Thursday, January 6, 2011

Best Books of 2010? Part Deux

Yesterday I reviewed the first half of Amazon's picks for Best Children's Books of 2010. Today we finish the list. If you like, you can look at the whole Amazon list here, and of course you can read my earlier post on the first 5 books on the list.

Brontorina, by James Howe. I like this one. Brontorina is trying something that may well not work out -- that takes some courage. The other children are portrayed as helpful and encouraging -- something all children need help being from time to time. The illustrations do a lovely job of conveying just how big Brontorina is, filling the page with her, even to the point that parts of her are off the edges and not visible to the reader. And the problem is resolved not when Brontorina changes, but when everyone around her adapts to her differences. A nice selection.
Ladybug Girl at the Beach, by David Soman: This one gets only a tepid response from me. I know some people are enchanted with this series, but it's a "meh" for me. One book about Ladybug Girl was enough, I think. A fourth book seems too much. Sorry, this one's an SMP (Shameless Marketing Plug).

Of Thee I Sing: A letter to my daughters, by Barack Obama: Well, if it's not an SMP, it's certainly an SPP (Shameless Political Plug), but for all that it's actually kind of a nice book. The illustrations are gorgeous, always a good thing, and the subject matter -- all the qualities the writer either sees in or wants for his children, exemplified by Americans of the past. Children are introduced to Georgia O'Keefe, Billie Holliday, Cesar Chavez, Helen Keller, George's wonderfully multi-cultural, historical, even inspirational. For older kids, through 3rd grade.

Three Little Kittens, by Jerry Pinkney: Pinkney has been around quite a while, and has tackled classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes before. He's also a Caldecott Medal Winner for his 2009 The Lion and the Mouse, so anything by him packs a lot of talent and expertise. That's why I feel kind of guilty panning this one. The illustrations, normally a highlight in Pinkney's work, fell flat for me. Yes, they're lush, but they somehow looked like he was channelling Jan Brett and the fusion didn't quite work for me. And frankly, as nursery rhymes go, The Three Little Kittens is one of the more annoying ones out there, so for me this whole volume fell flat. Not an SMP, but not, for me, worth a mention on a top 10 list.

Dog Loves Books, by Louise Yates: I'm a sucker for book lovers and this one had me about 3 pages in. Dog does love books -- he loves the smell of them, the feel of them, he loves everything about them. He loves them so much, he decides to open a bookstore. This is a simple story with whimsical, soft watercolor illustrations that capture the imaginative journeys books can take us on. It will appeal to younger children, and maybe even encourage them to love books like dog does.

So there you have it: My highly opinionated take on Amazon's Best Books of 2010.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Best Books of 2010?

Amazon sends me these lists occasionally -- mainly because I spend enough there to support a small, third-world village -- and occasionally I find those lists helpful and interesting. More often, though, I find them to be shameless plugs for the endless spinoffs and sequels that dog the children's book industry.

Yesterday I got another one entitled Best Books of 2010. These are Amazon's editors' picks for best kids books of 2010. Again, it's a list that looks like a mixture of careful consideration and marketing strategy. There are three entries that are sequels, so only 70% of the list is new stuff, some by established authors and some by relative newcomers.

Here's my humble take on it:

Art and Max, by David Wiesener: Yes. Wiesener's artwork makes this one a good choice. He's an established author with really innovative illustrations. Love the lizards, love the focus on art, love the gorgeously illustrated story. Deserves a spot on the list.

Olivia Goes to Venice, by Ian Falconer: I loved the first Olivia book. I liked the second, I liked the third, I liked, mildly, the Christmas book, and then I got a little saturated with Olivia and have had no real desire to learn more about her exploits. There's been so much Olivia that this one doesn't really break new ground or offer anything in the way of freshness. Sorry. This one's a Shameless Marketing Plug (SMP)

The Quiet Book, by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska: Yes, Yes, Yes! This is a sweet, achingly simple (in the best possible way) book that shows different kinds of quiet. From "Sleeping sister quiet," to "First look at your new hairstyle quiet," this one is beautifully complimented by Liwska's soft paintings. Excellent for toddlers and young children.

City Dog, Country Frog, by Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon Muth: Here's a pair of established writer/illustrators collaborating on a lovely story about a dog and a frog that become friends. Later, when frog is gone (read: dies) dog remembers him and befriends another. It's for younger kids and may offer a nice way to talk about emotional losses with children as they identify with the animals in the story. Deserves to be on the list.

A Bedtime for Bear (Bear and Mouse) by Bonnie Becker: This one is a sequel to Becker's A Visitor for Bear, but I think it deserves a spot on the list for two reasons. One, it's only the second book in the series and has not reached the point of over-saturation like Olivia, and Two, the chracter of Bear cracks me up. I love that he states things so firmly, so categorically, and that his firmness masks a lot of insecurity. He is pitch-perfect, as is his funny relationship with Mouse, who sees through the insecurity and helps Bear navigate his fears.

This post is so long, that I am going to review the second half of the list in my next post. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bookivore Takes a Breather

Where has Bookivore been?

December turned out to be wall-to-wall crazy, so I took a little hiatus during which I made cookies, attended Christmas programs, saw the Nutcracker, wrapped more presents than I could count, listened to my kids play Christmas carols on the piano, spent time with extended family, and dug my way out of this on Christmas Day:

It truly was going to be just a quick break -- like a week or so, but then I caught something that was suspiciously like pneumonia, though no one at my doctor's office called it that. Whatever it was, it flattened me for a while and that put an end to my blogging ambitions.

But, my kids went back to school yesterday and I finally have time (and healthy lungs) to take a breath and think about books again. We/they/I did a lot of reading over break and I am ready to rock -- but not until tomorrow.

See you then!