Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book 62: The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon

Book 62: The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon, Four Magical Stories, by Crockett Johnson, first story published in 1955, collection reprint 1987, HarperCollins Publishers.   Toddler to Preschool

A while ago I reviewed "Not A Box" (Book 29) and commented on how it reminded me of "Harold and the Purple Crayon". I liked "Not A Box" because the genderless rabbit could be male or female and therefore could appeal to a boy or a girl. I love "Harold", though, because he reminds me of my fair-haired, toddling son.

Not only that, "Harold" is about a child's imagination, which I think is an excellent subject for a children's book, especially a clever child's imagination.

The illustrations are simple; the colors are few, although purple does play a prominent role; and the result is perfection in illustration.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Book 61: Just Like My Mom

Book 61: Just Like My Mom, by David Melling, 2004 Hodder Children's Books.   Toddler to Preschool

I recently reviewed "Just Like My Dad", also by David Melling (Book 41), and then promised to review the companion book, "Just Like My Mom".

"Just Like My Mom" is not quite as funny as "Just Like My Dad", but it is sweeter. There is probably an object lesson there. Certainly in my family, although my husband can be nurturing and I can be fun, usually the roles are reversed, or corrected, depending upon your opinion.

So I do like "Just Like My Mom". It make me say "awww" and smile instead of laughing out loud. And if you buy one of David Melling's mom/dad books, you should definitely buy the other. They tie together very well.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book 60: The Little Engine that Could

Book 60: The Little Engine that Could, by Watty Piper, Platt & Munk 1930.  Preschool to Early Elementary

"The Little Engine that Could" is another much maligned book. It is often criticized for being too saccharine or preachy, and if I read it every day, I might find that to be true. But reading occasionally (maybe once a month), I find it delightful.

First of all, it features a train, toys and a circus. What more could you want? Personally, I could do with less of the clown (as in, not at all), but not everyone shares my quirk or phobia.

And it is a sweet story with an easy-to-grasp point. Is there anyone who grew up in before 1990 who can hear "I think I can" and not remember the engine? And the illustrations (again excepting the clown) are colorful and enjoyable.

Overall, it is no wonder this book is a classic of children's literature.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book 59: I Saw Esau

Book 59: I Saw Esau, A schoolchild's pocket book, edited by Iona and Peter Opie, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, Candlewick Press 2000 (collection originally published in Great Britain in 1947).  Preschool to Elementary

This is one of those books that I picked up, years before my son was expected, just because the cover amused me. It helped greatly that Maurice Sendak was the illustrator, but it is an amusing book.

I don't want to give too much away, but in the introduction Iona Opie explains how this book came into being. She says the rhymes contained "were clearly not the rhymes that a grandmother might sing to a grandchild on her knee". However, for the past two Aprils, I have been choosing some rhymes out of this book to read to my toddler son for National Poetry Month. I've probably warped him for life, but maybe in a good way.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Book 58: It's A Colorful World!

Book 58: It's A Colorful World!, by Todd Parr, Discovery Kids 2006 (board book).  Baby to Toddler

This is the last of the books that I pulled from my son's stack to review when I was repairing them. And this is the book he's probably been missing the most.

It's A Colorful World! is not a paragon of brilliant writing, but for a toddler who likes to "read" books himself, it's probably even better. Not surprisingly, It's A Colorful World! is a colorful book. It also is the best lift-the-flap book I've encountered.

The pages of this board book are about one-an-a-half times to twice as thick as a regular board book. That makes the flaps almost as thick as a regular board board and strong enough to withstand repeated (read "endless") lifting. I'm not sure if my son understands how the pictures change when he lifts the flap, but he giggles all the same. I love his giggle, so, therefore, I love this book.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book 57: Irrepressible Lucie Archer

Book 57: Irrepressible Lucie Archer, by Karen Fyke Kirchel, PublishAmerica 2006.   Upper Elementary

I can't actually review this book, because I wrote it, but I am going to recommend it: For anyone who has any middle-grade readers who might possibly be bored during the summer's extreme heat or afternoon thunderstorms.

Not only is this book a fun read: part adventure, part mystery, part story about family; but it references other great summer reads. Some are well-known, like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Treasure Island. Some less-known, like the Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen. All great fun and at least several hours worth of reading.

So while I can't review this book, you (or your child) can.

Book 56: The Snowy Day

Book 56: The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats, Viking board book.   Toddler to Preschool

When I repairing the spines of my son's board books the other day, I came across this one.

I don't love everything that Ezra Jack Keats does. His books to me are like brussel sprouts -- I know I should like them -- I just don't. They seem to me too earnest, no charm. This book, however, is the exception and is charming and I do like it, very much. The Snowy Day is just the right balance of poignancy and humor. It is a pleasure to read and re-read.

Even when I don't especially like the writing of Keats' other books, I almost always love illustration. In that aspect, this book is no exception. I do love the color-blocky illustrations.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book 55: A to Z

Book 55: A to Z, by Sandra Boynton, Little Simon 1995 (board book).  Baby to Toddler

Today, I noticed that the spines of my son's board books were getting a bit ratty from all the love he's been giving them. So I gathered up all his board books and reinforced their spines with clear packing tape. (The good thing about moving/packing is that packing tape is readily available.) In his stack of newly restored books I rediscovered this little gem.

Every child should own a Sandra Boynton book. Not so much for the writing; although, I certainly wouldn't fault it, but for the illustrations. Her work is instantly recognizable, deceptively simple, and inimitable. Not that I'm especially interested in drawing cartoon characters, but I wish I could say as much for my work. One of her books is an instant pick-me-up, for the adult reading and the child listening, and, of course, looking.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book 54: Little Bear

Book 54: Little Bear, by Else Homelund Minarik, pictures by Maurice Sendak, HarperCollins 1957.  Preschool to Early Elementary

You might be familiar with the Little Bear series on PBS and Nick Jr. It is a charming television series for young children, but it is not nearly as charming as the books upon which it was based.

The first Little Bear book is properly titled "Little Bear". In it we are first introduced to delightful bear who wants to play outside, but fears it will be too cold, so he puts on a hat...and is still cold. And so it goes until the little bears is bundled up, still cold, and realizes (with the help of his mother) that he needs a fur coat, which, fortunately, he has.

