Archive for ‘Humor’

March 1, 2016

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)

I am thrilled to bring you today’s book review. I first ‘met’ Julie Falatko over the Internet back in 2012. She had just started doing book reviews on the Brain Burps podcast when I recommended Mathew Cordell’s ANOTHER BROTHER to her, hoping she would love it. I am so excited to see her witty, quirky humor getting out into the world.

My fun-filled interview with Julie Falatko and Snappsy.

SnappsyTitle: Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)

Author: Julie Falatko (awesome interview of Julie, Tim, and Joanna at 7’Imp)
Illustrator: Tim Miller
Publisher: Viking Books, 2016
Editor: Joanna Cardenas
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Friendship

Opening:

Snappsy the alligator wasn’t feeling like himself.
His feet felt draggy.
His skin felt baggy.
His tail wouldn’t swish this way and that.
And, worst of all, his big jaw wouldn’t SNAP.

“This is terrible! I’m just hungry! Why is this rude narrator trying to make it seem like I need a nap?”

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

Snappsy the alligator is having a normal day when a pesky narrator steps in to spice up the story. Is Snappsy reading a book … or is he making CRAFTY plans? Is Snappsy on his way to the grocery store … or is he PROWLING the forest for defenseless birds and fuzzy bunnies? Is Snappsy innocently shopping for a party … or is he OBSESSED with snack foods that start with the letter P? What’s the truth?

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:

A fusion of meta-fiction and unreliable narrator with a dose of heart. A book that can be simply enjoyed for the witty humor or dissected in classroms for its clever storytelling.

Right away from the book cover you know something is awry with the first part of the title in bold maroon letters, and the second part in a Snappsy dialogue bubble. This is the basic jist of the story, overbearing narrator vs humble Snappsy. I love the interplay between what the narrator says about Snappsy versus what Snappsy is actually doing – Snappsy hunting for animals to eat (false) vs Snappsy on his way to the grocery store (truth). I think Kirkus Review said it best by likening the narrator to Rita Skeeter. No wonder Snappsy is snappy. But he does humor the narrator by throwing a party to spice up the book. The reveal of the narrator was an unexpected pleasant surprise.

I love the narrator’s authoritative voice. (Come back tomorrow to find out the author’s influences on this.) I also really enjoyed Snappy’s dialogue when retorting back. Who actually says “You are really cheesing me off.” So original. It is sophisticated storytelling to pull-off essentially two characterizations of a single character, and in a picture book format.

Ms. Falatko provided the skeleton and framework which Mr. Miller filled out with his unique artistic vision. A perfect marriage of text and art.

The retro-cartoony art are simple drawings but full of charm and depth. I loved all the little tidbits that the illustrator added to Snappsy’s character such as the tie and fez. I also enjoyed the interpretive license. Text says “forest” but the art shows a bamboo forest. Snappsy visits a grocery store but it’s actually and ABC Grocery store where the aisles are letters not numbers. The art enrichs the story taking it to another level.

This is a fun read and one I can see kids going back too for more. For a special Snappsy treat take of the dust jacket.

Check-out this awesome book trailer. Enjoy!

Find Snappsy the Alligator at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0451469453
ISBN-13: 978-0451469458

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

November 7, 2014

I’m My Own Dog plus a Giveaway

owndog

Title: I’m My Own Dog
Author & Illustrator: David Ezra Stein

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2014
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Friendship, Humor

Opening Lines:

“I’m my own dog.
Nobody owns me.
I own myself.

I work like a dog all day.
When I get home, I fetch my own slippers.”

Synopsis:

Many dogs have human owners. Not this dog. He fetches his own slippers, curls up at his own feet, and gives himself a good scratch. But there is one spot, in the middle of his back, that he just can’t reach. So one day, he lets a human scratch it. And the poor little fella follows him home. What can the dog do but get a leash to lead the guy around with? Dog lovers of all ages will revel in the humorous role-reversal as this dog teaches his human all the skills he needs to be a faithful companion.

Activities:

  •  Check-out the Story-Hour Kit from Candlewick. Contains discussion questions, drawing exercise, and a connect the dots page. Pages 4,9, and 10.
  • Dog related crafts.
  • Checkout this list of great kids books about dogs from Pragmatic Mom.

