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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 first page of books written by authors under the letter "C"






Kids Books -- "C" By Author

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"Bertie And Small And The Fast Bike Ride"
Written by Vanessa Cabban
Illustrated by Vanessa Cabban
(Candlewick, 1999)

A delightful (though short-lived) series, starring Bertie, a cheerful, enthusiastic two-year old who dresses up like a rabbit, and his stuffed bunny, named Small. In this volume, Bertie and Small explore the back yard, finding mountains and deserts and gather treasures to bring back to Mommy. A simple, joyful celebration of imagination and childish fun, these books are well-paced and beautifully drawn. A little sappy, perhaps, but in a good way. This one was a hit at our house. Reminiscent of Helen Oxenbury's Tom & Pippo series, but livelier and more engaging. (A)


"Bertie And Small's Brave Sea Journey"
Written by Vanessa Cabban
Illustrated by Vanessa Cabban
(Candlewick, 1999)

Another nice Bertie & Small story, this time with Daddy showing up to help Bertie use his imagination to transform a cardboard box into a pirate ship on the high seas. Cabban's artwork is just as joyful and precise, and the books shares the same celebratory spirit as the first. I like her work! (A)


"If You're Happy And You Know It"
Written by Jane Cabrera
Illustrated by Jane Cabrera
(Holiday House, 2003)

A bright, fun, colorful version of the "Happy And You Know It" song, with smiling jungle animals enacting each verse. My kid super-duper, double-dog loved this book... The only drawback might be if your kid loves the book version so much that they get confused singing the song at playtime and hear other activities that aren't mentioned in The Book. That's a small price to pay, though, for finding such a fun, cheerful, high-energy reading experience. (A)


"Marigold And Grandma On The Town"
Written by Stephanie Calmenson
Illustrated by Mary Chalmers
(Harper Collins, 1994)

A lovely chapter-book about a little girl bunny-rabbit named Marigold who goes out for a shopping trip with her kindly grandmother. They go to a department store together and buy a summer hat, then to the park, then out for a bite to eat, and finally just to have some goofy fun in a photo booth. There's lot of activity, the artwork is nice, the level of the writing isn't completely moronic, and the emotional interplay is fairly nuanced and complex. At the heart of it is an innocent, straightforward portrait of a little girl (about four?) learning how to find her place in the world. She's too shy to tell a saleswoman that her new hat is uncomfortable, and she cries when she thinks her grandmother will be disappointed when she isn't "wonderful" enough to show off to her friends. The grandmother eases Marigold's self-consciousness by assuring her that she'll always be wonderful as far as she's concerned -- but that she still wants her to eat with a fork when she's sitting at the table. We really enjoyed this book and were sad to find that, while Calmenson has written numerous picturebooks, this appears to be the only Marigold book available. Definitely worth checking out.. (A)


"Hotter Than A Hot Dog"
Written by Stephanie Calmenson
Illustrated by Elivia
(Little, Brown, 2001)

Calmenson revisits one of her favorite themes, the grandmother-granddaughter relationship, with this tale about a day so hot it demands a trip to the beach, complete with a sticky subway ride and a long day of surf and sand. The writing is a little forced, and the art doesn't really wow me, but this book still does the job. It has its moments. (B-)


"May I Pet Your Dog?"
Written by Stephanie Calmenson
Illustrated by Jan Ormerod
(Clarion, 2007)

A straightforward primer to show small children the safest way to meet and approach strange dogs. Although this doesn't provide much in the way of dramatic storytelling, it does offer very practical information, in a way that may appeal to kids. Ask the owners first; show the dog your hand and let them sniff it before you try petting them; pet dogs from the side, not over their heads; pay attention to warning signs like crouching or growling, and don't make eye contact with an angry or anxious dog. As a narrative, this is pretty clunky, but even if you only get one or two readings out of it, the information they impart will be very valuable. (B)


"Why?"
Written by Lindsay Camp
Illustrated by Tony Ross
(G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1998)

