I get it. I know it is hard. A children's writer must please both parent and child, reader and listener. And still I'm disappointed and annoyed when I get a book from the library only to find that I want to hide it between the couch cushions and never read it again.
On our last trip I did find three winners, one tolerable read, and two to be avoided.
I'll start with the bummers:
Surprise Soup by Amary Ann Rodman and Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg. They were great ideas for books! Great titles! Great covers! That is why they tricked me into checking them out. They even had the right amount of words on a page, something I always check for. But, half way through I started making up my own story lines. They weren't good books to read aloud. There was nothing fun about hearing my own voice prance along the sentences. Runaway Dinner had a sarcastic tone. The pictures were pretty good, and the ending was clever. My oldest smiled. I'm still hiding it in the couch.
Surprise Soup also had promise. My kids liked looking at the pictures of the family preparing the soup, cutting up the potatoes, opening the cans of beans....but the whole time the oldest brother bear was teasing and making fun of the younger brother bear. And it was told in present tense....says daddy, I raise my hand, I ask....and for some reason this makes it a tough oral read.
The Two Sillies gets moderate ratings. I won't hide it under the couch, but I won't check it out again. What helped is that is was written in rhyme, which I seem to like. It was also silly, ha, and funny. It held the attention of both my 3 and 4-year-old. The pictures were interactive and complemented the story well. My boys were able to make good predictions from the visuals.
Ok, so I did find three excellent books!
Dark Night by Dorthee de Monfried was strangely absurd and great all at the same time! Cause and effect were a bit random, but completely plausible for young readers. Felix just happens to be walking in the woods, at night, in his pajamas when he is suddenly scared by a wolf, then a tiger, and then a crocodile. He hides in a tree. In the tree he discovers a doorknob which leads him to the home of a rabbit. The rabbit and him dress up as a monster and are able to scare the wolf, tiger, and crocodile, so that Felix can go back home. The two victors enjoy hot chocolate together. OK, so random, but good and works! Worth a checkout!
Next is Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg. I love his art. This book would not work for my middle boy, but my oldest was able to be fully engaged with its plot. It was a good one for bedtime--when he's calm and sleepy and able to sit still and listen better.
Finally, my favorite, Thunder Boomer by Shutta Crum and illustrated by Carol Thompson. The setting is a farm family in the Midwest. It is a hot summer day. It has been hot for many days now. Time for a thunder boomer. Sure enough, the wind picks up. The family moves into action. They rush to get their clothes off the line, the dad races his tractor back into the barn, chases the chickens into the coop...the family is safe in the house. Then they notice that Maizey, their pet chicken, is caught in the storm. The dad rushes out again.
The story is quite poetic: "Gusting rain pelts the roof. The maple's branches brush and wump against he walls. Then something white goes whipping past the window--through the air. Dad's underwear!"
The crops are not ruined by this storm. The family emerges from their house and discover a kitten that the storm brought in. They decide to name it Thunder-Boomer. The last stanza is the best:
"Now the air smells sweet as butter...everything's washed clean. The puddles have dried up. The clouds have traveled on. And all I hear are the quiet evening sounds---the call of owls beyond the pond, the chuff of toads in Mothers' garden, and the low and sleepy rumble of a tired Thunder-Boomer.
I'm eager to read this book again. It is a must!