The illustrations are by the incomparable Maurice Sendak, so they probably need no selling. Although, I will say, for those who may find the drawings of his children in other books impish or slightly sinister, there is nothing sinister about the darling little bear. He is perfectly rendered.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book 53: Skippyjon Jones

Book 53: Skippyjon Jones, by Judy Schachner, Dutton Children's Book 2003.   Preschool to Early Elementary

What a great title! What a great name! You know from the cover you are in for a good time with a Siamese cat who thinks he is a chihuahua. And so you are.

This book starts out great for a toddler, but the writing becomes increasingly denser as the story progresses. So that my toddler doesn't miss out on this terrific tale, I have had to condense it a bit for him. No doubt in a few years he will enjoy hearing the entire story.

The illustrations are hysterical, and well-worth learning to read aloud upside down so that your audience can participate in every fun-filled page.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Book 52: Danny and the Dinosaur

Book 52: Danny and the Dinosaur, by Syd Hoff, Harper Collins 1958.  Preschool to Early Elementary

Danny is 52 years old and doesn't look a day over eight. Ah, the immortality of a good book.

This book is rather long to read to toddlers, as in it has a lot of pages. But my toddler stayed still for the whole book. Probably because there are only a couple of lines on each page and wonderful, colorful, large illustrations above the words. There is a courtesy in older books that is missing from most newer books. At least, I miss it.

I imagine in another 52 years, young children will still read about Danny and the dinosaur. And they will still find them charming.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book 51: Great Children's Stories

Book 51: Great Children's Stories, illustrated by Frederick Richardson.   Preschool to Elementary

Just like I can't remember all the nursery rhymes I learned as a child, I can't remember all the children's stories I learned, either. Not so much the fairy tales -- I have volumes of those -- but the folk tales and fables. So when I found this book shortly after my son was born, I snatched it up. And I'm not sorry I did.

It is not a huge collection. There are just seventeen tales in the volume. But it is a well-represented collection, with a little bit of everything. And the illustrations are charming in that very turn-of-the-twentieth-century, Art Nouveau, way.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book 50: On Top of Spaghetti

Book 50: On Top of Spaghetti, illustrated by Gene Barretta, Piggy Toes Press 2008, board book.  Toddler to Preschool

As I mentioned in an earlier review, I keep a stack of board books within my son's reach so that he can "read" them any time. Whenever we travel anywhere, I let my son choose one item to take with us. Lately, that item has been a book (yay!). Often, that book has been this book. In fact, you can see the cover of this book under his leg in the photo for this site. He loves it that much.

As I mentioned in an even earlier review, I like song-stories -- SO much easier to remember the words, especially when my audience of one has decided that he wants to hold the book. And On Top of Spaghetti is a classic. Even my husband knows the words, although it doesn't quite sound like the same song when he sings it.

The illustrations are wonderfully silly, just like the song. The tree restaurant looks like a fun place to dine, and the characters in the background of the main restaurant are amusing to look at.

I am glad I bought this book in the board book edition. So far it has survived my son's eating-everything stage. Now it just has to survive the loving-it-to-death stage.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book 49: Stellaluna

Book 49: Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon, Harcourt, Inc 1993.  Preschool to Elementary

I've been fascinated by bats, especially fruit bats, for a while, but until Stellaluna came out, I'm pretty sure not too many children were. Now, I know that Stellaluna is a well-circulated book at the library and on one of the library's computers as a game. Bats no longer elicit an automatic scream, at least not the ones that are as charmingly illustrated as Janell Cannon's.

In addition to showing bats in a rather flattering light, Stellaluna is about the importance of family and making friends -- timeless and appropriate themes for a children's book.

If you haven't read Stellaluna, you should, if only to see the cutest little bats ever.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book 48: A Harry the Dirty Dog Treasury

Book 48: A Harry the Dirty Dog Treasury, by Gene Zion, pictures by Margaret Bloy Graham, 1956.  Preschool to Early Elementary

I grew up reading about Harry the Dirty Dog and I quite liked him, so when I saw a recent reprint of the story collection, I just had to buy it. This was before I had a son or was expecting one. When I re-read the stories many years after my childhood, I still smiled at No Roses for Harry. How I could relate to the gift of an unattractive sweater. Harry's solution is rather ingenious.

The illustrations are darling, in a style that would be called "retro" now, but actually was current when originally employed. I guess that would make them "vintage". There is something to be said for a limited color palette. The limitation forces the illustrator to make every line and shading count, or the whole picture would feel flat. It's probably a great artistic exercise.

Anyway, Harry the Dirty Dog is still a gem. Let's see how many generations can enjoy it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Book 47: Little Quack's Bedtime

Book 47: Little Quack's Bedtime, by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Derek Anderson, Little Simon 2009 (board book edition).   Baby to Toddler

My toddler son can't yet say duck, but he can quack, so he calls a duck a "quack, quack". When I read him this story, he quacks at every page. It is incredibly adorable. And so are the illustrations in this book.

I keep a stack of books on a bookshelf within my son's reach. Of course, they are all the virtually indestructible board book (even some of the board books are showing signs of wear, so only virtually indestructible). I let him "read" his books during the day and pick out the books he wants to hear at night. Little Quack's Bedtime is chosen about every other night.

I don't know if he chooses it because he likes the story, or because he likes the illustrations, or because he likes saying "quack, quack". It doesn't matter. I love to see him point at the ducks in the picture and quack for them.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Book 46: When the Wind Bears Go Dancing

Book 46: When the Wind Bears Go Dancing, by Phoebe Stone, Little, Brown and Company 1997.   Toddler to Preschool

I didn't think I'd much like this book -- I never liked dancing bears, especially the one on Captain Kangaroo -- but I did find the cover artwork interesting, and I'm a sucker for a signed book, so I picked it up. But I was wrong. I do like this book.

I think it is such a lovely explanation for a night thunderstorm. There is a lush dream-like quality to the illustrations, and they feature animals playing musical instruments. So much to love!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Book 45: Big Bear, Little Bear

Book 45: Big Bear, Little Bear, by David Bedford, illustrated by Jane Chapman, Little Tiger Press 2001.   Toddler or Preschool

I bought this book for Jane Chapman's brilliant, beautiful illustrations. Jane Chapman is a young woman and an amazingly prolific one. She is probably best known for her work on Karma Wilson's "Bear..." series, as in "Bear Snores On". Any of those books are wonderful, but "Big Bear, Little Bear" is also a little gem.

Big Bear, Little Bear is about how children want to, and do, grow up so fast; and how their parents enjoy every moment of that journey. It is a sweet and well-told story.

