Feb 28, 2013

Let's Count!

by Laura Driscoll

This counting book uses lift-the-flaps to find the animals or objects to be counted. Any book with flaps seems to be a hit with my toddler. We've borrowed it from the library. It appears this particular book is really popular with other kids, too (or had a destructive reader once) because it has been heavily mended with tape and one flap is missing entirely. My kid always points this out with a sad voice: "bwoken!" Each page shows little people in ethnic dress from different countries. The places featured are Argentina, Madagascar, New Zealand, Iceland, Greece, Japan and Canada. Corresponding things to count are guitars and violins, lemurs (my daughter insists they look like cats!) and chameleons, kiwi fruits and kiwi birds, fish, goats, paper cranes and husky puppies. I like the variety this all offers, although my kid isn't old enough to understand about the different countries. My favorite page is the Japanese one with some spare and beautiful design- pretty blossoms on a branch in a vase, delicate origami cranes hidden under a paper-lined window.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 14 pages, 2012

Feb 27, 2013

The Good Dog

by Avi

McKinley is a trusted sled dog, a malamute with top status among all the dogs in his town. He protects his human family and takes it upon himself help dogs in need. His biggest problem is an upstart Irish setter who wants to take McKinley's place as top dog. But things get more complicated when McKinley tries to help a runaway dog and meets a wolf. He decides to help the injured wolf, too. The wolf scorns the life and subservience of dogs and encourages McKinley and his followers to join her pack in the forest and live a free, wild life. McKinley is tempted and torn between his loyalties and the stirring words of the wolf.

Aimed at middle-grade readers, I thought this book did a pretty good job of showing things through the dog's eyes. He sees things differently than people do, has his own animal way of thinking and invented words for human objects. It's got a fairly interesting storyline, too.

Rating: 3/5                 256 pages, 2003

more opinions:
Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales

Feb 26, 2013

free bookmarks!

It's time for another giveaway. The weather is very cold today so this pair of polar bears perfectly suited my mood, although the second bear looks very serene about it all. He can, snug in his warm coat of fur!
As a little bonus, there's a cute polar bear cub on the reverse side of the first bookmark.
These are made from magazine scrap and laminated. Free to anyone who leaves a comment on this post. Giveaway will run for a week and a half, I'll draw a winner's name at random on 3/9/13. Open to any postal address in the US or Canada.

Feb 25, 2013

My Very First Book of Animal Homes

by Eric Carle

Like My Very First Book of Motion, this board book has every page cut across horizontally, so it's really two sets of pages, top and bottom, that turn independently. It allows the reader to mix-and-match, in this case to pair up various animals with their homes. It's really cute and clever, with fantastic cut-paper collage illustrations. My daughter doesn't quite have the patience for this book though, and often gets frustrated when she's turning pages ahead, but the matching animal is on a prior page we already passed. But sometimes she'll sit through most of it. She recognizes most of the animals, and is beginning to learn that the nest goes with bird, barn with horse, etc. I find the empty turtle shell matching up to a naked-backed turtle rather odd and a bit disturbing. Yes, a turtle's home is in his shell, and I've heard the saying that the turtle carries his house around with him. But you'd never see a live turtle without his shell. I think it would die. So seeing a turtle with no shell on its back is strange to me.

The bat is really cute.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 20 pages, 1986 ........ find it at  

Feb 24, 2013

Hunter's Moon

by Garry Kilworth

O-Ha is a fox. This novel tells of her life, and that of other foxes in her community. For the foxes, the world is full of challenges and danger. O-Ha looses her first mate and her litter of cubs (both to separate incidents with hounds) and is grieving until she meets a new dogfox who recently escaped from a zoo. Together they find a new den and try to raise more cubs, but things are always difficult. There are vicious dogs that chase them, humans that encroach on their territory. O-Ha wants to stick to tradition (the book is rich with invented folklore, rituals and a belief system all from the foxes' viewpoint) but her new mate doesn't have the same qualms about living close to humans and at one point they end up making a den in a scrapyard. Their new cubs grow up even more accepting of human presence, giving a very real picture of how foxes have adapted to urban environments.

