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November 2006 | Vol. V - No. 11
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TDmonthly's Book Expert

One Educated Bookworm's Opinion


Dorothea DePrisco Wang is the author of more than 40 books for children. Dorothea has 14 years in the publishing industry, beginning her career with Scholastic Inc. She later became executive vice president and publisher of Intervisual Books Inc., where she created and executed 300 titles. She is best known for her titles published by Piggy Toes Press, such as “Eight Silly Monkeys” and “Who Stole the Cookie From the Cookie Jar?”

In this issue of
TDmonthly Magazine, Wang investigates dinosaur poop and samples twisted fairy tales. Here are the books she presented to her children’s reading groups this month:

Title: Jurassic Poop: What Dinosaurs (and Others) Left Behind
Company: Kids Can Press
Age range: 8 to 12
Retail price: $14.95 hardcover

What It Is:
  A non-fiction picture book that teaches children about how ancient poop has a story to tell!
I read "Jurassic Poop" a few times before I read it to the children because it was filled with interesting detail and I needed to digest it before I presented it to them. The book is well written, well edited and well presented. It's illustrated by Steve Mack and written by science writer Jacob Berkowitz.

Why Should You Carry It:
Jurassic Poop attracts children (and adults) with its icky title and subject matter, but the content holds the reader’s interest. It is very difficult to publish a nonfiction book that is entertaining for ages 8 to12.  I believe this is an appealing book for all channels. The book would benefit by being displayed face out in the store so customers could look at the cover for a few minutes to understand how clever it is. The illustrations and book design enhance the editorial content.

What Kids Think:
It was fun to read this to children, although to be quite honest, I was a touch embarrassed when we first got started. The boys were more enthusiastic than the girls. However, the girls were interested in the science behind the feces. Both boys and girls enjoyed the layout, illustrations and subject matter. We had some fun discussions with this title.

Title: How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends?
Company: Scholastic Entertainment
Age range: Baby-Preschool
Price: $6.99

What It Is: A board book about dinosaurs that learn their manners.
Who could pass up another dinosaur title from Mark Teague and Jane Yolen?
"How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends" is a 12-page board book about how dinosaurs learn to play … nicely! Backlist titles include "How Do Dinosaurs: Clean Their Rooms/Say Goodnight/Eat Their Food/Count to Ten/Get Well Soon/Learn Their Colors." This book is great for toddlers who are embarking on play dates and attending daycare. The beginning text prompts a young reader to say, “No, Dinosaur, be nice!” And by the end of the book, each dinosaur is sharing and playing nicely.

Why You Should Carry It:
Admittedly, I am a fan of the series and this title is one of the best. I look forward to seeing a board book plush package soon, and perhaps even a cartoon series! I can’t imagine that carrying this series would do anything but bring success.

What Kids Think:

My son is almost 3 years old and he liked "Dinosaurs" very much. So, with that in mind, I went to his daycare where there were children ages 1 to 5 years old. We all read it together. My daycare provider reported back that the kids have been repeating lines from the book all week and (at least for one day) treated each other a little bit better!

Title: Marco Polo: The Boy Who Traveled the Medieval World
Company:  National Geographic Society
Age range: 4 to 8
Retail price: $17.95

What It Is:  A hardcover book about the life of Marco Polo.
This title is a well-documented book about the life and adventures of Marco Polo.
It has an appealing design, with a focus on famous paintings, maps, sidebars and other design elements that enhance its storytelling style. "Marco Polo" was written by Nick McCarty.

Why You Should Carry It:
The images in this book provide a rich, entertaining and educational look into the adventures of Marco Polo. Additionally, it is clear that the publishers took into consideration the age group they were targeting. The font size, book design and editorial content are right on for ages 4 to 8 years.

What Kids Think:
The children who reviewed "Marco Polo" browsed through it and looked at the photos, the sidebars and the timelines. They said the book would be a great resource if they were doing a report on Marco Polo.

Title: Benny
Company:  Kane/Miller Book Publishers
Age range: 3 to 5
Retail price: $15.95 hardcover, $7.95 paperback

What It Is:  A Spanish-language paperback about Benny the dog, who can't smell his bone.
Benny the dog can’t find his bone, but why? This picture book written and illustrated by Sieb Posthuma is a mini page-turning mystery. It's a good read for children and adults who are just learning Spanish. I got through some of it, but admit to using Babel Fish to translate a good portion of the text. The watercolors are engaging and the layout and design were varied and appealing.

