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Archive for the ‘Briefly’ Category

Children’s Books, Briefly: 2014-03-30

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 30, 2014

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

TrueStoryOfThe3LittlePigs-coverAn ALA Notable Book. Scieszka lets the wolf tell his own story in this fractured fairy tale. Alexander T. Wolf–who scurrilous media reports have dubbed “the Big Bad Wolf”–isn’t such a bad guy. He just wanted to borrow a cup of sugar from his neighbors, the pigs, but was overcome by a terrible sneezing cold. An amusing take on the story, with excellent illustrations. This book was the first of many collaborations between Scieszka and Smith.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

BlueberriesForSal-coverA Caldecott Honor Book. Sal and her mother go out to pick blueberries to store for the winter. A bear cub and its mother have the same idea, and the mothers and children get mixed up. Excellent line art and a cute story. The parallel between the bears storing up fat for the winter and the humans preserving blueberries is a good one, and their actions, too, parallel one another satisfyingly.

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Children’s Books, Briefly: 2014-03-27

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 27, 2014

Arthur Goes to Camp by Marc Brown

ArthurGoesToCamp-coverThe fifth Arthur book. The art has continued to evolve, and by this point Arthur should look quite familiar to viewers of the TV series. The story is that Arthur goes to camp, is sure that he will hate it–does hate it–but, in the end, he accidentally wins a scavenger hunt for his team, and decides he loves camp. It’s meant to be funny, I guess, but it doesn’t work for me, and the story’s not very interesting. Much boys vs. girls, followed by a new antagonist: an entire camp of villains. Not to my taste.

Arthur’s Halloween by Marc Brown

ArthursHalloween-coverThe sixth Arthur book. Halloween themed, obviously, with a rather tired ‘old lady who isn’t actually a witch, gasp!’ plot. Plenty of Arthur being afraid of his shadow, though he does overcome his fear to go after his sister, which is a point in his favor. Most of these books, so far, are about Arthur being afraid or otherwise insecure. Is that what the series is all about? It’d be nice if Arthur could occasionally be a bit more straightforwardly admirable.

Arthur’s April Fool by Marc Brown

ArthursAprilFool-coverThe seventh Arthur book. Another holiday themed book, and we’re not done with those yet. Arthur must deal with a bully while preparing for the April Fool’s assembly. He’s very nervous, but in the end, he manages to play a trick or two on the bully. It’s unfortunate that none of the adults around Arthur, including those aware of the bullying, do anything to help, but I expect that’s more truth in fiction than anything. Rather average book.

Arthur’s Thanksgiving by Marc Brown

ArthursThanksgiving-coverThe eighth Arthur book. Arthur is put in charge of the Thanksgiving play. Arthur’s friends are extra nice to him, to be sure they get the parts they want. This is nice, until Arthur realizes that nobody wants to play the turkey–and he can’t have a play called The Big Turkey Hunt without a turkey! I was expecting a lesson about leadership, or standing up to your friends, or something, but in the end Arthur just plays the turkey himself, and his friends are kind enough to join him in his embarrassment. Disappointing. Another average book.

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Children’s Books, Briefly: 2014-03-23

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 23, 2014

I had never read any of Marc Brown’s Arthur books before, so I’ve been catching up a bit. They’re not bad. The artwork really evolves over the first few books, and from the covers of later books I’m guessing that trend continues. Should be interesting to see how the books go, over the years.

Arthur’s Nose by Marc Brown

ArthursNose-cover

The first entry in the venerable Arthur series. Arthur is teased because of his nose, and considers rhinoplasty, but ultimately decides that he’s fine just as he is. Not too bad art, decent message. The highlight is Arthur trying on various other animals’ noses to see which he likes. Not a bad book, but the series does improve.

Arthur’s Eyes by Marc Brown

ArthursEyes-coverSecond Arthur book. Arthur needs glasses, and is teased because of them. Eventually he learns that they are very helpful, and don’t look so bad after all. Better art than the previous book, and generally improved.

