Hi there... This is page "B" of 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 -- "B" By Title
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"Babar" (series) -- see bibliography


"The Babies Are Coming!"
Written by Amy Hest
Illustrated by Chloe Cheese
(Crown Publishing, 1997)

A dozen city-kid toddlers are roused from their houses, bundled up and taken down to the local library for a nighttime story reading (and sleepover?) The text doesn't rhyme, but it has a strong rhythmic feel, and if read at a breathless clip, is kind of exciting and fun. I don't understand the part about taking sleepy little babies to the library at night, but i guess it takes all kinds of people to make the world go round... Anyway, this is a fun book, with a relatively subtle pro-library propaganda message and colorful, detail-rich artwork with lots of little things to point out and talk about. My wife hated it when I first brought it home, but I though it was fun, and so did our kid... So, two-to-one odds it'll work for you, too. (B)


"Baby Brains"
Written by Simon James
Illustrated by Simon James
(Candlewick, 2004)
A hilarious, light-hearted skewering of the contemporary yuppie trend towards declaring all children total geniuses, and pushing the littlest kids towards academic achievement at ever-younger ages. You think your kid's remarkable? Well, how about Baby Brains, who finishes medical school before he dirties his first daiper! Of course, word gets around about such a special little guy, and he's recruited by the space program later that same day, although it turns out that even a kid with planet-smashing intellect just needs his mommy sometimes... When Baby is out in orbit, pulling a Major Tom, he freaks out and tells Ground Control that he wants back down. James makes his point softly, with humor and grace, but it remains to be seen whether the message will be heard in the vacuum of those who are hurriedly gathering letters of recommendation for their preschool applications. (A)


"Baby Brains Superstar"
Written by Simon James
Illustrated by Simon James
(Candlewick, 2005)
This follows the template of the first Baby Brains book almost exactly, except that this time around , the infant genius becomes a rock star instead of a rocket scientist. Once again, James's deft timing and lackadaisical artwork hit just the right tone... And, of course you can sing Baby's rock-festival anthem any way you want -- my kid thought the alt-grunge "guitars" I mixed in were a real hoot. I'm not sure where this franchise would go from here -- this one's an unrepentant retread of the first book, but I suppose there are other gags that could be fleshed out as well. Anyway, the formula still works here... it's a fun read! (A-)


"Baby Brains And Robomom"
Written by Simon James
Illustrated by Simon James
(Candlewick, 2007)
In the third entry in the Baby Brains series, the premise is great, but the execution is a little disappointing... Seeing that his mother is a little stressed out taking care of him, Baby Brains builds a robot helper, but the automaton winds up being too bossy and also not as snuggly as the real deal. I love this series but wasn't wowed by this one... There's not much that's surprising here, and this book lacks the sparkle and wit of the first two. It's okay, but could have been better. (B-)


"The Baby Goes Beep"
Written by Rebecca O'Connell
Illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max
(Roaring Brook, 2003)

A jaunty celebration of onomatopoeia, this tracks a happy baby through his day, going beep-beep-beep in the car (and on his daddy's nose), yum-yum-yum at dinner, splash-splash in the bath, etc. No rocket science involved here, but this features a fun, lively text, accompanied by bright, cheerful artwork. My kid liked this book every time we read it; I suspect yours will as well. (B)


"Baby Radar"
Written by Naomi Shihab Nye
Illustrated by Nancy Campbell
(Greenwillow, 2003)

This book has a nice, sweet premise: the world as seen through the eyes of a child in (and later pushing) a baby stroller... Dogs come up and snuffle in her face; adults lean down and coo how cute she is. The book works fine -- I asked my daughter if "that was how things are" on a couple of pages and she said yeah, although overall her response was a bit muted. The weird thing about this book is the title -- there's no reference to "baby radar" anywhere in the text... It's like the author just couldn't help appending some inside joke to the book itself, which is a shame since it doesn't add anything to the story and is slightly distracting. Otherwise, this ain't bad... definitely has some cute moments, but I'm not sure it really lives up to its promise. (C)


"A Baby Sister For Frances"
Written by Russell Hoban
Illustrated by Lillian Hoban
(Harper Collins, 1964)

A nice sibling rivalry book, with little Frances feeling left out as her parents coo and and dote over a new baby... She finally picks up her stuff and "runs away" (to another part of the house) but comes back after she overhears her parents talking (so that she can hear them) about how much they miss her and how much fun they have when the whole family is together. You gotta love those little rhymes Frances makes, too! (B)


"Baby Talk"
Written by Fred Haitt
Illustrated by Mark Graham
(Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1999)

Joey, a four-ish, five-ish year old boy, has a new baby brother and is initially uncomfortable around the newcomer, declining to help feed it or change its daipers, etc. But Joey finds his niche in the baby's life when he starts responding to the infant's babbling, and helps teach it to talk. A perfect book to read to a toddler old enough look back at their own verbal development and both laugh and relish the chance to dip back into the old vocabulary of "agoo" and "ageek." Also, the complexity of the social relationship of the two siblings is rich and fascinating. Great artwork by Mark Graham, too. This one was a big hit in our household, with lots of "read-it-again" action. (A)


