Saturday, September 21, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] The Tortoise and the Hare by Janet Stevens




Title:  The Tortoise and the Hare

Author:  Janet Stevens

Genre: Humor / Animal


Year Published: 1984



Year Read: 1995



Publisher: Holiday House

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 4+ (Some Bullying)

“The Tortoise and the Hare” is a wonderful Aesop fable classic from Janet Stevens and it is about how Tortoise tries to work out everyday in order to beat Hare in a big race. “The Tortoise and the Hare” is the perfect book about the importance of hard work and perseverance that children will cherish for many years.





Janet Stevens has done an excellent job at both illustrating and writing this book about a famous Aesop fable. Janet Stevens’ illustrations are beautiful and colorful, especially of the images of Hare looking scraggly, while Tortoise looked wrinkly yet wise. Janet Stevens’ writing sets up the moral of the story, which is “hard work and perseverance brings its own rewards” in such a brilliant manner, that many children will be awed at how Janet Stevens shows that hard work does pay off.


“The Tortoise and the Hare” is a great book for children who want to learn how to work hard to earn their goals in life and is easily one of the greatest Aesop fables ever told. I would recommend this book to children ages four and up since there is nothing inappropriate in this book.  






[BOOK REVIEW] Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss


Title:  Bartholomew and the Oobleck

Author:  Dr. Seuss


Genre: Humor / Fantasy


Year Published: 1949


Year Read: 2006


Series: Bartholomew

Publisher: Random House

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (Some Intense Scenes)
 


 “Bartholomew and the Oobleck” is the sequel to Dr. Seuss’ timeless classic “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins” and is about how King Derwin wanted to create a weather that has never been created and ends up disastrous results.  “Bartholomew and the Oobleck” is definitely a classic tale that children will enjoy for many years.


 Dr. Seuss’ story is exciting and creative at the same time, especially during the scenes where Bartholomew tries to warn everyone about the oobleck covering the town.  Even though the story is not written in Dr. Seuss’ typical rhyming text, the story is still creative enough for kids to enjoy.  Dr. Seuss’ illustrations are as creative as ever, especially as the illustrations are mainly in black and white with the exception of the oobleck which is in green which gives true effectiveness to the story making the oobleck a threat to the people in the kingdom.

“Bartholomew and the Oobleck” is definitely one of Dr. Seuss most exciting books ever created and will definitely keep many children interested in this book.  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since it might be too long for smaller children to read.
 * 1950 Caldecott Honor




[BOOK REVIEW] Babushka's Doll by Patricia Polacco


Title:  Babushka's Doll

Author:  Patricia Polacco


Genre: Family / Manners / Toys


Year Published: 1990


Year Read: 2010

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 4+ (Some Mischievous Behavior)


Lately, I have taken interest in Patricia Polacco’s books and I have recently stumbled upon a new book by her called “Babushka’s Doll.” “Babushka’s Doll” is a Russian tale by Patricia Polacco and it is about how a naughty girl named Natasha learns the hard way about what it truly means to be impatient after her grandmother, Babushka leaves her doll with Natasha and the doll comes alive and starts bossing Natasha around! “Babushka’s Doll” is definitely one of the most creative and surprising books ever created that children will definitely get into!


Oh my! Patricia Polacco certainly knows how to bring about a lesson in life in an extremely interesting way! Patricia Polacco has done an excellent job at both illustrating and writing this book about the importance of being patient with other people (especially when the other person has to do work!) I love the way that Patricia Polacco writes this story in an extremely creative way as she takes a cautionary tale about the importance of being patient and turns it into a fairy tale inspired tale that involves a doll coming to life and teaching an impatient girl a lesson she will never forget and I just loved the surreal approach about a doll coming to life since it made this story extremely interesting to read, especially since I imagined that Babushka’s doll would make anyone who has possession of it just go crazy (the doll definitely drove me crazy because it whined so much!) I also love the way that Patricia Polacco teaches children about the importance of being patient and I think that many children will relate to Natasha’s woes in dealing with an extremely impatient doll as impatient children will see that dealing with another person who is much more impatient than that child can open their eyes to the importance of being patient. Another aspect of the story that I really enjoyed in this book are the illustrations by Patricia Polacco herself! The illustrations are just to die for as they beautiful and realistic, especially of the image of Babushka herself as her face portrays many wrinkles, but it also details how wise she is as she seems to secretly know about the doll’s motives before she gives it to Natasha. The image of Natasha on the other hand, is that she is shown as a young girl with brown hair that is wrapped up in a bun attached to a large white ribbon and she is seen wearing a red rose dotted blue dress and to top it all off, she has a scowl on her face which makes her look like a child who is used to getting everything she wants!


