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fresh kidlit reviews served family style

Chronicling Caldecott: A Ball For Daisy

(Chronicling Caldecott is a series where we will write a brief review of every Caldecott Medal winner in no particular order. We’re going to start with a recent one, 2012’s A Ball For Daisy by Chris Raschka.)

I’m not gonna lie — as a lover of words, I’m not generally crazy about picture books that leave them out. Give me some dialogue. Some interjections. Give me some cleverly crafted prepositional phrases and let the illustrations do what the adjectives can’t. But you know what? The wordless thing works in A Ball For Daisy. Raschka manages to capture the energy, emotion, and even the naptime inertia associated with dogs in an unforgettable way. Telling the story without words helps the young reader see the whole tale from Daisy’s perspective.

It’s a simple enough story that explaining it in more than a few sentences would give the whole thing away. I’ll keep it at dog meets friend, friend breaks toy. Most kids past toddlerhood can relate to it. Everyone is happy at the end, which is important in a book for such a young audience.

The brown poodle Daisy encounters at the park resembles Zoe, the Reader family dog. This book makes me want to get out some watercolors with Kitty and try to create a portrait of her, but we’re no Chris Raschka. That’s why he has the Caldecott and we just have this little blog.

Mama’s rating: 7 out of 10 comfy napping couches

Want to learn more?

A nice story at NPR Books

Raschka bio at

More Raschka books at Amazon


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snow day update

birdhouseIt’s a snowy morning here at r*d*g headquarters. It’s not really enough to play in, but that hasn’t stopped Kitty. Hydrant is napping peacefully, and I’m thinking about asking Pop to build a fire later — I’ll just have to keep Hydrant out of it. I’m planning on catching up on some reviews today.

On Monday we will be launching our Chronicling Caldecott series, where we will review every Caldecott Medal winner in history in no particular order.

kitty shrugs

On Wednesday we will be presenting our first 8 Question Author Survey. Can you guess who will be answering our 8 questions? Hint: he was the only kidlit author to crack Amazon‘s top 10 bestselling books for 2012. Comment with your best guess!

I’ve updated my review of The One And Only Ivan to reflect its position as the latest Newbery Medal winner. Congratulations to Katherine Applegate for this well-deserved honor!

If it’s snowing where you are, open the curtains and enjoy. And if the sun is shining, well, why not do the same?

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The Adventures Of Ook And Gluk, Kung-Fu Cave Men From The Future

Mama says:

Wow, that title is a mouthful. How dumb is this book? Dumb enough that even Kitty says so. Except in her case, it’s a glowing review. At least it’s the funny kind of dumb. The funny kind of dumb that inspired Kitty to build a cave in the living room and talk caveman language for a day! (As you may observe from her review below.)

Kitty says:

Me love this book because it dumb and not mature. Me loves the parts where it has good posters then posters are zapped and they turn bad. Me likes the baby Mog-mog. Me think sensitive grownups no like it. Grownups no fun. Grownups think this gross. Ook + Gluk like do kung-fu. Me poet me no know it! That all about Ook + Gluk.

Mama says:

Oh, dear.

Mama’s rating: 5/10 kung-fu kicks

Kitty’s rating: 8/10 kung-fu kicks

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The One And Only Ivan

Edited to add:

The One And Only Ivan has won the Newbery Medal for 2013. I wonder if Katherine Applegate had any idea that channeling the voice of a gorilla would earn her one of the most prestigious awards in children’s literature?

Mama says:

The gorilla narrator says humans use too many words.

Gorillas like double spacing.

I am writing this review like him.

I wouldn’t want to make a mighty silverback mad.

This book reminds me of my favorite book ever.

The gorilla is like the spider and the elephant is like the pig. Even the dog is like the rat.

This book also reminded me of how I feel about animals enslaved in circuses.

I do not care for the circus.

It’s a quick read. It’s a good read. It’s a conversation starter about how animals deserve to be treated.

If your heart broke for Stella and Ruby, consider donating to the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee.

Mama’s rating: 7 out of 10 me-balls

Want to learn more?

Official book site

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Imagination Library: Corduroy Goes To The Doctor

This is more of a rant than a review, so if you aren’t a fan of people tearing board books apart (figuratively speaking,) you might want to explore some of our previous reviews. I was a little sad when the mail carrier brought an Imagination Library book that I had not only seen before, but also immensely disliked. Here’s what’s not to like about Corduroy Goes To The Doctor:

  • The illustrations just aren’t appealing to me at all, except for maybe Corduroy’s car print undies. I can’t really pinpoint why I don’t like them other than they’re a little busy. We don’t need to see the doctor’s diploma on the wall. We believe that he’s a doctor, even though he’s a bear with a seam down his forehead.
  • That thing where someone takes a beloved character and forces him into a new book years later. I’m not going to go so far as to say that Don Freeman wouldn’t approve of this, but it just doesn’t hold the charm of the original Corduroy book and its followups. (Which you should read. Instead of this.) I’m sort of a purist, though. I don’t even like the Disnified version of Winnie the Pooh.
  • Somebody give that poor bear a robe.
  • Corduroy’s doctor weighs him and then chides him for eating “too many cookies.” He is a growing bear! And teddy bears are supposed to be all squishy and cuddly. Don’t even get me started, Dr. Bear. This is ridiculous.

And the things I like about the book?

  • It was free.
  • Great for a teething baby.

So that’s it. I am always thankful for a free book, but I wouldn’t want anyone to go out and buy this one.

1 out of 10 buttons — read the real thing!

