Monthly Archives: November 2018

Hotel Bruce


Title: Hotel Bruce
Author/Illustrator: Ryan T. Higgins
Published: Scholastic, 2016


There’s something you should know about me: I’m a sucker for bear stories. I love them to an absurd degree. I’m also a sucker for grumpy animal stories. So when I found Bruce Hotel, a story about a grumpy bear, I was immediately enamored. And THEN I did a bit of research and found out that there are several more Bruce books…

Which are presently wrapped up under our Christmas tree. (Yes, I know it’s still November…but it’s ALMOST December, which means it’s high time for several Christmas trees!)

The girls loved Bruce Hotel. And why not? It’s hilarious! A quick recap? Don’t mind if I do!

The story starts with Bruce reluctantly accompanying his ‘kids’ (four Canada geese) south for the winter. The problem is, when they return they find that three mice have taken over their house and are now running a hotel! Bruce is not the type of bear to stand for a rodent invasion, so he boots the mice…but there are other animals to contend with.

Many other animals.

Suffice it to say, hilarity ensues and Bruce ends up finally losing his cool (he IS a bear, after all). He gets rid of ALL of his unwanted guests…only to have his four geese convince him to take the mice back in.

So he does. Oh, Bruce. You do have a sweet heart after all!

We purchased this at the school book fair on Friday…and we have read it about ten times since then. One thing I immediately realized is that the mice in Bruce Hotel are the same mice from Be Quiet! (Another really funny book.)

Our reviews? Here goes:

Jess: 9/10 bears
Vivi: “This book is hilarious!”
Lily: “I like the mice!”

Thelma the Unicorn


Title: Thelma the Unicorn
Author/Illustrator: Aaron Blabey
Published: Scholastic, 2015


Many times, I buy books based on their reviews.

Occasionally, I hit up Chapters and take a look around the children’s section. Then something inevitably catches my eye and I *must* have it.

And then sometimes…just SOMETIMES…I end up buying a book for a silly reason. A frivolous reason. A reason that might include “it’s about a unicorn” and “the unicorn is pink” plus “the title is SPARKLY.”

I bought Thelma the Unicorn for the third reason. Obviously. Well, that and one other thing.

A few years ago, I wrote a book called Phoebe the Unicorn. I really loved it and so did an editor at a local publishing house. The issue we ran into was the art: she couldn’t figure out how to make it work. I was *kinda* heartbroken because it was as close as I’ve ever been to having a REAL publisher publish something I’ve written. So when I saw Thelma the Unicorn I felt I should support an author (and illustrator) who was able to get their unicorn to market. Makes sense, non?


Well, anyway, Thelma is a superstar.

But what’s the story actually about? Let me break it down in five easy-to-digest points:

  1. Thelma is BFFs with a donkey named Otis, but she’s getting kind of tired of her life – she wants to be more fabulous than a regular pony. She wants to be a unicorn (Otis, for the record, thinks she’s great as she is).
  2. Thelma finds a carrot and straps it on her head like a unicorn horn. She then gets sprayed by pink paint and glitter in a freak pink-paint-and-glitter-carrying-truck accident.
  3. Thelma becomes famous! Fabulous! She is the unicorn she always dreamed she’d be.
  4. Unfortunately, with great fame comes great stress. Her fans are kind of crazy and Thelma realizes that some of them are actually jerks. She isn’t happy being super-popular and really misses Otis. She decides to change from unicorn back to pony.
  5. Thelma returns home and is super-happy to see her BFF. Her life is pretty great after all.

I like many things about this book, including:

1. The art – it’s super-cute and I love, love, love the design of Thelma. The sparkly text on the front cover is fabulous.

2. The rhyming – I’m a sucker for a rhyming book, it’s true. This one is pretty solid. There’s only one page that makes me sort of cringe…it’s this part: “And some were not her fans at all. No some were really mean. And some did just the meanest things she’d really ever seen.” I have issues with the whole “really ever seen” thing. It feels forced and a bit awkward. It reminds me of Giraffes Can’t Dance – I have a similar issue with part of that book.

3. The moral of the story. I read this to Vivi and asked her “So what did you think?” And she said (and this is a direct quote): “I think the take-home message has to be to just be true to yourself. You can’t be happy if you’re being someone else. You have to be comfortable with who you are.” Boom! Any picture book that nails that message home to my five (almost six) year old is a total winner

If you’re looking for a book that appears to be all about being sparkly and pink but is really about something much, much deeper, pick up Thelma. You’re gonna love her.

Mama’s review: 4/5 sparkly horns
Vivi’s review: “Total A+”



Title: Crankenstein
Author: Samantha Berger
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Published: Scholastic, 2013


If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you’ll know that I am a *huge* Dan Santat fan. Like, massive. My favourite picture book of all (After the Fall) is 100% Dan-Santat-created, and I truly love everything else he’s done. You better believe I’m a Fantat (Fantat copyright Jess, 2018).

Anyway, Vivi brought home her Scholastic book order in October and I found a book that Mr. Santat illustrated. One I hadn’t heard of (and therefore didn’t own). Crankenstein. I promptly ordered it and waited.

I thought maybe I’d review it for Halloween. But life happened. (Read: Vivi has had pneumonia and we’ve been house-bound and away from school for TWO WEEKS.) The first afternoon back, Vivi’s (amazing) teacher had a large box of books for us. Among them: Crankenstein. I’m not gonna lie, I read it in the car in the driveway.

It’s the tale of a cranky little boy who turns into a Crankenstein (that’s a wonderful portmanteau of ‘cranky’ and ‘Frankenstein,’ of course) whenever there’s an uncomfortable/difficult situation. You know, like all kids do. When waiting in line, when having to deal with a dearth of maple syrup, when having a toy break or a popsicle melt or having to take horrible medicine (relatable!).

The story is simple but cute. But, as per usual, Dan Santat’s art is what makes this book really special. My favourite page of all is the one where the two Crankensteins meet and are glaring at each other. It is SO accurate. It’s EXACTLY what kids look like.

This book is definitely for the younger-end of the picture book age group. Vivi is “meh” on it (her words), but Lily likes it and has asked for it a few times. It would be a good one to have for a preschool/JK class for Halloween…a good way to tie in the special occasion and talk about how we can all be a bit monstrous sometimes.

And, as a hilarious side note: if you own this book, please read the legal page. Dan Santat has written a description of how the art was produced for the story. My favourite line is: “Crankenstein is the embodiment of Dan Santat’s pure rage…and he did it all for you.” Thanks, Dan!

Mama’s review: 4 cranky kids/5
Vivi: Meh.
Lily: “I like it!”