Friday, July 11, 2014

Big or Little? Original, 25th Anniversary, or Board Book

When I was a child my favorite book was Ann Likes Red, by Dorothy Z. Seymour and illustrated by Nancy Meyerhoff. Now, I don't really remember what is was about this book that I loved so very much. My favorite color as a child was green, so it couldn't be because of the color red. Reading through the book not long ago, I couldn't figure out why I wanted this book read over and over again.

Ann Likes Red
written by Dorothy Z. Seymour
illustrated by Nancy Meyerhoff

I am reminded of my childhood favorite each time a child comes up to the circulation desk with Kathy Stinson's Red is Best. First published in 1982, Red is Best is now considered a children's classic. Where Ann is portrayed as an independent little girl, the child in Red is Best, Kelly, is an obstinate toddler who claims everything is better when red is involved. In 2011 Red is Best was re-released as a board book.

Red is Best
written by Kathy Stinson
illustrated by Robin Baird Lewis

Ms. Stinson's book Big or Little? was first published in 1983 with illustrations by Robin Baird Lewis. In early 2009 the 25th anniversary edition of the book was released with illustrations by Toni Goffe. In January of this year, Big or Little was released once again, this time in board book form with illustrations by Jennifer Bell. The text is shorter than the original story in order to appeal to toddlers and fit into the board book format. The illustrations are bright and very colorful, much more cheerful than the soft muted colors from the 2009 edition. When looking at the three covers, I feel Annick Press made the right move in having Ms. Bell create the illustrations for this format. I think infants and toddlers will find this cover much more appealing and will want to pick it up to read. That is not to say the original, or even the 25th anniversary edition is bad, it is directed to an older audience and therefore the illustrations are more fitting.

With the release of the board book, there have also been some changes to the story, even though the description states it has been adapted for toddlers. There is no longer a big brother in the story. The child pictured on the cover (which could really be a girl or a boy) is an only child. When comparing to the previous two editions, the child is a boy named Toby. He has an older brother and a younger sister, thus making him feel big and little depending on the circumstances and the sibling he happens to be around at the time.



I believe this will be a nice edition to a toddler's library, however if you have the original story from 1983, I would hold on to it. I feel it is a much better story to share, especially for older children.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Annick Press has provided a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is solely my opinion.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Whenever I see a new book by my favorite authors, I have to add them immediately to my ever growing To Read list. James Patterson is one of those authors. Mistress was published in 2013, so I am a little bit behind, but like I said my list is ever growing. Sadly I only have two eyes with which to read, so it does take me some time to get to each of the wonderful books on my list. Recently on one of my visits to the Mary Couts Burnett Library on the campus of Texas Christian University (one of my very favorite places to read), I heard Mistress calling my name. I knew I had to check it out and mark it off of my list. It took me a little time to read simply because I was away in Las Vegas for a week and I did not want to carry this large library book with me. However I just finished reading this great suspenseful book and wanted to get my thoughts down before I head off on another adventure.
by James Patterson and David Ellis

Mistress by James Patterson and David Ellis is a wonderfully suspenseful tale told by a journalist, Benjamin Casper, for an online newspaper. The story opens with Ben going through the medicine cabinet of a woman named Diana Hotchkiss. He is in her empty apartment installing surveillance equipment. Moments after leaving her apartment she plummets six stories to the pavement below. So, needless to say, the book grabs your attention immediately, but it doesn't stop there. Throw into the mix the President of the United States, Russians, Chinese, the CIA, spies, murder, and a lot of guns and you have one very suspenseful twisted story in which you will never guess the outcome.

While growing up, Ben's father was a professor at American University in Washington, D.C. In order to develop a relationship with his father, Ben learned a great deal about the various President's. I love the way Patterson and Ellis throw in bits and pieces of trivia surrounding the President's and their terms of office. For instance, "Calvin Coolidge liked to have Vaseline rubbed on his head while he ate breakfast in bed" and "John Quincy Adams regularly started his days by swimming nude in the Potomac." I'm sure these are facts you would not expect to read about in a book entitled Mistress. I also enjoyed the inner dialogue Ben has relating to the different encounters he has throughout the book and how he compares them to actors and their movie roles. Throughout the book he quotes (during this inner dialogue) actors, such as Sean Connery in The Untouchables, "They put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue!"

