Saturday, February 20, 2010

Children's Books - Part 2

Back by popular demand - it's the Slimbo's Shelf Children's Books Review. My kids are seven and five now and I feel as though I've read every single kids' book nine times over. Trust me, I'm an expert. Let's dig in:

Good - Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka, Tommy dePaolo. Jamie is the laziest man in all of Ireland - and that's saying a lot. When his wife Eileen takes off for a spell, Jamie turns his home into a complete mess, only to have a mysterious beast, the Pooka, come clean it every night. This is a fun one to read, especially if you can pull off a decent Irish brogue. Just try and tell your kids at the end that not all Irishmen are lazy drunks.

Good - Ramona the Pest, by Beverly Cleary. Ramona is wonderful at expressing the strain between childhood wonders and the reality of everyday banalities. It's also refreshing for children to be exposed to a true working-class family who don't live in that world of McMansions and mega-SUV's that seems to dominate children's media of today. The Ramona series came from the late 60's into the 70's - back when entertainment for children was a lot more comfortable with socio-economic realism.

AWFUL - Barbie & the Twelve Dancing Princesses. I'll sum this one up real quick. In a fit of extreme originality, this story presents a king whose wife has died. He has twelve daughters. Oh, and when Barbie takes this thing over, they're all anorexic. Anyway, the daughters are trying to fend off an evil lady who's trying to muscle in and become the new queen (woo - more originality!). All the while, each day some schnook cobbler comes by the castle to repair the royal ballet shoes. One of the princesses falls in love with this guy. The cobbler gets the girl. Right.

AWESOME - Pippi Longstocking - This edition is illustrated by Lauren Child of Charlie and Lola fame. These are the original stories of the mischievous legendary Swedish girl of super-human strength. Pippi is insane and dedicated to chaos. Good fun.

GOOD - The Mitten - a Ukrainian Folk Tale, by Jan Brett. Beautifully illustrated. Boy gets mitten; boy loses mitten. Half the animal kingdom tries to crawl into the mitten for warmth. Boy finds and goes home with stretched out mitten. Boy now in Gulag.

BAD - Arthur's Reading Race. So Arthur can read. Great. So what does he do with this new found skill? This pretentious egghead condescendingly challenges his little sister, DW to a reading race. Distracted by the enchanting sound of his own voice, Arthur has something bad happen to him at the end of the story. And that was fine by me.

BAD - the Little Critter series, Mercer Mayer. What the hell are these animals? Ground hogs? Ferrets? And why do they always look stoned? Do they grow their own weed or do they buy it? For some good Mercer Mayer, check out the Where Are You Frog stories?

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