Thursday, May 23, 2013

Shelf Life [kids]

Big Mean Mike by Michelle Knudsen, 40 pages.

No one “messes with” Big Mean Mike - he’s the biggest, toughest dog in the whole neighbourhood!
Whether he’s heading to the gym to lift weights, buying combat boots or driving around in his big mean hot rod wearing a spiked collar and leather jacket, Big Mean Mike is always conscious of his tough, bad-boy reputation. He’s very proud of that image … and that’s why he’s so embarrassed when a cute little bunny suddenly pops up in his hot rod one day.
He puts the bunny down on the sidewalk and drives away.
When the bunny shows up again, this time with a friend, Mike tells them to get lost.
 Later, he finds another bunny in his car … and then another, and then another.
What is he going to do?  If he’s seen with a bunch of bunnies – or even one bunny - his tough image will disappear faster than the speed of light. On the other hand, those bunnies certainly are cute!
Over the next few days, as Mean Mike tries to get rid of the bunnies which keep appearing, he comes to care more for his new-found little friends and less about his image.  Can he think of a way to “hang out” with his fuzzy friends and not lose face?
Perhaps Mike isn’t mean and tough on the inside as his appearance would suggest?
This picture book gem has a just-right ending, as well as vivid illustrations, sophisticated humour and a couple of simple messages. Firstly, just being oneself instead of being concerned about what others think is the best choice. Secondly, opposites can be friends - we don’t have to be exactly like someone else to let them into our life.  

** Recommended for ages 4 to 8 years. 

Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-el, 32 pages.

Poor Crispin Blaze!  Born into an eminent family of fire-breathing dragons, he discovered that he could not breathe fire.
Instead, Crispin breathed out many other things, such as whipped cream, marshmallows, soap bubbles, teddy bears, red party steamers and beach balls. Each, in turn, was greatly enjoyed by someone around him … but after all, dragons are expected to breathe fire, aren’t they?
Bitterly disappointed in himself, Crispin decided to run away. He hid in a cave.
He soon had a visitor, a young knight, Sir George, looking for a fire-breathing dragon.  (After all, a knight is expected to fight fire-breathing dragons, isn’t he?)
Sir George tried unsuccessfully to help Crispin breathe fire. 
Later, Crispin began to feel homesick and returned to his family. His father was so happy to see him again and breathed out so much fire that the family home started to burn.
Dragons came running from all directions to help … but how?  Everyone knew how to start fires, but not how to stop them.
Suddenly Crispin felt a tingling in his tummy. He opened his mouth … and water gushed out!  It was enough water to save his home.
For the first time, Crispin was glad that he couldn’t breathe fire. (The other dragons were happy too.)
This amusing, not-so-typical dragon-and-knight story demonstrates to young listeners that everyone isn’t the same, and that we all have abilities which are useful in some way.   

** Recommended for ages 4 to 7 years.

This review appears in The Stratford Gazette on May 123, 2013. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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