Tag Archives: growing up

Book Reviews: August Picture Book Roundup

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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.

***1/2

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.

*1/2

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.

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Challenge: Legal Theft: Still Home (509 words)

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The town may have changed, but it still felt like home.  Where once there was a cornfield across from her preschool, a Costco had been raised, complete with its own gas station.  The potholed parking lot and empty strip mall had been replaced with a Big Y, and they had cut down a lot of the trees to make the building more visible from the road behind it.  The towering willow tree in front of the elementary school had fallen in a storm, leaving the school’s front visible from the road, making it seem somehow sharper, though the decorations in the second grade classrooms helped to soften the building’s exterior again. The subtle marina that had allowed the lake its rightful prominence had been replaced by what looked like a displaced Alpine-style ski lodge.

But the lake was the same.  The hills were the same.  The streets hadn’t changed.  The aroma of grilled fish still wafted over the parked motorcycles around the restaurant by the turn.

Up the hill past the restaurant that hadn’t been any one place long enough to have a name, her parents’ house—her house—was still there—and still unchanged, though the massive spruce had been lost in the same storm as the willow—and that was unsettling.  Her sister’s bedroom window had always been hidden behind the spiny branches—much like her sister.

It was a small house, a boxy one-story ranch from the 70s.  The neighborhood had once been all one-story ranches from the 70s, but the ranches had been built upon by most of the home-owners and now her house and the house of her across-the-street neighbor were dwarfed by two-stories with bay windows.

The walkway was still broken and overgrown brick with the dry stone wall that held up the larger garden threatening to topple under the weight of weeds and planted perennials to crush the dainty pansies and babies’ breath below it, and the pansies and babies’ breath threatening to reclaim the walkway.

Both the glass and the red door behind creaked when she pulled them open, and she had to pull them shut behind, since they wouldn’t close on their own.

There was that strange smell of rot and mold that her father had complained about.  Boxes were piled on the chest beneath the window while the couch looked empty without a nest of blankets built by either her or her sister.  Worse than empty nest, she thought.  Just empty.

No one was home.  She knew they wouldn’t be.  They both worked now, but it was the only time that she could make it and she needed to pick up a few things.  She needed to make sure that things were all right after the broken pipe.

The cat darted away from her behind the couch.  She knew better than to try to coax her out again, though she hoped each time that the cat would befriend her, remember her, and let her scratch her again beneath the chin.

Her footsteps seemed abnormally loud on the bowed wood.

Is there specific term for someone who steals repeatedly from the same person?  This week’s line again has come from Kate Kearney at More Than 1/2 Mad, where you can find her original story, “Unwelcome Party,” which uses this line.

Challenge: Legal Theft: Escape (369 words)

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This is the original piece from which Kate Kearney of More Than 1/2 Mad stole to create her piece, “Girls in Toasters,” this past Thursday.  Go ahead and click one of those links; her piece should be read as the sequel to mine, so you may as well have it up and ready.  I hope hers is the sequel to mine for the characters’ sake.  There’s also some continuity between this piece and the earlier “What’s In Your Closet?”

Links to all the legal theft pieces of my thieving gang can be found here.

The windows of her car were the walls of her cage, and she wanted to scrabble her nails against the glass until someone noticed her and picked her up out of that cage to take her to a new home.  Well, something like that.  She was tired.  She was tired, and the traffic was bumper-to-bumper and unmoving as ice in the winter—which only reminded her how hot she was.  The window was down on the driver’s side, but she couldn’t reach the passenger’s side crank through the several boxes and the bags and the purse stacked on top of and around them.  The A/C didn’t work well enough to be more effective than the rolled down window, and besides, really the problem was the sun, which baked the air in the car through the glass.  Till she could rid the car of that hot air, the A/C would only be hardly effective—and some of the vents would be blocked by boxes and bags anyway.  She worried about the electronics—particularly the laptop that sat in the front seat beside her, as securely as she could make it.  Would the heat melt its parts together?  That would be the worst ending to this long drive.

She’d been driving for hours, and there were still hours of driving ahead of her.  The car was stuffed tightly as a Thanksgiving turkey with everything she’d been able to fit.  She hadn’t wanted to leave behind as much as she had to leave.

There was a lot she hadn’t wanted to leave behind: the bookcase, the mattress, friends, a comfortable job, family….

But she went to friends—a few of them.  Hopefully friends who’d be glad to see her.  And this was a trip she’d made before.  She’d left her family before.  They’d been then the same number of miles away—give or take a few.

They were all growing up and moving away: she, the friends she had had in high school, the friends she had made in college.  There was no real collection of friends anymore to return home to as there had always been.  The closest she had to that were coworkers.  They seemed relatively constant, but even they were a shifting ice floe, breaking apart and shifting away from one another.  (There was that icy imagery again, reminding her of the heat, unable to cool her down as effectively as any ice cube would have done.)  She needed a constant.  And she was ashamed to admit it.

Maybe she was running.  Maybe she was going home.  She really wasn’t sure.

All she knew was that she’d be unduly glad to see the familiar, undulating horizon that framed I-81.  She’d be glad of the mountains closing her in their embrace.