Parts – Tedd Arnold

What is it

Parts is a book about a kid who thinks his body is falling apart.

There are also two sequels: “More Parts” and “Even More Parts”

The book is written in rhyme:

“I stared at it, amazed, and wondered,
What’s this all about?
But then I understood. It was
My stuffing coming out!

And has whimsical, cartoon-ish full-page illustrations.

Who is it for

Kids from 4 to 8 are the core group, but younger kids might enjoy it. There is a bit of gross-out humor (boogers and ear wax) so kids of the age to enjoy that are the right age.

What Kids Like

The book is funny. The character gets increasingly anxious as he thinks he’s discovering evidence that his body is falling apart. The pictures are fun in their detail.

Part of the pleasure is having an anxious kid finally realize that there’s not really a problem after all

I’m not sure what the magic ingredient is for this book, but it’s one of the few that gets pulled off the shelf at bedtime every few months. The kids remember it, even after months have passed, which is much more than can be said of most of their books.

What Parents Like

There is just a hint of education in the book, with simplified explanations of the relationship between skin and bones and teeth and guts. It’s not much, but it’s enough to spark curiosity about anatomy and lead to conversations about it.

What the Critics Think

Parts gets 4.3/5 on Goodreads

and 4.7/5 on Amazon

There is a review at the-best-childrens-books.org

Who Made it / History

Parts was written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold and published by Picture Puffin Books.

Arnold is probably best known for his “Fly Guy” series.

Secret Coders

From graphic novel superstar Gene Luen Yang comes Secret Coders, a wildly entertaining new series that combines logic puzzles and basic coding instruction with a page-turning mystery plot! Follow Hopper and her friend Eni as they use their wits and their growing prowess with coding to solve the many mysteries of Stately Academy.

What is it

Secret Coders is a series (6 as of October 2018, and I think they are done) of graphic novels where kids have to fight bad guys using programming concepts.

This may sound dry, but the writing and drawing is compelling and the education value is high, but never at the expense of storytelling.

Who is it for

This is for kids who can understand abstract thinking. 7 may be too young, depending on the kid, 8 and up is probably right. A kid who has shown an interest in chess or writing code, is probably old enough and a good match.

What Kids Like

The kids like the fun, funny, exciting storytelling. The content is easily digestible and the experience of reading the books is similar to watching a cartoon on TV.

What Parents Like

I like that the educational aspect is deeper than many other STEM-focused books. These books cover topics such as binary trees, if/else statements, variables and other essential computer science concepts. But again, not in a way that takes away from the pleasure of reading.

The books are a great introduction to computer science, and there are really very few of those. Most CS intros for kids just start with a bunch of code without that initial hand-holding and explanation that many kids need, especially with such an abstract subject.

There is a website for the series: secret-coders.com with activities related to the books, and readers can download a simple coding language called Logo and try some of the code presented in the books.

In Secret Coders, Hooper, Eni, and Josh learn Logo, an ancient and nearly-forgotten programming language! You can learn Logo, too, by downloading and installing UCBLogo! UCBLogo is a Logo interpreter — a piece of software that allows your computer to understand the Logo language. You can download it for free here.

What the Critics Think

The box set and the 5th book in the series (Potions & Parameters) get 4.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon, which is very high.

GoodReads rates the books with an average a little over 4/5 The ratings on Amazon and GoodReads go up as the series progresses.

Common Sense Media gives the series 4/5

Winner of the Mathical Book Award in 2015.

(The Mathical book list is a great set of good books, organized by age.)

Concerns/Flaws

The illustrations are black-and-white (or really, black-and-white-and-green) and it’s possible that some kids, who are used to saturated colors in all their media, will be turned off by this. But that is a minor concern.

