Monday, July 5, 2021

What I've Been Reading with My Monsters [2]


What I've Been Reading with My Monsters is a new feature I'm starting to showcase which books I've been reading with my kiddos (in case the title wasn't super obvious, haha). I'm really bad about reviewing children's books (unless they're ARCs or for a blog tour), so hopefully this helps me stay on top of all the other books we read together throughout the week.

A Little Bit of Courage by Claire Alexander
Expected publication: July 13th 2021 by Happy Yak

Synopsis (via Goodreads): In this follow-up to the beloved picture book A Little Bit Different, the Ploofers are back for a heartwarming exploration of fear and finding courage.

The Ploofers have just learned a valuable lesson in celebrating differences and trying new things. They've been practicing something very special again and this time it requires extra teamwork... But Little One is too scared to go on this new adventure. Will some kind and encouraging words from Toasty help him find a little bit of courage?

With simple, striking illustrations and a cutaway cover design that adds tactile interest,
A Little Bit of Courage picks up right where A Little Bit Different left off. With a subtle yet powerful message on overcoming anxiety and finding the courage to live life to its fullest, this book will resonate with children and adults alike.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I haven't read A Little Bit Different, but I don't think it would have improved my experience with A Little Bit of Courage. I know it's a children's book, so I understand the simplicity, but I also think it would have been beneficial to know what exactly a Ploofer is. A little background and some character development would've added more to this story, but sadly it's flat and altogether uninteresting. My girls stopped paying attention after just a few pages.

I also didn't understand why the main Ploofer was called "Little One," since they're all the same shape and size (with one exception, which also wasn't explained). Additionally, if the Ploofer didn't want to shoof, it shouldn't have had to. I understand this book is about courage and overcoming fears, but sometimes it's okay to not participate in what everyone else is doing. I just don't think the message was portrayed in the best way, especially for young children. 

The synopsis mentioned celebrating differences, but the Ploofers didn't accept Little One's differences. They wanted them to join everyone else and do what they were doing. Additionally, I have no idea what extra teamwork was involved, since everyone just seemed to shoof on their own (I feel ridiculous using this book's terminology). A "subtle yet powerful message on overcoming anxiety and finding the courage to live life to its fullest," is also inaccurate. I have no idea how anyone is supposed to resonate with this book.

The writing wasn't great. The storytelling wasn't great. The illustrations weren't great. Overall, a very meh book. (★★☆☆☆)

Hair Story by NoNieqa Ramon, Keisha Morris (Illustrator)
Expected publication: September 7th 2021 by Lerner Publishing Group

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Written in rhythmic verse, this picture book follows two friends, a Boricua girl and a Black girl, as others first try to tame their tresses and eventually celebrate their gorgeous, natural hair.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I really liked the concept for Hair Story, but I think the writing style and terminology may be somewhat difficult for children to understand. If the targeted audience is young kids, then there's a lot in this book that will go over their heads. The author uses multiple languages throughout the book, makes references that are hard to understand without specific lived experiences, and tells a poetic story that will probably be best enjoyed by an older age group. There is a glossary at the end (a really big one), but that doesn't really help in the moment when you're reading to kids. Having to stop multiple times throughout the book to explain certain words or phrases really detracts from the overall reading experience (especially since it's written in verse).

Although at times hard to follow, I think Hair Story is a book that will resonate with people from multiple backgrounds, and I believe it gives children a version of themselves not often portrayed in the books that are meant for them. (★★★☆☆)

A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use by Sara Levine, Kate Slater (Illustrations)
Expected publication: September 7th 2021 by Millbrook Press

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Have you ever seen a bird using a jackhammer? What about one scooping up a meal with a net? Of course birds can't really use tools, at least not the way humans do. But birds have surprisingly helpful tools with them at all times--their beaks!

Guess which birds have beaks resembling commonly used tools in this playful picture book from award-winning author Sara Levine. Delightfully detailed collage artwork by Kate Slater helps this book take flight!

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

A Peek at Beaks was a quick read that we mostly enjoyed. The illustrations were lovely, and I thought it was clever of them to have the reader guess which birds had certain beaks by using silhouettes with actual tools for their bills. The kids had a lot of fun guessing which birds might use each tool, and it was a creative way to get them involved in the story.

However, I do think it would have been better if the silhouettes had actually resembled the birds they were supposed to be depicting, but all of the shadow shapes looked exactly the same. It made it hard for my kiddos to correctly guess which birds were being discussed, because they were only trying to think of birds that resembled the silhouettes and not necessarily which birds had those specific "tools" for a beak.

A wonderful concept that I wish had been executed better.

I also disliked the fonts that were used and thought they were distracting. I know that's a personal preference, but I don't feel like they complimented the story or the illustrations. In fact, I would say they hurt both. Would a child notice or care? Probably not. Although, I do think different fonts would improve the overall aesthetic of the book. 

Something else that slightly grated on my nerves: the double identifications and repeated information. The author lists which other birds have similar tools for beaks, and the illustrator includes drawings of them with labels attached. I feel like only one is necessary. Additionally, I wish the information being shared felt more like a story and less like a lesson. I understand the author is sharing facts, but there has to be a more entertaining way to present them. I felt like I was reading dictionary definitions and not fun facts about birds. (★★★☆☆)

*this post has been backdated


  1. I hope to see books that I've also read in my Two Short Stories posts! I do picture books there too :)

    These books look so cute! Do you actually ask the kiddos the stars they'd give it too?

    1. Love that you also do picture books!

      I don't actually ask them for star ratings, but I do ask them what they think about books and try to incorporate their answers into my posts. :)

  2. I like the illustrations in A Peek At Beaks but I can see why your kiddos were confused by the silhouette pictures. :-/

    1. They were trying to guess the birds by their silhouettes, but they all looked the same. ๐Ÿ™„


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