Friday, November 14, 2008

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

Okay, it's time for one of those gratuitous dad posts. Our little girl's world has been pretty small thus far, but it's getting bigger all of the time. She's meeting more kids and adults, and she's just beginning to learn how to get along without Mama or Daddy. The little milestones that occur each day make me very emotional. I want to absorb everything for her, but I can't. I'm thankful that I know she has someone bigger than me holding onto her.

I'm talking about this after taking another look at Kadir Nelson's He's Got the Whole World in His Hands. It's such a beautiful book. I'm going to be keeping my eye out for this illustrator.

Amazing scenes of a family interacting with their world accompany the familiar song. We start big with a view of the heavens, then the San Francisco skyline at daybreak, then right to a boy holding a picture he drew of his family. "He's got my brothers and my sisters in His hands." It just gets better from there.

I highly recommend this inspiring book to all families.

Here's our little one out in the great, big world. As my grandmother used to pray over me, "Be round about her, Lord." God be round about you, too.

10 Things I Can Do to Help My World

Unfortunately, when we lost our camera, we hadn't downloaded the photos and videos of Maya playing in and around our new composter (I call it Darth Vader). It's full of scraps now, so we're probably not going to reproduce those. You'll just have to imagine. But here are Maya and I stealing leaves for Lord Vader from Uncle Wade and Auntie Katie when they weren't home (their trees are leafier than ours).

It's hard to imagine that preschoolers could enjoy a book about green living, but Maya really likes 10 Things I Can Do to Help My World, by Melanie Walsh. Some pages are die-cut to entice page-turners like Maya.

The tips are simple, like turning off the water when brushing teeth or making a recycle bin. There are two levels of text. I'll confess we just read the big "I" sentences. But there are short explanations for older kids.

Say Daddy

I've been noticing that Maya is very good at learning the words we aren't stressing and ignoring the ones we are. For example, I've been stressing the word "book" since she was, oh, two weeks old. My professional pride was riding on that being her first word. Nope. But she will walk up to us and say, "Reeuuuu," which is her version of "read".

Say Daddy!, by Michael Shoulders and illustrated by Teri Weidner, is about just this phenomenon. Each family member reads to the new baby and at the end says, "Say Daddy" or "Say Nana." But baby doesn't comply.

Finally, the baby comes out with "Book." Everyone is pleased, though Daddy just won't give up.

There is a lot of text here, so I'd say this one is a little long for preschoolers.

Here's Maya showing off her reading skills and Mama's first attempt at pigtails.

Where's My Mummy?

I guess it's a mummy theme. Where's My Mummy?, by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by John Manders, is one of Maya's new favorites.

Little Baby Mummy wants to play hide-and-seek instead of going to bed. So he "tromped, tromped, tromped to the deep, dark woods, the spookery woods..." At each turn he hears scary noises. "Clank clink clank Woo boo woo Clank clink CLOO"

Each time it's a familiar face who tells Little Baby Mummy to get on home because it's dangerous out in the dark woods.

Finally he comes upon a truly frightening creature. A mouse. Luckily Moma Mummy is there.

Lots of great sounds. Even glubbing and gurgling.

Here's Maya raiding her loot. We of course ate her candy, but not before she mushed it up for an hour. Does etiquette dictate that we trade our candy for our neighbors', knowing that we'd be eating theirs? Ah, never mind.

She's a frog, BTW.

Ten Little Mummies: An Egyptian Counting Book

Ten Little Mummies, a not-necessarily-Halloween-book by Philip Yates and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, is so clever and has such a catchy rhyme.

Ten mummies are bored in their tomb so they go out for adventure. One by one they are whisked away by various incidences. "8 little mummies committed hijinks. One was arrested for painting the sphinx."

Eventually one lonely mummy returns to the tomb to find that all her friends are back together.

For your kindergarteners or first-graders, this one will help with counting and Egypt-specific vocabulary when they get to that unit in school. You know they will. Right after pirates.

Boo, Bunny!

