Oh, Maurice Sendak. You wonderful, wonderful man. Not only did you give us Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen, but you gave me my favorite, Chicken Soup with Rice. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I checked this book out of the Lincoln Elementary library growing up…I just adored it. Still do. Mostly because it has the word “whoopy” in it…as in “whoopy once, whoopy twice, whoopy chicken soup with rice.” The monthly sing-song rhymes of the book married with the inimitable illustrations of Sendak himself make this book a classic to be enjoyed through the generations. And for an extra treat, try to find Carole King’s (yes, of “I Feel the Earth Move” fame) recording of Chicken Soup with Rice as part of her Really Rosie album of Sendak books. It’s walk down 1970’s memory lane…
If you saw me walking to school this morning, I apologize on behalf of my bedhead. It was truly epic and yet, for a variety of reasons (spilled oatmeal, exploding kitty litter and a late alarm clock notwithstanding) I did not have time to tame the beast. So I subjected you all to its horror. And for that I am truly sorry. I feel much better, though, knowing that Oliver, the mane, er, I mean, main character in Margie Palatini’s delightful book Bedhead has it much worse. Poor Oliver wakes up. Shuffles into the bathroom. Takes one look into the mirror. And there it is. Bedhead. Even the back of his head looks like a cat’s “coughed-up furball.” Trust me, I can relate. So Oliver’s family takes action and tries combing, brushing, moussing, gelling – to no avail. Only a baseball cap will help at this late hour. But when Oliver arrives at school and its PICTURE DAY for heaven’s sake (no baseball caps allowed), what will our follicularly challenged child do? A marvelous book for any and all who have suffered through bedhead…or are still recovering from seeing mine.
I love lists. I love making lists and I especially love checking things off of my lists. Chores. To-dos. Dream vacations. New Year’s Resolutions. Really cute outfits I’ll fit into one day. I even made lists as a kid – boys I had crushes on (if you’re out there Colby, I’ve gotten over you), amazing jobs I wanted to grow up and do…just about anything you can imagine, I put it into a list. So imagine my sheer delight to find Lisa Nola’s My Listography: My Amazing Life in Lists. It’s a list book for children – like a journal with categories of things like “favorite things about your family” and “if your parents left you alone for a day”…Each page offers a fantastic springboard for creativity and imagination for your children and (don’t tell them this but…) will offer some great practice in writing, too. It’s so important for kids to have a place to write their thoughts and dreams and worries and goals and Nola’s book offers a fun and engaging way for kids to do just that. And just think how awesome it will be for your kids to stumble upon this book of lists when they’re our age! My old lists are a step back in time and yet I really haven’t changed all that much. I can still be an archeologist, right?
From white-out to a hexagonal house…from diapers to industrial dishwashers…girls throughout history have been inventing some amazing things. Did you know that a 10-year-old girl invented “glo-sheet paper” that you can write on in the dark? And she’s the youngest person every to receive a patent! These stories and others of, quite literally, the mothers of invention, will keep your child captivated from start to end. This isn’t some old, boring recital of inventions from long ago – this is a fresh and unique look at famous and not-so-famous female inventors who have changed the world one idea at a time. Catherine Thimmesh has created a veritable encyclopedia of creativity and Melissa Sweet’s amazing collage illustrations (a woman after my own paper heart) make this book a true masterpiece. Let’s hear it for the girls!
Sweet little Sam…making a sandwich for his sister. What a nice little boy. Sliced tomato. Pastrami. A little hard-boiled egg. What a delicious little morsel for his sister to bite into. But what the reader will soon find out in this delectably awful pop-up book by David Pelham, is that sweet little Sam has hidden some additional “treats” between the layers. Like ants. And a big juicy slug. And don’t forget the crunchy black fly. Yum. We’ve read this book probably 2,345 times and still my children squeal with delight as each horrific flap is lifted. And the book is even shaped like a sandwich! Sam’s Sandwich is, hand-down, a family favorite. And it gives new meaning to ordering a sandwich with everything on it.
