Book Review: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl

Earlier this year I picked up The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl to read with my daughter (who is now 8), having been under the mistaken impression that it is a children’s book. Eek – it is NOT. It’s a good book, and I’m glad I read it, but I’m equally glad that she lost interest after a couple of stories.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More

The book is an interesting mix of stories, including several fictional stories as well as an autobiographical story and one true narrative. Overall, though, my feeling about the book is that it’s pretty dark. One story in particular follows young boys as they strap another child to a train track and watch as the train passes over him (!) – this story prompted my daughter to ask, “Mom, why would someone write that story?” My response was something along the lines of how there are bad people in the world, like those mean characters, and sometimes writers will write those stories to help them understand the bad things in the world. I told her that all stories present some truth from the world and have something to teach us, but that we don’t have to read those stories if we don’t like them. That was the last story we read together in the book, but I went on to finish it myself.

I give the book three stars, because it was well-written, engaging, and interesting…but not amazing and slightly disturbing. The autobiographical story is illuminating as to the author’s life though repetitive if you’ve read part of his autobiography (as I have). I do think it should be clearly advertised as NOT A CHILDREN’S BOOK, though!

Picture Book Review: I Smile for Grandpa

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I Smile for Grandpa, written by Jaclyn Guenette and illustrated by Kathryn Harrison, is the sad but powerful story of Buddy and Grandpa, and how their relationship changes as Grandpa succumbs to dementia. The highest praise I can give this book is that I passed it on to a friend whose mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimers because I thought it could be helpful for her to read with her children. I read it with my children, who don’t know anyone with dementia, and it led us to have some great conversations. The illustrator’s decision on dressing Buddy is genius – it’s never mentioned in the story whether Buddy is male or female, and the clothing could go either way. To my daughters, Buddy was “clearly” a girl because “she” wears purple; truly, though, I think a young boy could just as easily say Buddy is “obviously” a boy. The simple but powerful language combined with the illustrations that allow all children to see themselves as Buddy make this book a great tool for talking to kids about dementia. I highly recommend this book, and thank illustrator Kathryn Harrison for gifting me a copy in exchange for a (very, very, very overdue) review. 

Find more information about the book and how it supports the Alzheimer Society of Canada, visit ismileforgrandpa.com.

Four stars!

Kidlit Book Review: The Day That A Ran Away

I was offered a review copy and asked to review this charming kids’ book by the
40498837publisher, TaleBlade Press, which was kind enough to send me an actual hard copy of the book (remember my aversion to ebook copies of picture books?). My kids were a little confused as to why the kids’ book that came in the mail was for ME and not them, haha!

Written by B.C.R. Fegan and illustrated by Lenny Wen, The Day that A Ran Away–published just yesterday, September 1, 2018!–is an alphabet picture book with simple, approachable text and engaging illustrations. It tells the tale of why Jet doesn’t have his homework – all the letters ran away! As one of a plethora of alphabet books for young kids, the text itself doesn’t really stand out to me. It’s not bad, but it’s not amazing either. What I DO like about it is the moral lesson–Jet’s teacher plays along with his “the letters ran away” ruse but tells him at the end that now the letters need to be punished for their crime… and Jet has to write them all 20 times instead of one! That’ll teach kids to lie about their homework, right?

The illustrations are what bring the book to the next level. They’re not perfect–for instance, my kids did not recognize that the “O” was, in fact, an “O” (“What’s THAT, Mommy?”), and I can’t say I blame them for that. Overall, though, each page is dedicated to one letter and is filled with little details to spark conversation and reinforce the letter: for instance, the “U” is a unicorn, sitting under an umbrella, with a ukulele on the ground next to her.

It’s a book I’m happy to add to our collection. For my almost-2-year-old it’s a great way to repeat the alphabet while the colorful illustrations hold her attention; for my almost-5-year-old, the complexity of the illustrations will give us a lot of practice matching objects with their beginning letters.

3 stars!

Thank you to TaleBlade Press for the review copy; check out Amazon to buy yourself a copy!