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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 "H"

Kids Books -- "H" By Author

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Written by Jessie Haas
Illustrated by Jos. A. Smith
(Greenwillow, 1994)

Wonderful stuff. This book looks at life on a family farm, as seen through the eyes of Nora, a young girl who lives and works alongside her grandfather and grandmother. In this introductory volume, Nora helps mow the fields to lay the hay down to dry. Along the way, she and her grandfather cut wide swaths to spare the habitat of some of the animals that have built homes in the field -- it's a nice story which combines reverence for hard, honest labor along with mercy and kindness towards small animals, as well as a child's sense of wonder at the natural world. These books are probably best for an older reader (maybe ages 5-8?), although younger readers might like them as well. I find myself inevitably comparing Jessie Haas' work to that of Kim Lewis -- both authors deal with farm life and farmwork using a realistic touch, both in the writing and in the artwork. Unlike Lewis, Haas has a light touch, and doesn't dwell as much on the hardness and harsh realities of farm life. Nora is also a much stronger -- or at least more likable -- character than the typical Lewis protagonist. Anyway, I like these books; so does the rest of the family. Recommended! (A)

"No Foal Yet"
Written by Jessie Haas
Illustrated by Jos. A. Smith
(Greenwillow, 1995)

Nora and her family are waiting for one of their horses, a mare named Bonnie, to give birth. Grandpa stays up late several nights in a row, but it is Nora who happens to be there when the foal finally comes. A nice, simple story which imparts the sense of drama and urgency surrounding a farmyard birth, but only hints at potential dangers. Again, Haas imparts a sense of wonder and reverence for life... Kids who are into horses should love this book; nice, also, if you want to teach them about life on the farm. (A)

Written by Jessie Haas
Illustrated by Jos. A. Smith
(Greenwillow, 1996)

Nora and her grandfather make maple syrup, tapping it straight from the tree. (-)

Written by Jessie Haas
Illustrated by Jos. A. Smith
(Greenwillow, 2000)

A sequel, more or less, to 1994's Mowing. The grass is cut and the clock is ticking for the sun to dry it into hay and for Nora and her family to gather it up and get it into the barn, before the rain falls. Under grey skies, the family works as fast as they can to lay in the year's feed for all the animals, but only barely make it to the barn in time. An unpretentious sense of drama suffuses this simple story, rich with detail and a fascinating presentation of old-fashioned hand-harvesting techniques. Another neat farm book in this intelligent, captivating series. (A)

"What Does My Teddy Bear Do All Day?"
Written by Bruno Hachler
Illustrated by Birte Muller
(Penguin, 2004)

A fanciful tale about a little girl who is determined to find out what her stuffed animals do during the daytime, when she isn't there to supervise them. She tries all kinds of strategies -- hiding behind doors, peeking in windows, leaving out snacks the teddybear might like -- with inconclusive results. I like the concept, and we enjoyed reading this book, although the real respose was a little muted. It may be that the translation isn't as charming as the original German -- these rhymes aren't the greatest I've ever read, and the text feels a little leaden. Also, I thought the artwork was a little borderline, as well... The action is easy to track, but the overall look is somewhat less than elegant. It's an okay book; parents who are opposed to fantasy elements might want to steer clear of this, since the bear might have a life of its own... EEK! (C+)

"Baby Talk"
Written by Fred Haitt
Illustrated by Mark Graham
(Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1999)

Joey, a four-ish, five-ish year old boy, has a new baby brother and is initially uncomfortable around the newcomer, declining to help feed it or change its daipers, etc. But Joey finds his niche in the baby's life when he starts responding to the infant's babbling, and helps teach it to talk. A perfect book to read to a toddler old enough look back at their own verbal development and both laugh and relish the chance to dip back into the old vocabulary of "agoo" and "ageek." Also, the complexity of the social relationship of the two siblings is rich and fascinating. Great artwork by Mark Graham, too. This one was a big hit in our household, with lots of "read-it-again" action. (A)

"The Apple Pie Tree"
Written by Zoe Hall
Illustrated by Shari Halpern
(Scholastic Books/Blue Sky Press, 1996)

