Book Review – The Nixie’s Song

Title: Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles.  Book 1 The Nixie’s Song
Authors/Illustrators: Holly Black, Tony DiTerlizzi
Format: Hardback
Published: 2007

 

So I feel that I need to start this with a preface that I know absolutely nothing about the series.  I saw this book when I was walking down a row in the library and grabbed it in a hurry because I recalled that the series was popular and I wanted to see what the hype was.  It wasn’t until after I got the book home that I realized that it was a second series about the same thing (sort of?  Apparently?)  So I don’t know if you needed to read the other series first, but it said it was book one so I dove in.

In this series, Nick’s dad is a developer on a project in Florida so he moves his sons down there, along with their new stepmother and stepsister Laurie.  Laurie is obsessed with a book and she’s determined that it’s real and the odd creatures she’s reading all about are really just outside her window, only she can only hear them and not see them.  Nick, bored and in need of something to do, begrudgingly humors her on a walk and realizes that she may be able to hear the creatures, but he actually has the sight.

The two end up with a Nixie on a quest.  Her sisters are missing and she’s got to find them.  They agree to help.

 

So, for a children’s chapter book, the thing isn’t bad.  It’s written well enough that I didn’t mind that I was 25 years beyond the target age group (at least) and it was cute enough that I see no issue with a kid picking it up.  

The Nixie is really an unhappy camper when she finds out that two of her sisters are dead, but the group soldier on to find the others and instead find a giant.  

Which appears to everyone around them as just a mound of mud.  They’re trying to get people to leave the thing alone while they try to kill it, and everyone else wants to move what they think is a dirt pile to somewhere a little more slightly.

Oh, and along the way the group picks up a few more people.  For starters, Laurie’s book is supposedly written by information from Jared and Simon Grace, so they track the twins down for help.  They also find a guy named Noseeum Jack – or more accurately, Jack finds them – who gives them a lot of information that they will need as they continue on.

Just as the book got interesting, the chapter was over and with it went the book.  Dang it.

 

So my review.  Again, I’m a bit *ahem* beyond its target age group, but I found that I didn’t care.  The story was pretty quick and I blamed most of that on the genre.  I hadn’t intended on reading more of the series, but the action stopped mid way through the friggin end of the book.  Like, a creature was on the move and then BOOM and we’re expected to pick up the next one to see where it goes.  

I hate that.  It’s like the worst thing ever.  I mean, I’ll have to read another book or something.  (Ha!  I’ve already asked for it from the library.)   

 

Bottom line, it was decent enough.  I think that a kid in the right age group would really like this, and I’m guessing that whatever happened in the main series connects to the book that Laurie carries everywhere with her (she even says she does) and people who haven’t read the other could read this.  I know I followed it around just fine.   I think this would be a great book for “what do I give to a eight-year-old interested in fantasy…? “ and because of that I’ll give it a 4/5 page rating.

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2017 YITB Review

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This is the smallest update/year in review I have ever done, and I want to take a minute to apologise to loyal readers of the blog.  It would seem that my bloggers have been in a pretty constant state of flux over the past year with lots of changes (some good, some not so good) and we’ve just let reviewing books slide by the wayside.

I am actually ashamed to say that I only managed to read about half a dozen books last year.  But this year seems better.  Things are leveling out.  I’ve made a list of the things that really matter in my life and I’m going to be doing a big push at the blog.

 

Thus, this year’s list is small but mighty.

The top Book in the Bag Books of 2017:

  • Go To Sleep, Little Farm – Mary Lyn Ray
  • Mix It Up – Herve Tullet
  • Owls Don’t Blink – A.A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner)
  • Desert Solitare – Edward Abbey
  • Lexicon – Max Barry
  • Idolators of Cthulhu – H David Blalock

Book Review – Go To Sleep, Little Farm

TITLE: Go To Sleep, Little Farm
AUTHOR: Mary Lyn Ray
ILLUSTRATOR: Christopher Silas Neal
FORMAT: Board Book
PUBLISHED: 2014

Go to Sleep, Little Farm is an adorable fat board book about the farm going to sleep at the end of the night.

