Monday, March 30, 2009

Baseball Hour

I love Baseball Hour by Carol Nevius with illustrations by Bill Thomson. In it we are privy to an hour of practice for a little league baseball team. Every type of child is represented--all races, boys and girls, tall and short, lean and portly--working as a team, having fun, and competing. Watch them jog, stretch, toss and catch balls, swing bats, and win! Talk to your child about the importance of exercise and teamwork with this action packed story filled with realistically detailed sepia-toned illustrations. This book truly scores a homerun!

All Aboard!

All Aboard: A Traveling Alphabet by Bill Mayer is an excellent book to help teach your child not only about letters, but also ways to get around. The art is fabulous and reminds me of 1940's era advertisements (the type George Bailey would decorate his house with). On each page you're treated to something pertaining to methods of transportation, with a corresponding letter "hidden" within the illustration. For instance, the cover image is A for "All Aboard" and the gangplank of a ship makes up the letter. B is for bridge, arches of a bridge making up the letter. C is for cycle, half of a wheel making up the letter, and so forth. You can have fun with your child finding the letters and talking about how people travel around the world.

The Pigeon Wants a Puppy

Meet arguably the most precocious bird in children's literature, in Mo Willems's The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, the latest in the ongoing saga of The Pigeon and multiple things he'd like to do. In this book the pigeon would like you to give him a puppy. He's wanted one forever (or at least since last Tuesday). He promises to water it once a month. Don't you want him to be happy? You better give him one before he throws a huge temper tantrum! But what happens when the pigeon actually runs into a dog? AAAAHHH!!! "The teeth! The hair! That wet nose! The slobber! The claws! I mentioned the teeth right?" I wonder what he'll want now instead...

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child is perfect for fussy eaters (which rarely a child is not. I remember when I was young I told my parents I never wanted to eat chicken again. They continued to serve it on a regular basis, but told me it was lobster. I thought it was delicious). Charlie has to take care of his little sister Lola tonight, but when dinner time rolls around she has a lengthy list of foods she will absolutely not eat. Charlie plays along however--if Lola won't eat carrots, perhaps she would eat orange twilgets from Jupiter? She won't eat mashed potatoes, but will she try a cloud fluff from the top of Mount Fuji? Find out in this hilarious story.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wonder Bear

Wonder Bear is a breathtaking fantasy told all in pictures. Folks generally tend to underestimate the power of wordless books. Stories without words allow children to narrate their own story, and form their own opinions about what's happening in the pictures. This particular book is the creation of Tao Nyeu, a recent art school graduate. Wonder Bear was her thesis project, inspired, she claims, by an "odd-looking gummy bear with magical powers." No doubt that particular piece of candy was delicious, because this book is certainly a sight worth devouring. Two children tend their garden, in which an amazing flower grows, home to a festive bear, and a troop of acrobatic monkeys! Join them as they sail, snack, swim, and sleep, in this fabulous fairy tale for all ages.

Last Night

For a child, being served a dinner of your least favorite foods can be a devastating event. So begins Last Night by Korean artist Hyewon Yum. A little girl, dejected by an unsavory meal, goes to bed, finding consolation in the form of her stuffed bear. In her dream world, the bear comes alive (growing to the size of a real bear), and takes her on an adventure. She and Bear travel to the forest, to meet some woodland friends. They dance, play hide and seek, go fishing, have a bonfire, then fall asleep in a clearing. When the little girl wakes, her disastrous supper is forgotten and so starts a new day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On Top of the Potty

On Top of the Potty and Other Get-Up-and-Go Songs by Alan Katz and David Catrow is simply the most hilarious book I've read in a long time. Having trouble convincing your child to use the toilet? There's nothing quite like a rousing musical number to motivate even the most stubborn of diaper wearers. How about "If You Gotta Go Do Poopy" to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It?" Or maybe "Don't Flush Strange Things in the Potty" to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Perhaps the title track, "On Top of the Potty" to the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey!" My personal favorite is "Frankie Noodle," to the tune of "Yankee Doodle." Sing it with me: "Frankie Noodle Sat right down Right upon the potty And he made a pee and poop In front of everybody!"

Curious George Plants a Tree

Our favorite inquisitive monkey is at it again in Curious George Plants a Tree, inspired by the legacy of Margret and H.A. Rey, written by Monica Perez, and illustrated by Anna Grossnickle Hines. In this installment, George, and his faithful friend, the man in the yellow hat, learn all about conserving the environment. Of course, George goes a little overboard in his desire to help the planet. On recycling day he gathers all the discarded paper from his home, but also all of his neighbors' newspapers! When everyone goes to follow him, they track George down at a tree-planting event, and happily decide to help out.

