Sunday, August 10, 2014

No Such Thing, by Ella Bailey

As with all books from Nobrow and Flying Eye Books, if you like some of them you'll like all of them. They share a particular style that is easy to identify and is consistent throughout most of their catalogue. It's all about the muted retro colours and the general nostalgic appeal of the illustrations. If you love that, you'll likely be eagerly awaiting each new title.

The thing is, I want to love them. Every time I see the cover of one of these books, I have a momentary attraction to it, but I just can't connect with them in the end. I may end up abandoning the imprint altogether, to be honest.

To be fair, if you or your child connects with these pictures and love them, you'll probably love the whole book. My daughter and I just didn't love them quite enough to overcome our ambivalence about the story, which we both found a little hollow.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Movies and TV Top Tens, by Sandy Donovan

I like the idea of this book a lot. True to the description, it contains lists of things like the highest grossing movies of all time, the youngest actors to ever win an Oscar for a lead role, and the highest paid performers on TV. Unfortunately, at only 32 pages, that's about ALL it contains. There are only a handful of lists in this tiny book, and then it's finished. As much as I adore entertainment trivia, I was hoping for so much more from this book. I just don't think this subject matter is best suited to a page count typically reserved for preschool picture books. It's like reading the main page of Buzzfeed and then not being allowed to get any more information. Such a disappointment.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Project Kid: 100 Ingenious Crafts for Family Fun, by Amanda Kingloff

This is a great book for rainy day projects because almost all of them can be made at the spur of the moment with crap you have lying around the house. I say 'crap' because most of the materials required can be found in your garbage can: juice boxes, toilet paper rolls, empty bottles, unmatched socks.

Of course the results still look like things made out of random garbage (you probably won't be showing off your results on Pinterest) but kids will like them.

And when it's raining for the fifth day in a row and school doesn't start for another month and your kid is complaining that she's borrrrrrrred, it's nice to have a book of handy ideas to get her to be quiet for a few minutes so you can watch Project Runway already keep her entertained. And if your child is a little older, like eight or nine, you can probably send her and a friend loose on their own with the book for extra time to check your Facebook and see what everyone else thought about Project Runway this week an added sense of independence.

A wise investment for any parent who lives in a rainy part of the world and forgot to take the recycling out this week has lots of bits and pieces lying around, waiting to be turned into random crap upcycled.

Project Kid: 100 Ingenious Crafts for Family Fun
Smart and Surprising Projects to Make with and for Your Kids
Author: Amanda Kingloff
Publisher: Artisan Books
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
View on Amazon

Source: NetGalley

Great Little Gifts to Knit: 30 Quick and Colorful Patterns, by Jean Moss

I was happy to see this book offered for review on NetGalley because I've come to love knitting and I'm always looking for new ideas. I'm not sure when I'll stop thinking of myself as "just a little bit past a total beginner" (maybe when I finally get the hang of circular needles?) but I have managed to make quite a few gifts, mostly dolls and toys. This book looked like it was right up my alley.

Because I requested it from a review site instead of browsing it in a store or library, I wasn't able to flip through it first to see if I liked the look of the projects themselves. To be honest, I'm not sure I did. They all seem easy enough (for the most part...I think I could handle the majority of them) but I just don't think they're to my personal taste.

There are a lot of old-fashioned "grandma's knits" types of things here -- bobbly baby booties, oversized mittens, big wool socks, drawstring bags-- that may appeal to some, but seemed dowdy to me. The photos are nice, but the projects just didn't seem current enough. Of course, if the same items had been photographed on a twenty-something wearing giant black glasses and skinny jeans, it might have at least captured some hipster appeal (not that I'm the target demographic for that either...).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Angry Little Puffin, by Timothy Young

Bahahaha! This book had me at the cover. "The Happy Little Penguin" with the words crossed out and re-written as "The Angry Little Puffin" in red paint (although the digital file I got from NetGalley showed the puffin with a marker instead of paint...different covers? or just the inside cover picture?).