This is another book I'd love to find and read again one day. I don't remember enough detail about it, but love reading about foxes. I believe this book is out of print, and can't find it at my library. There's some confusion as it's also been published under the title The Foxes of Firstdark.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 352 pages, 1989 ......... find it at

more opinions:                                                

Feb 23, 2013

Mommies Say Shh!

by Patricia Polacco

This lovely little book has all kinds of farm animals romping across the pages. Their noises are introduced, and the rabbits are often repeated with the phrase: bunnies say nothing at all. At the very end all the animals make their noises together (the bunnies again say nothing) and a mother with a baby shushes them. The pictures are so rich and lively that's really what makes this book. Each spread has literally swarms of ducks, cats, geese, rabbits, goats, dogs or whatever animal is featured. In quite a few pictures little bunnies are peeking out of the girls' pockets, a detail I didn't notice until my toddler pointed it out with delight. What's really funny is that some of the animals are running or leaping so exuberantly that their backs are bent in a u shape with the heels flung high above the head. This looks almost believable with the little bunnies and leaping squirrels, a bit silly with the dogs, and absolutely ridiculous with a cow!

I'm fairly certain the original was published in another language; as the dogs don't say woof or ruff but buff buff. What's odd is that I can't find the source language of buff buff even though I looked. There are quite a few interesting lists online that show how onomatopoeias vary across many different languages, the most extensive one being on wikipedia, but I couldn't find this dog sound anywhere. (There's another interesting article about dog sounds in different languages here). I think the author is Russian; the costumes of the darling girls and other people on the pages have a definite flair with beautiful patterns and colors.

Incidentally, I saw a few books by Polacco featured on Rabbit Ears Book Blog before I wrote this, and thought the illustrations looked awfully familiar. I went and pulled this book off my daughter's shelf and for sure, it was the same artist. Now that I know she writes books for older kids too (and they look excellent) I'll be sure to look for them when mine is a bit older.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 32 pages, 2005

Feb 22, 2013

The Painted Bird

by Jerzy Kosinski     
~  there will be spoilers in this post  ~
In the horror of WWII a young boy separated from his parents, wanders around through the Polish villages of Eastern Europe. He is most often ignored or abused by the people he comes in contact with, as the fair-haired peasants are suspicious of his dark hair and eyes. The boy witnesses and suffers all kinds of tortures and abuses, the least of which was being beaten. Quite a few of the images stand out vividly in my mind, even after all these years. Not pretty ones. A man in a fight gouging out the eyes of another with a spoon. Rape, incest and bestiality. Lots of people- mere children and infants as often as not- and animals- die in horrible, horrible ways. The boy is often hungry and in pain. It is not until the very end of the book that he is reunited with his parents, but he is irreversibly affected by what he has seen and experienced.

The most vivid image of course, is where the title comes from. The boy watched a man catch birds, paint their feathers bright colors and release them again. The painted bird would find its flock and be attacked by the other birds because of its strange, unrecognizable appearance.

I was reminded of this book from this post at Kyusi Reader. It was one I picked up once at curiosity, from the title alone. I'm surprised that I actually finished it, because I found the content so utterly disturbing. I'm certainly never going to read it again. I don't need those kinds of things in my head.

Feb 21, 2013

Brokeback Mountain

by Annie Proulx

I was curious about this book. Have seen the film. It's about two ranch hands who meet while herding sheep for a season. Alone together in the isolation of the sheep camp, they find themselves connecting in ways neither one of them would have expected. After that time they part ways, each goes on to get married and have kids, but they never forget about each other. They try to find ways to reconnect throughout the years, while keeping their relationship a secret.

I wasn't able to finish reading this book, in spite of its length. It's really a novella, or short story. It was just a bit too crude for my taste. Of course, seeing as it's about a clandestine love affair, I was expecting some sex. I'm fine with sex in books, in general. And this one didn't even have excessive detail, the explicit scenes were brief, to-the-point. But they were crude enough that I found it distasteful and didn't want to continue.

I do love the way the author describes places and people, relationships and formative moments in how these boys grew up (as they describe their pasts to each other). It's concise, and very vivid. I flipped through most of the book after deciding to quit, and it seems like the movie version was very faithful to this story. The book has more of the grittiness, though. The characters are depicted with all their little unclean habits, sour unwashed clothes, dirty teeth and so forth. And yet they found each other irresistibly attractive, with an intensity and passion that is a bit frightening in its power.

It is a strong story. I just didn't care for it. You might. Don't take my word as the last one.

When I come across another book by this author, I am definitely going to pick it up. I like the way she writes.

