Nebraska Center for Writers

Chimney Rock What the Critics Say
About James Solheim


PreSchool-Grade 2—"If I'd known I was going to be born in public, I'd at least have put on a tank top," begins this infant's diary. A funny twist on the typical new sibling story, this book is written from the baby's point of view as he tries to grow up and be like his big sister. He offers his ideas about the world around him in short monthly entries, until, at the end, he and his sister become best friends as he turns one year old—just what he always wanted! The watercolor and ink illustrations (done on faintly lined pages as in a notebook) faithfully follow the humorous text, depicted in three or four vignettes on each spread. The book is a fresh and amusing slant on sibling adjustment and should capture the imagination of any big brother or sister. — School Library Journal

The conceit is this: a baby is born and immediately begins keeping a journal. She meets her big sister, tries to puzzle out a mobile, wonders why she can’t go to school, and learns she can grab things. (Note to self: grab “cats, ears, elephants, ankles, and Vermont.”) This diary has some very funny asides, but the problem is that some may be over the heads of the intended age group. For instance, “Some things are noses, some are taxicabs, and some are Belgians.” Cute, if you know what a Belgian is. The Quentin Blake–style watercolors don’t always mine the fun as much as they could, but the spacious design, with its tall white pages and scattering of vignettes, is pleasing to the eye. Try this with kids slightly older than the usual preschool crowd, and you’ll get some giggles. Grades K-1. — Booklist

As far as fake memoirs go, this one is a hoot. ...The narrator is a kinder, gentler version of The Family Guy's Stewie Griffin. — Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

Even if your child asks to hear this story every night, Born Yesterday is so laugh-out-loud funny that you won't mind. — Kids Next

In this exploration of fascinating and truly gross facts about food oddities, readers are taken on a journey around the world, throughout history, and into their own refrigerators. True stories and amazing eating habits are celebrated in a feast of facts, poems, charts, tables, recipes, and a map. Full color. — from the jacket

I talked to people from all over the planet and combed through hundreds of books in my search for the world's funniest foods. Research meant picking violets for 500-year-old royal recipes, telephoning Australia to ask if any people there eat worms (they do), and pondering deep philosophical questions like "Which fried insects make the best after-school snack?" (Aristotle recommends cicadas fat with eggs.) I even talked to a scientist who ate meat from a 36,000-year-old bison found frozen in Alaska. — from the author

Throughout, the author blithely blends silly poems, useful facts and graphs; even the index is fun to read (see "python in vinegar" or "crayfish, jellied). ... With enough information for several sittings, this compendium lives up to its title's rich promise. — Publisher's Weekly

Gr. 4^-6. Brace's zany illustrations, somewhat reminiscent of Lane Smith's, add a blast of color to this picture book of food trivia, which focuses on some of humankind's weird grub choices. Solheim's "menu" is a mishmash — from seaweed, which shows up in products ranging from ice cream to salad dressing, to horse blood and earthworm soup, which were enjoyed by various cultures in times gone by. The layout is busy and sometimes disjointed, with lists, cartoons, straight text, a selection of recipes, and poems (which tend to get lost in the mix). The facts, however, are fascinating and fun, and Solheim has included a good list of additional readings as well as a selected bibliography. — Booklist

This flavorful look at culinary culture is divided into three sections, the first discussing the global breadth of tastes, the second describing some startling dishes of history, and the third revealing some of the colorful truths behind contemporary American favorites. Each spread is an enticing gallimaufry of infosnacks, providing succinct descriptions including region and era of popularity, sly poems, and a buffet of tidbits about foods from worms to insects to rats to cheese. There are a lot of interesting facts in here, ranging from the amount of protein in a ton of roasted spiders to taste comparisons for unfamiliar foods (giant spiders from New Guinea apparently taste like peanut butter, so be ready with the jelly). ... Don't miss the endpaper world maps locating all manner of hors-d'oeveres in their proper global place. — Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

An American Bookseller "Pick of the Lists." Facts, recipes, poems and anecdotes all work together to describe countries and cultures through the foods they eat. The stories and illustrations contain enough humor to make the book an interesting read as well as an excellent educational resource for children. Nonfiction readers will gobble it up, and teachers will devour it for the wealth of information it contributes to their units on food. An appealing mix of science, art, history and social studies, this picture book provides hours of fun through myriad anecdotes and facts that will broaden perspectives and whet the appetite for even more information. — American Bookseller

Warning: Top Secret! You’re probably wondering about this Santa guy. Who is he, and how does he keep track of billions of children around the world? Well, I’ve got the answer. In fact, I’ve got the answer to almost any question about Santa’s secrets you could ask. When Stevie decides that he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, he’s in for a big surprise! Santa and his elves, eight flying reindeer, and Harry W Throckmorton the Dancing Cow show Stevie that there’s more to Christmas than he thinks. There’s Gift Fulfillment Centers, a string of satellites called PSSSSSST (Papa Santa’s Super-Secret Satellite Team), and a Spacetime Scruncher. But even more importantly, Stevie discovers that Santa is more than just satellites and science. — from the publisher

Children's Literature - Mary Loftus For those adults who want books that perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus for their children, this one provides "proof" of his existence. Santa reveals his secrets to the dubious Stevie: elf scientists, reindeer with radar and the Spacetime Scruncher make it possible for presents to be delivered around the world on Christmas Eve. — Children's Literature

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Nebraska Center for Writers