You can probably already tell how much I enjoy the illustration in this book. I especially like reading this book at this time of the 90-degree+ year. The polar picture make the room seem at least ten degrees cooler.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book 44: Froggy Went A-Courtin'

Book 44: Froggy Went A-Courtin', by Kevin O'Malley, Stewart, Tabor & Chang 1992.  Elementary

The first time I encountered this book, I was a little appalled, and intrigued. The intrigue won and I ended up buying the book.

Froggy has jumped from the swamp to the big city. So big is the city that, in fact, Froggy is a gangster. And Miss Mousy? She owns a speakeasy. If you go back to some of the earlier versions of this song, it turns out it is not such a big leap after all. Froggy does go riding with a sword and pistol by his side; certainly, that would presage violence. And in those earlier versions, the wedding party is devoured, so serving a seven to eleven year prison sentence seems quite mild.

The illustrations are fantastic. I love Kevin O'Malley's take on the verse where Miss Mousy sits and cards and spins -- he doesn't portray wool -- he shows a deck of cards and a roulette wheel. Very clever interpretation. Have I read it to my toddler son, yet? Um, no. But I will when he's old enough to understand irony.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Book 43: 365 Bible Stories for Children

Book 43: 365 Bible Stories for Children, Melanie Burnette, Ottenheimer Publishers, Inc. 1989.   Toddler to Preschool to Early Elementary

If you are looking for Bible stories to read to a young child, this book is great. Most of the stories are so short that they can be read in about three minutes, and, unlike some of the Veggie Tales, they do stay true to the Biblical account.

However, that faithfulness to the original can also be a problem. More than once, we've had to read a second story to balance the negative ending of the first, especially stories from the Books of Kings or Chronicles. Still, we began reading these stories to my son when he was about two months old, and he doesn't wiggle around too much during the readings.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book 42: The Real Mother Goose

Book 42: The Real Mother Goose, illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright, Checkerboard Press 1992.   Baby to Toddler to Preschool.

Can you remember all the rhymes you learned in the nursery? Nope, me neither. So if you want to pass on that bit of childhood to your child, you probably need a book to do it. Also, you can't write altered nursery rhymes without first recalling the original. So whatever your reason, it is good to have at least one copy of Mother Goose.

I am very partial to Kate Greenaway's illustrations; however, I could not find that version when I was book shopping for my baby. Fortunately, I found Wright's version and it works out even better since my baby turned out to be a boy. Wright's illustrations have strong lines and colors. So while I like Greenaway's pretty pastel illustrations, I think Thomas prefers Wright's darker one. Speaking of darker, Mother Goose on the cover is clearly a "wise woman", from her pointed hat right down to her striped stockings and buckle-clad shoes.

I would recommend any illustrated version of Mother Goose, as long as it is comprehensive and familiar to what you learned in your childhood.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Book 41: Just Like My Dad

Book 41: Just Like My Dad, by David Melling, Hodder Children's Books 2002.   Toddler to Preschool.

For Mother's Day, my sister bought my son "Just Like My Mom", so I'm sure I'll be reviewing that later, but, in honor of the upcoming Father's Day, I'm reviewing "Just Like My Dad" first.

There aren't too many good books about dads. I can think of three: The Daddy Mountain -- which I don't really like; Guess How Much I Love You -- which is sweet, bordering on treacly; and Mercer Mayer's Daddy and Me -- which is good, if a little silly. Just Like My Dad manages to be silly and sweet without going overboard in either direction. Because of this balance it can be, and has been, read over and over again to the enjoyment of both the reader and listener.

The illustrations are spot-on and even funnier than the text.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Book 40: Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin

Book 40: Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin, by Lloyd Moss, illustrated by Marjorie Pricemen, Simon & Schuster 1995.   Preschool to early elementary.

I love saying "Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin", so, of course, I love reading this book. Even if that particular phrase does not amuse you, there is still much to love about this book.

It is a counting poem about musical instrument -- that should appeal to math-lovers, poetry-lovers and music-lovers. If you still aren't sold on this book, check out the frenetic and jazzy illustrations. Not only are they multi-national, they are multi-animaled. Pretty much, this book has universal appeal, and, as it is a Caldecott Honor Book, I am not alone in that assessment.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Book 39: The Cat Came Back

Book 39: The Cat Came Back, by Fred Penner, illustrated by Renee Reichert, Roaring Brook Press, 2005.   Toddler to Preschool to early elementary.

This book triples the national average of books owned by a child, and I'm not even halfway through the books in my son's room.

The Cat Came Back is a song/story, although the verses are not from the version I am most familiar. However, I think I actually like them a bit better. They still are silly and become progressively sillier, but somehow, they start out kinder, more humane. Anyway, it's still a funny book.

The illustrations for this version are extremely rich and color-drenched, and, yes, silly, although the last one, my favorite, is quite sweet. This book is an overall winner.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Book 38: Really Useful Engines

Book 38: Really Useful Engines, by Christopher Awdry, Random House, 1983.   Preschool to elementary.

We came to the end of the wonderful Thomas the Tank Engine Collection stories and my little Thomas wanted more. I wasn't ready to plunge right back into the collection again and start from the beginning, so I found this little book.

It only has four stories, and it is "based-on" The Railway Series by Rev. W. Awdry, but unlike most of the "based-on" Thomas book, the author did an excellent job of keeping the feel of the original -- probably because he was Rev. Awdry's son.

The illustrations are wonderful, and again, have the feel of the original without attempting to copy them.

All in all, it has been a really useful little book.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book 37: Little One Step

Book 37: Little One Step, by Simon James, Candlewick Press 2003.   Toddler to Preschool.

This book is so true! My eighteen-month-old son runs around the house like an idiot, or runs through the library pulling books off of the shelves if I set him down for a SECOND. But will he walk on his own when I want him to? -- No way! And so, Little One Step finds he can walk no farther.

I could have sworn that the author is French, because he style is so clean, simple, and yet elegant, but when I looked on the back cover, he appears to be as American as I am. So, there is hope for me yet in the elegance department.

Anyway, Little One Step is a sweet, encouraging book for anyone, especially anyone who needs a little encouragement.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book 36: Mirror Mirror

Book 36: Mirror Mirror, by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse.   Preschool to elementary.

I love this book! I checked this book out from the library the first week it came in, and I had to order a copy for myself. This is a great book for anyone who likes poetry, fairy-tale and beautiful illustrations (who doesn't?), and a must-have for anyone who likes all three.