Another great, goofy book from England, wherein a pesky little girl named Lily, who drives her dad nuts by always asking whywhywhywhywhywhy...? actually winds up saving the world. When the mighty Thargon space fleet lands in her playground, blasters at the ready, and announce that they are going to atomize our puny planet, little Lily steps up and asks the obvious question: why? And, being Lily, she asks it over and over until the aliens themselves start to question their agenda. After the Thargon's pack up and leave, Lily's dad (who had been pretty grouchy earlier) gives her a big hug and says he'll never complain again about her eternal questioning. This one's a mixed bag... On one hand, the story is funny and fantastical, and has a good punchline. The crabby daddy thing is a two-edged sword, though -- I'm in favor of books that show parents as human beings (Lily's dad gets so ground down he tries to hide his head under a sofa pillow...) but it's kind of a weird message that he's so bent out of shape by her being so curious. Yeah, this is one of the archetypal kid things that drive adults buggy, but having a book where the parent so strongly tries to squelch the whys is a little bit weird. I waited a while to spring this one on my kid, and went out of my way to say that I didn't feel the same way as Lily's dad... Hopefully having read it after all won't drive up her future my-parents-screwed-me-up therapy bill. On balance, I'd say this is a winner. (B+)


"The Bat In The Boot"
Written by Annie Cannon
Illustrated by Annie Cannon
(Orchard Books, 1996)

After finding a baby bat that got lost in their back porch "mudroom," a young girl's family protects the animals and nurses it long enough for it to return to the wild. Geared towards older children, this book gives a nice balance to the normally negative image that bats get in our culture, and teaches empathy and kindness to small animals. The sequence where the mother bat returns to the house and rescues her baby is magical: what an amazing thing to see! Probably not for everyone, but for readers who don't mind creepy-crawly critters, this is a cool story. (B)


"Mrs. McTats And Her Houseful Of Cats"
Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Illustrated by Joan Rankin
(Margaret K. McElderry, 2001)

The author of the puppycentric "Biscuit" series shifts gears for a while with this cheerful tale of a kooky cat lady who starts out with one kitty and ends up with twenty five... Almost enough for each letter in the alphabet...! She just needs one more, so it's back to dogs again, when a puppy shows up as well! Nice book; okay rhymes and okay art with plenty of details to comment on, and an overall cheerful vibe. Worth checking out. (B+)


"The Very Hungry Caterpillar"
Written by Eric Carle
Illustrated by Eric Carle
(Putnam/Philomel, 1969)

An enduring classic which that acts on many levels... A colorful, pop-uppish layout for a nature parable showing the caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis, with text that teaches numbers, days of the week and how eating too much junk food can give you a tummyache. Plus, what pretty pictures! Each version has its strengths -- I kinda like the board book version best! (A)


"A House For Hermit Crab"
Written by Eric Carle
Illustrated by Eric Carle
(Simon & Schuster, 1987)

Over the course of a year (educational value: each month is ticked off, from one January to to the next) a hermit crab finds a new shell and decorates it with other sea critters and objects found on the bottom of the sea. Just when he gets everything right, he finds he has to leave: he's outgrown his home! There's a happy ending, though, because he finds another, smaller crab that's willing to take over the shell and who promises to take care of all the stuff -- an anemone, a starfish, etc. And, of course, the first crab is able to find another safe home and make it look nice, too. A goofy, cheerful story that imparts messages about creative thinking, generosity and about having to let go and accept the passage of time. Good one! (A)


"Have You Seen My Cat?"
Written by Eric Carle
Illustrated by Eric Carle
(Simon & Schuster, 1987)

Pretty artwork, not much of a story. A child goes from person to person, asking if they've seen their cat, and gets steered towards lions, panthers, tigers, et.al. Finally, we find the tortoise shell tabby, with all of her kittens, and the child cries, "This is my cat!" Yippee. Maybe fun for the youngest readers, but I didn't find it very involving. (C)


"Draw Me A Star"
Written by Eric Carle
Illustrated by Eric Carle
(Philomel, 1992)

I'm not a huge fan of Eric Carle's work, nor of religiously-themed stories written for small children... But this charming, colorful (and refreshingly nondenominational) picturebook strikes a nice balance, and is one of Carle's simplest, most visually appealing children's books. In an interesting twist on the creation story, Carle casts the god-figure as an artist, first as an infant, asked to draw a star, then as a lad swiftly maturing into a teen, a young man, and finally into a wizened, flowing-beard style diety, who flies away into the heavens with the very stars he created, after having drawn man, woman, and the world they inhabit. One aspect of the book -- that someone was there to ask "the artist" to draw all these things -- raises some interesting theological questions, but the central message of celebrating art and the world around is, is uncomplicated and welcome. Worth checking out, as long as you're not militantly agnostic or atheistic. (B)


"Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear"
Written by Nancy White Carlstrom
Illustrated by Bruce Degen
(Simon & Schuster, 1986)

In general, the Jesse Bear series is a little too syrupy for me, verging on the icky-sweet. The writing can also be a little cluttered or awkward. However, it hits a chord with the little ones, and provides a recurrent character for children who enjoy that sort of thing. The artwork is cheerful and packed with cute details and diversions that are fun to talk about, if slightly cluttered at times. This is the first Jesse Bear book, and focusses on the clothes that Jesse puts on at various times of the day -- PJs, outdoor clothes, There's one confusing part where he says he'll "wear" his highchair during lunch -- the passage doesn't make much sense, though I suppose it's meant to be written off as an imaginative, childish flight, but other than that, this volume is nice enough, in an innocuous kind of way. The writing isn't great, nor are the rhymes, but it's still an enjoyable book. (C+)


"How Do You Say It Today, Jesse Bear?"
Written by Nancy White Carlstrom
Illustrated by Bruce Degen
(Simon & Schuster, 1992)

Not that great. The book's theme is the passing of the calendar year, with signal events or emblematic passtimes depicted in each month -- ringing in New Year's Eve, drawing valentines, flying kites in Spring, etc. The connecting thread is a little hard to track -- for example, why is the emphasis on "today," rather than by month, and why is Jesse "saying" it with various activities? (ie, "I say it with kites today...") The illustrations are engaging, but the text is disjointed and awkward, and difficult to read aloud. Can't say I'd recommend this one. (C-)


"Let's Count It Out, Jesse Bear"
Written by Nancy White Carlstrom
Illustrated by Bruce Degen
(Simon & Schuster, 1996)

A painfully belabored counting book, with no narrative flow and a visual layout and conceptual structure that are difficult to understand. About as much fun as watching paint peel, and fairly ineffective as a teaching tool. At least it didn't work for our family... Anyway, there are a bazillion books that cover the same concepts, oh, so much better. (D)


"What A Scare, Jesse Bear"
Written by Nancy White Carlstrom
Illustrated by Bruce Degen
(Simon & Schuster, 1999)

This is one of the best-written of the Jesse Bear series, with a rhyme pattern that scans easily all the way through and is mostly pretty fun to read. The Halloween-based story is about Jesse's first time going trick-or-treating; the little bear has to work out a few anxieties about scary masks, etc., but it's nothing too heavy, and in the end a good time is had by all. Lots of cute details in the artwork, and if you're headed towards Halloween, this is a pretty good book to help build the excitement. Worth a spin. (C+)


"The Way To Wyatt's House"
Written by Nancy White Carlstrom
Illustrated by Mary Morgan
(Walker & Company, 2000)

An exploration of sounds. Two siblings tramp through the forest to visit their friend Wyatt at his farmhouse... They hear the crinkle of the leaves, the clicking of beetles and -- at Wyatt's house -- a dog barking, a goat bleating, etc. There's also the squeal of childish laughter and eventually the beep-beep of their parent's car when it's time to go home. I wasn't totally wowed by this book, although there's nothing wrong with it, per se. It's functional, if a bit bland. (C)


"Giggle-Wiggle Wake-Up"
Written by Nancy White Carlstrom
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
(Alfred A. Knopf, 2003)

I love Melissa Sweet's artwork, but I loathed the text by Nancy White Carlstrom... It's all cloying, cutesy-wootsy, oogy-boogie, oopy-boopy, woppy-goppy, unsense/none-sense, overly baroque, yeah-you-think-kids-will-want-to-read-this-but-boy-are-you-so-wrong, tacky, yacky, too-much-verbiage, smokin' some herbiage, ooksy-kooksy -- will you stop already??? -- GOOP. I'm not kidding. Here's an actual sample page:

It's a tiny-shiny wake-up
and a tickle-lickle leap-up
and a sniffy-whiffy eat-up
don't you know?

It's a silly-willy pop-up
and a splashy-flashy wash-up
and a whizzy-tizzy speed-up
here we go!

