Dooby Dooby Moo

•June 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin‘s Dooby Dooby Moo wins points for sheer silliness. After all, a cow talent show? Please. Yet somehow it works. School Library Journal: “When Duck discovers an ad in the paper announcing a talent show at the county fair (first prize, a slightly used trampoline), Farmer Brown’s animals are unstoppable. The cows and sheep concentrate on their singing while the pigs work on interpretive dance. How the suspicious farmer could ever confuse all this noise with routine snoring is a bit of a stretch, but the hilarious late-night practice scenes inside the barn will help readers make the leap. At the talent show, the cows and sheep impress some of the judges, but lack of sleep has the pigs truly snoring when it is time to perform. Fortunately, Duck steps in to save the day with a winning version of Born to Be Wild. After the talent show, Farmer Brown suspects nothing until he hears boings coming from the barn. Comical watercolor illustrations provide the punch lines to many jokes within the well-paced text. Some of the sophisticated humor will go over the heads of most children, especially the witty footnotes that pepper the story. However, like Click, Clack, Moo and Giggle, Giggle, Quack, this story makes a great read-aloud, and fans of the series will be ecstatic to see another episode of mischief in the barnyard.” Giggle factor: about as high as the animals can hop. Adult enjoyment: likely. Illustrations: four jelly jars.

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Ginger Bear

•June 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Mini Gray is quite possibly an acquired taste: her books, such as The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon, are not quite so morbid as Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies, but she’s not all sweetest and light. Gray’s stories avoid saccharine even when treating the tale of a sugar cookie in Ginger Bear. School Library Journal: “When Horace makes a cookie in the shape of a bear, he can’t wait to eat it, but then it is dinner time, then he has brushed his teeth, and there is nothing to do but put his gingerbread bear in a tin for safekeeping on his pillow. When Ginger Bear wakes up, there is no one to play with so he decides to bake himself some friends. He makes enough fabulously iced and decorated cookie bears to have a circus, one so thrilling that no one notices the approach of Bongo the dog. While the cookie carnage that follows might rattle a few tender souls, others will beg for a rereading of the crumbled cookie spread, and all will be satisfied by Ginger Bear’s clever and considerably safer new career in a bake-shop display window. Wonderful art that matches the text in its ability to be comfortingly familiar and perverse at the same time pleases with a great many witty details . . . The nearly psychedelic illustration of Ginger Bear squeezing pink icing over rapturous cookies as the backdrop shimmers with sprinkles is a treat in itself. This is a tasty choice for fans of Traction Man Is Here! as well as anyone who’s enjoyed the various retellings of ‘The Gingerbread Boy.'” (In other words, it isn’t too dark either.) Giggle factor: varies. Adult enjoyment: if you like satire. Illustrations: four jelly jars.

Go the F— to Sleep

•June 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Adam Mansbach‘s Go the F– to Sleep is obviously a picture book for parents, not kids. I do not recommend reading it to your children. However, it is the most hysterically funny picture book I have ever encountered, first as a pdf making the email circuit, and now in the book section of the New York Times. From the official product description (no School Library reviews for this one!): “Go the F— to Sleep is a bedtime book for parents who live in the real world, where a few snoozing kitties and cutesy rhymes don’t always send a toddler sailing blissfully off to dreamland. Profane, affectionate, and radically honest, California Book Award-winning author Adam Mansbach’s verses perfectly capture the familiar–and unspoken–tribulations of putting your little angel down for the night. In the process, they open up a conversation about parenting, granting us permission to admit our frustrations, and laugh at their absurdity. With illustrations by Ricardo Cortés, Go the F— to Sleep is beautiful, subversive, and funny: a book for parents new, old, and expectant. You probably should not read it to your children.” Giggle factor: side splitting. Adult enjoyment: high. Illustrations: surprisingly good, but still only three jelly jars. They’re just there for the satire. To read the New York Times article, click here.

Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon

•May 29, 2011 • 1 Comment

The more books I read by Mini Grey, the creator of Jim: A Cautionary Tale, the more I am convinced she is an acquired taste: time and again, she serves up wacky retellings of traditional children’s stories, each with its own peculiar postmodern twist. (Though what else should one expect from someone born in a Mini Cooper?) School Library Journal: “This romanticized, fractured spin on the classic nursery rhyme has the dish and the spoon running away to New York City to seek fortune and fame. They succeed at both, but a nonstop spending spree soon brings them to the door of some sharp and shady characters who gladly offer to lend them money. When their clients are unable to make their payments, a chase ensues, and, in desperation, the dish and the spoon rob a bank and end up in jail, separated for 25 years. Readers and listeners alike will love the sharp and shady gang in the guise of a meat cleaver, a serrated knife, and a cooking fork with menacing eyes and legs, while the stylish collage illustrations of early-20th-century New York City, in split-screen format, will dazzle and amaze them. The age-old lesson that crime doesn’t pay and the poignant beauty of true love enduring the test of time are playfully and delicately portrayed. Combine this contemporary makeover with the classic original for a delightful mix that is full of panache.” Giggle factor: varies wildly. Adult enjoyment: likely higher than the child’s. Illustrations: five jelly jars.

Oscar and the Very Hungry Dragon

•May 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Ute Krause’s Oscar and the Very Hungry Dragon is a tasty treat of a tale about a boy who outwits a dragon through the unusual tactic of gourmet cooking. Publishers Weekly: “When no princesses are available . . . young Oscar, a schoolboy in a T-shirt and backwards baseball cap, is sent instead [to placate the local dragon]. The dragon is outraged at Oscar’s tininess, so the boy offers to fatten himself up, requesting kitchen equipment and groceries. Oscar has a gift for cooking, and although he has gained weight, he fools the dragon into believing otherwise (‘Oscar, who had learned a thing or two from listening to fairy tales, quickly held out the cooking spoon to the nearsighted dragon’). After much protesting, the dragon caves and tries human food. Of course, the two end up opening a restaurant. It’s a neat amalgam of fairy tale elements with a little Top Chef thrown in. Krause’s pacing is brisk and her tone sure. In her competent hands, the background scenery — lopsided half-timbered cottages, Oscar’s kitchen-in-a-cage, and the restaurant they open together (with bathroom signs that show a male dragon standing and a lady dragon seated) — becomes an integral part of the entertainment.” Giggle factor: high. Adult enjoyment: moderate to high, depending on how much you like fine dining. Illustrations: four jelly jars. Also see The Paper Bag Princess and The Knight and the Dragon.

Azad’s Camel

•May 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Azad’s Camel by Erika Pal is a dark, serious story that nonetheless has a happy ending (though it may still be a bit too unsettling for some children). Booklist: “In an Arabian city, a rich sheikh buys an athletic little orphan boy, Azad, and forces him to work as a camel jockey. Azad hates the dangerous work, and he is frightened by the shouting crowds at the racetrack and by the camels blazing speed. Then his camel, Asfur, begins to talk to him, and they plan an escape: after they cross the finish line, they keep running, all the way through the city until at last they reach the desert and find a home with a loving Bedouin community. The uncluttered double-page spreads in watercolor and ink show the bond between the boy and camel, first in the modern city streets with limousines and skyscrapers, and then in the wide-open desert under the endless sky. A final note talks about the smuggling of children who are forced to race camels today. Young people will be moved by the fast action and the shocking cruelty as well as the touching drama of the brave young athlete’s strong connection with his camel.” Giggle factor: not applicable; this story teaches empathy instead. Adult enjoyment: depends. Illustrations: four jelly jars.

Built to Last

•May 26, 2011 • Leave a Comment

David MacAulay‘s Built to Last is intended for older children; as such, each of the three chapters are REALLY LONG. But for any child obsessed with construction, this book is a must. James is riveted by the architectural plans, cross sections and building sites. He carefully listens to every line. Booklist: “As it was originally conceived, this title would group together newly colorized versions of three previously published single titles about some of the world’s most lasting structures: Macaulay’s Cathedral (1973) and Castle (1977), both Caldecott Honor Books, and Mosque (2003). In his moving introduction, though, Macaulay explains that after looking closely at the two older titles, he realized that simply washing the original drawings in color was not an option. Dissatisfied with ‘ambiguous cross sections’ and ’embarrassing lapses in scale,’ Macaulay completely redid Cathedral and Castle, adding new drawings in beautifully redesigned formats. The new images are not only colorized but they are also humanized; more people appear on the pages. Macaulay has also tightened and rewritten text in the two older titles, creating even stronger narratives. Mosque, originally printed in color, received a few format changes and new drawings. The collective impact of this celebratory, awe-inspiring compendium . . . is powerful and will draw an even wider, all-ages audience.” Giggle factor: not applicable; has a “wow” factor instead. Adult enjoyment: if you like architecture. Illustrations: varies from three to five jelly jars, depending on the spread.