Reviews: Randi Zuckerberg and other Northern California authors Siminovich, Barnett and Moss offer up new works for younger readers
04/21/2014 12:00:00 PM PDT
04/25/2014 02:18:02 PM PDT
Spring is now. Summer is coming. Grab a sunny spot outside and read one of the books below by Northern California children's authors. "You Are My Baby: Ocean" by Lorena Siminovich (San Francisco) (Chronicle Books, $8.99, ages infant to 4) Here we have two board books in one, a charming introduction to creatures of the sea done in bold, cheerful colors. The smaller book matches offspring to the parent turtle, whale, sea horse and octopus in the encompassing larger book. "Zoe's Jungle" by Bethanie Deeney Murguia (Sausalito) (Scholastic, $16.99, ages 3-5) The delightful pen and ink and watercolor illustrations transport us to Zoe's adventure. She and her sister, as intrepid explorers, imaginatively transform a playground into a jungle and pursue the wild Addibeast. "Snow Dog, Sand Dog" by Linda Joy Singleton (Sacramento) illustrated by Jess Golden (Albert Whitman & Co., $16.99, ages 4-7) Singleton's first foray into picture books is a thorough delight. What would you do if you desperately wanted a dog but were allergic to them? Ally uses her imagination and creates a different dog for every season, each of which loyally follows her home and none of which make her sneeze. Golden's lighthearted artwork adds to the fun. A bonus is the complete directions for creating your own cardboard dog. "President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath" by Mac Barnett (Oakland), illustrated by Chris Van Dusen (Candlewick Press, $16.99, ages 4-8) Based on what may or may not be true, the story is that President William Howard Taft, who weighed more than 300 pounds, got stuck in his bathtub and none of the presidential secretaries could figure out how to free him. Van Dusen's exaggerated gouache illustrations contribute to the author's merry absurdities. "Dot." by Randi Zuckerberg (Silicon Valley), illustrated by Joe Berger (Harper, $17.99, ages 4-8) This is a charmer. Dot., like so many kids today, is mesmerized by technology and its myriad devices. But one day she ventures outside and discovers a whole, wonderful world waiting. Cleverly, she combines the two. The book is written with skilled precision and accompanied by high-spirited illustrations. "Dangerously Ever After" by Dashka Slater (Oakland), illustrated by Valeria Docampo (Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99, ages 5-8) A princess who loves dangerous things and has a garden full of them meets a challenge when she encounters a curious prince and his bouquet of roses, followed by seeds that turn into large pink noses. The offbeat fairy tale will appeal to 21st-century primary school princesses. Docampo's detailed artwork is whimsical and well-suited to this original comic tale. "Smelling Sunshine" by Constance Anderson (Danville) (Star Bright Books, $16.99, ages 5-8) This book offers a beautiful pictorial treatment of a mundane chore -- laundry. Anderson uses both painting and collage from found materials to illustrate washing day in several different cultures and countries. Although the prose isn't nearly as strong as the artwork, the latter is rich, warm and inviting. "Saving Kabul Corner" by N. H. Senzai (Union City) (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $16.99, ages 8-12) Readers will gain information and insight into Afghan culture. Set in California, it's the story of 12-year-old Ariana and her family, who struggle to save their Afghan grocery store when competition opens in the same plaza. There are sly manipulations, vicious vandalism and worries about the ancient feud between the families of the two rival owners. But Ariana refuses to see her family's life work destroyed. She is determined to find out who is causing all the trouble and why. "Blood Diaries: Tales of a 6th-Grade Vampire" by Marissa Moss (Berkeley) (Creston Books, $13, ages 8-12) This book provides a humorous angle on the struggles of surviving sixth grade. Edgar is a secret vampire at the bottom of the social ladder in both the human and the vampire worlds. But when a bully provokes him, he violates the vampire cardinal rule never to reveal his true identity to a human. Suddenly, his school popularity soars, but his rating with his family plummets. Moss fills the novel with intriguing vampire information, and Edgar, who wants to be "one of the few vampires who faces the middle school years with grit and determination," is immediately likable. "Catch a Falling Star" by Kim Culbertson (Nevada City) (Point/Scholastic, $17.99, ages 12 and up) In this coming-of-age story written with warmth and wisdom, 17-year-old Carter is the only one not impressed when a small town is invaded by a Hollywood film crew. But when she's asked to pose as the teen star's girlfriend for publicity purposes, she reluctantly agrees in order to help out her family financially. But there are many surprises in this well-written novel that help Carter face her future. Yes, there's a Hollywood ending, but it's so skillfully done, it works.
Joanna H. Kraus is a professor emeritus of the State University of New York, an award-winning playwright and an author of children's books. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.