Posted in Book Review

Find the Wolf

Introduction

Today, we discovered a new gem at our local library entitled Find the Wolf which was written by Carly Blake and illustrated by Agnese Baruzzi. It is certainly a new favorite of my son. We have already read this book four times today, but my son just keeps requesting it again. So what exactly makes this book such a delightful read for little ones?

The Format

Find the Wolf has wonderful formatting that engages a child. This board book features twenty-eight (28) pages full of cleverly constructed peek through pages and illustrations. Right away, the reader is instructed to “Find the Wolf!” The pages feature cut outs and pose questions such as “Are those his ears?” The reader then has to guess whether a part of the wolf is revealed in the image that is peeking through the cutouts. This format was excellent at engaging a child.

The book also featured bold font that was easy to read. The lettering was large and simplistic. All of the text is in black and pops against the background colors on each of the pages.

There were approximately six to ten words per page, which made it ideal for keeping a younger child’s attention. In total there were 151 words in the book, making it a short read. Several of the words are repeated throughout the book which also makes it ideal for a new reader to practice their reading skills.

The Illustrations

Agnese Baruzzi did a beautiful job creating clever illustrations throughout this book. For example, Agnese made peacock feathers look like a wolf’s eyes and butterfly wings look like a wolf’s nose. Her illustrations that peek through the cut outs are sure to engage a child as the child joins in the quest to find the wolf.

At the very end of the book, there is a surprise. Not only does the reader find the wolf, BUT the reader learns that a wolf or his paw prints were actually featured in every scene in the book. After learning that the wolf was actually hiding throughout the book, young readers can go back through the book to search for all of the other hidden illustrations. Candidly, despite being an adult reader, I did not notice the hidden wolves and paw prints that were featured throughout the entire book. The wolf’s silhouette or paw prints are artfully woven in to each of the illustrations in the book.

Agnese used a simple but effective color palette for her illustrations. The illustrations utilize bold colors and minimal shading. Artistically, the illustrations are flat and simplistic, but they manage to still be clever and visually appealing. The simplistic shading and color use are perfect for a toddler. Despite being a board book geared towards toddlers, both my seven and nine year old stepdaughters greatly enjoyed the illustrations of this book.

The Plot

If you are looking for a wolf book with an in-depth plot, then this is NOT the book for you. This takes the reader on a journey where they have to find the wolf who is “wanted” for various offenses such as “huffing and puffing.” This book’s main focus is truly on the reader finding the wolf.

Conclusion

I highly recommend this book if you have a toddler or young child who enjoys cut out books or non-scary wolf books. The book is adorable and engaging. It is quick to read, while still managing to be engaging. This is the perfect book to add into your toddler story time.

Posted in Book Review

The Creature of the Pines – WARNING the Unicorns are a Lie!

Sorry about my absentee status this week. Between sick kids, a car accident, and listing our house for sale, blogging was put on hold. We are still going strong with our reading challenge despite the chaos. We have read 824 books as of today; however, our deadline is quickly sneaking up on an us.

Anyways, time to begin tonight’s book review. If you remember, my kiddos and I began reading The Creature of the Pines about a week ago. We finally finished it and the results are in.

The Plot

*WARNING: SPOILERS INCLUDED!!!*

The Creature of the Pines by Adam Gidwitz is the first book in the series The Unicorn Rescue Society. It follows two children, Uchenna Devereaux and Elliot Eisner, on a class field trip. The book begins with Elliot experiencing his first day at his new school. He has the typical new kid blues. Once on the bus, Elliot meets Uchenna, who quickly befriends him.

It quickly becomes apparent that Elliot and Uchenna are about as different as can be. Elliot is cautious and follows the rules. Uchenna is bold and downright reckless. These differing personalities become more evident as their field trip progresses.