Overall, “Babushka’s Doll” is truly a great tale for children who enjoy reading Russian tales and who want to learn about the consequences of being impatient in the form of a doll! This book is definitely one of Patricia Polacco’s finest works in tales that have a folkloric theme! I would recommend this book to children ages four and up since there is nothing inappropriate in this book, unless children might get annoyed at Babushka’s doll!





Saturday, September 14, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek





Title:  Superman: Secret Identity

Author:  Kurt Busiek

Artist: Stuart Immonen


Genre: Superhero / Action / Adventure

Year Published: 2004

Year Read: 2013

Series: Superman

Publisher: DC Comics

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 11+ (Some Language)
 




Introduction:

Now, I have just recently gotten into the “Superman” comics, starting with “Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” and after enjoying that comic, I decided to check out more “Superman” comics!  So, I finally managed to stumbled upon a “Superman” comic that my friends have strongly recommended to me and it was called “Superman: Secret Identity,” which was written by Kurt Busiek along with artwork by Stuart Immonen and I have to tell you that this is clearly one of the best modern “Superman” comics I have ever read!

What is this story about?

Imagine living in a world that is more real than anything you read about in the comics and that you have the same name as one of the world’s most iconic superheroes.  Well, that is certainly the case here with Clark Kent, who unfortunately was named after the real Superman and is often teased at school about whether or not he has powers like Superman.  One day however, Clark discovers that he has super powers like the real Superman and he will soon find out about the advantages and disadvantages of having powers that will go on throughout his entire life!

What I loved about this story:

Kurt Busiek’s writing:  Since this is the first time I had ever read a comic book written by Kurt Busiek, I was amazed at how beautiful and emotional the writing in this story is.  I loved the way that Kurt Busiek explored Clark Kent’s personal problems with being compared to Superman due to his name being similar to the real Superman and the kids at school making fun of him because of it.  I was also amazed at the way that Kurt Busiek detailed the story from Clark Kent’s high school years to his adult years as we not only get to see one of the most natural story progressions for a character, but we also get to see how Clark starts discovering his powers and starts using them to protect people as he gets older.  What I really loved about this comic book is that the story is kind of set in an alternative universe (well, a universe inspired by Superboy of Earth Prime) and I loved the way that Kurt Busiek gave us a universe where Superman seems to only exist in comic books and that the main character, Clark Kent, is just a regular boy who lives in Kansas who somehow develops super powers and the fact that he tries to find out how he got his powers is one of the driving forces of the story. This is story is sort of like “Kick-Ass” where the main character lives in a realistic world (except in this case, there is no blood or gore to make the story edgy).  I really loved Clark Kent’s relationship with Lois Chaudhari (who also got a lot of flack for having the same name as Lois Lane) as it felt so natural and it is obvious that they clearly care for each other and they try to do what is best for each other.

Stuart Immonen’s artwork:  Probably the best part of this comic book was Stuart Immonen’s artwork as it was truly gorgeous and realistic to look at!  I loved the way that Stuart Immonen made the landscape and the characters look so realistic, especially of the buildings looking like they came straight out of a photograph (which is a good thing in this case)!  I also loved the way that the characters’ expressions were drawn as they look truly effective and realistic to the point where I actually felt so much emotion for the characters whenever they are sad or angry.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

For anyone who does not like language in a comic book, this comic book does have some language, even though it is not as strong as something like Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” series.

