Monday, March 31, 2008

Peek! A Thai Hide and Seek

Did you know that animals make different sounds in other languages? When we lived overseas, for example, the children didn't say, "Ribbit, ribbit," to sound like a frog. They said, "Gurak, gurak." Don't you think that sounds more accurate? That's one I'm keeping in my lexicon.

In Peek! A Thai Hide and Seek, by Minfong Ho and illustrated by Holly Meade, we learn a great number of Thai animal sounds. The dog says, "Hruu, hruu." The monkey says, "Jiak-jiak."

In this tale a father is looking for his little girl, who is hiding. Everywhere he looks he finds a new animal and sings a song to that animal, asking where his little girl is.

Jut-Ay, peek-a-boo,
Oh, elephant, so it's you!
Lift the flap of your floppy ear.
Is my baby hiding there?

The father of course knows that his daughter is hiding nearby, listening and watching (something my brother apparently did when he was little). You may search for her on each page.

Finally the father says he's tired of searching for his little girl.

Jut-Ay, Papa, peek-a-boo!
Here I am. I found you.

I'm guessing this book was made in the U.S., but I think this would be a good time to mention an organization that works in many countries, supporting the production and translation of children's books. IBBY, the International Board on Books for Young People, has a lot of information about international children's books. You can find them at

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Book! Book! Book!

Today I went to a seminar by one of the most famous librarians in the United States, Nancy Pearl. Never heard of her? Well, how many of you have had an action figure made in your likeness? The action figure even has a movable arm, and when you raise her finger to her mouth she says, "Shhhhh!"

The talk concerned what librarians call 'readers advisory', or simply suggesting books to people. This may sound easy enough, but there is some science to it. Think about how hard it is to explain to someone who asks why you liked a book. But unbeknownst to you and I, there are some common things we say that can clue librarians into what we would like to see in our next book.

The librarian in Book! Book! Book!, by Deborah Bruss and illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke, has trouble with readers advisory. She just cannot interpret what her patrons want.

After the kids go to school, the farm animals are bored. They decide to go into town and, seeing happy people coming out of the library, go in and see what there is to do. The horse goes in and asks for something to do, but the librarian only hears, "Neigh, neigh." The cow, pig, goat, etc. all have the same result.

Finally the chicken goes in and says, "Book! Book! Book!" Finally, the librarian knows what to do. Just as Nancy Pearl recommends, she brings the animals three books.

So do you want to know if your librarian has been trained by Nancy Pearl? If you tell them about a fiction book you like, they will bring to you one novel similar to the one you read (perhaps an older book by the same author), one fiction book in a different genre with similar elements, and one non-fiction book dealing with the same topic.

Then you can yell, "Don't Nancy Pearl me, Buster!" Upon which the librarian will shush you just like the action figure.

Hondo and Fabian

Yesterday a mother and daughter were in the library who have just discovered Peter McCarty. They love his artwork as much as I do. In their honor today we'll talk about Hondo and Fabian.

Hondo the dog and Fabian the cat are friends. On this day Hondo goes off for an adventure while Fabian stays home. The text compares their days. Hondo plays with his friend Fred at the beach, while Fabian 'plays' with the baby. They both have fun in their own way, and they eye some tasty food they'd like to eat.

When Hondo comes home, he and Fabian greet each other through the window. They eat side by side and resume their favorite sleeping places.

Hondo and Fabian is one of those quiet, gentle books that children love to have read to them. And I cannot say enough about the gorgeous artwork. With colored pencil and watercolor, McCarty expertly uses stippling and shading to create a soft texture that is easy on the eyes.

Also, don't miss the action-packed follow-up, Fabian Escapes.

Friday, March 28, 2008

John Willy and Freddy McGee

John Willy and Freddy McGee, by Holly Meade, is a tale of two guinea pig friends who have the most perfect, and most boring, life in their little cage. One day the door is accidentally left open. Off they scamper.

John Willy and Freddy McGee wind up in guinea pig paradise-the tunnels of the pool table. But look out! The cat is trying to flush them out with pool balls. Luckily they escape. Dashing back to their cage, with the cat in fast pursuit, a furry friend comes to their aid.

Safe back in their cage, the door is still open. Do you think they will stay there?

The text is filled with occasional second-person sentences to lend urgency-"Scamper, John Willy! Scamper, scamper, Freddy McGee!" These lines should be read excitedly. There is also some challenging onomatopoeia. How do you sound like a pool table? "THUMP SMACK SMACK Wumba wum-wum...."

This pleasurable book has fun language and just a hint of peril. And you may have names for your first low-maintenance pets.

Early Literacy Tip of the Day

When you're talking with your baby, be sure to pause long enough to allow him/her to babble back at you. These are the beginnings of words and the first signs of Narrative Skills. Maya has recently developed her question voice, raising her intonation at the end of a string of babble. So I try to answer back. Hopefully I'm answering correctly.

