Hi - this is Page 5 of the "A List,"
a super-special section of Read That Again! featuring many of our favorite children's books of the last few years. We've read a ton of books (literally!) and these ones are the best.

This section is organized alphabetically by book title... you can also browse all the books reviewed on the site, listed by author or by title in the main part of the website. The "A List" will be added to along with the rest of Read That Again!, as more new books come our way...

By the way, we're always looking for new stuff to read... If you have recommendations for books you think we'd like, please feel free to write and tell us about your favorite books!

The A-List: A-C | D-G | H-K | L-M | N-R | S-Z ~ New Books ~ Other Reviews

"No Foal Yet"
Written by Jessie Haas
Illustrated by Jos. A. Smith
(Greenwillow, 1995)

Nora and her family are waiting for one of their horses, a mare named Bonnie, to give birth. Grandpa stays up late several nights in a row, but it is Nora who happens to be there when the foal finally comes. A nice, simple story which imparts the sense of drama and urgency surrounding a farmyard birth, but only hints at potential dangers. Again, Haas imparts a sense of wonder and reverence for life... Kids who are into horses should love this book; nice, also, if you want to teach them about life on the farm. (A)

"Oh No, Gotta Go!"
Written by Susan Middleton Elya
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
(G. P. Putnam & Sons, 2003)

A really cute bilingual (Spanish-English) book about learning to go potty in the outside world. A family is out for a Sunday drive when their little girl announces, with great urgency, that she needs to pee -- NOW. DE PRISA. The rhyming text is effective and amusing, the pictures are a hoot (some of the finest work Karas has done to date...) and the integration of the Spanish vocabulary is skillfully handled, as is the issue of potty training and needing to go when you need to go. One of Elya's finest books -- definitely worth checking out! (A)

"Oh, Say Can You Say?"
Written by Dr. Seuss
Illustrated by Dr. Seuss
(Beginner's Books, 1979)

A killer-diller tongue-twister book, similar to Seuss's Fox In Socks, but without as much fuddle-duddling and violence. As with other Seuss forays, literalism and meaning aren't as important as the fluid, funny artwork and the joyous, playful use of language. The book sort of peters out at the end, when it mysteriously starts to focus on fathers and what kind of presents to get them (?), but several of the earlier poems are a lot of fun to read, particularly "Fresh, Fresher, Freshest," "Quack, Quack," "The Grox Box" and "How To Tell A Klotz From A Glotz." It's a lot of fun to zip through these pages and see if you get tripped up or not: when I make a goof, my kid likes to tease me and makes blibblubblibblubblibblub noises to let me know she's totally busted me. Another winner from the Doctor... Recommended! (A-)

"One Morning In Maine"
Written by Robert McCloskey
Illustrated by Robert McCloskey
(Viking, 1952)

A long and involved story -- probably best for "older" kids, five or older (?) -- about a girl named Sal who lives with her parents and little sister out in a seaside cabin in rural Maine. On a day when she and her father are going into town to run errands, Sal loses the first of her baby teeth, and chatters happily about losing teeth, making wishes and becoming " a big girl." The literal-minded text is matched by McCloskey's detail-rich artwork, which evokes both the spendor of the natural world and the nuts-and-bolts complexities of the modern, industrial world. There's a lot to look at while all the words go by, especially when they go into town and visit the local mechanic, and then head over to the general store. The rustic, Eisenhower-era world that this book is set in is long gone, but Sal's childlike innocence and sense of adventure still rings true. (A-)

"The Owl And The Pussycat"
Written by Edward Lear
Illustrated by James Marshall
(Harper Collins, 1998)

A really fun book. Lear's beloved nonsense poem is vividly and joyously brought to life by children's book author James Marshall (known for his James & Martha and Stupids series....) There are several picturebook adaptations of this same text, but this is the best one I've seen... It's just so readable and visually appealing! Recommended! (A+)

"Owl Babies"
Written by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Patrick Benson
(Candlewick, 1992)

A trio of baby owls are left alone in the nest while their mother searches for food. The eldest cheers the other two on, while the youngest cries for its mommy. I never thought much of this book until separation anxiety started to set in with our baby, and she liked to have it read over and over and over. Guess that's why it's in every book store in the country! A nice, simple story that deals with a primal emotional issue; nice artwork, too. (A)

"Part-Time Dog"
Written by Jane Thayer (aka Catherine Woolley)
Illustrated by Lisa McCue
(William Morrow & Co., 1954/2004)

