Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Flip Flap Farm


Shurkeys, and Chows, and Mabbits, so fun! This is a really clever book that allows readers to flip the the pages around to make all sorts of interesting animals. Ever wondered how a pig would look balanced on little chicken legs? This is the book for you.  

The basic set up: there are eleven pages of actual animals. The animal is on the right, two paragraphs of information about that animal on the left, and the animal's name running vertically down the edge of the page. The fun part is that each page is split in half, which means you can flip the top or the bottom half to create 121 animal combinations. Sheep upper and squirrel lower makes a Shirrel - an animal that provides fleece for wool and scurries around burying acorns. We love the Dow: dog upper half and cow lower half. Great for herding sheep and provides milk!

Scheffler did a fantastic job sizing the animals and making them line up just right, so the new combinations look proportionate and funny as heck. There is also something about the way the eyes are drawn, so it seems as though the animal is looking directly at the reader, kind of like they are in on the joke. "I have turkey legs. What do you think about that?" We were pretty much cracking up making silly animal combinations and picturing them running around in real life. Really fun book!

Review copy provided by Nosy Crow. 
Saturday, January 25, 2014



Jon and Tucker Nichols 

I can see why this book is generating a lot of positive buzz. It's unusual, both in format and content. There's nothing I like better than taking a tour of someone's house. Reading this is exactly like that, although I'm pretty sure this guy has far more unusual items than the rest of us.

Alfred Crabtree has lost his false teeth. After a brief and fruitless search, he starts to organize all his belongings on the advice of his sister. Not only does Alfred has some very odd items, he also has some interesting methods of categorization. I found Alfred to be extremely compelling only five pages in, where he displays his collection of real ducks and decoys (including six spare eyeballs). And I knew we could be friends when I stumbled across his very large collection of Small Yapping Dogs.     

Page by page, we get to see this great mix (from dull to wacky to what-the-hee-haw?) of Alfred's possessions, neatly laid out and labeled. Sometimes the category is weird, other times the seemingly normal group contains odd items, or maybe the labels are terribly clever. In any case, you can find humor on every page, and  part of the fun is looking closely. I particularly liked the page with the packed boxes and his nutty labels, although I'm sad we don't get to see the contents of the Sticky Things box.      

I love how the book is oversized - fourteen inches tall. Big books feel like such a luxury to me, particularly when you can open this one up and have all these great big pages filled with fascinating items. It's exactly like pawing through someone's closet, with none of the embarrassment.  

Review copy provided by McSweeney's McMullens.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pomelo's Opposites

Ramona Badescu; Benjamin Chaud 

We love Pomelo! I'm very pleased to see more unique perspectives from my favorite pink elephant. Ramona Badescu covers these expected basic subjects, but her versions are just so smart and clever, that they end up being anything but expected. Pomelo demonstrating opposites is as refreshing as Pomelo Explores Color.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a funny opposites book before, but now that I have, the others seem even more ordinary. This one goes way beyond the traditional in/out, over/under opposite pairings. Badescu covers the lesser known opposites, such as convex/concave, fleeting/permanent, evident/unimaginable, and heartless/kind. One was so obscure, that I actually had to look up the definition. I love a children's book that makes you think.

But even her less outlandish pairs are far from boring. A carrot is ordinary. A carrot in a shape of an elephant is extraordinary. A dream is Pomelo with a lush head of head, while reality is bald Pomelo. She even makes in/out and real/pretend very amusing. Absolutely the very best, most enjoyable book of opposites we have found. 

Review copy provided by Enchanted Lion. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where's Waldo: The Totally Essential Travel Collection

Martin Handford 

Typically, Where's Waldo books are quite large, about 10" x 12", but thin. Certainly fun for home, but maybe not the ideal book to spread open while traveling. Now the clever people in charge of marketing have packed SEVEN volumes of classic Where's Waldo into one much smaller edition. It's genius, really.   

This is technically a soft cover, but with exceptionally strong front and back covers, and a sturdy bendable spine. This means you can crack it open and spread it out for thorough searching without fear of cracking the spine.

Each adventure includes a fold-out checklist at the beginning and end, with hundreds of more items to look for. There's really no chance of running out of items to search for, no matter how long your trip is. 

The classic Waldo books included in this travel edition:

Where’s Waldo?
Where’s Waldo Now?
Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey
Where’s Waldo? The Wonder Book
Where’s Waldo? In Hollywood
Where’s Waldo? The Great Picture Hunt!
Where’s Waldo? The Incredible Paper Chase

Review copy provided by Candlewick Press.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

TouchThinkLearn Books


Xavier Deneux

The old toddler classic, the board book, has been re-imagined, and the results are fabulous. TouchThinkLearn books are designed for early learning with a new dimension.

These retain the sturdiness we love of board books, but with die cut shapes added to the pages for more to touch and feel. Like tiny puzzles, the raised up shapes on the left hand page fit exactly into the cut out shapes on the right side. The shapes are very simple yet thick, so toddlers can get those chubby hands right in there, but parents won't have worry about them being able to tear any pieces off.  

Obviously you need more than just sturdy to make a great board book. Deneux has a way of creating illustrations that are very simple, but incredibly adorable. The bunnies that illustrate inside/outside in the Opposites book are the cutest darn things. They are only outdone by the  white kitten turned ninja cat in the Colors book. It's very clever how the elephant demonstrating heavy fits perfectly into the pure white cloud that is light, and the submarine is the exact same shape as the whale. 

