Tag Archives: best children’s books

Grandma’s Hands

I love my grandma by Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd (Disney/Hyperion, $16.99, 32 pages)

i love my grandma

The relationship between a granddaughter and grandmother is cheerfully and joyously explored in I love my grandma by writer Giles Andreae and illustrator Emma Dodd.  The story’s text is easy for a child to understand: “We play all sorts of funny games, and give each other silly names. We really love to cook and bake, and eat the yummy things we make.”  It’s clear that in their interactions, grandma gets to act childlike, while granddaughter has fun pretending to be mature.

Animals and toys are featured on nearly every page, which helps young reader-listeners relax.  And it’s made clear that a grandchild is a source of pride for a grandparent.  What’s also made clear – in a gentle way – is that even the most loving and nurturing of grandmas can welcome the rest that comes at the end of a visit: “When it’s time to say good-bye, my grandma gives a little sigh…  And says, although we’ve had such fun, it’s nice to give me back to  mom.”

The bright and highly colorful illustrations by Dodd are the icing on the kid’s cake.  I love my grandma was given the perfect endorsement by our own granddaughter who said, “I love this book!”

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was received by the publisher.

This book is recommended for children ages 2 through 6.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Babysitting Grandma

how-to-babysit

How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan; illustrated by Lee Wildish (Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 32 pages)

Consider a sleepover at grandma’s house from her granddaughter’s perspective. Rather than grandma running the show, it’s the little girl’s turn. This book is one of a series of “How to…” books written by Jean Reagan. The text is directed at the child with gentle guidance for managing the visit. There are shifts in typeface from purple handwritten lettering to standard black 18-point New Century Schoolbook. The purple lettering focuses on fun and silly sounds to make during activities. The black typeface conveys the directions for what to do in each situation that happens during a sleepover.

how-to-babysit-3

how-to-babysit-2

Mommy and Daddy make brief appearances in the story at the beginning (drop off) and at the end (pick up). They provide the premise for the story. The rest is pure fun for the lucky grandma and grandddaughter. Having a shift to a child’s list of activities is empowering and a delightful way for grandma to experience the visit. By the way, there is ample coaching for the little girl to let grandma know what to choose. I’m guessing the cute blond pigtailed girl depicted in this book is somewhere around five or six years old.

how-to-babysit-4

Grandma is provided her choice of activities – going to the park, singing together and dressing up, to name a few. Making silly faces with food, playing shoe store and dressing as twins were new to this reviewer who happens to be the grandma of a nearly six-year-old blonde who sometimes wears pigtails. When shown the book’s cover during a Face Time visit recently, she immediately identified herself! The doggie in the story is white with black spots, just like my granddaughter’s. The only thing missing is the fluffy brown Maine Coon cat who adores her mistress.

The illustrations by Lee Wildish are bright and cheerful with spot on proportions for the characters in keeping with the drawings of someone who is six or thereabouts. Surprisingly, they were created digitally. Regardless of the method, their fresh, light-hearted quality is a perfect match for the text.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Cat and Mouse

The Cat, The Devil, The Last Escape: A Novel by Shirley Rousseau Murphy & Pat J. J. Murphy (William Morrow, $24.99, 313 pages)

The Cat The Devil

On their visits to Morgan she found it increasingly hard to hide her despair at the lack of a job. When she was with him she talked hopefully about their request for an appeal, but too often he would simply hug her and change the subject, knowing she was holding back her stress and doubts.

This book is a second collaboration between prolific author Shirley Rousseau Murphy and her husband, Pat J. J. Murphy. They have spun off from Ms. Murphy’s talking cat series and put humans at the center of the action. (Oh, no. Ed.) Predictably, there’s a morality theme focused on struggles with the Devil. The tale is a seamless follow-up to The Cat, The Devil, and Lee Fontana.

Misto, the ageless cat, is the link tying a small family in deep trouble with Lee Fontana, the train robber turned bank robber. There is a pervasive theme of despair mixed with anxiety as the somewhat predictable tale meanders around the country in search of justice for the small family. The reader must wait until one-third of the way through the book before things take a turn for the better. (It must be noted that the co-authored books do not flow as smoothly or effortlessly as the ones written solely by Shirley Rousseau Murphy.)

The Cat, The Devil back cover

Cautiously recommended for fans of Lee Fontana and Misto.

