Tree Castle Island

Our rating: ***

Jack loves the Okefenokee swamp where his Uncle Hamp lives. He’s just built his own canvas canoe and he has permission to stay out in the swamp with it, so he goes exploring. But when an alligator causes a shipwreck and Jack is stranded, he discovers a secret about himself that he never thought was possible.

Tree Castle Island starts out with all the components of a leisurely paddle through the swamp and then, like a meandering river, turns to the plot about halfway through. Though the story is interesting and the author masterfully works into the story all kinds of facts about wildlife in a swamp, the ending feels a bit rushed. For a story with a problem that builds and plagues the characters for a solution for so long, it certainly feels abrupt to have the solution spelled out in one short chapter with no real resolution.

Blueberries for Sal

Our rating: ****½

One morning, Little Sal and her mother go to Blueberry Hill, in order to pick lots of berries to can for the winter. Mother picks steadily, but Little Sal is more interested in sitting and eating the blueberries. And meanwhile, Little Bear and Little Bear’s mother are coming up the other side of the hill. It’s not long before Little Bear begins to lag behind… A mix-up of mothers is bound to ensue.

Such a fun book, and definitely a classic. It’s a simple but delightful story, with very nice pictures that are plenty big. And I think readers of Blueberries for Sal will find it hard to ever pick blueberries without remembering the book and how Sal drops her berries into her pail: Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk.

Blue Hat, Green Hat

Our rating: *****

An elephant, a moose, a bear, and a turkey are all trying on outfits, but the turkey is having a hard time figuring out just how to put things on properly.

This is my favorite board book! A funny book with cute illustrations, and the ending is great!

Grim Tuesday

Our rating: ****

Picking up right where Mister Monday left off, Grim Tuesday calls Arthur Penhaligon back to the House. This time, Grim Tuesday is demanding that Arthur repay the debts of Mister Monday, to the point of sending his minions into Arthur’s world to take away his family’s money, house, jobs, and generally crash the stock market. The only thing Dame Primus can think to do is have Arthur return to the House, try to find part two of the Will, and depose the evil Grim Tuesday. But can Arthur survive another day in the house that almost killed him the day before?

I have hardly done the plot justice in that short summary, but I don’t want to ruin it for you! Grim Tuesday manages to be both scarily exciting and quite funny (in places) at the same time. Although a few places are a bit gross, the rest of the book manages to shine through brilliantly. As with the first book, this one ends right at the beginning of the next day, so have Drowned Wednesday handy.

McBroom and the Big Wind

Our rating: ***½

Josh McBroom is having trouble with a big wind that threatens to ruin his wonderful one acre farm that will grow anything (even his sons’ marbles). This isn’t just any old wind, though. This wind moves post holes, takes the milk bucket, and even sucks McBroom’s children up the chimney! What can he do to save his farm and his kids, and get rid of that bear jumping rope with the clothesline?

Once again, Sid Fleischman has written a story full of silliness that is just barely believable. I hardly scratched the surface of the goofy events that the story contains. Just try not to die laughing and you’ll be okay.