"The Baby Uggs Are Hatching"
Written by Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by James Stevenson
(Greenwillow, 1982)

A gleeful parade of grotesqueries and funny little monsters, from the cannibalistic Uggs and the rock-eating Grebbles to the teacher-eating Creature In The Classroom and destructive, id-driven Smasheroo... This book appeals to a childish love of chaos and negativity -- grotty stuff and misbehavior abound. But it's fun, and it's not as much of a gross-out book as many others that have come in its wake... The violence is mostly conceptual (not visual, or particularly graphic) so the overall effect is intellectually stimulating... As with all Prelutsky's books, it's mostly about wordplay, and will sure to be popular with little readers. (PS - As far as I can tell, there's no connection between the book title and those silly little sheepskin boots... :-) (B)


"Backyard Bear"
Written by Anne Rockwell
Illustrated by Megan Halsey
(Walker & Company, 2006)

The realistic, somewhat sad tale of a young bear cub whose habitat is encroached on by housing construction... The story is told in a simple, straightforward manner from the bear's perspective, following the little nipper through the first two years of its life, as its mother hibernates with it through two winters and teaches it the skills of survival. What she didn't teach the little bear was about backhoes and bulldozers, or to stay out of trash cans when easy eats present themselves. The story ends on a happy-ish note, with animal control coming to take the bear away to a protected wilderness area, where he won't run into humans. This is a good book for teaching ecological values and for explaining about habitat loss and the difficulties of coexisting with wild animals... Small children may be a little troubled by the overall message -- this isn't one of those cute stories where the fuzzy little bear cub has tea parties with its friends -- as well as the point in the story when the mother bear chases her cub away, forcing it to become independent. But for older kids, or children with a strong empathy for nature, this is quite a nice book. The book closes with a brief essay about loss of habitat, and ways that humans living in wilderness areas can minimize potentially dangerous contact with wild bears. (B)


"Ballerino Nate"
Written by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley
Illustrated by R. W. Alley
(Penguin/Dial Books, 2006)

A great dance story, with a gender twist. After attending a school ballet show, a young boy named Nate decides he wants to dance ballet as well, but his older, butcher brother Ben teases him and tells him that boys can't be ballerinas. With his parents' support, Nate perseveres and enters a dance class, which he loves even though he's the only boy there. Ben keeps teasing him until one day Mom takes Nate to see a professional dance company where half the ensemble are men, and one of the principal dancers meets Nate and gives him encouragement. It turns out Ben was right about one thing: men can't be ballerinas, but the man suggests the word ballerino instead, since that indicates a male dancer. The PC sentiment aside, this is a lovely book, with great artwork that captures the personalities of all involved and provides lots of nice details (including the older brother playing video games at home, giving this a decidedly contemporary slant...) There are a few rough spots in the text -- particularly when the dad makes a parallel between the two girls on Ben's softball team and Nate going to a mostly-girl dance class; that passage could have been clearer -- but it's no biggie, the story is still a winner. A heartwarming book about gender stereotypes that makes its point without placing too much emphasis on the "you're a sissy!" part of the equation. Recommended! (A)


"Bark, George!"
Written by Jules Feiffer
Illustrated by Jules Feiffer
(Harper Collins, 1999)

I grew up reading Jules Feiffer -- not these new picturebooks, of course, but other fables such as "Passionella" and "Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl" -- and as a teen I collected all the compilations of his classic strips. Thus, when I came across this book, it was love at first sight. Bark, George! is, without question, one of Feiffer's finest works, a lively, fantastic, funny story about a puppy who doesn't bark the way his mother wants him to. Instead, he meows and moos and quacks, so she takes him to the vet to see what's wrong. This book works on every level -- the story is well-paced, the jokes are funny, the artwork is fluid and full of life, and the structure of the text lends itself well to commentary and improvisation. This one will be on our shelves for a long time to come... and I've given away several copies as well. It's that good! (A++)


"The Bat In The Boot"
Written by Annie Cannon
Illustrated by Annie Cannon
(Orchard Books, 1996)

After finding a baby bat that got lost in their back porch "mudroom," a young girl's family protects the animals and nurses it long enough for it to return to the wild. Geared towards older children, this book gives a nice balance to the normally negative image that bats get in our culture, and teaches empathy and kindness to small animals. The sequence where the mother bat returns to the house and rescues her baby is magical: what an amazing thing to see! Probably not for everyone, but for readers who don't mind creepy-crawly critters, this is a cool story. (B)


"The Battle Of Luke And Longnose"
Written by Barbara McClintock
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Houghton Mifflin, 1994)

After falling asleep playing with his toy soldiers, a boy named Luke has a fantastic, Peter Pan-ish dream about a swashbuckling swordfight with the wicked pirate Longnose. The villain and boy chase each other through fantastic, old-fashioned theatre sets, populated with shocked bystanders dressed in grand, fabulous period costumery. As always, McClintock's finely-detailed artwork is a marvel, although the playful violence in the story may be a turnoff for some parents.
(B-)




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