Tag Archives: Francesco Legramandi

Book Reviews: March 2015 Picture Book Roundup



Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light. Candlewick, 2014. Intended audience: Ages 2-5, PreK-K. I’m a sucker for dragons—particularly friendly dragons (you may have noticed)—and for the idea that magic could be a little more commonplace than we believe, so I naturally had to pick up and read a book with this jacket. Light’s Have You Seen My Dragon? is a counting book with imaginative and whimsical illustrations, primarily busy, detailed line drawings but with splashes of color that highlight the objects to be counted. The counting book is well hidden within a text that gives the counting book plot, where the narrator—a young child—tours the city looking for his missing dragon, querying various adults at work about him. There’s a lot of room for interaction in this book.  It could be expanded into a color primer as well, and a primer for professions.  The dragon hides among the intricately woven lines of each illustration, making a Where’s Waldo of him, though finding the dragon is thankfully not as difficult. The busyness of Light’s illustrations perfectly match the bustle of a city like New York City or London. I have to admit that I am more enamored of the illustrations of this book than the text, but the text does—as I’ve said—a good job supporting the mission of the counting book without losing plot—and that’s more than can be said for some.



Richard Scarry’s Trucks by Richard Scarry. Golden-Random, 2015. Intended audience: Ages 0-3. This book is written in the manner of a primer with a noun and then the illustration of that noun, but there’s an element of silliness here, with the inclusion of several absurd examples. Beside the usual examples (bulldozer, dump truck, fire engine), there is also a pickle tanker and Mr. Frumble’s pickle car. Richard Scarry’s world is one where things don’t always go well: Fruit trucks spill their merchandise and Mr. Frumble drives his pickle car into the path of an emptying dump truck. I suspect but haven’t been able to prove that these illustrations were lifted from other stories, mashed here into a new product to sell—much as was done with the Favorite Words books based on Eric Carle’s works. This is probably a book best for fans—parents who are fans—of Richard Scarry’s work already, trying to induce their children to like the same books that they do—and why wouldn’t you? I too have fond memories of Richard Scarry (I think a lot of us do). I would, though, have liked to see more cohesion, more of a plot in this primer. Some of the illustrations tell their own mini story, but I found no story connecting the illustrations.



Princesses and Puppies by Jennifer Weinberg and illustrated by Francesco Legramandi and Gabriella Matta. Disney-Random, 2013. Intended audience: Ages 4-6. This book was something of a disappointment. Each princess gets a page or two only, and the story about each princess and puppy is the same and without much action: The princess receives or finds a puppy and interacts with the puppy in a banal way: Merida gives hers a bath. Tiana’s falls asleep on her lap. The only story that breaks this pattern involves a puppy that performs a trick for Jasmine—and the author wisely or unwisely remains silent about Jasmine giving its ragamuffin child owners money in return for the trick—which is the logical conclusion to such an interaction. The puppies receive at the hands of the text more personality than do the princesses. Perhaps the absence of plot and character development could be attributed to this book being a Level 1 reader, but I hope not. I hope there are Level 1 readers with more of a story.  It’s impossible for me to forget how much more impressed I was by the Level 2 Disney reader, A Pony for a Princess.


These reviews are not endorsed by any one involved in their making.  They are independent, honest reviews by a reader.

Book Reviews: August 2014 Picture Book Roundup: Franchised



High Voltage! by Frank Berrios and illustrated by Andrea Cagol and Francesco Legramandi. Golden-Random, 2014. Intended audience: Ages 2-5.

Now I know that part of Spidey’s appeal is his propensity for awful puns (and I’m no huge fan of his, though I enjoyed—at least mildly—the first two Tobey Maguire movies; I’ve not seen any of the others put out by Marvel), but this story feels like a string of awful puns loosely tied by a plot, where of course, the hero had to triumph over a villain with a ridiculous name and ridiculous outfit. It seemed like poor writing, though I know it to be catering to a particular gimmick. I also had to explain how Spidey had defeated the villain, giving a quick (and I’m sure poor) lesson in the conductive properties of water. Now I suppose one could use that to her advantage if she knew about the story time in advance and set up a pretty nifty though probably pretty dangerous science experiment, but I was anything but prepared for this story hour.



High-Stakes Heist! by Courtney Carbone and illustrated by Michael Atiyeh and Michael Borkowski. Golden-Random, 2014. Intended audience: Ages 2-5.

After reading High Voltage! this book seemed much better written—though I am more invested in the Avengers’ plot since Joss Whedon got his hands on it, so it might be only fair to take this with a grain of salt. At least the puns were fewer. Perhaps because the puns were not there to throw me from the storyline or perhaps because I know more about the character of Captain America than I do Spidey’s, Captain America’s personality and character seemed to come through the story more clearly than did Spider-man’s in the Berrios book reviewed above. The plots could have been identical though. I suppose in a book intended for young readers and of the same genre—and this genre in particular—that’s to be expected—and for this audience perhaps even good—a story of right always winning—though what I’ve grown to love of the Marvel movies are the comments on society, on power and powerlessness, the doggedness to protect despite odds, and the depth of the characters portrayed, their reactions to war and to one another—and, really, all of that was lacking from this Golden Book. For those following the storyline strictly from the POV of Marvel’s movies, this book will include a few spoilers as it happens farther along the storyline than has yet been released in theaters. I think I did too here have to take a moment to explain a bit about the idea of mind-control.



Sophie La Girafe: Sophie’s Busy Day by Dawn Sirett. DK, 2013. Intended audience: Ages 0-3.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Sophie La Girafe merchandise before. This one let me down a bit. I didn’t find it up to the standards I’d set with Peekaboo Sophie! Like Peekaboo Sophie! this is a toddler’s touch-and-feel book. The story takes Sophie through a day of chores and fun with friends, a common storyline for toddler books. Peekaboo Sophie! was rife with questions and instructions to teach children verbs, as well as lift-the-flap and touch-and-feel interactive illustrations. Sophie’s Busy Day lacked the question and response element as well as the lift-the-flap element, and I think that’s why it fell flat in comparison. For its genre, however, and when the pedestal of Peekaboo Sophie! is out of sight, this is not a bad book.


These reviews are not endorsed by any one involved in their making.  They are independent, honest reviews by a reader.