Saturday, December 29, 2012

Picture Book Review: The Enchanted Sled

The Enchanted Sled (Creative Editions) (Creative Editions)

The Enchanted Sled
Written by:  Jan Wahl
Illustrated by:  Monique Felix
Published by: Creative Editions, 2005

* I originally took this book out thinking that it was about sleigh riding. The author does takes the reader on a sledding adventure, though not in the traditional sense.  In this story, told in rhyme, the narrator takes a sled ride past crystal castles, becomes a toad, and a gypsy, among many different things.  After reading I asked the kids, "How did she do all those things?" where my son answered, "On her sled."  When we flipped back to the opening pages I helped the kids see that she used her imagination.  The pictures are beautifully illustrated and add to the dream-like feel of the book. 

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Picture Book Review: Old MacDonald Had Her Farm

Old MacDonald Had Her Farm
Written by:  JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by: Tina Holdcroft
Published by: Annick Press, 2012

* In this take on the classic "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" the farmer is female.  On her farm she has the vowels a, e, i, o, u.  When she comes across the letter "a" the author lists what the farmer would do.....which include all verbs and nouns that have the short a sound, and so on.  The pictures are colorful, humorous....and busy!  There is a lot going on in these pictures.  My daughter had a fun time reading this one aloud and kind of dominated our reading.  However, I'd like to go back and have my son, a beginning reader try reading this one. Overall, this is a nonsensical, cute read.

An e-book version of this book was provided by NetGalley.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Non-Fiction Picture Book Review: Celebrate Kwanzaa

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa: With Candles, Community, and the Fruits of the Harvest

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa
Written by:  Carolyn Otto
Published by: National Geographic, 2008

* I first discovered the National Geographic series, Holidays Around the World with Celebrate Hanukkah.  I found it to be a very informative but easy to understand book with amazing photographs (though you wouldn't expect less from National Geographic!).  I was excited to discover that they had a Celebrate Kwanzaa book and put it on hold at the library.  I ended up reading this book to just my 6 year old daughter, only because my son was off playing and we were snuggled up on the couch reading.  Just like the Celebrate Hanukkah book this book was written so even young children can easily understand it.  The author explains what Kwanzaa is, how people celebrate, and even gives some information on Africa.  The photographs show all the different ways that people celebrate the holiday including dancing, lighting the kinara, drummers, and people dressed up in bright clothing, "displaying the patterns and colors of Africa."  This is not the first book that we've read about Kwanzaa, so my daughter is familiar with holiday.  There is a picture of children in Africa playing mancala, which my daughter told me she has played at school (which was news to me!).  Although she said it's really boring.  The author also gives a recipe for Sweet Potato Pie at the end of the book along with a list of other resources to find out more about the holiday.  Overall, this is a great book for young children about Kwanzaa with accopmanying photographs, rather than illustrations.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Non-Fiction Picture Book Review: K is for Kwanzaa

K is for Kwanzaa

K is for Kwanzaa: A Kwanzaa Alphabet Book
Written by: Juwanda G. Ford
Illustrated by: Ken Wilson-Max
Published by: Scholastic, 1997

* Hapy Kwanzaa to all who celebrate!  Even though we don't celebrate this holiday I do like reading books to the kids about it.  This is an alphabet book where the author explains a word that begins with the each letter and how it relates to the holiday.  In the beginning of the book the author explains and lists the seven principles of Kwanzaa.  The book is written so that even my four year old son can understand and enjoy it and the illustrations are bright and colorful.  The kids were able to make connections and relate to some words like the kinara (candle holder) to the menorah. Other words like candle, feast, and harvest they knew and understood.  Overall, we thought that this was a great, informative read as an introduction to Kwanzaa.

We own this book.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Picture Book Review: Christmas Is...

Christmas Is...

Christmas Is...
Written and illustrated by:  Gail Gibbons
Published by:  Holiday House, 2001

* Merry Christmas!  I hope you are enjoying this special holiday with your family. We are hosting Christmas and enjoying the day with our children and family.

I thought that this book was appropriate for posting on Christmas.  Gail Gibbons has written many children's book on all different topics.  In this book she starts each page with Christmas is....and then goes on to explain different aspects of the holiday.  I enjoyed that the book focused on the religious aspects of the holiday - the Christ Child, angels, the creche. 

