Mini-Review: A Tale of Two Mommies, Vanita Oelschlager & Mike Blanc (2013)

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Family is as Family Does

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book from review through NetGalley.)

If you have a momma and a mommy, who fixes things when they break?

Oh, Mommy has all the tools. There’s nothing she can’t fix or make.

The young and super-adorable protagonist of this picture book lives in a non-traditional family, a same-sex household with two moms. As they play on the beach, his friends ask which of his moms – momma or mommy – help him with various tasks. Just as in a family with one mom and one dad, we come to see that each parent has different strengths and talents: Mommy makes a mean rice and beans, while momma is aces at climbing trees. (But kiddo empties his own pockets, mkay!) Of course, both moms are there when he needs to talk; there’s no shortage of tender loving care in this family.

When I reviewed A Tale of Two Daddies back in April, I hadn’t realized that Oelschlager and Blanc had already written a sequel. Happily, A Tale of Two Mommies shows much greater racial diversity than the original: the MC is a little boy of color, and one of his friends looks to be of Asian descent. (The third member of the trio is a cute little red-headed girl.) The two mommies are presumably white, making this a nice selection for families of interracial adoption, as well as those headed by same-sex couples. It also helps to bust up gender roles, as the moms perform both “masculine” and “feminine” tasks.

Of course, this isn’t to suggest that A Tale of Two Mommies is just for adopted kids or LGBTQ families: children from all backgrounds can benefit from its simple yet compassionate message. Non-traditional families are just like yours, at least in the ways that count most.

As a vegan, I could have done without the panel on fishing, but otherwise I recommend A Tale of Two Mommies wholeheartedly.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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Mini-Review: The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids, Ammi-Joan Paquette & Marie LeTourneau (2012)

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

Rock that Conch Shell!

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review through NetGalley.)

I was six years old when Splash first came out; and, although I probably didn’t get to watch it for a few more years, once I did I was officially hooked on mermaids. I used to swim around the pool with my legs mentally fused together, pretending that I was diving to depths much greater than our paltry four feet. I didn’t get to go to the beach often – the nearest one prohibited swimming due to pollution – so on those rare occasions when I was able to visit, my mom practically had to drag me home. To this day, I still have a thing for mermaids (and Daryl Hannah).

I wish I had a copy of The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids twenty-five years ago.

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Mini-Review: This Is Sadie, Sara O’Leary & Julie Morstad (2015)

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

There’s a Little Bit of Sadie in All of Us

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review through NetGalley.)

Sadie likes to make boats of boxes
and castles out of cushions.
But more than anything she likes stories,
because you can make them from nothing at all.

Sadie is a little girl with a big imagination. She can talk to birds, sail ships, and fly among the clouds. In her many lives, she’s been a mermaid, a boy raised by wolves, and a hero fit for the grandest fairy tales. Sadie loves stories, and this is hers.

This Is Sadie is a lovely, playful ode to the power of imagination and the transformative potential of stories. Many of Sadie’s adventures are inspired by popular children’s books – Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, and every fairy tale ever – which makes this simple picture book a wonderful tool for cultivating a love of reading at a young age. Parents and teachers can use it as a jumping off point for discussing their own favorite kid’s books, or perhaps encouraging kids to find new favorites of their own as they grow.

The sparse text, penned by Sara O’Leary, shines next to Julie Morstad’s charming illustrations, which are as beautiful as they are whimsical. It was the picture of Sadie, sporting a fox mask and staring out from a field of wildflowers, that first caught my attention. The rest of the artwork is drawn in a similar style and does not disappoint.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Mini-Review: A Tale of Two Daddies, Vanita Oelschlager, Kristin Blackwood & Mike Blanc (2010)

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Bold & Vivid Graphics Paired with a Sweet & Simple Message

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review through NetGalley.)

When a young girl’s classmate inquires about her two daddies, the pair go through a rhyming checklist of tasks to see which daddy – Poppa or Daddy – will likely come to her aid in each scenario.

Who’s the dad who helps with homework?
And which dad helps when you’re covered in dirt?
Both my dads help with my math.
But Poppa’s the dad who helps in the bath.

While it soon becomes clear that each father has his own special strengths and areas of expertise (just as with same-sex couples), there’s no shortage of TLC in this family.

This picture book pairs catchy verses with bold, vivid digital graphics to impart a message that’s as simple as it is (sadly) necessary. It’s a heartwarming little book that’s sure to appeal to younger readers.

Though I feel a little weird singling out a book with such a small cast of characters (two; four if you include the dads, who only appear as disembodied arms and legs) for lack of racial diversity, I think it’s worth noting that the girl and her friend are both light-skinned – a fact which might limit this book’s appeal to white families.