Abandoned ........ 55 pages, 1997

more opinions:
Books Without Any Pictures
The Reader's Book Blog
The Little Bird
Quill Cafe
A Momentary Taste of Being

Feb 20, 2013

The Loon Feather

by Iola Fuller

This is a novel depicting the life of a woman who bridged two worlds. Oneta was born into the Ojibway tribe in the early 1800's. When she was a young girl her mother became ill at the time her tribe traveled to another location to harvest wild rice, and they were left behind in a trading village on Mackinac Island. Growing up on the island, Oneta finds her life rich with both native heritage and exposure to French and American culture. She doesn't realize her family's poverty until she moves into the home of a well-to-do white family when her mother marries a local Frenchman who does accounts for the fur trade company. She gets sent away to boarding school in Ontario but doesn't speak much of her life there, instead focusing on changes that occur when she returns to the island twelve years later. Having been well-educated Oneta now sees life on the island in a different light, and finds that she doesn't quite fit in anywhere.

Through the personal story of her life and those close to her- her brother and adopted French family- are woven greater events. Things change as the fur trade begins to fall off when trappers deplete the natural resources. The native tribes find life more difficult as game becomes scarce and the intruding white men fell trees in greater numbers. As the fur trade diminishes focus shifts to fishing, it was quite interesting how that came about. Unrest grows when the government fails to hold up their side of treaties with the native tribes. Although Oneta is a father self-effacing character, standing quietly in the background to most events, it turns out she has a large part to play in the end.

This was a rich, satisfying read. There are a wide variety of complex, interesting characters and all their different interactions with Oneta in the village reflect not only how they perceive her as a native and a woman but also how they see themselves. I loved the rich descriptions and subtle symbolism- not only that of the loon, a wilderness bird, but other little things, like for example salt. In the beginning of the novel, Oneta finds food in her stepfamily's home unpalatable, because she's not used to eating salt. And at the end the government switches from paying the natives in gold for land they've appropriated, to giving them goods. The natives are insulted at being given large quantities of salt, a thing they never use, and pile it up scornfully in a heap on the beach to be wasted. Images like that which speak so strongly of people's attitudes and perceptions of each other...

This is the kind of book that leaves you reflecting long after you've turned the final page. I'm definitely keeping this one on my shelf to read again.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 456 pages, 1940 ........   

more opinions:
My Experience of Life

Feb 19, 2013

Where is Maisy?

by Lucy Cousins

Very similar to Where Does Maisy Live? this board book also has flaps under which different characters are hiding. In this case, it simply starts out showing a picture of Maisy the mouse and inviting the child to find her throughout the pages. Then on each page there is a different kind of flap to open- the shutters of a window, the sail on a boat, a bunch of leaves on a tree, door of a closet, etc. under which you find all the animals and friends, before at last discovering Maisy behind the door of her own house. It's simple, cute, and entertaining for little hands. The bright colors are really appealing, too.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 14 pages, 1999

Feb 18, 2013

more to read...

caught my eye on the following blogs:
Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield - The Lost Entwife
The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon- Caribousmom
My Antonia by Willa Cather from Books and Movies
Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler- You've GOTTA Read This!
Under A Wing by Reeve Lindbergh- Bookfoolery
A Wrinkle in Time the Graphic Novel by Hope Larsen- Stuff As Dreams Are Made On
You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney- Reading Through Life
White Dog Fell From the Sky by Eleanor Morse- Caribousmom
Pride and Prejudice by Marvel Comics- Diary of An Eccentric
Memoirs of An Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks- You've GOTTA Read This!
Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History by Bill Laws- Commonweeder
Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinor Pruitt Stewart- A Work in Progress
The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry- Iris on Books
Birdsense by Tim Berkhead- Bookwyrme's Lair
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores by Jen Campbell- The Captive Reader

Feb 17, 2013

Mr. Cookie Baker

by Monica Wellington

In the same style as Apple Farmer Annie, this little book takes the reader through a baker's day of work. All the steps are laid out and charmingly illustrated. The baker collects his ingredients, measures and mixes, cuts out animal shapes, bakes them in the oven, decorates, shows them off to the children, sells them in his shop and on the very last page, gets to eat one himself. I don't know why this is another cute book unpopular with my child. Maybe what she really likes about the apples one is the little cat and dog on nearly every page! O well, back to the library it goes. Perhaps she'll like it better when she's a bit older.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 24 pages, 1992

