Children’s Book Reviews

I read these books for my Literature & Media for Children class.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin Stead

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This book won the 2011 Caldecott medal. I was drawn to A Sick Day for Amos McGee by its cover art, which shows an elephant, a penguin, and an old man playing cards. I enjoyed this book and it definitely met my expectations as well as standards for quality. I loved both the story and the illustrations. The story is silly (a zookeeper plays chess with an elephant), which children will enjoy, and also heartwarming (when the zookeeper gets sick, all the animals come take care of him). The illustrations are of high quality and correlate with the text. There are several pages where there are only illustrations and no text, and on these pages the pictures tell the story (the animals wait at the bus stop and then take the bus to the zookeeper’s house). This is the first book Erin Stead illustrated and it states that she used “woodblock printing techniques and pencil”. She is clearly a talented artist and I like how she uses colors sparingly to make the illustrations pop.

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park

junie b jones and the stupid smelly bus

I think children would be drawn to Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by the title and the cover, which depicts a grumpy-looking girl holding her nose. The book had short chapters with a few black-and-white illustrations included. I enjoyed reading it and think that children would like it as well. At first I thought it would be good for kids who are about to start kindergarten, but after finishing it I changed my mind! All the trouble Junie B. gets herself into might make them more nervous. 🙂 My favorite aspects of the book were that the author really gave Junie B. Jones a voice (she spoke like a five-year-old, using incorrect grammar sometimes) and it was funny. I also liked that Junie loved the library and books! The only thing that I think some parents might not like is that she uses some “inappropriate” words such as hate, dumb, and stupid. This book clearly is controversial as it is one of the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books from 2000 to 2009. For this reason, I think it should be read at home or with a parent rather than in a group at school or in a library program.

Creepy Carrots!, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown

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Creepy Carrots! was recently selected as one of five 2013 Caldecott Honor Books. This delightful picture book tells the story of Jasper Rabbit, who fears he is being stalked by the delicious yet creepy carrots from Crackenhopper Field. To ease his paranoia, Jasper builds a tall fence around the carrot patch, complete with an alligator-filled moat. The humorous story concludes with a twist: the carrots’ plan all along had been for Jasper to leave them alone, and it worked! While the story is cute and funny, the illustrations that accompany the text are the highlight. The illustrator drew the pictures in shades of grey, with pops of orange on each page to emphasize the carrots and other small objects. The “creepy” Jack-O-Lantern-esque faces of the stalking carrots lend amusement to the story as well.

Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton

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This colorful board book introduces basic animal sounds to young children. Each page is a different bright color in contrast to the brown, gray, and white animals displayed on the pages. Moo, Baa, La La La adds a dose of silliness to the mix by featuring three pink pigs who sing instead of saying “oink”. Other animals in the book include a cow, a sheep, rhinoceroses, dogs, cats, a duck, and a horse. Children learn the sounds made by these animals while reading this fun, rhyming story.

Pride & Prejudice, written by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Alison Oliver

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Pride & Prejudice is a counting primer that takes readers from numbers 1 through 10 using scenes inspired by the classic novel. Adults who have read the Jane Austen book will appreciate details such as the girl on the cover wearing a shirt that says “I Romeo & Juliet. This book series captured my interest due to the quality of the artwork. The drawings are very sophisticated for a children’s board book. Parents who want to introduce their children to classic works at an early age would be very interested in Pride & Prejudice and its counterparts. Even though I have never read the novel I can appreciate the quality of this board book and understand its appeal.

The Mixed-Up Chameleon by Eric Carle

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Eric Carle is a renowned author and illustrator and this book certainly exceeds expectations. The cover art draws the reader in as it depicts a multi-colored chameleon with its long tongue stuck out to catch a fly. The technique used is tissue paper collage, which is very distinctive to the author. It is easy to recognize his illustrations and they are very aesthetically pleasing as well. Every color of the rainbow is used in the book and children will be delighted by the vivid imagery. There are also tabs on the pages for each zoo animal so that readers can flip to the page of their choice if desired. On the final page of the book each tab is linked to its corresponding color of the rainbow. Not only are the illustrations superb, but the story is captivating as well. The moral of the story and what children should learn from it is to be happy with who you are. The book provides this lesson in a discreet manner without taking attention away from the story or preaching. It is very exciting to turn each page and see what animal the chameleon has wished to be next and what silly part has been added to its body.

The Boston Tea Party, written by Russell Freedman and illustrated by Peter Malone

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The Boston Tea Party was a very important event in American history. Russell Freeman’s book explains this historical happening so that young readers can understand its significance. The Boston Tea Party provides a detailed introduction explaining what led to the uprising and then presents the story in a straightforward manner, introducing historical figures such as Governor Hutchinson and Samuel Adams. Peter Malone’s watercolor illustrations and first-hand accounts from participants who played a pivotal role in dumping out the tea add to the story of that fateful night in 1773. The book also includes a map of Boston at the time and an afterword which explains the consequences and results of the Boston Tea Party, stating that some believe it was the true start of the Revolutionary War.

What to Do About Alice?, written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

What to Do About Alice

What to Do About Alice?
is unique in that it’s both a biography and a picture book. Subtitled How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy!, this book presents some background history on former president Teddy Roosevelt through anecdotes about his daughter’s life. Delightful digital illustrations accompany the captivating story of Alice Roosevelt, who became a goodwill ambassador and world traveler while never losing her spunk. This inspirational tale of a girl who overcame a physical handicap and taught herself various subjects by reading books from her father’s library will appeal to elementary school aged girls. What to Do About Alice? has won numerous awards, including Parents Choice Award and Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award.

Butterflies by Seymour Simon

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While the migration of monarchs is a well-known phenomenon, the first page of Seymour Simon’s Butterflies presents an amazing and more obscure fact: “The life span of a monarch is shorter than the time it takes to complete the migration every year. No one monarch makes the whole round-trip journey.” And so begins this book, which is chock full of tidbits of information and strikingly beautiful photographs sure to captivate the attention of its readers. Readers will learn about the difference between moths and butterflies, their life cycles, their body parts, what butterflies live in the US, and interesting butterflies that live elsewhere in the world. Nature enthusiasts can use the book as a field guide to identify butterflies. Simon also instructs readers on how to create their own butterfly gardens.

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