The Incredible Ordinary Hero or The Brave Bystander: Burns by Aida Rascanu, Beatrice Magrini (Illustrator): A Nice Book Almost as Long as Its Title

The Incredible Ordinary Hero or The Brave Bystander: BurnsThe Incredible Ordinary Hero or The Brave Bystander: Burns

by Aida Rascanu, Beatrice Magrini (Illustrator)

Kindle Edition, 28 pg.
2018
Read: June 2, 2018

This is just a great idea — a double-whammy of a lesson for the readers/audience. First, there’s a discussion of what it means to be a hero (doing things that are heroic) and there’s a little first aid lesson — age appropriate, mind you — to help parents/teachers train up young ones.

The writing was good enough — I think it could’ve been written in such a way to connect with readers better, and to be a little less preachy. But my guess is that the audience will have no problem with it, just the adults. I did think things ended abruptly, though — and that’s going to rankle a kid or three. Still, this is solidly-written.

The art will keep the reader’s attention — and honestly, it could’ve gone pretty graphic, but it didn’t.

From Rascanu’s website, it appears that this is supposed to be the beginning of a series — it would probably work better for reading if there was at least one companion volume. If so, it’d be a great investment for parents of wee ones — if not, this would still be a good idea. Just not as much of an investment, I guess.

—–

3 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion.

Advertisements

Vernon the Vegetarian Lion by John Hughson, Ali Smith

Vernon the Vegetarian LionVernon the Vegetarian Lion

by John Hughson, Ali Smith (Illustrator)

PDF, 32 pg.
Spiderwize, 2017
Read: March 13, 2018

I am thiiis close to spending too much time on this one. I shall try to refrain.

On the surface, this is a cute little story about a lion cub (Vernon) who suddenly decides to become a vegetarian and since he knows he won’t find vegetarian fare at home, takes off (after telling his parents what he’s up to) in search of animals that can help him pursue this idea. He tries this thing and that — none of which get him the nutrients he needs or even works for him. Finally, when he’s too week to go on, his dad shows up and brings him home, where Mom has come up with a vegetarian meal for him. There’s some fun stuff with the various animals he tries to mimic and whatnot and a heart-warming moment at the end.

But something about this doesn’t set right with me. See, lions aren’t vegetarians — it doesn’t work. This isn’t a case of Peter Hatcher’s mother putting his plate on the floor so that Fudge can pretend to be a dog for a few days. Or at least it doesn’t seem to be. Peter’s mom knows that this is a phase for Fudge to go through, and once it’s over, he’ll be back at a table like a human. Vernon’s mother doesn’t seem to be playing along until her figures out that he can’t eat that way (which is what I thought the book was going for initially), she seems to seriously be supporting him in his malnutrition. And that seems to send a strange message to kids.

Honestly, I know that most people reading the picture book aren’t going to think of it as much as I have, but … the rationale behind this book just bugged me. It didn’t seem like good parenting. And I’m uncomfortable with the message of a children’s book being “good parents are supportive even when you’re indulging in self-destructive behavior.”

Most of the artwork is pretty good — occasionally, it gets really good. There’s a picture of a hippopotamus that I cannot stop looking at. I’m not sure what it is about it, but it’s very arresting. Either way, it should keep little ones’ attentions.

If you’re looking for a cute story, this will fit the bill. And for 95% or so of the audience out there, that’s enough. This doesn’t quite work for me though, and I suspect I won’t be alone.

Disclaimer:I received a copy of this from the author in exchange for my honest opinion, which he might regret now.

—–

3 Stars

Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 by B.C.R. Fegan, Lenny Wen

Don't Ever Look Behind Door 32Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32

by B.C.R. Fegan, Lenny Wen (Illustrator)

Kindle Edition, 32 pg.
TaleBlade Press, 2018

Read: March 10, 2018

I was excited — yes, really — to get the email from TaleBlade asking if I’d like a copy of this book. Fegan/Wen’s previous book, Henry and the Hidden Treasure, was one of my favorite books of last year. Could they live up to that one? Thankfully, they could at least come close.

In these pages, Mr. Nicholas Noo takes two children on a tour of “the magical Hotel of Hoo” showing them all the wonderful things in store and repeatedly warning them, “Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32.” He shows what’s behind every other door in between the warnings, most of which is wonderful, some of which is just . . . odd (which I prefer, really). Unlike Disney’s Beast, however, Noo does more than tell the children not to go somewhere, he ultimately tells them why they shouldn’t go there.

