Mar 31, 2012

If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay

by Lara Zibners

I won this book from another blogger, a giveaway at Worducopia. It sat on my shelf unread far too long. I wish now I'd picked it up sooner! Written by an ER pediatrician, the book methodically goes through all the illness, accidents and just plain strange-looking things (on newborns, in particular) that might alarm parents. It tells you what to expect, what to worry about, when to call your pediatrician, when to head for the hospital, and when to just calm down and treat your kid at home. It's very informative, plus written in a friendly, straightforward style that makes it easy to understand. There's a bit of humor thrown in there as well, to lighten up what might otherwise be a stressful read. I don't know if I'd recommend reading straight through the entire thing like I did, as a bit too much knowledge on all the dangers facing your kid can make your head swim! But I learned quite a bit in the process: babies are sometimes born with a few teeth. The idea that you have to keep someone who hit their head awake is a myth. Pet reptiles (especially turtles) often carry salmonella. And much, much more. This is a book I'm definitely keeping around for reference, it's got a thorough index so you can flip quickly to any topic when you need to know something urgently. Also in the back there's a useful little section that tells you what to expect when you do have to visit the emergency room, and what procedures you might face there. I'd recommend this book to anyone with infants or young children. An invaluable resource.

rating: 4/5 ........ 305 pages, 2009 ........ find it on Amazon

more opinions:
First-Time Mommy.com
Mama Latina

Mar 30, 2012

Junie B. Jones

and a Little Monkey Business
by Barbara Park

My first-grader keeps bringing Junie B. Jones home from the school library, and I keep sneaking them off her bed at night to read! They're easy to get through in one sitting, and make me chuckle. In Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business, Junie is delighted when her parents announce they have a surprise for her, and upset when it turns out not to be a present. I thought the story would be about how Junie adjusted to the new baby's homecoming, or felt jealous, or something like that. But it turned out to be about how kids can misunderstand simple metaphors. In this case, due to a comment her grandmother makes, along with remarks about the amount of his hair and length of his toes, Junie becomes convinced that her baby brother is really a monkey. She's even more sure when she notices that the baby's bed looks like a cage and his room is decorated in a jungle theme. So she announces to her classmates that her brother is a monkey, and her two best friends start vying to see who gets to view the monkey brother first. Junie takes this too far when she starts collecting gifts from her friends, but a quick march to the principal and an explanation in class of common metaphors straightens things out. Quick, amusing read. My daughter got a real kick out of it, too.

rating: 3/5 ........ 68 pages, 1993

more opinions:
Becky's Lit Blog
Under the Covers

Mar 29, 2012

At the Farm

by Salina Yoon

This board book is just the right size for little hands, and pretty entertaining for my baby! It's a simple book, each page just has an object found on a farm- milk can, watermelon slice, sheep, tractor, etc.- one word to name it, and a bold, bright picture. What really entertains my daughter about this book is that some of the pages have shapes cut out- on one page an owl has some tear-drop shaped feathers as cut shapes, when you turn the page it's a watermelon and the cut shapes are the seeds. First the baby liked just touching the shapes, then she discovered if the page is held open a bit she can put her finger through, and then the whole thing turns into a game with her and I wiggling our fingers through the holes. It's so much fun when the book is done she wants to start all over again, several times! I think this little book is going to rival Happy Baby Colors now in her esteem.

Borrowed from the public library. Going to see if I can find more similar books by this author, but that's always hard in the baby section!

rating: 4/5 ........ 12 pages, 2011 ........ find it at Amazon

Mar 27, 2012

1 Teddy Bear

by Bernette Ford

This is a cute counting book: one to ten. It features charming little teddy bears that do things together like talk on the phone, go for a hike, dance in the rain (the first page, 1 TEDDY BEAR all alone, shows a teddy reading a book, of course!). And finally on the page with ten teddies, they all climb into bed. What's better than a baby book ending with sleepy time? It's got some nice, gentle rhymes and the teddies are painted with a bit of texture, which I like. And the baby sits through it, which is even better.

rating: 3/5 ........ 18 pages, 2008 ........ find it on Amazon

Mar 25, 2012

The Dragonbards

by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

I don't know why I slogged so long through this book before finally realizing it was never going to enthrall me like its predecessors.  The Dragonbards is the third in a trilogy I discovered long ago. I read the first book,  Nightpool, probably twenty years ago and loved it. I found the second book, The Ivory Lyre, some ten years later as a complete surprise (not knowing there were any sequels) and liked it, though not as much as the first. I should have known the third would be a dud, especially coming to it as an adult. This isn't the first time I've had such an experience.

It feels awkward to write about this book when I haven't said anything about the first two, but here goes. A fantasty story about good battling evil, set in a world called Tirror where dragons have recently been rediscovered along with the people who can bond with them, called bards. When the bards and dragons sing they reawaken people's memories and awareness of their history. Evil forces in this world are enslaving city after city to take over the world, using drugs to dull people's minds and make them forget their identities. The hero of the story, Tebriel, and his dragon are leading the forces of good in a battle to drive the evil out of their world. This has all the makings of a great story- wonderful dragons, intelligent talking animals (mainly otters and large cats), a love interest between two close friends who don't realize what they feel for each other until nearly the last page, plenty of action and some magic. There's even a journey through other worlds that connect through mysterious Doors (made me think of C.S. Lewis' pools) But it all fell flat for me. I just couldn't muster up any interest in the story or even the characters, although I remember loving them so well long ago. Even the interesting themes running through the story- how important memories are to identity, or how drug abuse dulls the mind, or how the hero has to battle his own pride and allows himself to be influenced by the Dark side- just didn't work for me. I kept going back to it hoping I'd find it lively again, but no. I was even afraid I'd lost my interest in reading for the time being, what with current stresses- but the book I'm reading now is going swimmingly, so it's not that at all.

