Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ready, Set, Skip!

Right now Maya's walking hanging onto one hand. She's been at this stage for what seems like awhile. There's of course no reason to rush her, but she just seems to be having trouble letting go. Remember the advice in Santa Claus is Coming to Town? Just put one foot in front of the other.

Well, what about skipping? In Ready, Set, Skip!, by Jane O'Connor and illustrated by Ann James, one little girl is having trouble with this skill. She can do so many other things, like twirl, skate, and whistle. But this one thing eludes her.

Mom to the rescue. Here we have a very basic tutorial in skipping. "'Hop on one foot, then the other. That is skipping,' says my mother." And with a little practice, ta-da, we're skipping.

Maybe your child isn't having trouble with skipping, but this would be a good one if there's something s/he is having trouble. Use the opening pages to remind him/her that of all of the things s/he can do.

Please Play Safe!

Maya's just getting to the age where she will complain if another little boy or girl takes away something that she is playing with. It's the beginning of that long, long educational road to "plays well with others."

Luckily there are even etiquette books for things like playing at the playground. Please Play Safe!: Penguin's Guide to Playground Safety, by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, is a guide for children learning the subtle nuances of taking turns and being gentle.

Penguin covers a lot of ground, from how to exit a seesaw, to wearing a helmet when you ride a scooter.

I'm not sure about the format of the lessons. They go like this:

"When Rhino plays in the sandbox with his friend, he should kick sand in his face. KICK! KICK! Is that right?" Turn the page. "No, that's wrong. When Rhino plays in the sandbox, he should ask his friend to help him dig. SCOOP! SCOOP!"

Some of you with older children could probably comment about whether it's a good idea to list the undesired behavior first and the desired behavior second. Nonetheless, try this book out if you're looking for some help with this rite of passage for most youngsters.

Toolbox Twins

Though it's been chilly and occasionally rainy this week, the weather outside today is lovely. Patty and I have been introducing Maya to the backyard. She loves playing with the plants (we hope they'll survive), digging in the mud, and putting twigs and other inappropriate things in her mouth. We have dozens of little projects in mind and are anxious to get them started.

Lola M. Schaefer's Toolbox Twins, illustrated by Melissa Iwai, is a great father-son book. Vincent and his dad each have a toolbox. They use the tools inside to perform all kinds of minor household repairs. Listen to the rhyming. "With levels and awls, they measure and mark...frames on walls, shelves in halls."

The soft, colorful illustrations depict the two handymen using their tools sometimes side by side, sometimes together. It's a nice story. When Maya wakes up from her nap, maybe I'll go open the toolbox and we'll fix something.

Old MacDonald had a Woodshop

Here's another one of those books that changes up a familiar children's song in a fun way. Old MacDonald had a Woodshop, by Lisa Shulman and illustrated by Ashley Wolff, sets several animals to work in a tiny shop.

Old MacDonald does the sawing. "With a zztt zztt her and a zztt zztt there...." The goat uses a hammer. "With a tap tap here and a tap OUCH! there...." And so on (Don't miss that ouch.)

I love when I get to sing a book instead of reading it. Maya does, too. Another book with this many pages and this much text would be too long for her, but we read this one quite a bit (I have to sing pretty fast to get to the end, though).

At the end of the book, guess what these industrious little critters have created.

Early Literacy Tip of the Day

I was reading a study recently about reading with children, and the routine that's created by the way we do it. The researchers observed several mothers reading to their sons, and how they responded to the boys' interest in the activity. After a few months they noticed that the boys who were coerced to sit still for the reading in a negative manner or were read the book straight through with no interaction developed or maintained an aversion to book sharing. Boys who were allowed to roam, flip back and forth in the book, or interacted with their mothers during the reading tended to develop more of an affinity for book sharing.

I had a few problems with the approach the researchers took and some connections they made without considering age and general activity level, but I did learn something from this. I struggle with allowing Maya to hurry through a book or turn the pages the wrong way. I of course want to read the whole thing. But I have to remember that it's the quality of the experience that will lead to Print Motivation (or the love of books) and more reading in the future.

