Friday, December 26, 2008

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes

Review by Scott Tingley

I would love to go on and on about the finer points of the second Moxy Maxwell book, Peggy Gifford’s Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes, but I can’t. Even though I found the book to be very funny, fresh and surprisingly dark (more on that in a moment), I just can’t shake this feeling of dread.

IT ISN’T AS though Moxy isn’t grateful for her Christmas presents. She is. She’s just not thrilled that she has to write a thank-you note for each one by tomorrow . . . or she will not be allowed to fly to Hollywood to attend a star-studded Hollywood bash with the father she hasn’t seen in three years. And writing thank-you notes is not something that a world-class Creative Type relishes doing.(from

My feeling of dread does not come from anything found in the above synopsis. No, it comes from the fact that my two little kids combined equal the destructive power that is contained within Moxy Maxwell. My four year old girl is wonderful and precocious and my two year old boy is happy and very physical and together they will probably find some way to sink our house into a bottomless pit or make a beautiful collage for some Father’s Day by cutting out a single picture from every one of my many comics and graphic novels cluttering our soon to be sunk-in-a-bottomless-pit house.


But, I will try to soldier on...

One of the reasons I have enjoyed this Moxy Maxwell, and the first Moxy book, Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little is that in it there is a nice balance of impending doom and real life family dynamics. In Thank You there is the familiar destruction of family property that you can see coming from a mile away - and there is some wonderful frustrations that accompanies this knowledge – but there is also a darker, more troubling doom coming. This doom, unfortunately, involves the family dynamics in a way that readers will also see coming. It involves Moxy and her twin brother Mark’s absent biological father and another terribly timed let down.

I was surprised that this book went in the direction it did. Here I thought the Moxy series would continue on as just a nice thing for Junie B. Jones fans to move on to when they got older. I thought that the books would just be about the wacky adventures of a young girl and the family that tries to contain her – but this is not so. Amongst all the fun there are real issues being dealt with in real ways – it is like the comic series Amelia Rules in this way. Where I to read this to my own grade three class I know that it would hit close to home for some of them – which can be a very good thing.

But, I didn’t read it to my grade three class. I handed my copy off to the grade four teacher (who teaches the grade threes I had last year). I read the first Moxy to last year’s grade three class in September and some of the turns-of-phrases used went over their heads, but when I read it again in June they loved it. So I think this book is perfect for late grade three and up.

I truly hope that there are more Moxy Maxwell books coming, and if you or the young readers in your life have a book store gift card burning a hole in you pockets this holiday season, this is the perfect reading material to fill in the last week of the school holiday.

By the way, I didn’t fit it into the review, but I wanted to mention the fun photos by Valorie Fisher that are spread throughout the book. They are meant to be by Moxy’s twin brother and they tend to punctuate the events that are then happening.

ISBN: 978-0-375-84270-2 (0-375-84270-5)
Price: $14.99


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Friday, November 21, 2008

Piggybook: A Review

Review by Scott Tingley

I am a grade 3 teacher and I was at a Professional Development session on Guided Reading this afternoon and the teacher giving the session was one of my supervising teachers when I took my teaching degree twelve years ago (my, how time flies!). I respect this teacher a great deal, so when she started pulling out story books that we could use for specific comprehension activities I paid close attention.

Then she took out one of the ugliest books I have ever seen. It had an interesting illustration in the middle of a couple of boys and a grown man on the back of a woman (obviously the males on the back of the mother), but the when coupled with the awful looking border, I was turned off on the book right away. Yea, I was judging the book by the cover – it was so ugly, I had no choice. I wouldn’t have even read it on my own, but this teacher was bound and determined to read it to all of us.

She loved this book for a lot of reasons. She loved all of the lesson ideas a teacher could get out of it. She loved how it could be used for a grade 4 and 5 art lesson (famous paintings morph as the story progresses). She loved how even though there are amazing changes happening within story, no explanation is given, which makes the questions the kids can ask and answer richer. She really loved the vocabulary the book offered. She really loved a lot of stuff about the book.

I hated the cover.

I even hated the back cover.

Then she read the book. She was almost giddy that she had the opportunity to share this ugly looking book. I was not impressed.

Then she read the book.

Piggybook turned out to be one of the most stunning and troubling kids books I have ever had the fortune of reading. Basically the book is about a husband and two young boys that treat their wife/mother like the hired help. Like hired help that can’t ever quit…but then she quits. Left for themselves, the other three slowly morph into the pigs that they are. The house changes, the language in the narration changes. That’s the clever stuff. Anthony Browne does a really nice job of writing and illustrating these changes.

The troubling part is in how none of this really seems to be played for laughs. There are four panel scenes early on showing the mother at work – never with her family – always at work. The boys are in full colour, but the mother is always in this sepia yellow – and alone. And you never really see the features on her face. She is a non-entity – she is unimportant in her own life. She has no ears or mouth and her eyes are only slits. This is a woman beaten down. Then she leaves. The guys fall apart. She comes back – they are pigs and with her rights asserted she is the beautiful young mother she always was supposed to be.

