Sunday, August 03, 2014

Nine 2014 Picture Books

Clifford Visits the Zoo. Norman Bridwell. 2014. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'm Emily Elizabeth and this is my dog. His name is Clifford. Today we are going to the zoo. The people at the zoo have never seen anything like Clifford. So I tell them, Clifford is my dog. And he is very friendly. The first animals we see are penguins. The penguins are small. And Clifford is very, very big!

There are many, many books in the Clifford series. In this latest book, Norman Bridwell has Clifford visiting the zoo with Emily Elizabeth. The focus is on opposites. Readers observe one thing about an animal (the penguins are small) and note how Clifford is the exact opposite (he is very very big). This pattern continues through the entire book: animal by animal. The opposites include small and big, sleeping and awake, light and heavy, dirty and clean, noisy and quiet, slowly and quickly, hard and soft, up and down, curly and straight, wet and dry. The book concludes with a few facts about each of the animals visited at the zoo: penguins, koalas, monarch butterflies, hippopotamuses, howler monkeys, sloths, tortoises, birds, chameleons, and seals.

I liked this one. I'm not a big fan of Clifford in general, with a series this big, it would be hard to have each book in the series be of equal quality. But this one was a nice book.

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

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Dreidel. Caryn Yacowitz. Illustrated by David Slonim. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I know an old lady who swallowed a dreidel,
A Chanukah dreidel she thought was a bagel...
Perhaps it's fatal.
I know an old lady who swallowed some oil--
A pitcher of oil, 'bout ready to boil.
She swallowed the oil to wash down the dreidel,
A Chanukah dreidel she thought was a bagel…
Perhaps it's fatal.

I have read a handful of "Old Lady Who Swallowed A…" books in the past. This one fits the pattern, but with an obvious Jewish theme. Items swallowed include a dreidel, oil, latkes, sauce, brisket, gelt, menorah, and candles.

For readers of all ages who enjoy those kinds of books, then this one will prove an interesting addition. For more impatient readers who tired of the "Old Lady" books after the first or second imitation, this one is not extraordinary enough to make it a must read. At least the text alone isn't extraordinary enough. However. I must say that the illustrations are quite wonderful.

David Slonim chose classic art masterpieces to parody in his illustrations. Each spread pays unique tribute to a masterpiece while matching perfectly the text of the story. The masterpieces: Mona Lisa, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp, American Gothic, The Milkmaid, The scream, Nighthawks, Campbell's Soup Cans, Spectrum II, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (Whistler's Mother), The Thinker, Doctor and Doll, Christina's World, The Starry Night, and Dance I. The illustrators note includes the name of each piece, the date, and the museum location of the original.

I definitely enjoyed this one; I enjoyed it mostly because of the illustrations. But I don't think that is a bad thing. Illustrations are very important to storytelling and reading.

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

If Kids Ran the World. Leo and Diane Dillon. 2014. Scholastic. 32 Pages. [Source: Review copy]

If kids ran the world, we would make it a kinder, better place.
Maybe we'd run the world in a big tree house, and everybody would be welcome.
We'd take care of the most important things.
We know people are hungry, so all over the world, everyone would have enough to eat.

If Kids Ran The World is saturated in lessons. It's just dripping with moral messages. It's not that the message of peace and love and joy and harmony are bad. But as the Peppa Pig episode, "International Day" CLEARLY shows, "Peace and harmony in all the world," is not easily achieved even among children, or especially among children.

The book's premise is that children are more mature than adults. That somehow children are more innocent, more kind, more forgiving, more loving, more sensitive, more compassionate, more generous than adults. The premise is that children could solve problems like health care, the environment, bullying, world hunger, poverty, etc. just by being their little lovable selves. (Of course kids NEVER are selfish, ALWAYS willing to share, NEVER tell lies, ALWAYS speak kindly. NEVER exclude anyone or call names ALWAYS include everybody no matter their age or gender.)

Is that premise true? Each reader will have to decide that for themselves. Some readers may embrace the optimism and positiveness of this one. Others may question it from cover to cover.

I found this one to be very message-heavy. And the illustrations in my opinion were strange and quirky. It was little things really. Like all the slanted eyes. Like all the rosy cheeks. But there were a few big things as well that made this one, well, creepy. Like on the title page. The illustration has a globe of the Earth for a head on a body. This "person" also has wings. This globe-head character also shows up towards the end in a two-page spread that features two other creepy additions. A child's body with a lion's head and a child's body with a lamb's head. 

Perhaps the illustrations are supposed to "represent" children from around the globe? But if this is the case, it has a very "It's A Small World" feel to it.

Text: 1 out of 5
Illustrations 1 out of 5
Total: 2 out of 10

My Grandfather's Coat. Jim Aylesworth. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

My grandfather came to America when he was very young. He came alone and with little more than nothing at all. The years passed, and he became a tailor. He worked very hard. And then, on the luckiest day of his life, he met my grandmother, and they fell in love. When she agreed to marry him, my grandfather went right to work. He snipped, and he clipped, and he stitched, and he sewed, and he made for himself a handsome coat…that he wore on his wedding day.

This is a retelling of a story based on the Yiddish folksong "I Had A Little Overcoat." It is a sweet story spanning the generations. The beloved coat transforms from coat to jacket to vest to tie to toy to material for a mouse's nest, to nothing but a story. It's a family-oriented story which makes it a gem in my opinion.