Cheer Up Mouse

Cheer Up, Mouse! by Jed Henry (Houghton Mifflin, $12.99, 32 pages)

Mouse is feeling sad and his wonderful gang of friends is here to bring him back from the depths. As with Good Night, Mouse, little listeners and their story readers will delight in the lush illustrations by Jed Henry. His lyrics, for the words are much more than just a story, follow the rhythm of the characters’ natural inclinations as each takes a turn at cheering up Mouse.

CheerupMouse_CoverStep2-100._V395306946_

There’s no need for a spoiler alert because the author/illustrator guarantees a happy ending. Sometimes simple is better and suffering can be alleviated with love and caring. This book only takes 30 some pages to make its point, unlike the Murphy collaboration that struggles along for 313 pages.

Cheer Up, Mouse banner

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

It’s (not) hard being green

I Don't Want to Be a Frog

I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty; illlustrated by Mike Boldt (Doubleday, $16.99, 32 pages)

In the song “I Am… I Said,” Neil Diamond sang: “Did you ever read about a frog/Who dreamed of becoming a king/And then became one?” In the children’s book, I Don’t Want to Be a Frog, a young frog dreams of becoming a cat. Or a rabbit. Or a pig. He simply wants to be something “cute and warm.” Anything but a wet slimy frog!

I Don't Want 2

I Don't Want 3

I Don't Want 4

This book is addressed to children between the ages of 3 and 7-years-old who might want to be something a bit different than what they are. The lesson the book provides is that there are trade-offs and dangers in becoming something else. For example, we find out that hungry wolves like to hunt rabbits. But not frogs. Frogs are not very tasty – at least to wolves, so there’s safety in being wet, green and slimy.

Frog was written by Dev Petty and illustrated by Mike Boldt. They do an excellent job of matching up the words with the drawings. This book should be enjoyed by many young readers, except for those who might become frightened by the big, hungry, predator wolf. It’s better read to the young ones in the daytime, and definitely not right before bedtime.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pecking Away

Peck, Peck, Peck by Lucy Cousins (Candlewick Press, $15.99, 29 pages)

Peck, Peck, Peck

Little Woodpecker is learning to peck. Once he starts, he just can’t stop!

Fans of Lucy Cousin’s colorfully illustrated children’s action books, especially the Masey series, will delight in Peck, Peck, Peck. A young woodpecker is kindly prompted by its father to pursue his natural vocation, pecking a tree. After warm and enthusiastic encouragement from daddy, the little woodpecker proceeds to practice on everything he finds, including a gate, a blue front door and nearly the entire contents of the house inside!

Peck illustration

Following the Lucy Cousins tradition, the book pages are ready for her little reader’s fingers. This time even the cover is part of the action. Holes created by the woodpecker are strategically placed to follow the text. The book resembles Swiss cheese!

Does this sort of playful encouragement engage the adult reader and her small avid listener? You bet. This reviewer’s granddaughter insisted on having the book read aloud to her three times before she said it was OK to move on to another story. Unlike the Masey books, there’s no chance for torn action tabs which is a big plus.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Coming Up Next…

Peck, Peck, Peck (lg.)

Coming up next, a review of Peck, Peck, Peck by Lucy Cousins.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Greatest Gift

Christmas at the Toy Museum by David Lucas (Candlewick Press, $15.99, 32 pages)

This is a children’s book about 22 classic stuffed toys that live in a Toy Museum.   On Christmas Eve, the toys all rush to gather under the Museum’s grand Christmas tree.   Once there, they sadly realize that there are no gifts for them under the tree!   That’s when Bunting the old toy cat comes up with a great idea – the toys will wrap themselves up as gifts for each other.   This seems like a very good idea, except that Bunting is the “gift” opened last and he has no gift to open for himself.Christmas at the Toy Museum (med.-lg.)

Well, it turns out that the toy angel at the top of the tree is a real angel with magical powers.   She decides to reward Bunting with a truly special gift, a wish that he can make that will come true.   Bunting decides to wish that Christmas would last forever, and so it does from that point forward.

This is a beautifully illustrated tale that teaches young ones the value of selfishness, while also indirectly telling them that everything in life – including one’s friends – has value.   Christmas at the Toy Museum would make a perfect gift for a child in almost any household.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Christmas at the Toy Museum is recommended for children ages 3 and up, although we can imagine that some smart 2-year-olds will also enjoy it.   David Lucas is also the author-illustrator of Lost in the Toy Museum: An Adventure.  

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized