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Capsule Reviews, November 2014

Only late enough that December’s capsule reviews are coming next Monday…
[update 25Nov2014: and this should have been posted yesterday, but WordPress seems to be having problems with graphics uploads for some reason. I will get there, honest…]

* * *

Brigitte Weninger, Bye-Bye Binky (Penguin, 2007)

photo credit: betterworldbooks.com

photo credit: betterworldbooks.com

Of the “no more pacifiers”-style books we got out of the library in this whack of stuff, I think Bye-Bye Binky was my favorite (as far as the Bean, goes, the jury is still out on all of them, but he is slowly starting to loosen his hold). Unlike most of them, this one has a real story to it: Nora the kitten’s pacifier drops out of her pocket one day, and a bunch of other animals stumble across it one by one, finding different uses for it, as Nora goes looking for it. Yusuke Yonezu’s illustrations are wonderful, much better than the kind of thing I normally expect from books like this; it obviously has a limited shelf life, so more of a library book than a permanent-collection piece, but if you have a child in the proper stage for this one, it’s definitely worth giving a read or twelve. *** ½

* * *

Elliot Kreloff (illus.), Trains (McClanahan Press, 1994)

photo credit: nogoodcause.blogspot.com

I’ll have to get a pic when I get home.

This is about as simple as it gets—each page is an illustration of a different train car (connected across the pages, of course), and the only text on each page is the name of the train car in question. There’s not really enough to this book to “review” it per se; the Bean likes it well enough, so I’m simply giving it the gentleman’s C. ** ½

* * *

Elizabeth Verdick, Pacifiers Are Not Forever (Free Spirit Publishing, 2007)

photo credit: teachade.com

photo credit: teachade.com

This was another of the “bye bye pacificers” books we all got out of the library at the same time to read to the Bean. This may have been my least favorite of the bunch; the idea is a good one (and adult dieters will certainly identify with the idea of substitution), but the prose is limpid in its best moments and the illustrations are simplistic (not quite amateur, but not quite ready for prime time either, if you can see where I’m coming from there). I’d definitely go with Bye-Bye Binky or perhaps No More Pacifiers! First before trying this one out. **

* * *

Melanie O’Brien, No More Pacifiers! (Piggy Toes Press, 2008)

photo credit: landofonceuponatime.blogspot.com

photo credit: landofonceuponatime.blogspot.com

Cute book with cutouts that gradually remove the pacifiers from the page (eight babies start with pacifiers, and by the end none have them). I noted when reading that O’Brien does reach every once in a while for her rhymes, but I will say that I have since found at least one other book for the pre-lit set that uses the term “kissy”, which I had never heard before this (in my defense I’ll say it still doesn’t quite scan correctly, so it’s not just my lack of pre-lit knowledge fueling that complaint), but the Bean is quite fond of it. It took me a little longer to warm up, but this one is kind of fun. Not the best paci book we’ve read, but far from the worst. ** ½

* * *

Sarah Creese, Sea Monsters (Make Believe Ideas, 2010)

photo credit: bookcloseouts.com

photo credit: bookcloseouts.com

Gimmicky little book with googly-eyed sea creatures. It does get pulled out on a fairly regular basis, so I can’t be too hard on it, but I’m going to guess that the appeal will have worn off after a few months of repeated reading, especially since the punchline is kind of nonsensical (and not tied in to the whole googly-eye theme of the book). The Bean is still fond of it, but dad…not so much. **

* * *

James Mayhew, Starlight Sailor (Barefoot Books, 2009)

Full disclosure: since I wrote this review, and in part because of our reactions to Starlight Sailor and I Took the Moon for a Walk, my wife and mother-in-law have become Barefoot Books distributors.

photo credit: Barefoot Books

photo credit: Barefoot Books

Gentle fantasy book with lovely rhythm and rhyme. The illustrations may take a touch of getting used to, but they’re distinctive and fun, and the story is wonderful for imaginative pre-litters (and aren’t they all imaginative at that age?). This is rapidly becoming one of my favorites at storytime, and the Bean likes it a lot, too. *** ½

* * *

Sandra Boynton, Belly Button Book! (Workman Publishing, 2005)

photo credit: betterworldbooks.com

photo credit: betterworldbooks.com

Boynton’s trademark cute hippos have added the term “Bee-bo!” to our vocabulary at home. The title is descriptive; this is a book about belly buttons, not what they are, but celebrating the fact that they exist. I wouldn’t have minded a bit of what they are, but what we got is amusing, and of course contains the usual rock-solid Boynton rhythm and rhyme that makes some of her books the best on the market for the pre-lit set. ***

