Sunday, May 12, 2013


By Linas Alsenas

(Scholastic, 2009)

Nothing like a good laugh. There was a point midway through this book that I started to laugh at a ridiculous situation and the giggle fit took me through to the end. My dog was very concerned as was the couple parked beside me on the ferry. Why be embarrassed? Madness can be glorious.

This book takes on the familiar opposites attractfriendship theme. Bob is a straight and narrow bear. Nothing much happens to him. He confesses on the first page, “I should warn you, I’m very boring.” Risky move as a finicky seven-year-old might toss aside the book and return to his bubble wrap popping techno-gadget. (Okay, maybe that’s just my distraction of choice.)

As Bob falls asleep in a chair while reading a copy of Hello My Name Is Bob—risky, risky—a goofily grinning panda bear appears at the side of the page. Hmm. Perhaps Bob’s book won’t be a total snoozer.

Yes, Jack is a risk-taking panda who seeks adventure in every moment. Hot air balloon rides, rock band gigs, safaris...Jack goes for it. Meanwhile, Bob counts toothpicks and assumes his favorite pose—“Sitting’s great, isn’t it?”

After showcasing their differences on separate pages, author/illustrator Linas Alsenas brings the bears together. They are best friends despite their differences. Naturally, each bear has a different take on their shared experiences.

The page that started my giggle fit? The bears sit in a row boat on the bayou. Bob leans over the side, fascinated by a frog sitting—of course—on a lily pad. He is oblivious to Jack’s antics, using an oar to valiantly fend off a threatening crocodile. As implausible as the scene may be, it continues to amuse me.

Bob and Jack remind us there is a whole range of boys. For every player, there’s one who ponders. Whether you know a Bob or a Jack—or someone in between—Hello My Name Is Bob should captivate any young reader. I might suggest the reader/audience assume Bob’s favorite pastime (yes, sitting) at least for the duration of the reading. Even energized surfers need to take five after hanging ten.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


By David Shannon

(The Blue Sky Press, 2008)

Whenever I think of toys, my mind wanders back to law school and a certain professor who pined to be a stand-up comedian. He talked of growing up on a farm with no real toys. His mother let him play with two potatoes...until it was time to make dinner. Toy trauma ensued on a daily basis. The scenario always makes me smile and, although I firmly believe he had a mighty pampered childhood, I think one could have oodles of fun with potato adventures. Yes, go ahead and play with your food.

Seeing the title Too Many Toys on a shelf in my school library, I had to scoop it up. A David Shannon creation? Even better!

Spencer is a boy with toys in abundance. You get an idea of just how many when Shannon says, “Spencer liked to make his toys into a parade that stretched from one corner of the house to the other and back again!” Apparently Toys “R” Us has set up shop in a private location.

Children, of course, outgrow their amusements. See “Toy Story”, listen to “Puff the Magic Dragon”, read “The Giving Tree. But there is that awkward moment in time when parents realize certain toys no longer serve a purpose and when a child strongly disagrees. Suddenly every toy destined for the discard pile becomes a beloved keepsake that must remain for all eternity...even if the head is missing, the windup mechanism busted or the dog (Fergus?) chewed the little green army into a grossly disfigured hospital unit.

D Day (Discard Day) finally comes. After one too many toy trippings, Spencer’s mom yells, “YOU HAVE TOO MANY TOYS!”

That’s impossible! thought Spencer.

Then she said, “We’re going to get rid of some of them.”


Battling, bickering and bargaining ensue, with an ending not unlike my law professor’s potato story.

As always, David Shannon’s illustrations bring the story to life. The toys will cause any reader, young or old(er), to stop and imagine all the potential fun before turning the page. Shannon skilfully honors a time in our lives when imaginative play was the order of the day while also showing children the parents’ perspective. Shannon throws in a few nuggets about different kinds of toys. Here’s a potent example: “He had...talking books that fueled his mind...and loud, jumpy, frenzied video games that didn’t.”

Too many toys will always seem like a preposterous concept to a child but it makes for an entertaining read.