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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 "D"






Kids Books -- "D" By Author

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"The Elephant Tree"
Written by Penny Dale
Illustrated by Penny Dale
(G. P. Putman & Sons, 1991)

I like the artwork, but the story is kinda paper-thin and nonsensical. Two small children, at home with their (stuffed?) elephant go off on a wintery walk to find a tree for the pachyderm to climb. They take a fantasy journey to oak woods, tropics and redwood groves, where they meet birds, monkeys and bears who all claim the trees as their own. Finally they come back home where they build an "elephant tree" out of twigs and snow. Pretty-looking sequential art, but the text didn't really resonate with us. (C)


"Ella The Elegant Elephant"
Written by Carmela & Steven D'Amico
Illustrated by Carmela & Steven D'Amico
(Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, 2004)

I really love the Ella series... The books are nice and sweet, and presents a marvelously imagined, self-contained world that will strongly appeal to little kids. It has a similar feel to the Curious George and Babar books, except without all the weird, disturbing undertones that make those classics a bit troublesome. A great choice for some fun books that you don't have to worry about. Here, we meet little Ella as she sets off on her first day at a new school, happy as a clam, wearing her big, floppy, "lucky hat." Of course, the other kids make fun of her, but Ella wind them over. Because of the anxiety-provoking theme, we avoided this one until our kid had a chance to experience school (without putting negative ideas in her head first), but it's still a very nice book. The artwork, in particular, is fabulous: the crayon-y pastels have an old fashioned formality and elegance to them, and are strongly reminiscent of H.A. Rey's work in Curious George. Very classy, and visually appealing. (B+)


"Ella Takes The Cake"
Written by Carmela & Steven D'Amico
Illustrated by Carmela & Steven D'Amico
(Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, 2005)

While helping her mother in the family bakery, Ella volunteers to deliver a huge cake to the other side of Elephant Island. She runs into her self-centered friend, Belinda, who sidetracks her and leaves Ella in a lurch. Our little heroine perseveres, though, and gets the cake to the party on time, showing self-reliance and pluck the whole time. A very enjoyable story, particularly as it takes us on a tour of the Island... heck, there's even a map on the endpapers! Just the thing for kids who like to immerse themselves in well-defined, self-contained imaginary worlds. Plus, Ella's such a cutie! (A)


"Ella Sets The Stage"
Written by Carmela & Steven D'Amico
Illustrated by Carmela & Steven D'Amico
(Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, 2006)

When all the other kids in school sign up for a big talent show, shy Ella runs the support committee, eventually helping them all out in big ways and small. Another winner in this series, this introduces several compelling characters among her classmates... Hope to see more of them soon! (A)


"Swimming With Dolphins"
Written by Lambert Davis
Illustrated by Lambert Davis
(Blue Sky Press, 2004)

A little girl and her mother go to the beach and meet a small pod of dolphins, and swim with them for hours... The story is told from the girl's point of view, with bright, colorful, easy to understand artwork. It's an evocative, joyful celebration of nature and interspecies cooperation; while it's doubtful that many of the kids who will read this book will ever get the chance to play with dolphins this way, chances are they will really love the book. It gets a nice reception in our house. Recommended! (A)


"The New Girl At School"
Written by Judy Delton
Illustrated by Lillian Hoban
(E. P. Dutton, 1979)

A young girl named Marcia is starting classes in a new school, and feels left out and insecure at every turn. Slowly, though, she starts finding friends, learning the ropes and fitting in... By the end of the story, she's one of the old-timers when a new new girl shows up and goes through the same fitting-in process. A simple, understated story with nice artwork that helps readers feel they are really there in the classroom seeing it all unfold. A good book for this subject... It also hints at being a book about moving to a new place, and possibly a single-parent book as well. (B+)


"A Grand Old Tree"
Written by Mary Newell DePalma
Illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma
(Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, 2005)

My kid really hates nature books, but I keep trying them out on her... This is one of the best. It's also a circle-of-life book, and one that doesn't shy away from the dying part of the equation. An old mulberry tree stands out in a field, and provides shelter and shade for all kinds of critters and birds, as gently reflected in the sparse, simple artwork. Birds and other animals feast in the fruit and poop the seeds out all across the landscape, causing saplings to sprout nearby. One day, though, the tree falls over and dies, but even then, as it decomposes, it provides shelter and nutrients for the ecosystem around it. An accurate ecology lesson, and also a good, gentle opener for any discussions about death and dying, if you're ready to have "that talk" with your kids. (B)


"Strega Nona"
Written by Tomie DePaola
Illustrated by Tomie DePaola
(Harcourt Brace, 1976)

The first "Strega Nona" picture book, in which Italian-American author Tomie DePaola tells the story of a kindly yet mysterious Calabrian strega (witch, or crone) who gives advice and medical/magical help to the people in her village in long-ago Italy. The cheerful, unflappable Strega Nona is helped by two assistants, the often-crabby Bombalina and the kind-hearted but always-inept Big Anthony... This is a wonderful series, peppered with Italian phrases and a joyful, mischievous spirit. (It's also been adapted into a children's play, which weaves together many of the books...) If you're anti-witchcraft, skip this one... But if you're looking for a good series and a great, funny character to dive into, this is a great option for slightly older picturebook readers -- maybe ages 6-10? (B+)


"Big Anthony And The Magic Ring"
Written by Tomie DePaola
Illustrated by Tomie DePaola
(Harcourt Brace, 1979)

The most magical and fairytale-like of the Strega Nona books, in which the oafish Big Anthony spies on Strega Nona when she casts a glamour spell that makes her beautiful, and decides to try it on himself. It works, but too well, and the now-handsome, hotly pursued Anthony realizes he's better off not being treated like Prince Charming. The spell-casting, the magic ring, and the unintended consequences are all the stuff of classic fairytale lore, and make this one of the strongest, most fluid books in this series. Recommended! (A)