The poems offer a succinct summation to common fairy-tales, and from two different points of view. I won't even pretend that my toddler son understands this book, although he will sit still to listen to poetry, but I love how it stretches my "mommy-brain" and forces me to respect the subtleties of good punctuation -- something I have obviously let slide. Any cure for "mommy-brain" is a very good thing. And this book has inspired my new favorite form of poetry: The Reverso. It is pretty hard to write, so Marilyn Singer has a good deal of my respect.

As I am a visual person, I will have to mention the illustrations, which are clever, vibrant and beautiful. My favorite is probably the one for Little Red Riding Hood. You'll have to check out this book from your library, or better yet, buy it to see it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Book 35: Unlovable

Book 35: Unlovable, by Dan Yaccarino.   Toddler to Preschool.

Unlovable by the incomparable Dan Yaccarino is anything but. I'm not a huge fan of small dogs, like pugs; I prefer the sturdier breeds, like Rhodesian Ridgebacks, but my sister and her husband are pug fans. In fact, they have two. And they are lovable even though the old arthritic cat teases them.

So when it came to building my son's library, Unlovable was an early choice. He sees my sister's silly dogs and can relate them to Dan Yaccarino's adorably quirky illustrations. That makes Alfred in the story pretty darn lovable. And what a great story it is.

I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Yaccarino a few years ago. A kinder or more considerate author is just not possible. My only problem with Mr. Yaccarino is that he's about my age and he's created this amazing body of work in so many forms of media. That is a bit depressing. He, however, is a darling, and although I'm reviewing Unlovable in this entry, any of his books is worth buying.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Book 34: The Best Pet of All

Book 34: The Best Pet of All, by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama, Dutton Children's Books 2004.   Toddler/Preschool.

Such a good book! The story is great: repetitive without being annoying; funny -- the dragon eats spaghetti in the bathtub and roasts hot dogs in the living room, but the illustrations make this book buy-worthy.

Hanako Wakiyama is great at capturing a retro feel that is somehow modern. Mom is this book is so stylish. (I love that. Frumpy moms in illustrations depress me.) Yet, she seems relate-able to those without her slim physique and fun clothes. The little boy is adorable, and often pictured helping out around the house. You've got to love that. And the dragon -- well, any dragon that's found a drug store wearing dark glasses and hat is worth knowing.

One of the best books of all!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book 33: Curious George

Book 33: Curious George/Jorge el Curioso, by H. A. Rey, Houghton Mifflin Company.   Preschool to elementary.

This is another example of my ambition in secondary language far outstripping my skills. I'm starting to realize that I all really learned in my first and second grade class was how to say "boys and girls, sit down", how to count to twenty and a few colors. Still I'm always up for a challenge.

I would recommend any version of Curious George, especially the original 1941 version. The story is sweet and the illustrations are delightful. I would not, however, recommend reading it all in one sitting to a toddler. I broke the story into two readings and that seemed to work out pretty well. Also, even though this is not a chapter book, it seemed like a good way to introduce the concept of them.

My book is in paperback, which is fine since I'll probably be reading the book to my son. It is a good idea to reinforce the spine of paperbacks with clear packing tape. It will help them last much longer.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Book 32: Otis

Book 32: Otis, By Loren Long, published by Philomel Books 2009.   Preschool to elementary.

This is one of the books that I bought solely because I love, love, LOVE the artwork. Loren Long used a subdued color palette to create gorgeous, retro illustrations. Otis the tractor charmingly goofy (or goofily charming), and the calf from the back view looks almost exactly like my dog Sophie did when she was a puppy -- She's a fawn-colored Ridgeback and her ears used to stick almost straight out.

The story is timeless: Friends stick with you, friends help you out, friends make you feel special; so although this theme is used frequently in children's stories, I don't find it tired. And the story is well-told, and not overdone.

This book is a must for any child interested in vintage vehicles from the '40s and '50s and appreciates a sweet story. Some of the renderings were accurate enough for my husband to identify them and he has restored two vintage cars and a truck.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Book 22 -- Part Dos

Book 22 -- Part Dos: Como iremos a la playa?

About a month ago I reviewed How will We Get to the Beach by Brigitte Luciani and illustrated by Eve Tharlet. Someone read that review (Thank you!), commented (Thank you! Thank you!) and told me about a bilingual version of the book (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!). I had hoped to find a French/English version. I did not, but I did find a Spanish/English version.

Truth be told, this book is so far beyond my second-grade Spanish, I have no hope of reading it through without first studying Spanish. The items, however, I can manage, so I will concentrate on those when I read this book. My intention is to introduce my toddler to a second (or third or fourth) language, not to make him fluent. So this book serves that purpose. It is a great book to read in English, so adding those few Spanish words does not make it cumbersome.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Book 31: Are You My Mother?

Book 31: Are You My Mother?, by P.D. Eastman.  Toddler/Preschool.

In honor of the quickly-approaching Mother's Day, I decided to take on this classic book.

Over the years, I'd read some pretty snide remarks about this particular book. Perhaps inflicting it on a seven- or eight-year-old child for the first time would be cruel, as it is simple and repetitive, without the quirky humor of Suess, but for a toddler, this book is perfect.

For one thing it is simple. The baby bird looks like a bird; the kitten looks like a kitten; the dog looks like a dog, and so on, and the mother looks like the baby bird. A toddler can spot the family resemblance. For another thing, it is repetitive. While I'm not a big fan of repetition in books that I read for my own enjoyment, I am a fan of it in toddler books. And so is my toddler. Repetition is predictable, and therefore, safe, to the very young "readers".

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book 30: A Splendid Friend

Book 30: A Splendid Friend, Indeed, by Suzanne Bloom, Scholastic 2006.   Toddler to Preschool.

Pesky characters in books appeal to me, like Willems' pigeon and Numeroff's mouse. I'm not sure why, they just do. So I find the irritating goose in A Splendid Friend, Indeed charming. But even more than the goose, I love the patient polar bear. He's the perfect foil to the silly goose.

The friendly pair are well-drawn -- the bear's fur is magnificent -- and expressive. Bloom brings them to life using pastels, which is not an easy medium to work with.

The story itself is so simple that a toddler has not trouble following it, especially when enhanced by the excellent illustrations.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book 29: Not a Box

Book 29: Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis, HarperCollins Children's Books 2006.  Toddler to Preschool.

First of all, I love the "packaging" of this book. The cover looks like a parcel -- so cute and so clever.