If I Ran the Rain Forest

If I Ran the Rain Forest by Bonnie Worth is a selection from the Cat in the Hat's Learning Library, a wonderful series of books for young readers. These books are entertaining and educational, presenting non-fiction concepts in a basic format to help children build ideas about the natural world. In If I Ran the Rain Forest, the much loved Dr. Seuss character, the Cat in the Hat, is here to tell you about a fascinating part of the world, filled with life! The rain forest is brimming with enormous trees, which are home to amazing creatures, like parrots, monkeys, and frogs. However, this fantastic place is threatened--people are cutting down trees, and so the Cat tells us, if he ran the rain forest he'd say "chop somewhere else, people. Leave us these trees. Don't cut them down. Save the trees, please!"

Night-Night Stories

The Usborne Book of Night-Night Stories by Sam Taplin and Francesca di Chiara is a delightful collection of tales to tell your sleepy child. The most wonderful thing I could think of after an exhausting day would be to be tucked in and read to. Most children love to lulled to sleep by the soothing voice of their caregiver. This book tackles traditional bedtime themes of the moon, wanting to stay up instead of sleep, lullabies, explaining natural phenomena, and dreams, all told with familiar and adorable animal pairs of elephants, lions, penguins, and polar bears, among others. All of the stories are tabbed, so that your child may locate his or her favorite.

Not All Animals Are Blue

Not All Animals Are Blue: A Big Book of Little Differences by Beatrice Boutignon is ideal for inquisitive children. If your child is constantly wondering about the world around them, this is the perfect book for you to share. On each new page you'll be presented with five animals, and five questions. Each question matches up to one of the animals, and it's your job to decipher how. No doubt this will lead to healthy discussion as your child argues for which animals the questions represent. The soft pastel palette of the illustrations is an added bonus.

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed is the latest by six time Emmy award winning former writer for Sesame Street, Mo Willems. Our hero here is Wilbur, a naked mole rat, who is very strange, in that he doesn't like to be naked. Wilbur loves clothes so much he opens his own fashion boutique, much to the chagrin of his fellow naked mole rats, who immediately report him to Grand-pah "the oldest, greatest, and most naked naked mole rat ever." How will he judge this effrontery? Find out in Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Who is Melvin Bubble?

Who is Melvin Bubble by Nick Bruel is a very clever book that might help introduce your child to the concepts of identity and perspective. Melvin Bubble appears to be a regular kid. But who is he really? If you ask his dad, he'll say he's a chip off the old block! If you ask his mom, she'll ramble on about his messy room. If you ask his friend Jimmy, he'll say Melvin is the coolest ever because he can whistle through his nose! But don't stop there--ask his dog: "Woof Woof Arf Woof," ask his teddy bear: "He really likes hugs!" Ask a talking zebra, or a magic rock, or even Melvin himself. They'll all have something different to say. Because a person can be significant for multiple reasons, and everyone has a unique opinion.

Now & Ben

You might be surprised how much you and your child can learn if you read Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Barretta. It was shocking to me just how much we take for granted today that is owed to this founding father. We all know about his experiments with electricity, his role in the development of the U.S. Constitution, bifocals, etc. But did you know that Franklin organized the first public library, hospital, post office, and fire department? Did you know he was the creator of the first political cartoon? Did you know he suggested the idea of daylight saving time more than a hundred years before it was implemented? He was a truly inventive guy whose contributions continue to shape our society.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cat & Mouse

Cat & Mouse by Ian Schoenherr was one of my favorite books last year, but it kicked up a bit of controversy among my colleagues in the children's librarian community (and what a community it is! I'm so proud to be a member). Schoenherr adapts a few well-known nursery rhymes, "I Love My Little Kitty," "Hickory Dickory Dock," and "Eeny Meeny Miney Mo," into a Tom-and-Jerry-esque romp between a saucer-eyed cat and an acrobatic mouse, natural enemies who turn out to be best friends in the end. The illustrations are strikingly detailed. I think they're just gorgeous! But you may want to have a discussion with your child about the proper way to treat animals, before and after you read it (some might say the mouse is a little malicious).

