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Did She or Didn’t She?

A Handful of Lies

Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It, by Michael B. Kaplan with illustrations by Stéphane Jorisch, is the third in a series of picture books from Dial Books ($16.99, ages 3-5).


I think a lot of parents know a child like Betty Bunny, funny, genuine, a real character at times but also still a little kid learning her way in the world, even if sometimes it’s the wrong way.

This story finds Betty trying to get out of trouble for breaking a lamp. While her three siblings know she was responsible, Betty claims, “I didn’t do it.” Then it hits her when her brother Bill asks who did. “The Tooth Fairy,” replies Betty, quite pleased she came up with such a good excuse.

It’s not long before Betty’s mom confronts her daughter about breaking the lamp. And Betty still denies having done it.

“Is that the honest truth?” asked her mother.

“No,” said Betty Bunny proudly, “it’s an honest lie.”

The lesson Betty learns about telling the truth is one her whole family jumps in on which is what I especially liked about this picture book. The brothers and sister share their two cents which is how it works in most families.  Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It provides a terrific starting point for parents to discuss honesty and the ramifications of crying wolf – if you always lie, when will people believe you?  The watercolor, pen and ink illustrations are full of expression and depict the family dynamic in a clear and colorful style certain to delight.

After Betty embraces honesty and tells her dad who has just returned from the gym that he smells, Betty’s dad also teaches her that while telling the truth is good, it’s important not to hurt someone’s feelings. For youngsters learning how to successfully navigate the world of social conventions and manners, lots of baby steps (or in Betty’s case – hops) are required and many mistakes will be made. This book helps by showing children great examples in a very humorous, relatable way.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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The Importance of Not Being Too Frank

I just finished having a conversation with my son about not needing to tell people everything that you are thinking when I happened to pick up Being Frank ($16.95. Flashlight Press, ages 4-8) written by Donna Earnhardt and illustrated by Andrea Castellani. With its quirky vintage looking artwork and its big sense of humor, this new picture book is absolutely perfect for helping school-aged children grasp the subtle nuances of truth telling.

After hurting his friends’ feelings one time too many because of his credo “Honesty is the best policy,” young Frank seeks out his grandpa for some advice. Fortunately for Frank, Grandpa Earnest has mastered the fine art of tactfulness and teaches his grandson exactly what it takes to share one’s opinion without hurting someone’s feelings. Not so easy, true. But it can be done. For example, when Mrs. Peacock walks by displaying her extravagantly plumaged new hat and asks Earnest if he likes it, he knows just what to say. “… there are an awful lot of flowers up there. But my favorite is the purple one in the middle.”

So when Mr. Wiggins, school principal and toupee wearer dances at the school carnival what does the formerly insultingly honest lad say? “I see you have two left feet, sir?” NO! Not the new and improved Frank. “Impressive spins, sir!” remarks Frank. There are smiles and laughter all around that afternoon when, rather than repeat to Dotty that her freckles remind him of the Big Dipper, Frank tells his friend, “I like dots better than squares.” Clearly Grandpa’s lesson that frankness is best served with more sugar and less pepper has left a lasting, and sweet impression. Kids will agree the book has just the right amount of all the best picture book ingredients to make this one a keeper: great art, funny character names, clear and concise language and an important message about honesty. To leave a great taste in the mouth, serve carefully measured amounts.

Find Being Frank related activities by clicking here.

Today’s reviewer is Ronna Mandel.

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Ride ‘Em Cowgirl


Every Cowgirl Loves A Rodeo by Rebecca Janni and illustrated by Lynne Avril ($16.99, Dial Books for Young Readers, ages 3-5) is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

I reckon everybody loves a county fair especially if you’re wild about winning a blue-ribbon like cowgirl Nellie Sue. Making her third picture book appearance, Nellie’s aimin’ to have herself a rip roarin’ time by entering Beauty, her ‘two-wheeled’ horse into the Bike Rodeo. And while Nellie Sue and her friends Anna and A.J. may pretend their bicycles are horses, a bike competition can be just as challenging.

Whether you’re a first time participant or a champion rider like A.J., it pays to have practiced beforehand. The three friends partake in all the festivities a county fair can offer including a pie-eating contest, a ring toss, a giant slide and feeding animals. When the time arrives to start the race, Nellie saddles up on Beauty and gives the ride of a lifetime. Certain to clinch first place Nellie Sue waits in the wings while watching A.J. take his turn. Soon a prize goat breaks free from his pen threatening to wreck havoc as he makes tracks for A.J.’s bike. Rather than watch her friend fall or fail because of one rogue goat, Nellie Sue runs after the creature to reign him in. In an unexpected turn of events, A.J. manages to finish the race and clinch first place leaving Nellie Sue to take second with a red ribbon. Always the good sportsman, Nellie Sue doesn’t despair as she’s all about keeping it ‘fair at the fair.’ This colorful, fast-paced children’s book conveys a meaningful message about honesty and caring being the biggest prizes of the day.

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Pants on Fire

514c3k0schl_sl500_aa300_HELLO, GOODBYE AND A VERY LITTLE LIE, ($16.99, Capstone/Picture Window Books, ages 4-8) written by Christianne C. Jones and illustrated by Christine Battuz, is reviewed by Lindy Michaels of BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City. (Editor’s Note: This book is one in a series of four Little Boost books helping to teach children valuable life lessons.)

I am not quite sure what kind of animal Larry is… sort of a hippo/horse/rabbit/donkey? What I do know is that Larry is a big, huge liar! He lies about doing his homework. He lies about building a playground. He lies about growing all the vegetables at the market. He lies about eating all the frosting his mother was going to put on a cake she was making.

“Larry, why do you lie so much?” his mother asked.
“I’m not lying,” Larry replied and explained he was “simply creating a fictional story. I’m telling a tall tale. I’m stretching the truth.”

Really? Really? Well,, one day Larry told a cute little girl, whom I can’t figure out what animal she looked like, either, that he could swim all the way across the near-by lake.

“No you can’t,” she said.
“Yes, I can,” insisted Larry.
“Prove it,” she replied.

Oh, oh. Would this end up being the very last lie Larry ever told? HELLO, GOODBYE AND A VERY LITTLE LIE is utterly delightful, with funny, imaginative illustrations. And, of course, with a very, very good moral and a happily ever after. What more could one want from a children’s book? Or… of course, I might just be lying about this entire review. No, no, no, I’m not! I swear. I would never lie to you!

lindymichaelspic2The very versatile Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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