Arthur’s Valentine by Marc Brown

ArthursValentine-coverThird Arthur book. Nice art, and this one even has a real story. Francine is secretly sending Arthur valentines, but Arthur hopes it might be the new girl, Sue Ellen, sending them. Francine has teased Arthur in the previous books, and he gets her back with a little trick, once he discovers that she is his secret admirer. This is the best Arthur book so far.

Arthur and the True Francine by Marc Brown

ArthurAndTheTrueFrancine-coverThe fourth Arthur book, though he scarcely appears. This time, Francine is in the spotlight. It’s nice to see her get a positive showing, here. The moral is that honesty is the best policy, but I’m not sure I agree with the book’s position that Francine shouldn’t reveal when her friend is lying. Loyalty is one thing, but… anyway, it’s still a pretty good book, though I liked Arthur’s Valentine a bit better.

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Children’s Books, Briefly: 2014-03-21

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 21, 2014

More brief reviews.

Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins

Rosie'sWalk-coverA great use of medium. The text is a single sentence, describing Rosie the hen’s peaceful walk around the farm (“Rosie the hen went for a walk . . . and got back in time for dinner.”), but the illustrations tell a different story: the whole time, a fox is pursuing her, intent on getting his own dinner. Humorous mishaps keep stopping him, and eventually he’s chased off by a swarm of bees. The art is nice–red, orange, and yellow in the foreground and green in the background, usually with heavy borders, giving everything a sort of paper cutout look. Quite enjoyable.

Hey, Al by Arthur Yorinks

HeyAl-coverWinner of the 1987 Caldecott Medal. Al and his dog, Eddie, live in a tiny one-room apartment, and Eddie isn’t happy. They’re led by a large bird to a kind of paradise, but they begin to turn into birds themselves, so they escape and are happy with their old apartment. “Paradise lost is sometimes Heaven found.”

The art is cleverly fit into rectangles, with bits poking out at the edges. Extremely nice. There’s good emotional impact when Al believes he’s lost Eddie, too. An altogether very good book.

How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman

HowMyParentsLearnedToEat-coverI first read this years ago, in school. It’s a story of clashing cultures: an American sailor and a Japanese schoolgirl fall in love, and fear to eat with the other, not knowing how to use chopsticks (resp. a fork). This book isn’t bad, but I think most of my enjoyment was from nostalgia. The art is nice, but pretty flat, and the story boils down to “different cultures have different customs, but we shouldn’t be afraid to learn from each other”. Nothing really wrong with it, but this isn’t a book I’d want to re-read often.

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Children’s Books, Briefly: 2014-03-20

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 20, 2014

Here are some books for which I’ve only brief notes. Fuller reviews may follow, eventually.

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble

GirlWhoLovedWildHorses-coverWinner of the 1979 Caldecott Medal. I like the art in this; it’s got a pretty unique style. Oddly enough, it reminds me of the art in Meena. The story is okay, but I’d say the art is definitely its strong point.

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

RelativesCame-coverA 1986 Caldecott honor book. Cute story. It’s got no conflict, just a mellow (but amusing) story of relatives from Virginia coming to visit. The art is rendered in colored pencil by Stephen Gammell, whose work I’m more familiar with from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The people share the characteristic ‘lumpiness’ of the illustrations from that book, but there’s nothing horrifying about these. Just lighthearted art in a palette heavy in greens and blues.

Boundless Grace by Mary Hoffman

BoundlessGrace-coverThis is the sequel to Amazing Grace, which I reviewed above (and enjoyed immensely!). I don’t think it’s quite the equal of its predecessor, but it’s still a strong book, telling a story about Grace’s relationship with her father, who has long since divorced her mother and lives in Africa.

Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber

IraSleepsOver-coverNice enough story. Ira’s invited to sleep over at his friend Reggie’s house, but is afraid he’ll be laughed at for sleeping with a teddy bear. It turns out that Reggie sleeps with a teddy bear–and was worried–too. The art is fitting and interesting.

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