Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The other day at the pediatrician's office, we were admiring Eric Carle's Animals Animals. It's a really nice collection of short, fun poems you can pull out once in awhile. So I grabbed an Eric Carle book that was recommended by Sari, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

This a great book to have around when your learning numbers and beginning to count. It's also a good one for talking about how caterpillars turn into butterflies. That's what happens to our little hero after he eats and eats and eats, becoming a big, fat caterpillar.

Caterpillar is done in the very recognizable Eric Carle style of painted, cut paper collage. There are die-cut holes where the caterpillar has been, and not all the pages are the same size.

Eric Carle really seems to know about what kids need to develop, and he makes wonderful little books that fill a lot of those needs. I'm thinking of Brown Bear, Brown Bear and others. It seems no matter what concept your child is working on, there's a good chance there's an Eric Carle book you can go to for help.

Did you know that Eric Carle has a museum of picture book art? It's in Amherst, MA. Now there's a trip I'd like to take someday. Here's the website:

Anybody been there? What did you think?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lost and Found

Recommended by Nicole, Lost and Found, by Oliver Jeffers, is a sweet book about finding a new friend. A boy finds a penguin at his door and, assuming the penguin is lost, tries to help him find his way home again. After asking a few others, like his rubber duck, the boy looks in a book and discovers that penguins live at the South Pole. The two set out on a boat and enjoy the long journey there. After dropping the penguin off, the boy becomes lonely and realizes he has made a mistake.

The illustrations are bright and subdued, and so is the language in the text. It's a pleasant read to share with your little one snuggled close on a chair.

I've been thinking about how to make the blog useful. If you've noticed, I've started labeling the books at the end by age-group. Tonight I went back and labeled all of the older ones. I'm hoping this will help those who need a few quick recommendations when shopping for a gift. You can click on a label and see all the books with that same label. However, please don't trust my labels blindly. Always preview.

Here are the ones I've used so far:

Primary (kindergarten and 1st grade)
School-age (anything above that)

Any suggestions for other ways this can be useful to you?


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Go, Baby, Go!

I was at the library today and rummaged through the board books to see if I could find some more suggestions for Kati. Most books with baby photos were pretty good, especially the Spanish language ones, interestingly enough. While I hesitate to endorse a publisher, it might be easiest to say that the DK and Candlewick Press ones seemed ok.

I brought home my favorite to talk about today, since Maya also loves books with baby photos. Go, Baby, Go! is one book in the Amazing Baby series. They don't put an author's name on the cover, which I really dislike (Some publishers seem to feel their name is more important than the author's). Though with board books I suppose the text is usually secondary.

If you look in the fine print on the back, it's Beth Harwood. I think her text is fun. The melody is only consistent in the first half, but the whole thing is fun to read, especially to a baby like Maya who is crawling and anxious to walk.

The babies in the photographs are adorable. There's one that looks like Maya, so you know it's true. The layout is attractive too, using bold fields and contrast (including black and white), which appeals to babies. There's even a pocket in the back for your baby's photo.

It's a pretty basic book, but just what babies need.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Library Mouse

Another gift idea for that narcissistic librarian friend of yours, or writer friend. Library Mouse, by Daniel Kirk, is about a mouse named Sam who lives in a library. At night he enjoys reading the books in the library. After a while he decides he wants to try writing a book himself. He writes several and correctly shelves them in the library (pretty good for a mouse). The librarians and patrons want to meet this budding author, but Sam is too shy to interact with humans. Instead he decides to encourage everyone to find the author in him or herself.

It's an inspirational book that you can use to begin exercises in story writing with your kids. You can follow the same steps the mouse takes to create short, simple books. If you want to inspire your child's artistic side, try The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The End

Remember that episode of Seinfield that went backwards? The End, by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Richard Egielski, does the same sort of thing. So it's a bit abstract, but try it out with your kids. It's very fun.

The story begins with "And they lived happily ever after. They lived happily ever after because..." Each page ends with that provocative "because..." There are clues on some pages to help you guess what will come next, and some are easier than others. But some are so abstract, you'll need some luck on your side.