My 4 year old son recently participated in a Christmas pageant at his nursery school.  It was nice to see him making connections with the pageant and what we were reading.  The book was informative and easy to understand for the kids.  The book really focused on the important aspects of the holiday and as the ending states, "Christmas is....peace, love, and joy."

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Picture Book Review: Aliens Love Panta Claus

Aliens Love Panta Claus

Aliens Love Panta Claus
Written by:  Claire Freedman
Illustrated by: Ben Cort
Published by: Simon & Schuster, 2010

* My family has read and enjoyed Claire Freedman's Aliens Love Underpants.  So when I saw she had written a Christmas book I had to check it out.  In this story the aliens are excited about Christmas.  They are giving away underpants and end up helping Santa out when his sleigh breaks down. 

Told in rhyme, this is a silly and entertaining read.  The illustrations are colorful and humorous.  My son found it hilarious to see all of the different characters (aliens, snowmen, animals, etc.) in underpants. 

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Picture Book Review: The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll

The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll

The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll
Written by:  Patricia C. McKissack
Illustrated by:  Jerry Pinkney
Published by: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2007

* This year Nella really wants a Baby Betty doll for Christmas, but her family's very poor and Santy Claus only shows up "once in awhile."   Nella's parents give her and her sisters, Eddy Bernice and Dessa one Baby Betty doll which Nella calls, "Mine!"  After working it out with her sisters, Nella gets the doll and her sisters go off and play together.  Nella does all kinds of fun stuff with Baby Betty: she sings to her, tells stories to her, even has a tea party with her.  But she realizes that it isn't fun playing with Baby Betty by herself. 

This story takes place during the Depression.  It's hard for my four and six year old to understand the girls in the story getting excited about oranges, a peppermint stick, and a box of raisins for their Christmas presents.  And my daughter was never really a big doll lover, so she couldn't relate.  However, we really enjoyed the story.  I think it helped show the importance of family and that sometimes what we think we really want isn't all that we expected it to be.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Picture Book Review: Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons

Christmas Cookies
Written by:  Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrated by:  Jane Dyer
Published by: HarperCollins, 2008

* We had previously read Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Cookies:  Bite-Size Life Lessons as a family and we loved it.  So I was very excited to discover that she had a Christmas related book.  Again, using cookies as a theme, Krouse Rosenthal teaches important words that you want your child to know....words like appreciative, gratitude, and perseverance among many.  The definition of the words are written in very simple language that even my four year old son could easily understand.  The illustrations are bright and colorful and feature lots of cute animals.  This is a book that I would not mind adding to our permanent collection so that we can read it over and over. 

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Picture Book Review: The Christmas Quiet book

The Christmas Quiet Book

The Christmas Quiet Book
Written by:  Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by:  Renata Liwska
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012

* The Christmas Quiet Book is a companion book to Underwood's other books The Quiet Book and The Loud Book! both of which that we have not read.  So we have nothing to compare this book to.  The book begins, "Christmas is a quiet time:...."  and then goes on to name quiet Christmas moments including Cocoa quiet, Hoping for snow day quiet, and Snowangel quiet among many.  But then there's some moments like Nutcracker quiet, Shattered ornament quiet, and Christmas morning quiet that in my opinion just aren't quiet.  The "quiet" after each moment got kind of old too. The book was a nice reminder of all the wonderful winter moments that occur around Christmas.  The illustrations, drawn with pencil and then colored digitally included lots of cute and cuddly animals.  Overall, this was an okay holiday read, probably best for the younger crowd.  I think my 4 and 6 year old were expecting a little more. 

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Picture Book Review: The Christmas Wombat

The Christmas Wombat

The Christmas Wombat
Written by:  Jackie French
Illustrated by:  Bruce Whatley
Published by: Clarion Books, 2011

* Jackie French has also written Diary of a Wombat and Diary of a BABY Wombat, but this was our first intro to Wombat.  In case you didn't know, wombats are Australian animals that look like smaller versions of bears.They enjoy digging, sleeping, and eating.....especially eating carrots!  This book is told through a wombat's point of view and details his journey of eating carrots, sleeping, and.....eating carrots.  But he runs into some trouble while looking for and keeping his carrots.  This book is very loosely Christmas themed, with the Christmas aspects being more pertinent in the illustrations versus the story.  This was just an okay, holiday read for us.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Picture Book Review: Life is a Bowl Full of Cherries