I viewed this on my laptop (a .pdf file accessed through NetGalley) – but the artwork is so clean, and the text so sparse, that it seems like it should be easy to read on a Kindle as well. That said, you’re sure to get the maximum aesthetic impact with a PC, laptop, iPad, or similar device.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Mini-Review: Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart, Jennifer Adams & Ron Stucki (2014)

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Edgar Avian Poe: The Early Years

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Goodreads’s First Reads program.)

Edgar is a rambunctious little toddler who just so happens to be a raven. One day his mother goes out, leaving Edgar and his sister Lenore to fend for themselves. What starts out as a fun afternoon of coloring ends in disaster, when Edgar starts chasing Lenore around the house with paper airplanes and accidentally knocks over the bust of his namesake, Edgar Allen Poe. Edgar attempts to hide the evidence, but Poe’s head is way too large to stuff under the floor boards – and with Lenore threatening to Cindy Brady him, it’s unlikely he’ll escape punishment anyway. What’s a toddler to do?

Part of Jennifer Adams’s “BabyLit” series, Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart is a fun way for parents to instill a love of literature in their kids from the crib onward. Other books in the series include homages to Dracula; Jane Austen; Moby Dick; Romeo & Juliet; Jane Eyre; Wuthering Heights; Frankenstein; The Wizard of Oz; A Christmas Carol; and Sherlock Holmes – and Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart is preceded by the similarly Poe-themed Edgar Gets Ready for Bed. (Quoth the raven: “Nevermore!”)

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Book Review: Dave Loves Chickens, Carlos Patino (2013)

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Pro tip: You can get a good deal on this title if you buy it through United Poultry Concerns’ website!

Give a Cluck about Chickens!

five out of five stars

Chickens are kind of awesome. They can distinguish between more than one hundred faces (chicken faces, that is!). They enjoy sunbathing – and dust bathing! When they sleep, chickens often dream – we know this because they experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. A mother hen will bravely protect her chicks from predators; using “chicken” as a synonym for “cowardly” doesn’t quite fit. Chickens can travel up to nine miles an hour and, when not slaughtered for their meat or caged for their eggs, chickens can live anywhere from five to eleven years in the wild.

But don’t take my word for it. Just listen to Dave, the three-eyed, double-horned, snaggle-toothed, lumpy blue alien. (Okay, so maybe I put a few factoids in his mouth in order to spice up this review, but you get the gist!) He’s pretty smart, you know; he’d have to be, to master space travel and all.

A visitor from Far, Far Away, Dave can’t understand why we love some animals and eat others. All animals are pretty cool and have a right to be free – chickens included!

With bold, bright colors and fun graphics, Dave Loves Chickens is an adorable picture book that encourages kids to respect animals by not eating or otherwise exploiting them. The message is presented in a fun, engaging, and gentle way, stressing the unique attributes of chickens as opposed to, say, explaining the horrors endured by battery hens in egg-laying facilities. Dave Loves Chickens is an excellent resource for parents and guardians who want to raise kind, compassionate, and critically-thinking kids.

And this 35-year-old enjoyed the artwork and enthusiastic message, too.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Mini-Review: Baby Chicken (A Heroic Tale Picture Book for Kids), Azod Abedikichi (2014)

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Two Words: Tofu Scramble

five out of five stars

Baby Chicken is a children’s picture book adaptation of a 2013 animated short of the same name. (I haven’t seen it yet, but I plan to!) Directed by Azod Abedikichi and clocking in at 8 minutes, the Claymation film tells the harrowing tale of a wood man (called “Woodman”) who’s horrified to find a baby chick living inside one of the dozen eggs he’s about to boil for breakfast. He heroically saves the other eleven eggs – and their occupants – from a slow, agonizing death by fire. But wait! One of the eggs won’t hatch! It’s enough to shatter a wood man’s oddly external, ruby red heart into a million tiny pieces.

Of course, the premise is rather absurd – chicken eggs bound for the breakfast table aren’t, as a general rule, fertilized – but it helps to put a face on a what has become a mechanized, industrialized, impersonal consumer item. The chickens who were exploited and killed so that you could enjoy your Eggs Benedict were someones, not somethings – a point posited by Baby Chicken in a gentle and amusing way.

Baby Chicken – Trailer from Azod Abedikichi on Vimeo.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: Monsters A to Z, A.J. Cosmo (2012)

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

A is for Adorkable

four out of five stars

Ever wonder where your house keys and cell phone disappeared to? A Jingrel might just be to blame! Or how about that elusive television remote control? If it’s always vanishing on you, your house might be home to a Me-Me.

