Hi there... This is the first page of the Letter "R" 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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Written by Amber Stewart
Illustrated by Laura Rankin
A good book encouraging kids to enjoy bath time... Hopscotch is a boy rabbit who doesn't like his ears to get shampooed and tries all kinds of tactics to prevent his mom from getting them wet and soapy. One day, though, his older cousin comes over for a visit and washes his own ears, prompting Hopscotch to rethink his position. He embraces the idea of becoming a "big boy" and starts washing himself... The story and art are pretty basic, but it seems to have gone over well with our kid. The only thing I didn't like (and had to skip) was the part where the mother tries to cajole the child, including bringing a slice of chocolate cake to the bathtub to try and bribe the child (that's even the word they use...) There's also an overemphasis on chocolate cake in general -- when the family has dinner, that's all that's on the table, so while this book may help with bathing issues, it's a little iffy on the nutritional side. (B)
"Rabbits And Raindrops"
Written by Jim Arnosky
Illustrated by Jim Arnosky
Author/artist Jim Arnosky is a prolific writer of nature-oriented children's book -- he's written nearly a hundred so far. I haven't had much success with his material, despite some promising titles. The realistic, didactic tone of his Crinkleroot series and other "All About" books doesn't seem very engaging, at least to the littlest readers. This book is the big exception so far... It's a standard cutesy animal story, with a more conventional narrative that may appeal to smaller children... A rabbit family huddles under some foliage during a downpour, and comes back out when the sun breaks through, then they marvel at the damp, sparkling world around them. A very nice, simple story... also some of Arnosky's most accomplished artwork. We discovered this one at a library-sponsored storytime, and all the little kids liked it. (B+)
"The Rabbits' Wedding"
Written by Garth Williams
Illustrated by Garth Williams
(Harper Collins, 1958)
Illustrator Garth Williams, best known for his work on Stuart Little, crafted this sweet, simple story of two bunnies in love who get married after frollicking in the fields. The artwork is delightifully evocative of the outside world -- you can feel chilly under the trees and practically smell the green meadow grass and feel the damp of the dew, as each droplet breaks on your toes -- and the story itself is a real sniffle-inducer. The shyness with which the boy bunny tells the girl how he feels is really quite touching, as is her startled reply. This book is old-fashioned, but still hits all the right notes. Recommended. (B+)
"Radio Man/Don Radio"
Written by Arthur Dorros
Illustrated by Arthur Dorros
(Harper Collins, 1993)
A nice, richly detailed bilingual story about a young boy named Diego who moves with his migrant worker family from job to job and state to state, driving from the cabbage fields in Texas on through the Southwest and up to the apple harvest in Washington state. The story -- which incorporates Spanish words into the English text, and is also translated into Spanish at the bottom of each page -- puts a human face on farm labor, and presents information that many readers might not already know. For example, that migrant kids (often) attend school, and that their fieldwork can involve skill and pride. One nice touch is when the family is driving up North, they pass through California not as workers but as tourists, visiting the old-growth redwoods and seeing the ocean. The book's through-line, that Diego listens to the radio everywhere he goes, also provides a wonderful dramatic opportunity for parents and other readers to enunciate in "announcer" voices... The bilingual content and cultural messages are skillfully presented -- the story is involving but not preachy. Recommended! (B+)
Written by Peter Spier
Illustrated by Peter Spier
A wordless book that shows two kids -- a brother and a sister -- whose backyard play is interrupted by a sudden downpour. They run inside, get dressed for wet weather and then back go out to play all day in the rain. Then they come back in when the sun goes down and snuggle up all dry and warm... and when they come out the next morning, the world is sparkly and filled with dew. Spier's artwork became much more sophisticated in later books, but this is still pretty nice, particularly if you are a rain-lover (or want to raise one!) (B)
"Read-Aloud Rhymes For The Very Young"
Selected by Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Marc Brown