This is a book rich with possibilities. I imagine that it might spark some hard conversations about inequalities and divorce. Some of the teachers made jokes about their husbands being like the man but that sort of thing should not be acceptable when using this book.

I don’t have a copy of Piggybook in front of me, so I may have gotten a couple of details wrong. Also, I always review brand new books on this blog, but this one came out in 1990, so you may have a copy in your school or library already, but if not, Random House has it for sale HERE.


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Friday, October 24, 2008

A Remembrance Day Flower Story Not About Poppies: A Bloom of Friendship Review

Review by Scott Tingley


I’ll come back to that.

Tomorrow night my wife and I plan on attending the new Canadian movie, Passchendaele. If you are Canadian and you aren’t sure if the movie is going to be set in World War I or WWII, the rule of thumb is that if you have heard the name of the battle, and that battle isn’t Dieppe, then it was in WWI.

That really annoys me. I may not have encyclopedic knowledge of Canada’s military heritage, but the majority of us Canadians have little or no understanding of what our countrymen (and women) have endured on the world’s battlefields and at home. We were feared. We were loved. In the past few years (10?) there has been a push to get people out to Remembrance Day celebrations, but I still don’t find that knowledge of specific events has gone up.

A Bloom of Friendship: The Story of the Canadian Tulip Festival by Anne Renaud and Ashley Spires does a nice job of filling a little part of this void for teachers and the young readers they...teach.

Basically, Bloom tells this story that I got from Wikipedia: In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for Canadians having sheltered Princess Juliana and her daughters for the preceding three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, in the Second World War.

The most noteworthy event during their time in Canada was the birth in 1943 of Princess Margriet to Princess Juliana at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The maternity ward was declared to be officially a temporary part of the Netherlands, so that the birth could formally be claimed to have occurred on Dutch territory. In 1946, Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs requesting that a display be created for the hospital, and promised to send 10,000 more bulbs each year.

In telling this story the book tells a big part of the story of WWII and Canada’s part in it.

When I fist saw the cover of Bloom, I was hoping it would be a storybook that I could use with early elementary kids, but instead I got so much more. Primary Documents! I didn’t know what a primary document was until University, but this book is full of them. Newspaper clippings and photos are interspersed with chunks of text and “Instant History Facts” to tell the story of the Dutch royal family, Canada’s battle experience in Holland and the whole war in general.

I am very impressed with this book, and I am going to ask my principal to order multiple copies for next year’s Rembrance Day studies (and if I get them this year we will use it whenever).

I will be using the book with my grade 3 class over the next few weeks and I would highly recommend it for upper elementary and middle school students. Even though the cover and format will likely come across as too kid-ish for the middle schoolers it can still be a good teacher resource. As much as I like the internal pictures by Spires, I wish a different cover image was used. I wonder if older elementary and early middle school students will be receptive to a book that, at first glance, looks like a primary storybook.

ISBN: 978-1-897073-35-3, Non-fiction, Ages: 9 – 12, paperback and hardcover, 24 pages, Reading level: 7.4 (AR)


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Friday, October 3, 2008

A Review of Wilbur and the Moose, and an Accidental Review of Bubba the Cowboy Prince - Or - Get Ready for All Kinds of Cowboy Awesomeness!

Review by Scott Tingley

I teach third grade. I have a new batch of students this year and I have to decide something. When will I treat them to the greatest story reading of all time?

I think most teachers have something they secretly think they are amazing at. Maybe one thinks that no one teaches sentence structure like them, or that they teach Trigonometric Functions like a rock star. I’ve got a couple of things I do pretty well (keeping my desk clean is one of them….lying on the internet, apparently, is another), and reading Bubba the Cowboy Prince is another. I put on my black cowboy hat, my dark green bandana and my silver bolo tie; then I pull out the awful cowboy accent (including a truly horrendous John Wayne impression I use for the Fairy God Cow) – it’s awesome.

But, this is not a review for Bubba the Cowboy Prince…well I guess it sort of is, isn’t it? Bubba the Cowboy Prince, by Helen Ketteman and James Warhola is an amazing book to read out loud, with crazy cowboy slang and plenty of silly details in the art to keep the kids giggling every time you or they read it.

The dilemma I am facing is that I have all the gear: hat, tie, bandana, Roy Rogers six-shooters even…but only one cowboy themed book to read. I’ve tried. There have been some very valiant efforts by some very big names in the children’s book universe, but none have met my exacting standards…basically, if a John Wayne or Walter Brennan impression doesn’t fit in while reading it, then no go.

The question is, will the newest printing of the 1989 book, The Ballad of Wilbur and the Moose by John Stadler make it or not?

Well, does the song Big Bad John mean anything to you? If not, listen here and come back. You’re reading this on a screen, It’s not going anywhere.