Beautifully illustrated, with imaginative and entertaining entries, Monsters A to Z is a guide to the lesser-known monsters, from Aargmonths to Zoots and everyone in between. These monsters range from the gentle and pure of heart (Dock Divers, who abhor litter) to the troublesome and truly nefarious (the mac and cheese-stealing Brusselsnatches; these baddies will stone you with your own vegetables if you’re not careful). There are bipeds and quadrupeds; monsters with only two limbs, and monsters with up to eight; beaked creatures, flying creatures, and creatures with unicorn horns; fluffy little buggers who resemble Tribbles; masters of disguise; and even aquatic monsters who live under the sea.

More adorable than scary, most of the monsters found here are masters of everyday mischief and mayhem. The artwork is suitable for kids of all ages, with nothing too gross or terrifying; and, while some reviewers noted that the language is too sophisticated for younger readers, I didn’t get that impression at all. Then again, I don’t have any kids, so grain of salt.

As far as language goes, I wish Cosmo had opted to use the personal pronouns he/she in place of it, which is objectifying to presumably sentient animals. These monsters are someones, not somethings, yo!

This full-color book is best viewed on a laptop, PC, or iPad, but is also easily readable on a Kindle.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Mini-Review: Edgar Allan Poe’s the Masque of the Red Death, David Cutts (1982)

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Poe for kids!

three out of five stars

This version of “The Masque of the Red Death” is an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story for Troll Associates, a publisher of children’s books. I guess it’s questionable whether this tale is even suitable for kids. (As I remember it, I cherished this book as a child, as evidenced by my name stamped in the front cover and surrounded by hearts; then again, some of my earliest memories are of my dad reading me bedtime stories by Stephen King. So there’s that.) Nevertheless, Cutts successfully captures the spirit of Poe’s story, relaying it in a style easily understood by younger readers.

Though many lines are either cut or altered, the general plot and tone remain the same. As the Red Death sweeps the country, Prince Prospero barricades himself and one thousand revelers inside his castle estate. For six months, the partygoers evade the plague; that is, until the night the Price throws an especially elaborate and gruesomely themed ball. One of the guests arrives dressed as the unthinkable: the Red Death. The Prince doesn’t know it yet – but by daybreak, everyone in the castle will be dead.

The three-star rating (well, 3.5 stars, rounded down on Amazon) is due mostly to the artwork, which really isn’t to my taste.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: Number the Stars, Lois Lowry (1989)

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

“the gift of a world of human decency”

five out of five stars

It’s September 1943, three years since German forces seized control of Denmark. Nazi soldiers patrol the streets and control the government, hospitals, schools, newspapers, and rail system; possessing an illegal newspaper like The Free Danes might very well get you killed. Copenhagen is under an 8PM curfew, and supplies are strictly rationed. And now, three years later, the Nazis are just beginning to “relocate” Jewish citizens, the way they have in so many other occupied territories.

But the Danish government received warning, which it passed on to Jewish religious leaders. Thanks to one German high official – not to mention countless courageous Danes – most of Denmark’s 7,000 Jewish citizens were smuggled to safety in Sweden. In just a matter of weeks. Right under the occupiers’ noses.

Against this backdrop, Lois Lowry weaves a story of courage and compassion that’s only partially a work of fiction. When word comes that they’re in danger, the Rosen family sends their only daughter, ten-year-old Ellen, to stay with family friends the Johansens: Ellen’s best friend Annemarie, her little sister Kirsti, and their parents. When Nazi soldiers come knocking, Ellen poses as the Johansens’ dead daughter Lise. Afraid of arousing the soldiers’ suspicions, the women travel to stay with Inge’s brother, Henrik, who lives by the sea. Before the war is over, young Annemarie will find her resolve tested. Will she undertake a dangerous mission in order to save her friend Ellen – or will she succumb to her fear of the soldiers?

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Book Review: The Snarls: A Hair Combing Story, Becca Price (2014)

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

A Horror Comedy for the Curly-Haired Crowd

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Member Giveaway program.)

One of my most vivid childhood memories involves my mother, my unruly mane of curly hair, and a blow dryer. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks.

It was a weekend night – Friday or Saturday – which I remember because the bath night ritual wasn’t rushed as per usual. I’d just gotten out of the tub and my mom was patiently drying my hair, expertly juggling the blow dryer and comb, trying to work out the tangles and knots as she went. (She did my hair for me until I was well into the double digits. There was too much to tame on my own! The situation became so untenable that she even resorted to bribery in a failed attempt to get me to cut it.) I must have been fidgeting, because before I knew it, the blow dryer was hanging from my head, motor forever silenced and reeking of burnt hair. Long story short, the older boy from next door disassembled the dryer while my mom held it in the air, so that it wouldn’t pull painfully at my hair. I believe that a pair of scissors was also involved. Embarrassing enough on its own, this incident was only magnified my the huge crush I harbored on said boy, and for many years after that. I’m still scarred.

So when I spotted Becca Price’s The Snarls: A Hair Combing Story on Library Thing, my interest was piqued. I’ve been fighting the good fight against tangles and snarls my whole life.

