Month: February 2013

by Laura Driscoll

This counting book uses lift-the-flaps to find the animals or objects to be counted. Any book with flaps seems to be a hit with my toddler. We\’ve borrowed it from the library. It appears this particular book is really popular with other kids, too (or had a destructive reader once) because it has been heavily mended with tape and one flap is missing entirely. My kid always points this out with a sad voice: \”bwoken!\” Each page shows little people in ethnic dress from different countries. The places featured are Argentina, Madagascar, New Zealand, Iceland, Greece, Japan and Canada. Corresponding things to count are guitars and violins, lemurs (my daughter insists they look like cats!) and chameleons, kiwi fruits and kiwi birds, fish, goats, paper cranes and husky puppies. I like the variety this all offers, although my kid isn\’t old enough to understand about the different countries. My favorite page is the Japanese one with some spare and beautiful design- pretty blossoms on a branch in a vase, delicate origami cranes hidden under a paper-lined window.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 14 pages, 2012

by Avi

McKinley is a trusted sled dog, a malamute with top status among all the dogs in his town. He protects his human family and takes it upon himself help dogs in need. His biggest problem is an upstart Irish setter who wants to take McKinley\’s place as top dog. But things get more complicated when McKinley tries to help a runaway dog and meets a wolf. He decides to help the injured wolf, too. The wolf scorns the life and subservience of dogs and encourages McKinley and his followers to join her pack in the forest and live a free, wild life. McKinley is tempted and torn between his loyalties and the stirring words of the wolf.

Aimed at middle-grade readers, I thought this book did a pretty good job of showing things through the dog\’s eyes. He sees things differently than people do, has his own animal way of thinking and invented words for human objects. It\’s got a fairly interesting storyline, too.

Rating: 3/5                 256 pages, 2003

more opinions:
Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales

It\’s time for another giveaway. The weather is very cold today so this pair of polar bears perfectly suited my mood, although the second bear looks very serene about it all. He can, snug in his warm coat of fur!

As a little bonus, there\’s a cute polar bear cub on the reverse side of the first bookmark.

These are made from magazine scrap and laminated. Free to anyone who leaves a comment on this post. Giveaway will run for a week and a half, I\’ll draw a winner\’s name at random on 3/9/13. Open to any postal address in the US or Canada.

by Eric Carle

Like My Very First Book of Motion, this board book has every page cut across horizontally, so it\’s really two sets of pages, top and bottom, that turn independently. It allows the reader to mix-and-match, in this case to pair up various animals with their homes. It\’s really cute and clever, with fantastic cut-paper collage illustrations. My daughter doesn\’t quite have the patience for this book though, and often gets frustrated when she\’s turning pages ahead, but the matching animal is on a prior page we already passed. But sometimes she\’ll sit through most of it. She recognizes most of the animals, and is beginning to learn that the nest goes with bird, barn with horse, etc. I find the empty turtle shell matching up to a naked-backed turtle rather odd and a bit disturbing. Yes, a turtle\’s home is in his shell, and I\’ve heard the saying that the turtle carries his house around with him. But you\’d never see a live turtle without his shell. I think it would die. So seeing a turtle with no shell on its back is strange to me.

The bat is really cute.
Rating: 4/5 …….. 20 pages, 1986 …….. find it at  

by Garry Kilworth

O-Ha is a fox. This novel tells of her life, and that of other foxes in her community. For the foxes, the world is full of challenges and danger. O-Ha looses her first mate and her litter of cubs (both to separate incidents with hounds) and is grieving until she meets a new dogfox who recently escaped from a zoo. Together they find a new den and try to raise more cubs, but things are always difficult. There are vicious dogs that chase them, humans that encroach on their territory. O-Ha wants to stick to tradition (the book is rich with invented folklore, rituals and a belief system all from the foxes\’ viewpoint) but her new mate doesn\’t have the same qualms about living close to humans and at one point they end up making a den in a scrapyard. Their new cubs grow up even more accepting of human presence, giving a very real picture of how foxes have adapted to urban environments.

This is another book I\’d love to find and read again one day. I don\’t remember enough detail about it, but love reading about foxes. I believe this book is out of print, and can\’t find it at my library. There\’s some confusion as it\’s also been published under the title The Foxes of Firstdark.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 352 pages, 1989 ……… find it at

more opinions:                                                

by Patricia Polacco

This lovely little book has all kinds of farm animals romping across the pages. Their noises are introduced, and the rabbits are often repeated with the phrase: bunnies say nothing at all. At the very end all the animals make their noises together (the bunnies again say nothing) and a mother with a baby shushes them. The pictures are so rich and lively that\’s really what makes this book. Each spread has literally swarms of ducks, cats, geese, rabbits, goats, dogs or whatever animal is featured. In quite a few pictures little bunnies are peeking out of the girls\’ pockets, a detail I didn\’t notice until my toddler pointed it out with delight. What\’s really funny is that some of the animals are running or leaping so exuberantly that their backs are bent in a u shape with the heels flung high above the head. This looks almost believable with the little bunnies and leaping squirrels, a bit silly with the dogs, and absolutely ridiculous with a cow!

I\’m fairly certain the original was published in another language; as the dogs don\’t say woof or ruff but buff buff. What\’s odd is that I can\’t find the source language of buff buff even though I looked. There are quite a few interesting lists online that show how onomatopoeias vary across many different languages, the most extensive one being on wikipedia, but I couldn\’t find this dog sound anywhere. (There\’s another interesting article about dog sounds in different languages here). I think the author is Russian; the costumes of the darling girls and other people on the pages have a definite flair with beautiful patterns and colors.