Then there is the rabbit. "Not a Box" has drawn comparisons to "Harold and the Purple Crayon", another very good, buy-worthy book, but in some ways I prefer this book. Because of the rabbit. The rabbit is drawn in that deceptively simple way (rather like Mo Willems' pigeon), is nameless and gender-neutral. Any child can relate to the rabbit.

Recently, my seventeen-month-old son began to empty all the toys out of his toy box (and scatter the toys ALL over the family room floor) and then try to climb into the empty toy box. For his safety and my sanity, I had to move his toy box and set up an empty box in it's place. Now he climbs into the empty box. I remember doing this when I was very young. See, any child can relate to a rabbit with an imagination and an empty box.

The story and illustrations are easy-to-follow, toddler-simple. This book works great for story time with a large group of children, or story time with just one child.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book 28: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

Book 28: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Joffe Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond.   Toddler to early elementary.

You cannot go wrong with any "If You Give..." book, but the first is my favorite. Numeroff's story is sweet and silly, funny and charming, but what really make this book so well-loved by so many children and adults is the magic that is Felicia Bond's illustration. The whole becomes greater than the parts when an excellent storyteller is teamed with an excellent illustrator.

I love this book, and fortunately, my toddler likes it, so I get to read it quite often.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book 27: I Love You, Little One

Book 27: I Love You, Little One, by Nancy Trafuri, Scholastic Press 1999 (board book)  Baby to preschool.

With a title like this, you could hardly go wrong. And you won't with Nancy Trafuri's charming book.

I started reading this book to my toddler in September when he was about ten months old and inflicted with chickenpox (poor baby). This book reads like a gentle lullaby, with refrains and repeating lines within the verses. That mild undulation would calm him down before his naps. He also was quite taken with the sweet illustrations, especially the deer's and rabbit's eyes.

Because my son still is so taken with the drawings, he likes to pull this book off the shelf and "read" it himself. I'm quite glad I bought the book in board book form to stand up to his love.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book 26: Many Moons

Book 26: Many Moons, by James Thurber and illustrated by Louis Slobodkin, Voyager Books (Harcourt Brace & Company), 1991.   Elementary.

Because Book 26 doubles the sad average of books owned per child, I wanted it to be a significant book. I first encountered Many Moons when it was read to me during a story time at school when I was about eight years old. Of course, at that age, I didn't bother thinking about who wrote the story, just whether I liked the story or not. And I did like the story. So much so, that it stayed with me for years. But, since I didn't learn at that first reading who wrote it, I couldn't rediscover it.

Then, when I was about eighteen, I discovered James Thurber's writings -- It was a natural progression from Dorothy Parker, to Robert Benchley, to James Thurber. And I loved his writing and accompanying illustrations. Sadly, I still did not connect The Cat Bird Seat with Many Moons.

About another ten years passed and this edition illustrated by Louis Slobodkin was released. The title seemed familiar, so I flipped though the book, and to my delight I found the lost story of my childhood. Happy day! It was like when I found out that Oscar Wilde wrote The Happy Prince. It was like finding an old friend. So, of course, I bought the book. And, although I have yet to read it to my young son, I have turned it into a play for the library. And it was quite good.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Book 25: One Nighttime Sea

Book 25: One Nighttime Sea, written by Deborah Lee Rose, illustrated by Steve Jenkins, Scholastic Press 2003.   Toddler to Preschool.

In February, my toddler son visited an aquarium and loved it, so the following week, I checked this book out of the library. I thought it was just another ocean counting book. It is not.

The first half is pretty standard: whales, seals, turtles. The second half was quite unexpected and delightfully jarring: nudibranches, zebra moray, dragonfish. The dragonfish illustration was by far the most unsettling and by far my son's favorite. I'm not sure what that means, but he did really like the teeth.

Great, unusual choices for this ocean counting book, that are excellently matched by colorful, dimensional illustrations. Don't miss this one, especially if you have an ocean-entranced toddler like I have.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book 24: Animalia

Book 24: Animalia, by Graeme Base, published by Harry N. Adams, Inc., Publishers, New York 1986.   Toddler to early elementary.

This is one of those children's books that I bought long before I had a child. Pretty much as soon as I spied it in the library I knew I had to have it. It's a great book that works on so many levels. For one thing, it's gorgeous. It is hard not to admire the splendid illustrations, and it's even harder to put the book down. Then there is the wonderful, witty alliteration (yeah, I did that on purpose). But it is so clever and unexpected. This is not your standard alphabet book.

This book is a great read-aloud for story time with toddlers and preschoolers. School-age children to adults will enjoy hunting for objects beginning with the featured letter on each illustrated page -- kind of like an early I Spy book, only you have to identify the objects, not just find them.

Graeme Base spend three years working on this book and was a very young man when he did it. Not a second of his time was wasted.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Book 23: The Owl and the Pussycat (Jan Brett)

Book 23: The Owl and the Pussycat, written by Edward Lear and illustrated Jan Brett, GP Putnam's Sons 1991.   Preschool to early elementary.

There are many illustrated version of Edward Lear's The Owl and the Pussycat -- some are so breathtakingly gorgeous but lack the silliness of this story, some are cartoony and have no depth, and some are so deep they tread some very disturbing waters -- so far, though, this is my favorite version.

Jan Brett's illustrations, as always are colorful, well-rendered and quite lovely; and, as usual, somewhat jarring. That's what makes them so perfect for Edward Lear. Edward Lear's writings fall somewhere between Beatrix Potter and Hilaire Belloc.

On the surface, they are silly with a rhyming scheme pleasing to the ear. But scratch a little below that surface and there is something a little "off" in his work. All was not safe in Potter's world -- Peter Rabbit's father was turned into a stew -- but there was a happy ending for the protagonist. Reading Belloc can still give me nightmares. There is no safety in Lear's writing, no guarantee of a happy ending, but it is thought-inducing, not nightmare-inducing.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book 22: How Will We Get to the Beach?

Book 22: How Will We Get to the Beach?, written by Brigette Luciani, illustrated by Eve Tharlet, North-South Books 2000.   Toddler to Preschool.

I just love Roxanne in this book. She is so scattered, a bit disheveled and, yet, so chic and quintessentially French. Alas, despite my French middle name, I am only scattered and disheveled. When I go to the beach, I, like Roxanne, take along five items. We have one item in common -- the little boy -- but then my list becomes quite prosaic, with items like suntan lotion, snacks, towels and a pail. Her list is much more interestingly and logistically challenging.

