Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dooby Dooby Moo

The theme of musical animals has a long history from Grimms' Brementown Musicians to Jarrett J. Krosoczka's Punk Farm (check out the Punk Farm website; the music is actually pretty good).

Doreen Cronin creates a winner with Dooby Dooby Moo, illustrated by Betsy Lewin. The characters you first met in Click Clack Moo are here. Farmer Brown keeps a close eye and ear on the animals in his farm, especially that crafty Duck. When he finds an ad cut out of his morning paper, he knows trouble is coming.

The ad is for a talent show at the county fair. First prize is a used trampoline. Though farmer Brown only hears snoring inside the barn, when the coast is clear, cows, sheep, and pigs practice their versions of old favorites. The cows sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star": "Dooby, dooby, dooby moo. Dooby moo, moo, moo, moo, moo." The sheep rehearse "Home on the Range". And the pigs do an interpretive dance.

Farmer Brown doesn't trust the animals on the farm by themselves (remember Giggle, Giggle Quack?), so he packs them in the truck when he goes to the county fair (convenient, no?). He leaves the critters snoring in the truck.

The cows do well. The sheep do even better. But the pigs are fast asleep. Duck steps up and does "Born to be Wild" - "Quack, quack, quack, quuuaaaaaackk!"

Do they win? Well, that when Farmer Brown listens outside the barn door he hears, "Dooby, dooby BOING! Fa la, la, la BOING! Whacka, whacka BOING!"

As always with Cronin, there are hilarious details such as footnotes and disclaimers, mice judging the rehearsals, and Farmer Brown wearing a disquise. If you're building a collection of the books in this series like we are, don't forget this one. You can have so much fun belting out the tunes.

Hey Mr. Choo-choo, Where Are You Going?

I think I've mentioned before that Maya's favorite musician so far is Dan Zanes. She loves those acoustic guitar sounds. Dan Zanes does tasteful new songs, children's classics, and traditional songs that I can listen to and enjoy along with Maya.

Our favorite CD is still the one our friend Nicole gave to Maya before she was born, Catch That Train. It has a couple of train songs, classics like "Loch Lomond" and "Welcome Table", a couple of foreign language tunes, and even a protest song. Guests include Father Goose, Nick Cave, Natalie Merchant, and The Blind Boys of Alabama (weren't there five at one time?).

Check out the video for the title track on YouTube:

Hey Mr. Choo-choo, Where Are You Going?, by Susan Wickberg and illustrated by Yumi Heo, is a great train book with a wonderful tune. Just listen to this:

Hey Mr. Choo-choo,
Red, white, and blue-choo,
Hey Mr. Choo-choo,
What are you doing?

Conductor call-call-calls.
I want to pull-pull-pull.
But I wait-wait-wait
Till my cars are full.

Isn't that great? The arrangement of the text as a whole is thematic. Each set of stanzas, which can take up two or more pages, begins with that first refrain but poses a different question. "What are you pulling?" or "Where are you going?"

I had a bit of trouble with the meter reading it through the first time, but with practice I think I could sing this book as well as read it. The wordplay and repetition are so much fun and feel great on your tongue.

Speaking of YouTube, I've been thinking I'd like to add a video component to this venture. Something like clips of reading stories and singing songs. How about some other ideas? What would be useful or entertaining for all of you?


At over a year, can you believe Maya still doesn't really take to stuffed animals or dolls. Just puppets really, especially if they make noise. She doesn't have a blankie or stuffed animal she wants to hang onto. Weird, huh?

Bears, by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, is an homage to teddies everywhere. Is has a short, simple text, composed mostly of words and phrases that rhyme with 'bears'. "On the stairs", "Collecting fares", and "Millionaires".

The big draw for Bears is the illustrations. Everybody's favorite monster boy is the main character, and he spies bears everywhere doing everything. There are so many details to point out. You can talk about what individual bears are doing or what expressions do they have on their faces? And there are bears and bear faces to find in unlikely places, such as the lamp, the wallpaper, even the moon.

For babies, Bears is a nice, quick read. For talkers, this is a good book for rhymes. For preschoolers, it's a great sit-and-talk-about-the-pictures book.

Scarlette Beane

Our little garden in our little backyard still looks pretty good after two weeks. We hope it will thrive. Maya loves being out in the yard. And now we can do work while she tools around on her own (We just have to keep one eye open for things being eaten). Patty made a couple of beautiful garden stones in Maya's honor.

Our hope is that Maya will continue to love being outdoors as she grows. The little girl in Scarlette Beane, by Karen Wallace and illustrated by Jon Berkeley, is born with not just a green thumb, but green fingers too. Her parents have a house and yard even smaller than ours.