Who Made it

The books are written by Gene Luen Yang

From the Macmillan author bio

Gene Luen Yang writes, and sometimes draws, comic books and graphic novels. As the Library of Congress’ fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, he advocates for the importance of reading, especially reading diversely. American Born Chinese, his first graphic novel from First Second Books, was a National Book Award finalist, as well as the winner of the Printz Award and an Eisner Award. His two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints won the L.A. Times Book Prize and was a National Book Award Finalist. His other works include Secret Coders (with Mike Holmes), The Shadow Hero (with Sonny Liew), New Super-Man from DC Comics (with various artists), and the Avatar: The Last Airbender series from Dark Horse Comics (with Gurihiru). In 2016, he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. National Book Awards Finalist

And illustrated by Mike Holmes

Mike Holmes has drawn for the comics series Secret Coders, Bravest Warriors, Adventure Time, and the viral art project Mikenesses. His books include the True Story collection (2011), This American Drive (2009), and Shenanigans. He lives with a cat named Ella, who is his best buddy.

The books are published by First Second, an imprint of Macmillan, with many beautiful and interesting titles, including the ongoing Science Comics series.

History

The first book came out in 2015 and the others were published about every 6 months after that.

Secret Coders (Volume 1)
Gene Luen Yang is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and is a MacArthur Fellow, a recipient of what’s popularly known as the MacArthur “Genius” Grant. Welcome to Stately Academy, a school which is just crawling with mysteries to be solved! The founder of the school left many clues and puzzles to challenge his enterprising students. Using their wits and their growing prowess with coding, Hopper and her friend Eni are going to solve the mystery of Stately Academy no matter what it takes! From graphic novel superstar (and high school computer programming teacher) Gene Luen Yang comes a wildly entertaining new series that combines logic puzzles and basic programming instruction with a page-turning mystery plot!

Secret Coders 2: Paths & Portals
Hopper and Eni are back in the second volume of the exciting new computer-programming series by New York Times-bestselling author Gene Luen Yang.

Secret Coders 3: Secrets & Sequences
The coders are back in the third volume of the exciting new computer-programming series by New York Times–bestselling author Gene Luen Yang.

Secret Coders 4: Robots & Repeats
Dr. One-Zero has added a new class to Stately Academy’s curriculum. But in “Advanced Chemistry,” they only teach one lesson: how to make Green Pop! While their classmates are manufacturing this dangerous soda, the Coders uncover a clue that may lead them to Hopper’s missing dad. Is it time to use Professor Bee’s most powerful weapon: the Turtle of Light?

Secret Coders 5: Potions & Parameters
Dr. One-Zero won’t stop until the whole town—no, the whole world—embraces the “true happiness” found in his poisonous potion, Green Pop. And now that he has the Turtle of Light, he’s virtually unstoppable. There’s one weapon that can defeat him: another Turtle of Light. Unfortunately, they can only be found in another dimension! To open a portal to this new world, Hopper, Eni, and Josh’s coding skills will be put to the test.

Secret Coders 6: Monsters & Modules
The Coders always knew their programming skills would take them far, but they never guessed they would take them to another dimension! Or to be accurate, one dimension less—to save humanity, Hopper, Eni, and Josh must travel to Flatland, a dangerous two-dimensional world ruled by polygons. If they can return home safely with a turtle of light, they might just stand a chance in their final showdown with Dr. One-Zero!

Where Can I Get it

Amazon and everywhere else

On Beyond Zebra!

Dr. Seuss wrote more than 60 books, many of them selling 10 million or copies or more over the past several decades. While “On Beyond Zebra!” has never been as popular as “The Cat in the Hat” or “Green Eggs and Ham”, it is one of his better ones, in my opinion.

I don’t actually recall how we got this added to our collection, but it was probably a gift. And of all the Dr. Seuss books on our shelf, this is the one the kids pull out most frequently. “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” is fun, and we read that to the kids when they are very young, but they lose interest in that once they begin learning to read on their own.

And while I frequently push for titles such as “Bartholomew and the Oobleck”, that just doesn’t resonate with the kids as much as “On Beyond Zebra!”

What is it

The book is typical of most of Dr. Seuss’s books, where each page is a nearly standalone depiction of a whimsical creature in a whimsical location, with a few lines of verse. In the case of this book, however, each page is also devoted to an exotic novel letter. That is, the book suggests there are letters that come after ‘Z’, which are needed to spell these creatures and their locations.

