Hi there... This is the first page of the letter "A" in an alphabetical listing of the children's books reviewed on ReadThatAgain.com... All these books are also listed by Author in a separate section of the site.

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Kids Books -- "A" By Title
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"Abuela"
Written by Arthur Dorros
Illustrated by Elisa Kleven
(Dutton, 1991)

A nice bilingual picturebook story about a little girl who loves hanging out with her grandmother (abuela) and has a great fantasy adventure with her, where the two of them pretend to fly all across the island of Manhattan, visiting family and friends, and seeing the sights. The artwork is fantastic -- Kleven's folk-art approach already has a strong Latin American component, and she is a perfect match for Dorros's text. This is followed by Isla, where they visit family in the old country. Nice stuff! (B+)


"Adele & Simon"
Written by Barbara McClintock
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Frances Foster Books/Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2006)

Already a master draftsperson, author-illustrator Barbara McClintock has outdone herself on this one... Young Simon is a French schoolboy -- dreamy and absentminded, he loses his possessions, one by one, on the way home, as his older sister Adele looks on in exasperation. They visit various Parisian landmarks -- The Luxembourg Gardens, Notre Dame, Maison Cador, the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle -- all beautifully rendered in McClintock's fine-lined, fantastical style. The pictures are packed with delightful details, including bustling mobs of Parisians in period costume (and one page in which Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline and her schoolmates appear, in a walk in the Jardin de Plantes) and there is a puckish, playful verve throughout. We see the hustle and bustle of a bygone era, at the dawn of the 20th Century. There's a "where's Waldo" element to the story, where the items Simon loses are hidden inside the large, complex two-page panels: the four crayons strewn abound the Louvre are particularly hard to find. All in all, this is a very classy book -- beautiful to look at, wonderfully fun to read. (A+)


"The Adventures Of Charlotte And Henry"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Viking, 1987)

Not the greatest book ever, but it's amusing and will please those readers who are already on Graham's wavelength. This series of five short vignettes originally appeared in some French magazine, and were later dutifully collected into this brief volume. Henry is a cautious young fellow whose best friend is a slightly older girl named Charlotte, who is both reckless and accident-prone. Henry spends his days following her about, warning her first and picking up the pieces later. Their friendship is defined early on when Charlotte comments that one thing she likes about Henry is that he is a worrywart, but he never says "I told you so" when things go wrong. The best story, "The Present," involves Charlotte's sneaky efforts to replace one of Henry's best-loved stuffed animals, a cloth dog that's lost his stuffing -- she smuggles the doll out of Henry's house, but can't find anything like it at any of the toy stores she goes to, and winds up re-stuffing Derby and giving him back to Henry as a surprise. Like the other stories, this captures a certain something about childhood relationships, and it's also very sweet, with no menace or violence anywhere to be seen. It's nice. (B-)


"The Adventures Of Polo"
Written by Regis Faller
Illustrated by Regis Faller
(Roaring Brook Press, 2002)

An absolutely brilliant, magical book... This fab fantasy from France is a wordless picturebook that stars Polo, a cheerful, indomitable cartoon dog with a flair for improvisation, bravery and boundless curiosity... The story starts with Polo walking out of his house -- a large oak tree on a tiny ocean island -- and setting out on an adventure with his trusty backpack and umbrella. From there it's a wild, wonderful ride where one thing leads to another: Polo climbs a ladder to the sky, is scooped up birds, imprisoned in an iceberg and climbs to the moon, where little green men welcome him into their mushroom-strewn underground world... Like Crockett Johnson's "Purple Crayon" series, the "Polo" books play on visual free association -- one inventive flight of fancy piles on top of another, although author-illustrator Regis Faller has crafted something much longer than any of the "Crayon" books, a large, bold graphic novel that clearly comes out of the European comicbook tradition, as bold and expansive as any of the "Tin-Tin" novels. Polo is a marvelous reading experience, and it expects as much from its readers as it gives back. Adults can guide children through the narrative, commenting on each panel, or summarizing entire pages, creating the narrative as they go along. Children can also spend hours alone, pouring over the panels and making up stories of their own. Faller has a wonderful intuitive grasp of fantasy and fantastic thought; his storytelling and graphic style are simply delightful... And, gee, are these books fun! Fantastic, exciting, perilous things happen on every page, but Polo never comes to any harm, he just has a great time and makes lots of friends. Highly recommended! One of our favorite books. (Followed by Polo And The Runaway Book; other titles are available in Europe, but not in the USA... ) (A+)


"A Is For Annabelle: A Doll's Alphabet"
Written by Tasha Tudor
Illustrated by Tasha Tudor
(Oxford University Press, 1954)

A delightfully old-fashioned alphabet primer, using a doll named Annabelle and all her clothes and accoutrements to get us from A to Z. The simple, realistic illustrations alternate between color and black-and-white plates, bordered with floral wreaths. The letters appear in large, bold print -- hard to miss -- so the educational message comes in loud and clear, though little girls or boys who are into dolls will also enjoy the dolly content as well. Some of the words, like Nosegay, Overskirt and Tippet are so old-fashioned they were probably out-of-date even when this book first came out which, of course, adds to the charm. And even while evoking the style of turn-of-the-century Edwardian children's books, Tudor shows flashes of a winsome, modern humor, as on her "X" page: "X is the letter for which I've no rhyme..." A nice girly-girl book, well suited for kids who are into the more formal, bonnet-wearing kind of doll. (A)