When Scarlette is five she is given her own garden. After planting her seeds her fingers glow in the night. The next day her vegetables are so big the neighbors have to come with construction vehicles to harvest the crop, and everyone has to eat outside.

That night Scarlette sneaks out to plant more seeds in the meadow. Her fingers glow brightly again. The next day there is a castle made of vegetables, and they move right in.

Maya will of course have her own little garden plot as well someday. But we'll try to keep our expectations reasonable.

Here's a song about a garden worm from What Shall I Do with the Baby-O, by Jane Cobb. She recommends singing it while trying to change the diaper of your little wiggly worm.

Wiggly Woo

There’s a worm at the bottom of my garden.
And his name is Wiggly Woo.
There’s a worm at the bottom of my garden
And all that he can do,
Is wiggle all night,
And wiggle all day,
Whatever else the people do say;
There’s a worm at the bottom of my garden,
And his name is Wiggly, Wig-Wig-Wiggly,
Wig-Wig-Wiggly Woo-oo!

The Hello, Goodbye Window

Maya loves her days with Nana. On those days she gets to play all day, no running boring errands. Most Nana days are at our house, but occasionally Maya gets to visit Grandpa and Nana's house. They have a patio door with a huge window. Maya can look out at the back yard.

The little girl in The Hello, Goodbye Window, by Norton Juster and illustrated by Chris Raschka, has a favorite window at Poppy and Nanna's house. It's the kitchen window overlooking the path to the front door. Since Poppy and Nanna spend most of their time in the kitchen, that's the window where you say "Hello" and "Goodbye".

The text describes an idyllic weekend with Poppy and Nanna. The window is good for playing peek-a-boo and making faces. The kitchen has drawers to explore, a sink for washing hands, and a table for coloring.

When it's dark the window becomes a mirror. When the lights are turned off, a solarium. The next day is filled with fun in the garden, except for nap time because "nothing happens until I get up."

The window is where you can get a first glimpse of visitors, such as a T-rex, the pizza delivery guy, or the Queen of England. Today it happens to be Mom and Dad. Goodbyes are waved through the hello, goodbye window.

The author is Norton Juster, of Phantom Tollbooth fame, so you know the writing is a pleasure to read aloud. The illustrations are quite colorful and eccentric. At first they may seem childish and messy. But a closer look shows why Raschka received a Caldecott for this one. There's quite a bit, so I recommend this book for the early grades.

Leonardo the Terrible Monster

Maya's in that cute stage that I think most kids go through. She likes to be startled. On Wednesdays we go to have lunch with Mom at the hospital and are waiting for the elevator, and Maya jumps and squeals when the doors open and someone steps out. The unsuspecting stranger usually gets a big kick out of that.

Another huge one is opening and closing the garage door. We let Maya press the button. She can't quite bring herself to press it all the way in, but when we help her and the door starts to move, she jumps up and down in our arms and yells, "EEE, EEE, EEE, EEE." It's like she's scared and fascinated all at once. We're hoping this isn't a precursor to a fascination with horror flicks.

The monster in Leonardo the Terrible Monster, by "Your Pal" Mo Willems (gotta' like a guy who names himself that for kids), learns that really scaring people is not only hard, it's not as fun. Leonardo is just no good at scaring people. Frankly, they just think he's cute. He doesn't have "1,642 teeth, like Tony." And he isn't tall or weird.

Desperate, Leonardo decides he needs to "find the most scaredy-cat kid in the whole world and scare the tuna salad out of him." He does research until he finds Sam sitting alone. After he gives his best effort until Sam cries, Leonardo feels he has finally done it.

But Sam isn't scared. He's just upset over his mean big brother (which takes a gushing full page of writing to explain). Leonardo decides that "instead of being a terrible monster, he would become a wonderful friend." Of course part of being a good friend is scaring and chasing.

We once saw a video version of Leonardo with Mo Willems doing the narration. With Sesame Street on his resume, you know it's got to be good. Willems' reading style reminds me of Shel Silverstein. I highly recommend seeking it out. Knuffle Bunny was on there, too.

Big Kid Books I'm Reading

Speaking of monsters, there's a big scary librarian in The Legend of Spud Murphy, by Eion Colfer. I've been trying out some more light-hearted books for the Guys Read book club. This one takes just a couple of hours to read, even for me.

The mother of two mischievous boys decides to take them to the library twice a week for three hours. The librarian, Spud Murphy (so named for shooting kids with a spud gun), is notorious for hating children. She forces them to sit on a carpet in the children's section (one tiny bookcase).

When tested, Spud Murphy expertly throws a book stamp across the room and nails the older brother on the head. Scared into submission, the boys at first pretend to read books, then accidentally start to really read them. Turns out they love books. When they exhaust the children's collection, they go for an adult shelf (in Indiana Jones fashion).