Catalina Magdalena

When I was younger I went to church camp several years. But I have never heard the Catalina Magdalena song. Have you? At the back of the Tedd Arnold book, whose full name is Catalina Magdalena Hoopensteiner Wallendiner Hogan Logan Bogan Was Her Name, there is an explanation about the song. Arnold says there are many versions of this old camp song, but he likes his the best.

Catalina's parents have a habit of overdoing things, like taking way too many pictures and giving her way too long of a name. Catalina grows to show some odd characteristics, like two-toned hair, cross-eyes, and long, wiry legs. She's not the most dainty of girls, but she finds love and gets married, having to add one more name to her already long handle.

The infectious cadence of the song is of course the best part of Catalina Magdalena. My favorite stanza is:

She had two holes in the bottom of her nose-

One for her fingers and one for her toes.

Catalina Magdalena....

I'd type out all of the lyrics, but the title page says the text is copywrited. I'm not sure how that is possible, since Arnold explicitely states that he did not write this song. But it's Scholastic, and I guess they can do whatever they want.

Arnold does a great job of interpreting the lyrics in the illustrations. He adds a great deal of detail, from the multiple baby name books in the Bobans' house to the new baby with three hair colors. The eyes on the front cover have movable pupils that your kids can try to cross.


Well, even though it's been a couple of days, I don't really have a theme. After the five-day monster marathon, I guess I just don't have it in me.

Widget, by Lyn Rossiter McFarland and illustrated by Jim McFarland, is a tale of genetic confusion. Widget is a stray dog who is cold and hungry. He comes across a warm house with warm beds and food inside, but it is occupied by a nice lady and six very imposing cats.

In order to earn a spot Widget has to do some quick thinking. He does his best cat impressions. When the cats puff up and hiss, so does Widget. After Widget purrs, plays with a toy mouse and uses the little box, the cats are confused and warily allow him a place.

Over time Widget begins to fit in so well, sometimes even he forgets that he is a dog. Until one day when the nice lady needs help. Meowing doesn't do it. After Widget begins to bark, all of the cats, in a reversal of the theme, bark too and save the day.

Kids will love the silliness of a dog acting like a cat. Beware, however, if you have a dog. Don't let the kids torment your poor pooch trying to reenact the story.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Stuck in the Mud

I helped out at an all day conference concerning building spaces within libraries that are conducive to early literacy development and welcoming to both children and their parents. It was a lot of fun, and I learned a great deal. I'll share a little bit with you at the end.

Stuck in the Mud, by Jane Clarke and illustrated by Garry Parsons, is a building tale similar to the classic Old Man and the Great Big Turnip type of story. Hen is frantic after counting her chicks and finding that one is stuck in the mud. She tries to get him out but gets stuck herself. One by one, Cat, Dog, Sheep, Horse and the farmer try to help out but meet the same fate, culminating in a long pull-out spread showing the desperate scene.

Then the chick hops out. He was never really stuck, and he appreciates all the friends who played with him in the gooey mud.

The story is told with a great rhyme scheme. Remember that rhyming is good for recognizing the individual sounds within words.

Early Literacy Tip of the Day

Maya's cousin, Addy, likes books well enough. But she is a very active little girl and has trouble sitting still long enough to enjoy a book from beginning to end. The good news is, that's ok. She's still developing those early literacy skills.

One of them is Print Motivation, or the enjoyment of books. If your child enjoys only one page of a book then runs off to do something else, it's a positive experience. If, on the other hand, you force your child to sit through an entire reading, they may have heard the words and seen the pictures, but the experience was not a positive one.

I heard a quote today by Perri Klass, Medical Director at Reach Out and Read (I wonder if they use the acronym ROaR).

"There are lots of different ways to cope with an active child and still incorporate reading. As parents, we have to get over the idea that "success" is making it all the way through a book, and sometimes be willing to read one page-or one sentence-at a time, then watch the child get up and run around! Choose books on his favorite subjects (fire engines, dinosaurs, whatever works), or look for books that actually involve an activity (a song to sing together, a rhyme to shout, even movements)..."

So if you have an active child, chin up and keep on reading.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Skeleton Hiccups

Whew, Maya and I have put in a long day coming up with five books for our FIVE-DAY MONSTER MARATHON. For the fifth and final book, I needed to find one more. I'd hoped to stop at the library to pick up Mo Willem's Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, but just didn't have time. So I grabbed something from Maya's book shelf that will add a little diversity to the group.

Everyone has a theory about how to get rid of the hiccups. I drink water, but I like Patty's "I'll give you a dollar if you hiccup again." I can always use the pocket money.

But what if you're a skeleton? Getting the hiccups can present some unique difficulties. Skeleton Hiccups, by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by S. D. Schindler, explores the possibilities.

Skeleton wakes up with the hiccups, and they won't go away. He tries to go about his day, but finally his friend, Ghost, decides the hiccups have to go. Ghost has Skeleton try all of the traditional remedies-holding his breath (the air gets in anyway), eating sugar (it just pours out his jaw), drinking water (same result), drinking water upside down (water pours out his eyes), and pressing fingers over his eyeballs (there are no eyeballs).

