Tag Archives: star bright books

Smelling Sunshine

9 Nov

Today’s book review is for Smelling Sunshine, by Constance Anderson, published by Star Bright Books. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Smelling Sunshine book cover

Smelling Sunshine celebrates the ritual of laundry day. All over the world, families wash their clothes and hang them outside to dry on the line. The experience can turn a chore into something fun. It’s a chance to celebrate being outside and bonding with one’s family.

I liked the concept behind the book. Hanging up laundry to dry on the line can be an enjoyable experience. It gives you a chance to be outside, connecting with the world. Anderson touched on these feelings in her book. Unfortunately the prose fell flat for me. To start with, the first 13 pages are just one clumsy, run-on sentence. By the time I reached the end of the sentence, I couldn’t remember how it had begun. After that, there are a series of awkward sentences–including one that wasn’t even grammatically correct. The only section that actually worked for me in terms of the writing was the very end.

On the other hand, I did like the illustrations. They are richly textured, full of beautiful patterns and vibrant colors. Anderson appears to use a combination of collage and painting to produce her images. It’s a nice technique. By blending the two mediums, she is able to create greater depth than collage alone could–while maintaining the fun play of pattern and texture. I also appreciate that she depicts a wide variety of cultures and traditions in the book, so that children can see that hanging laundry is something we have in common with people around the globe.

If you’re looking for a book about laundry that depicts positive parent and child relationships, then this would be an appropriate choice. However, due to my dislike of the prose, I can only give it 2 out of 5 stars. Like I said, the concept was lovely, but the writing didn’t deliver.

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

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The Other Bears

30 Oct

Today’s book review is for The Other Bears, by Michael Thompson, published by Star Bright Books. I received an electronic advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The Other Bears book cover

The Koala family is having a lovely day at the beach, happy to be called “bears”–until the other bears arrive. Mother and Father are suspicious. These other bears are different. The parents complain about the strange clothes, different features, and unusual cultural artifacts. The children, however, are delighted to meet new friends. They revel in new food, music, jokes, games, and stories. Finally, Mother and Father Koala see how happy their children are and decide maybe these visitors aren’t so bad, after all.

Thompson has written a wonderful little story about diversity and acceptance that will resonate with children and adults alike. His language is clear and accessible to his young audience. He repeats the same structural elements so that children can predict what will happen next. There are even occasional alliterative aspects that are fun to read. I think that kids will easily recognize how irrational and ridiculous the grumbling koala parents are being.

His illustrations are even better. Thompson has a lovely style–it’s light, bright, and clean. Images are lively and detailed. Each “bear” is attired in clothing representative of the human cultures that live in the same region of the world as they do. I especially liked the parkas and mukluks on the polar bears, and the bicycles of the sun bears. I just wish that the font selection for the text had better matched the illustration style. It felt a little pasted on.

This would be an excellent selection for a story time focused on tolerance and acceptance. It also provides an opportunity to discuss some of the cultures highlighted in the story. The Other Bears earns 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a great resource for parents or educators and has a wonderful message. I’m even willing to overlook how much it irritates me that people continue to include koalas and pandas on their lists of bears.

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

Book Review: Muddled-Up Farm

28 Sep

Today’s book review is for Muddled-Up Farm, written by Mike Dumbleton, illustrated by Jobi Murphy published by Star Bright Books. I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Muddled-Up Farm begins with a promising start. With vibrantly colored illustrations, rhyming text, and silly premise, it drew me into the zany world of Muddled-Up Farm. The big problem was that when I got to the last page I was left wondering “where’s the rest of the book?”

Dumbleton’s writing has a strong rhythm. The rhymes are predictable, thus making many of the jokes predictable, but that doesn’t seem like much of an issue for the target audience. While I was reading the text, I could almost hear it set to music, like some old folk song. It’s got a lively beginning and a humorous climax, but the resolution was completely omitted. I kept trying to turn the final page, convinced that surely there had to be more text. But there was not.

As mentioned earlier, Murphy’s illustrations are vibrantly colored. The farm animals are all rendered in a cartoon style that fits the mood of the book quite well. I particularly enjoyed some of their facial expressions. On the other hand, I felt that many of the pictures of the farm inspector were poorly executed. Although Murphy uses the same black outlines and flat patches of color in all of the illustrations, at times the farm inspector seems to have been rendered in a different style than the animals. One image in particular that didn’t work for me was when the farm inspector turns red-faced and angry.

The book has a middling design. The first seven pages of the story were actually quite nicely designed. And then the seemingly random changes in design began. It made sense to change some of the page layouts once the farm inspector arrived on the scene, because the narrative style shifted at that point, too. Before that point, though, the changes gave a visual signal that something about the text was changing–even though that wasn’t the case.

As a result, Muddled-Up Farm gets 2 out of 5 stars. For what it was, it was fun–but it definitely came across as incomplete. All other criticisms aside, it’s hard to like a book when it’s missing its ending.

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