Note about my Reviews

Dear Authors: The reviews in this blog are only personal opinions. I have absolutely no background in literature, writing or reviewing. I am a Librarian (actually a Library Technician for those who care OR know the difference) with a love for a good story. The opinions in the reviews are ONLY my OPINIONS. I am not commenting on the writers ability since well -- I am not a writer and never will be. If you are the author of any of the books reviewed here, my opinion is just that and not a judgment against you!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mom and Me Mondays: Scholastic Canada Edition

In honor of Earth Day, the first 2 titles we are reviewing deal with environmental issues

Vanishing Habitats
Robert Bateman
Scholastic Canada (My fav publisher)
48 Stunningly illustrated pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-98621-2
Ages: Anybody can enjoy the artwork alone, but recommended Ages 8 and up

Scholastic Canada Description: In Vanishing Habitats, internationally famous artist and naturalist Robert Bateman shares his love and knowledge of the world’s habitats. Through his paintings and stories, he describes the threats facing all kinds of animals, ranging from Snow Monkeys, Jaguars, and Bison to exotic birds such as Roseate Spoonbills and Burrowing Owls. In this beautiful and inspiring book, he explains why these animals and their homes are in danger and describes what steps can be taken to save them.

Mom's Note before review: My boy does NOT LIKE books that deal with sad or scary issues and it always colours his reviews.  His rating usually reflects the subject matter and not the book itself.  Hmm, wonder where he gets that from -- If Mom reads a book in which something unpleasant happens to an innocent child, that book usually is put down and never finished! (the exception are books which I have to review and honestly it usually colours my review as well)

Jake's Review: Mom this is a bit of a downer, but the pictures are really beautiful -- especially your favorite the Otter.  The picture of the lonely Polar Bear at the end made me really sad. I think this would be a good book for kids who don't know about global warming and they can learn how to treat the earth better.  Mom, stop making me turn back to the page with the otter -- I know --  Otters cute, must save world for them, I get it already!  Let me finish talking about the book so I can get back to playing Mario with Dad.  Parents with young kids should read this book and than explain the book to their kids using easier words.  I would make this book less sad with not so many big words -- you can't even pronounce some of them -- its Bear not Beer!  I really like the pictures, they look like ones that we have all over the house (hmm note to self - maybe I have a few too many Robert Bateman prints if Jake actually notices)
Rating: 5/10  (Again it talks about difficult subjects which Jake does not like to read about)

Mom's Review: No surprise here, I loved this book.  The artwork is outstanding and yes I am a huge fan of Robert Bateman so that colours my review as well. My god whenever I look at one of his paintings I feel that I could reach out and touch the animal!  If anyone has some cash I really would like an ORIGINAL Robert Bateman "On the brink - River Otters"  I seriously digress - sorry. In the wonderfully written book parents will learn as much as their children about vanishing habitats all over the world. It is explained very simply with very little finger pointing so that children will learn to pay more attention to the changing world around them without feeling like they are being nagged.  I agree with Jake that there could have been some simpler language used for the target audience, but it does make a fantastic teaching tool.  I would really recommend this book for inclusion into both the school library AND the classroom library.  It's unusual to find this subject matter handled so deftly with so little sanctimonious preaching that often turns kids off. 
Rating: 9/10

The Magic School Bus and the climate challenge
by Joanna Cole & Bruce Degen
Scholastic Press
ISBN: 978-0-590-10826-3
48 pages
Ages: 7-10 

Scholastic Canada Description: Ms. Frizzle’s students are putting on a play about global warming, and they need some cold, hard facts. The Friz knows just where to find them! A hope on the Magic School Bus takes the kids on a whirlwind tour. From the Arctic to the equator, they see telltale signs of climate change. But to get the really big picture, the class has to get really small – so they can see exactly what is in the air and why it is making the world warmer. What they find gives them a real cause for concern! Luckily, the Friz has some hands-on advice. With their knack for making science accessible, Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen give this hot topic a refreshing, kid-friendly spin that will inspire all to do their part. Ms. Frizzle and the class are up for the climate challenge. Are you?

Jake's Review
: This book is lots of fun, but  a little too long. I liked that it has lots of things to look for on each page. I liked how alot of the little added things on each page were written on a small piece of lined paper. Some of the pages were too busy and my eyes hurt after looking at them.  Boy we need to change a lot of things around the house so we can help the environment more.  I promise not to leave the fridge door open and also not to leave the water running all the time. Wow, I didn't know how bad some of the stuff we do is for the earth.  Mom you have to turn off the computer more, you leave it on much too long (really sucks getting narced on by your 8 year old)  Mom we need to get a clothes line to put out our clothes to dry (note to self, must never ever let Jake read this book again, I detest hanging clothes on a line, I'm sorry I do everything else I can to help, I have to draw the line for my sanity - do you know how many frickin clothes my littlest hellion uses)  I like how cool of a teacher Ms Frizz is, I think we need a lot more teachers like her, because than I would actually listen in class.  She explains things in such a fun and simple way -- she dresses kind of odd though, sort of like some of the people you work with mom -- maybe she's part  Librarian (Smart assed little kid I have raised eh?) I'm going to tell my teacher about this book tomorrow, maybe she can get it for our class. (Thinking mom will donate this one!)
Rating: 8/10

