Friday, September 8, 2017

Picture Book Review: Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

Who doesn't remember being a child and getting excited when it was that day of the week that you got to go to the library? Ok still is like that for me as an adult. That day of the week when I was a kid was Saturday. My mom who was also an avid reader would take me ever single Saturday and I always loaded up on books. I always took out the maximum amount that the library would let me and sometimes even convinced the one librarian to let me sneak in one or two more. 

Lola is up bright and early because today is Tuesday and that means she gets to go to the library. Lola loves the library and is ready to get a whole bunch of new books to read.

Let's admit it that all of us bibliophiles can totally relate to Lola. There is nothing more magical than a library/bookstore. All those books and worlds to explore or revisit. It just puts you in such a contented place. I loved seeing a younger child who is excited about reading but isn't one of those advanced readers like Matilda. She is just a normal little girl who loves to read. There is something refreshing in that as a lot of times book lovers are portrayed as reading "the classics" by age 3. Lola reads picture books and she especially reads the ones about things she likes like bears and shoes. 

The illustrations were wonderful and do a great job of portraying just how much Lola loves books. The rapt attention she during the story time reading is obvious.

My favorite part was after the library when her mother has a cappuccino and shares a spoonful of the foam. The reason is that it reminds me of when my stepdaughter was little. She loved it when my husband would give her spoonful of his coffee. She would beg for more. I don't drink coffee so there was none to be had from me. But she didn't mind having a sip or two of my tea. This part just brought up feelings of nostalgia for me.

5 out of 5 stars!

Picture Book Review: Patty's Pumpkin Patch by Teri Sloat

Ok so yes I know that TECHNICALLY it is not fall yet. But let's face it once you start seeing pumpkin spice flavored things on the shelves it is Autumn. So how could I not curl up with a cup of pumpkin spice chai tea and read this wonderful pumpkin themed book?

This rhyming book is all about a pumpkin patch. From the beginning of planting seeds to the end of the pumpkin picking season this book covers the seasonal lifespan of a pumpkin patch.

I really enjoyed this one. Not only was it a great rhyming book it also was an alphabet book. At the bottom of each page going from a-z were words related to animals/insects/plant-life you find in the pumpkin patch. 

This is suitable for toddlers and kindergarteners. I don't know that children much older than 5 or 6 would want to read this but for the younger set it is perfect. The illustrations are great and with the alphabet running along the bottom you can make a great activity out of having the child point out where that animal is in the picture. This is perfect for the fall/Halloween season. Now I want to munch on some pumpkin seeds.

4 out of 5 stars.

Picture Book Review: Swan Lake by Lisbeth Zwerger ; Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Ok so the cover of this book is what drew me in to wanting to read it. I'll admit I've never seen Swan Lake and only know the barest of details about it. So I kind of went into this book not knowing...well anything really other than it was a much beloved ballet.

A prince celebrating his birthday is told by his mother that he must get married. That night he and his friends hunt some swans that fly over head. The prince meets the most beautiful woman he has ever seen and learns that she is one of the swans who has been transformed by an evil sorcerer and only love can break the spell.

So at first I kind of didn't like the story. But I can't blame Lisbeth Zwerger for that as it is based on the ballet. I did some research after reading this and it is accurate to the play. So she can't be blamed for the parts that I didn't care for. The prince is only just turning 18 but his mother is upset that he isn't married yet. I guess back in 1877 if you were royalty and not married yet you were an old man. 

The best part about this book is the illustrations. My goodness!! They were AMAZING! As in I want to own this book (borrowed from library) just so I can keep looking at these pictures. They are so gorgeous and it is hard for me to pick my favorite. I love where the girls are transforming back into swans and I loved when the pages turn black for the fake Swan Queen. 

I love that the author found a way to include several of the different endings as the original play was worked and reworked several times and had has had multiple endings. She chose to go with the original happy ending and that works great especially considering this is a book for children. 

I am going to try and find other books by Lisbeth Zwerger because I cannot stress just how much I enjoyed her artwork. If you can find a copy of this please have a look because it is worth it just based on the illustrations alone.

5 out of 5 stars!

Picture Book Review: The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck by Beatrix Potter

So after reading Peter Rabbit yesterday I decided to read another Beatrix Potter book and chose this one. I had never read this one before but had a vague recollection of my husband telling me he read this book to my stepdaughter and that there was something about the book that he didn't like. 