There's a wonderful video on the Hennepin County Library website of a grandfather, I think, reading to a little boy who hops off his lap to go look at something else in the room. The grandfather continues to read and talk with the boy about the book. And the boy comes back, goes away, and comes back again. It's very inspiring.


If you've been following the series of tiny books by Olivier Dunrea, first there was Gossie. Then there was Gertie. They learned to be friends and share.

In Ollie, we're introduced to a new friend. Ollie spends most of this book as an egg. Gossie and Gertie are waiting impatiently for their new friend to appear. But Ollie is defiant. He doesn't want to come out.

Instead he rolls around in the hay, across the yard, and under the sheep. "I won't come out!" he says from inside the egg.

Gossie and Gertie try a little reverse psychology. And it works. "I'm out!" says Ollie.

These are quick little reads for very young children. And the ducks are as adorable as they've ever been stomping about in their little red and blue boots.

Friday, April 25, 2008

If You're Happy and You Know It

You know this song. It's one of my favorite children's songs. It's fun, and it's very adaptable. You can change the adjective (to 'sleepy' for example) and/or the actions ('give a yawn') to make any song you want.

Jan Ormerod has a great adaptation in If You're Happy and You Know It!, illustrated by Lindsey Gardiner. It begins with a little girl singing the familiar refrain. But wait! What if you don't have arms? A puppy doesn't have arms. So the puppy sings, "If you're happy and you know it, wave your tail-swirl, twirl!"

The elephant breaks in to suggest flapping your ears. The gorilla beats his chest. The kangaroo jumps and bumps "boing boing". The theme at the end is to do your own thing to show how happy you are.

I think you can imagine how fun this book will be for a musical time. I've been thinking about music times at home since I watched Dan Zanes' video on YouTube for "All Around the Kitchen". Check it out when you have a free moment.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How to be a Good Dog

Yet another manners books for small children, How to be a Good Dog, by Gail Page, may or may not inspire your little ones to exhibit good behavior.

Bobo the dog tries hard to be a good dog for Mrs. Birdhead. But it's hard, especially when there's food involved. When he slips up, it's out to the doghouse. He misses his owner, and he misses Cat.

Oddly, Cat misses Bobo, too. Cat finds a book and tries to teach Bobo some good manners and even a few tricks. Lying down is the easiest.

When Mrs. Birdhead returns, Cat hopes for the best. Alas, she's carrying groceries. Cat quickly diverts her attention by running Bobo through his new tricks. Mrs. Birdhead is impressed, and Bobo stays for a long, long time.

Interestingly, Bobo's version of 'shake' is to do the twist with a towel. A friend of ours taught her Border Collie, when someone asks if she can shake, to wiggle back and forth.

All for Pie Pie for All

Remember that great Christmas book, Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree? Here's a book for year-round with a similar theme.

In All for Pie Pie for All, by David Martin and illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev, Grandma Cat makes an apple pie. She and her four other family members each have a piece, leaving one. Then they go for a nap.

The mouse family shares that piece and leave six crumbs. Then they also take naps. Five members of the ant family each have a crumb, and when Baby Ant wakes up she has the last.

Should Grandma Cat make another pie? Everyone, cat, mouse, and ant alike, thinks that is a fine idea. And everyone lends a hand. The book ends with a touching illustration of cats, mice, and ants sharing a table.

A Red Wagon Year

Maya doesn't have a little red wagon yet, but Patty did put together our wheelbarrow this weekend. And we know how much depends upon that.

A Red Wagon Year, by Kathi Appelt and illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, looks at the useful life of wagons month by month. In January "It's a table for the winter birds." In May "A cart for blossoms, pink and blue." And in December "...a reindeer's merry sleigh."

Colorful illustrations illustrate each month. A border around each page has the name of the month and a symbol of that time of year (For example, sea creatures in June and apples in September).

A great book for when your children are learning the months of the year. Don't forget to emphasize when everyone's birthday is.

I wanted to tell you about another novel for older kids I read recently. The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt, received a Newbery Honor this year, and I feel it's well deserved. Holling Hoodhood (great character name) is the only seventh-grader who doesn't leave school early for a church function because he's the only Presbyterian.

