Tag Archives: young readers

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.

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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.

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Bearly There

No Bears 4No Bears by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Leila Ridge (Candlewick Press, 32 pages, $15.99)

This is a novel children’s book written by Meg McKinlay, and illustrated by Leila Ridge.   It’s about a girl named Ella.   Ella loves books but is tired of reading stories that are filled with bears.   As she says, “I’m tired of bears.   Every time you read a book, it’s just BEARS BEARS BEARS…”   So she designs a story with pretty things, a princess, a castle, a monster and a giant.   Oh, and also a fairy godmother with magical powers that might be needed to save the princess from the monster.

This 32-page Candlewick Press book is wonderfully illustrated, and throws in a lot of cool, sneaky references to well-known children’s tales (young readers will have fun discovering such things as the Owl and the Pussycat).   It’s a great early reader because it includes standard phrases such as Once upon a time, Happily ever after, and The End.   And it’s relaxing and unique especially because there are said to be NO BEARS in it.   Not even one!

Written for readers aged 3 and up, and a few bright 2-year-olds.   Toddlers who love animals will appreciate it; especially as they find that there are actually a few loveable bears hidden in its pages.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

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A Homer Run

Homer The Cat by Reeve Lindbergh, Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf (Candlewick Press, $15.99, 32 pages)

Any child that lives with an indoor cat is likely to both love and identify with this story of Homer the cat.   Homer’s a contented feline…  Although he does not go outdoors, he’s got toys to play with and birds to watch and is well fed by a nice, quiet lady who lives in a quiet house.   Then one day, as the quiet lady is off at work (at a place unknown to Homer), a window suddenly falls out of its housing and Homer finds himself out in the world.   It’s a place that – to his sensitive ears – is loud and frightening, and no matter where he goes in town, he can’t find the “cozy, cat-size space” that he craves.

Homer visits various locations on his unplanned journey, and has a few near-misses with bad consequences before he discovers  “a quiet building across a quiet floor.”   This turns out to be the public library where his quiet lady owner is reading books aloud to several children.   Quiet lady and Homer are ecstatic to see each other, and the children naturally love seeing and petting the great orange cat.   So Homer decides to make the library his new second home, a plan approved by the library kids as being “purr-fect!”

This is a beautifully illustrated children’s book, which will make a fine addition to the library of any young reader aged 4 and above.   The moral of the rhyming tale (or is that tail?) seems to be that no matter what happens, a splendid place to call home can always be found.   This should prove reassuring to any socially nervous young ones.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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My Best Friend

Do You Have a Cat? by Eileen Spinelli (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers; $16.00; 32 pages)

“A cat who likes to caterwaul is better than no cat at all!”

There’s an old saying that dogs and their owners begin to look like each other.   Well, I may be just a kitten but even I know that’s not true just for dogs…  And this book, Do You Have a Cat?, proves me to be right.   This book shows us – and especially the young humans in the reading audience – that 14 very famous people owned felines (that’s a cat, to you).   And, guess what?   These famous people looked just like their cats and vice-versa!

If you don’t believe me, just look at the swell drawings in this book.   You’ll see that everyone from Cleopatra to Queen Victoria and Charles Lindbergh and Albert Schweitzer and President Calvin Coolidge owned very special cats, all of whom just happened to be the spitting-image of their home owners!   And you’ll learn some very cool stuff, too, like the fact that President Coolidge went on the radio to tell the folks when his cat was lost.   Luckily, for Cal, Tiger was soon found and returned to the White House!

So, I’m a young cat but I know good books.   This one’s as good as a bowl of half-and-half!

Highly recommended.

Sasha (the kitten) Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Geraldo Valerio is the illustrator of this children’s book, recommended for ages 4 through 8.  

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When the Ship Comes In

Between Shades of Gray: A Novel by Ruta Sepetys (Philomel; $17.99; 344 pages)

In the epilogue to Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, protagonist Lina speaks to us from a time capsule:  “It is my greatest hope that the pages in this jar…  prompt you to do something, to tell someone.   Only then can we ensure that this kind of evil is never allowed to repeat itself.”

The story that she has buried in that jar begins in 1941 in Lithuania.   Lina, who is fifteen, her younger brother Jonas, and her mother are at home one evening when the Soviet secret police come to the door.   Through her eyes we watch as the three are deported to Siberia.   Lina’s father, a professor who has aided relatives’ emigration to Germany has been arrested.   His actions were prompted by the hope that the relatives might, in turn, help his own family escape Stalin’s tyranny.

As the truth of their situation gradually unfolds for Lina, she draws images of horror and images of heroism, and tucks the sketches into the lining of her suitcase.   It’s an act of silent rebellion that she knows is both brave and foolish.   But she is an artist who is desperate to record the history of the ordinary people swept up in Stalin’s purges.   Through Lina’s eyes we see a portrait of true grace emerge in Mother, a woman whose calm, kindness, and humanity buoy the spirits of everyone else.   We see how memories have the power to sustain and what happens when hope is lost.

What we do not see is why Stalin shipped this trainload of slave labor all the way across Siberia and north to the Arctic Circle to do work that seems only to sustain the comfort of the soldiers who guard them.   Perhaps Sepetys intended the apparent illogic of the labor camp’s location to be yet another layer of punishment – another obstacle to hopefulness.

Sepety’s characters are fascinating, even those who are the verbal equivalent of pencil sketchesthe bald man, the man who wound his watch, the repeater.   Her spare prose is reminiscent of Pearl Buck’s.   Between Shades of Gray depicts the effects of a moral disaster rather than Buck’s natural ones, but both authors know their story is so intrinsically dramatic that it needs no melodrama.   Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, published the novel, Sepety’s first, in March of 2011.   Highly recommended – and not just for young readers.

Kimberly Caldwell Steffen

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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