Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pinch and Dash and the Terrible Couch

Anyone who has ever tried to fit a large piece of furniture in a tiny space will sympathize with poor Pinch. (Count me among them. I once had to return a couch that wouldn't fit through the apartment door.) While oversized furniture might not be a pressing problem for most kids, the humor in this easy reader will win them over and they are sure to relate to the plight of being the recipient of an unwanted gift.

That's what happens to Pinch when he unwittingly opens to door to a huge couch on his top step, a present from his Aunt Hasty, who sold her house and moved into a tiny apartment. The movers, Push and Shove, cram the couch into Pinch's small den without any regard for his other belongings. The guff duo have little patience for Pinch's predicament and have some of the book's best lines. When Pinch dillydallies about where to set the couch, Shove tells him: "We move things. We do not stand around holding things." I think I met these guys during my last move.

Unlike the first book in the series, Pinch and Dash Make Soup, Dash doesn't appear until midway through. He tries to help his friend by rearranging the furniture in the den, but when that doesn't work to Pinch's satisfaction, Dash falls sound asleep on the offending couch. And that is the beginning of an idea that leads to an amusing visual conclusion.

Pinch and Dash and the Terrible Couch
by Michael J. Daley
illustrations by Thomas F. Yezerski
Charlesbridge, 48 pages
Published: 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Meanest Birthday Girl

How mean is she? Dana, our birthday-girl heroine, is a pincher, a name caller, a show off, and a dessert stealer. She especially picks on Anthony, who, while visibly annoyed, does not retaliate. At least not at first. Although not invited to Dana's birthday party, Anthony shows up after the festivities have ended with his birthday present--a white elephant. Now, fyi, long ago kings of Siam used to make a present of white elephants to obnoxious courtiers who caused them displeasure. The cost of keeping such a huge animal ruined the person financially. But Dana, alas, hasn't read the Wikipedia article on white elephants. She's thrilled with her present--at first, that is. The elephant's demands soon render Dana hungry (the elephant eats her food), exhausted (it needs exercise and keeps her up nights), and bikeless (the elephant attempts to ride it). Luckily, Dana undergoes a change of heart and finds the perfect recipient for her unwanted pet.

Early chapter book readers are going to love this one for sure. The lesson--what comes around goes around--is so humorously presented that kids will gobble it up as easily as they do spinach sneaked into brownies. (And yes, there's a recipe for that!)

The Meanest Birthday Girl
by Josh Schneider
Clarion Books, 48 pages
Published: 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013

Ling and Ting Share a Birthday

Of course they do! Ling and Ting are twins and in the second outing of this easy reader series their birthday serves as the anchor for six charming stories. Ling and Ting try on birthday shoes, go shopping for presents, bake cakes, make wishes, open their gifts, and read a story about Ming and Sing, twins who--surprise--also share a birthday but, unlike their counterparts, don't excel at sharing.

Each story cleverly focuses on how the girls are alike and how they are different, just as in the first book in the series. In story 3 for example, the girls decide to each bake a cake. Ling's comes out perfect, but Ting, who didn't read the instructions carefully, is left with an inedible mess. Ling has a solution. She cuts the cake in half, and, presto, they each have their own cake. In the next story, it's Ling's turn to mess up. She doesn't blow out one of the candles on her cake and fears her wish won't come true. Ting steps up to the plate and tells her twin not to worry. "We will share my wish. I will wish that we both have wishes. Then we will each have a wish." Now that's a good sister!

The bright and cheerful gouache images were inspired by 1950s children's textbook illustrations, as Lin explains in an author's note.

Ling & Ting Share a Birthday
by Grace Lin
Little, Brown and Company 48 pages
Published: 2013