Hi there... This is the first page of the Letter "F" in an alphabetical list of children's books reviewed on ReadThatAgain.com... All these books are also listed by Author in another section of the site.
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"The Fairytale Cake"
Written by Mark Sperring
Illustrated by Jonathan Langley
(The Chicken House, 2005)
The pictures are delightful, though the text is kind of ho-hum. A cake is prepared and delivered (to a birthday party), traveling across a landscape strewn with dozens of characters from various fairytales and nursery rhymes -- the Jack of Hearts, the Gingerbread Man, Little Miss Muffett, and the whole lot. If you're already familiar with these characters, it's a lot of fun to spot them inside the large, spacious splash pages (adult readers who really want to wow little kids may want to study up on the original rhymes beforehand...) The text isn't that great though: the meter and rhymes are fairly mediocre, and it's impossible to stick to the words anyway, since you have to spend so much time talking about the details in the artwork. Also, it doesn't really support the pictures -- they seems fairly independent of one another. Still, if you're into nurseryroom poetry, this book can easily provide many rich hours of happy space-out time. Worth checking out. (C+)
"Falling For Rapunzel"
Written by Leah Wilcox
Illustrated by Lydia Monks
(Penguin/G.P. Putnam, 2003)
A kooky, nonsensical spoof of the old Brothers Grimm fairytale... Here, the wandering prince mistakes Rapunzel's loud frustration with her unruly hair as a a cry for help, and he misguidedly attempts a rescue. But she has trouble hearing him as he calls up to her, and keeps throwing the wrong things out the window -- her socks, her dresses, a canteloupe. These all, of course, rhyme with the things he asked for -- locks, tresses, a rope. As our laughter rises, so does his temper, and by the end of the book the prince is ready to give up. Luckily for the prince, Rapunzel has a cute maid who also gets plopped down onto his head, and then those two fall in love. The story is giddy and goofy, and is well matched with illustrator Lydia Monks' collage-ish artwork (I'm a big fan!) A perfect antidote for the tweaky sexism that underlies so many of the old princess stories... Worth tracking down! (B+)
"Fall Leaves Fall"
Written by Zoe Hall
Illustrated by Shari Halpern
(Scholastic Press, 2000)
Nice changing-of-the-seasons book. Two siblings who love the autumn watch as the leaves change color then fall... They rake up leaves, jump into the piles, pick out their favorite leaves and make them into collage art projects. The Hall-Halpern partnership has trod these paths before, and they do it quite well. Nice, especially for nature-loving little ones. (B)
"Families Have Together"
Written by Harriet Ziefert
Illustrated by Deborah Zemke
(Blue Apple/Chronicle Books, 2005)
Promoting familial love through the use of bad grammar, the prolific Ms. Ziefert places togetherness amidst various other cosmic verities: "Morning has hugs/Toasters have plugs... Spoons have beat/Hands have eat... Noses have blow/Feet have grow..." I'm not wild about this book; the writing ain't great, and while it's clever that the artwork tells a parallel story (the family goes through its daily routine, then heads out of town on a camping trip), it's also not particularly impressive. Plusses: shows a stay-at-home dad. Minuses: the text disses brussel sprouts (to score easy points with veggie-phobes) while embracing soda pop and cookies. Hmmm. Overall, this one didn't wow me. (C-)
Written by Caralyn Buehner
Illustrated by Mark Buehner
(Penguin/Dial Books, 1996)
A charming spoof (and rebuttal) of the Cinderella myth... A frontierswoman farmer named Fanny dreams of going to the big dance at the mayor's mansion, where she is sure to be swept away by a prince, or duke, or colonel, or someone romantic like that. Her neighbors mock Fanny and her dreams, telling her she's too homely for a fairytale ending, and besides, she'll never get invited to the big event. When Fanny's fairy godmother fails to materialize, one of her kinder neighbors shows up instead: gentle, softspoken Heber drops by and presents Fanny with an unglamorous, low-key proposal of marriage. She accepts, and they build a life together, raising several children amid a harsh life, farming out on the plains. By the time ol' fairy godmother does show up -- twenty years later -- Fanny isn't interested. She's found the value of a hard-won successful marriage, and she isn't about to throw it away for pretty, frilly dreams. This book combines a certain strain of feminism with the no-nonsense pragmatism of the Midwest and Mountain states, and it's got a lot of heart. One word of warning, though: we thought our Cinderella-obsessed little girl might get a kick out of this -- we've read other parodies and adaptations that she's enjoyed -- but she was utterly nonplussed and didn't know what to make of this prince-less drama. So, maybe it's a "big girl" thing... Might be great at the right time, though! (B)
"The Fantastic Drawings Of Danielle"
Written by Barbara McClintock
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Houghton Mifflin, 1996)
A lovely tale, apparently somewhat autobiographical, about a young girl who loves to draw fantastical pictures of clothes-wearing animals, flowers with faces and giant floating fish that go strolling down the avenues on leashes. The girl's father is a professional photographer and a realist, and he scolds her for her dreaminess, but no matter how hard she tries, Danielle cannot shed the fantasy elements in her artwork. Finally, she meets a painter, an adult woman, whose work is much like her own, and the happy ending promises that Danielle will blossom under the painter's mentorship. Set in 19th Century Paris (a favorite McClintock locale), this features wonderfully detailed, elegant cityscapes and period costumes. There is also a theme of poverty -- the father has hit hard times when the story begins -- that may make this more appropriate for older readers, but like all of McClintock's work, it's a delight.
Written by David McPhail
Drawn by David McPhail
(Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985)
Beautiful artwork, but choppy writing. The story is simple: a little girl helps her daddy wake up and feed all the animals on the farm, and then once all the chores are done, they settle down for breakfast themselves. I'm a big fan of McPhail's elegant, classic art style, and his pictures of the barnyard activities are typically marvellous. Unfortunately, the narrative voice, of the sleepy, half-grumpy farmer dad, who frequently makes personal asides and jokes, is a little offputting and may leave some readers left out, like we're listening to a bunch of inside jokes. This is a book that can be fun to read, if you just describe what's happening on the page, or make up a text of your own. (C+)
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