Life is a Bowl Full of Cherries

Life is a Bowl Full of Cherries
Written by:  Vanita Oelschlager
Illustrated by: Robin Hegan
Published by: Vanita Books, 2011

* This is a great book of food-related idioms.  My kids are familiar with and really enjoyed Parts by Tedd Arnold (a book of body related idioms).  This book reminded me very much of that book.  The illustrations are eye-catching, colorful and humorous!  Idioms like "Couch Potato" "Packed in Like Sardines" and "One Bad Apple" are used and explained in this book.  The idiom is written and illustrated through a literal interpreration.  Upside down on the bottom of the page is an explanation of the idiom.  At the end of the book the author gives a brief history  and explanation of idioms. 

My 6 year old daughter really enjoyed this book and seemed to understand the expressions.  Even if my 4 year old son didn't quite "get" the idioms he enjoyed looking at the illustrations.  This book is a great addition to any elementary teacher's classroom library.

I was provided with an e-book version of this book from netgalley.  I read it on my nook to the kids.  However, it wasn't formatted for it and was difficult and a bit annoying to read in this format.  There was a lot of back and forth between enlarging the page to be able to read the idiom explanation and then minimizing to see the whole page.  I think this book would have been much more enjoyable if read in hardcover format.

This book was provided in e-book form by netgalley.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Picture Book Review: J is for Jingle Bells

J Is for Jingle Bells: A Christmas Alphabet

J is for Jingle Bells: A Christmas Alphabet Book
Written by: Laura Purdie Salas
Published by:  Capstone Press, 2011

* This is an informative alphabet book about Christmas, perfect for young children.  Each letter has a Christmas holiday related word to go along with it (except Z is for daZZle).  The definition or explanation of the given word is written so that it is both informative and easy to understand and is accompanied by photographs.  The author includes Fun Facts about Christmas at the end of the book and also provides a glossary of unfamiliar words (example - anticipation) and additional resources.

The kids, ages 4 and 6 enjoyed this book and it was "just right" in the amount of info given, especially for my 4 year old.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Beginning Reader Book Review: Minnie and Moo The Night Before Christmas

Minnie and Moo: The Night Before Christmas

Minnie and Moo The Night Before Christmas
Written and illustrated by:  Denys Cazet
Published by: Scholastic Inc., 2002

* I Can Read Books are recognized as one of the first beginning reader series and Minnie and Moo are characters in several different books.  Although my daughter's read some of the Minnie and Moo books this was the first book that my son and I read together.  This book is broken up into eight small chapters.  However, as for beginning reader books this one is on the more difficult side.  It's not numbered to let you know the level of beginning reader difficulty.  So we ended up taking turns reading pages.  In case you didn't know, Minnie and Moo are cows.  In this story they dress up as Santa and Mrs. Claus to deliver the toys to the farmer's grandchildren.  Every  year he forgets where he's hidden the toys and Moo feels bad for the kids.  So Moo wants to change that this year.  They don't have a sled so a wheelbarrow will have to do.  And instead of reindeer they have eight chickens.  And then there's rooster who definitely adds humor to the book.  Of course there's some mishaps on their journey to deliver the toys but in the end it all works out. 

My son didn't enjoy the book but couldn't explain to me what about it he didn't like.  I enjoyed this book though and found it humorous.

I purchased this book.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Picture Book Review: The Santa Trap

The Santa Trap

The Santa Trap
Written by:  Jonathan Emmett
Illustrated by:  Poly Bernatene
Published by:  Peachtree Publishers, 2009

*Ever since Bradley Bartelby was born he's been a very bad boy.  Every year at Christmas he makes a giant list of what he wants but he always gets the same present from Santa.....socks!  His immensely wealthy parents buy him everything he wants anyway but he wants Santa to bring him presents like everyone else.  So this year he plans on making a trap to steal all of Santa's presents.  Throughout the year he puts dynamite in the chimneys, trains tigers, and cuts trapdoors creating one big Santa Trap out of his house.  Of course his plan backfires and he gets caught in his own traps.

This was definitely not a cheery, holiday book.  Bradley was one greedy, angry, and determined little kid.  I was a little disappointed with the ending.  By the end of the book we don't know if Bradley has learned a lesson or if he will go back to his same old bad boy ways. 

