Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Dragons Are Singing Tonight

The Dragons Are Singing Tonight
Written by: Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by: Peter Sis

One of my sons and I really like picture book dragons. What's not to like about breathing fire? I have some favorite dragon books, like George the Dragon, and Herbert The Timid Dragon. I have run across some slightly odd dragon stories, like Hush, Little Dragon. (I had to read that book twice in a row I was so taken aback!) The Dragons Are Singing Tonight is different from the rest as it's a book of poems about dragons. I was thrilled to find this in my tiny rural library just down the road. This lovely little library appears to have about 10 poetry books, and this happens to be one of them, whichI think speaks well of the book. The poetry in The Dragons Are Singing Tonightis written by poetry man Jack Prelutsky himself. The illustrations by Peter Sis are very worthy, as you can see by the cover. I think you'll like this one whether you are a dragon-lover, poetry-lover, or neither!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve

Minverva Louise on Christmas Eve
By: Janet Morgan Stoeke

If you have not yet met Minerva Louise, I highly encourage you to do so soon. She is great! Minerva Louise is a pleasant, sweet, slightly dull, and very funny chicken who lives on a farm of course. She is always mistaking one thing for another, inspiring giggles along the way. In Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve this silly chicken just can't understand the farmer in the red hat. She tells him plainly to watch out or he will fall, but to no avail --he slips down the chimney! She decides to follow him and is amazed that there is a new tree inside the house, which must have gotten cold, and the white hen with wings on top must be the one who laid the beautiful colored eggs that adorn it! Minerva Louise has had about enough when she sees the farmer in the red hat putting his stuff in her people's socks, but in the end she is happy to get her own present, and enjoys it just as a sweet and silly chicken should.

Also try: Minerva Louise and the Red Truck or A Friend for Minerva Louise!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bah! Humbug!

Bah! Humbug?
by Lorna and Lecia Balian

Has your older sibling ever tried to ruin your fun? If you have an older sibling --I would imagine so! The rotten older brother in Bah! Humbug? is set on proving to his faithful little sister that there is indeed NO Santa Claus. Of course that's not true, and Santa has a magical way of steering clear of all the very creative traps this brother has set. In this book there are moments where a picture is worth a thousand words!

I love this book as much as I love Humbug Witch! Author Lorna Balian knows how to make my kids and me smile. Before this book was back in print (with what look to be improved illustrations by Lecia) my mom went to great lengths to find a used copy for me, which I treasure. I hope you get a chance to read this story sometime, especially if you can do so with a child.

More Christmas books I'd like to read, or the woes of not having a large book store nearby:

A Pirate's Night Before Christmas

A New Improved Santa

The Night Before Christmas: Tenth Anniversary Edition

Claude the Dog: A Christmas Story

Drummer Boy
Mary Engelbreit's The Night Before Christmas
Has anybody read these? Loved them?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Peter Spier's Christmas

When I was a child my mother started a holiday tradition of giving each of her children a Christmas book. When I moved from home I had quite a collection, and thanks to my mom, it's still growing. One of the first books I received as a part of this tradition was Peter Spier's Christmas. It's still one of my favorites. I always love Peter Spier's books, and this one is no exception. This book is wordless, but don't worry --there is plenty to talk about! The pictures tell their own story and there are also plenty of details in the illustrations. This is a book you can look at for a long time with your child, but your children might end up doing that on their own!

Unfortunately this book appears to be out of print. It shouldn't be! Perhaps your library will still hold a copy.

A couple Christmas favorites my children enjoy that are still available are: Dream Snowby Eric Carle, and Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson. I would love to hear about your favorite Christmas books! Enjoy the season!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Books for Babies!

Dear Zoo: A Lift the Flap Book by Rod Campbell

When my oldest son was a baby we had a bedtime routine of reading the same books before he went to sleep. After reading the books I would kiss him good night and he would go right to sleep. Oh, if only every child was this easy! Routines are helpful for all babies and children, and so is reading, so perhaps that's where the bedtime story ritual comes in so handy. All three of my children enjoyed Dear Zoo when they were babies, and it's my all time favorite baby book. It has animals, flaps, simple brightly colored pictures, and repetition. What more can you ask for?

Other tried and true baby books from my house include (all in board book form of course): Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Baby Booky: Booky (Baby Booky) by Mary Engelbreit. If there's another baby in time I will have to add Tomie's Baa Baa Black Sheep since I am in love with it. What are your favorite baby books?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Love You the Purplest

Written by: by Barbara M. Joosse
Illustrated by: Mary Whyte

Those of you who have more than two children to love can certainly understand how meaningful the words "sibling rivalry" become. Recently my husband came up with a great idea for two of my children: a back-scratching contest. Of course he was first to offer his back as available, with himself as the judge. While scratching, my son asked who was best --it was a contest after all. I rolled my eyes, weary of this question, because even when it's not a contest this comes up a lot between my three children. My husband simply noted how one hand was a little bigger and was a strong scratcher while the other hand was more petite and was a gentle scratcher.
"But who's the best?" my son demanded.
"You are the strongest scratcher," my husband told him, "and your sister is the softest." Those of you who have read, I Love You the Purplest surely would have been reminded of this book also. I felt relief as I relived the feelings of this book, and noted to myself that I could use this as a way of dissipating rivalry more often.

