Children's Book Reviews

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My First Word Book (Revised Edition) by Angela Wilkes, Photography by Dave King and Tim Ridley

DK Publishing, April 1999.
Picture Book, 64 pages
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
ISBN: 0789439778.
Ordering information:

My First Word Book (Revised Edition)
by Angela Wilkes, Photography by Dave King and Tim Ridley If you have not already secured a copy of My First Word Book, catch up with the first 1.5 million readers who bought the first copy. In the extremely popular format of the Dorling Kindersley books, this large picture book contains mostly clear, detailed photographs of over 1,000 objects interspersed with a few clear drawings. Each photograph isolates clearly what the actual word means. The pages that illustrate "In the toolshed" show a large photograph of a hacksaw, of pliers and of a drill. A drawing for sawdust shows a man creating sawdust by sawing, and a line points out the pile of sawdust, a direct result of the man's action.

In addition to explicit photographs and drawings of thirty different categories, My First Word Book, includes a very helpful guidance page for the adult who helps a child go through the book. The list of high-frequency words that a child needs to master reading before entering first grade gives the adult an excellent goal. At the end of the book is an index, so that a particular word can be matched to a picture.

But this book should be used long before beginning reading. It will be most useful in helping the child build that all important mind strengthening large vocabulary. As all educators know, the bigger the vocabulary, the more agile the mind will be. Get started early. The child will enjoy it, because all children love to learn.

--Sarah Reaves White

Ouch! by Natalie Babbitt, Illustrations by Fred Marcellino

Michael de Capua Books, 1998.
Picture Book, 32 pages
Reading Level: Baby-Preschool
ISBN: 0062050664.
Ordering information:

by Natalie Babbitt, Illustrations by Fred Marcellino A baby boy born into a humble family is discovered to have a birthmark in the shape of a crown. According to the local authorities, this child, who was born into a family that was nobody special, is destined to marry a princess. Everyone is happy about this but the King, who does not want his just born daughter to grow up to marry someone who is nobody special. So the King devises a plan to get rid of the child.

The King takes the boy with a promise to raise him properly so that he will know how to act when the time comes for him to fulfill his destiny. Actually, however, the king puts the boy into a box which he throws into the river. Marco, however, is found by a childless couple and is raised as their own son. Discovered by the horrified king, Marco is sent with a letter to the queen which tells her to get rid of Marco. But the King is foiled again when a band of bandits seeking to rob Marco as he sleeps in the woods change the letter as a prank to "marry this boy to the princess right away." Imagine the King's consternation when he returns. Never at a loss for evil, the King sends Marco on a quest for three golden hairs from the head of the Devil himself. Full of confidence, Marco crosses a river with a boatman who is bored with his job, and enters into Hell. The Devil is out, so Marco makes friends with the Devil's grandmother, a surprisingly good and wise lady. She helps Marco in his task, finds out how to help the boatman get rid of his boring job and sends him on his way. All turns out well, except the King ends up with the boatman's job.

Fred Marcellino has provided the perfect illustrations for this witty tale. His characters are painted with humorous faces that range from leering and smirking villains to the innocent confidence of adolescence. Rich detail shows the magnificence of the palaces of the privileged few, the surroundings of the humble serfs and the desolation of Hell. The Devil is pictured as a not too bright, slack jawed, sneering individual who can be outwitted easily by a sly but kindly old lady and an innocent, though confident, youth.

Told in an amusing satirical style, Ouch! is actually the retelling of a less familiar tale from the brothers Grimm, who collected so many German folk tales before they disappeared forever. Natalie Babbitt takes this story of "poor boy makes good" into an amusing Cinderella story for boys. She embellishes the basic story with asides and humorous remarks to the reader. All of this makes for an enjoyable and satisfying story. Children will like it and so will adults.

--Sarah Reaves White

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