"Alexander's Pretending Day"
Written by Bunny Crumpacker
Illustrated by Dan Andreasen
(Dutton Books, 2005)

An absolutely wonderful book about a sweet little preschool-age boy spending the day with his mom, asking her all kinds of cute, imaginative play questions, like, Mom, what would you do if I turned into a big lion? The mom puts down her newspaper and plays along, and they share one of the sweetest fantasy-play exchanges seen in a kids' book... Alexander becomes ever more imaginative, becoming a dinosaur, a monster, a river and even a book. The warmth between these characters is quite moving, and Dan Andreasen's artwork is marvelous -- a perfect compliment to a delightful story. Highly recommended. (A+)



Alfie & Annie Rose -- see Shirley Hughes' author profile


"Alice's Adventures In Wonderland"
Written by Lewis Carroll
Illustrations compiled by Cooper Edens
(Chronicle Books, 2000)

So far, I have read Alice's Adventures twice with my daughter... The first time was a standard edition with black-and-white illustrations, and that was fun, though it took a while to get through. Revisiting the story with this ornate and wildly creative edition, which combines dozens of vintage illustrations from a number of different versions of the book, was a lot more fun... Although it can be mildly disconcerting to have the images and representations of Alice and the Wonderland menagerie change so much from panel to panel, at its heart this is a wonderful way to see the story -- you not only get a sense of how many different ways a story can be depicted, you also absorb a little bit of magic from each artist. Consistently surprising and evocative, this book breathes new life into a timeless tale. Highly recommended! (A)


"All By Myself"
Written by Aliki
Illustrated by Aliki
(Harper Collins, 2000)
A nice, super-well behaved little boy named Peter goes through his daily rituals, waking, dressing, eating, going potty, going to school, etc. all by himself. The theme of independence ("by myself!") could be more strongly stressed in the text, but that's no biggie... What matters is the book's exuberant, celebratory tone, which shows a happy, model child doing various everyday activities... The pictures are nice & easy to follow... And what parents wouldn't wish to have as nice a child as this? Good role modeling and a lot of fun things to point out discuss while reading the book with your child. (B+)


"Almost"
Written by Richard Torrey
Illustrated by Richard Torrey
(Harper Collins, 2009)

A sweet, simple book about an almost-six year old named Jack who can "almost" do a bunch of stuff: make his own breakfast, ride a big bike, win the big baseball game, etc. There are a few pages that deal with his locking horns with his older brother, so if you've got an only child that part might not resonate, but overall the book is about yearning for growth and independence. Nice message with a good, straightforward, humorous delivery. Recommended! (By the way, if you like the Jack character, he continues on into two other books, Why and Because...) (B+)


"Almost Everything"
Written by Joelle Jolivet
Illustrated by Joelle Jolivet
(Roaring Brook Press, 2005)

Sadly, this followup book -- which tackles material sciences and includes spreads on things like tools, cities, modes of transportation -- lacks the bold, vibrant visual appeal of Jolivet's earlier masterpiece, Zoology. Quite simply, there's just too much stuff being crammed onto the pages. Either the conceptual scope was too large, or there was no one around to tell Jolivet when to take a few things out. In theory this would be a great book, but I found it to be cluttered and much harder to get into. Results may vary where you live. (C+)


"Alphabeep: A Zipping, Zooming ABC"
Written by Debora Pearson
Illustrated by Edward Miller
(Holiday House, 2003)

A stylish, lively alphabet book with a vehicular twist... I thought this looked like fun, but my daughter was completely disinterested, so I can't say I really was able to properly field test it. It seemed cool to me, though. Kids who are into cars, trucks and trains will probably really dig this one. (PS - "Z" is for "Zamboni," of course!) (B)


"AlphaOops! The Day Z Went First"
Written by Alethea Kontis
Illustrated by Bob Kolar
(Candlewick, 2006)

This is an absolutely brilliant children's book, completely breaking the mould for ABC primers, with a clever premise and a vibrant, richly multi-layered presentation that can give hours and hours (indeed, years and years) of reading pleasure. The premise is simple -- that the letter "Z", tired of always coming last, stages a little coup and insists that they do things backwards, and let him go first for once. "A", who was just about to do the same old "is for apple," isn't happy about the disruption, but lets it happen anyway, and then the fun begins. Maybe Z has a point, but once you break the rules one way, there's no telling what might happen next... And sure enough, all the other letters want to do things *their* way, too -- some start doing more than one word, which makes other letters unhappy, and they start trying to top each other, and going in completely random order. Chaos rules, and even Z starts to get irritated and confused. Meanwhile, we readers have a total blast -- the bright, colorful artwork is as playful and anarchic as the text, packed with countless sight gags and fascinating details -- just the kind of thing little kids can really dig into. And since each letter gets their own cameo, there are a lot of opportunities for adult readers to do funny voices, etc., as well as have great dialogs with their kids about what's going on in each picture. Easily one of the best children's books of the decade... Highly recommended. (A+)




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