Tag Archives: Children’s book reviews
Post by Mark T. Locker.
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake.
I feel like I hardly need tell anyone what this novel is. Truly, this is one of the ultimate classics of Roald Dahl. I’d say it comes only second to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in terms of popularity. Matilda is a lovely book but far less adventurous than what James and his insect friends go through.
We started reading this last weeks. It’s great book for bedtime for many reasons. First of all, it’s full of all kinds of excitement, magic, adventure, and intrigue. There are all sorts of lovely things to feed a little one’s imagination and, possibly, lead them into wonderful magical dreams. Second of all, there’s nothing worse than agreeing to read just one more chapter (we negotiate that one on a near-nightly basis) only to realize that it’s past bedtime and there are still twenty pages left in the chapter! James and the Giant Peach has chapters which are usually only a few pages long. Not only does it keep the story moving along at a nice clip, but you can come out looking like a hero generously offering, “hey, why don’t we read FOUR chapters tonight?”
Once the horrors of his cruel aunts Spiker and Sponge are behind him, the adventure of James riding across the sea in a humongous peach with a number of giant talking bugs really takes off. And what a fun ride it is. If you haven’t read this one to your kid or yourself, do yourself a favor and pick it up.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have discovered Terry Pratchett. It’s possible that there are one or two who have “discovered” him before me. Maybe the impeccable narrator of the YA series I’ve been enjoying. Maybe some others who put together the 8 million websites devoted to his vast collection of novels, most of which are set in the magical Discworld realm. I began devouring his stories a few weeks ago only to discover that I even own a couple and I never even knew. Well, I guess I have fantastic taste even when I don’t even know it!
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is the first book in the Discworld series aimed at young adults. It tells the story of a cat named Maurice and a band of rats and a “stupid looking kid” that travel with him from village to village. Mind you, these are not your average rats and cat. The kid? Well, he’s pretty average. But the rats, who lived once in a garbage pile behind a wizards’ castle, ate some discarded magical paraphernalia and gained a sudden self-awareness, complete with speech and understanding. Maurice, too has gained the same knowledge. He doesn’t eat garbage, but he does eat rats, so…I’m sure we can guess how he got his gift. My favorite bit about this book is the rats’ names. They picked them out themselves off labels from discarded food containers. So we have rats named Additives, Peaches, Serves Four, and—my personal favorite—Dangerous Beans.
My six-year-old isn’t quite at a point to take on all the themes and scary bits in this story, but in a couple years he will be and we will venture through this hilarious magical world together as Maurice and his stupid looking piper kid and his trained rats trick locals into believing that they are ridding the towns of rats.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Scaredy Squirrel by Mélane Watt.
If you have children and they haven’t introduced you to the Scaredy Squirrel series, well they probably will any minute now. It now boasts eight books in its collection, but we are here to talk about the one that started it all. Wayyyyyy back in 2006 the first of the Scaredy Squirrel books was released. We learn a lot about this utterly neurotic squirrel and his very particular routines.
As you may guess, he is the squirrel equivalent of a scaredy cat. What is he scared of? You name it! On his list are: Green Martians; killer bees; tarantulas; poison ivy; germs and sharks. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, to be sure (I can hear him now: “Icebergs! Where?! RUN“). This may be a neurotic little guy but he is not unprepared. He has four evacuation routes from his tree and contingency plans for each exit point just in case any of THOSE things are awaiting him.
Then, one day, the unthinkable happens and Scaredy Squirrel finds himself facing the things that have kept him from ever leaving his tree and the safety of his routine. What will happen? Will he be nabbed by aliens? Read it and find out! A funny book with lots of companion books for fans aged four and up!
The Bermuda Triangle by Aaron M. Rudolph.
My son has become an early embracer of conspiracy theories and other mysteries of the unknown. Channel surfing a few weeks back, we came across a documentary about the Bermuda Triangle. It is indeed an enticing sort of mystery: ships and planes and people seeming to vanish into thin air. Reports of crazy wormhole-like activity! So I headed to the 001 section of the children’s nonfiction at the local library. For those unfamiliar with the Dewey Decimal Classification, 001 is where you will find all the books about aliens, cryptids, and mysteries like the Bermuda Triangle. For the record, I grabbed a UFO Files book and a Loch Ness Monster book as well.
Filled with color pictures, simple text, and a nice mix of fact and speculation, this book is a big hit. I for one never realized how difficult it would be for my son to say “BERMUDA”. It just doesn’t roll off the tongue! But this book has opened him up to the concept of ghost ships, and Atlantic geography, and all the wonderful Mysteries of the Unknown. I must admit I’ve always been a sucker for this kind of stuff and I’m more than delighted that he takes such an interest in it too! Next up: government cover-ups of alien encounters? Sasquatches? The world of pseudoscience is all at our fingertips!
Post by Mark T. Locker.
We Are In a Book! by Mo Willems
Mo Willems is really the best. If you have a child, you have likely encountered at least one of his wonderful series. There’s the Knuffle Bunny books, and the Pigeon books and for kids FINALLY reading on their own, there are the Elephant and Piggie books, of which there are approximately a zillion. My favorite (and my son’s favorite; he has impeccable taste) is We are in a book! which is a fantastic little piece of meta fiction for children. The story revolves around the casual mention by Piggie that he and the elephant (whose name is Gerald, naturally) are in a book. This simply blows Gerald’s mind.
What happens after this revelation is a lot of fun with the reader. The best bit being when they realize they can make the reader say “banana”, which results in much hilarity, both for the reader and the characters. But when Gerald realizes the book is going to end on page 57, panic ensues. What will happen at the end? Will they cease to be? Read it and find out!
There are a bunch of books in this series. I like them better than most readers because they are not only very simple and easy to read, they are also clever and funny. None of this “the dog is dirty. Let us give the dog a bath” nonsense. I don’t think boring stories are going to get reluctant readers to pick up a book. These hilarious Elephant and Piggie books have gotten my son over the “reading is a chore” hump and he is now diving into a whole world of books.