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Welcome to ReadThatAgain.com, a just-for-fun website reviewing a bunch of children's books that our family has enjoyed over the last few years. We try to find fun, intelligent, well-crafted books, but most importantly, books that kids like! Hopefully you'll find these reviews useful... Please feel free to comment on the site or send recommendations for books we may have missed... In the meantime, enjoy!

This is the first page of books written by authors under the letter "P"






Kids Books -- "P" By Author

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"Mung-Mung: A Fold-Out Book Of Animal Sounds"
Written by Linda Sue Park
Illustrated by Diana Bigda
(Henry Holt, 2004)

(-)


"Yum! Yuck!"
Written by Linda Sue Park & Julia Durango
Illustrated by Sue Rama
(Henry Holt, 2005)

The follow-up to Park's entertaining Mung-Mung, this explores different ways common expressions or interjections are represented around the world. Sure, it's all ah-choo, hooray! and yuck! to us, but elsewhere it's ap-soo, ballay-ballay! and foo. The artwork and content are appealing -- it's the layout I have trouble with: instead of showing us the word in English first ("ooh, look -- they're going to show us how to say 'yikes' now!") we see four non-English versions and then, after you lift the flap, you can see what the word is in our language. Maybe it's just a matter of temperament -- for some the mystery might be the real motivator. Anyway, this is a cute book. Interestingly, the variations of human speech turn out to be less surprising than how different cultures represent animal sounds... but there's still enough of a comparison that this book may be of interest to culture-conscious kiddies.
(C+)


"Counting In The Garden"
Written by Kim Parker
Illustrated by Kim Parker
(Scholastic/Orchard, 2005)

A nice flower-themed counting book, made by textile designer Kim Parker. Floral fauna hide amid the flowerbeds -- daisy-dappled doggies, blossom-covered birds, etc. -- and kids can be encouraged to search out the semi-camoflauged critters. While everything is brightly colored and looks a lot alike, the countable items aren't too hard to find the artwork is stimulating and cheerful. Worth a spin! (B+)


"The Red Carpet"
Written by Rex Parkin
Illustrated by Rex Parkin
(Macmillan, 1948)

One of the gems of the 1940s children's book boom. Much like the early Dr. Seuss books, this is a rollicking, well-illustrated, intelligently written romp, with a lively, well-crafted rhyme scheme backed by energetic, entertaining artwork. The story has a surreal edge to it: a hotel rolls out the red carpet for an important guest, but when the carpet is unfurled... it keeps on going! Followed by a squadron of motorcycle police, the crimson carpet zips along the countryside, causing all kinds of confusion and consternation. (The story takes place in upstate New York, I think... Anyone know what town this is supposed to be?) Anyway, this is great book, ideal for kids who are already on the Seuss bandwagon, who like reading long, complicated, wittily crafted tall tales... Also nice for parents who enjoy classically crafted, retro artwork. A fun one! (A)


"The Shadow Train"
Written by Rex Parkin
Illustrated by Rex Parkin
(Macmillan, 1962)

(-)


"The Daddy Book"
"The Mommy Book"
Written by Todd Parr
Illustrated by Todd Parr
(Megan Tingley Books, 2002)

These happy, friendly, brightly colored, cartoonish books sing the praise of playful, goofy parents, with equal time given to each gender. The simplicity and directness of the artwork is similar in its impact to the "Maisy" books, as is the plain, declarative writing. Parr's work hints at a hipper world view, however, with dads that do housework and moms who ride rad-looking motorcycles. The Daddy Book is probably the most significant of the two, since it depicts fathers engaged in what are (sadly) still considered unmasculine activities, such as vacuuming and baking cookies. The Mommy Book scrupulously offers an equal-time version of almost exactly the same activities, although dressing up and shopping are two mommy-only events not seen in the other book. There is a teensy, almost imperceptible bit of bias in favor of dad's, notably when a mom is seen singing and the kids frown and wince, as opposed to the big grins seen in The Daddy Book. This is really nitpicking, though: this series is patently and explicitly "politically correct" (or "progressive," if you prefer), and quite nice for trying to introduce not only so many social roles, but also a wide range of activities for kids (and parents) to consider. Most important, they are cheerful and fun to read. I'd recommend them for kids under one year old -- once they can fully see color, they'll love this bold, vibrant artwork. (Parr has a bunch of other books, which I haven't checked out. Some, like The Peace Book, seem a little too ooey-gooey for me...) (B)


