Hi there... This is the fifth page of the Letter "W" 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 -- "W" By Title
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"Widget"
Written by Lyn Rossiter McFarland
Illustrated by Jim McFarland
(Farar Strauss Giroux, 2001)

I'm not wild about this book, but my wife loves it and the baby gives it a good reception, so I guess I'm outvoted. A cold, hungry, stray dog (very much like McDuff, in the first McDuff book) comes across a house full of cats, and starts acting like a cat so he will fit in and be able to stay and get fed. One day, though, the little old lady with the six cats falls over and gets hurt (too scary, if you ask me!) and its only when Widget reclaims his dogginess -- and barks for help -- that she is able to be saved by the neighbors. I wasn't that into the writing or the artwork, which both seemed a little clunky, though effective nonetheless. Mostly I guess it's the scary element of the old lady almost dying and the hostility between the animals (which involves a lot of hissing and snarling before Widget fits in) that make this a B-list book for me. It's okay, though. (B-)


"Widget And The Puppy"
Written by Lyn Rossiter McFarland
Illustrated by Jim McFarland
(Farar Strauss Giroux, 2004)

The sequel to Widget -- in which Widget is placed in charge of a troublesome, rambunctious puppy -- is less fresh and unique. I suppose some kids might squeal with delight at the puppy's misadventures, but it met with a pretty muted response around here. (C)


"Wild About Books"
Written by Judy Sierra
Illustrated by Marc Brown
(Clarion, 2005)

A fast-paced, clever celebration of books and words... Consciously modelled after Dr. Seuss's classics, this sports a strong rhyming text and a bouncy exuberance. The plot is thus: a librarian parks her bookmobile at the local zoo, sparking a love of books in the various animals. Not only do they devour the books (sometimes literally!), the critters also get creative, writing novels, memoirs and haiku.. even literary criticism! The main attraction is the wild wordplay, which comes complete with lots of inside jokes for grown-ups to enjoy (funny book titles and clever choices for the various animals to read... ) Wonderful artwork, as well, from Marc Brown (of Arthur fame...) whose richly retailed, lively style looks detailed and dense yet playful appealing, and perfectly compliments the text. Maybe not suited to the littlest readers, but -- like the Seuss books it emulates -- it has a rhythm and liveiness that lends itself to reading aloud and can help introduce readers of any age the pleasure of the printed word. Recommended!
(A)


"Will And Squill"
Written by Emma Chichester Clark
Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark
(Carolrhoda Books, 2000)

I'm not wild about this one, but my kid really liked it. WIll is a boy, Squill is a young squirrel, and they are best friends for life, even though their parents didn't want them to be... They also speak in their own private language, riffing off the similarity between their names -- their big joke is about doing things together: "I will if you will," one says, and the other replies, "I squill if you squill." The humor is bit forced, the writing is a bit stiff, but the theme of friendship has its appeal. One day, Will gets a new friend (a kitten) and when Squill's jealousy makes him pull the kitty's tail, Will gets mad and they break up for a while. Then, after missing each other, they each apologize and are best buds again. The message is nice, the art is nice, the text is a little clunky, though. Families that like quirky plots might get into this -- it does have its charm. (B-)


"William The Vehicle King"
Written by Laura P. Newton
Illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers
(Bradbury Press, 1987)

A little boy plays with his toy cars, trucks, fire engines and construction vehicles... By the book's end he's created a whole city inside his bedroom, which we get to see from shag-carpet level. The boy's loyal cat, who hung out with him the whole time, gets a big tummy rub at the end of the day... And then bites a yellow pickup truck when nobody is looking. Not an amazing text, but a nice representation of car-filled imaginative play. Heartwarming and cute. (B)


"Will I Have A Friend?"
Written by Miriam Cohen
Illustrated by Lillian Hoban
(Simon & Schuster, 1967)