Feb 16, 2013

The White Puma

by R.D. Lawrence

The story of an albino mountain lion. It starts with his mother's pregnancy, and then follows the life of the cougar as it grows up in mountain wilderness. I really enjoyed the parts that describe the day-to-day life of the big cat and how it perceived and experienced life. Eventually its presence and unusual coat color are discovered by men. Most of the story then focuses on how a pair of hunters try to track the cat down, and the puma eventually begins stalking them in turn. There's also a field biologist intent on studying the cat, and the struggle between the different factions of people with opposite intentions for the mountain lion's destiny becomes just as intense as the struggle between the cat itself and his pursuers. Written by a wildlife biologist, the novel is strong on themes dealing with poaching and the need for conservation, but what I liked best about it was the thrill of seeing who would win the deadly stalking game that went round and round through the mountain forests, as well as reading about the puma's natural behavior and predatory instincts.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 329 pages, 1990

Feb 15, 2013

Hiero's Journey

by Sterling Lanier

This is another book I read long ago, and wish I could find another copy now. I don't know what happened to the old mass-market paperback I used to have. It's a post-apocalyptic adventure story; in a future America where nearly everything has been destroyed, the population has dwindled, and there are mutated mostrous animals (and people) everywhere. (Something like Ariel, methinks). The hero is both a religious priest and a explorer. He has telepathic powers and uses them to communicate with the moose he rides on, and his black bear companion. I thought the idea of a moose for a mount fantastic! So they all go off on a quest into the wilderness to find some needed technology. I don't remember if they ever found it, just the plethora of wild adventures, imaginary creatures, battles (both physical and mental- with the telepathy) and if I remember rightly there was a girl in there somewhere, too. The characters of the animals stand out to me, I don't remember much about the aspect of him being a priest, though.

There's a sequel called The Unforsaken Hiero which looks so familiar I feel sure I used to have a copy of that, as well. But I don't think I ever read it. Now I wish I had. It looks good, too. Anyone read either of these?

Rating: 3/5 ......... ? pages, 1973

more opinions:
Reading Science Fiction
Olman's Fifty
Raven Crowking's Nest
Nathan Shumate

Feb 14, 2013

The Long Walk

by Slavomir Rawicz

I read this long ago off my father's bookshelf. It's one of the best adventure stories I've ever read, even if the accuracy of the events have since been questioned. (Which I just discovered). It's about a small group of Polish men who escape a Soviet labor camp and make a perilous 4,000-mile trek south across the Gobi Desert, Tibet and the Himalaya mountains in order to reach freedom and sanctuary in India (then occupied by the British). I remember vividly, even after so many years, the challenges to their survival, hardships with few supplies, the arguments which threatened the venture, the drive which pushed them to continue when all stamina was gone, and most particularly, that at one point they were driven by thirst to attempt recycling their own urine. Ugh.

I also remember the ending; how the men staggered into a restaurant and were refused service because of their dirty, ragged appearance. How they were hospitalized but so consumed with the ordeal they'd just been through that even though now safe, they kept stumbling out of their beds to continue walking. That image of the starved, ill, exhausted men still trying to keep on walking when they no longer had to, somehow stayed with me a long time.

This is definitely a book I want to read again, if I find a copy (my library doesn't have it, nor my personal collection). Even if it never really happened, it's still a great story.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 246 pages, 1956

a few more opinions:
Confessions of a Writer
Book Reviews from an Avid Reader

Feb 13, 2013

Love Song for a Baby

by Marion Dane Bauer
illustrated by Dan Andreasen

This is again, one of those books my toddler and I disagree on. I like the concept and the pictures are just beautiful. My little girl does like all the images of darling little babies, but she gets impatient with the text, turns the pages too fast and never lets me finish reading it. So after just two attempts, it's going back to the library.

It's a lovely little book of verse, a parent describing to their child how the baby arrived and how much they loved him right from the start. The words tell of little things babies do, attributes they have, tender care the parents give, all reiterating the unconditional love. Through the pictures you see the baby gradually getting older until in the last one he appears to be a year old, walking on his own, looking proud of himself and very charming. I just can't say enough how much I love the rich paintings, but as my kid simply won't sit through the book and we're returning it without once having made it all the way through, it ends up getting a low rating here.

