Saturday, April 15, 2017


The category for this post of book reviews I wrote for ReFoReMo 2017 is Different Themes. I've included the "theme" for each book in parenthesis.

AND TWO BOYS BOOED by Judith Voirst (being brave)

"On the morning of the talent show, I was ready to sing my song." So begins this delightful tale of a young boy who has entered his classroom's talent show. He is all geared up and ready to sing his song in front of the class because he has practiced "a billion times." But, when his turn comes, will he be able to go through with it?

This is a story any child will be able to relate to. We have all had stage fright at some time in our lives. It's good for a child to know that other children might feel the same way they do.

The text is full of wonderful repetition that keeps the story flowing and that kids will love. As an added bonus, some of the pages have flaps the reader can lift for additional illustrations.

BUNNYBEAR by Andrea J. Loney (Transgender)

Bunnybear looks like a bear, but he feels all soft and fluffy inside, like a bunny. So, he calls himself Bunnybear.

The bears don't understand him and make fun of him. He doesn't fit in with the bunnies, either.

Then, he meets Grizzlybun, a bunny who looks like a bunny but who feels like a bear inside. Needless to say, the two become friends.

But, there is more to the story...

For the most part, I liked the story. The subject was handled in a sensitive manner. But, I was not satisfied with the ending.

CAT KNIT by Jacob Grant (Accepting change and being open to new ideas)

When Girl brings home Yarn, Cat and Yarn become best friends. They play together and have great fun.

Then Girl takes Yarn away and changes him into something else.

At first, Cat doesn't like what Yarn has become, and then he realizes the new Yarn might be okay after all.

Minimal text and great illustrations help convey the importance of accepting change and being open to new ideas.

DON'T CROSS THE LINE! by Isabel Minhos Martins (challenging authority)

The General has given an order. No one is to cross the line! Period! Why? Because the General said so and the guard on the border line always follows the General's orders without question.

The right-hand page of the book is reserved for the General. It MUST be kept blank. But, more and more people are crowding up to the line. What happens when a little boy loses his ball and it goes over the line? Will the guard let him go get it?

This is a great book. It covers the question of power and authority. When is power and authority good? When and how is it abused? That might sound like a weighty topic for kids, but the text and the illustrations work perfectly together to illustrate the point that not all rules are good rules and that sometimes rules are made to be broken.

EGG by Kevin Henkes (being different)

The story starts out with four eggs. Three of them crack and little birds are hatched. The fourth one doesn't hatch with the others. The little birds wait and wait and wait, until finally the egg hatches. But what hatches out of the egg is not a bird.

What will the birds do? Will they abandon this creature?

I love the illustrations for this book. They are so simple and yet they convey so much.

This is a great story about friendship and acceptance.

GRANDDAD'S ISLAND by Benji Davies (death)

Syd loves his granddad, who lives in a house behind his house. He visits Granddad often. One day, when Syd visits, Granddad shows him a secret door in the attic. The door opens to reveal a boat. Syd and Granddad set sail on the waters. They come to a beautiful island which Granddad loves. Granddad loves it so much, he tells Syd he wants to stay there, by himself, forever. Syd then has to tell his granddad good-bye, and sail back home by himself.
This is a very sweet story about a difficult subject, that of dying and death and carrying on after a loved one is gone. I think it's handled in a way that children will relate to.

LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt de la Pena (seeing beauty around us)

After church, a little boy takes a bus ride with his Nana. He sees problems all long the way, but Nana shows him that there is beauty all around us.

This is a lovely look at the world from a different perspective, one that finds hope and love and beauty where there seems to be none.

MOTHER BRUCE by Ryan T. Higgins (parenting)

Bruce, the bear, likes eggs. He eats them every day. One day he comes across a recipe that calls for hard-boiled goose eggs. Before he can boil the eggs, he has to collect some wood for the stove. When he returns, he finds that the eggs have hatched. Bruce is the first thing that the newly-hatched goslings see, so they call him "Mama" and follow him everywhere.

As you can imagine, it's quite a sight, and quite a funny situation to a bear being an adoptive parent to four baby goslings.

THE HEART AND THE BOTTLE by Oliver Jeffers (being afraid of a broken heart)

A little girl's heart is broken when her grandfather dies. To protect her heart, she takes it out of her body and puts it in a bottle for safe keeping. She wears her heart as a pendant.

This seems to be an effective way to keep her heart from breaking again, but over the years, the pendant becomes heavier and heavier and the burden greater.