After trying to scare Skeleton himself, Ghost finally thinks to grab a mirror. Ah, that does the trick.

Every line is followed by "hic, hic, hic". Don't pass these over. In fact point the words out and let your child say them on cue. Remember this helps them to recognize that words on the page correspond with what you are saying.

Don't save Skeleton Hiccups for Halloween. Kids will love it year-round.

The MONSTER at the End of This Book

Here's the book you've all (well, one person anyway) been waiting for. The fourth book in our FIVE-DAY MONSTER MARATHON is The MONSTER at the End of This Book, by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollin.

I know, I know, this is a television-based book. But as far as media goes, I mean, it's Sesame Street. That show is based upon all of the best things, like literacy and jazz music. And this book is so very good.

Our host is Grover. Be warned, you may have to watch a little Sesame along with the kids so you can do the voice right. We don't have a TV, so we may be able to avoid that for awhile, but I'm sure Maya will become familiar with the "lovable, furry old Grover" sometime. She already has an Elmo phone. And I try to do the voice anyway. Grover is so very expressive, a method actor really.

Grover notices the title of the book, and being afraid of monsters, implores us not to turn any pages. After all each page brings us closer to the end of the book, and here there be a monster. He tries everything in his power to stop us-tying, nailing, and walling up the pages. But nothing works, and finally we find the monster at the end of the book is a monster we like anyway. I bet you can guess who it is.

Here is another great monster song to the tune of If You're Happy and You Know It.

There's a Monster in My Closet

There's a monster in my closet and it's green (rawwwr, rawwwr).
There's a monster in my closet and it's green (rawwwr, rawwwr).
There's a monster in my closet and it's really, really green.
There's a monster in my closet and it's green (rawwwr, rawwwr).

There's a monster in my closet and it smells (pew, pew).
There's a monster in my closet and it snorts (snort, snort).
There's a monster in my closet and it cries (boo, hoo).
There's a monster in my closet and it jumps (jump, jump).

Laura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MONSTER

So, if your kids are begging for a monster of their very own, don't just give in one day and buy them a monster they don't know how to take care of (Most monster pounds have a five-day waiting period for just this reason). Monsters are a lot of responsibility. A neglected monster may turn out to be a, well, monster. Do some research and make an informed decision. The third book in our FIVE-DAY MONSTER MARATHON is a handy, concise guide that you can check out from the library and reference to get ready for the big day.

Laura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MONSTER, illustrated by Nate Evans, is a practical guide that breaks down the proper selection and care of a monster into ten easy to follow chapters.

Numeroff takes you from Step 1, Buying Your Monster (" not pick one who grabs you and starts to eat your shirt. Pick the monster who can play the banjo and tie his own shoes.") to Step 10, Putting Your Monster To Bed ("Do not tell your monster to count sheep. Counting sheep will make him hungry.")

Other chapters cover feeding, training, grooming, and singing with your monster. Bet you didn't know monsters love country-and-western music.

Early Literacy Tip of the Day

Before your child can draw, they can still practice their letters. Have them make the letter shapes using their bodies. You can show them how. This helpful exercise will likely result in some giggles and is a bit like yoga, don't you think?

Go Away, Big Green Monster!

Awhile back, Patty got our niece, Katiana, to begin calling me Uncle Larry Monster, in the nicest, Sesame Streetest sort of way. Later we inaugurated a new game. I would stand in a doorway, and Katiana would yell, "Go away, Uncle Larry Monster." After I closed the door, she would beckon, "Come back, Uncle Larry Monster."

Perhaps she got the idea from book two in our FIVE-DAY MONSTER MARATHON, Ed Emberley's Go Away, Big Green Monster! In this book the ambassador of 'anyone can draw' builds a monster face, feature by feature-two big yellow eyes, long bluish-greenish nose, big red mouth with sharp white teeth, and so on.

But we're not afraid, "so GO AWAY, scraggly purple hair!", etc. Until our monster disappears. All of this is done with bold colors, basic shapes, and die-cut pages, giving the monster a 3-D effect.

Go Away, Big Green Monster! would be good for drawing practice as well, breaking down the task into doable parts. Creative and coordinated youngsters who are already drawing could easily adapt the features to create new, even sillier monsters.

For now, Maya and I are going to enjoy the text.

Here's another great monster song provided you don't have downstairs neighbors.

Monster, Monster

Monster, monster under the bed,
(Cup hands around mouth)
You should go somewhere else instead!
(Shake finger)
Go, Monster, go!
(Stamp feet slowly)
Go, Monster, go!
(Stamp feet faster)
Go, monster, go, go, go!
(Stamp feet very fast)

When a Monster is Born

Well, this is the first time I've gone more than a day without posting. I've actually missed four days. Sorry about the wait.