"Otto Goes To School"
Written by Todd Parr
Illustrated by Todd Parr
(Megan Tingley, 2005)

One of about a half-dozen or so books in the "Otto" series... Kinda brainless, but a little fun. Otto is a cheerful young dog, and when he goes off to school, it is doggy school that he's attending. There he learns to do things like not chase cats and share his toys. It's a very Maisy-esque, unchallenging story, full of bright colors and mild jokes. It's okay, but not really that great. (C)


"Whistling"
Written by Elizabeth Partridge
Illustrated by Anna Grossnickle Hines
(Greenwillow, 2003)

Is it a "daddy book" masquerading as a nature book, or vice versa? Either way, this is sure to strike a chord among the sappy-minded among us (I liked it, my kid did not...) A boy and his father get up early while on a camping trip and greet the rising sun as the father teaches his son how to whistle. Not sure what the connection is supposed to be between whistling and dawn, but this is still evocative as all hell. Besides -- it's a daddy book! How can you not love a daddy book? The artwork is unusual: all the pictures are quilted collages, constructed using swatches of cloth that change in color as the sunrise gets nearer... very creative and folk-arty. (B-)


"The Birthday Box"
Written by Leslie Patricelli
Illustrated by Leslie Patricelli
(Candlewick, 2007)

Bright and colorful artwork, although I didn't really care for the text... A baby is having her/his first birthday and is totally psyched to get a big cardboard box from Grandma... When it turns out there's also a puppy inside the box, it's almost besides the point, since the baby is having so much fun pretending that the box is an airplane, a pirate ship, and all the other wonderful things an imaginative little kid can come up with when playing with the simplest of objects. Finally, of course, it ends with a nap, baby and puppy cuddled up in the big box -- which also makes a nice comfy bed. This does capture the way kids can sometimes latch onto the plainest of objects and trip out on them for hours, while the super-mega-blinkorama-macrotoy sits around gathering dust. Still, I wasn't thrilled by the text, which seems particularly artless... This may appeal to really little toddlers; for a more complicated story dealing with a similar topic, you might also check out Marisabina Russo's The Big Brown Box. (C)


"Where's The Baby?"
Written by Tom Paxton
Illustrated by Mark Graham
(Morrow Junior Books, 1993)

Folksinger Tom Paxton, who has made a fine career turn as a children's music performer, adds this lovely text to the modern children's library, which follows a little baby through its evening rituals, from coming home in the car, to dinner, booktime, bath and bed. The narrator is a little black kitten who follows the baby from room to room, wondering where it has gone, until finally finding it going to sleep for the night. Although the pastel chalk artwork could be a little more fluid, it is realistic and easy to follow and has good details to point out and discuss Paxton's rhyming text is, naturally, spotless and immaculately crafted, although it's probably best to just read as straight text and not try to sing it -- I found myself getting a little tripped up amid the quirky Paxtonian lilts... A nice bit of little lit, with an emotional tug at the end that sappy parents (like me!) will love. (A)


"We're Going To The Zoo"
Written by Tom Paxton
Illustrated by Karen Lee Schmidt
(Harper Collins, 1996)

Wheeeee...! Wahoo...!! We'll see the lions and tigers and bears and the kangaroo will jump out of its pen and hang out with us for a while. Another fine kid's book from folksinger Tom Paxton; this was a fave around our house for a few weeks, and then we wound up singing several of the verses on a subsequent trip to the zoo. (An experience I usually find depressing, but having this book to refer back to helped make it more fun...) After a couple of weeks reading this, we were primed to go along singing it on our next zoo trip... (A)


