Tag Archives: Children’s book reviews
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-it-yourself Designs to Amuse your Friends and Scare your Neighbors by Tom Nardone
We are less than two weeks from Halloween now! We picked out our pumpkins a couple weeks ago and my son has been rarin’ to cut into his ever since. For my part, I’m always hurting for inspiration when it comes to most crafty concepts. I came across this out-of-box book at the library. It’s full of amusing and sometimes a little disturbing ideas. On the cover is a mean pumpkin face chewing an understandably surprised-looking littler pumpkin. On the back is a pumpkin who has vomited its insides all over the table. Yuck! Unless you are a six-year-old boy, in which case: awesome!
Have you ever wanted to make a Darth Vader helmet pumpkin? How about using toothpicks as scary sharp teeth? What about a pumpkin puking guacamole? Whatever your weird desires, this book probably has some ideas for you.
Note: I did not do any of the pumpkins in this book in the end. I probably should have, as mine looks like a disaster. My kid’s looks extremely abstract and my wife’s is a fantastic nerd reference.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar
A couple months ago, I reported back about a collection of stories I’d read as a child and was revisiting with my son. Each was the story of a child in the 30th-floor classroom at Wayside School, the sideways school. I enjoyed it almost as much as a grown adult as I did as a kid. My son? He LOVED them. So imagine our delight at discovering a whole new volume of stories about the unusual children in Mrs. Jewl’s class on the 30th story. My son? He LIKES them. I think they’re okay but not as funny as the first, not as original the second time around, either. Also? I find myself having to explain that although one of the children brought a hobo in for show-and-tell (it was as tastefully done as it could be, which wasn’t very) we generally don’t call people “hoboes” unless they are riding the rails, carrying a bindle, and eating beans out of a can. A couple of the stories are pretty good, like the one about the new kid Benjamin Nushmutt who everyone thinks is named Mark Miller and he can’t bring himself to correct them. After all, Mark Miller is SO much better at everything than Benjamin Nushmutt is.
Overall, I’d say toss it to your kid and have him or her read it alone. And maybe skip the one about the hobo. Ages 6+
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Bunnicula by James Howe.
Well, school is in session, and since we seem incapable of experiencing any down time between holidays, all the mini fridges and Trapper Keepers are being pulled and replaced with shrieking skeleton heads and bags and bags of candy. Friends, it is officially the start of Halloween season! Personally, I couldn’t be more pleased. I love all the masks, monsters, and makeup. Pumpkins, papier–mâché skeletons, and party favors. It’s also time to bring in a new collection of spooky stories to share!
My son is now old enough to move past the cutesy Halloween picture books and tackle some heavier material. A couple of those old picture books will forever have a place in my heart, but I’m super excited to share with him the classic vampire story, Bunnicula. Narrated by the family dog, Harold, this story introduces us to the most unusual family of pets I know of. While Harold is very much a family dog, interested in snacks and naps, his companion, a cat named Chester, is a little different. He’s well-read and a little paranoid. When the family comes home one rainy night with a bunny they discovered in the movie theater, Chester is immediately wary. And as he begins to put the pieces together, wariness turns to suspicion, to fear. For it becomes clear that this is no ordinary rabbit. For one thing, he only wakes up at night. For another, he can slip in and out of his locked cage in mysterious way. And when Chester discovers that vegetables are suddenly turning bone-white, his fears are confirmed. This bunny is a VAMPIRE!
A little bit spooky, and a whole lot of fun, this book is a great family read to offer goose bumps and laughs in equal measure. Ages 6+
Post by Mark T. Locker.
President Taft is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.
Boy, has Mac Barnett been on a roll lately! In fact, this is the second book of his I have reviewed in as many weeks. Based on a popular and neither confirmed nor unconfirmed legend, this book, as you may have guessed, is about President William Howard Taft who famously, or perhaps didn’t, got stuck in his bathtub.
Most of the story is about his attempts to extricate him from this awkward situation. Call in the Secretary of War! What will he advise? (Dynamite!) How about the Secretary of the Interior? (The answer is inside yourself.) It’s a fairly simple and straightforward story. I can hardly blame Mac Barnett for wanting to write about it. It’s an interesting story and sadly for Taft, about the only thing anyone remembers about him. That’s the other thing I like about President Taft is Stuck in the Bath: they address that by first introducing Taft with some of the important contributions he made as president and later by his advisers assuring him: don’t worry. No one will remember this incident in 100 years. Which is of course precisely what most people remember about him now. Poor Taft. Did you know he was the only president to also serve as Supreme Court Chief Justice? Well now you do.
If you are sensitive to illustrations of naked people with strategically placed bubbles this book may not be for you. But as for my kid, he got a kick out of it.
Post by Mark T. Locker
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen.
Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are two of my favorite children’s book creators out there. I’ve reviewed books by each of them more than once. Mac Barnett’s Guess Who? Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem and Chloe and the Lion are all wonderful, hilarious books. Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back was, in my mind, an instant classic.
This collaborative book with Mac Barnett providing the story (Chloe and the Lion showed us definitively that this man cannot draw) and Jon Klassen doing the illustrations is a bit of a departure from their usual style. Nevertheless, it’s still a wonderful book. My son is crazy about it. It reads like a story out of a book of fairy tales, maybe Russian fairy tales.
Annabelle lives in a cold, drab town. When she discovers a box of brightly-colored yarn, she decides to knit herself a sweater. With the extra yarn, she knits one for her dog. With the extra yarn, she knits one for her neighbor and so on. It soon becomes clear that she will never run out of yarn so after outfitting the whole village and their animals, she knits house cozies and all manner of other knitted delights. However, a greedy archduke has heard about this magical box of yarn and wants it for himself. What will he do to get it from this girl?
A simple, silly, and beautifully illustrated story from two of the greatest of the new generation of children’s book creators.