Hi there... This is the third page "of the Letter A" in an alphabetical list 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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"A Pig Is Big"
Written by Douglas Florian
Illustrated by Douglas Florian
(Greenwillow, 2000)

This book teaches about size, and in particular how there is always something bigger than the biggest thing you can imagine. It starts with a pig, moves to a cow, then to a car, and on up through the universe. I thought this book was cool, but my kid was just not into it -- too nakedly instructive, and she caught on right away. Still, I thought it had a very nice, elegant way of getting the point across. Worth checking out; great for the right kids, at the right time. (B+)

"The Apple Doll"
Written by Elisa Kleven
Illustrated by Elisa Kleven
(Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2007)

A complex narrative from the fantastically-minded author-illustrator Elisa Kleven. This shares a similar theme to Kleven's "Paper Princess" triology -- the intense love of imaginative children for their make-believe companions -- but it's also an issue-oriented book that's more rooted in the "real world" than Kleven's earlier work. A young girl named Lizzy is anxious about starting school and decides to bring a handmade doll from home as a surrogate friend. It's an apple-head doll that she made with fruit from her favorite tree, but instead of bringing her comfort, it puts her right in the sights of her new schoolmates, who tease her and tell her that her doll is weird. Lizzy gets the message, and after the first day she leaves the doll back home, although she still feels isolated and has no friends... Kleven indulges in a little wishful thinking when she has Lizzy's dollmaking later win over all the kids in class -- they see how cool apple dolls are and all want to make one themselves, and Lizzy obligingly shows them how. I'm not sure I really buy the sudden happy ending, but this is still a nice book... Like many of Kleven's characters, Lizzy is a sweet little dreamer, a vulnerable loner whose innocence you desperately don't want trampled by the other kids. And, as always, the artwork is enchanting, jam-packed with details and wonder for the world around us. Also included in the back of the book are handy instructions for how to make an apple doll of your own, a treat for arts'n'crafts-minded readers. (B)

"Apple Farmer Annie"
Written by Monica Wellington
Illustrated by Monica Wellington
(Dutton, 2001)

A cheerful, colorful celebration of farming, with a happy gal who raises and sells her own apples, harvesting, sorting, and even baking with some of them, them hauling them to the farmer's market, all by herself. The bright, super-cartoonish artwork is appealing, as is the story. Ideal for kids who go to the markets with their parents, a nice celebration of farming and a healthy relationship to food and food production. Also includes some recipies in the back! (A)

"A Pocket For Corduroy "
Written by Don Freeman
Illustrated by Don Freeman
(Viking Books, 1978)

A sequel to Freeman's 1968 classic, Corderoy. Here, the fuzzy little bear steps into the 'Seventies, going to a groovy, multicultural laundromat with the little girl Lisa and her mom, a scene replete with hippies and bohemians and other local folks. For some reason my daughter wouldn't let me read this book -- at all -- and after several attempts, we took it back. Who knows? Maybe the copy at the Berkeley Public Library just has too many bad vibes, man. I dunno. Anyway, she did NOT WANT TO READ THAT BOOK, and she's the boss of me. So I never found out if Lisa got her bear back after she lost him at the laundromat. I sure hope so! (B...?)

"The Apple Pie Tree"
Written by Zoe Hall
Illustrated by Shari Halpern
(Scholastic Books/Blue Sky Press, 1996)

With her trademark collage style, Shari Halpern provides cheerful, clear illustrations for Zoe Hall's simple tale of two sisters living near an apple tree. They watch it grow new leaves and buds in the Spring, with the leaves turning into flowers, which eventually mature into ripe red apples. Then the family harvests the fruit and makes a yummy apple pie (with a recipie provided in the back of the book...) There's also a parallel story of a pair of robins that live in the tree who hatch and raise their fledglings during the same seasons-long time frame... Although I don't think I'm likely to return to this book the same way I have with the Hall-Halpern seasons books, it's still nice. I like the artwork and general vibe. (B)

"April And Esme, Tooth Fairies"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 2010)

Two young tooth fairies, sisters April and Esme Underhill, go out on their first big tooth-gathering expedition, while their anxious parents wait at home, hoping their kids stay safe. The girls are raring to go, and while they hit a couple of snags, basically all goes well. Their home life is packed with the funky, alterna-vibe of other Bob Graham families, the parents are concerned but casual, their house is snug but slightly shabby. I'm a big fan of Bob Graham's work though I have to admit that this book felt forced and fell a little flat for me... Also, this particular literalization of the tooth fairy mythos comes off as a little creepy -- it's the Underhill family business, which is fine, but it's the way they keep old baby teeth hanging off the rafters in their house that seems a bit weird. I suppose overall the story is innocuous, although I was disappointed considering how much I love Graham's other stuff. (B-)

"Are You My Mother?"
Written by P. D. Eastman
Illustrated by P. D. Eastman
(Beginner's Books, 1966)

A newly-hatched little bird tumbles out of the nest, in search of his errant mother... He asks the other animals if they... Oh, heck, you know the drill. Why bother with the plot summary!? This is one of Eastman's best books -- it reads well and is a perfect story to practice your funny animal voices. Plus, I've always loved Eastman's artwork, and this plucky little bird is one of his most memorable characters. One of the best of the faux-Seuss Beginner's Books... All this, and a cuddly, happy ending, to boot! Highly recommended... a winner! (A)

Written by Patrick McDonnell
Illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
(Little Brown & Co., 2006)

