Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Clever Jack Takes the Cake

Clever Jack Takes the Cake
Written By: Candace Fleming
Illustrated By: G. Brian Karas

I have mentioned that great books jump into my library pile all the time while I am there, but I have not perhaps mentioned how often it is me that is helping them jump and not my children, have I?  It's true, my kids gravitate towards Scooby Doo, Avatar, Barbie (ugh) and other books that they seem to enjoy, but I do not!  I admit it, some of these books just seem pretty uninteresting.  How do I handle this?  I am not going to say I am an expert, in fact this is a topic I consider often: how do I teach my kids to find quality books?  (What do you do?) I think that when visiting the library it's important to let them have choice and choose books they are drawn to, in fact I consider this paramount.  Sometimes, with careful choosing, my kids choose books we both consider to be perfect for them (and for me as a read-aloud parent!) but this is not always the case. While it's true that the value of a book is in the heart and mind of a reader, and I dearly believe this to be true, (even if they are about cartoon characters),  I dislike my kids to miss out on these higher-quality books I know they will enjoy as well. There are so many of them! What do you do? My simple conclusion is that I simply allot a number of books I get to choose from the children's section also.  I love this.  In this great age of children's books of great number and high quality, it is a joy.  And do you know what?  My kids typically like these books as much or more than the ones they choose.  (I think you can guess why).  At any rate, Clever Jack Takes the Cake is one of those jumping books because, sometimes, I think I can judge a book by its cover.

Clever Jack gets invited to a birthday party for the princess, who is turning 10.  He is thrilled!  However, his mother points out that they have no present fine enough for a princess!  As it continues throughout the book, Jack is neither put out nor sorry, rather he is resourceful and looks on the bright side of things.  He trades some things he does have for ingredients to make a beautiful and rich cake fit for a princess! On his way to the party the next day, some unfortunate events happen. I love Jack's ability to notice what is still good in the situation each time, and make the best of it, and this he does.  By the time he reaches the castle and the beginning of the line to give his gift he has none left.  Although the princess lacks some qualities, she recognizes the value in Jack's real present immediately and we can hope that in their fast friendship Jack does her some good.  Although I would like to have seen this ending fleshed out a bit, my daughter and I found lots to like about this book.  I noticed things to point out and talk about, but will do so especially on an additional reading.  The illustrations in this book are just to my liking, especially, once again such a lovely choice of colors.  So nice!  Don't miss this fun and sweet story, let it and many more books of quality jump into your library pile as well. :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two Old Potatoes

Two Old Potatoes and Me

Written by John Coy
Illustrated by:  Carolyn Fisher
What a sweet book! This is another of the books that flew into the library pile because it looked so interesting, and it is. I think we can all relate to the girl and her father in this book because, haven't you found a potato in your cupboard that began growing?  Oh, well I have!  The little girl immediately calls out GROSS and tosses the potatoes into the trash.  Her father rescues them, and together they plant these two old potatoes and watch them grow together into many more than two. Finally, father and daughter enjoy mashed potatoes together--and you can too since there is a recipe at the the end.  Extending the story in this way is a favorite of my children!  Yum!

I love that this book shows a sweet relationship between father and daughter working together for an end product.  The illustrations in this book are very different and quite colorful and fabulous, very fun to look at.  I hope come spring we find two old potatoes of our own.  I would love to give it a try.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Milly and The Macy's Parade

Milly And The Macy's Parade
Illustrated by Brett Helquist

Happy November!  Although I'm still picking up Halloween candy wrappers, my holiday-loving daughter is wondering already, "What holiday is next mom?"  Thanksgiving!  I just love Thanksgiving, and despite my daughter's efforts to convince me that it would be fun for her to give gifts that day, this is precisely one of the reasons I love this holiday.  Simple gratitude is all that is required! I love working together to prepare a feast, and the joy of just being together with family.What a great holiday!  In celebration of this upcoming day, I am sharing with you a very sweet  picture book called Milly And The Macy's Parade.

Milly came to America from Poland, and since she became accustomed to her new home, she has grown quite fond of it. She especially loves to wander through Macy's department store--the glamorous and glittery place of her father's employment. Although her mother is learning to find some Polish foods, and appreciating a few new ones, and her father is learning more English words, they are still homesick for Poland, especially near holidays.  Milly gets a great idea and convinces Mr. Macy himself that a parade is in order.  Indeed it is and it warms the hearts of the immigrants and helps them find their new American holidays nearly as comforting as their old ones.

