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Book Review

Listed in alphabetical order:

A Gift for Mama

by Linda Ravin Lodding (author); Alison Jay (illustrator); published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House Inc.

Summary: On a sunny day in Vienna, Oskar searches for the perfect birthday gift for his mother. He buys a rose. On his way home, Oskar meets an artist who wants to paint a picture of the flower. The artist trades him a paintbrush for the rose. A conductor, a composer and the Empress each make trades with Oskar as well. He ends up with a fancy box of candy. Then he sees a little girl crying because she has nothing to give her mother, who also has a birthday. Oskar gives his candy to the girl. As he starts home sadly, the girl catches up and gives him the rose that was pinned on her dress. Oskar gives it to his mother, who tells him it's the perfect gift.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: Several adults offer Oskar their things in trade when he has something they desire or need. Mama hugs Oskar and tells him the gift he's given her is just right.

I Wanna Go Home

by Karen Kaufman Orloff (author); David Catrow (illustrator); published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group and Penguin Group (USA)

Summary: Alex's parents are going to Bora Bora — alone. Alex is annoyed that he and his siblings will be stuck at the Happy Hills Retirement Community with Grandpa and Grandma. Once Mom and Dad leave, Alex sends them letters and emails insisting he's desperately bored and wants to go home. He tells his parents about Grandma's frightful encounter with his iguana and Grandpa's scary teeth in a jar. He says the grandparents read to the kids because they have no computer or video games. A few days in, Alex's outlook seems to be improving. He writes about Grandma taking them to bingo and square-dance class. He describes how he and Grandpa are teaching each other soccer and stickball moves. New letters tell of finger painting the kitchen, eating corn dogs and ice cream, and listening to Grandpa's interesting stories about the past. Alex finally phones his parents, urging them to stay an extra week in Bora Bora.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: While far from home, Alex's parents keep in close contact with their kids and show concern for their well-being. Grandpa and Grandma share the joys of their past and present with their grandkids, lovingly and playfully keeping the youngsters entertained.

Just One More

by Jennifer Hansen Rolli (author/illustrator); published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group and Penguin Group (USA)

Summary: Sprightly blonde Ruby is always asking for just one more. Whether it's sips of cocoa, hair ties, minutes of extra sleep or pushes on the swings, Ruby never feels she's getting quite enough of what she wants. Then Ruby ends up with one too many scoops of ice cream, and she cries as they all fall to the ground. She realizes maybe a single scoop, one toy in the bath and one book before bed will be enough. But she does request just one more goodnight kiss.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: A hand, presumably that of a parent, offers Ruby more ice cream after her tall cone tips over. Its owner suggests she try to have just one scoop.

Love You More Than Anything

by Anna Harber Freeman (author); Jed Henry (illustrator); published by Sterling Children's Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Company Inc.

Summary:  A mother and father chipmunk spend the day playing with their son and daughter. They fly kites, picnic, draw with sidewalk chalk and end the evening with baths and story time. The rhyming message makes it clear: They love each other more than any of these fun activities in which they're participating. At tuck-in time, the parents tell the kids they love them more than anything.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: The attentive chipmunk parents hug, splash, playfully toss and laugh with their children in nearly every illustration.


by Lori Nichols (author/illustrator); published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group and Penguin Group (USA)

Summary: Before Maple is born, her parents plant a tree in her honor. As a little girl, Maple loves her tree. She sings to it and plays near it season after season, though she sometimes wishes for a better playmate. Then another tree starts to grow, as does her mother's belly. Maple tries to be a good big sister to the noisy new Willow, but she finds she can't always make the baby happy. One magical day, she and Willow lie under her tree, and it dances for them both.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: Maple's parents are pictured planting her tree. Mom gently holds her pregnant belly as Dad leans on a shovel. They appear later carrying Willow.

