February 28, 2013


Little Critter: Bedtime Stories. By Mercer Mayer. HarperFestival. $11.99.

We Are Moving. By Mercer Mayer. HarperFestival. $3.99.

Favorite Little Golden Books for Springtime. Golden Books. $19.95.

The Little Golden Book of Jokes and Riddles. By Peggy Brown. Illustrated by David Sheldon. Golden Books. $3.99.

Old MacDonald Had a Farm. Illustrated by Anne Kennedy. Golden Books. $3.99.

The Princess and the Pea. By Hans Christian Andersen. Illustrated by Jana Christy. Golden Books. $3.99.

      Buying in bulk makes sense when shopping for groceries – and helps explain the enormous popularity of stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club – but buying books in bulk is another matter. It can be a great way to stock up on specific stories that you know your children will enjoy, but it can also be easy to overdo the bulk buying – ending up with a surfeit of material that kids will not get to at all, because they will decide they have had enough of that particular author or character. Still, bulk buying can sometimes be a moneysaver as well as a lot of fun for children who enjoy specific kinds of books. Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter is a perennial favorite, and the six-book set of his adventures from HarperFestival is a great deal: each individual book in the box is marked with the usual $3.99 price, but the six together cost $11.99, which is a 50% saving. The collection is called Little Critter: Bedtime Stories, but in fact the subjects of the books are quite varied, and the books will be fun anytime, not just in the evening. And even if children only like half of them, the box is a good buy. But fans of Mayer and Little Critter will surely enjoy all the books, which all include Mayer’s signature combination of amusement, clear but gently presented life lessons, and pleasant drawings of the huge-eyed Little Critter and parents and friends. The books in this collection are The Best Teacher Ever; The Best Show & Share; Bye-Bye, Mom and Dad; The Lost Dinosaur Bone; Just a Little Too Little; and Just a Little Music.  Each is fun, simply told, easy to read, and simple to carry around either individually or in the nicely designed box, which has a Velcro closure and a handle on top and includes, as bonuses, a Little Critter poster and a sheet of stickers. Good buy; good stories; good fun – all at once.

      Of course, if you want other Little Critter books, you have to buy them individually. And that will be just fine for Mayer’s fans. We Are Moving, for example, is all about the worries and stresses of going to a new home – very much downplayed, to be sure, since it turns out that the new house is in the same neighborhood as the old one and in fact is “even near my school,” as Little Critter discovers. But before he finds that out, he worries about losing his tree house, having a new back yard, needing to make new friends, going to a new school filled (potentially) with bullies and mean teachers, and so on. Most of his concerns come to nothing, which is the happy news communicated by the book; and at the end, Little Critter concludes, “Sometimes moving is not so bad, after all.”  Well, true – but of course sometimes it is. However, that just wouldn’t be the message in a Littler Critter book. Parents planning a move may want to use this book to reassure young children that everything will work out – although if the real-world move will be far away and result in a new school and all-new friends, We Are Moving may turn out not to be as reassuring as it will be for a move within the same general area.

      The bulk  purchase of Favorite Little Golden Books for Springtime requires thinking different from that involved in the Mercer Mayer books. This five-book set is for families that love the old-fashioned Little Golden Books and are interested in multiple ones built around more or less the same theme. The books cost $3.99 each and $19.95 as a set, so there is no discount for buying them all at once; and the packaging is a simple cardboard slipcase, not any easier to carry around than the books themselves. Really, this is a bulk buy for families that do not own any of these five books and that find the works’ seasonal association pleasant. The books are Home for a Bunny; Two Little Gardeners; Where Do Giggles Come From?; The Little Red Hen; and Baby Farm Animals. In truth, the connection of the books to springtime is a little tenuous – giggles and the red-hen story are not especially spring-focused – but the selection of these works, by various authors and published at various times, is a pleasant one; and the set as a whole is a nice collection, with enough variety so that kids who are not interested in one may well be interested in another.

      Here too, though, there are plenty of Little Golden Books that families can buy individually, to fit specific tastes. The Little Golden Book of Jokes and Riddles is filled with sillinesses categorized as “elephunnies,” “oink yoinkers,” “spooky and kooky,” and such unclassifiable yucks as this: “Why did Cinderella get kicked off the basketball team? She ran from the ball.” Beginning readers – and pre-readers to whom adults are willing to read a lot of items at this level – will enjoy this. And then there are the Little Golden Books retellings of classics, such as Old MacDonald Had a Farm, in which the animals spend most of their time laughing and eventually insist on falling asleep in Old MacDonald’s bed (leaving him wide awake); and The Princess and the Pea, in which Hans Christian Andersen’s story is simplified and turned silly through, for example, having the searching prince encounter one “princess” playing in the dirt with chickens and another flanked by two gigantic wolf-like dogs. All the 24-page Little Golden Books are simply written and pleasantly illustrated, and even if not all of them will be to all tastes, some of them will be to most tastes, whether purchased one at a time or in a group.

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