Okay, so basically if you add a chorus of “Big Blue Moose” to every page you have a cowboy kid’s book at least on par with Bubba. I think the reading calls for something a little subtler than John Wayne; more Tennessee Ernie Ford – just channel your inner cowboy-poet and you will be fine.

The Ballad of Wilbur and the Moose is a cowboy story-song about Wilbur Little and his Big Blue Moose. They have cowboy adventures involving boxing matches, trains, deserts, a bad guy with one of those little mustaches perfect for twirling, a crooked card game and a gang of pig-rustlers. Oh, and lots of lime juice.

Final words? I can’t wait to read this to my students in a week or so….now if I can only train them to do the chorus…”Big Moose, Big Moose, BIG BLUE MOOSE…Big Moose.”

It will be like Rio Bravo meets The Good The Bad and The Ugly meets, I don’t know, Yo! Gabba Gabba – and that adds up to all kinds of cowboy awesomeness.

· $14.99 us
· ISBN: 978-0-375-84174-3 (0-375-84174-1)

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Two Chinese New Year Picture Books: A Short Review

Review by Scott Tingley - August 09, 2008

I have no idea why, but my-oh-my does my not-yet-four-year-old girl like reading story books about Chinese New Years. It is bed time for her; I just read Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin, My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katzby twice each, and she is in her room right now reading the two of them again. She loves books, but there is something that is drawing her to these books lately.

The sense of family is strong throughout both of these beautifully illustrated and lavishly colored picture books, which seems to appeal to my daughter. Both are jammed packed with illustrations, with Bringing in getting the edge. Both are informative, with My First getting the edge. Also, and just as importantly, they are both fairly quick reads (something that is very important for evening readings).

These are both terrific and informative picture books, and I don’t really think you could go wrong choosing one over the other. They would be perfect for introducing Chinese New Years to an elementary class, and they would be nice additions to any home’s library.


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Friday, July 25, 2008

Michael Recycle: A Review - or - We Rock and That Other Grade 3 Doesn’t Rock Quite As Much - or - They Won’t Take the Cans Here If We Crush Them First

Article by Scott Tingley - July 25, 2008

This year my grade three class turned about a fifth of our classroom into a class-garden. We had tomatoes and green and jalapeno peppers, basil and cilantro, cosmos and five-foot + sunflowers, very tiny carrots and corn from Orville Redenbacher corn kernels (which made tiny, but real ears of corn). We didn’t start until after the Christmas break, and curriculum responsibilities and an unusual number of snowstorms meant that we were not able to transplant the small plants in a timely manner, but we ended up with a pretty impressive spread.

The grade one teacher at my school from this past year is transferring to a grade three class at another school. We were talking back and forth about 3rd grade stuff and the idea of having competing class gardens came up. The idea, I think, will be to grow enough peppers, tomatoes, and maybe even onions/garlic to make a pot of class grown – homemade spaghetti sauce.

We are going to win, by the way.

This teacher was in charge of our school’s recycling program and that job is passing to me this coming year, so I’m thinking of including a mulch challenge to our competition. We’ll make our own fertilizer and grow some awesome plants. Worms and rotting produce = a well rounded education. We are going to wipe the floor, in a very friendly way, with that other class.

I mention all this for a couple reasons. Firstly: Any longtime readers will know that it takes me a log of meandering to actually get to a review. I sort of take my time portaging my way around my stream of thought before finishing off with something resembling a review. Secondly: Michael Recycle, by Ellie Bethel and Alexandra Colombo inspired the concept of our little two-school competition….that we are going to win.

Michael Recycle is set in a grimy town that has been overtaken by trash - that is, until a green-caped crusader, Michael Recycle, arrives, declaring "You must stop this now! You've got to act soon. The towers of trash reach up to the moon!" Inspired by the "super-green hero," town members react by creating a "Be Greener Campaign," which includes recycling, growing their own vegetables and collecting rain for reuse. (From

The title character doesn’t really do a whole lot in the story, which is actually kind of nice, and because of this it gets a higher recommendation than it would if the hero fixed all the problems, or if the hero “held the hands” of the townsfolk while they made the changes. Michael provides the inspiration by telling the town that they need to change, and the town does the rest. This is what is happening now. We are being told to change by reliable sources and then it is up to us to listen and change.

The common sense lesson that I take away is that we can’t expect anyone to be the hero besides us. We can make a difference. I like it.

Michael Recycle was actually out in time for this past Earth Day, but I never got around to it until now….I mean I left it until now so that you interested teachers could pick up this book over the summer and make a plan to implement the concepts and ideas into your own class and/or school. Recycle cans and paper? Of course. Reuse old junk? What teacher/school doesn’t find uses for everything until it falls apart? But we can maybe do more. Grow food? Great idea, especially if you have windows in the right spot, or the right climate for a school garden. Save rainwater to water plants? What a great idea! It wouldn’t take much, and snow, for us, would be even easier to collect. A general change in attitudes? It’s worth a try.