This sweet story is fictional but based on some truths about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the America of 1924.  The text has nice vocabulary and an appealing storyline, and illustrations by Brett Helquist are magnificent. This is a sweet and interesting story. I can't wait to point out this famous parade to my children on Thanksgiving day.  For me, once again, a little bit of history goes a long way.

Make sure you haven't missed Brett Helquist's beautiful illustrations in another of his delightful books:  Roger, the Jolly Pirate!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

M is for Mischief

Written by: Linda Ashman
Illustrated by: Nancy Carpenter

So you think your kids are naughty sometimes?  Well, trust me, they are not! The poems in this book, one for each letter, are about the most mischievous kids you can imagine.  Even your own kids won't believe it!  This book is a fun anthology of poems arranged by letter and with vocabulary emphasized by letter as well, each with very very unbelievably horrifically mischievous naughty children! (So naughty mostly I think your kids wouldn't dare to copy them!) :)  A fun book obviously with letter value, high interest factor for kids, and rich and different vocabulary.   Mischievous!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Red Sings from The Treetops: A Year in Colors

Red Sings From The Treetops: A Year in Colors

Written by Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

 Poetry can be such a sweet but elusive thing to me. I am not a well-read when it comes to poetry, but each time I read it, I love it! As a reader, I am accustomed to reading quickly; understanding.  Poetry makes me slow down, and think a little more; sometimes a lot more.  That is what makes it so refreshing and worthwhile.   I know this about myself and poetry, and I see the same thing with my children, and so Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colorssat waiting in my book pile for a bit before I was ready to slow down enough to read it.  When I did--I loved it!  LOVE!

The book is what it claims to be: a year in colors.  Starting with Spring and ending with Winter you travel through the seasons with colors, and you see them all the while through words as well as pictures.  Oh, the art!  The art is so amazing, the colors (so fittingly) are so right on, that it makes my heart sing!  I adore the colors in this book.  The paintings are indeed what caught my daughter on her first run through, she found much to point out and much to talk about, and loved to guess which color was about to be explained in the season through the next poem. We loved this book.  As is typical for me, I also love that this book has a lot of rereading potential--more to learn each time, and more for my children to discover as they mature.

Poetry can be an interesting thing for children--my children.  All readers are different, inlcuding young ones, and I see this when we are reading poetry as well.  Poetry  is wide-ranging and so there are types to suit each taste.  My children all love funny poems.  My children especially love poems with accompanying amazing pictures.  But then, my children are also different.  The five year-old daughter I read this with is busy, she chatters and moves a lot.  Perhaps she is most still typically, when she is reading!  But this book's pictures found reason for her to say things, lots of things, while we read.  Because of this she missed a lot of words, but she didn't miss an experience.  With more readings she will catch more words, more meanings, will ask more questions, and find still more to talk about in the illustrations.  When I think of another child of mine, a son, I think at this same age he would have listened and caught more language, as language is his love, maybe missing more of the pictures.  All kids are different, all people are different, and there are books and poems to suit us all.  Sometimes one may suit most of us, but in different ways.  Oh, the joy of reading, and sharing a book with another!

We loved this book, the 2010 Caldecott Winner (I have not mentioned this yet, have I?) I am grateful for the award, because the popularitiy if it made the cover familiar to me.  What if I would have missed it?  Oh thank goodness I didn't, because we so enjoyed the red singing from the treetops! I hope you do too.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Big Orange Splot

The Big Orange Splot
Written and illustrated by: Daniel Manus Pinkwater

You know that unusual house in your town?  The one that has more colors than all the rest, or unusually bright colors, some yard art, maybe even a picture or two?  The Big Orange Splot is about a house like that. A house that is different, that stands out in the crowd.  That house in your town might be considered anything from interesting to an artist's abode, to an eyesore...and it seems every town has at least one.  Does yours?  I hope so! 

Well, Mr Plumbean initially accidentally ends up with one of those unusual houses. You see, a bird accidentally drops a can of orange paint on his roof (no one knows why).  And before he gets around to getting rid of that spot, he seems to kind of get used to the idea...and then he expands on it.  The people on his street are not amused.  But then he gets them one by one to listen to his dreams, and then he listens to theirs...and then suddenly his street is not quite as tidy as it used to be.  And they all like it that way.

