Monthly Archives: May 2015

Double Review: Otter books by Sam Garton


by Sam Garton (more Otter stories on the website, too)
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Oh my. I just love this little otter. He (she?) is absolutely adorable. I’m a sucker for this type of illustration with bright, full colors and rounded edges. And the paws! Oh, the paws.

I read Otter in Space first, because I was ignorant about Otter and just didn’t know it wasn’t the first story, so if hard-pressed I would give Otter in Space maybe a half-star more just from sheer delight of discovery. This little critter reminds me strongly of Curious George, but with a first-person point of view which is so precious because we hear his side of the story, what he really believes is happening, but the pictures tell a slightly more complete version of the story. Kids will feel superior to Otter in knowing what’s really going on. In I Am Otter, Otter and pal Teddy open a toast restaurant with predictable results (and an ending that made me laugh out loud). In Otter in Space, Otter decides to go straight to the source to get a moon rock. These are such simple yet imaginative stories and I can’t stress enough how cute they are – not just Otter and Teddy but all of the other friends they live with (not to mention Otter Keeper – aka the man in the yellow hat).

My one criticism is that some of the jokes are revealed through childish handwritten signs, complete with misspellings, that look a little forced and inauthentic, and also as an outloud reader would be clumsy for me to incorporate into the story-reading experience. Also, Otter seems like a very, very young child who would not know how to write yet so that felt mismatched. But maybe that just means more for a little one to grow into, so I stick with my original 5-star assessment. Overall: I’m dying of the cute overload.

Reminiscent of: Curious George by H.A. Rey
Pictures as cute as: Fletcher books by Julia Rawlinson
Imagination like: What Eddie Can Do by Wilfried Gebhard

The 13-Story Treehouse

by Andy Griffiths
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Best friends Andy and Terry get to play all day in their amazing 13-story treehouse. What could be better? Unfortunately, they are supposed to be writing a book, but keep getting distracted by their marshmallow launcher and see-through swimming pool and sea monkeys that turn into evil mermaids. It turns out that at the end of their adventures, they have more than enough to fill up their book.

Reads like: Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Flying Beaver Brothers. It’s not a graphic novel, but feels like one.

Bedtime Math 2: This Time It’s Personal

by Laura Overdeck
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

A patron recommended this one to me and said his seven-year-old loves it, even more than the original (Bedtime Math), because it has different levels of questions (wee ones, little kids, and big kids). The questions sort of build on each other to make a story (as in, in one question you’re playing around with glitter and the next you’re taking a bath, or a whole section about the human body). Most of the questions are pretty inventive, though a lot of the “wee ones” questions are counting (which is fine, there’s not a ton of variety you can do with a 3-year-old and they do get into some patterns and colors and other pre-math kinds of groundwork) so can seem a bit repetitive to an older reader. Overall, though, very well done and a good way especially to combat summer slide when it comes to math by doing a page or two per night most nights.

Introducing Sasha Abramowitz

by Sue Halpern
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Sasha’s life, until recently, has revolved around her brother. She spends her time waiting for him to do something odd, to provoke the Conversation with any new person, to disrupt her day, to ruin her life. Life has somewhat returned to normal now that he’s away at a special school, but not completely. It turns out that Sasha’s new teacher is her old babysitter, who her brother scared away. Her reappearance in Sasha’s life helps her come to terms with her brother’s needs and heal a bit.

My book club chose as a theme one month books with kids (or someone in their family) with a physical or mental illness, and this was mine. Sasha’s attitude toward her brother’s difference is pretty hands-off and vague so it’s a while before you know what it is, just how it affects her. (Spoiler alert: he has Tourette’s Syndrome.) If you are not from such a family, I think Sasha’s story helps you understand what it’s like to be part of one, especially as the typically-developing sibling whose needs are often secondary and whose life often feels disrupted and unfair. Sasha also sees a therapist who understands her (and gets her to talk about her feelings) more than she thinks he does, despite her best efforts to the contrary. Overall, very solid.

The Great Greene Heist

by Varian Johnson
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

8th grader Jackson Greene is done with getting in trouble – or is he? When his crush, Gaby, decides to run for student council president, she is challenged by slick Keith Sinclair. Jackson overhears Keith bribing the principal to rig the election in his favor and Jackson just has to step in.

One fellow book clubber agreed that this one was hard to get into, especially because there was clearly an entire (very interesting) back story about Jackson’s last heist. As a group, we agreed it might be more believable if the characters were high schoolers. So, reviews were mixed but we generally liked it (though we realized we were analyzing it on a grownup, pragmatic level). We thought kids would take it at face value and enjoy the adventure. Johnson counts Ocean’s Eleven as an inspiration and it definitely has that feel – you know (mostly) what the outcome will be but revealing the exact way it goes down is the real crux of the story. Good for Tech Club geeks who want to be the hero of the story for once, tech geek girls who need to hear that they can be popular too, and kids who can relate to the incompetence of the grownups in charge.

Simliar to: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Platypus Police Squad by Jarrett Krosoczka

Double Review: New Picture Books – Wolfie the Bunny and Edmund Unravels

Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
The cover caught my eye – a wolf in a bunny suit? I had to know what happens. It’s about a little girl(bunny) who is suspicious of her new brother. Are her concerns justified? This book kept me on my toes – just when I thought I had it figured out, the ending surprised me. Adorable.
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
The cover indicates more adorableness, a ball of yarn named Edmund who unravels? What will happen to him? Luckily he comes home safe and sound, with a new outlook on his life and family. Big lessons for a little ball of yarn, but sweet and heartwarming all the same.