Why I Like This Book:

This is one HILARIOUS book about an overly independent dog getting a human for a pet. The two things that stole my heart about this book were the great hook and the amazing voice of the dog. This is a wonderful book to study how the text and art work for irony and humorous effect. One of my favorite spreads reads “And you always have to clean up after them”, while the art shows the dog licking up the spilled ice-cream on the ground. Priceless. In the scenes below, we see how the dog is training the human.

dog1dog2

The dog’s attitude of “I can do it myself” will appeal to young kids, who long to control the happenings of their day and make their own decisions.

The artwork was created using a mix of watercolor, pen, and a hint of crayon. The looseness of watercolor is perfect for mimicking how kids paint – neither filling the space completely of running over the lines. I like how the shirt sleeve isn’t colored in all the way or the colors bleed over the outline.

Good book for preschoolers, story-time, and dog lovers.

Checkout my interview with the author, David Ezra Stein.

Giveaway: 

For a chance to win this book, leave a comment stating what name you would give the dog. Deadline to enter is Thursday, November 13th at 9pm PST.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

I’M MY OWN DOG. Copyright © 2014 by David Ezra Stein. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Candlewick Press. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

August 14, 2013

Chick-O-Saurus Rex

Chick-o-Saurus RexTitle: Chick-O-Saurus Rex
Author: Lenore Jennewein
Illustrator: Daniel Jennewein
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-6
Themes: Bravery, Bullying

Excerpt:

But first he had to face the bullies who guarded the entrance.

Little Chick clucked, “Can I come in?”

The bullies blocked his way. “This is a club for the brave and mighty. First you have to prove you belong.”

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

A bullied little chicken discovers his inner strength along with some surprising dinosaur ancestry in this farmyard tale with huge heart.

Why I Like This Book:

A book with heart and comical, colorful illustrations sure to delight any child who thinks he isn’t big enough to be strong and brave.

Little Chick wants to play in the tree house with the meanie farm animals – Little Pig, Little Sheep, Little Donkey. But they say no because he is a chicken and not “brave and mighty”. Little Chick goes on a search to find out how he can be brave and mighty. Frustrated that no one in the coop can teach him, he begins to wonder if anyone in his family was every brave and mighty. Good old dad cracks out the family album showing past accomplishments – chicken dance, crossing the road, archaeology? Little Chick is intrigued and starts digging with his dad. To their surprise they find they are descendants of the T-REX!

chick-o-saurus-bone

Chick-O-Saurus Rex, armed with this new knowledge, has courage and is able to scare off the hungry wolf at the tree house, thereby gaining respect and admission to the tree house.

I enjoyed this book for the animated, funny illustrations. I first noticed Mr. Jennewein’s work in the widely popular Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten. I love the message of this book that anyone can have inner strength. This book is rooted in scientific fact, see Author’s Note at the end, the chicken and T-Rex really are related. The favorite parts for my 5&7yr-old girls and I were the family album and Little Chick’s transformation. I particularly liked the name change from Little Chick –> Chick-O-Saurus Rex and his mighty battle cry (that was fun to read-aloud)!

The text was a little wordy in some areas and sparse in others. Also with regards to characterization of the bullies, I understood why they let Chick-O-Saurus play in the tree house. But I didn’t think the text showed the transformation of the bullies to make it believable that they were accepting of all the other small animals as well. Most kids won’t care about these points, but as a picture book writer I noticed.

This book is good for young kids, especially those who love dinosaurs or chickens.

tlc tour hostI received my copy of this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book. To see other tour stops, click on the TLC icon.

June 18, 2013

The Monstore

The MonstoreTitle: The Monstore
Author: Tara Lazar
Illustrator: James Burks
Publisher: Aladdin Books, 2013
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Monsters, Siblings

Opening Lines:

“At the back of Frankensweet’s Candy Shoppe, under the last box of sour gum balls, there’s a trapdoor.

Knock five times fast, hand over a bag of squirmy worms, and you can crawl inside … THE MONSTORE.”

Synopsis (from Amazon website): 

The Monstore is the place to go for all of your monsterly needs. Which is perfect, since Zack definitely has a monsterly need. The problem? His pesky little sister, Gracie, who never pays attention to that “Keep Out” sign on Zack’s door—the one he has made especially for her.

But when Zack’s monsters don’t exactly work as planned, he soon finds out that the Monstore has a few rules: No Refunds. No exchanges. No exceptions.