Creating a better board book with more dimension is a smart idea. Unlike books that offer flaps and pop ups, these are sturdy enough for curious toddlers. I love Colors and Opposites, and would expect the other two books in the collection, Shapes and Numbers, to be on par. Smart, cute, and fun to touch.    

Review copy provided by Chronicle Books. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Put Me in the Story personalized books

Put Me In The Story is a new personalized children’s book site offered by Sourcebooks. What makes these personalized books so different from the others already on the market is that these are some of bestselling and award-winning books from Sourcebooks. To be honest, most of the other personalized books I've seen have been pretty blah. 

Browse the selection here to see all titles offered. I love that they included some books we already own and absolutely love, My Dad, My Hero by Ethan Long.  My Name is Not Isabella and My Name is Not Alexander, would both make ideal personalized books. We chose More Bears by Kenn Nesbitt, as he is one of our favorite authors.

Ordering is pretty painless: choose your book, supply the child's name, inscription, and three photos. The best part is that you can't move forward until all the necessary information is complete. That makes it foolproof. And believe me, this fool tested it. I didn't realize you needed three photos and tried checking out after loading just one. Best of all, you can see a preview of the entire book online complete with your information, page by page. So before you press the order button, you feel confident about how the finished product will look.

Our book arrived less than a week later and it was perfect. The photo was clear, the inscription was correct, and the personalized book made the most amazing baby gift. The entire experience was nothing but positive, and I would absolutely order again from Put Me In the Story. Actually, we'll definitely order again - because I think these personalized books would make fantastic Christmas gifts.

Review copy provided by Sourcebooks.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters


Jane Yolan, Illustrated by Kelly Murphy 

This is the perfect sequel to Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters, which was published two years ago. The two books are very similar, with fantastic illustrations, cute rhyming text, and hilarious little monster activities.

This might not be exactly right, but it seemed to me that Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters was a day in the life of monsters - a weekday, to be specific. This sequel appears to give us a look into a monster weekend. And once again, it's super fun to see their activities aren't so different from ours.

Monsters are whooping it up at the park, playing ball, taking turns on the slide, and jumping rope. Much like humans at the park, although they need less equipment, using just their freakish monster arms for the ropes. They have picnics in the park, teeter-totter and ride their bikes. Of course, they all line up for monster-sicles when the cart comes around. 

I think this book series is actually a great tool for helping children get over their fear of monsters. This is an easy way to show that monsters aren't creepy dudes that hide under the bed. These monsters smile, hug, and play silly games in the park. The only growling here is a little fight between siblings over the water fountain. 

Happily, there are enough monster-specific details included, so the book is also equally humorous. One large monster waits on the teeter totter while a pile of teeny monsters help each other pile on the other end. The three-headed monster on the tricycle is sporting three safety helmets. And one of the treats dispensed from the monster ice cream cart is a popsicle covered with tongues and eyeballs.  

Review copy provided by Candlewick Press.
Monday, July 29, 2013

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone

It is the illustrations rather than the story that are so mesmerizing to me. Timothy Basil Ering has a very unique style of mixing watercolors with loose sketches, so the whole thing is all textures and shadows. It's also amazing.

There once was a stick boy who lived in a dank place called Cementland, which was filled with heaping piles of junk. The boy had one wish: to find a true treasure. After endless fruitless searching, he unearths a strange and wonderful box.The box is filled with beautiful packages and a note that instructs the finder to put the wondrous riches into the earth and enjoy.

The boy does as the note instructs, but when he comes back the next day, his plantings have been stolen. Enraged, he rummages through the junk and sets to work making a strange and loathsome creature from smelly socks, moldy pillows, and scraggly wires. Frog Belly Rat Bone is the monster who will guard over the boy's treasures, like a scarecrow for Cementland.

That very night, a rat, a rabbit, and a fruit fly are scared nearly to death when a "giant scary monster with long bony arms and wet smelly socks" leaps out. The thieves run off and the boy's treasures remain safe. The little boy and Frog Belly water the treasures and continue to guard against thieves. Soon Cementland is covered in beautiful flowers and laden with delicious fruit and vegetables. They all celebrate, even the thieves (who came back and apologized).  

This book was originally published in 2003, and has been adapted to the stage play by Rogue Artist Ensemble in Los Angeles, California. This printing celebrates the book's ten year anniversary.   

Timothy Basil Ering says this book was inspired by a visit to Descanso Gardens, a botanical garden in Pasadena, California, where there is a private garden for urban Los Angeles schoolchildren. "For as long as I can remember, I have loved to mix up words and phrases into silly little combinations that would make me laugh," he explains. "I’d make up songs while meandering down the outer beach of Cape Cod to favorite fishing spots, and ‘Frog Belly Rat Bone’ was always a favorite string of nouns. Then one day in Pasadena, I sat at a tiny picnic table in the children’s garden and began to sketch the garden’s scarecrow. I knew at that moment that Frog Belly Rat Bone had found a home." 

Timothy Basil Ering also wrote and illustrated Finn Throws a Fit, which is equally excellent.

Review copy provided by Candlewick Press. 


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