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Welcome to ReadThatAgain.com, a just-for-fun website reviewing a bunch of children's books that our family has enjoyed over the last few years. We try to find fun, intelligent, well-crafted books, but most importantly, books that kids like! Hopefully you'll find these reviews useful... Please feel free to comment on the site or send recommendations for books we may have missed... In the meantime, enjoy!

This is the third page of books written by authors under the letter "B"






Kids Books -- "B" By Author

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"Minou"
Written by Mindy Bingham
Illustrated by Itoko Maeno
(Advocacy Press, 1987)

A purposefully upsetting narrative, with wonderful artwork. Minou is a sweet, delicate Siamese cat living in Paris under the care of a kind old lady. Things are great until (Bambi moment!) the old lady falls ill and is taken off to the hospital, where she dies. The orphaned cat is completely neglected by the movers who come to haul the woman's possessions away, and thus Minou escapes onto the streets, where she finds herself unable to charm or flirt her way into a new household. Finally an older, more streetwise cat takes Minou under her wing and teaches her how to fend for herself, and then helps her get a "job" as a mouser in the Notre Dame cathedral. The book was commissioned by an offshoot of the Girl's Club of America, and its goal is to get young girls to realize the value of being self-sufficient and autonomous. The artwork is beautiful, although the death of the old lady and the hardships Minou suffers may be too upsetting for smaller children. Seen just in terms of the body of kids books that celebrate Paris, this is quite nice: the book is quite large and the airy watercolor cityscapes are evocative and inviting. (B-)


"Green Eyes"
Written by Abe Birnbaum
Illustrated by Abe Birnbaum
(Golden Books, 1953)

Beautifully drawn and expansively laid out (I recommend the "library" edition), this colorful story tells us about the first year of a young cat's life, exploring the world in the spring, lazing in the summer grass, frollicking as autumn leaves fall and snuggling up by the heater in the snowy season. The book deftly deals with many issues -- the passage of time, mastering the physical world, maturity, love of nature and appreciating the seasons as they pass -- all with a lightness of tone and cheerful embrace of life. The artwork is very clear and boldly drawn, the cat looks very friendly and the story is written in complete sentences and is very sweet. In short, this one's a real winner. It had to be read over and over for days, and made its way into the permanent collection. (A)


"Zagazoo"
Written by Quentin Blake
Illustrated by Quentin Blake
(Orchard, 1998)

A very funny book about a young couple who get a baby -- delivered in the mail -- and have great fun with it until they start to have second thoughts when it begins getting less cute, transforming into a series of ess-than-pleasant animals. The clever metaphors for various childhood phases are witty and well-rendered: a screeching vulture for a collicky infant, a toddler as a rampaging miniature elephant, a fire-breathing dragon for the "terrible twos," and -- ultimately -- a shaggy, formless beast standing in for a teenage boy. This book, in the pacing of the text and the look of the art, clearly bears the stamp of Jules Feiffer's best work of the 1960s and '70s, and the humor is clearly intended for the amusement of parents and other adult readers... But little kids will like it too: the free-flowing artwork, the fantastical premise, and the main character's silly-sounding name all conspire to make this a fun little romp that will work on multiple levels for readers of all ages. Even if kids don't "get" that the fearsome zagazoo is a normal human baby, they'll still enjoy the story. (B+)


"Hello, Shoes!"
Written by Joan Blos
Illustrated by Ann Boyajian
(Simon & Schuster, 1999)

A nice, simple story of a boy and his grandfather, looking for a pair of missing sandals. After they are found, the happy, excited boy learns how to put on the previously too-difficult shoes, all by himself. I dunno; there wasn't like some big, profound massage to this book, or anything... It just rang true and had a nice, sweet emotional tone. My kid liked it; so did I. (B+)


"My Father The Dog"
Written by Elizabeth Bluemle
Illustrated by Randy Cecil
(Candlewick, 2006)

This one was, um, kinda dumb. A little kid notes the similarities between their dad and the family dog... He scratches himself, he "fetches" the morning paper, sometimes he pees on bushes... Et cetera. The cartoonish artwork is appealing, but the text is kitschy... and very anti-dad! I'm gonna form a protest group or something. Arise, ye maligned father-figures and protest yon canine stereotypes! Arf! Arf! Arf!! (C)


"The Princess And The Pea/La Princesa Y El Guisante"
Adapted by Francesc Boada
Illustrated by Pau Estrada
(Chronicle Books/La Galera, 1993)

A marvelous adaptation of this classic fairytale... One big plus is the look of the book: the artistic motif draws on Indian and Middle Eastern art, and when the prince goes abroad at the beginning of the book, we see princesses dressed in the garb of many different cultures -- Chinese, Japanese, Persian, Thai -- which gives the story a whole new look and places us in a new, non-Eurocentric context. The story follows the standard princess-and-the-pea narrative which, while it still has a weird gender message, is relatively innocuous. No violence, and intellect is used to resolve the prince's dilemma. A very good version of this story, with compact, economical bilingual translations (this was originally published in Catalan, then translated into Spanish and English for this edition.) Recommended! (A)


