Book Reviews by Carrie Anne
As we greet the new year I can’t help but be a little reflective of the past year. In our family we’ve amassed a wonderful home library of delightful children’s books. And as I look through our shelves I notice some authors appear more often than others.
Lauren Child is one such author. Lauren Child both writes and illustrates her books. The copy is fun and witty and are always in the voice of a child (parents or adult figures, if they appear at all, are secondary). I think that’s what makes her books so approachable, they’re written as a child would talk and think. The images in her story are mixed media, consisting of a collage of illustration and photography.
I can almost guarantee any book Lauren Child produces will more than likely end up in our home library and many already have. Here are a few of my kid’s favourites (and mine as well):
Charlie and Lola: Snow is My Favorite and My Best (Charlie & Lola)
picture book, age 4-6
If you’ve never heard of Lauren Child, you’ve probably heard of her sibling characters Charlie and Lola. They were actually our first introduction to Lauren Child. There are a number of books (and now DVDs and a TV series) based on these characters. All the stories are written from the point of view of Charlie, the older brother, and his interaction with his younger sister Lola.
In Snow is my Favourite and my Best, Lola is excited about the weatherman’s promise of snow, to the point that she holds a vigil late at night by her bedroom window waiting for its arrival. Lola and Charlie spend the day with their friends making snow angels and sledding and having hot chocolate. Lola loves snow so much that she wishes she could have snow everyday. It’s not until her brother Charlie cleverly explains in a way that Lola (and any young child) can understand why snow every day isn’t really a good thing.
I absolutely love these siblings. I love the way they interact, how they learn from each other. I especially love Lola’s vocabulary and language structure. Any of the Charlie and Lola books will entertain kids.
That Pesky Rat
picture book, age 4-8
He’s a brown rate, a street rat. But people call him that pesky rat. And his biggest dream is to belong to somebody, to be a pet. The pesky rat thinks about all his animal friends who are pets and the type of owners they have. Each recount starts off with what a marvelous life his friends have (Oscar the cat can do whatever he likes because his owner’s never home, Nibbles the rabbit lives an exciting circus life). His friends however tell him that being a pet isn’t always fun. But that doesn’t stop pesky rate from finding an owner.
So he writes an ad, looking for a kindly owner and places it in the pet store window. As days pass and pesky rate is about to give up hope, a man with very bad eyesight sees pesky rat’s ad (he has to squint to try and read it). It looks like pesky rate might get his wish after all, with a few compromises.
A wonderful story of belonging. Even if the main character is a rate, he’s a lovable one.
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book?
picture book, age 5-8
Herb loves storybooks. One night Herb couldn’t fall asleep so he started to look through his old book of fairytale stories. Soon his eyes became heavy and he fell asleep with his head on the page. The next morning he when he awoke he found he had fallen into the book.
Trying to get out he moved through the various fairytale stories, encountering a shrieking Goldielocks, nibbling Hansel and Gretle, a cat wearing boots, a fairy godmother and more. Only with the help of the words in the story is Herb able to get out of the book and return back to his bedroom.
Lauren Child uses elements in the book, such as foldouts and upside down pages, to make this a fun story. Kids will enjoy seeing their favourite fairytale stories in a different light.
Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent
picture book, age 4-8
Mr and Mrs Bobton-Trent were frightfully, frightfully rich. They lived in luxury, dined out, and knew everyone who was anyone. They wanted to meet someone new, so they had a child.
Hurbert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent (or H for short) was quite bright for a child, a natural at everything except cake baking and flower arranging. Everything was business as usual until strange things started to happen: the family ran out of jelly at a party, the butler was paying the milkman with priceless portraits, the maid never appeared to server their dinner.
Herbert discovered his parents had spent all their money, they were broke. Being a clever son, he came up with ways for the family to earn money, like having his parents enter board game competitions or selling tickets for people to tour the house, but his parents always managed to spend the money on parties to entertain the other contestants or house tourists.
Herbert realized there was nothing left to do but sell everything and move into an apartment. This would mean a big change for the whole family, but it turns out a big change was just what the family needed.
Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent is longer and a little wordier than some of the other books I’ve mentioned, but Lauren Child use of images and how she uses text as art makes for an interesting read. The idea that bigger and more isn’t necessarily better is a great tale too.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Carrie Anne is a contributing writer on No Time For Flash Cards , she is a mom of 3 and has a love of the written words as well as addictive games on her iPhone. You can catch up with her on her blog Another Day. Another Thought…Or Two .
Book Reviews by Carrie Anne
December is here and at our house that means Christmas. As soon as the Santa Clause parade makes it’s way through town we start getting festive: the Christmas music starts, the decorations begin to go up, the dining room table is covered in Christmas crafts. December also means we can start reading those delightful Christmas stories on the bookshelf. If you’re looking to bring some Christmas into your reading routine, here are a few of my kids favourites:
Written and illustrated by Chris Raschka
Poem by E.E. Cummings
Published by Hyperion
2006 Caldecott Medal winner
Based on E.E. Cummings poem ‘Little Tree’, Chris Raschka recreates a beautiful tale about a little tree’s journey from little tree in the country to a wonderful Christmas tree in his own home in the city with his own family to love him. Rashka’s use of repetitive text gives the story a light, song-like read. The watercolour images with their dark black lines give the impression of stained glass windows and Santa appears here and there, showing how he’s played a part in fulfilling the little tree’s deepest Christmas wish. Even as a board book, my kids and I never tire of reading this wonderful story that’s both beautiful to read and to look at.