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Picture Book Review: Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama

Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama
Written and illustrated by:  Selina Alko
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012

* In our house this book would be titled Hanukkah Daddy & Christmas Mommy, being that my husband is part Jewish.  I thought the kids would enjoy this book because like Sadie, the main character, they celebrate both holidays. 

In Sadie's house though Daddy makes latkes and they leave them on the mantel with some milk for Santa.  I think some of the "mixing" of holidays is a bit much when Mama puts gelt under the tree and Daddy hangs candy canes from the menorah.  Although I like to celebrate each holiday on its own I think it was nice that this family was able to create their own traditions combining the two.  The pictures were interesting, looking like they were painted and then bits of papers and pictures "collaged" (can that be used as a verb?!) on.  I found it both cool and distracting.  Mom is wearing "real" jeans but the steam coming from the latkes and turkey are cut from pages of text from either a book or newspaper.  And is dad's tattoo and scruffy beard really necessary? But then I read the author's bio and discovered that she lives in Brooklyn.  And I'm almost positive that there are dads in Brooklyn that look like the dad in this book does.  So some kids out there will be able to relate to ow he looks.  The author provides a recipe for Cranberry Kugel Dressing at the back of the book which looks interesting.  We enjoyed this book and I thought that it was a good book transition to Christmas, which is quickly approaching.

I know that there is still one more night of Hanukkah but this is the last Hanukkah book review for the year.  My daughter and I are in the middle of reading a chapter book, Penina Levine Is a Potato Pancake by Rebecca O'Connell and unfortunately won't have it finished in time to review. 

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

This post is shared at:
Read Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word
The Children's Bookshelf @ What Do We Do All Day?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Picture Book Review: When Mindy Saved Hanukkah

When Mindy Saved Hanukkah

When Mindy Saved Hanukkah
Written by:  Eric Kimmel
Illustrated by: Barbara McClintock
Published by: Scholastic Inc., 1998

* I've owned this book for what seems like forever and finally read it this evening.  My daughter has read it on her own several times since we've had this book for several years now! 

In this story the Kleins, a "little" family live behind the wall in the synagogue.  They need to get a candle for their menorah to celebrate Hanukkah, but Mindy's father hurt his ankle.  Mindy volunteers to get the candle but she has to watch out for the cat.  With a little help from Zayde Mindy shows bravery and helps to save the family's Hanukkah celebration. 

The book contains a glossary at the end for words that the reader may not be familiar with.  The author also includes the recipe for Bubbe Klein's Golden Potato Latkes.

The kids seemed to enjoy this story and enjoyed pointing out all of the clues that the Kleins were little ("The candle is bigger than they are!"). The line that stood out for me the most is whe Mama says, "Heroes come in all sizes. Some are big.  Some are little.  Some lived long ago.  Some live today."  This was a different type of Hanukkah read which we enjoyed.

I own this book.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Picture Book Review: Engineer Ari and the Hanukkah Mishap

Engineer Ari and the Hanukkah Mishap

Engineer Ari and the Hanukkah Mishap
Written by:  Deborah Bodin Cohen
Illustrated by:  Shahar Kober
Published by: Kar-Ben Publishing, 2011

*After reading this book I discovered that it's the third in the Engineer Ari series.  There's one about Rosh Hashanah and one about Sukkah.  In this story Engineer Ari is getting ready to celebrate Hanukkah with his Engineer friends Nathaniel and Jessie.  He's in a rush and carrying all of his packages, including dreidels, sufganiyots (jelly doughnuts), a hanukkiah (menorah) and some oil.  He drives his train but isn't paying very much attention and almost hits a camel.  Although Ari's okay, his packages fall.  A Bedouin comes to help him and they end up celebrating Hanukkah together.

The story takes place in Jerusalem and there are a few references to cities and landmarks which I found informative.  I found the story to be forced in some parts to get in the "Hanukkah" explanation.  When Engineer Ari sees two boys playing he says, "Tell me who you are."  The boys explain that they are King Antiochus and Judah Maccabee and give descriptions of each.  And similarly when Ari comes up on two girls playing dreidel he asks, "Can you tell me the letters on your dreidel?"  which leads to a description of the meanings.  You can tell Cohen is trying to teach readers about Hanukkah it just doesn't seem to flow in the story for me.  There's a short glossary in the beginning of the story with words the reader may not be familiar with. 

