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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 "Y"






Kids Books -- Letter "Y" By Author

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"If I Had A Robot"
Written by Dan Yaccarino
Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
(Viking Books, 1996)

I suppose this book has its boyish charm, although I wouldn't recommend it, either for its message or its presentation. The artwork, from TV animator Dan Yaccarino, is cluttered and klutzy -- he's aiming for the clean, streamlined, retro-spaceage look he perfected in later books, but he ain't there yet. Mostly, though, it's the story I disliked. Yaccarino starts from the premise of the title -- cool! a robot!! -- and then slides lazily into a rejectionist fantasy wherein the robot will eat the boy's vegetables for him and get him out of his schoolwork as well. Why promote these negative values? Why couldn't the robot do something really cool, like fly him to Mars, or something? To make things worse, what pulls the lad out of his dreamworld and back to the dinner table is the promise of a super-sugary desert, but only if he finishes his meal. Bleahh. How lame and how counterproductive... Don't get me wrong: I'm not some rigid, humorless, all-books-must-teach-right-from-wrong crankypants grind, but I just don't see the point of this narrative... I mean, if you think it's funny, good for you. No doubt there are lots of kids who will respond favorably as well... But I imagine there are an awful lot of parents out there who would be perfectly happy to keep this one off the reading list and have their kids think that veggies and school are cool. There are plenty of opportunities for the opposite message to seep in; why put it there yourself? (C-)


"Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! I'm Off To The Moon"
Written by Dan Yaccarino
Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
(Scholastic, 1997)

(B+)


"An Octopus Followed Me Home"
Written by Dan Yaccarino
Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
(1998)

Another clumsy early work from Yaccarino. An octopus tags along with a little girl and when she asks her dad please please please can I keep him, he reminds her of all the other exotic, improbable animals she's taken in and promised to care for... The concept is very funny, and the text is pretty good, I just didn't care for the artwork. It's kinda chaotic and overly bold, difficult to take in at a glance and understand. Maybe a little tighter framing and more negative space would have helped? Anyway, I wasn't wowed by this one, but it's okay. (C-)


"Deep In The Jungle"
Written by Dan Yaccarino
Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
(Atheneum, 2000)

A disappointing early work by TV cartoonist Dan Yaccarino... The story revolves around a vainglorious lion who is bored ruling the jungle and sees a trip to civilization as an opportunity for his great talents to be recognized. Of course, being in the circus isn't all it's cracked up to be, and the lion soon discovers that he'd rather be back home with all the wild animals. He returns as a liberator, rather than as a bully and a bore (which is what he was before). The message is okay, I guess, but the story is a bit forced and the text is very wordy and lacks the flow and ease of Yaccarino's later work. It's all about the learning curve, I guess. (C+)


"The Birthday Fish"
Written by Dan Yaccarino
Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
(Henry Holt, 2005)

Cool book. Like many young girls, little Cynthia just loves ponies and for some time now has politely but repeatedly requested one for her birthday (or for Christmas, she's not particular...) She keeps getting other stuff -- toys, bikes, even a dog -- but never a pony! You'd think her parents would catch on, eventually... This year, she was totally sure she'd get a pony, but instead she got... a fish! Cynthia was just about to take her frustrations out on the poor goldfish when it struck a deal with her... set it free and it would grant her a wish. But in the course of setting the fish free, she realized he was kind of a cool companion, and decided to keep the fish instead. I like the hip, hyper-cartoonish art, as well as the pacing and overall feel of this book. The moral of the story, such as it is, is nice, but the action itself is really engaging... It's fun to read. Yaccarino, a TV animation writer, has a few other books out as well, but this one is the best so far. Recommended! (A)


"Mice At The Beach"
Written by Haruo Yamashita
Illustrated by Kazuo Iwamura
(William Morrow, 1983)

A little family of mice -- well, a big family, actually: there are seven children! -- goes on an outing to the beach. Daddy Mouse has come up with a scheme to keep track of all the kids, tying cords to all seven of their inner tubes so that he can keep tabs on them and play lifeguard. But when the family takes a nap and the tide comes, Daddy finds himself stranded on a sandbar out in the middle of the water. Mama Mouse and the children work together to rescue Daddy (who as it turns out, can't swim) and then they head back home, with a happy ending after all. A good, simple story... nothing earthshaking or profound, but reasonably engaging, with nice, functional artwork. Has some nice touches, although the story is a bit flat. (B-)