Spud catches them, and at first she is livid. But when she realizes why they disobeyed, she realizes she has strayed from her calling, lets them take home the book (a romance novel-they were desperate), and vows to improve the children's collection.

I was at a training session for book club leaders, and the facilitator was describing some of the extra things he did to make the clubs more fun. I began daydreaming of having a contest to see who could accurately throw a book stamp across a room at a drawing of a boy on big paper. Just then the facilitator switched to talking about discipline. He said, "One hard, fast rule is absolutely no throwing things." Maybe I'm not the right guy for this job.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Baby Knows Best

There are too zoos in the Twin Cities, and Maya and I, thanks to Nana getting a membership for us, went to both of them this week. She liked looking at a few of the animals she saw, but mostly she watched the chipmonks and geese and tried to find pieces of garbage on the ground she could pick up and eat (we really have to keep track of her).

The truth of the matter is well-captured in Baby Knows Best, by Kathy Henderson and illustrated by Brita Granstrom. Despite all the fancy toys she has, what does the baby want to play with? "The front door keys." What better book is there than a crumply, crinkly newspaper? And the best bath toy? "The old bath plug."

Sound familiar? How many times do you get together with other parents and talk about your baby playing with the cardboard box from a new toy? Henderson captures this well.

This is probably a great book to share with older brothers and sisters. Just remind them that they were exactly the same way. Grandma and Grandpa could tell them that you probably were too.

Fancy Nancy

Awhile back I asked some librarians for suggestions on how to encourage Maya's creative side as she grows. One thing that came up several times was having some old clothes and accessaries in storage. Kids may use a single hat in so many different ways.

Though I'm hoping that it wouldn't lead to the tom-frillery seen in Fancy Nancy, by Jane O'Connor and illustrated by Fobin Preiss Glasser. Nancy likes all things fancy, and it shows in the way she dresses and the fancy French words she uses.

The trouble is the rest of her family just doesn't get it. Seeing a poster for dance classes at the supermarket, Nancy decides to hold "fancy lessons." Nancy's folks are very supportive. They attend the lesson and even take notes.

After dressing up in the most outlandish clothing the gaudy party go out for pizza and a lot of stares. Unfortunately, Nancy can't quite carry the fancy parfait (see, French) and becomes quite messy.

After a bath and a homemade parfait, Nancy and her parents say, "I love you." Because, in Nancy's fine opinion, "...there isn't a fancy-or better-way of saying that."

I suppose 'je t'aime' would work, but oh well. A great book for your fancy little girl.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," Said the Sloth

Yesterday Maya and I went to the zoo. Maya liked the tiny monkeys that came right up to the glass and the tiny African deer. She barely even noticed the giraffes even when we were standing a couple of feet away from them, nor the big gorillas. I guess she likes animals that are on her level.

We got a big surprise from the zebra. Whenever we get to the zebra page in her animal book, I just say, "This is a zebra. It has stripes," since I don't know what sound a zebra makes. Well, were we shocked when the zebra suddenly let out a long series of noises somewhere between a donkey and a howler monkey. I'm not sure I can (or want to) imitate it. I may just stick with, "It has stripes."

Maya also liked the mid-size monkeys (sorry, I don't remember the names) who were very playful and swung around on ropes and branches. The sloth in "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," Said the Sloth, by Eric Carle, also hangs from a branch, but I doubt Maya would find him as entertaining.

As the other forest animals scramble around him, the sloth spends the entire book hanging from a tree, occasionally eating a leaf or sleeping. The sloth does everything, "Slowly, slowly, slowly." The animals ask questions, but the sloth doesn't answer.

Not until the jaguar has the audacity to call him lazy. After a lot of thought, the sloth lets out a lengthy explanation with many synonyms on how he is not lazy. He just likes a peaceful life. He likes to take things "slowly, slowly, slowly."

I was worried that this book would bore the kids in storytime. Not at all. I read "slowly, slowly, slowly" in a comically slow manner. Then I read his soliloquy like the guy in those old Micro Machines commercials (don't bother trying to define all the new words unless asked). Turned out pretty good. The children laughed quite a bit.

Here's a great song to go along with this story. Creep and run your fingers around the baby's belly as you sing.

Slowly, Slowly, Very Slowly

Slowly, slowly, very slowly
Creeps the garden snail.
Slowly, slowly, very slowly
Up the garden rail.

Quickly, quickly, very quickly
Runs the little mouse.
Quickly, quickly, very quickly
Up into his house!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dog Heaven

Today I took an online survey for another stay-at-home dad doing a graduate project. It concerned therapy for children. I was to imagine I have a 7 to 10-year-old child. For which issues would I consider having the child see a therapist. I answered no to the first few and worried that I would answer no to all of them (I also worried about how long the survey would be, because then I had to answer the 'why not' questions). I'm not inclined to consider professional therapy, I guess, because it's always seemed like a pretty severe solution to the things we go through in life. But a few of the situations got me thinking. There are some things I haven't encountered that Maya hopefully won't either, but should she, she may need some outside help. It was quite thought-provoking.