His teacher, Mrs. Baker, is obviously annoyed by this. His parents and sister are no help. Mrs. Baker takes her frustrations out on Holling, first by making him clean all of the teachers' erasers, then by getting him in trouble with his friends, then by bringing out the worst anthology she possibly could.

Eventually Holling begins to find inspiration in Mrs. Baker's curriculum choices for him, and he learns what it means to become a man.

I love books that pair two unlikely themes. In this book the themes are Shakespeare and the Vietnam War. I learned a bit about Shakespeare and quite a bit about life at that time. As Holling is in seventh grade, I recommend this book for older grade-school students (or for their parents if they merely want to read a great book).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I'm not sure that Maya understands yet when she gets a new book. There a quite a few books around the house, and library books come in and go out all of the time. But one thing I know she likes to do is choose books. Check out Maya perusing the big kid books at home.

And here she is picking out books at the library.

And maybe you're saying she's just taking them out. But check out her technique in this video.

The little boy in Book!, by Kristine O'Connell George and illustrated by Maggie Smith, is definitely excited about his new book. He can turn the pages and put it on the shelf (upside down of course). He reads it to the baby and the cat. He can read it anywhere, on his mommy's lap, under a table, upside down, or on his head. And of course he takes it to bed.

Considering the popularity of books about people who love books like Anne Fadiman, this may be a good introduction to bibliophilia for your little one.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Jazz Fly

So here's a little inside information about libraries. Every so often we need to weed our collection. This is a very difficult job, because who wants to take books off the shelf? But it has to be done. There are many things a librarian considers when deciding which books need to move on (By the way, libraries very seldom throw away books, so rest easy. Ours are either sold to raise money for the library or are donated to worthy projects.), but the most common factor is when was the last time the book was checked out. So if you want to see your favorite books always stay on the shelves, all you have to do is check it out and get your friends to do the same.

I thought to mention this because The Jazz Fly, by Matthew Gollub and illustrated by Karen Hanke, was on the chopping block, but was saved because someone checked it out recently. Which is a good thing in my opinion, because it's a wonderful and fun introduction to jazz music.

A fly cannot find his way to the jazz club. He asks some other animals for directions, but the fly only speaks jazz, and the other animals speak their own language. Finally the dog points with his nose.

At the club the band (with the fly on drums, Willie the Worm on bass, Nancy the Gnat on sax, and Sammy the Centipede on piano) must come up with a new, innovative sound or they will lose their gig.

The fly remembers the languages he heard (ribbit, oink, hee-haw, and ruff) and incorporates them into the music. It's a hit, and the new animal friends attend every show from then on.

An accompanying CD contains a musical version of the story. It's a jazz number performed by the author. He scats for the voice of the fly, and many of the jazzy words in the text are interpreted as musical instruments.

It's a bit fast, so your children may only learn the scatting parts, but that alone will endear them to the story and give them an early appreciation for the sounds of jazz music.

Hello Hello

Maya loves those guitar players. And her favorite of all is Dan Zanes, formerly of the Del Fuegos. Don't let the crazy hair put you off. He makes wonderful CDs that children and adults can enjoy. They're funny and catchy, but not corny. He uses original songs and traditional numbers that parents can really appreciate. On his website he says when his first daughter was little he decided to make the children's CDs he wished he could find.

Hello Hello is a book and CD. The book, illustrated by Donald Saaf, is a picture book version of the title song. The CD has that number plus four others. The music and lyrics to all five songs are toward the back of the book. The illustrator is also a musician who sings and plays banjo and mandolin on this and other Dan Zanes CDs.

Did you catch that? Banjo and mandolin on a children's CD. Also accordion, guitar, and upright bass. How does all of that sound to you? To me it sounds like music Maya and I both can appreciate.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Philadelphia Chickens

So due to my little trip this weekend, we've got four books to read and review. Our theme, because Maya is showing more and more of an appreciation for it, is 'music'. When we weren't outside in the beautiful weather, we read (and listened to) several books with music as their theme.

Awhile back Carrie mentioned Philadelphia Chickens, by Sandra Boynton, which we gave to Kai when he was born, though she won't admit it. It's one of our favorite gifts to give.