Incidentally, I saw a few books by Polacco featured on Rabbit Ears Book Blog before I wrote this, and thought the illustrations looked awfully familiar. I went and pulled this book off my daughter\’s shelf and for sure, it was the same artist. Now that I know she writes books for older kids too (and they look excellent) I\’ll be sure to look for them when mine is a bit older.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 32 pages, 2005

by Jerzy Kosinski     
~  there will be spoilers in this post  ~

In the horror of WWII a young boy separated from his parents, wanders around through the Polish villages of Eastern Europe. He is most often ignored or abused by the people he comes in contact with, as the fair-haired peasants are suspicious of his dark hair and eyes. The boy witnesses and suffers all kinds of tortures and abuses, the least of which was being beaten. Quite a few of the images stand out vividly in my mind, even after all these years. Not pretty ones. A man in a fight gouging out the eyes of another with a spoon. Rape, incest and bestiality. Lots of people- mere children and infants as often as not- and animals- die in horrible, horrible ways. The boy is often hungry and in pain. It is not until the very end of the book that he is reunited with his parents, but he is irreversibly affected by what he has seen and experienced.

The most vivid image of course, is where the title comes from. The boy watched a man catch birds, paint their feathers bright colors and release them again. The painted bird would find its flock and be attacked by the other birds because of its strange, unrecognizable appearance.

I was reminded of this book from this post at Kyusi Reader. It was one I picked up once at curiosity, from the title alone. I\’m surprised that I actually finished it, because I found the content so utterly disturbing. I\’m certainly never going to read it again. I don\’t need those kinds of things in my head.

by Annie Proulx

I was curious about this book. Have seen the film. It\’s about two ranch hands who meet while herding sheep for a season. Alone together in the isolation of the sheep camp, they find themselves connecting in ways neither one of them would have expected. After that time they part ways, each goes on to get married and have kids, but they never forget about each other. They try to find ways to reconnect throughout the years, while keeping their relationship a secret.

I wasn\’t able to finish reading this book, in spite of its length. It\’s really a novella, or short story. It was just a bit too crude for my taste. Of course, seeing as it\’s about a clandestine love affair, I was expecting some sex. I\’m fine with sex in books, in general. And this one didn\’t even have excessive detail, the explicit scenes were brief, to-the-point. But they were crude enough that I found it distasteful and didn\’t want to continue.

I do love the way the author describes places and people, relationships and formative moments in how these boys grew up (as they describe their pasts to each other). It\’s concise, and very vivid. I flipped through most of the book after deciding to quit, and it seems like the movie version was very faithful to this story. The book has more of the grittiness, though. The characters are depicted with all their little unclean habits, sour unwashed clothes, dirty teeth and so forth. And yet they found each other irresistibly attractive, with an intensity and passion that is a bit frightening in its power.

It is a strong story. I just didn\’t care for it. You might. Don\’t take my word as the last one.

When I come across another book by this author, I am definitely going to pick it up. I like the way she writes.

Abandoned …….. 55 pages, 1997

more opinions:
Books Without Any Pictures
The Reader\’s Book Blog
The Little Bird
Quill Cafe
A Momentary Taste of Being

by Iola Fuller

This is a novel depicting the life of a woman who bridged two worlds. Oneta was born into the Ojibway tribe in the early 1800\’s. When she was a young girl her mother became ill at the time her tribe traveled to another location to harvest wild rice, and they were left behind in a trading village on Mackinac Island. Growing up on the island, Oneta finds her life rich with both native heritage and exposure to French and American culture. She doesn\’t realize her family\’s poverty until she moves into the home of a well-to-do white family when her mother marries a local Frenchman who does accounts for the fur trade company. She gets sent away to boarding school in Ontario but doesn\’t speak much of her life there, instead focusing on changes that occur when she returns to the island twelve years later. Having been well-educated Oneta now sees life on the island in a different light, and finds that she doesn\’t quite fit in anywhere.

Through the personal story of her life and those close to her- her brother and adopted French family- are woven greater events. Things change as the fur trade begins to fall off when trappers deplete the natural resources. The native tribes find life more difficult as game becomes scarce and the intruding white men fell trees in greater numbers. As the fur trade diminishes focus shifts to fishing, it was quite interesting how that came about. Unrest grows when the government fails to hold up their side of treaties with the native tribes. Although Oneta is a father self-effacing character, standing quietly in the background to most events, it turns out she has a large part to play in the end.

This was a rich, satisfying read. There are a wide variety of complex, interesting characters and all their different interactions with Oneta in the village reflect not only how they perceive her as a native and a woman but also how they see themselves. I loved the rich descriptions and subtle symbolism- not only that of the loon, a wilderness bird, but other little things, like for example salt. In the beginning of the novel, Oneta finds food in her stepfamily\’s home unpalatable, because she\’s not used to eating salt. And at the end the government switches from paying the natives in gold for land they\’ve appropriated, to giving them goods. The natives are insulted at being given large quantities of salt, a thing they never use, and pile it up scornfully in a heap on the beach to be wasted. Images like that which speak so strongly of people\’s attitudes and perceptions of each other…

This is the kind of book that leaves you reflecting long after you\’ve turned the final page. I\’m definitely keeping this one on my shelf to read again.
Rating: 4/5 …….. 456 pages, 1940 ……..   

more opinions:
My Experience of Life

by Lucy Cousins

Very similar to Where Does Maisy Live? this board book also has flaps under which different characters are hiding. In this case, it simply starts out showing a picture of Maisy the mouse and inviting the child to find her throughout the pages. Then on each page there is a different kind of flap to open- the shutters of a window, the sail on a boat, a bunch of leaves on a tree, door of a closet, etc. under which you find all the animals and friends, before at last discovering Maisy behind the door of her own house. It\’s simple, cute, and entertaining for little hands. The bright colors are really appealing, too.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 14 pages, 1999


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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