Barnacle is Bored

 

Title: Barnacle Is Bored
Author/Illustrator: Jonathan Fenske
Publisher: Scholastic, 2016

Guys, they opened a new library near my house! I am totally going to the grand opening next month and you better believe I’ve already taken out 20+ books on our inaugural visit.

The library is small, but the children’s section is good. The librarian in charge of picture books is doing a really good job featuring ones that kids will want to pick off of the clear stands. My kids pretty much cleared them off. New books! Wonderful!

One of the books I chose was Barnacle Is Bored. The cover art is what immediately attracted me to the book. Barnacle looks legit bored and kind of salty. I figured this book might be similar to I’m Bored! by Michael Ian Black (illustrated by the fabulous Debbie Ridpath Ohi). Stay tuned to find out if I was right or not!

When we got back from the library, this was the first book I chose for story time. I started reading and then realized something: this book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. My kids both gave it a pretty solid “meh” when I was done. I’ve re-read it a few times since then (because my girls are usually very generous with their praise) and I think I understand why: the story itself wasn’t interesting to them and the ending wasn’t a good enough payoff/one they haven’t seen already. Let me break it down:

1. The art is good. Really cute, really cartoon-ish. The characters are pretty darn adorable. And trust me, making a barnacle adorable is NOT easy. Those things are so creepy!

2. The language used is simple. Really simple. If you were reading this to a little one (say 3 and under), you’d be able to use it as an opportunity to explain the opposites the barnacle mentions: under, over, up, down, bored (the barnacle), not bored (the fish). You could use the alliteration to discuss the way words sound. It would be a really interesting discussion, I am sure.

3. The payoff (the excitable little fish being eaten by a large eel) has been done in Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau. I think that’s why my kids weren’t exactly shocked or surprised by the ending. (Vivi actually said “We’ve read a book like this one before.”) Now, to be fair, the stories themselves aren’t anything alike. But the ‘one fish gets eaten by a big ugly fish’ thing is the same.

4. I’m not sure what the moral is. Not that children’s books NEED morals, of course, but it felt like there should be some kind of take-away from this. Let’s unpack: Barnacle dislikes boring life. Barnacle observes little fish’s potentially exciting life and is jealous. Potentially exciting fish is eaten by big, ugly eel (and is then bored inside the eel). So I guess the story could mean “enjoy your life when it is peaceful, because the only thing that’s certain is change” or “don’t envy someone else’s life, because you don’t know their story/how things are going to go for them” or “be happy with what you have, even if you’re not really enjoying it.” (which is a terrible moral, by the way. But, really, it feels like it fits best. Note that the barnacle says he’s not bored at the end of the book, after witnessing the eel eating the little fish, he’s hiding at this point, terrified. So…maybe it’s better to be terrified than bored?)

I could be reading too much into this.

I looked this one up on Goodreads and found that, as is sometimes the case, my opinion isn’t that of most people. Most reviewers LOVED this book. Which is great! To each their own, of course. And, to be fair, although I don’t love it, I don’t dislike it. I am thoroughly neutral on this story. Will we be buying our own copy? Nope. Will I read it again to my kids? Also nope. They specifically said that the story was “just a little too boring for them.”

Take home message: read it with a younger kiddo. They’ll like it better.

Mama’s review: B

Giraffes Can’t Dance

Title: Giraffes Can’t Dance
Author: Giles Andreae
Illustrator: Guy Parker-Rees
Published: Cartwheel Books, 2012

 

Know how some books are REALLY popular and then you read the book yourself and you can kind of see where everyone is coming from, but…you don’t LOVE the book yourself?

That’s this book for me.

I ADORE so many board books. The Gruffalo is one of my all time faves…and Oh No, George! And anything by Sandra Boynton. And when we received Giraffes Can’t Dance, I was hopeful. The art is really fun and cute. That’s +5 points from me right off the bat. And the story is…well…it’s a story. I mean, I like the overall message of “you do you” and “dance to your own music even if you’re a really crappy dancer.” (I can relate, Gerald. Don’t you worry, I’m not judging you on your inability to dance. I am the last person on the planet who would do that.)

Ahem.

Anyway, I *like* the message. I just don’t love the delivery.

Specific examples? OK. Here we go.

