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  • Children's book reviews by Jennifer Sykes

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Pippi Fixes Everything, Pippi Longstocking Comics, by Astrid Lindgren & Ingrid Vang Nyman


pippiWhat’s old is new again, and this “reboot” of the classic Pippi Longstocking stories is sure to catch the interest of young readers.  Pippi Fixes Everything is one of a series of books that originally existed as comics from the 1950s and were recently translated to English for the first time.   Other titles include Pippi Moves In and Pippi Won’t Grow Up.

Pippi Longstocking is a spunky girl who has a lot of adventure in her life, and her stories are full of kid-appropriate drama and suspense.  Boys and girls alike will enjoy Pippi’s crazy ideas, heroics, and quips.  Pippi tricks burglars!  She rescues children from a burning building!  She has a tug of war contest with her father… using her teeth!  Who can resist this quirky protagonist and her many tales?  All the charm of the original stories and illustrations remains intact.

Graphic novels and comic books are wonderful for struggling or reluctant readers.  They offer illustrations for every brief snippet of text, allowing the child to make connections and improve comprehension.  These particular illustrations are very bold and colorful and directly related to the speaking character’s dialogue.  Each story within the book is only a few pages long, making it comfortable and not overwhelming.  Pippi Fixes Everything is also great for precocious early readers who are able to easily decode words but are still not ready for dense chapter books, or the more mature themes that are frequently found in chapter books.

Whether you are looking for a way to introduce a beloved classic character or are seeking a fun, appealing read for children in preschool through early elementary school, Pippi Fixes Everything is a solid choice.  The timeless themes and vintage charm are the same as they ever were — they are merely presented in a different and appealing way to make them readable and exciting to a new generation.


Bob & Rob & Corn on the Cob by Todd McQueen

robIf your kids are as silly as mine, they will definitely enjoy Todd McQueen’s Bob & Rob & Corn on the Cob.  Yes, even the title and cover make you grin.  Open the book to meet two squirrels, Bob and Rob, who happen to love corn on the cob.  They know a rabbit named Ella Mae Dobbs who most definitely does not love corn on the cob.  She’s a food snob who prefers “pan-seared tofu with carrots cut curly and hot cheese fondue.”  The squirrels attempt to convince her to taste corn on the cob by trying her favorites in return for her trying theirs.  When the corn on the cob is added to a kebab, one of Ella Mae Dobbs’ favorite foods, and heated with fire, there is a fun surprise that wins her over.

The story is very simple… and very adorable.  All kids will love the rhyme, and older kids will note how different fonts are used for effect.  There is a random robot at various points in the story, saying random things, and it really gets readers laughing.  Kids will relate to the persistence of Bob and Rob in trying to get all their friends to like their favorite thing, and some little chefs might find the refined palate of Ella Mae Dobbs similar to their own.

Where this book really shines is its illustrations.  They are quirky and playful and silly, and they are truly lovely, too.  When Rob is forced to try tofu, his little squirrel face goes green.  Ella Mae Dobs wears a fancy lace skull cap, ridiculous sunglasses (indoors?), and a stole.  Rob and Bob, themselves, are drawn in cute getups that kids will enjoy.

Lighthearted fun is expected whenever corn on the cob is being served, and this book really delivers.

Puddle Pug by Kim Norman

Puddle Pug

I have yet to read a terrible children’s book featuring a pug.  Puddle Pug, written by Kim Norman and illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi, is the latest in our family’s long line of adored stories about pugs.  If you know a pug, you know they are spirited little creatures — some naughty and grumpy, some silly and playful, and some are a fun blend of many personality traits (sometimes at the same time!).  Norman’s book features a sweet, smart pug named Percy, and he thoroughly enjoys puddles.

Percy is a canine puddle reviewer, really.  He checks out all the puddles in his neighborhood and critiques them.  He then places each on a map with a descriptor like “swampy” or “froggy” or “deeper.”  They’re all swell puddles, but they each leave just a little something to be desired.  One day he finds a puddle he hasn’t tried.  It’s a muddy puddle full of baby pigs — he calls it a friendly puddle.  He jumps in and finds his holy grail of puddles.  It is PERFECT…  except that the piglets’ mother does not want Percy around, and she kicks him out.

Percy can’t stop thinking about that perfect puddle.  He tries to find even more new puddles, but they are all wrong.  Percy goes back to the piggy puddle and tries to sneak in and woo the mama pig, but she is not having any of it.  Percy sulks and walks away.

One day, there is a storm, and a tree falls into the perfect puddle.  Mama pig cannot find the smallest of her piglets.  Percy consults his map and finds her in the smallest of nearby puddles, winning the mama pig over, and earning himself anytime access to that perfect, friendly mud puddle.

Yamaguchi’s illustrations are both playful and soothing.  You see Percy’s expressions and feelings very clearly, and the natural world he’s exploring is presented in soft earthtones.  His maps are especially adorable, with his little pug penmanship noting each known puddle.

Norman’s story is very sweet, and her style is perfect for a read aloud.  There are short sections of fun rhyming that kids will enjoy, but it doesn’t get contrived.  There are just a few sentences per page, and the voice of the narrator is peaceful and easy for even the most awkward-feeling grownup to read to a group of children.  This would be a perfect book for a teacher or guest classroom reader to share, and it’s a perfect book for mom or dad to read aloud at bedtime, too.

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