Joshua’s Bookshelf!: If Kids Ruled the World, by Linda Bailey

[This review is based on the ARC (Advance Reader Copy) digital edition published by Kids Can Press Ltd. in 2014.]

So what’s it about?
If Kids Ruled the World…life would be very different. Dinosaurs would roam the park, bathtubs would come complete with water slides, and you could go to a school that corresponds with your interests (fairy school, anyone?). Play would be the order of the day, all day, every day!

What did we think of the book?
This may well be the book I’ve been dreaming of for years! In my eyes, it is quite literally the perfect children’s book: colorful, realistic artwork featuring diverse children; fantastical twists on real-life experiences; and the very powerful message that active play is one of the most important aspects of childhood. Joshua really enjoyed reading it as well! He loved talking about all of the fun images he saw on the pages and exercising his imagination. I asked him, “What else could you do if kids ruled the world?”, and then I realized that this would be the perfect language arts activity for school-age kids!

Would we add it to Joshua’s bookshelf?
Without a doubt! If Kids Ruled the World sends a very powerful, positive message — one that I truly want deeply embedded in Joshua’s mind as he grows up. Not only will I keep a copy on Joshua’s bookshelf at home, but I would recommend it for preschool and early elementary school classrooms as well!

If Kids Ruled the World will be available for purchase on September 1, 2014. Click here to pre-order a copy via Barnes and Noble or IndieBound!

Joshua’s Bookshelf!: If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, by Laura Numeroff

[This review is based on the hardcover edition published by the Laura Geringer Books imprint of HarperCollins Publishers in 2008.]

So what’s it about?
“If you give a cat a cupcake, he’ll ask for some sprinkles to go with it.” So begins this silly story of cause and effect that finds the cat and his owner at the beach, in karate class, and at the zoo, just to name a few places. How does putting sprinkles on a cupcake connect with a visit to the zoo? You’ll have to read it to find out!

What did we think of the book?
I was introduced to the original book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, way back during my teaching years and fell in love. I was determined to show that book and its many later incarnations to my children when I had them and hoped they would like the stories and equally silly and beautiful illustrations as much as I did. We had a rainy day a few days ago and Joshua pulled this book off the shelf and asked to read it, and he enjoyed it so much that we had to walk to our library during a break in the rain to borrow all the others! Joshua loved pointing out all the different things that the cat wanted to do, regardless of the fact that cats can’t really do these things (it is a work of fiction, after all!). He laughed at the cat doing karate and riding the carousel, and pointed out the many things the cat picked up on the beach. After we finished reading the story, Joshua even attempted retelling it to me — that was a first!

Plus it gives us an excuse to go and make some cupcakes. Can’t complain about that 🙂

Would we add it to Joshua’s bookshelf?
If You Give a Cat a Cupcake is already on the shelf, where it will be staying until the end of time. We love this book so, so, so very much!! Now to convince The Hubby to let me order all the other If You Give… books so Joshua has the complete set…

Click here to purchase If You Give a Cat a Cupcake on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Joshua’s Bookshelf!: Nine Words Max, by Dan Bar-el

[This review is based on the ARC (Advance Reader Copy) digital edition published by the Tundra Books division of Random House of Canada Limited in 2014.]

So what’s it about?
Prince Maximilian is a very eloquent young boy; he loves to ask questions and offer long, thoughtful, rambling answers. His older brothers, Kurt, Wilt, and Tripp, are much simpler and can’t stand that Max talks so much. One day, the King and Queen go on vacation, leaving the boys in charge of the kingdom. The three older brothers order a wizard to put a spell on Max that allows him to only speak nine words at a time (hence, Nine Words Max). While the brothers enjoy Max’s inability to finish a sentence at first, it eventually becomes a problem when a foreign queen pays a visit and Max, the only brother with an understanding of how to treat the queen, cannot provide proper directions to the servants and subjects regarding how to behave. For fear of offending the queen and starting a war, no one does anything; the queen is extremely offended by their inaction and threatens to start a war. It’s up to Kurt, Wilt, and Tripp to have the spell reversed and Max returned to normal — but will they?

