Tag Archives: schiffer publishing ltd

The Visit

23 Nov

Today’s book review is for The Visit: The Origin of “The Night Before Christmas”, written by Mark Kimball Moulton, illustrated by Susan Winget, published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The Visit book cover

The Visit is a magical new holiday book that details the history of the famous poem “The Night Before Christmas,” which was written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. This history was passed down through the generations and shared with the author by Moore’s great-great-granddaughter, Dinghy Sharp. It’s a lovely work of family history, literary history and holiday magic woven together in a volume that will surely become a Christmas treasure.

Moulton does an excellent job sharing all of this information. Not only does he pull it all together into a compelling narrative–but he does so in the same rhyming verse style of the original poem. There were a couple of places where the meter was slightly off, but it wasn’t too distracting. He structures the story so that the first portion is told from young Dinghy’s perspective. He really captures the wonder and magic of visiting New York City, for the first time, at Christmastime. Then, Dinghy’s grandfather takes over to explain to his grandchildren the strange words and unfamiliar actions that happen in “The Night Before Christmas”–from hanging stockings to the making of sugar-plums. In the third section, he tells the story of why Moore wrote it, and how he came up with the idea. This structure was so engaging. I loved how it kept drawing the reader further back in time.

Winget’s illustrations are the perfect companion to the piece. They have this beautiful antique feel to them. The colors are muted: burgundy reds, forest greens, parchment yellows, and crockery white. Yet every image is full of beauty and captures that classic Christmas feel. There’s a soft fuzziness that gives the feeling of looking back through the mists of time. There’s rich historical detail. I think that the illustrations alone will motivate many people to buy this book.

My favorite part, though, is the very end. That’s because a copy of the original poem, in Moore’s own handwriting, is included. The old cursive may be a challenge for some to read, but how wonderful to see it in the author’s own hand! (It can even be used to give older children a history lesson on “primary source documents”.) The book was very thoughtfully executed. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. If anyone has been looking for the perfect Christmas book to gift to a kid, look no further.

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


Book Review: Beep Beep Goes the Bus Driver

17 Sep

Today’s review is for Beep Beep Goes the Bus Driver, written and illustrated by Vincent Scala, published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd. It is scheduled to be released on September 28, 2013. I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was drawn to this book because of the wacky, cartoonish cover image. The style of it made me think of The Powerpuff Girls, of which I’m very fond. With big eyed animals, a smiling bus driver, and happy blue bubble letters the cover drew me in.

The story contained within is just as wacky and cartoonish as the cover. The bus passengers include a variety of anthropomorphic animals, such as a ballerina bear and a cat with hat and tie. They go on fantastically silly adventures, which even include a trip to the moon. I can see it appealing to energetic children, because the premise is a lot of fun.

Unfortunately Scala’s text leaves much to be desired. The book is written entirely in rhyme, a style that can be a lot of fun, especially when read aloud. But some of the rhymes feel forced. Worse, the meter is a disaster. When I attempted to read it aloud, I found the rhythm and accents within each couplet were rarely the same, making everything sound clunky and awkward.

On the other hand, his illustrations are pretty fun. He uses an Easter egg palette to color his cartoon outlines, giving the book a vivid and playful feel. In particular I liked the turtle named Gus and the fish named Frank. It’s a style that suits the story well. It’s also a style that I think children would like.

The book design is pretty sound. With so much going on in the illustrations, text is placed on facing pages. Each text page is colored with a hue from the illustrators palette. The choice of Ad Lib BT for the typesetting was perfect; it’s bold and a little off kilter, like the story itself. The text is colored and each time the words “beep, beep” appear, they are in a larger point and outlined to highlight them.

In the end I give this book 2 out of 5 stars. Even though there was a lot that I liked about it, I just can’t get past the poorly written text.

You can find more information about this book at Goodreads or from the publisher.

Book Review: Song for Papa Crow

13 Sep

Today’s review is for Song for Papa Crow, written and illustrated by Marit Menzin, published by Schiffer Publishing, LTD. I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

ImageSong for Papa Crow Cover

Let me start by sharing some things that I enjoyed about this book. First of all, I liked that the book introduces children to a variety of common North American birds–both visually and through their calls. As an amateur bird watcher, this drew me in right away. It seemed like a great way to help children learn to appreciate birds as well. The section at the back with further information on birds provides a great opportunity for further enrichment and could be used by caregivers and educators for extension activities. 


The first point when my attention was pulled from the story itself was the introduction of Mockingbird coming to town “for one show only.” It was around this point that the style of the prose began to shift from almost lyrical prose to bland colloquialism. A few pages later, I found myself thinking repeatedly that while the book has potential it really needed a stronger editorial hand. 


It wasn’t just the text that needed a stronger editorial hand, though. It was the book design overall. Someone should have noticed that poor choice of font. While it’s fun and artsy, it’s difficult to read. And if it’s difficult for an adult to read–then I imagine it would definitely pose challenges for younger readers. I also thought that the placement of text could have been improved–sometimes it seemed awkward in location. But worse were the somewhat sloppy lightened blobs that appear behind the text. While I suspect it was intended to make the text easier to read against the illustrations, it instead looks like an unskilled hand went crazy using the “erase” tool in a graphics editing program. 


Which is a shame–because Menzin’s collage illustrations are fun. It’s a popular style these days, and while her work doesn’t stand out to me as notable, I still thought that she did a good job. I liked some of the deeper layering and the ways that she achieved softer edges by using specialty paper. I was particularly impressed by her ability to create varying expressions on the faces of her birds. One thing that would have made the illustrations stronger would have been to establish a dominant palette. 


The overall message of the book is that it’s okay to be who you are is an excellent one. Despite Papa Crow repeatedly telling Little Crow that he was loved just as he is, Little Crow had to test boundaries and face peril before he could believe and internalize that message for himself. 

In final analysis, I give the book 2 out of 5 stars. It was okay. It had a strong concept and some excellent ideas. Unfortunately, I felt that the execution left a lot to be desired. 

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