The mother in I Love You the Purplest has two sons close in age who engage in some friendly brotherly competition on more than one occasion. But the sweet mother reminds them each of their differences, and helps them understand how they are both wonderful and perfect to her. As they drift off to sleep she loves each a different color, and together she loves them purplest.

This book is probably best enjoyed by children with siblings, and at a time when they are willing to snuggle in for a quiet read. I think of this as a book that speaks to adults also --as it spoke to me --who have more than one child to absolutely love the purplest.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
Written by Patty Lovell
Illustrated by: David Catrow

This week I have a guest post from a brilliant mother, writer, and reader-friend of mine, ShaLisa. She gave this book as a gift to me once, and now it's a favorite of mine. Enjoy!

The first time I read this story to my children, the book seemed only to have inspired them to see exactly how many pennies they could balance on their teeth. However, the message of the book is much greater than this balancing skill which it invited, and with repeated readings, my children understand a little more each time, how anybody, including themselves can be proud of who they are --just the way they are.

Molly Lou Melon stood just taller than her dog and was the recipient of loving advice from a loving grandmother who, you will discover when you look at the last page, learned a valuable lesson in life to share with her Molly. Even when faced with the challenge of moving to a new school, Molly stood tall.

The illustrations are delightful, my favorite being the friend pictured on a couple of the pages, with awed eyes and sweet admiration. A child will be blessed to learn the same lesson as Molly Lou Melon. Molly, with buck teeth and big beautiful eyes, set out to make the world better for having lived in it. And so she did.

If you like this book, try I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry

Similar to my venture for the perfect nursery rhyme book , I went on a venture for the perfect first poetry book. This wasn't the book I ended up with, but if it would have been around then, it would have been perfect! I'm not going to say I'm a poetry expert, or even that I've seen a huge number of early poetry books, but this book is different from what I have seen, and perfect for little ones.

Here's A Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry contains little poems for little people with little attention spans. Perfect. There is almost always only one or two poems per page. The words are large, making it easy to read, as well as making the words a visual feature for little eyes. The illustrations are large and simple, colorful, and of course adorable. You can tell that by looking at the cover, can't you?

Our local library has this book, and we have checked it out and enjoyed it more than once. All of my children enjoy it, and we all seem to have chosen our favorite poems. As much as I would love too, I don't buy all the books I love. But if I did, I would most certainly own this one. If I ever venture to find a first poetry collection again --and I might--this will be my first choice.

When do you go on your first poetry book expedition? Well, that depends on who you ask. My opinion is that you can't start poetry too early. I think the rhymes and illustrations in this book would easily please a baby if read in short intervals. Depending of course on temperament, and how accustomed to being read to a child is, I think this would also make a great one or two year-old birthday gift. I know my children would have loved it. Beyond that certainly the three to five year old set would enjoy it. It's wonderful to find books that grow with a child! Rhyming is an important literacy skill, and hearing rhymes over and over has got to be one of the most enjoyable ways to acquire it. Babies love rhyming, and so do young children. And when it's this well done --so do I.

I'm not the only one who appreciates this book. It is currently up for the Beehive Award for 2009!

To hear another book-lover succinctly discuss the importance of rhyme, and her perfect nursery rhyme book, click here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Roger The Jolly Pirate

It's always exciting when you find that the author of a book you highly approve of has something in common with you. Like Brett Helquist! We share the same home state! He graduated from a favorite college of mine! And well, what do you know, he is also the illustrator of the best-selling Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. (The things you can learn from the back jacket: amazing).

Roger doesn't scowl, he smiles; he doesn't growl, he grins. He is a jolly pirate. Unfortunately, that's pretty unpopular with the other pirates. To make matters worse, he doesn't know the larward from the starboard, or the mizzard from the main! To make amends, Roger tries to make a cake and make it up to them...and well, his baking skills are right in line with his pirating skills--and a baking catastrophe ensues. Luckily for Roger, this mistake benefits his ship, and the other pirates no longer complain but celebrate him--permanently!