What did we think of the book?
The title itself, Nine Words Max, is a very clever play on words, and the story is great fun and very funny. The artwork portrayed the stereotyped princes very well: Maximilian is a short, glasses-wearing nerd while his brothers are taller, sometimes heavy-set simpletons. The foreign queen, Queen Spark, frankly looked a bit terrifying, as she probably should. As for the story, while Max’s eloquence went a bit over Joshua’s head, he enjoyed having the story read to him using different voices, and he loved counting out all of Max’s nine-word unfinished phrases. We both loved how the story ended (no spoilers!) and clapped when it was over.

Would we add it to Joshua’s bookshelf?
Sure! I don’t expect Joshua to truly comprehend the story just yet — he’s too young — but he did find a great deal of enjoyment in it. That’s enough reason for me to hold on to it!

52 in 52: Cutting Teeth, by Julia Fierro and GIVEAWAY!!!

[This review is based on an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) digital edition published by published by St. Martin’s Press in 2014, and provided by NetGalley.]

Here’s the deal:
Nicole, Josh, and their son Wyatt make up one-fifth of a Brooklyn playgroup, and Nicole has invited the rest of the group to spend Labor Day weekend at her parents’ beach house on the Long Island Sound. The other families include Rip, Grace, and their son Hank; Tiffany, Michael, and their daughter Harper; Leigh, her absent husband Brad, and their children Chase and Charlotte; and newlyweds Susanna and Allie and their twin boys Levi and Dash. As is normal when such large groups of parents and children assemble for a weekend, lots of drama ensues, secrets are revealed, and friendships are damaged forever.

My thoughts:
Cutting Teeth, for me, is one of those really juicy reads you want to throw in your beach bag. Once you get to the beach, you take it out of the bag, start reading, and only stop when you realize you’ve been so “sucked in” that you stopped paying attention to anything else and you’ve developed a particularly nasty sunburn. Set a timer so you don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen, people!

Anyway, the main plots of Cutting Teeth revolve around the four playgroup mommies and the “token” daddy, Rip. Rip wants a second child which, due to his infertility, would require his wife to be inseminated with donor sperm. Knowing that Grace doesn’t want any more children makes the whole situation rather uncomfortable, and a cringe-worthy misunderstanding with one of the other fathers just makes things worse. I truly felt for Rip and for Susanna, whose wife Allie referred to herself as a “part-time mommy”. While Susanna gave up painting to have babies, Allie continued with her art and continues to prioritize it over her twin boys. Ouch. I still have trouble understanding how two people can have a baby with the knowledge that one really isn’t interested in parenthood, but I imagine it’s much more common than it should be. Another big parenthood issue at play here is that of teaching gender roles, as Hank wants to wear a princess dress with its matching tiara and heels. Grace thinks it’s a terrible idea, while Rip doesn’t; an incident involving Hank, another child, and makeup temporarily changes Rip’s mind on the issue before another incident leads to him changing it back. Where do you stand on gender roles?

Let’s keep in mind that there are three other playgroup mommies to discuss here! Leigh brings her special-needs son, Chase, and infant daughter Charlotte to the beach house, along with their nanny, Tenzin (a Buddhist hailing from Tibet). Leigh spends the whole weekend hiding a huge secret that, if revealed, will certainly land her in jail. She also struggles with the fact that her son is different from the other boys in the playgroup, which any parent could relate to. She seems to spend the most time away from the rest of the group, using the need to breastfeed Charlotte as an excuse, but it’s clear that she feels some kind of distance or even a little embarrassment toward Chase. Tenzin is like the beacon of light in all the negativity surrounding her — always there to take care of Chase, always showing Chase nothing but love, always reminding Leigh that she is a good person. She’s the one everyone should strive to emulate, regardless of her religious beliefs.

