999 Frogs (Two Books by Ken Kimura)

My son and I enjoyed 999 Tadpoles by Ken Kimura dn Yasunari Murakami (May 2011) when we read it years ago, so I was excited to see the two sequels to it in our local library.


999 Frogs Wake Up (North South, 2013) is a fitting read for the beginning of spring. As the frogs emerge from the mud after a long winter, Mother Frog is disturbed when she only counts 998 of her babies. Where is the last one? When Big Brother is found to still be sleeping, the frogs decide to find out who else may be sleeping in the early Spring. I really enjoyed this book because I see the educational value of learning about animals that sleep over a long winter. As an adult, I enjoyed the anticipation, knowing that the silly young frogs would meet one of their own predators in their search to wake the other animals! My daughter enjoyed the story too.

999 Frogs and  Little Brother (North South, 2015) has a different feel to it from the others in the series, because this book starts back when the frogs are still tadpoles and it focuses on one of the frogs for a portion of the story. The youngest frog has not quite become a frog yet and must remain in the pond by himself, and he is delighted when a small young crayfish becomes his friend, thinking they are brothers. Thus, Big Brother (the littlest frog) makes a dear friend. When he eventually must leave the pond too, the friendship continues, because the young crayfish comes to the rescue of the frogs at a later date. I liked the emphasis on friendship. Although Big Brother truly was the youngest and smallest, he still could find a friend with whom to play. Never underestimate the power of a friend, even if you have 998 siblings! Note: I received a digital copy for review consideration.

The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall

The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014) is my new favorite “expecting a baby” book for kids. Although it is full of nonsense as a a soon-to-be-big brother is told all sorts of whoppers about where a baby comes from, it is in fact a no-nonsense book for parents interested in opening a practical dialogue with children.

I am a big fan of keeping things factual when it comes to the baby front. In this clever story about a young boy seeking the truth about his expected sibling, his grandpa, teacher, and other associates are not so frank with him, leaving him scratching his head. I love how when he finally has a conversation with his parents and gets the truth, he is satisfied that everyone is a little bit right. And I love the kicker at the very end. (I won’t spoil it for you.)Continue Reading

Kids Corner: Baby’s Books

My daughter, Strawberry, is 13 months old now, and she is entering a fun age of reading. She loves books, she loves reading, and she loves eating, ripping, and tearing apart any book-like item that comes near her! The combination means there are lots of reading times with the book just out of her reach. But mostly I’ve been looking for board books that she loves.

Her favorite thing right now is babies. Crying babies, smiling babies, far away on the other side of the room babies. She loves them! She knows she is a baby and loves herself too. It’s so much fun to enjoy this stage once again. My son liked babies, but nothing like this. At 13 months, he was obsessed with cars and trains. Strawberry, then, is total girl.Continue Reading

Classics for Young Kids

Just a few weeks before my second child, a daughter, was born, I stopped at a bookstore with my son and we bought her a book. It was Pride and Prejudice: A Babylit Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver. In just 10 pages, we visited the story of Pride and Prejudice by learning about some of the important countable nouns in it: FIVE sister, TEN thousand pounds. The pictures are modern, and for this particular “primer” the nouns highlighted are lots of fun. Will a baby “get” the plot of the classic novel? No, but it sure is fun for a mama who loves the book!

New to the classics for babies scene is the Cozy Classics series by Jack and Holman Wang (Simply Read Books, 2012). In a similar way, these books share the plot with the youngest people, but these books do with just one word on each page. It’s amazing how they manage to share so much of the story in one word per page! The accompanying pictures are photographs of needle-point felt dolls and scenes. I am not able to sew in anyway so this is very impressive to me too. I read the Pride and Prejudice and the Moby Dick Cosy Classics as digital review copies from the publisher. Does a child need to know “peg leg”? No, but the format is a fun one for the parent who loves the classics!

And then there is a more complete picture book version. I discovered Moby Dick: Chasing the Great White Whale by Eric A. Kimmel and Andrew Glass (Feiwel and Friends, 2012) as a part of the Cybils 2012 fiction picture book judging process. It is a poetic sea shanty retelling of the story of Moby Dick. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I love reading the classics, so I was delighted to see a picture book about a favorite book of mine, although I must admit I was surprised to see Moby Dick, of all classic books, retold in picture book format. The book is so much fun for someone who enjoys Moby Dick. It begins with “Call me Ishmael” and it really does capture the feeling of the book in some respects: the desire to go whaling, the night in the inn with a man with a tattooed head, meeting Captain Ahab, the anticipation of the chase. The illustrations are gorgeous paintings, and one can see the brush strokes in the marvelously rich pages. I really enjoyed seeing the story come to life in the pictures. And yet, there is something odd as a whole about this as a picture book. One of the things I love about Moby Dick is the rich language; so much of my enjoyment of the book depends on the eloquent ponderings of the narrator.

As a whole, the story of Moby Dick is rather gruesome: sailors hunting down a large animal and killing it in a brutal and disgusting way. In the picture book, the language is reduced to a sea shanty rhyme, and the illustrations do the talking. It’s a nice introduction to Moby Dick’s plot but do young children really need the plot? I also took exception to the “moral” added to the end of the picture book. Herman Melville’s creation is certainly not something that ends with a trite moral: it’s far more complicated than the plot suggests, and his purposes in writing it (the “moral” if you will) is something to explore in doctoral length dissertations, not picture books. I don’t believe it was necessary to sum up the book in such a trite way: I believe it detracts from the whole.

In the end, then, I’m rather conflicted about this picture book: I love it since I love the original, but I wonder as to the necessity of it for children. Do we really want to talk about chasing and killing whales with our young ones? Why not wait until children can experience Melville himself?

Note: I received digital review copies of the Cozy Classics books for review consideration.