Gryphons Aren’t So Great

August 21st, 2015 · Books

9781596436527Review By HOMA WOODRUM

I received a publisher’s review copy of Gryphons Aren’t So Great and my mother-in-law remarked at the spelling in the title so I looked into it. Griffin and grphyon seem to be variants meant to describe the same mythical creature with the body of a lion (except for the front feet which feature talons) and the head and wings of an eagle. (Source: For Harry Potter fans, a Hippogriff is the child of a griffin and a mare (who knew?).

Anyway, back to this cute little book. My son loved the idea of a knight and horse being best friends — even jumping into water together and having adventures — but he was sad when the knight abandoned her stalwart friend for a flying one, the titular Gryphon. The knight is ignored when the Gryphon meets one of his own kind and realizes she should have stayed loyal to the horse, Edward. I like that the horse has a name but the knight doesn’t, kind of a turnabout.

It is a quick, graphic novel style read and after one go through my son was ready to re-tell the story from the pictures. A good book for beginning readers but probably too short for older kids. Pre-K to 2nd grade is probably ideal.

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Butterfly Battle & Food Chain Frenzy (The Magic School Bus Chapter Books #16 & #17)

April 30th, 2015 · Books


I’ve expressed my love for all things Magic School Bus previously. My almost six-year-old daughter and I are having a great time working our way through our library’s collection of Magic School Bus chapter books. The two we read most recently were great finds for kids interested in animal welfare.

MSB Butterfly Battle

In Butterfly Battle, the students and their teacher Ms. Frizzle go on a field trip to a butterfly exhibit at the local botanical garden. As would be expected, the kids get turned into butterflies. They have a harrowing adventure flying through the city, dodging birds while trying to find something to eat in the concrete jungle. When they are very hungry they come across a garden, but realize just in time that it was treated by pesticides. They continue on, exhausted and weak, until they finally come across a wildflower sanctuary and finally can eat.

There is a section at the end of the book explaining the importance of planting butterfly gardens in our own backyards and gave some how-to information doing so. Of course, this is exactly what my daughter wanted to do. Being the dutiful animal-loving parents that we are, we went to the local nursery and spent way too much money on butterfly-friendly plants for our backyard. I recommend this book to all animal-loving kids with the caveat that it may end with you spending a lot of money and having to plant a garden. I am happy to report that we have seen butterflies visiting our butterfly garden already this spring.

MSB Food Chain Frenzy coverIn Food Chain Frenzy, on the way to a local museum to learn about the food chain, Ms. Frizzle decides the best way to learn about the food chain is to experience it yourself. The Magic School Bus transforms into a ladybug, a snake, a fish, a krill, all the while learning about how animals get energy either by eating plants or by eating animals that eat plants.

There are a lot of great asides in this book that would appeal to vegetarian families. I really appreciated that when talking about humans, it said that humans are omnivores though some humans choose to be vegetarians and get their energy solely from plans. In other contexts, when my daughter hears humans described as omnivores, she’ll always say, “Some humans are herbivores.” It was nice for this book to include that here. There are some great student report throughout the text that address the damaging effects of the human diet, such as a report on overfishing and how damaging it is to other ecosystems. My favorite student report is about how humans control their own food chains by farming animals themselves and how devastating this is on the environment. This was a great book that continued to surprise me throughout. I would highly recommend this book to any vegetarian child.

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March 28th, 2015 · Books

9781419715143_Rhymoceros_CVReview By JESSICA ALMY

Another board book to share! Following up on the 2012 smash hit Hippopposites, Janik Coat is back with another visually driven, humorous book that parents are sure to like as much as their toddlers do.

Our protagonist this time around is, as the title suggests, a rhinoceros. Juxtaposing a single word on each page, Coat plays with rhyme and design to create surprising contrasts. For example, on one page, the titular rhinoceros is being “caring” by walking a dog on a leash. On the facing page, she (he?) is “daring,” walking along a tightrope between two skyscrapers with the dog perched calmly on her head.

Unfortunately, the anti-captivity theme of Coat’s previous book does not reappear in this book, but still, there is a subtle message of kindness to animals. The little dog, who appears about halfway through the book, reappears again on the last page. After the rhinoceros is depicted as being “sad,” she is joined by her canine companion, at which time her mood turns to “glad.”

I highly recommend this darling book for newborns through age 3.

I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.

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I Love You, Blankie

March 26th, 2015 · Books


This cute board book uses sing-songy verse to tell a classic bedtime story. A toddler and his (her?) blanket go on an adventure along the water and up into the sky, only to settle into bed and fall peacefully asleep.


I like that this book’s dreamy quality captures the versatility that so many young children find in a beloved blanket. A blanket can be a cape, a sail, or a balloon. But at the end of the day, it’s also a source of comfort–to “snuggle,” and “hug and cuddle, too.”

Babies and toddlers will like this book’s soft padded cover. I recommend this book for newborn through 18 months.

The publisher sent me a review copy of this book.

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