Who is it for

“On Beyond Zebra!” is ideal for kids in the first few years of learning to read, but also appeals to older kids who enjoy wordplay. I would say ages 4 to 8

What Kids Like

The kids like the exotic creatures, such as the cow with 98 udders or the “Floob-Boober-Bab-Boober-Bubs” that float around as living stepping stones. They also like the invented letters. For new readers, the standard alphabet is already strange and foreign, so introducing them to ever stranger, more foreign letters actually gives them confidence about the standard letters that they do know.

What Parents Like

It’s a book that’s fun to read, and the images are so fantastical that I’m able to maintain my interest. And more than many other books, “On Beyond Zebra!” inspires questions about words and animals.

What the Critics Think

Goodreads gives “On Beyond Zebra!” 4 out 5

Oliver Jeffers has

Concerns/Flaws

Some of Dr. Suess’s books have not aged well, with depictions of people or cultures or places that are now seen as offensive. This book has none of that, however.

Google has a preview

Someone has taken the time to add the “Seussian” letters of “On Beyond Zebra!” to the Unicode standard: http://www.evertype.com/standards/csur/seuss.html

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

This is a strange book and I can’t understand why it’s a classic, but it is. We got multiple copies as gifts when the kids were born, and we got a bit of a nostalgia rush when we looked at it for the first time since we were kids ourselves. But I don’t think the kids liked it much. I don’t recall them ever asking for it when we read stories at bedtime.

Margaret Wise Brown has a unique voice and her rhythm is evident in Goodnight Moon, but this is not one of her best. Yet, it seems every American kid needs to know it.

The L.A. Review of Books has a 75-year retrospective

Sandra Boynton

Sandra Boynton has had children’s books in print for the past 40+ years, ever since publishing “Hippos Go Berserk” in 1977. Her distinctive and very recognizable illustration style may be more familiar from her many, many calendars, coffee mugs, and cards. By her own estimate, she has drawn between 4,000 and 6,000 greeting cards! Her most famous is probably the birthday card that reads, “Hippo Birdie Two Ewes”

We have several of her 60+ children’s board books and they are an easy and popular gift to give and receive. The drawing style is fun and whimsical and the “stories”, as simple as they are, are great for read-along time. Our kids essentially memorize entire books and then can read along with us.

Her most popular books include “Moo, Baa, La La La!”, “The Going to Bed Book”, “Barnyard Dance”, “A to Z”, “Blue Hat, Green Hat”, and “Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs!” A complete list of her books is on her Wikipedia page

She also has several children’s music albums, including:
“Rhinoceros Tap” (1996)
“Philadelphia Chickens” (2002)
“Dog Train” (2005)
“Blue Moo” (2007)
“Boléro Completely Unraveled” (2010)
“Frog Trouble” (2013)
“Hog Wild” (2017)

Our kids love “Philadelphia Chickens” in particular.

More information about her books at sandraboynton.com

And The Atlantic has a charming article on her (2019/11)

Science Comics

Science Comics: Sharks: Nature

What is it

Science Comics is a series of 20 illustrated books on topics such as: cats, sharks, robots, trees, and the solar system.

Each book is written and illustrated by a different cartoon writer and artist.

More info at the First Second website:

"Science Comics extends our non-fiction offerings to middle-grade readers. The Science Comics books will be narrow-focus, single-topic 128 page narrative nonfiction graphic novels, and a new volume will be published each season. The series will be written and drawn by some of the finest graphic novelists in the industry, and feature introductions by leading experts. Each book will cover topics from the fields of biology, chemistry, and physics, subjects that are part of the classroom curriculum and can be easily worked into lesson plans."

Who is it for

Based on my own observation, eight- to ten-year-olds are the most receptive to these books. They appeal to anyone with an interest in science topics, and who like having a lot of pictures.

What Kids Like

The books are fun and funny, as well as informative, and kids like that they can be entertained while also learning.