"Alphabeep: A Zipping, Zooming ABC"
Written by Debora Pearson
Illustrated by Edward Miller
(Holiday House, 2003)

A stylish, lively alphabet book with a vehicular twist... I thought this looked like fun, but my daughter was completely disinterested, so I can't say I really was able to properly field test it. It seemed cool to me, though. Kids who are into cars, trucks and trains will probably really dig this one. (PS - "Z" is for "Zamboni," of course!) (B)


"Way Down Deep In The Deep Blue Sea"
Written by Jan Peck
Illustrated by Valeria Petrone
(Simon & Schuster, 2004)

A young boy's bathtime is filled with fantastical encounters with octopi, turtles, starfish and whales -- even a bit of buried treasure can be found inside the world of imagination. The rhyming scheme which is a little clunky here is used to better effect in the follow-up book, Way Up High In A Tall Green Tree, which features a female heroine. (B)


"Way Up High In A Tall Green Tree"
Written by Jan Peck
Illustrated by Valeria Petrone
(Simon & Schuster, 2005)

The follow-up to Peck's Way Down Deep In The Deep Blue Sea, this features a young girl meeting numerous jungle animals as she climbs higher and higher into a seemingly limitless tree. When she sees the moon through the uppermost leaves, it's time to come back down, and that's when we discover that was actually climbing to the upper tier of her bunk bed, and that all the animals are her bedtime toys. Nice images of an active, athletic, fearless little girl -- Deep Blue Sea is the male version of the same basic format. (B+)


"The Complete Adventures Of Big Dog And Little Dog"
Written by Dav Pilkey
Illustrated by Dav Pilkey
(Harcourt, 2003)

A no-brainer, in more ways than one. Instantly appealing, with attractive, cartoonish art, two loveable characters, a good sense of humor, and very little depth, these five stories -- originally published as board books in 1997-99 -- are cute, and fun. Included here are Big Dog And Little Dog, in which we meet our heros; Big Dog And Little Dog Going For A Walk, in which they get all dirty (and so does the woman who takes care of them; Big Dog And Little Dog Getting In Trouble, in which they chew up the couch; Big Dog And Little Dog Making A Mistake (oops -- they chase a skunk!) and Big Dog And Little Dog Wearing Sweaters, in which a little stretching-out occurs. Two cute characters that little kids will respond to warmly, and simple, funny text that is easily understood. Fun! (From the guy who wrote the Captain Underpants series.) (B+)


"Max Found Two Sticks"
Written by Brian Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
(Simon & Schuster, 1994)

A nice music-appreciation story about a young boy who loves to drum and makes everything he can into a percussion instrument -- paint buckets, trash cans, soda bottles, whatever. In the end, a drummer from a marching band tosses Max a couple of "real" drum sticks, and encourages his creativity and talent. Nice art, nice story; good if your kid is into drumming to begin with. Also nice to see kids in an urban, inner-city environment, just being kids. (A)


"The Little Engine That Could"
Written by Watty Piper
Illustrated by George & Doris Haumann
(Platt & Munk, 1930)