All right, I know I'm late for Halloween, but I have to get a few of Maya's first trick-or-treating photos up here. We went to three of our neighbors' houses then came back to hand out our own candy. Patty and I were both off work for Halloween for the first time that I can remember. It was very pleasant meeting some new neighbors. Here is Maya knocking on a door (ours actually). Luckily she had been practicing "Knock knock".

Boo, Bunny!, by Kathryn O. Galbraith and illustrated by Jeff Mack, is a good introduction to trick-or-treating. It shows the bunnies being a bit scared, but having fun. Good mental preparation for your timid toddler.

The pictures are vibrant, and there is some great onomatopoeia.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Snowy, Blowy Winter

It's another early winter day here in Minnesota. Maya hasn't been that excited about the snow thus far, but once it starts piling up on the ground, I think she'll get into it. Here are pictures of what may have been our last cookout.

Snowy, Blowy Winter, by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Judy Stead, is a fun winter book with an infectious rhyme. The best part are all the adjectives, real or made-up:
"Six more weeks of snowy blowy glowy frosty freezy stuffy sneezy strappy zippery icy slippery...." It goes on and on.
In the back is a recipe for Snowy, Blowy Ice Cream. That's right, a dessert made of snow. I'm a bit wary, but Patty swears she's gonna try it. I did put my foot down on where she gets the snow.
Mayareads got another nod from a website for parents by teens. We're on the list of 50 Best Dad Blogs. Thanks to the teens who chose us. Here's a link to their site:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Birthday for Cow!


If you look inside the front cover of A Birthday for Cow!, by Jan Thomas, today is indeed Cow's birthday (It's also Sari Long's birthday. Happy Birthday, Sari).

This is another of Maya's new favorites. We read through this one once or twice, then Maya turns back to the beginning and reads to us, careful to turn the pages correctly. Because of the nature of the book, she yells out her version of what we say when we read it and bounces up and down and side to side.

The reason for this animation is that almost every sentence in the book is a bold, red, all-caps exclamation. Pig and Mouse begin to prepare a cake for Cow's birthday. Duck is aghast. "Cake?!"

Duck makes several pleas to include "A TURNIP!" But Mouse and Pig don't agree.

Eventually Cow appears, and you can guess what she is happiest to see. But don't worry, there's a cake for Mouse and Pig to enjoy. Duck and Cow walk off into the sunset proclaiming the glories of turnips.

May I say again how much I love the way Maya interacts with books these days. She can tell if I try to skip a page, and she turns back to the missed one. She comments in her own way to the things she sees on the page.

Oh, and if you have some time, you should do a Google search for the title. I can't believe some of the other images.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Katie Loves the Kittens

Ok, I slowed down there for a bit again, but I'll try to get a couple in this week. I've lost a little fire since I lost our camera. We'll get another one soon. Have to before Maya wears her new Halloween costume.

Maya is making so much ground in her interaction with books, and let me tell you, it multiplies the pleasure for me as well. She reacts to particular images on the page and responds to what we are reading. We have a couple new favorites home from the library that Maya brings to us over and over.

One is Katie Loves the Kittens, by John Himmelman. Katie loves Sue Ann's new pets, three tiny kittens. Only problem is, when she tries to play with them ("AROOOOO"), she scares them. Sue Ann scolds Katie, and Katie feels so bad about scaring the poor little kittens.

When Katie tries to control herself, she shivers visibly with excitement. After three failures, Katie falls asleep and wakes to find she has three new friends.

It's a sweet story with so many visual treats, like when Katie is trying to contain herself. My favorite is Katie trying to lick Sue Ann's face when she is being scolded. Patty's is the end page image of the kitten batting at Katie's rapidly wagging tail.

As we read, Maya tries to Arrooooo, she 'meeew's along with the kittens, and she helps Sue ann say, "No, no, no." She's breaking my heart, that one.

One of our readers just had a new little boy, and when I asked about board books, he said,"We've got a couple." I think a couple is far too few. How about a board book share, like the mom's groups do meal shares. If anyone would like to donate a book, go to my profile and email me. We'll come up with a plan.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Orange Pear Apple Bear

Here is a perfect book for Maya right now. She loves fruit, but hasn't learned any of their names. She's working on banana and peach. But she is making progress on being able to call her stuffed bear by name.