*~A Little Rant~*

Okay, this is just a little rant I have on the state of relationships in superhero comics due to what I read in this comic.  If this graphic novel pretty much detailed a relationship between a couple (Clark Kent and Lois) in an extremely positive and natural way, then why do they barely do that with other superhero comic books?  I am not saying that there are no good relationships in superhero comics (trust me, I have seen plenty of great relationships), it is just that I keep seeing good relationships getting broken up for no apparent reason other than for the sake of drama and it is starting to get on my nerves.  I just wish that there were more positive relationships like Clark and Lois’s in this graphic novel where they do not break up for illogical reasons or they just live happily together with understandings between them.

*~Rant Over~*

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Superman: Secret Identity” is easily one of the greatest modern “Superman” stories ever created and one of the greatest alternative universe stories I had ever read, next to “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns!”  If you are a huge “Superman” fan, this graphic novel is definitely worth reading!



[BOOK REVIEW] Invincible: Ultimate Collection Volume 4 by Robert Kirkman



Title:  Invincible:  Ultimate Collection Volume 4

Author:  Robert Kirkman

Artist: Ryan Ottley

Genre: Superhero / Action / Adventure

Year Published: 2010

Year Read: 2013

Series: Invincible

Publisher: Image Comics

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 16+ (Gory Violence)




Introduction:

After reading the third volume of Robert Kirkman’s classic superhero series “Invincible,” I was geared up to read the fourth volume of “Invincible” and man was this easily one of the most emotionally charged volumes I had ever took the pleasure of reading from this series!

What is this story about?

In this volume, Mark Grayson, now known as the famous superhero Invincible, is trying to put the past behind him by shedding his image of being the son of a superhero gone rogue and he proceeds to protect the world from any threats (which basically includes alien invasions, reanimated corpses and super-villains bent on world domination).  Unfortunately, Mark Grayson’s social life is slowly dwindling away as he keeps getting into arguments with his girlfriend Amber and is possibly still in love with Samantha Eve Wilkins (a.k.a Atom Eve).

Can Mark solve this romantic tension between him, Amber and Eve?

What I loved about this story:

Robert Kirkman’s writing: Wow!  Robert Kirkman’s writing just continues to get better and more personal as the volumes go on!  I loved the way that Robert Kirkman managed to combine both straight-up action and emotional content in this volume as not only was I enjoying the action scenes of Invincible fighting his enemies, but I was also sympathizing with Mark Grayson’s predicament with his love life.  Now, normally I usually do not like reading about loving relationships crash and burn, but in this case, I will make an exception since the troublesome relationship between Amber and Mark was written extremely well and I was able to really understand about the problems that Mark and Amber were facing in their relationship due to Mark not being able to spend enough time with Amber because of his job as a superhero.  I think that Robert Kirkman handled this delicate situation in a realistic and logical manner (something I rarely see some comics do) and it really made me relate strongly to Mark, Amber and Eve as I saw how this turbulent relationship is affecting all three of them.  I also loved the chaotic action sequences that happened in this volume as Invincible is always fighting some kind of villain and it really adds more dimension to his super heroic activities.

Ryan Ottley’s artwork:  Ryan Ottley’s artwork is as usual gorgeous to look at as the action sequences are brilliantly drawn as you can see the bad guys’ teeth get knocked out of their mouths whenever they are being punched by the superheroes.  I also loved the way that Ryan Ottley drew the facial expressions on each character’s face as they brilliantly reflect the emotions that the character goes through in each situation, such as Mark’s face having a sad look on his face whenever he was trying to decide about what to do about his relationship with Amber.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

For anyone who does not like gory violence in any comic book, this volume does have some bloody violence (although not as graphic as the previous three volumes).  There are many scenes where characters are punched and blood comes out of their mouths and that might disturb some readers who do not like gore.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Invincible: Ultimate Collection Volume Four” is a brilliant volume that really explores the relationship problems of Invincible and I cannot wait to see how Invincible’s social life will improve or self-destruct in future volumes depending on what other villains face him!