It's cleverly done from front to back (notice I didn't say beginning to end). The opening pages say "The End", and the title and dedication pages are in the back. And don't stop with the last page of text. There are still three illustrations to continue the story. Even the back cover is a precursor to the story. The way the flaps continue the illustrations on the end pages is a nice touch also.

The characters have a bit of a Maurice Sendak feel to them, so even though this may be a new illustrator for you, the images will seem familiar.

All in all, this is a very fun book for you and your kids.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sheep in a Shop

Christie suggested the Sheep in a Jeep series in board books. This is a great series by Nancy Shaw and illustrated by Margot Apple. I picked up Sheep in a Shop as an example.

The two greatest things about these books are the rhyming and the characters. The text uses all kinds of clever rhyme-end rhyme, internal rhyme, or almost random rhyme. It makes it so fun to read, if not a bit challenging to read smoothly. For example, "Sheep find rackets. Sheep find rockets. Sheep find jackets full of pockets."

The characters are so lively. There are five sheep trying to solve a problem-how to buy a birthday present with no money. On each page every sheep shows some character. There is no such thing as a sheep just hanging around on a page because there need to be five.

These books are fun for reading to a group because of the boisterous text, and they're also good for one-on-one reading to explore the many details in the illustrations.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Have you ever wondered how kids hair always gets that way? Author Christin Ditchfield and illustrator Rosalind Beardshaw's Cowlick! claims it didn't get that name for nothing.

In the quiet of the night a very sneaky bovine creeps into the children's bedroom, pulls back the covers, and strikes. Nobody is spared-not even the dog.

Here's a funny book which will make your five and six year olds bust a gut. After you explain what a cowlick is, of course.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shape Capers

For those with preschoolers who are heading toward learning their letters and numbers, Shape Capers, by Cathryn Falwell, would be a good book to check out from your library.

There are fun rhymes about different shapes that you can sing with your kids. Each one begins with "Shake, shake, shake." Perhaps having some actual shapes around that your toddler can shake while you read would be fun. There are a couple of pages in the back where you can practice identifying shapes.

One of the steps on the road to reading is letter knowledge. When kids first begin to learn their letters, they are really distinguishing the shapes of the letters. Identifying shapes is a good way to prepare for that.

I learned this from the Every Child Ready to Read at Your Library program. Here is their website:

It's not the easiest website to navigate, but there is a lot of good information there. For a more user friendly site, try the Hennepin County Library's Birth to Six page:

There are some great booklists there as well.

Happy capering.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Runaway Bunny

The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd, is another classic suggested by Natascha.

It's a sweet parent-child book along the lines of Guess How Much I Love You. The baby rabbit says it may turn into various objects to get away from it's mother. For each declaration, however, the mother rabbit says it will turn into something else as well and follow the bunny. Finally, the bunny decides it might as well stay right where it is.

If you'd like to pair this with a new book, one of my favorite new author/artists, Peter McCarty, has a wonderful new book, Bunny on the Move.

Sometimes I get caught in the trap that I always need to be presenting the newest books to kids. But something to remember is that if you love a book it will come through to the child you're reading it too. Especially for those parents that haven't read much to their children but want to start, I feel it's important to start with the books they remember. What better way to get them charged up.

Tonight I was at a meeting for the Read to Me program at the Hennepin County Adult Corrections Facility. It's a program where volunteers and librarians meet with residents of the facility and talk with them about the importance of reading with their children and bringing them to the library. At the end, the parents read books onto a disc and it is mailed to the children. Many previous participants in their testimonials talked about favorite books from their childhood they were excited to read to their children.

Thanks Natascha. Keep reading.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Nicole asked about books with very few words, and I recommended Jez Alborough. I picked up Yes today. Bobo reminds me so much of Maya. I'm not sure exactly why. Like George, she's a good little monkey and always very curious.

In Yes, it's bath-time for Bobo the monkey, which makes him very happy. But when it's time to get out and go to bed things become more negative (maybe that's what reminds me of Maya; see Bath Time!). Bobo's lizard and elephant friends make a splash and tucker poor Bobo out, helping Mama get Bobo to sleep.

It's a challenge to say just a couple of words in many ways to keep the story flowing, but it can be done. You can also fill in sound effects.

