> The Things You Can Read: Children's Book Reviews

The Things You Can Read welcomes you and thanks you for your readership. We, here at The Things You Can Read, ask your help, if you visit our site regularly, please follow us either via email or Google Friend Connect.  Launched on June 7, 2012, our site has already attracted a great deal of attention.  One of the goals of the site is to feature reviews of Children's Picture Books, Young Adult novels and Adult Literary Fiction/Nonfiction.  A second goal for the blog is to be a resource for teachers of English and writing--with examples of student created writing, writing tips, resource links, and the opportunity to pick the brain of a seasoned English teacher.  To spice things up...every now and then, we'll also include random quotes and thoughts on education and life in general, but our ultimate goal is to reach out into the blogosphere and be a "Book Whisperer" and "Writing Whisperer" to children and adults of all ages.   Thank you for your readership.  Here is to a lifetime filled with reading and writing.

Children's Book Reviews

Children's Book Reviews

An Annoying ABC

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Annoying ABC by Barbara Bottner is the perfect book for parents looking to introduce the alphabet to their child. Miss Mabel's class of boisterous misbehaving students will have your child laughing and learning at the same time. The class of twenty-five students--whose names just happen to coincide with the alphabet--makes the reading fun. Least you think I have missed a letter don't forget the teacher, which makes twenty-six. Adelaide to Zelda annoy each other with perfectly matched behavior that makes for some clever alliteration. Although the children misbehavior for 26 pages all is well in the end because the children apologize to each other and settle in for a peaceful rest of the day...at least for the moment. Both the twins and Mom loved this one.

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you are looking for a children's book that is as gorgeous to look at as it is to read then Brother Sun, Sister Moon-Saint Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Creatures re-imagined by Katherine Paterson and illustrated by Pamela Dalton is just such a book. The picture book is one of the most beautiful modern day children's books that I have found to date. The paper cut-outs that are used to illustrate the lovely adaptation or re-imagined Canticle of the Creatures by Saint Francis of Assisi are exquisite. My two year-old daughter brings me the book simply for me to open it up to the page that is filled with sunflowers. We find something new hidden in a corner or behind a tree branch each time we examine the cut-out illustrations. I loved explaining to her the difference between a chipmunk and a squirrel after we found a small chipmunk hidden beneath the ground on the cover of the book. We both have enjoyed reading this treasure over and over again. I am so sorry that is must be returned to the library. We both hate to see it leave the house. I know this is one book we will have to purchase.

Otto the Book Bear

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson was one of four books that my daughter and I selected on our second trip to the library. The story centers around Otto who loves for his owners to read his book, but Otto's life is not limited to the pages of his story. Otto has the ability to leave the security of his book and explore the outside world. At first he limits his exploration to his owner's home, but when they move and leave his book behind Otto must go in search of a new life outside the pages of his book and the security of his home. I don't want to spoil what happens on his odyssey, but suffice it to say you will enjoy the journey. The story line was full of adventure. but not too much for two year-old twins to lose interest. The illustrations added to the story, and the ending was quite satisfying. I loved every page of this book and more importantly so did the twins, finally success! A book that both my children and I loved.

Degas and the Little Dancer (Anholts Artists)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you or your child is an art lover Degas and the Little Dancer by Laurence Anholt is for you. I purchased this to use in my classroom years ago back in 1999. Never in my wildest dreams did I allow myself to believe I would one day read this to my son or daughter, but I just did. And the most amazing thing is that my daughter picked this out of a stack of books for me to read to her. My daughter is only two, so the story is a bit wordy for her, but again the amazing thing is that she loved it.  I would recommend this book for children between the ages of  two  and five.

The story moves back and forth from present day to the time of Degas.  A museum guard tells the story of the real Little Dancer.  Her story is one of a poor girl, Marie, who dreams of being the most famous ballerina in all of Paris. She reaches for her dreams and, in so doing, she meets the famous painter, Degas. Their interactions are poignant and feel authentic even though his temper is another thing he is famous for sharing. Marie does not reach the heights she hoped for on the stage, but rather in museums all over the world.

