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Monday, February 8, 2016

Things I've Read Recently (26): Valentine's Day Part 2

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

There will be two of these posts, and you will not see the next one until 2017 because I am going to hoard it since this will be my last year getting these books for my graduated Storytime kid, since her little sister will graduate herself this year. I am sad, and I am in denial. If you want to read last year's post, check it out here!

Oh, Valentine, We've Lost Our Minds! by Dan Gutman

Published: December 23rd, 2014 by HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 104 pages of story, and like 30 pages of bonus puzzles and fun facts.
Part of a series? There are buttloads of the "My Weird School" series which has these characters in second grade, the "My Weird School Daze" series which has them in third grade, the "My Weirder School" which has them in fourth grade, and the on-going "My Weirdest School" series which I think is like a spin-off that's fantasy based. There is also a Specials series that are holiday based.
Got via: The library, what else is new?
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): A.J. and the gang from My Weird School star in this series of after-school, holiday-themed chapter books featuring all-new hilarious stories and thirty-two pages of games, puzzles, and more.

It's the week of Valentine's Day, and A.J.'s class is getting a foreign exchange student! His name is Pierre, and he's from France. But what happens when Pierre challenges A.J. to a duel (or at least a thumb war) over Andrea? One thing's for sure: when L-O-V-E comes to Ella Mentry, it spells the weirdest Valentine's Day story in the history of the world!

Thoughts: I gotta be honest, I don't understand why these are so popular. With kids, sure, but adults? I don't see the appeal of wanting kids to read these. The voice is very funny and engaging, but the whole book is kind of... meh. Everything is very cartoony. The illustrations literally look like a cartoon put in a book, and the story is a lot like that. Everything is extremely stereotyped and unrealistic. Kids do not act like this.

It's very heavy on the gender stereotypes, and basically everything you'd see in a not-amazing cartoon. Toilet humour, stereotypical French kid, casual xenophobia. It's also kind of gimmicky at times - there are two youtube links in the book. One of them has been taken down or deleted, and the other has open comments that could include innappropriate for kids comments.

The bonus features are my favourite part. I love the trivia and games. But that doesn't save it for me, honestly. There's nothing special here, and the stereotypes about girls are annoying and I don't think I actually want to give this to a girl. I may just return this one and give the girls the other books I have. Girls get enough stereotypes and bad messages and hate, and I don't want to be the one who gives that to them, you know? And maybe other books in the various series are better, but this one doesn't exactly inspire me to search out more.

I'd say go for Cupid Doesn't Flip Hamburgers (and why didn't I get that??? look at that beautiful fat cupid!), or Cupid Does Eat Chocolate Colored Snails maybe for the younger crowd if you want something that would likely appeal to a similar audience.

Valentine Frankenstein by Maggie Twohill

Published: January 1991 by Scholastic
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 135 plus an about the author
Part of a series? I don't think so. This book has a character named Melissa and so does another book by the author, but they don't seem to be related.
Got via: I honestly have no idea. Maybe a yard sale?
Amazon / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): Valentine's Day is coming, and Amanda's class has decided to have a party - complete with valentine's boxes. Amanda knows her best friend Walter is very shy and not very popular with other students. So she devises a plan to make sure Walter gets more than his share of valentines. But her plan backfires because shy, quiet Walter has been suddenly transformed into VALENTINE FRANKENSTEIN!

Thoughts: This is cute and ultimately harmless. It's a little dated, mostly in the language - "slacks" for pants being a prime example of things I have not heard fifth graders say basically every - but there aren't really weird stereotypes or anything. It's mostly just kind of bland. None of the characters are that exciting, and the whole thing of Walter getting really arrogant is never really resolved. It's not amazing, it's not terrible. It's pretty run of the mill, middle of the line, for the time period it was published.

I probably would have liked this as a kid because of one of the things I find unrealistic - these fifth graders act like they're like fourteen. And that's okay, I think. Unrealistic, yes, but also okay. This has a RL3 on the back, and I think when you're a kid, you always think older kids are going to be infinitely more glamorous and awesome than it actually is. I find it amusing, and again, harmless. I also did like the message that Valentine's Day can become a popularity contest, and I am totally for schools having policies about giving everyone in their class valentines. Kids seriously don't need more reasons to get picked on.

Mostly I read this because I own it and I needed an extra book for my posts, and this is the only Valentine's themed book I owned. My copy has water stains on it... possibly my fault, I can't remember that either. I may have dropped it in the bathtub at some point. The cover is kind of faded and scratched up, and I just don't think there's anything here that kids would be irresistably drawn to. I also don't think I'll read this one again, so I will probably be passing this one along to free up the shelf space. If I don't want to read it again, and I don't think the kids I care for would want to read it, there isn't much point in holding onto it. There's nothing to worry about if kids do read this that they'll absorb anything harmful from it, but it's just kind of... cute and harmless and kind of bland.