Last night I was thinking about whether there are nigh-wordless songs. The best I could think of are those songs in which you replace words with motions. Here are a couple I know:

Little Peter Rabbit
(To the tune of John Brown's Body)

Little Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his ear.
Little Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his ear.
Little Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his ear.
So he flicked it till it flew away.

After singing it through once, you replace 'Rabbit' with bunny ears, 'fly' with a bzzzt sound, 'ear' with wiggling your ear, 'flicked it' with flicking your fingers, and 'flew away' with your hand flying off.

Here's another one:

My Hat It Has Three Corners

My hat it has three corners.
Three corners has my hat.
For had it not three corners,
It would not be my hat.

In this one, you replace 'my' with pointing to yourself, 'hat' with touching your head, 'three' with holding up three fingers, and 'corners' with touching your elbow.

Good luck.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Library Lion

Like most library people, there's nothing that will get my attention more than a book about libraries or librarians. I'm not sure whether so many authors write books with 'library' or 'librarian' in the title because they probably like libraries (being book people after all) or because they figure every library in the country will order at least one copy. We're narcicists, even if the title isn't flattering like Here Lies the Librarian or Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians.

But it's not just librarians who love Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. This book was given to Maya a few months back by her honorary sister Maria, who loves it dearly as well.

A lion wonders into a very traditional library and, what do you know, likes storytime. The very traditional librarians decide he can attend storytime as long as he obeys the rules, like no roaring. By and by he becomes very useful and very popular at the library. When an emergancy arises, even though his roar saves the day, he leaves because he knows he has broken the rules. Luckily the rules are amended.

This is such a touching story. The dreamy pictures of the mild lion interacting with children will warm your heart, if not your kids'. One librarian I work with has been reading Library Lion to visiting school groups, and says they are absolutely enthralled no matter the grade. Highly recommended for kids of all ages. Roar.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


The other day I mentioned Leaves, by David Ezra Stein, as another good seasonal, hibernating-bear book. This is one from this past year, and if you recall it was one of the nominees for the Mock Caldecott discussion I went to a couple of weeks back.

The bear is in his first year, and everything is new and wonderful. However, when the leaves begin to fall he becomes sad. He tries to stick them back on the trees, and when that fails he goes to sleep. He awakes to find new buds on the trees and is joyful again.

Leaves is a sweet book about a sweet bear. The pleasant illustrations are ink and watercolor.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

Let's talk about If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Joffe Numeroff and illustrated by Felica Bond. I don't know why I've never opened this book before. Thanks Sari for suggesting it. It is soooooo funny. Perhaps I have a natural suspicion of series books (There are others, such as If You Give a Moose a Muffin and If You Give a Pig a Pancake). Somehow the idea that an author makes several similar books cheapens each one in my mind. Which is pretty judgmental and illogical of me. Look at Sheep in a Jeep and it's companions. Or Olivia.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie has a repetitive structure that will help kids develop their narrative skills, connecting one idea to the next. It goes like this, "If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk. When you give him the milk,...." and so on. The logic progresses until it comes all the way back around to a cookie.

Wasn't there some horrible action film that used this first line? I'm picturing Harrison Ford saying this. Help me out here.

The last thing I'll say is that this mouse has to be the cutest mouse in a picture book with his little bib overalls. Now I've got to go out and read the rest of them.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Are You Ticklish?

Let's share another one of our daily reads. Are You Ticklish?, by Sam McKendry and illustrated by Melanie Mitchell, is both a lift-the flap and touch-and-tickle book. Each page asks in a little rhyme whether an animal is ticklish. Lift the reverse flap to find some fuzz or other texture to represent the feel of that animal. The idea is that when your child feels the texture the animal is being tickled and laughs.

Maya really gets into lift the flap books. She knows how to lift the flap, put it back, and turn to the next page. She's not so much into the tickling and oddly prefers the smoother ones like the elephant and crocodile to the fuzzy ones.

The last page asks, "Are you ticklish?" The illustration, a boy in a tent, doesn't really make sense to me. Maybe he's camping in the jungle where the animals are. But I get to tickle Maya and say, "Yes, you are."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Best Pet of All

Rob suggested The Best Pet of All, by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama. It's a cute, clever book that may be dangerous to read to your small children. It may give them ideas. Of course isn't that what books do best?

