Easter Picture Books

For the next two weeks Library of Cats will be featuring Easter Picture Books. Simon spent some time way back in February reading and reviewing 8 books. We chose 4 faith-based books and 4 secular books.

Out of the 4 faith-based books, we really only liked one – and that one will post on Easter Sunday. Out of the 4 secular books we loved 2 of them and 1 is starting off the series tomorrow.

We hope you’ll come back to read the reviews even if you don’t celebrate Easter. A few of the books are superb!

Now, in no particular order, here are the books Simon will be reviewing. (After Easter, we’ll go back to our regular reviewing schedule!):

god-gave-us-easter  rechenkas-eggs   easter  miz-fannie-mae  my-little-easter-story  here-comes-the-easter-cat  the-legend-of-the-sand-dollar  bunnys-easter-egg

In the Great Green Room

in-the-great-green-room

 

In the Great Green Room
The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown

Amy Gary
Flatiron Books, 2017

From the dust jacket, “The extraordinary life of the woman behind the beloved children’s classics Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny comes alive in this fascinating biography of Margaret Wise Brown. …
“Clever, quirky, and incredibly talented, Margaret embraces life with passion, lived extravagantly off of her royalties, went on rabbit hunts, and carried on long and troubled love affairs with both men and women. …
“…Margaret died unexpectedly at the age of forty-two, leaving behind a cache of unpublished work and a timeless collection of books that would go on to become classics in children’s literature.
“Author Amy Gary captures the eccentric and exceptional life of Margaret Wise Brown and, drawing on newly discovered personal letters and diaries, reveals an intimate portrait of a creative genius whose unrivaled talent breathed new life into the literary world.”

My Auntie loves Margaret Wise Brown’s books, especially Goodnight Moon. She said she read it to her sons many, many times over their younger years. We don’t normally read biographies – I think this is only the third one we’ve read and reviewed; but because Auntie loves the author’s books so much, we thought we should read it. It was very good!

You can tell the author, Amy Gary, put a great deal of time and research into her book; it is well informed, rich with detail and emotion and super easy to read. In fact, it reads like a novel. The reader is taken chronologically through Brown’s life, not shying away from potentially controversial subjects – who knew that one of the world’s greatest children’s author was bisexual? While it might make a difference to some folks, it’s no matter for us. Talented – no – gifted & artistic people come from all walks of life and generally lead wide-open lives. Brown changed the world of children’s book publishing to what we enjoy today. All of today’s authors really have her to thank for it.

This isn’t a spoiler – you know right from the beginning she dies young – and it was so sudden and tragic, I actually had tears in my eyes. I felt so bad – it was like a friend dying for a stupid reason. You’ll see what I mean when you read the book. It makes me wonder how much more she would have contributed to the world had she lived and continued to write. But don’t let the sad end keep you from reading about this gifted author. If you’ve read any of her books, please read this one!

Rating 5 out of 5 paws because in spite of the tragic ending, the author brilliantly captured the wild and wonderful Margaret Wise Brown.

Ps. What does the title mean? You’ll have to read halfway into the book to find out! It is significant!!

Reviewer:

jack-loc

Jack

The Sleeper and the Spindle

the-sleeper-and-the-spindle

 

The Sleeper and the Spindle

Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Chris Riddell
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2015

From the dust jacket: “You may think you know this story. There’s a young queen, about to be married. There are some good, brave, hardy dwarfs; a castle, shrouded in thorns; and a princess, cursed by a witch, so rumor has it, to sleep forever.
“But no one is waiting for a noble prince to appear on his trusty steed here. This fairy tale is spun with a thread of dark magic, which twists and turns and glints and shines. A queen might just prove herself a hero, if a princess needs rescuing. . . . .”

This is definitely not your mother’s fairy tale. Combine Sleeping Beauty with Snow White with a little dark magic thrown in and you’ve got this short story. Well written and beautifully illustrated, you adults may want to read it before letting your kittens have a go at it! There’s nothing bad in it (e.g., sex, violence, bad language); it’s just, shall we say, a bit untraditional when it comes to the princess asleep in the tower. And, the ending doesn’t belong in any Disney fairy tale either. But overall a nice tale freshly woven from old stories; and, who says fairy tale princesses need to be freed by a prince?

Rating: 4 of 5 paws for a unconventional new take on two very old and staid stories.

