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Tag Archives: animals

Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, illustrated by Ricardo Cortés

Go the F**k to SleepA friend and loyal reader of our blog requested that I review this book, and what a great suggestion that was.  Timely and certainly a fun book to review!  Her reasoning was:  “Because if you like it, I’m buying it for all my friends who have kids.”

With that kind of endorsement, who could resist?  That is what we’re here for, after all.

If you live under a rock and haven’t heard about this new picture book, it started as a joke.  Author Adam Mansbach posted the following status update on his Facebook profile one night: “Look out for my forthcoming children’s book, ‘Go the F**k to Sleep.’”  It received an overwhelming response, so he began to draft some actual verses.  Originally scheduled to be released in October, the release date was moved up several times due to demand and insane levels of pre-ordering.  It was finally released June 14th.  And it gets better: Samuel L. Jackson narrated the audio version, which is available for free on Audible.

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A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

A Sick Day for Amos McGeeConsidering this is book won the 2011 Caldecott Medal, I’m hardly the first person to sing its praises.  If you are not familiar with it, you’ll be wanting to find a copy at a bookstore in your area.

The story involves a zoo keeper named Amos McGee, who is attuned to the personalities of the animals in his charge and works to accommodate them.  He runs races with a tortoise, for instance, and the tortoise always wins.  The owl is afraid of the dark, so he reads stories to him.  The penguin is shy, so they just sit together in companionable silence.

Then one morning Amos wakes up sick and can’t go in to work at the zoo.  The animals take it upon themselves to visit him and return the kindness he has always shown them.  They play games with him, read books to him, and generally keep him company until he feels better.

I like how this book shows a loving relationship between a caretaker and his charges.  It also sends a strong message that if you treat others kindly, they will return the favor, without sounding the least bit preachy.  The illustrations are done in pencil and woodblock, giving the book an old-fashioned feeling, though it is brand new.  Every page features animals big and small – look for the hidden mice and birds throughout the story.  Even his bedspread at home has an animal theme, decorated with a peacock feather pattern.

Great read for an afternoon home sick or as a bedtime story!

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Book Reviews, Children's

 

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Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This is one of those books that customers have been recommending to me for years, but I’ve been never felt much of an urge to read myself.  With the movie coming out I figured I would give it a shot, not that I have any particular plans to see the movie, but just to see what all the fuss is about.

We’ll start with the good: Gruen obviously did a lot of research on Depression-era train circuses. She does a good job describing what life on tour with working men, performers, sideshow freaks, and a menagerie of animals might be like.  It’s a very quick, easy read (I read it in two sittings) that moves along at a decent clip.

Some problems I had:

1) Jacob, the protagonist, is debilitatingly passive throughout the story.  He constantly finds himself in circumstances where others take control from him, and he does nothing to stop them.  Other characters make almost all his decisions for him, which is frustrating beyond belief.  For instance, he makes a vow to himself not to let any of the animals be harmed again – but then stands idly by as the elephant is tortured with a hook.  Multiple times.

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Firmin by Sam Savage

Firmin by Sam SavageI bought this book because it had a giant bite taken out of it, and it said it was about a rat who grew up in the basement of a bookstore.  What’s not to like?  (Well, okay, I kind of have a rat phobia, but I was willing to give it a try.)

Firmin is born in a nest made of a shredded copy of Finnegan’s Wake, in the basement of a 1960s-era Boston used bookstore.  He’s the runt of the litter and often gets shorted at feeding time.  As a result, he turns to the books surrounding him for something to chew on and finds that he can’t stop.

Like many things that start as small, illicit pleasures, paper chewing soon became an imperative, and then an addiction, a mortal hunger whose satisfaction was so delightful that I would often hesitate to pounce on the first free tit. (17)

In this way, Firmin becomes a literal consumer of literature.  After a while, however, he learns to read what is written on the pages, and switches to only chewing on the margins.  Soon he is better read than most humans, and he migrates to the ceiling where he watches the bookstore below.  I love his description of what he observes, because it reminds me of the joy inherent in having a bricks-and-mortar bookstore to visit:

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The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes by Du Bose Heyward

Written in 1939 for his daughter, this is a very feminist tale.

In a world where there are 5 Easter Bunnies a little girl rabbit says “Some day I shall grow up to be an Easter Bunny – you wait and see!” But soon she has 21 babies. She teaches them life skills and teamwork, so when it’s time to pick a new Easter Bunny she goes out for the job. She proves that her children are self sufficient and will be fine for one night without her.

This is a story every girl should have. It has an important message that you can do it all…… just not all at the same time.

 

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Spotty by Margret Rey, pictures by H.A. Rey

Margret and H.A. Rey escaped Nazi Germany on their bicycles and in their belongings was the first draft of Curious George. Then, in 1945, Spotty was written. Often only available around Easter, this book is not about Easter bunnies but the intolerance of difference that exists in our world.

Spotty is a spotted rabbit born into a white rabbit family. Because he is different he is left out home while his family goes to Grandpa’s Birthday party. Grandpa would not approve of a spotted rabbit. Sad and alone Spotty runs away. In the woods he meets a spotted rabbit who brings him home to his spotted family. There in the corner is an all white rabbit. Like Spotty She did not fit into her family. He explains how his family is all white and he is the different one. The families meet and the story ends with a message of tolerance and acceptance.

 

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Old Mother West Wind by Thornton W. Burgess

Old Mother West Wind“Old Mother West Wind came down from the Purple Hills in the golden light of the early morning. Over her shoulders was slung a bag – a great big bag – and in the bag were all of Old Mother West Wind’s children, the Merry Little Breezes.”……” When she reached the Green Meadows, Old Mother West Wind opened her bag, turned it upside down and shook it. Out tumbled all the Merry Little Breezes and began to spin round and round….”  The Merry Little Breezes explore the forest one story at a time. Mr. Burgess collected 16 tales in this volume, the first of over seventy books.Through nature we learn how to behave and why rules are important. Qualities of loyalty, friendship, trust, hard work and the consequences of misbehavior are all lessons we hope to instill in our children, as well as hold in our subconscious forever.

My favorite story is “The Tale of Tommy Trout, who Didn’t Mind”. Tommy Trout is warned not to venture out of the Laughing Brook, but his curiosity leads him beyond safety and into the mouth of a great big, big fish. “Ah-ha”…”I like little trouts.”……”And nothing more was ever heard of Tommy Trout, who didn’t mind.”  The End. Although grim, it is powerful in its blunt simplicity.

I recommend this be Read To Children ages 3-7 years by an adult, in order to able to discuss the stories meanings.

HARD BOUND AND GAGGED…..

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in Book Reviews, Children's

 

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