I loved the illustrations. I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the illustrations. I love seeing the story come to life. I love watching his family grow. From his own wedding to his daughter's wedding to his playing with his own grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There was just so much sweet going on. I loved it!!!

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

The Night Parade. Lily Roscoe. Illustrated by David Walker. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Have you ever wondered what happens at night while mothers and fathers lie sleeping? Children wake up. They clamp out of their beds, some crawling, some running, some leaping. As the moon shines down they escape into town. To the night parade they go sneaking…

The Night Parade is a silly, imaginative book. Roscoe has created a "secret world" of sorts where children nightly sneak out of their houses and do amazing things with other children. Things like make cakes for the moon, turn somersaults in the park, dress up in costumes, tell mermaid stories, etc. They also read LOTS AND LOTS of books. By morning, all children will be safely back in their beds.

This one was okay. I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. The children are super-active, super-creative. The illustrations match the playfulness of the text. My favorite page was probably of the children marching by in their costumes. Even the moon is dressed up. Then again, I also liked the idea of all those cakes and all that frosting.

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

Noodle Magic. Roseanne Greenfield Thong. Illustrated by Meilo So. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The emperor's birthday was coming, and excitement filled the air. Every day, Mei watched Grandpa Tu make magic with his hands and a bit of dough. She loved the powdery flakes that hung in the air and freckled the morning light. Every evening, Grandpa slapped the dough on the table, kneaded it with his hands, and stretched it into coils. Everyone oohed and aahed over Grandpa Tu's noodles--even the Moon Goddess, who brightened the night sky.

Mei loves, loves, loves to watch her Grandpa Tu make noodles. She thinks--the whole village in fact--thinks that there is something magical about Grandpa Tu's noodles. So everyone--Mei included--is shocked that Grandpa Tu chooses NOT to make noodles to celebrate the emperor's birthday. Instead he chooses Mei for the job. He wants her to find the magic within herself, he wants her to see that she too can do it. Readers watch as Mei tries and tries her best to make noodles special enough, magical enough, for the occasion. At times, it seems Grandpa Tu has more confidence in his granddaughter than she does in herself. Even the moon goddess thinks Mei can do it!

I liked this one. I really liked some aspects of it. I liked the writing, the language. I liked the imagery. For example, "powdery flakes that hung in the air and freckled the morning light." There were places this one worked really well for me. I also liked the focus on the grandfather-granddaughter relationship. I definitely liked the ending!

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

The Cat, The Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, The Wolf, and Grandma. Diane and Christyan Fox. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Cat, The Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, The Wolf, and Grandma celebrates storytelling. To be precise, this book celebrates interruptions at story time. The cat is trying very, very hard to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood to the dog. By the end, this cat is VERY frustrated. The dog, you might say, has trouble focusing his attention on the actual story. Dog imagines the story a bit differently. For one, he gets the wrong impression from the very beginning. The dog hears about the red cape and instantly thinks SUPER HERO, SUPER POWERS. The cat has to veto all the dog's changes to the story, which is where the EXPLODING EGGS come into it. The dog does ask some good, solid questions. For example, if the wolf wanted to eat the little girl--as he clearly does when he's dressed up as Grandma--WHY didn't he eat her in the woods to begin with?

This book was fun and playful. I liked the focus on storytelling, liked the questioning of it too.

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

Thanksgiving for Emily Ann. Teresa Johnston. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Emily Ann just had to say, she was not very thankful on Thanksgiving Day.
Her brother was mean. Her sister, a bore.
And with Grandpa in town she slept on the floor.
There was food to be cooked and chores to be done.
With everyone busy there was no time for fun.

Well, it is what it is. It's a Thanksgiving-themed story in rhyme. Emily Ann goes from ungrateful to grateful in 32 pages. The story includes all the things you'd expect: an emphasis on food, and an emphasis on family. The rhyming. Well. Some pages worked better than others. I liked the illustrations better than the text.

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

Fly Guy #14 Fly Guy's Amazing Tricks. Tedd Arnold. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

A boy had a pet fly. He named him Fly Guy. And Fly Guy could say the boy's name--Buzz!
Chapter 1: Buzz's friends came to see The Amazing Fly Guy Circus. Buzz said, "Get ready for Fly Guy's amazing new tricks!" "Now," said Buzz, "The Backstroke." "Now," said Buzz, "The Dizzy Doozie!" "And now," said Buzz, "The Big Booger!" "Time for supper, said Mom. Buzz's friends all went home.

I liked this one. Fly Guy has learned some "amazing" new tricks. The tricks went over well with his friends for their circus. The tricks do not go over well with his parents when Fly Guy performs at the dinner table. Of course that wasn't the end of Fly Guy. But. He did have to learn when NOT to perform. The last chapter is perhaps the funnest. Someone starts teasing Buzz, and, Fly Guy "saves" the day by driving the bully away.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Douglas Florian said...

"If Kids Ran the World," was the Dillons last book they worked on together. Leo Dillon died in 2012. I wanted to like it, as the Dillons have created so many masterpieces and gems, but found this one a bit preachy.
My Grandfathers Coat has to follow in the footsteps of "Something From Nothing" by Phoebe Gilman. When my kids were young that was a favorite of theirs. Both the text and the art overflow with warmth and detail (you can follow the family of mice living in the house as well). Ted Arnold's Fly Guy books have been very popular at schools I've visited.
It's amazing how many books you've read! Bravo!