Orange Pear Apple Bear, by Emily Gravett, is sort of an art book that cleverly manipulates those four words to create a lot of meaning.

The images are arranged in different orders, and the colors of the objects are fluid. This makes it possible to create pages such as "Orange pear/Apple bear".

Finally the bear eats the fruit one by one. "Orange, bear" then "Pear, bear" and "Apple, bear".
"There." (Okay, there are five words)

This is a great book for building vocabulary and practicing rhythm, rhyme, and changing your voice to change meaning. Be creative.

Early Literacy Tip of the Day

Speaking of food. The summer reading program theme around here was What's Cooking at the Library. The Saint Paul libraries created a reading wheel with some great ideas for how to incorporate literacy into grocery shopping, cooking, etc.

Here are a couple:

Make a shopping list together and cross out the names of grocery products as you put them in your cart.

Play I Spy - What do you see that starts with B? Banana, bread.

Count grocery items together as you add them to your cart.

Eat smart! Healthy food can increase a child's brain development and intelligence.

It's a nice well-rounded (remember it's a wheel) guide. I wish I had an online version to tell you about, but start with these. I bet you can come up with some more ideas of your own.

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

Well, I think we now have another genuine favorite. Maya is getting to the other end of her stage where she cannot sit still long enough to read even the shortest book through. There are a few that really hold her interest, like All About Ama (see below) or a new pop-up of The Wide-Mouth Frog.

But Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by Mem Fox and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, is the grand champion. Maya pulled this book off the bed and asked me to read it for her (Patty says she did the same with her the other day). So we read it. Then we read it again. And again. And again. Four times in all. I tried other books a couple of times. But we kept coming back to this one.

And something I noticed was that she seemed to be really concentrating on the illustrations. The spreads are indeed lovely, and the babies (Maya says, "Baby" when she brings us the book) are pudgy and cute.

The text is very sweet and engaging.

There was one little baby
who was born far away.
And another who was born
on the very next day.
And both of these babies,
as everyone knows,
had ten little fingers
and ten little toes.

The formula repeats itself several times introducing more babies two at a time. With each new pair, all of the previous babies look on as they show their digits.

The final baby is special. This baby is your own. And besides ten fingers and ten toes, this baby gets "three little kisses on the tip of its nose."

I think Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes is growing on me, too.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Cuddle Book

Maya added "achoo" to her vocabulary today. Grandpa sneezed twice and scared her. So he and Nana made a game of it, so that now whenever anyone sneezes, Maya say, "Atoo." Cute, huh?

Here's a cute book I've got to get back to the library tout suite because it's overdue. The Cuddle Book, by Guido van Genechten, is petite and adorable. The text describes how different animals cuddle.

Monkeys cuddle gently
and turtles cuddle slowly.

And in an homage to carrying your baby:

For kangaroos,
cuddling is easy
(because they are always so close)...

But it's not always easy:

...porcupines have to cuddle very carefully!

Have fun asking questions about why do you think that is. What do you know about crabs that makes cuddling so hard?

BTW, everybody say congratulations to Nicole, who is doing her first paid storytime tomorrow. Good luck.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ducks Don't Wear Socks

And somebody please tell Maya they also do not wear shoes.

The other day we were at the zoo watching the multitude of ducks in the duck pond. An older girl was talking to Maya when I heard her say, "Uh oh, there goes her shoe." I looked down to see Maya's kitty-cat Bobux floating in front of some mallards (Believe it or not, they didn't try to eat it).

We found a zoo keeper nearby who very kindly put on waders and went to retrieve Maya's shoe. As he plodded through the water all of the ducks took to flight and the kids began squealing. I thought, "Oh boy, aren't we making a scene." Luckily they were squeals of delight. After giving us back our lost kitty, the zookeeper shooed a few more ducks around because he liked the reaction he was getting.