I've been working diligently getting ready to network at the national Public Library Association conference tomorrow in Minneapolis. Got my resume looking shiny, and I made a bookmark to advertise this blog. Any suggestions as to what I should say to all of those librarians to encourage them to bookmark 'Mayareads' or, better yet, hire me?

Thanks to Carrie for the concerned email to assure me that our absence in cyberspace does not go unnoticed. I'll confess, in the back of my mind, the pause wasn't entirely unintentional. I brought home a few of my favorite new and old monster books to read to Maya. And instead of reviewing one and just listing the rest, I thought I'd challenge myself to come up with FIVE books for our HUGE MONSTER MARATHON (And I'm even going to do it without using the greatest monster book of all time, Where the Wild Things Are. I mean, is there anyone out there who hasn't read that book a dozen times?). I also have some great new monster songs to share. Let's get to the first book.

When a Monster is Born, by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Nick Sharratt, is a new book that got me thinking about monsters. I'd seen it used by another librarian, Michael Boe, for storytime awhile back, but couldn't remember the title or author.

Luckily, in last month's issue of Mothering magazine (Ok, I read Mothering magazine. But remember I am a part-time stay-at-home dad, the magazine, unlike other 'parenting' magazines, is very positive about dads being involved in childcare, and it's just sitting there in the bathroom anyway.) there is a short article about this very book. We'll get to that later.

There is a bit of text in this intergenerational tale, and it's all so clever. I could try to describe it, but it might be better to just give you a sample. Taylor imagines all of the possibilities presented by the advent of a new little beasty:

When a MONSTER is born...
...there are two possibilities-
either it's a FARAWAY-IN-THE-FORESTS monster, or...'s an UNDER-YOUR-BED monster.
If it's a FARAWAY-IN-THE-FORESTS monster, that's that.
But if it's an UNDER-YOUR-BED monster, there are two possibilities-
either it EATS YOU, or... make friends and TAKE IT TO SCHOOL.

There are always two possibilities, both of which are usually silly and implausible, just the way we like them. It's a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure book that way. At each metaphorical fork in the road, one possibility leads to a dead end, and the other presents a new dilemma.

The tale winds on to show our monster running away after eating the principal but meeting a nice young kitchen girl behind a hotel. They fall in love, kiss, and she turns into a monster as well. They get married and have a baby, which of course leads us all the way back to the beginning. Romantic, no?

It's such a funny, funny book, you'd think it would be popular with the kids, wouldn't you?

Well, it seems Sean Taylor did win the Under 5 Nestle Children's Book Prize for When a Monster is Born. He accepted the award proudly since it is based upon children's votes. However, he declined the award money provided by Nestle, citing the company's violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. He questioned whether Nestle is an appropriate sponsor for this prize. Indeed the organization has now ended its sponsorship. Hopefully this doesn't mean the end of the prize. Kudos to Taylor for paying attention, doing the research and making what must have been a tough decision.

Maya likes Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. Here's a new version for when she's being a little monster.

Horns and Fangs

Horns and fangs,
Knees and claws,
Knees and claws.
Horns and fangs,
Knees and claws,
Knees and claws.
Eyes and ears
And tail and paws.
Horns and fangs,
Knees and claws,
Knees and claws.

Look for four more monster books above.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chuck's Truck

I've always liked old trucks. My days of driving them are over (they're horrible gas guzzlers and no good in the winter), but I still turn my head when I see one going down the road. Kids love trucks too. So Chuck's Truck, by Peggy Perry Anderson, ought to go over well.

One by one, all of the animals on the farm hop into Chuck's truck for a ride into town. Unfortunately, before they can get there the truck falls apart and has to be towed home. Poor Chuck is heartbroken. But the animals have connections, and Chuck's truck ends up looking better than ever.

As you can probably tell by the title Chuck's Truck has a lot of internal rhyme and alliteration, making for fun reading. "So Sue and Lou and the goat Flo too, Nip and Tuck and the burro Buck, Fat Cat Pat and the workhorse Huck with the duck Luck, the chicken that goes 'cluck,' and Chuck get a friend to tow the truck." Take a deep breath, and remember that this type of rhyming helps your kids distinguish individual sounds within words (see tip below).

The art is unique also. Though it is not listed, I believe most of the art is crayon, though the gleam of the new-improved truck at the end must be something else. The texture of the very colorful images gives a nice embossed feel.

Chuck's Truck is a good read-aloud which can be paired with One Dog Canoe.

Early Literacy Tip of the Day

We mentioned distinguishing sounds within words above. This is called Phonological Awareness. It helps in the learning-to-read process later on. Here's a game you can play to work on this skill. Change the first or last letters of words to make new words.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fleecy Chick

Maya received a few books for her birthday. One is a bit out of the ordinary. It is a completely cloth book. Fleecy Chick (had to look up the name on the publisher's website) doesn't list an author, but the illustrator is Patti Jennings.

