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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 "M"

Kids Books -- "M" By Author

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"Rosie's Baby Tooth"
Written by Maryann Macdonald
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
(Macmillan/Atheneum, 1991)

A little rabbit named Rosie has her first baby tooth coming out soon, and there is much talk of the Tooth Fairy making a visit. Rosie is less upset by losing the tooth as she is about the Tooth Fairy wanting to take it away, and so she hides it rather than put it under her pillow. Daddy Bunny comes up with a compromise -- the TF offers to mount the little tooth on a necklace chain, so Rosie can keep it forever... The idea of carrying a dead tooth around as jewelry is kinda creepy (why not just let her keep the darn thing?) but the exchange of letters between Rosie and the Fairy is really cute, and the early Melissa Sweet artwork is nice as well. A reasonably good book for bringing up the whole baby tooth thing. (B-)

"First Day"
Written by Dandi Daley Mackall
Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
(Harcourt, 2003)

One of the simplest, best books about starting out school/preschool... Our hero here is a little girl who expresses the usual anxieties about how big the other kids look and how she wants her mom and dad to stay with her... Over the course of the day she has lots of fun, doing art, playing with toys, listening to stories, etc. and a careful reading will show that the same little boy with a stripey red shirt plays with her and helps her out all day long. By the end of the book, she's ready for Day Two, which is sure to be just as action-packed. The rhyming text is okay -- not great, but nice enough -- while the blocky, colorful watercolor art grabs the eye and really draws you in. Easy for the littlest readers to understand, and pleasantly positive, without being icky sweet. Nice! (B+)

Written by Emily & Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
(Joanna Cotler, 2004)

A sweet story written by the mother-daughter team of Patricia and Emily MacLachlan, in which the arrival of a new baby is seen through the eyes of the household pets, a pragmatic cat called Nigel and a neurotic canine named Julia. When the baby comes, the "man and the woman" assume it sleeps peacefully all night long, which leaves it up to Nigel and Julia to pick up the slack in the childcare department. Although the dog is initially resentful of the newcomer, she grows to love her, as does the cat. So close is their bond, in fact, that the Bittle's first words are "woof" and "meow!" This bright, playful romp is a fun way to approach the whole anxiety-about-the-second-child, sibling rivalry issue -- it also reads well for single-child families; the doggie and the kitty are engaging all by themselves, and the story is a hoot. The highly stylized, cartoonish art by Dan Yaccarino is a delight... Yaccarino, a television animator who has recently emerged as a picturebook author, adds a liveliness and good humor that perfectly matches that of the text. Great book! (A)

"A Really Good Snowman"
Written by Daniel J. Mahoney
Illustrated by Daniel J. Mahoney
(Clarion, 2005)

A touching story about an older brother, Jack, who doesn't want to play with his little sister, because he thinks she's a pest. Nancy always wants to "help" Jack, usually with disasterous results, and when she horns in on his participation in a local snowman building contest, Jack leaps at the first opportunity to ditch her. When some bigger kids start to pick on Nancy and make fun of her snowman, Jack sticks up for her and chases them off, and then realizes he has to help her out, instead of playing with his friends. In the process, he discovers that he can have fun playing with her, and strengthens their familial bond. The story is nice in several ways -- the book deftly deals with a complex issue (siblings who don't always get along) and Jack's transition into a more responsible, compassionate older sibling (and Nancy's reciprocal affection) is nice to see, and quite touching. It's also a good, not-too-scary depiction of bullying, and how to deal with it forthrightly. I also like the artwork.

"A Summery Saturday Morning"
Written by Margaret Mahy
Illustrated by Selina Young
(Viking, 1998)

A nice evocation of nature and relaxed family outings. A mother takes a bunch of children for a walk through some hills and across a field down to a local beach. When they get there, their dogs run afoul of a flock of geese, and the field trip has to be called off... The artwork strongly reminded me of trips I've taken to a local beach, and the book has a nice sense of joyfulness, wonder and good cheer. Not a profound book, but nice and very positive in tone.

