Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Time for a break!

Due to activity restrictions and the upcoming arrival of a new member of our family, I am going to be taking a break from A Tuesday Story. Feel free to look through the archives, and if you would like to guest post I would be happy to post for you! Email me at ATuesdayStoryatgmaildotcom!

As Always --Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Hello, Goodbye Window

Written by: Norton Juster
Illustrated by Chris Raschka

Many fortunate children have fond memories of grandparents, like my children do. In our life grandparent's have a special way with our children and they are very important friends and teachers to them as well. In another favorite book, The Hello, Goodbye Window, a little girl's grandparents are just as special to her. This book is sweet and meaningful to parents, and children enjoy it too!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Things that are Most in the World

Things That Are Most in the World
Written by: Jodi Barrett
Illustrated by: John Nickle

Upon reading the title Things That Are Most in the World, I was led to thoughts of a non-fiction book full of fascinating facts. This book is a far cry from that! In what appears to be true to the author Jodi Barrett's style, this book contains the silly, unbelievable, whimsical situations that could only occur in fiction! The text relies on the ending "est", with each page containing something that is the most --using the est ending. What is the hottest thing you can think of? Barrett is sure it is a fire-breathing dragon eating pepperoni (pictured on the cover), and indeed that sounds and looks hot, hot, hot! What about the silliest, or the highest? The stickiest?

When used as a read-aloud this book begs for conversation, not only about the authors crazy ideas (including a giant wad of bubble gum as the stickiest!) but about you and your child's own ideas of what is most. Endless extensions of this book are possible --from simply thinking through things that are the most, to finding real things that are the most, to writing your own book with either or both! The very last page of this book pleased me, as it is meant to be photocopied and filled with your child's very own "est" word, sentence and illustration! I recommend you get reading and thinking, because this book is one of the silliest I've found!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Long Night Moon

Written by: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by: Mark Siegel

I have always loved the moon, although I have had more time to look at it in days past. Recently my little boy observed on his own that the moon looked like it had a face. I regret to say that I did not go outside and look at it with him during this moment, but I did help him understand how the moon looked to have a face as it shined through his bedroom window. The moon is a mysterious thing, doing such amazing things as pulling and tugging at the ocean and washing the world in silver light. There are many tales of the moon to choose from, and so many are great bedtime stories. This story, Long Night Moon, is by a favorite author of mine, Cynthia Rylant. It begins like this, "Long ago Native Americans gave names to the full moons they watched throughout the year. Each month had a moon. And each moon had its name..."

As you might guess, this book goes through each month's full moon with a few simple sentences for each. The pictures, done in charcoal, are fantastic and well thought out. The end of the book includes a few paragraphs by artist Mark Siegel, and its obvious how serious he took his pursuit of illustrating Rylant's magical words. It's wonderful to hear from the artist, whose role is huge in any children's picture book.

This book is a quiet one, for a quiet moment, under the light of the full moon at its best! Perhaps more appreciated by the slightly older or more thoughtful child, it does present an opportunity for pursuing more information related to the Native American moons. Perhaps you can research this together. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Junie B. Jones

Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook
Written by: Barbara Park
Illustrated by: Denise Brunkus

Goodness. Can I really write about the controversial series of Junie B. Jones? Well, today yes I can, because yesterday we laughed our socks off at Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook.

What is so controversial about this innocent young lady named Junie B. Jones? Shall I start with the good or the not so good? Let me start with the good, and keep it to what I think it good and then I will start with the not so good, and keep it to what I think is the not so good myself.

So good stuff first off --these books are hilarious! This Junie B. character is very funny, and author Barbara Park obviously has a knack for humor. She created her five-year-old character based on a "wild child" (in her words) from another book of hers, The Kid in The Red Jacket, which I have yet to read. Although Junie B. is a bit rambunctious, and definitely exaggerated, she is also just that sort of kid, and she also has a good heart. She reminds me of a kid or two I know, only she is just a little bit more overdone, making her a bit more funny in her bookish sort of way.

After reading a handful of Junie B. books aloud I think it is safe to say that most of the books in this series have a moral. The moral is most often one your children already know, but at the very least they will figure it out far before Junie B., and that inevitably makes them feel quite smart, and quite moral, which is a good thing! In Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook, Junie B. learns about the Lost and Found and that "finders keepers, losers weepers" is perhaps not such a good rule after all --especially when it involves your special fuzzy black mittens from Grandpa, but even when it involves a handy dandy pen that writes in four colors that you really wish you could keep!

Although Park's writing is exaggerated, the feelings are quite often on the mark with real children. I can remember thinking my school secretary was quite mean and nasty, even if I wasn't articulate enough to call her to myself "the grouchy typing lady" --that is precisely what I thought of her. Junie B. is a character who makes mistakes, like all children, but typically ends up realizing them and fixing them up. She gets in trouble at school, like some other wild children I know, and she talks a lot, kind of like the author did when she was young. If your child is not that kind of kid, you can bet she knows someone who is!