Uchenna and Elliot are on their way to the the Pine Barrens Forest. While Uchenna is oozing with enthusiasm for the adventure, Elliot is dismayed to be journeying to the dangerous woods. He is also unhappy because the scary and eccentric Professor Fauna is leading the trip. Uchenna warns Elliot that Professor Fauna is even rumored to have a torture chamber in the school basement!

Uchenna’s fearless personality quickly gets Elliot into trouble once they are in the woods. Uchenna decided to sneak away from the group and to do her own exploring. Elliot eventually goes against his better judgment and follows Uchenna into the woods to make sure she is safe.

Shockingly, they encounter a small blue dragon – the Jersey Devil. After rescuing him from being tangled up, the mischievous dragon becomes a stowaway on the school bus.

Elliot and Uchenna once again have the opportunity to save the dragon. This time, the children team up with Professor Fauna to defeat the dubious Schmoke Brothers.

After their heroic acts, Professor Fauna invites the Elliot and Uchenna to join a secret society – The Unicorn Rescue Society.

The Positives

This 192 page fantasy book was well-written. Adam Gidwitz did a lovely job developing each of his characters. The main characters each had their own highly unique personality types. The attention to character development makes it easy for younger children to keep track of the different characters.

The characters are extremely relatable. Because of the diverse personalities of the characters included in this book, it is easy for a child to find someone to relate to. Plus several relatable themes are included. For example, trying to navigate the fears and awkwardness of being the new kid at school.

The book included a male and female lead character. I view this as a bonus. My girls are at the age where they strongly prefer characters who are girls “like them.” This book worked great because Uchenna was a lead character just like Elliot. If Uchenna did not exist in this book, I doubt the girls would have finished listening to it.

The illustrations were well-done. While the illustrations were all black and white, they were cute. My kids got excited whenever they saw a page with pictures in this book. The illustrations enhanced the reading experience.

Lastly, the overall story was enjoyable. It included a cute dragon, several humorous mishaps, and a caste of quirky characters. Children between ages 6 and 11 are likely to enjoy this story if they enjoy fantasy books.

The Critiques

My biggest disappointment with this book as silly as it may sound was THERE WERE NO UNICORNS. When I picked this book out for the girls, it was specifically for the unicorns. Who would have guessed that a book called The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines does not contain one single unicorn. My girls were super disappointed. They just kept nagging me with “when are the unicorns going to show up?”

The first chapter completely failed to grab my kids’ attention. To be perfectly honest, I had to ask the kids to humor me and to give the book at least thirty pages to improve. I promised them if the book did not get better by page thirty, we would read something else. The book did improve enough for us to finish it; however, it got off to a rough start. Had I not volunteered to read the whole book aloud it would not have been finished. Also, my kids kept taking breaks to have me read books that they deemed more interesting. Specifically, we read two Magic Treehouse books, three Rainbow Fairy books, and one Junie B. Jones book, before we finished this book.

I also was not a huge fan of some of the “humorous” elements included in the book. I acknowledge that this is solely a matter of personal preference, but we do not gravitate towards books with farting jokes. This book had several farting jokes and scenes throughout. I try to encourage my kids to be polite and classy so farting was not humorous to them. Obviously this may be a non-issue for other families.

Also, some parents as a matter of preference may take issue with the dragon being called the Jersey Devil. It was not a dealbreaker for us, but I know for some families it might be.

Conclusion

This book would be an excellent choice for a child who likes dragons. If your child likes unicorns, I would skip this book. In fact, my six year old recommends Pop-up Peekaboo! Unicorn instead for any young unicorn-loving readers out there.

Despite our rocky start with The Creature of the Pines, we did order book number two in the series. I will keep you posted on whether the second book goes over better.

For now, have a great day everyone!

Posted in Book Review

Finding Beauty in Mistakes

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg is a truly unique and creative children’s book. The twenty-eight pages in this book have a special layout. The book features exquisite colors, interactive pages, and tactile experiences galore.

This book uses flaps, bent corners, torn pages, and crumpled paper to showcase the beauty of artistic creativity. The book’s message is minimalistic yet powerful. Through its design, this book tries to inspire readers to seek out creative ways to turn their mistakes into something beautiful.