Contrary to what I've been saying about Maya not liking soft, fuzzy things, she does like this book. However, she doesn't exactly snuggle with it, which seems to be it's intended purpose, any more than with her other board books.

Another upside is that when Maya chews on Fleecy Chick, it doesn't eventually begin to shed little bits of paper material. So it's certainly as good as a board book.

Charlie the Chick tells us some of his favorite activities, including pecking, flapping, and hiding. But most of all he loves to cuddle.

So for your cuddly baby, look for this type of book up near the check-out of your local independent bookstore.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Big Bears Can!

Yesterday we watched Maya and her big cousin Addy play and swim together. They're not quite old enough to get into any real trouble, but we try to guess who, if either, might grow to be the instigator of mischief.

In Big Bears Can!, by David Bedford and illustrated by Gaby Hansen, it's Little Bear that brings on the trouble. He asks if big bears can do some of his favorite things like jumping on the couch or swinging on the curtains. Uh Oh. By the time Mommy gets home the house is in shambles, and Big Bear is in trouble. It seems at first as though Little Bear is trying to coax Big Bear to make mischief, but he feels very bad and wants to make it up to Big Bear. He comes up with something that big and little bears can do to feel better.

A really nice touch (no pun intended) in this book is that all of the bears are a little bit fuzzy. If your child, unlike Maya, likes to feel soft things this feature is a nice treat.

Maya had a wonderful birthday, by the way. Right now she's sleeping it off. Hope everything is well with you.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


The second book in our 'grandpas and grandmas' Special Double Issue (see below) is about driving truck, which is what Maya's Papa Ray does for a living.

Drive, by Nathan Clement, shows a day in the life of a truck driver. Daddy wakes up a 4 A.M. to begin his day. He works hard, stopping for a bite at the truck stop, and hurries home to spend time with his son.

The illustrations are very stylish computer-generated pictures. Clement is a graphic designer making his debut picture book. And he creates a nice feel here.

The themes are pretty universal for a truck driver, so if you have one in your life you'll recognize some of them. I remember early morning breakfasts, riding along before insurance made that difficult, pulling the air horn, eating at truck stops, etc.

Someday I know Maya will be reading books like this with me and Papa Ray so she can learn a little bit about him.

What! Cried Granny: An Almost Bedtime Story

Today Maya is 1 year-old. Papa Ray is visiting, and we will all get together for a party tomorrow. Since Papa will be in the guest room where the computer is the next two nights, Maya and I are actually going to do a Special Double Issue for today and tomorrow. How about that for taking responsibility.

In honor of Maya's birthday, our theme is 'grandmas and grandpas'. Namely books about Papa Ray (see above) and Great Grandma Longard. Maya and I have been looking at the old family photos we have on the living room wall, and I have been answering her questions (or what questions I imagine she could ask) about the people in the picture she won't have a chance to meet.

One of those people is my grandmother. When we were younger, my father was driving over the road so we spent quite a bit of time with both of my grandmothers, both of whom are not with us any longer. One thing I remember about Grandma Longard is that when she was shocked by something, she would let out a high-pitched siren ("whaAAAAAAAAAat?").

So to remember her I read to Maya WHAT! Cried Granny, by Kate Lum and illustrated by Adrian Johnson. And I use Grandma's noon whistle voice as best I can.

Patrick is having his first sleep-over at Granny's house. Granny wants to meet all of his needs, but she's a bit unprepared. When bedtime comes, there's no bed, no pillow, no blanket, etc. So Granny (and here she resembles Patty's Grammy, who has been a pretty rough and tumble homemaker over the years) let's out her trademark shriek and proceeds to make them all from scratch.

To do this she must chop down a tree, wake up the chickens and the sheep, etc. When she finally has everything Patrick could need, unfortunately, it's morning.

This is a really fun book with great repetition. There's probably something everybody can identify with in this do-it-all Granny.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Where Does It Go?

Here is another one of those dangerous books. After reading Margaret Miller's Where Does It Go?, you might start finding everyday objects in the most unlikely places. Such as crayons in the cat's dish or jackets in the refrigerator. But then doesn't that already happen?

In each four-page sequence of this photography book, we're asked to find a proper place for something we use daily ("Where does Amanda put her book?"). Then we're given four ridiculous options ("Under the chair?/Under the parrot?/On her baby brother?/In the mailbox?"). After a few giggly NO's, turn the page to find the answer ("On the shelf").

And the best part is there really is a photo of a parrot sitting on a book (Another Margaret Miller book, by the way). Imagine the possibilities.

We've been talking about some ways to work with our children's vocabulary and narrative skills. This book is quite a useful and guaranteed fun tool you can put in your book box.

Early Literacy Tip of the Day

To keep working on that Print Motivation, make books a part of everyday life for your small child. Put a few books in the toy box. Especially board books. Those are toys as much as anything anyway.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Museum Trip

Museum Trip, by Barbara Lehman, is a wordless book with a great deal of mystery and a surprise ending. No small feat, eh?