Philadelphia Chickens contains the words and music to several of Boynton's most charming and hilarious numbers. The order of the songs is very considerate. They start with random silliness but lead your children to bedtime. So you can put it on as you start your bedtime routine, and by the time you get to Pajama Time, your children will already be appropriately dressed. They "pajammy to the left, pajammy to the right" for awhile, then finish off with a lullabye and some instrumental music.

The first half of the book has lyrics and illustrations, so it may be used as a book. The second half has the music, if you're inclined to learn to play the songs on an instrument of your choosing.

And the music. It's clever, and you'll be tickled by some of the stars you get to hear sing. Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Natasha Richardson, the Bacon Brothers, and even Scott Bakula for those of you who miss hearing him croon on Quantum Leap.

The cover claims that Philadelphia Chickens is for "all ages, except 43." If you're 43, I'm not sure what is wrong with you, but just wait a few months then you can enjoy these wonderful songs with the rest of us.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Where's My Mom?

Yesterday I helped out at the Read-a-Thon at the state capitol. Representatives took turns reading to preschool groups, while the library and several other organizations had activity tables. I have to admit that some of those congress members had some reading skills. They asked questions and even made a few animal noises.

Where's My Mom?, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, is a good book for conversation. If your child were to be separated from you and had to describe you to someone who was helping them look for you, what would they say?

A lost little monkey tries to do just that for a well-meaning butterfly. When the monkey says his mother is bigger than him, the butterfly brings him to an elephant. No, no. When the little monkey says his mother's tail coils around a tree, the butterfly brings him to a snake. On and on until we actually see the elephant again.

Finally the monkey says his mother looks like him, only bigger. The butterfly hadn't figured this since his babies don't look like him. They're caterpillars.

Can you believe the butterfly gets it wrong again, but everyone is reunited in the end. You'll have to see why.

This is a good discussion starter. Pair this book with a picture book of animals and ask what the different animals have in common. This would also be a good opportunity to talk about what to do when you're lost.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The 108th Sheep

According to the little counter, we're on the 108th book (Looks like we actually did an extra one in January. Maybe I'll take 4th of July off.) In honor of this I read to Maya a beautiful book I saw last year, The 108th Sheep, by Ayano Imai.

This is Imai's first children's book, but I hope she continues. She studied Japanese painting which is a favorite of mine, and while the illustrations here are not the popular brush paintings, the gentle touch and sparse beauty come through in the pencil and watercolor images.

Emma is having trouble going to sleep. After trying a couple of other methods, she decides to count sheep. She is surprised to still be awake when she reaches 100. After 107 she hears a thump, feels a shake, but no sheep.

Emma peers around the headboard to find that the 108th sheep cannot jump high enough to get over the bed. She and the other sheep try to help with sheep towers, stilts, and a trampoline. Finally Emma knows what to do. She cuts a hole in the headboard. Success. Girl and sheep fall fast asleep. What do you think Emma finds in the morning?

It's a precious tale, told and drawn with care. The pages of the book are thick and textured giving The 108th Sheep a very cozy feel. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Raisin and Grape

Raisin and Grape, by Tom Amico and James Proimos and illustrated by Andy Snair, is a quirky ode to grandfathers. See, Grandpa is a raisin and grandson is a grape. You know, because raisins are wrinkly. I hope that doesn't qualify as ageism.

But Grape is completely enamored with Raisin. When he grows up he wants to be just like Raisin (except he also wants to be king). There are quite a few plays on words as the tale goes through a typical day out with grandpa. They go to the park where Raisin watches out for Grape and teaches him about life and character.

On my favorite page, Grape gets to be the hero. When Raisin is trapped by a jabbering prune, Grape tells him he has to go home and take a nap. Raisin whispers, "You saved me again."

So read this one to your kids, knowing that they'll probably blurt out something embarrassing about wrinkles the next time you're with your folks.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Seals on the Bus

One thing I still have to remind myself about storytime is that children love repetition. They love hearing stories they know and singing songs they know all the words to. It's comfortable and it's healthy. However, I think it's great to take a familiar song and change it up a bit, and kids seem to like it too.

Lenny Hort does just that in The Seals on the Bus, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. A family takes a ride on a bus that quickly fills up with animals. And the story is told in song.