For example, a tear in a piece of paper is transformed into an alligator’s smile. Later, a bent corner of paper becomes the beak of a penguin. As the book unfolds, several other transformations emerge on the pages.

Beautiful Oops! is only eighty-nine words long; however, its simplicity is powerful. The words are there to transition the reader through the interactive illustrations.

My kiddos who are 10 months, 6 years, and 8 years old are obsessed with this book. This book is unlike any other book in our personal collection. My oldest is particularly enamored with this book because of her love of the arts. My youngest son adores how interactive this book is.

I highly recommend that you check this book out if you have a child between 0 to 8 years of age. There are some potentially negative aspects of this book that are worth noting.

First, this book is short which might disappoint some parents. The main focus of this book is the artwork and the interactive layout. Second, this book does not tell a story. This book contains a life lesson rather than telling a story. Third, if you are looking for a crafting book this is NOT the book for you. Fourth, if your little one is not the artistic type, they may find this book boring. Lastly, the flaps and other interactive elements of this book are not durable enough to withstand the rough handling of a toddler.

Despite the possible drawbacks of this book, I still give this book the highest praise.

Posted in Book Review

Throwing Cats and Other Bad Ideas

I will start off by acknowledging that I am conflicted in my feelings about today’s book. Today we read How do Dinosaurs Love their Cats? which was written by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. I will provide my positive feedback before moving onto some of my more negative critiques.

This fourteen page board book is full of colorful well-illustrated cartoon dinosaurs. The dinosaurs in this book display a wide variety of personality and spunk. I give the book high praise in terms of the illustrations.

There were 139 words in this book which makes the length of the book better suited to a toddler rather than my 10 month old. The cute pictures did, however, manage to keep my son’s attention. I thought the length of the book would be perfect for a toddler.

Unfortunately, I think the content of the first half of this book makes it better suited to children who are 6 to 8 years old. Why do I say that? Well, the entire first half of the story depicts dinosaurs acting “like a brat.” For example, on page four the book asks “If the kitty complains, does she give it a throw?” On that particular page, the dinosaur is shown throwing the cat.

Based on the content of the first half of this book, I think a toddler might get the wrong kind of ideas. Now the second half of the book clarifies that dinosaurs actually love and care for their cats. I would just be concerned that a toddler would miss the point that we do NOT want to act like the mean dinosaurs! In fact, I could see a toddler deciding that it looks way more fun to throw the pet kitty than it does to “give it fresh water.”

This book would be perfect for a child who is in the 6 to 8 year old age range because they would understand the story. An older child would be able to recognize that the book is not suggesting you act like a “brat.”

The issue I have with recommending this book to a school age child is based on the book’s format. The book that I checked out is a board book. Now my 6 and 8 year old are not offended by the idea of reading board books to their baby brother. They do, however, feel strongly that board books are for babies not big kids.

One other odd aspect of this book involved the fact that every dinosaur was a girl dinosaur. I could see a little boy being disappointed by this book because it only has girl dinosaurs.

Lastly, I know some parents have certain words that they do not want their young children to use. This book does include the word “brat,” which I know some parents have on their list of words they do not use in their house.

I would suggest reading this book prior to reading it with your child. As a parent, you will be best able to determine if this book would inspire your toddler or child in all the wrong ways.

Posted in Book Review

Sloths, Monkeys, Parrots, and More!

Our children’s librarian recommended that I check out Riddle Diddle Rainforest by Diane Z. Shore and Deanna Calvert. This interactive flap book provides readers with rhyming riddles that they are supposed to solve. Using the clues, children are able to guess who is hiding under the flaps.

This book has five different animals hiding in it. Monkeys, sloths, tree frogs, parrots, and boa constrictors are all hiding out in this colorful riddle book. If your child is scared of snakes, you may want to skip this book or at least skip the last two pages.