Written and illustrated by Eric Carle
Published by Philomel Books
Picture Book (2-6)
A farmer lives on a farm with his animals aptly named One, Two, Three, Four and Five. Christmas is almost here but no snow has come. As the farmer naps he dreams of being covered in a blanket of snow and that one-by-one his farm animals also get covered. When he wakes he is greeted by not dream snow, but real snow. This prompts him to prepare a wonderful Christmas surprise for his farm animals. Eric Carle’s colourful collage images you’ve come to expect in his books, fill the pages in Dream Snow. Kids will delight in revealing the farmer and his animals as they are hidden behind snow overlays. But the best part is the musical surprise the farmer prepares for the animals. My kids enjoy hearing the lovely chime at the end of the story.
Christmas ( The Christmas Book in Canada)
Written and illustrated by Dick Bruna
Published by Methuen Children’s Books
Picture Book (4-6)
A simple telling of the Christmas story. The rectangle shape of the book allows for nice wide scenes. The illustrations are simple and child like and focus on the main elements of the story; the pages aren’t cluttered by background images. While the illustrations fill the right hand pages, a few sentences on plane white paper grace the left hand pages. The sentences and story details are simple for young children to understand; the vocabulary too is keep simple. The original book comes with a punch out Christmas Crib scene. We have since lost the scene but the story is still one of our favourites.
Written by Lawrence David, illustrated by Delphine Durand
Published by Random House
Picture Book (4-8)
Peter Claus hopes to follow in his dad’s footsteps someday. But then he ended up on the naughty list. Peter doesn’t think the naughty list is fair. He takes his dad’s sleigh and gathers all the kids on the list and bring them to the North Pole to explain to Santa why they did some of the not so nice things. One-by-one Santa takes the kids home while listening to their tales. He agrees if the kids do one nice thing to make up for a naughty thing they still might find a gift under the Christmas tree. This is a great story that realizes it’s hard to be good all the time, but that doesn’t make them bad. ‘All people do naughty things once in a while. It can’t be helped,” Santa explained. “Saying you’re sorry is what matters most.”
Written by Charise Neugebauer, illustrated by Barbara Nascimbeni
Published by NorthSouth
Picture Book (4-8)
Timothy loves new toys but he never shares them with his friends. Christmas morning Santa didn’t leave Timothy a new toy, instead he left him the task of distributing all the presents to the other animals. At first Timothy was very upset, but with the help of his friend Humphry, Timothy realized Santa had given him the best gift ever: the gift of giving. I love Timothy’s need to have a new toy, any toy, thinking that’s what Christmas is all about. But when he gets to experience the joy he creates by giving gifts he realizes how unimportant things are compared to having friends. I like the letter correspondance in the book between Santa and Timothy too, as well as the bright pastal illustrations used throughout.
Carrie Anne is a regular contributor to No Time For Flash Cards, she is a mom of 3 and writer. You can find her every day at her blog Another day. Another thought…or two.
Book Reviews by Carrie Ann
Carrie Anne is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards , mom extraordinaire to 3 and blogs at Another Day , Another Thought….Or Two.
The first relationship in a child’s life is with his parents and nothing will ever replace that. However, as a child grows and develops his own identity, he will build relationships outside of just his mom and dad. These friendships, whether with a favorite stuffy, a pet or a child in his playgroup, will be very important to him at enhancing who he is.
A boy discovers a penguin on his front step and assumes he’s lost. The boy takes it upon himself to return the penguin to the South Pole. As the boy and penguin journey together they share stories and learn about each other. It isn’t until the boy returns home, after dropping the penguin at the South Pole, that he realizes the penguin was just lonely and looking for a friend. Wonderful illustrations and text tell a story of finding an unexpected friend.
My Friend Rabbit
published by Roaring Brook Press
picture book (age 4-8)
awarded 2003 Caldecott Award
Mouse and Rabbit are friends. Rabbit sometimes does things before he thinks, but he means well. When Rabbit mistakenly flies mouse and his airplane into a tree, Rabbit works to get his friend out. Although there are minimal words on the pages, the story is told beautifully through the wonderful wood-cut images. Children will delight in how Rabbit rescues his friend mouse and the expressions of the animals who help.
published by Roaring Brook Press
picture book (age 4-8)
awarded Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Best Picture Book
Three charming tales about the adventures of two friends, an energetic and adventurous dachshund dog and a reserved multi-coloured teddy bear. The illustrations are warm and colourful, like the friendship between Dog and Bear. The three stories are simple but ones children can relate to: having a friend help and encourage you when you’re in a jam, balancing your need to spend time with a friend with your friend’s interests, and loving a friend for who they are.
written and illustrated by Charnan Simon
published by Children’s Press
easy reader (age 4-8)
Rosie and her dog Sam have a new pet in the family, Mable the kitten. Mable has her own way of doing things, which doesn’t seem to include anything of Sam’s, like his food or toys or sleeping on his pillow with him. Sam doesn’t think he’ll ever be friends with Mabel. But an encounter with a bully of a dog changes everything. Mabel sticks up for herself and Sam and from then on they are the best of friends. A Rookie Reader level C book, it contains a word list of 54 words for practice.
Carrie Anne is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards, mom of 3 , and blogs at
Another Day , Another Thought…Or Two