Month: December 2012

by Ellen Weiss
illustrated by Sam Williams

Entertaining little book about two toddlers sharing a bath. They splash and pour water, admire their toy boat, play with soap bubbles and generally just have a good time getting squeaky clean. Then there are towel rubs, squirming into pajamas and snuggling in bed. It\’s simple and adorable. The text moves in an easy rhythm with good rhymes patterns (not forced as some kid books can feel). The pictures are pencil drawings with watercolor wash (at least that\’s what it looks like to me); they have a nice soft feel and are yet very lively and fun. My kid really likes this book; it\’s currently one of her favorites. If I see one of the companion volumes -there\’s one featured on the back of the twins enjoying playtime- I\’ll certainly check it out.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 28 pages, 2012

Inside the Thorny World of Competetive Rose Gardening
by Aurelia C. Scott

Although it has (again) taken me quite some time to read it, I found this book about roses very interesting and engaging. In it, the author met with quite a few rose enthusiasts from different areas of the country, visited their gardens, learned how they grow roses, and attended a few rose shows. It was all quite eye-opening. First of all, I was pretty taken aback by all the work that roses seem to require. Especially if they\’re grown in cold areas and need winter protection- which ranges from simply covering them up to burying them in trenches (resurrected in spring) or finding ways to bring them indoors (usually a garage). But it seems that rose people love the challenge. Not only that, but roses also need constant tending whether in the form of pruning, pinching unwanted buds, complex feeding and spraying schedules, applications of insecticides, etc. This part upset me a bit, but it sounds like it would be impossible to grow perfect show roses without the use of chemicals to kill disease and thwart bugs. If the roses are grown well enough to be considered show quality, there is a whole \’nother round of meticulous preparation and grooming they go through to make it to a display table and possibly win a prize. Even the spacing between petals is carefully rearranged. It all sounds quite heady, and the show-rose people certainly seem obsessed. I do admire their ingenuity in devising things to protect blooms from the weather and safely transport cut roses, usually out of recycled materials. One guy even built his own sprayer.

All that was fascinating, but I found the very end of the book enthralled me most. I wish Scott had written more about this side, the world of old-rose enthusiasts. They are even more my kind of people. Instead of being interested in the perfection of form and visual beauty of the rose, they are all about the scent and the thrill of finding and rescuing hundred-years-old varieties. (Because you can\’t have both, a rose is either very beautiful or has an incredible smell). As roses are usually grown from cuttings, there are scions alive today that are literally from the same living tissues as roses that grew hundreds of years ago. These old-rose enthusiasts will hunt for roses growing at old homesteads or graveyards and take cuttings to grow them in their own gardens. Sometimes they rescue roses from sites slated for demolition. Then they try to identify what variety they have; some arguments of old-rose names in public gardens are ongoing! They are rose-hunters and rose-rustlers, definitely a more casual bunch than the show people. And the roses they grow have deep history, often have a mystery surrounding them, or a story behind them. In fact, while there were quite a few tender stories about roses in the lives of people among the show set, they didn\’t really touch me the way stories of the old roses did; one tale of a rose planted on an infant\’s grave brought me to tears… These old roses are wild, rambling, intoxicating and not at all persnickity about care. I think if I got into roses these would be my kind, the ones that make your head swim when you inhale, and don\’t require arsenals of chemicals to keep them healthy.

The only thing that would have made this book better would be the inclusion of some pictures of roses!

Rating: 4/5 …….. 235 pages, 2007

more opinions:
Pop Matters
The Hum of Desperation
Rose Garden Advice

an animals book
by Kate Endle

This is one of those little books which I happen to find lovely, but my daughter doesn\’t seem to  like herself. It has the same charming cut-paper illustrations with wonderful patterns and visual textures as What is Green? Each page is just a picture of an animal naming himself: I\’m a lazy lion, I\’m a curious kitten, I\’m a lovable little lamb, etc. They\’re really adorable. I especially like the tipped-over turtle; his shell has splotches that look like differently-colored rocks, with a nice patchwork effect. But for whatever reason when I open it and start reading about the animals, my daughter reaches out to shut the book saying \”No!\” and pushes it away. I think her opinion is made clear, though I\’m puzzled at the cause. It\’s happened the past five or six times I\’ve tried to read it to her (we\’ve only once made it all the way through) so I\’m going to take it back to the library and continue with other books.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 18 pages, 2010

