Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mini Reviews of Books Read to the Kids in February

(*Excluding the ones I've already posted about this month. Please excuse some of the type inconsistencies; I've been having trouble with either Blogger or my computer. In the end it amounts to the same thing, right?)

My First Body Book
Written by Christopher Rice for DK Publishing

An excellent introduction to the functioning of various body organs and systems. It also has lots of great experiments/activities to try at home to demonstrate the various ways the body works. Such a fun, interesting book that my older girls, especially my seven-year-old, keep re-reading, and sharing with the rest of us. They have had a blast trying the various activities.

Written by Margie Palatini
Illustrated by Henry Cole

A rabbit, duck, and two hens think their neighbors Thomas and Joseph, two contented pigs, need to improve their pigsty, their diet, and their cleanliness -or lack thereof. In their zeal to change the two contented pigs, the discontented neighbors end up doing all the work themselves, only to realize how foolish they have been.

Bravo, Livingston Mouse!
Written by Pamela Duncan Edwards
Illustrated by Henry Cole

Livingston Mouse provides much needed rhythm for his fellow creatures performing in the talent show.

Nobody's Diggier Than a Dog
Written by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Illustrated by Beppe Giacobbe

A fun, adjective-laden book describing dog qualities. If you've ever had dogs or been around dogs you can definitely appreciate this book.

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed
Written by Karla Kuskin
Illustrated by Marc Simont

A charmingly funny book about the 105 members of the Philharmonic Orchestra and the things they do as they prepare to go to work one Friday night. My girls love this book and giggle over the pictures. 

Dance At Grandpa's
Written by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Illustrated by Renee Graef

One of the simplified My First Little House Books, which I discovered when my first daughter was a toddler, this book tells the story of Laura, Mary, Baby Carrie, Ma and Pa going to a dance at Grandpa's house.
All of these books have been favorite reads with my littles. Right now this is my three-year-old's favorite of the series. (This series is adapted largely from Little House in the Big Woods, with a couple of stories from Little House on the Prairie.)

The Poky Little Puppy
Written by Janette Sebring Lowrey
Illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren

Originally published in 1942, this book tells the story of five little puppies who like to go for walks "in the wide, wide world." But they get into trouble for digging holes under the fence in order to do so.
Personally, I find the illustrations adorable, but the story...not so much.

I Can Fly
Written by Ruth Krauss
Illustrated by Mary Blair

Originally published in 1951, this is a quick, rhyming book about a little girl who compares herself to certain creatures.
A favorite read-aloud of Susanna, my three-year-old. My mom tells me I was obsessed with this book myself as a toddler.

The Stray Dog
Written and Illustrated by Marc Simont, based on a story told by Reiko Sassa

When a family goes to the country for a picnic, and finds a friendly stray dog and plays with him all day, the children want to bring him home, but the parents think he might belong to someone. After returning home and thinking about the dog all week, the family returns to the same spot for another picnic, hoping to find the dog again. He comes all right, being chased by an animal control officer. The children immediately lay claim to the dog, and when the officer tells them they need a leash and collar, the boy and girl offer up their belt and hair ribbon.
Fun, fun illustrations. Especially cute are the pictures of the little boy holding up his pants with one hand as he offers up his belt as a collar, and then as he cavorts around with the dog in happiness. Also fun are the pictures of the family as they think about the dog during the week.

The Lady and the Lion
Retold by Laurel Long and Jacquiline K. Ogburn, from a story by the Brothers Grimm
Illustrated by  Laurel Long

A combination of "Beauty and the Beast" and "East of the Sun, West of the Moon", this is the story of a young woman who goes to live with the Lion because of a promise made by her father. After finding out that the lion is under an enchantment that makes him a beast by day, but a handsome young man by night, the lady and the lion fall in love and marry, but she still pines for home. When news comes of her sister's wedding, she and her lion husband visit her family's home. But the visit ends disastrously when a splinter of light from the procession touches the prince and he turns instantly into a dove that must fly around the world for seven years. So the lady follows him for seven years, and just as the enchantment is almost complete, a mistake on her part allows the enchantress to snatch the prince and fly away with him. Now the lady must go to the enchantresses lair, and with some magical gifts, trick the enchantress into giving up her husband.
  This is a favorite re-read with Karina (6) and Olivia (7). We love the amazing, sumptuous illustrations that have the "flavor" of India.

Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems
Edited by Georgia Heard

A fun book of list poems by contemporary poets. There are quite a few poems about various school issues that we skipped over because my girls couldn't relate very well to them since they're homeschooled. Being the ages they are, I enjoyed this book more than they did.

A Sick Day for Amos McGhee
Written by Phillip C. Stead
Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

A caring elderly zookeeper named Amos McGhee takes the time every day to visit his animal friends at the zoo, giving them the kind of company they need most. One day, he is too sick to come to work. After waiting and waiting for him, the animals realize something is wrong and set out to find him. When they arrive at his home, they give the company he needs the most.
 All three of my girls loved this sweet story about friendship and the incredible illustrations. (Although I think my Susanna was horrified by the fact that the penguin lost his balloon out the window in the end, an incident not pertinent to the story, but it certainly loomed large in her small world. Losing a balloon equals tragedy to her!)

