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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 "R"

Kids Books -- "R" By Author

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"Fluffy And Baron"
Written by Laura Rankin
Illustrated by Laura Rankin
(Penguin/Dial Books, 2006)

A lovely story -- based on true life! -- of two unlikely barnyard friends, a German shepherd named Baron and his little waddling pal of a duck, Fluffy. Fluffy, who's a bit pushy, forces Baron to adopt her and they become fast friends, even snuggling together each night in the barn... But when some migrating mallards visit the mill pond, Fluffy answers the call of the wild and ditches Baron for a few days to hang with her homies... And then throws him over for the four weeks it takes for her (oh, the scandal!) new eggs to hatch. The pictures of the forlorn, saddened Baron looking on as his buddy goes off on her own are heartbreaking, and Rankin zeros in -- both visually and verbally -- on the emotional life of animals. It probably helps that both Fluffy and Baron were her real childhood pets (the photos of her with them on the dust jacket are priceless!) so she really knows how the story went and what its emotional cues are. Oh, by the way, there's a happy ending -- after the ducklings hatch, they all imprint on Uncle Baron as well, and everybody plays together. A sweet book with a good story and a real emotional core. Nice artwork, too. (A-)

"Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop"
Written by Chris Raschka
Illustrated by Chris Raschka
(Scholastic Books, 1992)

Great book. Great, great, great book. The funny thing about this one -- for me, at least -- is that I do not, in fact, particularly like Charlie Parker's music. Too fast, too cerebral, not my kind of jazz. But this book! Well, now, that's a different story. This is a free-flowing, genuinely jazzy tone poem, with a meter that's built around Parker's version of "Night In Tunisia." You don't need that recording as a reference, though -- the rhythm and bounce leap off the page, accentuated by Raschka's wild, playful artwork and surrealistic text. I recommend reading it twice through -- you get to the end and start over again -- and improvising, just as if you were playing jazz yourself. Which -- surprise! -- you are! As far as I can tell, this is the best of Raschka's work... After we got heavily into the "Charlie Parker" book, I went on a brief kick where I also picked up all the Snaily Snail, Whaley Whale, Wormy Worm, etc. board books... and found them to be pretty dumb and entirely useless as children's book. Oh, well. This one's a gem, though. (A+)

"Red Rubber Boot Day"
Written by Mary Lyn Ray
Illustrated by Lauren Stringer
(Harcourt, 2000)

Hey, I'm all in favor of puddle-stomping... and any other celebration of rainy weather you can think of! Here, a little kid thinks of all the things he could do on a rainy day -- read, draw, play with blocks -- or he could go out and stomp around! Very little text, with color-drenched, slightly busy artwork, but a simple message and a nice, light tone. (I especially like the adult neighbor who chooses to go out in the rain barefoot...) This would make a fine companion to Malachy Doyle's Splash, Joshua, Splash! (B-)

"Up Above, Down Below"
Written by Sue Redding
Illustrated by Sue Redding
(Chronicle Books, 2007)

A cool, visually-oriented book for kids to trip out on. Each two-page spread is split in half, with some action on the surface (a picnic, a stage play, people rush to work) being mirrored below with what happens underfoot (ant hives, stagehands, the subway, etc.) The manga-ish artwork features people and creatures with big, round eyes, jam-packed with lots and lots of detail, with a hefty dose of humor: rabbits tap into watermains to fill a pool, the ants play poker and watch tv on a pilfered iPod (with giant-sized cheetos on the hive floor, no less...) and so on. The text is somewhat peripheral - one pass through this with an adult and most kids will just grab it for themselves and space out on it for hours. Very nice! (B+)

"You And Me, Baby"
Written by Lynn Reiser
Illustrated by Penny Gentieu
(Alfred A. Knopf, 2006)

This definitely is destined to become a board-book, but you might want to pick up the big version while you can... A fine picturebook for pretoddlers, filled with cheery pictures of parents and little babies interacting -- smiling, waving, taking baths, playing peekaboo -- with plenty of love and affection oozing from each frame. Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of photographic picturebooks, but this is an exception to the rule. Penny Gentieu, a well-known (even ubiquitous) commercial photographer, has a nice touch, and the interactive, contextual aspect of the pictures, with babies in the middle of their primal social relationships, should draw the littlest readers in... The text is pretty basic, but if you're in the newborn/infant headspace, it'll be absolutely perfect. Nice one! (B+)

"The Dot"
Written by Peter Reynolds
Illustrated by Peter Reynolds
(Candlewick, 2003)

