Friday, October 31, 2008

Book Review Set# 5

Madeline Says Merci: The Always Be Polite Book by John Bemelmans Marciano, published by Viking

Genre: early reader; Total pages: 45; Target Age: kindergarten-2nd grade

Annotation: Madeline is back, and this time, she and her classmates learn basic rules for how to be polite in Madeline Says Merci. As always, they learn with panache and style.

Review: As I read this book, I thought that the pictures seemed a bit different from other Madeline books. Then, I realized: this is not the work of the original author, but of his grandson. Of course there's going to be differences! Despite the differences, the book is a pleasant read. You actually barely notice that the book is teaching manners because the rhymes in the text work so flawlessly with the illustrations. In fact, the few two-page spreads that say the upcoming topics seem to be out of place because the story flows so well. At times, the rhymes are a bit awkward, but Madeline is as lovable as ever in this new(ish) book.

Critical Reviews:

    Amazon.com's critical review recommends this book for teaching about manners "without feeling like Miss Clavel is shaking a finger at them." School Library Journal has a similar sentiment in that the book is for those who "wish to begin a discussion of manners in a slightly humorous way." However, SLJ says that the book is rather disappointing to see Madeline, the girl who said "pooh, pooh" to a tiger, now transformed into a "Mini Miss Manners." It is a bit of a departure of character, but if your child likes Madeline, this is a good book for the teaching of manners.

Dr. Seuss's ABC by Dr Seuss, published by Beginner Books

Genre: early reader, phonics; Total pages: 63; Age: 3-kindergarten.

Annotation: Learn to read with Dr. Seuss. His zany ABC book teaches early readers about the different sounds the letters make as he creates whimsical sentences and characters to teach about the alphabet.

Review: Like other alphabet books, this book seems to be stretching to unite the text with the alphabet. For all of the pages, the words in the sentences all begin with the letter of focus, except for the letter "x" which is evidently only good for spelling "extra fox." But, the book does do a good job of teaching about the sounds each letter makes and in connecting the text with the pictures.

This would be a good companion for the G is for Gzonk! book.

Critical Review:     

It is hard to find a review for a book this old! I guess the fact that it has continued to endure is a testament to its quality. But, amazon.com's critical reviews said that the rhythm and repetitive use of each letter would get your child to read to you. They recommend this book for baby-5, which seems a bit young for this book. I think it's more appropriate for 3 year olds. The book definitely makes it fun to learn your ABCs.

Fancy Nancy at the Museum By Jane O'Connor, published by Harper Collins

Genre: early reader, simple sentences, whole-language; Total pages: 32; Age: 4-8

Annotation: Fancy Nancy enters the world of leveled readers as she goes to the museum with her class. Along the way, she makes the day extra-fancy!

Review: I've never before read a Fancy-Nancy book, and I loved the illustrations. They're so cute! I liked that the new vocabulary was explained in-context and also in a glossary at the back of the book so that your reader could review the new words. It is fabulous! (That's a fancy word for great.)

The story does touch on vomiting, so if you don't want your child to read about being ill, this is not appropriate for them. However, it is very tastefully done, and it teaches children that sometimes, accidents happen.

Critical Review:

Children's Literature said that this book is sure to boost the reader's vocabulary because the book is so lively that kids are sure to read it often. School Library Journal says that the book, with Fancy Nancy's first journey into the I Can Read books, is slightly disappointing and has less energy than the earlier series. But, both reviews agree: Nancy is lovable and the illustrations are beautiful. I'd have to agree that the illustrations are great. What little girl wouldn't want to read a book that beautiful?

Airy Fairy: Magic Mischief by Margaret Ryan, illustrated by Teresa Murfin, published by Barron's.

Genre: early reader, short chapter book, fairies; Total pages: 74; Age: 1st-3rd grade


Annotation: Poor Airy Fairy is not what a fairy should be: she's klutzy, forgetful, scraped up, and constantly getting into trouble. But, during Christmas, she has six spells to work some fairy magic on the Grimms and redeem her chances of going to the Christmas party.

Review: This is a very low-level chapter book, great for a low-reader, and emerging reader, or someone who just likes to escape in a good book. There are illustrations on nearly every page, so it really would be a great book for someone transitioning from early readers to chapter books.

Most people can understand the feeling of being picked on without other people realizing, and this story accurately depicts what that feels like. The story pulls you through as you want to know what's going to happen to Airy Fairy and whether or not anyone else realizes that Scary Fairy really is bad-news.

Critical Review: There are none available.

The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, published by Scholastic

Genre: picture book, Caldecott; Total pages: 47; Age: 5-8

Annotation: There are Fairy Tales and there are Fairly Stupid Tales. These are Fairly Stupid Tales, and don't get those two mixed up. Thus warns Jack in his introduction to the book, setting the stage for the fairy tales told firmly with tongue-in-cheek.

Review: This book is hilarious, though adults will get more enjoyment from the book than children due to the sarcasm and irony present throughout the book. This would be appropriate for children with a strong sense of humor and an initial understanding of fairy tales. In fact, the humor would not be appropriate for people who don't have a basic understanding of fairy tales because all of the jokes are at the expense of pre-existing stories. This is a truly silly book, and is loads of fun.

The pictures and the typeset throughout the book are not traditional for a picture book. The pictures are goofy and have an Americana-collage feeling. The typeset is rather crowded on the page because all of the characters are yelling the entire time. They are great assets to the silly tales in the book.

Critical Review:

Kirkus says that it is "zany fun." School Library Journal raves about the fractured fairy tales, which have been shortened to one-liners that zing. Publishers Weekly also praises the book, but is the only review to have mentioned that some of the jokes have a cruel edge. The book is every bit as fun as the reviews claim, and the pictures are interesting to-boot. For those who understand fairy tales, this is a fabulous read.

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