The Tub People
Written by Pam Conrad
Illustrated by Richard Egielski

This story is about a little wooden family of dolls who live on the edge of a tub, and play in the bath. One day the little Tub Child is lost down the drain, which causes the water to not be able to drain properly, and a plumber is called in to fix the problem. Then the tub people are reunited and given a new home in the bedroom.
The story is told entirely from the point of the Tub People. Although a human child is obviously present to facilitate the Tub People's adventures, the child is unseen in the illustrations and unmentioned. The only human that seems to be noticed is the plumber.
A perennial favorite at our house, I think it resonates with my girls first because it deals with the lose and return of family members, always a big issue in little minds, and second, because my girls like to play with little figures in the tub, and have probably had similar "adventures" with their little people.

A Tree is Nice
Written by Janice May Udry
Illustrated by Marc Simont

Winner of the 1957 Caldecott Medal, the book describes many reasons why "a tree is nice."  I don't know what else to add, except my children were not enthused about the book, maybe because they already knew why trees are nice. They do like the pictures, and they continue to pull it out to look at the pictures, but they never ask for it to be re-read.

Retold and Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

My girls love, love this book. Winner of the 1998 Caldecott Medal, the lush, Italian Renaissance inspired illustrations rescue this old German folk tale from banality. Not my favorite fairy tale, I nevertheless prefer Mr. Zelinsky's version of the story.  More frank and realistic (the witch discovers the prince's visits when she realizes Rapunzel is pregnant), it is also gracefully told. And I love the illustrations. (Don't forget to read his notes at the back of the story, explaining the research he did that led him to write it and illustrate it the way he did.)

The Rainbabies

Written by Laura Krauss Melmed
Illustrated by Jim LaMarche

An older childless couple still longs for a baby, and one moonlit night after the rain, they discover a dozen tiny babies. After risking their own lives to keep the babies safe during one disaster after another, the babies' mother Moonshower comes to take them back, and the older couple is rewarded with a baby of their own.
My girls loved this book; it's a sweet story. And the illustrations are so amazing!

Written and Illustrated by Jim LaMarche

A little boy, told he is too young to join his father and older brother on their fishing trawler, feels left out, but soon discovers he has the magical ability to lift things. After working on this skill, gradually lifting bigger and heavier things, he uses his ability to help save a beached whale.
An uplifting story (pun withstanding) about perseverance, this spectacularly illustrated story is a favorite re-read with my girls.

Angelina's Baby Sister
Written by Katherine Holabird
Illustrated by Helen Craig

Angelina eagerly awaits the arrival of her new baby sister, and then gets jealous of the all the attention paid to her.
Beautiful illustrations, but not my favorite adapting-to-a-new-baby story.

The Olden Days
Written by Joe Mathieu
Illustrated by ?  (I can't find the book! My kids have taken it somewhere, but don't remember where.)

This book looks at life in a New England village of the 1800's. The pictures show great detail of the inside of houses, stores, and service shops (i.e. the blacksmith, the wheel-wright, etc.)
My girls loved poring over the detail in the pictures. It helped them understand some of the references in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books better.

When I Was Young in the Mountains
Written by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Diane Goode

This Caldecott Honor Book (1983) is a story told through simple vignettes of the life of a young girl living with her grandparents in the Appalachian mountains. The love of family shines through the child's voice.
A beautiful pairing of text and illustrations.

Red Ranger Came Calling
Written and Illustrated by Berkeley Breathed

A clever, original Christmas story with bold and zany pictures about a little boy who wants a certain bike very badly for Christmas, and seeks help from a crotchety, forgetful old man.
This one was too long for my three-year-old, but my older two chortled through it.

Night Tree
Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Ted Rand

On Christmas Eve, a family gathers their supplies, and drives into the woods to select and decorate a tree with edible munchies for the woodland creatures.
I love stories about strong family ties and traditions. A great read.

And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?
Written by Jean Fritz
Illustrated by Margot Tomes

A gently humourous, practical look at Paul Revere's life and the incidents surrounding his famous ride.
I like how Jean Fritz paints Paul Revere in all his human-ness: an ordinary, decent, flawed man who did extraordinary things when called upon.
My girls love this book, and so do I.

The Tomten
Adapted by Astrid Lindgren from a poem by Viktor Ryberg
Illustrated by Harald Wiberg

In this book based on Swedish folklore, a magical, benevolent, gnome-like little man comes out on a winter night to make his rounds of a forest farm, speaking gently to the animals in Tomten language, which they understand. 
The illustrations evoke a dream-like quality to the book which, unfortunately, has not been a favorite of my children. Their question after reading it was "WHY? Why does he visit the animals and people? If he's so lonely, why doesn't he let people see him?"


  1. Wow! What a wonderful pile of book! And this post must have taken you forever! :)

  2. Oh, my! Too long! And my computer or Blogger kept giving me fits. (I don't think it liked all the pictures.) I'd save it, and come back to find the font and size mysteriously changed. I don't know what was happening.
    So now I'm trying to decide if I should break it up into weekly posts like this or just type up one long post as I go along, and then publish it at the end of the month. Which do you think would be better?

  3. The Tomten is one of my all time favorite children's books!

  4. It's a new-to-me book. Is it one you read as a child?