The seals on the bus go
The seals on the bus go
All around the town.

The family holds on as long as they can, even when "The vipers on the bus go HISS, HISS, HISS." But when "The skunks on the buss go SSSSS, SSSSS, SSSSS," they have to get off. Only the parents really seem to mind.

Imagine the fun you will have with this book. Add more animals until the cows come home (that was a hint.)

Here's a funny little ditty I learned recently that's along the same lines. Now whenever I'm getting on the bus I'm singing this in my head.

A hip, a hip, a hippopotamus
Got on, got on, got on the city bus.
The people, people, people on the bus
Said, "Ow, you're squishing us."

A Good Day

Kevin Henkes has been around a long time and produced some wonderful books. He's even had a few for older kids that I've enjoyed. Last year's A Good Day is a very simple book for the youngest of readers, though it's not a board book.

There a three sections to A Good Day. In the first, four young animals are having a bad day. Little yellow bird has lost a tail feather, little white dog's leash is tangled, etc. However, things turn around. Little orange fox finds his mother, little brown squirrel finds a large nut, etc.

Lastly, as a bonus, a little girl is happy to find a yellow feather. I would like to have seen all four animals represented in the last part, but perhaps that would have been a bit contrived.

The art hearkens back to classic children's books from the thirties and forties, just with more color than those typically used. It's quite homey. You may not care for the shortness of the text, but try it out and judge for yourself.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

When Cats Go Wrong

Ever wonder why people keep cats as pets? I mean all cat-owners like to talk about is how poorly-behaved they are. We were no exception when last we owned a cat. Every book written about cats seems to focus on the trouble they cause. Perhaps it's because we find it so funny.

When Cats Go Wrong, by Norm Hacking and illustrated by Cynthia Nugent, is a musical book about a boy who cannot leave his naughty kitty home alone for a moment. Every time he returns to the house he finds evidence of mischeif.

Everything's in disarray,
It makes me grump and mutter.
There's cat hair on the tablecloth
And tongue marks on the butter.

The boy sings a sad song about all the stress in his life due to his frisky feline. He plays an accordian and bellows out the refrain.

Life with a naughty kitty
Isn't very pretty.
So I sing this mournful song
About when cats go wrong.

You can imagine how the music sounds. But you really don't have to imagine. There is an accompanying CD with the author playing and singing the song for you. The music is a tango, and the artwork is (Hacking tells you so) patterned after posters made by the French artist Lautrec. Pretty classy, but pretty funny.

Big kid books I'm reading

And speaking of funny, I just finished a children's novel called Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians, by Brandon Sanderson. I've told you how librarians love to read books about themselves. Even if the librarians are the evil overlords ruling the world? Even better.

Maybe some of the jokes are funnier to a person working in a library, but I think all Hushlanders (that's you) will find this funny. Get it, HUSHlanders?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?

Today I came home from work to find Maya clad in the darkest of blues and greens. She of course, as she often does, looked like a boy. Now remember, I was at work, so Patty dressed her that way. But I have been known to do the same.

The weather was in fairness miserable today, so one of the pretty spring dresses she got for her birthday would have been grossly inappropriate. We're not trying to make Maya a tomboy. I'm just not that fond of white, and Patty's not that fond of pink.

The little girl in Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?, by Carmela LaVigna Coyle and illustrated by Mike Gordon, wants so badly to be like a princess, wearing a flowery crown throughout. However, she has some decidedly not-so-dainty hobbies.

She seeks affirmation from her mother, asking, "Do princesses wear hiking boots?" The answer: "When they wish to take the scenic routes." Do they climb trees? "Is there a better way to catch the breeze?" I have a feeling mom is a bit of a tomboy herself.

Our little princess sums it up, "Mommy, do princesses seem at all like me?"

"Look inside yourself and see..." For the little princesses reading this book there is a mirror on the final page to gaze upon your regal self. "A princess is a place in your heart."

So whether Maya wears sparkling slippers or Doc Martins, she's going to be our little princess.