There are lots of fun, illustrated books about science topics, but this series gets the balance of humor and education just right.

What Parents Like

My kids like science and nature, but don’t want to sit through a documentary or read a book that is all (or mostly) text.

So I like that there is something that keeps them motivated to open the book and keep turning pages.

What the Critics Think

Goodreads reviews all 20 books with an average rating of around 4/5. The highest-rated of the series is Andy Hirsch’s "Science Comics: Cats: Nature and Nurture" and this is the one that got my kids hooked on the series.

Science Comics: Cats: Nature and Nurture

Popular Science has a review with large sample pages

Who Made it / History

First Second is an imprint company under Macmillan and they began the Science Comics series in 2016 with "Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers" (MK Reed and Joe Flood; Spring 2016), "Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean" (Maris Wicks; Spring 2016), and "Volcanos: Fire and Life" (Jon Chad, Fall 2016). There are now 20 titles with more on the way. The next three in the series will be "Rocks and Minerals" by Andy Hirsch, "Crows: Bird Geniuses" by Kyla Vanderklugt, and "Skyscrapers: The Heights of Engineering" by John Kerschbaum.

First Second has lots of very attractively illustrated books

Where Can I Get it

Thriftbooks has the series, some for less than $6.

And Amazon, of course

Knights Club: The Bands of Bravery

What is it

Knights Club is a series of “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style comic books, in which the reader decides the order in which they read. On each page, they may be given a choice about where to go next. E.g. “To follow the merchant, go to page 93. To explore the forest, go to page 15.”

Some pages also include puzzles, the solutions of which are other page numbers. The puzzles are essentially “locks” that must be opened before proceeding.

From the website:

This middle-grade graphic novel series makes YOU the valiant hero of a fantasy quest—pick your panel, find items, gain abilities, solve puzzles, and play through new storylines again and again!

Magic, adventure, and triumphant battles await you in this graphic novel that plays just like a role-playing game. Choose to play as one of three brothers eager to join the Royal Order of Knights, and keep track of your hit points, abilities, and inventory on a handy adventure tracker sheet—then set off on your quest! The road to knighthood is a long one: you will journey through snowy mountains, haunted lakes, and dark forests in search of the bracelets of bravery, facing down trolls, wizards, and fellow warriors along the way. You will solve riddles, discover hidden compartments, learn combat techniques, and gather magical objects. With the analog fun of a tabletop game and the classic elements of a fantasy video game, you’ll pick your own paths and forge your own knighthood in this irresistible comic book that you can play again and again.

Who is it for

These are for kids who like puzzles and interactive stories. Some of the puzzles are a bit tricky so younger kids would be frustrated by them.

The theme is of medieval swords-and-shields so kids who like Lord of the Rings or “Knights in Shining Armor” kinds of stories might enjoy it.

What Kids Like

The graphics are fun and the story is silly but engaging. Kids today have no memory of the original Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books from the ’80s, so this is a novelty they probably haven’t seen before. Mine hadn’t.

What Parents Like

I like that the books is as engaging as a videogame, but can be taken in the care, to a restaurant, etc. And unlike many videogames, the solutions to all problems come from thinking it through, not from violence.

What the Critics Think

The Bands of Bravery is a winner of the 2019 National Parenting Product Awards

Goodreads only gives it 3/5

Amazon gives it 4/5

Who Made it

The Knights Club books are made by Novy, Shuky, Waltch

Novy is a comics author, letterer, and an illustrator living in France. Shuky is the founder of Makaka Editions, a comics and graphic novel publisher in France. He is an illustrator and the author of nine interactive comics as well as several traditional comics. Waltch is a comics artist who contributes to several fanzines, including Ribozine. He clients include Wind West and Ankama.

The books are published by Quirk Books, a new-ish and different book publisher based in Philadelphia

Where Can I Get it

The paperback is available everywhere, as is the e-book version. The e-book version is a bit more appealing since you can just click to the next page instead of having to continually flip through to the next one.

You can see a preview here:

Llama Llama

What is it

Llama Llama is a book series and an animated series based on the characters from the books.