For my art classes, I’m constantly on the look-out for great children’s art books..and Louvre Up Close by Clare d’Harcourt is one of my all-time favorites. In this oversized book, children can really dive in head-first to the best works of the Louvre and play a scavenger hunt along the way. Each two page spread features a piece of art (Mona Lisa, Egyptian Sarcophogi, Snyder’s The Fishmongers, etc) with 10 magnified details for the child to find. Then, in the back of the book, each piece of art is described in detail with an open-the-flap feature that is sure to keep those little ones asking for more. With more than 200 details to find within the book, it’s like an up close and personal tour of the Louvre (minus the croissants you’d inevitably eat after visiting…)
A special thank you to my friend Ally for pointing me in the direction of this wonderful book…Hooway for Wodney Wat is the story of Rodney Rat who, as you could have probably guessed, cannot pronounce his “r’s”. Hence…Wodney Wat. Surely a cruel joke of fate for both of his names to begin with that ever-elusive letter…and Wodney certainly bears the brunt of the teasing and giggling at school. That is, until Camilla Capybara comes to school – and announces that she’s the biggest, meanest and smartest rodent in town. A not-so-friendly game of Simon Says ensues and, lo and behold, Wodney’s pronunciation is the key to successfully humbling Miss Camilla. For anyone who, like my younger son, has a bit of trouble with those dastardly “r’s” or for anyone who just needs a little reassurance that everything is going to be alright, Hooway for Wodney Wat is a remarkably clever and inspiring tail….I mean, tale.
For any parent who’s ever wondered, just who exactly is the boss around here, Marla Frazee’s adorable book, “The Boss Baby” is the one for you. In it, Boss Baby wrecks havoc over the household. He’s demanding, deafening and downright dastardly. And no matter what his parents do, he still wants more, more, more! That is, until the two sole members of his tyrannical corporation faint from exhaustion and Boss Baby must resort to some pretty quick (and polite) thinking to get his staff back on track. Frazee’s text and inimitable illustrations (Boss Baby sports a three-piece suit onesie with a diaper-friendly drop seat) are the key to the success of this little book. And just a suggestion…”Boss Baby” also makes a great gift for first-time parents who probably aren’t yet ready to admit they have a Boss Baby of their own…
Oh, how I loved these books as a child. Maud Hart Lovelace’s (don’t you just LOVE her name?) “Betsy Tacy” series was one of my all-time favorites. And, although first published in 1946, they are utterly timeless and wonderful. Unfortunately for me, my boys both put their noses high in the air when I even mentioned a series of books about two little girls, but that won’t stop me from re-reading them again and again. Betsy and Tacy are two little girls who are such good friends that people in their small town just call them the collective “Betsy Tacy” since they’re always together. And these simple little books tell the tales of these two wonderful friends and for some reason, even though nothing really amazing ever happens, I could never manage to put them down even for a second. The perfect series for emerging readers…just not for my boys who are currently in a “girls are stinky” frame of mind.
It has recently come to my attention that not every child has James Marshall’s “George and Martha” sitting on their bookshelves. How is this possible? Well, it must be changed immediately, because you are one of those who do not have “George and Martha” readily at your disposal that you are missing out on one of the greatest pleasures in life. George and Martha were a staple of my childhood and continue to be two of the most witty, hilarious and charming hippos to ever speak, dance and wear clothes. Oh, and did I mention Martha makes a mean bowl of split pea soup? (Which George, who hates split pea soup but is too worried about hurting Martha’s feelings to say so, promptly dumps into his shoe.) Each of the George and Martha books (and there are many, thank goodness!) offers a collection of tales about what it takes to be a good friend and the ups and downs of every friendship. You must read them today. Seriously. Go right now. I’ll be checking your bookshelves to make sure…