Sunday, January 05, 2014

Four 2014 Picture Books

The Runaway Hug. Nick Bland. Illustrated by Freya Blackwood. 2013 (Dec). Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

"Mommy," said Lucy. "Can I have a hug before I go to bed?"
"Oh dear," said Mommy. "I only have one left. It's my very last hug."
"Can I borrow it?" said Lucy. "I promise I'll give it back."
It was long and soft, and Lucy thought it was very nice. 
"Thank you," said Lucy. "I'll bring it back as soon as I'm finished with it."

 I definitely enjoyed reading Nick Bland's The Runaway Hug. Lucy, our heroine, has taken the very last hug her mother had. She shares that "last hug" with every member of her family: her father, her twin brothers, her baby sister, her dog. All but one--reluctantly or not so reluctantly--give the hug back so that Lucy can still have it to return to her mother right before bed. But the dog?! Well, let's just say that Lucy has to chase him EVERYWHERE before she catches him and gets that "last hug" back. This is a sweet, non-typical bedtime read aloud. I really liked the playfulness of it. I think the illustrations work well. (Though I am curious why Lily--the baby--is unsupervised in the kitchen and eating peanut butter while her Dad watches TV and her mom does laundry.) From the end pages on, the reader is a part of the story. (The end paper shows Lucy doing the ever-familiar before bed routine.)

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

A Book of Babies. Il Sung Na. 2014. (Jan). Random House. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

When the flowers begin to bloom and the world starts turning green, animals everywhere are born...
...including the noisy ducklings. 
Some have lots of brothers and sisters. 
Some have none at all.
Some can walk right away, 
While others need a little help!

I liked A Book of Babies. The first time I read it, I wasn't sure I liked it. But. As soon as I started paying attention to the illustrations, as soon as I started noticing that one of the "noisy ducklings" could be found on every spread of this one, I began to like it more and more. It is typical in that there are plenty of other picture books out there celebrating spring and baby animals. But it's also charming. A wide variety of animals are included: fish, sea horses, polar bears, zebras, kangaroos, ducks, etc.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

Patti Cake And Her New Doll. Patricia Reilly Giff. Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. 2014. (Jan) Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

"I have my own new room," I told Bella the babysitter.
"A new bed, too. It's gigantic!" Bella jangled her bracelets. "Time for a new-room present, Patti Cake. I'll take you shopping tomorrow." I couldn't wait. That night, the room turned greatly dark. No one slept in that big bed but me. Even Tootsie slept in the hall. 

I liked quite a few things about Patti Cake and Her New Doll. Patti Cake, our heroine, has moved into a new room. (Is it a new room in her old house? Or a new room in a new house? The book doesn't say.) Her new room is "greatly dark." She's a bit scared, not absolutely terrified, but more nervous about bed than usual. Her babysitter takes her shopping. They pick out a doll. She names the doll, "On Sale." She has a very action-packed day with On Sale and Tootsie. Accidents and messes abound. Fun is had by all. By the end of the day, as she's in bed and falling asleep she realizes that her room is great.

One thing I noticed in Patti Cake and Her New Doll was the lack of adult attention and/or supervision. The parents are nowhere to be found. (Are they on vacation? Are they at the hospital because there is a new baby on the way? Is that why Patti Cake has a new room and a new bed?) The babysitter can be found on four pages. But she's definitely not "involved" enough to stop the chaos. For example: nail polish ALL over the floor. Though Patti Cake doesn't seem bothered by being so alone, so maybe I shouldn't think so much about it either.

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

 Little Frog's Tadpole Trouble. Tatyana Feeney. 2014. (Jan) Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Little Frog lived with his mommy and daddy. It was just the three of them. Two plus one. And Little Frog liked it that way. One day, Mommy and Daddy told Little Frog that he was going to be a big brother...to NINE baby tadpoles! Little Frog was not impressed. 

 Who wants to be a big brother? Not Little Frog. And not only is Little Frog going to have to be a big brother, he has to be a big brother to NINE little ones. Is that fair?! Not to Little Frog's way of thinking. It's decidedly unjust. This is  a very typical, very predictable book about adjusting to new family members. Little Frog will, of course, "grow" to like his bigger family by the time the last page is turned.

I would have liked this one a bit more if the book hadn't included the word stupid. Little Frog really really has strong feelings about those nine tadpoles. And he's not shy about calling them stupid tadpoles. Should a book for little ones--toddlers and preschoolers--model this attitude? Is it a behavior to be encouraged or discouraged? Some parents may be fine with this as a read aloud, other parents may want to know about it in advance so they can substitute another word.

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

© 2014 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.
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