Today I Read…My First Book of Girl Power and Batman’s Hero Files

my-first-book-of-girl-powerToday I read My First Book of Girl Power and DC Super Friends: Batman’s Hero Files by Billy Wrecks, illustrated by Erik Doescher.

Girls are strong and smart and brave and kind. They can be heroes! Come and learn about some of the DC Super Heroines.

And: Batman likes to know everything. He keeps files on all of the Super Friends and their special Super Powers. Let’s read his files together!

Tiny Niece has started to like Superman and Batman, and as her Nerdy Auntie I feel it is my duty to encourage this. Especially Superman, who is better than Batman. But as her Feminist Nerdy Auntie, I really want her to know some of the female super heroes–Batgirl and Supergirl and Wonder Woman, who don’t have the same overwhelming amount of merchandise as the boys do. I deliberately went looking for some books featuring the female super heroes (and maybe bought some of the DC Super Hero Girls dolls, which are pretty cute and bend better than Barbie). But books with the girl heroes are actually pretty hard to find. There was one book I looked at that had 4 stories about Marvel’s Avengers, and in those 4 stories the only female character mentioned by name was Pepper Potts. And she had to be rescued. And there was one drawing of a random female bystander who also had to be rescued. Now, there have been tons of female Avengers over the years, and even the movies have Black Widow (although not my Black Widow movie, I wants it, I wants it, where is my Black Widow movie?!?) But there is nary a girl to be found in the board books and early readers I was looking at, at Chapters and the independent comic store. And as much as I enjoy the DC Super Hero Girls, it’s really aimed at an older age group than my Tiny Niece, who is just turning 4. The rare books that do include a girl hero, the ratio is usually about 1 girl character for every 5-6 boy characters. I wanted a book with a fair ratio of girl to boy characters. I ended up getting this book, which is only about girl heroes, and an early reader DC Super Friends: Batman’s Hero Files. That one has Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman, with Wonder Woman and Batgirl (Supergirl not included). And there are at least pictures of Catwoman and Cheetah, though none of the villains are named.

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They’re both good books, which describe the various hero’s powers. Girl Power is a board book, and it only has a maximum of about 3 sentences per page. The language is fairly advanced, and it’s more for an adult to read to a child. Batman’s Hero Files is a reader, intended for children who are learning to read on their own, so it uses basic vocabulary and short sentences, although I’m not sure who decided ‘indestructible’ is basic vocabulary. And I do like that Girl Power emphasizes that being smart and brave and kind are qualities as worthy of praise as being strong. Hawkgirl is posed with her mace, but her description talks about her healing abilities. Batgirl likes to read books and program computers. Mera likes to explore new places. It would be nice if they included some heroines of colour–at least Batman’s Hero Files feature a black Green Lantern and Cyborg, but I guess I’ll have to be happy with baby steps of representation.

So yes, I absolutely have an agenda regarding promoting super heroes to Tiny Niece. I love superheroes. I love stories about people who try to save the world. But I want Tiny Niece to grow up to realize that she can be a superhero too, and not have to always be rescued.

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Today I Read…Toot and No No Yes Yes

Today I read No No Yes Yes and Toot, written and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli. She is the same artist who illustrated the Mini Myths books by Joan Holub, which my Tiny Niece adores, so I was really interested in checking out her writing as well. These two in particular are going to be part of the Christmas present for Tiny Niece and her younger brother Giant Nephew.

Normally I summarize books in these reviews, but the titles pretty much summarize them for me. Toot is about, well, tooting. Because fart jokes are hilarious to the under 5 crowd. I fully anticipate this will be a big hit with the kids when I pull it out and read it to them on Christmas Day. Their parents may be somewhat less thrilled, but hey, isn’t the point of gifts for your nieces and nephews to annoy your siblings? I’m pretty sure that’s the purpose of noisy battery-driven toys. And while this book isn’t battery operated, it does provide the chance to make sound effects. Toot! In all seriousness, it is also good for normalizing bodily functions, and it does point out that everybody toots, even mommies and daddies and doggies. Though there is still some question about whether Fishy toots.

