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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 "S"

Kids Books -- "S" By Author

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"Emily's Balloon"
Written by Komako Sakai
Illustrated by Komako Sakai
(Chronicle, 2003)

A really sweet children's book from Japan. Little Emily, a quiet, adorable toddler, gets a big yellow balloon while out with her mother, and brings it home, treating it as her new best friend for the rest of the day. This book marvellously captures the subdued sense of wonder that goes on inside little children's heads, and perfectly depicts an everyday experience as seen from their point of view. In emotional terms, it rings true on every level, even if it is a bit precious. If you ask me, this one's a winner -- at the right age, this book will blow your kid's mind! (A)

"I Love Cats"
Written by Barney Saltzberg
Illustrated by Barney Saltzberg
(Candlewick, 2005)

...And who doesn't love kitties?? This is an okay book, with very simple text and reasonably appealing artwork, though very little plot. A purple-jammie clad little girl pets and pampers all sorts of cute, cartoony felines, including cats in trees and sinks and paper bags. This one didn't really grab my imagination, but it's not bad. Part of a whole series of "I Like..." and "I Love..." titles. (B-)

"Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready For Bed?"
Written by Barney Saltzberg
Illustrated by Barney Saltzberg
(Candlewick, 2005)


"Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready For School?"
Written by Barney Saltzberg
Illustrated by Barney Saltzberg
(Candlewick, 2007)

In this sequel to Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready For Bed? our piglet hero gives hair-splitting answers to his mother's questions regarding his readiness for school. She asks if he's made his bed and he replies "Yes!" (he's "made" it into an elephant...); he says he's put his clothes on, but doesn't mention that he put them "on" the fishbowl... The list goes on, with the words telling one story and the art showing another as Cornelius provides technically truthful but somewhat misleading answers to all his mom's questions. Finally she sends Cornelius off to catch the bus -- but wait a minute! he's still wearing his pajamas! Turns out it doesn't matter, though, because Cornelius is going off to Clown School, and his p.j.s fit right in. So... then... were all those funny fibs really just Cornelius doing his homework? It makes my poor head hurt to think about it. The punchline is pretty funny, but I am still fearful of the story: the last thing I need to do is teach my kid how to use semantics against me! (Oh, it's hard being so uptight...!) Note-for-note, this is a comedic replay of the first Cornelius P. Mud saga: if you liked that one, you'll enjoy this one, too. (B)

"The Huckabuck Family, And How They Raised Popcorn In Nebraska And Quit And Came Back"
Written by Carl Sandburg
Illustrated by David Small
(Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999)

Originally published in 1923, poet Carl Sandburg's Huckabuck Family was, as a children's book, ahead of its time, with a loopy, oddball sense of humor and a verbal playfulness that both echoed the bounciness of old nursery rhymes and anticipated the loose, free spirit of postmodern texts. Anchored in the post-World War I era, when America was still pretty rural and gosh-heck, I'm not totally sure how well it works for modern readers, but artist David Small certainly does a fine job bringing to life the tall-tale story of Pony Pony Huckabuck and her robust family, who raise a bumper crop of Nebraska popcorn, but have to flee the farm after a popping-related disaster. They travel for several years, with the beaming, broadshouldered father, Jonas Jonas Huckabuck taking various job and Pony Pony tagging along to admire her pop's penchant for good, honest labor. The exaltation of labor is one of the book's charming, antique features, as is the family's enduring, unflagging optimism (the story is really about a working family that has to move from town to town to make ends meet, but Pony Pony sees it all as a big, fun adventure... Sort of like a happy-go-lucky version of Grapes Of Wrath, minus the vigilantes and broken bones...) A wholesome, cheerful story with funny, socialistic undercurrent and a slightly fusty, old-fashioned charm. (B)

"The Dangerous Snake And Reptile Club"
Written by Daniel San Souci
Illustrated by Daniel San Souci
(Tricycle Press, 2004)

This book introduces the Clubhouse gang, a group of kids (all boys in the first book) that share wild enthusiasms and re-name their club with each new adventure. Here, the boys get into reptiles and amphibians, forming the "The Dangerous Snake And Reptile Club" of the title. They catch dozens of tadpoles, salamanders and non-poisonous snakes, then put them on display for the folks in their neighborhood to see. The reptile club eventually loses focus and the animals are set free, but in the last panel of the book, the stage is set for a sequel, when the boys find a "meteor" in a neighbor's back yard. This series perfectly captures the excitement with which preteens delve into their passions... I'm not wild about the artwork, which borders on the grotesque, but the books work -- my kid loved 'em and wanted to hear more. (B)

"Space Station Mars"
Written by Daniel San Souci
Illustrated by Daniel San Souci
(Tricycle Press, 2005)

After seeing a scary B-movie about Martian invaders, the Gang gets into outer space stuff, and decide, improbably, that a rock they find in a neighbor's yard is really a meteorite. Just as they're trying to figure out whether it's radioactive or not, a new kid named Neil shows up in town, and he just happens to be a slide-rule science geek with a passion for finding extraterrestrial life. The story is kind of confused and awkward after that -- eventually Neil decides the space aliens are angry and wan their rock back, which proves to be easy when a "space ship" lands nearby. The best part of the book is when they visit the ship and it turns out to be a water tank (a real one, located in the San Francisco Bay Area!) I wasn't wowed by this one, but it does reflect some of the giddy excitement kids had in space travel and science in the post-Sputnik era of the late 1950s and early '60s. (C+)

"The Amazing Ghost Detectives"
Written by Daniel San Souci
Illustrated by Daniel San Souci
(Tricycle Press, 2006)

The ever-changing club has expanded to include a girl, Allison, and has a new, ghostbuster-y mission: someone -- or something -- has been breaking into the clubhouse at night, making a big mess and eating all the candy bars! What could it be? After careful consideration, a ghost seems to be the only answer, and the gang has to figure out how to get rid of their otherworldly visitor. The comedy comes from the pictures: when the kids hear about "strange" things happening in the neighborhood, they see the ghost at work (whereas we, the readers, see the real causes: gophers, alley cats and raccoons...) Nonetheless, they do their research and figure out the best way to chase a "ghost" away...and it works! Another fun evocation of the split-second enthusiasms and all-consuming interests of the pre-teen set. Fun! (B)

"The Mighty Pigeon Club"
Written by Daniel San Souci
Illustrated by Daniel San Souci
(Tricycle Press, 2007)

Through a kid at school, the Gang becomes interested in homing pigeons...When their pigeon-keeping pal develops an allergy, the Gang inherits his birds, but swiftly find that keeping a flock of birds is kind of a pain. The pigeons poop all over their clubhouse (and the kids have to clean it up... yuck!) and all their neighbors complain about the birds. They eventually find a new home for the flock, but along the way the book is kind of a bummer. The preoccupation with poop is realistic, but not much fun to read about; similarly, when the Gang runs afoul of a priest whose church they try and ditch the birds at, the kids respond by running away. Again, realistic behavior for a pack of 8-10 year-olds, but maybe not something you want modeled in a kids' book. An okay adventure for kids in that age range, and an okay message regarding responsibility and be-careful-what-you-wish-for object lessons... Didn't grab me as well as the earlier Reptile Club book.... (C+)

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