A school group is visiting the museum. While tying his shoe, one boy is separated from the group. Wondering through the museum's halls, he comes upon a closed door. Through the door he finds a small room with a display case containing six small mazes. After a look of surprise comes across his face, he finds he is in the display, standing at the edge of the first maze.

He finds the center of that maze, and the next, and the next, until he reaches a stout tower at the end of the last maze. Inside a medal is placed around his neck by a figure off the page. Returning to normal size, he once again finds his class. Leaving the museum, we see that the boy is perhaps not the only person to have made the discovery.

Remember, all of this is told without words. The characters are drawn in a Sunday comics style, so the facial features are done simply. But with that Lehman creates some subtly distinct expressions. She also uses white space very well. In fact, the cover of the book is mostly white.

Museum Trip would be a nice book for young grade-schoolers to explore and use their imaginations. Or for a parent and smaller child to explore together. Which brings up our...

Early Literacy Tip of the Day

Have your child point out pictures in a newspaper, book, or magazine and describe what is happening in the pictures. An old favorite book that I think is great for this type of exercise because it adds a few words to tantalize you is The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg.

This is from the Minnesota Parent Center (

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What's on my Head?

What's on my Head?, by Margaret Miller, is a great board book with photos of babies with various things on their heads. Some are to be expected like a fancy hat or a pretty bow. Others are silly like a froggy or a rubber ducky.

This will be a silly fun book to read with Maya when she knows each of these objects. It's fun now too.

Early Literacy Tip of the Day

It's okay to read books that are just silly and fun. There's probably more going on than we realize anyway. But a silly book that your child enjoys fosters one of those early literacy skills, Print Motivation. This means simply your child is interested in books.

Later on, if your child is struggling with learning to read, it's that interest that will help him/her to not give up. They'll want to read because they have good feelings associated with books.

This is from Every Child Ready to Read @ Your Library

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Frankie Stein

Boy, deconstructionism makes for great reading. I actually don't know that much about deconstructionism or post-modernism (Apparantly, I don't even know how to spell them, but my spell-check isn't giving me any good options). But isn't one of the things to take an accepted archetype and turn it around to create some sort of absurdity? All of those fractured fairy tales, for example.

One day a librarian friend told me an applicant she interviewed that day said that someone had once asked him for post-modern children's books. We quickly tried to come up with a list. Mr. and Mrs. God in the Creation Kitchen was our best example (It might offend you, which is a good indication you got the right one). I also like Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She was Extinct. Anybody know any other good ones?

In Frankie Stein, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry, Lola M. Schaefer takes an archetype (what it means to be a monster) and turns it around. Frankie is a Wednesday Adams type. He worries his family because he is just too cute.

Oh, he tries. He lets his parents plaster his face with ugly markings. He wears ill-fitting clothing. He practices his scary face and scary walk.

In the end he figures out a way to be his own kind of scary. After cleaning up, and hugging and kissing his parents, they decide he is definitely the scariest Stein of all. Until his sister is born, and you wonder if the Steins have a defective gene or something.

It's a little early for Halloween, but you could probably read this book and chuckle any time of the year.

So I've been reading a lot about early literacy development for my internship, and I'm thinking there's a lot of good information to share. So from now on, I'll try to include an:

Early Literacy Tip of the Day:

When you're reading one of those books with very little text, especially a jazzy one, try clapping out the words or the syllables. A great book I've heard done like this is Tanka Tanka Skunk. This little game builds phonological awareness, which is the ability to distinguish the sounds within words. It's an early step toward learning how to read.

This is from Every Child Ready to Read @ Your Library

Monday, March 10, 2008

Zen Shorts

In Zen Shorts, Jon J. Muth distills two Zen Buddhist and one Taoist tale into short, gentle stories for small children.

Stillwater, a panda bear, moves into the neighborhood of Michael, Addy and Karl. Each one of the brothers and sister visit Stillwater on a different day, and each one hears a story. Addy hears the story of Uncle Ry, who surprises a robber by offering him a gift. Michael hears the story of a farmer who knows that good and bad luck may go together. And Karl hears the story of a monk who knows not to carry the burden of anger.

The stories cause you to contemplate, which I suppose is the point. They are gentle reminders that we can live outside of our natural tendencies. Zen Shorts leaves you with a sense of peace, which sounds a bit trite, but I say whatever helps me stop for a moment to think is a blessing. I'd be very curious though how older children receive these types of stories.

The artwork is a lovely combination of traditional and modern. Each tale is in black ink on a different colored backdrop, while the larger story is in beautiful watercolors. Muth received a Caldecott Honor for the art, and you'll understand why when you see it.

