High Variance

Kid Book Review: Library Trip Report

Every couple weeks we go to the library after school. Mostly we run around and raise a ruckus because that’s what three-year-olds and almost-one-year-olds do. But we also gather up 15-20 new books to peruse at home. I’ve tried a lot of strategies for selecting them:

  • Get all the books by a few authors we like. This sometimes nets us some surprises (Janell Cannon’s Trupp is about a large earless cat who hangs out with the homeless) and some stinkers (Don Freeman’s Moptop is about a kid who “needs” a haircut) but the main problem is we don’t know enough good authors.

  • Quickly make a random selection from a new part of the picture book stacks. More misses than hits but not so bad.

  • Take most of the books the librarians have pulled out for display on the tops of the shelves. This works surprisingly well as the librarians have better than random taste. But I feel slightly guilty—it’s like taking the clothes off the mannequins in a shop window.

After reading these books at home (some several times) there are always a few keepers that we have to order on Amazon. Here are the keepers from our most recent trip:

  • Dahlia (by Barbara McClintock): I absolutely love everything about this book–Old fashioned beautifully detailed line drawings and a story about a tom-boy who gets a lacy doll as a gift from an aunt. Great fun and great message.

  • Cat’s Night Out (by Caroline Stutson, illustrated by J. Klassen): A counting (by twos) book with tons of cute dancing cats–the wife and kid love it though I prefer a bit more story.

  • Tinka (by Rainy Dohaney): This story about a cupcake-sized sheep is only OK and the washed out art is nothing special. But it’s still 4.5/5 stars because it’s so quirky and R thinks it’s hilarious when the crow gets a worm wrapped around his head.

  • The Birthday Presents (by Paul Stewart and Chris Ridell): Super-cute story about a rabbit and a hedgehog with classic-looking pictures.

There were also a few books that weren’t keepers but merit mentions:

  • Root Beer and Banana (by Sarah Sullivan, illustrated by Greg Shed) is about a middle-class country girl and a poor country girl who become friends over ice pops. The art is old-fashioned and I love how the poor girl is treated like a regular person and not a sad museum exhibit. But the stereotypes are a little heavy handed–she’s kind of dirty with ratty clothes, she has no nearby family, and she only has money she found in the street. And she can’t read so good.

  • Priscilla and the Pink Planet (by Nathaniel Hobbie, illustrated by Jocelyn Hobbie) has rhymes that are as close to Seuss as I’ve every read. And the art is cute and so is the story. I’m not sure why I don’t like this book more. Maybe it’s because the main character reminds me too much of Betty Boop.

  • The Bracelet (by Yoshiko Uchida): A picture book about the Japanese-American internment during WW II. Definitely not appropriate for a three year old. A little too much barbed wire.

  • Fly Free! (by Roseanne Thong): I want to like this book. It’s about Buddhist temples in Vietnam and is all about doing nice things for other people. The art is pretty. But I really didn’t like that the temples were caging sparrows so that people could pay them money to release them (and get good karma). Can we just not cage the birds to begin with please?