Rating: 2/5 ........ 32 pages, 2002

Feb 12, 2013

A Clearing in the Wild

by Jane Kirkpatrick

Another book I picked up from the Book Thing; my copy jacketless so I didn't really know what it was about until I started reading. From a map in the endpapers and the opening chapters I gathered it had to do with people settling in my home state when it was still just a territory and hoped for something rather like The Egg and I in its descriptiveness. I was a bit disappointed in that the characters only reach the Puget Sound area at the very end, but still got some of the beautiful, rough landscape and early settlers' lives I was hoping for.

The main character here, Emma Giesy, is a member of a religious community formed of German immigrants. When the book opens Emma is a young woman chafing at the restraints of her culture. Women were pretty much expected to be subservient, seen and not heard, and instead she is outspoken, forward-thinking and rebellious. She falls in love with an older man and they get married against the wishes of the leader. Then she complains that her new husband gets sent off on recruiting missions without her, and manipulates her way into a scouting party bound west to find new land for their community to relocate. The bulk of the novel is about their travels and hardships. When then finally decide on a site on the banks of the Willapa River, things look pretty miserable. The land is harder to "tame" than they expected, it rains all winter, their crops don't grow well. But Emma finds herself falling in love with the beauty of the formidable land and begins to learn how to live there (small things that made all the difference, like natives showing her how to make wide hats of cedar bark that keep off the wet). When the main party finally arrives and their leader outright rejects the site- to the bitter disappointment of Emma's husband, she can't bring herself to give up on it yet.

There's so much going on here that throughout I was kept interested- Emma bears two children in the wilderness, and although she never looses her inquisitiveness her character does grow some. She learns some wisdom in when to keep her mouth shut, but also how to stand up to the men around her when it matters. I think my favorite part of the book was when she settled in a half-finished house all alone with her child for several weeks. Her husband also faces lots of challenges and although his character doesn't grow as much as Emma's, there is some development there. Most of the other characters were pretty flat for me, and near the end the story did start to drag. While it closed on a rather hopeful note, the ending felt a bit jumbled to me, a scramble to tie up all the loose ends and name where all the people went to as the community party dissolved. But overall I liked it. A good read.

It's based on real people and events.

Rating: 3/5 ......... 368 pages, 2006

more opinions:
Life Is But a Dream
WV Stitcher
Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading!

Feb 11, 2013

Where Does Maisy Live?

by Lucy Cousins

Cute Maisy the mouse entertains kids in an interactive board book where they must discover where she lives by lifting flaps to see who is in different kinds of homes. I like that Maisy is pictured wearing muddy boots, and the pages all have farm animals. Along the way toddlers learn where the animals stay- horses in the stable, pigs in a sty, dog in a doghouse, chickens in the coop, etc.- and the noises they make. At the end there's a regular house with a door to open, where you at last find Maisy. My daughter likes to actually knock on this last door with her little fist and say "open!" before lifting the flap. Very fun and educational little book.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 12 pages, 2000

Feb 9, 2013

The Golden Eagle

by Robert Murphy

Tells the lifestory of a golden eagle. From its youth being taught by the parent birds how to handle itself in the air and hunt for food, to its solo wanderings, meetings with other birds, and encounters with man. I really enjoyed the descriptions of how the eagle perceived things, how it experienced flight and all the different circumstances that came upon it. The descriptions of various landscapes viewed from high above were thrilling at first, then began to pall on me, probably because I didn't recognize most of the place names and had trouble picturing it after a while. The fierce, wild eagle doesn't have many good experiences with mankind and the author seems to be making a frequent point about how people disturb or outright destroy wildlife; whenever other animals wander on the scene, the author goes into little asides explaining how poorly man has treated this one or the other. Through all her trials, the young eagle gets an injured wing, battles a weasel, runs afoul of a miner who wants to trap her in his cabin, gets shot at more than once, sees one of her parents die at the hand of man, and finally meets an unfortunate fate herself, in spite of the wariness she's built up. It's not a good ending, if you dislike seeing the animal die. I was left feeling a bit put out, I did so want to see the eagle fly farther and raise its own family...

Rating: 3/5 ........ 157 pages


Eenie, meenie, miney moe....
No, actually I used Random.org
The winner of my latest set of bookmarks is Maryann D.!
Maryann, let me know where to send the bookmarks and they'll be on their way to you this week.

Happy reading, everyone!

