Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket

Title: The Lump of Coal
Author: Lemony Snicket
Format: Picture Book
Length: 34 pages

The Story

This is the story of a lump of coal who rolls out of a bag of coals and goes off in search of something interesting. He finds a snobby art gallery manager, a disappointingly inauthentic Korean restaurant, and a fake Santa before his fortune finally takes a turn for the better.

My Thoughts

If you're a fan of Lemony Snicket's other books you will probably like this one too. The premise is odd, and it just gets odder as you go. I particularly enjoy the part where the lump of coal goes into a Korean restaurant and can tell by the smell of oregano that the restaurant does not cook real Korean food.

Snicket does tend to use a lot of big words, which can be good for a kid's vocabulary but which also means young readers will probably struggle with this one. It's probably better suited to parents reading to their young children, or for older readers to read on their own.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Title: Anything but Typical
Author: Nora Raleigh Baskin
Format: Novel (middle grade)
Length: 195 pages

The Story

Jason Blake is a 12 year old autistic boy. He struggles to fit in with his neurotypical classmates, but has more success interacting on a website called Storyboard, where he writes short stories and talks to other young writers. There, he meets a girl named PhoenixBird, who he thinks of as his girlfriend, but when the chance to meet her in person comes along, he panics.

My Thoughts

I picked this book up because it is written from an autistic perspective and seemed to make use of the concept of neurodiversity (the idea that autistic people just have a different sort of brain rather than having something wrong with them). Different perspectives are present in the book: Jason's dad is an accepting, understanding parent, who sometimes struggles but ultimately accepts Jason as he is. His mom is another story, having a lot of difficulty understanding her son and interacting with him in a way that works for him. Jason himself is sort of in between, uncertain at times whether or not he would choose to be neurotypical if he could.

I would have liked to see more of a transformation in how the characters came to view autism by the end of the story. I found it to be pretty subtle. But there is a positive message in there and overall I still enjoyed the story and was rooting for Jason all the way.

This book is good for middle grade readers. I think autistic kids and teens may enjoy the relatable character, and neurotypicals who have autistic friends or family members could gain some insight from Jason's narrative.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice

Title: A Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice
Authors: Jane Austen (original) and Alex Goodwin (adaptation)
Format: Picture Book (text-heavy)
Length: 51 pages

The Story

This is a condensation of Pride and Prejudice, seemingly using text right from the original book, accompanied by pictures of guinea pigs playing the various roles. The photos are complete with beautifully designed sets and adorable tiny guinea pig outfits.

My Thoughts

I'm not entirely sure what age range this book is good for. It is quite wordy for a picture book, and the words are not easy for a modern-day child to understand, being taken from the original novel. There are lots of sentences like "To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley's heart were entertained." Very flowery.

On the other hand, the pictures are adorable! So while I can't really say whether this will encourage a child's interest in "the classics", they might like it just for the guinea pigs. :)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Insomniacs by Karina Wolf

Title: The Insomniacs
Author: Karina Wolf
Illustrators: The Brothers Hilts
Format: Picture Book
Length: 29 pages

The Story

The Insomniacs used to live during the day like most people, but then Mrs. Insomniac gets a new job 12 time zones over. Suddenly the whole family is up all night and always nodding off during the day. They try to find some way of getting back to their old schedule, but finally end up learning from the nocturnal creatures around them.

My Thoughts

The illustrations are what really made this book for me. The art is in a dark, kind of weird/creepy style that reminds me of Tim Burton. The story is unique, while having a common message of accepting yourself for who you are. I feel like this would make a good bedtime story.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

That Is NOT a Good Idea! by Mo Willems

Title: That Is NOT a Good Idea!
Author: Mo Willems
Format: Picture Book
Length: 42 pages

The Story

A fox invites a goose to dinner. She goes along, with every page leading closer and closer to danger. All along, a chorus of baby geese warn that that is NOT a good idea!!

My Thoughts

This is book is the perfect storytime book! I read it during my brief time in an elementary school library, and the grade 1-2 classes loved it. The tension builds throughout the story, towards the conclusion everyone can see coming,  but as in every good story not everything is as it seems.

If you've read any of Mo Willems' books you already know that he's amazing. This book is no exception!

Monday, January 18, 2016

2016 I Love Picture Books Challenge


Since starting this separate book blog for reviewing children's books, I've had a bit of trouble really getting it going. This is partly because I've had trouble finding time to write reviews, but also partly because I haven't been reading enough kids' books! So, to motivate myself to find some great new kids' books to read and review, I'm joining the I Love Picture Books Reading Challenge.

My goal is to read and review 20 picture books in 2016. I'll list them below as I read them.
  1. That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems
  2. Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by Mo Willems
  3. Small Saul by Ashley Spires
  4. Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss
  5. The Insomniacs by Karina Wolf
  6. A Guinea Pig Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin and Alex Goodwin
  7. The Good Little Book by Kyo Maclear
  8. Sensational Sisters: A Story of Two Sisters with Sensory Processing Disorder by Samantha Sandiland
  9. Squirmy Wormy: How I Learned to Help Myself by Lynda Farrington Wilson
  10. Xander's Panda Party by Linda Sue Park
  11. The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Hork-Bajir Chronicles by K.A. Applegate

Title: The Hork-Bajir Chronicles
Series: Animorphs (book 22.5)
Author: K.A. Applegate
Length: 206 pages

The Story

This book is a sort of prequel to the Animorphs series, much like The Andalite Chronicles. It is the story of how the Yeerks came to the Hork-Bajir home world in search of hosts they could use to fight the Andalites. The main characters are Dak Hamee, a Hork-Bajir seer who is more intelligent than the rest of his species, Aldrea, a young Andalite girl, and Esplin 9466, a Yeerk who will do anything to gain more power.

When the Yeerks attack, Aldrea calls to her people for help, but the Andalites send too little too late, leaving the gentle Hork-Bajir to desperately defend themselves.

My Thoughts

Readers of the Animorphs series already know how things end for the Hork-Bajir. In the present day when the main series takes place, the Hork-Bajir are used as hosts for the Yeerks. This makes the story sad to read, since we know all along they aren't going to be successful. It's also sad because we see a darker side of the Andalites, who are supposed to be the good guys. K.A. Applegate is great at showing that moral issues aren't always black and white. Still, the story ends on a hopeful note, with a promising future for the new free Hork-Bajir.

If you're reading the main series, don't skip this book! There's lots of backstory on the Hork-Bajir, the Andalites, and the Yeerks. Events of this book are also mentioned in the next Animorphs book (#23 - The Pretender).