The puffin in question lives in some sort of zoo/aquarium/biodome and is sick to death of always being mistaken for a penguin. "Look at the funny little penguin," people say. "What a cute little penguin!" Nobody seems to even know what a puffin is. It's maddening!

Just when the puffin thinks he's going to scream, a little girl finally comes along who not only knows lots about puffins, but absolutely adores them (she must be a Canadian girl...we have lots of puffins here). Finally! Vindication for the little penguin...I mean puffin.

Like all of the Timothy Young books I've read, I loved it. It reminds me of I Hate Picture Books! in that it has an adorably angry main character who softens by the end. It also showcases Young's love for picture books, as he depicts several real-life books (as well as DVDs and toys) about penguins during the puffin's tirade that penguins get all the attention. [Scroll down for a complete list of the books and movies depicted in the book!]

Keep reading for more, including Magda's Take!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Who Was Here? Discovering Wild Animal Tracks, by Mia Posada

My daughter and I had a lot of fun reading this book. It's like a puzzle. First there is a double page illustration of an animal track (or multiple tracks) in its natural environment, along with a little verse describing the animal (or animals) who made it. The clues are in the poetic description, the type of ground on which it's found, and of course, the size and shape of the track itself. The reader then has to try to guess "Who Was Here?"

Magda and I had just finished reading the wonderful animal poetry book, Dear Wandering Wildebeest and Other Poems From the Water Hole, so she kept wanting to guess African savanna animals for every page. I'd tell her, "Look at the snow around the tracks" but when we turned the page, she'd still be surprised it wasn't a jackal or something.

Keep reading for more, including some illustrations from inside the book...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mr. Zidderdeedee, by Diane Page and Bruce Bigelow (illustrated by Bruce Bigelow)

Oh my no. If there's one aspect of book blogging that I dread, it's having to write a review for a children's book I didn't enjoy. Since I receive a lot of review copies from publishers with the understanding that I will post an honest review, I don't feel like I can just skip reviewing it altogether.

I also can't sugarcoat it. If I didn't like a book, I have to be honest or else my favourable reviews of books that I DID like will be less meaningful. How would anybody believe I was being honest if I can't be honest about what I don't like, as well as what I do?

Anyway, I didn't like this book. At all. If it had been a book for adults, it probably wouldn't have been so hard for me to be blunt, but for some reason I worry about hurting the feelings of children's book authors and illustrators more than other authors. But I need to get over that because this book was terrible.

Dear Wandering Wildebeest And Other Poems from the Water Hole, by Irene Latham (Illustrated by Anna Wadham)

Huzzah! I enjoyed this book so much that I have to gather my thoughts first before I just start gushing about it.


First of all, my enjoyment was amplified by the fact that five minutes before I read it I had just finished reading a truly atrocious book with terrible illustrations and tortured rhymes, only to discover this gem immediately after. I know it's not fair to either book to let a side-by-side comparison flavour my review, so I won't mention the name of the other book (but if you're really curious, you can probably figure it out by looking at what I reviewed just before or just after this one), but I know I would have loved this book no matter what. I just happened to love it MORE because I was in need of a great book to cleanse my reading palette.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mommy and Me Start Cooking, by DK Publishing

I've had a digital review copy of this book from DK Publishing on my computer for a while now. It looks fantastic and I love DK Books, but I've been putting off trying the recipes in the book until now. Turns out the copy I have is actually the original British version, which means that all of the measurements for flour and things are in grams or ounces instead of millilitres or cups. Now I know my British friends will insist that this is a better way to measure powder ingredients, but it's useless if you don't have a kitchen scale (which most Canadians probably don't). But as of last week, I DO!! YAY!! I'm super excited.

I know Magda is going to love trying out these recipes. Now that she's almost five, she's even more interested in cooking than ever before. She helps her dad make bread, she made a strawberry compote earlier this week (even the stove top bit) and sometimes she even makes our coffee in the morning. I can't wait to crack open my new kitchen scale and try making pancakes from scratch or cheesy rolls. If it wasn't 2 hours past Magda's bedtime I'd be tempted to get her up and try them now! No wait, what am I saying? That's a ridiculous idea.