No No Yes Yes straddles that fine line between providing useful instruction and giving kids bad ideas. I’m sure that the scenarios in the book will all be very familiar to anyone with a toddler in their life. The language is as simple as possible, and can be used for teaching opposites as well as proper behaviour. For each double-page spread, one page is a ‘no no’ activity, like drawing on the walls, pulling kitty’s tail, and putting your toys in the potty. The opposing page has a corresponding ‘yes yes’ acceptable activity, like drawing on paper, petting kitty nicely, and pooping in the potty. Hey, toilet jokes are the next step up from fart jokes. Since Giant Nephew just hit the Terrible Twos, I’m hoping that this book might help a bit, especially the “no no” page for hitting other kids with a toy hammer. Even if it does make a funny “thunk!” sound.

I love the illustration style, simple and bright, with the same non-gendered protagonist. These two are my favourites, but Patricelli has a whole series of board books. Here’s hoping that Giant Nephew loves them as much as Tiny Niece loved Play Nice Hercules and Be Patient Pandora. Well, maybe not quite so much, reading the same book 6 times in a row is enough, right? Right? Tiny Niece, can Auntie read a different books ye–no, no she can’t. Ok sweetie.

Oh , The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

oh-the-places-youll-boldly-goSo David Gerrold, who will have “Creator of Tribbles” on his gravestone, has a Kickstarter project for a Star Trek version of Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go!  That’s pretty much all I needed to hear. There’s not much in the description or the video, but the concept alone caught me, as two of the best things ever mashed together become something even greater. You know, like how peanut butter and chocolate make Reese’s Cups. As of this time, it is fully funded so it will be made, but there’s still 9 more days for people to get their orders in before the campaign is over. Ty Templeton has mocked up covers for two of Gerrold’s other books, The World of Star Trek and The Trouble with Tribbles, and to be honest I would probably buy all three if they really were all picture books. A Seussical picture book telling the story of The Trouble with Tribbles? Perfection! Unfortunately, I think they are just covers for existing books, but maybe a series? Huh guys? Seriously, there are alien species in Star Trek just begging to be Seussized. Seussised? Seussinated? Suessed? Not sure about the grammar here, but I’d be willing to work on it if it means more of these adorable books.

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Today I Read…If You’re a Monster and You Know It

If You're a Monster and You Know ItToday I read If You’re a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley.

If you’re a monster and you know it, show it! Snort and growl, smack your claws, stomp your paws, twitch your tail, give a ROAR! Show everyone what a great monster you are! And then do it all again!

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I found this book in the public library while I was looking for a story to read for a job interview. It didn’t end up being the one I used, but it was a strong contender. It’s a monster version of If You’re Happy and You Know It, using Ed Emberley’s distinctive, creative, and brightly coloured illustrations. I wish I’d had this one at the school I was working at last year– I had some trouble finding a Hallowe’en story for the kindergarteners that was short and holiday-themed and not at all scary (some of the parents didn’t approve of witches or monsters or ghosts, which makes it really hard to pick a good Hallowe’en story). The monsters in this book are bizarre but more funny than scary, and younger children would have fun dancing along to the actions in the song. You could also use this as part of a library program and include a craft, by getting kids to draw their own monsters or to cut out different monster body parts from construction paper and get kids to glue them together however they want, to make a real monster mash. Tentacles and claws and extra eyes, oh my!

This book is a real family project–Ed Emberley did the illustrations, his daughter Rebecca Emberley wrote the words, and her daughter Adrian Emberley recorded a sung version which can be downloaded for free from Scholastic here.

 

Today I Read…Dinosaur vs

DInosaur vs SchoolToday I read three of Bob Shea’s Dinosaur vs books, Dinosaur vs School, Dinosaur vs the Library, and Dinosaur vs Bedtime.

