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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Kids Books -- "S" By Title
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"Space Boy"
Written by Leo Landry
Illustrated by Leo Landry
(Houghton Mifflin, 2007)

One night, when little Nicholas is about to go to sleep, he finds himself bothered by all the noise around him -- a baby crying in the other room, the cars toot-tooting outside, his dog barking at the door -- who can relax with all that going on?? So, Nicholas packs a lunch, puts on his NASA regulation space suit, hops in his rocket and heads for the moon, to get a little peace and quiet. It works pretty well-- his sandwiches drift away in the low gravity, but at least it's quiet up there. Of course, it may be too quiet: after a while, Nicholas feels lonely and even misses the sound of the baby crying, so he packs his tuff up again and zooms back home. A goofy, likable fantasy, although on balance it doesn't really stick to the ribs. (B-)


"Space Station Mars"
Written by Daniel San Souci
Illustrated by Daniel San Souci
(Tricycle Press, 2005)

Part of Daniel San Souci's "Clubhouse Gang" series... After seeing a scary B-movie about Martian invaders, the Gang gets into outer space stuff, and decide, improbably, that a rock they find in a neighbor's yard is really a meteorite. Just as they're trying to figure out whether it's radioactive or not, a new kid named Neil shows up in town, and he just happens to be a slide-rule science geek with a passion for finding extraterrestrial life. The story is kind of confused and awkward after that -- eventually Neil decides the space aliens are angry and wan their rock back, which proves to be easy when a "space ship" lands nearby. The best part of the book is when they visit the ship and it turns out to be a water tank (a real one, located in the San Francisco Bay Area!) I wasn't wowed by this one, but it does reflect some of the giddy excitement kids had in space travel and science in the post-Sputnik era of the late 1950s and early '60s. (C+)


"Sparky"
Written by Flora McDonnell
Illustrated by Flora McDonnell
(Candlewick, 1999)

The best of McDonnell's books so far! A big, cheerful, brightly colored story about a little puppy named Sparky who comes into a new household and meets his girl, Mary, who he thinks must be "another kind of puppy." They play together all day long, then at night curl up and fall asleep on her bed. This book perfectly captures the pure, loving bond between a child and a pet, and has a bold visual appeal that will instantly capture a child's eye. Recommended! (A)


"Spirit Of Hope"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Blackbird, 1993)

A rare dud for Graham. This books explores homelessness in kind of a weird, fairytale-like way, a form that didn't ring true for me... The Fairweathers, a humble family live in the shadow of a factory (where Dad works every day) when suddenly they are told they have to move so a new factory can be built where their house is standing. After a brief bout of homelessness (perhaps; the timeline gets fuzzy) they realize that while they have to leave the land, they can take their house with them (eminent domain must work differently in Australia...) and, with the help of many robust, working class friends, they jack the house up off its foundation, and turn it into a houseboat, out on the nearby harbor. Hmmm. Well, didn't work for me (I actually hid it from my kid, who loves Graham's other books...it just didn't seem to be a very good narrative, too forced, too abstract, and not very satisfying, really.) Might be different for others, though. (C-)


"Splash!"
Written by Flora McDonnell
Illustrated by Flora McDonnell
(Candlewick, 1999)

Not much of a plot -- the animals on the savannah are hot, and they go play in the water hole to cool off -- but the artwork is big, bright and immediately captivating. The gigantic pictures of the elephants, tiger and rhino eat up all the space in this extra-large layouts: they are BIG. The text is so minimal that this book won't have much shelf life beyond the earlier toddler days, but if you get it in at just the right time, wheeeeeeeee!! (B)


"Splash, Joshua, Splash!"
Written by Malachy Doyle
Illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max
(Bloomsbury, 2004)

Absolutely wonderful. Bursting with energy and joyfulness, this book tells the story of a little boy (perhaps three or four years old?) named Joshua, who loves to play in water. Lively, strongly rhythmic writing propels readers into the whirlwind of Joshua's activities, especially a rambunctious trip to a public pool, where Joshua takes his grandmother down the "gigantic slide" time and time again. This is a fun book, and fun to read because of the strong, fluid writing style, which is perfectly complimented by the bold, dynamic, colorful artwork. An instant hit, the kind of book that prompts little ones to say "again!" again and again. Yay. Recommended! (A+)


"A Spree In Paree"
Written by Catherine Stock
Illustrated by Catherine Stock
(Holiday House, 2004)

A kooky story about a French farmer, Monsieur Monmouton, and his livestock deciding that it's finally time to take that trip to the capital they've always talked about. Along with his cows, sheep, goats, et.al. Mssr. Monmouton goes to Paris and does the town. They visit all the hot spots -- the Eiffel Tower, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Louvre museum -- prompting double-takes and consternation wherever they go. It's a beautiful farce, with charming artwork and a great, goofy sense of humor. The book's zinger ending -- that the animals want to go to America next -- is answered in the sequel, A Porc In New York. (A)


