Sunday, June 1, 2014

Reviews #126-130: early Favorites of 2014

We’re trying a new approach today!  We’ve read tons of 2014 titles already this year.  (Of course there are many more yet to see.)  Out of those that have crossed our paths so far in the first half of the year, here are some favorites, all in one post!  The kids are each going to pick one of the books to highlight... 

Dad:  Evie, why don’t you get us started.  What is your favorite book of the year so far?
Evangeline (age 6):  I like the pictures in this book.  I like how it’s 3D!
Dad:  This is “Jim Curious” by Matthias Picard.
Elijah (age 8):  Oh my gosh.  This book is so cool.
Isaac (age 15):  Dude.  It’s amazing.
Gracie (age 13):  Anything we say is not going to do it justice. 
Evangeline:  I need the goggles. (Puts on the 3D glasses)  Woah, it’s so cool!!!
Dad:  So tell everyone what it’s like to read a 3D book…
Evangeline:  The glasses make it look like this fish is swimming towards you.  It comes closer to you. The fish is coming out at my face!  Oh my word, can I touch this?  I want to stick my hand right under the fish… but it’s not working.
Lily (age 11):  Woah!  Woah!  I keep trying to reach out to grab it.
Dad:  What is the story about?
Evangeline:  It is about “under the sea.”  This guy is swimming.  
Lily:  The pages have a lot of action.  It’s like a movie.
Isaac:  It’s a visual spectacle. The art would still be cool even if it wasn’t 3D.
Evangeline:  It looks like you can try to stick your head into the pictures.  Like I can go under this water and swim with this person and look at this cool stuff.  For real. 
Gracie:  It feels like you shouldn’t be able to turn the pages – because it looks more like staring into a shadow box than a book. 
Evangeline:  But when you take the glasses off, it looks plain.
Dad:  Then when you put the glasses back on...
Evangeline:  KAPOW! 
Dad:  Ka-pow!  Kapoof!
Evangeline:  Not kapoof.  Only kapow.  Kapoof sounds weird.
Dad:  How would you feel if we ever lost the glasses?
Evangeline:  I’d be, like, (voice trembling) "I want to stick my hand under the fish, but now I can't!"
Gracie:  I would cry.
Evangeline:  Only the first half of this book is my favorite book.   At the end there is an underwater tornado.  And it makes me feel like, "Oh cwap.  This tornado is going to make me go into it."
Dad:  Cwap?  Can we say ‘cwap’ on Bookie Woogie?
Evangeline:  Yeah.
Dad:  I’ve never heard you say ‘cwap’ before.
Evangeline:  "Cwap."
Dad:  Now I’ve heard you say it twice.  Let’s wash your mouth out with some of this 3D water.
Evangeline:  It’s actually not wet.

Dad:  Okay Elijah, your turn.  What book do you want to share?
Elijah (age 8):  This book is about dinosaurs. 
Dad:  "The Greatest Dinosaur Ever" by Brenda Guiberson and Gennady Spirin.
Elijah:  One of the dinosaurs said it was the fastest.  One of them said it was the biggest.  One of them said ‘I’ve got armored plates.’  They all thought they were the best.  But I don’t know who was right.
Dad:  How did you do with reading all these dinosaur names?
Elijah:  Heheheheheh…  That’s the tricky part.
Dad:  Why don’t scientists just name dinos things like Bob… and Ed… and Poofer.
Elijah:  Poofer?
Dad:  I don’t know.  It’s better than… Leaellynasura.
Elijah:  All dinosaurs are named weird things.  Like, Spinosaurus.  Actually that’s the easiest name of all of them.
Gracie:  I saw that guy on Jurassic Park… that was freaky.
Lily:  (reading names beneath the pictures)  "Oviraptor..." Gasp!  It’s a chicken-lion-dragon!  You know those chicken-lion-dragon things?  Cockatrice!  Maybe that’s where they got the cockatrice myth from.  Gasp!  That makes so much sense. 
Evangeline:  I don’t like dinosaurs.  Every night I think about dinosaurs.
Dad:  Every night?  I didn’t know that.
Evangeline:  Yeah.  At night I think their heads are going to open and eat me.  But I do think it would be fun to ride a baby dinosaur.
Dad:  Elijah, would you like to have a dinosaur for a pet?
Elijah:  That probably would not be a good idea.
Gracie:  I don’t want him to have one.
Elijah:  I’d accidentally kill everyone with it.
Gracie:  Elijah walks around with a stuffed alligator, beaning people in the head.  Imagine what he would do with a real live predator at his disposal.  That would be horrific.
Isaac:  This book has very detailed art.  The illustrator has a very cool style - you can still see the pencil beneath the paint.
Dad:  This illustrator is one of my favorites.  As soon as I saw that he’d been tapped to do a book about dinosaurs, I thought, That is BRILLIANT!  Why has that never happened before?   Gennady Spirin.  Dinosaurs.  Of course someone needs to put them together.  It’s awesome.
Elijah: (singing to the tune of a Frozen song)  Gennady and dinos… they’re both so intense… put them together… it just makes sense!  Rat da dat, da da dada da doo... 

