Month: August 2012

by Debby Slier

A baby book could not be more simple. This one is just baby faces showing a variety of identified expressions and activities: smiling, pouting, crying, looking curious or surprised. My child\’s favorite page seems to be the one of a little girl peeking through her hands; she always stops on that page and wants to initiate a peek-a-boo game herself. She just loves looking at pictures of other babies her age, something I wish more board-book publishers would realize, as I have trouble finding any more books like this at the library. Of course, it could just be that they\’re popular with other toddlers as well and so are never available on the shelf. Very cute!

rating: 3/5 …….. 12 pages, 2012

by Suzanne Collins

I’ve had Catching Fire sitting on my TBR shelf for ages, but never felt motivated yet to find the first book at the library and start the trilogy. But then my sister gave me a copy of the Hunger Games, so I’ve been reading it over the past few weeks. Slow going only because other events in my life have limited reading time of late; the story actually moves very quickly and its one of those books that are hard to put down; you want to just read straight to the end.

So- in case you don’t know the brief version, The Hunger Games is a dystopian story set in a future country called Panem where the United States used to be. There’s twelve districts all in subservience to the Capital and periodically in order to assert their authority the Capital requires each district to offer up two teenagers to participate in the Games. The kids are prepped and then thrown together into a wilderness arena where they basically fight to the death- it’s a game of elimination. The last one alive wins glory, fame, wealth for life, you name it. Oh, and it’s all televised and everyone’s required to watch. So not only does Katniss (our female protagonist) have to pit her wits against her peers in the Games, she also has to keep in mind how the audience responds to what she does (or doesn’t do) as gaining favor with viewers can earn her support. It’s really a gruesome thing, this life-or-death reality tv battle. There’s plenty of harrowing scenes. But somehow those didn’t stick with me. The writing is sparse yet descriptive; I found it easy to gloss over the gory details and instead enjoyed the adventure, the survivalist aspect of it all, the intrigue between the characters. Pretty gripping stuff. I don’t think I’d like to see it on the screen, though. I think that would be too much for me.

Rating: 3/5
374 pages, 2008

by David Doepker

This cute board book is just close-ups of animal faces, all living on a farm. It\’s the captions that make it so amusing- the horse curling his lip is proclaimed to tell jokes, the cross-looking chickens are declared \”pushy\”, a goat posed regally and shot from a low angle is touted as being \”as big as the sky.\” The \”happy hog\” really does have a big smile on its face; the only picture that doesn\’t really seem to fit is the shaggy sheep- he\’s really not that shaggy. I\’ve seen ones with much longer wool! Regardless, it\’s really cute and flows with singsong phrases that introduce kids to animals attributed with recognizable emotions or personalities. The pictures are big and bold, which makes it really attractive to my little one.

rating: 4/5 …….. 16 pages, 2004

by Eugenie Fernandes

I finally got hold of a copy of Kitten\’s Summer from the library, completing this little quartet of picture books. Lush illustrations made of paint washes, cut paper and modeled clay collages show the little kitten exploring the forest around his farm during a rain shower. We see flowers blooming, baby animals hiding from the rain with their mothers- raccoons, squirrel infants in a leafy nest, a fuzzy robin chick under its mother\’s wing. My favorite was the darling little nest of baby rabbits under a bush. The details of leaf, twigs, forest litter, raindrops and other tiny things and textures are just exquisite. And there are snails and other small creepy critters tucked into corners just awaiting discovery. It\’s an adorable book full of woodland wonders to explore on every page. When the kitten comes back home at the end of the book, a basket of strawberries and freshly-picked peas next to muddy boots show the bounty that nature provides in the garden during the summer as well. Lovely!

rating: 4/5 …….. 24 pages, 2011

by Laura Godwin
illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

I seldom find and read a book so quickly after seeing a review of it online, but this time I did. Something about what Puss Reboots said of this picture book made it sound appealing, so I went and checked it out.

One Moon, Two Cats shows what two different cats are up to at night while their owners sleep. A fluffy white cat lounges on a little girl\’s bed in a city bedroom; a somewhat sneaky-looking tabby seems to be just waiting for the moment to escape from his boy\’s room in the country. Both cats stretch and jump out the window, go strolling along high vantage points, sniff about and then chase mice. Even though their environment is different- city streets and grassy countryside lanes- they both delight in the same feline activities. A thunderstorm frightens them home where they curl up to sleep just as the children awake, having no idea what their kitties have been up to. The text is simply, brief phrases that rhyme nicely. The acrylic paintings have a lovely soft texture, and the cats\’ faces are really expressive with their knowing eyes. I liked it.