Llama Llama is a young child with some separation anxiety, learning the basics of interacting with others and overcoming the conflict and resentment toward his mother.

Who is it for

The themes in the books make it ideal for very young children, age 2 to 4. The show is more general and kids as old as 6 might get something out of it

What Kids Like

The main plot of the first book Llama Llama Red Pajama is of a kid who doesn’t want to go to bed, who misses his mom and gets lonely. He screams for her and she comes running, but then scolds him for his “Llama drama”.

Our young kids relate to that very well and became obsessed with the book after having it read to them the first time. The red pajama book is worth sharing with your child. If they like it, you might consider the other books as well. A few others in the series deal with the same theme of the conflict that can arise between parent and child, especially at bedtime.

The appeal to kids is that, of all the kids stories out there, there aren’t many that explore the anguish of being left alone in a dark room at bedtime.

And the TV version also depicts scenarios that are not common in other kids media. For example, in one episode the child (called simply, “llama llama”) throws a fit at a grocery store and makes a mess by knocking items off a shelf. The mother (“mama llama”) then scolds him and makes him clean it up.

What Parents Like

The illustrations are fun and the rhyming language of the text makes it fun to read with a child.

I can’t think of another book, or set of books, that address the particular issue of the child getting angry at the parent. We see young adult literature in which teens defy the parent, but not board books for kids in which the child resents the parent for unfair bedtime practices.

And I like having scenes like the grocery store one described above. It’s good for kids to see depictions of bad behavior in other kids and seeing the consequences of it.

What the Critics Think

Several books in the series have won awards:

  • Llama Llama Red Pajama: Scholastic Parent and Child “100 Greatest Books for Kids” award winner; Bank Street “Best Children’s Book” recipient; Missouri Building Block Award winner; National Public Radio pick; Carolina Children’s Book Award Master List winner (picture book category)
  • Llama Llama Home With Mama: Children’s Choice Book Award “Illustrator of the Year” nominee (2012)
  • Llama Llama Time to Share: Children’s Choice book Award “Illustrator of the Year” nominee (2013); Thriving Family magazine’s Best Family-Friendly Picture Book finalist (2012)
  • Llama Llama Mad at Mama: Missouri Building Block Award winner; winner of Alabama’s Emphasis on Reading program (grades K-1); Book Sense Book of the Year Children’s Illustrated Honor Book (2008)
  • The show has had mixed reviews, with most ratings giving it ~3 stars out of 5.

    Common Sense Media gives the series 5 stars, however

    In some ways, the show doesn’t really distinguish itself from other shows aimed at young children, with themes such as the importance of sharing, how to express frustration, etc. The way that it does distinguish itself is in how it also addresses themes of conflict between a parent and a young child: e.g. the fights that happen at bedtime when the child decides he wants one more thing to eat before bed.

    Concerns/Flaws

    The show can be a bit generic – not bad, but not particularly different from Daniel Tiger or any of the other many, many wholesome kids’ cartoons out there now.

    In the cartoon, the mother is voiced by the actress Jennifer Garner, so to me the show sounds like a long Capital One commercial. Although, after hearing so much of it, I’ve decided that she has a particularly clear and appealing voice.

    Who Made it

    Anna Dewdney wrote and illustrated about two dozen books, most of them in the Llama Llama series

    She died at age 50 in 2016

    More on Wikipedia

    History

    Dewdney illustrated many books for other authors, but Llama Llama Red Pajama was the first one she wrote and illustrated herself in 2005. It almost immediately became an enormous hit.

    An interview with the author at Parenting magazine

    Where Can I Get it

    The books are published by Viking and are available everywhere. The show is on Netflix

    Mouse Paint

    What is it

    Mouse Paint is a charming board book by Ellen Stoll Walsh that teaches primary and secondary colors. It reminded me a bit of the classic Color Kittens although Mouse Paint has its own style.

    Who is it for

    It’s a book to read to a toddler who is interested in colors and is learning color words, so children aged 1 to 3 would get the most out of it.

