Book review: Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat, by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Sierra, Judy. Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat. Ill. By Kevin Hawkes. Random House, 2017. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-375-97429-8. Ages 6-9. P5Q7

Few people know that Theodor Geisel’s classic was written for curriculum with the requirement that the book use only a list of prescribed words; the total was only 236 words. After he finished The Cat in the Hat, he moved on to more early readers and Green Eggs and Ham, showing Bennett Cerf that he could write a book with only 50 different words.

Verdict: The artwork is 1950s Seuss style, and the narrative is a bit cutsy. Young readers will be more interested in Seuss’ books than how he wrote one to prove he could comply with curriculum requirements.

November 2017 review by Nel Ward.


Book review: The Story of Barbie and the Woman Who Created Her, by Cindy Eagan, illustrated by Amy June Bates

Eagan, Cindy. The Story of Barbie and the Woman Who Created Her. Ill. By Amy June Bates. Random House, 2017. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-399-55378-3. Ages 5-8. P6Q2

The famous adult-looking doll was created by Ruth Handler, owner of a “toy company.” The all-white male designers poo-pooed the idea, but she continued with her idea. Soft watercolors depict the evolution of Barbie from a nurse to one who runs for president.

Verdict: This puff PR piece skips almost everything about Barbie, including its inspiration from the German erotic novelty doll “Bild Lilli” based on a comic-strip prostitute who serviced German businessmen. There was also no mention about the effect on girls’ body issues from Barbie’s unrealistic shape. It’s a substance-free view of a past popular toy.

November 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: A Mysterious Egg, by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Mike Boldt

McAnulty, Stacy. A Mysterious Egg. (The Dino Files series, #1) Illustrated by Mike Boldt. Random House, 2017. $4.99. ISBN 9781524701505. 128 pages. Ages 7-10. In the Dino Files series. P7 Q7

The Dino Files follows Frank as his paleontologist grandmother finds a fossil dinosaur egg. The fossil is found on a neighbor’s property and there is a dispute to who owns the fossil. When Frank and his cat, Saurus, hatch the egg, the fun starts.  The facts surrounding fossils are accurate. The story shows how friendships can develop and the importance of compromise. This book includes a glossary and a sneak preview for the next book in the Dino Files series. The illustrations are pencil drawings and add to the text.

Verdict: I recommend this book for libraries. Children who are interested in fossils will enjoy this book.

June 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: All That I Can Be, by Mercer Mayer

Mayer, Mercer. All That I Can Be. Random House, 2017. $5.99. ISBN 9780399553776. Unpaged. Ages 3-7. P7 Q7

This book includes two previously published books, When I Get Bigger and When I Grow Up, from the Little Critter series. In When I Get Bigger, Little Critter imagines all the things he will do when he gets bigger. This ranges from spending his allowance on whatever he wants to looking both ways at a green light. It ends with him going to bed, because, as his mother says, he is not bigger yet. In the second book, When I Grow Up, Little Critter explores all the things he would like to do when he grows up. It shows a child’s imagination and all the things he things he will be. Children can relate to all the ideas.

Verdict: I recommend this book for young children’s libraries. Children will enjoy the colorful illustrations and how Little Critter views growing up.

June 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Lilly and Fin: A Mermaid’s Tale, by Cornelia Funke, translated by Oliver Latsch

Funke, Cornelia. Lilly and Fin: A Mermaid’s Tale. Trans. By Oliver Latsch. Random House, 2017. $9.99. 83p. ISBN 978-1-5247-0101-7. Ages 7-10. P9Q9

Colorful illustrations help make this chapter book about wealthy “two-legs” determined to capture a pair of “merpups” a fun read that goes from the comfort of two friends enjoying a day to the danger of being stolen from their peaceful home in sunken shipwrecks. Funke has created both memorable monstrous humans, Mr. and Mrs. Snorkel who need a mermaid to complete their collection of every sea creature in the world and their marvelous metal invention that allows them to travel deep under the ocean surface. The merpups, Lilly and Fin, are typical children, adventurous and disobedient in their desire to explore the world beyond the parents’ definition of boundaries. The greatest twist in the plot is the merpups’ friendship with the giant kraken, a mythical giant sea monster that solves their problem. The award-winning German author is well known for her series Inkheart, but my favorite of her books is The Thief Lord. Lilly and Fin was first published in 2004 in Germany.

Verdict: The plot is straightforward and enjoyable, well-translated, and illustrations add to the humor. Funke has added quirky activities at the end, including patterns for knitting the merpups and kraken, a dice game to play with Lilly and Fin, and a search for tiny treasure chests in each of the book’s large illustrations. The size of the book is also appealing for smaller hands.

May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Sand Warrior (5 Worlds, book 1), by Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun

Siegel, Mark and Alexis Siegel. The Sand Warrior. Illus. by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun. (5 Worlds series, book 1) Random House, 2017. $18.99. 249p. ISBN 9781101935866. Ages 10-13. P8Q8

Three young people—wealthy but inept sand dancer Oona Lee, street urchin An Tzu, and famous sports figure Jax Amboy—find themselves together trying to save the Five Worlds from extinction by lighting five ancient beacons. It’s epic fantasy with flowing bright colors and non-stop action after their world of Mon Domani is attacked. The format moves from the traditional by bleeding dialog bubbles to the edge, and the vivid palette of colors is inviting.

Verdict: Characters develop into a greater understanding of themselves and acceptance of others, and the authors deal skillfully with income inequality and the shortage of resources on the world, even water. Illustrations of the female form are not stereotyped: although Oona is graceful, she isn’t a standard slim gorgeous girl found in many graphic narratives. The busyness of the plot sometimes makes it hard to understand, but the plot keeps readers moving.

May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Wonder Woman: Warbringer, by Leigh Bardugo

Bardugo, Leigh. Wonder Woman: Warbringer. (DC Icons series) “Advance Reader’s Copy.” Random House, release date August 29, 2017. $18.99. ISBN 9780399549731. [384 pages.] Ages 14+. P8Q7

Veteran YA fantasy author Leigh Bardugo takes on the Wonder Woman saga from the point of view of an 18-year-old, bullied Amazon princess curious about the world outside her secluded and protected island home.  When Princess Diana ducks out of an important race to rescue shipwrecked Alia Keralis, she breaches the island’s protections and faces exile, taking on the quest to avert the doom carried by the Warbringer—Alia, a descendent of Helen of Troy.  Combining Greek mythology with modern technology and teen snarkiness, Bardugo succeeds in making Wonder Woman a believable teenager.

Verdict:  Recommended for young adult collections in high school and public libraries.

May 2017 review by Jane Cothron.