Sunday, November 02, 2014

Seven 2014 Picture Books

Santa Clauses: Short Poems From the North Pole by Bob Raczka. 2014. Lerner Publishing Group. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

December 1rst
Wishes blowing in
from my overfilled mailbox--
December's first storm.


I enjoyed reading Bob Raczka's Santa Clauses. The book is a poetic countdown to Christmas. Each of the twenty-five poems is written from Santa's perspective. Each poem is dated. Each poem is haiku. I found this to be a delightful read. I loved some of the poems. I liked all of them, for the most part, but there were a few I did LOVE. The book gives young readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at Santa's life. Very cute.
Some of my favorites:
December 3rd
Mrs. Claus making
an angel, becoming a
little girl again.
December 10th
The north wind and I
whistling to "Let It Snow!"
on the radio.
I would definitely recommend it. I've read it a few times now, and I just love it more each time.

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

A Little Women Christmas. Heather Vogel Frederick. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

For people who LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, I think this one is well worth reading and rereading. I have read the novel once or twice, certainly enjoyed it well enough, but it's never been one that I've gushed about or LOVED passionately.

This picture book focuses on one of the Christmases written about within Little Women. The 22nd chapter of Little Women. The illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline are wonderful. If you're a fan of his work, you'll probably want to seek this one out because they are BEAUTIFUL.

I do think it is a picture book for older readers. I think it's a beautiful book for fans of the book or movie.

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

Once Upon An Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters. Oliver Jeffers. 2014. Penguin. 112 pages. [Source: Library]

It opens with the premise: "If words make up stories, and letters make up words, then stories are made of letters. In this menagerie we have stories, made of words, made for all the letters."

Once Upon An Alphabet is indeed a book of twenty-six "short stories," one for each letter. The stories can best be described as odd and quirky. I think you have to have a certain sense of humor to "get" the stories and how they all fit together, if they indeed do fit all together. (Some do fit together. I know. But do all twenty-six fit together? I'm not as sure of that.)

This one will definitely be for older readers, not preschoolers. This is NOT Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. But I wouldn't say that it's a book that would appeal to one and all, a book with universal appeal. I could see how some readers might LOVE it and others not so much.

I liked some stories, some letters, better than others. A few I didn't like at all. A few I really did enjoy. But I didn't LOVE this one. I do think it's an interesting premise, however.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3.5 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

Penguin in Peril. Helen Hancocks. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

One afternoon, three hungry cats ran out of food. They searched the house high and low and found three gold coins. They set off for the grocery store. On their way, the cats passed a movie theater. A movie called The Fishy Feast was playing. They handed over the three gold coins and went in. 

Three cats are inspired by a movie, The Fishy Feast, to kidnap a penguin. Why do they want a penguin? The way they see it, a penguin can catch fish for them. But will the kidnapped penguin agree to such a scheme? Or will the penguin find a way to escape? Will the cats' scheme result in a bounty of fish or in jail time?!

I liked this one. I can't say I loved it particularly. But I thought it was creative and playful. Definitely worth reading at least once.

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

The Animals' Santa. Jan Brett. 2014. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

"It's your first Christmas Eve, Little Snow. The animals' Santa comes tonight!" Big Snowshoe told his little brother. "Who is the animals' Santa?" Little Snow asked. "We don't know who he is," Big Snowshoe said. "Did you ever see him?" Little Snow asked. "No," the forest animals chimed in. "But we find presents from him on Christmas."

For those of all ages who love Jan Brett, who love, love, love Jan Brett, I think you'll find much to love and appreciate in her newest picture book, The Animals' Santa. The Animals' Santa is in many ways similar to her previous books. (Incredibly detailed illustrations with animals and nature as the subject.)

In The Animals' Santa readers meet Little Snow, Big Snowshoe, and their animal friends. Every animal is happy to share what he/she knows about the "animals' Santa." One by one, they recall what they've received in previous years, trying to show Little Snow, the skeptic, that the animals' Santa is real, and, that he is coming that night. Every animal seems to have an idea of *who* the animals' Santa might be. But all the talking does little to change Little Snow's mind.

Readers will discover along with Little Snow and all the other animals just who the animals' Santa is. I was a bit surprised by the twist in this one, it was not who I was expecting it to be.

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

The Book With No Pictures. B.J. Novak. 2014. Penguin. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

There are no illustrations in this picture book. The book exists in order to make adults reading aloud to children say silly things in silly voices. That is the oh-so-simple premise. That words can be entertaining even if they aren't accompanied by pictures. The premise isn't a bad one necessarily. That being said, I want pictures in a picture book. The text can be as over-the-top and silly and ridiculous as can be. It can say things like "My only friend in the whole wide world is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt". It won't change my mind, I still want pictures.

I don't think it takes a picture-less book to get adults to read dramatically and make listeners giggle. I think that is just a part of reading books aloud to kids. Depending on the book, of course, some books may be funnier than others and allow for more opportunities.

The book is also "interactive" in that it addresses the reader directly. This has been done in other picture books, better picture books with actual illustrations. My favorite happens to be We Are In A Book by Mo Willems. And earlier this year there was Help! We Need a Title!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: none
Total: 3 out of 5

The Great Thanksgiving Escape. Mark Fearing. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

It was another Thanksgiving at Grandma's. "You can play in here with the rest of the kids," Gavin's mother told him. "We'll call you when the turkey's ready." "Have fun!" Gavin's dad called. But Gavin knew it was not going to be fun. Not fun at all. "Hey," someone whispered. It was his cousin Ronda. "What do you say we break out of here and head for the swing set in the backyard?"

How much fun will Gavin have on Thanksgiving at his Grandma's house? More fun that he expected at any rate, in large part due to his cousin, Rhonda. These two sneaky kids team up. The mission: escape the house and actually have some FUN. But it won't be easy. There are obstacles on the path to freedom. And one of those obstacles is "the GREAT WALL OF BUTTS!" There are also zombies to avoid. (Who are the zombies? The teenagers in the basement that are playing video games or on their phones/tablets.) There are SO MANY people in this house: dozens of adults, dozens of kids, dozens of teens. Gavin's family must be HUGE or else Grandma invited the whole neighborhood. Either way, Gavin is going to have a memorable Thanksgiving.

I didn't love this one. I didn't hate this one. I've never really found a Thanksgiving book that I actually loved.

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

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comments:

Fawad Umair 1:48 PM  

The Book With No Pictures is actually very real story.
in this book writer express his thorts.

english novels

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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
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I am not a fan of:

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  • 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.

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