And now we reach the two mommies I liked the least. Nicole, a published author and sometimes professor, is the walking definition of an alarmist. She comes across an apocalyptic prediction online via Webbot and proceeds to pack emergency bags and freak out about howevery tiny occurrence will lead to the end of the world. The child beside her son on the park swings gives a wet cough, and she immediately assumes that Wyatt is going to become gravely ill and probably die. She stops taking her psychiatrist-prescribed medications, replacing them with marijuana (which she smokes in secret). She’s your classic basket case, and I hated her for most of the book. She has a redeeming moment near the end of the novel, and my distaste toward her lessened a bit…but I still didn’t like her.

Tiffany was my least-favorite mommy — in fact, if I’m being blunt I hate her. “White trash”, “social climber”…these are just a few of the cliches that come to mind for Tiffany. She previously worked as a nanny for a rich woman who taught her all about living decadently, and she channels that into driving her super-bossy preschooler daughter, Harper, toward private school. She had a standing offer for help from Leigh until she gets very drunk over the weekend and creates drama with everyone in the house. While the book as a whole is fabulous and full of interesting anecdotes and family excursions, this is easily the juiciest and most fun part of the book to read, in my humble opinion. The fallout leads to Leigh withdraw her offer (and rightfully so, in my opinion). Tiffany is the center of attention and the primary source of the weekend’s fireworks; all roads, it seems, lead to Tiffany. I couldn’t stand her and I was thrilled that she got the ending I felt she deserved. I hope you’ll agree with me. Read it and let me know!

So would I recommend this book?
Definitely! I feel that Cutting Teeth is especially good as a beach read or as a title for book clubs, and particularly for book clubs consisting of moms or of people who enjoy reading about mama-drama (or both!). This was a really fun read — I hope you’ll give it a look!

Cutting Teeth will be available for purchase on May 13, 2014, BUT you can enter to WIN a copy courtesy of St. Martin’s Press!!! Use the widget below to enter!!

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Joshua’s Bookshelf!: Curious George Plants a Tree, by Monica Perez

[This review is based on the hardcover edition published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2009.]

So what’s it about?
The Man With the Yellow Hat and Curious George take a field trip to their local science museum. They check out the day’s special exhibit entitled, “How YOU Can Take Care of Our Planet”, and learn about the environment and what we can do to keep it strong and healthy. On their way out, George literally runs into Dr. Lee, the museum director, who tells them about the next day’s Green Day rally, during which participants can plant trees and recycle paper. Upon their return home, George sets about collecting lots of paper, including books from his own bookshelf that aren’t ready to be recycled; the next morning he collects more paper items en route to the rally, not realizing that these items were actually being used by other people. Everyone follows him to the rally, angry that George has stolen their things, but The Man With the Yellow Hat explains George’s good intentions and all is forgiven. Everyone plants trees and recycles together, and then they celebrate the overwhelming success of Green Day!

What did we think of the book?
I pulled this book from Joshua’s shelf in honor of Earth Day, which fell on Tuesday. He’s a huge fan of Curious George — we watch the cartoon on PBS Kids almost daily — so the characters were already familiar to him, and he knows that George is a bit of an accidental troublemaker as well. We got a good laugh out of George’s overzealous recycling efforts and clapped when the whole neighborhood came together to do good things for the Earth at the end of the story. Joshua may be too young to understand the relationship between trees and clean oxygen, but he’s definitely old enough to comprehend the concept of recycling. We don’t currently recycle paper in our house (boo on us!), but we do recycle plastic and aluminum — and Joshua LOVES to help. Right now, all of our recyclables go in one bin; however, after reading this book I may start having him sort them by material into separate bins. (Yay for developing math concepts!)

Would we add it to Joshua’s bookshelf?
Curious George Plants a Tree was already on Joshua’s shelf (I had it from an Earth Day lesson I did as a preschool teacher), and it’s staying right where it is. We love this book and will continue to read it every Earth Day! This is a great book for any young or school-age child, and there are tons of science and math activities (planting trees/flowers/herbs/whatever and sorting recyclable materials being just the tip of the iceberg) to do in conjunction with it. We love it and it’s a keeper!