My son who is a big train lover seemed to enjoy this story but overall for the rest of us it was just an okay Hanukkah read.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Picture Book Review: The Miracle Jar: A Hanukkah Story

The Miracle Jar: A Hanukkah Story

The Miracle Jar: A Hanukkah Story
Written by:  Audrey Penn
Illustrated by: Lea Lyon
Published by: Tanglewood Press, 2008

* In this holiday book Sophie and her family are preparing for Hanukkah.  Her father tells Sophie and her brother the story of Juddah the Maccabee and the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days and nights.  Similar to the problem of the Maccabees, Sophie's mother discovers that they do not have enought oil in their oil jar to make their eight nights of treats. There is too much snow to get to the store so Sophie suggests that they make their own miracle and try to make the oil last the eight nights.  Every night mother makes a new treat including latkes, doughnuts, corn fritters, and fried apples.  But will their oil last for eight nights?!

Only after reading this book (that's when I read the author and illustrator bio!) did I realize that Audrey Penn is the same author who wrote The Kissing Hand, a family favorite.  I enjoyed that Sophie swept the floor and her brother polished the menorah as their Hanukkah gifts to their parents.  I think it's nice that the focus wasn't on "things" as gifts.  We read this book a few days before Hanukkah.  My daughter has been inspired by the book and has requested that we make a fried treat every night of Hanukkah.  I know we are making latkes and doughnuts but we may have to try this!  My son made a comment, "they tried to make pictures but didn't finish" or something along those lines about the illustrations.  The pictures look like water colors with some splotches of white.  I told him that the illustrator wanted the pictures to look like that.  Overall, we enjoyed this Hanukkah book a lot.

This book was borrowed from the library.
Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Picture Book Review: The Hanukkah Hop!

The Hanukkah Hop!

The Hanukkah Hop!
Written by:  Erica Silverman
Illustrated by:  Steven D'Amico
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011

* This is a Hanukkah story told in rhyme.  Rachel and her family are preparing the house for a Hanukkah party - hanging streamers and balloons, making latkes, and clearing a space for a dance floor.  As the guests arrive they light the menorah, sing songs around the piano, eat latkes and doughnuts, and listen to the story of the Maccabees.  But Rachel's most excited for the dancing.  Once the special klezmer band arrives everyone's out on the dance floor.

This is a fun and entertaining holiday read. My son was hysterical when I read that "Bubbes and zaydes zoom in by plane."  My husband and I had to explain that the words are Yiddish for grandma and grandpa.  There's a glossary in the front of the book of some words used in the story that children may not know.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Picture Book Review: Hanukkah Moon

Hanukkah Moon

Hanukkah Moon
Written by:  Deborah Da Costa
Illustrated by:  Gosia Mosz
Published by:  Kar-Ben Publishing, 2007

* In this story Isobel goes to visit her Aunt Luisa's house during the beginning of Hanukkah.  Aunt Luisa has just moved from Mexico and Isobel is unsure that her aunt will know how to celebrate Hanukkah in the US.  Isobel discovers that her Aunt celebrates the holiday with both the familiar (eating latkes) and the unfamiliar (celebrating the Hanukkah Moon).  And there's also the familiar with a twist (a hanukkiah/menorah handmade by her aunt to resemble Noah's Ark), Feliz Januca (Happy Hanukkah in Spanish) and a dreidel shaped pinata.  I even learned something new about Rosh Hodesh, the celebration of the new moon, and the significance of the time for women.  Isobel also receives a camera from her aunt and the enjoy time together taking pictures of the birds that visit her aunt's tree and identifying them.

My daughter had chosen this book from our big pile of library reads because she is learning about the moon in school.  Like I mentioned in yesterday's post, we celebrate Hanukkah with my husband's mother's side of the family.  So my children are familiar with the holiday.  I think we all found this story interesting because of the Mexican influences that were introduced to us.  There is a glossary at the end of the book with definitions of some of the words children may be unfamiliar with.  This was a very enjoyable Hanukkah themed picture book.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Non-fiction Picture Book Review: Celebrate Hanukkah

Holidays around the World: Celebrate Hanukkah: With Light, Latkes, and Dreidels

Celebrate Hanukkah
Written by:  Deborah Heiligman, Consultant:  Rabbi Shira Stern
Published by: National Geographic, 2006