When a little boy's mother refuses to let him have a dog, he asks if he could have a dragon. She says if he can find one, he can have it as a pet. It takes awhile, but the boy finds a dragon and convinces it to come home with him. Unfortunately, dragons have very bad manners and won't leave when you ask them to. Fortunately, dragons are afraid of dogs. Get the idea? Clever kid.

We figure the hardest part about not having a dog until Maya is older will be pretending we don't want one ourselves until it's time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Maya bought a unique new book for her cousin Addy's first birthday. Gallop!, by Rufus Butler Seder, has pictures that move. The cover calls it "Scanimation". They look sort of similar to those original film cylinder motion pictures.

Each page has a different animal. The horse gallops, the dog runs, and the eagle soars. It's like TV in a book. Stop at a store and check it out.

A classmate sent us an article about a pediatrics resident in Madison who "took time out" from medical school to get his library degree. He now has a unique assessment tool when he is examining his young patients. He gives the children books to see what they do with them. Do they hold it right-side up? Do they open it? Can older children describe what they see in the book?

So I started paying attention to what Maya does with books, and I have some pretty good evidence that I could bring her to this doctor and be proud. Here are some photos for those who have asked for more Maya pictures:

Doesn't it look like she should have a latte in her right hand on that last one?

Of course, she also has a habit of taking a book and smacking herself on the forehead repeatedly with it. Maybe I better stick with our current doc.

Sorry I don't have the link to the article. It was from a local paper, so the one I received doesn't work anymore.

Good night.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Perfect Day for It

There are quite a few fine "bears hibernating in winter" books (Bear Snores On, Leaves, etc.), and A Perfect Day for It, by Jan Fearnley, is my favorite. Unfortunately it's out of print. But the nice folks at Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis found a copy for me this week. I'm so excited to see it again I want to tell you about it right away.

Bear wakes up at an odd time and, declaring the day perfect, begins to climb the snowy hillside. His friends are curious about what he's up to and follow along. When they get to the top, Bear shares that the best reason to climb a hill is to slide back down. The final page is a four-panel fold-out that tracks the squealing critters down the mountain to a final "FALUMP".

Each animal has it's own way of walking. The bear goes "tramp tramp tramp", the fox goes "paddypaw paddypaw", etc., inviting movement and making this a good book to read standing up.

Perhaps you can find A Perfect Day for It at a used bookstore, or check the library and hope that the final page is in tact. Read it, then go sledding.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

And the winner is....

The Caldecott Awards have been announced. The winner is not really a picture book, but I like it immensely, so I'm going to bend the rules today. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick, is really a novel, but most of the pages are illustrations, causing a great deal of discussion as to whether it qualifies for the Caldecott, the Newbery, both, or neither.

Hugo Cabret is an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station. He maintains the station's clocks, his uncle's job until he disappeared without anybody knowing. He has an automaton, a mechanical robot (not a computer) that, when turned on, draws an elaborate picture. He meets a sad old toy maker and a nice young girl, and after a series of misunderstandings and revelations, finds that all of their lives are connected. Silent film plays an important role in both the story and illustrations.

In between periodic bunches of text, there are pages and pages of gorgeous ink sketches that you mustn't rush over. A great portion of the story happens in the pictures, which are so unbelievably creative. It's a very thick book, but don't let that scare you. For those of you with school-age children, it won't take that long to read, depending upon how much time you spend pouring over the illustrations.

There were four honor books, two of which we've mentioned previously:

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Ellen Levine
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtin by Peter Sís
Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems

Go out and get them at your library while you can. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


After yesterday's post, I had a great conversation with Nicole about reading to infants and toddlers. I was trying to decide whether Maya's reactions to certain books are genuine responses to that book or conditioned responses to the way I present them. Today's book is Babies, by Susan Canizares and Pamela Chanko. It's a board book Maya and I read often and a good example of a situation where Maya gives a consistent response.

Part of Scholastic's My First Library series, Babies has photographs of babies having their various needs such as food, sleep, and hugs met by their parents. If there's one thing babies like to look at, it's babies. Furthermore, while beautiful, creative illustrations can be wonderful, babies will ultimately prefer the concreteness of a photograph. Patty knew this when she bought a full-length mirror and mounted it sideways near the floor so Maya could look at herself.

