Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Unfeathered Bird by Katrina van Grouw

Today I have a guest post from my awesome cousin Maija!!  This is a book I was offered for review and it looked really interesting but I knew Maija would have far more intelligent things to say about it than I.
The Unfeathered Bird
4 stars
This is a book for people who love birds, anatomy, and art, probably in that order. I have an amateur interest in all those subjects. Although I was very impressed by the artwork and fascinated by the skeletons and muscles arranged in natural poses, I was often frustrated by the fact that there were no illustrations of the whole feathered bird. I understand that the point of the book was to show the beauty of birds’ internal structure (and Katrina van Grouw does a wonderful job of this), but so many of the birds were unfamiliar to me that I found I needed to read while sitting next to a computer so I could plug the species names into a search engine and see a picture of the complete animal. The book is organized using Linnaeus’s original classifications, which is interesting and fits with the sepia-style drawings. I appreciated that the author also tells us the birds’ current classifications. The text held my attention and did not feel heavy-handed and difficult to follow. There were times when I wanted more information. Some of the birds were summarized so quickly that I again found myself consulting other sources to learn more. (You can look at this as a compliment—the author inspired me to do more reading.) I was also torn with my desire for the illustrations to function as diagrams with arrows pointing out the various features described in the text, but that would have interfered with the artistic elements of the drawings and that is probably why arrows were not used.

Overall, I think this book was designed with a very specific and small audience in mind. It does not have enough information in it to function as a reference book. It assumes that the reader has a basic knowledge about bird species and body parts, but you don’t need to be an expert. Like many coffee-table books, the contents are best suited to casual browsing. I do think that even small illustrations of the complete feathered birds to give the reader a reference point might have been helpful, especially in expanding the audience. However, I respect that they would have interfered with the artistic style of the work.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Picture Book Round-up

Random edition, lol

So obviously the month of reviewing Beehive nominees didn't cover everything... by a long shot.  But hey... we're still working our way through...

Today our round-up features 2 nominees.

The President's Stuck in the Bathtub
Poems about the Presidents
By Susan Katz

Boo, Mister, and I quite enjoyed this one.  There is a poem and a little factoid about each president.

Some are more amusing than others, though overall it's a really fun book.

Definitely for the elementary crowd, though, not the preschoolers.

How to Babysit a Grandpa
by Jean Reagan

Super super cute.  This is an adorable guide to babysitting Grandpa while Mom and Dad go out.
Very fun, totally recommended.

On a Beam of Light
A Story of Albert Einstein
by Jennifer Berne

An interesting, if simple, text all about Albert Einstein.  I think this one is a tricky fit for kids, though... kind of too much for preschoolers (unless they're really into science maybe?) but a bit too simplistic for Boo... so I'm not sure where the right fit is.  Early elementary, maybe?  Like K-1st?
Not sure.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen

3.5 stars
R- 2
copy received for review

I enjoyed the blend of past and "present" (the character's present, not ours) but the time period didn't feel like quite as much of a "presence" as I maybe wanted.

In some ways the story could have taken place anytime/anyplace.

Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but in a historical fiction set in India during partition and the subsequent mess, a little more of that might have been nice.

Overall, this maybe wasn't so much my style, but I did end up enjoying it.  An interesting tale of love lost but still with a hopeful ending.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Alphasaurs and Other Prehistoric Types by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss

5 stars
picture book

Combine typography, alliteration, and facts about dinosaurs and what do you get?  You get a pretty darn cool book.

There is a dino (or other critter) for each letter of the alphabet-- each made completely out of that letter!  Descriptions include awesome alliterations (see what I did there?) and interesting facts.

This was a huge hit with all three older kids.  (LuLu was not consulted for an opinion... she still eats paper.)

MeiMei especially loved opening the flaps to reveal the full dinosaur... even if that made Mommy super nervous... (She's a bit... wild.  I feared for the poor book's life.)

Anyway, highly recommended for everyone!

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter

4 stars

A retelling of The Secret Garden.

I really enjoyed this one, though there was an element of "well that all happened quickly".

It's certainly a much shorter book than Secret Garden but it also felt more mystical.  There is a mystique to the moors of the original, to be sure, but in the end all of the characters are simply people.

And in this retelling.... well, are they?  You'll have to decide for yourself.

Overall, a good one.  Interesting and fantastical.

I will say, though, that after reading the author Q&A at the end and learning that she nearly substituted something else for the garden, I almost wished she had.  Not because I didn't like the garden element or because it wasn't well done, but because the other ideas she had considered sounded so fascinating!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Barnum's Bones by Tracey Fern

How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World
picture book

This one is cute.  The text is fairly simple and easy to follow, but there is kind of a lot of it.  Too much for MeiMei, really, making it a better choice for say early elementary or late preschool rather than the younger preschool crowd.

The illustrations are really fun!

Great choice for a young dinosaur lover... and really, what kid doesn't love dinosaurs?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Just a Second by Steve Jenkins

A Different Way to Look at Time
4 stars


And... kind of creepy, lol.

Some pages tell about things that happen in a second, or a minute, or an hour...

Some tell about things that happen very quickly... and some are things that happen over a long time.

There is an element of "preachy" to some of them-- population growth, destruction of habitats, etc-- and a few creepy ones-- this many people die, this many people are killed by sharks, this many people die of this, etc-- but overall this is one that kids will find fascinating.

Possibly especially boys.  Mister was certainly entertained.