by Phyllis Root

Soft and bright pastel pictures illustrate this board book that shows various baby animals learning from their mothers their respective mode of locomotion. The little bird practices flying, the baby fish to swim, the snake wiggles, otter slides, duck paddles and so on. At the end of each spread the baby animal says \”Look, I see a-\” leading onto the next page of mother-baby pairs. Finally the little mouse sees a child, who isn\’t running or jumping but just getting a kiss from mom. Then the child ties it all together by observing all the baby animals around him. Nice book.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 32 pages, 2009

by DK Publishing

Another one of the touch-and-feel variety, this board book features animals from the jungle with some foliage around them, and a texture patch on each page for little hands to explore. There\’s a fuzzy tiger, hairy orangutan, and nice scaly pattern on the snake. I did find it a bit disappointing that the toucan beak and frog skin were both the same- perfectly smooth- doesn\’t a frog skin have some kind of texture? but other than that it\’s a very nice book that keeps my kid engaged. Bright colors and very attractive-looking animals.

 Rating: 3/5…….. 10 pages, 2001

by Lois Ehlert

This is one of the coolest board books I\’ve seen in a long time. Cut-paper collage illustrates birds looking for food in the new-falling snow. Then the narrator shows an accumulation of things in bags and piles, names the anticipation of waiting for a really good snow day. And there follows a showcase of snowmen, suddenly spanning two pages and taking up the width for their height so you have to rotate the book ninety degrees to change the orientation. There is a snow dad, snow mom, snow boy and girl, snow baby and snow cat, even a snow dog (pretty shapeless but fun nonetheless). The cool thing is that the snowmen, made also of cut paper, have all kinds of real objects put on them besides the iconic scarf and carrot nose. And multiple items are used that will feed the birds. There are strawberries and corn kernels, sunflower seeds, berries, raisins, popcorn, peanuts, etc. Plus all kinds of curious objects like id tags, toy car wheels, bottle caps and so forth. The dog covered with many kinds of buttons is fun. My eighteen-month-old likes to point out the objects she knows: \”Hat! Fork!\” Each page also shows a (grateful you must think) bird or squirrel on or near the snowman, which will also provide it some winter food. The last few pages show the snowmen melting. a nice touch with a bit of rhyme.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 26 pages, 1995

by Rachel Hale

Like Hugs and Kisses by the same author, this book is full of absolutely beautiful photographs of babies paired with young animals. The simple text phrases describe attributes of being a friend, or of the animals- cute or furry, friendly, snuggly and so forth. There\’s puppies and kittens but also birds (perched on baby hats) and bunnies, even a duckling, sheep and turtle. (Funny thing, my daughter always says \”ewww\” at the turtle picture because once we found a smashed turtle shell outside and while looking at it with curiosity cautioned her against touching it because of possible germs. Now she seems to think all turtles are yucky!) This book has better phrasing than Hugs and Kisses, the rhythm doesn\’t feel so forced. Both baby and I like it a lot.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 20 pages, 2011

by Roberta Grobel Intrater

Cute book of close-up photos showing babies exchanging kisses and hugs with their parents. Kisses on the feet, belly, cheek (one leaves a lipstick mark!) etc. Of course my eighteen-month-old loves seeing pictures of other baby faces, and she recognizes the activity, often presents her own foot or face for a kiss as we read this book. She also likes to point out identities: \”Baby! Mommy! Daddy!\” and sometimes facial features: \”Eye! Noo (nose). Eaw (ear).\” The only question I have of the book is the choice of a black background for the pages. They just seem kind of dark and often the hair blends into the background. Not sure why that choice was made. But it is an adorable book regardless.

Rating: 3/5 ……. 10 pages, 2002

by Sabine Kraushaar

This board book is shaped like a flower. The pages are round and the petals make tabs, two or three per page, sticking out at different angles. It\’s really the only thing going for it, the curious shape. The gist of the content is just toys: each page shows a toy and names it while a sparkly butterfly appears alongside. That\’s it. I don\’t even know why it\’s called Good Morning, it could just be called My Toys or Let\’s Play or something else entirely and still work. I find it rather inane. But the flower shape is just so charming and original I forgive the book its otherwise silliness.

Rating: 2/5 ……… 8 pages, 2006

by Eric Carle

A book without pictures, this one shows a little mouse on each page greeting other animals. On each spread the next creature\’s tail is showing, letting you guess who the mouse will meet next. Mousie encounters a lion, elephant, peacock, seal, horse, giraffe and myriad other creatures before he finally finds another little mouse and together they find shelter in the hole of a tree. Just in time, as a thick green line that has been present on all the pages reveals itself at the end to be a very long snake! Lovely textures make the pictures enjoyable to look at and it\’s pretty easy to come up with some narration for the book, whether pretending to have the mouse talk to each animal, or just name the animals for your little one.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 30 pages, 1971


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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