Feb 8, 2013

Baby Sounds

by Joy Allen

As an adorable little baby goes through her daily routine, the typical sounds she encounters are named. Waking to bird song out the window, banging pots and pans on the floor while mom does dishes in the kitchen, playing with a toy phone, jangling keys, riding in the car (honk honk!), etc. My toddler's favorite page is the double-spread showing kids on the swings, their faces pictures of glee. The pictures are nice and soft, done with pastels I believe. The baby's teddy bear accompanies her in each activity, and my little one has just learned to start looking for these kind of consistencies on every page. It ends (appropriately) with the child splashing in the bath, and getting a bedtime kiss. Cute.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 14 pages, 2012

Feb 7, 2013


with Polar Animals
by Melanie Watt

We seem to have quite a few baby books in the house right now that feature arctic animals, this is one of them. My toddler always asks to see the walrus! I like this little book. It illustrates the opposite concepts very well, and introduces the child to a certain set of animals pictured in their environment as well. My favorite pages are the ones showing open/closed- a puffin with its beak in the different positions, light/heavy- a walrus sitting on one end of a tipped ice floe, with a tern on the other end up in the air, inside/outside- two owlets hatching out of eggs, one peeking through a hole in the shell, and summer/winter- showing the dark and light pelage arctic foxes take on in the alternate seasons. The illustrations are clearly depicted and cute as well.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 22 pages, 2003

Feb 6, 2013


by Franz Kafka

There was a period in high school when I was fascinated with Kafka. I discovered his works quite by accident. One of my teachers had a shelf of books students were encouraged to borrow from and a certain volume caught my eye just because it was smaller than all the rest- hardbound, but nearly the size of a mass market paperback. I started to read it just out of curiosity. It was The Trial. I found it at once both confusing and intriguing, and went on to read nearly all of Kafka's works. Even a few biographies, collections of letters and recorded conversations.

Amerika, his first (but unfinished) novel, remains one of my favorites. It's a bit more accessible than the rest, but still has that very prevalent dreamlike quality Kafka suffuses everything with. The narrative is about a young man named Karl who is shipped off to America after an indiscretion with a maid that he doesn't want to own up to. It tells an immigrant story- the journey on a ship, arrival in New York, search for lodgings and work, his temporary employment in a hotel, getting mixed up with dishonest characters who take advantage of him and cause him to loose his job, falling in with other shady people who practically keep him as a slave in their dirty crowded apartment, and finally getting hopeful about work with a large company so he goes off to apply and wades through endless useless-seeming interviews, paperwork and procedures. All with a totally surreal atmosphere, bizarre turns of events, people saying or doing inexplicable things, places and circumstances obviously construed by a lively imagination. For the author never actually visited America, and so this story is exactly like a dream someone would have of a place they had never been, but of which they had heard many stories and construed their own idea of what it was like, and then their subconscious mind went rampant with that and spewed out this wandering, yet vivid story that seems to reflect the emotional state of a confused young man trying to navigate a new world.

At least that was my impression, and this is just what I remember some twenty years after having read the book. (I did read it several times, though).

Rating: 4/5 ........ 336 pages, 1940

more opinions:
A Hot Cup of Pleasure
Nobody Likes My Taste in Anything
Don't Read Too Fast

Feb 5, 2013

Goodnight Baby

by Cheryl Willis Hudson

Sometimes my kid's favorite board books are the simplest ones. This one, just a few pages long, shows a toddler winding up his day. With brief rhyming text it describes how after playing with friends the child (appropriately pictured looking tired and rubbing his eyes) has a bath and snuggles with a bedtime story before sleeping in his crib. It's a nice little reiteration of bedtime routine, doesn't have much else going on. I guess it's just the familiarity of repeating what happens before bed that makes it appealing to my daughter. Plus she now likes to try and find the stuffed animal toy included in each picture. She seemed to think it odd or amusing at first, exclaiming "monkey!" emphatically, but then I explained that the monkey is Baby's friend like a teddy bear, and now she doesn't sound so surprised to see him there anymore. The pictures are simple and pleasant, and have just enough detail to entertain a child looking for more to think about- what are the children doing with the toys, for example, or what does Baby do with each of the objects in his bath- so it can be a little more engaging if you want, but is also nice and brief when you're looking for a quick bedtime story.

