Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Monday, May 10, 2010

Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

The Big Boasting Battle by Hans Wilhelm

Horace the Lion is waiting for his friend Sylvester the Snake to come over for tea and crackers, Sylvester is late again. When Horace complains Sylvester says it is unfair that he should always have to go to Horace's house since snakes have been around for so much longer than lions. Then the boasting begins. Each friend tries to outdo the other one. They do not listen to each other they both just want to be right and prove that their species is the best. They try to decide once and for all with a race. As they are running through the tall grass they fall into a deep trap. Horace and Sylvester are both scared about what will happen to them if they cannot get out. Then Sylvester has an idea and with lion's strength they are able to get out of the pit. After that Horace and Sylvester do not boast anymore and appreciate each other, they also meet for tea half way between Horace's house and Sylvester's house.

I found this book online, rather than my usual trip to the library and I am excited about how many more free children's eBooks there are online now. The title of the books links to the International Children's Digital Library. There you can find many books from around the world. I like that there are a lot of very old books that you can read, to me a version of Cinderella from 1853 is amazing. However, the pages are often small and you need to use their tool to magnify the text to really enjoy reading the book. Another plus to this site is that there are books from all around the world, so if you live in a bilingual home or are just trying to teach your children about other cultures you can read a book from just about anywhere in many different languages.

The cover of the book links to Make America Reads Fun. This site you have to download a .pdf of the book but I feel that the reading experience is a bit better because the image is larger. Also on that site are activities associated with their books so if you child really liked one story in particular there is a long list of things to do associated with the story. Either site offers you free eBooks which I think is a great thing. I know that I don't always have time to run to the library to pick up some new books and although reading from a computer screen is not the same as reading from an actual book it is great for those days when you want to read something new but can't make it to the library or a bookstore.

The story itself was good and had a lot of lessons to teach. The obvious one is that bragging is not good and will only lead to trouble. The other lesson is that working together can help you accomplish your goals. Both those lessons are great for 4-5 year-olds because for some reason at that age they start trying to be the best in everything. There is nothing wrong with striving for excellence but teaching kids that other people can be good at things or even better at some things then they are is an appropriate lesson. The illustrations have a cartoon feel to them with very round edges and some exaggerated facial expressions. They help to tell the story and offer some very funny images to go along with the text. I recommend for children ages 3-5.

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