The duck in Ducks Don't Wear Socks, by John Nedwidek and illustrated by Lee White, would have jumped at the opportunity to try on something new. Emily, a very serious girl, keeps running into Duck, who is always wearing something new-socks, a tie, or underwear. When Emily informs Duck that "...ducks don't wear ties", Duck always has reason. "Cold feet." "Big meeting!" "Pants on the line!"

Slowly, Emily's shell begins to crack. First she cracks a smile, then laughs to herself in bed, and finally goes all in and walks out of the house wearing something that even shocks Duck.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

All About Ama

This week I was at the international conference for librarians in
Quebec City. I met librarians from all over the world, and gave out quite a few Mayareads bookmarks. So we may get visitors from some other countries, which I am very excited about. Welcome to all of you librarians visiting.

Ivan from Singapore has already stopped in (See post below). He coordinates library services for teens for the entire country, I believe. Singapore has such an impressive library system. Their presentations were inspiring, and I got a great die-cut model of Molly the Mobile Library. You put it together and have a little cardboard bookmobile.

All About Ama, by Kathy Knowles, is a book I picked up at one of the sessions for Maya and her cousin, Addy. Kathy is an author in Manitoba who writes books for children in Africa. But you may purchase the books also, knowing that your contribution goes toward the production of more books.

Ama is a beautiful little girl who names and points to many body parts, from her head to her toes. She finishes by proclaiming, "That is all of me!" For those with children like Addy who are learning their body parts, this is a perfect book, with clear and simple photographs and a precise text.

Kathy has a lot of great books available. Here is her website:

The conference was fascinating, but I experienced two problems. One is that I missed Patty and Maya greatly. I don't know if everyone wondered why I kept opening my cell phone but not making a phone call, but it was my only source of pictures of my two best girls.

The second is that, while America + better still = Canada, in the words of Pedro the Lion, "Canada's not what she used to be." What she is now is expensive. Be warned if you are planning a trip anytime soon. Our greens don't stretch as far as they used to.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hush Little Baby

So I like the melody of Hush Little Baby, but I've always been bothered by the words ("Daddy's gonna buy you"). Have you felt the same way? Well, luckily Sylvia Long has. Her version of Hush Little Baby I really like.

I'm going to assume she would be happy to have you sing this to your child instead of the materialistic one, and that you will want to go out and get the book with the pleasant illustrations once you read it. Here's a sample of the song:

Hush little baby, don't say a word,
Mama's going to show you a hummingbird.

If that hummingbird should fly,
Mama's going to show you the evening sky.

Isn't that great? I once tried to change the lyrics myself when I was rocking Maya to sleep, but mine were too snide, especially when I got to diamond ring. Long's words are so gentle.

The image of rocking a baby to sleep, singing a lullaby is one of those that brings up feelings of warmth, peace, and love. But we all know sometimes bedtime can be anything but peaceful. Maya, like all babies, is so beautiful when she's sleeping. But occasionally she sprawls herself out like a drunken frat boy. Here's a photo of my little cherub sleeping.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Good Night, Little One

Good Night, Little One, by Salina Yoon, is a lift-the-flap book with great repetition and lots of animals your little one will enjoy.

Each page asks about where a different animal sleeps. You lift the home to see the baby animals inside. "Where do ladybugs sleep? Under flower petals, with pollen to eat." "Where do zebras sleep? In tall grass nuzzled with the herd."

When your children are wanting to know everything about animals, this will be a fun book with lots of information to talk about.

The Juggling Pug

The Juggling Pug, by Sean Bryan and illustrated by Tom Murphy, is a curious little book with a great rhyme. The text sounds a lot like something Shel Silverstein would write.

Here's how it starts: "Do you all know the story of the juggling pug? He started off juggling just for a hug. His town became famous, and folks grew quite smug." Every page rhymes with pug. The pug goes on to get into trouble, but nobody says anything because he is famous.

Finally a little girl says she has had enough and calls a town meeting to discuss the pug. The pug promises to reform his ways and go back to hugging. But when he happens along the home of his friend Doug, who isn't home, he shows that he is not completely reformed.