Rating: 2/5         10 pages, 1992

Feb 4, 2013

A Beast the Color of Winter

by Douglas H. Chadwick

I still remember this book vividly, even though it's been years and years since I read it. It's all about mountain goats, relating the experiences a wildlife biologist has on the high slopes of Montana while studying them. In the best style of nature writing, the narrative describes his experiences in finding the animals, learning to identify them, puzzling out their behavior, and speculating on many things. There are wonderful descriptions of both the landscape, the author's personal experiences and the animals' activities themselves. It's scientific and detailed but easily accessible to the curious reader and altogether intriguing. I never knew mountain goats could be so interesting. This is one of those books that I would immediately snatch up anywhere I found it, to add to my collection. Just thinking about it makes me want to go out and read more by the same author- I see he's also written about elephants, wolves and the elusive wolverine.

I love the title, too. Borrowed this one from the public library, once many years ago.

Rating: 5/5 ........ 224 pages, 1983

Feb 3, 2013

Bodach the Badger

by David Stephen

I grabbed this book with delight when I saw it on a free shelf, because I have loved for years another book by the same author, about a fox. This one was just as good, if not better. I was expecting it to be mostly about the badger and its habits, but was pleasantly surprised to find quite a lot of human interaction in it. I don't recall that much about people in the fox book- perhaps I just glossed over those passages before? Must read String Lug again to find out- when the Dare is over, of course!

Bodach is about a group of badgers that live on a mountainside in Scotland. I've only read a very few books about badgers before and those were either American badgers or didn't feature much of their natural behavior so I was happy to learn a lot about European badgers, which live very differently. For one thing, they live in family groups in large underground tunnels which they occupy for generations. I knew a bit about that from Badgers, but not the idea that they bury their dead, that they can purr, that they suck on their paws, that they eat -aside from small mammals and earthworms- slugs and acorns!

The storyline mostly follows the daily life of the badgers, but also includes quite a bit about the humans who live on farms around them. One set of farmers is fond of the badgers and keeps a close eye on them, another farmer across the way traps them and makes their pelts into sporrans. I wasn't sure from the context if this was illegal, but it was certainly frowned upon. Not only do the regular farmers make efforts to observe the badgers, they bring field trips of kids from a local school to see the badgers and learn about them, they treat injured badgers found in bad situations, and when a man several miles away wants to repopulate a sett on his land that has been empty for years, they carefully trap several badgers and transport them for him. So I was pleased to find quite a bit about wildlife conservation and education in this little novel!

There's a lot of foreign terms used in the narrative, I'm not sure if they are Gaelic or Scottish, as there was no glossary (a thing I sorely missed) but I liked the extra local flavor they added to the story, even if I often had to puzzle out the exact meaning. A lot of other animals are in the pages, too- weasels and foxes, deer, owls, eagles and wildcats. Also vivid personalities of the farm dogs, and one particular overeager terrier named Tarf. Through the course of the novel one of the main human characters tries to teach Tarf how to behave at a badger sett- differently from what he expects her to do at a fox burrow. His methods and reasons I found an interesting side-storyline. But the badgers are the main thing.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 191 pages, 1983

Feb 2, 2013

Kipper's Book of Weather

by Mick Inkpen

Another simple, yet effective board book. Kipper's Weather simply depicts and names different weather patterns and shows the cute puppy doing appropriate activities for each. Basking in sunshine, splashing in rain puddles, sliding on ice, rolling snowballs, etc. My favorite pictures are the ones where he's peering through obscuring fog, or holding a metal trash can lid over his head to ward off hailstones. And my daughter likes the pretty rainbow at the end, which spans two pages. I always make little sounds to illustrate each activity or bit of weather- splash for the rain, plink plink for the hailstones, brrrr in the snow and so on. Recently my little girl has begun pointing out and naming the weather in its true context as well, she says " 'nowing" for the snow and "rain" very distinctly. I think she would name a rainbow as well, she says the word for the page in the book but we haven't seen one in real life for a very long time!

Rating: 3/5 ........ 16 pages, 1994

Feb 1, 2013

Touch and Feel Ponies

by DK Publishing

My kid really likes ponies right now- she can even make the cutest whinny noise when you ask her "what does the horsie say?" So this board book was a hit right off. Like all the other Touch and Feel books, it has different textures for your child to explore- hairy pony manes and furry coats, smooth prize ribbons, a closely woven blanket, and so on. My toddler particularly likes noticing things the ponies have in common with herself- they eat apples (pictured on one page in a bushel basket on the ground), get covered with blankets and even wear socks. She pointed this out to me on the back cover, where a pony getting loaded into a trailer has protective coverings on its lower legs. "Pony sockies!" my little girl said excitedly. Yes, it really did look like the horse was wearing socks.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 10 pages, 1999