When the little girl, who has now grown to be a woman, meets another little girl who needs someone special in her life, will the woman be brave enough to take her heart out of the bottle and try to love again?

THE PRINCESS AND THE PONY by Kate Beaton (not getting exactly what you asked for)

Princess Pinecone wants a horse for her birthday, and not just any horse. It needs to be big and strong and fit for a warrior princess.

Well, Pinecone gets a horse, but it doesn't quite measure up to her standards of what a horse should be. But, maybe, it will be all right after all. Maybe....

THE ROOSTER WHO WOULD NOT BE QUIET! by Carmen Agra Deedy (persistence and bravery)

Once there was a village where everyone made noise. It became so noisy that it drove everyone crazy. The villagers didn't know what to do, so they fired their mayor. That didn't help any, so they held an election for a new mayor.

The man they elected promised to make the village quiet again. And, he did. It is very, very quiet for seven years until a very noisy rooster comes along and stirs things up.

The mayor is at his wit's end trying to make the rooster be quiet. Will he succeed or will the rooster change the village?

This is a great story about persistence and bravery.

THOSE SHOES by Maribeth Boelts (poverty)

A young boy wants a specific pair of shoes. They are black high tops with two white stripes. Many of his friends have these shoes, and he wants them, too. But, Grandma says she doesn't have money for new shoes because he needs new boots for the winter.

When the boy's shoes fall apart one day at school, the principal gives him a pair of new shoes, ones with a little kid logo on the sides. They are not the shoes he wants but they are the only pair the principal has to offer that fit him. He hates the shoes, but he takes them anyway.

When Grandma sees his new shoes and realizes how much he hates them, she takes him to the shoe store to check out the shoes he wants. When she sees price tag of the shoes, she realizes she can't afford them.

Will the young boy ever get the shoes he wants? Will it matter if he does or he doesn't?

This book touches on many topics such as poverty, peer pressure and friendship. It's a great book for every kid to read, whether they can afford to buy "those shoes" or not.

WORM LOVES WORM by J. J. Austrian (gay marriage)

Two worms want to get married. But, as they discover, there are certain things that need to be done in a certain way. As Cricket says, "That's the way it's always been done."

Worm and Worm need a best beetle (says their friend, Beetle) and brides bees (says their friends, the Bees). They also need rings (says Cricket) and a band to dance to (says Beetle)  and a cake and a top hat (say the Bees).

When Worm says we don't have any fingers for the rings, Cricket suggests wearing them as belts. When Beetle suggests dancing to a band, one Worm says they have no legs, but the other Worm says they can just wiggle in the dirt. When the Bees suggest they need a cake and a top hat, the Worms say they have no heads for hats and they eat only dirt so they don't need a cake. Spider says he can attach the hats to their bodies with his sticky web and he will eat the cake.

Everything gets worked out until it comes time to decide who will wear the brides' dress and who will wear the tux.

Both Worms say they can wear either one. But, Cricket says, "Wait. That's isn't how it's always been done." And one Worm replies, "Then we'll just change how it's done."

As you probably guessed, the theme is gay marriage. The conflict is with the way things have "always been done" and they way things need to be changed to accommodate those who don't fit the norm.

XO, OX: A Love Story by Adam Rex (unrequited love)

It's not unusual for authors to incorporate letters into a story's narrative. For instance, a writer might include a letter written by a mother to a daughter or from a business acquaintance. Using love letters is also a popular literary device. But, until now, I thought that was confined to adult literature.

Author Adam Rex has changed all that by composing a book of letters between an ox and a gazelle. The ox is enamored by the gazelle, but the gazelle doesn't return the ox's feelings. What results is a series of letters between the two with Ox professing his admiration for Gazelle. It's a delightful way to write a book. Wish I had thought of it!

ZEN SOCKS by Jon J. Muth (life lessons)

Molly and Leo, and their cat, Moss, live across the street from Mr. Stillwater, a panda bear. Mr. Stillwater is very wise and teaches the children much about life.

He teaches Molly patience and teaches Leo about right and wrong and teaches both of them about the value of doing little things in an effort to solve a big problem.

I must say I liked this book. The story is well-written and the use of a story within a story is a bit unusual and I like that, too. I also like the lessons that are learned. And, the illustrations are wonderful.

But, I also must say that I think the author did too much in one book. This doesn't feel so much like a picture book to me as it does a chapter book that was written in picture book form. I certainly breaks the mold of the trend towards short picture books.

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