By Jackie Burrell
Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 at 6:25 am in Books.
A slew of new children’s books just hit my desk and I’m doing my best to wade through the piles. But these three particularly caught my attention, so here is a trio of mini-reviews. (And yes, we’ll be giving away copies in the weeks to come. This week, though, the giveaway star is “Party Animals” by Kathie Lee Gifford. Follow the link for details!)
Laura Numeroff, of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” fame, has a sweet new book out dubbed “The Jellybeans and the Big Book Bonanza.” It’s co-authored with Nate Evans and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, who did the adorable images for “Tacky the Penguin,” still one of my favorite picture books even after all these years. The Jellybeans, as Numeroff fans will know, are a group of four little animals – Anna, Emily, Nicole and Bitsy – who are as different as jellybean flavors can be, but get along just as beautifully. In this outing, they head for the library to find books that are just right for them. The illustrations are very cute and the prose is gentle fun, but unlike the cookie-loving mouse series, there’s none of the wry humor – and little boys will turn up their noses at this very girl-centric tale. It’s a little spunkier than “Angelina, Ballerina,” not as sassy as “Fancy Nancy,” but it will appeal to the same core demographic.
Scoring high marks on the readability scale, “Over at the Castle” takes a cue from the old song “Over in the Meadow,” but this medieval knights’ version will win little boys’ hearts, in particular. Although, I was always a castle and knights in shining armor fan myself, and so was one of my daughters so maybe I should take that comment back and say, it’s a clear winner for any castle-loving kid! Written by Boni Ashburn, with illustrations by Kelly Murphy, this adorable counting tale opens with, “Over at the castle on the hill in the sun, sit the old mother dragon and her little dragon one. ‘Patience!’ says the mother. ‘Okay,’ says the one. So they laze all day on the hill in the sun.” Fun, huh? The day continues on, adding servants (four), dungeon rats (five) and jesters (ten) until the pyrotechnic finish, involving dragons and … well, you need to read it, preferably with a little one on your lap so people won’t stare as you yodel through the infectious rhymes.
Every now and then a book lands on my desk that makes me wonder what criteria book publishers are using or what decade they’re living in. “Mathilda and the Orange Balloon,” by Randall de Seve, with illustrations by Jen Corace, is a sweet enough tale – a white sheep imagines she’s an orange balloon, her friends disagree, and she finally decides she can be anything she wants to be simply by imagining. OK. But it’s got the feel of a picture book from the 1960s, and the story is so sleepy… put it this way, I’d rather read “Tacky the Penguin” or “Over at the Castle” over and over and over instead, but I suspect my mother’s generation would find the book just lovely.