hope, which, of course, is what children are.

I did buy this book for my son, last month, and he loves it as much as he did in November 2013.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book 395: Country Wives

Country Wives, by Rebecca Shaw, Doubleday, 2001.

I bought this book for a dollar at a thrift store.  I had just found a wool jacket for $2, so I was feeling generous, and this book SEEMED intriguing.

As a child, I spent five years in James Harriot country.  I recognized the speech and the scenery in both the books and the movies.  I didn't get this book at all.

Everything about this book felt so forced and contrived.  I wasn't expecting another Harriot series, but I was expecting quite a bit more than this book delivered.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Book 394: Skippyjon Jones, Snow What

Skippyjon Jones, Snow What, by Judy Schachner, Dial Publishing, 2014.

I didn't buy this book, but I was with my sister when she was picking out a book for my son, and we decided together on this one.

This Skippyjon Jones book is probably my favorite one since the first one. The story is a take-off from a fairy tale, and it did help (immensely) that the book came with a CD of Ms. Schachner reading the book. I speak Franglais, not Spanglish. 

My six-year-old son, however, followed the CD along with his book -- twice in a row. He would have listened to it again a third or fourth time right then if we didn't have to go somewhere that morning. 

I have always loved the illustrations of the Skippyjon Jones books, even when I stumbled over the text, and this book is absolutely no exception.