On to the not so good things about the Junie B. Jones series-- and well, that has to do with the language. Wait! Not that kind of language! I mean the grammar and word choices! Here's the dilemma, in my mind: Junie B. has some exceptional use of vocabulary, like using "attractive winter coat" rather than her cute or pretty or favorite coat, which is more likely to come out of a five-year-old's mouth. This vocabulary combined with the inability to use correct past tense and other standard fiver-year-old grammar seems a little unrealistic. Typically by five most kids use better grammar more of the time than Junie B., unless they are having some problems in the language area. If they are having some problems in the language area, they are very unlikely to use sophisticated descriptive terms (as cute as they are) like Junie B. does. What I think the author is going for, is to make this little character of hers realistic but also exaggerated, and both the unfortunate grammar and fancy terms play a part. It is an effective technique! It may not be realistic, but it seems to do the job. Children find this girl funny, and this improper language combined with many great descriptive terms adds to the humor.

What if your child has some grammar or language issues herself? Should you stay away from Junie B.? Well, that is a matter of opinion. I will tell you my opinion, which is somewhere in the midst of the trenches of motherhood with rusty speech language pathology skills floating around in my head. If my child was struggling with grammar this book wouldn't be my first pick. However, if my child was also a struggling reader and I was struggling to find something captivating, I absolutely would not be deterred from Junie B. This series has proven to be highly rated and enjoyed by children, which would override my concern about any ill effects towards my child's language usage. I think the humor and enjoyment would outweigh the possible detriment, especially if I were engaging in many quality language rich activites --like talking to my child with proper language myself and reading many other quality books aloud. Children do learn by listening, and they do tend to imitate what they read, so personal judgement and perhaps professional judgement should be used in each situation! For those children with typically developing language, I would not be concerned in the least that this would affect normal speech and language as they are likely to have acquired normal grammar by the time this book is read or read aloud to them, and the incorrectness will only add to what they find humorous. But they might even pick up some cute vocabulary, like attractive!

Finally, do I feel slightly guilty reading a beginner's chapter book aloud when these are so well-suited for reading independently? Well, not guilty enough. If I hesitate to turn the mixer on because I won't be able to hear my husband reading Junie B.'s ending remarks -- it is obvious this is a good read aloud choice! If my husband will come into the room and color with the younger child and encourage me to keep reading to the children please (because he gets a kick out of these books also) then this has become an entire family read aloud --and that is of value. But you can bet these same books, likely along with the rest of this beginning chapter book series will be read independently also at a later date. That is a good thing! Reading, but also enjoying, are worthy goals.

Next on the Junie B. agenda is Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy. My niece tells me this is her favorite. This niece reminds me an awful lot of Junie B. and my children and I can't wait to laugh all the way through it!

To hear more about the Junie B. debate, read this fun insightful article here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Goodnight Goodnight

Goodnight Goodnight
by Eve Rice

Here is another classic goodnight book. Written in 1980 by Eve Rice, it looks to me remarkably like the 2009 Caldecott Medal winner, A House in The Night. Both are sweet patterned nighttime books in nighttime colors, but have a bit of a different flavor even if they do look similar. Let me tell you about Goodnight Goodnight.

The first line of this book reads, "Goodnight came over the rooftops slowly." And with that, goodnight comes to many people in the town, each doing different things at this goodnight time, but each settling down for night --except for the kitten who wishes to find someone to play with! Even the kitten ends up with a goodnight, and the town is ready for sleep.

'Similar to A House in the Night, my children were not taken with this book upon first read. They preferred to choose books with brighter pictures and more exciting themes. However, even if I am still the one to choose this familiar book from the library it is more accepted, even enjoyed, and the kitten is more appreciated in his efforts to continue playing!

The illustrations in this book are done with pen and ink, lithographic crayon, and an yellow overlay of acetate. Yes, this is news to me and I need to do more research to understand! What I do know though, is the pictures are appealing and soft and very suitable to nighttime in their black, white, and yellow way, even if they don't excite children immediately. Neither does bedtime! This book is likely more difficult to find for purchase than a newer book, and certainly more difficult than the Caldecott Medal book it reminds me of. However, I would not be surprised if you could easily find and enjoy this classic at your library. There is something comforting about these well-worn library books, and rechecking them out and enjoying them over and over. I recommend this one, and of course, it is best read at bedtime!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The House in the Night

The House in the Night
By Susan Marie Swanson
Pictures by Beth Krommes

The Caldecott Medal is awarded to the artist of the most distinguished picture book of the year. The House in the Night is the winner of this medal for 2009. When I heard this title was the winner I was unfamiliar with it, but eager to read it. Author Susan Marie Swanson wrote The House in The Night based on a traditional nursery rhyme. Of course this makes me want to search out this old rhyme which begins, "this is the key to the kingdom." Swanson's book begins, "Here is the key to the house." Swanson continues with a pattern of telling you about another object, relating to the previous one, all related to nighttime.

In an effort to be honest, I have to say that this book upon first reading was not impressive to me. Yes, I liked it, but it did not stand out. However, after reading it more than once I have come to appreciate the pattern of the writing more. My children were not enthralled upon first reading either, but this book strikes me as one that when owned and reread could become a familiar and well-loved comfort book through its gentle subtle ideas and pattern. It is worth reading, and thinking about. I even feel intrigued to use repeated readings to see if the story does indeed grow on my children!