It's great fun to see her different modes of transportation and to see which item cannot go to the beach with her for each mode. The illustrations only add to the fun. Happily, she does make it to the beach with all five items and has a wonderful time.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book 21: Princess Peepers

Book 21: Princess Peepers, written by Pam Calvert and illustrated by Tuesday Mourning, Marshall Cavendish 2008.   Preschool to early elementary.

Ah, the perfect marriage. Not necessarily between a prince and a princess, but between the writing and the illustration. Tuesday Mourning's illustrations are light, bright and a little silly, and the perfect match for Pam Calvert's writing which is also light, bright and a little silly.

I bought this purple and pink princess book for my sixteen-month-old son for three reasons. First, Pam Calvert offered to send me bookplate signed for my son, and I'm a sucker for a signed book or bookplate. Second, I started wearing glasses when I was six -- I probably needed them when I was four, but that is another story -- and my husband wears glasses, so there is a good chance that our little boy's beautiful blue eyes will one day become nearsighted. And third, I don't believe in "gender" books. If we adhered to "gender" books, half of the population would never read "Huckleberry Finn", and the other half would never read "Alice in Wonderland", and since they both have been banned books, don't you want to read them now to see what all the fuss was about?

Anyway, don't shy away from this purple and pink princess book for a little boy. A good story is a good story, no matter who the protagonist.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book 20: The Great Pizza Contest

Book 20: The Great Pizza Contest, written by Riley Roam and illustrated by Fyllis Nadler, Funny Story Media 2009.   Preschool to early elementary.

I am a visual person, so when it comes to choosing picture books, I tend to favor a well-illustrated book over a well-told story. Ideally, of course, I want both. I nearly did not purchase The Great Pizza Contest because the illustrations did not win me over. They are colorful and consistent, which, as someone who has tried book illustration, I do appreciate. However, they do not add to or propel the story.

Based on a friend's recommendation (Louise of Louise's Blog) I did purchase the book and loved the story. Riley Roam is one-half of Page Turner Adventures. The other half is Kenny Mikey, her husband. Together they write and perform skits for schools, libraries and other places where children gather. The Great Pizza Contest was one of those skits, and it translates very well into book form.

The other day, I reviewed a book illustrated by the very talented Nikki Shoemaker. Now if Nikki and Riley were to collaborate, that would be an effort worthy of every child's bookshelf.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Book 19: What's Wrong with Mud?

Book 19: What's Wrong with Mud?, written by Gillian Colley, illustrated by Nikki Shoemaker, ABC Press 2009.   Preschool.

What's Wrong with Mud? is a cute story, a fine story, a serviceable story, but what really makes this book stand out is the illustration.

From the first page, Nikki Shoemaker manages to infuse her barnyard animals with so much color, expression and vivaciousness that they nearly jump off the page and compel you to read their story. And she carries that standard through to the very last page. Her illustrations are perfect for a toddler or preschooler who loves to get caught up in the silliness of a book.

Later this week, I'll review a stand-out story with adequate illustrations. It would be wonderful if that author and this illustrator collaborated on their next projects.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Book 18: Old Bear

Book 18: Old Bear, by Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow Books 2008.   Toddler to Preschool.

I'm not a big fan of all Kevin Henkes' books, but, lately, his picture books have been astonishingly lovely.

Old Bear, like Kitten's First Full Moon, is a sweet, gentle tale, but unlike Kitten, Old Bear is at the end of his life and he dreams about becoming a cub again. He first dreams that Winter has passed into Spring and that he is sleeping inside a giant crocus. Kevin Henkes takes us through the rest of the seasons with the same amount of imagination, humor and brilliant-hued illustrations. Even the fly-leafs boast outstanding artwork.

After Kitten and Old Bear, I can't wait to read (and probably buy) his next picture book.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Book 17: The Magical Garden of Claude Monet

Book 17: The Magical Garden of Claude Monet, by Laurence Anholt, Barron's 2003.   Elementary.

I've always had a special affinity for Monet. I am quite sure he suffered from myopia because his paintings look like my world without corrective lenses. Also, his water garden in Giverny is one of the most beautiful places in the world. So I saved this book for last (so far) and Laurence Anholt did not disappoint.

The illustrations are lush and gorgeous, especially the fold-out pages, and again, Anholt highlights an interaction that reveals so much about the personality of his subject. Another sweet, and this time almost magical, book.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Book 16: Camille and the Sunflowers

Book 16: Camille and the Sunflowers, by Laurence Anholt, Barron's 1994.   Elementary.

Many people have made much money from Vincent Van Gogh's paintings -- sadly, he was not one of them. This sweet story from an incident in Van Gogh's life both delighted and saddened me. I was delighted to find out that the lonely painter had non-family benefactors and non-painter friends; and I was saddened to find out he was run out of town.

Unlike other of Laurence Anholt's artist series books, the pictures in this book have the feeling of Van Gogh's work, but are not illustrated in the style of Van Gogh's work. For a children's book, that is a good thing. Van Gogh's work is not especially pretty, but is incredibly powerful, evocative and complex. I think Laurence Anholt struck exactly the right tone in these illustrations.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Book 15: Degas and the Little Dancer

Book 15: Degas and the Little Dancer, by Laurence Anholt, Barron's 1996.   Elementary

This was the first book about an artist by Laurence Anholt that I read -- many years ago, long before I had a child for whom to build a library. I loved this book the first time I read it, and when I re-read it recently, I still love it, so I bought it.

Now that I have a collection of Anholt's artist books, I can appreciate how the pictures are illustrated in the style of his subject. Since he has written many books about artist, Laurence Anholt must be a gifted and versatile artist himself. It is worth buying his books for the artwork alone. However, that is not necessary. His handling of an incident in the artist's life, in this book Degas' meeting of the little ballerina whose image would become his most famous sculpture, humanizes the artist in a way my college art history classes never did.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Book 14: Herbert the Lion

Book 14: Herbert the Lion, by Clare Turlay Newberry, Smithmark Books 1998 (story originally published in 1931)  Preschool to early elementary.

This book is an example of one that I bought for myself, before I was a mommy and before I was a children's librarian. About ten years ago I was intrigued by the wave of retro-looking illustrations that began to hit the bookstores, so I picked up this book that has older-looking illustrations, because it is an older story.