"The Art Lesson"
Written by Tomie DePaola
Illustrated by Tomie DePaola
(G.P. Putnam, 1989)

A fascinating autobiographical book about how author-illustrator Tomie DePaola (creator of the Strega Nona series) felt when he first went to grade school and had his artistic talent dampened by rigid, unreceptive teachers. A visual arts prodigy, DePaola was excited to go to kindergarten and get "real" art lessons, then shocked and disappointed when his home room teacher wouldn't let him use his brand-new 64-piece crayon set, because everyone in school had to use the same supplies and do the same activities. At first, when the visiting art teacher shows up, she says the same thing, but when Tomie complains, they cut a deal: if he can do the assigned work first, then he can do other stuff as well. The boy learns to accept that, in school, you have to accept certain limitations and uniformities, but he also stands up for himself and creates a space in which he can blossom as an artist. An interesting twist on the normally bland, celebratory tone of most pro-art books -- DePaola shows how creative people sometimes have to fight to get what they need. (B+)


"Strega Nona's Magic Lessons"
Written by Tomie DePaola
Illustrated by Tomie DePaola
(Harcourt Brace, 1982)

The tale of how Bambalona studied magic under Strega Nona's watchful eye... and Big Anthony tried to butt in and get magic lessons of his own. A pretty funny adventure, with a fun visual gag at the end that should get kids laughing out loud for several pages. (The frog, that is, not the cross-dressing... although that's pretty funny, too!) Another fun book in this fine series. (B+)


"Merry Christmas, Strega Nona"
Written by Tomie DePaola
Illustrated by Tomie DePaola
(Harcourt Brace, 1986)

(-)


"Strega Nona Meets Her Match"
Written by Tomie DePaola
Illustrated by Tomie DePaola
(Harcourt Brace, 1993)

Strega Nona's childhood friend (and part-time nemesis) Strega Amelia sets up shop across town and steals away all of Strega Nona's clientele, luring them away with free food and fancy new machines that promise to cure all the same problems as Strega Nona's "old-fashioned" magic. It looks like Amelia is going to win, but her plan is undermined in a most unexpected and delightful way. (By the way, we learn later on, in Strega Nona, Her Story, that Amelia was also Nona's childhood friend... So much for the ties that bind!) (-)


"Strega Nona, Her Story"
Written by Tomie DePaola
Illustrated by Tomie DePaola
(G. P. Putnam, 1996)

The big Strega Nona origin story, in which we see how Strega Nona learned her magic from her nana. We also meet Nona's rival, Amelia, and learn the secrets of the magic pasta pot. Fun stuff! (B)


Big Anthony, His Story"
Written by Tomie DePaola
Illustrated by Tomie DePaola
(G. P. Putnam, 1998)

Another back-story, depicting Anthony's travels across all of Italy, until he finds the one place thats just right for him -- Strega Nona's house. This book dovetails with the earlier Strega Nona, Her Story, and includes some references to the Catholic Church in Italy. (B)


"Strega Nona Takes A Vacation"
Written by Tomie DePaola
Illustrated by Tomie DePaola
(G. P. Putnam, 2000)

Being the village witch can be a pretty demanding job, so Strega Nona decides to take a rest and recharge her batteries... But leaving Big Anthony in charge has some unfortunate (but not unpredictable) consequences. You can count the pages until Strega Nona comes back to clean up his mess. Another fun book in this long-lived series. (B+)


"Strega Nona's Harvest"
Written by Tomie DePaola
Illustrated by Tomie DePaola
(G. P. Putnam, 2009)

(-)


"My Steps"
Written by Sally Derby
Illustrated by Adoja J. Burrowes
(Lee & Low, 1996)

In this love letter to inner-city urban life, a young girl tells of how she plays all year long on her apartment stoop, coming up with all kinds of imaginative pastimes and games. The seasons pass by, and as the weather changes, so do her games. A cheerful, positive view of urban life as millions of kids have lived it, and a welcome change of pace from the idyllic moo-moo-neigh-neigh farmyard fantasies that dominate the world of childrens' lit. (Translated into Spanish as Mi Escalera.) (B+)


"Dot The Fire Dog"
Written by Lisa Desimini
Illustrated by Lisa Desimini
(Blue Sky Press, 2001)

The life of firefighters, seen through the eyes of a stationhouse Dalmation... The firefighters are first seen sitting around, waiting, until the alarm bell rings -- then they don their gear, and off they go to save the day! Dot rides alongside, wearing her very own fire helmet, and even saves a kitten from the fire. Although the text doesn't mention it, the fire crew is an admirably diverse group, balanced by gender and ethnicity, and as they race off to save the day, women do as much hard work as men... Desmini's angular artwork is colorful and bright, and has an "outsider" folk-art feel (though not so much as to detract from the story...) A nice addition to any fire truck-lovin' little one's library. (B+)


"Old Black Witch"
Written by Wende Devlin
Illustrated by Harry Devlin
(Parents' Magazine Press, 1963)

A kooky old book about a family that moves into an old house haunted by a cantankerous witch... Even though she tries to convince them that she is wicked and unfriendly, she eventually warms up to them and even helps them start a breakfast-oriented tea room that becomes a big success with the locals. There's a mildly violent turn towards the end of the book when the witch zaps a pair of would-be robbers and changes them into toads, who she afterwards keeps as pets. The story is a little bit twisted, but not too much, and the artwork is pretty fab. Probably best for slightly older kids (say, six years old or over?) A nice one for the broomstick and wiccan sets! (B-)




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