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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 "N"

Kids Books -- "N" By Author

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"Is That Josie?"
Written by Keiko Narahashi
Illustrated by Keiko Narahashi
(Margaret K. McElderry, 1994)

The debut book by Keiko Narahashi, who has illustrated several books before this... I really like her artwork, but the writing is a bit flat on this one. Similar to Where Is Susan?, this book features a little girl pretending to be various kinds of animals and telling her parents that she's not Josie, she is a kangaroo, a hippopotamus, a cheetah, etc. What the text doesn't make very clear, though, is that this is play and pretend, and it may be mildly confusing to literal-minded little ones just what is going on. It's not that hard to read around, but really, the book should do at least some of that heavy lifting for you. Okay, but not great. Check out her later greater book, Two Girls Can, reviewed below. (C-)

"Two Girls Can"
Written by Keiko Narahashi
Illustrated by Keiko Narahashi
(Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2000)

I like this one. A lot. A pleasant, simple celebration of friendship (and girl power, though in a subtle, understated way..) Pairs of girls go through various everyday activities together -- playing games, reading inside, dressing up, hanging out -- and in the end, all the girls gather for a big dance party. The book is multicultural (again, without making a big deal of it...), life-affirming, and models many aspects of friendship, including negative emotions such as yelling at your friend, and then making up later. The artwork is joyful and appealing, with details that are easy to grasp and fun to talk about with little people. Nice! (A)

"A Fire Engine For Ruthie"
Written by Leslea Newman
Illustrated by Cyd Moore
(Clarion, 2004)

When Ruthie goes for a long visit to her grandmother's house, Nana has a bunch of great activities planned out, but the trouble is they're all too girly for Ruthie, who is a bit of a tomboy. Nana wants to play dress-up and give Ruthie her old dolls, and do arts-and-crafts projects, but Ruthie keeps trying to hook up with the kid next door, a boy who has toy trucks and trains and motorcycles to play with. It takes several days for Nana to catch on, and though her feelings are a little hurt at first, she finally takes Ruthie over for a playdate, where all three of them have a great time playing with all those great toys that have wheels. This book certainly wears its message on its sleeve, but still a nice story. The ending, where Nana gets into their playtime, is cool, and the day-by-day, step-by-step structure helps build the narrative. Nice artwork, too. Whether you're reading to a boy, a tomboy or a girly-girl, this is a cool story about how adults can learn to listen and find out what their kids are really interested in... Also nice for all the alterna- and nontraditional types out there. Recommended! (A)

"Dream Dancer"
Written by Jill Newsome
Illustrated by Claudio Munoz
(Harper Collins, 2001)

A touching story about a girl named Lily who loves to dance but has to stop after she falls from a tree and breaks her leg. The rest of the book involves her yearlong recovery, which is helped by a little ballerina doll named Peggy who does Lily's dancing for her while she heals. Hobbled by her leg cast, Lily moves from a wheelchair into crutches, and then eventually is again able to walk again -- and dance! -- once her leg has healed. A sweet, hopeful story with lovely artwork, ideal for children who are dealing with major injuries or who have gone through physical rehab and want to talk about it. Very matter-of-fact, neither too scary or too sentimental... hits just the right emotional tone. (B+)

"William The Vehicle King"
Written by Laura P. Newton
Illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers
(Bradbury Press, 1987)

A little boy plays with his toy cars, trucks, fire engines and construction vehicles... By the book's end he's created a whole city inside his bedroom, which we get to see from shag-carpet level. The boy's loyal cat, who hung out with him the whole time, gets a big tummy rub at the end of the day... And then bites a yellow pickup truck when nobody is looking. Not an amazing text, but a nice representation of car-filled imaginative play. Heartwarming and cute. (B)

"Alphabet Explosion! Search And Count From Alien To Zebra"
Written by John Nickle
Illustrated by John Nickle
(Random House/Schwartz & Wade, 2006)

An alphabet book without words... hey, there's an idea! In this bold, brightly-colored picturebook, each page features pictures of items for each letter: ants, alligators and aardvarks on one page, beetles, books and bongo drums on another... Readers are told how many things are on each page (25 "G"s, 15 "O"s, etc.) and the answers are listed in the back of the book. I like the concept -- it's a good instructional tool -- but I can't say I'm crazy about the artwork. Mr. Nickle, who created the now-a-major-motion-picture Ant Bully, is a practitioner of a slick/hip postmillennial, TV-informed art style that I find garish and cluttered... In his rush to be wacky and inventive, Nickle varies his graphic style wildly, so that there's not much of a consistent look, and many items are indistinct and difficult to recognize (for example, my daughter saw a shadowy, detailless "airplane" and called it an "X".) Overall, this book is probably just fine for most readers, and although I disliked it on an aesthetic level, it works educationally. Six of one, half-dozen of the other. (B)

"The Police Cloud"
Written by Christoph Niemann
Illustrated by Christoph Niemann
(Schwartz And Wade, 2007)

A delightful book about an eager young cloud who wants to be a police officer, but discovers he might not really be well suited for the job. (Directing traffic, for example, is kind of hard when you look like a giant fog bank in the middle of the intersection...) Both surrealistic and old-fashioned, this features bright, cartoonish artwork that evokes old Golden Books and the like from the 1950s... The pacing and lighthearted humor are quite entertaining, and the surprise ending is a gas. I hadn't known what to expect from this one, but it would up being a big favorite for my daughter, and definitely made it into our A-list. Highly recommended. (A)

"Lucky Morning"
Written by Sally Noll
Illustrated by Sally Noll
(Greenwillow, 1994)