Having said that, this book should not be dismissed as only have reference value for those wanting to create retro-looking illustrations. The illustrations do propel the story, and improve it, but standing alone, the story is charming. And this book passes the toddler test.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Reality check

According to Parenting magazine, "a child growing up in a middle-class neighborhood will own an average of 13 books at any given time..." How sad. For lower income communities, that number is much lower.

I have tried to not be a mommy who has to compare her child to other children at every milestone, but this is one instance where I'm very happy to have my child come out above average. And this is one instance where I can control that outcome. I've long been a proponent of early childhood literacy (hence my decision to work as a children's librarian), but as a new mommy, I'm an even stronger advocate. Already I've reviewed 13 books from my son's collection and I've scarcely made a dent. Let's grow the personal (and public) libraries of the children we know.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Book 13: Top Cat

Book 13: Top Cat, by Lois Ehlert, Harcourt Brace & Company 1998.   Baby to Preschool.

The other day, my toddler pulled this book off his bookshelf for me to read to him. I'm not sure why he loves it so much, but I know why I do.

I bought this book years before I had my son. The wonderful dimensional illustrations look almost exactly like my cats -- just add a mustache to the black and white one and some speckles to the striped one -- and the story was almost exactly theirs. My cats, like the ones in the book, can go from hissing to kissing and back again in two seconds flat.

My toddler loves our cats, so maybe it isn't too surprising that he would also love this book.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book 12: Kitten's First Full Moon

Book 12: Kitten's First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow Books 2004.   Toddler to Preschool.

Where to start -- What a book! The illustrations are simple, black and white, and oh-so-expressive. The story is simple, easy-to-follow, and oh-so-engaging. While "Kitten" is a completely different story, it reminded me of everything I loved about Sendak's "Where The Wild Things Are". Best of all, "Kitten" is the perfect length book to read to my toddler at bedtime.

What's not to love? -- What a book!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book 11: Where the Wild Things Are

Book 11: Where The Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, Harper Collins, 1963.  Preschool to early elementary.

I was planning to review the charming Caldecott Medal book by Kevin Henkes, but after reading it, I realized I first needed to review the charming Caldecott Medal book by Maurice Sendak.

"Where The Wild Things Are" inspires more of a love/hate relationship with children (and adults) than pretty much any other children's book I know of. Either you loved it as a kid because of the bedroom changing into a forest, and Max taming the wild things to become their king, and Max's dinner still being hot when he returned from his adventure; or you just never got past the scary wild things and hated the book. Obviously, I loved it, and perhaps because my son has had a great big dog's face in his face pretty much since the day he came home from the hospital, the wild things do not scare him at all. In fact, he thinks they are funny.

Once, when I entertained art ambitions, I thought it would be great to apprentice with Maurice Sendak, especially when I saw his ballet sets. Sigh, those days are past, but I still love slipping into his world and this book is my passport.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book 10: Thomas the Tank Engine Story Collection

Book 10: Thomas the Tank Engine Story Collection, by the Reverend W. Awdry, Random House Collection published in 2005; first set of Awdry stories published in 1945.  Preschool to elementary.

My son's name is Thomas, and his daddy is into model trains, so that I would initially buy this book is a given. What surprised and delighted me is how different these tales are from those based on the PBS Thomas series. All the wit, charm and sense of place have been stripped from the original telling, and all that remains of the based-on books are stories about a blue train.

We began reading a story a night from this collection when our Thomas was about three months old. They are on the longish side, so I kept watching for squirming. There was none. I'm not sure if it was the engaging illustrations, or the apropos sound effects, or both, that held his interest, but his interest was held and we've already read through all these stories twice.

The only downside to reading and hearing the Awdry originals is it makes sitting through a Thomas video a little dull, even for the now fifteen-month-old, and especially for his mommy.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Book 9: The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis

Book 9: The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, by Barbara O'Connor, Frances Foster Books 2009.  Upper elementary to middle school.

After I put the baby to bed, I jump on the computer and check my email and catch up on the blogs I follow. One of those blogs is Barbara O'Connor's Greetings From Nowhere. Barbara is witty, funny, clever, quirky and oh-so-human (see her Cafe Francais saga), so it is no wonder she can breathe life into witty, funny, clever, quirky and oh-so-human characters.

In "Small Adventure", Velma recites the kings and queens of England in chronological order. As someone who just crossed the 40-year mark and is a new mom, as I read this part of the book I was thinking this is a great way to keep one's mind sharp. Then I read Popeye's reaction. And it's perfect. And not terribly complimentary. Not only can Barbara O'Connor create characters so real that you think you know them, she can draw you so entirely into a book that you forget it is just a story.

By the time I hit the Yoo-hoo boats, there was no retreating. No way I was putting this book down until I met everyone and I found out how this story ended. So go out and buy this book. It's a short story and a fast read and not a single word is wasted. And you'll enjoy re-visiting it for years to come.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Book 8: Picasso and the Girl with the Ponytail

Book 8: Picasso and the Girl with the Ponytail, by Laurence Anholt, Barron's 1998.   Elementary

My friend, Louise Nottingham (Louise's Blog), recently reviewed this book for the library, and based on her recommendation, I bought this book. I don't always take advice, but this time I am glad I did.

"Picasso and the Girl with a Ponytail" is a sweet story with lovely and quirky illustrations. That is enough to like the book. What makes me love it is how it introduces an artist, art history and an art style in a way that make them all feel accessible to the reader.

Laurence Anholt has also written about Van Gogh and Degas. I will definitely be looking into adding those books to my son's library.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book 7: A Wrinkle in Time

Book 7: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle, 1962, Newbery Winner, Yearling Books.  Upper elementary to middle school.

The other day I read "When You Reach Me", by Rebecca Stead, this year's Newbery winner. I liked the book, although I probably would have liked it more had I not just recently watched the "Blink" Dr. Who episode. (Darn that New Year's marathon and David Tennant for being so adorable.) Anyway having recently wrapped my mind around time travel, this book's plot unfolded very quickly for me. "When You Reach Me" did pay homage, however, to a book I love and bought: "A Wrinkle in Time".

When I first read this book, I thought it was about me. At eleven I, like Meg, had braces, thick glasses for nearsightedness, and blah-colored hair that frizzed on the right side and was dead straight on the left. I was brilliant in a few subject and backward in others. My father had temporarily been assigned somewhere away from home. I would like to point out that the book was written years before I was even born, but back then, I didn't bother looking at publishing dates. Of course I was drawn into this book upon my first reading -- how could I not be?

