The Hallo-Wiener

img_8015I love the creepy of Halloween, but the season would not be complete without a little bit of the goofy of Halloween. Who better to bring that element than Dav Pilkey?

Poor Oscar doesn’t quite fit in with the other dogs, being that he is a dog and a half long, but only half a dog tall. The other dogs tease him, and while his mother means well, the Halloween costume she made for him is certainly not helpful. But when the other dogs are attacked by a “monster,” Oscar isn’t going to just run away!

This is a fun book for the season, and can be a good teaching tool for kids too– the other dogs tease Oscar, but they learn that sometimes being different as its advantages when Oscar comes through to save the day. Good for a read aloud in October, and also a relatively easy read that incorporates some bigger vocabulary (such as the ornery cats!). Like in some of the other Dav Pilkey books, I like the little “extras” added into the illustrations– we can see that Oscar’s last name is Myers on his mailbox, and the title page has the book title lettered in hot dogs!

Boris’s thoughts: “Seriously? Cats as the bad guys? Boo. Hiss. 1 paw.”

The Boy of a Thousand Faces

img_8077At 48 pages, this is not quite a children’s picture book, but not quite a novel either. Something in between: perhaps a children’s novella? I am a big fan of Brian Selznik. I love the style of his novels and the way he combines words with illustrations to tell a story. This is a little different than his longer works, in that he uses the pictures to supplement this story rather than to continue driving the plot. However, the pictures are no less essential here than in his novels.

Being born on Halloween, it is no surprise that Alonzo has a fascination with monsters. His love is fueled by the late-night horror film show hosted by Mr. Shadow, where he discovers the greatness of Lon Cheney. Alonzo is inspired by the films, which turns into a dream to become the “boy of a thousand faces.” I love that his character has a dream that is outside of what might be considered normal. Alonzo goes beyond “I want to be a movie star” to actually working on and creating something new. His goal is not to be famous, but in the creation of something to be enjoyed by others.

The reciprocal relationship between Alonzo and Mr. Shadow is interesting as well. Alonzo is inspired by Mr. Shadow and his show, reaching out to him when he is beginning to feel disillusioned with his dream. At the same time, Mr. Shadow believed that nobody was interested when his show ended, but was inspired by Alonzo to “bring back” something that he loved in a new way.

I love this as a tribute to traditional horror films, special effects, and Lon Cheney. I think it is also a great introduction to the horror genre. It is a bit creepy, but not something that would truly scare most children. It’s perfect for kids who might have an interest in things that are a bit dark seeming, that might seem a little weird to others.

Boris’s thoughts: “Hmmm… dark and weird… I approve. 3 paws.”

First Day Jitters

img_7982Two weeks ago, I shared a book that is a favorite beginning of the year read aloud from one of my librarian friends from work (Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook). I decided that I would ask the same of the librarian from the other school where I work, and she introduced me to this book. While it’s a little late in the school year for the first day, I think everyone can relate a bit with the First Day Jitters.

This is a fun little story about Sarah Jane Hartwell, who needs to get up for her first day at her new school. There is an ensuing argument between Mr. Hartwell, who is understanding but insistent, and Sarah Jane, who is imagining the horrors of her new school: “I don’t know anybody, and it will be hard, and… I just hate it.” It’s certainly a feeling that everyone can relate to at some point! Sarah Jane is pushed through her morning routine and taken to school, where her new principal swoops in to welcome her. This leads up to the twist at the end, where we discover, of course, that Sarah Jane Hartwell is the new teacher.

I suppose it could be argued that the plot line is a bit cliche, but we are talking about a children’s book here. I love the idea behind it, and definitely relive those first day jitters with the start of every school year. Since many younger students already have a hard time realizing that their teachers do not actually live at the school, I think it’s a fun way to share with them that they are not alone in their worries at the beginning of the school year.

My favorite thing about this one? The illustrations. They are fun, and also add to the story. Throughout the story, Mr. Hartwell and the family dog attempt to move Sarah Jane along in her preparations for the day. All the while, Sarah Jane and her faithful cat are adamant in their refusals. The dog attempts to pull the blankets off her head, while the cat bunkers down for a fight. Perfect.

Boris’s thoughts: “I had no idea there was a book about you. 4 paws.”

The Little Prince

img_6395Date Read: June 10 to June 12, 2018

Rating: 5 (of 5) stars

I am a little bit ashamed to admit that it took me until 2018 to read this book. I really loved this book, but I also have some mixed feelings about this book. I’m going to admit up front that I’m not sure this is going to count as a traditional book review– more of my own semi-rambling thoughts. Although, I suppose that is at least somewhat appropriate for such a well known story.

The Little Prince is a book about what a pain adults can be, written by an adult for children, but maybe actually for the adults that are reading the book to children. Did I lose anyone there? Understandable.

I suppose what I’m getting at here, is that I cannot quite decide who the intended audience actually is for this book. Certainly it is written as a children’s book, but there is so much that I feel is intended for adults. These things, of course, are good reminders. We are kind of a pain– especially from the perspective of children. We are so often wrapped up in our own thoughts, our own things to do, our own “matters of consequence.” At the same time, I think there are plenty of themes in there for children as well– responsibility, relationships, recognizing that our actions are part of what gives the things around us value. Perhaps these are themes for children that are also areas where adults may need some reminders?

