Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman - ADVISABLE

Gaiman, Neil. Hansel and Gretel, 53 pgs. Toon Graphics, 2014. $16.95. Language: G; Violence PG (fairytale violence); Content: PG. 

This story follows the typical version of Hansel and Gretel in which the children are led into the forest and left behind to fend for themselves. They come upon an old woman who welcomes them into her home and begins fattening up Hansel so that she can eat him. The ordeal concludes with Gretel shoving the old woman into the oven, where she is burned alive and the children find their way back home. 

Neil Gaiman was inspired to write this version of Hansel and Gretel when he saw Lorenzo Mattotti’s artwork depicting the story. This book is a combination of the two. Gaiman’s retelling is a traditional version of the fairy tale and is unsurprisingly written with his beautiful textual imagery in a very dark setting.  The illustrations reflect the same dark tone. Definitely meant for older elementary students and middle school, this is a great version for visualizing the story. 

EL, MS –ADVISABLE. Reviewed by: Shay, School Librarian

Pick Me Up, Mama! by Robin Luebs - ADVISABLE

Luebs, Robin. Pick Me Up, Mama!, BOARD BOOK. Little Simon, 2014. $5.99. Content: G. 

A little raccoon asks her mama to alternately pick her up, then put her down so that she can have her nose kissed, or eat jam and bread, or be hugged tightly. The text rhymes and goes throughout the day of this sweet little girl and her mother. 

The story is definitely endearing for me, a mama with my own little girl, who has just starting to be asked to be picked up. The actions in the story are loving, the illustrations match the text and are very tender. This is a sweet addition for the very littlest ones. 

PRE-K – ADVISABLE. Reviewed by: Shay, School Librarian

Amelia Bedelia’s First Valentine by Herman Parish - OPTIONAL

Parish, Herman. Amelia Bedelia’s First Valentine, PICTURE BOOK. Greenwillow Books, 2009. $6.99. Content: G. 

Amelia Bedelia is very excited about Valentine’s Day. She has prepared her Valentine cards and is ready for her school party. Right as she is about to pass out her Valentines, she realizes that she has left them on the bus. Amelia comes up with a creative way to solve her problem so that she can still enjoy the party and goes home to have a Valentine’s Day cuddle with her family. 

This book does a very good job of capturing the excitement children have for Valentine’s Day and how much they look forward to having a party and passing out cards at school with their friends. Like all Amelia Bedelia books, she runs into confusion when it comes to a play on words and takes things too literally. I find that concept of the books to be more entertaining when Amelia is presented in her original adult version, as it is more unexpected for her to be so befuddled about the world. This book was still cute though and I’m sure that there will be students out there who are interested in Valentine-themed books, who will be happy to pick it up. 

EL (K-3), EL – OPTIONAL. Reviewed by: Shay, School Librarian

The Berenstain Bears’ Valentine Love Bug - OPTIONAL

Berenstain, Mike. The Berenstain Bears’ Valentine Love Bug, PICTURE BOOK. Harper Festival, 2014. $6.99. Content: G. 

Sister bear is busy getting her Valentine’s Day cards ready for her class party, when she hears that news that her cousin is about to get married and she’d like Sister to be her flower girl. Sister drops everything and becomes very preoccupied with the wedding. Mama becomes concerned when Sister forgets all about her party at school and only seems interested in topics that have a more adult focus (gossiping about who is dating who, invitations, flowers, wedding cakes and gifts). Mama speaks with Sister about her gossiping and Sister immediately begins finishing her cards for the party. The school party comes and Sister has such a wonderful time that she almost forgets about the wedding. 

I love the Berenstain Bears. I think they always have such a good way of approaching some of life’s more difficult situations. But, I was really bored by this book. I thought the topic was a little unnecessary for a children’s book and somewhat stereotyped how every little girl might feel about being in a wedding. The book comes with a poster, Valentine cards, and stickers, which is pretty fun. All in all, not something you absolutely will miss if you don’t add it to your Berenstain Bears collection. 

Pre-K, EL (K-3)- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by: Shay, School Librarian

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Contract by Derek Jeter with Peter Mantell - - OPTIONAL

Jeter, Derek with Peter Mantell The Contract, 151 pgs. Simon and Schuster, 2014. $16.99. Language: G (0 swears); Violence: G; Mature Content: G.  

Third grader Derek Jeter wants to grow up to play shortstop for the New York Yankees.  His teacher thinks he has unrealistic expectations but his parents are supportive.  As the little league season starts, Derek finds himself on another average team, and the coach's son got the position of short stop.  Derek has a contract with his parents to do well in school and to be a team player, but when his team can't beat the heavy hitting teams and Derek's grades are slipping because he's so worried, his self confidence suffers too.  

Inspired by Derek Jeter’s childhood, this account of a season of little league contains a lot of game action which is the best part of this book. While Derek is young, he seems much older in the book, so older elementary readers can easily relate to this kid. Jeter fans and baseball fans will enjoy this middle reader and can look forward to 9 more in this series.  

EL - OPTIONAL  Lisa Librarian

Defy the Dark by Saundra Mitchell - ADVISABLE

Mitchell, Saundra Defy the Dark, 454 pgs. HarperTeen, 2013. Language – PG-13 (78 swears, 0 “f”), Sexual Content – PG-13; Violence – PG; 

Eleven of these stories are good stories, and I found the other ones as either strange in an unnerving way or not developed enough to be considered anything but filler space. I hate to single one out as my favorite because I found Valerie Kemp’s to be my favorite until I read the short story by Sarah Rees Brennan and then three more replaced that one as I kept reading. While some of the stories were only “meh,” the few that I didn’t like at all were simply the confusing one (like the story written by Sarah Ockler). Overall, though the stories are cool and its’ interesting to see the wide range of stories derived from the same prompt. 

HS – ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen