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On our bookshelf now

My son is a bit of a book addict (and I fully admit to feeding his addiction), so I wanted to review some of our favorite books these days. He likes to read the same book over and over and over again (well, actually I read the same books to him over and over and over again), and these are the books he’s been drawn to lately.

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and David Shannon

The story: A young boy named Jeremy Jacob is approached by a group of pirates while at the beach with his parents. After admiring the moat he’s dug around his sand castle, the pirates decide to take him on-board as their “digger” to help them bury their treasure. At first, Jeremy enjoys the freedom of being a pirate — no one to tell him to brush his teeth or eat his spinach, etc. — but when night falls and a storm arrives and there’s no one there to comfort him or tuck him in, he decides to abandon the pirate life. The pirates end up burying their treasure in Jeremy’s backyard and deliver Jeremy home in time for his soccer practice.

My thoughts: There’s a lot to like about this book. The illustrations are colorful and engaging, and the story is captivating. Our son has a little pirate ship ride-on toy so I think he likes that the main characters are pirates. But I have problems with some of the messages in this book. For one thing, Jeremy is approached by strangers and goes away with them while his parents are apparently too preoccupied to notice. I certainly don’t want our son thinking that it’s OK to run off with people who he doesn’t know (pirates or not). Secondly, although I understand many kids don’t like to eat their vegetables, I don’t really like the way spinach and carrots are portrayed in this book as something that you have to be forced to eat, as if no one could possibly enjoy them in their own right. We never force our son to eat anything, but we offer him plenty of healthy foods (mostly meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds) and let him choose what he eats. And he often chooses things that are not considered typical “kid” foods (like broccoli, for instance). It may be outside of the norm for our society, but I don’t want a book making him feel weird for liking veggies.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Toot & Puddle: A Present for Toot by Holly Hobbie

The story: This book is about two pigs named Toot and Puddle (their relationship is unclear from the book). Toot’s birthday is fast approaching and Puddle doesn’t know what to get him, so he searches high and low for a present. Finally, he decides on a pet parrot, only to discover the night before Puddle’s birthday that Puddle doesn’t like parrots. Nevertheless, when Puddle receives the parrot, he decides to keep it.

My thoughts: This has got to be my son’s favorite book of the moment. The illustrations are cute, if not technically correct (ever heard of a little something called perspective, Holly?), and the general story line has a good message. Puddle does his best to find a present for Toot, and although Toot decries parrots for all their squawking, he graciously accepts his present. The message, I suppose, is that it’s the thought that counts. Despite all the positive things this book has going for it, I have a hard time recommending it, primarily because of the quality of the writing. The writing just doesn’t flow very well and there’s no explanation of why Toot changes his mind about parrots (or maybe he doesn’t change his mind and just accepts the parrot anyway — what kind of message is that sending?). So, while my son from all appearances would give this book five stars, I’m not quite as ecstatic about it.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Diary of a Worm by Harry Bliss and Doreen Cronin

The story: This book is about exactly what you would expect it to be from the title: a worm’s diary. It details his daily adventures as he tries to learn to walk upside down like his spider friend (he fails), scares little girls on the playground, eats his homework, makes macaroni necklaces, avoids being stomped on during a rainy day, and says “good morning” to hundreds of ants.

My thoughts: I love the idea of this book. I was first introduced to Doreen Cronin by another of her books, Click, Clack, Moo, which also has a very creative premise. Her writing is humorous and the illustrations in this book really add to the story. I think my son is a little young to get some of the humor of this book, although he at least pretends to, but he’s also a little young for the target audience of this book. But once again, I have issues with some of the messages presented by this book. For one thing, it contains many stereotypes (a strict female teacher vs. a fun male teacher, a big sister who’s obsessed with her looks, girls are scared of worms, etc.). For another, it contains some more of the typical negative messaging regarding baths, going to the dentist, etc. I realize lots of kids don’t like taking baths or going to the dentist, but I’m not really fond of reading a book to my son over and over again that reinforces these messages, particularly when they’re things he hasn’t given me any grief about (yet). No sense giving him reasons to do so. Additionally, the illustrations aren’t consistent with the writing (the worms have teeth in some of the illustrations even though the story specifically states that worms don’t have teeth).

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Boy, doing these reviews makes me realize I’m a tougher reviewer than I thought I was. I guess I’ll have to find some books I like a little better for my next review!

What books are you reading with your kids these days?

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