If You're Happy and You Know it: Jungle Edition

Another version of If You're Happy and You Know It, this time by James Warhola, depicting animals showing their happiness in their own way has come along.

For me this one has it's ups and downs. First the ups. I like the variety of animals included, such as the monkey, elephant, and snake. And I really like that all the animals participate on each page. My favorite page is when the children's parents are calling them to go home. All of the animals are in suspended animation, acting silly and with "Uh oh" looks on their faces.

The down side is that there is just one line on each page, then the full stanzas are written on one spread in the back. This isn't really a problem. I just sing the book through anyway. And I try to strategically skip over that one page at the end.

So if this is your kids' favorite song, and there's a good chance it is, here you go.

I Love Cats

The other day Maya and I went out into the backyard in the morning. There in the lilies was an interloper, a cat. Maya and I sat at the other side of the yard and watched. A few weeks back we had another cat sleeping behind the tomato plants. As our neighbor puts up the last bit of fence between our properties, I wonder how it will effect our neighborhood cats. I'll miss those guys, even the mangy one who lived in our shed all winter (Sorry, Fella, we tore it down).

You know those emails you get with all the pictures of baby kittens or puppies or hippopotamuses doing adorable things? Author Sue Stainton must have been inspired by those to make I Love Cats, illustrated by Anne Mortimer.

It's an homage to cats. There are very realistic drawings (except for the cat wearing sunglasses-wouldn't happen) of cats being cute. The text is simple and bouncy, merely declaring a love for cats and describing them.

That's the best part, literacy wise. There are so many great adverbs in this book. I think with an older child you could create your own book about dogs or babies, following this format.

Anyway if you're a sucker for those emails, like I am, I Love Cats is for you.

The Boy Who was Raised by Librarians

Maya signed up for the Summer Reading Program at our neighborhood library yesterday, and we already have the first cupcake colored in and 30 minutes colored on the clock. I had to try to remember why we didn't sign up last year. Maya would have trounced that goal last year. This year she doesn't sit still as long, but I know we'll make it.

We've talked about narcissistic librarians before, but The Boy Who was Raised by Librarians, by Carla Morris and illustrated by Brad Sneed, takes the cake. It's the Mr. Holland's Opus for children's librarians.

Melvin is a very curious boy who lives at the Livingston Public Library. There are three very nurturing librarians there who take Melvin under their wings. No matter what question ("How many kinds of fish are in the whole world and all the lakes and all the rivers and all the seas?"), they always found the answer. "That's how librarians are."

The three librarians help Melvin in all his school projects, and when he goes on to achieve greatness, they watch from afar.

After years have gone by and the trio have aged, another curious child walks into the library. Guess who the new librarian is?

I'm welling up with tears just writing about it. What greater good can librarians provide for mankind than breed more librarians? Maybe we really are trying to take over the world.

Joking aside, The Boy Who was Raised by Librarians would make a great gift for your children's librarian. Let them know you appreciate them.

Monday, June 23, 2008

No Bed Without Ted

I think I've mentioned that Maya isn't one for cuddling with dolls or stuffed animals. However, I should amend that she is beginning to give stuffed animals a hug once in awhile. So maybe we're on our way.

The little girl in No Bed Without Ted, by Nicola Smee, has definitely developed a bond with her teddy bear. She looks high and low in this lift-the-flap book, but can't find Ted, and "bed without Ted is not a good thing."

Finally her mother calls from outside. Ted is hanging on the line with a wink in his eye. He's clean and dry and ready for bed, and so is the little girl.

The highlight here is looking behind Grandpa. You lift the flap of Grandpa sitting on the couch reading his paper to find a bag of candy underneath. Sneaky Grandpa.

Duck's Key Where Can It Be?

Maya is starting to know my habits. She knows that I usually keep the cell phone in my shirt pocket. If I'm holding her she'll start digging into my pocket to get it whether it's in there or not. I don't know if she'll be much help when I lose my keys. She'll just figure they're in the dish or my right pants pocket.

