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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 "W"






Kids Books -- "W" By Author

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"Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?"
Written by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Barbara Firth
(Candlewick, 1988)

I love the "Little Bear" books, but was less than thrilled by this book. Apparently, this was the first volume of the series, introducing us to the whimsically named "Big Bear" and "Little Bear," who live in a snug little cave off in the woods, a cavern filled with comfy chairs, a warm fireplace, and lots of love. What I didn't like about this book was the message, a prolonged exploration of scared-of-the-dark sleep anxieties -- I bought this book sight unseen, based on my delight with the other, later volumes, and was bummed to discover that it was an "issue book," dwelling on problems that we (thankfully) haven't come across yet in our family (and don't want to encourage). Also, the writing is a bit thick and clunky, a repetitive diatribe that sacrifices dramatic grace in favor of getting The Point across. I suppose it's possible we'll need this book later, if our kid does get scared of the dark, but for now it's hidden up on a high shelf, way out of sight. (B)


"Once There Were Giants"
Written by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Penny Dale
(Delacorte, 1989)

What? I wasn't crying or getting all teary... honest! Here's a book with a little girl who grows from being an infant surrounded by "giants" (her parents and family) into a toddler, a child, a schoolchild, an athlete, and young woman, and -- ultimately -- into a "giant" herself, with a baby of her own. It's a real three-hankie weeper; if this one doesn't getcha right in the gut, then you've got a heart of stone. This book also boasts beautiful artwork that ably supports the text -- you see the little girl grow right before your eyes -- and Penny Dale's depictation of the young tomboy's pugnacious side (when she's seen scrapping with her older brother) will ring true for anyone who grew up in a large family. A very nice book, although on some level it may have been written a bit more for the benefit of parents than for children. (A)


"Owl Babies"
Written by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Patrick Benson
(Candlewick, 1992)

A trio of baby owls are left alone in the nest while their mother searches for food. The eldest cheers the other two on, while the youngest cries for its mommy. I never thought much of this book until separation anxiety started to set in with our baby, and she liked to have it read over and over and over. Guess that's why it's in every book store in the country! A nice, simple story that deals with a primal emotional issue; nice artwork, too. (A)


"When The Teddy Bears Came"
Written by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Penny Dale
(Candlewick, 1994)

Another winner from Irish author Martin Waddell... A warm, simple story of a family flooded with teddy bears when a new baby arrives. An older sibling helps name and organize all the fluffy newcomers and, as a result, grows closer to the infant. A sweet family tale which presents a newly arrived sibling in an entirely positive light... The book doesn't bear a big "message" about sibing rivalry, etc. and as a result is effective just as a fun book that has a long list of teddies to meet and memorize. Not a classic, but a nice, fun read. Good for families that want to explore the idea of a new baby, but who don't want to get all freaked out about it, or generate anxiety around the arrival. Also works as a book for single kids who like books with babies in them, or kids who are into naming things. A very sweet, gentle story in which potential jealousy and rivalry is subsumed in a (literally) warm and fuzzy snugglefest. Nice, realistic artwork that clearly, believably conveys the social interactions and emotions of the various children and adults... Nice book... highly recommended! (A)


"The Happy Hedgehog Band"
Written by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Jill Barton
(Candlewick, 1991)

One of Martin Waddell's lesser works, but still pretty nice. Four hedgehogs build drums and go boom-diddy-boom in the middle of the forest. When the rest of the animals hear them play and want to join in, the lead hedgehog comes up with a way for everybody to have fun. A simple celebration of sound, rhythm, and do-it-yourself musicmaking, this also encourages parents (and other readers) to go wild with the sound effects... Not immortal literature, but a fun book that may help get little kids jazzed about music.
(C+)


"Let's Go Home, Little Bear"
Written by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Barbara Firth
(Candlewick, 1995)

The two bears are tromping through the snow when Little Bear starts to hear funny sounds. Their journey home is slowed by his half-playful need to stop repeatedly and have Big Bear reassure him that there's nothing scary in the woods. Once again, Big Bear is the model of kindness and compassion, and childhood anxieties are diffused and transformed into a source of delight. The text verges on being cumbersome, but you'll probably wind up liking this book as much as we do. Wonderful artwork: skillfully rendered, the tenderness between the two bears leaps out at you on every page. (A)


"You And Me, Little Bear"
Written by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Barbara Firth
(Candlewick, 1998)

One of the best books in this outstanding series... Big Bear is busy with housework and has to balance Little Bear's demands for attention with the need to get the cave clean. Little Bear is so eager to spend time with Big Bear that he tags along and helps with the chores. Later, when the chores are done, the two sit down and read a book together, and Big Bear reassures Little Bear they will always be together, even if sometimes Little Bear will have to be patient and wait for Big Bear to do grown-up things. The physical awkwardness/super-cuteness of small children is perfectly captured in Barbara Firth's artwork; equally charming is the gentle depiction of a parent making space for a small person's needs, including letting the child help out with housework and develop self-esteem and a sense of connection as a result. It's also nice to see such a compassionate, nurturing male figure as this powerful, cuddly papa bear. Highly recommended! (A+)


"Yum, Yum, Yummy"
Written by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello
(Candlewick, 1998)