This is one of those old, classic books that you go back and read and think, omigod, I had no idea all that stuff was going on in this book! In this case, it's the political content that surprised me... You know the story, right? After a train filled with toys and "good food" breaks down on the far side of the mountain, the toys beg various engines to help them and are rebuffed until a kind, little engine stops to help them. It's the rejections of the first trains -- and their not-too-shrouded political symbolism -- that are so fascinating. The first is a passenger engine train, symbolizing the spoiled, upper-class bourgeois, sniffing haughtily that it hauls around people who are really important, not just dumb old toys. The second seems to symbolize the unions and proletariat (this was the 1930s, remember...), a mighty freight engine that huffs and snorts about how it hauls mighty machines and tools of industry, and it doesn't have the time for some silly toys... Then comes a worn-out, rusty old engine -- the used-up average man? -- which wheezes its way past the little train, sighing, "I cannot, I cannot, I cannot..." Then finally, comes the plucky, all-American, Good Samaritan, can-do Little Engine That Could, who agrees to hitch up and pitch in, singing to herself the whole way up the hill that famous refrain: "I think I can, I think I can..." It's that well-known message of optimism and self-empowerment that stuck with everyone and entered the popular consciousness, but omigosh, all the other stuff that's in here! WHO KNEW?? Admittedly, this book is structurally awkward, particularly the super-repetitive, lumbering text... And yet, it's still a great story, one that continues to resonate from one century to the next... Chugga, chugga, chugga!! Puff, puff, puff!! Whooo-whooo!! (B+)


"Turtle Bay"
Written by Saviour Pirotta
Illustrated by Nilesh Mistry
(Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1997)

A nice nature-loving story about a young boy who hangs out with an old man who teaches him respect for the sea and the animals that live in it. The other kids think old Jiro-San is a kook, but Taro and his sister help him pick trash up off the beach, in preparation for his "friends" making their return. It turns out Jiro-San's friends are a flock of sea turtles who come to the beach to lay their eggs, and the children not only get to see the magical egg-laying and hatching rituals, they help make them possible. (The book leaves unexplained how the eggs survive the depredations of the other beachgoers, who keep leaving trash on the beach, and presumably are tromping over the eggs nests the whole time...) A nice environmentalist narrative that evokes the wonder of nature and of this mystical ritual of reptilian rebirth. Probably best for slightly older kids, but smaller readers might like it as well. (B)


"Kitten In Trouble"
Written by Nancy Polushkin
Illustrated by Betsy Lewin
(Simon & Schuster, 1988)

I love Betsy Lewin's artwork, and this was the book where I first discovered her light, sketchy, playful style... This is a giddy romp along with a rambunctious little kitten who attacks sleeping feet, knocks over furniture, brings breakfast crashing to the floor and gets stuck 'way up high in the biggest tree in the neighborhood... But, gosh darn if he ain't a cute little devil. This is a great book with a fun refrain that little kids will enjoy: "UH-OH! Kitten's in trouble!" You'll love this book. (A)


"Not A Box"
Written by Antoinette Portis
Illustrated by Antoinette Portis
(Harper Collins, 2006)

Isn't it funny how the simplest toys bring the greatest pleasures? Y'know... some kids, you buy then the whole set of My Pricey Ponies and twelve different fusion-hybrid Tonka Transformers with in-dash satellite radios... and then all they wanna play with is the cardboard box that their new sweater came in. This is a book for those kids. A little stick-figure bunny is seen in, on, under, on top of and behind what looks like a box, but every time the narrator asks what they are doing with the box, the bunny gets huffy and says, "It's not a box!" In the bunny's mind, it's a rocket, a robot, a race car, a sailing ship... Finally, exasperated at the adult intrusions in the land of pretend, the bunny finally labels the box as a "Not-A-Box," meaning that it is an object of imagination, something than can be anything you want it to be... But certainly nothing as drab as an ordinary old "box." This is a fun, quirky story -- kids might like the invitation to imagination, and the chance to talk about the way your can pretend to be or do anything. This book -- and its sequel -- might also make a good companion to Marisabina Russo's The Big Brown Box. (B)


"Benny"
Written by Sieb Posthuma
Drawn by Sieb Posthuma
(Kane Miller, 2003)

A doggy book. A charming, fantastical story about a little boy dog named Benny who's mystified when he loses his sense of smell... It turns out he has a cold, and needs to get better before he can smell things again. Benny's visit to the doctor includes an encounter with the Sniff Machine, a complicated apparatus that takes the smell of a big bone through yards and yards of tubing to where the patient waits -- it's a goofy, funny book that helps make a trip to the doctor sound sound like fun, or at least like something not to worry about. It's not great literature, but it is fun to read, and good for dog lovers as well, and packed full of bones, bones, bones. (B)