I love the way this book invites you to be bold,  think out of the box, and perhaps most of all dream.  It makes a great read aloud, and talk aloud.  It is a children's classic. Don't forget to paint a picture of your own house of dreams!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Trout are Made of Trees

Trout are Made of Trees
Written by: April Pulley Sayre
Illustrated by: Kate Endle

Did you know trout are made of trees?  Really?  This title intrigued me from the beginning as I stumbled upon this book at the library. As I read it to my five year old I  found out it was an amazing concept for her as well!  So amazing in fact, that more reads are necessary to fully comprehend this unbelievable idea of the life cycle!    The simplicity the author uses really lends this book to become a read aloud so that much (simple) discussion can ensue.  I am a huge fan of basic science books for young kids to build background and introduce what can be complex ideas.  Beautiful basic colorful illustrations match this text perfectly. This is a great one!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Guess Again!

Guess Again
Written by: Mac Barnett
Illustrated by: Adam Rex

It's true, I am not a funny person.  My husband tells the jokes in the family.  Still, I love a humorous book, and perhaps for the very reason that I can't crack a joke on my own. I absolutely love laughing with my children!  This book, happily, does the job for my family.

This book is unlike any I have seen. On one page a black silhouette is shown and on the other a written paragraph, giving clues to just what that silhouette really is.  Well at first blush they seem pretty obvious until you realize they ARE NOT! Instead these clues and silhouettes are meant to make you chuckle, or giggle, or all out belly laugh, and trust me --they do!  Without giving away too much information, I want you to trust me, that if you like to laugh, you will want to enjoy this book with your children! Or, perhaps you could see Seven Impossible Things For Breakfast's take on it, which is much more thorough, eloquent, and probably...more humorous. :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bonjour, Butterfly

Bonjour Butterfly
Written by Jane O'Conner
Illustrated by: Robin Preiss Glasser

As I have mentioned before, the girls in my house really love Fancy Nancy. Some other people do too. In this situation, it sometimes gets frustrating when additional books are released, as they seem to be of lesser quality. I am thrilled to say, I have read no books starring Fancy Nancy that I have not thought darling! (What a relief, I must say). We love them all, including this one.

In Bonjour Butterfly, Nancy is anticipating the arrival of a splendid birthday party, featuring butterflies, thrown by a best friend. Then her plans are crashed and she has to miss the party for her grandparent's fiftieth wedding anniversary! Nancy is quite disappointed. She is not exactly a sweetheart about it all. As it turns out, the anniversary party is quite fancy, and Nancy quite enjoys herself. The following day Nancy is even lucky enough to attend a butterfly zoo with her grandparents!

Does Nancy decide to perk up because she is having a grand time at the party, or does attitude really make a difference? Ask your child as you read this book, as I think this is an important distinction (even if it's not made perfectly clear in the book). As is the case with all the books, Nancy teaches splendidly fancy vocabulary, and deals with typical, and perhaps familiar-to-your-child situations. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Big Green Monster

Go Away, Big Green Monster!
By: Ed Emberly

That great picture book turned I mentioned last week turned out to be not so great afterall, so (sigh) I am going to write about an old favorite instead. Yea! We love Go Away, Big Green Monster!by Ed Emberly! This author has some really fun toddler and preschool books, and this is one of our favorites! My first three children completely wore this book to pieces, so now we have a new one for our baby because it would be a shame to be without!

What exactly does a big green monster include? Well, in this book he starts with two big yellow eyes, followed by scraggly purple hair...and piece by piece a big green monster comes to be. But since he doesn't scare us, we get to take him back apart piece by piece as well! Bright cutouts under black paper make this book fun for older babies and young children to look at. (adults too!) Really, this book could be considered a classic --at least at our house. Check out these books by the same author: Bye-Bye, Big Bad Bullybug! and Glad Monster, Sad Monster. I would like to own these also!

It never hurts to follow up with a few activities when you have the chance. I would like to try some of these sometime, just for fun!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reading Aloud!

It can't be Tuesday, can it? Well, I've been reading far too many books about making bread, getting babies to sleep, and how to get the dog to behave, and I haven't had a chance to write a review for that great children's picture book! Well, instead today I will direct you to an enjoyable post, by Esme Raji Codell, author of How to Get Your Child to Love Reading: For Ravenous and Reluctant Readers Alike. Haven't read this book? Well make sure you do! In the meantime, check out her fun post on encouraging your readers that think they no longer need you to read aloud to them! (This post is part of Share a Story Shape a Future.)

....Now how do I stop the kids from swiping the book and finishing it on their own? ;)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When Winter Comes (again!)