Dinosaur likes to ROAR! Dinosaur is the best at ROARING! But what about when Dinosaur has to do things and NOT ROAR? Can he do it?

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This is a great series for the kindergarten and under set. The words are simple and repetitive, mostly variations of “Dinosaur vs *something*”and “Dinosaur wins!” Dinosaur stories are always a safe bet for little ones–they’re pretty much universally adored by small children, boys and girls, and Bob Shea’s colourful illustrations are great. And these books are terrific for story time because you get to ROAR along with Dinosaur! Currently there are 6 in the series, Dinosaur vs Bedtime, Dinosaur vs the Potty, Dinosaur vs the Library, Dinosaur vs Santa, Dinosaur vs School, and Dinosaur vs Mommy. They’re good books for teaching behaviour. For example, in Dinosaur vs the Library, Dinosaur has fun roaring at lots of things, but he has to use his “inside roar” (great phrase!)  when he’s in the library, and then he can’t roar at all during story time. But if he doesn’t roar during the story, then everyone can hear it so they all win!

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The layout of the books is well set up for increasing excitement when reading aloud. There are usually 4 pages devoted to each thing that Dinosaur roaring against. A right-hand set up page saying “Dinosaur versus…”, and then you have to turn the page to see what he is up against, such as meeting new friends, talking grown-ups, or a shy turtle. The accompanying right-hand page shows the reaction of whatever he is roaring about, and then you turn the page again to the next left-page to see that “Dinosaur wins!” It means that when you read it’s easy to build up mini-climaxes and increase the tension before you turn the page.

Just remember, not even Dinosaur can defeat Bedtime!

Roar, roar, snore…
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Today I Read…I’m Bored

I'm BoredToday I read I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black, and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

“Everything is boring. Boring. Booorrrrrr-iiinnnnngggggg…Hey, a potato! But why are you calling me boring, potato? Kids are fun! And I’ll prove it!”

Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi bring to life this charming tale of a girl and a potato and a challenge to prove that kids are not boring, even if they aren’t flamingos.

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This is another great read aloud I found in my school’s library last year. A little girl is completely bored with everything, until a potato calls her boring and she has to prove to it that kids are really interesting. Along the way, she reminds herself that she is creative and imaginative and smart and active and way more interesting than a mean old potato. It’s fun to read out loud to kids for story time, especially the monotonous “bored, bored bored” part and when the girl loses her temper with the potato and tells it off that being a kid is great. Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s simple illustrations do a great job of showing off the expanse of the little girl’s imagination, and the cranky potato and how it is included in each imaginative scene is very funny. I especially like that the little girl covers a wide range of occupations, from fairy princess to pirate to mad scientist to lion tamer to rock star to monster, and not just girly dreams. I’m Bored reminds readers that imagination lets you be anything and not to listen to people or potatoes who try to put you down. And it’s a pretty good answer to the next time your little one tells you “I’m bored!”

 

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Today I Read…The Book With No Pictures

The Book With No PicturesToday I read The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak.

You might think that The Book With No Pictures is a terrible name for a picture book. Well, it is, because this book has no pictures, and how can it be a picture book if it has no pictures? So The Book With No Pictures is a bad picture book.

This book is a trick. A trick by clever children to make grown-ups say silly things. But I’m smarter than that! You can’t trick ME into saying “Boo-Boo Butt!”…what do you mean I just said “Boo-Boo-Butt?” I never said “Boo-Boo Butt.”…why are you laughing?

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I first heard about this book at the OLA Super Conference this year, when a couple of the panels I was attending recommended it. I found it in the OLA Store, and it was so funny I knew I had to buy it for my library. There are some books that you just know as soon as you read them they’ll be hilarious to read out loud at story time.

