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The Library Haul

First off, we apologize for being so silent this month; Mama Dino has a new job and though this doesn’t affect our reading time, it certainly affects our writing time. Because we won’t be able to review every book we read (the Littles are voracious readers!), we are introducing a new featured article: The Library Haul. The Library Haul will give a short & sweet rating to each of the books we checked out from the library before we return them. So let’s get started! Today is library day, so before we return this batch to the shelves, here’s The Library Haul.

The Library Haul 1

The Boss Baby by Marla Frazee

We were initially interested in this book because YA author John Green (Looking for Alaska, The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns) mentioned that he loved reading it with his Little. This book does not disappoint! It’s a delightfully witty story that parents will truly enjoy reading out loud. Other people have complained that the story isn’t really appealing to children, but I think that’s precisely what makes it a great book to read to a baby: very young babies only get as much out of a story as a parent puts into it, and sometimes it’s hard to pretend excitement at books with one word per page. This adorable story is sure to have parents in stitches, teaching babies that books are enjoyable. Win-win!

5 out of 5 Stars


Piggy Paints by Jim Benton

Little S had an okay time reading this book; the wordplay made it a little fun for her as a beginning reader. It was nothing special though.

Two out of Five Stars


The Daddy Book by Todd Parr

I often like to get books that Dinosaur Dad will specifically enjoy reading to the Littles. He spends so much time at work that his quality time with the Littles becomes very precious. We brought The Daddy Book home with that in mind, and it was fun to read, but mostly because of a page that explained that “Some daddies like to watch you sleep” and showed a really creepy illustration of a daddy looking into a dark room. Lol! The illustrations were really basic stick-figures in primary colors, which I get was trying to get down to the roots of that daddy feeling, but Little S complained that it hurt her eyes to read.  Overall we weren’t really into this book.

Two out of Five Stars


My Lucky Little Dragon by Joyce Wan

Little E LOVED this book! It’s cute, it’s rhythmic and fun to read, and has a surprise ending any baby would love! It’s not really a story so much as a description of several animals in the same format as “my lucky little dragon,” for example, “my pretty little platypus.”

4 out of 5 stars


All Fall Down by Mary Brigid Barrett

Little E honestly wasn’t that interested in this book, though in a year or so she probably would be. Better for toddlers than for babies, because it doesn’t have any attention-grabby or touchy-feely stuff.

Two out of Five Stars


BAH! Said the Baby by Jennifer Plecas

Absolutely adorable and fun for both Little S (who could relate to the story) and Little E (who enjoyed us making funny baby noises).

4 out of 5 stars


 Mia and the Girl with a Twirl (My First I Can Read) by Robin Farley

Little S brought 2 Mia books home and was absolutely enchanted by both the topic (dancing!) and the fact that she could read the books on her own with only minor difficulty. Recommend for young readers!

4 out of 5 stars


Curious George: Gymnastics Fun by H. A. Rey

Little S checked this out for reading practice. Labored through the first page, and became completely disinterested with it afterwards.

TwoLittleDinos1stars


I Want to Help! by Diane Adams

Oh, Little S adored this story! She is just like the main character, and really loved reading this book on her own as well.

4 out of 5 stars


Tyrannosaurus Dad by Liz Rosenberg

We so wanted to love this book because it’s about a dinosaur dad, which is exactly the case in our home you know, but we read this as a bedtime story to the Littles and instead of walking away feeling warm and fuzzy and sleepy inside, we just felt chastised and confused. This book is about a dad who works too much and doesn’t pay enough attention to his kid. Yes, some of the illustrations and story were funny, but most of the time it just felt like a slap to the face to parents who work hard because they have no choice. After all, I didn’t see a mom in the picture here. Instead of helping children understand the necessity of working hard, this book makes a child feel as if working too much is a choice that parents can decide to change if they love their kids enough.

TwoLittleDinos1stars


Welcome to Mamoko by Aleksandra Mizielinska

We would really love to do a full review on this book! It reminds us a bit of Where’s Waldo? books, but with an extra touch of storytelling that the girls just found fantastic. This book has no words; instead, it names 15-ish characters at the beginning, and allows you to choose which one you will follow through the story today. Little S absolutely loved making up her own stories about each character, and this is coming from a child who could never figure out an original story to write for her school assignments. Any book that inspires creativity like that is fine by me!

