Review: Don’t Touch This Book

Don’t Touch This Book

Bill Cotter’s previous picture book, Don’t Push The Button!, became my unofficial book of the summer this year – I brought it with me to a couple of Summer Reading Club school visits, and ended up reading it aloud at least 10 times. It’s so much fun – few things in life are more tantalizing than a big red button, especially one that you’re not allowed to touch. Kids delight in watching Larry the monster wrestle with his conscience, and they love joining in with him as he finally snaps and starts pushing the button. I love doing a dramatic “1, 2, 3….BEEP” with the audience as we all push the red button together.

I was pretty excited when I heard that Cotter was coming out with a follow-up to Don’t Push the Button!, called Don’t Touch This Book! I was even more excited when I saw a bright red button featured on the front cover!

Well….I hate to say it, but I really prefer the original when it comes to this series of picture books. Don’t Touch This Book! has some really fun elements, but it lacks some of the charm that made me love its predecessor so much.

One of the things that makes Don’t Push the Button! so much fun is that the audience and the main character are always on the same side – neither side is supposed to push the button, but together they decide to break the rules, making them co-conspirators in a silly exercise.  In Don’t Touch This Book!, Larry is back, but to be honest he’s kind of a jerk this time around. As the owner of a cool new book, Larry is the one setting the rules, and he’s the one who decides who gets to touch his book. Larry tells the audience what they can or can’t do, coming across as kind of bossy in the process. We don’t get to see Larry hilarious wrestling with temptation like we did before, and we don’t feel like we’re on the same side with him against some mysterious, no-fun button-maker.

There’s a lot of interaction this time around, and it could be fun to get kids talking like a robot, roaring like a dinosaur and flapping their wings like a bird. But I miss the cheekiness of the original, which really capitalized on the thrill of breaking the rules and being just a little bit naughty. Kids’ lives are dominated by rules – they’re constantly being told what to do and when to do it, and have very little real control over their lives. There’s such a thrill in being able to break the rules, even if just in a story. In Don’t Touch This Book!, the audience spends the entire time being told what to do and following instructions, even if Larry does warm to them in the end. It’s still fun, but it’s just not quite the same. I’ll stick with the original.

#IMWAYR – July 11, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

I’ve got a bunch of reviews coming down the pipeline this week – I’ve been devouring picture books recently, and the shelves at my library are bursting at the seams with great new books. If want to make sure you don’t miss any reviews, feel free to follow my blog so you’ll be notified of each new post.

Don’t Touch This Book

Barnacle is Bored

Excellent Ed

Moonday


The Good Dinosaur

The Good Dinosaur (BD + DVD + Digital) [Blu-ray]

OK, so I didn’t read this so much as watch it, but this is my blog and I can do what I want so there (yikes, I think the toddlers in my story times are starting to rub off on me….).

I hadn’t caught this one in theatres and Pixar has really been hit or miss recently (curse you, Planes!), but I’m a dinosaur fanatic and and my partner’s an optimist, so we decided to give it a try.

Our lead character Arlo lives in a world in which the mass extinction of the dinosaurs never occurred. He’s the runt of his farming family, and longs to impress his parents and make his mark like his more successful siblings. When tragedy strikes and Arlo is separated from his family, he must find an inner source of strength so that he can conquer his fears and find his way home.

The story is nothing that hasn’t been done in children’s films before – think “The Lion King”, or “The Land Before Time” – and the characters are pretty generic. You could replace all of the dinosaur characters with humans, or dogs, or elephants, and you’d barely notice the difference – the film rarely takes advantage of the fact that its characters are DINOSAURS! At times it felt like I was watching an old Disney TV special featuring a jovial cowboy… I did appreciate the quiet gentleness of the story, though – many filmmakers think that children need to constantly be barraged by noise, colour and movement in order to be entertained, when in reality a quiet, thoughtful story told with a gentle hand can be just as effective.

There were definitely some heartwarming and hilarious moments, and I cried at some scenes (though I cry during Tim Hortons TV commercials, so take this with a grain of salt). The animation, too, was breathtaking. My god, the scenery was just incredible, I could’ve watched the wind blowing through the autumn foliage for the entire run-time. And the water! Water has always been a challenge for animators to recreate, but the rushing rivers in The Good Dinosaur were so realistic it was hard at times to believe it wasn’t film footage of an actual river. Incredible.

So, the story is generic, the characters are likeable if forgettable, and the animation is incredible. The Good Dinosaur isn’t one that you’ll likely feel the need to re-watch, and it likely won’t be remembered as one of Pixar’s finest, but it’s not a bad movie, just all around serviceable. Which isn’t something you ever want to say about a movie with DINOSAURS.

Have a great week everybody!!

#IMWAYR – June 27, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share recommended (or not so recommended….) titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

martian

The Martian

I really wanted to love this book. The film adaptation starring Matt Damon was fantastic and I love science fiction, so I came into the novel with high hopes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technobabble as much as the next person. Just look at my obsession with Michael Crichton novels. Being hit over the head with facts and figures doesn’t phase me, which is a good thing, because wow does this book ever delight in its technobabble.