    What Kids Like

    The drawings are charming and the mice are cute. They are busy, getting into things. I don’t know whether the kids relate to that, but I think so. With books aimed at very young children, it’s often hard to know exactly why they like something. But our 2-year-old asked to read this about five times yesterday, which I consider a positive review.

    What Parents Like

    The art is appealing, enough that my attention is kept, even when reading it for the fifth time. There is just enough going on that the parent and child can have a conversation about what’s happening. The book encourages communication and engages the child, rather than simply letting them passively listen.

    What the Critics Think

    Barnes & Noble gives Mouse Paint 4.1/5
    GoodReads gives Mouse Paint 4.2/5

    Who Made it / History

    Ellen Stoll Walsh is an author and illustrator, who has been creating children’s books for the past several decades from her studio in Baltimore.

    Her other mouse-themed books for young children include Mouse Count, Mouse Shapes, and her Dot and Jabber series. And she uses frog characters as well in books such as Hop Jump

    Mouse Paint was first published in 1989 and remains in print. You should be able to find it easily.

    I’m Just No Good at Rhyming

    I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups

    What is it
    I’m Just No Good at Rhyming is a book in the same vein as Shel Silverstein and Edward Lear, with clever wordplay and nonsense verses that often have profound thoughts buried in silly verse.

    Who is it for

    It’s for families that read together. I found that this is a book that the kids much prefer to be read aloud by an adult, rather than read on their own.

    The silliness is over the heads of the very young, so 5 may be the lower limit. Older kids who are competent readers and writers would also enjoy it.

    What Kids Like

    They like the silliness of it, the monsters, and the occasional whiff of possible violence. Many of the poems suggest at tantalizing secrets.

    They also like the whimsical illustrations by Lane Smith

    The cover of the book has an endorsement by B.J. Novak, who wrote “The Book with No Pictures”, which remains one of our kids’ favorites. This endorsement helped sell the book to my kids and convince them to give it a try.

    What Parents Like

    I like that ‘difficult’ or ‘challenging’ text is so appealing to my kids. And I genuinely like some of the poems. Many are like the best of Dr. Suess, causing me to stop and think a bit. My favorite is the eleven-stanza “A Short Saga” which has some of the absurd humor of the song “Oh, Susannah!” but goes beyond that.

    The sun that night was freezing hot,
    The ground was soaking dry.
    I met a man where he was not
    And greeted him good-bye.

    With shaven beard combed in a mess
    And hair as black as snow,
    All bundled up in nakedness
    And moving blazing snow

    I said, “Then let’s have never met.”
    To this, he nodded “No.”
    “This night, I’ll vividly forget.
    Until back then, hello.”

    What the Critics Think

    The critics love it.

    Reviews at
    * School Library Journal
    * School Library Journal (by a different reviewer)
    * Book Depository

    * NPR has an interview with the author

    * GoodReads gives it 4.35 stars
    * GoodReads gives it 5/5

    Who Made it / History

    From the publisher’s website:

    Chris Harris is a writer and executive producer for How I Met Your Mother and The Great Indoors, and a writer for The Late Show with David Letterman. His pieces have appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, ESPN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and on NPR. He was also the author of the anti-travel guide Don’t Go Europe! He lives in Los Angeles.

    Lane Smith wrote and illustrated Grandpa Green, which was a 2012 Caldecott Honor book, and It’s a Book, which has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. His other works include the national bestsellers Madam President and John, Paul, George & Ben, the Caldecott Honor winner The Stinky Cheese Man, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, Math Curse, and Science Verse, among others. His books have been New York Times Best Illustrated Books on four occasions. In 2012 the Eric Carle Museum named him an Honor Artist for lifelong innovation in the field of children’s books, and in 2014 he received the Society of Illustrators Lifetime Achievement award. Lane and his wife, book designer Molly Leach, live in rural Connecticut.

    Where Can I Get it

    I’m Just No Good at Rhyming is available at most major bookstores and Amazon.

    You can find educator kits at the publisher’s website

    And you can preview the book at Google Books