Library Books Enjoyed, 11/21/13

Halloween may be over, but that only means that my kids discuss in depth what they are going to be next year while they continue to eat their way through the candy. Here are some books we checked out in the Halloween aftermath:

Dracula and Frankenstein Are FriendsDracula and Frankenstein Are Friends by Katherine Tegen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I marked this as “scary” because it’s so spooky/Halloween themed, but it’s not really scary. It also wasn’t my favorite story ever, but the target audience felt differently. I think I just didn’t like it so much because I didn’t like Dracula in here…he was definitely not a very good friend for most of the book (yes, that’s part of the point of the story–he somewhat learns his lesson–but I think I was hoping for something like a Halloween version of Frog and Toad).

However, my offspring, still fresh in the triumph of successful trick-or-treating (and still with the candy to show for it), loved it and required that we keep it for two weeks from the library. I will grant that the pictures were quite fun, with all sorts of details that appeal to kids who like to pore over their picture books. So it was a howling success with the majority of readers in this house…but I’m still the one who hands out stars.

Bats at the LibraryBats at the Library by Brian Lies

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We got this while the Halloween display was still up, but while it could certainly be worked into a Halloween theme, it really wasn’t meant to be a Halloween book. It was, however, a really fun book about what might happen if bats visited the library. I know we’ve read Bats at the Ballgame by the same author, but I think I enjoyed this one even more…and I certainly enjoyed it more than many other “in the library” themed picture books I feel like I’ve come across recently.

This last one seems to fit in with the “not-quite-Halloween” theme, but it’s one I just read myself, rather than sharing with the kids:
Battle BunnyBattle Bunny by Jon Scieszka

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I should preface this review by saying that I’m a pacifist, so this wasn’t going to be one I’d share with my kids right off, anyway. And, for now, I’m not sharing it with my kids.

I got a review from a (librarian) friend about this one, so I immediately put it on hold at the library. It was funny, and I think it was well-done, just not my cup of tea. Aside from the sweet bunny being transformed into an evil megalomaniac, what drove me nuts was that I had to read under the “changes” to see what the initial story was (the whole premise being that a kid transforms a book called “Birthday Bunny” into a much more exciting and dangerous story).

I actually don’t think I want to share this with my kids now as much for the fact that they won’t quite “get” it (only my oldest is starting to read and write, and I don’t think even he will quite get all the “editing” going on unless I read both versions to him, too) as for the content. Ok, and let’s be honest, I don’t want to give my 2 and 3 year olds ANY precedent for altering books with writing implements–our books need all the protection they can get. Anyway, I’m not quite sure what the target audience for this book is–it needs to be kids who can read and do some writing, but still enjoy a picture book. I’d be interested to hear from other librarians or parents who have some kids to share this with!

View all my reviews

Library Books Enjoyed, 10/31/13: Halloween Edition

We apparently checked out Halloween books early and often this month, so here they are. Happy Halloween!

10 Trick-or-Treaters10 Trick-or-Treaters by Janet Schulman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my goodness. This one gets a five for the sheer amount of enjoyment my kids have gotten out of it. I don’t know if it’s the colorful Halloween pictures, the rhyme, the counting down (which my kindergartner was especially attuned to) or what, but they LOVED this and we read it OVER and OVER, and even had to keep it out an extra week.

Basically, it follows 10 trick-or-treaters on their Halloween, and the numbers dwindle as one trick-or-treater is scared off on each page. There’s nothing really very scary here (good for my crowd…and their mother), but lots of Halloween characters (a witch, a mummy, a bat, etc.) make appearances.

Pumpkin EyePumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A short (great for a late bedtime story!), sweet Halloween book. Bright pictures, simple rhyme. Enjoyed all around.

(This one was borrowed by my kindergartner from his school library rather than our public library…we are expanding our horizons!)

Monster Needs a CostumeMonster Needs a Costume by Paul Czajak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a cute Halloween story about a monster who has trouble deciding on what costume to wear…a dilemma familiar to many parents. I really enjoyed the story, and the conclusion, and I think my kids loved it as well. The pictures are very vivid and add to the comedy (although the little boy who’s in charge of Monster seems to be very sympathetic to him).

I have one persnickety problem with it, which is that Monster is obviously a boy in the story, but when he wants to be a ballet dancer, he is dressed as a girl ballerina with a pink tutu. My problem is not with any gender-bending, but with the fact that this completely ignores the fact that boys can be ballet dancers, too! And when boys and men dance, they dress differently from girls and women, and to be a ballet dancer does not just mean to wear a pink tutu. Ok, that’s the end of my rant.

Monster Needs a Costume is a great Halloween story, and you should enjoy it with your kids as soon as you can get your hands on it at the library.

Zen GhostsZen Ghosts by Jon J. Muth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven’t read Zen Shorts, so I didn’t know what this would be like going into it. It was a beautiful story, and absolutely beautiful pictures that gave just the right atmosphere of fall and spookiness.

Trick or Treat, Marley!Trick or Treat, Marley! by John Grogan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let’s just be honest and say I didn’t like this. I have read, and did enjoy, Marley and Me, but I am a little perturbed by all the spin-offs it has spawned. I think two things bothered me the most about this: the kids’ character names did not even slightly correspond with Grogan’s kids in the original (yes, you could make an argument for the kids’ privacy, but if you are doing a spin-off, it should be an accurate spin-off, right?) and, after all the trouble Marley got in, they put him in charge of handing out candy? Really?

However, I’m still featuring the book in the “Halloween Books Enjoyed” because the target audience at our house ate this right up. The combination of cute dog and Halloween is just too much for them, apparently.

Ol' Clip-Clop: A Ghost StoryOl’ Clip-Clop: A Ghost Story by Patricia C. McKissack

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I grabbed this, first because it was by Patricia C. McKissack, who has written lots of great picture books (until earlier this year, with her husband, Frederick L. McKissack), and also because it looked fun, historical, and a little spooky. I purposely did not share it with my kids…I read it myself, and then decided I didn’t want to share it with them quite yet.

This is mostly a spooky tale who’s atmosphere is conveyed by suggestion…describing how mean the main character, John Leep, is, repeating the clip-clop sounds (and making them get faster and faster), and the dark (as in colored dark pictures)…but it’s a jump tale (the right reader could really go crazy with this in an elementary school read-aloud setting), and the last page has a somewhat scary picture (a skeleton-like ghost coming to swallow up John Leep). I am definitely on the “chicken” side for judging scary stories, but I would recommend this for 1st or 2nd grade up through about 4th…maybe 5th, but “kids these days” seem harder to scare than I am. 😉

Although I didn’t read this aloud, I think it’s a fun story, and the pictures are great…definitely worth it for the right audience.

Betty Crocker Halloween CookbookBetty Crocker Halloween Cookbook by Betty Crocker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My three-year-old saw this on display and insisted we check it out, and all three of my kids have been poring over it since, to decide what they want me to make out of it…we have finally settled on one or two recipes that I will photocopy and try to make sometime this month.

As a cookbook, I don’t think much of it (most of the recipes include such ingredients as Bisquick, premade cinnamon rolls, cake mix, etc…nothing wrong with using those, but they don’t really tell you how to make most of the food). As a decorating book, however, it’s pretty great…and the recipes we’ve decided on are basically easy ways to decorate a sheet cake and pudding in cups to look like witches.

As a picture book, this is also great, because I think the kids have enjoyed it as much for looking at the pictures as for any actual treats that they get out of it.

View all my reviews