Must-Have Marvin

by Christy Ziglar (author); Luanne Marten (illustrator); published by Ideals Children's Books, an imprint of Ideals Publications, a Guideposts Company

Summary: Marvin loves new things. Whenever he sees the latest, greatest toy or coolest article of clothing, he decides he must have it. His obsession with obtaining these items often keeps him from living in the moment and actively participating in school or team projects. When he sees a friend's Super Galactic Robot, for example, Marvin rushes home, past friends and neighbors in need, to go through his piggy bank. He insists Dad take him to buy the robot right away. Marvin soon discovers his toy is a poor substitute for real friends, and he sees he has let his buddies down. Marvin shares his woes with neighbor Mrs. Bailey, who asks him to assist her with her recycling. She helps Marvin find some of the box tops his soccer team is collecting. Because of his contribution, the team gathers enough box tops to take a special trip. When a teammate asks what new stuff Marvin just has to have for the trip, Marvin replies that the only things he must have are his friends.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: Marvin's father agrees to take him to the store after homework is done. Dad urges Marvin to consider whether he really wants to spend his savings on the toy. Mrs. Bailey reminds Marvin that people, not things, will make him happy. She helps him find box tops so he can participate in his soccer team's fundraiser and make amends for his selfishness.

Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too

by Anna Dewdney (author/illustrator); published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group and Penguin Group (USA)

Summary: Nelly Gnu and her Daddy build a playhouse from a large cardboard box. As Nelly watches Daddy Gnu saw, measure, cut and tape, she's convinced he can do anything. With construction complete, Daddy takes Nelly to the hardware store to pick out paint. Nelly is scared for a moment when she's separated from Daddy. He quickly sweeps her into his arms, and they go home to decorate the house. After dinner and a bedtime story, Daddy Gnu gives Nelly her own little flashlight and tucks her into the finished playhouse on her bedroom floor.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: Attentive Daddy Gnu spends the day with Nelly, working, hugging, swinging her in the air and giving her piggyback rides. He wants every detail of the playhouse, from the paint colors to the reassuring flashlight, to be just right for the daughter he loves.

Sprout Helps Out

by Rosie Winstead (author/illustrator); published by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Summary: Sprout is a young girl who loves to help around the house. She walks the goldfish, plays in the mud with the baby, cuts her own hair and brushes the dog's teeth with Mom's toothbrush. Her vacuuming, dusting, recycling, dishwashing and mending methods are equally unconventional. Unaware that she's creating mess after mess, Sprout is proud of her hard work. She is convinced her family is lucky to have her. Even while cleaning up after Sprout, Mom seems to agree.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: Mom is nearby cooking, changing the baby, painting or gardening while Sprout "helps" around the house. Mom mops up after Sprout with a smile as the girl drags in a large, dirt-laden sunflower.

Ten Thank-You Letters

by Daniel Kirk (author/illustrator); published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group

Summary: Rabbit knocks on Pig's door and wants to play ball. Pig can't yet; he's writing a letter to his grandma, thanking her for his birthday sweater. Rabbit writes a thank-you note to his own grandmother while he waits. Pig is still writing when Rabbit finishes, so Rabbit borrows more paper, envelopes and stamps. He writes thank-you letters to the president, a favorite author, a teacher, the librarian, the bus driver, the crossing guard, a local shop owner and the mailman. After Rabbit leaves to mail his letters, the frustrated Pig realizes his friend has taken all of his stamps and envelopes. Rabbit returns shortly with more mailing supplies, as well as a special letter for Pig himself. Pig is touched by Rabbit's note. After mailing Pig's letter, the two friends play ball.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: Alongside each of Rabbit's letters, readers see illustrations of the friendly, helpful adults he's thanking. Pig's grandma smiles as she reads Pig's thank-you letter.

This Is a Moose

by Richard T. Morris (author); Tom Lichtenheld (illustrator); published by Little, Brown and Company

Summary: An unseen director attempts to document the life of a moose in the wild. The uncooperative Mighty Moose, however, dons a space suit and says he wants to be an astronaut. Grandmother Moose, once an aspiring lacrosse goalie, canoes into the scene. A giraffe, who doesn't even belong in the woods, arrives and declares he wants to be a doctor. The director demands retake after retake, insisting this is not how animals are supposed to act. He realizes he's completely lost control when Grandmother Moose and the giraffe decide to launch Mighty Moose into space on a lawn chair. The director yells at his crew, composed of half a dozen assorted animals, before realizing he, a duck, is not acting like an animal should either. The director and crew catapult themselves into space in Grandmother's canoe where they make a film about an astronaut moose.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: The director yells and grows increasingly frustrated with everyone. When he realizes his own behavior is no more animal-like than theirs, he decides to change the focus of his film.

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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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