If you have a pirate lover I don't think you can go wrong with this book, and who doesn't care even just a little for pirates? I've noticed amongst the many pirate picture books out there, some are just a little too...well.. jolly to be about pirates. Afterall, pirates are criminals! But Roger, the Jolly Pirate strikes a great balance for children with the lovable Roger and the villanous crew. Plus there's a pirate ditty to belt at the end, and a plot to boot (phew)! Perhaps it's not necessary to mention, since Helquist illustrated a best-selling series, but really-- the illustrations are noteworthy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Emma Kate

In Emma Kate, a little girl and an elephant are the best of friends. They go to school together, eat lunch together, and most importantly reads books together. Then, at the end of the day, the two say a sweet goodnight to Mom and Dad.

Does anyone else like Patricia Polacco? I do. Patricia has a very original style of illustrating, and once you are familiar with one or two of her books, they are easy to pick out as well as fun. I have not read all of Polacco's many books, but so far, this is my favorite. Elephants are heavy, and wrinkly, and they have long eyelashes --all fun things to notice with your child when viewing these excellent illustrations.

My three year old daughter and I really enjoy reading Emma Kate together. I began wondering if this story might have her thinking a little, when after a few reads she began asking what the little girl's name was. We know that the mom calls her daughter sweet pea at bedtime, just the same as my daughter. But the elephant is of course Emma Kate. Or is it? It might take a while for a child to catch this! This book is worth rereading to find new details in the pictures, but Emma Kate is still short, sweet, and one to smile through together.

To enjoy some Emma Kate printables, see Patricia Polacco's website here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Humbug Witch

This has to be the most charming witch you have ever met! However, she can't seem to get her spells to work right. She tries all kinds of peanut butter- ketchup potions, and casting-the-cat-away spells to no avail. This adorable witchy-witch then gives up for bedtime, and it becomes a little more clear what's in the way of her magic. The first time you read Humbug Witch, you and your child will enjoy the surprise, but you will not tire of reading it over and over. Don't miss this one! In my mind, this is a book that just happens to be extra fun to read around Halloween, but it's also a classic I wouldn't want to be without.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Hoodwinked, written and illustrated by Arthur Howard, is full of kid appeal. The story features Mitzi, a small red-haired witch, who likes everything to be creepy. She prefers creepy breakfast cereal, creepy slippers, creepy relatives, and now she is searching for a really creepy pet. The lady at the creepy pet store, (who has long blue teeth!) tries several times to please Mitzi, but some pets are too buggy, some are too batty, and some Mitzi decides just need some thinking over. What to do? Mitzi's new pet practically comes knocking on her front door, but is it creepy enough?

Mitzi reminds me an awful lot of my children, who only think they like all things creepy. This creepy-loving, small and freckled, red-headed witch is anything but creepy, which makes the illustrations perfect for young children. My three year old daughter really enjoys this book, but even as uncreepy as it really is, for younger kids it's best read in the daylight, because according to my daughter, nightlight shadows have a tendency to become a little creepy otherwise.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Too Many Pumpkins

Isn't there just something magical about pumpkins? All kids seem to love them. Even more so, there is something magical about Too Many Pumpkins: filling the porch, the lawn, and kitchen. This story gives you and your child your fill of pumpkins, and all the magical things that go with them. The pictures in this book, by Megan Lloyd, are wonderfully detailed and perfect for entertaining old and young eyes both.

The cute old gardener Rebecca Estelle remembers a time where they had nothing to eat but pumkins for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and so she never wants to see a pumpkin again. But somehow a stubborn pumpkin plant, originating from a smashed pumpkin, grows despite neglect, and Rebecca Estelle meets her match of pumpkins. She manages to use up the pumpkins she thought she detested, to the delight of the town.

I love the fact that this story is based on a true experience by author Linda White's grandmother, who lived during the great depression, and really did eat pumpkins for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. An enjoyable book my kids and I haven't tired of yet-- and although we read it anytime, it's perfect for October!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Little Red Riding Hood

This is my favorite version of Little Red Riding Hood, which is retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Honestly my love of this book has everything to do with the pictures! I never tire of them. I find Tricia an enchanting illustrator, drawing a world with beautiful people and illustrations that have a very magical feel, rich in detail and color.

The Little Red Riding Hood in this book is as sweet and innocent as can be, and the wolf is everything a wily wolf should be. Riding Hood is lured off the path to pick a bouquet for Grandmother, while the wolf runs to Grandmother's house to take care of business. Be warned that this retelling is closer to the original story than some others, including Grandmother and Red Riding Hood getting swallowed hungrily, only to come out well and whole again when cut out by the huntsman. This is the version that I grew up with, but some may prefer the less horrific hiding-in-the-closet version, in which case they must look elsewhere.