I can’t tell you what a pleasant change that is — even if this book is intended for kids — to get a book where a character just tells the others characters everything they need to know to react in a responsible manner. But this isn’t the place for that rant (as tempting as it is).

This book isn’t as good as last year’s Henry and the Hidden Treasure but it’s close — the last page or so of Henry was a sweet note, this ended with a reveal/punchline. Is it bad? No — not at all, it’s just not as good in my eyes. That said, a punchline ending isn’t going to satisfy even a 3-4 year old on the 32nd read through (at least not on its own), but Fegan and Wen don’t rely on that — the book is full of jokes, clever lines, visual wonder, and lots of things to pay attention to along the way.

Sure, you want the book to be appealing to kids, but the real key to success for a kid’s book is appealing to parents/grandparents/caregivers. They’re the ones who have to read, reread, rereread, and rereread again these things. Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boyton enjoy long-lived success because adults enjoy reading them. I think I judge books like this on this standard, but I rarely do it self-consciously. This is one of those books that adults can have fun with even on the fourth “just one more time” of the night. Which has nothing to do with the big reveal at the end, but the trip you take along the way.

Wen’s art is just delightful. Really — the colors are vibrant, the characters look great, there’s something extra to grab your eye on every page. (which is also great for adult readers)

I’d say something neat about the typeface — it’s part of the look of the book, it’s fair game. But I say anything beyond “even the typeface is great looking” I’ll show I have no idea what I’m talking about, so that’s all I’m going to say there.

I can honestly say that I never envisioned having this much to say about a 32 page book, but once I got started, I couldn’t really stop. I really dug this book, you will, too — especially if you have kids to read it to.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinions about this book.

—–

4 Stars

Nils Cuts His Nails – The Scissors Game by Nurit Zvolon, Rotem Lots-Zaiden

Nils Cuts His Nails – The Scissors GameNils Cuts His Nails – The Scissors Game

by Nurit Zvolon. Rotem Lots-Zaiden (Illustrator)
Kindle Edition, 32 pg.
Simple Story, 2018
Read: March 10, 2018


The success of this book — like almost all of them for the pre-reading set — comes down to the effort put into it by whoever is reading the book to the child. If someone gets into the rhyme, oohs and ahhs over the art just right, and has a lot of fun with it, I can’t imagine how a kid won’t either.

Zvolon wrote this to help her granddaughters deal with the trauma of having their nails trimmed — which can be a struggle for some kids, I know. So Zvolon came up with a way to turn the experience into a game into something fantastical. She tells a very simple rhyming story about Nils overcoming his fear of getting his nails trimmed with the help of a game. It’s a neat idea told in an attractive fashion.

The art is something else — if it doesn’t make you think fantasy, nothing will. Rotem Lots-Zaiden doesn’t illustrate this like any contemporary children’s book — it feels like something that came out of the 1970’s — maybe early Sesame Street animation. This is not a bad thing, I think it serves the story pretty well, and the strange features and interesting colors should keep the attention of young readers.

I honestly never thought I’d read a book about trimming nails, or helping someone through the struggle of it. But now that I have, I can’t imagine a better one on the subject. This is good stuff, and I hope it helps some kids.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinions as expressed above.

—–

3 Stars

Snobbity Snowman by Maria Bardyukova & Quiet Riley, Jr.

Snobbity SnowmanSnobbity Snowman

by Maria Bardyukova, Quiet Riley, Jr.
Kindle Edition, 34 pg.
2017

Read: December 20, 2017


That cover tells you almost everything you need to know. Great cover.

Snobbity is not your typical Snowman — he’s got himself an attitude (although that might be more about what he’s made from, not anything wrong with him) and shortly after we meet him, things get rough for him. But there’s a lesson to be learned and as he does, things pick up for Snobbity. It’s pretty straightforward, with a nice twist toward the end.

One thing that ran through my head while reading this: this book would be so much fun to read to a kid. It starts the way pretty much every snowman story has to (the construction), then the language gets fun, then the story turns to sentimental/the lesson. Up and down and back up again, with a good movement forward. It’s something for for the grown up reader to sink their teeth into and entertain the audience.