In Jez Alborough's Duck's Key Where Can It Be?, Duck just can't find his key. He looks everywhere, under the doormat, in the mailbox, etc. Finally he finds that they were in the ignition all along. Isn't that just the way?

Although Duck isn't really just absent minded. Frog is hiding his keys. Each time Duck looks one place, you can lift a flap to find frog hiding in another. When Duck looks there, Frog has already moved on.

Frog is just playing. He puts the keys where they belong, and he tries to stop Duck from driving off without his suitcase.

Big and Little

Maya had her 15 month check-up today. I'm happy to report that she has indeed been growing. Her height is back up in the middle of the pack, and her weight percentage is in the double digits. Her head off course is still huge, apparently. You know I look at her and I don't see a kid with a balloon head, and nobody says as such. But on paper she should be a lollipop. Maybe you're all just being nice.

Big and Little, by John Stadler, is a treatise in perception of size. A mouse announces that Ellie the elephant is going to dive into the glass of water sitting on the table beside him. Can she do it? When Ellie slips and falls, the mouse runs for cover, but Ellie falls safely into the glass.

Each page is a fold out, with the mouse shown on the outside and Ellie shown on the inside. Only on the last page of course are you shown the whole picture, and there is a lesson in perception that you can talk with your kids about.

I had thought this book would be mostly for older children, but my preschool niece enjoyed it. I don't know how much she got the end, but I asked her questions along the way, "Is a mouse big or little?" "Is an elephant big or little?" "Is a mouse bigger than an elephant?"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Edwina The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct

Our last guest reviewer is Natalia (2), who chose Edwina The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, by Mo Willems. It is the story of Edwina, a dinosaur who everybody loves, and Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie, who "knew just about everything about just about everything". When nobody will listen to Reginald's scholarly arguments showing that dinosaurs are extinct, Edwina takes an interest. She is convinced Reginald is right, but she decides she doesn't care. In the end Reginald doesn't care either.

Natalia says her favorite part is "Edwina the dinosaur who doesn't was stinky" (Note the quotation marks).

Matthew's Truck

Our next guest reviewer is Elaina (4). She chose Matthew's Truck, by Katherine Ayres and illustrated by Hidelo Takahashi.

Matthew likes his toy truck. He imagines himself driving his truck up huge, enourmous mountaions (the back of the couch) and splashing into deep dangerous lakes (the fish tank). Good thing the cat is always there to keep an eye on him.

Elaina says her favorite part is when Matthew carries a bunny in the back of his truck.

Sally and the Purple Socks

We're going to have three quick guest reviews by our very special guests this week. Maya's cousins read a great number of books with us to work on filling up their reading records for Summer Reading at their library in Indiana.

I asked each of them to pick out there favorite and tell what they liked about it. Our first reviewer is Katiana (6).

Katiana chose Sally and the Purple Socks, by Lisze Bechtold. Sally gets some magical socks that grow and grow. She uses them as a scarf, a blanket, up to a circus tent until they shrink down again to perfect size.

Katiana says her favorite part is the circus.


So you may have noticed in some of the comments from last week mention of a newspaper article. Yep, Maya and I made it big (sort of). Mayareads got a nod in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Father's Day.

The article is about dads who blog. There are some interesting ones I've since looked up, and I've actually been emailing with one of the bloggers. Here's a link to the article:

For those of you who found us through the article, welcome. Sorry to everyone for taking so many days off. We were blessed to have my brother, sister and their three girls with us all week. Just too busy having fun. But see above how Maya's cousins helped us out?

Today's book is about a tiny elephant who isn't content with being small. Kidogo, by Anik McGrory, evokes the vast, open regions of Africa and introduces us to many of the animals found there.

Kidogo (which according to the opening page means 'little') lives with so many large elephants who help him through his day. But he doesn't want to be helped. He doesn't want to be the smallest.

Kidogo goes searching for an animal his size. He doesn't find it obviously in the giraffe, hippo, or lion. But as he tries to make his own dust bath, he spies some ants. He helps them the way his parents had done for him (although the dust bath doesn't seem very popular).