The first page is a hilarious picture of a baby probably at bath-time with fingers in mouth and a worried expression. The caption reads, "What do babies need?" Whenever I open this page Maya giggles. I ask myself whether she thinks the picture is that funny or whether the funny voice I use invokes the response.

I won't tell you what Nicole says, because I'd like to hear what some of you think. That's assuming that someone other than Patty is reading this. I guess we'll find out. I'll be looking forward to reading some comments tomorrow night.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

June 29, 1999

Aneesa says that June 29, 1999, by David Wiesner, will inspire Maya to be a gardener and a scientist. Hopefully Maya doesn't set her sights on growing mega-ton broccoli. Holly Evans plants seeds in starter pots and sets them aloft with balloons to see what effect "extraterestrial conditions" will have on them before they return to the ground several weeks later. Well, several weeks later giant vegetables descend upon the Earth. There is a twist after Holly, a good scientist who keeps accurate data, notices some of the giant vegetables weren't among her specimens.

Wiesner's imagination is weird and wonderful, and his watercolor art is beautiful. There are a lot of details on each page to be talked about. Check out the headlines Holly is pasting into her scrapbook.

Aneesa talked quite a bit in her post about the importance of reading to even the youngest children, even before they really understand. Libraries like mine also spend a lot of effort trying to get this message out and support parents. I guess I had taken for granted that pretty much everyone has heard this by now. However, at Christmas when we put books on Maya's Christmas list, we got a couple of surprised responses, family members wondering why we would want books for Maya. After all, she can't read.

So let's keep getting the message out there. Thanks, Aneesa.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Prince Won't Go to Bed

The second book in our comfort objects double issue is The Prince Won't Go to Bed!, by Dayle Ann Dodds (illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker). Patty and I can certainly relate to the poor royal court who cannot figure out the one magic thing needed to get the Prince to go to sleep, until the Princess let's them off the hook.

The chant is infectious: "WAA! WAA! WAA! I will not go to bed! the teeny-tiny, itty-bitty, little Prince said." Point to the oversize words and get the kids to sing along.

If they like this one, keep the momentum going with What Shall We Do With the Boo-Hoo Baby?

This will be a short one because this Prince has no qualms about going to bed right now. Sleep tight. See you tomorrow.

Knuffle Bunny

Here's yesterday's post. We had some guests staying in the computer room last night, so I saved it for today. The theme for this double issue is comfort objects. Maya so far hasn't selected a knuffle bunny (I've heard that the 'k' is not silent) of her own, but I'm sure the time is coming. All three of her Longard cousins have particular blankets and toys they must have in order to go to bed.

Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems, is about Trixie, who leaves her favorite stuffed animal at the laundromat when she goes there with daddy. The walk home is a battle of wills because she cannot say what she means (it comes out "Blaggle plabble!" and "Wumpy flappy?!"), and daddy just thinks she's being difficult. It isn't until they open the front door and mommy asks, "Where's Knuffle Bunny?" that the hunt begins. Luckily the rabbit is found, and Trixie says her first words (three guesses).

There are so many delightful and familiar touches, such as Trixie going "boneless" to show her displeasure. The art is very attractive (Winning a Caldecott Honor by the way). Willems puts his adorable pencil sketches in the foreground of neighborhood photographs in sepia tone. It's a striking combination.

I did hear some controversy about Knuffle Bunny from a coworker, however. She said her husband didn't appreciate that the daddy is portrayed as clueless, while the mom knows just what the problem is immediately and saves the day.

I guess I hadn't been bothered by this. But I did read an article recently in which one group looked at the disparity in representation of mothers and fathers in picture books. It showed that fathers were not present nearly as much as mothers in the 200 books studied, and when shown they were less often pictured as being adept in child-rearing. Fathers are also less likely to be pictured having physical contact with their kids (ie. hugging, comforting, etc.). This type of controversy is interesting, but I imagine authors and illustrators do this subconsciously. Hopefully they read the article and in their next books deliberately give fathers a good role model.