* * *

P. D. Eastman, Go, Dog. Go! (Beginner Books, 1961)

photo credit: Pinterest

photo credit: Pinterest

I had a copy of Go, Dog. Go! as a kid—are there any Americans under the age of fifty who didn’t?—but I didn’t remember a blessed thing about it. My wife got over her distaste for the Dr. Seuss and Co. Beginner Books recently, it seems, and a handful of them found their way into our house. I grabbed this one first, since I had absolutely no memory of it, and away the Bean and I went. And, well, it’s not all I had it in my head as being.

The book is one of those [x] word vocabulary books (either 50-word or 75-word) that works great up until it’s about a certain length. Unless you’re Dr. Seuss, whose Green Eggs and Ham is the gold standard for such books, and one of the few that can go sixty-four pages without feeling strained. Go, Dog. Go! is not. While the book does eventually gain the same sense of whimsy that the best Seuss books had, it does take a while to get there. Once this one is familiar it may start getting asked for during story time, but getting there may take a while. ***

* * *

Rosanne and Jonathan Cerf, Big Bird’s Red Book (Golden Press, 1977)

photo credit: muppets.wikia.com

photo credit: muppets.wikia.com

Big Bird wants to show you the color red, but has misplaced the bag o’ red stuff he was going to use to do so. While he is agonizing over what he did with it, a veritable parade of red things goes by behind him without him noticing. Cute, and funny once the child you’re reading it to is old enough to be able to identify red things. The punchline at the end is predictable for adults, but never gets old for kids, at least if mine is any indication. Doesn’t hold up to repeated readings, but when taken in small doses it’s worth keeping in storytime rotation. ** ½

* * *

Bobbie Hinman, The Belly Button Fairy (Best Fairy Books, 2009)

bellybuttonfairy

Here’s a book that (unlike Boynton’s Belly Button Book, above) gives an explanation, however far-fetched, for the reason we have belly buttons; for that reason it’s a good one to pull out for the littlest when they ask why they have navels. The rhythm is solid, if a little four-on-the-floor (but that’s more forgivable in pre-lit than it would be in an actual book of poetry), but I gotta say…I know I’m in the minority on this, but I kind of found the idea of an old woman flying around in a rocking chair playing with babies’ bellies a little creepy, didn’t you? Come on, admit it. ** ½

* * *

David Korr, Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree (Golden Press, 1977)

photo credit: toywebb.com

photo credit: toywebb.com

A witch has claimed a cookie tree in the middle of the forest for her own, and then has to defend it from Cookie Monster. Plot hole number one: Cookie Monster would have somehow been totally unaware of a cookie tree that close to home? I like the “think before you act” moral is a worthwhile one, but maybe appropriate for a little older than the age level the book is aimed at; check this one out of the library and give it a look before buying. ** ½

* * *

Phillip Hawthorn and Jenny Tyler, Who’s Making That Noise? (EDC Publishing, 1994)

Phillip Hawthorn and Jenny Tyler, Who’s Making That Mess? (EDC Publishing, 1994)

photo credit: Goodreads

photo credit: Goodreads

photo credit: Goodreads

photo credit: Goodreads

These have become favorites at Goat Central storytime for reasons I can’t quite discern, but I’m willing to roll with it. The prose is very rhythmic, and sits on the border of being repetitive. Whether it crosses may be a matter of personal taste. Who’s Making that Noise? works a little bit better for me, but it’s a small difference. The Bean likes the lift-the-flaps and has a lot of fun finding the rubber duck and the mouse on every page. Definitely worth a look if you stumble across them.

Who’s Making that Mess?: ***

Who’s Making that Noise?: *** ½

* * *

Karen Beaumont, Doggone Dogs (Scholastic, 2010)

photo credit: moonmoonandmore.blogspot.com

photo credit: moonmoonandmore.blogspot.com

It took the Bean a little while to warm up to this one, but he’s come around to it. A tale of ten willful dogs and the hapless owner trying to keep control of them, Doggone Dogs can get a little repetitive where the text is concerned (you’ll get sick of using the phrase “doggone dogs” relatively quickly), but that’s balanced out by very amusing illustrations; not one that will probably ever go into heavy rotation, but it comes out once a week or so. ***

