Meet Lucy. She’s your typical brown bear. Fuzzy. Brown. Wears a pink skirt and a pink bow in her fur. One day, while toodling through the forest, she comes upon a little boy whom she promptly names “Squeaker.” Lucy’s mother reluctantly allows Lucy to keep her new “pet” but with the warning that “children make terrible pets.” And, boy, is Lucy’s mom right. Squeaker refuses to be potty trained, ruins the nice furniture and causes general chaos throughout the quiet bear household. For anyone who has ever thought that your child was at least part wild animal, this is the book for you. It’s utterly adorable and turns the age-old “mama, can i keep him?” story on its fuzzy little ear. A must read.
Occasionally, a children’s book makes me cry. It happened when I first read Tomie dePaola’s “Now One Foot, Now the Other” (I’ll review that soon…tears galore) and it happened again with Jan Karon’s “Miss Fannie’s Hat”…For those of you who have had the good fortune of reading either of those, you’ll see the pattern. Children’s books that have grandmother’s in them seem to pull my heartstrings a little tighter than others. And for those of you who knew my grandma Deedles, you’ll know why. The latest addition to this esteemed (and rather soggy list) is Vera B. Williams’ “A Chair for My Mother” – a gorgeous, heartwarming tale of a little girl, her mother and grandmother who are saving money for a comfortable chair. All of their possessions were burned in a fire and, although neighbors have graciously given them all sorts of hodgepodge furnishings, what they really would love is one soft chair to sit in.
When all of her mother’s tips from the restaurant, and all of the little girl’s spare change have finally filled the little jar, they are able to buy a wonderful, comfy, warm armchair – perfect for what they were really saving up for: a soft place to rest and cuddle. The illustrations are beautiful, the sentiment is lovely – an all-around gorgeous read for anyone.
Do your children like boogers? Mine do. They even like the word “booger.” If you ever see my children and want to make them laugh, just say “booger.” It’s a sure thing. So imagine my utter joy at finding Deb Lucke’s quirky and wonderful “Sneezenesia” in which a little boy at the supermarket sneezes so hard he forgets his name. And with each sneeze, he loses a little bit more knowledge. Math equations…names of Presidents…they all come out of his schnozzola with each “achoo.” I don’t think I could have scripted a more wonderful book for my sons – knowledge as boogers. Tremendous. But how will he get the knowledge back? Sniff around and you may find out.
Meet Smudge. He is, well, a smudge. And he is grumpy. Very grumpy. And yet, like some grumpy people, his friends still like him. All Smudge wants to do is go on a secret errand alone without any interruptions. (Hey, Smudge, you and me both, big guy!) But his friends want to know more. And they follow him. And they ask questions. And they ask more questions. Until finally, poor little Smudge is just about ready to burst. Little readers everywhere will love Daniel Cleary’s “Stop Bugging Me” and parents might actually recognize some of themselves is dear ole Smudge. As Smudge’s friends, one by one, follow along on their curmudgeonly friends’ errand, you won’t be able to hold your giggles in – nor will you be able to resist these adorable smudgy drawings. For anyone who has had their own moments of Smudge-ness, you are not alone. Although you might like to be.
For anyone who ever felt that Cinderella (despite the soot) was just a little too perfect, do I have the book for you. “Cinder Edna”, Ellen Jackson’s riotous retelling of the classic fairy tale, champions not the beautiful, albeit rather dim, Cinder Ella, but rather accordian-playin’, tuna casserole-makin’ Edna. Glass slippers? Not Edna. She prefers loafers which, let’s face it, are a lot easier to dance in. At the glorious ball, Ella catches the eye of Prince Rudolph (a vain, handsome and boring man) while Edna sparkles the eyes of his brother, Rupert, who runs the palace recycling plant. As you might have guessed, the clock strikes midnight and, luckily, true love ensues, as the brown penny loafer and Rupert’s soul mate are reunited. For little girls everywhere who might feel more like an Edna than an Ella, this is a wonderful tale of being yourself and finding true happiness.
Never before have I seen a children’ s book that more articulately and beautifully captures the artistic spirit than David Wiesner’s “Art and Max.” It should come as no surprise that Wiesner has come up with yet another gem of a book – he is one of two people to have ever won the Caldecott for three different books (“Tuesday”, “The Three Pigs” and “Flotsam) – all of which are worth buying and immediately loving.) What sets “Art and Max” apart from the others, though, is that it truly challenges readers big and small to think about the creative process of artists and appreciate the different ways and methods in which art can be made. Lofty subjects for young readers, but Wiesner makes them come to life magically. Art and Max are two lizards. Art is a serious artist – one who studies form and shading and lines. Max just wants to be an artist and, despite Art’s instruction, moves ahead with his own way of creating and we find that both can be beautiful. I really can’t recommend this book more highly – it’s a masterpiece in its own right.
I can’t bear to think of the day when my sons will no longer treasure a really good bedtime story. I know that the day will come, when iPods and pimples and tossing notes in class will take precedence over a really great pre-sleep read, but for now, I will hold each moment and each book dear – especially Johanna Wright’s “The Secret Circus.” With just enough repetition to lull those little eyes to half-mast, and just enough intrigue to keep them open, this darling book tells the story of a Parisian circus that is so small, “only the mice know how to get there.” And those mice do go there, dressed in their top hats and parasols and other mouse finery. A wonderful, wonderful book for little ones with big imaginations. So, tuck them in tonight with “The Secret Circus” and enjoy that wonderful age and that wonderful book together.
Few are the children who know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. I, at the age of 5, wanted to be a veterinarian. Then an archaeologist. Then a pediatrician. Then a librarian. (We’ll just gloss over the period in which I wanted to become a Canadian.) Iggy Peck, however, knows exactly what he wants to be: an architect. From the age of 2, he has been constructing buildings from whatever materials he could lay his hands on..who could forget his tower made of dirty diapers and glue? But when his 2nd grade teacher tries to squash Iggy’s passion for building, you won’t believe how he changes her mind. Andrea Beaty and David Roberts have created a delightful story in rhyme that will warm the hearts of readers young and old.
Mr. and Mrs. Watson have a pet pig named Mercy. Which really isn’t all that odd, since my Aunt once had a pot-bellied pig named Reginald…but I digress..What is odd is that Mercy, despite her best attempts to just spend her days eating toast “with a great deal of butter”, somehow manages to solve every mystery and crime that comes to Deckawoo Drive. She is, as Mr Watson puts it, “a porcine wonder.” And readers young and old will agree that Kate DiCamillo (of “Despereaux” fame) has again created a series of instant classics with her six “Mercy Watson” books. These easy-to-read chapter books will delight your children and keep the parents laughing with the old lady antics of Eugenia and Baby Lincoln who live next store and an animal control officer named Francine Poulet. Don’t walk, run to your local library for Mercy’s sake.
For those of us who absolutely adore our children but who find ourselves biting the insides of our cheeks every time our children interrupt us, do I have the book for you. “Interrupting Chicken” by David Ezra Stein is a hilarious take on a child’s penchant for iterruptus storytimeus. Little Red Chicken LOVES to read with his father, but he’s just so concerned for all of the fairy tale characters in the books that he can’t help but interrupt the story to help them avoid calamity.
Hansel and Gretel: Don’t go in! She’s a witch!
Little Red Riding Hood: That’s NOT your grandmother!
Chicken Little: It’s only an acorn!
You get the picture. And your children will to – as this delightful story continues. But how in the world does Little Red Chicken’s story end up interrupted by his father? You’ll just have to get those book and…”Are you done yet, Mama?”…find out.