Archive for the ‘children’s literature’ Category

Review: Little Monkey Calms Down

09 Jan

Blog Pics Jan 2016 001 Little Monkey Calms Down

Written by Michael Dahl

Illustrated by Oriol Vidal

Publisher: Picture Window Books

ISBN-10: 1479522864

ISBN-13: 978-1479522866


What’s In It:

Like the “Little Dinos” series, this “Hello Genius” series tackles moral issues such as listening, saying “thank you,” and “sorry,” and calming down. Unlike the very successful “Little Dinos” books, this series has a new animal character for each story (tiger, kitty, elephant).

Little Monkey Calms Down begins with Little Monkey having a bad day: he’s dropped his ice cream. Cue excessive crying and hysterical illustrations of a young child’s tantrum that keep a young reader’s attention, along with text that is simply put and helpful. The author suggests that it is okay to cry and then proceeds to list out alternates to figure out how to calm down, like snuggling with a blanket or learning how to take a deep breath.

Mom’s View:

If you have a child that has frequent tantrums—basically, if you have a child—you need this book. My five-year-old wanted to read this and immediately identified the monkey as himself, and the mommy and daddy monkeys as “Mommy and Daddy.”

My child has a history of tantrums, and we have offered many alternates for calming down that have not worked, including deep breathing. None of these traditional techniques (counting to 10, deep breathing, focusing on a visual) have worked—we’re talking “I don’t want to count to 10!” type of responses. When Little Monkey takes a deep breath, and I mimicked that, my son immediately responded and mimicked as well. A few days later when he was upset, we repeated the exercise.

I cannot say enough good things about this one. We’ll be looking into the rest of the series, especially those about sharing and listening!

Blog Pics Jan 2016 002

Art Notes:

Oriol Vidal’s artwork is clean and approachable, and still captures the style of Dahl’s earlier series. Clearly artwork that a young audience will gravitate towards.

Editor’s Notes:

My one nitpicky editorial note is that we go from a point of view shift in the last two pages of the book. Up until then, it’s the narrator/speaker’s voice giving the reader information about Little Monkey, and then giving Little Monkey instructions directly. Both of which are fine, but then we have the appearance of two adult-size monkeys, which we only assume are mom and dad, and it’s clear they are speaking directly to LM in the last two pages. A reader probably would not pick up on it, but as an editor, I would have smoothed that out a bit, or picked one POV from the first page on.



The Children’s Corner

15 Sep

I have read a lot of children’s literature. A lot. Once upon a time, when I worked with a big-name publisher, that was my job. Yes. My job was to get dressed up, go to an office (or a library) and read children’s books. All. Day. Long.

My eyes were very tired. Also, very dry hands. I didn’t read much for myself at night. But it was fun. SO FUN.

Now, as a children’s book editor, I am reading plenty of submissions and manuscripts and plenty of new and exciting new titles that are flying out and about. But occasionally we hit the library or the bookstore and find a gem that I have missed. A book that just really screams, “I need to be in your collection!”

So I’m starting a new column here for the ERE blog, a series of children’s book reviews that bring up not only great literature, but books that may have been passed up by our new generation of readers.

First up:

Front cover of Pete, feeling groovy.

Front cover of Pete, feeling groovy.

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

Art by James Dean (creator of Pete the Cat)

Story by Eric Litwin

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

ISBN: 978-0062110589


What’s In It

Like many of the Pete the Cat books, there’s lots of repetition, and a song this one about how much Pete likes his four groovy buttons. As Pete moves about his day—doing a little skateboarding, a little surfing, having some ice cream—one by one he loses all of his buttons. But, as the story goes, “Does Pete cry? Goodness, no! Buttons come and buttons go.” Pete keeps on singing his song about loving his groovy buttons.

Mom’s View

Frankly, Pete the Cat is just a hit at home. Both of my children (ages 5 and 2), are ob-sessed with this series. My eldest son, Max, started off his first week of Kindergarten using teaching materials based on Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, and his teachers noted to me how much he was responding to it. So Four Groovy Buttons made its way into my Amazon cart.

I chose this particular title because I thought it would parallel the first book for Max, and it does immensely. He immediately began reading along, counting with me and repeating some of the refrains from the White Shoes book.

What surprised me also was how much little Andy loooooved this book. Since it entered the house “more kitty” is a pretty constant request. If he sees the book, or if Max and I already have been reading it, he wants in on the action.

I like the little incorporation of math. Each time Pete loses a button, the reader is asked how many are left, and then a little equation (4-1=3) is included. I also quite like the size of the product, which is about nine by eleven. It feels like a storybook you want to pick up and read.

Heads Up: When I first read this with Max, he picked up on the line “Does Pete cry?” which is in the White Shoes book as well. The response in that book is “No, no, no.” For some children with learning disorders and other challenges, repetition is a big thing. Particularly their designated repetition. However, he accepted the response of “Goodness, no!” and was able to go with it.

There are downloadable songs to go with this series, and subsequently, YouTube videos that include the entire story narrated and sung with images from the book. I quickly ditched the video after one viewing, for fear they would never want to read the actual book again!

Also, see my Editor’s Note.

Art Notes

It’s not my fav.


I know. But I’m an editor. I like clean lines. But, plenty of folks love this art style, and it does have a nice movement to it, like we could hop right over to a slow-motion animation version of Pete for Saturday morning TV. And it’s super bright and friendly and colorful, which is part of the reason my children were so attracted to it.

Editor’s Notes

Repetition is a key ingredient to early readers, and especially for books that are intended as a read-aloud from parent to child. I do appreciate the repetition, but because it’s Pete singing a song, and the song repeats so many words, this may pose a difficulty when reading aloud. You can choose whatever rhythm you like, but there is an actual rhythm to follow with the song. The idea is that you go download the song, which you can simply play on an electronic device. See my Heads Up as well.

Those four GROOVY buttons.

Those four GROOVY buttons.