BayViews: A different slant on children’s book reviews, previously published as ACL Reviews, annually contains approximately 2,500 book reviews covering the entire range of books for children and young adults. It is published eleven times a year by the Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California.The materials are reviewed and, whenever possible, examined by librarian subject specialists in the field. Of major concern are books, fiction and non-fiction, which deal with the West.
- Alderson, Sue Ann. Wherever Bears Be Arden Johnson, Illus. Pic. Bk. Tricycle, 1999 p. $14.95 1-88372-77-5 REJECT GRADES PRE-3 Belinda and Samantha set off to gather blueberries high on the mountain, a chore neither of them wants to do. According to the title page, this is a story “for two voices,” with the voices differentiated by a slight variation of font. Because the variation is so slight (from plain text to italic) it can be difficult to tell who’s speaking. To complicate matters, the language is often awkward, with imagery and construction unlikely to issue from the mouth of a child such as, “These trees are thick with the thought of bears…” Unfortunately, the soft pastel illustrations don’t clarify matters much. In the first illustration, the older “girl” looks as if she could be a mother or auntie, and the children’s ages appear to vary greatly throughout the story, from as young as 4 to as old as 12. The children tease themselves with the thought of bears lurking about and imagine bears behind every noise and flicker of movement along their path. Where the children imagine bears, the illustrator has drawn them, making it difficult to distinguish between imagination and reality. With fewer complexities, the story might have worked, but with classics like Blueberries for Sal still running strong, Wherever Bears Be is expendable.Nora Hale, Berkeley PL
- Appelt, Kathi. Bats on Parade Melissa Sweet, Illus. Pic. Bk. Morrow, 1999 p. $16.00 0-688-15665-7, PLB $15.93 0-688-15665-5 LOW ADDITIONAL GRADES 1-3 The bats fly in and put on a parade. Just when the parade appears to be over, here comes a rare appearance by the bat marching band. First, there are two rows of two piccolo players, followed by three rows of three flute players. The band continues to grow to 10 rows of 10 sousaphones. The bats first appeared in the book Bat Jamboree. That book’s increasing numbers were incorporated in an amusing story. This story, while lively, feels forced to fit the idea of introducing multiplication. Luckily, the watercolor, pen and ink, and colored pencil illustrations depicting the round-eyed bats have great charm. A 3rd grader learning multiplication might find this book fun. A 4th grader would find this too babyish. David Howd, Berkeley PL
- Arkin, Alan. One Present from Flekman’s Richard Egielski, Illus. Pic. Bk. HarperCollins, 1999 p. $15.00 0-06-024530-1 PLB $15.89 0-06-024531-X REJECT GRADES K-2 Molly goes into a catatonic stupor, gets manipulative, whines a lot, and finally acts like a spoiled monkey at the world’s biggest toy store when her Grampa sticks to his promise to buy her only one toy. Molly is a generic kid, Grampa is equally flat, and the illustrations re-emphasize the expectability of the story and characters with their muted tones. I suppose it is some kind of commemoration of a trip Arkin made to F.A.O. Schwartz, but the characters, the narrator, even the illustrations, are unaware of themselves and give the reader no perspective with which to view this story. We simply follow Molly on her breathless, unconscious shopping craze. It describes a pattern many kids have experienced, but were they as disgusted by it as the grown-ups who witnessed it were? It is dismaying that not only do the characters not experience enlightenment, but neither have Alan Arkin nor the publishers! So, we witness once again: a kid taken in by the desperate urge to own, her frantic behavior removing from shopping what joy there might be, and leaving only dissatisfaction. Molly ends by being creative–is she back to her normal self, or has this trip to Flekman’s given her a creative burst? Answer:She puts on a suit and goes to work for them. I’m so happy for her; now she can have all the toys she wants! Arkin doesn’t have the courage to say what he thinks: “Don’t buy into it.” Don’t buy it until he does. Erica Siskind, Oakland PL
- Asch, Frank. Song of the North Ted Levin, Illus. Pic. Bk. HB, 1999 p. $16.00 0-15-201258-3 ADDITIONAL GRADES PRE-2 Beautiful color wildlife photos from Alaska and northern Canada accompany a sleepy, repetitive poem by Frank Asch. “Salmon knows how to spawn in northern lakes./ Salmon knows how to swim to the sea./ Salmon knows many things, But who knows Salmon and the song she sings?/ Walrus knows how to feast on clams from the ocean floor./ Walrus knows how to bask in the northern sun./ Walrus knows many things,/ But who knows Walrus and the song she sings?…” So runs the poem with the exact same tag line through seven verses of seven Arctic animals. Another seven animals are pictures though not mentioned in the verse. Preschoolers will enjoy hearing this while snuggled up to an adult, though it won’t be many children’s favorite book. Bruce Vogel, Independent
- Baker, Barbara. One Saturday Afternoon Kate Duke, Illus. Fic. Dutton Easy Reader Series. Dutton, 1999 p. $13.99 0-525-45882-4 ADDITIONAL GRADES K-2 Here is another set of six easy-reader stories, one for each member of the Bear family. Mama takes a walk by herself; Papa bakes and eats bread; the kids read, color pictures, play school, play going to the museum, and draw on the wall. Colorful illustrations show us what happens each step of the way. Karen Thomas, Oakland PL
- Baker, Leslie. Paris Cat Leslie Baker, Illus. Pic Bk. Little, 1999 p. $15.95 0-316-07309-1 LOW ADDITIONAL GRADES PRE-K Alice the cat gets lost while chasing a mouse and takes us on a mini-tour of Paris before her owners find her. Watercolor illustrations in muted colors match the tone of the text. Unfortunately, Alice is not a memorable cat, and the overall effect is rather “ho-hum.” Nancy Eager, Independent