rating: 3/5 …….. 32 pages, 2011

retold by Robert D. San Souci
illustrated by John Segal

This is the Reluctant Dragon book I found browsing, that made me look for the original. And it is nearly cut in half. The length, I mean. But the text is lifted so easily that the story still reads seamlessly. Having read the first one so recently I recognized passages immediately and could tell where parts were missing- conversations cut short, detailed descriptions just not there. It lost some of its whimsy and charm, but still a good story. The boy has a name here; he\’s called Jack. He doesn\’t express glee at the dragon\’s prospect of a fight, which I noticed right away. Not much else stood out to me as being different. The pictures are charming but rather small, however there are several on each page and the font is one of those that makes you read slow and careful, holding the book perhaps a little closer than usual, which makes you see those bitty pictures up close too. Well, I enjoyed it and so did my seven-year-old who read it after me. But I still prefer the original, it has just that much more character that\’s missing a bit here.

rating: 3/5 …….. 40 pages, 2004

It\’s become pretty much a regular thing in my house that there\’s always a little stack of board books by the potty. At first it was just a way to get her to sit still long enough to do her business, but now she insists on having a book read to her (often that\’s just two or three pages!) even if she\’s already tinkled. A few times I\’ve taken her potty into the bathroom so she can join me there and she runs out to get a book and brings it back with her. I think it\’s kind of funny. I have to keep rotating which books are sitting there to keep her interest in them long enough for moments when a bit of patience is needed.

The books have also started helping with my older daughter as well. She\’s been having some rather late nights and very early mornings of late, and I\’ve been suggesting naps but of course she balks strongly at the idea. Today I was putting the baby down for a nap and handed older daughter a picture book I\’d brought home just to read for myself. She started reading, picked up another one, and when I looked back over she\’d fallen asleep! And I think she really needed it because she slept for several hours. I know I can find a lot more picture books at the library that are sophisticated enough to hold her attention, even though on her own she\’d rather read chapter books. Perhaps I can coax her into some daily quiet time and induce a few more naps…!       

by Kenneth Grahame

This is one of those books I just can\’t believe I never read before! It\’s a charming little story about a boy who befriends a dragon near his cottage home. The dragon is quite the gentleman, loves poetry, and is also rather lazy- he likes his quiet time, let\’s say. The local villagers discover his cave is occupied and get quite upset. Even though he\’s never bothered them or so much as set foot in the village, they ask the famous knight St. George to come get rid of the dragon. When the knight arrives, everyone is eager to see a battle- except that the dragon doesn\’t want to fight at all. The boy is just as excited as the others about a fight, but of course he wants to help his friend. How can he work out the situation? I thought the solution quite clever, and funny too. The original illustrations by Ernest Shepard (of Winnie-the-Pooh fame) are just lovely.

I really discovered this one because of another, newer edition with colored illustrations that I found on a library shelf. I wanted to read the original before the adapted version. It\’s really not a long story so I\’m not sure why it had to be adapted, but I\’ll find out soon enough if a lot of text got cut; reading that one next.

rating: 4/5 …….. 48 pages, 1966

Sandman Vol 9

by Neil Gaiman

As usual, reading a Sandman volume has been a rather uneven experience for me. I could see very well that the storyline was pulling in loose threads from previous volumes, and characters reappeared that I hadn\’t seen since the beginning. But unfortunately since I have been borrowing these from the library I don\’t have the earlier volumes on hand so couldn\’t check back to refresh my memory of those storylines and characters that started resurfacing. So there was quite a bit that went over my head, but the main arc managed to hold my attention: Dream\’s realm is facing possible destruction. Wronged woman from his past comes with revenge on her mind. That creepy Corinthian guy with the teeth in his eyes goes searching for Morpheus\’ son (the younger one, that lives in the waking world) and the intriguingly flighty Delirium is looking for the dog she adopted from Destruction…. lots of other stuff happens, but mostly it is about this revenge being enacted, and the Dream King resigning himself to his fate- out of duty? I thought the bit about Nuala, the fairy who preferred her plain face, most touching.

One of the things I really enjoy about these volumes, strange to say, is their forwards and the after-pages that introduce the author and illustrators. The forwards are always written so eloquently and gushing with praise I\’m always just a tad disappointed when I read the bulk of the pages. And the parts at the end with all the contributors are just funny. They\’re always uniquely bizzare and curious. This time those final pages had old-looking black and white snapshots of children with one-liner descriptions. (Another volume had hand-drawn crazily expressive portraits for each, and I can\’t remember the others now but they were equally amusing). I also enjoy seeing how the artwork changes with each volume- different artists depicting the now-familiar characters in their own style, but still making them quite recognizable even to me, who has trouble following who\’s who sometimes.

Moving on to the tenth soon.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 352 pages, 1993

more opinions:
Graphic Novels Challenge

I have a small bookshelf in the living room that is just for the little one\’s board books. She seems to enjoy pulling them all off the shelf just as much as turn the pages or bring one to me to read.

Today she took this activity to a new level and climbed into the shelf herself once it was emptied.

Then tried to pull the books back in with her- and got stuck, of course.
Silly girl!


All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it


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