I thought it was clever of the book to include GREEN ideas after the conclusion of the story. Some are pretty obvious, but there are some that are pretty obvious and often ignored: like turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth, or turning off the computer when you are not using it (are the computers shut off in your school when everyone goes home?).

I like this book, and it is going to be one of the first ones I read to my class this September. Collecting rain water at school. Brilliant!

IDW Publishing

· ISBN-10: 1845392817

· ISBN-13: 978-1845392819

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Nit-Pickin’ -or- My Wife Is Not Allowed to Read This Book.

Article by Scott Tingley - May 10, 2008

My wife is not allowed to read this book.

When he gets married, the responsible, yet tricky husband will grab up all the jobs that need doing – but that he doesn’t really mind doing. The big chores I snapped up were: dishes, laundry and cooking; leaving my wife the various floor jobs and a few other things that I am horrible at. It has worked out for us pretty well over the years. Unintentionally this time, I did the same thing when our kids were born. I am now the main ‘accident’ and throw-up cleaner. But my wife is in charge of all hair related duties.

My wife is not allowed to look at this book.


Well, maybe not NEVER ever, but certainly not until after.

After what? After she has to pick and wash and pick and wash all the nits out of our little girl’s hair. See, change its colour from red to blonde and the girl in Nancy Van Laan and George Booth’s, Nit-Pickin’ looks pretty much the same as my own daughter. Curlier than curly hair with easy to tangle ringlets. This would be like a horror book for my wife. She truly dreads that first batch of lice that our kids will inevitably get at some point in their school careers.

I am bringing this book to work and I will bring it home after.

I had a lot of fun reading Nit out loud to my students. The text is written as a poem or a song and its beat made for a good reading experience. The art is kinetic and funny, but I almost missed the best part. All along the top border we see what is happening at nit-level as they are picked out, smeared out, and washed out. This leads to a funny and slightly…troubling final page.

Teachers and parents, you will want to have this one on hand during the inevitable school nit season. It may actually take away some of the fear of lice kids and parents/teachers have.

Available July 1, 2008

By Nancy Van Laan
Illustrated by George Booth
This Edition: Hardcover
Publication Date: July 1, 2008
ISBN-10: 0-689-83898-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-689-83898-9
Ages: 4 - 8
Grades: P - 3

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Clouds Above: A Comic Review....Or Not

Article by Scott Tingley - March 24, 2008

This is not a comic. Comics don’t belong on this site, so that must mean that this book, The Clouds Above is not a comic book. Comic books belong on my other site…This is not a comic book. It has one illustration per page, meaning there are no panels, meaning this is not a comic.

So there.

…..Except, that in the Clouds Above, by Jordan Crane, the words that tell the story are encased by white bubbles that point at the speakers….Wait a minute! Those are word balloons! This is a comic book. There is no text along the bottom or top of the beautifully, Maurice Sendak-like illustrations, only word balloons. Tricked!! This is a comic.


Blast it!

Bear with me reader(s ??? is there anyone out there?), I’ve had this wonderful little hardcover on my shelf for well over a year, and every month or so I flip through it or maybe read it again, all the while wondering if I am ever going to find a hook that would allow me to write this piece. I knew when I started this kid’s book review site that I was one step closer to being able to do something with this book.

Clouds is an edgy little (its dimensions, not its page count. It is actually 208 pages long) book featuring Simon and his boy-sized pet cat, Jack. Think: Calvin and Hobbes meets Where the Wild Things Are.

On the way to school, Simon and his cat Jack take shortcuts that lead them through the kind of fantastic world that lurks just around the corner from reality and that only children believe exists. From

There is a fairly evil teacher, an odd bunch of classmates, a magic staircase, evil storm clouds, and a scene right out of The Birds. This book is kind of weird and kid-friendly, and dark. Kids like a bit of darkness in their literature. Everyone knows the thing about all of the big Disney movies featuring the loss of a main character’s parent, but even writers like Robert Munsch have a bit of an edge to them, if you look for it (Come on! Dad almost freezes to death in 50 Below Zero, and don’t even get me started on A Promise is a Promise.)

This is a surreal book with images and conversations that will intrigue and engage readers young and old; reluctant or eager. How can you pass up a kid’s book that contains the lines: “Do we still exist?” “I’m starting to wonder.” I want that on a t-shirt!

I just bought a copy for my grade three class, and I will pass on what the reaction to it is.

It has been available in hard cover for a while ($18.95), and it is available now in soft cover ($16.99).

Oh, and it’s a comic.

Author: Jordan Crane, Pages: 208 Dimensions: 6.25" x 6.75" Colors: full-color Publisher Fantagraphics ISBN-10: 1-56097-627-6

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Saturday, March 15, 2008


Article by Scott Tingley - March 15, 2008

“Jack likes the Ducks.”

“Jack likes the Ducks,” she says. That is the sole contribution by the other senior staff member of this blog. I’m not sure if the Mom is pulling her weight on this one, but she speaks the truth.

