Saturday, March 7, 2015

Book Review: Cute and Cuter by Michael Townsend

Book: Cute and Cuter
Author: Michael Townsend
Illustrator: Michael Townsend
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

A little girl gets a puppy for her birthday (promptly named Sir Yips-a-lot). Cuteness abounds. All is adorability and rainbows, until the next birthday, when she gets The World’s Cutest Kitty, and Sir Yips-a-lot feels replaced. He comes up with a cunning plan to get Lady Meow-Meow out of the picture and himself back on top. But it doesn’t work out quite the way he’d pictured.

For a book that purports to overflow with cuteness, this book has some surprising teeth. (Literally; in one spread, Sir Yips-a-Lot imagines Lady Meow-Meow eaten by a large, befanged dog and meowing from within its stomach.) Anybody who’s ever been supplanted by a new baby or a new friend will recognize Sir Yips-a-Lot’s dilemma, and knows the pitfalls of his plan.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Reading Roundup: February 2015

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 33
Early Readers: 4

Sources
Library: 36

Standouts
Writing: Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell
For kids struggling to get along with all sorts of different people for the first time in their lives, this story is instantly recognizable. I especially loved (is that the word?) Rabbit's dramatic meltdown.
Illustration: Inside Outside by Lizi Boyd
This wordless book explores the title concept with flaps that take you from inside to outside and back again.
Overall: H.O.R.S.E. a game of basketball and imagination by Christopher Myers
Anybody who's ever watched a couple of kids one-upping each other will laugh with recognition.

Because I Want To Awards
Worst Kid Ever: The Santa Trap by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Poly Bernatene
I laughed so hard at this unrepentantly awful child, setting traps for Santa Claus and completely failing to learn any flavor of lesson. Nice.
Struck a Chord: Love Monster by Rachel Bright (link leads to my review)
Oh, Love Monster. I know your pain.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Review: The Storm Whale by Benji Davies

Book: The Storm Whale
Author: Benji Davies
Illustrator: Benji Davies
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library

Noi is lonely. His dad, a fisherman, leaves him on his lonesome all day long. When he finds a baby whale washed up on shore after a storm, Noi knows he has to work fast. he takes the whale back to his empty house and puts it in the bathtub (it is a very small whale). Now he has a friend, but how long can this last?

I admit, I had to read this book a few times to really get it. At first, I was indignant that the whale was simply released back to the sea and Noi’s loneliness wasn’t addressed. Then on the second read-through, I realized that the illustrations had taken up that part of the story. While the text simply tells us that Noi looks forward to seeing his whale-friend again, you see a companionable, midday father-son picnic - and far out to sea, two whale flukes, one large and one small.

A quiet and sweet meditation on fathers and sons.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Book Review: Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light

Book: Have You Seen My Dragon?
Author: Steve Light
Illustrator: Steve Light
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library

A small boy roams all over New York City, seeking his dragon, and juuuuuust missing him every time. What he does find is a city teeming with life and energy, with lots of counting fun for the reader.

While he works mostly in black pen lines, Light picks one thing on each page to illustrate in color, and those are part of the counting element of this book. 1 green dragon, for instance, or 11 purple manhole covers. I wanted to pore over this book for hours, finding all the little details that make up life in the city.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Book Review: Love Monster by Rachel Bright

Book: Love Monster
Author: Rachel Bright
Illustrator: Rachel Bright
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library

A monster in a world of cute and cuddly things despairs of ever finding someone who will love his unconventional self. Next to the cuteness that surrounds him, the monster is a little scary, a little hairy, and a little funny-looking. He sets off on a quest to find love, and finds only disappointment. Will he give up or will it find him at the last minute?

When picking books for a Valentine's Day storytime, I tend to avoid books that talk about romantic love. While preschoolers can certainly get crushes and such, they're more experienced with platonic and familial love. This book is an exception to that rule. The titular (and nameless) monster is just so sweet and cuddly-looking, how could anyone not love him? With text that's gently quirky ("He looked high. He looked low. He looked middle-ish.") and colorful, emotive illustrations (dare you not to "awwww" at the page with the monster and all his possessions being rained on as his search continues fruitless), his quest to be loved just as he is will resonate with adults and children alike.

And yes, love does find the monster, in the very last place he looks. Spoiler.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Reading Roundup: January 2015

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 33 (!!!)
Early Readers: 1

Sources
Library: 34

Standouts
Writing: Dangerously Ever After by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Valeria Docampo
We all know the kid who likes a little edge to their world. A couple of teeth, a few thorns. Slater takes that kid and puts her in a situation that forces her to realize that danger is only fun when it's basically safe.
Illustration: Mix it Up by Herve Tullet
The same interactive style as my beloved Press Here encourages children to get crazy with color. I love how it all looks like finger paint, down to the hand prints that must have been contributed by a little friend.
Overall: It's an Orange Aardvark by Michael Hall
An ant overreacts (or does he?!) to glimpses of the world outside his ant hill, which are actual holes in the page. Kids will love guessing what the colors revealed might portend.


Because I Want To Awards
Best Glimpse into a Toddler's Head Ever: Must. Push. Buttons! by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
A little one careens through his day, treating us to stream-of-very-young-consciousness. It's like Krosoczka read a toddler mind and transcribed it for us.
Most Adventurous Penguin Ever: Salina Yoon's Penguin books
Due to a penguin-themed storytime, I read three of these books this month, and that penguin goes everywhere.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Reading Roundup: 2014

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 107
Early Readers: 13

Sources
Library: 115

Standouts
Writing: Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match/Marisol McDonald No Combina by Monica Brown (chosen in March)
"As a kid who "didn't match" myself, I really appreciated this story of a little girl nimbly balancing between two cultures."
Illustration: Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light (chosen in May)
"The intricacy of the pages (there are so many details to pore over!) are balanced by the simple pen-and-ink style, with one element that pops out in color. A visual treat of New York City, and all the places a dragon can hide therein."
Overall: Gravity by Jason Chin (chosen in October)
"A picture book about one of the forces holding the universe together? Why yes, I've got one right here! In simple, accessible prose suitable for storytime (!), Chin explains gravity, how it works, and how it affects us, with bonus stunning visuals."

My resolution last year was to find more early readers. From 3 up to 13 is definitely more, but I still feel like I'm missing a lot. So that resolution will carry over.

And now my admission. These numbers, much as I love them, are not entirely accurate.

I do an average of two storytimes a week, and my staff puts on two more. We share books with each other on a constant basis, and I'm always grabbing one from the shelf right before the start of storytime "just to see if it will work." Upshot? I read a lot of picture books that I don't record here.

That affects me in more ways than being able to present a total at the end of the year. I use my LibraryThing database to find books to order for storytimes, to do readers' advisory, even just to figure out, "Ooooh, there was that one book, with the mice, and the umbrellas, and ARGH!" Having it as up to date as possible can only help me.
 
So my other resolution for this year is to actually record everything I read. Wish me luck.