In talking about this book, as with all picture books, it's important for us not to forget the pictures! Since the Caldecott Medal is awarded to the artist of the book rather than the author, in this case it feels especially important to dote on these lovely illustrations. They are lovely done in only the nighttime scheme of black, white, and yellow, using scratchboard and watercolor. To learn more about this interesting and beautiful technique you can visit illustrator Beth Krommes web page as I did. I love the unique look of her method! The illustrations are remarkable and worthy of an award. Especially lovely are the stars, which shine in such a lovely black, white and yellow way! I am very inclined to search out Krommes first book, Grandmother Winter, whose illustrations have an appealing gentle color and intricate snowflakes I want to just study! I hope I can track this book down.

Do check out The House in the Night if you haven't already, and tell me what you think! Next week I will tell you of the familiar nighttime book this winner reminded me of, Goodnight Goodnight, by Eve Rice.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Looking Closely Through the Forest

Looking Closely Through the Forest
By Frank Serafini

There are times when you are grateful for other people's mistakes, because they lead you places you otherwise might not have been. I am so glad someone misplaced this book! Clearly nonfiction, this book was erroneously placed in fiction picture books A section. Haphazardly they did this, but I am grateful!

Frank Serafini is apparently a talented person whose books range from his looking closely series to professional books about using reading workshop in the classroom. For some reason, that he is so knowledgeable about something as useful as reading workshop, and also created such a great nonfiction book with his own photographs, is intriguing. I would like to read more. Obviously he is talented!

Looking closely through the forest is a gem! All objects of the forest, you first see only a small orange-sized circle of the item surrounded by an otherwise black page. Your child and you get to guess before turning the page to see the whole picture revealed. Along with the entire gorgeous photograph revealed there are also a few paragraphs with interesting basic information about the object and its place in the forest. Did you know that the black marks on an Aspen tree are called beards and they mark where former branches once grew? My children were thrilled they could recognize the small circular view prior to viewing the entire picture of the aspen tree! They also now know it is called an aspen tree, not just the tree with the white bark.

I love this book for the thinking it creates, the interactions that can occur, and of course the broadening of knowledge. We can't wait to read Looking Closely Across the Desert!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Owl Moon

Owl Moon
Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by John Schoenherr

Have you ever been owling? Me neither, but this books makes me want too. The young boy in this book is out for his first owling with his Dad, and he is excited. He is quiet, he is patient and the moon is full. The situation and setting in this story call out for descriptive language and talented author Jane Yolen does not leave room for disappointment. My first grade teacher-mom uses this book to teach descriptive language to aid her student's writing. This is a quiet and fun little book with a happy boy, a dark night, and a big-eyed owl. Owl Moon is the winner of the Caldecott medal in 1988.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bedtime for Frances

Bedtime for Frances
Written by Russell Hoban
Illustrated by Garth Williams

When I was a child I owned and enjoyed the classic story A Bargain for Frances. I love this story still, and so does my daughter. However, I didn't read Bedtime for Frances until I was all grown up. Oh how I love this story also! In this book Frances seems to want to go to bed, but there are many things she has forgotten about, requiring her to get up many times. Her parents are so patient, so practical and calm and yet so parentally easy to relate too, it is delightful (even if like me you would have lost your patience sooner, and even if like me you don't believe in spanking)! What a sweet Daddy Frances has! Finally, with a little extra motivation Frances makes it to sleep. Who hasn't had a little Frances of their own up and up again from bedtime? As a parent this book is enjoyable. As a child, this book is enjoyable. A great combination! I came across this story first in The 20th-Century Children's Book Treasury: Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud which is a very fun collection!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

About Rodents

About Rodents
Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

There is much to love in this book, and much to learn. Each page contains simple sentences with simple facts. The facing page has amazingly realistic and beautiful illustrations. I have never seen a cuter, fatter hibernating Hazel Dormouse! (Okay, I haven't before seen Hazel Dormouse). At the end of this simple but hugely informative book of many many different rodents are miniature numbered plates, matching the pages, containing more detailed information about each rodent. So much to learn, during so many readings! Such BEAUTIFUL illustrations! This is a book which causes me to immediately search for more from the same author-illustrator team. About Rodents is a book in the"...About"series, which includes About Birds, and About Fish. I am sorry that my library contains no others. This is one of those books you want to own, along with every other in the series and by the same creators. So perfect!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems

Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems
Written by: Kristine O'Connell George
Illustrated by: Kate Kiesler

I am fascinated with poems because I know there is magic in them. I love the brevity of many and the feeling in so few well chosen words. I know that they are good for children, even if I can't articulate why without passing on reasons given by someone else. Poems are mysteriously good things to me in their short but true breath of meaning. (I do like the short ones best)!