* * *

Marian Potter, The Little Red Caboose (Golden Press, 1950)

photo credit: readingtoknow.com

photo credit: readingtoknow.com

The pre-lit version of the inspirational self-help book. The Little Red Caboose‘s titular character suffers an inferiority complex because he’s the last guy on the train until he discovers his purposes for living (which of course shows the rest of the world that hey, this guy is pretty great, so he gets out of the shadows and starts getting all the accolades). The end of this one is kind of the polar opposite of the ending of Carter Goodrich’s The Hermit Crab; introverts will prefer the latter (I certainly do), but the rest of the world will likely find this one preferable. ***

* * *

John R. Matyas, Euchre 101 (No publisher listed, no date listed)

points off: incomplete information, as above.

photo credit: nogoodcause.blogspot.com

I have no idea if I still own this…

Writing a how-to guide is something that is best undertaken by an expert. I don’t think there are many people who would disagree with that statement. But an effective how-to-guide writer requires another quality: the ability to take that expertise and put it into layman’s terms. If I just tell you that this book is difficult to follow for non-players of Euchre, that doesn’t say much. So I will add to that that I have been a serious poker player for twelve years, played spades (a derivative of Euchre) for decades before that, and am an enthusiast of a number of variations of canasta, some of which seem decidedly more complex than Euchre. And yet there are some parts of this book I can’t make heads or tails of. Folks who already play the game would probably consider these things second nature, but then, that’s my point—this is a book written for people who don’t already play the game, and there are a number of pieces missing. The author should have tripled the length, or more, and gone into a great deal more detail. ½

* * *

Tess MacKenzie, Sharing Melissa’s Mouth (Tess MacKenzie, 2013)

photo credit: Pinterest

photo credit: Pinterest

A two-parter about a horny couple who decide they want to try a little multiple-partner action. The real drag here is that MacKenzie is looking to break the mold, and she has some strong ideas about where to go; this book is as much about the emotional states of its characters as it is about the porn, and I think if she’d made this into a full-length novel and spent some more time getting us into her characters’ heads instead of their pants this could be something very special indeed. But the product we have is too short to work well on either the physical or the emotional level; this feels more like an outline than a finished product, but I stress again it’s an outline of a book I would very much want to read in its full form. **

* * *

Dorothy M. Kunhardt, Kitty’s New Doll (Golden Press, 1984)

photo credit: Goodreads

photo credit: Goodreads

It took the Bean a little while to warm up to this one, but I think we’re there now; it’s been about two months since we first read it. Thirty years after its release, the book’s underlying message is more apropos than ever; Kitty’s mother takes her to the doll store to buy a new doll, and after looking over all the newfangled dolls that perform all sorts of wonderful tasks, she settles on a rag doll she can use her imagination with. Quite likable, and almost a necessity for parents who are considering attempting to raise their children without the excessive electronics of today. *** ½

* * *

Quentin Blake, Simpkin (Viking, 1993)

photo credit: marxhhousebooks.com

photo credit: marxhhousebooks.com

Quentin Blake’s attempt at an opposites book is by far our least favorite of its type. Simpkin is not a very nice fellow (and his family is even worse); we picked this one up and first read it to the Bean in September 2013, and as I write this in March 2014, I don’t believe it’s ever come out for a second reading. That would make it unique in the Bean’s ever-expanding library, and that is more of a judgment on it than anything I could say. * ½

* **

Constance Allen, Happy and Sad, Grouchy and Glad (Golden Press, 1992)

photo credit: littlegoldenbooks.wikia.com

photo credit: littlegoldenbooks.wikia.com

Another partnership between Golden Books and the Sesame Street crowd, with a handful of muppets presenting a play whose focus is various types of feelings. Somewhat basic considering the usual level of the Sesame Street muppet Golden books, but not at all bad for what it is; feels more like a starting point than a complete work, but muppet-loving kiddies won’t mind. ** ½

* * *

Lilian Moore, Little Raccoon’s Nighttime Adventure (Golden Press, 1985)

photo credit: Goodreads

photo credit: Goodreads

Little Raccoon’s mother wants some crayfish for dinner, and Little Raccoon volunteers to go get them, but a handful of animals he meets on the way have him worried about the Thing in the Pond. They all have solutions for banidhing it that don’t work, but Mama Raccoon, of course, gets it right. Cute, a touch quaint, and as a “Big Little Golden Book” it’s a good one to test the waters with to see when your child is ready to go on to more involved, longer stories. ***

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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