Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

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".