Monday, March 7, 2011

Doctor Doolittle, Pele, L.Frank Baum, and others

So lately I have been a bit of book funk. I had checked out 6 books at the beginning of February, but once they ran out, I had no idea what I had wanted to read. I keep checking between Goodreads, which has my list of books to read, and my local public library to try to find something good. That and I started on an authors I haven't read yet and try to read some of the Newberry award winners, as I've not read many of them. I think I might try to tackle Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe, which won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for 2008, and which I have been putting off for ages as it is 816 pages and I didn't have the time before. I'm on the wait list for the audiobook version of Water for Elephants, which I'm hoping to read before the movie comes out. Ooh and I really need to read a Patricia Reilly Giff book before she comes to Columbia for the Augusta Baker's Dozen. I'm hoping I can get a book autographed by her. I'm currently listening to Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days, which I'm loving and will probably read her Princess Academy, as it is Newberry Honor book and I've heard it was good. I'm also reading the children's graphic novel The Dodgeball Chronicles by Frank Cammuso. So now I have a new list of Children/YA book reviews to post that I've been reading that last month or so. 

The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle
by: Hugh Lofting

I used the 1998 hardcover edition of this book, published in New York  by Grosset & Dunlap, which has 276 pages. I am glad to have finally read this book, although I am fairly sure that it is an edited version as I had heard before reading it that some of the character descriptions were fairly racist, as well as some of the illustrations. I found this blog article, which outlines the changes made by Christopher Lofting, the son of the author: 

That being said, I thought it was a delightful fantastical book. And even though it is one of the worst movies ever made, according to the critics, I loved the 1960s musical version with Rex Harrison. It was part of the reason why I wanted to read the book in the first place. The description of the Doctor's house and gardens with the zoo I found particularly fascinating, as was his study of shellfish and eventually meeting the Great Sea Snail. It is sad that the first two books are the only ones in libraries nowadays, when the author wrote fourteen books in total. 3 stars. 

Pele, King of Soccer/ Pele, El rey del futbol
by: Monica Brown

I just realized that this is the same author that did another bilingual children's biography that I loved, called "My name is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez," which also has brilliant illustrations by Raul Colon. 

This book was a short but well-done biography of Pele, one of the greatest football (soccer) players to ever have lived. He came from a very poor area of Brazil, but joined the Brazilian national team at age 17 and went on to help Brazil win the World Cup three times. He was the first person to score 1000 goals during his career, and even played for a US MLS team. Good for boys and is bilingual (English & Spanish). I loved the end pages and illustrations within the book for their bright colorful designs. 5 stars. 

The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum
by: Kathleen Krull
Being a huge L. Frank Baum fan, I really wanted to read this biography. Kevin Hawkes did a fantastic job with the illustration, esp the end pages and the mini-drawings of Ozian characters at the bottom of every 2 pages. The story just seemed a bit disjointed, like the author just grabbed a bunch of facts about Baum and threw them together to make a story. Baum had a large number of failed business ventures before he finally made it big with the publishing of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" in 1900, and from there he because more prosperous and led a more comfortable life. I was glad the author included the storyteller's note in the back, which I thought gave a more complete view of Baum's life. I liked that he was a supporter of the women's rights movement and his own mother-in-law was famous for helping Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony found the National Woman Suffrage Association. The author also has a short list of sources she used and his bibliography of Oz books. 3 stars. 

by: Margaret Wild
Encouraging book about a baby puffin, which are apparently called pufflings, who must one day be big, brave and strong enough to leave the nest and start a family of his own. The author features a tiny factual 3 paragraphs on the title page about puffins and their babies. I gave this book 4 stars mostly because of the brilliant pastel and watercolor pencil illustrations inside. 

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity
by: Mo Willems
Didn't like this as much as original Knuffle Bunny book, but a cute story about mistaken identities and growing up. 3 stars. 

It's a Book
by: Lane Smith
I loved this short story about a computer using donkey and a monkey with a book. The monkey is so calm as he explains to the donkey that the book doesn't need to be plugged in, scrolled down, blogged with, make music or need a password. Even so, the donkey is intrigued and gives it a try. The only comment I've heard from Children's librarians about the book is the last page, which says "It's a book jackass," which really has a double meaning and I think parents shouldn't get upset with the word ass. Love the illustrations and the mouse under the hat. 4 stars. 

Otto's Orange Day
by: Frank Cammuso and Jay Lynch
Cute introduction to young children who may have never read a graphic novel before, which features Otto the cat who wishes everything to be orange. The moral of the story is to be careful what you wish for. I mostly picked up this volume because I love Frank Cammuso's more adult work, "Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective," and was thrilled to know that he also did children's graphic novels. 3 stars. 

Baker Cat
by: Posy Simmonds
Cute British picture book about a cat who does all the work for the lazy baker and his wife but doesn't get fed much until he catches some mice. So the mice decide to help him and eventually he gets his own bakery. 3 stars. 

Lulu and the Brontosaurus
by: Judith Viorst

I was recommended this book by a fellow librarian and since it was written by the author of "Alexander and Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day", illustrator Lane Smith and a dinosaur, I decided to give it a try. Lulu is a very spoiled only child who always gets what she wants, that is until she decides for her birthday one year that she wants a brontosaurus for a pet. Her parents won't give her one and she throws tantrums until they ignore her and she goes out on her own to find one. The results are amusing to say the least. 

Overall, I thought the story was cute. The main character was rotten and spoiled in the beginning, but by the end, she learned the error of her ways and was much more tolerable to live with. Another Goodreads reviewer has said that this book was a great read-aloud to a class book, and I agree with that, as well as it being used as a bedtime story. You could even do a chapter or two per day, with the exception of the ending. I give it 3 1/2 stars. 

The Littlest Dinosaur
by: Michael Foreman
Cute story about a tiny dinosaur that proves to himself that he is worthy and can do anything he puts his mind to, despite his size. Love the illustrations. 4 stars. 

by: Kyo Maclear
Cute picture book story about a spork, who's mom is a spoon and dad is a fork, who never quite fits in with the other cutlery. That is, until the messy thing arrives and takes over the kitchen, and they are a perfect fit. 3 stars. 

The Duchess of Whimsy
by: Randall de Seve
Adorable picture book story about the Duchess of Whimsy who is creative and energetic, and the Earl of Norm who is the exact opposite, but he loves her. They think they have nothing in common until the day the cook is ill and her guests bring their own food, including the Earl who brings his grilled cheese sandwich and milk. She finds out that she loves it too and they get to talking, and suddenly discover that they really liked each other. I absolutely loved the illustrations, which totally made the story more, well whimsical, especially the duck in a fez and the Earl's dog. 5 stars. 

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