Children’s Book

Book Review: The Mystery of Dragon Bridge by Ann Howard

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. That has not in any way influenced my opinion.

I was asked to review “The Mystery of Dragon Bridge” by a good friend of mine, and son of the author. We were sharing a meal of homemade and thoroughly Americanized bibimbap and chatting the night away while my son played around us when he asked, sheepishly, if I reviewed children’s books. I happily said yes and a couple of weeks later had my copy in hand, knowing how incredibly awkward things could get should I not enjoy the book. Thankfully, we were spared the discomfort because I found everything about “The Mystery of Dragon Bridge” to be utterly charming from the author’s authentic voice to the brilliantly detailed illustrations that graced the pages. “The Mystery of Dragon” bridge is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to write and illustrate a children’s book and Ann Howard’s passion and dedication shows through on every page.

Illustrations are the heart of a good children’s book. Kids are visual creatures and fickle beasts. They lack the vocabulary and attention spans needed to digest massive blocks of text until they are well into their school years. The first thing I noticed about “The Mystery of Dragon Bridge” were the striking paintings within, sometimes taking up an entire two page spread. The illustrations, reminiscent of old Chinese paintings, are colorful and imaginative, setting a perfect stage for the story.

The prose flow over the pages in a style that reminds me of oral storytelling. I can imagine myself hearing the tale from an elder in front of the fire, surrounded by eagerly listening children. It has the quality of a story passed down through generation after generation.

The entire story is steeped in the richness of Chinese culture. With simplified Chinese text right alongside the English text, it is a perfect fit for bilingual families and classrooms. It also invites a conversation about cultural diversity and identification in a classroom of students who do not speak Chinese. “The Mystery of Dragon Bridge” touches on and opens up the discussion to issues of environmental responsibility, community, and the importance of keeping promises and traditions. It is a great story to practice reading with, and would be a good addition to both classrooms and home libraries.

I would recommend this book for older readers if they are reading solo, perhaps second grade and above as there are several pages that only have text. I tried to read it to my three-year-old nephew and my one-year old son. The former was not very interested, and the latter attempted to eat the book when we reached a page with no pictures. My five-year-old nephew would definitely have been interested as he could interact with the mystery and take guesses as to where the bridge had gone.

My friend tells me that his mother will eventually tour in our neck of the woods (Powell’s Books). I have not met her yet, but I am eager to. It is wonderful to know that a mother has followed her dreams and created something so stunning. I look forward to collecting future books for my son to read.

The Mystery of Dragon Bridge by Ann Howard

Book Review – Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett

 

Tickle Monster by Josie Bissette

Edited and virtually rewritten after I read what I’d posted at 11 last night. I should sleep on posts I write that late.

My son is not very ticklish, but he loves to be tickled. When our searching fingers find just the right spot his eyes light up and he rewards us with a big belly laugh and little snorting giggles. If it even looks like you are about to play tickle monster with him, your arm held high and your hand in the shape of a claw, he gives a big, squinty-eyed, toothy grin. As you can imagine, a book with the very title “Tickle Monster” was a very welcome sight to a couple of tired, bedraggled, and loving parents.

Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett

We found our copy at the local Goodwill outlet after the family in front of us in line abandoned it at the register. My husband swore he had seen it somewhere before. Likely at one of our many outings to Powell’s. I was surprised after inspecting the cover and pages that it was in such amazing condition. Sadly, most children’s books in the Bins (a friendly neighborhood name for Goodwill Outlets) are chewed up, stained, and torn. My husband, a big kid himself in many ways, wanted it. I was not going to argue.

“Tickle Monster” is an endearing children’s science fiction picture book with whimsical art by Kevan J. Atteberry and zany typography. Tickle Monster from the planet Tickle could not be any cuter with his big eyes and colorful striped tail and horns. His only mission in life is to bring the precious sound of children’s laughter to the universe.

Tickle Monster Inside Peak

This is not a book you can simply read to your child. To get the full effect, you must tickle as well. If you are unpracticed in the art of tickling (gasp), don’t worry! Tickle Monster will guide your fingers. Though the story has some rhyming quirks that break the sing song quality of the prose, the rhyme scheme, however flawed, is not the point of the story. The glory of this picture book is that it sets the perfect stage for quality bonding time. It encourages parents, older siblings, and other loving adults to participate in interactive and imaginative play with the backdrop of a fun science fiction setting.

If the little one in your life runs screaming and bursts into tears at the thought of being tickled, you might want to leave this one on the shelf. It would not be my first choice as a book to teach reading since the author makes up many words to bolster the silliness of the story. I would not choose it for teaching rhymes either, unless I want to compare instances where the rhyming works against instances where it does not. If you are a lower grades teacher, it could be a fun and playful way to work on body parts like tummy, neck, feet, and toes. The interactive elements would just need to be modified to remove physical contact. “Tickle Monster”, at its core, is best suited for parents and other caretakers with their little charges as a way to play together and bond. Word on the street has it that you can buy Tickle Monster gloves to enhance your story time, too. How fun!
Tickle Monster Inside Peak 2

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