Hi there... This is the fourth page of the Letter "S" 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 Roy McKie
Illustrated by P.D. Eastman
(Random House/Beginner's Books, 1962)
A simple celebration of chilly, fluffy weather. A well-bundled-up boy and girl go out sledding and snowman-building, toss snowballs, go skiing and make a snow fort, all with their loyal dog in tow. The rhyming text is very simple -- the goal was for kids to read this by themselves -- so it may be a disappointment to science educators when the book asks "What makes it snow?" then replies "We do not know." (Although for little kids who just want to learn words, this might be a better answer than "A snowflake is an aggregate of ice crystal that forms while falling in and below a cloud" [Wikipedia]) Smooth, joyful, colorful artwork from P.D. Eastman completes the package, adding a pleasantly retro air that helps make this a perennial (and seasonal) favorite. (B)
"Snowbaby Could Not Sleep"
Written by Kara LaReau
Illustrated by Jim Ishikawa
(Little Brown, 2005)
A very cute book about sleep issues.. Snowbaby is a little snowman whose parents try their best to get him to go to sleep... Their solutions feature cute try-and-get-him-colder ideas, like piling another blanket of snow on top of his bed, giving him an extra-icy glass of water, singing him Christmas carols, etc. When all that fails, they come up with an even better idea: giving Snowbaby a "toy" animal to snuggle with, in this case a snowman-style puppy that Snowbaby "helps" go to sleep -- singing to it, giving it more blanket, etc. The story is clever and well-played, and the artwork is very friendly, clear and funny. Nice sleepytime book -- nice for winter lovers as well! (B)
"So Few Of Me"
Written by Peter Reynolds
Illustrated by Peter Reynolds
A charming, genuinely funny book that recaptures the elegant, offhand magic of Peter Reynolds' earlier gem, The Dot. Here a young man named Leo finds himself swamped under rapidly multiplying to-do lists and chores -- schoolwork, laundry, classes, cooking -- and he idly thinks to himself, how nice it would be if there were two of me, so I could do all my work faster. Well, poof! then there are two of him... then three... and eventually ten Leos, all running around, taking out the trash, studying calculus, rushing to soccer practice, making more to-do lists and trying to coordinate all their Leo labors... It turns out, though, that the more of you are, the harder and more hectic it gets: Leo winds up spending as much time managing his doppelgangers as he does getting any actual work done! A funny, gentle, incisive look at the modern problems of overbooked, overscheduled people everywhere, both kids and adults. The solution Leo comes up with is pretty nice, and the story is a great, entertaining read. I love Reynolds' artwork, too, especially how it evokes Jules Fieffer's old cartoons. Another highly recommended book from a guy who's rapidly becoming one of my favorite new children's book artists. (A)
"Some Dogs Do"
Written by Jez Alborough
Illustrated by Jez Alborough
A young boy (played here by a young dog) walks to school and accidentally discovers he can fly. When he gets to school, nobody believes him and all the kids make fun of him (teachers, too). When he goes home, dejected, his dad reveals to him that he can fly, too, and they have a happy ending all to themselves. Although the flying part is (obviously) on the fantastical side, the it's-okay-to-be-different message is welcome. Nice rhyming text, too. This one didn't really wow me, but it's still kinda fun. (B-)
"Sometimes I Feel Like A Storm Cloud"
Written by Lezlie Evans
Illustrated by Marsha Gray Carrington
(Mondo Publishing, 1999)
A young girl moves through various emotional states -- happiness, sadness, anger, pride, weariness, loneliness, excitement -- each illustrated in a two-page spread. I wasn't bowled over by this one -- I thought it was a little disjointed and inelegant -- but I suppose it's nice if you want to explore or validate a range of emotions with your kids. Worth checking out, for sure! (C+)
Written by David McPhail
Illustrated by David McPhail
(Little Brown & Co, 1988)
A little raccoon named Sam is feeling insecure because everyone in his family has a special talent -- his big sisters play piano and baseball, his brother is a computer whiz, and his father is a fine cook. But when Sam tries to help them out, he's always a flop. It turns out, though, that Sam shares his mother's flair for art, and after helping her finish a crafts project, Sam discovers his love of painting, which is duly celebrated by the other family members. The prolonged exploration of feelings of failure and inadequacy might go on a little too long, but the happy ending is nice. And McPhail's artwork is as appealing as ever. (B-)
"Sophie And Lou"
Written by Petra Mathers
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
(Simon & Schuster, 1991)
