Tag Archives: capstone young readers

Time Together: Me and Dad

4 Feb

Today’s book review is for Time Together: Me and Dad, written by Maria Catherine, illustrated by Pascal Campion, published by Picture Window Books (an imprint of Capstone Young Readers). It is scheduled for release on March 1, 2014. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Time Together: Me and Dad book cover

Time Together: Me and Dad is a lovely picture book for children ages 2-6. It highlights the bond between father and child through a series of snapshots of special moments. It’s an excellent reminder that simple daily activities are the things that often build the strongest memories.

Catherine’s writing is very simple. Rather than producing a narrative, she has chosen to present a series of moments to the reader. They range from “Quiet talking time” to “Wild ride time.” What I liked about her selection of activities is that they are varied and not mired in stereotypical gender roles. So, for example, Dad gets to participate in tea parties. It’s nice to see fathers portrayed as being involved in every facet of a child’s life.

What makes the book really beautiful, though, are Campion’s illustrations. He has such a nice style–where he uses painting techniques in his digital compositions. Each image is a depiction of a father and child who are close, physically and emotionally, and engaged in an enjoyable activity. Every father and child pair is a little different. Some children are girls and some are boys. The families are from various racial backgrounds. It’s a quiet acknowledgement of diversity, subtle and not promoting any stereotypes.

While the writing is a little thin, I do still think this book could have a place in homes and libraries. Even though there’s no real story, the book could be used to spark conversation about a child’s own experiences. Some discussion questions might be: which of the activities in the book did you like best? What are some of your favorite times with Dad? It would be a nice book to read for Father’s Day, as well, to celebrate the role of fathers in children’s lives. I’m giving the book 4 out of 5 stars because the book had lovely execution, and though it’s not a genre I usually enjoy, it pulled me in.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

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Dream Birthday

15 Jan

Today’s book review is for Dream Birthday, by Ruby Ann Phillips, published by Picture Window Books (an imprint of Capstone Young Readers. This book is scheduled for release on February 1, 2014. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Dream Birthday book cover

Krystal Ball is a fairly typical fourth grader, except for one thing. She’s a fortune teller. She’s great at predicting the future, but she’s not always so good at interpreting her visions. Her birthday is coming up and she’s ready to have an amazing party. The problem is, she keeps having horrible nightmares. In this installment of a new series for 6-8 year olds, Krystal will learn that even things look grim, there can still be a silver lining.

Phillips does an excellent job in her first person narration of capturing the voice of a nine-year old girl. Initially, I was unsure about whether I liked the narrative style–but as I read more, I realized that it was perfect for the target audience. The voice was believable, friendly and inviting. It is crafted in such a way as to engage young readers and draw them into the mysteries of the story.

I enjoy that Krystal has solid relationships not just with her parents, but also with her grandmother. The multi-generational aspect of the story was nice. Even though Krystal has a special gift, she needs the guidance of her grandmother to understand how to use it. I also like that even though her parents don’t have any psychic abilities, they are understanding of their daughter and encourage her to spend time with her grandmother.

For an early chapter book, I actually found the plot pretty engaging. As a reader you get to see the visions that Krystal has. Which means that you also have the opportunity to try to puzzle out what they mean. Even when you suspect the answer, chances are it’s not going to be quite what you thought.

This is exactly the sort of book that I think I would have enjoyed as a young girl. I remember being fascinated with fortune telling and astrology at that age. And Krystal is such a likable character. I could easily see her being someone’s go-to “book friend.” I’m going to give Dream Birthday 4 stars for fun concept, engaging plot, and appropriateness for target audience.

If you’re still not sure, check out the book trailer:

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Because I Stubbed My Toe

13 Jan

Today’s book review is for Because I Stubbed My Toe, by Shawn Byous, published by Capstone Young Readers. It is scheduled to be released on February 1, 2014. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Because I Stubbed My Toe book cover

Because I Stubbed My Toe is a hilarious take on the butterfly effect theory for the 5-7 year old set. One morning a boy stubs his toe, which sets in motion a wild chain of events including a bike dash, an elephant dash and more. By the end, the boy has a sore toe, a treat, and one heck of a story to tell.

The writing style is a lot of fun. Each page leaves you hanging with a lead-in to the next part of the chain reaction. It’s a great way to draw kids into the story and keep their interest. I think that it’s a particularly effective technique in this book, because the events that transpire grow increasingly ridiculous. The language used is direct and age appropriate, with a nice variety of verbs.

The illustrations add a lot to the story. My favorite part about them is that the background is presented in muted grey tones, while the primary action for each page is vibrantly colored. It creates a greater sense of depth and dimension in the illustrations, without detracting attention from the focal point. The overall style is cartoonish, which complements the action and absurdity of the story. Drawings were hand rendered, and then digitally colored. Original sketch lines were not fully erased, which creates a sense of movement within each image.

This a great book to introduce kids to ideas like cause-and-effect or chain reactions. It might also be used to explore unintended consequences–sometimes we don’t mean to do something, but our reactions still result in that outcome. On the other hand, it’s also a book that can just be enjoyed as solid entertainment. It’s a great choice for a reluctant reader with a great sense of humor, too. I’m giving the book 4 stars for entertaining story, lively illustrations, and solid book design.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Eddie and Dog

6 Jan

Today’s book review is for Eddie and Dog, by Alison Brown, published by Capstone Young Readers. It is scheduled for release on February 1, 2014. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Eddie and Dog book cover

Eddie and Dog is a beautiful new picture book about a young boy, Eddie, who craves adventure. One day, he find a dog who wants adventure, too. But Eddie’s mom says he can’t keep the dog, because they’re yard is too small and the dog will be unhappy. Yet each time the dog is sent away, he schemes to return to his friend Eddie. This is a story about friendship, adventure, and ingenious solutions.

