Hi there... This is the second 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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"The Amazing Ghost Detectives"
Written by Daniel San Souci
Illustrated by Daniel San Souci
(Tricycle Press, 2006)

The third volume in Daniel San Souci's riotous Clubhouse series... 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)


"Am I Big Or Little?"
Written by Margaret Park Bridges
Illustrated by Tracy Dockray
(SeaStar, 2000)

This one grapples with one of the big questions of the toddler set: am I a little baby or a big kid? Trouble is, the text doesn't really delve that deeply into the psychology of getting "big," opting instead for would-be uber-cuteness, with couplets like, "You're little enough to stand on my feet when we dance/But I'm big enough to hold on tight when you spin me" and "You're little enough to crawl under your bed/But I'm big enough to reach out and tickle you!" The preciousness of the writing is accentuated by the artwork, which is a bit too Hallmark-cardlike for me. For the right families, this book is probably a real gem, others may simply find it cloying and shallow. Also, I'm not a big fan of split-narrative texts, like this one, where the mother says something on one page, and the child's point of view follows on the next. It's a hard trick to pull off well, and Bridges' text doesn't quite do it for me. (C-)


"Anatole"
Written by Eve Titus
Illustrated by Paul Galdone
(McGraw-Hill, 1956)

A wonderful Francophile classic, in which a teeny-tiny, beret-wearing Parisian mouse discovers that humans do not, in fact, like to have mice in their houses, and indeed consider them germy little freeloaders. Determined to pull his own weight, Anatole sneaks into a cheese factory and appoints himself the company's new taste-tester... When his suggestions dramatically improve the company's sales, he gets the job for real (although no one ever discovers that he is, in fact, a mouse...) Other than the lovely pictures, the love of cheese and a few cute phrases, the overt Frenchness of the series is a bit tangential, but it doesn't really matter... This is a lovely series, full of good humor and captivating artwork. Recommended! (B+)


"Anatole And The Cat"
Written by Eve Titus
Illustrated by Paul Galdone
(McGraw-Hill, 1957)

Our plucky Gallic mousie find his new job jeopardized when a cat shows up at the cheese factory, giving Anatole a fright and causing his friend Gaston to quit working as his assistant. Memos fly back and forth between Anatole and the cheese factory's owner (now that sounds French!) until finally Anatole figures out a way to get the horrid feline out of his hair. Like the first Anatole book, this story is witty and charming, although the dramatic arc is much less clean, and readers may have to do a little more work to make it hit home. Still, we liked it. Probably better suited for older kids, but charming nonetheless, with some of Galdone's best artwork. (B+)


"Anatole And The Toy Shop"
Written by Eve Titus
Illustrated by Paul Galdone
(McGraw-Hill, 1970)

(-)


"Anatole In Italy"
Written by Eve Titus
Illustrated by Paul Galdone
(McGraw-Hill, 1973)

(-)


"Anatole And The Robot"
Written by Eve Titus
Illustrated by Paul Galdone
(McGraw-Hill, 1960)

(-)


"Anatole Over Paris"
Written by Eve Titus
Illustrated by Paul Galdone
(McGraw-Hill, 1961)

(-)


"Anatole And The Poodle"
Written by Eve Titus
Illustrated by Paul Galdone
(McGraw-Hill, 1965)

(-)


"Anatole And The Piano"
Written by Eve Titus
Illustrated by Paul Galdone
(McGraw-Hill, 1966)

(-)


"Anatole And The Pied Piper"
Written by Eve Titus
Illustrated by Paul Galdone
(McGraw-Hill, xxxx)

(-)


"Anatole And The Thirty Thieves"
Written by Eve Titus
Illustrated by Paul Galdone
(McGraw-Hill, 1969)

(-)


"Andrew's Bath"
Written by David McPhail
Illustrated by David McPhail
(Little Brown & Co, 1984)

The old McPhail magic is in full effect with this charming story of a young boy whose first attempt at taking a bath by himself devolves into chaos as a pack of (imaginary?) zoo animals wreak havoc at every turn. A frog splashes water on the floor, a hippopotamus sits on the soap, an alligator won't give the washcloth back, etc. Andrew's parents, who had been driven bonkers by his earlier fussiness at bathtime (the water was always too hot, or too cold, or too deep, or whatever...) hold their heads in disbelief at their new set of challenges. (The pictures of the frazzled parents trying to hold back their frustration will crack up anyone who's spend any time at all with a willful toddler...) Really cute, and just the kind of wily story about misbehavior that little kids love. (B+)


"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)



"Angelina Ballerina" (series) -- see author profile


"Animal Alphabet: Slide & Seek The ABCs"
Written by Alex Lluch
Illustrated by Alex Lluch
(Wedding Solutions, 2005)

This board book features twenty-six sliding panels that illustrate the letters of the alphabet with attractive, well-drawn animal pictures: A for Alligator, B for Bear...etc. This one is a favorite at our household... The biggest selling point of this book is its durability: most pop-up books and panel books are easily ruined by overeager or rambunctious children. This one, however, has sliding panels that are encased in tough, solid cardboard pages, and is almost impossible for small children (ages 0-2?) to tear apart. The sliding action helps develop eye-to-hand coordination, and the panels move easily from side to side, avoiding the frustration that some movable parts can create. The pictures are nice, some of the animals are unusually named (urial and xenops, for example...) and once your kid gets the hang of it, he or she can be left alone to explore the book with no fear of it winding up in pieces. Recommended! (A)