Riddle Diddle Rainforest contains 150 words which makes it a longer board book than my ten month old likes to sit through. The riddles are about twenty words long which makes this book better suited to toddlers and younger children. Obviously my ten month old son does not understand the book, but I would absolutely re-read this book to him when he is between ages 2 and 5.

This book is an excellent choice for kids who enjoy solving riddles. My six and eight year old both used this book to practice their reading this morning. This book contained an ideal mix of easy to read words and more challenging words, such as “dweller” and “victor.”

I would recommend this book for children who are ages 2 to 5 years old.

Posted in Book Review

Peace, Love, and Woodstock!

I stumbled upon a wonderfully psychedelic board book at my local library. Woodstock, Baby! A Far-Out Counting Book contains twenty pages that are jam-packed full of bright colorful illustrations. Spencer Wilson, the illustrator, created a quirky child-friendly book with a 60s feel. This counting book has hippies, bell-bottoms, peace signs, and flower crowns galore!

This counting book only contains seventy words which makes it easy to read to a young baby. Woodstock, Baby! would also be an appropriate book to read to a toddler or young child who is learning to count to ten. With my six and eight year old, this book served as a way to pique their interest in the 60s. We are lucky enough to have a local museum right down the street that has a 60s exhibit that is perfect for my kiddos to explore.

Overall, if you want to share some 60s nostalgia with your little one this is the perfect board book! I think this book is best suited for children who are between 0 to 3 years old.

Posted in Book Review

Colors!!!!

Baby Touch and Feel Colors which was written by Carrie Love and designed by Rachel Hare embodies the perfect marriage of colorful imagery and fun textures. This twelve page book is a sensory delight for a baby.

This book features nine different textures. For example, on page six the orange fruit has a rough bumpy skin. An additional bonus feature are the three pages that have bold glittery images. My son was mesmerized by this book. He kept going back to the book to open it and to touch the different textures.

This book only contains thirty-seven words making it ideal for even a young infant. This book would also be perfect though for a child who was learning their colors or who is learning to read. The pages feature concise text such as “furry teddy bear” and “brown.”

My six year old read this book as part of her nightly reading homework. It had words that were easy to sound out like “skin” but it also contained words that challenged her like “silky.” Much like my son, she loved the pictures and the sparkly pages.

Overall, I give this board book a five star rating. It is definitely worth reading to your little one!

Now that my little guy is fast asleep, I also looked at our total of the day. We read 31 books today. This means we have 635 books left to read!

Posted in Book Review

Unicorns are Real

Tonight the girls and I started our newest chapter book – The Creature of the Pines. This book is the first book in the series The Unicorn Rescue Society by Adam Gidwitz. We were only able to read the letter at the beginning of the book and the first chapter because my baby was incredibly determined to eat the book.

The girls are remaining open minded about the book; however, they did state that the letter at the beginning of the book sounded far more interesting than the first chapter.

The girls are still making the transition from picture books to chapter books, so they did appreciate that this book contains some pictures. They were disappointed that the pictures were in black and white.

My kids are not yet proficient enough readers to tackle this book on their own. Several words like chupacabra and qarqacha were beyond their reading level. The book did, however, become easier to read after chapter one began.

My girls struggled with the lead female character’s name being Uchenna because they said it was hard to read and “sounded weird.”

Lastly the girls said that chapter one had nothing to do with unicorns. In the initial letter in the book, readers are asked to risk their lives to rescue unicorns. My girls were enthusiastically ready to go save the unicorns (especially my 6 year old, who still believes they are real). My girls were super engaged by the end of Professor Fauna’s letter; however, all of that enthusiasm had waned by the end of chapter one.

My girls did agree to remain optimistic that the book might improve after chapter one.

As of tonight, we have read 334 books of our 1,000 book goal!

Posted in Book Review

Monday Morning Books

Today story time started bright and early at 7 a.m. because my child refuses to sleep like a normal baby.