Why You Should Carry It:

Kane/Miller Publishers has started a line of Spanish-language picture books under the umbrella Libros Del Mundo. Spanish-language editions of Kane/Miller’s best picture books will be launched starting in 2006 to 2007.

What Kids Think:
The children first heard someone read this book to them in Spanish, and then I read it in English. We talked about the pictures and how frustrated Benny was when he lost his sense of smell. Each child related to the story and talked about the time they lost something. They seemed to connect with Benny and wanted to know if there were other Benny books.

Title: What Elephant?
Company: Kids Can Press
Age range: 3 to 7

What It Is: A hardcover picture book about an elephant that moves into George’s house and takes over!
Nobody believes George when he tells his friends that an elephant has moved into his house. The elephant is sleeping in his bed, eating his cookies and drinking his lemonade. George’s friends don’t believe him. They simply say, “Why don’t you go home and get some sleep?” So, George sleeps on the couch, hoping that when he wakes the elephant will be gone. But no! That elephant is still there and more annoying than the day before.

The funniest part of "What Elephant?" (written and illustrated by Genevieve Cote)  is that everyone pretends the elephant isn’t in the house. It draws great parallels to life for the adults reading to their children and provides a great laugh to the children listening.

Why You Should Carry It:
The fanciful and quirky illustrations are a perfect fit for the comical editorial. When the children see George, a thin, quiet, timid character next to a huge, round, bossy elephant, it is difficult not to chuckle. 

What Kids Think:
Giggles, giggles, giggles from ages 3 to 5 years, but you must read it with gusto and sincere curiosity. I used phrases like, “Where’s that elephant? What’s he doing? Naughty, Elephant rolling in George’s bed! George is telling the truth!”

Title: Lift Off: A Photobiography of John Glenn
Company: National Geographic Society
Age range:  10 to 12

What It Is:
A hardcover photographic book about American astronaut, John Glenn.
Author Don Mitchell presents the life of John Glenn through photographs, inspirational quotes and a narrative that weaves Glenn's personal and professional achievements into the story of a great American hero.

Why You Should Carry It:
Readers of 10 to 12 years are in need of more books that can show them how and why people of note make a difference. It is not enough to present accomplishments and time lines, quotes and awards. Children must understand the human element of our American heroes. For children to understand how they can contribute in the world, they need to understand who these heroes are/were and what failures and successes they experienced. This book accomplishes all of the above.

What Kids Think
I showed this book to a few kids, who looked at it for a short while, but this is a book that needs to be read from cover to cover. It is difficult for kids to page through "John Glenn" and get the sense of what it delivers. I believe, though, that this is a wonderful book for a parent and child to read together.

Title: Christmas Eve Magic
Company: Kids Can Press
Age range: 5 to 8
Retail price: $16.95 hardcover

What It Is:  A hardcover Christmas story about animals, inspired by "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. 
Barton, a spoiled pig, hates Christmas. He hoards his toys and wishes for Christmas to end as soon as it begins. He is visited by a small mouse who offers Barton a look into his Christmas past, present and future, and Barton discovers the true meaning of the holiday.

Why You Should Carry It:
The twist on this story is that Barton has not celebrated Christmas since he lost his parents. It is a very sad and touching story. The writing is simple and straightforward, but moving and emotional. The title of the book is much more light-hearted than the actual story but the illustrations help to convey the emotion of the story.

The production on this title is lovely and complements the illustrations and design. It would make a lovely Christmas gift.

It's written by Lucie Papineau, who is the author of more than 40 children's books, including "Spots for Gilda the Giraffe!" The English translation is new for 2006. "Christmas Eve Magic" is illustrated by Stephane Poulin, a two-time winner of the Governor General’s Award for Illustration, Canada’s highest literary honor.

What Kids Think:
The children who listened to the story were happy to see a mouse presenting Christmas future instead of the grim reaper! But mostly they were happy to see Barton turn his attitude around.