My son is 14 moths old. He has been walking since 9 ½ months, running since 10 ½ months and climbing EVERYTHING since 12 months. I went to the bedroom for 15 seconds last Saturday and I come back to find him standing in the middle of the kitchen table. Not a chair in sight! I have no idea how he does it. My older daughter didn’t even start to walk until about 14 months, but she was chattering away at 9 months. They are sort of opposites that way. My boy, Jack is really picking up steam with the talking though. In just the last couple of weeks he has begun to say the usual beginner stuff, but his favorite word is DUCK. Most things are “duck”. His toy motor bike is “beek”. Trucks (his favourite thing – how do boys know this? I couldn’t care less about trucks. He has lots around, but where does the obsession come from) are “ucks”. But everything else is a duck. Actual ducks, however, are “DUCK!!!”

With that in mind, when a book comes along called, What’s Up, Duck? I have to show it to the junior member of the staff to see if it passes muster.

He said, “DUCK!”


Really though, Tad Hills’ follow-up to his bestselling Duck and Goose and Duck, Duck, Goose (neither of which I have read though) is brilliant. The previous two are storybooks, while this newest is a board book for very young children, which I think is a very good move for publishers. I know my daughter loved the David Shannon David board books, which paved the way for her to fall in love with the regular series. Hills’ art style is perfect for young readers. The vibrant colors and adorable birds should make this a favorite for anyone that comes across it.

What’s up Duck? is a book of opposites (with a near-far page that should make fellow Grover fans smile) and while I know there are plenty of those around, this one set itself apart by sheer adorableness. Duck reminds me a bit of the graphic novel series, Owly by Andy Runton. Hills, like Runton, has a strong ability to convey the emotion of his characters through a few simple lines. It is a skill not every illustrator has, but it seems so simple to Hills and Runton, which is important since there is no dialogue in Owly and no words to help with emotions in Duck.

I see from Hills’ page at Random that he has another board book coming out in August. I say give this newest one a try if you have appropriate aged kids in your life, and you may just find that you want to pre-order the next one.

Written/ Illustrated by Tad Hills; Board book, 22 pages; Price: $6.99; ISBN: 978-0-375-84738-7 (0-375-84738-3)

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Girl In the Castle Inside the Museum

Article by Scott Tingley - March 02, 2008

The Girl In the Castle Inside the Museum is one of the most beautifully illustrated children’s books I have seen in an awfully long time.

I usually don’t cut to the chase like this, but sometimes I don’t need to get cute with a book. In this instance I will put the goofiness aside and say that in a million years I would not be able to tell you how artist Nicoletta Ceccoli created these amazing pictures. They look like photographs of porcelain dolls (really pretty ones, not the really creepy ones) specially manufactured just for this one book. I could also say that Ceccoli found a portal to another world inhabited by beautiful, living porcelain dolls, but that would be too comic-booky for my kid’s book blog and it would let in too much goofiness, and I said there would be no goofiness. Ceccoli has illustrated a magnificent world with a magical castle filled with living toys and one lonely girl. Magnificent.

So I like the pictures. So what? Any elementary teacher that has been around for a while knows that you can get really well written books with sub-par pictures and beautifully illustrated books written with grinding dullness. No fancy pictures can make up for a boring story. So, has The Girl In the Castle Inside the Museum writer Kate Bernheimer created a tale worthy of its pictures or not? Sort of, yes. It is hard to compete with the pictures, but I like the story a lot, and so does my little girl. It is nearly as haunting as its pictures. It is an imaginative new fairy tale that uses a couple of clever tricks to engage its young readers (for instance, here is the picture my three year old daughter drew of herself to put in the frame in the book. It was a nice touch that she enjoyed). The whole thing is a little disturbing in an Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz sort of way. I think when I share this with my grade three class that will actually be one of the main draws. Kids like a bit of edge, a bit of darkness every now and then in their literature and movies. It helps them make sense of the world around them and they will be able to relate to the loneliness of the girl.

Wild, creepy, good stuff. It looks like a book only girls would like, and they may be the target audience, but this thing is so odd that I think boys would be drawn in as well. A sure hit with girls, and maybe a bit more of a hard-sell with the guys.

· Price: $19.99

· ISBN: 978-0-375-93606-7 (0-375-93606-8)

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Thursday, February 14, 2008


Article by Scott Tingley and Mariah, February 14, 2008

I really, REALLY need to learn this lesson. I’ve already used this hook in an earlier review, BUT I CAN”T SEEM TO BE ABLE TO LEARN THIS VERY SIMPLE LESSON: Do NOT introduce brand new books to a three year old right before bed time! I know what will happen, because it happens every time. I will end up reading the thing three or four times before my daughter will go to bed.

See, this is a pretty simple thing to learn. So, instead of learning it, tonight I compounded it. I am pretty well educated and although I have a terrible grasp of English grammar I think that I am a reasonably intelligent person (smarter than a few, dumber than many), so what did I do this evening? I didn’t introduce a new book, that’s for sure. No, I didn’t introduce A new book. I introduced TWO new books to my book-loving daughter right before bed time!