"Joey & Jet"
Written by James Yang
Illustrated by James Yang
(Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2004)

A quick moving, stylishly cartoonish romp, with a loyal dog (Jet) chasing a ball thrown by his boy (Joey). The ball goes past birds, through the woods, over the water, into a cafe, down a hole etc., and yet the energetic Jet zips along, finally fetching the ball and bringing it back... Only to have Joey throw it again! Writer/artist James Yang does commercial graphic work for a number of national magazines, and this digitally-rendered book bops along at a brisk pace, delivering its zippy punchline after an action-packed outing. Not much depth, but a fun read with strong visual appeal. (B)


"Joey & Jet In Space"
Written by James Yang
Illustrated by James Yang
(Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 2006)

A weak follow-up to Yang's previous volume... In this overly-kinetic, wildly designed romp, Joey and Jet are in outer space, but the cosmos is cluttered and ill-defined, as is the story. Jet zaps off somewhere, and Joey searches for him, past brightly colored blips, spaceships, robots and a big Saturn-like planet... Then, just as his search hits a hysterical peak, his mom calls him to lunch and snaps him out of his playtime . The story's flimsy and the presentation falls flat, largely due to the haphazard layout. It's colorful and dynamic, but uninspired and unoriginal. (C-)


"Puff, The Magic Dragon"
Written by Peter Yarrow & Lenny Lipton
Illustrated by Eric Puybaret
(Sterling, 2007)

A cheery adaptation of Peter, Paul & Mary's 1960s folk-pop classic, "Puff The Magic Dragon," a hit single that became a staple of campfire singalongs and nursery school circle times all around the world. Personally, I'm not wild about the artwork -- it's large and bold, but tends to spill over into the edges of the pages, rather than provide a strong, immediate focal point for the eyes to latch onto -- but the book is still a delight, and will capture the imagination of little readers who are new to the story of Jackie Paper, as well as the many (grand)parents who will pick this up, in part as a trip down memory lane. Peter Yarrow and his family also provide a four-song CD-EP that has a revamped new recording of "Puff," an additional instrumental (karaoke?) version and two other kiddie-folk tunes, "Froggy Went A-Courtin'" and "Blue Tail Fly." In a pair of brief, chatty endnotes, Yarrow and co-author Lenny Lipton cheerfully bat aside the persistent rumors that are attached to this song, asserting for the bazillionth time that it was not written about the town of Hanalei, Hawaii (which I believe) and that it is not a coded reference to drug use (which I'm a little more skeptical about... I mean, c'mon, it was the Sixties, man!) Regardless of which urban myths you choose to believe, this is a lovely, enchanting story, and so deeply ingrained in American popular culture, it pretty much has the status of fairy tale or myth. Nice to have it at our fingertips, at last! (B)


"Sand Castle"
Written by Brenda Shannon Yee
Illustrated by Thea Kliros
(Greenwillow, 1999)

Five young children (ages 5-8?) meet on the beach and build an enormous sand castle, complete with a moat, a wall, a canal to the water and a big road leading to the gate. Each kid builds their own part, and by cooperating, they are able to make something bigger than any of them could have made alone. Then, when the day was done, and their parents called them to go home, what next? Well, they stomped the castle into oblivion, of course! This is a very nice book about sharing and cooperation, with nice, realistic pictures. The only part I didn't like was how the first girl, Jen, who started the project, greets all the other children by saying this is "my castle," even though they've all been working on it together for a while. Minor point, though, in an otherwise nice book. (A-)


"Harry And Lulu"
Written by Arthur Yorinks
Illustrated by Martin Matje
(Hyperion, 1999)