5 out of 5 Stars


The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud

Here’s another Where’s Waldo?-esque book. The reader has to find Big Bear and Little Bear in each page. It’s a cute story with a delightful ending, though I recall while reading that some of the story wasn’t quite that great. We enjoyed reading it once, but didn’t select it for bedtime again.

Three out of five stars.


Not reviewed: Pocahontas (movie), Outer Space Chase, and Two Bunny Buddies. Little S read/watched these on her own so we can’t really give a fair review.

That’s it! Our library haul. Time to get a new batch of books 🙂

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any suggestions for what we should read next? Tell us in the comments!

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Review of The Nowhere Box by Sam Zuppardi

The Nowhere Box by Sam Zuppardi
Could George’s escape from his pesky brothers be a bit too successful? An ode to imagination —and annoying but indispensable siblings.

George’s little brothers wreck his toys and his games and trail after him wherever he goes. Try as he might, there’s just no hiding from them. George has had enough! So he commandeers an empty washing machine box and goes to the one place his brothers can’t follow: Nowhere. Nowhere is amazing! It’s magnificent! It’s also, however, free of pirates and dragons and . . . well, anyone at all. From exciting new talent Sam Zuppardi comes an all-too-relatable story of an older brother who knows when he needs his space — and when he needs his siblings — played out in charmingly offbeat illustrations. (From Goodreads.com.)

             

Release date: November 12th, 2013
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 40
Source: Library book

I honestly don’t know why this book doesn’t have a 5 star rating on Goodreads. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be a great book to show my Littles the power of imagination and creativity. And if you’re a parent or caregiver stuck at home with the little ones this summer, you know just how useful having an imagination is.

See, Little S is going through that phase right now in which every other word is “I’m bored!”. She constantly wants me to play with her, but I work from home; though I try to do one “special activity” with the girls each day, I just can’t play with them all day. The funny thing is, Little E (who is only 9 months old) is totally cool with that. She’ll play on her own all day. It’s Little S who can’t figure out what to do with herself. I don’t get that. As a 7-year-old child, I literally disappeared into the back yard from morning to nighttime, with reluctant breaks for meals. So why is my 7-year-old so bored?

The problem, I’ve realized, is that she has no imagination. None. Nada. If I ever eventually convince her to play “pretend” with her toys, she just reenacts scenes from her favorite movies. If I ask her to write a story that we then illustrate with paints, she writes her favorite books (which she has memorized). She named her new stuffed animal “Wolf.” Can you guess what he is?

So, when I saw The Nowhere Box on the library shelf, I snatched it up immediately. I loved the illustration style, which mixes doodles with ridged cardboard. I love how much fun George has, and all the different games and worlds he creates, all inside the same cardboard box. And I love that even though he hides in the box to escape his pesky little brothers, he quickly realizes that he misses them. It’s a wonderful story, not just about imagination, but also about brotherhood (or sisterhood). Little S loved it.

Don’t get me wrong; Little S isn’t suddenly Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes. But she now understands what I mean when I say “use your imagination.” Even more wonderfully, ever since we read The Nowhere Box, she has started playing with her little sister more. It’s a beautiful sight to see. So thank you, The Nowhere Box.

Our rating?

Five out of Five Stars

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Review of Woof: A Love Story by Sarah Weeks, illustrated by Holly Berry

Woof: A Love Story
A dog is a dog
and a cat is a cat
And most of the time
it’s as simple as that. . . .
Or is it?

What’s a dog to do when he falls in love with the cat next door? Bark? Chase his tail? Dig up a “brass bone” and hope that the universal language of music will help him to express his feelings?

This humorous and heartfelt story is about the power of love and the power of music, told through the eyes of a lovelorn dog and the cat he adores. (From Goodreads.com.)

             

Release date: November 24th, 2009
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 32
Source: Library book

What a lovely little story! I tried to write this review in rhyme to pay homage to the book, but my skill is not as great as Sarah Weeks’, so I had to give it up. Woof: A Love Story is the story of a dog who usually does dog things, until one day, he smells a cat and falls in love. The problem is, every time he tries to tell her nice things, all she hears is dog sounds! They can’t understand each other, so the cat is afraid of him. But then…the dog discovers music, and finally the cat understands how he feels.

