Sunday, January 1, 2012

Mercer Mayer, Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long, Kevin Henkes and more

I have been very busy reading since I last posted my reviews on Dec 17, although I haven't read any Netgalley, so I need to get back in the habit of reading those. I just realized I've read 20 books since Dec 18, so this review list will probably be a bit long and I will divide it into two different posts. For those who have never been to the site before, I rate the books on a scale of 1 to 5 stars and break them down according to age category (children/young adult/adult). 

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown
This was another book nominated for the Mock Caldecott awards at my local public library. I decided to check this one out because Pablo Neruda is my favorite poet of all time. His poetry on everyday things, as well as his love poems, are so amazing. I was curious how they were going to make his life story into a picture book for children since he was a Communist and exiled from his home country for his viewpoints, but Monica Brown has managed to gloss over those parts and make a beautiful book about the poet that children would want to read. I learned a lot about him that I did not know before, like he originally went by the name Neftali and only took the name Pablo Neruda as a pseudonym after his father disapproved of his poetry, and that he had a house in Spain called the House of Flowers. I thought the book itself was quite good, with a text that was like poetry, and enjoyed the bright colors of the illustrations, although I found the words swirled in among the drawings to distract a lot from the actual book text. Recommended for ages 5-10, 4 stars. 

A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long
This book is part of the Mock Caldecott awards discussion to be held at my local public library. I would just like to say firsthand how much I love all of Dianna Hutts Aston & Sylvia Long's books. They have gorgeous illustrations (which caught the eye of my 5 month old, even though he wasn't really listening to me as I read the book itself - too wordy for him) and informative text, which draws you into the story of whatever is featured in their books (butterflies/seeds/eggs). The secondary end pages feature the caterpillars of various types at the beginning of the book, followed by the grown butterflies at the end of the book. 

This book was about butterflies started from the time they hatch from their eggs as caterpillars through their growing phase, into the chrysalis and turning into butterflies. The book discusses how the butterfly helps to pollinate flowers, protects itself from predators, how it feeds itself, the biggest and smallest butterflies in the world, how they got their name, the difference between a butterfly and a moth, and where they migrate to during the year. Recommended for ages 7+, 5 stars. 

Seven Fathers by Ashley Ramsden
This was another selection for the Mock Caldecott awards from my local library system. I had never heard of the story, which was based off a Norwegian folktale about a young man lost in a snowstorm who finds himself at a house seeking shelter and rest, and has to ask everyone in the house before he can do so. The story just dragged on for awhile and then I didn't really understand parts of the ending. I hesitate to give any Ed Young illustrated book this few stars, but I liked the cut-paper illustrations but not the story. Recommended for ages 7+, 2 stars. 

Square Cat by Elizabeth Schoonmaker

I have been wanting to read this one for awhile as it looked so adorable and got the chance as my local county library system is doing a Mock Caldecott award discussion and this was one of the nominees. I liked that the cat's name was Eula as that was my grandmother's name (who recently passed away), plus the illustrations were simple but fantastic and it held my 5 month old son's attention as well. 

This book is very cute story about a square cat named Eula who doesn't fit in, even though she tries so hard to. Her fellow round cat friends, Patsy and Maude, become square to make her feel welcome. This would be a great book for storytime. Recommended for all ages, 4 stars. 

Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Katherine Paterson
Another selection for the Mock Caldecott, I had never heard of this book before. It is based on Saint Francis's Canticle of the Creatures written in 1224, and was re-created by author Katherine Paterson (author of Bridge to Terabithia). Although I liked the text, I absolutely loved the cut paper illustrations! Scherenschnitte ("scissor cuts") came from Germany and these intricate designs are done from one continuous piece of paper. My favorites are the illustrations from Sister Moon, Sister Death, and the author/illustrator notes in the back of the book. Now this is a book I'd love to own. Recommended for ages 8+, 5 stars. 

Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes
A selection for the Mock Caldecott awards, this was a cute book where a little white rabbit uses his imagination to wonder what it would be like to be green, a rock, really tall, and fly. He does know that his mommy loves him. My 5 month old loved the illustrations. Recommended for 5 months+, 3 stars. 

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw
A selection for the Mock Caldecott award, this book is a cute story about a cat that is adopted, brought home to a family and accepted/loved. It is told in senryu, "a form of Japanese poetry similar to haiku, which typically describes the foibles of human nature--or in this case, cat nature (author's note)." I liked how the cat pretended not to be paying attention, but was well aware of what was going on around him. Recommended for ages 3+, 4 stars. 

My favorite verses were: 

Help! I've been catnapped, 
dressed in frillies, forced to lap
tea with your sister. 

Oops! I mistook these 
for wiggly worms. I didn't 
know they were your toes. 

Just Me and My Puppy by Mercer Mayer
Little Critter trades a baseball mitt for a puppy, but his Mom & Dad say he has to take care of it if he wants to keep it. The book continues with his adventures with his new puppy. My favorite part is when he tries to put on the leash, and the ending. Recommended for ages 5 months+, 4 stars. 

The Wizard Comes to Town by Mercer Mayer
I randomly picked up this book in the Easy Reader section while looking for Little Critter Mercer Mayer books for my 5 month old. I have always loved his books, especially because of the illustrations of monsters, and this book is perfect for that. It is a cute story about Z.P. Alabasium, a traveling wizard who decides to stay at Mrs. Beggs boarding house and creates all kinds of trouble for her and her guests. That is until she decides to take matters into her own hands and get rid of him. My favorite part is when she goes to confront the wizard and finds herself dressed in a ballet tutu on top of a giant tortoise. Recommended for ages 7+, 4 stars. 

All By Myself by Mercer Mayer
A Little Critter book where he describes all the things he can do when he gets older, such as dialing a phone, buying a train ticket to go to his grandparent's house, and getting a paper route. He laments being small and having to do what his parents tell him to do. Recommended for ages 5 months+, 3 stars. 

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee 
I've been wanting to read this book since it won the Caldecott honor a few years ago, but have not managed to get my hands on a copy until now. Overall the book was pretty funny, and the author's biography on the back flap cracked me up too. 

It is a very cute story about two cousins, James and Eamon who spend a week with their grandparents and go to nature camp. The whole time they are there, their grandfather tries to get them interested in Antarctica and its animals, but they are too busy doing everything alike and having fun being together to care. That is, until the last day they are there, when they create a surprise for their grandparents. Recommended for ages 5+, 4 stars. 

Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman
A selection for the Mock Caldecott for my local library system; I absolutely love the imagination in this book! It is an adorable tale about a painting of a farm that includes a barn, chickens, ducks, a cow and a cat. One of the chickens decides to help by painting the barn blue, but things get out of hand and soon everything is covered in blue. Will she be able to get out of this mess? To find out, give this book a chance. Recommended for ages 5 months+, 5 stars. 

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