With her trademark collage style, Shari Halpern provides cheerful, clear illustrations for Zoe Hall's simple tale of two sisters living near an apple tree. They watch it grow new leaves and buds in the Spring, with the leaves turning into flowers, which eventually mature into ripe red apples. Then the family harvests the fruit and makes a yummy apple pie (with a recipie provided in the back of the book...) There's also a parallel story of a pair of robins that live in the tree who hatch and raise their fledglings during the same seasons-long time frame... Although I don't think I'm likely to return to this book the same way I have with the Hall-Halpern seasons books, it's still nice. I like the artwork and general vibe. (B)

"The Surprise Garden"
Written by Zoe Hall
Illustrated by Shari Halpern
(Blue Sky Books, 1998)

A mother gives her children several different kinds of seeds to plant, but doesn't tell them what kind of plants each seed will become. As the seeds sprout and grow, they mature into beans, peas, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, radishes and one really big, juicy watermelon. The payoff is a gigantic salad at the end of the season -- as well as the lively collage artwork by Shari Halpern, and the well-communicated sense of fun that the kids can have growing their own food. Good, clear narrative -- if you're thinking about planting a garden, this book might be a nice companion activity. (B+)

"Fall Leaves Fall"
Written by Zoe Hall
Illustrated by Shari Halpern
(Scholastic Press, 2000)

Nice changing-of-the-seasons book. Two siblings who love the autumn watch as the leaves change color then fall... They rake up leaves, jump into the piles, pick out their favorite leaves and make them into collage art projects. The Hall-Halpern partnership has trod these paths before, and they do it quite well. Nice, especially for nature-loving little ones. (B)

"Little Robin Redbreast"
Adapted by Shari Halpern
Illustrated by Shari Halpern
(North South, 1996)

A classic Mother Goose rhyme, beautifully rendered in colorful, vibrant collages by artist Shari Halpern... A calico cat with an impish grin is snoozing in a flower garden when a perky little robin wakes her up... and you know the rest! The classic text is brought to life with bright, playful images... This was the book that brought Haplern's work to my attention... A perfect book for infants and very young readers! (A)

"Firefighters To The Rescue"
Written by Kersten Hamilton
Illustrated by Rich Davis
(Viking, 2005)

Colorful, vivid artwork bolsters this otherwise somewhat weak narrative about a fire crew racing off to put out a fire (and save a little boy's puppy, too!) while the whole town watches and cheers. This is one of those odd children's books where the author seems to have made an attempt to rhyme, but didn't stick with it, so the tone of the writing is wildly uneven and difficult to get into. (An early page reads: On go boots and coat and hat. Ready? Right!/All aboard and hold on tight! ...Which is fine, except that the rest of the text doesn't continue on in this rhyming scheme, choosing instead to sort-of rhyme at times, and then, when the rhyme gets lost, to rely on the catch phrase, "firefighters to the rescue!" to anchor the story...) I honestly don't understand why so many writers do this -- don't they know how hard it is to read their books read aloud, when they tug readers in so many directions? Anyway, the artwork is fun, with the action set in a 1940s/'50s American small town, with old Edsels and Packers getting out of the way of the fire engines, and a Roy Rogers movie on the marquee at the local theater. I wanted to like this book more that I did, but it just turned out to be too clumsy to read well. (See also: Firefighters & Fire Engines.) (C+)

"It's Not Fair!"
Written by Anita Harper
Illustrated by Mary McQuillan
(Holiday House, 2007)

An interesting book about sibling rivalries and about growing older and being able to do new things... The narrator -- a post-toddler little girl -- complains about all the things her little brother gets to do or get away with that she isn't allowed to do. He can make messes, throw tantrums, ask to be carried, but she can't, because she's too old. She works her way up into a fair snit, but then she realizes there are all sort of things that she's allowed to do that the baby can't: eat certain foods, play on the jungle gym equipment, stay up late sometimes, etc. and then she thinks maybe being a big kid isn't so bad after all. Nice, cute artwork, and a well-constructed narrative. Some parents may shy away from the book because of the apparent negativity, but Harper ties things up pretty well and puts a positive spin on it. A good starting point for discussions about all these issues. (B)

"The Moon Is La Luna: Silly Rhymes In English And Spanish"
Written by Jay M. Harris
Illustrated by Matthew Cordell
(Houghton Mifflin, 2007)

Cute, goofy, bilingual rhymes that introduce Spanish vocabulary through kooky jokes... I like that each poems is in both Spanish and English, and that the definitions are reinforced through humor -- one of the stronger ways to learn -- and that each language is used to explore the other, back and forth, back and forth... The rhymes can be a little hard to wrap your tongue around, but there's wit and whimsy and it doesn't talk down to the readers... A nice addition to any bilingual library! (B-)