There are so many wonderful qualities to this book: an engaging story, teaching that music conveys feelings, it’s fun to hear and fun to read, and it’s a great little book to talk about poetic elements with a stronger reader (1st to 4th grades), as well. The story makes use of rhyme, metaphor, simile, onomatopoeia, alliteration, and more. I sense great instructional moments here.

As for the opinion of a real-life child: Little S adored this story. I sense we will be keeping it the full two weeks from the library, and probably even buying it at the store. Though I’m personally not a huge fan of the illustration style, which features bold colors and a cut & paste cardstock look, Little S kept delightedly pointing to the pages, finding hidden items and linking the story words to the pictures. She seemed to love the illustrations, and thinking about it further, I think that this book will still be a hit with boys despite the “sappy” story because of the un-girly illustrations. And of course she had great fun with the story itself, especially because cats and dogs are very familiar animals to her.

Even we adults enjoyed the story. Daddy Dino read it to the Littles for bedtime, and on our way down the stairs talking, we had to laugh at each other for unconsciously adopting the rhythm of the book. “I keep expecting you to speak in rhyme!” I admitted to him. As an experienced picture book reader, I know that rhyming text doesn’t always work well, Dr. Seuss aside. Woof: A Love Story pulls it off beautifully. The rhyming adds a lot to the experience of the book, especially because it goes along with the idea that music can communicate emotion.

In short, this delightful and quirky story about a dog who falls in love with a cat is a great addition to any shelf.

Our rating?

Two out of Five Stars

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Review of The Hueys in…It Wasn’t Me by Oliver Jeffers

The Hueys in It Wasn't Me
The Hueys are back! Oliver Jeffers’ egg-shaped creatures may look the same, think the same, and even do the same things, but that doesn’t mean they always agree. The only problem is, they can’t seem to agree on what they disagreed on in the first place! Which ultimately leads to an even bigger disagreement! Confused? Well, so are the Hueys. Which only adds to the fun and hilarity.
(From Goodreads.com.)

             

Release date: May 2nd, 2013
Publisher: Philomel
Pages: 32
Source: Library book

I picked this book up because the simplistic cover art appealed to me, and “it wasn’t me” is a phrase that resonates with me as the parent of a wily 6-year-old. It’s a very quick read about a group of stick-figure friends/brothers (?) called the Hueys having an argument. Gillespie comes along and wants to know what the argument is about, but nobody remembers. They continue arguing until Gillespie suggests a new activity, and they all go off together, argument forgotten.

The takeaway from this book, I think, is that arguments are silly. Little S and I read The Hueys in…It Wasn’t Me at bedtime and I had to really lead the way to that conclusion, though. Her biggest takeaway was: “Dead flies are gross and so are boys.” While actually kind of delightful for adults, I’m afraid it may be too subtle for children.

What’s unique about this book: speech bubbles that sometimes have images in them. I think this is great on two levels: having drawings instead of speech makes it easy for a younger child to follow along and “read” what the characters are saying all on his/her own, and dialogue written alongside with the story text can feel a little disconnected even for an older child who is already reading. It Wasn’t Me is a book about talking, so I thought it was very cute and visually appealing to children to have the dialogue in speech bubbles.

Another unique feature is the illustration style, which is very simplistic. The Hueys exist in white pages, so they are the complete focus. The Hueys themselves aren’t realistic people at all, but egg-shaped stick figures that really resemble children’s early drawings of people. The illustrations in the speech bubbles are very cute and watercolor-y. Overall, I liked the illustrations, but Little S didn’t seem all that interested in them, or the story. I think part of this was because the font for the speech bubbles is curly and cursive and pretty hard for an early reader to decipher. The other part: I feel that this book would appeal a little more to boy readers. The illustrations, the fonts, and the way the Hueys talk and what they talk about all lean towards the boyish. However, as I don’t have any boys, I can’t test this.

Our rating?

Two out of Five Stars

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Four Books to Enjoy With Your Child on the 4th of July!

