Book Reviews – 3 Children’s Book Titles

“Children are made readers on 
the laps of their parents.” 
~ Emilie Buchwald
Recently my son’s first grade teacher sent out a request to parents for “Mystery Readers” for the month of February.  Those who were interested could sign up, choose a couple of books, and then read to the entire class.  I was so excited!  And then the pressure began…what in the world could I read?  We have a gazillion books at home, but I wanted something fresh, fun and maybe something that would have a hidden lesson or moral that would be appropriate for first graders.  So I began my search.  In the last several days, I’ve read more picture and early reader books than I care to count, but three of them stood out:  Monkey with a Tool Belt by Chris Monroe, Horace and Morris but Mostly Dolores by James Howe,  and The Meanest Thing to Say by Bill Cosby.  All three books were truly great reads for young readers, and books I plan to put on my list to buy for our own book shelves at home, and as gifts for upcoming birthdays and holidays.
Monkey with a Tool Belt is a witty story about a little monkey named Chico Bon Bon.  As the story suggests, Chico wears a tool belt and can fix just about anything.  One day an organ grinder kidnaps him and spirits him off to join the local circus.  But Chico is too smart to go meekly!  With his tool belt still strapped to his waist, he devises a plan to escape from the box he’s been captured in and outsmart the organ grinder, returning to his home safe and sound and ready to devise a plan for what he’ll build with his tool belt in the coming days.  
Children will love the smart and creative thinking of Chico Bon Bon, and parents may get a grin as well.  Definitely a creative idea for a children’s book!
Horace and Morris but Mostly Dolores is a book with a great lesson on friendship and the defiance of traditional gender roles.  Horace, Morris and Dolores are the best of friends and do everything together.  They build forts, go exploring, and go on great adventures together.  Until one day that Horace and Morris – the boys – decide to build a boys-only club house.  Unfortunately, what starts out sounding like a good idea to the boys ends up being not so much fun after all.  
As a parent, I loved this book because I felt it was a great lesson to elementary school children that exclusion can be painful for both sides, and that true friendship isn’t defined by gender.
The Meanest Thing to Say addresses the issues of teasing, bullying and peer pressure.  When a new student starts at Little Bill’s school, he convinces the other children to play a game of teasing.  The person who can say the twelve meanest things to another person would be declared the winner.  Little Bill doesn’t like the game, but he doesn’t like being left out or losing even more.  But then, during the family dinner, Little Bill’s dad gives him advice that would allow him to not only stay true to himself, but also “win” the game.
This book is a really great tool for helping children of all ages deal with nasty comments from their peers, and it’s one that I intend to purchase and have on-hand for my own children.

Each of these books were excellent reads for young readers, and all are available in the Rochester Public Library.  Stop in today and pick them up!

~ Catherine H. Armstrong

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