Book Review – How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans

martha-saved-parents-green-beansLet me just start off by saying it this way. My son doesn’t typically ask to keep library books. But the other night, after reading How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans by writer David Larochelle and artist Mark Fearing, two times mind you, he quite legitimately asked if we could keep it.

Now, I don’t care who you are, it begs a question. What is there to this children’s book that would cause him to say such an unexpected thing? My wife and I have read thousands of books to him and, while he may not want to return a book to the library right away, he rarely asks to keep them.

Let’s start with the premise. How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans pretty much sums it up. All of a sudden, during the abnormally normal dinner that included a side of green beans (do other parents actually feed their kids vegetables!?), Martha ends up finding herself the unlikely hero of a green bean gang shakeup. The green beans gang are not too happy about all those adults telling people to eat green beans and end up abducting Martha’s parents.

Martha’s parents must have been the only parents in the town who were actually trying to serve their kid green beans (which makes sense because I’m not sure I know more than one set of parents who actually do this), which must be the reason no other adults were taken hostage. Or, and more likely, the green bean gang did away with those other folk in a very uncivilized manner…cause they’re tough like that.

As you can imagine, the story takes a turn when Martha decides it’s time to once and for all…EAT GREEN BEANS! And she does. Quite a few of them. Beards, cowboy hats, and even their pointy boots. Yuck?

And now, why would my son ask to keep this book? For one thing, he hates vegetables. Not sure if he’s ever tried a green bean. So he likely found Martha quite easy to relate to in her disdain for them, as I bet most kids would. The illustrations were fun and expressive (which kind of made me want to puke up my recent side of green beans,) but carried the story very well.

At one point, a whole gang of green beans was shown front and center (thanks artist Mark!) so we took the liberty of naming all the green beans (sorry author David if they already had names). The names were terrible, of course, but it caused my son to cackle his way to a painfully post-poned bedtime.

One of the most subtle parts of the book (the very end) may have been the best. Because my son immediately said, and I quote, “Next time, the leafy green salad attacks!”

Pick up a copy at your local library or wherever books are sold. You’ll enjoy reading it (as long as a kid who hates vegetables is present).

Book Review – The Terrible PLOP

terrible-plopChildren’s picture book, The Terrible PLOP, is written by Ursula Dubosarsky and illustrated by Andrew Joyner.

To be fair, my first reaction to seeing the title and cover made me hesitate. The Terrible PLOP. I first assumed it was a made up creature, invented and used specifically for rhyme potential. I also felt the cover was so-so and thus I began reading, unimpressed and ready to get it over with.

I could not have been more pleased when the inside of the book was quite a bit different than the feeling I experienced from the cover. You know what they say about judging books! Ursula Dubosarsky masterfully used short rhyme verse to propel a very unique story. What begins as a classic bunny picnic turns into a child friendly fright induced panic. The Terrible PLOP, which I won’t spoil for you, sends the animals into a frenzy as they try to escape. One by one, new animals are swept up in the stampede until they come across the big brown bear.

This story keeps building climax and when the big brown bear refuses to go along with the fray, a lot of excitement and suspense is created for the reader. A good book makes readers ask questions that the book then answers.

The emotional clarity that Andrew Joyner created also keep up the exciting pace along with the plot. The bear, in all his pride, finds himself also at the mercy of The Terrible PLOP. This story, besides it’s simple, enjoyable plot delivery, ends perfectly. The creature most afraid becomes the only one to know the secret; that The Terrible PLOP is not so terrible after all.

Many parallels can be found in relating this story to life lessons for children. One of the clearest is to be careful of going along with the crowd. I recommend you check out this book from your local library or purchase it as a forever book.

Book Review – Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

sam-dave-dig-holeMac Barnett’s children’s picture book, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, illustrated by Jon Klassen, found its way into our home this past week and laid upon my son’s floor along with many, many others. The routine unfolded as it typically does, with him picking out which book(s) to read before bed. When you read as many books as my wife and I do, it’s a true pleasure coming across one as delightful as this.

It’s really no wonder why it won a litany of awards and honors. Although the premise is perfectly simple; in that two young boys decide to dig a hole to find something spectacular, the delivery is outstanding. As each scene develops, the boys nearly arrive at spectacular things, only to give up on their current course at the last possible moment. The reader, instead, gets to enjoy the hidden gems throughout the book and is reminded to persevere in their own hole digging adventures.

As a children’s book author, I’ve pondered what made Sam and Dave Dig a Hole such a wonderful read and I came to the following conclusions.

  1. The message applies to everyone. Children love to dig and children love to find.
  2. The plan was simple. It didn’t take pages to develop the plot. Within a single page, readers understood what the book would be about.
  3. The delivery built suspense in the reader. Before the reader thinks the book will be boring, the suspense comes in finding something spectacular. The reader immediately wonders what they might find.
  4. The illustration propelled the story. Great artists can tell a story without words. Add a great artist to a great author, and you’ve got two messages waylaying the reader. The author tells us what the boys are doing. The illustrator tells us what the boys are missing.
  5. A little humor is mixed in. The two boys, Sam and Dave, are accompanied by their friendly dog who, much like the reader, knows what the boys are missing.
  6. The repeated plot develops rather than stagnates. On each subsequent page, the boys keep digging and keep missing. Whereas this could become monotonous, the hidden gems become more and more spectacular. This wets the reader’s appetite in wondering what spectacular thing might come next.
  7. The ending is open, deep, and leaves readers thinking about the book. I could offer a number of assumptions what the ending of the book means, but that would spoil all your fun. It’s simple yet incredibly complex.

Not only do I encourage you to check this book out from your local library or purchase it as a forever book, I encourage you to create a book this good. Whether your an author or illustrator, take time to make sure your children’s book will deliver a wonderful experience. And if you’re Mac Barnett…TELL US WHAT THE ENDING MEANS, PLEASE!