I fell in love with this book right away. Maybe it was the adorable red-haired main character. Maybe it was his lust for adventure. Maybe it was the determination of Dog. But probably it was just that all of the elements worked together to produce a stand-out picture book.

Brown’s writing is simple. She uses plain, clear language that 3-7 year old children will be able to understand and enjoy. There’s a lot of repetition to her story, which gives kids a chance to predict what will happen next. For those of us who read aloud to children, the sentence constructions make for a pleasant reading experience. The words flow naturally, and pauses are built into the text.

What turns a touching story into something hilarious, are Brown’s illustrations. Because this isn’t your typical sentimental story about a boy and his dog. While Eddie is a fairly typical young boy, Dog is anything but typical. Dog rides a moped. Dog snorkels. Dog sky dives! Eddie and Dog are adventure loving soul mates. The illustration style is great. The characters are all given simple dot eyes and line features–yet they manage to be deeply expressive. You can feel the excitement and longing emanating from the page.

The cherry on top is the book design. The page layouts are masterfully executed. Art is placed on the page to add another layer of pacing to the narrative. Text is also arranged to enhance the sense of pacing and suspense. Font size is increased at times for emphasis. Even the end papers are beautiful, with outlines of modes of transport arranged in a repeating motif.

It’s not often that you start reading and know right away that you’ve got a 5 star book in your hands. But that was the case with this one. I was at once impressed and enchanted. For anyone who knows a child who longs for adventure, loves dogs, or has a special bond with a pet–I highly suggest you get this book. I’ll be putting it on my own list of requests for the local library.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Little Monkey Calms Down

3 Jan

Today’s book review is for Little Monkey Calms Down, written by Michael Dahl, illustrated by Oriol Vidal, published by Picture Window Books (an imprint of Capstone Young Readers). It is scheduled to be released on February 1, 2014. I received an advance electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Little Monkey Calms Down book cover

Little Monkey Calms Down is a board book for children ages 2-4. Little Monkey has a meltdown when his day isn’t going as planned. However with some soothing words and useful coping strategies, Little Monkey is able to calm down and enjoy the rest of his day. This book teaches toddlers how to express and manage their emotions, which is an important skill.

Dahl’s writing is simple, clear, and age appropriate. He uses plain language that helps children to focus on the key ideas of the text, rather than getting bogged down in unfamiliar word choices. I appreciated that he emphasized that you can feel more than one emotion at the same time, such as sad and mad (although, I was puzzled by the inclusion of angry, being that mad and angry are usually used synonymously). Most importantly, though, he reassures kids that it is okay to cry–while also offering them techniques to calm themselves.

Vidal’s illustrations are bold and colorful. Every page has a flat background of saturated color that draws the eye. And his rendering of the monkeys is wonderful. Little Monkey displays a wide range of emotion, illustrated so that even the youngest children can read the visual cues and understand how he is feeling. Vidal works in a style that I also think will appeal to toddlers–one that is cute and lively.

This is an excellent choice for parents who want to encourage emotional awareness in their children. Learning how to regulate their emotions is an important developmental milestone for children–and it’s not something that they can do on their own. They need adults to guide them and provide them resources. At the same time, sometimes we parents also need resources to help guide us. Little Monkey Calms Down is a great solution–it provides children an opportunity to learn and parents a place to start dialogue. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Here I Am

16 Oct

Today’s review is for Here I Am, story by Patti Kim, illustrations by Sonia Sanchez, published by Capstone Young Readers. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Here I Am book cover

Here I Am is a wordless book that tells the story of a young boy immigrating to the United States from Asia. The boy is overwhelmed by the new city at first; there are so many strange sights and sounds. He becomes sullen and reserved and spends most of his time staring out at the world from his apartment window. The only thing that brings him hope and joy is a seed that he brought over with him. Then, one day, while he is looking out the window, the boy drops the seed and a little girl picks it up. As a result, the boy ventures out into the city on his own to reclaim the seed. On the way he discovers that his new home is lively and full of great sights, sounds, and people.

To write this story, author Patti Kim drew upon her own experiences of being a child immigrant from Korea. This story isn’t autobiographical, but it she’s still able to call upon the personal to create a strong emotional response. Often in wordless books, we forget to credit the person who wrote the story, since in the end we only see the illustrations. However, it’s important to give credit where credit is due–in this case to Kim who created a story that would be powerful in any medium.

Which is not to say that the art of Sonia Sanchez didn’t elevate the work. To the contrary, it was Sanchez’s ability to capture complex emotions in her art that drew me into the story and kept me engaged. The way that she clusters multiple frames on the page creates such a great sense of mood. It’s a technique I haven’t seen used much, but it’s highly effective. Another touch that is nice is how signs appear to be in jibberish, but as the boy grows more familiar with his new country, they begin to most closely resemble English. Finally, I enjoyed the use of color. Early in the story, most of the colors are in the red and yellow range. But, once the boy ventures out and starts to engage with the world, a lot more greens and blues enter the page. It gives a real sense of the world opening up to him.

This book earns 4 out of 5 stars. It was emotionally resonate and provides a great resource for talking with children about immigrant experiences. My only real issue with the whole thing was that initially, I couldn’t decipher that the seed was a seed. Otherwise, I like that the book addresses the emotional side of immigration, and shows that just because someone is closed off, it doesn’t mean that they are not interested in friends.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.