Independence Day snuck up on me this year, but thankfully I had time to make a quick library run to find a 4th of July book to share with my littles. We ended up having to pick between a few options, so I thought I’d share with you some of the finalists:

The Night Before the Fourth of July
It’s the night before the Fourth of July and all across the United States people are getting ready for hot dogs and fireworks. Decked in red, white, and blue, a family heads to a parade, hosts a backyard BBQ with friends and family, dodges an afternoon thundershower, and of course, watches a fireworks show. The Night Before the Fourth of July captures all the fun, excitement, and pride of the best summer holiday!
(From Goodreads.com.)

       

The 4th of July Story
What happened on the Fourth of July long before there were fireworks and parades? Alice Dalgliesh takes young readers back to revolutionary times, back to the colonists’ desire for freedom and the creation of the Declaration of Independence. Simple text captures the excitement of the era, telling how word of Independence travelled up and down the thirteen colonies, touching the lives of everyday people throughout the land. Like all of Alice Dalgliesh’s work, “The Fourth of July Story” remains an American classic.
(From Goodreads.com.)

       

Fourth of July Mice
It’s the most patriotic of all holidays-Independence Day! The Holiday Mice take part in all the activities that make the Fourth of July fun: a parade, a picnic, a baseball game and sack race, and a refreshing dip in the stream. Even Mr. Mouse, the littlest mouse’s special toy, joins in the festivities. The best part of all comes at the end of the day: a spectacular fireworks show!
Packed with plenty of red, white, and blue and featuring the four Holiday Mice at their most adorable, this story about our nation’s birthday will delight readers young and old alike.
(From Goodreads.com.)

       

Fireworks and Freedom: A Fourth of July Story and Activity Book
This brand-new title in the ” Let’s Celebrate ” series tells the story of America’s Declaration of Independence and its signing by representatives of the 13 original colonies on the Fourth of July, 1776. Full-color illustrations capture the atmosphere of eighteenth-century America–the meetings in Boston of the Sons of Liberty who protested British taxation. . . the meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. . . the call to battle and the birth of the Continental Army commanded by George Washington. Boys and girls also read about how the Fourth of July has been celebrated in the ensuing 230 years. Sidebars present brief facts related to the Fourth of July, and an extensive activity section suggests fun ideas for crafts, picnic foods, games, and songs appropriate to Fourth of July celebrations. Kids can make super-safe balloon “fireworks” with balloons and confetti. They’ll also find directions for doing a fireworks dance with bubble wrap, a recipe for making chocolate flags, and lots more. Color illustrations on every page.
(From Goodreads.com.)

       

Which one would you pick?

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Review of How Do Dinosaurs Say I’M MAD? by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague

How Do Dinosaurs Say I'M MAD?
Everybody gets angry sometimes. Kids do. So do parents. Sometimes we get angry when we’re scared, or want something we can’t have, or are feeling mean or feeling sick. Anger can be very frightening, and it can make people sad. But there are lots of ways to learn how to control anger, just as the dinosaurs do in this book. Some of them count to ten, some of them have a time out, and some of them take deep breaths. Then, when the dinosaurs are calm again, they clean up any mess they’ve made, they say, “I’m sorry,” and they give big hugs. Just as you do.
(From inside description.)

             
Release date: September 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 40
Source: Library’s summer reading program prize

As you may have guessed, we have a soft spot for dinosaurs around here. Little S couldn’t resist picking this book as her prize for being part of the library’s summer reading program, not with that awesome dinosaur on the cover. I, however, was a little hesitant after flipping through it because it had an awful lot of pages depicting bratty behavior. I didn’t want Little S to get any ideas! She has a very sweet nature and hardly ever gets mad, and we’d like to keep it that way. So while she was engaged at the arts & crafts table making a superhero mask (how cool is our library’s summer reading program?), I sat down and read How Do Dinosaurs Say I’M MAD? with Little E to make sure this was the book we wanted to take home.

And I have to say, I loved How Do Dinosaurs Say I’M MAD?. Little E wasn’t too thrilled, but that’s because I kept dancing the big beautiful fragile pages out of reach of her grabby little hands. We have the paperback edition, and it’s a 12-inch-tall book, with absolutely gorgeous illustrations of all sorts of dinosaurs in all stages of temper tantrums. Lovely for older kids, not great for babies or toddlers, who need to be able to touch and grab books to experience them.