There is an information page at the back which lends a little more insight into the tale. You find that the panda's name, Stillwater, refers to looking at the reflection of the moon in still water. I think the title, Zen Shorts, could refer to the fact that there are short tales within the book, or to the fact that the panda bear is wearing shorts on the cover.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Hansel and Diesel

A parody of the well-known fairy tale set in a junk yard, Hansel and Diesel, by David Gordon, is pretty darn clever. Some of those old fairy tales are pretty dark, and new interpretations such as this lighten things up a bit. Though I'll warn you, in this case some of the images are a little frightening. Instead of being thrown in an oven, the two little pickup trucks are threatened with shredding. The illustrations are also done in very dark tones, so preview it before you share it with your little ones so you know what to expect.

Hansel and Diesel, two very adorable pickup trucks live in a salvage yard with their parents, who are worried there won't be enough fuel for the winter. The brave little trucks set out to find fuel and come upon an oasis, similar to the one on the Chicago tollway.

A little old winch (get it, witch/winch?) offers them all the fuel they need and a place to rest. But her true intentions show right away. They make a daring escape attempt, but are caught by the Wicked Winch's strong rope.

Luckily their parents are following the trail of bolts Hansel had cleverly left behind and come to the rescue. The Wicked Winch meets her demise (again, take heed), and the family move into the gas station.

Be sure to familiarize your kids with the original tale first, so that they may enjoy the similarities and differences in this entertaining rendition.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Roar of a Snore

Before you had a baby, did you think they could snore? I guess I imagined a cute little buzz emanating from my little cherub's body. But let me tell you. Maya knows how to snore. Especially when she has a stuffy nose.

In Roar of a Snore, by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Pierre Pratt, another very small creature proves capable of creating a din.

Poor Jack Huffle is awoken by a horrendous noise:

A mighty snore!
A clamorous snore!
A thundering, ear-splitting,
Roar of a snore!

Jack checks to see if it's the dog, Blue. Nope. Jack and Blue check to see if it's Mama Gwynn. Nope. The three of them check Baby Sue, and so on, and so on. It's a building tale, gathering up quite a crowd, which finally finds the unlikely culprit asleep in the hay loft of the barn. So they all fall asleep there. Everything is peaceful again, except in the bedroom of Molly Olson down the road.

A word of caution-the lists of characters gets pretty long toward the end. Some friends were over last week, and the father was reading Roar of a Snore to their pre-schooler while the mother nursed their infant. After awhile I think he wondered if his tongue would make it to the end of the book. I might suggest, as Jason did, reading those pages pretty quickly, especially for younger children.

For older children with good attention spans, take your time and enjoy the expressive language in this book.

And of course, snore. I think I could only read this book aloud two ways, either to Maya when no one else is around to hear me make those horrible noises, or to a big group of kids who will appreciate hearing me make those horrible noises.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Waking Beauty

Fractured fairy tales are all the rage. And why wouldn't they be? They're fun. We know the stories well, so we get all of the jokes. And since fairy tales reflect our inner dreams coming true, in a sense we're laughing at ourselves without realizing it. Now that's healthy.

Waking Beauty, by Leah Wilcox and illustrated by Lydia Monks, ponders how Sleeping Beauty would have gone if Prince Charming wasn't a very good listener or very girl savvy. The prince believes he hears a dragon in a castle, but is disappointed to find "a snoring girl in bed."

When some fairies tell the prince that this girl's been asleep a hundred years, he figures he knows just what to do. He screams in her face, "WAKE UP, LAZYBONES!." When that doesn't work he tries everything he can think of-jumping on the bed, throwing water on her (he just makes mud out of 100 years worth of dust), even shooting her out of a cannon.

When he finally listens long enough, he is momentarily still hesitant because he is afraid of girls. But the prince does it, upon which Beauty punches him for not asking first.

But don't worry. It's a fairy tale. Of course there'sa happy ending.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say MOO

Don't you just love those books where animals make the wrong noises? Books like Bark George. I know I do. What an opportunity for some silliness. Kids accept that the things they know are the way they are, and if you play with those truths, the result can be hilarious. But remember that with great power comes great responsibility. What that responsibility is I don't know, but I thought that sounded cool.

Jonathan Allen mixes things up with The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say MOO. A curious little bunny decides he likes the sound a cow makes, so he belts out a MOO. A calf comes by wondering why the bunny would want to say something like that. Little Rabbit explains that rabbits don't have a big sound, so why not.

Sounds fun. The two agree that BAA is a fun sound too. So they yell BAA, bringing a lamb by. The craziness goes on like this until a host of baby animals are coming up with fun sounds they don't usually say. When the duckling asks what their favorite sound is, each agrees their own is best....Except Little Rabbit.

The computer animated artwork is cute, similar to Ed Emberly's fingerprint art. There are soft shapes with a few strategic lines drawn in for eyes, mouth, etc.

The animals look like they are having a rollicking time, so you should too.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Puppies and Piggies

I was noticing recently that Cynthia Rylant is one of those authors whose books always account for a lot of shelf space at the library, and in her case there are Rylant shelves in almost every area of the library, from picture books (Cat/Dog Heaven), to the early readers (Mr. Putter and Tabby), all the way up to the teen shelves. I've sampled some of each, and have never been disappointed. She seems to never forget who she's writing for at each moment. After the hundredth book, I wonder how she keeps coming up with names for the dedication page.