Title: Calavera Abecedario: A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book
Company:  Harcourt
Age range: 3 to 7 

What It Is:  A paperback alphabet book inspired by a real Mexican family of artists and the many colorful folk-art traditions surrounding the celebration of the Day of the Dead.
At the beginning of this book, there is a short story about preparations for the Day of the Dead. It then leads into an alphabet book based on the Spanish alphabet. The art is beautiful, with deep pastels against black backgrounds. Skeletal characters are featured with each letter of the (Spanish) alphabet. A glossary at the back of the book aids non-Spanish readers. There is also an author’s note about the real Don Pedro. "Calavera Abecedario" is written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, who is also the illustrator of "Day of the Dead" by Tony Johnson and Jeanette Winter.

Why You Should Carry It:
This book is creative and rich, but I wonder where it can be placed. Is it Spanish, first concepts, holiday or all of the above? When I read it aloud, I had to keep referencing the glossary to explain each word. Some words were easy to guess, based on the illustrations. But for parents, it may have served the book well to include the translation on each page. I think this is a well done book for teachers, librarians and Mexican-American families.

What Kids Think:
The group that listened to me read this book comprised ages 3 to 5 years. Some children were Hispanic, some were not. Even the Hispanic children who were Mexican did not fully focus on the book as an alphabet book. I think they were a little taken aback by the  skeletons! But adults and those familiar with the Day of the Dead festivities should appreciate the "lively" graphics.

Title: Each Little Bird That Sings
Company: Harcourt
Age range: 8 to 12
Retail price: $7.95 paperback

What It Is: A paperback novel about a 10-year-old girl who thinks she understands death until two older relatives die. 
The narrator is 10-year-old girl named Comfort. She lives with her extended family in Mississippi, where they own and run a funeral home. Comfort is confident that she can deal with loss. But then Comfort’s Great-uncle Edisto dies from a heart attack, Great-great-aunt Florentine dies six months later, her best friend won’t talk to her, her cousin Peach has difficulty with the grieving process, Comfort’s dog is missing and her family almost drowns in a flood. Well, Comfort quickly learns how to accept and roll with the changes of life. This is a coming-of-age story for young girls.

Why You Should Carry It:
"Each Little Bird That Sings" is a National Book Award Finalist. Author Deborah Wiles' "Ruby Lavender" was another solid story for this age group. The characters are funny and warm. The writing is simple, humorous and heartfelt. Though it is tough to compete with licenses and the book-plus-product out there for this age range, we need more literature for young girls. This book gives you a reason to place more novels in the marketplace. This book is ideal for the moms who are avid readers, who are raising avid readers.

What Kids Think:
I did not get the opportunity to read excerpts from "Each Little Bird" to children. However, I did ask a couple of 8-year-old girls to read the first chapter; they very much enjoyed it and asked to borrow my reader’s copy.

Title: Twisted Tales, Phonics Comics
Company: Innovative Kids
Age range: 6 and Up, Level 3 Reading
Retail price: $3.99 paperback

What It Is: A comic book that teaches reading while offering hilarious insights into the fairytales we thought we knew.
This book combines words that are simple to sound out with engaging twisted versions of traditional fairytales. Included are "The Story of Hansel and Gretel," "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Three Billy Goats Gruff."

Why You Should Carry It:
I could not stop laughing when I read through these humorous stories. I believe they will be enjoyable for the parents and children. The Phonics Comics series is divided into three levels:  Level 1 is for Early Readers, and focuses on easy-to-sound-out words, simple sentences, strong picture clues and sight words; Level 2 is for Developing Readers, with a focus on long and short vowels, varied consonant combinations, longer sentences and intermediate sight words; Level 3 is for Confident Readers, featuring multisyllabic words and more advanced vocabulary as well as complex vowel sounds and more challenging storylines.

What Kids Think:
I read "Little Red Riding Hood" to a group of 5 to 6 year olds. They thought it was very funny.



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Dorothea DePrisco WangWriter's Bio: Dorothea DePrisco Wang is the author of more than 40 books for children. Dorothea has 14 years of experience in the publishing industry, beginning her career with Scholastic Inc. She later became executive vice president and publisher of Intervisual Books Inc., where she created and executed 300 titles. She is best known for her titles published by Piggy Toes Press, such as “Eight Silly Monkeys” and “Who Stole the Cookie From the Cookie Jar?” Read more articles by this author

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