The color scheme is a mostly muted blue/grey with occasional pops of muted reds (like the barn, or the little girl’s pajamas), and it’s absolutely beautiful. Serene and peaceful like it was undoubtedly intended.

The book starts “Somewhere a bee makes a bed in a rose…”  and goes on from there.  Not your normal “the cow goes to sleep, the donkey goes to sleep” type stuff here.  Not-so common animals (even an earthworm!), illustrations and text that show where and how they sleep, and it’s just so precious.  As all the animals settle down, we see the little girl reading under her covers with a flashlight.  The farm settles in, dad turns off the light, and mom and dad tuck the little girl in so she can dream about all the animals that are sleeping.  The author even included the “slippers, asleep on the rug” and holy cow.  Since the toddler is currently in his “What’s your shoes doin’?” phase, that line was like the most perfect thing ever.

This is so much better than *gasp* Goodnight, Moon – and I love that book.

5/5 very sleepy pages.

Books Review – Board Book Roundup

My method for picking out children’s books is to walk around the library and look for books on display that seem interesting/cute, randomly flip to a couple pages and see just how much text there is and to check out the artwork (I can’t tell you how many books I’ve put back because the illustrations are awful!), and then read them to a ridiculously smart almost three year old.  Anyway, I decided to combine several in this review.


TITLE: Harold’s ABC
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Crockett Johnson
FORMAT: Board Book
PUBLISHED: Originally 1963. This edition – 2016? 2015? (New book/doesn’t say)

The book is kinda cool.  Harold and his trusty purple crayon (yes, that Harold) go out on an adventure through the alphabet.  This isn’t a typical ABC book.  There’s no A is for apple, turn the page, B is for Banana, etc… Instead, what you get is a story interrupted by that… “To go on any kind of trip, you have to leave home. He started with A for Attic…”  And as Harold is going through this, you see illustrations where the letter is front and center to something they’re talking about (In A’s case, the A makes up the top of the house. Q forms the Queen’s head.)

It isn’t bad, but this book is *small* – like maybe 4 inches or so.  I wish it had been just a little bit larger and the letters had been a little bit bolder.  I’m guessing with a kid a little older who already knows his letters that this story would go over better, but in this case, the toddler knows *most* of his letters and it was a little difficult to get him to pick out the letters and he got bored with it.  [Note: This paragraph brought to you by the phrase “little bit”]

A few of the letters were weak (X is for X-out), and Z was for snore “Zzzl” – um.. since when is there an l in the middle of a snore?  But most of them were good.

I’ll give it a 3/5.  Nothing overly wrong with it, but nothing exceptional about it either.


TITLE: Dig
BOOK BY:  National Geographic Kids
FORMAT: Board Book
PUBLISHED: 2015

So, Dig looked cute.  There’s a photo of large excavating equipment on the front, and when I opened it up randomly, I opened it to a larger photo of the same piece of equipment.  So I sort of assumed that it was about big equipment, which excited me.

Apparently, I should have looked at more pages, because it’s about all kinds of things that dig – people, dogs, whatever.  I was a bit disappointed.  Also, the toddler didn’t really care that mommy and daddy could dig in a garden.  He wanted the big equipment too.

This is an issue I have with board books.  Nothing about the book on the back cover, just a sales pitch for the rest of the series.

Anyway, really disappointed. The book was done well enough, but it isn’t what either of us wanted. And some kid apparently snacked on the library copy, so it tastes good enough.

Still, I’ll give it a tentative 4/5.  I was disappointed in it because it wasn’t what I thought it was (and really, what are the odds that I’d open randomly to the one page of equipment and not any of the other 10 pages of mammals?), but it wasn’t a bad book.


