Book Review

Book Review: When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers

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petWhen a Pet Dies
Written by Fred Rogers 
Photographs by Jim Judkis 
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1988 
Genre/Topics: Realistic, Death, Pets
Ages: 3-6, 32 pages
Death is a hard time period for all individuals, especially children who may have difficulties understanding exactly what death means. The first death experience a child may have is when a dear pet dies in their family. When a Pet Dies begins slowly and discusses how pets are part of the family and take great care. The book explains that sometimes their pet gets sick and needs a pet doctor or veterinarian. However, sometimes their pet is too old, sick, or injured for anyone to cure. Many people may gently explain to children that death is going to sleep for a long time, but When a Pet Dies explains that when a pet dies it isn’t alive so it can’t wake up. The book explains how people handle death differently. It’s okay to feel upset, cry, or desire to be alone. The important thing is to remember that there are loved ones who care about how you feel about losing your pet. When a Pet Dies finishes that with time you will no longer feel sad and you’ll feel happy again thinking about the good times with  your pet. When a Pet Dies doesn’t talk down to children, instead it handles a difficult subject in a comfortable and understanding way. Fred Rogers understands children, which is clearly seen if you watched Mr. Rogers. When a Pet Dies never goes into detail about what occurs after death or anything religious. That can be discussed within your family. I recommend When a Pet Dies for both a pet and individual death. 

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Here’s my family’s dog, George, who recently passed away.

 

Wordless Wednesday: Mirror by Jeannie Baker

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mirrorMirror

Written & Illustrated by Jeannie Baker

Published by Candlewick on November 9, 2010
Genre/Topics: Wordless, Cultural
Ages: 6+, 48 pages 
 

Two stories and two cultures are told simultaneously in one book. The stories appear side by side as the reader turns the pages at the same time. Mirror follows a typical day of two boys on opposite sides of the world. The stories take place in Sydney, Australia, and Morocco, North Africa. An introduction is provided in English and Arabic at the start of each story. The boys awake, eat breakfast, and travel to town for errands. The left story takes place in Sydney, Australia, and the destination is a hardware store by car on roads. The right story takes place in Morocco, as the boy and his father travel by donkey on a trail to the market. The final pages display the family in Australia, with a new carpet bought on their travel and the family in Morocco, explores their new computer. The two families may appear different, but they mirror each other with common elements found in all families.

I highly enjoyed Mirror. This wordless picture book is a very unique idea how two stories are told at the same time. Mirror really provides the reader with an experience about each boy’s day in their culture. The book’s illustrations are amazing with detailed facial expressions, market foods, car license plates, animals on the trail, carpet designs, and even keyboard keys. You really feel that you are there with the families. The illustrations are photographs of collages. The detailed collages are made with many materials, such as sand, fabric, wool, tin, plastic, paint, clay, and vegetation. I read some criticism about Mirror starting it’s not easy as a read aloud in the classroom. True, it may be difficult to handle the extended pages so perhaps independent or partner reading is best. Besides, you need to examine closely to view all the details. Another criticism was that Mirror displayed cultural stereotypes. Mirror is a great book to introduce children to different lifestyles and cultures even though we share similar traits. I recommend Mirror for older ages to understand the concept and handle the book with care.

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Wordless Wednesday: Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage

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walrusWhere’s Walrus?
Written & Illustrated by Stephen Savage
Published by Scholastic Press on February 1, 2011
Ages: 3-5, 32 pages
Topics/Genre: Wordless, Humorous, Animals
 

All is well at the zoo until walrus notices the open gate and decides to escape. Where’s walrus now? The zookeeper frantically searches for the escaped walrus throughout town. However, walrus is difficult to find as he hides by disguising himself. He blends into scenes and situations in town. A few disguises he becomes are a firefighter, artist, and even a dancer. Walrus wears different hats that match each disguise. Walrus can’t help but stand out when he discovers a pool and shows his diving skills. Is the chase off now that walrus is no longer in disguise?

Where’s Walrus? is a delightful and humorous book, especially for younger ages. The illustrations are simple with bold colors. The storyline is also straightforward – animal escapes, hides, and zookeeper tries to find. Younger ages can find walrus within the pages. Where’s Walrus? is sure to get many laughs. I recommend this book.

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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readyReady Player One
Written by Ernest Cline
Published by Broadway Books on June 5, 2012
Genre/Topics: Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
384 pages
 

The year is 2044 and the world isn’t a pleasant place. Extreme famine, war, homelessness, and energy shortages are just a few concerns. Teenager Wade Watts’ only escape is when he’s connected to the virtual world OASIS. When he’s in OASIS, Wade can be whomever he desires, attend high school virtually, form friendships, and most importantly is in a utopia-like world.