After a dance studio opens across the street, a painfully shy, housebound mouse named Sophie becomes interested in dancing, but instead of taking lessons, she peeks through her curtains and follows along at home. One day she works up the nerve to check some dance books out of the library and learns how to do the tango and foxtrot -- and later she even goes out and buys some fancy new shoes. All the while she keeps bumping into Lou, a quiet fellow who is one of the students at the studio -- when Sophie gets her dance books, Lou is in the stacks checking out a book of love poems. Finally, our hero and heroine meet, when she has mustered enough confidence to dance whole dances by herself, and when he decides to knock on her door and ask her out. The text omits a few details, but these are borne out in the illustrations, so this is a good book to use to encourage children to look for details outside the verbal narrative... Lou's story, for example, is played out almost entirely in the artwork, and we don't even learn his name until the very last pages. This story is a bit odd -- it may take a while to warm to such reclusive characters -- but it has an undeniable charm. (B)
"Sophie And Rose"
Written by Kathryn Lasky
Illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
A slightly troubling exploration of the love between a child and a doll... Poking around in the attic, a girl named Sophie finds her mother's old doll, a porcelain-faced, gingham-dressed antique that she adopts and renames Rose. She bonds tightly with the doll, but, being forgetful and unused to fragile, old-fashioned toys, she damages it in various slight ways. The narrative is compelling, and theme of how children can test out love and responsibility through an intense relationship with a doll or stuffed animal is explored with great sensitivity... However, some of the scenes showing the hardships Rose endures along the way -- losing one of her button eyes, getting left out all night, etc., may be a bit disturbing to younger readers. (C+)
Written by Susan Middleton Elya
Illustrated by Viviana Garofoli
(G. P. Putnam & Sons, 2006)
A weird bilingual book about beauty/body images and competitiveness. A toad named Sophie is envious of her good-looking brother, who wins trophy after trophy in various modeling contests. Sophie, whose homeliness is cataloged in great detail in the anxiety-laden prologue, does, however, have a great voice and winds up winning a prize of her own in a talent contest. Thus, there's a happy ending, since now she can be competitive with her hermano guapo (and also, because she won a trophy, he likes her now). Two things bugged me about this one: the overall premise, with the sharp emphasis on looks and outward validation seems pretty icky; that, and how forced and clumsy the insertion of Spanish vocab words felt. I've enjoyed Elya's earlier work, particularly Oh No, Gotta Go, but this one seemed like a real clunker -- it's supposed to be about promoting self-esteem, but enshrines the very values that press down on the main character. I'd skip this one, particularly if you have a little girl -- dealing with Cinderella is bad enough! (D)
Written by Holly Keller
Illustrated by Holly Keller
A coming-of-age story about a young pigeon named Caruso who is afraid to try flying, and a dog named Sophie who helps him overcome his fear. It's funny that the book is named after the dog, since it's not really her journey that the book is about... but, whatever. Not the strongest narrative, but clearly written with the best of intentions... Comforting for kids who are facing challenges, but a little clunky in the execution. (C+)
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice"
Written by Sally Grindley
Illustrated by Thomas Taylor
(Penguin/Phyllis Fogelman Books, 2001)
A hardy, fresh-faced adaptation of the classic fairytale best known to countless millions from the Disney film, Fantasia. Instead of Mickey Mouse, though, this version features a real boy, and a notably fuzzier-edged magician, each with a strong whiff of Harry Potter and Dumbledore about them. The plotline follows pretty much the same course as the film version, though we get more detailed glimpses of all the arcane doodads in the sorcerer's laboratory (skulls, potions, ancient texts, etc.) in a way that is sure to appeal to the Potter generation... (B)
"So, What's It Like To Be A Cat?"
Written by Karla Kuskin
Illustrated by Betsy Lewin
(Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2005)
A young boy interviews his family cat (presumably for a school project or a doctoral thesis...) and the cat answers his questions, in a typically detached, lofty manner, about how housecats feel about life, and about the clumsy apes that take care of them. Kuskin succinctly captures the you-know-I'm-royalty-right? attitude of a well-heeled feline, and gets in some some good zingers along the way. The rhyme scheme of her poetry is pretty complex and you may lose the rhythm from time to time, although it won't really affect your enjoyment of the book. As ever, Betsy Lewin's cartoonish artwork is a delight -- she's especially good at capturing the little quirks of kitty cats. A nice book - a real treat for cat lovers! (B+)
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