Honestly, I could probably type for days without ever feeling that I have done this book justice. It is sad, but it is sweet. If you’ve debated reading it, I would suggest that you stop putting it off. It is a fast, easy read–the only reason I did not finish it in a day is laziness and silly adult responsibilities. Even if you do not love it, it is a book that I feel undoubtedly is worth the read.

Boris’s thoughts: “I think this counts as a snuggle-time book. 4 paws.”

Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook

img_7899This book is a fairly recent discovery for me, within the last few years. I saw it for the first time when it arrived as a new book in our school library. It’s a fun story, and the illustrations are awesome. This one is a bit higher reading level than many of the other children’s books that I have posted, but makes a great read aloud across elementary grades.

It begins, unfortunately, how many stories begin: with a student bored at school. However, then enters the new teacher: Miss Smith, with her spiky red hair, leather jacket, and wild dresses. The day goes on as expected, until story time, when Miss Smith takes out her storybook, which has the power to truly bring stories to life. As a total book nerd and a psychologist, I love this: the teacher who can make reading interesting and come alive… but in this case, by actually making the storybook characters come alive. Suddenly school is interesting! Who wouldn’t want to come to school every day to be pulled into a new an exciting world? Of course, at some point, this all has to go terribly wrong. Things go awry when the principal steps in, resulting in storybook characters escaping and wreaking havoc until Miss Smith returns to save the day.

This is the first of a few stories featuring Miss Smith and her storybook. All follow a similar theme: stories coming to life, with varying adventures and interactions with known and not-so-known fictional characters. One of the things I appreciate in these books is the detail in the illustrations. Unlike some recurring children’s characters, Miss Smith and her students are not always wearing the same clothes, and things vary from day to day. I also love the relatively small detail of the buttons that Miss Smith wears on her jacket– in this first book, she has a button for The Clash, but this changes in the other stories. While it seems like a minor thing, I love when there are small things like that to look for in a book.

Boris’s Thoughts: “Short and fun? I suppose I can get behind that. 4 paws.”

Elephant and Piggie

img_7573It feels a bit like cheating to have two children’s books from the same author in short succession. But this is my blog, and I make the rules, so I am going to do it anyway.

Piggie is a free spirit. She has an imagination and likes an adventure. Elephant Gerald is more practical, and a bit more cautious. He doesn’t see the world in quite the way that Piggie does, but they are still best friends.

These books are super fun, and great for beginning readers. They are set up in a comic book like style, relying on pictures and speech bubbles to tell the story. There are many Elephant and Piggie books, and I have not come close to reading them all. However, I enjoyed all those that I have come across. Many of them have a theme of friendship or lesson to learn, but there are also some that are simply fun. In some, the characters speak not just to each other, but also directly to the reader.

The book pictured, Today I Will Fly, was the first of these published. Piggie has decided that she is going to fly. Gerald, of course, knows that pigs cannot fly. Ridiculous! So Piggie knows she is going to need some help. I read this book to a classroom for First and Second Grade students this spring as part of our Reading Month celebration. The kids went wild for it.

Boris’s thoughts: “At least this one did not come with that creepy mascot thing. 4 paws.”

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

img_6152Oh, the Pigeon. I totally understand why people do not like the Pigeon. He is loud. He is obnoxious. He is persistent. He is whiny. He is annoying. But oh, I must admit, I kind of love the Pigeon. This one is not actually my favorite of the Pigeon books, but I thought it would be the most appropriate for a review, as it is the original. As usual though, most of what I have to say about this can be applied to the other books in the series as well. (I think my favorite is probably The Pigeon Needs a Bath, or perhaps, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late.)

I love the set up of this book. It’s somewhere between a picture book and a comic book. The story is shown through pictures and dialogue. What I find most interesting is that the dialogue is one sided– the Pigeon is talking directly to the reader. Imploring, begging, the reader to just, please, LET ME DRIVE THE BUS! I think this gives the (adult) reader options. This could be read as a monologue, or an interactive read aloud with children. Sure, there is not much variation in the children’s response to the Pigeon, but I think this makes it great for younger kids. (And certainly allows for the possibility of some fun!) This could also be a great choice for early readers, or for older children to read with younger. The illustrations are very simple, but are still able to portray the action of the pigeon in his plight to drive the bus.

You may notice that Boris is not alone in his picture with this book. A friend of mine told me that the Pigeon reminds me of her. At first I wondered if I should be offended, but she assured me, that it’s not that I am actually like him, but that he seems like “my kind of character.” Well, I suppose I do have to agree with that. For my birthday a few years ago, she gifted me a Pigeon. But not just a Pigeon, a TALKING Pigeon.

In the true spirit of the whiny, obnoxious, persistent Pigeon, he is only able to say one thing: LET ME DRIVE THE BUS. He generally hangs out in my office at work, where he is a big hit. A warning to parents though: he’s awfully cute, but you definitely don’t want your child walking around with a noise making toy that can only say one thing. Boris was not a huge fan. Our little photo shoot was a bit of a struggle, and I’m still not sure if he was annoyed or afraid of the Pigeon.

Boris’s thoughts: “If you put that thing near me again, I will destroy it……..which might be fun. 3 paws.”