Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hotel Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

Though I was somewhat reluctant to read Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins, I'm so glad I went ahead and read it. Otherwise, I would have missed out on a fun series of books.

Hotel Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins is an absolutely wonderful picture book for both adults and kids. As I've mentioned before, if a picture book doesn't appeal to an adult, it makes it pretty hard to keep picking it up and reading it over and over to a child.

After our grumpy Bruce-the-Bear ends up adopting goslings quite by accident in the book Mother Bruce, he is now having to take on parental duties. In this case, it means he needs to take his new charges on their migration to Miami each year. It's a tiring trip and he longs for the peace and quiet of home. Instead, when he returns he finds his den turned into a forest hotel run by a trio of mice. He suffers possum pillow fights, a fox trying to eat their guests and a moose hogging his bed.  Finally, when a bus full of new guests arrive he takes charge of the situation.

The illustrations are extremely well done. The emotions expressed by each animal can't help but make a reader smile. 

I highly recommend this one, and can't wait to read Bruce's Big Move.

Disney - Hyperion
Published 2016
Ages: 4-7

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Bear Who Stared by Duncan Beedie

The Bear Who Stared by Duncan Beedie is a cute book with a good lesson. When bear stares at different forest animals they don't like the way it makes them feel. But in time bear learns a better way than staring at animals when he doesn't know what do say. This new method works much better and even gets some positive responses, rather than negative.

This would be a good book for teachers to share with their students.

A Man of His Own by Susan Wilson

With all my writing, picture book reviews, and now helping reclaim a rental property that a tenant mistook for her property to destroy, I've managed to sneak in listening to an adult book: A Man of His Own, by Susan Wilson. Rick Stanton is a baseball player on the verge of a promising career in the major league when he stumbles upon a German Shepherd mix puppy who needs rescuing. Rick names the puppy Pax. This special dog plays a large part in the story, but the book consists of much more than a dog's love for his master. Pearl Harbor and the entry of the USA into WWII changes the course of Rick’s life, which in turn impacts the lives of those surrounding him. This wonderful story about canine devotion and adult relationships has some unexpected twists and great character development. I certainly plan to read, or listen, to more of Susan Wilson's work.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Lots of Reading - Lots of Learning

Lately, I feel like I’ve read and reviewed a kazillion picture books, give or take a thousand.  My husband and dog, Bentley, have been very understanding since I've moved from my office to the dining room table where it's easier to spread out and deal with piles and piles of books. (Picture above is just the latest stack of books.) But I’m learning so much by reading all these books. You might think the obvious is that there is no rhyme or reason why certain books get published. And that thought has occurred to me.

But I’m not worried about the few that I  have to shake my head and wonder . . . why?  What I’m finding is that most of the books I’m reviewing are good and they are character driven.

Wendy Silvano describes Character Driven: A character-driven picture book is just what it says—a picture book where the character drives the plot. Think of it this way: In a character-driven picture book the story is more about the character than about the plot. What happens in the story happens because of the attitudes, personality and character traits of the main character.
Below are two books that I love, both good examples of Character Driven.

I probably will be posting a few more picture book reviews, or maybe a kazillion, give or take a thousand. And since I find it pretty hard to hold back my personal thoughts, don't look for cut and dried reviews. As usual, posts will be sprinkled with a little bit of me. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

This is NOT a Cat!

At mouse school, the students' first lesson is to recognize danger. And that would mean cat-danger. Different pictures are shown to the students. Each pointing out what a cat is not. The lesson is interrupted by what appears to be a real cat sneaking into the classroom.  But there are a couple of surprise endings to this simple little story.

I can imagine young ones loving this book. There are few words, but not many are necessary. And for a child who is learning to read, all of the words used in the story are the same five words used in the title.

This is Not a Cat by David Larochelle and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka is definitely a book worth your time.

Sterling Children's Books
Sterling Publishing Company 2016
Ages: 3-6

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

New Picture Book - Available October 2017

Cinderella and the Furry Slippers by Davide Cali is a story with a twist on the Cinderella we know. Seeing a picture of the Prince in a magazine prompts Cinderella to want to go to the ball, meet the Prince, and have a fairytale ending. She calls a Fairy Godmother who dresses her since she has nothing appropriate to wear. But what she ends up with isn’t the dress of her dreams. Unlike the story we are used to, her carriage is a turnip with a variety of strange animals pulling it to the castle. And even the castle is not what she imagined. Furry slippers and all the Prince falls for her, but she immediately sees that the Prince is not her type, so she dashes from the ball.
*Spoiler Alert*
On the way home (she has to walk since her turnip coach is nowhere to be found) she sees a sign offering women career opportunities. So she decides to create her own ending to the story.