I like to think that books are good therapy, too. I've heard it's a good idea to read books to prepare children for difficult times in life well before they actually occur. They open the door for conversations about things like the family pet passing, or grandparents, or parents, or a friend. Then perhaps they may be prepared.

Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant, and it's companion, Cat Heaven, are my favorite books about where pets go when they die. Heaven for dogs is just what the name implies-perfect. God knows what dogs need and enjoy, and he provides for them.

There are endless fields in which to run, ponds with geese to bark at, and children. There are dog biscuits shaped like cats and soft clouds to sleep on. Dogs without homes on earth are given special homes in heaven. Those that left family behind are given a chance to occasionally check in on them.

I like that God is a kindly old man dressed in farming clothes who enjoys looking after all of the dogs. Dog Heaven places a nice image in your child's imagination, so perhaps they won't miss their beloved so dearly until they meet up again.

Big Kid Books I'm Reading

This summer I'll be facilitating a Guys Read book club for school-aged boys. I've been perusing some great books. Our first is Jackie's Wild Seattle, by Will Hobbs. All the clubs in the system are doing one of his books because at the end of the summer he will be visiting the library.

I wasn't sure how Jackie's Wild Seattle would go over since the protagonist is a 12-year-old girl. We're supposed to look for books with a boy in the lead, but I think the person who chose this one may not have read it. But I think it will be ok. There are so many attention grabbers in here that I don't think the boys will mind.

A brother and sister spend the summer with their uncle in Seattle while their parents travel to Pakistan with Doctors Without Borders. Uncle Neal lost his job as an aeronautics engineer and is volunteering for an animal rescue outfit. But he isn't looking so good.

Shannon and Cody are from Jersey and were there on 9/11. Cody actually saw the second plane and is having trouble coping. When Neal is injured Shannon has to step up and do the rescuing. There is also a troubled boy there who needs a little rescuing too. Through all of this and discovering what is wrong with Uncle Neal, the kids do a lot of growing during that summer.

Jackie's Wild Seattle covers a lot of heavy issues, but I think reluctant readers will enjoy the scenes involving the rescue of wild animals. And the questions about what makes a good person or even a hero will get them thinking.

By the way, if you're in the Twin Cities area and you see a notice for a program by Dakota Wild Animals, I highly recommend that you go. They provide amazing demonstrations.

My Dog, My Cat, My Mama, and Me!

Yesterday we went to visit Rei. He is Maya's friend Kai's brand new little brother. Rei was born in a hot tub in the three-season porch, attended by midwives and delivered by his dad. Kai got to be there, too. Congratulations. Today's book is dedicated to you.

My Dog, My Cat, My Mama, and Me!, by Nigel Gray and illustrated by Bob Graham, is an extremely clever lift-the-flap book. It has a good rhyme scheme and teaches counting from two to four.

A little girl notices her dog is getting fat. The dog goes into a cupboard and comes out thin. When the girl peeks inside (and you lift the flap), there are two puppies. When the fat cat comes out of a cardboard box thin, there are three kittens.

When Mama is getting fatter, goes to the hospital, and comes back home thin (I know, I know, it doesn't exactly happen that way), how many babies do you think there are?

It's a pretty fun addition to your pile of 'getting-the-kids-ready-for-a-new-baby' books.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I was telling a mom at the library the other day about Mayareads, and she gave me just about the best review you can give to a book. Her son doesn't sit still often to read books, but he will for Dig!, by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha and illustrated by Marc Rosenthal. In fact he chants the refrain often as they go about their days.

So I picked up a copy, and I can see why. Dig! has such a nice structure with tons of repetition. Mr. Rally and his dog, Lightning, have a backhoe. Mr. Rally has five jobs this day, digging a hole for the pool at the school, clearing a landslide near the ocean, etc.

At each job Mr. Rally sings, "Dig up rock and dig up clay! Dig up dirt and dig all day!" At the end of the day Mr. Rally puts the backhoe away, but he and Lightning still have some digging to do in the garden (including of course the burying of bones).

With five parts, the text is a little long, but your kindergarten-or-so-aged children will love it. After you're done reading, go out and do a little gardening, singing a merry little tune.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Delilah D. at the Library

Have you noticed that libraries are changing a bit these days. Are missing the quiet of yesterday's libraries? Or do you like being able to grab a mocha on your way in and drinking it while you puruse the stacks (as long as you keep the cover on tight)?

For better or for worse, libraries are continually looking for ways to make themselves more comfortable and useful for the patrons. You know, we try to keep an open mind.