Enough fawning. Rylant's new picture book, Puppies and Piggies, illustrated by Ivan Bates, is a gem. The text is a catchy, easy rhyme that could be sung as easily as read. She paints short caricatures of many animals on a farm.

Bunny loves some lettuce,
Bunny loves some peas.
Bunny loves to hide herself
Among the apple trees.

The last rhyme is about the baby. Then the poem changes for one more stanza.

Happy piggies, happy puppies,
Happy babies, too.
Happy little lovey-doveys...
Just like you!

At this all of the animals are racing to peer in at the sleeping baby. Can you see how this would make a great lullaby?

The illustrations are soft and playful to match the text. Bates uses an interesting combination of wax crayon and watercolor. The result is lovely.

I hope this one will be adapted to a board book someday. In the meantime I'll read it to Maya keeping those fragile pages just out of reach.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Lull-a-bye, Little One

Here's a book I think I may try to learn by heart. Lull-a-bye, Little One, by Dianne Ochiltree and illustrated by Hideko Takahashi, has a very nice, easy rhyme that takes you through all the usual bedtime routines, from dinner, to bath, to bedtime story, to sleep.

I say memorize because individual parts could be sung at the different stages of the evening. I don't think I'd want to sing the whole song over and over for a half hour.

Though our nighttime routine does not always go this smoothly, I'm sure a repetitious song each night could only enhance the process for Maya.

Have we talked about repetition? You've probably noticed by now that babies love repetition. In fact, they need it. Sometimes it's a bit boring for you and I, but not for them. If you think about it, being able to read the same book over and over takes away the pressure to always be finding something new, right?

It's that fifth, or tenth, or twentieth time I read a book or sing a song with Maya that she takes one of those tiny developmental steps, like laughing at a picture, lifting the flap, growling like a bear, or clapping her hands.

So take one for the team and crack open Goodnight Moon one more time.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Not So Tall for Six

Those of you who have met Maya recently know that she's a petite little girl. Sometimes Patty and I worry about her size, especially this last week as she's been losing a little weight due to illness. But we remind each other not to worry. She's a healthy little girl, and there's nothing wrong with being kind of small.

In honor of that I read to Maya Not So Tall for Six, by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Frank W. Dormer. Kylie Bell is the "not-so-tallest one in first grade." The family motto of her not-so-tall ancestors is "Brave and smart and big at heart." She struggles with being brave when a new bully joins the class-Rusty Jacks.

Kylie and Rusty have a couple of run-ins, but Kylie resists an opportunity to be really mean to Rusty. She's not sure what she will do about him, but when it becomes apparent that Rusty feels bad that he doesn't have any friends, Kylie Bell decides to do the bravest thing she knows how to do. Then she feels herself rise above the class, and she has a handy new pal.

The dialog and pictures have a southwest flair, with images of cowboys and rattlesnakes. The pacing of the story gets a bit unwieldy in the middle, but the ending is so rewarding, you won't mind.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Matthew A.B.C.

Maya's a long way out from learning her A.B.C.'s, but I'd like to share with you my favorite alphabet book. Matthew A.B.C., by Peter Catalanotto, is perfect for kindergarten, since it deals with letters and is set in a classroom.

Mrs. Tuttle has twenty-five children in her classroom, and every one of them is named Matthew. How does she distinguish them? Well, fortunately each one's last name begins with a different letter, and each child happens to possess a unique character trait. You can probably tell where this is going.

Matthew A., who is hugging Mrs. Tuttle throughout the entire book, is affectionate. Matthew B. is covered in Band-Aids. Matthew C., whose hair spells different words like 'hello' and 'enjoy' throughout the book, has cowlicks. And so on to Matthew Y., who yodels.

Mrs. Tuttle has a new student today. Of course his name is Matthew, and of course he is covered in....

I'll let you guess.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


All right, an ode to fathers! I'm naturally on the lookout for books that show dads interested in and able to take care of their kids. I know not all children's books depict dads as bumbling or disinterested, but there are enough of them to make me glad to see new books that portray dads in a positive light flooding the market.

Daddies, by Lila Prap, shows a host of baby animals having fun with their daddies. The father in the beginning gives his son the five-minutes-to-bedtime warning. Then the two pretend together that they are animals and think of all the ways animal daddies interact with their children. Finally the little boy notices his father's heavy eyes and suggests he get some rest.

The author is by no means an accomplished poet (the meter seldom stays true), but the words are catchy. Also, she throws in a boing, boing and a who-whoooooo to keep things lively.

The illustrations are huge, filling the page. The expressions on the animals' faces are silly and jump out at you.

Write this one down and be sure to pick it up on your next library trip. Make sure us dads get some air time.