Three readings each, plus two bible stories and a couple already on the regular rotation and I get out of there way too late. It’s my own fault.

I Don’t Want to Go by Addie Meyer Sanders and Andrew Rowland, and Oliver Has Something to Say by Pamela Edwards and Louis Pilon (both from Lobster Press) have become immediate hits in my house. I need to mention, we don’t reread books unless they are good (in her opinion and mine, but mostly hers). We don’t even make it through books she doesn’t like….those don’t tend to get reviewed here (unless they are just over her head, of course).

Oliver Has Something to Say: Meet Oliver. He loves trains and fears dogs. Or does he? How do we know, when he never talks? At four years old, Oliver is a big boy, ready to start prekindergarten, but each time he opens his mouth to speak, his chatty parents and bossy sister answer for him. On a walk, in the bathtub, even at his own birthday party, he can't get a word in! What does Oliver really want to say? He may surprise you! (from

I Don’t Want to Go: It's time to go? OH NO! Joey is visiting his grandparents on his own for the very first time. Nervous about being far from home, sleeping in a strange bedroom, eating new foods, and leaving his favourite toys behind, Joey is absolutely positive this will be the worst trip ever. Little does Joey know what fun Grandma and Grandpa have in store for him if he can find the courage to try something new.

Gathering his courage, Joey takes a train ride, visits dinosaurs at the museum, goes fishing, attends a party where he meets new friends, camps out in the backyard, discovers a secret recipe for spaghetti sauce, and learns just how exciting new experiences can be. (from

Both of these books have important messages that are presented in ways that young will understand and embrace.

Oliver Has Something to Say
Product Code:
Author: Pamela Edwards
Illustrator: Louis Pilon
Binding: Hardcover with dust jacket
Page Count: 24
Age Range: 3+
Pub Date: March 2007
Also available in French: Les mots d'Oscar (see Books in French for details)
List Price: $18.95 CDN, $16.95 US

I Don’t Want to Go
Product Code:
Author: Addie Meyer Sanders
Illustrator: Andrew Rowland
Binding: Hardcover with dust jacket
Page Count: 24
Age Range: 3+
Pub Date: April 2008
Note: Also available without the tear-out recipe card, ISBN 978-1-897073-75-9.
Also available in French: Je ne veux pas y aller (see Books in French for details)
List Price: $18.95 CDN, $16.95 US

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I am a Ballerina: an interview/review by 3 year old Mariah

Article by Scott Tingley and Mariah, February 14, 2008

I am a Ballerina - The endearing story of Molly's dream to fly through the air like a real dancer, from her first shaky lessons to the dazzling Christmas recital. (from

Presenting, for the first time ever, an interview with the three year old female member of the CitC – Kid’s Book Corner staff, Mariah. Today I will be interviewing her about the book I am a Ballerina.

Comics in the Classroom –Kid’s Book Corner: What’s the book about?

Mariah: The ballerina. She is dancing and twirling and she falls. She’s almost a ballerina.

CitC-KBC: What do you like about the book?

Mariah: I like it, it’s good. I like the almost part.

CitC-KBC: What do you think of the pictures?

Mariah: They are beautiful.

CitC-KBC: What is your favorite part?

Mariah: The almost page [The oft-mentioned page where the girl is fist pretending to be a ballerina in front of a mirrior].

CitC-KBC: What do you think about the ballerinas?

Mariah: I like the dancing on the stage.

CitC-KBC: Would you like to be a ballerina?

Mariah: I would!

And then she danced.

She is still dancing as I write this…and she is pulling me away to dance. Really.

Having to read the book three times in a row and then dancing for 30 minutes. Sounds like the perfect parent/daughter experience to me.

Product Code: 978-1-897073-20-9
Author: Valerie Coulman
Illustrator: Sandra Lamb
Binding: Trade paperback
Page Count: 32
Age Range: 3+
Pub Date: Fall 2005 (softcover edition)
List Price: $10.95 CDN, $6.95 US


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Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: a review of a Young Adult novel

Article by Scott Tingley, February 03, 2008

This book has one of the most racist jokes I’ve ever read in my entire life. It is not meant to be funny, but the internal monologue that comes next is hilarious – buffalo, ha!

What an awful way to start a review.

I had a whole paragraph about my time on a far north reserve (technically an off-reserve, but I don’t think anybody has ever cared when I try to explain the difference). It was a pretty good paragraph too. But, I don’t think I am a strong enough writer to walk the line between sharing powerful experiences I had as a young teacher and sounding like one of the two types of teachers mentioned at the top of page 30 in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (although I would like to add to the list of reserve teachers: “brand new teachers that have no idea what they are getting into but figure it has to be better than supply teaching”, which it was for me, and “teachers running away from their problems in the real world”. There were a few “mobster informants” in the District that I taught in. Sorry, to fully get that you will have to read the book. You may want to skip to the end of this review to see if I think it’s any good though).

