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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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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.

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Review of The Very Lazy Ladybug by Isobel Finn

The Very Lazy Ladybug by Isobel Finn
Ladybug is so lazy that she doesn’t know how to fly. She wants to find a new place to sleep and decides to ride on passing animals. But Kangaroo’s pouch is too bumpy, and Crocodile’s tail is too wet. When she hops onto Elephant’s trunk, she gets a big surprise! Ages 2-5
(from Amazon.com)

Release date: March 2014
Publisher: Tiger Tales
Pages: 32
Source: Gift from grandma!

This book is part of a Tiger Tales collection we received as a gift from grandma. They are all as beautifully constructed as The Very Fidgety Fish (review here), with thick spongy covers, shiny metallic cover art, thicker than usual glossy pages, and absolutely gorgeously colorful illustrations. The book covers are sturdy enough to be handled even by Little E, our 8 month old, though I don’t recommend letting a little one close to the inside pages, as she has already torn a few pages in her excitement. They are good quality, but not a board book.

On to the story! My littles found The Very Lazy Ladybug super entertaining, partly because it showcases a bunch of cool jungle animals and actions that they do, like scratching, sneezing, swinging on vines, etc. It’s a good book to teach your kids animals, but more importantly, as a parent I found the story of The Very Lazy Ladybug valuable because it teaches that if you are lazy and don’t make an effort to learn new things, you can miss out on big things. Ladybug is so lazy, she never learned how to fly. Even a kid can understand how sad that is.

The Very Lazy Ladybug is part of a collection called “My First Storybook,” and I’ve decided that’s a very appropriate label: Little S, our 6 year old, is reading through the books with little to no trouble, and enjoying herself immensely! I love seeing her reading self-esteem boosted like this. If you have a little reader, or an older reader who is struggling a little, I definitely recommend Tiger Tales’ “My First Storybook” collection. Oh, and don’t forget to check back in to see what we think of our other three Tiger Tales books!

Our rating?

5 out of 5 Stars

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Review of The Very Fidgety Fish by Ruth Galloway

The Very Fidgety Fish by Ruth Galloway

Tiddler is always fidgeting. “Go out into the sea & swim until you’re tired,” says his mother, “but watch out for the Big Fish.” So Tiddler heads out & meets jellyfish, a starfish, a crab, & other creatures. Then he sees a big, dark cave & decides to investigate… Ages 2-5
(from barnesandnoble.com)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Release date: March 1st, 2014
Publisher: Tiger Tales
Pages: 32
Source: Gift from grandma!

Both my girls absolutely love this book. Our 6 year old, who struggled through 1st grade reading, was able to read this book fluently. This made her very happy and really boosted her confidence. She loved the story of a traveling fish kid, too, and re-read the book to her little sister three times in a row. Little sister, by the way, was completely enthralled by the shiny cover and the bright colors on the pages, which really complemented the story of a fish exploring his reef home. She also loved that the cover of the book is spongy and soft, so she was allowed to hold the book, though the pages are regular book pages (not thick kiddie cardboard).

My opinion as a parent: The book is of very good quality, which doesn’t come across in the picture. The story is not exactly warm and fuzzy, but it is one that kids will recognize, since it sure happens a lot at home: kids get fidgety, so parents send them outside to work off the excess energy. It does take a bit of a scary turn though. While exploring, Tiddler gets eaten by the big fish. He eventually makes it back home safe and sound, but if you have a sensitive child, this may not be the book for you.

Our rating?
4 out of 5 stars