Children’s Book Review – #3


With the semester winding down I finally had some time to read some more children’s books.  Once again, I thought I’d share my thoughts.  I’ve already taken pictures of the books on the shelf, so I thought from this point forward I’d just include whatever picture in the batch of books that I’m reviewing most caught my eye.  This time, it’s from The Little Engine That Could:

I found the Big Engine's resemblance to a whale to be captivating.

I found the Big Engine’s resemblance to a whale to be captivating.

On to the reviews:

1.  The Missing Piece (Shel Silverstein) – I’ve never been a fan of The Giving Tree, so I didn’t think I’d like Silverstein that much, but Where the Sidewalk Ends and now this book have changed my mind.  The Missing Piece has such primitive drawings that I’m not sure why it works, but it definitely does.  The story’s emphasis on independence and enjoying life’s joys is one that Silverstein handles effectively and that is worth teaching.  Grade: A

2.  Scuffy the Tugboat (Gertrude Crampton) – I had a suspicion that the “Little Golden Book” series would be kind of crappy for the most part, and this book only reinforced this idea.  It’s benign enough, but there’s not much to recommend it – the art is blah and the story simplistic.  The moral at the end of the contrived plot is that Scuffy should know his place, which isn’t the best of messages.  Grade: D

3.  The Little Red Caboose (Marian Potter) – Another “Little Golden Book,” this one at least had some charm – although the countryside in the background is bizarre in a way that doesn’t fit the story.  My impression on “Little Golden Books” has always been that they are pretty disposable and uninteresting, and this book is a great example of that.  Grade: C

4.  The Poky Little Puppy (Janette Sebring Lowery) – Yet another “Little Golden Book,” this is one of the original twelve books in the series and claims to be the best selling children’s book of all time.  That just goes to prove that sales figures don’t mean much.  The story is fine, but it lacked any real depth.  If puppy’s weren’t adorable, and if the word “poky” wasn’t fun to say in its own right, this book wouldn’t be much of anything.  Grade: C+

5.  The Monster at the end of this Book (Jon Stone) – The final “Little Golden Book,” this one features Grover from Sesame Street imploring readers not to reach the end of the book because there will be a monster there, only to discover that he is the monster.  We’ve actually owned this one for a while because it’s one of Norie’s favorites.  Unlike the other “Little Golden Books,” this one is clever and a bit meta in a way that gives it some complexity.  It’s easily the best of the Golden bunch.  Grade: B+

6.  Hairs – Pelitos (Sandra Cisneros) – This is a children’s book adaptation of one of Cisneros’ very short stories in The House on Mango Street.  I like that it includes both the English and Spanish versions of the story, and there is definitely a charm to the artwork and the language.  What I like even more, though, is that this book proves that the line between children’s literature and adult literature can be a lot thinner (or in this case nonexistent) than we often think.  Grade: B+

7.  Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak) – I’ve had this book for a while and there isn’t much to say about it that hasn’t already been said.  Maurice Sendak is awesome and this is his masterpiece.  That is all.  Grade: A+

8.  The Little Engine That Could (Watty Piper) – I’m not a big fan of overly didactic books or of sentimentality, so I didn’t expect to like this book very much, but ended up enjoying it tremendously.  Loren Long’s art has a lot to do with that (see the picture above), and the drawings here really breath new life into an old story.  The story, though, held up in its own right better than I thought it would.  It doesn’t beat us over the head with the message, but weaves the notion of determination into the story organically and subtly.  Grade: A-

9.  Caps for Sale (Esphyr Slobodkina) – This one was Norie’s idea, but I enjoyed it, too.  There’s an absurdity to the whole thing that is effective, and in the end the story is surprising yet feels completely natural.  At any level, that’s a sign of good writing.  Grade: B+

10.  My Very First Mother Goose (Iona Hope) – As a collection of folk rhymes it’s no surprise that the actual poems are pretty hit and miss.  Of course, there are some all time classics, but there are also a few that have awkward rhythms, or that are so archaic now that they aren’t all that interesting.  The artwork is okay, but I’m not sure what Rosemary Wells’ obsession with rabbits is.  There’s so much variety in the poetry, I wish the art had followed suit.  Grade: C+


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s