The Book With No Pictures is just that–it has no pictures, only words, and yet I’m still going to file it under Picture Books in my categories. The idea is that it is filled with nonsense that the clever kid has tricked the adult into reading, and the adult is reluctant to sound so silly. Simple, yet entertaining when read right. Kids always love pulling one over the adult’s head, and the “Boo-Boo Butt” line is always a huge hit with the kindergartener crowd. Seriously, say it to a five-year-old and dare them not to laugh, they just can’t do it. And they laugh harder if you repeat it incredulously. This book ended up being extremely popular after I read it to my story time classes, and afterwards was out just about every week. I started thinking about buying a second copy, and I might have if I wasn’t pinching my budget so hard.

It’s also a good example to use when you’re teaching older kids about narrative voices. There is the story itself, and then there are the interjecting complaints from the narrator about being forced to read silly things.

This book is clever and funny and fun to read. I think it was one of my favourites from story time last year.

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WARNING!

This book looks completely serious, but it is actually COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS!

If a kid is trying to make you read this book, the kid is playing a trick on you. You will end up saying SILLY THINGS and making everybody LAUGH AND LAUGH!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

(from the back cover)

Today I Read…Here Come Destructosaurus!

Here Comes DestructosaurusToday I read Here Comes Destructosaurus! by Aaron Reynolds, with illustrations by Jeremy Tankard.

Destructosaurus! What a naughty monster you’re being today! Stop destroying the city and terrifying the people at once, or someone’s going to have a very sore tail!

Why is Destructosaurus rampaging through the city? Find out in this hilarious picture book that will sound very familiar to the parents of any toddler who has monster-sized tantrums.

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I found this one at my local public library, and I knew I wanted to write about it. This clever and colourful reimagining of Godzilla frames the terrible legendary monster as a toddler having a temper tantrum, and is told from the perspective of the frustrated and impatient. but ultimately well-meaning, adult civilian.

I love the satire, and my Tiny Niece is well into her Terrible Twos, so I can definitely sympathize with the Narrator and their efforts to get Destructosaurus to be a good monster. I may call Tiny Niece a Destructosaurus the next time she hears “Time to clean up and go home!” and interprets it as “Let’s empty the toy box all over the floor and run away so Auntie can’t put my shoes on!” Still, I think I’d hold off on reading it to her, despite the wonderful illustrations. She’s a little too young to understand the story. This book would be perfect for a teacher talking about appropriate behaviour and how to deal with frustration, and why parents sometimes get angry with what you’ve done.

I also really like that the Narrator apologizes for yelling and getting frustrated when they find out what Destructosaurus wanted. It shows that both of them were in the wrong–Destructosaurus should have used his words instead of destroying the city, but the Narrator should have asked what  wrong instead of just yelling.

Destructosaurus does have a reason for destroying the city, but I won’t spoil it here–go read the book to find out! The Narrator uses the usual phrases frustrated parents use and weaves them into the tale of destruction, such as “Don’t you take that tone with me, Destructosaurus! Whatever you’re saying must seem awfully important to you, but I could do without the attitude. Besides, everyone here is a little busy at the moment. Screaming. And running away. And stockpiling bottled water.” Or “What do you think you are doing, Destructosaurus? Stop throwing around buildings that don’t belong to you. You’ve been brought up better than that, you naughty monster! Look with your eyes, not with your claws.”

Jeremy Tankard does a wonderful job of making Destructosaurus an adorable ball of fire-breathing tantrum. The illustrations are large and bright, and a wonderfully child-like version of the classic Godzilla movies, complete with helicopters and biplanes trying to corral Destructosaurus.

I’d recommend this book for more like a kindergarten-grade 1 audience. Or for the annoyed parent of a toddler who will definitely recognize themself in the harassed Narrator dealing with a real monster having a bad day.

 

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Today I Read…The Cat, the Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, the Wolf, and Grandma

The Cat, the Dog, Little RedToday I read The Cat, the Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, the Wolf, and Grandma by Diane and Christyan Fox.

