Monday, February 27, 2012

DUAL REVIEW: Press Here by Herve Tullet

Lucinda's Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Tracy's Rating: 5/5 Stars
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Toddler-Kindergarten

Summary: Each page intructs the reader to perform a different action producing surprising results that will be different on each page.

Lucinda's Thoughts: This book was a bunch of fun....each page brought a new action with surprising and delightful results.  The bright, primary colors could be used to aid in teaching little ones colors as well as the concept of size, numbers, counting, and a host of other concepts.  A must read for anyone who has little ones who are curious and eager to learn.

Tracy's Thoughts:
I pretty much summed up my thoughts when I selected Press Here as one of the Best Picture Books of 2011. It was one of the most innovative, entertaining, and educational children's books of the year. Here's what I had to say then:
This ingenious, interactive picture book will incite wonder and delight in children ages 2 to 200. It doesn't require batteries or have any fancy flaps or tabs. Instead, Tullet asks kids to suspend belief and participate by pressing on dots, shaking the book, turning it, and blowing on it—gently of course. When they turn the page, they see the results of their actions. The illustrations—somewhat reminiscent of Leo Lionni, without the personification—are simple, leaving room for the reader's imagination. Ages 2 to 5.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

REVIEW: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Tracy's Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Audience:Teen/Young Adult, Adult Crossover 
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Summary: Hazel Grace Lancaster is a walking miracle. Diagnosed with terminal cancer at 12, she is now 16, alive thanks to an experimental drug that keeps the fluid in her lungs in check. Still, breathing is an ongoing struggle, and there is no doubt the the cancer will one day kill her. She's taking college classes but has little human interaction with people other than her parents and doctors. Her "third best friend" (after her parents) is Peter Van Houten, the reclusive author of Hazel's favorite book, An Imperial Affliction. Despite numerous fan letters penned by Hazel, they have never met or even corresponded, but Hazel feels that he is the only person who understands what it's like to be dying without having actually died.

Augustus Waters is a 17-year-old cancer survivor in remission. Hazel first meets him at a support group she attends only under protest. Before Hazel knows what is happening, the two are trading words and feeding off each other's comments with an energy that Hazel hasn't felt in... forever. Then they swap their favorite books, and Augustus makes it his mission to help Hazel find the answers to the many questions she has for Peter Van Houten.  

First Line: Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.

Tracy's Thoughts:  
First, let me say this: John Green is awesome. I adored An Abundance of Katherines, and, although I was slightly less enthusiastic about the Printz-winning Looking for Alaska, I still found it smart, funny, and compelling. I have no good excuse for the fact that I still haven't gotten around to reading Paper Towns or Will Grayson, Will Grayson—his much hyped collaboration with David Levithan—but you can be assured that both are now bumped up near the top of my TBR. No one writes smart teen characters like John Green. His books are both incredibly intelligent—pondering Big Questions with verve and style—and hilarious. Seriously, before I even hit the second chapter of The Fault in Our Stars, I was laughing so hard I was gasping for breath. Twice. In a book about terminal cancer.

At its heart, The Fault in Our Stars is a love story, if one we know to be doomed from the start. Augustus is an incredibly charismatic character, and the snarky, deep-thinking Hazel is his perfect match. Hazel and Augustus have a natural affinity that makes for truly riveting dialog, their separate intellects enhanced by the other. Both are quick-witted, with improbable vocabularies and bookish tendencies. In a way, their repartee reminds me of the nuanced banter of Briony and Eldric in Chime. But unlike Briony and Eldric, Hazel and Augustus are also believable as modern teenagers: they have in-jokes, play pranks, and have the requisite addictions to reality TV and video games. They still feel like teenagers, just teens with extreme intelligence and a situation-enhanced view of reality. Hazel's narration grabbed me from the start—and, despite the comments of some other reviewers—I never felt that it was inauthentic. Here is one early sample:
The Support Group, of course, was depressing as hell. It met every Wednesday in the basement of a stone-walled Episcopal church shaped like a cross. We all sat in a circle right in the middle of the cross, where the two boards would have met, where the heart of Jesus would have been.

