High Variance

Kid Book Review: Library Trip Report 3

We haven’t read much new in the last six months, and while I’d like to take the blame and say it’s because we’ve been busy with work and other commitments, I’m instead going to throw my almost two year old daughter under the bus. While R (who is 4.5 now) is an extreme reader, L has not been very excited about reading. Or about anyone else reading. So instead of all of us enjoying a long cuddle on the couch working through a stack of books, this would quickly devolve into yelling and then R going off to read on her own, L going off to cook in her kitchen, and just me and Curious George sitting there wondering what to do next. I’m happy to say we have recently turned a corner and L now actually seeks out the social reading experience and we’re back to moving big stacks of books back and forth from the library.

Our last two trips have yielded some keepers, some honorable mentions, and even a couple dishonorable mentions.


[title "Cowboy and Octopus"]

  • Cowboy and Octopus (by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith) This collection of 7 very short stories about two good friends has something for everyone. L loves the characters and how the cowboy says “Yee Haw!”. Roxana loves the knock-knock joke and when Octopus gets hammered by Cowboy. I love the adult layer of humor and the style that is a combination of collage and old-school comic book illustration. Win win win.

  • Mrs. Crump’s Cat (by Linda Smith, illustrated by David Roberts) A hungry stray cat shows up at an annoyed Mrs. Crump’s door. But as soon as she describes him as “exquisite” and “golden” you know how the story is going to end. So cute.

  • Cook-a-Doodle-Doo! (by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel, illustrated by Janet Stevens) Rooster is tired of the same old food and decides to bake a cake. Turtle, Iguana, and Pot-bellied Pig “help” and along the way we learn a whole bunch about baking. It’s a great combination of funny, sweet, and truly educational.

  • A Frog Inside My Hat: A First Book of Poems (compiled by Fay Robinson, illustrated by Cyd Moore) Both girls love the simple fun poems collected in this book and L especially loves flipping through it on her own and looking at the pictures–she calls it “the froggie book”. At these ages reading poetry is completely normal and I hope we can keep it that way.

  • At the Supermarket (by Anne Rockwell) L’s favorite of the bunch is about a boy who goes to the supermarket with his mom. The big twist is that they buy the ingredients for his birthday cake and make it the next day for the party. The author wrote and illustrated a similar book called Supermarket in 1979 and this “updated” version was published in 2010. My favorite part is that it still seems like a 1980’s period piece: There are no laser scanners. No one uses reusable shopping bags. Everyone’s driving station wagons. I can’t wait until Amazon sends me a copy of the original so I can see what actually got updated.

  • Our Yard is Full of Birds (by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell) Both girls love looking at birds in our yard and this helps them identify who is who. Only downside is it makes them want a bird bath even more than they already did. And when your kids are little, bird bath = extra dirty outdoor kid bath.

Honorable mentions:

[title "Jim's Lion"]

  • Jim’s Lion (by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Ian Andrew) On the first page, Jim says from his hospital bed that “People who have what I have, mostly they die, don’t they?” It gave me the chills and I immediately realized that neither of my girls are old enough for this story. But what a vivid and hopeful story it is. Wow.

  • Dawn (by Uri Shulevitz) The art is beautiful and the story is subtle–The sky and the silence are the stars and the grandfather and his son are just supporting characters.

  • Hero Cat (by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Jo Ellen McAllister Stammen) I am a sucker for true stories about animals helping other animals. This one has a mom cat rescuing her babies from a burning building. If you read it with feeling, it’s pretty dramatic.

  • Sarah’s Little Ghosts (by Thierry Robberecht, illustrated by Philippe Goossens) This story is very creative and has a great message. Sarah sneaks into her mom’s jewelry box, breaks her favorite necklace, and then hides the evidence. She feels terribly guilty and everytime she lies about it, another ghost flies out of her mouth. Finally, she can’t take it anymore, comes clean, and feels a lot better. R and I read this one very carefully, and I think she even understood what was going on. Score one for the good guys!

Dishonorable mentions:

[title "The Big Elephant in the Room"]

  • The Big Elephant in the Room (by Lane Smith) This story revolves around two donkeys. One says they need to talk about the “big elephant in the room” and the other is sure he is asking about the myriad of terrible things he’s been doing and confesses to all of them. These include eating all the ice cream, breaking the computer, stealing a video game, and even telling a mutual friend about a pee accident. My girls do not need books giving them more ideas for bad behavior–they’ve got that covered already.

  • Ladybug Girl at the Beach (by David Soman and Jacky Davis) I like Ladybug Girl, R loves Ladybug Girl, and we own several Ladybug Girl books. She’s curious, creative, and adventurous. Our best guess is that she and R are both about the same age (between 4 and 5) Her parents are mostly absent, and that’s OK when the story takes place in the backyard or at the playground. At the beach, however, very bad things can happen when parents aren’t around. Like kids drowning bad. In this book Lulu wanders all around the beach by herself and almost gets pulled out to sea without anyone even noticing. As far as I can tell, the message is that you shouldn’t be afraid of sneaking off by yourself to play in the waves when you’re four years old. My four year old already thinks she can swim–I’d rather not encourage that delusion.