"Animal Fables From Aesop"
Written by Aesop
Adapted and Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(David R. Godine, 1991)

A delightful (though slim) set of adaptations from Aesop's moral-laden fables. Stories include "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse," "The Fox and the Crane" (in which one of the Fox's pranks backfires on him), and "The Crow and the Peacocks'' (on the pitfalls of vanity) and "The Fox and The Crow" (vanity again!) McClintock ingeniously frames the stories as the work of a traveling theater company, introducing all the characters at the beginning... and then unmasking them at the end, showing human actors beneath the gorgeously detailed costumes. The illustrations have all the hallmarks of her style: beautifully detailed animals, clad in extravagant antique clothing -- hoop skirts, waistcoats, giant, puffy gowns -- as well as an underlying whiff of playfulness and pranksterism. We read book this during an exploration of Aesop's work, and it emerged as a favorite -- both the text and the illustrations are marvelous! (For more books by this author, see the Barbara McClintock profile page)
(A)


"Animal Music"
Written by Harriet Ziefert
Illustrated by Donald Saaf
(Houghton Mifflin, 1999)

Actually this is sort of two books in one: the first half shows the members of Mr. Lion's Marching Band, and the second depicts Mr. Sheep's Dance Band... The artwork is superior to the writing, which I believe is meant to read like song lyrics, but is surprisingly clunky... I really had a hard time wrapping my mouth around the words -- the meter is wildly variable and the text doesn't always rhyme, but sometimes it does. I hate that. Still, it's a nice book that presents a variety of musical instruments and different contexts for music to be seen and heard. For a similar treatment (and one that I like better), you might also check out Ivo Orleans' Animal Orchestra, which is simpler and more tightly constructed. (B-)


"Animal Orchestra"
Written by Ilo Orleans
Illustrated by Tibor Gergely
(Golden Books, 1958)

This one is a longtime favorite, one of those odd little books from a few decades ago. I bought it because it celebrates music, showing an entire orchestra populated with animals such as tuba-tooting elephants and trombone-wiggling monkeys... The text scans well (though I made a few minor adjustments over the course of multiple readings, and a few of the instruments are misidentified (most egregiously, a bagpipe is called a fife...) But for the most part, this is a book we love. The meter of the rhyme is lively and fun, it instills an interest in music and performing arts, and there are dozens of animals to point out and talk about, and the artwork is captivating as well. Recommended! (Please note our well-chewed board book copy...) (A-)


"Anna's Book"
Written by Barbara Baker
Illustrated by Catherine O'Neill
(Dutton, 2004)
A little girl has a new favorite book, and wants her mom to read it... again and again and again. Her mom's kind of busy, so she finally disengages, after which Anna takes over and reads the book herself... again and again and again... (Yay, happy ending!) It's a nice, simple story... At first we weren't really wowed by it, but it has since become a favorite... the kind of thing that gets requested again and again, as a matter of fact. Plus, anything that's pro-book propaganda is fine by me. Hate the sequel, though. (See below.) (B)


"Anna Shares"
Written by Barbara Baker
Illustrated by Catherine O'Neill
(Dutton, 2004)
As with the first "Anna" story, I like the artwork, the pacing, the feel of this book. The only trouble with it was that the title is completely misleading... The little girl Anna doesn't learn to share, and indeed is rewarded for being a complete brat. Anna has a friend over to play, but when her mother brings out cookies to share, Anna grabs them all and refuses to give any to the boy. He cries, the mother intervenes and gives him one of the four cookies, then Anna pitches a fit, causing the mom to send her friend home. After that, Anna "shares" the remaining three cookies with her stuffed animals, then gobbles them up, and smiles with self-satisfaction. While this depictation of greedy, selfish behavior rings true emotionally -- kids are like that -- the "resolution" offered by the author is worse than a half-measure, it's a travesty. Reviewers who praise this book for celebrating Anna's inner "strength" are themselves condoning hostile, antisocial behavior, and miss the point that all adults, book authors included, have a responsibility to help small children tell the difference between right and wrong. Being a greedy jerk and a bully is not right. My daughter, who is very young and wrestling with the whole sharing-vs.-asserting yourself dilemma, found this book at the library and brought it over for me to read, and I was horrified by the ending -- it's one hundred percent NOT the message I want her to see.
(D-)


"An Octopus Followed Me Home"
Written by Dan Yaccarino
Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
(1998)

A surprisingly clumsy early work from TV cartoonist Dan Yaccarino. An octopus tags along with a little girl and when she asks her dad please please please can I keep him, he reminds her of all the other exotic, improbable animals she's taken in and promised to care for... The concept is very funny, and the text is pretty good, I just didn't care for the artwork. It's kinda chaotic and overly bold, difficult to take in at a glance and understand. Maybe a little tighter framing and more negative space would have helped? Anyway, I wasn't wowed by this one, but it's okay. Check out Yaccarino's Birthday Fish, instead... that's his best! (C-)


"The Antique Store Cat"
Written by Leslie Baker
Illustrated by Leslie Baker
(Little Brown, 1992)

In the first sequel to Baker's magical Third Story Cat, Alice the calico escapes again and when it starts raining finds refuge in a neighborhood antique store. Naturally, she breaks some stuff by accident, but then saves the day when a dishonest customer comes by... Then, just as she grows lonely for home, the little girl she lives with shows up and takes her home. The plot is a bit forced -- enjoyable, but more conventional and not as magical (or as inherently feline) as the first book. I like Baker's artwork, though! (B-)


"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)




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