[BOOK REVIEW] That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems


Title:  That Is Not a Good Idea!

Author:  Mo Willems


Genre: Animal / Drama / Suspense / Humor


Year Published: 2013


Year Read: 2013

Publisher:  Balzer + Bray

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (Death)




Mo Willems is truly a pro when it comes to writing children’s books!  His previous books “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale,” and “Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs” were true masterpieces in their own right and now I have the pleasure of reading his most recent children’s book “That is NOT a Good Idea!” 


One day, a hungry fox meets up with a female goose and he invites the goose to dinner!  At the same time, there is a group of baby chicks who are warning the goose about not accepting the fox’s dinner invitation during the page breaks by saying:

“That is NOT a Good Idea!”


Now, judging by the extremely short description I just gave out, this book would seem like it is going to be too simple to read through.  NO, IT IS NOT!  Mo Willems has once again managed to create one hilarious and creative picture book that also gives the readers one heck of a surprise ending!  I loved the way that Mo Willems set this book up like a silent movie as there are no dialogue texts on the pictures, but there are dialogue texts on the black pages of the book which also has gorgeous white boxed borders surrounding the pages, giving it an exotic feel.  I also loved the baby chicks that show up in between the story as they try to warn the goose about not taking up the fox’s offer for dinner by saying:

“That is NOT a Good Idea!”

I think it is a clever way to get children engaged in the story as they can repeat the saying “That is NOT a Good Idea!” whenever the goose is doing something wrong in the story or whenever the baby chicks come into the story.  Mo Willems’ artwork is as usual hilarious and creative to look at as the setting seems to take place in an old Victorian - like town that is mostly shown in brown colorings.  I also loved the way that the goose has white feathers and small yellow eyes that make her look innocent and I personally think that the blue scarf on her head added a nice motherly touch to her character.  The little chicks were also cute as they have rounded yellow bodies and small black dotted eyes.  I really loved the appearance of the fox himself as he is dressed up in elegant clothes and yet he always has a sneaky look on his face which makes you know that he is not to be trusted.

Parents should know that the ending of this book might be a bit too jarring for some small children.  Now, I will not tell you what really happened at the end of the book (although it is extremely surprising), but let us just say that the ending is sort of reminiscent of “The Spider and the Fly,” in a sense.  For those of you who have read “The Spider and Fly,” you might know exactly what to expect from the ending of this book.


Overall, “That is NOT a Good Idea” is a truly brilliant book from the mastermind of Mo Willems and I am sure that many children who are huge fans of Mo Willems’ work will enjoy this book also!  As for a little recommendation, if you want to read a book that also discusses about the dangers of meeting a potential dangerous stranger, then check out “The Spider and Fly.” “That is NOT a Good Idea” and “The Spider and the Fly” are vaguely similar in tone and style (although “That is NOT a Good Idea” is much more hilarious and light-hearted)!



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn




Title:  The Viscount Who Loved Me

Author: Julia Quinn

Genre: Historical Romance

Year Published: 2000

Number of Pages: 485 pages

Date Read: 9/11/2013

Series: Bridgertons #2   

Publisher: Avon

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 18+ (Sex Scenes)



After reading the first book in Julia Quinn’s fantastic “Bridgerton” series, “The Duke and I,” I just had to check out the second book in series “The Viscount Who Loved Me” and man, was I blown away by this book!

Anthony Bridgerton, who is well-known as being London’s most notorious rake, takes London by storm when he decides that he wants to get married and he has his sights set on Edwina Sheffield.  However, Anthony will soon realize that this is not an easy task as he has to impress Edwina’s older sister, Kate Sheffield, who refuses to let Anthony marry her sister due to his reputation as a rake.  Even though Anthony gets so annoyed with Kate at times, he will soon realize that he might have feelings for Kate whether he likes it or not!

