Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday Feature - Children's Book Reviews (31 July 08)

Being a parent, one of the things I've tried to instill early in my child is the love of books. So from now on, every Friday, I'll try and bring you some children's book reviews. Check them out and feel free to share your thoughts or leave a link in the comments if you've read / reviewed the same book(s). Also, if any of you are interested in participating in children's book giveaways, then let me know in the comments. If there's enough interest, I'll start giving them away as well :)
Free Fall by David Weisner
Harper Collins Children's
Reading level: Ages 5 - 8

In the silence of a dream, a young boy takes off on a dazzling night flight. Artist David Wiesner invites us along on the journey, to conquer dragons, roam castles, and soar above the fields of an uncharted land that looks strangely familiar. "A classic example of fantasy and adventure".--Booklist. A Caldecott Honor Book and an ALA Notable Book. Full-color illustrations.

My Thoughts: This is a wordless book, ideal to encourage your kids to come up with their own explanation of the fantastical images and make up their own story. The beautiful full-color, full-page illustrations tell a fantastical tale that doesn't quite ever stay still. The images are richly layered and careful perusal reveals things hidden in plain sight. I did have some trouble with that as each new image I discovered made me more puzzled with regards to the story. Good thing is, being wordless, it's open for interpretation.

The Wise Dragon
DK Publishing
Reading level: Ages 4-8

Enchanting music fills Shan with the courage to do what he has only dared to imagine. With the help of four mythical creatures, Shan sets out on a journey to reach the top of the mountain and view the beauty of the world around him. Beautifully illustrated with a rich and traditional Asian influence, this Chinese tale comes alive with magical lights and sound.

My Thoughts: I liked this fantasy adventure story and the moral it conveys is simple yet striking. When I read it out aloud to my toddler, he loved it as well, and the song and lights effects simply enchanted him. On the cons side, I did find it difficult to remove the plastic tab to activate the battery cell it comes equipped with. Another thing I didn't quite like was that the light effects are limited to the front cover. For it meant that my kid wanted me to the read the story, turn the pages and still somehow show him the light effects, all at the same time.

Big Yellow Sunflower by Frances Barry
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Candlewick Publishers

Explore the wonders of things that grow! These Fold Out and Find Out books have pages that open and transform before your eyes. A seed is falling to the ground. What will it be? Turn the shaped pages as a mole, a worm, a snail, a bird, a bee, and other creatures watch the seed take root and sprout up through the soil. As each page fans out, revealing a bright splash of yellow, a gigantic sunflower unfolds in a brilliant display.

My Thoughts: Francis Barry's brilliant fold-out book is a delight to open, for adults and children alike. Not only does it explain the process of germination, but once all the pages open in the form of a sunflower, young readers are encouraged to grow their own sunflower in a pot along with details of materials and easy to follow instructions.

Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Anne Miranda, Ed Emberley
Reading level: Baby-Preschool
Little Brown Kids

Glad, sad, silly, mad - monsters have all kinds of different feelings! In this innovative die-cut book, featuring a snazzy foil cover, you'll try on funny masks as you walk through the wide range of moods all little monsters (and kids!) experience.

My Thoughts: On an unrelenting black background, Monsters alternately experience happy and not so happy emotions (happy for birthday presents, scared due to thunderstorms etc etc) in this 32 page hardcover book, accompanied by masks which can be torn out and later stored in the keepsake pocket at the back of the book. The masks have cut out eyes and lift up noses for children to hold up against their faces and play.

An online Kirkus review of this book said something to the effect that children with limited vocabulary may find comfort in this book and use the masks to unmask their feelings. Personally speaking, I felt this was far from the case. My feeling is that the subject matter and images are more suited to older kids than babies and toddlers. The illustrations, which to my adult view looked cute, scared my toddler but good. The black background didn't help. The masks did intrigue him a bit, but it's a children's book, and with a child handling these paper pieces, they naturally got ripped up real fast. Moreover, since a child can only hold the mask against his/her face instead of actually putting them on, it doesn't give the same level of enjoyment. Also, the book's subject matter is one that doesn't have a lot of repeat value, the masks being the primary focus of young minds. And once they're gone, ripped up, there's nothing much left to interest them. No story or anything.


  1. I love children's books, and would love to see giveaways for them :). I also enjoy reading children's book reviews. Our family isn't interested so much in children's fantasy books, but we do appreciate many other titles.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. So far, you seem to be the only one interested - besides me, that is :)

  3. Hi. I'd be interested in the kid's books giveaways. Also any tween or young adult. Books are great in general. We just gobble them up.

  4. Fab set of reviews, thanks. I'm always on the hunt for great children's books and have recently discovered Bayard and their series of StoryBoxBooks, AdventureBoxBooks and DiscoveryBoxBooks (which is a special Olympic edition) They have work by acclaimed children's books illustrator Helen Oxenbury appearing in the Storybox series for September. In addition to this, they also have some great activities for rainy days:,, Enjoy!

  5. Thanks for that great review. I am a HUGE fan of David Weisner's art and books. I just started a blog reviewing kid's books, with the hopes of helping parents find good books for their kids to read, books that will turn them into lifelong lovers of reading (if they aren't already.) Check out my site and let me know if you ever need me to contribute a review! Great idea! Tanya at

    email me at: books4yourkids@gmail