"Squeaky Clean"
Written by Simon Puttock
Illustrated by Mary McQuillan
(Little Brown, 2002)

Three little pigs say, "no bath, no way!" but still have a great time when they get in the tub... Mama pig has her hands full getting them out again and off to bed, but when all is done and the little ones are asleep, she gets to take a bath of her own. A simple celebration of soaking and suds -- not great literature or anything, but a fun book, full of action and funny, squelchy sounds. Worth checking out. (B-)


"Squiggles -- A Really Giant Drawing And Painting Book"
Written by Taro Gomi
Illustrated by Taro Gomi
(Chronicle Books, 2007)

Awesome! The third in a series (following Doodles and Scribbles) by the puckish Japanese illustrator Taro Gomi, this is a hip, modern coloring book that breaks the fourth wall, or at least encourages you to splatter a little paint on it and maybe the other three as well. Breaking away from the static, old-fashioned, draw-inside-the-lines, oh-look-it's-a-puppy tradition, Gomi crafts a coloring book that talks to the reader in confidential whispers, plays with them, winks at them and invites them in on the jokes. Continually inventive and improvisational, Squiggles nudges would-be colorists to do some of the heavy lifting as well, and create the pictures as they go along -- the approach is expansive and subtle, and infused with a big dose of humor. A section on the ocean spans nearly twenty pages, with simple, thick-lined illustrations of waves and the occasional island, with a lot of empty water down below, accompanied (on only a few pages) by gentle creative suggestions such as, "start with lots of fish" and "what's in the net?"; a series of pictures about food shows only empty plates and bowls: it's up to the reader to decide what's on the menu. Likewise, Gomi provides a series of heads without facial features -- you fill 'em in -- and a business district where all the signs are blank: it's up to the book's new owner to decide what the stores will sell. By providing the simplest of frames, Gomi opens up wide horizons; this edition also features hefty, durable paper that's thick enough to paint on as well as doodle. This series just gets better and better: let's hope the books keep on coming! (A)


"Stella's Dancing Days"
Written by Sandy Asher
Illustrated by Kathryn Brown
(Harcourt, 2001)

A lovely cat's-eye view of the world. When Stella was a little kitten and was rescued by two children ("The Tall One" and "The Gentle One") she was rambunctious and full of bounce. As she got older, though, she liked to "dance" less and less, and eventually, when she was a full-grown cat, she liked to lie around and be mellow. She also got the urge to go on nightly prowls, and after she met another big cat -- a male -- she started looking for a place to hide and make a nest. Thus, Stella became a mother. Her kittens, though, were also dancers, and once again the children had bouncy little kitties to play with and make fly. A sweet, innocent story (although perceptive children may probe a bit about how Stella's meeting the boy cat and the subsequent pregnancy are related...) Includes some basic ballet terms, like plie and jete, for kids who are on a dancing kick. (A)


"Stella, Queen Of The Snow"
Written by Marie-Louise Gay
Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
(Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, 2000)

(C+)


"Stella, Fairy Of The Forest"
Written by Marie-Louise Gay
Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
(Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, 2002)

Also a bit weird -- we had a hard time getting on this book's wavelength. Stella takes her little brother into the forest to look for fairies, which she says she can see, but can't quite describe. As with the Star Of The Sea, she is full of goofy, offhand answers and random misinformation... depending on how literalminded you (or your children) are, this could be a bit problematic. In the end, Stella and Sam build a playhouse out of forest ferns and when Sam says he sees a fairy, Stella tells him to make a wish... Echoing Peter Pan and the closing of the Winnie The Pooh books, Sam tells Stella he wished that they could stay there in the forest forever, in an idyllic moment. It's a very sweet ending, but the rest of the book wasn't quite as magical for me. Love the stylish artwork, but the text threw me off a bit. (C+)


"Stella, Princess Of The Sky"
Written by Marie-Louise Gay
Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
(Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, 2004)

(C+)


"Stella To Earth!"
Written by Simon Puttock
Illustrated by Philip Hopman
(Clarion, 2005)

A lovely, lively father-daughter book, about an energetic, imaginative young girl named Stella, who dreams of being a space explorer and blasts off for distant planets every night, just before she goes to bed. While she brushes her teeth, puts on her PJs and lands on cratered moons, her dad calls upstairs: "Earth To Stella! Don't forget to wash behind your ears!" One night, though, communication from the home planet is disrupted, and Stella zips back across the galaxy to find dear old, tired dad crashed out on the couch. After she rouses him, they both set off to see the latest planet she's found (and on the way we briefly glimpse the various toys and bedclothes that made up the backdrop for her spacecapades... Stella's a great role model: her room is packed with scientific paraphernalia and such -- and if you're a fan of Spaceman Spiff, you'll dig Stella's universe, too! (Note: this is also called Earth To Stella, in a different edition.) (A)