Why I Like this Book:

When you have read as many picture books as I have, after a while they start to seem the same. This book is TRULY original, the only thing this book reminded me is one of my favorite movies Monsters, Inc and that is just because of the colorful, diverse, wacky monsters (not to worry, the stories are completely different). Look at monsters aren’t they amazing!

monstoreinteriorstore

Debut author Tara Lazar has written a FUN, FUN, FUN read. The only way a kid won’t love this book is if they hate monsters, actually nope maybe not even that. What is this book about? – a trapdoor, monsters for sale, a horrible return policy, and a simple story about a brother and a sister that will make you smile.

I love the characters. They are exceptional from Zack who keeps claiming his monsters are broken, to brave, playful Gracie who loves her new friends, and lastly the manager with poor customer service. I love the humor it is off the charts as the text and illustrations play together perfectly. In this scene below the text starts with “So Zack kept buying .. and trying .. and buying …” which is just heightened with this artwork of a colossal party in Zack’s room. Plus who doesn’t love a monster with underwear on his head.

monstore_1

monstoregirlreading

So grab this book and maybe this “glow in the dark” monster and settle in for a monsterly cooky ride.

For a chance to win a signed copy of this awesome book. Leave a comment by June 25th 9pm PST stating what type of monster you could use. And remember the rules: No monster comment, No entry, No exceptions. 

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Aladdin Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

If you would like to hear from author Tara Lazar, check this interview where she discusses how parents and picture book authors can use Storybird, a digital platform for creating stories.

Tags:
November 23, 2012

Good News Bad News

Title: Good News Bad News

Author & Illustrator: Jeff Mack

Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2012
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 2-4
Themes: Moods, Attitude, Friendship

Only Lines:

“Good News  …….  Bad News”

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Good news, Rabbit and Mouse are going on a picnic. Bad news, it is starting to rain. Good news, Rabbit has an umbrella. Bad news, the stormy winds blow the umbrella (and Mouse!) into a tree.

So begins this clever story about two friends with very different dispositions. Using just four words, Jeff Mack has created a text with remarkable flair that is both funny and touching, and pairs perfectly with his energetic, and hilarious, illustrations.

Activities:

Checkout the companion activity kit at Chronicle’s website. Includes printable maze, connect-the-dots, and more.

Create your own good news/bad news story. Start off with a story starter like “a porcupine wins a balloon” which could be the good news. What is the bad news then does the balloon pop, does the porcupine fly away, or something else? The possibilities are endless. This could be a fun way to challenge kids to think creatively and see the upside to any situation.

Why I Like This Book:

A book that appears simple and comical at first, but has a deeper theme on attitude and friendship.

Rabbit is an optimistic, attentive friend, who is always pointing out the bright side to any bad situation. Mouse is a pessimistic, though in some case expected as he is getting the raw end of the deal (like the worm in the apple or getting splattered with icing). The book has a simple book design where each half spread shows a “bad news” scene (like mouse being grumpy about the rain) followed by a “good news” scene (rabbit offering an umbrella).  This back and forth between good and bad continues, with the situations ever-increasing until mouse has a double-paged spread where he screams “BAD NEWS” because he just can’t take it anymore. Here is where the emotion hits home as mouse for the first time notices his effect on his friend rabbit, who has begun to cry and wail “Bad News” too. The story ends on a satisfying note with a hug between mouse and rabbit and the line “very good news”.

This book is a visual story with a simple format that kids can easily follow. The bad news scene always correlates to the good news scene, hence the good news scene is used before the page turn. Because of this format kids will enjoy guessing what the bad news scene that is to come. This nearly wordless book with colorful, cartoon-styled artwork tells a visual story that will be attractive for kids just learning to read. Parents and teachers will appreciate the theme of optimism/pessimism. A great book to use for storytime.

See pages spreads from the book at The Children’s Book Review.

Bad News: This book will not be added to Perfect Picture Book Friday as it was already reviewed in September.

Good News: You get to read a great review by Erik at This Kid Reviews Books. Also check-out Carter’s review at Design of the Picture Book where she discusses the book design.

Creativity Time: Let’s create a good news bad news story of our own. I’ll provide the starter sentence. You provide a Good News or Bad News comment depending on the last comment made.

Good News – Porcupine and Skunk go to the circus! (first person to comment gets to pick which character is optimistic/pessimistic)

This book was nominated by Katherine Sokolowski for the 2012 Cybils Awards in the Fiction Picture Book category. I am a second-round judge in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks!

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