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  • Children's book reviews by Jennifer Sykes

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Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light

HaveSeenDragon1Steve Light has created a masterpiece.  The cover of this book gives you a clear indication of the fun that lies inside.  Its intricate, detailed black and white cityscape shows only two things in color — a little boy and his dragon.  The little boy, you learn, is hunting for his dragon.  Where will you find him?  Open the book.  He’s hiding on every page!

Light has created a book of many layers.  It is both simple and complex.  Each two-page black and white scene contains one fun object in color with a corresponding number.  Children may focus on the ascending numbers of each page turn and count the special, colorful items in the scene.  The young reader may also try to find the hidden dragon in each setting; it’s certainly an intended (and entertaining) goal.  Or one can delve into the details unrelated to the dragon or the numbers and see hundreds of charming little moments that are common in busy cities.  It takes several reads to fully appreciate all that Have You Seen My Dragon? has to offer.

This book is built around the amazing illustrations of a city.  It is so busy and energizing that it wouldn’t work well as a bedtime read, but it is definitely educational, interesting, and humorous.  Children will enjoy the order that comes with a counting book, but they’ll also enjoy the chaos of the city backdrop — monkeys stealing the zookeeper’s keys, men making deliveries, subway cars zooming by.  The exploration of an urban landscape and the number familiarity make this as much a learning book as it is a pretty book, and what isn’t made better by a cameo by a wayward dragon?

Have You Seen My Dragon? is a real delight, and it’s a book that manages to be youthful without being condescending.  Parents and children alike will enjoy this book.  It’s light on words but rich in experience.  It would make a beautiful gift for any child or family, especially ones living in a big city or headed to one on a fun adventure of their own.

 

Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino

doug-unplugged

When I first saw the title Doug Unplugged, I was able to guess the moral of this story.  On the cover, there was an adorable young robot boy holding the plug of his cord and smiling.  I have so often had to lecture my young girls about walking away from devices that I made a very simple rule for video games or computers:  If it’s not for school, no electronic devices may be used from Monday to Friday, and may only be used during limited hours on weekends… unless there’s a storm, blizzard, or robot invasion.  So I admit I come to this book with some bias.  I like my kids to “unplug.”

Doug is a sweet little robot whose robot parents want him to be as smart as possible.  They plug him in every morning so he can download all the information he could possibly need.  One day, as he was sitting there downloading, he gets distracted by a pigeon.  His curiosity gets the best of him, and he unplugs!  He wanders around his city, truly experiencing life, nature, and even friendship and love.  All those nuances and intangibles he can’t learn from his daily download are easily perceived and understood from just one day of adventure.

While this is pretty parent-oriented subject matter, Dan Yaccarino has created a very interesting story for young children from preschool to early elementary level.  His illustrations are wonderful and very Jestons-esque in their simplicity and “futuristic” appeal.  Children will be able to relate to Doug and his experiences, and maybe they’ll reflect and see that they better understand and enjoy learning when they actively participate and experience things.  This is a great book to kick off summer.  As well all pry the iEverythings and handheld games out of the grasp of our little ones, we can remind them of the fun and friendship Doug finds when he unplugs.

Perfectly Percy by Paul Schmid

 

perfectlypercyIf you were a very prickly porcupine whose favorite thing in the whole world was a balloon, I’d tell you that you were not setting yourself up for happiness.  But in the delightful picture book Perfectly Percy, we find just such a situation… and a happy ending.

Percy loves balloons.  He’s also covered in sharp quills, and at the beginning of the story, a lovely blue balloon meets its demise.  Poor Percy.  But he’s not one to mope or give up.  He problem-solves, he seeks the wisdom of his older sister Pearl (featured in Schmid’s previous book, Hugs from Pearl), and he stays calm.  He finds a solution in an unlikely place, and all that persistence and patience pays off.

This is a very charming story that gives a great example of cause and effect.  Toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners can learn from Percy.  He doesn’t melt down or stomp when his favorite thing is ruined.  He doesn’t cry when he can’t figure out a way to enjoy his balloon.  He deals with his sadness in a constructive way, and he makes his own success.

The sweet and simple illustrations, also by Schmid, show this adorable porcupine, and his feelings and actions, in an accessible way.   A lighthearted and non-preachy tale about disappointment, frustration, and solving life’s little problems is a perfect read for young children who face these challenges several times a day.  Even if they don’t follow Percy’s lead, they’re sure to enjoy hearing about someone who feels the same way as they often do.

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