Tag Archives: birthday present

Book Reviews: August Picture Book Roundup


As I settle into a loving friend’s apartment in a new city, I hope you will all forgive me that this month’s picture book roundup is being posted late.

Noodle Loves the Zoo illustrated by Marion Billet.  Nosy Crow-Candlewick, 2013.

I was really enjoying this touch-and-feel book until I got to the last page where I was thrown out of the illusion by Noodle liking to roar.  Pandas do not to my knowledge roar; humans (represented that the anthropomorphized panda here) roar in imitation of other animals only, and so what had been a message of loving animals was degraded, Noodle’s love suddenly seeming a mockery—though in retrospect I recognize that this reaction of mine seems a little irrational.


 Birthday Monsters! by Sandra Boynton.  Workman, 1993.

This book is probably primarily meant to be a once-a-year read or an “I don’t know what to get” birthday present for a young child, but Boynton writes amusing, rhyming prose, and there is a message about selflessness if you care to look for it.  The birthday monsters show up (too) early on the young hippo’s birthday, and they seem to be bent on making his birthday a great celebration, but the birthday monsters ruin the celebration with their greed and selfishness.  They leave, but return to tidy their mess so that the young hippo’s birthday ends on a high note with his house clean and his birthday things returned to him.


 Llama Llama and the Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney.  Viking Juvenile-Penguin, 2013.

I very much enjoyed the original Llama Llama Red Pajamas (I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads), but as important as this newest book in the series is for classrooms and indeed for all children who may encounter bullies (which is all children), I felt Dewdney’s style did not lend itself well to the subject matter, being simplistic and rhyming and fun, while the subject matter was one that is not fun at all.  Gilroy Goat disrupts the classroom and the playground by laughing at and ridiculing Llama and his friends.  His bullying escalates to playground violence.  Llama first stands up to Gilroy but when this fails to curb his behavior, Llama quickly tells his teacher, who puts Gilroy in time-out.  Gilroy returns, the teacher asks if he can be a friend, and Llama extends Gilroy one of the dolls that Gilroy had earlier ridiculed, which Gilroy accepts, playing nicely and participating in classroom activities thenceforth.  Gilroy and Llama part at the end of the day as unlikely friends.  Gilroy Goat perhaps learns his lesson a little too easily, but it is I suppose good to give young children hope that bullies can change (I believe that they can if I believe it is a harder thing for them to learn to curb such instincts than it is for Gilroy), and good to give children an example of how to go about dealing with bullies.  On a side note, Nelly Gnu is a returning character, I do believe, but I am glad to see Dewdney advocating friendship with the opposite gender.


Good Morning, Good Night!: A Touch & Feel Bedtime Book by Teresa Imperato.  Piggy Toes, 2004.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  Each set of touch-and-feel pages shows the day of a particular baby animal, first upon rising, then, opening the flap, upon sleeping, with each animal sleeping beside a parent.  The story is told in rhyme and ends with the day of a toddler.


The Way I Act by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Janan Cain.  Parenting, 2010.

Barnes & Noble classifies this as a “growing-up” book.  It’s a message book rather than being plot-driven, meant to both teach and reinforce laudable qualities in a child and also to build that elusive self-esteem.  I was not overly thrilled with this book, first because I don’t necessarily like the implied opposite idea that a child is somehow worth less when they do not exhibit these listed traits, some of which are less attainable or teachable than others—or so it seems to me, though I’m no parent—and also because the language and style did not seem to quite suit the illustrations, which while colorful were not particularly memorable.


An Elephant and Piggie Book: Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems.  Disney-Hyperion, 2010.

Elephant Gerald and Piggie decide to play catch.  A young snake asks if he too can play.  They try to include the snake, but the snake is unable to join them because he does not have arms.  The snake is ready to give up, but Piggie will not.  The friends find a new way to play catch so that they can include the armless snake.  This is a book that encourages the inclusion of new friends, different friends, and shows readers that there are sometimes unconventional ways to solve a problem and be sure that everyone has fun.  All these beautiful messages are of course delivered with Willems humorous dialogue and illustration style, which I love, and his keen insight into the world of children.


These reviews are not endorsed by any of the authors or publishers or anyone else involved in the making of these books.  They are independent, honest reviews by a reader.

Challenge: Legal Theft: College Visit (533 words)


Catherine surveyed the room, little pink feathers, bits of duct tape and other hot pink detritus covering the room, Lady GaGa blaring from the speakers, “So you’re ready then?”

“Yep,” Cate grinned from amid a pile of pink tissue paper.  The shiny, pink paper bow was in danger of slipping off when she cocked her blonde head.  “Think she’ll be surprised?”

“Oh, she’ll be surprised,” Catherine agreed.  April would be surprised by her friend in her living room, surprised by the redecoration, but she wouldn’t be pleased by the mess that Cate had created.  Cate had driven in that morning, sure to arrive after April had gone to work, and Cate had landed like a hurricane.  From her car she had unpacked the hoard of shiny paper and bright duct tape, feather boas, and a binder of CDs from the late 2000s.

“Just like college,” Cate beamed, looking around at the decorations.

Catherine very much doubted that even in college April had kept her living area this cluttered and colorful.  The April that Catherine knew was neat and tidy and quiet, enjoying a cup of tea and a book at their bistro table in the kitchen on her days off, whose idea of a party was the two of them, a movie on tiny TV screen, and a bowl of popcorn.

“Okay, well,” Catherine said, “I’m going to leave you to it.  She should be home in a bit.”

“Stay,” Cate begged.  “We’re both her friends.  She’d want us both on her birthday.”

So Catherine stayed in the room decorated in plucked, pink boas and fashion duct tape.  Cate sat there like a present, glancing every few moments at the door, while she told Catherine stories of April in college, stories that didn’t sound like April.

Cate was telling her about the time that she, April, and a friend named Lianne had snuck out to decorate a friend Ruby’s car with sticky notes when the lock turned and Cate gasped and spun toward the door, staring at it with all the eagerness of a child towards the ice cream van.

April opened the door.

And she stopped.

And she stared.

Cate leapt up and emitted a noise that oughtn’t to have been audible, the bow falling off her head.

April echoed her.

Catherine had a quick glimpse of her bright grin.  She clearly wasn’t distressed by the mess at all if she had noticed it around her friend.

And then they were hugging in the middle of the living room that had been transformed into a pink mess.

“Happy birthday!” Cate squealed, and April, hugging her, began to bounce up and down, and Cate joined her.

As they broke apart, April turned to include Catherine in her smile, and through the neat and orderly April that Catherine had lived with these seven months in her slacks and button-down top, Catherine saw the April that Cate described, chaotic and beaming and ready to pull a late-night prank, and Catherine realized she still did not know April as well as she would like.  She wondered if she should hide all of the sticky notes in a top cabinet and maybe all the duct tape too.

I am a thief!  I stole this line used by the The Babbling Buzzard for this original short fiction piece.

Links to all of the legal theft stories can be found here.

Also, to Bek at BuildingADoor, whose birthday is coming up.  I wish I could show up with duct tape.