The art is dynamic, it moves — right through the story, and helping the reader along — it’s goofy while heartfelt. Almost as much fun as the text. It’s just what the pre-reader/early reader will respond to.

This is a lot of fun with a good amount of hope — highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for my honest opinions — I think the authors, this was fun.

—–

4 Stars

Tummy Rumble Quake by Heather L. Beal, Jubayda Sager

Tummy Rumble QuakeTummy Rumble Quake

by Heather L. Beal, Jubayda Sager (Illustrator)

Kindle Edition, 28 pg.
Train 4 Safety Press, 2017
Read: December 12, 2017


So the class (or whatever you call them) at this day care center is prepping for something called the Great ShakeOut (apparently a real thing — I’m glad to hear that it exists), which is an Earthquake Preparedness activity. As part of that, they learn a bit about what causes earthquakes, what to do during one to say safe, and get some questions answered about the safety of others.

So you get a little bit of a narrative — just enough to give the kids something to hang on to — and you run it through some basic lessons that are given in a way to help the reader (or person being read to) remember and learn from them. I don’t know if seismologists would use the comparison to a rumbling tummy, but how many of them write children’s books? It’s a comparison that’ll stick.

My main — really, only — gripe with this is the song. There’s no way to know how to sing this — I’m sure it’s best set to a familiar tune, but I have no idea what would work. I’d want to sing this to any kids I read this to/with — and I have so little musical ability that there’s no way I could even begin to guess what it should sound like. It’s a great idea, and just the kind of thing that’d help cement the lessons in the mind of the target audience. But without a tune, it’s just a little rhyme that isn’t nearly as effective.

Sager’s art does the job — the colors are great and eye-catching. It’s clearly drawn on a computer, but retains a hand-drawn feel. I can’t say I was dazzled by it, but I can also say that I’ve seen worse. I can’t imagine many children in the target audience wouldn’t find the illustrations suitable and effective (but probably not in those words).

This book is such a great idea — really. I like the concept, I think the execution is good, too. This is the kind of thing that’ll implant itself in little brains and stay there for years. Parents, teachers, librarians, grandparents, and so on would really do well to pick this up and put it in front of young eyes.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion.

—–

3 Stars

Moshe Comes to Visit by Tehila Sade Moyal, Fatima Pires

Moshe Comes to VisitMoshe Comes to Visit

by Tehila Sade Moyal, Fatima Pires (Illustrator)

Kindle Edition, 30 pg.
Simple Story, 2017

Read: November 2, 20017


I feel like saying anything less than positive about this cute little book is the equivalent of kicking a puppy. Which doesn’t mean that this is going to be glowing, it just means that I’m already feeling bad about what I’m going to say.

Martin hears something that scares him in the night — a classic starting point for a kid’s book — and his parents try to help him find the monsters. They turn on the lights, look through his room, etc. This is all well and good so far, until we get the couplet: “In this manner, several nights go by, / With no apparent fear in either parent’s eyes.” Huh? The parent’s aren’t scared? Isn’t that the point? Anyway, Dad gets the idea to write “an agreement with fears.”

This agreement is the key to the book — there’s even a blank Agreement form in the back for the reader’s own use. Sadly, I don’t understand the agreement — and I can’t imagine that I’m the only parent who’d like to try something like this, but can’t figure out exactly what’s supposed to be the point.

We transition from this to Martin’s mother beings scared by something in her bathroom. Great idea — even moms and dads get scared. It turns out that Mom’s scared by a cockroach — a talking ‘roach, I should stress — who Martin befriends. I like, I really like this part of the story. And then to help Mom deal with her fear of Moshe, Martin comes up with an agreement for his mom like the one they came up with earlier for him. I even kind of understood this one.

As soon as it’s accomplished, Moshe leaves and the book’s over. What? I don’t get it. This book is supposed to help kids deal with their fears — and it might, work in the original language,but in English . . . . nope.

Pires’ art was fine. Nothing fantastic, but that’s it. I’d have appreciated a smaller cockroach, but if he can talk, maybe he’s like one of Narnia’s Talking Beasts and has to be larger. I’m not sure. Otherwise, that was fine.

It’s cute, and comes close to working, but just doesn’t. A little editing, a little clarifying, and maybe you have a cute book that helps kids with fears. Right now, it just doesn’t.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

—–

2 1/2 Stars