  1. “Now every year in Africa…” Dude, that’s like saying “Every year in North America” or “Every year in Asia” – it’s a continent, not a country. Couldn’t you be a bit more specific about location? I just feel like this reinforces the ignorance of people saying “Africa” like it’s just one big country. Sorry, it’s a personal pet peeve.
  2. Why did Gerald only feel bad this specific year? Like, he was probably a bad dancer his entire life, not just this given year. I know, I know. I’m being picky.
  3. The animals say “giraffes can’t dance,” but there are no other giraffes AT the dance. How could they possibly know? (Potentially from previous years of watching Gerald crash and burn?)
  4. OK, I have an issue with this verse: “Gerald simply froze up,/He was rooted to the spot./They’re right, he thought. I’m useless./Oh, I feel like such a clot. It’s the thought/clot rhyme. Most kids have no idea what ‘clot’ means. Not that I’m against learning new words, but this feels sooooo dated. My mother used to use this phrase, and maybe it’s more popular in England (where I believe this was published first), but…my kids didn’t know what Gerald meant. There are so many good rhyming words in the ‘ot’ family…couldn’t the author have chosen another one?
  5. I hate it when authors double up a word unnecessarily to make a rhyme work. It feels SO forced. Like:
    “They shouted, “It’s a miracle!/We must be in a dream./Gerald’s the best dancer/that we’ve ever, ever seen!” It. Feels. Forced.

So…yeah, I don’t love this book. I’ve read it repeatedly to my kiddos. I’ve done the voices. We’ve talked about how the other animals were total bullies to Gerald and how people don’t get to do that to you. We’ve talked about being true to yourself.

But I don’t love the story.

But I do love the art.

So…

Mama’s review: B-

Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color

Title: Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color
Author/Illustrator: Julia Denos
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers, 2016

Today’s book was given to my girls a couple of years ago at Christmas by my friend Alok and his dear wife, Stephanie. Steph is a picture book aficionado like myself (also, fun fact: we share a birthday!) so I was super-excited when she said that she picked out a few books she liked for my girls.

(Spoiler alert: they were all excellent.)

Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color is, in some ways, more like a poem than a story, set to amazingly expressive, colourful art.

The text is sparse on many pages (with a few denser sections here and there). The story tells the tale of Swatch, a girl who tames colours. She loves all colours and has learned to catch them in jars. In fact, she manages to catch them all…except Yellowest Yellow.

Swatch asks Yellowest Yellow if she might put him in a jar, but he politely declines. And, although Swatch could’ve ignored and caught him anyway, she respects his decision.

Swatch is rewarded with a wild yellow ride. She realizes that her colours aren’t meant to be kept in jars, so she frees them all and they create a masterpiece.

My girls love this book because:

1. They like to imagine themselves as a color tamer (Vivi, , my little artist, in particular).

2. They love the attributes given to the colours (Lily really loves the gray on the kitten).

3. The art is fantastic. It’s really the best part of the book. The pictures are so vibrant and joyful.

So, thank you for the great book, Steph! If you get a chance, definitely give this book a read. The little artists in your life will enjoy it.

Mama’s Review: A

Vivi’s Review: ROYGBIV!

Lily’s Review: “Orange is actually my favourite colour!”

 

Where is Green Sheep?

Title: Where is Green Sheep?
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrated by: Judy Horacek
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004

 

There are certain books that we read SO much when my kids were babies and toddlers that I have them memorized. Perfect Piggies by Sandra Boynton used to circle through my brain as I was trying to fall asleep. Vivi loved that book SO MUCH. Oh, man…it’s happening again (I can’t stop hearing the ‘snuffle-dee-dahs’).

Anyway, today we’re going to review a book that Lily really loved. Where is Green Sheep by Mem Fox. She still likes it now, even though she’s three and ‘not a baby’ anymore (*sob*).

Here, in a single sentence, is the premise: green sheep is lost and the reader has to find him.

Now, normally that wouldn’t be enough to carry a book. But this is a board book and it’s written by the fabulous Mem Fox, so it’s more than enough.

The reader is challenged to look on each page for the elusive green sheep. The art is absolutely adorable. The sheep are fluffy and fat and doing many different and wonderful things. The book is in rhyme and it moves along really well. It’s a great book to add to your library, and totally fun to read multiple times (trust me on that).

It’s a pleasure to read with a little one.

It was nice to revisit this story. Soon, Lily will be totally over board books and too cool for school and reading whatever the latest TwilightI-esque novel is. I’ll just be sadly sniffling in the corner, remembering when my babies were little enough for a board book and a cuddle.

Mama’s review: 10 nostalgic hearts/10

Lily’s review: “I still really like those sheep, mama. They’re so cute!”