Upon reading this book as an adult (so to speak), this book still enthralls me. There is that whole space/time travel -- again, David Tennant's Dr. Who. And the Cape Canaveral connection (where my husband works, for now, anyway). And, as an adult, I noticed that this book pay homage to one of my favorite writer's: C.S. Lewis, especially in his writings for adults.

So, when my son comes of age, I'll have him read this book and see if he sees himself in it. Have you read it? Are you in it?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book 6: Un-brella

Book 6: Un-brella, by Scott E. Franson, Roaring Brook Press 2007.   Preschool

As a rule, I'm not a big fan of wordless picture books or CG artwork. Un-brella is the exception to both. The illustrations are ridiculously beautiful, or beautifully ridiculous, or maybe both. Every page is vibrant, detailed, humorous, imaginative, genius and completely unforgettable. Words are unnecessary and would probably only get in the way in this gorgeous book.

My toddler is too young to truly understand the story, but that doesn't stop him from enjoying the artwork and laughing at the unexpected on each amazing page.

My only complaint is that this is Scott E. Franson's one and only book so far. Until another one comes out, hint, hint, I'll be sharing Un-brella often with my son and following Scott's humorous stories and brilliant illustrations posted on his blog at

Friday, January 22, 2010

Book 5: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Book 5: "The Scarlet Pimpernel", by Baroness Orczy, first published in book form in 1905 (it was originally produced as a play in 1903 for want of a book publisher)  Upper elementary to middle school.

Last week, from my local library, I checked out "Sovay", by Celia Rees, published by Bloomsbury, 2008. I enjoyed it, but darn if it didn't remind me of something else. "Sovay" is set during the latter part of the French Revolution/Age of Reason, so of course I thought of "Tale of Two Cities" and the "The Red and the Black". There is even a wonderful hot-air balloon scene in it that recalled "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" to me. But none of these seemed to be quite right. Then I remembered "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and immediately upon finishing "Sovay" I re-read that.

What a great book -- no wonder I bought it. First of all, I'm a sucker for the whole secret identity thing. Batman wouldn't be nearly so interesting without Bruce Wayne (and, even more so, vice versa). Not only does "The Scarlet Pimpernel" predate Batman, it even predates "Zorro" (upon which Batman was loosely based). As far as I can tell this was the first true duality-of-man book.

Secondly, it is a history lesson of sorts in that it is based on actual events if not an actual person. To me, the French Revolution is one of the most confusing times in history. I understand the reasons for the beginning of the revolution, but this book takes place three years into the war when those who set out to topple tyrants have become tyrants themselves and once-clear issues become cloudy.

Finally, it is just a well-written story. It is over a hundred years old and I've read it a few times and I'm sure I'll read it at least a few more. I know in another ten or so years, my son also will enjoy reading it.

Book 1 -- Part Dos

Book 1 -- Part Dos: "Buenas Noches, Luna", published by HarperCollins

Because my toddler knows the original English version of "Goodnight, Moon" so well, I decided that the Spanish version would be a great way to introduce him to a few words in Spanish. I don't expect him to become fluent or anything, but I have been singing to him in French and German, and since we do live in Florida, well, learning a little Spanish just makes sense.

My husband studied a (very) little Spanish in high school, and I spoke it a little in elementary school (I lived in Hacienda Heights, CA). I thought he would be able to read the Spanish version better than I would. I was wrong. It turns out learning to speak another language (even a tiny bit) as a child stays with you more than learning it new as an adolescent. Anyway, after a not very successful page by page the first night, I've just been reading a few words (pretty much Buenas Noches and the nouns) to correspond with what my husband reads. It seems to be working. Already my son will point to the moon in my husband's book and to la Luna in mine. So overall, I think this is a pretty painless way to expose a child to a second (or third, or fourth) language.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fourth book: Who Hops?

Fourth book: Who Hops? by Katie Davis, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1998 Toddler, Preschooler.

The first thing you notice about Katie Davis is her fantastic smile. It is gigantic and genuine. It is so broad that her eyes twinkle. Clearly, this is a woman who loves to laugh, and by extension, make others laugh. With her book, "Who Hops?", Katie Davis has achieved this goal.

I don't know if it's because of the brilliant (as in colorful and clever) illustrations, or because of the wonderful silliness of this book, but every time I read this book to my one-year-old son, he lets loose with a great, big belly laugh. Because his laugh is one of my favorite sounds, this book has become one of my favorite books.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Third book: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Third book: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, written and illustrated by Mo Willems, Hyperion 2003.  Toddler, Preschooler.

I LOVE this book. I think it is hilarious. Fortunately, the toddlers I read it to in story time at the library agreed. Unfortunately, my colleagues did not. Oh, they tolerated the pigeon, but never really embraced him.

Toddlers all know the word "no". Even my one-year-old son is familiar with it. How great to have a character in a book toddlers can say "no" to. My son wags his head, but same idea. And how absurd to have a pigeon who wants to drive a bus. At the library we even used this book at an elementary school during Space Week and had the pigeon begging to fly the shuttle. It became wonderfully Dr. Who-ish when the pigeon wanted to fly just once around the galaxy. (The would be David Tennant's Dr. Who for those wanting a mental image).

Also, the deceptively simple illustrations make the pigeon instantly recognizable. In addition to buying this book, I also bought a toy pigeon that says in Mo Willems' creepy/funny voice "Let me drive the bus!" When I pull out the book to read it, my son grabs the toy pigeon.

There are other pigeon books, which also are very funny, but this one, the original, is my favorite.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Second book: The Animal Boogie

I'm aiming to write about at least one book a week.

Second book: "The Animal Boogie", written by Debbie Harter and illustrated by Fred Penner, hardbound with CD, published by Barefoot Books.   Toddler, Preschool, Early Elementary.

This used to be one of my favorite books to read for story time when I worked at the public library. The silly song appealed to preschool-age and school-age kids. I checked this book out from the library for my son when he was about eleven months old. I thought he would enjoy the playful, colorful illustrations. He did. However, I completely underestimated how much he would enjoy the silly song about the jungle animals. I had to read (sing) this book at least once a day every day for the three weeks we had it checked out. So I bought him his own copy. And he still loves the silly song and colorful illustrations, although, thankfully, I don't have to read the book every day anymore.

I would recommend buying this book in hard cover to hold up to many, many readings, and also buying the version with the CD -- especially if you are not especially skilled at reading music and carrying a tune. Also, after about the third time singing through the book in one day, your voice may appreciate a rest.