A bratty little girl named Lulu throws a major fit when her folks won't get her a puppy... and things don't get any better when they try giving her a stuffed animal as a substitute. Things are especially bad for the dog, Harry, who has to put up with Lulu's abuse, which continues even when he secretly comes to life and takes her on an imaginary journey to Paris. Eventually, Lulu mellows -- a little -- and she and Harry become fast friends. In some ways, it's nice to see a prickly girl like Lulu keep her rough edges, but there are scenes where Lulu's language is so harsh, and their arguments are so snappish that I've always had to read around the text in several pages. Still, it's a funny fantasy story, and the resolution is very satisfying. Worth checking out, but overprotectivoids (like myself) may find the tone to be a little too harsh. (B)


"Belinda The Ballerina"
Written by Amy Young
Illustrated by Amy Young
(Viking, 2003)

A pure delight! The story and art quirky and cute, and each are equally joyful. Belinda is a dancer with two giant-sized, gallumphing feet, yet despite her humongous clompers, she prances and pirouettes like pro... Not that that matters to the snooty judges at her dance audition -- they take one look at her humongous hooves and send her right home. Discouraged, Belinda hangs up her tutu and goes to work in a cafe, until opportunity knocks and success beckons. A clever Cinderella-in-the-arts fairy tale, with groovy, highly stylized artwork and one of the sweetest, most demure picturebook heroines in recent memories... Kids will love the story; chances are parents who are in the performing arts will appreciate the good-natured jabs at the arts establishment... A sweet fantasy story that holds up to repeated readings... Highly recommended! (A)


"Belinda In Paris"
Written by Amy Young
Illustrated by Amy Young
(Viking, 2005)

Belinda returns, this time as a star performer who is the talk of all Paris... But her big show is about to be a flop, since the airlines have misplaced her one-of-a-kind, oversized dance shoes... Can she find replacements in time for her gala performance that night? Her adventures through a cartoonish Parisian landscape are wonderful fun, both for folks who have been to Paris and for those who have not. And, of course, the happy ending comes with a healthy dose of laconic humor. Another highly recommended, thoroughly enjoyable story... I just wish there was another Belinda book we could read as well! (A)


"Belinda And The Glass Slipper"
Written by Amy Young
Illustrated by Amy Young
(Viking, 2006)

Wow... I was really disappointed in this one, and hadn't expected to be, at all. We loved the first two Belinda the Ballerina adventures -- she's such an optimistic, patient character, and her world was so gentle, that it was really fun to read her stories. This third installment in the series is kind of a downer, though, as Belinda gets caught in a power struggle with an utterly mean, spiteful rival dancer, over who can play the lead in a production of the "Cinderella" ballet. The snottiness and dishonesty of the new character, Lola, is meant to mirror the negative qualities of Cinderella's wicked step-mother and step-sisters -- indeed, Lola even locks Belinda into a dressing room the same way Cinderelly gets locked into her room in the Disney film. But the Lola character's harshness is a poor match for the Belinda books -- in the past, people who were mean to Belinda, such as the haughty art critics and high society types, were mere caricatures, silly, silly people who would see that they were wrong, once Belinda got to strut her stuff. But Lola is really just plain evil and the tone of her character is all wrong -- her meanness is genuinely disturbing, and overplayed. Hmmm. Oh, well. I guess we can just pretend this book never existed, and enjoy the first two. (B-)


"Belinda Begins Ballet"
Written by Amy Young
Illustrated by Amy Young
(Viking, 2008)


(-)


"My Favorite Word Book: Words And Pictures For The Very Young"
Written by Selina Young
Illustrated by Selina Young
(Doubleday, 1999)

Similar to those great old Richard Scarry books, this is a rich, detailed (and long!) picturebook that encourages kids to learn new words and pick specific objects out of complicated scenarios. Double-page spreads illustrate topics like "School," "Farm," "Dinosaurs," "Your Body," "The Garden," etc., with key objects shown outside the frame of the picture, as well as inside the picture itself. Like the Scarry books, this takes a certain level of intense concentration; younger readers may not be able to focus on it, while older children may be familiar with most of the words by the time they can piece apart the artwork. Still, it's a nice book -- children with methodical minds who are drawn to detail and catagorization will get into it. No plot, though, if that matters. (B)




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