What makes a highly technical yet highly enjoyable Michael Crichton novel like Sphere or Jurassic Park (don’t be fooled by the film adaptation – the original novel is not for those with a fear of coding languages) work is that the facts and figures are usually delivered by characters who serve a function beyond just being the deliverers of facts and figures. The characters in The Martian are barely characters at all – they don’t really display any discernible personalities, experience no growth or development, and just aren’t particularly interesting.

Our hero, Mark Watney, doesn’t really feel like a real person – he’s just so gosh-darn positive, experiencing only the briefest and most transient moments of negativity or doubt. The man experiences complete isolation for weeks and faces near-constant death – I don’t care how positive you are or how well you scored on your NASA psychological testing, that’s going to put at least a  bit of a damper on your spirits. Watney is just too perfect for me – always chipper, always positive, always cheeky, and always brilliant – too damn brilliant. Every “oh shit, I’m going to die!” moment is almost immediately followed by a “never mind, it’s all good” moment. There’s never really any reason to worry about Watney’s fate because we very quickly realize that no matter what challenges he faces, his super brilliance and super cheerfulness will quickly find a solution and save the day. The character serves as a vehicle for the author to display his in-depth knowledge of all things science and technology, which is interesting for a while, but eventually loses its lustre.

In conclusion, this was one of those rare instances in which I actually preferred the film adaptation over the source material (gasp!).

Don’t Push the Button

don't

I am experiencing a bit of a love-hate relationship with this book at the moment. I love it because it’s simple, silly and interactive, and works brilliantly as a read-aloud at school visits. I hate it because I read it aloud eight times in the past week, and I’ve since developed an unnatural hatred for Larry the naughty monster. The story is a lot of fun, though, and it provides a perfect opportunity to really ham things up as a reader, if you’re anything like me.

The Bus Ride

busride

Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats

hazeltine

Old MacDonald Had a Truck

truck

Check back in throughout the week for reviews of these picture books!

Hope everyone’s having a great Monday!

Five Finds – Interactive Picture Books

Taking a cue from the rise in popularity of interactive storybook apps, these picture books encourage kids to tap, swipe, turn and shake their way through stories, often with humorous and eye-catching results.

flowers

Press Here

The original, and some might say the best, this simple, extremely effective picture book really is a source of wonder, as children press and tap different colourful dots with fascinating results. Certainly proof that when it comes to picture books, less really can be more.

Tap The Magic Tree

This interactive picture book takes children through the different seasons, following a tree as it grows and changes over the course of a year. Simple, understated illustrations and a gentle narration makes for a quietly engaging experience.

Don’t Push The Button

From the calm and elegant we head right into the wild and wacky. Larry the Monster has been told not to push the big red button, but it’s just so tempting, and he simply can’t resist. Children will laugh as Larry finds himself in sillier and sillier predicaments, which can only be resolved by shaking, tapping and otherwise interacting with the pages.

Open Very Carefully

When a grumpy crocodile interrupts a retelling of the story ugly duckling, the ugly duckling takes matters into its own hands, and enlists the reader’s help in kicking the crocodile out of the book. There’s not as much interaction in this title as in other titles in this list, but the illustrations are very cute, and the story’s quite fun.

Warning: Do Not Open This Book

Monkeys and toucans and alligators, oh my! Like Don’t Push the Button, this is a story about giving in to temptation and breaking the rules, with hilariously madcap results. Opening the book releases a hoard of unruly monkeys, and the reader must follow the narrator’s instructions to help recapture all the escapees. As an aside, I once nearly gave a group of students heart attacks by slamming the book closed with a bit too much force – it certainly woke them all up…!

Rec and Read – July 16, 2015

24 seven-year-olds descended on the library for the second of three “Rec and Read” summer camp visits.

The week’s theme was “Outer Space”. We started off by reading two stories – the kids really enjoyed the picture book we read last week, so I thought I would try my luck and read two stories back-to-back.

The first was Mousetronaut by astronaut Mark E. Kelly. It’s a pretty simple “small character becomes a hero through hard work and ingenuity” story about a little mouse that saves the day on a space mission. Space, cute animals, positive moral, check, check, check.

mouse

The next book isn’t really about space at all, but our weekly craft was alien-themed, so I turned the story’s little monster character into an alien. Don’t Push the Button! by Bill Cotter is an interactive picture book that the kids found pretty hilarious. Who doesn’t love doing what they’re not supposed to do?

button

For our craft, we made “namelians”. I found this craft online and it was perfect. The children wrote their names on folded pieces of construction paper, cut out around their names, then unfolded the paper to reveal their aliens  – it’s a twist on the familiar snowflake-making craft. The printing and cutting helped develop those fine motor skills.

To decorate, I collected an assortment of bits and pieces from around the workroom, including googly eyes, pipe cleaners, buttons, sparkly glue, and more construction paper, which helped keep the craft budget-friendly.

I wish I’d take pictures of the kids’ finished crafts because they were so creative, but here’s an idea of what the craft can look like (find the original image here).

alien

Next week’s theme is “under the sea”, and it’s the final group visit!