I remember going to church on a Father's Day once and the minister saying that he noticed Mother's Day sermons are always about appreciating and praising the mother, but Father's Day sermons are typically an admonishment to do a better job. So he didn't do so that day. Good for him.

Rob, who was my mentor when I first worked in a children's library, suggested Maya and I look at Mo Willems, who is getting pretty famous with Knuffle Bunny and to an even greater extent Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Knuffle Bunny is my favorite, but I also want to mention his great treatise in deconstructionism, Edwina the Dinosaur who didn't Know she was Extinct.

I can't give you a link for the above article, but here is the citation if you'd like to look it up:

Anderson, David A., and Mykol Hamilton. "Gender role stereotyping of parents in children's picture books: the invisible father." Sex Roles: A Journal of Research 52.3-4 (Feb 2005): 145(7).

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


I bet you're all wondering how well I predicted the outcomes of tonight's mock Caldecott discussion. I'll go from worst to most like Nostradamus:

1. I couldn't even predict my own voting. I voted in this order: Jabberwocky, Cowboy and Octopus, and At Gleason's Gym. First the Egg didn't even make it. But in fairness I hadn't seen At Gleason's Gym until tonight (same for At Night).

2. Peter Sis was only an Honor Book. Yo, Jo! won.

3. I totally called Cowboy and Octopus. Everyone raved about it in the discussion then didn't vote for it. I found out that Jon Scieszka has been nominated the first Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress. I'm not sure what that means but here's the press release:

Keep in mind I'm merely talking about a mock committee in the Twin Cities. The real Caldecott Award will be announced this coming Monday morning, and there's no way to know what books they're even considering. I'll let you know if you don't catch the announcement on NPR.

All right, Jabberwocky, by Christopher Myers. This is a book for older kids, so I had sort of blocked it out the other night. Patty was actually more excited about it than I was, because I'm only vaguely familiar with the poem. Patty remembers it very well.

The others in the group added a lot of context for me, showing that Myers does a great job of picturing the classic poem with its made-up words as a game of schoolyard one-on-one. The art is beautiful and surreal, changing perspectives on nearly every page. On one page the basketball looks normal carried under the Jabberwocky's arm. On the cover he holds it like a small stone. On another page it's merely a dot on his massive palm.

Christopher Myers is the son of Walter Dean Myers, who has written more wonderful books for kids and teens than I can count. The son has done a lot of work with his father, but is making his own name lately.

So I may not read this one to Maya, but she's really still in the board book stage anyway. When we read picture books, half the fun is trying to keep her from destroying a library book. Her goal seems to be to tear the slip jacket from every hardcover in the house. Yesterday she took a book off her little bookcase and, before I could get to her, removed two pages. I didn't think she could do that.

How about next year we do a mock Caldecott online?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Cowboy and Octopus

The runner-up (Honor Book, rather) in the Longard house mock Caldecott is Cowboy and Octopus, by Jon Scieszka (rhymes with Fresca). The artist is Lane Smith. I don't know that this is that much of a contender. I think adults love Scieszka books, but they don't necessarily take them very seriously. But I think the art in this book is fabulous, with an amazing attention to detail.

It's collage. The main characters are paper cutouts, and you have to pay attention to the title page to know where they come from. And you will be rewarded if you pay attention to Octopus' back as they walk off into the sunset on the last. In between Smith uses everything but the proverbial kitchen sink to create scenes. Most of the paper images, including Octopus, remind me of those painting books for very small children where you dip the brush in water, and the paint's already in the picture, so it comes out nice every time (unless you were like me and saturated the page enough to blend the colors and ruin the picture).

The story is, big surprise, quirky. Actually it's several very, very, very short stories about two friends, kind of like George and Martha with an attitude. Here's one story:

Beautiful Day

"Isn't it a BEAUTIFUL day?" says Octopus.
Cowboy says, "No, it ain't."

Hilarious stuff. I hope your kids like it. If they don't, just stuff the book in a closet and bring it back out after they graduate from college and tell them it was one of their favorites. They'll believe you.