In the end Kidogo realizes he isn't the smallest after all.

McGrory, who according to her bio spent time living in East Africa, does a wonderful job through words and pictures of establishing place for us. This is a very sweet book with a great deal of opportunity for further discussion about any number of new topics.

Young MacDonald

So we have a very technologically savvy little girl already. Maya loves to type on the computer and talk on the cell phone. She sits in my lap and presses things on the laptop while I'm surfing. In the past she has managed to pull up functions I never knew existed. Once she called up the source info for the web page I was on.

We rarely let her touch the cell phone, since in the past she would suck on it and make the speaker fuzzy. But in a desperate moment to keep her awake in the car till we got home (been there, haven't you?) I pulled out a ringer (get it, ringer?). Maya managed to take three pictures, change our ring tone, and call my brother.

I'm sure if I could see her I would have seen her What? look, shown here when we caught her tearing open a package of outlet covers. So much for safety.

Another adaptation of a familiar children's song, Young MacDonald, by David Milgrim, is about a boy genius. It's a bit of an homage to Young Frankenstein, as our hero does experiments in cloning. He joins various barnyard animals together to make new species. I know it sounds disturbing, but the results are pretty cute.

Here's a sample verse:

Young MacDonald had a farm, ee-i-ee-i-o.
And on that farm, he make some Deese, ee-i-ee-i-o.
With a Hee-Honk here,
And a Hee-Honk there,
Here a Hee, there a Honk,
Everywhere a Hee-Honk.
Young MacDonald had a farm,

You know how I often say a book will take a little practice to read it smoothly. Definitely one of those here. But you might want to give Young MacDonald a try. It has to be seen to be believed.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Whose Baby Am I?

Maya has been adding to her list of animal noises she can make, though we still cannot coax her to do them on demand. Every so often she surprises us with a new one. Her first was the bear. She would growl when we turned to that page in her animal book. Then she imitated the dogs in the neighborhood. Now she moos like a cow.

She seems to prefer books with photographs of animals to ones with drawings. However, Whose Baby am I?, by John Butler, has such realistic paintings that I think Maya will like this one.

And the animals are so soft and cuddly looking. Each pair of pages asks "Whose baby am I?" Then you turn the page to see the animal baby with it's mother.

This is a good one for beginners, as the proper names for the various animals is not given. For example, the author writes, "I am an elephant baby." He doesn't use the word calf until the very last page where all of the animals are shown with their proper names.

There is also a matching page toward the back with all of the baby and mother animals. So this book will grow with your child for awhile. While not a board book, the pages are tough enough for little hands.

And did I mention the adorable pictures? Look for it at the library and see for yourself.

You Go Away

As you know I stay home part-time with Maya. Between myself, Patty, and Nana, Maya is able to be home all of the time. We feel very fortunate that we are able to do this. So many parents cannot. We are especially grateful to Nana.

Being at home and going to daycare or preschool both have their pluses and minuses. One minus is that Maya is used to being cared for by only three people. Recent attempts to use the church nursery have been met with LOOOOOUUUUUD resistance. So we've definitely got a little work to do if we don't want to wear out our lone babysitter.

Dorothy Corey has a simple book for just this occasion, You Go Away, illustrated by Diane Paterson. The text gets right to the point, giving examples of someone going away and coming back. As the book goes along the distance and time increase.

We begin with peek-a-boo. Then a little girl looks worried as mom walks out the door of grandpa's house, but rejoices upon her return. Dad goes to work in the morning and returns in the afternoon.

Then there is going to school. And lastly the parents are going away on a trip, but the children are sure they will return.

If you are preparing your children for any of these events, try this book out.

Carry Me!

Hallelujah! We had two breakthroughs this week. Maya took her first steps the other day, and last night she did a lot of walking. She has a long ways to go before she's running around the playground, but she's on her way. I know everyone says we'll be wishing for the days when we didn't have to chase her around, but after five months of Maya walking all over holding onto our fingers, our backs are a little sore. I'll see if I can get some video on here tonight.