(Random House/Alfred A. Knopf, 1986)
A fine anthology of poems for children, selected by Jack Prelutsky, with artwork by Marc Brown (creator of the "Arthur" PBS series) The poems are organized, informally, around different themes -- a page or two of poems about rainy weather, or cats, or insects, or sleeping, or frogs, or whatever. Brown's images and the fluid layout are just wonderful, and perfectly compliment the fanciful doggerel. As with many of these poetry collections, there are some recurrent themes that I find less appealing than others -- injuries, eating sweets, hating to do things like take baths or go to sleep -- but these are definitely in the minority and on balance this is a lovely book, packed with wordplay that will delight young and old alike, and either encourage or rekindle imaginative thinking. Highly recommended! (B+)
"The Real Hole"
Written by Beverly Cleary
Illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan
(William Morrow & Co., 1960/1986)
A fine retelling of an old Beverly Cleary tale, featuring the twins Janet and Jimmy, around whom Cleary based a series of short stories... In this volume, the brash, can-do Jimmy decides to dig the deepest hole in the world, and after he does, he resists everyone's attempts to suggest what to do with such a deep hole. Not the best book in this series, but still pretty involving and true to life in terms of the psychology of small (four-to-five year old?) children... If you enjoyed the other Janet & Jimmy books, this one is worth checking out; the DiSalvo-Ryan artwork of the later edition is pretty nice. (B)
"A Really Good Snowman"
Written by Daniel J. Mahoney
Illustrated by Daniel J. Mahoney
A touching story about an older brother, Jack, who doesn't want to play with his little sister, because he thinks she's a pest. Nancy always wants to "help" Jack, usually with disasterous results, and when she horns in on his participation in a local snowman building contest, Jack leaps at the first opportunity to ditch her. When some bigger kids start to pick on Nancy and make fun of her snowman, Jack sticks up for her and chases them off, and then realizes he has to help her out, instead of playing with his friends. In the process, he discovers that he can have fun playing with her, and strengthens their familial bond. The story is nice in several ways -- the book deftly deals with a complex issue (siblings who don't always get along) and Jack's transition into a more responsible, compassionate older sibling (and Nancy's reciprocal affection) is nice to see, and quite touching. It's also a good, not-too-scary depiction of bullying, and how to deal with it forthrightly. I also like the artwork.
"The Red Book"
Written by Barbara Lehman
Illustrated by Barbara Lehman
(Houghton Mifflin, 2004)
A fantastical story -- told without text, so you have to make up the narration -- of a schoolchild who finds a magical red book that opens a window into a world of imagination and constantly-shifting changes of perspective and geography. It's derivative of Istvan Bayani's Zoom, which was written earlier and (in my opinion) is more intricate and engaging. (Not that Bayani invented infinity books, or anything -- I just like his book better.) Anyway, this is okay, but it's a little awkward, not all of the transitions are that easy to follow. (B-)
"The Red Carpet"
Written by Rex Parkin
Illustrated by Rex Parkin
One of the gems of the 1940s children's book boom. Much like the early Dr. Seuss books, this is a rollicking, well-illustrated, intelligently written romp, with a lively, well-crafted rhyme scheme backed by energetic, entertaining artwork. The story has a surreal edge to it: a hotel rolls out the red carpet for an important guest, but when the carpet is unfurled... it keeps on going! Followed by a squadron of motorcycle police, the crimson carpet zips along the countryside, causing all kinds of confusion and consternation. (The story takes place in upstate New York, I think... Anyone know what town this is supposed to be?) Anyway, this is great book, ideal for kids who are already on the Seuss bandwagon, who like reading long, complicated, wittily crafted tall tales... Also nice for parents who enjoy classically crafted, retro artwork. A fun one! (A)
"Red Light, Green Light"
Written by Anastasia Suen
Illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max
This is a brightly-colored book about cars and driving, seen from a child's-eye view, as vast expressways and cityscapes are built out of wooden blocks and other toys. The rhyming text is only so-so; likewise, the cartoonish artwork by Ken Wilson-Max (whose work I like) isn't really his best -- it seems a bit rushed and cluttered. I know this is a playful, celebratory book, but it didn't really click with the folks in our household... (C+)