Reviewer:

simon-loc

Simon

A Legend of Starfire

a-legend-of-starfire

The Legend of Starfire
Sequel to A Sliver of Stardust

Marissa Burt
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2016

From the dust jacket: “All night long my nets I throw/ to the stars in the twinkling foam, / Then up from the waves comes the light I know/ to take me where I want to go.
“A few months ago, the land of Nod was just a name in a nursery rhyme to Wren. But when she discovered the secret magic of stardust, she learned that Nod was real, too. More than a century ago, the evil Magician Boggen was exiled to Nod with his followers. At first their pristine new home, filled with stardust, seemed like paradise. But they were too greedy with their experiments, and now what little stardust remains on Nod is corrupted, slowly poisoning their world.
“Boggen himself tried to escape by returning to Earth. Wren managed to stop him—but now the gateway between the two worlds is damaged, and the corruption of Nod’s stardust is spreading. To save her home Wren will travel farther than even she could have dreamed: to the heart of Nod itself, where she must defeat Boggen once and for all.”

I enjoyed this book more than the first one. It is way more creative and, at least to my reading experience, more original (not so Harry Potterish). As with all books of this type, Wren has to deal with self-doubt and fear and learn to overcome it if she is to save the world. The world the author created on Nod is a mixture of dystopian nightmare and Victorian steampunk – it’s not a bad world to live in, if it weren’t for the cruel overlord, Boggen.

There is much talk of the experiments Boggen does on humans but none of it is ever described; there are hints of violence to 13-year-old Jack – just a mentioning of bruises – but nothing overt or gratuitous. There are several scenes where humans meet with violent deaths but none of it is graphic or gory.

This series of 2 books was an enjoyable read – not as riveting as some I’ve read, but good enough to feel like I didn’t waste my time.

Rating 3-1/2 paws out of 5 because the book was nice to read but not a real page turner.

Reviewer:

peggysue-loc

PeggySue

 

A Sliver of Stardust

a-sliver-of-stardust

A Sliver of Stardust

Marissa Burt
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015

From the dust jacket: “I am a gold lock./ I am a gold key./ However high and low you hunt,/ You’ll never find me.
“Wren Matthews outgrew nursery rhymes a long time ago. Little did she know that songs of twinkling little stars and four-and-twenty blackbirds are the key to the ancient magic of stardust—a magic that only a few people can see and use. And Wren is one of them.
“Wren has always preferred to stick to herself. But when she is invited to the faraway mountain fortress where an ancient order has long studied and guarded stardust, she doesn’t hesitate to accept.
“Soon Wren is swept up in strange dreams, buried secrets, and rumors that an old enemy is plotting his return. As she tries to master her new abilities, Wren knows only one thing for sure. There’s magic in the world—and it’s waiting for her.”

This book for youth is another one of many Harry Potter knock-offs. (Where would the world of youth fiction be without the brilliance and originality of J. K. Rowling?) The author does take a different viewpoint but the overall theme is the same – young person, aged 11-13, a bit disenfranchised from kids his/her own age, discovers they’ve been chosen to learn to use magic, off they go to a place away from parents to learn their new magic skills only to find out that some evil magic-user who everyone thought had gone away for good comes back with more evil stuff to do. And in the case of this book, Wren, like Harry, finds she has a connection with the bad guy and he attempts to use her. Hmmm. Maybe I should have said spoiler alert!!! I’m really not giving anything away – the first time the evil dude makes contact with Wren you know it’s the evil dude.

All of that similarity doesn’t mean the book is a bad book. (Are there any bad books?) It just means I’m tired of reading the same basic storyline and will have to look harder for more original books to enjoy. That said, the book ended so abruptly with a cliffhanger, I will be reading the sequel; hopefully this series will be just the two books.

So, do I recommend it? Of course – it’s a story of magic, good versus evil with a different twist involving nursery rhymes and it has a strong female main character. But beware: there is a scene toward the end of the book that was hard for me to read – it involved killing animals. The action doesn’t focus on the gory scene too long – it’s more of a byline, which makes me feel it was a bit gratuitous and unnecessary. I still think most kids will enjoy it; I, however, mostly tolerated it.

Rating: 3 out of 5 paws because while it is a fairly good H.P. knock-off, I was able to stop reading it for 2 days before finally finishing it.

Reviewer:

peggysue-loc

PeggySue