The librarian in Delilah D. at the Library, by Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Rosie Reeve, seems a bit traditional, but is thwarted by an imaginative young girl.

Delilah insists she is a queen from a far away land. When she goes with her nanny and little brother to the library, she would like things to be the way they are in her homeland.

There the librarians give out free cupcakes, everyone runs, there is a trapeze to reach the high shelves, and kids bring their blankets and toys to listen to a beautiful princess read stories.

All of this of course exasperates the librarian. But it sounds great to the other children as well as a short lady wearing a woolly hat.

I guess I better take heed. What else do you think should be included in the library of tomorrow? We'll make a list.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


We're currently attempting to determine Maya's official first word. Right now we're working on 'hi', 'daddy', and 'mama'. She's been saying "Mama" for months, but it's always seemed pretty random (I think I was mama often). She started saying "Hi" the other day, but after we practiced for awhile she said it every couple of minutes for the rest of the day, even when no one was around. She points to my picture on the wall and says, "Daddy", but doesn't seem to associate it with the actual person, me.

So we're trying to figure out how to convey that a word is a symbol for an actual object or person. Pretty complex, huh? Maybe she just has a very good imagination, and sees people we don't.

In Find-a-Saurus, by Mark Sperring and illustrated by Alexandra Steele-Morgan, a little boy has a knack for spotting creatures that we all assume are imaginary. When Marty learns about dinosaurs, he wants to find one in the worst way. Unfortunately, according to his mother dinosaurs are extinct, so there aren't any.

But Marty looks anyway. He looks under his bed, in the laundry basket, in the attic and everywhere he can think of. But he only finds monsters, elves, aliens, and the like. When he spies the spiny tail sticking out of his toy closet, he thinks he's got it. But, darn if it isn't a dragon. Oh well. Marty decides that dinosaurs are great at hiding, but he knows he'll find one someday.

Who's in the Jungle?

I've been looking on YouTube for videos of people performing children's songs, because sometimes I'll read about a song that has great lyrics, but unless it's to the tune of another more familiar song, I have to make it up. I found a fun little tune called the Elephant Song by a guy named Eric Herman. Check it out:

Like the Elephant Song, Who's in the Jungle?, by Heather J. Gondek and illustrated by Chris Gilvan-Cartwright, is a good opportunity to help children identify familiar animals by their characteristics.

It's a Who-am-I lift-the-flap type book. The clues and the answers are all hidden beneath flaps. For example the giraffe page says, "I have a long neck. I eat leaves. My fur has spots. Who am I?" Neck, leaves and spots are all hidden under flaps with their pictures on the front. Your children can identify the pictures, then the animal.

A good interactive book for kids, especially before or after a trip to the zoo.

Hop! Plop!

I love onomatopoeia. I can't spell it. But I love it. Often when I'm singing songs to Maya, I'll change words to their sounds just for fun. For example, we sing a song when we're getting dressed to the tune of "Mama's Little Baby Loves..." that goes, "Baby put your shirt on, shirt on, shirt on. Baby put your shirt on, 1...2...3." There are often three snaps on onesies, so I change it to "Baby put your shirt on, snap...snap...snap." Or those pajamas with a long zipper and a snap at the top, "Baby put your jammies on,"

Hop! Plop!, by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Tali Klein and illustrated by Olivier Dunrea, is all about the onomatopoeia. Mouse and elephant are bored, so they go to the playground. When they get on the seesaw, Mouse goes "HOP! PLOP! BOOM! BOP!" onto the ground.

Elephant gives mouse a push on the swing, "SWING! WHIZ! FLING! DING!" around and around until he's wrapped around the bar. The whirlybird comes to a similar disappointing end.

Mouse decides that all the rides in the playground are broken. But Elephant has a great idea. He crouches down to make a slide with his trunk, "YEE-OW! SLIDE! GLIDE! WHAT A RIDE!" Mouse declares that Elephant is his favorite.

When you're reading, you need to do a good job with those bold-type words to really understand the illustrations. I think you'll have a pretty good time.

Friday, May 16, 2008

No, No, Titus!

Everyone wants to find their place in life. In No, No, Titus!, by Claire Masurel and illustrated by Shari Halpern, a little puppy finds his.

Titus has his first day on the farm and is looking for something to do. When the school bus comes, Titus wants to go. "'HONK, HONK,' went the school bus. 'WOOF, WOOF,' barked Titus. 'No, no,' said the children. 'Dogs don't go to school!'"

Can he drive the tractor? No. Milk the cow? No. Lay eggs? No. Titus is forlorn. What is a good farm dog supposed to do?

As night falls and he hears the pitter, patter of the fox's feet, Titus finds his place and becomes the hero of the farm.