"Red Light, Green Light, Mama And Me"
Written by Cari Best
Illustrated by Niki Daly
(Orchard Books, 1995)
A sweet story about a young girl named Lizzie who goes to work with her mother, meeting mom's co-workers and seeing her daily routine. The fact that Mom works as the children's librarian in a big downtown library makes this an even more special story for budding young bookworms. Nice art and a charming first-person narrative, with a light tone that reflects the cheerfulness and exuberance of a happy, well-loved child. Works as a mommy book, a work book, and as pro-book propaganda. What more could you want? (B+)
"Red Rubber Boot Day"
Written by Mary Lyn Ray
Illustrated by Lauren Stringer
Naturally, I'm all in favor of puddle-stomping... and any other celebration of rainy weather you can think of! Here, a little kid thinks of all the things he could do on a rainy day -- read, draw, play with blocks -- or he could go out and stomp around! Very little text, with color-drenched, slightly busy artwork, but a simple message and a nice, light tone. (I especially like the adult neighbor who chooses to go out in the rain barefoot...) This would make a fine companion to Malachy Doyle's Splash, Joshua, Splash! (B-)
"Richard Scarry's Busiest Pop-Up Ever!"
Written by Richard Scarry
Illustrated by Richard Scarry
Designed by Mike Haines & Mick Wells
(Random House/Golden Books, 2007)
Who among us has not wanted, at some time or another, to reach right in and be part of a Richard Scarry book? Well, here's your chance, in this lively pop-up book adaptation of a classic Busytown story involving Bananas Gorilla and his hijacking a truckload of bananas. You'll zip around the cluttered streets as the whizzing banana car is pursued by Sergeant Murphy, the motorcycle cop who always gets his man... er, primate. A fun, imaginative, three-dimensional adaptation of a classic Scarry tale. Adults might want to preview the book and make sure all the tabs and flaps are loosened up -- the action on this edition is a little stiff. (B+)
"Ride a Purple Pelican"
Written by Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Garth Williams
For those who appreciate silliness, whimsey, and the supple flow of language used well, this book is an absolute delight. While many children's book authors try using rhyme in their works, few do it with the gracefulness and sense of sheer fun that poet Jack Prelutsky brings to the form. Add to his words the colorful, kooky draftsmanship of artist Garth Williams, and you've got an instant classic. These ditties combine elegant feel of A. A. Milne's poems with the giddy abandon of good, old-fashioned limericks. Most of all, they are fun to read, and equally fun to listen to... And don't be surprised if you and your kids wind up memorizing a few of them, to recite for years to come. Highly recommended! (A+)
"Riley And Rose In The Picture"
Written by Susanna Gretz
Illustrated by Susanna Gretz
Riley, a dog, and Rose, a cat, are best friends, but their friendship hits a rough patch one rainy day when they do an art project together and discover that they think about things differently. Riley is literal-minded and insists that he is drawing circles and triangles while Rose is more imaginative -- she sees tents and ladybugs and flowers. But when they start talking about what they're making, the discussion briefly turns into a shouting match. But when they go "into" their pictures, they have an adventure that erases their differences and brings the fun back into the equation. This is a nice book -- I'd say it's more about conflict resolution that creativity and art, but really it works both ways. (It's worth mentioning that this is also very similar to Barbara Baker's Digby And Kate series... If you like Riley and Rose, you'll probably enjoy their predecessors, too!) (B-)
Written by Marla Frazee
Illustrated by Marla Frazee
If you like roller coasters (personally, I'm scared of them!), then this book is pretty groovy... Like Frazee's Everywhere Babies, this is packed with vivid, detailed visual information, as a dozen people go onto the roller-coaster ride and each has their own reaction -- kids and grandparents wave their arms and go wheeeeeeeeee, parents cringe and get green around the gills, lovers steal a kiss in the back seat. Each set of riders has its own story, which is largely told through the pictures, while the text deals with the experience of the ride itself. The art has a gloriously kinetic quality, really giving a sense of that a roller-coaster ride is like. Cool beans, if you're into it, but don't eat a big meal before you read it... (B)