How Do Dinosaurs Say I’M MAD? is actually a book about how kids say they’re mad. Having huge, friendly dinosaurs enact all the crazy inappropriate things kids do during temper tantrums makes it easy for kids to identify, “Oh no! You shouldn’t do that!” Our Little S immediately pointed out how silly the dinosaurs looked when they were mad, too. When we reached the point where the book explains how dinosaurs actually handle their anger, she was also excited because the dinosaurs did what we do: time out, take deep breaths, and make up.

So even though I was initially worried about the content, How Do Dinosaurs Say I’M MAD? is clearly meant to teach kids the proper way to handle anger, disappointment, and other difficult feelings. Aside from being delightfully funny and beautifully illustrated, this book prompted a really useful discussion between Little S and me about anger: How does Little S say she is mad? Which dinosaur is she most like? Is this really an appropriate way to show her feelings, or does she look just as silly as some of these dinosaurs? What would be a better way to handle moments when we are angry?

The only thing I do wish the book included was talking over the reasons why you are mad with the person who made you mad, which I think is a crucial step in letting go of anger. But maybe this way the book agrees with more parenting styles.

Our rating? 5 out of 5 Stars

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Review of Hey Diddle Diddle by Jonas Sickler

Hey Diddle Diddle by Jonas Sickler
INDESTRUCTIBLES are built for the way babies “read”: with their hands and mouths. INDESTRUCTIBLES won’t rip or tear and are 100% washable. They’re made for baby to hold, grab, chew, pull, and bend. (All Indestructibles books have been safety-tested and meet or exceed ASTM-F963 and CPSIA guidelines.)
(From back cover.)

                
Release date: June 2010
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Pages: 10
Source: Blue Book Project (free)

The credit for this amazing find actually goes to Little E. We were at an office and Little E, who is now a racecar on the ground, had gotten ahold of the bookshelf across the room in the time it took me to write our check-in info. Thankfully her grabby little hands found an INDESTRUCTIBLES book, which is chew proof, rip proof, nontoxic, and 100% washable. What?! How awesome is that?? As the parent of a curious and energetic baby, oh man, I was so excited. She was so enthralled by Hey Diddle Diddle that she didn’t rip all their other glossy books to shreds as I feared.

Though they are made for babies, INDESTRUCTIBLES aren’t board books, the usual “baby” book – they’re actually paperbacks! And as anyone who has had a baby knows, paper is a fascinating object. It changes shape, it’s everywhere, and most of all, it makes very cool sounds. Little E has been fascinated by paper for the last couple of months, but of course we hardly let her play with it, so you can imagine her excitement when I didn’t take a paperback book away from her. I don’t know what magic material this “paper” is made of, but I can attest that the claims on the front cover are not exaggerations: after three days of Little E chewing on it, waving it like a flag, snapping it around, dragging it through the house, and goodness knows what other tortures, Hey Diddle Diddle remains unscathed. No, really. It looks exactly as it did the day she picked it up. Actually, it’s cleaner, since I’ve washed it with soap, sponge, and water twice. (I’m still not prepared to believe it will survive the dishwasher or washing machine – can anything be that magical?)

But this is just a rave about the construction of the book – what about the story, you wonder? Well, at first I was disappointed that there’s no text. The illustrations do follow the popular nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle,” but I guess I just don’t understand why the words are printed on the back cover instead of on the pages. Maybe it’s to put the whimsical, mixed media illustrations under the spotlight, or maybe it’s because the pages are already quite busy enough. Hey Diddle Diddle features darker colors and an almost decoupaged style, with many different patterns and textures everywhere, including what looks like newspaper pages sneakily blended into the background. It almost reminds me of the oddness of Coraline or James and the Giant Peach. It’s definitely an interesting artistic style, though I usually prefer more cutesy art in my picture books, which is why I’m considering buying Baby Babble, another INDESTRUCTIBLE book. Plus, it’s only $2.97 on Amazon – what a steal!

Our rating?Three out of five stars.

Additional note: The blue bookshelf at the office had a sign on it explaining that the gently used books were provided by the Blue Book Project, a program dedicated to encouraging literacy in young children from families who have fallen on hard times. Children were free to take a book home, but the sign had no other details. I would love to know more about the Blue Book Project in the area of Arizona. If you have any information, please let me know! I’d love to write a little spotlight about the program here on Two Little Dinos and spread the word about their wonderful mission.