I noticed this because Patrick, the Support Group Leader and only person over eighteen in the room, talked about the heart of Jesus every freaking meeting, all about how we, as young cancer survivors, were sitting right in Christ's very sacred heart and whatever.

So here's how it went in God's heart: The six or seven or ten of us walked/wheeled in, grazed at a decrepit selection of cookies and lemonade, sat down in the Circle of Trust, and listened to Patrick recount for the thousandth time his depressingly miserable life story—how he had cancer in his balls and they thought he was going to die but he didn't die and now here he is, a full-grown adult in a church basement in the 137th nicest city in America, divorced, addicted to video games, mostly friendless, eking out a meager living by exploiting his cancertastic past...

Really, there isn't much more I can say about this book without somehow taking away from the incredible journey that it takes you on. It is a wonderfully written book about love and loss and learning to live while coping with the reality of death, about wondering how you will be remembered after you're gone and what will become of those you love. The Fault in Our Stars is not an easy read. It is intellectually and emotionally challenging—but worth the effort. By turns brilliant, hilarious, and heartbreaking, this is a book that is not easily forgotten.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

REVIEW: Chicken Cheeks by Michael Black

Book Jacket

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Audience: Pre-K to 1st Grade
Genre: Picture Book
Summary: Some bears will go to any length to get some honey. This one recruits every animal that comes along to form, well, at stack. The result? Tail of the duck to the gluteus maximus of the duck-billed platypus (with many other rears in between).

Lucinda's Thoughts:  I laughed my rear off (no pun intended!) when I read this book.  The plays on words that Black uses accompanied by Hawkes comical illustrations are just what is needed to brighten up a dull day!  This book will appeal to children and adults with its "butt humor" and will be a hit to read to any little jokester.

Just a little something from the author!

DUAL REVIEW: Little Pea by Amy Rosenthal

Book Jacket

Lucinda's Rating: 4/5 Stars
Tracy's Rating: 4/5 Stars
Audience: Toddler -1st grade
Genre: Picture Book

Summary: Little Pea hates eating candy for dinner, but his parents will not let him have his spinach dessert until he cleans his plate.

Lucinda's Views:  Little Pea's adventures are relevant for any young child.  Not liking what is for dinner is a regular facet of childhood and Little Pea is no exception.  The fact that Little Pea doesn't want any candy is what tickles the funny bone in this book.  The illustrations are very succinct and add to this story's charm.  For example, the facial expressions of Little Pea as he is eating his much hated candy meal are priceless.  If you like a good chuckle in your picture books this is the one for you!

Tracy's Thoughts: Amy Rosenthal is the author of one of my absolute favorite picture books from recent years, Duck! Rabbit! And while I don't love and adore Little Pea with the same fervor, I still think this book is utterly charming. The story and illustrations are simple, yet adorable. And the reverse psychology is sure to convince a picky eater or two to try something new.

REVIEW: The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood

Book Jacket

Rating:3.5/5 Stars
Audience: Pre-K
Genre: Picture Book

Summary: From the quiet of being the first one awake in the morning to "sweet dreams quiet" when the last light is turned off, simple text explores the many kinds of quiet that can exist during the day.

Lucinda's Views: This likable and gentle picture book discusses the different kinds of quiet that a young child my encounter. The pictures are pleasing to the eye and the succinct text complements the illustrations and even enhances them.  The only drawback to reading this book is the requests you are going to get to read it "again, again."

Monday, February 20, 2012

REVIEW: Everything I need to Know Before I'm Five by Valorie Fisher

Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Pre-K

Summary: Do you know your letters? Can you count to twenty? Learn all that and more in this all-in-one concept picture book. Perfect for kids heading to kindergarten, this book covers the alphabet, counting, opposites, shapes, colors, and seasons. Award winning author-illustrator Valorie Fisher uses bright, gorgeous photos of retro toys to illustrate these topics in a completely fresh way. Parents will love this stylish and funny approach to basic concepts, while kids will learn, well, everything.

Lucinda's Thoughts:  I brought this book home for my little one and she loves it!  With its bright realistic illustrations and well defined concepts this book is a must read especially for those that are entering Kindergarten or are preparing for Kindergarten.  Really you should just check it out and see for yourself!
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