Children's Book Reviews

The Internet Writing Journal, May 1999

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

HarperFestival, 1999.
Board Book, 32 pages
ISBN 0694013013.
Ordering information: |

Cover of From Head to Toe
by Eric Carle Worried that your children will become part of our nation's statistics that show most children are couch or mouse potatoes and don't get enough exercise? Let them see that movement is fun with Eric Carle's charming board book. Using his trademark colorful collages on a white background, Carle portrays a series of animals performing a movement, then asking the child if he/she can do it. The child responds, "I can do it!" The buffalo says, "I am a buffalo and I move my shoulders. Can you do it? The seal says, "I am a seal and I clap my hands. Can you do it?" and so on with the elephant (who stomps his feet), the camel (who bends his knees) and many others. This is a wonderful tool for showing children basic movements, working on coordination, and having fun at the same time.

The Princess Test by Gail Carson Levine

HarperCollins, 1999.
Hardcover, 91 pages
ISBN: 006028062X.
Ordering information: |

Cover of The Princess Test
by Gail Carson Levine In the village of Snettering-on-Snoakes, in the Kingdom of Biddle, lovely Lorelei is somewhat of a trial to her parents: she is allergic to just about everything and is always either sick or injured from the most minor causes. But her parents love her dearly. After her mother dies, her father the blacksmith hires a servant to look after Lorelei. While hanging up some laundry, Lorelei sheds a tear thinking of her dear mother. Prince Nicholas, riding by, is enchanted with Lorelei and they talk a bit. After some misadventures, Lorelei ends up at the palace smack in the middle of the testing process to find a new bride for Prince Nicholas. At Nicholas' request, Lorelei pretends to be one of the princesses, and submits to the myriad tests to find a suitably picky and sensitive princess. Lorelei spots the errant noodle in her salad, the missing thread in the tapestry and the disparity in colors of the gown she is given. But will she pass the ultimate test --- feeling a pea under twenty mattresses while she sleeps? And what about the crocodile princess, who keeps staring at Nicholas like he's a piece of prime rib for dinner?

Gail Carson Levine, who won a Newberry Award for her retelling of the Cinderella story in Ella Enchanted, has a new series entitled The Princess Tales. The Princess Test is an updated version of The Princess and the Pea, told with Levine's style of wit and humor. Lorelei, who is a bit of a pill, is nevertheless quite likeable as the fussy child who finds a use for her pickiness. Lorelei's servant, Trudy, is hilarious as she schemes to get rid of the somewhat clueless Lorelei, and the Prince's parents elevate pickiness to an art form. The writing is funny and brisk, the pace never lags, and the author makes her point that no test can truly tell a person's worth, and that true love is more important than pedigree. The publisher did an excellent job with the style of the book, as well. The unusual size, lovely illustrations and elegant typeface add to the story immensely. Highly Recommended.

Weetzie Bat, 10th Anniversary Edition by Francesca Lia Block

Charlotte Zolotow Books, 1999
Hardcover, 113 pages.
Reading Level: For Older Teens to Adults
ISBN: 0060205342.
Ordering information: |

Cover of Weetzie Bat, 10th Anniversary Edition
by Francesca Lia Block In 1989, Francesca Lia Block burst upon the young adult book scene with her somewhat shocking story of Weetzie Bat and her wild L.A. friends. Fresh and innovative, the story astounded critics and was voted as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and an ALA Recommended Book for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Now, ten years and numerous books later, the original holds up quite well. Weetzie Bat is a blond, pixy-like high school girl who lives in Los Angeles with her divorced, drunken mother. But Weetzie sees L.A. with its plastic palm tree wallets and tomahawks, its cheap cheese and bean burritos, and its plethora of ducks (read good looking young men) as a magical place. With her gay friend Dirk and her dog Slinkster Pooch they tool around in Jerry, a 1955 Pontiac. When Weetzie is given three magical wishes, she wishes for true love for her and her friend Dirk and a house to live in happily ever after. She gets her wishes and the trio live an offbeat lifestyle, while never giving into the depression that many people would feel from confronting death of a parent, AIDS and loss of a love. Block's prose is spare, and almost simplistic on the surface. But beneath is a wealth of meaning, and the simple, offbeat tale has more to say than it appears at first glance. Although the lifestyle of Weetzie and her friends might be appalling to some parents (the hippie-like espousal of free love and motherhood without marriage, for example), the attitudes towards violence, drugs and racial prejudice convey very positive messages. Teens will appreciate the realistic portrayal of life in a big city, and will certainly laugh at some of Weetzie's adventures. And, after all, it's just a fairy tale, right?

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