A touching story about a stray dog that "adopts" three different women. The women call the dog catcher, though, and have the pooch hauled off... then instantly regret their decision and rescue the pup from the pound. I have a powerful memory of loving this book as a kid, especially the artwork, which really drew me in. Upon rediscovering it at the local library, I was sorely disappointed to discover that the 1954 version I grew up (pictured here) with is no longer available, and has been replaced by a new, "improved" version, with modernized artwork in place of the old stuff by Thayer's former partner, Seymour Fleishman. What a shame. I looked at the new edition, and there is no doubt in my mind that the old artwork was what made me love the story so much. McCue's style is too detailed and literal; it detracts from the simplicity of the style... and neither the dog nor the ladies who adopt him are nearly as interesting or likable the way they look now. Oh well. I'm going to go track down a copy of the old book now to read to my kid. (Old version: A; new version: C)

"Polo And The Runaway Book"
Written by Regis Faller
Illustrated by Regis Faller
(Roaring Brook Press, 2007)

The sequel to Faller's fab Adventures Of Polo, one of the coolest kid's books of the decade. Polo's back, and so are the little green men: one of them sneaks into Polo's bedroom and steals his new book, starting a chase that takes them across the oceans, up into the sky, into a weird, white Limbo and into a cloud kingdom with a delicate princess who becomes Polo's friend. Picking up other friends along the way, Polo crosses deserts and rides clouds, frees a genie and climbs a giant dandelion, like Jack climbed the the beanstalk. Finally, after seventy color-filled pages, he catches up to the little green guy, who is reading the runaway book to a group of his friends. Polo sits down to listen, and when the story is over, the green guy gives it back to him. (Since there are no words, you can insert an apology here, if you want. Another brilliant, breathless rollercoaster ride filled with fantastic, just-for-fun adventures. My kid will look at this book for hours by herself, but also loves when we read it together. Can't wait for more of these to come out in America! (A+)

"The Puddle"
Written by David McPhail
Drawn by David McPhail
(Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998)

A simple, delightful fantasy tale about a small child who asks to go out and play in the rain and has a series of adventures with talking animals -- a turtle, an alligator, etc., -- while sailing a toy boat in a puddle. Not all the animals are nice -- a frog who steals the boat can be seen as a playground bully -- but the tone of the book is light and fanciful, and the story ends well. The text flows beautifully and the story is charming. The real highlight, though, is McPhail's artwork, gentle, elegant watercolors that are reminiscent of Ernest H. Shepard's classic illustrations for A.A. Milne's Winnie The Pooh books. This one's a winner -- probably one of our permanent Top Ten! (A++)

"The Puddle Pail"
Written by Elisa Kleven
Illustrated by Elisa Kleven
(Dutton, 1997)

A sweet story about a young boy with an artistic imagination (Ernst the blue crocodile, who we'd met earlier in Kleven's first book, Ernst...) Ernst goes for a walk with his older, more literal-minded brother, Sol, who is into collecting stuff like feathers and rocks and sea shells. Sol encourages Ernst to start a collection, too, but Ernst wants to collect magical things, like clouds or stars. He finally decides to gather up a bunch of puddles, because he can see so many other things inside their reflections -- a puddle can have flowers or clouds houses in it, as well as being all watery and wet. Ernst gathers different "kinds" of puddles together in one pail, and later uses them to stir his watercolors to life, when he wants to paint the things he saw. A lovely, allegorical celebration of artistic vision, creative thinking as well as the fun of doing things you like, even if other people think they're silly. Nice relationship btween the two brothers, too: Sol doesn't really get what Ernst is up to, but he isn't mean about it, and tries to encourage the younger boy to enjoy himself. Also, more of Kleven's delightfully detailed, kaleidoscopically colorful artwork, with plenty of stuff going on in the margins to capture the eyes of readers of all ages. This is one of my favorite Elisa Kleven books... Highly recommended! (A)

"Ride a Purple Pelican"
Written by Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Garth Williams
(Harper, 1986)

For those who appreciate silliness, whimsey, and the supple flow of language used well, this book is an absolute delight. While many children's book authors try using rhyme in their works, few do it with the gracefulness and sense of sheer fun that poet Jack Prelutsky brings to the form. Add to his words the colorful, kooky draftsmanship of artist Garth Williams, and you've got an instant classic. These ditties combine elegant feel of A. A. Milne's poems with the giddy abandon of good, old-fashioned limericks. Most of all, they are fun to read, and equally fun to listen to... And don't be surprised if you and your kids wind up memorizing a few of them, to recite for years to come. Highly recommended! (A+)

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