Mom's Review:
A little holier than though preaching, but its heart is in the right place.   I have really enjoyed these books over the years, because they really appeal to the kids, and I agree with Jake, that if we had a lot more teachers like Frizz. schools would be so much more affective.   The book has taken a very sensitive subject and made it very kid friendly and fun.  It is very inspirational and written in a way that makes kids want to get up and help. They are our future!   I find some of the pages too busy for my old fogey brain, but  I think that is why kids like it so much.  Always something new to find on each page.   I would really recommend this book be added to any public or school library as well to parents of children from 7-10 to open up discussions on the environment.  Great Earth Day book!
Rating: 8.5/10

Elisha Cooper
Orchard Books (An imprint of Scholastic)
ISBN: 978-0-545-07075-1
48 Pages
Ages: 4+

Scholastic Canada Description: Society of Illustrators 2006 Gold Medal recipient, Elisha Cooper, captures the smell, taste, and feel of the changing seasons on a farm.

There is so much to look at and learn about on a farm - animals, tractors, crops, and barns. And children feeding animals for morning chores! With lyrical writing and beautiful illustrations that capture the rhythms of the changing seasons, Elisha Cooper brings the farm to life.

Jake's Review: I hate the pictures in this book, they are too small and blurry.  This books is snoreville, do I have to finish it? I never want to work on a farm it looks like way too much work and you never have any fun, because you are always doing chores.  That's all I have to say mom.
Review: 2/10

Mom's Review: I have to agree with Jake on a couple of points.  I agree, the artwork is far too sophisticated for the target audience.  Also the language does not appeal to the target audience and does not give the impression of farm work being very interesting to those that it is being geared towards.  It is beautifully written and the artwork is exquisite but I really wouldn't recommend it for an 8 year old boy.  It would be a wonderful addition to a classroom library in which the teacher would read and discuss with the students.  One improvement would be to make the book more compact so it highlights the artwork. With the larger format, the artwork is far too sparse, and gets lost.  I did really enjoy the personalization of the farm animals and the writers obvious love for the land
Review: 6/10

My Brother Charlie 

by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
Illustrations by Shane W. Evans
Scholastic Press
ISBN: 978-0-545-09466-5

Scholastic Canada Description:
Callie is very proud of her brother Charlie. He?s good at so many things  --  swimming, playing the piano, running fast. And Charlie has a special way with animals, especially their dog, Harriett. But sometimes Charlie gets very quiet. His words get locked inside him, and he seems far away. Then, when Callie and Charlie start to play, Charlie is back to laughing, holding hands, having fun. Charlie is like any other boy ? and he has autism. In this story, told from a sister?s point of view, we meet a family whose oldest son teaches them important lessons about togetherness, hope, tolerance, and love. 

Holly Robinson Peete, bestselling author, actress, and national autism spokesperson, has paired with her daughter, Ryan, to co-author this uplifting book based on their own personal experiences with Holly?s son and Ryan?s brother, RJ, who has autism.

Jake's Review:  Mom this book reminds me of me and how I have Spina Bifida. Lots of people treat me differently because I am a little different than them and they don't understand me. (Sorry, my tears are blurring the screen) Sometimes people are really mean to me like kids treat the boy in the book.  He is just like Chad at school who has autism and I like playing with him. You just have to play with him a little differently and keep away from him when he is in one of his moods.  I would be Charlie's friend if he went to my school, I like kids that are different like me - they don't treat me like I am weird.  I liked how you could almost feel the pictures, like in those touch and feel baby books of Jesse's (Jake, dude, those BABY books, used to be yours) The pictures are drawn kinda weird though.
Rating: 9/10

Mom's Review: This book had a very personal response from me, since my child has "special needs" as well.  I cannot tell you how many times we are treated differently and ignorantly because people don't understand.  Some of the things that have been said to Jake or to our family are just plain rude.  I try to use these situations to educate those about spina bifida, but I cannot tell you how many times I just want to smack people because of their ignorance. (Just so you know, I never have, but have been tempted -- even to friends and family who haven't thought before they have said something)
Now back to the book.  This is a beautiful, sensitive and simple explanation of Autism written by Holly Robinson Peete (Yup you old timers Officer Judy Hoffs from 21 Jump street) and her daughter Ryan.  Ryan's twin brother R.J. has Autism and wanted to help the world understand her brother and those other families/friends who are living with Autism.  I loved how they explained that the little boy Charlie loves them, but his words to express this just get locked up inside him.  It is the most wonderfully true and thoughtful explanation of the struggle that autistic children deal with.   It also did an exceptional job of explaining the struggles that siblings have to deal with when their brother/sister has Autism.  It also explains how frustrating it is for Charlie that he has autism, and how he wishes he didn't have it either.  Many books deal with how the families cope, but don't usually mention how frustrating it is for the person that is autistic.    I loved the line about how Charlie has Autism, but Autism doesn't have Charlie.    The fact that this book is told through the voice of the twin sister makes it more realistic and heartfelt.  Information card at the back is fantastic as it tells other kids that autistic children are just as much fun to play with, if you give them a chance.
Review: 10/10

I received all of the books from Scholastic Canada in exchange for a review.  

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