Thursday, November 01, 2007

Picture Book Parade

The Boy With Two Belly Buttons by Stephen J. Dubner. Illustrated by Christoph Niemann. HarperCollins. 2007.

Honestly, I didn't know quite what to expect from The Boy With Two Belly Buttons. It's obviously a silly book with a cutesy message of self-acceptance...but somewhere between the covers of this one...I was charmed and pleasantly amused. It begins off simply, "Solomon never thought it was strange that he had two belly buttons until he got a baby sister. Anya had only one." At first he was concerned, his sister was missing a belly button. Then the devastating news hits him: one was the right number of belly buttons a person should have. He was the odd one, the different one, the freak. The next pages has Solomon seeking out the bellies of young and old...trying to find some answers. His quest even takes him to a professor of buttonology. But it isn't until he meets a famous movie director that our young hero learns that being special, one-of-a-kind, unique is the best thing he could be. While I suppose some might find it silly or over-the-top, I find it charming and enjoyable. I haven't tried it out with kids, I don't have easy access, but I would imagine that it would inspire a few giggles along the way.

I think what makes this story a success, besides the text of course, is the artwork by Christoph Niemann. See what I mean...

Whose Chick Are You by Nancy Tafuri. 2007.

While it doesn't really get better than P.D. Eastman's Are You My Mother?, Nancy Tafuri's newest picture book of a newly hatched bird is a cute addition to the field. What do I love about this book? I love the illustrations; they're beautiful. Really outstanding. The colors are subdued and soothing. (Nothing bright and cartoony going on here. This book is all about nature.) The text is simple and straightforward. There are only a few words per page, and the font is large. (I can't speak for everyone, but there is something so inviting about a picture book that is not afraid of being labeled 'too simple.') The book opens with the rising of the sun, the various birds in the area are waking up and exploring...and they each discover--on their own--a nest with an egg on the verge of hatching. Instead of a new baby bird seeking its mother, these are just curious birds anxious to find the right mama for this soon-to-be born chick. But the mother hasn't abandoned her nest, she is nearby and waiting to claim her young one. As I mentioned, the text is simple, and the message is a reassuring one about families, love, and belonging. Overall, a cute story.

Big and Little by John Stadler is a picture book that has thoroughly charmed me this past week. It is about a mouse and an elephant. Hence the title big and little. You might think you know where this is going, but you may just be surprised. Ellie, the elephant, is going to climb a tall ladder and dive into a small glass of water. The mouse is the ringmaster of the show. Read along as this incredible act unfolds...

From John Stadler's website:

Prepare to be amazed and astounded by how BIG on suspense, such a little book can be! You will gasp! You will laugh! You will not believe your eyes!

Be the first in your neighborhood to see for yourself how the magic unfolds!
Hurry! Hurry! Read it today!

(No one will be admitted to or allowed to leave the book during the last six pages so as not to ruin the ending for others.)

Tinkham, Kelly A. 2007. Hair for Mama. Illustrated by Amy June Bates.

October is usually family picture time for the Carters, but this year is different. Mama has cancer and all of her beautiful hair is gone because of her chemotherapy treatments. She doesn't want to be in the photo. Eight-year-old Marcus knows that the photo won't be right without Mama, but what can he do?

The book was inspired by a conversation Kelly Tinkham had with her five-year-old son when she told him she had cancer and would be losing her hair. Hair for Mama is a loving, sweet story about a family facing the uncertainty of the future. Although many things are different know that the mother is sick, one thing remains constant: love. This family loves and cares for one another deeply. Marcus's determination to save the day and give his mother hope is a wonderful thing to see depicted in a picture book. While I'm sure it's not the only picture book out there depicting serious illnesses affecting a family, it is one of few. This is a topic that is just not addressed as frequently as it should be. The text and illustrations are just right.

Urbanovic, Jackie. 2007. Duck at the Door.

Knock. Knock. Knock! Someone's outside the door. . . But who? Meet Max--a duck for all seasons.

A duck shivering in the wintry cold. A duck making his way to the front porch of a cozy-looking house. Luckily for Max, this house is the home to LOTS of animals. And they just happen to be the ones to hear his arrival first.

It was a quiet night until...Thunk, Creak, and Knock, Knock, Knock!

All twelve animals--birds, dogs, cats--fly, run, leap as quick as can be to their owner--the boss of the place--Irene. Why? She always knows just what to do to make everything right around the house. She opens the door to find a snow-covered, miserably cold duck. He's brought inside and his story is told. Max stayed behind when his flock left because he thought winter would be fun. Irene and the gang welcome him with open arms--at least at first. But day after day, week after week, Max soon begins to take charge.

In January he learned to use the remote control. (He enjoyed Wild Kingdom and World Wide Wrestling.)
In February he discovered he had a flair for cooking.
By March he had made himself right at home.
but by April it was clear that Max had learned too much.

Duck at the Door is a fun book about finding your home, finding friends, finding your place in all seasons, all kinds of weather. I loved, loved, loved this book. And I loved the illustrations the best of all. Max is my kind of duck.


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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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