While I certainly understand the concept of this story, I have a few concerns. Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, but Cinderella’s immediate dislike for the Prince appeared to be his bad breath. The fashion presented, and coach and animals were fun, but I think were intended to be a message. The dancing at the ball was pretty weird and Cinderella's was simply the worst of all. (Meant to be funny or a message?) One of the signs at the Job Fair is  “Sick of lame princes? Sick of fancy pink dresses? Want to do something fun for once?” Pink and dresses and believing in love and a Prince can be a fun fantasy for kids. My opinion is kids need to be kids for a few years. I agree with the fact that people, both men and women, should not sit back and wait helplessly for their future to unwind, but this book felt more adult based, with an adult message.

Many of the illustrations are very cute. And I do think this book can be used as a positive tool to help empower both boys and girls. I just wanted to point out a few of my rather small concerns.
Penguin Random House Canada
Tundra Books 2017
Age Range: 3-7

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do - Picture Book Review

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do by Ashley Spires is a good book for encouraging discussions on  A), some things take lots of work to achieve and B), you may not be able to achieve some things even if you work really hard. That last part isn't pointed out in the book, but the story opens the door to that conversation. As adults too often we say, "You can be anything you want to be," to kids. But in reality we can't be anything. You can work to achieve something and get better, but dreams need to be realistic and many times luck has to be present. As an example, I could never have become a great basketball player, no matter how hard I tried, since nothing about me is coordinated and I'm 5'2". Okay, enough. You get the picture. I'm sure I've overthought this great little picture book! But, as you can tell,  it touched on one of my pet peeves.

When Lou and her friends play they pretend they are brave adventurers, faster than airplanes, build mighty fortresses, etc. She is sure she will be a race-car driver, pirate or deep-sea diver some day. But when her friends decide to climb a tree and play games up there, Lou is not sure. She has never climbed a tree. Her friends encourage her to at least try, but she begins to make excuses such as her arm is sore, her cat needs to be taken on a walk, and even that she stepped on a slug earlier that day and his funeral is in five minutes. When her friends offer to help her climb the tree she is cross and wants them to leave her alone. As the friends continue to play, Lou fantasizes about ways she can get up in the tree without climbing. Finally, it's time for her to buck-up and make the attempt. No more excuses. But it isn't easy for her. Will she make it up the tree?

The illustrations are creative and funny at times. And as I mentioned earlier, the story offers a good opportunity to discuss future dreams.
  • Kids Can Press 2017

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Great Picture Book - Will Make You Smile

I suppose it's not politically correct to say I wasn't too sure about this book when I saw the title. But trust me, this is a book you and your kids will love.

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins is about Bruce, a bear that likes to keep to himself. He doesn't like sunny days, rainy days and above all cute little animals. You wouldn't be wrong to think he could be nominated for grump of the forest. But there is one thing Bruce does like: eggs. However, one fateful day the unexpected happens after his search for eggs, salmon, and honey. The eggs hatch! And Bruce becomes the victim of mistaken identity.

Not until lately have I found such great author/illustrators. What adult and child wouldn't laugh when there is an illustration of Bruce taking the hatched geese back to Mrs. Goose in a shopping basket no less. He wants to check out her return policy!

I'm so glad I didn't let my misconceived notions regarding the title keep me from reading this book. I would easily rate it 5 stars. And I plan to read more books by Ryan T. Higgins.

  • Disney Hyperion 2016

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Grumpy Frog

While this book's text and illustrations are simple, there are many things that can be discussed after reading this story.  Grumpy Frog by Ed Vere starts with a happy frog that loves winning, hopping, and the color green. All other colors can easily turn him from happy to grumpy. But pink is his all-time worst color. While his friends are just fine with all colors, his reluctance to accept anything but green leaves him unable to join his friends when they are swimming (blue water), bouncing (yellow trampoline) and enjoying other things together. Frog holds tight to his thinking that all colors except green just don’t work for him and cause him to be grumpy. So he sits alone. Without friends. Convincing himself that he is fine. But will something help him change his mind? Or will he remain strong regarding his thoughts and feelings? And is there even a legitimate reason to feel happy and grumpy?

Though it is a very simple story with few words, the depth of discussion can be branched out in several layers and directions. And for very young children it can even be used to help identify colors.
This book was received by me and reviewed on NetGalley.
Publisher: Puffin 2017