A fine first-day-at-school book... While being dropped off at school, a boy named Jim asks his dad if he will have a friend there, and the dad assures him he will. Jim spends the whole day looking for this friend, while playing blocks, doing art, playing at recess and going through the usual set of playschool/kindergarten activities. Initially Jim finds it hard to fit himself in socially and in his anxiety to find "the" friend, Jim doesn't realize that he has made friends with all the children in his class. At the end of the day he finally connects with one boy in particular, and by the time his dad comes to pick him up, Jim is eager to return for day number two. Although the story focuses on anxieties, it does so with a light touch, and the presentation of new-school activities is captivating and friendly. Recommended! (B+)


"The Wind's Garden"
Written by Bethany Roberts
Illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg
(Henry Holt & Co., 2001)

A woman clears and plants her flower garden within the confines of her house's fenceline, while outside the wind and nature plant theirs. Wildflowers and "weeds" dwarf the domesticated flora, but each has its place. I wouldn't say this is the best-written or best-illustrated kid's book ever, but the sentiment hits home, and if you are delving into either gardening and farming or the wonder of nature, this should fit in quite nicely. Recommended. (B)


"Winter Friends"
Written by Mary Quattlebaum
Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
(Doubleday, 2005)

A series of interlinked wintertime poems, about snowfall, missing mittens and breathtaking sled rides. A little girl wakes up to see her city blanketed in snow, gets warmly dressed and goes out for a walk with her mom... On the way they find a lone mitten in the snow, then catching up to the boy who lost it, they give it back to him and then play outside all morning long. Later everyone goes to a big party with lots of kids, parents, warm drinks and yummy treats. The poems are uniformly nice and have a fair amount of literary heft; Hiroe Nakata's artwork perfectly compliments the text... She is one of the finest artists in the field these days, and helps the book evoke a wintery sense of wonder. (B+)


"Winter Lullaby"
Written by Barbara Seuling
Illustrated by Greg Newbold
(Harcourt/Gulliver Books, 1998)

A rhyming celebration of the coming of winter, which asks, creature by creature, what do the animals do when winter comes. It culminates with humans, who cuddle up warm in their houses, touching along the way on mice, birds, bats and bees. The blocky acrylic paint artwork is a little kloodgey for my tastes, but not overpoweringly so -- the gentle text is nice and this is one of the better nature-appreciation picturebooks I've seen. Recommended! (B+)


"The Witch's Children"
Written by Ursula Jones
Illustrated by Russell Ayto
(Henry Holt/Orchard Books, 2001)

A clever, kooky witch's fable from the UK... When the witch's three little ones come to the playground, all the animals head for higher ground -- they know that chaos can't be far behind. Sure enough, when the well-intentioned trio uses magic to help retrieve a lost toy, their spells have unintended consequences (since they only know how to zap things, not how to un-zap them...) Finally, the youngest of the witchlings uses the biggest magic word she knows to solve the problem: "Mo-o-o-o-o-ommmmmeeeeeeee!!" After Mom swoops down on her broomstick and turns the squirrels, pigeons and people back from princes, princesses and frogs, they all zoom back home, ready for a sequel. (B)


"The Witch's Children And The Queen"
Written by Ursula Jones
Illustrated by Russell Ayto
(Orchard Books, 2003)

(-)


"With A Little Help From Daddy"
Written by Dan Andreasen
Illustrated by Dan Andreasen
(Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2003)
A sweet, good-humored book about daddy-son relationships... A cheerful little elephant tells how he is "the tallest boy on my block... strongest boy on my block..." all with a little help from his ever-present dad, who cheerfully lifts him on his shoulders, helps him make his bed, etc. This is a very earnest book, verging on the saccharine, but if you are the parent of a nice, sweet little boy and want to do your best to encourage those qualities or to prolong that stage in his life, this book is probably an excellent choice. Author Dan Andreasen has worked extensively as an illustrator for other people's work; here he proves a capable, if workmanlike picturebook creator. While the text isn't terribly clever, the artwork is bold and friendly, and very easy to understand. Good for younger readers. (Note: this is the companion book to Andreasen's A Special Day For Mommy, which is an even better book.) (B)






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