Monthly Archives: June 2018

The Hug Machine


Title: Hug Machine
Written/Illustrated by: Scott Campbell
Published: Simon and Schuster, 2014


There are few things in this world cuter than toddler hugs. Baby capybaras? Maybe. But toddler hugs are pretty much up there on the ol’ cute scale. This book is about a sweet little boy who gives hugs to literally everyone and everything. Whale? Yup. Porcupine? Sure, why not? Everyone in his neighbourhood? You bet. This little guy cannot be stopped (except to refuel on pizza).

OK, wait, you might say. This sounds like a super-simple concept for a book.

And you’d be right. But it works! Why? Because of the following:

  1. As always, the art in a picture book makes all the difference. In this case, it’s sweet and watercolour-y and lovely. Everything is just adorable and looks, well, huggable.
  2. There are silly/quirky little bits that make the book funny. When the boy hugs the porcupine, for instance. Or when he does a massive tour of his whole neighbourhood, hugging everyone and culminating in a giant HUG on the next page? Awesome. (And, just a note: if you’re reading this, say “HUG” in a loud, operatic voice. It’s funnier that way.)
  3. The ending works. When the hug machine tires of hugging everyone, he gets a hug from…who else? Mom.

This book is a good one to read before bed. It’s a nice way to end the day, leaving your little one with a feeling of being loved before they drift off to sleep. Lily really likes this book, and even though it’s a bit young for her, Vivi still enjoys a good reading of Hug Machine.

Mama’s rating: 5 big hugs/5
Vivi’s rating: 10/10
Lily’s rating: “I like the pizza part!”

The Three Ninja Pigs


Title: The Three Ninja Pigs
Author: Corey Rosen Schwartz
Illustrator: The FABULOUS Dan Santat
Published: Scholastic, 2012


One great day at Scholastic,
An editor thought he might,
Call on his pal Dan,
And to finish his plan,
He’d get his buddy Corey to write!

By joining their incredible forces,
Corey Rosen Schwartz and Dan Santat,
They took an old fave,
Made it cool and brave,
And really fun to read at that!

OK, so writing in limerick isn’t everyone’s forte, but it certainly is Corey Rosen Schwartz’s. When we first got The Three Ninja Pigs, I wasn’t sure if:

  1. There might be too many ninjas in the book.
    2. The rhymes would be fun to read aloud (I’m looking at you, awkwardly written Berenstain Bears books).
    3. The book would appeal to my ladies.

After reading The Three Ninja Pigs, I learned:
1. There’s no such thing as too many ninjas.
2. There’s no one who rhymes quite like Corey Rosen Schwartz.
3. The ladies LOVE this book.

We LOVED The Three Ninja Pigs so much, we did a diorama of it for Vivi’s class. I had to read the story aloud to her class and I was a bit concerned about one line:
“Stay out of my hut,
Or I’ll kick your big butt…”
(snicker, snicker)

Anyway, the kids LOVED the story and didn’t even giggle (too much).

The art in this book is absolutely gorgeous. The use of straw, bamboo and cherry blossoms in the backgrounds is so peaceful and contrasts beautifully with the action occurring throughout the book. Being a kids’ book, the ‘violence’ is aimed at inanimate objects and just meant to ‘warn the wolf off’ as opposed to attacking him directly. The story has a happy ending and even a little glossary in the back that explains some of the terms used in the book (Lily loves the word ‘gi’).

My kids are always down for a Dan Santat book and all the more when he’s teamed up with Corey Rosen Schwartz.

Mama Rating: 5 “Kiya’s”/5
Vivi’s Rating: A+
Lily’s Rating: 5 Pig Gi’s/5


Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great (and he’s right!)


Title: Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great
Author/Illustrator: Bob Shea
Published: 2013 Hyperion


Have you ever been the big fish in a small pond, only to have a larger, shinier, cooler fish swim along and wreck everything?

Our book has nothing to do with fish.