The illustrations are collages of brightly colored paper. The text has a great deal of onomatopoeia and rhyme (The meter doesn't always stay true, so be prepared for a few choppy spots) with a good structure that kids will pick up on quickly.

A good book for reading aloud.

Smile a Lot!

It's unbelievable sometimes how even the smallest babies can have such adult-like looks on their faces. Maya can go from looking so serious and plaintive to wild-eyed in an instance. We're especially wary of this mischievous look she gets when getting out of the car. Wondering what that could turn into.

Nancy Carlson gives some great advice to kids in Smile a Lot! She presents a number of situations that could lend themselves to sour faces, but shows how smiling through it can turn that situation around for the better.

"When Mom makes oatmeal with prunes for breakfast...Smile a lot! And ask if you can help her make chocolate chip pancakes tomorrow." But this doesn't mean you can't be a little mischievous. "Then figure out what to do with your oatmeal." (Like feed it to the baby).

If bullies are hogging the swings, play on the monkey bars and smile. They'll likely want to switch, leaving the swings to you (Bullies are easily confused).

Follow Carlson's advice, and she guarantees a good day.

Baby Shoes

We've been really enjoying putting in our garden and working in the yard these last couple of weeks. Maya does, too. Yesterday Patty was bold enough to let her tool around by herself (keeping one eye on her to make sure she doesn't eat too much ground clutter). This morning Maya had dirt under her nails. Pretty cool.

The baby in Baby Shoes, by Dashka Slater and illustrated by Hiroe Nakata, likes to get dirty, too. Unfortunately, her new white shoes take the hit.

As the story goes on her new clod-hoppers go from "White shoes. High-jumping, fast-running, fine-looking shoes!" via the park, sidewalk chalk, new yellow lines on the road, and a few other hazards, to "...speckled, spotted, polka-dotted, puddle-stomping, rainbow-romping, go-go-going shoes."

As you can see, Baby Shoes has some wonderful language. I'm sure you will enjoy reading it aloud. And there is an important lesson here. Always buy those baby shoes second-hand.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Overboard!, by Sarah Weeks and illustrated by Sam Williams, is a book that will not teach Maya a single thing. She's got this one down. As I'm sure your little one does. So I think I'll just read this charming book to Patty.

A young bunny shows how to make just about anything sail through the air. "Drippy, slippy-slidey peaches. Peachy peaches..." fly from the high chair. "Squeaky, leaky rubber ducky. Lucky ducky..." is launched from the bathtub. Mommy's purse. Books from the shelf (an hourly occurrence in our house).

Poor bunny also takes a turn going overboard when she tries to climb the stairs. Good thing mommy is around. Finally, at bedtime, everything is jettisoned from the crib.

As you can see, the rhyme and alliteration are wonderful. So maybe you should read Overboard! to the children. But you've been warned.

What's Up, Duck? A Book of Opposites

An important class of children's books is the concept book. Concept books help your child to develop a foundation of knowledge they will need when they learn other things. Common concept themes are ABC's, counting, colors, and opposites. There are a lot of them out there, and your child will likely pick a favorite or two for each.

What's Up, Duck?, by Tad Hills, is a great book for opposites. There are many of the usual pairs, but there are some that I think are kind of unique. The tricky thing is to create illustrations that make the meanings of the words on the page clear, and I think Hills does a good job.

For 'front' and 'back' the characters you may recognize from the Duck and Goose books look like their in a police line-up. 'Awake' and 'asleep' is particularly cute. Here's a tricky one: 'Heavy' shows Duck trying to lift Goose, while 'light' shows Grey Duck balancing a feather on his bill.

So when you're ready for opposites throw What's Up, Duck? on the stack.

Caps for Sale

Another great suggestion from Carrie. Caps for sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina, is a classic tale in the traditional style that every child should get to enjoy. I've seen and heard of Caps for Sale being performed in a variety of ways-flannel board, short drama, etc. There is a lot of opportunity for interaction here.

A peddler is walking with the caps he sells piled upon his head-brown, blue, and red piled high. He is hungry and tired so he decides to rest under a tree. When he awakens all his caps are gone. He looks everywhere around him, but doesn't see his caps.

Finally the peddler looks up into the tree and sees a bunch of monkeys each wearing one of his caps. He shakes his finger at the monkeys, but they only imitate him. His shakes his fists at them; they shake their fists at him.

He throws his own cap to the ground in disgust. That works. All the caps fall around him. Monkeys are known mimickers, after all. The peddler piles the caps back upon his head and goes on his way.

Even if you have just a couple of kids you're reading to, this is a great story to act out. Grab a few caps out of the coat closet, pretend to be asleep, and have your children do whatever you do. It's a rollicking time.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Machines At Work

A couple of weeks back, Carrie told us that Kai loves Byron Barton's books. I checked out the ones we had in my library, and I think Kai is on to something. Barton's books about all the things that go are simple, colorful, and cute as the dickens.