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Kitty says:

This is one of my new favorite books. It made me feel strange, like I was the boy. The boy, Auggie Pullman, has a face disorder. I like this book because it has different points of view. It is a really cute story, but it is also serious. I think you should read it because it is different from all other books. In the beginning, Auggie hates the idea of school. In the end, he loves the idea of school. It is so awesome!!!!!!! That is all about this book.

Mama says:

I’ve seen R.J. Palacio’s Wonder on so many year-end Best Of lists that I was surprised to find it on the shelf at our library. Lucky me! I feel like Kitty usually “gets” books on a higher level than one would expect from a child her age, but I’m not so sure that she read too far under the surface of this one. As you can see from her review, she thought it was funny. Though humor certainly cuts the more painful parts of the story, I wouldn’t describe it as funny at all.

The book is about a child who has been home schooled all his life entering a private school at the beginning of middle school. Middle school is a time when many kids feel like or are treated like total freaks for not conforming. For looking, dressing, or acting differently than the crowd. So imagine what it’s like for Auggie, a boy with severe facial deformities. It hurt to read this book. As a mother and a former middle school student I found the story absolutely heartbreaking at times. But I also cheered for the characters who defied expectations by treating Auggie with love, grace, and compassion. Not out of pity, but out of pure kindness.

Like Kitty, I enjoyed the way the story was told through the eyes of more than one character. Palacio managed to get the voice of each character, from Auggie’s high school aged sister Via to the main character himself just right. I found the contemporary cultural references a bit jarring, but that’s just a pet peeve of mine.

The book’s uplifting, hopeful, happy ending, it doesn’t really ring true to me. In my own mind, Auggie would eventually be treated like any other person — but maybe not until adulthood. I still recommend it, maybe for 4th graders and up. I feel like someone Auggie’s age, someone who is beyond middle school, or someone who is a parent would get much more out of this book than a kid like Kitty. I hope she will revisit it when she gets a little older.

Kitty’s rating: 10/10 space helmets

Mama’s rating: 7/10 space helmets


Awake To Nap

Awake To Nap by Nikki McClure is a sweet and different alphabet (halfabet?) board book that doesn’t quite get to Z. One Amazon reviewer seems to think that this will confuse children, but I haven’t heard any kindergarten teachers complaining about students not knowing of the existence of O-Z. McClure is one of my favorite non-traditional illustrators. I’m a sucker for anything outside of the usual drawings, paintings, and photography found in books for children, and McClure’s elaborate paper cut scenes reel me in every time.

My favorite illustration is J for Jellyfish and Jiggle. The fat baby legs under the water seem dangerously close to the stinging creatures, but it’s just a book, right? Plus J is also for Hydrant’s name, which is a bonus.

I’m not sure if a board book needs a spoiler alert, but hide your eyes, babies: once the reader arrives at N, Nap, O and P are thrown in before the book ends at QRS and fades away with ellipses. It’s a fitting ending for a dreamy little read.

McClure’s calendars are also quite lovely. I’m planning on framing the page that was hanging in Hydrant’s room the month he was born.

This book gets a rating of 14 out of 26 letters. Oh come on, you would have made that joke too. Actual rating: 8 out of 10 snips.

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(mama hangs her head in shame)

Hello, readers, dreamers, and growers! It seems that my rusty blogging fingers forgot a few things. Up until the past half hour or so this blog had many, many, many useless links. They were no good! But I’ve been hard at work fixing them, and all is well now. I hope.

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Imagination Library: Look Look! & Whose Baby Am I?

First thing first: if you have a child under five years old who is not getting a free book from Dolly imaginationlibrary-logoParton’s Imagination Library every month, click here to find out if this program is available in your area. This program was started by the country singer to put books on the shelves of economically disadvantaged children in the rural area where she grew up. It’s now available in select areas throughout the US, the UK, and Canada — including every county here in Tennessee — regardless of any family’s economic status.

I loved this program when Kitty was participating, and now even she looks forward to finding Hydrant’s book in the mail every month. The first book for every child is a familiar story to many — Watty Piper’s The Little Engine That Could. After that the books are age appropriate, starting with board books and working up to jacketless hardcovers (I’m sure there’s a term for that) for older kids until their fifth birthdays. It is underwritten by corporate and private donors, but in the years we’ve benefited from the program they have never asked us for a dime.

hydrant asks an important questionI’m going to try to highlight most of the books that Hydrant receives from this program. One of the first was Look, Look! by Peter Linenthal. It’s the sort of book that babies supposedly love. The pages are few, the illustrations are bold and geometric in black and white, and the text is sparse and printed in thick red letters. Hydrant loves this one. Even when he was about two or three months old, he would stare intently at the pages, sometimes getting upset when I tried to turn to another one. I would highly recommend this one for babies under 9 months.

Another favorite is John Butler’s Whose Baby Am I? The illustrations are of cuddly looking baby animals with big bright eyes. This is another title that, like many good board books, is easy on the text and relies on inviting illustrations to hold a child’s attention. Hydrant seems to think it’s a pretty good read.

Rather than rate these books, I’m going to give Dolly’s Imagination Library program in general 10 out of 10 rhinestones. And now you have a reason to love her. (Other than “Jolene.” or 9 to 5. Ooh, or one of my favorite guilty pleasure songs, “Islands in the Stream!” Hmm, maybe you already had a reason to love her.)

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and the winner is…

crunching the numbers

Mama says:

A little after noon today we used a random number generator at to choose a winner for our first giveaway. I clicked the button, Kitty made an artistic rendering of the number, and Hydrant tried to eat it. (I’m sure that hearing about Hydrant trying to eat things gets old, but at least you aren’t living it!) Anyway, the number was 4 and the winner is Elizabeth. I will contact you tonight about delivering your prize.

Thanks to all who entered — come back for more reviews and hopefully more giveaways in the near future!

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