Thursday, June 20, 2013

Seven 2013 Picture Books

Bad Astrid. Eileen Brennan. Illustrated by Regan Dunnick. Random House. 40 pages.

She came into town like five tons of bad luck. She came into town in a big moving truck. Meaner than any girl you'll ever meet--and she and her family moved in down the street. Astrid was at least four feet two, without socks! She was boxy and solid, like a cabinet that talks. 

Is the new neighbor down the street, "Bad Astrid," really BAD or is she just misunderstood and in need of a friend? One dog who is tired of being picked on asks a question few might dare to ask of their tormentors? WHY? 

I'm glad it worked out for these two dogs, but I can't say that I loved their story.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

The Green Bath. Margaret Mahy. Illustrated by Steven Kellogg. 2013. Scholastic. 40 pages.

"Sammy!" 
"Look at yourself!" cried his mother. "You're covered with dust and dead spiders."
"But I was sneaking up on pirates," cried Sammy. "How can I have adventures and stay clean?"
"Just forget about adventures for the moment," said his mother. "Your grandma's coming, so stay clean for once."

Well, it's imaginative! Sammy's dad has brought home a new bathtub, a green bathtub. Sammy looks at it closely and notices something no one else seems to: the tub is alive and just aching to go on fantastical adventures. And do these two have an adventure? Yes! And it's quite an adventure with sea monsters, pirates, and more.  

What I liked best about The Green Bath was the playfulness, especially the playfulness of the language. "Then began a wonderful bath-and-buccaneer battle. The buccaneers had swords, but Sammy bewildered them with bubbles and baffled them with soapsuds. At last, every single buccaneer was bobbing in the waves, beaten, bubbling, and blustering." And, "Sammy scrambled out of the bath and gave his mother the sort of smacking kiss a pirate in a good mood might give."

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

When Mermaids Sleep. Ann Bonwill. Illustrated by Steven Johnson and Lou Fancher. 2013. Random House. 32 pages. 

When mermaids sleep in oceans deep inside their coral caves, they lay their heads on seaweed beds, rocked softly by the waves. Those same waves carry sailing ships from shore to distant shore. Abed in bunks, asleep on trunks, the scruffy pirates snore. Inside those rusty iron trunks their stolen treasures gleam, dug up from sands in far-off lands where genies gently dream.

 Do mermaids, genies, pirates, unicorns, goblins, wizards, and fairies sleep? That is the subject of Ann Bonwill's bedtime read aloud. She enters the world of fantasy, fairy tales, and shows that everybody has to get a good night's rest. No one can have fun adventures all the time. The text can be quite beautiful--poetical--in places. 

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

Pirates vs. Cowboys. Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by David Barneda. 2013. Random House. 40 pages. 

Burnt Beard the Pirate was the scourge of the seven seas, the four oceans, and several lakes. His scurvy crew had ransacked so many ships and pillaged so many villages that all their treasure had them riding low and slow. It was time to go ashore and bury the booty. Their usual spots were filled to the gills, so those pirates went inland. All the way to Old Cheyenne. Black Bob McKraw was the terror of the Wild West. His gang of rip-roarin' rustlers were nastier than week-old chili, and twice as gassy.

Pirates vs. Cowboys begs to be read aloud. It is rich in figurative language and humor! It's an odd book, to be sure, but it's a FUN book. Burnt Beard the Pirate and Black Bob McKraw and their respective gangs are having a horrible time trying to communicate with one another. They are offending each other greatly. Burnt Beard can't understand a word out of Black Bob's mouth and vice versa. Fortunately, someone in Old Cheyenne speaks both pirate and cowboy. 

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

Giddy-Up, Daddy! Troy Cummings. 2013. Random House. 40 pages.

Once there was a dad who was really good at playing horsey. Seriously, he was the best. He was sure-footed on any terrain--carpet, hardwood, or linoleum. He could scoop up his kids and take them from bed to breakfast before the toast popped up. And he hardly ever bucked, no matter who was riding on his back. 

It was playful, imaginative, full of surprises and dangers. It is a crazy, over-the-top picture book. For their "horse" (good, old dad) is captured by horse rustlers. And that's just the start. Before supper time, their dad will have wowed crowds ALL over the place, he will even have won the Kentucky Derby. But those pesky rustlers won't take no for an answer.... It's a good thing these two know how to make their dad go even faster by tickling.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

Ball. Mary Sullivan. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. 

Ball is the only word in this mostly-wordless picture book by Mary Sullivan. The story is easy to follow, however. A dog LOVES to play ball with the little girl. All is well until it's time for her to go to school, presumably. The dog tries to interest others in playing ball. He tries the mom; he tries the baby; he tries the cat. But, no, it's hopeless. He then tries to entertain himself with the ball, though that isn't quite as much fun. He even dreams about the ball... The book ends with the little girl returning once again. I did enjoy the story sequence. I didn't love the illustrations, but I liked the story they told.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

Yes, Let's. Galen Longstreth. Illustrated by Maris Wicks. 2013. Tanglewood Press. 32 pages. 

Let's wake up extra early, before the day gets hot. Let's pack a picnic, hurry up--ready or not. Let's get into the station wagon, roll those windows down. Let's sing out loud and wave to cows as we drive out of town. 

A celebration of family AND nature, a combination that is sure to please some readers! IT is an action-packed day of outdoors fun: hiking, swimming, diving, collecting rocks, etc.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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