Right, tomorrow. Tomorrow, we bake!

Keep reading for some pictures from inside the book (UK version)...

The Magic Pattern Book: Sew 6 Patterns in 36 Different Styles! by Amy Barickman

The Magic Pattern Book is a cool concept: six basic patterns (or collection of pattern pieces) that can each be adapted in six different ways, to make a total of 36 pieces. It even includes six different fabric suggestions for each style. Awesome!

The thing is, if memory serves, this is how people used to sew all the time. Or at least my mom and her friends all did. They'd get a paper envelope with a pattern in it, but each pattern could be adapted a few different ways to make very different styles. But I'm not sure many of my own friends do that anymore. We should though! Well, at least in theory...

I'm not sure I'm as good at sewing as I secretly think I am. You know how when you sing in the shower you secretly think you could totally be a professional? But then around other people you can't hold a tune? That's what I'm like with sewing. When I *think* about sewing, or when I watch a sewing show like The Great British Sewing Bee (which is GREAT btw), I'm pretty sure I could make a whole new wardrobe for the entire family. Then when I get in front of my sewing machine I'm lucky if I can sew a seam straight. Sigh. The image of myself I have in my head is a tough act to follow.

Cozy Classics: Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Jack Wang and Holman Wang

I'm always so impressed with Jack and Holman Wang's Cozy Classics series. In general I don't love baby board books that are inspired by classic literature because I think very few of them are successful, and even fewer of them appeal to kids as much as they do to adults (sorry if you're reading this and you're one of the many friends or family members who has given my child a "classic literature board book"...I didn't mean you, obviously). But I love these ones. They're far too charming to resist!

I'm always amazed at the choices the book creators have to make in order to relay a classic (and long) piece of literature into a tiny little board book, particularly if that book is complicated or deals with serious issues. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for example, deals with issues of racism, slavery, and moral conflict. How would they make that into a book for very young children?

I love how they interpreted Mark Twain's book! When Jim is introduced, the word next to it is simply "man." Later, there's a picture of him looking out of a window sadly and the caption says "trapped." Huck and Tom make a "plan" and later it shows Jim out in the sun with the word "free." Perfect.

Keep reading for a peak inside the book!

Cozy Classics: Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Jack Wang and Holman Wang

I've always loved Jack and Holman Wang's Cozy Classics series. They're just so adorable! Not to mention impressive! All of the illustrations are made from felted dolls posed in a variety of sets that tell the story of a classic novel in a just a few pages, each with only one word next to it.

Some of the books have been better than others at relating the plot of the original story (it's hard! some of the classics they've done have been long and complicated novels), but the latest two, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, are both surprisingly faithful to their sources. Maybe it's just because I remembered these books a little better than some of the others in the series, but I actually could follow the story just from the dozen or so pictures and words.

Speaking of the pictures, they've really pushed themselves this time. There are two different pages with fires on them. Are those real fires? The campfire page looks real. I'd be so nervous to put the little dolls (which obviously take a lot of work to make) next to a real flame! Maybe it's fake. There is also a cave scene which had me wondering if they built a cave out of plaster or if they actually put the dolls in a real cave-like environment. Either way, the results were fantastic. Plus, look how grumpy Tom looks on the cover! So adorable!

Keep reading to see lots of gorgeous and adorable illustrations from the book

Claude on the Slopes, by Alex T. Smith

This book was an unexpected treat. I didn't realize when I requested it from NetGalley that it was a junior chapter book rather than a preschool picture book (there are still lots of pictures, but it's about 95 pages long and the text is divided into chapters). I also didn't realize it would be so delightfully hilarious! I was hooked by the first page, but by the time I got to this line I was in love:

"He lives with Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes and his best pal in the whole world, Sir Bobblysock, who is both a sock and quite bobbly."

When Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes are at work, Claude and Sir Bobblysock go on all sorts of adventures, this time finding themselves sledding and skiing down a large snowy mountain and rescuing people from an avalanche (which they may or may not have caused in the first place).

I'm so glad there are other Claude books because I can't wait to read all of them with Magda!