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!