Introducing poetry to children can be fun when a theme is involved, especially if it revolves around their interests, or better yet your combined interests. This book of camping poems is a fun mix of thinking and lighthearted poems, poems about marshmallows and sleeping bags, owls and caves, and many other camping situations. Although these couple dozen poems are probably best for the slightly older child, I can see the illustrations and rhythm pleasing younger ones.Enjoy a fun and different collection of poems meant of course, especially for you campers! Check it out!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Jody's Beans
Written by Malachy Doyle
Illustrated by Judith Allibone

The magic of seeds is magnificent, and it's always fun to show a child the magic for the first time. Or the second. Or the third. I revel in the magic of sprouting seeds still. In Jody's Beans a sweet Grandpa take the opportunity to share this magic with his granddaughter in a project that's just between the two. Judging from the illustrations, Jody comes from a home alive with many plants and gardens, but this project, being her own, provides a different kind of wonder. With a hard-to-notice background story going on, this book is one to read and reread again. Even better, it invites a gardening project for you and your children. If you don't garden, this book is still worth the read, because the magic of a seed is magic for everyone!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Gardener

The Gardener
Written by Sarah Stewart
Illustrated by David Small

Over and over I hear of so many people affected by the current economic state. It seems one thing leads to another and the effects keep rolling until in some way or another, I think it's affected us all. This is not the first time the world has felt a pinch however. In The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart, the story unfolds in another era of troubled times. Sent away to her Uncle's bakery, Lydia will dearly miss her country garden. Not to be deterred, she receives seeds by mail and creates a city garden of warmth and wonder. Flowers of course, are not the only things to grow in this story.

I love a children's book with flowers inside, it's true. This is a standout one, with pictures to delve in, and warmth in abundance. It's also another reminder that all individuals can make a difference. Someday, I will own this one!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Miss Rumphius
Written and illustrated by: Barbara Cooney

It is easy to be a taker, but it is so vital to happiness to learn to give. We can go through life engaging in all sorts of tricks to learn, improve, become fulfilled, or find our purpose. But all of us, in order to reach these goals must give! Miss Rumphius helps us out a bit as we endeavor to teach our children this lesson. As a girl Miss Rumphius sees and hears how her grandfather has made a difference. As she grows Miss Rumphius finds her own adventure and learning, and also her own beautiful way to give. What can you do to make a difference in the world? What a great discussion to be had with your children, over and over again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pumpkin Pumpkin
Written and illustrated by Jeanne Titherington

It's gardening time! Along with gardening time come gardening books, and although we like to read them all year round, they are especially fun when the growing begins. Pumpkin Pumpkin is a simple favorite I have enjoyed with all of my children.

Pumpkin Pumpkin is short and sweet, and yet to the point too. Through these few sentences there is no doubt what happens with the pumpkin seed through the stages, all the way the carved jackolantern, and the saving of the seeds. The illustrations in this book are muted and delightful, adding a lot to the sweetness of the story. I have always used this book as a read aloud, but it would be great for a beginning reader, as it has much repetition in its short simple sentences. Happy reading, and to those who enjoy it, happy gardening!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Dog Who Belonged to No One
Written by Amy Hest
Illustrated by Amy Bates

I have a little girl who loves dogs. We have a real dog, but my daughter actually especially adores her stuffed dogs. They are her great friends. When she is feeling kind she may invite a stuffed monkey to play, but she really loves her dogs the best. Knowing this then it is easy to see us choosing stories about dogs. This is a lovely one.

Amy Hest writes her story in an interesting style, alternating from girl to dog on nearly every page until they unite as friends. They have remarkable similarities, the largest being they are both quite in need of a good companion. It turns out of course that they are perfect friends, friends through all the seasons in fact.

The illustrations in this book are absolutely gorgeous! Today, when thinking to myself whether I liked the story or the text better, I have to say I think I could almost love the pictures just as much alone they are so beautiful! However the text also stands out to me particularly, as it is written in a style unusual to me, this alternating style, and it is engaging.
It has also occurred to me while reading it again, that this book would be a fun
introduction to this alternating story-writing technique. It might be fun to see what children come up with to alternate back and forth. Perhaps this summer we will try it!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Necklace of Raindrops: and Other Stories
Written by Joan Aiken
Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

During a visit with my grandmother recently I had the chance to view her elves once again. These are cute and quaint little creatures in limber elvish poses, bright clothing and hats, and mischievous faces. When my grandmother got married in the 1950s, these elves were all the rage and she received them for wedding gifts! She keeps her elves on shelves, and her elves on shelves remind me so much of the elves on shelves in one of my all time favorite books: A Necklace of Raindrops, by Joan Aiken.

A Necklace Of Raindrops is a collection of children's stories so original, I have yet to meet its equal in many ways. (Even if I have many books to read yet!) Aiken has such a sense of magic and whimsy she shares in this book that many children and myself enjoy. These stories are so fanciful and imaginative they bring out the sparkle that is sometimes lacking in everyday life. What child would not love to awaken to find the elves from their books on their very own shelves, to find the mat made for a cat was really a wishing mat? What child would not love to live in the clouds and eat all the apples they wanted that rolled into the sky with the wind? Well, perhaps some children would not. But as for me and mine, we appreciate the sparkle in these stories, and the hope and refreshment it provides. In this newer version Kevin Hawkes adds illustrations that just fit the nature of the stories, and there are just enough.

It is wonderful to have a book to pull out with individual stories that can be read at any time on a whim. That is the magic of a collection of stories in one. This book may not be to everyone's taste, but if you and yours prefer a little magic, a little fanciful fun, I recommend this collection highly!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bats at the Library
Written and Illustrated by Brian Lies
Do you ever wonder what bats do at night? I mean really? Well, if they're lucky they get to visit the library! The adorable (yes, adorable!) bats in this book are lucky enough to find an open window at the library one night. Once inside they use the copy machine, find games to play, look at study guides, and finally when they settle down to read they very much enjoy themselves. Immersed in classic stories you will recognize, the bats have a very unique perspective!