Besides all of the espionage going on in the book, there is a great deal of foreshadowing. One of my favorite quotes from the book was actually first used in a radio address in 1939 by Winston Churchill when describing Russia, but is spoken by Joe Pesci in the movie JFK, "A mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma". Following this statement is another great quote, this one from President Roosevelt and written to Churchill during the war, "It is fun to be in the same decade with you." The mention of Russia, Churchill, and Roosevelt so early in the story might be overlooked by some, but has a great impact to the rest of the story.

I always seem to be saying the same thing when it comes to a Patterson book. They are great. I love the suspense, the mystery, and the way the story is twisted in so many directions I simply cannot figure out which direction he will be taking the characters. He is a master storyteller and I love losing myself in his books.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Two New Friends ~ Elizabeth & Henny

This past week I had the privilege of attending the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. I will post pictures and more information about the experience later in the week. One of the most exciting meetings I had was with a friend I had not had the opportunity to meet. Elizabeth Rose Stanton and I became virtual friends when she started following this blog. We then found each other on Facebook and conversed back and forth. I intentionally made an appointment on my phone so I would not miss the chance to meet her. The problem, when you change time zones, the appointment time set in one time zone adapts to the time zone you fly into. I was two hours early to her signing, but had a conflict for the actual time she was signing. Well since we were both in Vegas I thought I would try to connect the next day.

Toni Yuly, Elizabeth Rose Stanton, & Kristi K. Betts
at the American Library Association Conference,
Las Vegas, Nevada - June 30, 2014
We texted each other and made a plan to meet in front of Starbucks. I was weighed down by all of the items I was carting to the Post Office, but as soon as she spotted me she started calling my name. I was so surprised she knew me from a distance, but I guess she had seen my picture and recognized me. It was such a thrill to finally meet Elizabeth in person. She even introduced me to one of her author friends, Toni Yuly, author of Early Bird.
Early Bird
by Toni Yuly
Elizabeth was so very kind. She gave me a copy of her wonderful book Henny, a bookmark and postcard, as well as a plastic chicken key chain. I told her as soon as I got home I would write a review of her book, so here it is Elizabeth. I hope it puts a smile on your face.

by Elizabeth Rose Stanton
Henny by Elizabeth Rose Stanton is a beautifully illustrated story about a chicken with arms who must learn how to overcome being different. After reading this delightful story I could hear the music for the song, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" (originally written for the film Monty Python's Life of Brian in 1979, but featured two times during the Broadway musical Spamalot, which is how I know the song) playing in my head. I think Henny does exactly what the song suggests. She realizes she is different, but she chooses to be happy and look at all of the various things she is capable of doing instead of the ways in which she is not like all of the other chickens. Henny is laughed at by the other animals on the farm. She begins to worry about how to live with arms instead of wings. While walking behind the farmer one day, an egg falls out of his basket. Henny is able to reach up and grab the egg and keep it from falling since she has arms. It is at this point Henny begins to realize all of the wonderful things she can do because of her arms. She can carry a purse, an umbrella, and maybe even fly (an airplane).

I believe Henny's message is a very important one for all of us ~ young, old, fat, thin, abled, or disabled. We need to make the most of the gifts we are given and be appreciative. Each day we see people and we make judgments about them based on appearance. We don't know the challenges they face, but we make assumptions about their abilities. We can feel sorry for ourselves or we can turn our situation around and choose to be positive, making the best of any situation put in front of us in life.

I look forward to sharing this wonderful story with my students during this next school year. I know they will come to love Henny as much as I love her. It will also be exciting to share my personal story of meeting Elizabeth. They are always amazed to learn about the authors and illustrators of books I share. Like me, my students believe authors and illustrators are rock stars.

To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Elizabeth Rose Stanton has provided a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is solely my opinion.