"My Bear And Me"
Written by Barbara Maitland
Illustrated by Lisa Flather
(Margaret K. McElderry, 1999)

Sweet and simply written, a brief, non-narrative tale about a little girl who loves her stuffed bear. The text is very basic -- just the girl saying how she goes everywhere and does everything with her bear. No big messages or anything, but any kid who's attached to a stuffed animal or doll will certainly identify with the this book. Oh, plus it's another bear book. We all love bears, right? Yeah, I thought so. (B)

"Inch By Inch - The Garden Song"
Written by David Mallet
Illustrated by Ora Eitan
(Harper Collins, 1995)

A colorful picturebook adaptation of David Mallet's sweet folk song about the spiritual joys of gardening (popularized by Pete Seeger)... The song, and the book, may be a little too goopy for the non-folkie among us, but as a keepsake of the song, this is dandy. Includes sheet music in the back, for all the pickers and piano plunkers out there... Nice! (B+)

"I Can't Talk Yet, But When I Do..."
Written by Julie Markes
Illustrated by Laura Rader
(Harper Collins, 2003)

A little, preverbal baby thinks about all the things it would like to say, many of them directed to an older sibling who teaches, plays with and protects her, giving her love even when there are moments of friction. A really lovely story about growth, self-awareness and positive sibling relations. Sweet. Highly recommended... and also a great book for babies who are developing their verbal skills. My girl really loved this one, and asked for it to be read over and over. (A+)

"Ten Dogs In The Window"
Written by Claire Masurel
Illustrated by Pamela Paparone
(North-South Books, 1997)

A fun 10-to-1 counting/subtraction book where ten dogs, all from different breeds, wait in a pet shop window to get picked out and adopted. It's also a nice guessing game: on one page we see a person walk up, perhaps a clown or a businessman, a jogger or a Jerry Garcia-ish hippie, and try and guess which, of the remaining dogs that person will pick. Nice artwork and nice concept... the rhyming text, while not as snappy or as strong as it might have been, is still pretty good. My kid really got into this one, at least for a while. (B+)

"Too Big!"
Written by Claire Masurel
Illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama
(Chronicle Books, 1999)

When Charlie wins a carnival game and gets to pick out a prize, he picks the biggest one he can find, a blue-and-white striped dinosaur named Big Tex that's taller than Charlie's dad. When they get home, Charlie's parents tell him he'll have to keep Tex in his room -- he's just to big to be anywhere else! Tex doesn't get to go anywhere else, either: too big for the park, too big to go to the grocery store, etc. But he's not too big to go to the doctor's office when Charlie gets a cold... (Which is good, because Charlie's other toys hid when it was time to go!) A cute book about how kids bond with their toys and use them to express their feelings... I especially liked the scenes of Charlie taking his bunny and teddy bear out on errands; parents and children will both enjoy this reflection of the day to day innocence of little kids and toddlers. Sweet. (B)

"Emily's Valentine Party"
Written by Claire Masurel
Illustrated by Susan Calitri
(Penguin/Puffin, 1999)

Emily -- flap books, sticker books and all -- is a bit of an industry, but nonetheless these are pretty nice books for little readers who like nicey-nice stories. Very cute little bunny! (-)

"Emily's First Day Of School"
Written by Claire Masurel
Illustrated by Susan Calitri
(Penguin/Puffin, 2000)

The start of a cute, simple series starring a cartoonish, preschool-age bunny named Emily... Here, she gets dropped off at preschool, along with her friends Charlie and Hillary, meets the teacher, finds her cubby, does some art, plays and has lunch, makes some music and then goes home. It's all very visually appealing and happily idealistic, with big flaps to lift that bring your kid in on the adventure. A fine going-off-to-school picturebook!

"Emily's Dance Class"
Written by Claire Masurel
Illustrated by Susan Calitri
(Penguin/Puffin, 2001)

Another nice, simple, optimistic Emily story, with the cute lil' bunny girl going to her ballet class, where they dress up pretty, point their toes, hop off the ground and spin around with ribbons. A pretty good representation of what preschool-age dance classes are like... Very cute and encouraging.