Julia Quinn has done it again with writing a brilliant romance story that not only gives us the best back and forth bantering between the two lead characters, but also gave us a great insight on conquering our fears for the sake of love!  I loved the way that Julia Quinn wrote each character in this novel as they were truly memorable and they made me relate to the characters’ predicaments.  I especially loved the relationship that Anthony shared with his siblings, especially Colin and Benedict as there were several moments in the novel where Anthony was considering killing his brothers for annoying him to death, but it is clearly shown that he cares about them at the same time.  I also loved Kate’s relationship with her stepsister Edwina as it has been stated many times that Edwina is way more beautiful than Kate, but Kate still cares about Edwina’s well being and would do anything to make her happy.  Probably my most favorite characters in this novel were Anthony Bridgerton and Kate Sheffield themselves!  I have to honestly say that Anthony Bridgerton is officially one of my most favorite romance heroes of all-time (man, I have been saying that for every romance novel I had read)!  Anyway, Anthony Bridgerton is just one amazing hero as he has sharp wit while being kind hearted towards anyone at the same time.  I loved his relationship with Kate as he often gets frustrated with her since he thinks she is annoying and yet, it is clear as day that he has feelings for her, but often has trouble trying to reciprocate those feelings to her.  Kate Sheffield is truly one of the best romance heroines I had ever read as she shows true determination in doing what is best for the people she cares about and I also loved her back and forth bantering with Anthony as she seems to be the only character (other than Anthony’s siblings) who can talk back to Anthony with such fire and wit!  As for the love scenes between Anthony and Kate, OH MAN, were they HOT and SIZZLING and I just could not stop reading those love scenes between Kate and Anthony without feeling deep anticipation!

For anyone who does not like sex scenes, there are plenty of sex scenes in this novel that are quite graphic and you can skim over them if they are uncomfortable to read through.

Overall, “The Viscount Who Loved Me” is truly one romance novel that every fan of Julia Quinn’s works and fans who love pure, raw romance should definitely check out!  Now, I am off to read the third book in the “Bridgerton” series, “An Offer From a Gentleman!” 



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] Appelemando's Dreams by Patricia Polacco




Title:  Appelemando's Dreams

Author:  Patricia Polacco


Genre: Fantasy / Art / Drama / Peer Pressure


Year Published: 1991


Year Read: 2010

Publisher: Puffin

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+  (Nothing Objectionable)
 

Patricia Polacco is such an influential author that I have read most of her books and I actually stumbled upon this little gem called “Appelemando’s Dreams” on an episode of “Reading Rainbow” and I have really enjoyed it!  “Appelemando’s Dreams” is a children’s book by Patricia Polacco which is about how a young boy named Appelemando can dream up of any kind of dreams in a drab village.  “Appelemando’s Dreams” is a truly uplifting book that every child will enjoy!

Oh my goodness!  This is one unique book by Patricia Polacco that I am definitely going to read over and over again!  Patricia Polacco has done an excellent job at both illustrating and writing this book as it details a young boy’s desire to let his dreams loose!  Patricia Polacco’s illustrations were just so beautiful and I loved the way that Appelemando’s dreams are drawn in a childlike way as there are various animals and objects floating above his head and the dreams seem to float on a blue mist, which makes the illustrations extremely creative.  I loved the way that Patricia Polacco uses the power of individuality and friendship for this story and what I really enjoyed about Appelemando’s friendship with his friends is that his friends stood up for him even when the elders of the village were criticizing Appelemando, which truly showed what great friends Appelemando’s friends were to him.  I also loved the fact that Appelemando’s friends accepted his dreams for what they are and not make fun of him because of his dreams.  What really stood out for me was the fact that Appelemando’s dreams seem to represent his individuality from the village since the village is a drab place and Appelemando’s dreams are so colorful and fun.

All in all, “Appelemando’s Dreams” is a brilliant and creative book for children who love dreaming.  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since this book is little bit longer than any other children’s book.