It does, however, feature a unicorn that shows up to completely usurp a goat’s place as the cool dude in school.

Goat has all sorts of commendable traits: he bikes to school (Unicorn flies), he makes pretty OK marshmallow squares (Unicorn makes it rain cupcakes), and he does really decent magic. (Unicorn turns stuff into gold. No biggie.)

Goad decides that, based on all the aforementioned evidence, Unicorn is a grade-A dope. That is, until Unicorn shows up and points out some of Goat’s finer points (goat cheese, horns suited to soccer and awesome cloven hooves).

Goat realizes that they could combine their amazing traits to become a super crime-fighting team. Unicorn suggests that maybe they could just be friends and play at the park.

I love this book! I ordered it on a whim after reading about it on another review site. It did not disappoint! The art is nothing short of whimsical. It’s so colourful and the expressions on the characters’ faces are delightful. There are random super-cute characters in the backgrounds throughout the book (a puppy, a kitty, various cupcakes and toast) and they just add to the quirkiness of the book. The ’80’s kid in me totally digs the bright, nearly-neon palette Bob Shea used.

The story itself is a great lesson about friendship. Don’t assume that someone is a certain way. Get to know them! Maybe you’ll find that your skills are complementary!

The girls listened to their fabulous mama and daddy give a reading of this picture book during dessert. (I was the unicorn, in case you were wondering). Vivi really loved Unicorn. Lily liked the part where they became friends. Karl loved being Goat. I think. He didn’t really say that and I didn’t really ask, but his goat performance was top-notch.

Overall Score:
Jess: 5 adorable cupcakes out of 5
Vivi: A
Lily: All the cute toast characters ever

And We’re Back! With Narwhal and Jelly!


Hello friends! It’s been (checks date of last post) four years since I last posted! Well, the good news is that now my kids are older and I’ll actually have time for this blog! As some of you may (or may not) know, I’m a gigantic kid lit nerd. I love picture books, I’m a huge fan of early reader books, and I currently have 25 YA books checked out of the library just for some light reading. ┬áSo I’m going to be posting reviews of some pretty terrific books written by other people. And some awful books too, just for fun. (I actually have a collection of books I do not like.)

My 5-year-old daughter, Vivi, has gamely agreed to give me a kid’s point of view, and, although non-committal when I asked, I’m sure 3-year-old Lily will throw in her two cents here and there. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Tonight’s review will be of Ben Clanton’s fantastic Narwhal and Jelly graphic novel series. We’ve got the first three books and they’re just…well, they’ve got three winning features, according to Vivi:

1. Narwhal and Jelly are really cute. This is true! The design is so simple, but both characters are really expressive (sort of like Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie).

2. The storylines are silly. I like the fact that Narwhal is obsessed with waffles. I like the fact that the crab calls Jelly Jolt ‘Jelly Dolt’ in book 2. I like the whole peanut butter gag in book 3. The books make little to no sense in terms of having a traditional story arc and three-act structure, but who cares? They’re super-fun to read and they appeal to their audience. Win-win!

3. They’re easy enough for a reader to read if they happen to be five, but reading a couple of grade levels above. It’s not easy to find something that’s JUST RIGHT in terms of reading level, but these books fit the bill for Vivi. I’d say they’re kind of perfect for a strong reader at 5, a good reader at 6 and an average reader at 7. There’s not a lot of text on each page, but some of the words aren’t high frequency at all and require decoding skills (‘invisible,’ ‘superpower,’ ‘mustache,’ identity,’ just to mention a few). Vivi likes to hear these books aloud (read ‘with voice’ by moi), but she’s perfectly capable of reading them herself. If you’ve got a clever clogs that devours picture books and wants to move to the next level, give Narwhal and Jelly a try.

If you want to know more about Ben Clanton or Narwhal and Jelly, check out their awesome website:

Mama’s grade: 5/5 waffles
Vivi’s grade: A