"Emily And Her Daddy"
Written by Claire Masurel
Illustrated by Susan Calitri
(Penguin/Puffin, 2003)

Awwwwwww...! A daddy book! Who can resist?? (-)

"Theodor And Mr. Balbini"
Written by Petra Mathers
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
(Harper & Row, 1988)

Wouldn't it be so cool if suddenly one day your pet could talk and tell you all the things that were on its mind? Yeah, you'd think so, wouldn't you? But when mild-mannered Mr. Balbini's black lab Theodor starts speaking up, all that he can do is complain and boss his human around... And he never stops talking! Yak, yak, yak, gripe, gripe, gripe. Quit giving me canned food... change the TV channel... let's walk someplace else today... Just as Mr. Balbini thinks he can't stand it any longer, Theodor finds a hobby -- French cooking -- and gets along so well with the teacher that he moves in with her. This is a very funny, very dry, very absurd shaggy dog story... You have to be on the right wavelength to enjoy it, but if you are, you'll love it. We did! (B+)

"Sophie And Lou"
Written by Petra Mathers
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
(Simon & Schuster, 1991)

After a dance studio opens across the street, a painfully shy, housebound mouse named Sophie becomes interested in dancing, but instead of taking lessons, she peeks through her curtains and follows along at home. One day she works up the nerve to check some dance books out of the library and learns how to do the tango and foxtrot -- and later she even goes out and buys some fancy new shoes. All the while she keeps bumping into Lou, a quiet fellow who is one of the students at the studio -- when Sophie gets her dance books, Lou is in the stacks checking out a book of love poems. Finally, our hero and heroine meet, when she has mustered enough confidence to dance whole dances by herself, and when he decides to knock on her door and ask her out. The text omits a few details, but these are borne out in the illustrations, so this is a good book to use to encourage children to look for details outside the verbal narrative... Lou's story, for example, is played out almost entirely in the artwork, and we don't even learn his name until the very last pages. This story is a bit odd -- it may take a while to warm to such reclusive characters -- but it has an undeniable charm. (B)

"Lottie's New Beach Towel"
Written by Petra Mathers
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
(Atheneum Books, 1998)

"Wacky." Well, that's what I'm supposed to say. Only, I really don't get the appeal of the Lottie books... the formula just doesn't work for me. Here, Lottie gets a new red beach towel sent to her by an aunt and, on a trip to the beach, it does double duty as a boat sail and a bridal veil, then she comes home and writes a thank-you note to her aunt, telling her all about the day's adventures. Yeah, I get that these stories are off-kilter and unique, that they're (a little) nutty and nonviolent and that they show a certain kind of low-key personality... But they just don't grab me as dramatic narrative. Other folks are totally koo-koo for these books, though, so maybe you should seek a second opinion. (C)

"Lottie's New Friend"
Written by Petra Mathers
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
(Atheneum Books, 1999)

When Dodo --- a... purple dodo bird from France? -- moves to town and becomes Lottie's new friend, Herbie the duck feels jealous and insecure. But when Lottie goes out of town for a while, Herbie and Dodo find common ground and become friends as well. Sorry, though: I'm just not feeling the love for this series... The text is a bit awkward, and doesn't always support the story, and I'm not wild about the naifish artwork, either. Maybe I'm too grumpy and uptight to get the whole goofball vibe, but Lottie and company don't do much for me. (C)

"A Cake For Herbie"
Written by Petra Mathers
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
(Atheneum Books, 2000)

In the third book of the "Lottie" series, a goofy duck named Herbie, encouraged by his pal Lottie, enters a poetry contest to try and win a cake. But his poem -- a pun-filled, letter-by-letter celebration of food (A is for artichoke, B is for belly...) is met with corn by the snobbish local literati. Dorky and dejected, Herbie leaves the contest and finds a more sympathetic audience among some beatnik pastry chefs... So you can see how this might end well. I wasn't totally wowed by this one, although I suppose it is a fairly gentle treatment of issues surrounding social anxieties in school, etc. The narrative is pretty clunky, though. (C)