Love the Baby

Love the Baby by Steven L. Layne, with pictures by Ard Hoyt, is the tale of one bunny's transition to big brotherhood. He's very happy when mom and dad come home with the new baby, but not for long. Soon mom is rocking the baby in his chair! Nana is singing the baby his song! Dad is building a tower for baby with his blocks! And everywhere he goes people are asking him to help love the baby. So he pretends to love the baby. He'll tickle him, but not on the tummy. He'll read to him, but not from his favorite book. Until one day he's tired of pretending he's not jealous of all the attention the new baby is getting, and runs up to his room. But that night, the baby is crying, and when big brother goes to comfort him, he realizes he really does love the baby!

The Black Book of Colors

The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria is a fascinating story published partly in braille. A boy named Thomas describes the world around him in terms of what he feels, smells, hears, and tastes. People who are sighted tend to take visions of simple things like fruit or rain for granted, but with this book one can imagine what it's like to be blind. The pages of black drawings on black paper can serve as a gateway to discussing tolerance for people with disabilities with your child.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean

A giant squid is the center of attention in I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry. Look at him! He's so big! And he's not ashamed of announcing it to anyone who'll listen. Is he bigger than an octopus? He sure is! How about a shark? Definitely (but don't let the shark hear you say that)! Is he bigger than all the sea turtles? You betcha! How about this fish, and that fish, or that fish, and this fish? Yep, he's bigger than them too. He's the biggest thing in the ocean, or so he thinks, until he's swallowed by a whale decidedly larger than him. You might think this would soil his ego, but you'd be wrong. He's perfectly content to be... the biggest thing in the whale!

Horton Hears a Who

To celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss, who was born 105 years ago this month, we held a large celebration at our library centered around his masterpiece Horton Hears a Who, the story of a kind-hearted elephant who discovers an entire city of tiny people living on a dust speck and vows to protect them because, after all, "a person's a person no matter how small." It was a pleasure to share my love for Horton with the children who attended our party. Like many of Seuss's works, Horton Hears a Who teaches us valuable lessons, in this case about tolerance for others' cultures and beliefs. If everyone was as caring and open-minded as Horton, I believe the world would be a better place. So please read this book to your child! A young person can't have much of a better role model than Horton the elephant.

Olivia Forms a Band

Olivia Forms a Band is my favorite of Ian Falconer's fabulous Olivia series. Olivia, you should know, is well endowed with the ability to wear people out, especially her mother. In this installment of the saga that is Olivia, her family is planning to attend a fireworks show. Olivia is outraged when she's informed there will not be a band at the evening's festivities. "I'll be the band," she concludes. But, her mother tells her, "the word 'band' means more than one person, and a band sounds like more than one person." This sounds like a challenge to Olivia. She grabs all the items necessary for a one-pig band, and is soon clanging through the house (to her, of course, she sounds like the most marvelous marching band). You're sure to enjoy this Olivia book as well as all of Falconer's others. What will Olivia think of next?

Mary Had a Little Lamp

Enjoy a clever take on an old nursery rhyme with Mary Had a Little Lamp, by Jack Lecher, illustrations by Bob Staake. It's not unusual for a child to carry a blanket or a favorite toy around every where they go, or for child to be trailed by a loyal pet. But the girl in this story has formed a strong and strange attachment to an office lamp. She drags it with her to school, to the playground, even to therapy (which her bemused parents become convinced she needs). Mary takes her lamp to the movies, her cousin's wedding, even out for chinese food, and at night when she gets tucked in, the lamp gets tucked in too. But one day Mary seems to old for the lamp. She sets it on the shelf. (Now she carries a toaster instead!)

I Stink!

Meet a very vocal garbage truck in I Stink! by Kate and Jim McMullan. Have you ever been awoken to the sound of a garbage truck backing up to take your trash away? Good! He loves disturbing people's sleep! And he loves to eat disgusting trash--in fact he has a whole alphabet of yucky things to eat, from A for apple cores to Z for zipped-up ziti with zucchini! He sure does smell bad, but without him we'd live on a mountain of trash! So, take trip through New York City with this boistrous representative of the Sanitation Department in I Stink!

Slowly Slowly Slowly Said the Sloth

Slowly Slowly Slowly Said the Sloth is my favorite book by well known author/illustrator, Eric Carle. The sloth is a fascinating creature. It lives most of it's life hanging upside down, living in trees, and sleeping for 15-19 hours a day! It's certainly a gentle, peace loving creature, moving so slow the animal itself becomes a habitat for moss and insects. In this story all the other rain forest animals want to know why the sloth is so slow. He just hangs there! So lazy! So boring! Finally the sloth defends his lackadaisical nature--he just appreciates tranquility! This book offers a lot for a child to learn: first to stop and smell the roses, simply enjoy life around them, and take things slow, and also facts about the sloth in general, an interesting species threatened by deforestation.
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