* Happy Hanukkah! Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah and the first of eight holiday related book reviews.   I reviewed this book on my original blog The Busy Mom Cafe at Hanukkah last year.  However, it is hard to find children's books that describe and explain holidays so that a 4 and 6 year old can understand them. This book fits so well that I wanted to share it again, in case you might have missed it.  Although this book is geared toward 1st through 4th graders, I was pleasantly surprised to find this book understandable to my 6 year old daughter.  While it may be a little advanced for my son he enjoyed looking at the pictures and I think with repeated readings he learns a bit more each year.  The text is short and simple, yet informative.  Being from National Geographic, you get a global perspective of the holiday with photographs of children from all over the world and information on how they celebrate the holiday.  At the end of the book there are instructions on how to light the menorah and the prayers to say, a recipe for latkes, and instructions on playing the dreidel game. There are also book and websites listed in the back if you want to find out more about the holiday.

My mother-in-law's family celebrates Hanukkah so my children are familiar with the traditions.  During Hanukkah we light a menorah, play dreidel with them, and eat potato latkes.  I like that they get to participate and learn about both Jewish and Catholic holidays throughout the year.  While we enjoy reading fiction picture books about the holidays, I think it is important that they also read and listen to factual books too.  This is a book that is informational and enjoyable for us all.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Picture Book Review: Santa Claus The World's Number One Toy Expert

Santa Claus the World's Number One Toy Expert

Santa Claus The World's Number One Toy Expert
Written and illustrated by:  Marla Frazee
Published by: Harcourt, Inc., 2005

* I think almost everyone would agree that Santa Claus has to be close to, if not, the world's number one toy expert.  If you're not sure, this book will explain all of the reasons why he's number one.  He meets lots of kids, takes lots of notes, and works very long hours making sure that every child gets the exact right toy. 

The illustrations are colorful and detailed.  My daughter was impressed with Santa's collection of wrapping paper!  Only after going back and re-reading the book with my son did I notice the change of design on Santa's boxer shorts throughout the year. 

I like that in this story the emphasis is on Santa finding the right toy for each child.....not toys.  In our house Santa brings the one present that our children really, really want.  We don't want to be greedy and Santa has a lot of kids he needs to bring toys to.  This makes them spend hours poring through the toy catalogs and really putting thought into what they want.  Of course, this year my daughter has asked Santa for a kitten.  I told her I wasn't sure if Santa brought pets.  But she told me that she read a book where Santa brought a puppy to a child.  I guess we're finally getting a pet!

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Beginning Reader Book Review: Secret Santa

Secret Santa

Secret Santa
Written by:  Margaret McNamara
Illustrated by:  Mike Gordon
Published by: Simon Spotlight, 2012

* The Robin Hill School is a series written by Margaret McNamara that follows a class of first graders.  It's great for beginning readers and geared towards children ages 4-6.  My four year old son has really taken off with his reading and this series is perfect for him.  Secret Santa was our first read of the series together.

 In this story Katie wears a Christmas sweater to school and her classmate Andrew makes fun of it, calling her "Rudolph Raccoon."  Later, when the students pick names out of the hat for their Secret Santas, of course she picks Andrew.  She doesn't want to give him a present though because he was mean to her.  Eventually she has a change of heart.....but is it too late? 

The story line isn't new.  We've read a children's book in the past along the same lines where one classmate is mean to another and the classmate doesn't want to give the mean classmate a Valentine.  However, for first graders, this is something that they can relate to ( be young again!). 

My son, named Connor, was embarrassed to read the teacher's name, Mrs. Connor.  He didn't explain why he wouldn't read it, he just got shy and told me to read her name.  I'm not sure if it's because the teacher is a woman and he didn't realize Connor was her last name. 

We will definitely be reading more of the Robin Hill School series.  This was an enjoyable holiday related book that my 4 year old son could read to me.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

This book was shared at:

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Picture Book Review: The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker
Written by: Stephanie Spinner
Illustrated by:  Peter Malone
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008

*My cousin invited me and my daughter to watch her daughter dance in The Nutcracker with her dance company.  My daughter took dance for two years and decided that she didn't want to take lessons anymore.  However, one of her favorite shows to watch is Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition and she still loves to dance around the house on her own. So, I knew that she'd love seeing a dance production live in person.  However, I wanted her to be familiar with the story of The Nutcracker before she watched a dance performance of it.  I didn't have a lot of time to put a book on hold so my husband brought home this version that he found at the library.  To be honest, I hadn't read this story in ages so I myself was glad for the refresher!  I'm not really familiar with different versions or adaptations of this story.  I thought that Spinner does a decent job of telling the story.  I didn't think that the illustrations were that eye-catching or engaging, especially for young children.  I think the highlight of this book is the accompanying CD that comes along with it.  We didn't play the CD until after we saw the dance.  My daughter kept trying to remember which dances were done to the different songs. 
This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