There is a very clear moral for the little girl in this story, which is that she should have done just what her mother asked her to do--stay on the path. If you chance to meet this book, sit a spell and be drawn into Little Red Riding Hood's richly drawn world. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Dragon Snatcher

The next time you are at the library, notice how many cute animal picture books there are. There are many, and my six-year old no longer approves of them! In order to persuade him that he really is not done with picture books (especially for independent reading) I have been searching for picture books that appeal to him. These would include anything with adventure, fantasy, or a hero (and no cute dogs or cats to speak of). I have found a few of these books, and hope to find a few more! The Dragon Snatcher,by M.P. Robertson, is a book all three of my children love and approve of. At times I would like to have seen this story expanded a bit, even with just another sentence or two, but I think the fact that it is simple and short is part of what makes it special.

George loves to read, and one night as he is nestled in bed with a pile of books, his dragon wakens him from outside the window with a worried look. That night they go on a journey and discover a bad wizard with a bad plan. They takes strides to stop him, but something surprising happens to save the day for dragons everywhere, as well as the wizard's icy heart.

This book is written simply, but feels like a true fantasy book. The storyline is interesting, but the illustrations are incredible. Together the combination is absolutely winning for my little people.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In a Blue Room

At my library, they entice picture book readers by standing books up on top of the low bookshelves. This is one of my favorite places to search for great books, because the children's librarian here has such great taste. Because this book still had a clean and intact cover as it stood on top of the shelf, I could tell it was new, and the beautiful cover illustration drew me in immediately. I have not come back! In a Blue Roomis my current number one favorite when it comes to picture books.

In a very yellow room, a mother brings sleep-encouraging items to her little one. Consistently, the little girl demands each to be blue. None are, but her mother manages to convince her sleepy daughter to settle in for bedtime. Finally, as the little girl can withstand sleep no longer, she finally (and wonderfully) gets her wish for blue.

The text and pictures in this book are a match made in heaven. Tricia Tusa does great illustrations, and I have seen some, but after seeing this book, I would like to see more. They are perfect! Each illustration is done at a beautiful and creative angle, with details that give a lot of feeling to the home and atmosphere, and the relationship between mother and daughter. (I wish I could live in the adorable house!) Tusa also has a way of making magic known in her pictures, as she does in this book.

Jim Averbeck is an author I am not familiar with, but I hope this is not his last children's book. One thing I appreciate about a children's book author, is when it's obvious that they are truly familiar with children. This appears to be true with Averbeck. The little girl's insistence rings very true to me during the reading. The mother is as sweet and patient as all mothers wish to be, but also as inventive. This is a simple but clever story, one that can be read and appreciated at different levels by various ages, making it a book that allows much revisiting.

To see an interview with artist Tricia Tusa, click here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

George and The Dragon

George and the Dragon, written and illustrated by Chris Wormell, is a book that took me by surprise. When I started into this book my thoughts were along the lines of "Wow! This is a really great, simple book for young children who like dragons." It seems like just what a dragon-loving child would like, as it hits on all the major points of dragon life, with accompanying illustrations. But then there's more. This book takes a clever turn, and the dragon is faced with his own fear, an amusing one.

Have you seen a dragon brush away an army? Have you seen a dragon steal a princess, smash a castle wall, and burn down a forest with his fiery breath? Have you ever seen a scared dragon? The illustrations in this book clearly show you. Written with short and simple but expertly crafted sentences, this book is a must-have for dragon lovers! My six year old recently told me that he didn't want to pick books with me, he doesn't like books that are about dogs and cats. (And that's apparently all I choose.) He likes heroes. This story meets both of our good-book standards, is without dogs and cats, and has a very small and unlikely hero to boot.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mercy Watson to the Rescue

Would you giggle a little if your kids routinely said, "I want my toast with a great deal of butter on it?" Well, I do. I don't say that phrase, and don't know anyone else who often does, besides Kate DeCamillo in this series of early chapter books.

Mercy is funny pig whose favorite thing to eat is--what else-- but toast, with a great deal of butter on it. She is dearly loved by her human family, the Watson's, and strongly disliked by her neighbor. She is spoiled and manages to get into lots of trouble, but still, she is a lovable pig. Every page in these books has an illustration as well as fairly large words. The stories are pretty simple, but fortunately the vocabulary isn't. These books make everyone in my family laugh together. Chris Van Dusen, who also created If I Built a Car, does the fantastic and funny illustrations for these books. They are right on the mark for the story, and are humorous themselves. The books are great early chapter book read-alouds. Although my family hasn't tested them yet for independent reading, I suspect they would be good first chapter books as well.

When my kids start talking about toast with a great deal of butter, I secretly applaud inside. I know reading aloud is doing just what I hope it will. Besides inviting my kids to find the joy in reading, and sharing knowledge about the world that we may not otherwise get around to learning about, I know they are learning a lot about vocabulary and language. That makes me happy. And Mercy Watson makes me laugh.