While I had expected a child’s picture book, The Snarls is more like a short story, the updated edition of which features illustrations. The story’s kind of cute and imaginative (though probably more so for a younger reader than I!), telling of how Snarls (with a little help from their cousins the Tangles) gather in families, communities, and societies, setting up shop on a curly-haired child’s head, only to be defeated by their arch-enemies Combs, Water, Conditioner, and Detangler. Amazon lists the length of this book as 14 pages, but only 6 pages of this belong to the story itself (with 5 illustrations spaced throughout). It’s easily readable on a Kindle.

For kids whose hair seems to fight them at every turn, The Snarls may provide some levity to what can sometimes be a frustrating situation.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: Abigail and Her Pet Zombie, Marie F. Crow (2014)

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Julie & R.: The Early Years

four out of five stars

Little Abigail’s pet zombie loved her so much that he followed her to school one day. While the children adored him, her teacher wasn’t having any of it (a zombie in the classroom? the horra!) – that is, until she saw how friendly and kind the zombie was with Abigail and her classmates. The zombie was allowed to stay the day and even received a gold star for his impeccable behavior.

Abigail and Her Pet Zombie is a sweet and charmingly rendered story about diversity and compassion. Sure, Z. might be a rotting mass of once-human flesh – but he’s a nice guy despite the gray pallor and tattered clothing! The artwork is adorable and actually doesn’t look half-bad on a Kindle (though an iPad or PC might work better). Children’s books aren’t normally my thing, but I couldn’t help but download a copy when it was free on Amazon. Super-cute, and I couldn’t help but imagine Abigail and her “pet” (I prefer the term companion zombie, but wev) as a young Julie Grigio and R. from Warm Bodies.

Given the moral of the story, I do wish that the zombie had been referred as a “he” or “she” as opposed to an “it”: the zombie is a someone, not something.

…at least until the zombie apocalypse finally arrives, in which case Abigail and Her Pet Zombie may be cast aside as criminally irresponsible reading material. (Teaching children to run toward zombies instead of away from them? UNTHINKABLE.) So enjoy it while you can, folks!

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: Stranded in Space, C.J. Atticus (2013)

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Robots, Unite!

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through a Goodreads giveaway.)

Jpeg is a very naughty robodog. While his human is away at school, Jpeg sneaks out of their home at the space station. He delights in chasing mailbots, haranguing the hallway clock, and wreaking havoc at the StellarAir Terminal. Fed up with his antics, Master Johnny threatens to send Jpeg to the ever-dreaded Obedience School. But his fellow robots have another idea: teach Jpeg a lesson by launching him into space.

I must not have realized that this was a chapter book when I entered the Goodreads giveaway, since this isn’t my usual fare: I don’t have kids, nor do I look after children in any capacity. That said, I gamely read it cover-to-cover in about an hour’s time (in between cuddles with my perfectly organic rescue dogs) and enjoyed it well enough. The art by Dr. Angelika Domschke (a chemist!) is absolutely adorable, and I’m sure that children will love to read all about Jpeg and his interstellar adventures. (Dogs and robots, what’s not to love!?)

Since Stranded in Space – the first book in The Stellar Life of Jpeg The Robot Dog series – ends before Jpeg has finished his journey of self-discovery, the lessons he’s meant to internalize remain unclear. Obedience to authority? (But, shades of grey!) Compassion towards his fellow ‘bots? (How about widening one’s circle of compassion to include all sentient beings, not just those who look the most like you?) That bigger hard drives are always better? (Okay, can’t argue with that!) All of the above? I guess we’ll have to meet Jpeg inside the maw of the Zam Debris Sweeper to find out!

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: Claude and Medea by Zoe Weil (2007)

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

When Claude and Medea: The Hellburn Dogs fell out of my big fat swag bag from Lantern Books, I must say that I was a little…what’s the word?…apprehensive, maybe? I don’t have any kiddos, don’t want any kiddos, don’t know any kiddos, and haven’t been a kiddo for quite some time. A spinster aunt in the making, I am. So I was a little worried about reading and reviewing a kid’s book. Afraid I wouldn’t be able to relate, I guess. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Claude and Medea was awesome, though. I haven’t enjoyed a kid’s book that much for, I dunno, twenty years. (Cause I’m 29. Get it? Cue knee-slapping.)

Yesterday was a nice sunny Kansas day, so I stretched out on the lawn with my kid’s book and the five furbabies, and got edumakated by the totally rad Ms. Rattlebee. Rennie, being the silly terrier that she is, tried her darndest to distract me from the task at hand. Wasn’t easy to resist the lil girl, what with her sad, ratty tennis ball and slobbery pink smile and all…

2007-06-05 - The Furbabies - 0010

…but resist I did.

And here’s the Amazon review to prove it.

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