No, this book is just lame. It might work for a kid, and I do hope when I go back to read the first two I still like them, but otherwise I'd say skip it. I did end up skimming the last few chapters just to find out what happened in the end, but even that wasn't very satisfying.

Abandoned ......... 249 pages, 1988

Mar 17, 2012

Mirror Me

I have just not been reading much lately. The one book I am reading is going slow; I'm not much interested in it, but it's the final in a series I read long ago so I do want to finish just to see how it all closes. More on that later. I've mostly been busy gardening, and the baby is still sick (going on a week now of this miserable cold). Hopefully the blog will pick up again soon!

So I looked around for one of the baby books I haven't mentioned here yet. I bought this one back when the baby was just four or five months old, to entertain her on a plane trip. I thought she would like it because of the mirrors. Turns out it didn't entertain her then, at all. But now it's her favorite book to read when she's sitting on the potty. I sit behind her and she can see my face next to her in the little mirrors- each page has one. It's cute enough- all about imitating gestures and facial expressions. Smile, stick out your tongue, make your eyes go wide. The baby's favorite is the page where a cow puffs her cheeks full of air- I always blow on her hair when I make the puff noise, and she giggles. Some of the characters are just named by their identity- Frog, Gecko, etc. But others have names- Violet the mouse, for example. I'm assuming they're characters from other Baby Einstein products, but I'm not sure.

Mar 6, 2012

The Solace of Open Spaces

by Gretel Ehrlich

This is a collection of essays about Wyoming. Similar to The Secret Life of Cowboys, its author was a city girl who moved to the wide open spaces and found she loved the life there. But this one doesn't focus on her journey or her personal story so much as on the landscape, the way of life, the animals, the personalities she encounters. Several essays are about sheepherding- about the work, the lonely remote camps, the eccentric herders. Other essays focus on rodeo, man's relationship with animals, the codes of conduct ranchers live by, the weather that sweeps over the land, the cattle and wildlife... She writes about several Native American communities around her- Crow and Arapaho, Cheynne and Shoshone. She attends several of their important ceremonies and describes it in detail. It's all very interesting. I was thrown off at first; the character sketches in one of the early sheepherding essays unsettled me a bit- but then I found myself enjoying her writing more and more. It's beautiful and evocative. Just this line alone in the introduction made me eager to cherish the rest of the book: The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding. Her words are lovely and thoughtful, harsh and piercing and grand. It was a book I read through slowly, carefully and appreciatively. May you do the same.

rating: 4/5 ......... 131 pages, 1985 ........ find this book on Amazon

more opinions:
Buddies in the Saddle
Oldwoman's Books
Sarah Sans Terre

Mar 5, 2012

under water

I went to a garden show this weekend. (You can see the plants I bought here on my garden blog). Loved walking through the garden displays, and I wondered how much time/work it took for people to create these elaborate setups of paths, raised beds, flowers, shrubs and even trees all growing in the exhibit space.

But this blog is about books. And I saw some there. And I involuntarily cringed. It was a display made by a company that does fountains to decorate people's yards- most incorporated into a stream or pond of some kind- and this one had a sculpture of a stack of books with water pouring over it. Very realistic-looking lovely books, with a film of water pooling at the top and cascading down the sides. I'm not kidding you, I literally flinched and quickly walked away (thus failing to get a photo to show you, I didn't even think of it). All I could think was: horrors! Those books are getting soaked! They'll be ruined. Albeit fake.

I could never imagine putting such a feature in my yard. I think it would make me uneasy every time I looked at it. What about you? Would you shrink from such a sight? or laugh at the absurdity of it?

Mar 2, 2012

My Mom

by Debbie Bailey

This board book that celebrates moms doing things with their children is not full of beautiful photos or adorable illustrations. Instead, the images look just like ordinary everyday snapshots you might take with your own camera. I don't know if that's because the photos are older per se, or if the photographer was going for a candid look, but I like it because it's different. It feels like anyone you could know, your friend or neighbor. It's a simple collection of pictures showing moms playing with, reading to, cooking for their children. Pushing them on the swings. Helping them get dressed. Giving a hug to a crying child. The simple text is narrated by the child: My mom is very special, We do lots of things together etc etc but the child also points out My mom lets me do things for myself, but she helps me when I need it. I like that message. And my daughter's favorite picture is of the little boy doing something for himself: a toddler standing inside the fridge to reach something. Cute.

Of course, My Mom is part of a series that includes books about grandparents, fathers and siblings which I would like to see more of. But this is the only one I've found at my library and they don't catalog the board books so I can't search for more, I just have to look on the shelf each time and take my luck.

rating: 3/5 ....... 14 pages, 1991