December 30, 2015

Picture Books 2015: Part Two

This review contains spoilers.

All books reviewed below were downloaded free from either Netgalley or Edelweiss in exchanged for an honest review.

Made in China: A Story of Adoption by Vanita Oelschlager
This is a sweet, rhyming story about a Chinese-born, adopted little girl with a white older sister who teases her about being "made in China", just like the label reads on so many American products. Concerned, the girl approaches her (also white) father, who tells her the story of her birth mother and her adoption while reassuring her of his love. It's another beautifully illustrated picture book focusing on a specific type of a parent-child relationship from the author of A Tale of Two Daddies and A Tale of Two Mommies. I recommend all three to anyone looking for pro-diversity children's book.

Baby Santa by M. Maitland DeLand
I read and reviewed Baby Santa and the Gift of Giving, another book in this series, last year, but somehow I failed to snatch up the other Baby Santa books available at Netgalley! I'm fixing that this year, and Baby Santa, this first book in DeLand's series, is much the same as the most recent. It's another quick little story about Santa's and Mrs. Claus's young child, Baby Santa; while Gift of Giving had, as its title implies, a charity theme, Baby Santa introduces its main character and, as so many children's books do, lets him save the day--but only after he's put it in peril. If you're looking for a Christmas story, this is a perfectly reasonable choice.

Baby Santa's Worldwide Christmas Adventure by M. Maitland DeLand
Baby Santa saves the again in this second Baby Santa book; this time, Santa's sleigh is in the repair shop when it needs to be heading off toward rooftops, and it's Baby Santa's encouragement that gives Santa and his elves a plan. With the day saved, the father-son duo head out to deliver presents all over the world in various vehicles, from race cars and motorcycles to kayaks and blimps. If your small child enjoyed the first book, he or she will enjoy this one.

Baby Santa and the Lost Letters by M. Maitland DeLand
Once again, Christmas is in peril. A whole bunch of letters to Santa are missing from his mailbox, and this time, Baby Santa gets help from not only Santa and the elves, but Prancer and Prancer's network of animal friends around the globe. I'm not gonna lie, that's a fairly cute element that I can't say I was expecting. Thinking about myself as I was when I fit the demographic for this series, Baby Santa and the Lost Letters definitely would have been my favorite of the series.

Baby Santa and the Missing Reindeer by M. Maitland DeLand
I'm going to say this is the weakest of the Baby Santa series; it opens with its issue already in progress--Santa's team of fun-seeking reindeer have scattered off, and they need to be back in time for Christmas. So Baby Santa, whose whole family is unexpected change in this installment into ethnic Africans (from ethnic Europeans), and while I enjoy a children's book that presents a Santa Claus altered from the common variant displayed on the majority of America's Christmas products, I'm a bit thrown by the switch (especially since the change is reverted for the next book, Gift of Giving).

In any case, the story follows Baby Santa on his journey around the globe and presents us with the rather disturbing image of a reindeer dancing on his hind legs in The Nutcracker--costume included, in case you're wondering--while another is seen playing professional, Christmas-themed American football. All in all, it's kind of a weird experience, and I'd say that in terms of plot, it's a bit weaker than the others in the series, which all had more build-up and involvement from the other characters before diving into the 'round-the-world sleigh ride. But if your kid enjoys the Baby Santa series, I'm sure they'll enjoy this one, too.

Magic Words: From the Ancient Oral Tradition of the Inuit by Edward Field
Magic Words is a short poem about Inuit mythology--a little too short for my tastes, actually. But the illustrations are beautiful, and if you're trying to spark or nurture your child's interest in Native American cultures and mythologies (specifically Inuit or in general), this might be a great choice for you.


Does an Owl Wear Eyeglasses by Harriet Ziefert
Does An Owl Wear Eyeglasses? is a nonfiction book that teaches kids about eyes and eyesight by asking the titular question for various species. I think that aspect of it is undeniably well-done, but I have to admit that I'm a bit put off by "dear parents" letter preceding the book. I found it rather condescending, in all honesty. But it doesn't detract from the value kids will get from the book!

A Storm Called Katrina by Myron Uhlberg
A Storm Called Katrina is about a musical little boy and his family as they survive and ensure the hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath, even adopting a little dog presumably stayed by the storm. It's a bittersweet family story that will serve very well for today's young children; though the target audience is now much too young to have experienced the disaster themselves, many will surely have relatives who were affected, and A Storm Called Katrina is a great way to begin introducing a child to the reality of the storm--and natural disasters in general.

How the Meteorite Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland
How the Meteorite Got to the Museum is a picture book with a repeating element, a la The Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly. I think there's a bit of a disconnect between the target audience's age and the reading level of some of the diction, so this is probably better read to a child than by a child (unless that child is particularly intuitive four-year-old capable of discerning definition from context or inordinately fond of consulting their dictionary). It's not a bad story or an unenjoyable book by any means, but it might also require its child audience to have some preexisting knowledge of what exactly a meteorite is, because that's not really covered here. Pair it with Magic School Bus' space episode, though, and I think you've got a solid, fun educational experience for your kid(s).

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