For our morning story time, we read eleven books. My son’s absolute favorite book of the morning was Dog and Friends Sounds, which was illustrated by Emma Dodd. The book is a brightly colored board book containing ten pages. There were only thirty-six words, which made it a perfect book for a baby with a short attention span. In addition to the really bold color choices, this book was an excellent book for a young baby because it has so many fun animal sounds like “oink” and “baa.” As of right now, we have already read this book three times and yet my son keeps bringing it back to me. In the world of a nine month old baby, this book gets 5 stars!

The other titles we read this morning were:

  1. Snow Babies by Laura Ellen Anderson. This book for whatever reason did not grab my son’s attention; however, I would still recommend it. The book was short, had adorable illustrations, and introduced several different animals.
  2. This Little Hamster by Kass Reich. After several different attempts at reading this book, I can safely conclude it did not speak to my son. The book is probably better suited to a toddler who is working on learning the colors. The illustrations were in more muted tones which did not catch the eye of a baby as well as some of the other books we read today.
  3. Eek! by Fermin Solis. This was a perfect mini board book just in time for the Halloween season. All three kids enjoyed this board book, including my eight year old. The book was mini size so it was perfect for a baby to hold and crawl around with. Each page was very concise and vividly colored. We also read Boo! and Yikes! which are two other very similar books written by Fermin Solis. If you are looking for a quick Halloween read for you and your baby, I definitely recommend these three books.
  4. That’s not my Puppy by Fiona Watt. This book is perfect for a baby because it is concise, colorful, and exciting to touch. This book featured several different textures, such as fluffy tails and bumpy paws. We read the book several times today, because it makes my son giggle. He loves flipping through the pages and touching the different textures.
  5. Ghost Cat by Eve Bunting. I initially checked this book out from our local library to read to my six and eight year old kids; HOWEVER, they declared the book too creepy. After they decided to not listen to the story, I read it to the baby even though he was not the intended audience. I personally enjoyed the story and I intend to read this book to my son when he is old enough to understand the story. The book has lovely illustrations and a quirky story. In this book, there is a ghost kitty who lives in the lighthouse with his owner. Eventually the ghost kitty has the opportunity to play the hero and save the day. This would be a great story for someone who has kids between ages 5 and 10, who are not scared of ghost stories (unlike my two girls lol).
  6. One, Two, Three by Sandra Boynton. This book is one of my son’s favorite board books. It is an adorable counting book that features several cartoon animals doing different activities, such as going for a walk. The book is not as brightly colored as several other books my son prefers; however, this book still keeps his attention. It would be a perfect book to read with your child as they learn to count.
  7. Anansi’s Party Time by Eric A. Kimmel. This book was perfect for my six and eight year old daughters to enjoy. It is a classic trickster tale. This is my girls’ favorite Anansi book we have read so far. They loved that the story included a turtle, balloons, and dress up. While the baby did somehow listen to this entire story, I fully intend to get this book when he is old enough to understand the story. I would recommend this book for kids between ages 5 and 10, especially if they enjoy books that feature animals.
  8. Beautiful Oops! By Barney Saltzberg was the one book that was loved by all three of my kids. This book is impeccably well designed. It features a positive message, a creative layout, and beautiful illustrations. This is the one book that we immediately ordered on Amazon after reading it. While my baby loves this book, it would be very easily destroyed by him. I would caution parents to supervise young destructive kids with this book.
Posted in Uncategorized

Our 1,000 Books Journey

After my son was born, I was inspired by the idea of the 1,000 books before kindergarten challenge. The premise of that challenge is to read 1,000 books with your child before they begin kindergarten.

I decided to create a modified challenge for myself – read 1,000 books to my son BEFORE his first birthday. We started the challenge May of this year and we have until November 24 to complete our challenge. As of right now, we have read 310 books.

As part of our journey, I wanted to help other parents be inspired to create their own literary challenges. Also I wanted to help other parents by sharing some of the best books we discover along our journey.

Happy reading!