Dad:  Okay, Lily, pick a book!
Lily (age 11):  “Oliver’s Tree.”
Dad:  By Kit Chase.
Gracie:  This one is really cute.
Lily:  Oliver is an elephant, and he was playing with his friends, a bunny and an owl.  Oliver saw his friend in a tree, but he was too big to climb up with her.  So they try to find a tree that Oliver can climb.  One had bigger branches, but it was too high.  One was too small.  They found a perfect tree, but when he got in it, the branch broke. 
Dad:  Poor guy.
Lily:  It’s so sad -- he just fell on his face.  So Oliver sat on a tree stump and went to sleep.  Then his friends built a tree house around him, and when he woke up -- POOF!  A tree house. 
Kids: (singing to the tune of a Frozen song) Do you wanna build a tree house…
Lily:  I would totally live in a tree house if I could.  Yeah.  If it was big enough.  And if it had electricity.  Except for bugs… I wouldn’t like termites.
Dad:  Do you like climbing trees too?
Lily:  Oh my gosh.  I LOVE climbing trees.  
Elijah:  I do.  I’m just not good at it unless there’s a low branch to start with.  I’m not very tall.
Lily:  I miss that climbing tree at our old house.  I remember when our neighbor Gina came over, we would climb it.  And we would pretend we were cheetahs.  Okay that part was weird.
Dad:  How about the illustrations in this book?
Gracie:  Everything about this book is adorable.  Really cute.
Isaac:  I have nothing against cute things.  People who do are kind of sad.  I like “cute” -- I’m a happy person.
Evangeline:  I like the owl best.  Owls are my favorite animal.  If I ever meet the person who made this book, I would like her very much.  I would want her to draw me 100 owls.  I would want her to make me a tattoo of an owl.

Dad:  Gracie!  What’s your favorite book?
Gracie (age 13):  “Sparky” by Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans.  I really do like the storyline a lot, but the pictures – the pictures are so, so cool.  
Elijah:  Everybody likes this book.
Gracie:  Sparky is a sloth.  This girl wants a pet, but her mom says she has to get one that doesn’t need to be walked or fed or given a bath.  So she was like, “I’ll get a sloth.”  And she seems to love him... even though he can’t do anything. 
Elijah:  I’d rather have a pet fox. 
Gracie:  She tries to play games with him, but he doesn’t move.  The sloth is... a dud.
Isaac:  He’s a very cool looking sloth though.
Gracie:  Kudos, Chris Appelhans. 
Isaac:  Thumbs up.
Evangeline:  He’s kind of weird.  He looks weird.  He looks like a weird koala bear.
Dad:  Would you want a pet like that?
Evangeline:  No. I feel like he would eat me.
Elijah:  It’s not a very cool pet.
Dad:  Poor Sparky!
Lily:  I like this book because it has “me” in it.
Dad:  You?  I never thought about it…  I guess that does look like you.
Lily:  She looks like me a LOT.
Dad:  Yeah… 'cause you have a flat head, and a big dark nose, and you lay around…
Lily:  NOOOOO… the GIRL.  Ha haha ha…
Dad:  Ha ha... oh, the girl, you say?
Gracie:  The girl is adorable.  You can totally see she’s fun and spunky.  But the sloth just… fails.  Fails.  He doesn’t do anything.  And the book has no resolution to it at all.  The end scene is the girl, just sitting, sad in a tree, trying to play tag with a sloth.
Dad:  You think she’s sad?  Her face is turned away from us.
Gracie:  I don’t know.
Dad:  Or is she happy to accept him as he is?  The sloth looks happy there.
Gracie:  He just ate a cookie, Dad.
Dad:  Ha haa ha hah…
Gracie:  I don’t know, maybe she’s not sad.
Dad:  Maybe *she* just needs a cookie.
Gracie:  I guess it’s not really a sad ending.  That’s a bad word to describe it.
Dad:  So what’s a better way?
Gracie:  It’s kind of like... Life.
Dad:  Oh?
Gracie:  It is!  You can try to really impress people, but it doesn’t always work out, and sometimes you just have to accept that.  And that’s exactly what happened with the sloth. 