The illustrations are gorgeous, but what I love the most are the reproductions of the real art work of Degas that also liter the pages. I have always admired the artist of this era, and in particular Degas.  I am lucky enough to have seen the real Little Dancer many, many times on my visits to the Virginia Museum, and I look forward to reading this many more times with my daughter, and when she is old enough we will make the drive to the "big city" to see the statue together. I know just where to look. I love this book...


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How do you know a classic? Well, you just know, and from the first time I picked up Olivia by Ian Falconer back in October 2000 in Creatures and Crooks Bookstore, I knew instantly that this book was destined for great things. And in fact it was...it has spawned the Olivia franchise: books, tins, magnets, calendars, etc. But I digress.

Olivia by Ian Falconer has become a children's classic since its release back in 2000. To answer my original question...I guess one way to know a children's classic is that both children and adults like the book. The story is just right for a two year old, but the illustrations leave room for older children to use their imagination and add to the story. Olivia is everso likable. Children easily identify with her antics, and adults see their little munchkins in the overactive Olivia.

Olivia is a very busy little pig who lives with her family: Mommy, Daddy, Ian (her little brother), and her two pets, Edwin the cat and Perry the dog. Her day is filled with dressing, brushing her teeth, going to the beach, building sandcastles, visiting museums...as you can see she is a very busy little pig. My favorite part of the book is when Olivia visits her favorite painting in the museum and also her least favorite painting. No, I take that back my most favorite part is when she goes home and tries to recreate her least favorite painting. Well, read the book and you'll see what I mean.

Of all the books we have in our library this is my daughter's favorite. She always wants me to read this one at night, and I have to bargain with her. It goes something like this, "I will read Olivia if you pick another book for us to try." So far, we are slowly adding to her lists of favorites, but this one still remains number one.


Elizabeth just liked your review of Olivia on Goodreads!

- The Goodreads team

Camille and the Sunflowers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Camille and the Sunflowers by Laurence Anholt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tonight's read with my daughter was Camille and the Sunflowers by Laurence Anholt. Again, I read this when it was published back in early 1999, but this was the first time for her. I guess that is one of the things I love about being a mother, I get the joy of watching my daughter experience some of my favorite books for the first time. This was one of Anholt's less wordy picture books, and it was perfect for my two-year-old. She loved the illustrations and the story. The vivid illustrations jumped off the page and I had to pause numerous times as my two-year-old touched the sunflowers on the page.

We see the painter Vincent van Gogh through the eyes of one of his subjects, Camille. His family befriends the painter on his arrival in town. They show up at his yellow cottage with furniture and all the needed extras to make his stay comfortable in his new home. In return the painter paints Camille's whole family: the postmaster, his wife, Camille's older brother, Camille, and even the baby. Camille loves to watch Vincent paint, and he especially loves the colors that Vincent uses in his paintings, but the town folk are not as taken with the painter. Ultimately, Vincent is forced to move on, and Camille gives his friend a tearful good-bye.

The book ends with Camille's father comforting his son about the loss of their friend, Vincent van Gogh, and he tells Camille that one day the odd little painter will be much appreciated. Truer words were never spoken.

Both my daughter and I hated to leave the colorful world of Vincent van Gogh. A great read for young and old alike.

Sam, Bangs, and MoonshineSam, Bangs, and Moonshine by Evaline Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine is a wonderful story set in a small fishing village.  Evaline Ness, the author and illustrator, won the prestigious Caldecott Medal back in 1967 for her intriguing illustrations. Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine is a marvelous story in its own right, but it also is an excellent book to help your child understand the concept of reality versus imagination.

In the book the main character's father, a widowed fisherman, calls not being truthful moonshine. He tries to teach his motherless daughter, Sam, that there is good moonshine and bad moonshine. However, Sam is full of both types of moonshine. She tells folks her dead mother is a mermaid. She tells folks her cat, Bangs, speaks to her. She tells folks she rides in a chariot pulled by dragons. She tells her best friend, Thomas, she has a pet kangaroo, and sends him on a wild goose chase to find it each day. It is this last bit of moonshine that leads to some serious life lessons for Sam, and will also illustrate to children that actions have consequences.

I have to admit that I have a soft spot for Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine by Evaline Ness. It was one of the books I received from the Weekly Reader Summer Reading Program back in the day, and as a child, I was full of both types of moonshine. I read this book to my daughter tonight using my very own original copy. Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine is a story that has held up well over time. I hope my daughter will enjoy reading it to her children one day.


