Thursday, June 26, 2008

Good Night, Little One

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

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

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

The Juggling Pug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Love Cats

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

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

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

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

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

The Boy Who was Raised by Librarians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 23, 2008

No Bed Without Ted

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

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

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

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

Duck's Key Where Can It Be?

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

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

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

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

Big and Little

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Edwina The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct

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

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

Matthew's Truck

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

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

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

Sally and the Purple Socks

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

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

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

Katiana says her favorite part is the circus.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young MacDonald

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

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

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

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

Here's a sample verse:

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

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

Friday, June 13, 2008

Whose Baby Am I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Go Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry Me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dance to Your Daddy

Dance to your daddy,

My little laddie.

Dance to your daddy,

My little lamb.
You shall have a fishy

In a little dishy.

You shall have a fishy

When the boat comes in.

Dance to your daddy,

My little lassie.

Dance to your daddy,

My little lamb.

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

You shall have an apple

When your daddy comes home.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Holly Bloom's Garden

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

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

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

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

Here's our little picker in action:

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Way Up High in a Tall Green Tree

So one of the next projects for our little yard is to make sure that we have an adequate climbing tree. We've got a lot of very tall bushes in the back, but only one tree. Unfortunately, the lowest branches are about seven feet from the ground. Maybe we'll have to find a way to make some steps up the trunk. Otherwise it's the cherry trees by the driveway.

The little girl in Way Up High in a Tall Green Tree, by Jan Peck and illustrated by Valeria Petrone, doesn't let anything get in her way. As she climbs she encounters a variety of tree dwellers.

One thing I especially appreciate about this book is the inclusion of some very unique animals you might not get to talk about unless you see them at the zoo. Along with the familiar butterflies, bats, and birds, our little climber encounters an ocelot, a kinkajou, and a gecko.

The catchy text gives some great descriptors, like "Way up high in a tall green tree, I spy a tree frog winking at me. Hello, tree frog. Google-eyed, tree frog. See you later, tree frog. Climb away."

At the top of the tree, she finds the moon. Climbing back down again, she finds Daddy. "Guess what, Daddy? I climbed to the top of a tall green tree!" Just as you're wondering where this little girl lives that she would see all of these animals, you find that she has actually been in her bed all along using her imagination (Are those real animals or stuffed?)

Early Literacy Tip of the Day

I read an article recently in a parenting magazine espousing the benefits of play for children. TV, Gameboys, and organized sports don't count. Kids need to use their imaginations. One of the suggestions is to take your kids outside, rain, shine, or cold. Looks like we're doing pretty good in that department.

Even babies learn this way. The author noted that when babies and toddlers drop things over the side of their high chair, they're learning. Looks like we're excelling in that department.

The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas and Grandpas!

As she has so often done before, Nana really saved the day the other day with a short-notice visit. I suppose it helps that Maya has her wrapped around her finger. Nana days are great for Maya since they're all about Maya; none of that other stuff like broken sewers getting in the way of the fun.

Sally Lloyd-Jones has written a handy, if tongue-in-cheek, owners manual for grandkids, The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas and Grandpas!, illustrated by Michael Emberley. It begins, "When you have a grandma or a grandpa, you have to sing and dance for them and paint lovely pictures for them."

Having grandparents is a big responsibility for youngsters. "You need to scream and run away when they pretend to be a monster. And let them chase you around the backyard." But a kid's gotta' do what a kid's gotta' do. "You must always let them give you presents. And keep you up too late."

With all the humor in this book, Lloyd-Jones doesn't neglect to get down to the real essentials in the end. "But mostly, when you have a grandma or a grandpa, you need to kiss them. And hug them. And always love them. Because that's what grandmas and grandpas like best in all the world."

The illustrations depict a variety of animal "grands". "The Ultimate Guide..." would make a great gift for your folks to let them know how much you appreciate them.