A few more Cybils nominees.

We continue to read lots of new books as part of the Armchair Cybils challenge.And because it’s fun.

Today, a few reviews just to catch up on what we’ve recently read. No particular unifying theme.

When a bus is abandoned on the sidewalk outside Stella’s home she immediately decides that it belongs to her neighborhood. Led by her the neighbors work together to fix up the bus into a special place for everyone. One day a tow truck arrives to take the bus away to the junkyard. Stella and the rest of the neighborhood fight back and find a way to save the bus. A Bus Called Heaven’s tale of creating a place of your own reminded me of Roxaboxen.  Maybe I’m too much of a cynic because there was a part of me that rolled my eyes a bit at the “if we all just get together it will be ok” theme. Graffiti painting kids are instantly converted to help with the bus. Several pages show three religious leaders (a rabbit, a priest and what I think is supposed to be an imam) working together and praying together. It’s nice, but maybe a little too simple. Still, kids who aren’t as cynical will likely just like the story and the detailed cartoon-like illustrations.

I have somewhat of an allergy to picture books that are trying to TEACH A LESSON. Books certainly do teach lessons but I prefer that it’s part of the story instead of the story being a vehicle for the lesson.  In Being Frank the lesson is the story. Frank strictly believes that “Honesty is the best policy.” He doesn’t understand why those around him aren’t thrilled to hear about their bad breath and wrinkles and poor singing. His Grandpa, also a truth teller, shows him how to tell the truth but in a way that is kinder and gentler. I like the message and I could use this book to discuss it with my kids. But this isn’t a book we’d enjoy reading over and over again for the love of the book itself.

The Monster’s Monster is a book that has a message that is deftly woven into the story. Kids will get it but also just want to read it for the sheer silliness and cute not-very-scary monsters. Three little monsters (whose 10 favorite words are NO, NO, NO…) argue constantly about who really is the biggest, baddest monster. Until one day they decide to create a Monster’s Monster who will be the biggest and baddest of all. The only problem is their creation likes light and birdsongs and jelly doughnuts. He hugs. He giggles. And most terribly of all he says thank you. In the end of course, the three little monsters become a little less terrible under his influence. Written by Patrick McDonnell (whose Me….Jane was the Cybil fiction picture book winner last year and a Caldecott Honor book) this story is both warm and silly. My boys especially liked the three little monsters shouting NO! all the time. I think it reminded them of their sister.

One morning Bear discovers something outside his cave. Something that is long and orange and crunchy. He is delighted to discover that it is “yum, yum, yum”. The next day he discovers more of the yummy orange things. So begins a little mystery as the bear and his secret friend exchange gifts. Bear in Love is a lovely gentle picture book. The soft watercolor illustrations by Will Hillenbrand complement the story perfectly and I loved that the little ditties that bear sings throughout are a homage to our beloved Pooh. As for kid appeal? As I was sitting here writing David woke up, found me and picked up the book sitting next to me to read. Then Ruth woke up and asked him to read it to her. So they are snuggled together on the sofa with a blanket reading. Can’t ask for more than that.


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