A charming pro-art, pro-creativity book, about a little boy named Art who likes to make art. He draws simple squiggles and elaborate, crazy curlicues. He also goes into a deep fantasy world, drawing a cartoon version of himself, with a house and dog, a car/spaceship and stars to fly to... Naturally, everything he makes winds up on the refrigerator because (and this pun is my favorite part of the book!) his mom "loves Art." Author-illustrator Patrick McDonnell is also the cartoonist for the syndicated daily strip, Mutts, so this book will have a built-in following. I've never been able to get into Mutts, myself... It always seemed like he was trying for a Krazy Kat-ish absurdism... but that's a pretty high mark to hit, and personally, I'll just stick with good ol' George Herrimann. Still, it's nice to see McDonnell break out into a more conventional narrative mode... and to experiment with color! I thought this one was okay, though not great... It met with a fairly muted response from Her Nibs. (B-)

"The Art Lesson"
Written by Tomie DePaola
Illustrated by Tomie DePaola
(G.P. Putnam, 1989)

A fascinating autobiographical book about how author-illustrator Tomie DePaola (creator of the Strega Nona series) felt when he first went to grade school and had his artistic talent dampened by rigid, unreceptive teachers. A visual arts prodigy, DePaola was excited to go to kindergarten and get "real" art lessons, then shocked and disappointed when his home room teacher wouldn't let him use his brand-new 64-piece crayon set, because everyone in school had to use the same supplies and do the same activities. At first, when the visiting art teacher shows up, she says the same thing, but when Tomie complains, they cut a deal: if he can do the assigned work first, then he can do other stuff as well. The boy learns to accept that, in school, you have to accept certain limitations and uniformities, but he also stands up for himself and creates a space in which he can blossom as an artist. An interesting twist on the normally bland, celebratory tone of most pro-art books -- DePaola shows how creative people sometimes have to fight to get what they need. (B+)

"A Special Day For Mommy"
Written by Dan Andreasen
Illustrated by Dan Andreasen
(Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2004)
Hilarious! The gender-balanced follow-up to Andreasen's earnest A Little Help From Daddy is a much more puckish and witty work. A little piglet girl "surprises" her mother (possibly for Mother's Day, though the text doesn't pin it down, could be a birthday, too...) The daughter brings Mom breakfast in bed (Cheerios) and spills milk all over, and though the Mom is all beaming smiles and appreciation, she also winds up cleaning up the mess, when the little girl isn't looking. This pattern continues all morning long: the girl brings Mom some flowers (by ripping up her flower beds) and makes her a sweet card (spilling glue on the floor) and makes jelly sandwiches for lunch. My girl laughed out loud and cackled with glee at the page where the piglet says "Yuck! I'm all sticky, Mom!" and the next day she said she thought it was funny. This book celebrates impishness in girls, while also maintaining a sweet, sincere emotional underpinning. Good artwork, good text -- the story is simple and clear, and the humor works both for little kids and their beleagured (but loving) parents. Recommended... If it hits you right, you'll love it. (A)

"At Home With Maisy"
Written by Lucy Cousins
Illustrated by Lucy Cousins
(Candlewick, 2002)

This slim volume collects four short stories starring the world's second most popular cartoon mouse: Maisy Makes Gingerbread, Doctor Maisy, "Maisy Takes A Bath, and Maisy's Bedtime. Writer/artist Lucy Cousins delivers a consistent product -- little depth to the stories, but instant appeal to little kids, just the kind of thing to encourage early readers. This is a favorite in our household... and a bargain compared to what you'd pay if you bought the stories separately. Also, I am generally not a fan of books that gather a bunch of kid's stories together in one cover, but this one is quite well done -- the art is true to its original scale and the layout doesn't suffer at all. It's a quality product. (A)

"At The Firehouse"
Written by Anne Rockwell
Illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell
(Harper Collins, 2003)

Jason and his friend Camilla visit the local fire station on an open house day... They get a full tour of the living quarters and the trucks -- and even get to sit in the cabs and hold the steering wheels! An exciting book for firetruck-obsessed young'uns, with artwork that helps stir conversations about the work firefighters do, and the tools they use. The artwork is a little problematic -- the characters are all speckle-faced dalmatians, drawn in a somewhat blotchy and folk-artish way, and sometimes it's difficult to clearly focus on what's happening in the pictures... But the text is good, and there's no question about what is happening on each page. Recommended! (B)

"Aunt Pitty Patty's Piggy"
Written by Jim Aylesworth
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Scholastic Books, 1999)

A silly sort of a tale tall about a little girl named Nelly who tries to persuade an obstinate pig to walk through a gate, and the great lengths she goes to to try and get the porker to move. The girl walks down the road asking help from one thing after another -- a dog, a stick, a cow, a cat, a mouse -- and finally gets them all to act in a Rube Goldberg-ish way to prod the pig inside the fence. There's a lot of implied violence in the text (Nelly asks the dog to bite the pig, and the stick to whack the dog when he won't help... and on and on...) but the piling on of one thing after another places this story firmly in the realm of absurdity, so how seriously can you take it? Still, I read it and kept it away from my kid -- it's clever, but kind of violent, so I decided we could skip it. Nice artwork, as usual, from Ms. McClintock. (C+)

"A Wet And Sandy Day"
Written by Joanne Ryder
Illustrated by Donald Carrick
(Harper & Row, 1977)

A young girl, perhaps ten or eleven, goes out to the nearby beach for a swim, and when a sudden summer rain scares the other beachgoers away, she stays to exult in the moment, letting the warm rain tickle and drench her, while listening to the rain and the waves. A nice, unpretentious celebration of nature and individuality... also a nice, simple picturebook useful for little kids who are learning about "the beach." Not the greatest book ever, but it's got a very sweet feel to it. Recommended. (B)

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