So, here are the other candidates for tomorrow's discussion:

Jonathan Bean for At Night
Richard Egielski for The End, by David LaRochelle
Rachel Isadora for Yo, Jo!
Ted Lewin for At Gleason's Gym
Christopher Myers for Jabberwocky
Lynne Rae Perkins for Pictures from our Vacation
Peter Sís for The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
David Ezra Stein for Leaves

I'm going to predict that Peter Sis will win. His book really is impressive. But hard to read, with so much happening on each page. You're not supposed to think about the text too much, though. I probably wouldn't make a very good committee member. I hope nobody at ALA is reading this ten years down the line when I'm being considered, right?

I'll let you know who wins tomorrow night.

Monday, January 7, 2008

First the Egg

Here is today's actual post. Wednesday night I'm planning to attend a Mock Caldecott discussion. I mentioned the Caldecott before, and I shouldn't take it for granted that everyone knows what that is. It's those gold and silver medals you see on kid's books. Each year a panel of librarians and educators choose the book they feel had the most distinguished illustrations. They may also pick a few more honor books (the silver medals). The prize is announced in late January. Here's a link to the American Library Association website about Caldecotts:

Some libraries will hold mock Caldecotts before the actual prize is announced. Organizers choose a few books they feel are contenders, everybody reads them, they get together to discuss them, and they choose their favorite. Google 'mock caldecott' and perhaps your state name to see if there's one in your area. There are also Mock Newberys. That's the award for children's novels.

Patty, Maya and I looked through all but two of the contenders last night and picked out our favorites. Our top choice is First the Egg, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. This is a very slight book with a clever twist and rich, dark, thick colors. Each two-page sequence shows a transition, such as "First the EGG then the CHICKEN". The clever part is that there is a hole on each page where the color comes through from either the previous or next page to make the image. For example, the green of the tadpole amid a watery blue is part of the frog on the next page. Look for the eyes on the tadpole, the caterpillar, and the chicken.

We'll talk about our runner-up tomorrow. Good night.

How I Became a Pirate

This is part two of the SPECIAL DOUBLE POST. Read the one below this first.

How I Became a Pirate, by Melinda Long, is a raucous book that imagines what life might be like as a pirate, with none of those adult rules. Pirates enlist the help of young Jeremy Jacob to help find a place to bury their treasure. At first he thinks pirate life is fun. You don't have to eat spinach or go to bed at a certain time. But he eventually realizes it's also lonely and scary.

David Shannon does the illustrations (remember Duck on a Bike?), and there is a sequel called Pirates Don't Change Diapers. Other great pirate books are:

Everything I Know About Pirates by Tom Lichtenheld
Edward and the Pirates by David McPhail

The worst storytime I ever did was about pirates. The kids had no idea what I was talking about. The subject was more suited for 1st grade. But that was years ago, before Pirates of the Carribean. So we don't have to worry about that anymore.

Let's end with a coupe pirate jokes.

How does a pirate get around town?
In his caaaaaaaaar.

Why doesn't the pirate walk?
It's too faaaaaaaar.

Pirate Pete's Talk Like a Pirate

I made it five days without forgetting to post. I remembered at about 11:30 while I was settling Maya back to sleep. In times past I would have gotten up to fulfill my resolution, but those days are done. So in penance I will do a SPECIAL DOUBLE POST.

Our theme is pirates. Nicole offered two pirate books, so I'm guessing this is a hot topic in her house. The first is Pirate Pete's Talk Like a Pirate, by Kim Kennedy. Pete needs some rascals for his crew, and the new recruits do everything well except that they just don't know how to talk. Pete has a penchant for rhyming and uses words and phrases that kids won't understand, but if you can read them like a pirate would, who cares?

This is a fun book, perfect for International Talk Like a Pirate Day. It isn't until September 19, but this year we'll be prepared. Here's a link to the official website:

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Little Engine That Could

Here's another classic story that never gets old. Sari suggested it. The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper, was published in 1930. I have a 1990 edition. The note in the back says everything is original. That's amazing. Many wonderful books from that time are black and white or three-tone, but the colorful illustrations in this edition are so vibrant.

The text is wonderful. The words are repeated creating sounds to mimic what is going on: "I think I can-I think I can". Read it like you're the train and maybe the next time your little one hears a train going down the tracks, they'll hear these words. Other words are repeated, too, such as "Puff, puff, chug, chug" and "Up, up, up. Faster and faster and faster." Don't read too quickly over these opportunities to build suspense.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Little House

The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton, was suggested by Aneesa, if you recall. She mentioned the language used by the author. Indeed the text is beautiful, great for lap reading. I can start reading it to Maya now, and she'll enjoy it more and more as she grows and understands more.