The illustrations in this book are gorgeous --believable but playful. This book passes the 6-year- old-little-boy-who's-getting-quite-picky-about-picture-books test. :) Afterall, there are bats! If you like this book you may want to read Bats at the Beach, written by the same author.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Rain Came Down
Written and illustrated by David ShannonA guest post by my favorite guest ShaLisa! Enjoy!

The cause and effect relationship is a developmental skill that usually occurs in the second year of a child’s life. If you are looking for a great book to reinforce this skill, read The Rain Came Down written and illustrated by David Shannon. This book is great for young children, coupled with short sentences and familiar vocabulary. Still, there are lots of new words to learn and new ideas to explore. Older children love to discover the world of what if and if this, then this with this book. And, most importantly, this book is fun and children love to read it.

One night while reading this book, my toddler exclaimed, “No, mom, you said it wrong. It says….” She then repeated the sentence I had just said with a deep and husky voice. Alas, it is a fun book filled with characters ready for the reader to make come alive. My four year old said, “I would help that man clean up the fruit so I could have an ice cream cone with three scoops too.” Ah, the world of what if – anything can happen in that world. All a child needs is a little food for thought, some ammunition - a good book to stimulate new possibilities.

Other books to reinforce cause and effect relationships include the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Written by Karen Hess
Illustrated by Wendy Watson

I admit it. I am partial to books that create conversation because really this is half the fun of a really good read aloud session. Spuds invites much discussion. The first time I read this book with my children there were many questions and explanations about vocabulary and life situations. How can I not love a book that teaches a great word like "spud" which was previously unknown? I am also partial to books that show my children just how good they really do have it. This story has the ability to remind us of this.

The mother in this story is tired and overworked. The children are typical, except they are also a little more hungry. One night while mom is working the night shift they decide to pluck a few spuds from a neighboring field, their mouths fairly watering at the prospect. They tirelessly work at it and when they arrive home they are in for a sorrowful surprise not only in their pickings, but their feelings. Mother sets them straight the next day, and luckily the farmer enjoys a little humor and shows appreciation for children.

The illustrations in this book are wonderfully done, interesting but simple, and done from great angles. My favorite element of these illustrations are the pure colors chosen --the blue sky is just such a blue that I just know it is fall. That is indeed the color of a blue fall sky and a yellow field with the sun tilted in such a way that it makes things golden. Amazing!

This book is loaded with rich vocabulary and lessons, making it perfect for a read-aloud where learning occurs on many levels. Once again this is a book that is really meant to be reread and rediscussed. After all, I can't let my kids continue to believe you really can eat and fry rocks! We'll read it again and they'll learn this and more along the way. Just they way I like it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An Egg is Quiet

An Egg Is Quiet
Written by: Dianna Aston
Illustrated by: Sylvia Long

An Egg Is Quiet. In a home with three rambunctious children I often yearn for quiet. Admittedly there are occasions when I use read aloud time to gain just that, and the regrouping that inevitable follows. Although an egg is quiet and read-aloud time is relatively so, this book invites a little bit more. It invites and ignites the glorious noise of children inquiring, commenting, exploring, and learning. This is an especially good kind of noise.

As simply as her title, author Dianna Aston informs you in her book of the many aspects of an egg. Really, when I think of it, how many could I come up with? This author comes up with many, all in one simple sentence per page beginning with "An egg is..." It is many things! Amongst the simplicity of these succinct one liners are smaller lines of print that can stand on their own, with pertinent and interesting information. These lines contain not too much, not too little, and just enough information to invite curiosity, amazement, and of course a little learning as a byproduct. To point out what you already may know about books of this sort --these additional lines mean this book can grow with your child. With much younger children the one main sentence can suffice. With time, additional lines can be added little by little. Unlike other books with stand alone text, I would like to emphasize that these notes are truly not too much or too little. I am not partial to text of this sort but in this case the lines are to near perfection, and add quite nicely to the book. For older children the additional text is naturally and fittingly a part of the flow of their exploration.

The illustrations? How can I even express them to you? Illustrator Sylvia Long manages to make salmon eggs look incredible, and I am left still to believe it. These eggs, true to their nature but placed against a white background are as beautiful as Easter eggs. Whether my family can make our Easter eggs as beautiful is yet to be determined, but we plan to try. The eggs in this book are hand labeled, and beautifully so, fairly inviting a beautiful collection of any sort of any thing of you could find! I am partial to watercolor and ink, but I can't imagine these paintings not pleasing a one. An egg is textured, and you simply have to reach out and just feel, because it looks so!

At the finale of this book there are many creatures to observe, and though I have not checked I feel confident that each egg has a master at the end. What is inside of an egg is not quiet at all, and that has very much to do with the nature of an egg in the end. As for not knowing whether or not there is a creature for each egg precisely --that is one of the virtues of this book. We are still exploring and learning from it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Owl at Home

Owl at Home
Written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel

Today I would like to introduce you to a dear old friend of mine. This comfortable, lovable, adorable friend is named Owl. He is growing a little bit tattered at my house. I do love Arnold Lobel's creations, but especially Frog and Toad and Owl. Let me tell you what I like about dear Owl.