Written by Barbara Bottner
Illustrated by Beth Spiegel
A nice book that does double duty as a story about moving to a new house and about finding new friends. When Rosa gets a new room all to herself, she finds it feels empty and lonely somehow, until one day she spots another little girl playing outside her window and invites her in. Naturally, Rosa and Lila become best friends, and after that, the room doesn't feel so empty anymore. (B+)
"Rosie's Baby Tooth"
Written by Maryann Macdonald
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
A little rabbit named Rosie has her first baby tooth coming out soon, and there is much talk of the Tooth Fairy making a visit. Rosie is less upset by losing the tooth as she is about the Tooth Fairy wanting to take it away, and so she hides it rather than put it under her pillow. Daddy Bunny comes up with a compromise -- the TF offers to mount the little tooth on a necklace chain, so Rosie can keep it forever... The idea of carrying a dead tooth around as jewelry is kinda creepy (why not just let her keep the darn thing?) but the exchange of letters between Rosie and the Fairy is really cute, and the early Melissa Sweet artwork is nice as well. A reasonably good book for bringing up the whole baby tooth thing. (B-)
Written by Judy Hindley
Illustrated by Helen Craig
A charming evocation of a child's fantasy playtime, in which a little girl named Rosy takes all her favorite dolls, toys and books out for a walk, and plays house inside a giant hollow tree trunk. She prepares for guests and when they come -- flying fairies, woodland creatures, unicorns and fuzzy bears -- she spends all day playing with them, pouring tea and reading books. At the end of the day, Rosy packs everything up and makes it home in time for dinner. The colorful illustrations by Helen Craig (best known for her work in the Angelina Ballerina series) are less finely detailed than her Angelina pictures, but still quite nice, and packed with plenty of details that kids can pore over for hours on end. (B)
"Ruby In Her Own Time"
Written by Jonathan Emmett
Illustrated by Rebecca Harry
(Scholastic Books, 2004)
Is your kid taking his or her time learning to walk, or talk, or brush their teeth, or eat with a spoon, or memorizing the circumference of Venus or the table of elements? Tired of having friends and family ask when some specific developmental "milestone" will be attained? Then this is the book for you! Ruby is a little duckling who takes her time learning to swim and fly, even though her siblings have charged forth and mastered these things already. Ruby just waits and does things when she wants to... And every time she picks up a new skill, she masters it and does it better than the other kids -- she swims faster, flies higher, etc. Ruby's parents have to learn patience and to trust that their child will flourish after all, but that she doesn't need to be rushed. It's a nice lesson, especially in our current hyper-uber-competitive climate in which pre-verbal children are expected to interview for daycare as if they were seeking to get into Oxford or Yale. Ruby is a great fable written in defense of (so-called) late bloomers: Let kids be kids! The actual text has a few rough patches, but the sentiment is tops, in my book. (B)
"The Runaway Bunny"
Written by Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Clement Hurd
(Harper Collins, 1942)
What a creepy book! Clunky, too. A baby bunny tells its mother its going to run away from her, and whatever fantastical premise he comes up with -- I'll become a bird and fly away, etc. -- the mother bird counters by saying how she'll catch the baby again. Both aspects, the running away and the element of parental control, come off as slightly pathological... On the surface this is a tale of parental love, but the tone is all wrong. Instead of providing loving boundaries, the mother rabbit seems to bully and control her child. The need to separate oneself and assert individuality is important for small children, and parents need to be able to give them some mental space to feel that they are their own people. This book is all about denying that developmental stage, and nullifying the ego of the child. The mama bunny may be demonstrating her love and concern, but she's also ignoring the emotional life of her child. It's a very old-fashioned and rigid view of parent-child dynamics; in adddition the storytelling is really clumsy and leaden. Many people consider this a classic of the genre -- notably the publisher, which has kept it in print since it first came out -- but most people I've talked to just can't stand it. Me, too.
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