When Winter Comes
Written by Nancy Van Laan
Illustrated by Susan Gaber

Yesterday was spring, today it is winter again. Such it is this time of year! On especially snowy days, like today, I like to pull out the winter books and get reading. When Winter Comes is a snowy story and also one of the books I asked for and received for Christmas because I love it so!

In Nancy Van Laan's simple and sweet story a dear family goes out for a walk in the winter and on their way they discover what happens in nature during winter time. Starting with the leaves on the trees, and moving from small to big animals, and even fish, the author uses repetitive question for each item, "Where oh where do the ______ go when winter comes and the cold winds blow?"

Next of course you here the answer, in rhyming verse to boot. To wrap up the story, the little girl is the final creature, who rests in her bed on an winter evening. This book is simple, with basic concepts, similar to those in Time to Sleep , by Denise Fleming, which would be a great companion book!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Black Book of Colors

The Black Book of Colors
Written by: Menena Cottin
Illustrated by: Rosana Faria

It is always a delight to see what books are chosen for The Beehive Book Award in Utah, naturally there are always gems to be found. My library keeps these books in a specific place, so they are always easy to find, otherwise, and unfortunately, I might miss them! The Black Book of Colors is one of these books, and it is indeed a gem.

This book has no colors, but black pictures on black pages, with descriptions of each color as well as raised pictures to touch. Make no mistake, my children needed no prodding to do this, and they enjoyed it. This is of course a beautiful opportunity for discussing blindness, and braille, and differences. So fascinating for people with sight to consider. Braille is included on each page, though my children and I did not notice it at first, because we were reading by lamplight, relying on our vision, and the braille is of course small raised and black on the black page. That it took us so long, that we are so used to our sight, is worth considering. Near the end of this book the entire braille alphabet can be found as well.

Although we have not tried it yet, I believe The Black Book of Colors encourages a worthwhile writing activity for your child to describe each color on his own. Do you think yellow is as soft as a chicks feathers, as the author does? The writing is great for teaching about adjectives, and is a good example for descriptions, which sometimes prove difficult for children, especially when they are coming up with their own. I am glad to experience this book, and I have a feeling we are not through with it yet! :) It is absolutely brilliant.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


By: Anne Cottringer
Illustrated by: Gillian McClure

Bruna is a delightful read about a little girl who is cold, cold, cold. Traveling far and wide, eating hot curry and cinnamon candy, soaking up sun, she can't seem to get warm. Then one day her help is required to save a bear who is unable to swim, whose name turns out to be Ursa. In an effort to help Ursa dry off and get warm, Bruna is finally able to warm up herself. This book is a gentle read with beautiful and soothing watercolor illustrations in sea greens, golds, and coral pinks. There is a deeper meaning to be puzzled out, and it is a delight to help children discover it. Do you feel warm when you help someone else? When you are lonely, do you feel cold? Of course. This is a book from the library that my four year old daughter enjoys returning to--one that never gets old, and the comprehension grows with her age and my prodding. To see more pictures search inside this book at amazon. I love those colors!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How Do you Sleep?

Written by: Louise Bonnett-Rampersaud
Illustrated by: Kristen Kest

Typically, children enjoy reading about things that are somewhat familiar. Often, they also like to read about animals. Have you noticed? How Do you Sleep? is a combination of the two well-loved angles. I love simple non fiction books for young children --and this is one of them. Each few pages tells how a different animal gets his rest. Birds have nests, Bears have caves where they curl right up, and frogs have lilly pads. In a classic way of ending, the author tells how children get their own rest (by wriggling to sleep of course)! This is a simple sweet story that gently teaches the basics about animal sleep. I love it!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Princess Peepers

Written by:Pam Culvert
Illustrated by: Tuesday Mourning

Oh the princess rage! My daughter has fallen victim to the princess storm. Has yours?

Princess Peepers is a darling book about princesses, suitable for all princess lovers, spectacle-wearing or not. Princess Peepers is a sweet princess who has some very stunning glasses, and she is quite okay with that, until other princesses aren't. Because of this she decided to get rid of them, and she falls into some trouble. Fortunately she also falls into something else, which of course turns out happily ever after (and she's back to wearing glasses of course)!

The pictures in this book are darling and very worthy for your little princess to study. I love the glasses and the gowns (I admit to being half-princess myself!) Illustrator Tuesday Mourning, besides having the coolest name, also has an etsy shop! It is fun to note that author Pam Culvert has had plenty of experience with peepers, as she wore glasses as a child herself and inspired her story.

We enjoy this as a very girlie read at our house and I hope you do too!