The little house is built in the country, but eventually is swallowed up by the growing city, until the builder's great-great-granddaughter moves her further into the country. The drawings are sweet and have a lot of details to explore. In most of the pages, the house stays in the same spot while the world transforms around it, which fits the theme perfectly.

My copy is a 1969, but the book was first published in 1942. Sometimes when books are re-issued, the illustrations are updated, such as adding color or expanding them on the page. I don't know if that's the case here.

By the way, The Little House was a Caldecott award winner. This years award will be given soon. We'll certainly check out the winners.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Chickens to the Rescue

This book was given to Maya by your friendly librarian, Nathan, when she was born, and we gave a copy to our friend Andrew for Christmas.

Chickens to the Rescue, by John Himmelman, is known technically as a silly book. Nathan dared me to read it out loud without screaming "CHICKEEEENS TO THE RESCUUUUUUE!!!" He's right. It can't be done. A group of hardworking chickens come to the aid of various members of the Greenstalk family, including livestock. If you've got time to stop and examine the rescue scenes, there are a lot of chickens to look at doing a lot of different things-good for working on those descriptive skills. Have your kids find the dozing, egg-laying chicken in each sequence (Hint: The egg hatches on the last page). As you turn to the end page, give your child a hug if they think to yell, "PIGS TO THE RESCUE!"

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bath Time!

Today we read one of Maya's new Christmas books, Bath Time!, by Sandra Boynton. Actually we read this one two or three times each bath. It's plastic, of course, so you can read it in the tub. There are only eight pages, but the rhyme is sing-songy enough (as are all Boynton's books) that you cannot help but start a melody. Don't forget to make the sounds "Quack, Quack", "Booo, Booo" (for the boat), and "Squeak, Squeak" at the appropriate times. There is a squeaker embedded in the book to help with the last one. Maya can't make the squeakers work yet, but she can slap the book on the water and make a mighty splash (Baths are a bit messier now).

Maya loves Bath Time!. Why? Because Maya loves baths. The only thing she doesn't like about taking a bath is getting out. Songs and rhymes always help us out in uncomfortable situations (i.e. getting in the car seat). Here's a good one for drying off:



I got this from the ELSIE database from the Minneapolis Public Library. It's a database of recommended books, songs, etc. from the librarians there. I'll be adding to it as part of the internship I start tomorrow, so you may see my name somewhere down the road. Here's the link:

Happy bathing and see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Duck on a Bike

Welcome to the first official post for the year. I hope your New Years celebrations were joyous and safe.
I've been thinking about which book should be the first post. Thanks to all of you, I have a great list of suggestions, and I've been stocking up on newer books from the library. In the end I decided to mention a few of the books Maya either received or gave for Christmas these first few days.
I'm not sure the first book will ever be as significant as say the first video ever played on MTV (The Who, right?) or the first band to ever take the stage at a Cornerstone festival (the choir), but luckily we gave an old favorite of mine to Riley, who is four years old and amazed us by "reading" the story to us (I did a reading also, so it counts).
Duck on a Bike , by David Shannon, is perhaps still my favorite read-aloud for storytime. Duck sees a bike sitting in the farmyard and, thinking it would be fun to ride, does just that. He gets progressively better as the book goes on, showing off his new skill to a different animal friend on each page. Suddenly a whole bunch of kids drop their bikes in the yard, and you can guess what happens.
The illustrations in this book are huge with no borders. Kids at the back of the room can see what's going on. There is a page with no dialogue, but the animals' big eyes say it all. There are animal noises to be made and repetition, which kids will pick up on the first time through. Don't skip over the end page, where you can ask, "What do you think Duck is thinking about that tractor?"
So that's our first review. A couple of you have said to be sure to tell what Maya's reaction is to each book. I'll try, but right now Maya's reaction to pretty much everything is "plllbbbbbttttt" (Patty calls these 'raspberries'). Thanks for all the suggestions. Keep them coming. We'll see you tomorrow.