It's a love-you-so-much snuggle-up
in a jingle-jangle juggle-up
It's a giggle-wiggle jump-up
it's a giggle-wiggle day!

OH, PLEASE. Give me a break. This is just so insulting to the intelligence of toddlers and infants... The text is impossible to follow and incredibly tedious... my kid instantly lost interest and only came back when I skipped the written text altogether and simply started talking about what was going on in the pictures: "Oh, look. The little boy is going to school and his mama is dropping him off... And there the bunny got loose and the little boy caught him." Fortunately, Sweet's artwork is delightful and gives you lots to talk about. Otherwise, this book is simply insufferable. Oh, well. (D)


"Valentine"
Written by Carol Carrick
Illustrated by Paddy Bouma
(Clarion, 1995)

Somewhat heavy thematically, this farm story starts out with a little girl pleading with her mother not to go to work in the morning -- it is Valentine's Day, after all! -- but Mama eventually detatches herself and leaves little Heather on the farm with her Grandma. As it happens, on that very day, one of the sheep gives birth to two healthy, wooly lambs and, on closer examination, to a smaller, weaker "bummer" lamb, which the ewe won't take care of. From here on out, this book is a lot like Kim Lewis's Emma's Lamb, in which a wide-eyed little girl takes care of a foundling lamb, although here the possibility of the animal's death is much more explicitly dealt with. The story may be a little too intense for smaller children (I skimmed over some of the more upsetting dialogue), but everthing works out in the end. Good book about farm life, with an added gloss of single-parent/working mother drama thrown in for good measure. (B)


"Alice's Adventures In Wonderland"
Written by Lewis Carroll
Illustrations compiled by Cooper Edens
(Chronicle Books, 2000)

So far, I have read Alice's Adventures twice with my daughter... The first time was a standard edition with black-and-white illustrations, and that was fun, though it took a while to get through. Revisiting the story with this ornate and wildly creative edition, which combines dozens of vintage illustrations from a number of different versions of the book, was a lot more fun... Although it can be mildly disconcerting to have the images and representations of Alice and the Wonderland menagerie change so much from panel to panel, at its heart this is a wonderful way to see the story -- you not only get a sense of how many different ways a story can be depicted, you also absorb a little bit of magic from each artist. Consistently surprising and evocative, this book breathes new life into a timeless tale. Highly recommended! (A)


"Grandpa's Garden Lunch"
Written by Judith Casely
Illustrated by Judith Casely
(Greenwillow, 1990)
Grandpa takes his granddaughter out to the garden to sow seeds, raise plants and them they have a meal with the food they raised and the flowers they grew.... This book's a little clunky, but with its heart in the right place.
(B-)


Rosanne Cash "Penelope Jane: A Fairy's Tale" (Harper Collins, 2000)
Country singer Rosanne Cash wrote the text for this children's book, and recorded a song which comes in an accompanying CD. It's a very sweet story about a well-meaning fairy who causes unintentional havoc when she accompanies her (human) best friend to school one day. As a professional songwriter, Rosanne has a slight advantage over the legions of would-be rhymers out there writing children's picturebooks: the rhymes and meter in this text are quite good, and the story has a charming, puckish feel, which is matched by the delightful illustrations by G. Brian Karas, one of my favorite picturebook illustrators. We enjoyed this a lot! Definitely worth tracking down. (A)


"Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue"
Written by Peter Catalanotto
Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto
(Atheneum Books, 2005)

See, there's just no accounting for taste: I hated this book, but my wife and kid bonded over it for about two months. The plot is super-simple: a calico cat has a large flock of kittens, and the only way to tell them apart is by the color of the ribbons they use as collars. Each kitten goes to a different person, each with their own profession: a police officer, a fire fighter, etc., and there is some linkage between the hues and the jobs (the karate instructor's cat wears white, and so on...) But, man, what a dumb book! My kid liked it because there was a lot of opportunity for remembering details -- the cat names, the colors they wore, what they did -- and I suppose that is the point. It's also a number book, and (obviously) a color book. (One small complaint: they get onto some esoteric color choices, but the hues shown on the pages don't really match -- a pee-yellow "teal," for example. I mean, if you're going to do a book about colors, at least get your registration marks right!) (C+)




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