Owl is simple and sweet. He is so kind he would invite the winter inside to warm itself by the fire --and in fact he does. He is so sentimental that he can make himself cry, just to enjoy tear water tea. Owl thinks of some very sad situations to encourage his tears like beautiful mornings that nobody noticed because they were all sleeping. (Sniff, sniff.) Owl is a thinker. He really wants to figure out how to be upstairs and downstairs at once and he tries pretty hard, wearing himself out in the process. Owl is innocent. He cannot figure out what the strange bumps at the bottom of his bed are. You know --the ones that move whenever his feet do? (He doesn't notice this, but children do.) Owl is so polite that he insists the moon does not need to follow him home. The moon does however, and is even as kind as to shine on his pillow that night. Oh how Owl appreciates such things! Oh dear Owl. This friend warms my heart. I think I will go look for a child to read with, so we can all visit. Owl is a such a worthy friend.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Bad Case of Stripes

A Bad Case of Stripes
Written and illustrated by: David Shannon

A few days ago I asked my son if he would like a kiwi fruit packed in his school lunch.
"Yes," he replied. "I mean,
No, no, no."
The way this spilled out from yes to no in such an abrupt fashion made me curious.
"Why not?" I asked him. I had a suspicion it wasn't just because he didn't feel like it. I was right.
"I don't want to hear everybody say 'I don't like kiwis' so many times."
"Have they even tried kiwis?" I asked, again suspicious.
"...I don't know"
"Well, I bet they haven't even tried one. You should ask them."
Of course I didn't pack the kiwi fruit, and I was left a little sad. I know we are all influenced by those around us to one degree or another, for better or for worse, but at this moment I wondered why it had to be against something so nutritious! Suddenly I had a flash of inspiration and so I tried reminding my son about A Bad Case of Stripes. Camilla Cream likes something nutritious too. She likes lima beans. Who likes lima beans? Well --Camilla Cream does! In fact Camilla loves them. However, since she is always worrying about what other people think of her, she stops eating them altogether. Then something strange happens. Camilla wakes up with a bad case of stripes! Oh, and they are bright and colorful ones! The doctors are absolutely clueless and the kids at school, as well as everyone around her seem to be able to change the stripes based on what they say to Camilla. Soon, she is not just striped, but growing branches, and viruses, and she even has an unfortunate mishap with an environmental therapist, which leaves her looking an awful lot like her bedroom. Luckily for Camilla a cute little Grandma knows the remedy, and Camilla accepts it -- just in the nick of time. I tried briefing this story to my son, hinting at the similarites between his and Camilla Cream's stories, but he didn't quite remember the point of this story. It is obviously time to read this book again. Perhaps now it is just a little bit more pertinent in his little boy world.

This book is fun even without any discussion at all but just a surface story to read about the trouble this poor girl goes through. The illustrations are full and colorful, ready to be studied. But there is also as you can guess, a little bit more to this book. So then the question is, can this book aid in a little peer pressure problem? I still haven't packed a kiwi fruit, but I also haven't had a good sit down read and discussion with my son. I'll have to keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!
Written by Karen Beaumont
Illustrated by David Catrow

"One Day my mama caught me paintin' pictures on the floor
and the ceiling
and the walls
and the curtains
and the door,
and I heard my mama holler
like I never did before..."

If you have ever been around a toddler in large amounts this will surely sound a little too familiar to you, as it does to me! Most toddlers do afterall have great abilities as artists, and most toddlers have indeed made their mama holler! The text for this book is done in rhyme with built in pauses for your little one to guess just which part of his body the character will paint next. Those proficient, learning to rhyme, or even just those who hope to rhyme will surely enjoy filling in the blanks. All of my kids do. This book is sure to make you laugh --especially near the end where there is nearly nothing left to paint, but plenty to giggle about!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Frog Thing

A Frog Thing (with Audio CD)
A book and audio CD by Erich Drachman
illustrated by James Muscarello

We all want our kids to be confident, brave, and to feel they can do anything, and perhaps part of the joy and magic of being a parent is often times believing this child you love really can do anything! Well, Frank the frog's parents are just the same. Except that they come to a moment where they realize that everyone has limits. Afterall, frogs don't fly. However Frank is just sure this is what he wants to do. And how do your break it to your frog-son that frogs just really don't fly? At times we all fail to understand our own dreams and perhaps even more often than not, our dreams turn out a little differently than we imagined. But perhaps just as nice. So it is for Frank.

The audio CD of this story by author Eric Drachman is very well done. In fact, when I read this book aloud I often hear the author's voice under mine. What can be more magical and telling than having the author read his own book just the way he intended? Well, it is insightful at times. I love the soft and appropriate watercolor-type illustrations in this book, which seem to fit right in with not only the setting but the theme of this story. And did you know how much expression a frog can show? Well, artist James Muscarello does.