"Dodo Gets Married"
Written by Petra Mathers
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
(Atheneum Books, 2001)


"Herbie's Secret Santa"
Written by Petra Mathers
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
(Atheneum Books, 2002)


"Katie Meets The Impressionists"
Written by James Mayhew
Illustrated by James Mayhew
(Scholastic/Orchard Books, 1999)

The works of Monet, Renoir and Degas are explored in this volume of the fanciful Katie series. (See below for more reviews...) (-)

"Katie And The Mona Lisa"
Written by James Mayhew
Illustrated by James Mayhew
(Scholastic/Orchard Books, 1999)

Please cue the Nat "King" Cole record... (-)

"Katie And The Sunflowers"
Written by James Mayhew
Illustrated by James Mayhew
(Orchard Books, 2000)

Part of a series in which a young girl encounters great art in fantasy play inside a museum. Famous pictures come to life and she has adventures with figures inside each canvas -- Tahitian women rendered by Paul Gauguin, Gallic farmers by Vincent van Gogh, etc. This volume explores the work of post-impressionists such as Cezanne, Gauguin and van Gogh... The gimmicky premise makes for rather flimsy, contrived plots, but the pictures are lovely and the overall sense of the fantastic is still delightful. A good way to bring canonical artwork into the lives of small kids... The series gets even better as it goes along. (B)

"Secret In The Garden"
Written by James Mayhew
Illustrated by James Mayhew
(The Chicken House, 2003)

Inspired by The Secret Garden A young girl named Sophie (literally) peeks through the die-cut pages to see into an imagination-laced garden, and to meet a friend who may or may not be real. Nice, pastoral artwork... The peephole idea is fun, but the execution makes it seem almost unnecessary -- the text will carry you through to the next page anyway, and the look-here gimmick is more of a distraction than a help. Still, it's nice to have some variety in the way you can look at and think of books. (B)

"Katie's Sunday Afternoon"
Written by James Mayhew
Illustrated by James Mayhew
(Scholastic/Orchard Books, 2004)

Another volume in Mayhew's art-appreciation series. The pretext for visiting the museum this time is that it's a hot day and the public pool is full, so Katie and her grandma go elsewhere to keep cool. Once again, grandma dozes off and Katie has a fantastic adventure among pictures that come to life. Mayhew explores the work of French Pointillists such as Georges Seurat, Camille Pissaro and Paul Signac, with Katie jumping into the paintings and characters from the canvas coming out to have a romp in the museum with her. The paintings are very pretty (though the plot is preposterous) and this is a nice way to expose little kids to great art. This volume has one of the more engaging, fluid plotlines of the series -- if you like the concept, this one's definitely worth checking out. (B)

"The Knight Who Took All Day"
Written by James Mayhew
Illustrated by James Mayhew
(Scholastic/Chicken House, 2005)

A gleefully cartoonish book that takes the knight-in-shining-armor paradigm and playfully turns it on its head. Here, the knight in question is a puffed-up, macho blowhard, who longs for the chance to trounce a big, bad dragon so that he can win the heart of the fair princess. When the chance finally arises, he takes so long preening himself getting ready -- he's got to look right before he can go out to best the beast -- that the princess takes matters into her own hands and dons armor herself, and tames the dragon rather that kill it. Afterwards, she ditches the knight and elopes with his mild-mannered squire. This book is a delight on so many levels -- the text is very tongue-in-cheek and sly, and is easily matched by the artwork, which has plenty of amusing details, including the steadfast preparations of the princess, who calmly marshals herself while the knight vainly dithers about in his tower. Plus, it's a great tomboy saga, and it's pro-dragon, too, which is a nice change of pace. This is a fun, funny book... recommended! (A)

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