Wow... this book really freaked my kid out... When the three little bears go out to get some honey as a present for their mother and a big, bully bear takes it away, she got really upset, even when the mama bear came with them and scared the bully away. Of course, the next day she made me read it again, and informed me that Guzzley Bear (the bully) grew up to be a daddy bear, and now he's nice. That was sweet, but I'm still not sure I'd recommend this book, unless you feel you have a specific need to talk about bullying to your child. It isn't Waddell's best work, and the story is a bit blunt, and might-makes-rightish. (D)


"Good Job, Little Bear"
Written by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Barbara Firth
(Candlewick, 1999)

The perfect introduction to this delightful, gentle, masterful series. Big Bear and Little Bear go for a walk through the woods, and Little Bear tests his own abilities as well as Big Bear's steadfastness and love. In a touching model of parental supportiveness, Big Bear watches patiently as his little boy climbs big rocks and jumps out of trees, helping him when he asks and rescuing him when he really falls down. Then, when Little Bear is discouraged, he encourages him to keep "exploring" and continue their walk through the woods. This is probably the best of the "Little Bear" books, although "You And Me" comes in a close second. And once again, the artwork is a delight: Firth's work really helps make these books magical. (A+)


"Anything For You"
Written by John Wallace
Illustrated by Harry Horse
(Gardener's Books, 2004)

Another bear-book, about a well-behaved little boy bear who cheerfully takes a bath, brushes his teeth gets dressed for bed and falls right asleep, all because he loves his mommy and will do anything to please her. (File that one under the department of wishful thinking!) This is a nice book with good artwork and clear, effective writing. It verges on the icky-sweet, but not so much so that you'd want to gag or anything... It wouldn't take much, though, for a less acquiescent child to see through the story's more propagandistic qualities. Not quite on a par with Martin Waddell's "Little Bear" books, but it's pretty much the same idea, with a warm, loving parent-child relationship. If you're on a bear-book kick, then this would be a nice addition. (B)


"Connie Came To Play"
Written by Jill Paton Walsh
Illustrated by Stephen Lambert
(Viking, 1995)

A nice little girl triumphs over the crabbiness of a little boy. When Connie comes over to play at Robert's house, he grabs each of his toys in succession and yells, "That's mine! You can't play with it!" The girl responds calmly by saying, okay, I'll just play with something else. In each case, she pretends that she has something similar, but better: he grabs his blocks from her, she imagines that she builds a whole castle out of giant bricks, etc. In the end, when Robert's stinginess has run its course (and there's nothing left to keep away from his guest), she invites him to share her pretend world, and he decides she's pretty cool, after all. Okay, maybe the "real world" doesn't always work like that, but it's still a really sweet story. My two-year old, who's in the middle of all that "no! mine!" stuff was fascinated by this book, nd asked to have it read again and again. Nice to see such a gentle, hopeful exploration of such negative emotions, although small children may have a hard time understanding the concept of pretending (and an even harder time making it work in the playground, when there's only one real sand shovel to play with...) (B+)


"When I Was Little Like You"
Written by Jill Paton Walsh
Illustrated by Stephen Lambert
(Viking, 1997)

A sweet, sentimental story of a little girl and her grandmother walking through the countryside along the English shore, with the little girl, Rosie, pointing things out -- ships, trains, shops -- and the grandmother telling Rosie how different things were when she was young. The book ends on a touching note -- with the grandmother saying that, for all its changes, the world is better now that it has Rosie in it. The visual alternations between the present day and the past -- with the grandmother pictured as a little girl -- may be a little confusing to younger readers. Reaction to this book was fairly muted, overall... I think it was a little hard to follow... (C+)


"Oscar And The Moth: A Book About Light And Dark"
Written by Geoff Waring
Illustrated by Geoff Waring
(Candlewick, 2007)

A beginning science book that explores the concepts and physics behind light and darkness. Oscar is a curious little kitten who likes to ask lots of questions, and who listens to the answers. Here, his guide is a friendly moth who explains about sunrise and sunset, shadows, bioluminescence, how smaller or weaker light sources (stars, airplane lights) become more visible at night, and how various animals respond to light. The exaggerated, cartoony artwork is appealing, as is the kitty-kat character, although the narrative flow isn't all that compelling. However, the companion volume, Oscar And The Frog (reviewed below), is much more involving. As introductory physical science books, this series seems pretty good, at least for readers on the younger end of the spectrum (4-5 year-olds, perhaps?) There isn't a ton of hard scientific information (or, indeed, actual explanations of many of the phenomena that are mentioned) but that's probably just as well. These books give the general outlines of the topics with out taxing the attention span of the audience; used as stepping stones to more detailed books, these could be quite useful. (B)


"Oscar And The Frog: A Book About Growing"
Written by Geoff Waring
Illustrated by Geoff Waring
(Candlewick, 2006)

An excellent introductory science book that talks about how different plant and animal species grow -- how they are born, what they eat, how they grow -- and, to a limited extent, how they propagate. Sexual reproduction isn't addressed (breathe a sigh of relief, if necessary) but the book does explore the differences between egg-laying animals, live-birth mammals and seed-bearing plants. (Fungi and other spore-producing life forms are left out. Darn.) A few interesting metamorphoses are explored, mainly that of the frog in the title, as are differences in life spans. All this info is taken in by the wide-eyed, ever-curious kitten, Oscar, who asks good questions and gets good answers. This one went over well at our house -- I had been trying to explain some of these same concepts a few weeks ago, and found that this book presented the information quite well, and was consistently engaging. Heck, we even got requests for repeat readings, and that's always a good sign! (B+)




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