Cat is trying to tell Dog the story of Little Red Riding Hood, but Dog has a lot of questions. Like, if Little Red wears a cape, what’s her superpower? Why doesn’t Little Red know the difference between her grandmother and a wolf? And do the eggs in her basket explode so she can use them to fight crime?

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I loved this one when I saw it at a publishers’ sale for librarians, and I instantly bought it for my school library. I really enjoyed doing this one as a read-aloud. I always did storytime by myself, but this book could be a great performance story for two storytellers, since Cat and Dog each have their own lines. Alternatively, you can just use different voices if you’re reading it by yourself.

This book is really better for kids who already know the basic version of Little Red Riding Hood, since it’s a retelling and it can get confusing for kids who don’t know the common story. Most kids do know it, so for kindergarten and above you can just ask them “Do you know the story of Little Red Riding Hood? Well, this is kind of like that.” I didn’t have the time to read the original and the retelling during my storytime periods, so just the reminder was fine, but if you have more time than you can certainly do a themed storytime and read different versions. It’s also a good interrupting story, so as the storyteller you can use Dog as a model of how not to behave when someone is telling you a story, and show why Cat is getting frustrated. While I love storytelling, I definitely had a few days when certain classes needed to be reminded of how to behave during storytime.

The illustrations and crisp and simple, usually just Cat and Dog acting out the story instead of Red and the Wolf and Grandma. There is minimal colour and a lot of white space, which makes it easy to focus on the pictures. The title, while long, is fun to say, especially when you get to the part about the exploding eggs. I love the way the Foxes used every part of the book to tell the story, including the front and back cover and the endpapers, especially the illustration on the back when Grandma is knocking on her wardrobe door to come out. I always turn the book around so the kids can see it and knock on the hardcover while I plaintively call out “Hello? Hello?” It’s a crowd pleaser.

The story is hilarious and charming, and fun to read for both the storyteller and the listener. But Dog makes some very good points–are we sure the original is a children’s story? Why doesn’t the Wolf eat Little Red in the forest? And will anyone ever let Grandma out of the wardrobe? Read the book to find out!

 

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Today I Read…Every Day is Malala Day

Everday is Malala DayToday I read Every Day is Malala Day by Rosemary McCarney with Plan International. It won the 2015 Golden Oak award from the OLA Forest of Reading.

Malala Yousafzi’s story is well-known, as the young girl who was shot by the Taliban for trying to go to school. She is now the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and she has become a symbol of the fight for the rights of girls and women and all children to get an education. Every Day is Malala Day is an open letter to Malala from girls around the world, expressing their admiration and their thanks for her continuing advocacy of education and peace. With beautiful photographs of girls from around the world illustrating their message, this book is a wonderful introduction for Western students of the challenges some children face just for trying to go to school.

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Disclaimer first: I was on the selection committee for the 2015 Golden Oak award, and I did recommend it for the list of finalists, which was then read and voted upon by the as a public. The Golden Oak award is for adults who are beginning to learn how to read English, so while I do refer to Every Day is Malala Day as a children’s book in this review, it is suitable for and enjoyed by adults as well.

This is a terrific story and a great introduction for children to some of the barriers that women face in other countries. As a read-aloud, it is more suited to older children. I would probably recommend at least ages 8+, based on the references to Malala being shot and violence against women. However, it’s important to point out that this is something that is actually happening to children, and sometimes there’s a very fine line between protecting children and being honest with them. When I was coaching a children’s literature trivia team, I had to try explain the Holocaust and Nazi propaganda to grade 3s. Not easy, but they asked.

The story itself is based on a short video produced by the young people who took over the UN on the first Malala Day, July 12, 2013. The book also includes a brief description of what happened to Malala and part of Malala’s speech to the UN from that day, advocating for education for all children as a way to help lift them out of poverty and ignorance and warfare. While she isn’t really in the daily news right now, Malala is an important figure for our time and I am certain that we will hear from her again. This book is an excellent introduction to her remarkable work.

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“So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are out most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.” -Malala Yousafzai, July 12, 2013