Dad:  Alright, Isaac.  Give us another one.
Isaac (age 15):  “Rules of Summer.”
Gracie:  Oh, we love Shaun Tan.
Isaac:  I like Shaun Tan’s work a lot.  Everything he does is cool.  He could do realistic work, but he chooses to make it crazy, just for fun.  And I like that.  I’m attracted to the randomness.
Dad:  What’s the book about?
Isaac:  It’s about these two brothers.  The little boy is probably the main character, but they are both very important.  It takes place in this crazy world where anything happens. 
Elijah:  I was like, “What is happening?  What.  What.  What.  I don’t know what is going on.”
Lily:  Like, where the heck did they get a steamboat-rocketship-car-thing?  And a giant red rabbit?
Evangeline:  That is a humungous bunny. 
Isaac:  There are random rules set to the awesome pictures.
Lily:  So, don’t leave a red sock on a clothesline… or a giant red rabbit will magically appear?
Dad:  See, it’s a good thing you read it here first.  You don’t want to learn that rule the hard way.
Gracie:  I want to go to that park with the magic glowing trees.
Isaac:  My favorite picture is the kids standing on these water tower things with really long nets, and they are trying to catch the stars in a meteor shower. 
Evangeline:  They look like sky jellyfish! 
Isaac:  The pictures seem random, but by the end they tell a story. 
Dad:  And what do you think the story is?
Isaac:  The little boy is making lots of mistakes... 
Evangeline:  He drops all the stuff.  I don’t like how he disobeys all the rules in this book!
Isaac:  He feels sad about it, the brothers get in a fight, the little boy get's trapped and goes away, his brother comes along with bolt cutters and saves him.  Then they are happy and it all resolves.
Dad:  Did you notice the crows?  I read this book a ton of times before I noticed the crow on each page.
Isaac:  I did notice actually.  I didn’t realize it was on every page.  But I noticed it.  At first I thought they were representing “anger.”  Now I’m not sure.  It’s more “sad.”  Like an angry… sad... remorse-ish feeling.  A down-low feeling.
Dad:  Here’s my thought.  I think they represent memories.   The kid screws up and a crow is watching.  The kid screws up and a crow is watching.  Over and over. 
Isaac:  But why are there lots of crow at the end then?
Dad:  Because each time it’s a different crow.  And all the memories are building.  The crows are keeping track, keeping record of all the mistakes, like "strikes," building up, and there’s this big weight of guilt growing.  And eventually it destroys their relationship -- it separates them.  He’s swarmed by all the negatives he’s done.  Then the brother comes along and forgives him.  Forgiveness sets him free.  And after that, there’s no more crows.
Gracie:  Guys… pick up your feet.  It’s getting deep in here.
Lily:  Gracie, I’m never fighting with you again!
Dad:  So think of someone in the family you might have problems with… What if you keep score and let disapproval build and build?
Gracie:  Then you’re just going to have a house full of crows.
Lily:  All that guilt.
Dad:  And what fixes it?
Gracie:  Bolt cutters.
Dad:  Which represented…
Gracie:  Bolt cutters.
Dad:  Or…
Lily:  Forgiveness!!!  I get angry at people, but it only lasts like 5 seconds.
Dad:  So you are very quick to pull out the bolt cutters.
Lily:  Yes.
Dad:  Forgiveness is wonderful.
Isaac:  You need to let it go.
Gracie and Lily: (singing to the tune of the Frozen song)  Let it go… let it go… Getting rid of all my crows!  Let it go…  Let it go… Let forgiveness grow…
Isaac:  Now everyone is going to have that tune stuck in their head.
Dad:  Good golly.  This whole post has turned into a Frozen sing-along.

Jim Curious under the sea, by Evangeline

spinosaurus, by Elijah

Oliver finds a new friend, by Lily

come, Sparky, by Gracie 

catching meteors, by Isaac

And bonus!  Here are five more favorite 2014 titles:

The Adventures of Beekle
by Dan Santat

Some Bugs
by Angela DiTerlizzi and Brendan Wenzel

Lindberg: the Tale of a Flying Mouse
by Torben Kuhlmann

Big Bad Bubble
by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri

The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza
by James Kochalka

Jim Curious
Author/Illustrator: Matthias Picard
Published, 2014: Abrams Books
Like it?  Here it is!

The Greatest Dinosaur Ever
Author: Brenda Z. Guiberson 
Illustrator: Gennady Spirin
Published, 2014 (oops! 2013): Henry Holt
Like it?  Here it is!

Oliver's Tree
Author/Illustrator: Kit Chase
Published, 2014: Putnam
Like it?  Here it is!

Author: JennyOffill
Illustrator: Chris Appelhans
Published, 2014: Schwartz & Wade
Like it?  Here it is!

Rules of Summer
Author/Illustrator: Shuan Tan
Published, 2014: Arthur Levine Books
Like it?  Here it is!