That makes me king, right?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My Chair

A couple of months back some librarians on a discussion list I read were talking about how to help kids develop a sense of imagination and creativity in this age of prepackaged entertainment. My Chair, by Betsy James and illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma, takes a very ordinary everyday object and shows how children's imaginations can transform it into any number of things.

Children begin to gather various chairs together on the lawn. Through their play, the chairs become so many marvelous things. A plastic chair is the seat atop an elephant, a tire swing is a trapeze, and a cushy plush chair is a little-brother-eating monster.

Chairs can be very different. "My chair rocks. My chair rolls." The latter is a wheelchair, which is described as being "like glasses-I put it on in the morning. I wear my chair to zoom like a roller skater, dance like a bear."

Chairs are covered and piled up to become a fort or forest, a ship or cage. The space underneath a chair is a place of safety or privacy.

Finally all of the children and their parents are gathered (with their chairs) to welcome the newest arrival, who of course has a special baby chair.

My Chair is an interesting and thoughtful book about a seemingly mundane topic. But as many of the librarians mentioned above pointed out, it's when children use those everyday objects to create their fun that they are using their imaginations to the fullest potential.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Hush Little Digger

I've seen at least three new books based on the lullaby, Hush Little Baby. I think it's quite difficult to create a new piece of work when you're tied to an existing poem or song. It's probably easier to adapt the song to suit your purposes.

Hush Little Digger, by Ellen Olson-Brown and illustrated by Lee White, takes that route and does it cleverly. The father is singing to the boy in his sandbox, and all the gifts are work vehicles, such as a front-end loader, a paver, and a street sweeper.

Some of the attempts to rhyme with the names of various machines create unwieldy sentences that push the limits of the meter, but after a couple of readings, you'll know when to speed up a bit. Here's a couple of the better stanzas:

And if that backhoe has a bad motor,
Papa's gonna find you a front-end loader.

And if that loader runs into bad luck,
Papa's gonna find you a big dump truck.

The final line is similar to the original ("You'll still be the best little digger around.") and finds the boy and his father back in the sand box with his shovel and toy backhoe.

A good book for boys and girls alike.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Shark in the Park

There's a great book by Seymour Simon called Animals Nobody Loves. I'm pretty sure there's a shark in there. Sharks are ugly, mean, and scary. But like those other animals, we just can't get enough of them. I've got another great book to share, then I'll teach you a great song about sharks.

The second book in our 'shark' Special Double Issue (see below) is Shark in the Park, by Nick Sharratt. Timothy Pope is trying out his new telescope down at the park. As he looks all around, he spies what looks like a pointy fin. He yells (and so should you), "THERE'S A SHARK IN THE PARK!"

Indeed, through a hole in the page you can see a fin also. But turn the page, and it's really the pointy ear of a black kitten. Later it's a crow's wing, and lastly Timothy's father's hair.

Timothy decides that there are no sharks in the park today (Ah, but look in the pond).

The text is a rhyming, sing-songy one. In funny books like this, especially one with clever die-cut pages and a popular theme, the text often falls flat. Not here. The rhythm is playful and stays true. I highly recommend this one.

So here's the shark song. I've heard many versions, but here is the one I like best.

Shark Attack
(Sing each verse twice)

Baby shark (make a mouth with your thumb and forefinger)
Da-daa da-da-da-da

Mama shark (cup two hands together)
Da-daa da-da-da-da

Papa shark (elbows together)
Da-daa da-da-da-da

Grampa shark (curl fingers in to make dentures)
Da-daa da-da-da-da

Gramma shark (kissing noise)
*smooch* *smooch* *smooch* *smooch* *smooch* *smooch*

Crazy shark (flail arms wildly between bites)
Da-daa da-da-da-da

Stupid shark (smack forehead with top hand)
Da-daa da-da-da-da

Disco shark (think John Travolta)
Da-daa da-da-da-da

People swimming (make swimming motion with arms)
Da-daa da-da-da-da

Sharks a-creeping (whisper, making sneaking motions)
Da-daa da-da-da-da

Swimming faster (sing faster)
Da-daa da-da-da-da

Lost an arm (one arm behind back)
Da-daa da-da-da-da

Lost a leg (hop on one leg)
Da-daa da-da-da-da

See the light (make a circle in front of your eyes)
Da-daa da-da-da-da

Gone to heaven (make halo over your head)
Da-daa da-da-da-da


Don't Eat the Teacher!