"Puss In Boots/El Gato Con Botas"
Adapted by Francesc Boada
Illustrated by Jose Luis Merino
(Chronicle Books/La Galera, 1996)

One of the lesser entries in the "La Galera" bilingual series... Textwise, this is an adequate retelling of the Puss In Boots saga -- it follows other versions fairly closely. The artwork is nothing to write home about, though -- a purposefully simplistic, minimalist "kiddie" style that gets the job done, but just barely. The main attraction of this version is the bilingual translation, which is nice for gringos learning Spanish. (This was originally published in Catalan, then translated into Spanish and English for this edition.) (C+)


"Cat And Mouse"
Written by Tomek Bogacki
Illustrated by Tomek Bogacki
(Frances Foster/Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999)

Opposites attract as a little girl mouse and the little boy cat wander away from their lessons and discover that they can have fun playing with someone who is different from them. They come back home and tell their brothers and sisters, and the next day all the children meet in the meadow and play all day. A subtle (though also rather obvious) celebration of diversity and cross-cultural curiousity... Polish author Tomek Bogacki makes his point without beating us over the head with it... The story moves along at a fast clip (takes only a minute or so to read it) and is accompanied by large, compelling artwork. Recommended... Probably the best of the Cat & Mouse books... (though if you like this one, you'll like the others, too.) (B)


"Cat And Mouse In The Rain"
Written by Tomek Bogacki
Illustrated by Tomek Bogacki
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997)

There's a whiff of Eastern European absurdism at play in this series, written by Polish illustrator Tomek Bogacki... A cat befriends a mouse and they play together every day... In this book, a frog helps them learn to enjoy themselves even when it rains. Then, they in turn teach their scoffing, skeptical families to play in the rain as well. Sort of a if-life-gives-you-lemons parable, with a morose modern European twist. It's nice, with striking artwork. Worth checking out. (B)


"Cat And Mouse In The Snow"
Written by Tomek Bogacki
Illustrated by Tomek Bogacki
(Frances Foster/Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999)

Another episode in which Polish author Tomek Bogacki upends negative expectations, and celebrates the fun you can have during "bad" weather... The little girl mouse and the little boy cat wake up one morning to find their favorite green meadow is no longer green! Just what is this "snow" stuff, anyway? As always, their skeptical older siblings follow them and find that Cat & Mouse are on to something surprising and unexpectedly fun. Another offbeat offering with a distinctly Eastern European slant... Worth checking out! (B)


"Cat And Mouse In The Night"
Written by Tomek Bogacki
Illustrated by Tomek Bogacki
(Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1998)

Another odd, off-kilter adventure featuring the iconoclastic best-friends Cat and Mouse of the title. Having taught their siblings to live in peace, our two heros still march to the beat of a different drum, and when all the kids go back inside at the end of the day, Cat and Mouse stay outside to play a little bit longer. When night falls and they find themselves lost in the woods, they get a little panicky, but a kindly owl comes by and teaches them how to appreciate the wonders of the forest at night. This is the third book in the series, and there's not much surprise left to the formula, but it will still strike a chord with parents who are on Bogacki's wavelength. If you liked the other books, this is definitely worth checking out. (B)


"Little Gorilla"
Written by Ruth Lercher Bornstein
Illustrated by Ruth Lercher Bornstein
(Clarion, 1976)

A delightful birthday book that reflects -- with surprising emotional depth -- on the anxieties of growing old. Little Gorilla is just about the cutest little critter in the whole jungle, and all the animals love him. His parents and relatives, the giraffes, elephants, birds and even the boa constrictors dote on the fuzzy little guy. But what about when he grows up and gets all hairy and big? Yup. They still love him then! Everybody comes to his birthday party and sings and shares cake, and Little Gorilla knows he's still the same person, just a little bigger. The artwork is perfectly suited to this sweet, simple story -- bold, blocky and colorful, the information leaps off the page, easy to understand and quite inviting. A true classic, with deservingly long-lived appeal. (A)


"A Beautiful Seashell"
Written by Ruth Lercher Bornstein
Illustrated by Ruth Lercher Bornstein
(Harper & Row, 1990)

A sweet, simple story of an old, old woman telling a story about her childhood to her great-granddaughter... It's a story about the Old Country, and a day when Grandmother found a seashell in the waters at the beach as she watched a ocean liner passing by... She passes down the story of her emigration to the new land even as she passes along the seashell itself (she'd kept it all these years, and gives it to the little girl) A subtly evocative story of the handing down of matrilineal knowledge, also just a nice story to read to little kids who appreciate their elders... Recommended. (B+)


"Rosa's Room"
Written by Barbara Bottner
Illustrated by Beth Spiegel
(Peachtree, 2004)

A nice book that does double duty as a story about moving to a new house and about finding new friends. When Rosa gets a new room all to herself, she finds it feels empty and lonely somehow, until one day she spots another little girl playing outside her window and invites her in. Naturally, Rosa and Lila become best friends, and after that, the room doesn't feel so empty anymore. (B+)



Sandra Boynton -- see author profile




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