"The Story Of Rosy Dock"
Written by Jeannie Baker
Illustrated by Jeannie Baker
(Greenwillow, 1995)

Another beautifully illustrated, ecologically-themed photo-collage picturebook from Australian author Jeannie Baker. This one focusses on the desert habitat around the Finke River, in central Australia, an area that is usually drought-stricken, but has sudden torrential rains that explosively bring the sands into full bloom... Baker vividly shows the cycles of desert life, and how various plants and animals adapt to the forboding climate. The "rosy dock" of the title refers to a red-petaled flower that a European immigrant introduced into the Outback; it flourished and now covers much of the desert, blooming wildly when the rains come. Oddly enough, Baker only describes how the red flowers burst into bloom, but she doesn't make clear that they are an invasive species that is crowding out the native plants, at least not in the main story. There is an endnote text that talks about the ecological issues, but if you just read the picture part of the book, you might think it was a good thing. Even though the underlying issues are a bit fuzzy, the book does a great job showing the life cycles of the desert -- her artwork, as always, is captivating and intensely detailed. (B)


"The Stray Dog"
Written by Marc Simont
Illustrated by Marc Simont
(Harper Collins, 2001)

A captivating story of a family that takes a picnic out in the country and meets a little stray dog, which the two children bond with but leave behind, thinking it may belong to someone else. The all go back a week later, and find the same dog (now almost in the clutches of the dog catcher!) and decide to bring him home and name him Willie. There are a lot of nice things about this book: the story is sweet and uplifting, while the artwork is fluid and expressive, and it skillfully delivers information that's not in the text. For example, we see the family car driving across a bridge to "the country" where the park is (a nice nod to the urban environs of most potential readers)... You can comment on the change of scenery, and the added layer of detail is nice, but the story is compelling regardless. This one got lots of request for repeat readings. (B+)


"Subway Sparrow/Gorrion Del Metro"
Written by Leyla Torres
Illustrated by Leyla Torres
(Farrar Straus Giroux, 1993)

When a sparrow flies into a New York City subway car, four city dwellers from different ethnic backgrounds and ages cooperate to capture the panicky bird and bring it back outside to street level and set it free. One man speaks only Spanish, and a woman speaks Polish, but everyone understands each other as they work together to solve the problem. A nice, simple story about cooperation, kindness to animals and compassion in the heart of the big city. Nice glimpse at one of the world's biggest subway systems as well, albeit in a slightly shinier version than many of us might be used to. (B)


"Suki's Kimono"
Written by Chieri Uegaki
Illustrated by Stphane Jorisch
(Kids Can Press, 2003)

A young Japanese-American girl (well, Japanese-Canadian, actually...) wants to go to the first day of school wearing a formal, traditional kimono that her grandmother bought her. Her sisters mock Suki and warn her that the other kids will tease her and think she's weird. Suki wears the kimono anyway, and though a lot of kids do make fun of her, the children in her homeroom class are won over when Suki explains why the kimono means so much to her and shows them a Japanese folk dance that she learned at a summertime cultural festival. This book wears its multi-cultural message on its sleeve, but the obviousness of it doesn't make a dent in the sweet, charming story (which is buoyed by gorgeous, captivating artwork)... All the messages here -- embracing one's cultural roots, willing to not be "cool", and following your own individual interests and a reverence for things that are old or old-fashioned -- all ring true for me. Maybe for you as well? At any rate, Suki can hang out at our house any time... I like that kid! (A)


"A Summery Saturday Morning"
Written by Margaret Mahy
Illustrated by Selina Young
(Viking, 1998)

A nice evocation of nature and relaxed family outings. A mother takes a bunch of children for a walk through some hills and across a field down to a local beach. When they get there, their dogs run afoul of a flock of geese, and the field trip has to be called off... The artwork strongly reminded me of trips I've taken to a local beach, and the book has a nice sense of joyfulness, wonder and good cheer. Not a profound book, but nice and very positive in tone.
(C+)


"Sun Bread"
Written by Elisa Kleven
Illustrated by Elisa Kleven
(Dutton, 2001)

The mystical side of breadmaking is explored in this ode to baking, nature and the interconnectedness of everything. Great artwork, and a nice hippiedelic message, but the text itself seems a bit belabored, and not as effective dramatically as Kleven's other work. Nonetheless, this is one of her best-known and best-recieved works. It might be better for older kids... and kids whose parents do more baking than I do. (B)


