Children's Book List

Reviews of Children's Literature

The Wren and the Sparrow

Written By: Patrick Lewis
Illustrated By: Yevgenia Nayberg

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The Wren and the Sparrow

Summary:
An allegorical tale about Nazi occupied Poland in which a town’s residents are forced to turn over their musical instruments. A young student rescues the hurdy-gurdy of her teacher, who has presumably befallen a terrible fate, and later, a young boy finds the instrument and intends to pass it–and the importance of remembering–on to his future grandchildren.

Rating: 4 ****

The musical instrument makes it easier for kids to understand the importance and significance of the holocaust and how the music died yet still lives on.

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The Memory of an Elephant

Written By: Sophie Strady
Illustrated By: Jean-Francois Martin

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The Memory of an Elephant An Unforgettable Journey

Summary:
Marcel, an old elephant who is writing an encyclopedia, reminisces about his memorable world travels and experiences in Paris.

Rating: 2 **

Literally like reading an encyclopedia. Each page has random snippets about a specific topic such as skyscrapers or flowers. Alternating is a semblance of a story.

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The Pilot and the Little Prince

By: Peter Sis

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The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Summary:
A tribute to the life of the creator of “The Little Prince,” tracing his early achievements as a pilot, his efforts to break aviation records, and the experiences that inspired his writing life.

Rating: 2 **

A good book for anyone interested in Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s flying career, but a little too much disjointed detail for most kids.

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Once a Shepherd

Written By: Glenda Millard
Illustrated By: Phil Lesnie

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Once A Shepherd

Summary:
A story of a shepherd who takes a young wife, goes to war, leaving a child behind, and dies.

Rating: 2 **

This really isn’t a story for young children, unless it’s meant for military families. One of the pages reads “Once he marched right into hell.” The language and the story are very bleak and depressing. Definitely not something you want to read a child before bedtime.

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Hansel and Gretel

Written By: Neil Gaiman
Illustrated By: Lorenzo Mattotti

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Hansel and Gretel

Summary: Two abandoned children come upon a gingerbread cottage inhabited by a cruel witch who wants to eat them.

Rating: 3 ***

It’s the classic story we all know and love. The most interesting aspect of this book is the history of the fairy tale itself in the back of the book. Mattotti’s illustrations are pretty difficult to see. They’re mostly really black and shadowy. Even more interesting is the text and pictures are on completely different, alternating pages.

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The Iridescence of Birds

Written By: Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrated By: Hadley Hooper

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The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse

Summary: If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France, what would your life be like? Would it be full of color and art? Full of lines and dancing figures?

Rating: 3 ***

A poetic book about Henri Matisse and what might have inspired him as a child to become a painter.

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Brother Hugo and the Bear

Written By: Katy Beebe
Illustrated By: S.D. Schindler

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Brother Hugo and the Bear

Summary: After painstakingly handcrafting a replacement copy of a library book, a medieval monk tries to protect it from a hungry bear with a taste for literature. Includes historical note on illuminated manuscripts.

Rating: 1 *

Unless you are Catholic, this book is completely inaccessible. It is chockfull of Catholic references making the book incomprehensible, especially to a child.

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Whale Trails Before and Now

Written By: Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrated By: G. Brian Karas

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Whale Trails Before and Now

Summary: A young girl helps her father, the captain of a whale boat, on a whale-watching trip and relates how her ancestors hunted whales in the same waters. Includes information on the history of whaling, whale-watching, and the conservation movement to ensure the safety of whales.

Rating: 2 **

An interesting concept. The author compares whale watching boats to whaling boats of the past, but the disconnect is too great. They really have nothing in common. Better than the story itself, is the author’s note in the back which explains what happened with whaling boats and whales as an effect.

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The Scraps Book

By: Lois Ehlert

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The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life

Summary: Ehlert opens the doors to her studio and to her life and shares her thoughts about her creative process in this moving, intimate, and inspiring glimpse into her colorful world.

Rating: 2 **

An interesting concept, but it doesn’t hold the attention of young children.

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Quest

By: Aaron Becker

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Quest

Summary: The second wordless book of Becker’s planned trilogy, the focus is on his characters. On a rainy day in a city park, the girl who starred in Journey and the boy introduced at the end take refuge by a doorway under a bridge. To their surprise, a king emerges from the door just long enough to pass the two a map before soldiers apprehend him. Returning to the magical Pallonezia, they find the walled city in flames, under siege. Becker includes wonderfully evocative set pieces – a submerged city, a Mayan temple – as the pair follows the map to collect chalk markers in all the colors of the rainbow to free the king and save the city.

Rating: 3 ***

This story is very confusing. It appears you need to read Journey before reading Quest.

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