"I Am Not Going To School Today"
Written by Robie H. Harris
Illustrated by Jan Ormerod
(Margaret K. McElderry, 2003)

Although he goes to sleep excited by the prospects of his first day in school, a young boy starts to worry in the night: how will he find his cubby, or know where all the crayons and toys are, or when it's time for recess or snacks? He wakes up the next morning and announces to his parents that he plans to skip the first day of school, but will go the second day, because that's when kids know all the new things. His parents patiently get him fed and dressed and talk him through it, and after they finally get the boy to school, then the fun begins. He takes his stuffed animal, Hank, to school, and later tells his folks how much fun Hank had meeting the new kids, etc. Although the beginning of the book focuses on (some might say "models") negative behavior and attitudes towards school, there are more positive messages embedded throughout the story, and the narrative is richer and stronger than many books with similar themes. Nice artwork, good presentation of schooltime activities, and a full exploration of the anxieties and pushback many children express when first going to school. (I was actually too chicken to read this to my kid, but I still liked what it said and how it said it...) (B+)

"A Story For Bear"
Written by Dennis Haseley
Illustrated by Jim Lamarche
(Harcourt/Silver Whistle, 2002)

This is kind of an odd one, but it might capture the imagination of bookish, older kids... An adolescent bear cub comes into contact with humans via a woman spending the summer at a cabin in the woods... every day the woman sits out in a lawn chair to read books, and the bear is fascinated by what she is doing. Eventually, she sees him, and gains his trust, inviting the bear to sit at her feet while she reads aloud from the mysterious square things with the strange markings in them. The story is told from the bear's point of view, so we are told that he doesn't understand what the woman is saying, but the bear loves how she says the word, absorbing the emotions even if the words don't mean anything. What's funny about this book is that the bear is presented in a naturalistic manner, as a feral, wild animal, cautious of humans, but consumed by curiosity about what she is doing. Now, of course, if this were really true to life, he would have eaten her long ago, or at least carried her refrigerator off into the forest, but I suppose we can make allowances for poetic license... As it is, it's a nice fable about nature meeting civilization, and a metaphor for how children learn to love books... It doesn't entirely hang together for me, but I'm sure many readers will find it utterly charming. Great artwork, too. (B)

"Charles Of The Wild"
Written by John & Ann Hassert
Illustrated by John & Ann Hassert
(Houghton Mifflin, 1997)

A charming fable about a little city dog whose overprotective owner won't let him out to play, or even to walk on the ground! Charles escapes and is found by a helpful homeless person, who takes him to the park, where he runs wild and free all day long, before the man takes him home. His owner realizes her mistake, and lets Charles romp from that day on, and as a result Charles becomes a happier, less "moody" little pooch. Love the artwork and text on this one -- the Hassert's hit just the right tone throughout. (B+)

"Cat Up A Tree"
Written by Jon & Ann Hassert
Illustrated by Jon & Ann Hassert
(Houghton Mifflin, 1998)

A goofy lark about an old lady who sees some cats stuck up in a tree -- first one, then five, then ten... -- and she asks the police, then the fire department, then city hall and even the post office to help get them down. No one can help, so she takes matters in her own hands and winds up with forty new pets in her tiny little house. The story and artwork are quite fanciful... This doesn't necessarily stick to your ribs, but it's a nice read... Some of the humor might be best suited for slightly older kids (in the 6-8 year old range perhaps...?) but it's still a cute book. (B)

"Jamaica And Brianna"
Written by Juanita Havill
Illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien
(Houghton Mifflin, 1993)

Two friends fight for a while when they get jealous over each other's clothes. It starts when Jamaica goes to school feeling bad because she has to wear her brother's old, hand-me-down boots (the message about families that have to scrimp and save to buy things is a welcome change of pace from the world of privilege that defines most children's books...) Her friend Brianna's pretty, fluffy pink boots make Jamaica jealous and she takes out her frustration out by pooh-poohing Brianna's boots when Brianna doesn't like hers... and the two of them stop speaking to each other for a while, until tempers cool and they are able to talk about it. Overall, this one was kind of on the negative side, but it is a good story about working out problems, expressing feelings, and keeping friendships going, despite the rough patches. (B-)

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