"Busy Bea"
Written by Nancy Poydar
Illustrated by Nancy Poydar
(Margaret K. McElderry, 1994)

A forgetful little girl named Bea leaves her lunchbox, her sweater, etc. at school... and doesn't realize there's a lost-and-found room until she's lost practically everything she's brought! Then, of course, she recovers all her missing stuff and all ends well. A nice, simple story about a common problem, and a common solution. Nice artwork, and a friendly, sympathetic character. Cute. (B)


"First Day, Hooray!"
Written by Nancy Poydar
Illustrated by Nancy Poydar
(Holiday House, 1999)

A going-to-school story with admirable intentions, but a painfully cluttered narrative. Ivy Green (all the characters have pun-laden names) is a little girl getting ready for her first day of kindergarten, and while buying new shoes and school supplies, she frets about what will happen if she misses the bus, or loses her lunch, or can't find her classroom. Correspondingly, we see the school staff -- the bus driver, the custodian, the principal and Ivy's new teacher -- going through their preparations, then setting their alarm clocks and going to sleep the night before. The idea is show us that teachers are people, too, and that they share some of our anxieties, even while they are taking steps to ensure that things will go well. The trouble is there's just too much going on here: the characters are named, but their roles aren't explained (parents may flounder while trying to guess who Mr. Masters and Ms. Bell are...) and trying to follow them all through their night-before jitters is asking a lot of one's readers. The narrative just isn't as smooth and readily apparent as it should be... Maybe some brainiac readers will fall into the right wavelength to appreciate this one, but I found it an unusually difficult story to get through. (C-)


"Mailbox Magic"
Written by Nancy Poydar
Illustrated by Nancy Poydar
(Holiday House, 2000)

Potentially, a nice exploration of the lost art of letter writing... A young boy becomes fascinated with the thought of getting mail sent to him, but the book swiftly gets sidetracked with his obsession with getting mail from a cereal company after he sends in mail for a promotional contest. Hmmm. Somehow, that's not as interesting to me as it would have been if he'd been writing, I dunno, a pen-pal or his grandmother. The corresponding with a corporation angle was a bit depressing. Kinda wordy, flat writing as well. Oh, well.
(C)



Jack Prelutsky -- see author profile


"Squeaky Clean"
Written by Simon Puttock
Illustrated by Mary McQuillan
(Little Brown, 2002)

Three little pigs say, "no bath, no way!" but still have a great time when they get in the tub... Mama pig has her hands full getting them out again and off to bed, but when all is done and the little ones are asleep, she gets to take a bath of her own. A simple celebration of soaking and suds -- not great literature or anything, but a fun book, full of action and funny, squelchy sounds. Worth checking out. (B-)


"Stella To Earth!"
Written by Simon Puttock
Illustrated by Philip Hopman
(Clarion, 2005)

A lovely, lively father-daughter book, about an energetic, imaginative young girl named Stella, who dreams of being a space explorer and blasts off for distant planets every night, just before she goes to bed. While she brushes her teeth, puts on her PJs and lands on cratered moons, her dad calls upstairs: "Earth To Stella! Don't forget to wash behind your ears!" One night, though, communication from the home planet is disrupted, and Stella zips back across the galaxy to find dear old, tired dad crashed out on the couch. After she rouses him, they both set off to see the latest planet she's found (and on the way we briefly glimpse the various toys and bedclothes that made up the backdrop for her spacecapades... Stella's a great role model: her room is packed with scientific paraphernalia and such -- and if you're a fan of Spaceman Spiff, you'll dig Stella's universe, too! (Also called Earth To Stella! ...I think it's a UK vs. US thing... ) (A)






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