A sweet story, but clunky execution. A little girl named Nora goes on a hike with her grandfather, taking in the splendor of rural Montana, where they see horses, deer, and even bear and elk. That's all pretty neat, but if you rely on the written text, the story is a little hard to follow... Details are skipped over and some information is only presented visually, making massive paraphrasing and improvisation necessary, which is fine sometimes, but not always. If the story appeals to you, it may be worth the extra effort to make it work. (C-)

"The Very Best Doll"
Written by Julia Noonan
Illustrated by Julia Noonan
(Dutton, 2003)

A very girly book, about a child who gets a fancy new doll for her birthday and promptly throws over her good, old, dearly beloved rag doll, Nell, only to discover later at night that she still needs to snuggle her old dollie in order to fall asleep. We're not doll crazy in our household, but this book got a good, polite reception. I liked the book's effective, lilting rhyme structure and its sentimental message -- Noonan affirms the value of the comfortable and old, while also acknowledging the allure of the flashy, accessorized newcomer. If your child is really into dolls (or tea parties), then they should go totally koo-koo over this book. (B+)

"My Daddy Is A Giant"
Written by Carl Norac
Illustrated by Ingrid Godon
(Clarion, 2004)

A daddy book with very little substance... A small child (probably a boy, though the text isn't specific...) is agog of his daddy -- how tall and strong he is. Daddy is as tall as the clouds, makes the ground shake, has to crouch behind mountains to play hide-and-seek, etc. It's an okay book, I suppose, though I felt nonplussed after finishing it, like there just wasn't a lot of "there" there. One part I did not like was when the child says, "When we play soccer, my daddy always wins." Foo. What kind of a dad never let's his kid win? Big meanie. Anyway, I thought this book was too simple, and also wasn't that into the theme... Other folks might have a totally different response. My kid didn't have much of a reaction at all -- a null set. (C)

"My Mommy Is Magic"
Written by Carl Norac
Illustrated by Ingrid Godon
(Clarion, 2007)

A gem. Although the companion book, My Daddy Is A Giant is kind of a dud, this mommy book really rang true... at least it made my wife cry when she read it with our kid! Simple text and large, expansive illustrations combine to magical effect, describing a mommy who chases away monsters, shares secrets, and who can even part the clouds and make the weather nice by wearing her pretty summer dress. Nakedly sentimental, yet artfully done, this celebrates the bond between parent and child in an imaginative, evocative style. One of the best I-love-my-mommy books you'll find. (A)

"If You Give A Mouse A Cookie"
Written by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond
(Laura Geringer, 1985)

The first book in a hugely popular series, and probably the best. The premise is Rube Goldberg-ian, where one thing leads to another: If you give a mouse a cookie, he'll want some milk. If you give him milk... etc., etc., until the whole house is turned upside down. It's kind of amusing the first time around, although adult readers may find themselves climbing the walls with boredom after a few iterations. The many sequels, If You Give A Moose A Muffin, et. al., all seem like lesser variations on the theme. (B)

"If You Give A Moose A Muffin"
Written by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond
(Laura Geringer, 1991)

A note-for-note retread of the first book. With a moose. Instead of a mouse. Not terribly original. (C)

"If You Give A Pig A Pancake"
Written by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond
(Laura Geringer, 1998)

Ditto. Except with a pig. Instead of a moose. Or a mouse. If you like the series, you'll enjoy this one as well, but it doesn't really add much to the kooky fun of the first book. (C)

"If You Take A Mouse To The Movies"
Written by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond
(Laura Geringer, 2000)

The mouse goes to the movies and wants a bunch of stuff from the concession stand. That's nice, because that's where the theaters really make their money. There's also a Christmas element to this book, if that is any interest. (C)

"If You Take A Mouse To School"
Written by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond
(Laura Geringer, 2002)

This one's kind of fun. The mouse comes along to school and is a model student, spelling hugely complicated words, doing great art projects, even making a comicbook on some notebook paper. The everyday school stuff is presented nicely, and the parallel-plot stuff of the mouse's accomplishments injects a liveliness and wit that was starting to get lost in this series. One of the better books in the run -- worth checking out. (B)

"If You Give A Pig A Party"
Written by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond
(Laura Geringer, 2005)

Oh, god... make it stop! (C-)

"When Sheep Sleep"
Written by Laura Numeroff
Illustrated by David McPhail
(Harry N. Abrams, 2006)

A sleepytime book that hinges on the bold, compelling, magical artwork of David McPhail (a longtime favorite...) Author Laura Numeroff, best known for the If You Give A Mouse series, comes up with a lovely premise -- what do you count if the sheep are already asleep? Unfortunately, her writing is stiff and overly static, and pulls the story sideways. Numeroff inflexibly repeats lines that aren't elegant, and clings to the same sort of cause-and-effect, if-this-then-that presentation of her earlier work. It's a clunky formula, and doesn't match the sweetness and charm of McPhail's art, or support the dreaminess of the concept. I'd count this one as an almost-not-quite, although I'm sure many families will find it enchanting. Six of one, half dozen of the other. (B-)

"Baby Radar"
Written by Naomi Shihab Nye
Illustrated by Nancy Campbell
(Greenwillow, 2003)

This book has a nice, sweet premise: the world as seen through the eyes of a child in (and later pushing) a baby stroller... Dogs come up and snuffle in her face; adults lean down and coo how cute she is. The book works fine -- I asked my daughter if "that was how things are" on a couple of pages and she said yeah, although overall her response was a bit muted. The weird thing about this book is the title -- there's no reference to "baby radar" anywhere in the text... It's like the author just couldn't help appending some inside joke to the book itself, which is a shame since it doesn't add anything to the story and is slightly distracting. Otherwise, this ain't bad... definitely has some cute moments, but I'm not sure it really lives up to its promise. (C)

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