And their not just for boys. I've got two examples of girls who love machines. Maya can sit on our sidewalk for a long time just watching the cars go by. They're right up there with dogs. And yesterday a little girl who comes to the library often with her father was oohing and aahing over the muscle cars in Road and Track magazine. I asked the dad if she got that from him. Nope, he doesn't particularly like cars, but they have a neighbor who has an actual drag racer.

So let's talk about one Carrie didn't mention in case she's looking for Kai's next Byron Barton book. Machines At Work is about construction work. The author talks directly to you. "Load that truck. Dump that rubble. Now let's eat some lunch."

The words are few, but you should spend as much time as your child wishes on each page talking about what these guys are doing and what the different machines are. I'm sure questions will arise.

The book ends with, "O.K. Stop the machines. Let's go home. More work tomorrow." What a great introduction to a day in the life of a construction worker.

One time the building next to the library I worked at was being knocked down. Let me tell you I could have put up posters, set up chairs, handed out popcorn. The kids sat by the windows and watched the backhoe knock down the walls all day long. I should have probably sat in the corner reading Machines At Work out loud from open to close.

No More Pacifier for Piggy!

Maya has never been much for pacifiers, but she has plenty of other addictions that will have to be broken someday. We've gone through a few already, like night feedings. It's never easy.

Bernette Ford has a new book to help with the doffing of the nook called No More Pacifier for Piggy!, illustrated by Sam Williams. I think it's pretty good, but I bet there are some other books out there that have worked well for others. If you have a favorite, or a tried and true technique, please share for those who are heading toward that stage soon.

In this book, Piggy is playing Peek-a-boo with Ducky. Only problem is Piggy can't smile at Ducky, and when he giggles, his pacifier falls on the ground and gets dirty. Piggy also can't be the one to say Peek-a-boo.

When Piggy's back-up pacifier falls and gets dirty, Piggy is sad, but Ducky helps him forget about it by playing together for hours. At the end of the day Piggy declares, "No more pacifier for Piggy!"

So perhaps this book will be helpful to you if you're thinking it's time. Good luck with that.

Just What Mama Needs

Today is Mother's Day. Maya and I bought Patty a tiller. I know that doesn't sound like much of a Mother's Day gift, but if you were to see the excitement Patty is showing for planting our very first garden, you'd understand. This is just what she needs right now.

A little dog named Abby is really good at perceiving what her mother needs in Just What Mama Needs, by Sharlee Glenn and illustrated by Amiko Hirao.

Abby has a big imagination (and quite a wardrobe). Each day of the week she dresses up as a different character and has adventures. On Monday she's a pirate, Tuesday a detective, Wednesday a cowgirl, and so one.

Luckily, each day Abby is pretending to be just what Mama needs. On Monday she needs help swabbing the deck. Tuesday help locating missing socks and underwear in the laundry room. Wednesday help rounding up the livestock (cats and hamsters).

On Sunday Abby wears her favorite clothes, and Mama has trouble figuring out what Abby is that day. When she does she realizes Abby is what she needs most of all.

So happy Mother's Day to all of you moms out there. I know we talk about dads a lot on here, but today is your day. Maya and I will try to make Patty's day special. I bet yours will be too. God bless all of you.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Maisy Goes to the Library

I've mentioned before my prejudice against series books. The Maisy books, by Lucy Cousins, are one of those that I hadn't given much of a chance. But then I was looking for good books about libraries and looked through Maisy Goes to the Library. I founds it's a nice, simple book with good text and cute illustrations.

Maisy goes to the library to read a book about fish in a nice, quiet place. She finds books about fish by the aquarium (WARNING: Not all libraries have aquariums, but some do.) and begins to read. Her friends come along and interupt her reading (WARNING: Finding a quiet place to read in a children's library is not an easy task.)

At storytime, the ostrich librarian reads "There was an old woman who swallowed a fly." The animals think this is pretty hilarious. They all check out there books and go outside to pretend they are the characters in the story they just heard.

Despite the inaccuracies mentioned above, this is a great book for preparing your children for a trip to the library, especially if you plan to allow your child to get his/her very own library card.

Red: Seeing Red All Around Us

You know how you never really notice a particular car until you happen to ride in one, then you notice every one you see on the street. Kids are that way about a lot of new things. As they take in new information, it's great for them to point something out when they encounter it day to day. Say, for example, you just spent some time talking with your toddler about dinosaurs. When you see a dinosaur walking down the street, you may say, "What's that?" And your child responds, "A brontosaurus."

I know that's not the best example. After all, scientists decided years ago that there's no such thing as a brontosaurus. So the likelihood that you'd see one walking down the street is pretty low. But you get the idea.