This book was shared at:

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Picture Book Review: Santa Retires

Santa Retires
Written and illustrated by:  David Biedrzycki
Published by:  Charlesbridge, 2012

* Yesterday's book review was about how Santa got his job.  Well today's book review is about what happens when Santa retires!   Can't we all use a vacation?!  Well, in this new holiday-related story, Santa needs one.  He's happy when he's making toys for children but thinking about carrying heavy bags of toys and trying to squeeze down a too small chimney does not make him feel jolly.  So, he and Mrs. Claus decide to visit Mistletoe Island and end up making it their new home.  They enjoy the warm weather, start eating healthy and exericising, and Santa even loses weight.  But while they're gone things aren't going well back at the North Pole.  This is a cute holiday story that A) really makes me want to take a vacation someplace warm really soon and B) makes you wonder what would happen if Santa retired?!

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Picture Book Review: How Santa Got His Job

How Santa Got His Job

How Santa Got His Job
Written by:  Stephen Kresnky
Illustrated by:  S.D. Schindler
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1998

Have your kids every wondered how Santa started delivering toys to kids?  In this cute picture book they will find out.  He had many different jobs when he was younger that helped him prepare for his current job including a chimney cleaner, a postal worker, a cook at a diner, and a zoo keeper.  When none of the jobs worked out some elves helped him discover a use for all of his talents.  This was a cute holiday read.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Beginning Reader Book Review: The Gingerbread Man

The Gingerbread Man

The Gingerbread Man
Written by:  Timothy S. Donehoo
Illustrated by:  Marcelo Elizalde
Published by: Meredith Books, 2006

My kids are very familiar with the classic story The Gingerbread Man and have heard different versions of it over the years.  We found this book at the library on the beginning reader shelf and I thought it was a seasonally appropriate pick for my son to read.  This was the first time that we have read a Parents Magazine "My Turn, Your Turn" book.  On the left side is smaller, longer text that the parent reads and on the right is larger, simpler text for the child to read.  Since my son was already familiar with this story he was able to read his parts fluently and with expression.  The child's parts in this book are repetitive and this book was actually too easy for him.  However, for very beginning readers this book would be a great pick to share reading time with your child.  There are other classic tales written in this format including "The Little Red Hen", "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", and "The Three Little Pigs."  All stories that children are familiar with which helps as they learn to read and gain confidence in their ability.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.
This review was shared at:
Read Aloud Thursdays @ Hope is the Word

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Picture Book Review: Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree
Written and illustrated by:  Robert Barry
Published by: Random House, 1963

  It is time to get in the holiday spirit and I'm kicking off a month of holiday themed book reviews with this one.  Growing up it was tradition in my family to drive to a Christmas tree farm, pick out and cut down our own tree, and have lunch out.  I carried on this tradition with my husband our first couple of Christmases.  However, he was getting annoyed with pine needles everywhere and I was in disbelief at how expensive the trees were getting.  So, a couple of years ago we invested in a fake tree.  However, I light scented candles so I can still have that nostalgic "Christmas Tree" smell.   Putting up the lights and tree always seems to be the kick-off of the holiday season for us.  So I thought that this book was fitting.  Told in rhyme, this book tells about the gigantic tree that Mr. Willowby gets.  It's so big that it doesn't stand up straight in the parlor so he has his butler chop off the top.  The butler gives the top to the maid, who chops off the top.  The gardener finds the top out by the garbage and takes it home, where his wife chops off the top....and so on.  Mr. Willowby's gigantic tree ends up bringing holiday cheer to many different families.  This book was first written in 1963 and has still stood the test of time.  This was an enjoyable, classic holiday read.   

This book was borrowed from the library.  

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.    