Jemima Puddle Duck is a simpleton who wants to lay some eggs. She comes across a fox who lets her lay her eggs in his feather filled woodshed. Will someone save from Jemima and her eggs from this crafty fox.

Hey, look yet another children's story where the fox is the bad guy. Though in this case with the stupidity of Jemima who would even be upset if the fox had eaten her.

Now then let's talk about that thing that I realized right away why my husband was shocked all those years ago....ummm yeah....uh...I can't even begin to say anything about it. I was rather shocked myself. This is a children's book but it take a very very VERY dark turn at the end. I honestly don't know how I feel about it.  Up until that end I was really enjoying the story. I loved all the way up till it mentioned the fox hounds. Knowing what I know of them I knew that (spoiler) this was the literally end for the fox. But I read on. Ok so the fox dies. But then the fox hounds eat her eggs. Then at the end she finally does have some babies but only 4 of them hatch.

Whoosh...I really really don't know how I feel on this. I still love love love the classic illustrations. I just don't know what I think of that ending. I think it might be a bit hard for children but it might even be harder for adults to process. As far as rating this I'm a bit stumped. This is a book that makes you think a bit and does do something to your emotions. Does that make it bad? Does making you face harsh realities make it inappropriate for a children's picture book? I don't think it does. Death is something that happens all the time and we can't just avoid it.

Sooo....I think I'm at 4 out of 5 stars on this one.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Picture Book Review: The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Several years ago my mother gave my stepdaughter a box set of all the Beatrix Potter books. We never read all of them but did read a good portion of them. At my sister's baby shower I gave her those books (plus a bunch more of my stepdaughter's baby books). Little did I know but at that time I was also pregnant (I would have kept a few of those books for my son had I known). But you can't change the past and I certainly wasn't ever going to ask for them back. So I had to search out a new copy for my son.

Unlike his sisters Peter Rabbit is a naughty little bunny who doesn't listen to his mother. She tells him to keep out of Mr. McGregor's garden. Peter, after eating too much, ends up with a belly ache. In search of some parsley he is seen by Mr. McGregor and is soon on the run from him and lost in the garden. 

Peter Rabbit is so iconic. There are some literary figures that you can just mention by name and people immediately know what you are talking about. Our little rabbit is one of them. The illustrations are beyond charming and have that nostalgic feeling that draws you in. The theme is mature I wouldn't say it is something that children can't handle. After all children all over the world have been reading these books for well over 100 years. 

4 out of 5 stars!

Picture Book Review: Doctor De Soto by William Steig

So I had never heard of this book nor this author before. When I looked into other books he wrote I found out that he is the one who wrote Shrek. Though from what little (and I do mean little) research I've done the movie is very loosely based on the book. Either way that baby is getting added to my to be read pile. But this isn't about Shrek. This is about Doctor De Soto.

Doctor De Soto is a dentist. This mouse takes care of patients of all sizes. But his one rule is to not take dangerous patients like cats. One day a fox comes to his office with a bad tooth and begs Doctor De Soto to fix his tooth. Doctor De Soto agrees but what can he do to keep the fox from gobbling him up?

I really enjoyed this one. For some reason children's literature loves to make foxes out to be bad. Not all foxes are bad. It is just their nature just like wolves, cats, sharks etc. There is this idea that carnivores should just starve...anyway I digress. 

This was a cute story with Doctor De Soto coming up with a sly (like a fox) solution to keeping that fox from snapping him up in those mighty jaws of his. The illustrations were great and the length of this book is great for a bedtime story.

5 out of 5 stars

Picture Book Review: Miffy by Dick Bruna

As a child I had never read any of the Miffy books and I'm fairly certain that my awareness of them is only through the TV show (with that voice actor that sounds like Katey Sagal but is not Katey Sagal). I never watched the show as it was one of the ones my son had zero interest in but I've seen a minute or two here or there. 

When Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit wish to have a baby their wish is granted by a cherub. They name their little baby rabbit Miffy.

So this is really one of those books that had me say, "Eh, I don't get why this is such a classic." Please don't hate me if you really love this one. I did love the artwork but there were a few things that struck me in a way that pushed me towards not liking the book.