Okay, I will share this – only to drive home my point, not to make me seem like a guy that “understands what it is like to be an Indian on a reserve”. No, I am a very white guy from a small town that had one family that wasn’t also white and I have never known anything like real hunger or poverty. But this is one thing I have seen that ties in well with Sherman Alexie’s first Young Adult novel. I have seen some things. Arnold (also called Junior), the main character and narrator of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian endures some incredible hardships and talks about things that may make the reader uncomfortable, and the reader may think that things are being exaggerated for effect. Upon my return from my time teaching away I would talk to family members and other teachers about my experiences in Northern Saskatchewan and they would look at me and listen intently, because they were interesting (and at times shocking) stories. But, they always had that tilt of the head that tells you, the teller of the tale, that they don’t really believe a thing you are saying. They don’t believe that a place in Canada exists where a pick-up truck filled with grown men would actually slow down just so they could yell at an eight year old boy about what a whore his mother was – knowledge they gained first hand.

Other stories are worse and I’m not sharing them at this time.

Alexie has written a terrific novel, one in which it at times it feels like the main character is sitting with you telling you all of his secrets. I mean that it is like a 15 year old is telling you ALL of his life story, which includes pain, humor, swearing and masturbation. Yeah that last one may make you think twice about including it on your high school class’ summer reading list, but what 15 year old doesn’t have lust and hormones leading him around? This is an honest book. It is an important book. If you don’t know about the world Arnold lives in then you should read it and recommend it to young adults that may need a similar awakening. If you and those around you know what it is like to lead the life the people living in Arnold’s community lead, then it might just make you feel a little more understood and connected, and maybe those around you could use a little of that feeling. I may personally wish those few masturbation parts were left out, but I don’t think it would keep me from letting my own kids read it if they were in high school. And I think this is tame compared to what most are being exposed to anyway, but I thought you could use fair warning.

In some ways, Part-Time Indian reminds me of Essex County: Tales From The Farm. For instance: being a different kid in a small town apparently means you get called homophobic names a lot.

I must mention that this book is heavily illustrated by Ellen Forney. Apparently Alexie and Forney worked quite closely on these illustrations and cartoons, which are meant to be those of the main character who is an aspiring cartoonist. They are used to show what Arnold is thinking in the situation presented in the text. They really add a lot to the book.

In summary: Great book. Read it. If some of the content I have pointed out makes you hesitate recommending it to a teen, read it yourself. I'm glad I did.

Young Adult Fiction

256 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4


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Monday, January 28, 2008

Hermie and Friends: Buzby and the Grumble Bees-A Review....or.... The thing that kept my daughter from going to bed tonight

Article by Scott Tingley, January 28, 2008

It has been a common theme on this blog for me to use some cute little story involving my three year old daughter. It is a hook that comes in handy for these kinds of reviews and I think it ads a nice touch. That was then. Now all that I can think about is the hour I just spent sitting on my daughter’s bedroom floor trying to convince her that she, in fact, did not need to “read” me the book again after I had just read it three times; and NO, she did not have to call her Grammy to thank her for the book again [Note to self: all new books are to be given in the morning so that the girl has time to get used to it. No new books at supper time!]

In summary, I would like to thank Superstar Christian grown-up book writer Max Lucado for keeping me from getting to my marking and planning. Thanks a lot for a series of books that keeps my daughter interested and excited about reading. Thanks a lot!

Review redo:

Remember those episodes of The Cosby Show where the whole family goes into “Lesson Teaching Mode”? You remember the ones – when someone needs to be reminded about what kind of person they really are so the rest of the family play-acts to draw attention to a certain quality a family member is forgetting they have? Great stuff.

Now picture that instead of comic genius Bill Cosby and an ensemble cast of talented actors you have the talents of comic geniuses Tim Conway and Don Knotts (together again!) providing the voices for a couple of odd looking caterpillars (now picture that you can’t actually hear them because this is a book. Remember? They do the voices for the videos, but I’ll get to that). In my daughter’s favorite new obsession – I mean book - the two friends help Buzby Bee teach his niece and nephew about manners.

Hermie and Friends: Buzby and the Grumble Bees is a lot like all of the other Hermie books and videos I have come across in the last couple of years. It has a very clear lesson that gets taught in a not very subtle way. The first time I saw one of the books I thought that there was no way it was going to be any good – just a money grab by a company that thinks they know what parents want their kids to read. Then I watched one of the videos and realized to my joy that one of my favorite comedy teams was providing the voices. That allowed me to have an open mind and I realized that I was looking at the series all wrong. I was not doing what I am able to do with most books. I was not able to keep in mind that these books and videos are not written for me. They are written for 2 year olds up to maybe 4-5 year olds [note that the videos are fun for older kids as well and the Christmas Fruitcake one has a great Deputy/Landlord joke). My daughter does not need subtlety in her morality plays. The value needs to be presented and the misbehavers need to learn the lesson. The behaving lesson of this book is the only reason that I was able to convince her to go to bed.