"Sunflower"
Written by Miela Ford
Illustrated by Sally Noll
(Greenwillow, 1995)

A girl plants a sunflower seed, waters it and watches is grow. Soon it towers over her head and the birds and butterflies come to share in the bounty. A few seeds are saved to plant next year, and the story cycles around again... The text and pictures are clear and read well; there is no mistaking what the story is about, and the celebration of life, growth and nurturing comes through loud and clear. My little girl loved this book, and wanted to plant some seeds right away... Too bad I read it to her in November! Recommended. (A)


"The Sun Is My Favorite Star"
Written by Frank Asch
Illustrated by Frank Asch
(Gulliver, 2000)
A pleasant, kind of hippie-ish celebration of nature, with a little girl who sings the praises of the sun and its life-giving powers. I think I liked this book better than my girl did; she never asked for it to be re-read, but seemed to appreciate it anyway.
(B)


"Supermarket!"
Written by Charlotte Doyle
Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott
(Candlewick, 2004)

A big, colorful book in celebration of that great parental rite of passage -- solo shopping with a toddler in tow. This book is sure to bring a shock of recognition and a smile to anyone who's tried to keep those little hands from grabbing everything in sight, and while the simple, minimal rhyming text isn't going to win anyone a Booker Prize, but it's probably just right for the age group of the children it's aimed at, and it raises all kinds of opportunities to discuss various foods (and rambunctious behaviors...) The artwork is delightful -- nice, cartoonish line drawings similar to John Burningham's work, and is packed with details that can occupy little people and their readers for hours on end. Also, this is printed on thick, boardbookish stock (easily cleaned and ideal for backseat reading matter on the way to the store...) Cute. (B-)


"Swan Lake"
Written by Rachel Isadora
Illustrated by Rachel Isadora
(G. P. Putnam, 1991)

An excellent adaptation of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet... Isadora pares the story down to its bare essentials and presents it amid gorgeous, expressive watercolors that lend a dreamlike quality to the work. Her use of light and shadow is particularly evocative -- all in all, this book is a real class act. The perfect companion to a trip to the ballet, or simply to inspire a budding dancer's imagination. Highly recommended! (A)


"Sweet Dreams, Maisy"
Written by Lucy Cousins
Illustrated by Lucy Cousins
(Candlewick, 2005)

A going-to-sleep book featuring the world's second-most marketable cartoon mousie... As with most "Maisy" titles, there's not much of a plot, although the text gets a little flowery and poetic while describing the twinkling of the stars, etc. Not a great book, but inoffensive and visually appealing... About what you'd expect from the "Maisy" franchise... (Although there is some speculation that this might not actually be Cousins' artwork... Both seem atypical from the rest of the "Maisy" ouvre. ) (B-)


"Swimming With Dolphins"
Written by Lambert Davis
Illustrated by Lambert Davis
(Blue Sky Press, 2004)

A little girl and her mother go to the beach and meet a small pod of dolphins, and swim with them for hours... The story is told from the girl's point of view, with bright, colorful, easy to understand artwork. It's an evocative, joyful celebration of nature and interspecies cooperation; while it's doubtful that many of the kids who will read this book will ever get the chance to play with dolphins this way, chances are they will really love the book. It gets a nice reception in our house. Recommended! (A)


"Swimmy"
Written by Leo Lionni
Illustrated by Leo Lionni
(Random House, 1963)

This sea tale starts on a Bambi-ish note that may be disturbing to the youngest readers (a school of little fish gets gobbled up by a bigger fish, leaving only one survivor, Swimmy, to wander about alone), but its message of social justice and unity is welcome (Swimmy finds another school of little fish, and teaches them to swim in formation, thus scaring off potential predators). Lovely artwork, as with all of Lionni's books, though the first half of the book is kind of a downer. Finding Nemo, eat your heart out. (B)


"Sylvie And True"
Written by David McPhail
Illustrated by David McPhail
(Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007)

A charming, nonsensical set of short stories about Sylvie and True, a bunny rabbit and a water snake, animal roommates who share a small apartment in a big city. Sylvie is the working girl: while she goes off, True stays home to soak in the bath and lurk in trees and scare their downstairs neighbor. In one story, True tries to surprise Sylvie and do the cooking, an experiment that ends badly when she also sits down to watch some TV and forgets what's on the stove. (Thankfully, Sylvie returns home before the apartment burns down... Then they go out for pizza.) These are cute stories, well-illustrated though without much purpose, other than innocent enchantment and giving parents a chance to read something funny and fun to their kids. I always enjoy McPhail's artwork, and his kooky sense of storytelling is a delight as well. It's kind of dumb, but this one was quite popular in our house. (B)




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