All right, I finally got a hold of one of my favorite books today to go with this one. They're both about sharks, so that's our Special Double Issue theme.

Don't Eat the Teacher, by Nick Ward, is about Sammy the shark who gets a little too excited and bites without thinking (Sound like any kids you know?) . Sammy is going to his first day of school, but unfortunately he doesn't even get in the door before he chomps one of his new friends during a game of tag (he hiccups, and the friend pops out).

Storytime, painting, and music all lead to tragic results. As Sammy dances to the piano music, imagining himself as a terrible storm, he gets really excited and, well, you can see the title. Hopefully your kids aren't bothered by the fact that the teacher doesn't reappear (I usually brush over that part pretty quickly).

There are repeated lines that are fun for kids to say along. Of course, with each 'accident', they get to holler out a big "CRUNCH!" And afterwards everyone says, "Oh Sammy, don't eat the table."

It's a fun book, and I read today that fun is a really good thing....

Early Literacy Tip of the Day

Some Educational Psychologists found in their research that "parents who believe that reading is a source of entertainment have children with a more positive view about reading than do parents who emphasize the skills aspect of reading development."

I was thinking about this a bit today. You know there is a lot of pressure, both internal and external, on parents to raise their children in the best possible way. I want to be careful that I'm not adding to that pressure by talking about early literacy development and sharing tips.

The most important thing really is to just enjoy some time together with your child exploring books together. The first rule is to have fun.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

How To Be

The librarians and educators on an online discussion list I participate in were recently discussing the resurgence of character books. You know those books boys and girls are supposed to read to teach them how they should act, like manners and etiquette books.

How to Be, by Lisa Brown, is a lighter sort of character book. The author encourages children to learn from the animal kingdom. Each four-page sequence describes and illustrates traits found in a different animal, some humorous and one inspirational. For example, "How to be a dog."

Beg for food.
Lick someone.
Be friendly.

The last section says that to be a person, you must show those animals' traits. You must be charming like the snake, creative like the spider, and patient like the turtle. But most of all, be yourself.

The illustrations are ink drawings with sparse color in which a brother and sister demonstrate the traits. Each animal has its own color. Purple represents the spider, yellow represents the turtle, etc. Some of the pictures are pretty humorous, like the sister looking disgusted as her brother licks her arm.

It's a good discussion starter for you and your youngster, and it presents a great deal of vocabulary that doesn't necessarily come up in everyday conversation.

Early Literacy Tip of the Day

Patty is reading Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook. In it he talks about rare words. These are the words that are not already in a child's lexicon. While talking to your kids is important for many reasons, most of our everyday conversation is plain and simple. For every thousand words we speak, we tend to use only 9-12 rare words with children.

What about television? Children will likely be exposed to about 22 rare words per thousand. A simple children's book gives them about 31 rare words per thousand. Nine extra words doesn't seem like much, but over the course of the five or six years leading up to kindergarten, a child who is read to will experience a lot more vocabulary than a child who only watches TV.

As the writing gets more sophisticated, the number of rare words goes up. Though I don't know if you want to read a newspaper to your toddler, let alone a scientific paper, which has the most. Kati, maybe you could have Addy proofread yours before you submit them.

I mentioned before that we don't have a television. That doesn't mean that we are purists, and that Maya will never watch it. I'm sure she'll see plenty of TV (Packer games, if nothing else) before long. There is a lot of great programming your kids can see, but if someone tells you that a Baby Einstein DVD (have you heard they found out they're really no better than any other kids videos) is as good as a book, remember what you read above.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Boom Boom Beep Beep Roar!

We've discussed before how making different sounds can actually help infants eventually distinguish words. I can't imagine this is restricted to animal sounds. Babies hear all kinds of sounds throughout their day, and they are all important.

Boom Boom Beep Beep Roar!, by David Diehl, is a board book of pictures and sounds. There is real variety here. The hammer goes Bang Bang, the kitten says Purrr, and the motorcycle says Vroom Vroom. Finally all of this noise wakes the baby, who says Waah.