A great book about artistic creativity and how to encourage it. A young girl named Vashti feels uninspired in her art class, and faced by a blank paper, declares that she has no talent and "can't draw." Her teacher tells her to put something down on the paper -- anything -- and when Vashti petulantly stabs a single dot onto the page, the teacher asks her to sign it, and later puts the picture up on the classroom wall. This piques Vashti's interest, and she figures, well, if the teacher calls that "art," I can do better than that! Then she embarks on an expansive, joyful series of dot-themed pictures and paintings, eventually showing them, to great acclaim, atthe school art show. The artwork is nice, done in a scratchy style similar to Quentin Blake's, and the text has a magical elegance about it -- Reynolds hits just the right note throughout. Highly recommended. (A)

Written by Peter Reynolds
Illustrated by Peter Reynolds
(Candlewick, 2004)

More or less a followup to Reynold's charming The Dot, but far less satisfying or magical. This time around, it's about a boy named Ramon who likes to draw wherever he goes and whatever he's doing, but whose enthusiasm is quashed by a mean older brother who teases Ramon because his art doesn't look realistic enough. Ramon starts to fret over not getting it "right," and eventually decides to quit doing art. His little sister, however, renews Ramon's artistic instincts by helping him see that art doesn't have to be "real," but that it can be "ish," and that things that are "ish" can be cooler than things that are literal or representational. That's all very well and fine, except that the writing on this book is relatively clunky -- preachy even -- and lacks the economy and light touch of the previous volume. Oh, well. It's still a nice message. (B-)

"So Few Of Me"
Written by Peter Reynolds
Illustrated by Peter Reynolds
(Candlewick, 2006)

A charming, genuinely funny book that recaptures the elegant, offhand magic of Reynolds' earlier gem, The Dot. Here a young man named Leo finds himself swamped under rapidly multiplying to-do lists and chores -- schoolwork, laundry, classes, cooking -- and he idly thinks to himself, how nice it would be if there were two of me, so I could do all my work faster. Well, poof! then there are two of him... then three... and eventually ten Leos, all running around, taking out the trash, studying calculus, rushing to soccer practice, making more to-do lists and trying to coordinate all their Leo labors... It turns out, though, that the more of you are, the harder and more hectic it gets: Leo winds up spending as much time managing his doppelgangers as he does getting any actual work done! A funny, gentle, incisive look at the modern problems of overbooked, overscheduled people everywhere, both kids and adults. The solution Leo comes up with is pretty nice, and the story is a great, entertaining read. I love Reynolds' artwork, too, especially how it evokes Jules Fieffer's old cartoons. Another highly recommended book from a guy who's rapidly becoming one of my favorite new children's book artists. (A)

"And Tango Makes Three"
Written by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell
Illustrated by Henry Cole
(Simon & Schuster, 2005)

A zoo book with a twist...! This is the true-life story of two gay penguins (named Silo and Roy) living in the Central Park Zoo who went through all the typical penguin mating rituals and built a nest together, but were thwarted when they tried to have a baby. A thoughtful zookeeper gave them a foundling egg, which they dutifully sat on and hatched. Then they raised the chick, named Tango, and taught her all the little things a penguin must learn (like swimming, eating raw fish and looking cute). This is a great book for same-sex parents who have adopted or artificially inseminated -- some other books tackle the "two dads/two moms" issue, but few are as enchanting and as authoritative as this one. Recommended! (A)

"Emperor Of Absurdia"
Written by Chris Riddell
Illustrated by Chris Riddell
(Harper Collins, 2009)

I came across Chris Riddell's artwork through his collaborations with Paul Stewart and in the Ottoline and Far-Flung Tales series... It's great stuff! This picturebook is geared towards younger readers, a self-consciously Seuss-ian outing where a toddler enters a fantasy world filled with swirly, fantastical creatures. The pictures are amazing, although the plot is rather slight. Didn't do much for me as an adult reader, but I can easily see the artwork captivating young readers for hours on end. Certainly worth checking out. (B-)

"I Am A Bunny"
Written by Ole Risom
Illustrated by Richard Scarry
(Golden Books, 1963)

A beautifully illustrated book showing a little bunny named Nicholas going through the seasons of the year -- picking flowers and chasing butterflies in the Spring, blowing dandelion seeds in the Summer, watching leaves fall in the Autumn, etc. The text is about as simple as you can get, but the artwork is extraordinary. Readers who are used to Richard Scarry's simpler, cartoonish work in his own books will be swept away by these gorgeously rich, detailed paintings. There is a sense of expansiveness and magic that's an utter delight. Don't rely on any of the truncated Golden Book anthologies for this story... You'll definitely want the full version; the rectangular board book is quite handsome and user-friendly. Risom also authored I Am A Fox, I Am A Puppy, etc., but most of the other books in the series feature other artists: this is one of Scarry's greatest works. (A)

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