Rosemary Wells' Carry Me! is a touching book showing parent and child being close even as the child grows and becomes more independent. It comes in three sections: Carry Me!, Talk to Me!, and Sing to Me!

In the first section, the little bunny sings to her Mom and Dad, "Carry me into the garden Under the plum tree's shadow. Carry me over to hear the bees. Stuff my pocket with early peas."

In Talk to Me!, the little bunny can stand with help and is learning to be by herself, but she longs to hear her parents' voices. "Red eyes blink from moonlit wings. Tell me a story about these things."

In Sing to Me!, she can run and play on her own. "Sing me a winter song I'll sing you right along The old song we know...."
As Maya grows I know I'm going to miss those cuddly times, so I'll just make sure I'm there waiting when she comes looking for a pair of arms.

Here's a great daddy song for Father's Day. I change the words liberally to make it Maya's and mine.

Dance to Your Daddy

Dance to your daddy,

My little laddie.

Dance to your daddy,

My little lamb.
You shall have a fishy

In a little dishy.

You shall have a fishy

When the boat comes in.

Dance to your daddy,

My little lassie.

Dance to your daddy,

My little lamb.

You shall have an apple.
You shall have a plum.

You shall have an apple

When your daddy comes home.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Holly Bloom's Garden

Maya and I were weeding the garden again yesterday. Maya is getting so good at finding things to do outside while I work in the garden. We make a few small concessions. I think a little dirt gets eaten each time (what my dad would call 'good clean dirt') and one of the herbs was sat upon. These are, in my opinion, small prices to pay for Maya getting to interact with nature.

I had thought Maya had found the first fruits of our labor. She saw a bright, red strawberry before I did and tried to pick it off. I wanted Patty to see it first, so we had quite a discussion about leaving it be for the time being. I was amazed. How did she know what to do? Turns out she picked and ate one the other day I hadn't heard about.

So our little garden is moving along. The family in Holly Bloom's Garden, by Sarah Ashman and Nancy Parent and illustrated by Lori Mitchell, has a real knack for gardening. The Bloom children all have foretelling names. Rosie and Bud grow big, beautiful plants. But poor Holly can't seem to make anything grow.

She goes to bed defeated. But after everyone is asleep she has an idea. She sneaks into her artist father's studio and works all night to create a big, beautiful flower garden in her own way. It's a great lesson in finding joy and satisfaction in your own strengths.

Here's our little picker in action:

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

We had a milestone yesterday. Maya and I wanted to meet Auntie Kati and Cousin Addy at the Children's Museum, but Patty needed the car. So Maya took her first bus ride. It was a short jaunt downtown and back. We did miss our corner by four blocks, but nothing wrong with a little extra walking on a nice day. We have a good picture. I'll add it tonight, so check back.

Fortunately the bus driver was a person and not an animal. Lord knows what would happen if it were, say, a pigeon. Mo Willems warns us not to let that happen in Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Pigeon is short, and the text is not written in a narrative style. When it first came out years ago, I didn't really like it, to be honest. But it's grown on me, probably due to seeing how much fun kids have hearing this book.

The bus driver has to step out for a bit, and he asks us to make sure the pigeon does not drive the bus. The pigeon tries to coax us in so many ways. "My cousin Herb drives a bus almost every day!" "Hey, I've got an idea. Let's play 'Drive the Bus'!" And my all-time favorite, "I'll be your best friend!"

The best part about this is when the children get to shake their heads and yell, "NOOOOOOO!" for each one.

The illustrations are so sparse and child-like, can you believe Willems received a Caldecott Honor for them? He did. On closer inspection, I can see that he does such a wonderful job of conveying emotion with so few elements. A rising scribble lets you know when the pigeon is fuming. The pigeons one big eye says a lot with the smallest changes. And the page where the pigeon is really letting go is full of motion conveyed with just a few black lines (and some flying feathers).

Pigeon is great for big groups, but you can have a blast with this one no matter how many children are with you.