First off these are rabbits right? Cause uh if there is one thing we are taught about rabbits is that they like to make babies...lots and lots and lots of babies. So for them to only have the one and that it requires an angel? I don't know where in there I lost my ability to suspend my disbelief but I lost it.

Secondly, the obvious gender roles from a time gone by. The idea of the woman doing all the cooking cleaning and shopping (I do see the irony here as I currently fall in that role). Also they mention Mr. Rabbit working in their garden but he only grows flowers. So that means Mrs. Rabbit has to buy vegetables when she goes shopping. Does Mr. Rabbit have a job to pay for the vegetables? Why doesn't he just grow the vegetables himself if he loves to garden?

I'm in a real debate on rating this one. I'm probably at 1 1/2 stars but do I bump it up or down? When in doubt bump it up so 2 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Picture Book Review: Blue's Rainy Day Music by Ronald Kidd

My son never really got into Blues Clues. He would watch it but it wasn't his favorite. My stepdaughter however adored the show when she was little and had several books and toys. Is Blues Clues even still on TV? Well I remembered reading this book to my stepdaughter so I had to go digging through the closet and into an old box filled with the books from when she was little to find it. Rainy days call for rainy themed books after all.

It is raining out and the sound of the rain is almost musical. Steve Blue and Magenta form a band called the Squeaky Cleans. Can Steve figure out Blue's Clues for what instrument she wants to play in the band?

Yeah, so after rereading this I was reminded just why it is buried in a box in a closet and not on a shelf of my son's books. This was almost painful to read. It was nice that it followed the format of the show and I could almost hear Steve's voice in my head. But ugh it reminds you of the almost mind numbing simpleton like nature of Steve. The artwork is on par with the show and if your child is a fan of the show they most likely will enjoy this book (again is it still even on air?).  Back in the box in the closet with you book!

For me this is a 2 out of 5 but for a child that is a fan of the show I can see it bumping up to a 3 or 4 out of 5.

Picture Board Book Review: Rainy Day by Janet Morgan Stoeke

So it is a rainy Wednesday and it is national read a book day. So I just made myself a large mug of vanilla chai tea with extra cream and have decided to catch up on some of my picture book reading. Today's theme is RAIN! 

It is raining out and the hen Minerva Louise is stuck out in it and must find herself some shelter.

I have never read the Minerva Louise books before but, after reading this little gem I'm going to seek out more of them! This was incredibly short. Like short short. Like this is the perfect book for the wee itty bitty ones. Despite the brevity of this book I had an honest out loud laugh. Minerva Louise decides to take shelter under a lamb and it had me laughing more than any board book has before...come to think of it this might be a first. Normally, I don't care for board books. They are designed for baby's and well...they can be boring. But not this one!

I LOVED this! It has such great illustrations that I went back twice (again only a few pages long) to look at them all over again. I also loved that little spark of humor that was conveid in such few words but with a perfectly matched illustration. This is perfect for a baby and mom and dad wont mind reading this one over and over again. This has gone straight to my favorites shelf and I will be seeking out more books by this author. 

A well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!

Classic Picture Book Review: Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

This is one of those classic picture books that I've heard of but have never read before. It seems that it  had a huge presence in the lives of many children and they look back on this one with fond nostalgia. I came into this book only with the recognition have having seen the cover countless times but no knowledge of what the book was about. 

Mr. and Mrs. Mallard look fly all over Boston looking for a place to build a nest and have a family. Along the way they make friends with police officer Michael.

Ok maybe it is because I didn't read this as a child but well...I kind of didn't enjoy it that much. I loved the illustrations especially the one with the little duckling who was staring up at the fly. But the story itself was VERY dated. Maybe if I were from Boston and could recognize the landmarks I'd have enjoyed it more.

As for the datedness of the story...weeeellll... I was not to happy with the idea of father duck running off for a week while mother duck is left to care for the babies. The mother duck has to teach her large brood of ducklings how to swim and other things before they make the dangerous trek to where their father is. Crossing busy roads several times. But that's ok because apparently cops have no problem constantly stopping traffic to let a mother duck and her ducklings slowly waddle by. 

So uh yeah...This just wasn't for me and I don't mean to offend those that grew up loving this book. But I don't see this going on my bookshelf of books to reread. Again the illustrations are wonderful and  I don't regret reading it (it is on the 1001 books list) but I don't ever plan on reading it again. 

This is just a 2 out of 5 star read for me.