 

Book Review – Welcome to the Symphony

TITLE: Welcome to the Symphony: A Musical Exploration of the Orchestra Using Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
AUTHOR: Carolyn Sloan
ILLUSTRATOR: James Williamson
FORMAT: Hardcover w/attached music panel
PUBLISHED: 2015

Welcome to the Symphony is a fabulous book.  It’s probably best suited for slightly older kids because of lots of big terms… 4-7 maybe?  But the not-quite-3-year-old I read it to enjoyed the music part of it.  I’m sure he won’t be saying timpani anytime soon.

Anyway, the book follows three little mice.  One of them is at the symphony for the first time, so the other two mice explain it to their friend as the book goes along.  It’s a really direct approach to terminology “Tempo is how fast or slow music is played” – AND behavior at the symphony.  “Don’t clap yet, they’re just warming up!”

Plus, as it works its way through a pretty well-known piece of music (I remember this as a background to some cartoons), it explains all the instruments and you can compare them to each other pretty easy.  Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Trumpet, French Horn, Trombone, Timpani.  (And there’s a page about other instruments you may find in a modern symphony that you didn’t find in this piece of music such as the piano, harp, tuba, etc).

In all, this is a really thorough explanation of the symphony and a great introduction for a kid.

My only issue with the book is that you have to hit right on the number for the audio pad to work.  Most of these books, you can hit anywhere in the square; there are a lot of reviews on Amazon that say “This didn’t work!” and I suspect that they’re stemming from that issue.

Regardless – the book works, the toddler loved hearing the instruments, and when he’s a little older, I think this would be a great resource to teach him about music.

5/5 pages and 5/5 musical notes. :p

Book Review – Baxter Barret Brown’s Cowboy Band

TITLE: Baxter Barret Brown’s Cowboy Band
AUTHOR: Tim A. McKenzie
ILLUSTRATOR: Elaine Atkinson
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2006

 

So, Baxter Barret Brown’s Cowboy Band looked interesting enough and I picked it up to check it out and realized it came with a CD of bass fiddle music.

*Sigh*  I really shouldda left this one on the display.

I googled the guy and apparently he’s a moderately successful fiddler, so of course he’d write a series about it (Note – I had no idea, apparently this is book 2).

I wanted to like this book, but it’s every single stereotype that I hate and by the time I was 2 pages in, I realized I was using one of those hick accents to read with because the book is written with the expectation of one.

But the book is… weird.  BBB wants to fiddle with the cowboys so he takes his Bass, which is about 3x the size of Baxter,  shows up at a ranch, and proves all the ways he and his bass can be useful – melting down a string for a branding iron, using it as a bridge for cows, a wagon, a….  ARGH.  You don’t treat an instrument like that and doing it cutesy in a book like this for kids isn’t going to teach kids how to treat an instrument.  (And yes, I do expect a little realism in my children’s books, even the silly ones… FIT THE WORLD YOUR STORY IS IN)

The words are part of the illustrations and in some places are a little hard to read.  Also, the toddler had ZERO interest in this book when I tried to read it to him.

The music on the CD isn’t bad, but it’s not worth the book.

I’m giving it 2/5 pages for the book and 3/5 musical notes for the CD.  Because I can.

Book Review – The Monster at the End of This Book

TITLE: The Monster at the End of This Book
AUTHOR: Jon Stone
FORMAT: Hardcover (children’s)
PUBLISHED: 2004

The Monster at the End of This Book is a Sesame Street book featuring Grover, furry, lovable, monster.  Who is scared to death that there’s a monster at the end of the book.  In a glorious dropping of the fourth wall, you, evil reader, keep turning the pages and DON’T YOU KNOW THERE’S A MONSTER THERE?!?!?!

I love Grover, and he’s perfect for a book like this.  The illustrations are adorable, the story line is great, and it’s a beautifully done story for a little kid (or a big kid…).  In fact, I happened to have it with me and one of my friends saw it and admitted that they hadn’t read it.  By the time it had gone around my circle of friends, everyone was talking about how well done the book was.

It’s a solid 5/5 pages, and easily one of my favorite stories.  I recommend this to anyone.

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