The books in this column
have something in common:
Not to be terse,
but they’re all in verse.
Disclosure: I received review copies of these books.
This first title is special: it’s from a company called Lost My Name, which makes personalized books using your child’s name. I was given a coupon to try it out myself. First, I put in my daughter’s name, our home address, and then picked a little girl with dark hair for her avatar. (Right now it’s blond or black; redheads will have to wait until 2017.) Lost My Name then inserted her name into various lines of the book (and a page where her name is spelled out in stars), and then used map data from Bing to add a photo of downtown Portland, and an aerial view of my house, plus our house number on the front door in the book.
The story itself is about a kid with a robot on an adventure in space, when the ship’s computer suffers a malfunction and they have to find their way home. First they narrow it down to our solar system (thanks to a friendly alien), and then Earth, and then to North America, and finally to Portland and our home. (Currently the book can work with US, UK, Canada, and Australia addresses, and Lost My Name is expanding to other countries as well.) Although the poem’s meter is a little off at times (after all, your child’s name might not be perfect for the line), it is a cute story, and my toddler really thinks the kid in the story is her—though she has to explain every time we read it that she doesn’t actually have a bedroom like the one in the picture. It’s also fun to share the concept of where we live, narrowing down the scope until we arrive at home.
“In the middle of the sea, as far as the eye could see, there was nothing to see but sea…” So begins this tale of a tiny island that is just big enough for “me and Annie McPhee,” two little monkeys. But with every turn of the page, another rhyming set of characters shows up: four frumpy hens hunched with their pens, or ten rascally rats skipping in hats, until you wonder how everything still fits on that tiny little island. If you like counting rhymes, this one is a lot of fun, particularly for its increasing absurdity as you go.
A small mouse complains about the bear on its chair, who seems completely unaware of the mouse’s nasty glare. Every line from the mouse rhymes with “bear,” as it narrates its frustrations and tries various tactics … the polar bear remains unconcerned. The book itself is pretty short, but the illustrations are wonderful, particularly the facial expressions of the mouse and the bear. And when the mouse finally gives in and leaves, where do you suppose the polar bear finds the mouse?
A little orange dinosaur tries very hard to be a useful member of the crew, alongside notable pirasaurs like Captain Rex, Triceracook, and Velocimate. They’re searching for lost treasure, but another pirasaur crew has their hearts set on the same booty! If your kids like pirates and dinosaurs, well, this book is a dream come true. The rhymes are great, and there are little hints about what’s going to happen in the illustrations that kids will notice on repeated readings (of which there will probably be many).
This collection of childhood-inspired poems covers topics like complaints about mornings, school, and evening; sibling injustice; getting a pet, the Grandpa rule; and, of course, the war over the backseat of the car. The illustrations by Roz Chast perfectly capture the emotional states of the various characters, from frustration and fear to glee to oblivious contentment. I know my middle daughter particularly identified with “Who Plays What?” in which a younger sister laments that her older sister always gets to be the queen, while she’s the loyal servant, and so on. My one caveat: although the book is a picture-book format, it’s significantly longer than a standard picture book, so story time could take a while if your child picks this one.
Once upon a time, a knight rode out … except he had no horse, so he strode. But he had a sandwich—or was it a sword? And he went to slay … something. The illustrations in this book follow the text, switching from horse to no horse, sandwich to sword, thingamabob to dragon, as the unreliable narrator tries to piece together what exactly the story is supposed to be about. (GeekMom Shiri Sondheimer interviewed Michelle Robinson about it back in July.)
Another rhyming book by Michelle Robinson, this one is about Elephant’s dilemma when he is invited to a pajama party. All his friends are going and they all have pajamas, but all Elephant can dig up is an old shirt and underpants. He goes shopping, but to no avail—there’s just nothing that fits him. But just when he has given up on going to the party, his friends bring the party to him, with a special surprise. The illustrations are fun and depict a contemporary lifestyle—though I do wonder how Elephant manages to use a laptop with those enormous feet.
The subtitle gives away the primary plot point: Mr. Drake gets a hamster as a class pet, but warns the kids not to pull her out and touch her. Of course, they don’t listen, and one day when Mr. Drake isn’t around, they get Fluffity out for a little play time, only to discover that she is, indeed, “mighty bite-y.” After a whirlwind day of being chased and bit by Fluffity, they finally get her back in her cage and everyone has learned a valuable lesson … we think.