If your kids are learning their colors, there is a great series from Capstone Press about all the colors we encounter in our day. Red, by Sarah L. Schuette, is one we tried out.

The text works well for a wide range of ages, because you can read a little or a lot. Infants will enjoy the large, bold images while you read. If you're reading with younger toddlers, you may want to just read the short, bold text on each page. "Red has petals. Red has thorns. Red has flashing lights and horns." Then ask questions about the rose and the fire truck they see on the pages.

For older children there are larger bits of information in text boxes on the page. "Fire trucks move fast to get to fires quickly. Many fire trucks are red so that people can see them racing down the street."

At the end of this book, you may want to go outside and find other things that are red. Applying what you read in a book to everyday life is a great way for children to internalize what they have learned.

Wave Goodbye

Rob Reid is a teacher and a children's performer. He create hilarious programs for kids, uses a ton of music, and he can even hold his own at a poetry slam. You may remember seeing his name in the comments way back in December. Rob holds a special place in my heart, as he was my mentor when I first started working in a children's library.

I came across one of Rob's picture books, Wave Goodbye, illustrated by Lorraine Williams, in the library the other day and brought it home. I recommend this one for when you want to add a little movement to your book reading time. I think I recall having Rob perform this as a rhyme.

Wave Goodbye presents all of the things you have on your body that can be waved. "Wave your elbows, wave your toes. Wave your tongue, and wave your nose." You even get to wave your derriere.

Read it standing up, or better yet, memorize it and make up a tune for a raucous song.

I don't know how readily available this book is outside the midwest. You can also go to Rob's website to find the words:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Kitten's First Full Moon

Years ago we had a kitten named Pedro, who (as all kittens do) loved to bat at dangling things. When Christmas came around we dare not get a tree. Instead we hung live garland around the ceiling and hung ornaments from that. Pedro went nuts. He would bat at the ornaments (five feet or so out of his reach) and mewl pitifully.

The kitten in Kevin Henke's Kitten's First Full Moon has even less realistic aspirations. Kitten spies the full moon for the first time. But she thinks it's a bowl of milk.

She tries and tries to get it. She sits on the top step and sticks out her tongue (getting a bug instead). She jumps for it, chases it, and climbs a tree. Another bowl of milk eerily similar to the first one appears in a pond. So Kitten gets wet.

Luckily when she sulks back home there is a real bowl of milk waiting on the porch.

The black and white drawings in this book are absolutely stunning. No wonder it won the Caldecott in 2005.

I especially like the realistic behavior of the kitten. Each time the kitten fails to reach her goal, she stops to groom, cool as a cucumber, as though nothing happened.

I highly recommend this book for nighttime reading.

If Animals Kissed Good Night

Reading is such a great part of the bedtime routine. This last weekend Patty and I met several couples with new babies at my step-brother Corey's wedding. For each of them we got a copy of Pajama Time with a Mayareads bookmark shamelessly placed inside (if you all are reading this, welcome). That's the one we read before just about every nap.

A popular new idea at many libraries is nighttime storytimes. Children (and parents) are encouraged to come in their pajamas to hear bedtime stories and sing songs before going home to bed. They usually happen about six o'clock at night or so. Check out your library's website to see if they've started one, and if not maybe put a bug in your librarians ear. It's a really great way for parents who work during the day to attend programs with their kids.

If Animals Kissed Good Night, by Ann Whitford Paul and illustrated by David Walker, is a sweet new bedtime book. A mother and daughter imagine the different ways animals kiss their babies good night.

We begin with the sloths, who "would hang from a tree and start kissing soooo sloooowwwww..." As the sky goes from pink to black, we see the peacock "spin a fan dance and kiss with a kickity high-stepping prance" and the elephant "kiss and then sway and shower her calf with a wet, washing spray."

Periodically we revisit the sloths, who are "still...kissing good night."

The illustrations are soft and child-like, similar to the patterns on babies' pajamas and blankets. All and all a very lovely book.

Big Yellow Sunflower

Tomorrow Patty and Maya will go to the Friends Plant Sale in St. Paul. She's been diligently picking out veggies, flowers, and grasses. We can't wait to see what we can get to grow in our little yard. Maya loves to touch the flowers (and tear them off, of course).

I found a very novel little book at the library about flowers. Big Yellow Sunflower, by Frances Barry, is a unique book that, when you're done reading it, actually becomes a flower. As you read each page, you fold it back to become a petal. When you're all done, you have a big flower in your hands.

Each page depicts a different animal singing a little song to the sunflower throughout the stages of its life, from seed to flower. On the first, a little mouse sings, "Little seed, little seed, falling to the ground, what will you be?"

At the center of the flower, when you have all the petals opened, there is a fold-down page with instructions underneath for growing your own sunflower.

Pretty cool.