Have you had the chance to let your child enjoy book-on-CDs yet? If you have then you know the magic. If not, I encourage you! Books read this way are a whole new experience for children, and one more point can be chalked up to the quest for the love and appreciation of literacy. We love books on CD, but especially in the car and during long hot lazy (no homework involved) summer days. My kids and I love this book. To us, A Frog Thing is a good thing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Diary of a Worm
Written by Doreen Cronin
Illustrated by Harry Bliss

Hooray for another guest post by ShaLisa! This book looks adorable, and I can't wait to read it! Thanks ShaLisa!

What would it be like to be a worm? You may enjoy finding out in this fun book titled, Diary of a Worm written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Harry Bliss. This book is full of child humor, creative pictures, and even some non-fiction information about worms. Such a book is the perfect way to stir questions and wonderment about those simple squishy things called annelids.

My boys relish this book. Worms can’t crawl upside down, worms eat garbage, worms dig tunnels which are good for the ground, birds eat worms and people use worms to fish with, worms scare girls, and they only need one macaroni noodle to make a noodle necklace. There is so much to learn and consider from the view point of a worm.

This book inspires imagination. We read this book along with Shel Silverstein’s poem titled, One Inch Tall. What would the relationship between a boy who is one inch tall and a worm be like? Ah, if you could be an insect, which insect would you be and what would your day be like? I do hope you write in your diary.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Octopus' Den

Octopus' Den (Smithsonian Oceanic Collection)
Written by Deirdre Langeland
Illustrated by Steven James Petruccio

During a trip to the tide pools in California my family and I were lucky enough to see our first octopus, and we were all quite enchanted by the experience. So when I noticed this book at the library I decided to take a chance, afterall there had to be something useful in it. There is! This book is unlike other books I have read in that the author manages to weave a realistic but interesting story about an octopus with useful details and information so relevant to the story you can't miss them. I think children learn well this way, and well, so do I! I appreciate the fact that the octopus in the book is simply an octopus and not humanized any more than any octopus should be. He isn't named Fred or Joe, but suitably: Octopus. While reading this book I found myself intrigued with octopus life, and so were my children. The text in this book amazed me because although the storyline is quite simple the author uses awesome descriptive language as well as relevant oceanic vocabulary. My children found this book so interesting that they wanted to act out some octopus adventures of their own after reading it.

It is tempting to think that this book is more special to us because of our personal recent experience with an octopus. But I don't think that this would be fair. I am confident I would love this book nearly as much had I never seen an octopus and only wished I had. I am anxious to find out if my library has any more books from the Smithsonian Institution's Oceanic Collection, the collection this book belongs too. I have high expectations for the other books, and plan to use them with my children this summer in some of our own learning endeavors. This is the kind of book that is so well done that I am motivated to search out other great ones and pay the (gasp!) one dollar to get them via interlibrary loan! I am also seriously considering purchasing a few more as gifts for my children's birthdays because I liked this one so much. Stories are important to children, but so are facts and learning about our world. That is important to everyone. When the two can intertwine so gracefully it is a good thing!

If your children have enjoyed reading the Magic Treehouse Series, this book would be a great companion to #39 Dark Day in the Deep Sea.We love the Magic Treehouse series at our house, but with the magic and fantasy the author often uses, it doesn't hurt to add a little interesting reality at the same time. I think this book would be great for that purpose.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fancy Nancy

Fancy Nancy
Written by Jane O'Conner
Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

Perhaps you have a little girl who likes pink and purple, or better yet fuschia. Perhaps your little girl likes dressing up, or doing all things with a little bit of flair. Sometimes I take it for granted that everyone knows and loves certain books. Fancy Nancy is one of these books.My goodness, what if you have one of these chic little girls and you haven't yet met Fancy Nancy?! Well, you simply must (darling)!

Although Nancy likes all things fancy, she otherwise comes from a very plain family. One day she decides to place an add on the fridge to see if she can spice things up a little with Fancy Lessons (by Nancy of course). Fortunately, her family signs up for lessons! Nancy can hardly wait to get started, and with a little bit here and a little bit there, her family shows some real potential. They really can be fancy! In celebration, Nancy's Dad takes them all to The Kings Crown (a not so fancy hamburger joint). After a little mishap, Fancy Nancy learns that some things are truly best just the way they are. The illustrations in this book are charming, and the fancy vocabulary is sure to be enjoyed and absorbed. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Elizabeti's Doll

Written by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
Illustrated by Christy Hale

Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen has created a story about a little girl with a brand new brother. Elizabeti watches her mother care for her new baby, and then, since she has no doll of her own, she finds a rock instead. She names her rock Eva, and cares for it just as her mother cares for her son.

This short picture book is one that clearly relates a way of life different from my own, without ever purposefully contrasting to it. The author of Elizabeti's Doll, Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, spent time in Tanzania in the Peace Corps, where she met the little girl who is Elizabeti's inspiration. Elizabeti and Eva, and their way of life, are worth getting to know in this sweet book.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Magician's Nephew

Written by C.S. Lewis

My five and six year old boys and I just finished reading The Magician's Nephew for the first time, but I have a feeling it won't be our last. This book, written by C.S. Lewis, is nothing short of amazing to me! My children were captivated by the adventure in this tale and I was captivated by the author's well-written words, cleverness, humor, and layers of meaning. I so appreciate that Lewis knows a little about children, which you can see in his writing. This book was enjoyable from the first page to the last. Our family agrees its a keeper. Although Lewis wrote The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe before The Magician's Nephew, the latter tells the history and background for the first. We look forward to reading all the books in The Chronicles of Narnia together and I won't be surprised if they are all read again independently as well. My husband has commented that he doesn't remember seeing my boys quite this excited about any book in the past. These books are truly remarkable!