A good, simple book to share with your baby or toddler. Eventually they can make all of the sounds with you. Be sure when you see one of these things in real life, you point out the sounds they make.

Big kid books I'm reading

I've been reading some very good children's novels lately, and it occurred to me that some of you might be interested in some good books for older kids. I just finished Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis. This is his third book to be honored by a Newbery committee. In the past The Watsons go to Birmingham also received an honor, and Bud Not Buddy won the medal. He's a wonderful writer with a great voice.

Elijah of Buxton places a fictional young man in a real place, a settlement of free-blacks in Canada near the Michigan border where runaway slaves could go for refuge. Elijah is the first free-born citizen in Buxton. He is sensitive, which troubles his parents, but he is also very resourceful.

Elijah becomes involved in a life-or-death situation attempting to help a friend free his family and has to steel up his courage to do something great. I highly recommend it, or any of Curtis' other books.

Friday, April 4, 2008

My Babies

The second book in our 'hide and seek' Special Double Issue is My Babies, illustrated by Caroline Davis. Again no author. Apparently words just magically appear in some board books.

This is a different sort of lift-the-flap book. The pages are two-ply, with folder-like tabs to lift the top layer to reveal a picture underneath. It's not what Maya's used to, so it may take a few readings for her to know what to do.

The baby sees many animals and asks, "Who's hiding?" Behind each grown up animal is a baby animal. Lastly of course it's the baby who's hiding behind a blanket on Mommy's lap.

Hide and seek books may be contributing to Maya's new 'look-at-that' voice. A few weeks ago she found her question voice, where her babbles rise in pitch at the end. Now they crescendo in the middle, the way ours do when we tell her what's under the flap.

Find the Piglet

Our Special Double Issue theme for yesterday and today is 'hide and seek'. Maya and I have been enjoying two new board books with this theme.

The first is Find the Piglet, illustrated by Stephen Cartwright. This is one of those Usborne books that is sort of mass produced (note the absence of an author), but I'm a sucker for those adorable little animals Cartwright draws.

Piglet finds himself everywhere but where he is supposed to be. He's chasing chickens, hiding in the hay, or investigating a pail. My favorite scene is the cows waiting for a drink of water at the trough while Piglet has a little swim. Finally we find that he has found his way to his pen for a well-deserved nap.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Book of Hugs

Hmm...two hug books in a row. Could have been a double issue.

Maya picked out some of her own board books at the library today while I was perusing picture books. Actually she picked out all of the board books, and I hung onto a couple while I was putting them back.

A Book of Hugs, by Dave Ross and illustrated by Laura Rader, is a primer on hugs. Different types of hugs are identified ("Brother Hugs - Usually called a Buddy Hug"), and sometimes additional words of wisdom are imparted ("Note: A circle of Buddy Huggers is called a huddle."). There are Mommy Hugs, Daddy Hugs, Tree Hugs, Hurt Hugs, and Good Night Hugs.

In the end we are told, "All hugs are wonderful, but the best hugs of all are...I-Love-You Hugs."

The illustrations are of animals playing all of the roles described in the text. I especially like the big elephant daddy.

I don't know if hug books qualifies as a genre, but I sure am enjoying them lately. I hope you are, too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Daddy Hugs

Hey, another daddy book. I know, there are a lot of them out there, but I can't help but get excited. And Daddy Hugs, by Karen Katz, is really touching. It's helped me to pause and think about all the little moments that Maya and I have throughout the day. It's easy to just plod through the day, trying to get this and that done between naps, feedings, and diaper changes. Every so often I need a reminder to slow down and take the time to interact with Maya during even the mundane activities (well, maybe not naps).

Daddy Hugs is a counting book, from one to ten. "One 'I'm so glad you're my baby!' hug", "Two teeny, tiny finger hugs" and so on. The best part comes when I get to say, "I love you!" ten times.

And the book ends with a good night hug, making this a great bedtime book. Maya and I used to read after her bottles. But now that she's moving on to solid foods, bedtime is becoming our reading time. So a good night book is a welcome addition to our repertoire.

And moms, don't be jealous. There is also a Mommy Hugs.