Although I will say this cover is hilarious to me. Look at that kid's face! He's just like "YES!!!!!!" Cracks me up.

Ellie's Lovely Idea by Callie Berkley

Published: December 1st, 2013 by Little Simon
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 114 plus an excerpt of the next book
Part of a series? Yes, there's a fair few of these.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Valentine’s Day is coming up, and to raise money for a charity called Puppy Love, Ellie suggests that she and The Critter Club girls sell singing telegrams. The girls have a lot of fun writing and performing the songs, but all the holiday spirit makes Ellie wish someone would send her a singing telegram! Will Ellie get her wish?

Thoughts: Guys, this is so stinking cute. The cover has tiny sparkly accents. It is a perfect Valentine's Day book. These books are aimed at ages 5-7 according to the back, and if you prefer to talk about non-romantic forms of love for that age, this is perfect. The telegrams in the book are give to friends, teachers, and grandparents, and there's no mention of romance at all.

This book is a really great one for that just starting chapter books age. The language is simple but incredibly engaging and lively and never dull. Almost all of the pages have pictures, and that does really appeal to many in that audience. The animal angle, of course, is often very popular with young audiences, and I think this series will definitely appeal to the girls I'll be giving it to.

Speaking of girls, I absolutely adore the ones in this book. They started an animal shelter, man.You guys know how I am about girl gangs doing things books, and these girls do things. But at the same time, the things they do are very realistic. They never go anywhere alone, they raise around 100 dollars for the animal shelter, and they talk about how the telegramming and all the planning they have to do wears them out, and they get tired from all the work.

You don't get as much personality from each girl since they are pretty short, but I'm okay with just focusing on one at a time and letting the friendship shine. There's no real big conflict in this book, which I kind of love. The only thing I would have liked would be for out of the four girls, there be more than one girl who wasn't white. That said, Ellie is pretty awesome. I think it's wonderful that the illustrations show Ellie's beautiful dark brown skin and natural hair. That's so important for little girls to see. She's confident, she's talented, she's a leader, and she's wonderful.

This only took me about fifteen minutes to read, but I really enjoyed it. And I didn't just enjoy this in a "kids will like this" way, but in a "this is so sweet and wonderful" way. It's fun to read something that is so good-natured. There's no toilet humour, there's nothing I worry about giving to kids, but the story is still really, really fun, and I would totally read more of them.

Love Stinks! by Nancy Krulik

Published: December 29th, 2004 by Grosset and Dunlap, but I think my version might be a later edition since the cover is actually not on Goodreads at all, and it looks basically new.
Genre: Somewhere between MG Fantasy and MG Magical Realism, I think.
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 76 plus a cute little craft idea.
Part of a series? There are thirty-five of these books, so yes.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It’s February and love is in the air! Everyone in the fourth grade is getting into the Valentine spirit. The kids are making cards, and are ordering personalized candy hearts from Cinnamon’s Candy Shop, the new candy store in the mall. But Katie has had enough—she is definitely not into all this mushy gushy stuff! So Katie makes a decision: there’ll be no Valentine’s Day for her this year.

But then Katie turns into Cinnamon, the candy store owner. And the personalized hearts she makes up are...well...not exactly to order! By doing this, she practically ruins Valentine’s Day for everyone. Will Katie have a change of heart and save the day?

Thoughts: This is another one with glitter on the cover! On this one, it's just a slight glitter on that slightly darker purple part of the bottom half of the cover. It's not nearly as bright as the Critter Club book, and I think that reflects that this is for a slightly older audience. In this one, they do talk a lot about crushes and it's an RL 3.4.

I think this one is a little predictable, a little stereotypical, and while I have only read this one, I feel like it's probably pretty formulatic. I think formulatic isn't necessarily a bad things for this age range, since it can make readers very comfortable in what they're reading. They know what to expect with each book. And there is a pretty good message in there about empathy and understanding what others are dealing with.

The illustrations are cute, although I do question that out of like a dozen people we see, none of them are fat? Or disabled? And there's like two black kids out of their whole class we see and like everyone else is white? But maybe that's explored better in other books in the series. All in all, this is a cute book. It's not amazing, it's not terrible. I can see why they're popular for sure, and I see nothing really wrong about this, just some underwhelming elements.

So what are you guys reading this Valentine's Day? I may actually have another post about that depending on how much I get done today, so keep an eye out!

Peace and cookies,

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