This is a Christian book, but I don’t think it is only for devout, or even practicing church goers. The uncle bee prays for help on one page. It is right there but to me it does not feel in-you-face. If you don’t have a problem with someone praying then you should be alright with it.

The 3D art is not a style I tend to enjoy, but kids love it, so what do I know?

Would I be a bad father if I hid this book tomorrow? Never mind. I know.

By the way, this board book comes with “an interactive CD-ROM with read-along story, song,coloring pages, computer game, wallpaper, and screensaver for use onWindows® PCs. The read-along story is also playable on a CD player.” (from I haven’t checked it out yet, but it sounds like something my kids will really enjoy.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ma! There's Nothing To Do: a Review.....or...."Mommy. What's That?"

Article by Scott Tingley, January 20, 2008

Quote #1
My ambition is to interview Neil Armstrong without mentioning the moon landing and observe his reaction. - Ardal O’Hanlon

Quote #2
Every mother would love to get this book at her baby shower. – Comics in the Classroom Kid’s Book Blog contributor Nancy T.

Quote #3:
I wouldn’t read it to a three year old unless you want some questions – like about the chord. – Comics in the Classroom Kid’s Book Blog contributor Nancy T.


Quote #1: You will either get it or you won’t (and I really don't mean for it to sound like an in-joke, because it isn't really)

Quote #2: I might as well stop there, because it can’t get any better than that.

Quote #3: Yikes!

Ma! there’s nothing to do here!” complains the precocious protagonist of this rhyming tale set entirely in utero. It’s not exactly a scintillating experience spending nine months in your mother’s womb. You’re just stuck there at the end of that dumb bungee cord (a.k.a. the umbilical cord), with nothing whatsoever to do but slosh around. But, oh, the endless joys you have to look forward to as you listen to the tick-tock of ma’s happy heart clock and await that happy day when you finally come out to play. (from

Yes, this is a book about a yet to be born baby stuck hanging a round a boring womb. It is not hard to understand the sentiments of my wife in that this is a book any mother would love to have right before the little bundle of joy is born. What expectant parents wouldn’t chuckle at the sight of a baby canoeing around the uterus, or attempting to play tag alone in such a confined space?

But the big question is: Will kids like it?

Well, I know that my daughter liked it. She is three and even though she watched her mother’s belly get bigger and bigger for nine months; and even though she can tell you that her baby brother came out of that tummy, she doesn’t get it. Of course she doesn’t. She’s three! But she knows what she likes, and she thought Ma! There’s Nothing To Do Here! was hilarious. BUT, please refer back to quote #3.

Also, this would be a fine book read to grades five or six, whichever grade is about to begin sex-ed (I know! Can you believe it? And not a moment too soon for some). Sort of deals with the whole baby issue in a silly, fun and real way.

Veteran children’s writer Barbra Park and illustrator Viviana Garofoli have done a very nice job on a special book that will likely be around for a long time and be given to new mothers as a companion to Munsch’s Love You Forever.

This will be available on January 22, 2008 - get it for the expectant moms and the confused preschoolers in your life.

Written by Barbara Park
Illustrated by Viviana Garofoli

  • 40 pages
  • On Sale: January 22, 2008
  • Price: $18.99 (hardcover)
  • ISBN: 978-0-375-93852-8 (0-375-93852-4)


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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Princess Baby: 30 Reads and Counting

Article by Scott Tingley, January 09, 2008

My daughter is clumsy. I was going to name the article that, but my wife wouldn’t let me. However, the fact remains that my daughter is clumsy – she is a lot like her dear old dad that way. Fortunately I got the new children’s book Princess Baby on Friday, because on Sunday my daughter fell down pretty hard. The only thing that would get her to stop crying was to show her the book for the first time and twenty minutes and five readings later she had stopped crying, but I was not allowed up. We had to read it again.

“Poor baby, no one calls her by her real name! “I am not a buttercup, or a giggly goose. I am not a cupcake. Please don’t call me Little Lamb, and never ever Gum Drop,” she insists. With a curtsy and a twirl, again and again our protagonist makes it abundantly clear who she is.” (from

My wife and I have read this book at least thirty times this week so far (It’s only Wednesday!). I was thinking of calling this review “Don’t Buy This Book If You Know What’s Good For You” but I thought that might be misleading to you an therefore a little annoying to author / writer Karen Katz. My three year old daughter loves this book so much – we actually have to keep it out of sight so we can get something done around the house without her demanding to have it read once again. If you as a parent have to read a book over and over again, at least you hope that it is a well crafted and clever book. As I said in an earlier review on this blog, “there are only so many times a man can read Care Bears What Makes You Happy? before contemplating the positive merits of book burning.”

Princess Baby is one of those well crafted ones that you won’t mind reading over and over and over and over. Or, at least won’t mind so much.

The book’s topic is relevant to little girls, the art is appealing and the pacing is perfect. I highly recommend this book. And Mariah gives this one 544 out of 544 “read it again”s

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