Friday, November 30, 2012

Picture Book Review: Night of the Veggie Monster

Night of the Veggie Monster

Night of the Veggie Monster
Written and illustrated by:  George McClements
Published by: Bloomsbury, 2008

Do you deal with a picky eater like I do?  If you do you can totally relate to this picture book!  Every Tuesday night a little boy sits at the table while his parents serve pork chops, mashed potatoes, and......peas.  His parents don't understand what happens to him when he eats peas.  He turns into a Veggie Monster.  As a parent who deals with dinner eating issues almost every night I could really connect to this story. The parents made snarky side comments that I found very humorous.  The characters in the story look like colored cardboard cutouts and I thought that the real pictures of the table settings and food added a nice touch.  Overall, this was a short, quick read that the whole family enjoyed.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating:  1 1/2 thumbs up.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Picture Book Review: Creepy Carrots

Creepy Carrots!

Creepy Carrots
Written by:  Aaron Reynolds
Illustrated by:  Peter Brown
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012

Although Aaron Reynolds has written many children's books, this was our first read of his.  In this story Jasper Rabbit loves carrots so much that he keeps eating them from Crackenhopper Field, where the fattest and crispest carrots grow.  That is until Jasper thinks that they are following him.  Now he sees creepy carrots everywhere - in the bathroom, in the shed, under the bed, etc.  Are they real or is it just his imagination?!  The illustrations in this story are in shades of black, white, and gray with orange carrots which helps add to the "creepiness" of the book.  The kids seemed to enjoy this book more than I did.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Picture Book Review: Waiting for Winter

Waiting for Winter
Written and illustrated by:  Sebastian Meschenmoser
Published by:  Kane Miller, 2009

As winter is quickly approaching I thought that this book was a timely read.  In this story, Squirrel, who usually stays inside during winter, has decided that he wants to see it snow.  He soon discovers that waiting for snow is boring and in the midst of waiting awakens Hedgehog.  They eventually waken Bear and the three animals sit waiting for snow.  Since none of them have actually seen snow they go with the info from Deer that snow is, "white and wet and cold and soft."  Each animal has their own idea of what snow is (which had my kids hysterical!) until at the end it really does begin to snow.  Amost every page of text in this book is followed by several pages of just sketched illustrations.  My husband and kids really enjoyed the pictures in this book.  I thought that Squirrel looked a bit scraggily.  This was a seasonally appropriate book that we all enjoyed!

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Picture Book Review: Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy

Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy
Written and illustrated by:  Jan Thomas
Published by: Beach Lane Books, 2012

We are big Jan Thomas fans!  We've read most of her books including Is Everyone Ready for Fun? and Rhyming Dust Bunnies.  Her books are silly with big, bright illustrations and this one is no different.  In this story cowboy is singing a lullaby to put the cows to bed when he gets scared by some not-so-scary things.  You can click here to visit the Jan Thomas official website and listen to Cowboy sing his lullaby.  When he finally should be scared of something he's not, which provides for a cute ending.  We all enjoyed this book as much as her others.  I highly recommend you check Jan Thomas out if you haven't before!

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Picture Book Review: Big Mean Mike

Big Mean Mike

Big Mean Mike
Written by: Michelle Knudsen
Illustrated by: Scott Magoon
Published by: Candlewick Press, 2012

I wasn't so sure about this book based on the title.  Big Mean Mike is a big, tough dog who dresses in big, black combat boots and wears a spiked collar. He's very surprised to find a little, fuzzy, white rabbit in the trunk of his car.  But Big Mean Mike and soft, cuddly rabbits don't go together so he leaves the bunny on the sidewalk.  The next day two fuzzy, white rabbits appear in his car and so on, until he has four rabbits that he can't get rid of.  In the end he discovers that he likes the cute, cuddly things and he doesn't care what his friends think of him.  He likes what he likes and that's just the way it was going to be.  The book has a good message about how kids shouldn't care what other people think of them.  I'm just not sure that I like the emphasis on the "big and mean" since we really try to raise our kids to be nice.  I also am not a fan of the idea that you have to dress a certain way to uphold an image.  Luckily, I don't think the kids read into the story too much and they enjoyed the dogs going to the monster truck show (especially  my son!) and seeing the fuzzy, cute bunnies. 

This book was borrowed from the library.  

Family Rating:   1 thumb up.


Welcome to The Busy Mom Bookshelf.  I used to post book reviews at my blog The Busy Mom Cafe but decided to separate the two.  I love to read and have fortunately passed that love on to my two children.  Both my daughter, age 6, and my son, age 4 are avid readers.  This blog will explore our adventures in reading!  Hope you enjoy!