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I guess I'm not a Madeline fan, nor is my daughter. She lost interest in this book long before it was finished, and it is very short on words. However, my daughter loved the illustrations. From the adult perspective, I loved the Parisian landmarks that were sprinkled throughout the book, but again, the story did not match the quality of the illustrations. Another thing that I did like about Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans is the fact that a short history of each landmark is included on the last page of the picture book, just in case the reader is not familiar with them. I also need to mention that the story is told using a simple rhyme scheme, which is very nice for introducing your child to this concept.  Each of these points are why the book received three out of five stars.

Madeline is the story of the littlest girl at a Catholic boarding school in Paris, France. Madeline is her name, and Madeline is not afraid of anything, not even tigers at the zoo. Madeline along with all her classmates travels throughout Paris on their daily walks, and enjoy the sights and sounds of Paris. Unfortunately, one day Madeline is stricken with appendicitis and has to be rushed to the hospital, but not to worry, all is well in the end.

I know that Madeline is beloved by many children and adults, but for my little munchkin it is not a favorite.  As to the Why?  Why is this book not a favorite?  Well, I'd have to say that substance of story is one reason, and then there is the subjectivity factor, which can not be discounted.  For our two member reading group this book did not have the five star qualities others we have read possess.  Again, reviews are very subjective, and based on all the good points this book has to offer I would most definitely share it with children.  The introduction to Paris is priceless, and I will enjoy taking Irene to Paris one day to see all the Parisian landmarks we visited with Madeline in person.

Me, Frida

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Me, Frida by Amy Novesky
Illustrated by David Diaz
Abrahms, 2010. 32 pgs.
Reading Level: ages 4-8

Me, Frida is a gorgeous lushous visual treat with a story that matches the quality of the illustrations. I would liken the experience of reading this book to falling into one of Frida Kahlo's paintings. However, the illustrator, David Diaz, does not simply copy Frida's style of artistic expression, but adds his own personal touches to that of the famous artist, thereby, creating something quite unique. The colors are vivid, warm, and inviting. My daughter's hands touched every page as we read this award winning book.  It is no wonder that Me, Frida won the Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor Book Award in 2011.

Me, Frida focuses on Frida's life as the new bride of Diego Rivera, the famous muralist and painter. Specifically, the setting is the newlyweds time in San Francisco in 1931 when Diego Rivera received his commission to paint his renowned murals on the government buildings of the city. During this time Frida, also an artist, begins to find her artistic voice, while her more established husband is busy creating his own art. When the couple is together Frida is often neglected and overlooked. Parties are given in her husband's honor, but no one notices the eclectic Frida.

Left to her own devices, Frida travels the streets of San Francisco gaining confidence in herself. With this new found confidence, she unlocks her own personal artistic style. Instead of copying the style of her husband, Diego Rivera, Frida paints in an intimate and folkloric style, which hearkens back to her native Mexican culture. The first painting to explore this style is Frida and Diego (Wedding Portrait) painted in 1931 during her stay in San Francisco. The painting now resides in the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, California. It's the painting she entered in her first show. Frida goes on to paint many more self-portraits when asked about this the painter stated, "I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best."  Me, Frida shares all this biographical information about this wonderful female painter without sounding stiff and stilted. 

Me, Frida by Amy Novesky and accompanying illustrations by David Diaz is an excellent introduction to this influential painter.

Other Recommendations for books about Frida Kahlo:

Frida Kahlo (GB): The Artist who Painted HerselfFrida Kahlo (GB): The Artist who Painted Herself by Margaret Frith
Tomie dePaola (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published August 11th 2003 by Grosset & Dunlap

FridaFrida by Jonah Winter
Ana Juan (Illustrator)
Hardcover32 pages
Published February 1st 2002 by Scholastic Inc. (first published 2002)

DiegoDiego by Jonah Winter 
Jeanette Winter (Illustrator)

Hardcover40 pages
Published January 9th 2007 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Children's Books I want to Review in the Future

Happy Reading!
Things You Can Read
Believe In Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Love, and the Power of Books!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your Comment is awaiting moderation. It will appear once it has been approved.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...