His poor living conditions may change when he learns about an OASIS contest to win billions of dollars. James Halliday, the founder of OASIS, creates a virtual treasure game to win the billions. The prize is far from an easy task to find. It is hidden within clues and puzzles. Halliday was obsessed with everything about the 1980s, so all the puzzles somehow connect to the 1980s. Wade masters all the arcade video games, movies, television shows, and anything about Halliday’s life growing up in the 1980s. Wade is the first to find a clue, but there are now challenges. He learns that some players are out to kill in order to win the prize and control the OASIS. The only way for Wade to survive is to continue playing the game. Is his 1980s knowledge enough to win? How does the real world connect to the virtual OASIS?

Ready Player One was a very fun and entertaining read! If you enjoy video games, movie and television trivia, and a look back into the 1980s then you’re sure to enjoy this book. I didn’t play video games, but the terms were easy to follow. The OASIS in 2044 really doesn’t seem that far away as today in 2014. We often hide in our own ‘worlds’ behind Facebook, constant web searching, dating sites, and texting to name just a few. There’s a balance between the real world and virtual world. Wade has this same problem in Ready Player One. Let this book remind you that it’s okay to unplug ourselves from the virtual world and enjoy each other in real time.

Wordless Wednesday: Sidewalk Circus by Paul Fleischman

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circus

Sidewalk Circus

Written by Paul Fleischman

Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Published by Candlewick on May 8, 2007

Ages: 5+, 32 pages

Genre/Topics: Wordless, Circus

Ladies, gentlemen, boys, and girls The Garibaldi Circus is coming to town! There are many busy preparations for the circus, but if you look closely you may get a sneak peek. A young girl watches across the street at the bus stop as people prepare for the upcoming circus. The girl witnesses a tight rope walker who is actually a construction worker balancing pails. She sees clowns who are kids skateboarding into the market. There’s a sword swallower sitting in the dentist chair. A stilt walker balances on a ladder while painting. A dog’s shadow becomes a scary lion. The entire street ‘circus’ is viewed on the last pages. The girl boards the bus at the same time a boy sits at the bus stop to watch. What exciting things will you see at the circus pre-show?

Sidewalk Circus is an entertaining book that displays ordinary street events into an exciting show. I thought it was interesting that the girl was the only individual at the bus stop who noticed the street shows. Even though this is a wordless picture book, words appear on circus posters, shops, and billboards announcing the circus. The illustrations are bright, colorful, and show city details. I recommend Sidewalk Circus to help see the extraordinary in the otherwise ordinary daily events in your city.

Book Review: Bunnicula by Deborah & James Howe

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bunniculaBunnicula: A Rabbit-tale of Mystery

Written by Deborah & James Howe

Illustrated by Allan Daniel

Published 1979

Ages: 6-9, 128 pages

Genre/Topics: Humor, Mystery

The fun and adventure begins when the Monroe family returns from the movie with a new family addition – a rabbit. The family agrees to name the bunny Bunnicula, since it was found at the movies while watching Dracula. However, two family members are hesitant about Bunnicula – Chester the cat and Harold the dog. We learn about Bunnicula from Harold’s perspective. Chester believes Bunnicula really is a vampire and with Harold’s reluctant help they discover more about Bunnicula. Bunnicula has fangs and stays awake at night. Is Bunnicula really a vampire? Humorous events occur as Chester is determined to prove that Bunnicula is a vampire.

I loved Bunnicula! I really did laugh out loud as Harold described the weird events happening in the house since Bunnicula arrived. The reader learns about Chester’s mischievous behavior and Harold’s family loyalty. The book is mysterious without being scary. Readers will be curious about Bunnicula and want to know more about Chester and Harold’s adventures. There are additional books in the Bunnicula series. I highly recommend Bunnicula for a fun read!

 

Wordless Wednesday: Flotsam by David Wiesner

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flotsam
Flotsam
Illustrated by David Wiesner
Published by Clarion Books on September 4, 2006
Ages 5+, 40 pages
Genre/Topics: Wordless, Marine Life

Flotsam: A wreckage of a ship and its cargo found floating in the water.

A curious boy explores many animals and things at the beach. An old camera with barnacles washes onto the shore and he develops the film. He discovers interesting pictures of sea creatures: An octopus reading in the living room, seastars carry islands on their back, and even small aliens surrounded by sea horses. One photo catches his eye of a girl holding a photo who is also holding a photo. The boy zooms in the photo with his microscope and discovers many children holding the photo. He then takes a photo of himself with the photo. The camera is thrown back into the water, so more photos can be taken and other children can find it on the beach.

Flotsam is another beautifully illustrated book by David Wiesner. The book has realistic elements as he finds animals on the beach with fantasy elements of sea photos. The photo pages were outlined black in the book to appear like a photo. I only had a problem with throwing the camera back into the ocean, but I understand it’s part of the story. Remind children (and adults) to keep nature clean. Spark their wonder about sea mysteries with Flotsam.