As our kids have started into school and gotten busier, quiet family times at our house have gotten a little more difficult to find. Having a good book and motivated readers and listeners helps this happen, and all the while I hope we are building memories, bonds, and a life-long love of reading. Reading aloud allows us to read above our children's personal reading level, continuing to build background knowledge and vocabulary, with the the reader there as a reference for the listener. A few chapter books my kids and I have enjoyed include: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,Charlotte's Web, and The Chocolate Touch. I would love some chapter book recommendation from you for my young crowd. I am always seeking them out (and wishing we could read them more frequently)! Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Written by Judith Viorst
Illustrated by Ray Cruz

Thank you to my good, talented, and wise friend ShaLisa for this guest post on what I consider a classic book. Enjoy!

This is a book that my mom, a counselor by profession and by heart, read to me throughout my younger years when I truly believed I was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It was a way for me to know my mom understood some of my feelings. Sometimes, she didn’t have to read the book, but would gently say something like, “Is today a day you wished you lived in Australia?” Then I knew that she knew and somehow, her knowing made things much better.

Now I am a mother. When my child seems to be having such a day, I find reading the book calms us both and puts a smile on our faces. The book reminds me of how things sometimes seem from the eyes of a child. (I also see now how a bad day for Alexander might have also meant a frustrating day for his mother.)

This book has been around for a long time. It is a book that my mom still reads often, this time to her junior high school students who, undeniably, have bad days. Oh, how a children’s literature can affect a person for good!

A note from Lindsay: I think I will have to adopt the sweet tradition of stopping and taking a minute to pull out this book when my children (or I!) have a bad day. I just love this idea!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Superhero ABC

SuperHero ABC
Written and illustrated by Bob McLeod

I don't know if it's all boys, or just most of the little boys I know, but they really dig superheroes. Faster than lightening, stronger than steel, and better than the bad-guy, my boys just can't seem to get enough! Unfortunately, comic book heroes have been adulterated for adults! I keep my eyes open for hero-related items that are truly for kids, and I am happy to share this one with you.

SuperHero ABC is a book about many superheros, one for each letter of the alphabet in fact. It's unmistakenly for kids, as some of the sillier superheroes are quite appealing to a child's sense of humor, namely Goo girl (who shoots great gobs of goo at gangsters), The Volcano (who vomits on villains), and Upside-Down Man (who wears his uniform under his underwear). Artist Bob McLeod does a superb job with his invented heroes, and you would expect him to as he's worked for Marvel Comics on characters such as Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk. For the superhero lover who is at just about the right age for an alphabet book, this book will certainly spur imagination. You might be surprised with the superheroes that show up in your house afterwards!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mrs Crumps Cat

Mrs. Crump's Cat
Written by Linda Smith
Illustrated by David Roberts

Mrs. Crump runs upon a cat that she is sure she just does not need. At first she is dutifully kind, and pretends not to be interested in the stray yellow cat. Mrs. Crump finds reasons to put off getting rid of the cat, and then even tries to find its owner (sort of). But, this cat is a true-to-life feline personality, who makes this woman her own.

This enjoyable read is one that can be taken for just a simple relaxing read, or a story with lots of little details to talk about. If you are looking for a writing activity, Mrs Crump's find-the-owner letter may supply an example and inspiration for your child to follow. David Roberts hasn't illustrated this clever cat realistically, but the stray still manages to have an amazing amount of true cattiness!

Thank you to Corey from Thing 1 and Thing 2 for bringing my attention to the fact that David Roberts was interviewed at Three Silly Chicks this week. What great timing! This artwork is great, and you may want to learn about a few of his other books by checking out the interview.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mary Engelbreit's Nursery Tales: A Treasury of Children's Classics Written and illustrated by Mary Engelbreit

Recently I told my three year old daughter that we would be grinding wheat later that day. She asked, "Are we going to the miller's?"

"We are going to be the millers," I told her. My daughter chatted on about the Little Red Hen, and whether or not she would get some bread. The story of The Little Red Hen often comes in handy at my house when I need a little help with something tasty.
"Who will help me, asked the Little Red Hen?" I say. And usually, I have three willing little helpers.

Later that same day my children left their macaroni and cheese to take a walk, and let it cool down. Soon after I learned that I was Goldilocks, and I needed to run away down the window spout. (Clearly they have their own version of The Three Little Bears!)

There are some stories that seem timeless to me, and at my house The Little Red Hen and Goldilocks and The Three Bears are just such classics. Mary Engelbreit's Nursery Tales: A Treasury of Children's Classics is very nearly perfect! I was thrilled when my daughter received this delightful book as a Christmas gift. Engelbreit created this book for very young children, so the stories are simple and short while still complete and charming. Of course you would expect the illustrations to be wonderful, and since they are from Mary Engelbreit, they really are endearing. My one complaint is that the gingerbread man doesn't get eaten up! However, perhaps this ending suits some people even better. For a sweet treasury of timeless stories made simple --I recommend this book.