We all know Eric Carle for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Grouchy Ladybug and The Very Quiet Cricket. But for those of you who have missed his Christmas tale Dream Snow, it is truly a must-have for any bookshelf. In it, a farmer (with a rather familiar white beard) dreams of snow falling on each of his animals (conveniently named 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5). Special plastic pages printed with snowflakes hide which animal is covered with snow until the child lifts it and exposes each animal’s slumbering shape. When the farmer wakes up, he realizes he has some last-minute preparations to make and dons his red cap, coat and boots. Children will delight in this simple story, with the added surprise of a special push-button Christmas tune that plays at the end.
There really are a great number of wonderful Hanukkah books available for children, like Naomi Hawland’s Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat or Joan Holub’s Light the Candles: A Hanukkah Lift-the-Flap Book. And I can’t help but sing the highest praises for Stephanie Spinner and Jill McElmurry’s It’s a Miracle! – my new absolutely favorite Hanukkah book for kids. In it, little Owen Block (just six and a half) has been deemed the Official Candle Lighter (or O.C.L.) – a true responsibility that he takes very seriously. Each night after the candles have been lit, Owen’s fabulously spry grandma Karen weaves a tale of Hanukkah for her beloved grandson. Her stories vary from aliens to soldiers to dentists – each one more intriguing and entertaining than the last. Not only is the storytelling fantastic, but this lovely book includes a great summary of the Hanukkah story, a list of traditional blessings and even a glossary of Hebrew terminology. This book is, by far, the most comprehensively delightful Hanukkah book on the market today. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
A few months ago, I reviewed one of the unbelievably charming books in the BabyLit series – Romeo and Juliet: A Babylit Counting Primer (click here for the review). And now they’ve gone and done it again. The amazing literary team that is writer Jennifer Adams and illustrator Alison Oliver has created yet another instant classic in their holiday book A Christmas Carol: A BabyLit Colors Primer. This utterly adorable board book will keep your little drooling darlings delighted with its lovable drawings, all while learning their colors! Scrooge never looked so good, and the added bonus of a hidden mouse throughout the pages will keep even the most discerning baby literati on their toes. Now, I’m an old English major dork so the thought of board books based on classic literature is just about the most wonderful thing to happen. But you don’t have to be an Austen aficionado or a Dickens dilettante to appreciate the brains behind these beautiful books. If I were you, I’d buy all the babies in my life the full set of these. Adams and Oliver have covered many of the most beloved books, from Sense and Sensibility to Moby Dick, all the way to my personal favorite, Jane Eyre. (I always was a sucker for Rochester…) Honestly, I can’t think of anything better than these wee little books – perfect for your wee little bookworm.
You remember David don’t you? Nightmarish kid…bald head…vampire-like teeth? David Shannon’s wicked character is back in “It’s Christmas, David!” and this time he’s on the hunt for hidden presents. David steals cookies…he pees in the snow…he shows his little fanny to the world…and, still, you’ll be begging for more. Shannon’s “David” books are all-time favorites of my boys and I find myself laughing right along with them not only for the delightfully naughty things David does, but for the fantastically brilliant illustrations that perfectly capture his every prank. A must-read for the holidays…fanny optional.
In honor of my son’s second most favorite President (he runs closely behind F.D.R. for reasons we’ll get into later), I wanted to share with you a wonderful book about Abraham Lincoln. Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books is the story of our 16th President and how the words he read as a child and the books that surrounded him led him to an extraordinary life. Lincoln has been much in the press lately, what with the recent movie starring Daniel Day Lewis, which my husband and I are eager to see this weekend. This book is a wonderful entrance into the life and wonder of Mr. Lincoln. Little Abe, who practiced spelling in the dust outside of his log cabin, adored reading and this book captures all that is wonderful about a life filled with books. Children will not only learn cool new facts about President Lincoln, but will understand his simple beginnings that were made spectacular by his imagination and love of education. Kay Winters’ words and Nancy Carpenter’s beautifully painted illustrations make this book a classic. This is, by far, one of my favorite books on Lincoln and one I hope you will share with your kids, too.
Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad may be the finest writer/illustrator team since Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. Their utterly lovely book, “When You Were Small”, is a feast of words and pictures the likes of which I have not seen in some time. Henry is a little boy who, like most children, likes to hear about when he was small. So, his loving father, with a penchant for exaggeration and wit, spins tales of Henry’s infancy when he could sleep in his father’s left slipper and bathe in a teapot. The whimsy with which O’Leary’s words spill forth is perfectly matched by Morstad’s gorgeous drawings. This is a match (and a book) made in Heaven. I would recommend reading it every night…right after your warm and fragrant teapot bath.
I recently substituted in a 2nd grade classroom (Miss Nelson has nothing on me!) and brought along this book in case there were a few free minutes to fill. Luckily for me, those darling children finished their math lesson with time to spare, leaving me plenty of time to share this, my favorite bedtime story. If ever there existed a book that truly captures the lengths that grandparents will go for their grandchildren, I offer Kate Lum’s What! Cried Granny. In it, a little boy is visiting his Granny for a sleep-over. When it’s discovered that the boy doesn’t have a bed, Granny comes to the rescue with hammer and nails and a few coats of paint. Need a blankie? Granny’ll dye the wool. Come without your teddy bear? Granny will make a a giant one from scratch. My grandma Deedles used to scratch my back until I fell asleep. And my grandpa Pumpy used to stand in the kitchen with a white dish towel over his shoulder and make foot-high stacks of waffles for me and let me put as much powdered sugar on them as I wanted. And this book reminds me of those million little moments and smile. . I adore this book and so do my boys and so did my little 2nd graders who hooted and hollered when I read it out loud and use a crotchety old lady voice for Granny. The illustrations by Adrian Johnson are divine and the book speaks to the sheer lengths we’ll go to for the little ones we love…
My sons are fascinated by the election. They marvel at the signs on the backs of people’s cars, the posters in people’s yards, the commercials touting the merits (or demerits) of this candidate over the other. My older son, in particular, is a bit of a policy wonk (a child after my own heart!) and prides himself on his knowledge of not only the Presidents through history but the fun facts associated with them. (A portly President Taft getting stuck in the Presidential bathtub, for example…) He’s even started writing his own campaign speeches and slogans (“Go Big! Go Zig!”). He’s very interested in watching the Conventions as well and so we have, as a family, watched it all. No matter my or my husband’s political leanings, we want to instill in our kids the notion of making their own decisions. Of knowing the issues and learning about the beliefs of each candidate and making decisions based on human rights, kindness and intelligence. We’ve listened to Ann’s speech and Condi’s speech and Mitt’s speech and Michelle’s speech and Bill’s speech and we’re anxiously awaiting President Obama’s speech. And as we’ve discussed politics and what the candidates are talking about and how the election all works, I’ve tried to find a children’s book that succinctly and clearly discusses these complex ideas in a way that is understandable and enjoyable for kids. I found there’s no better book to illustrate the true meaning of our right to vote than “Vote!” by Eileen Christelow. In a simple, engaging, playful way, Christelow’s book offers insight into the electoral process. Using narration by one candidate’s dogs (Elmer and Sparky), the information is approachable and understandable even to younger readers. In an era of mudslinging it is wonderful to help children understand what’s behind the vote and how important it is to remember why we do it in the first place. And what better time that now to emphasize the importance of knowledge and the amazing power that we have as citizens and voters to change the world. Big lessons for little people – but ones that will stay with them forever.
Remember phone booths? Remember having to call your parents collect to come pick you up after track practice in high school because you couldn’t scrape together two gum-encrusted dimes from the bottom of your backpack? Maybe that was just me…but for anyone who does remember the antiquated charm of the phone booth, Peter Ackerman’s adorable “The Lonely Phone Booth” is a treat. On a busy corner of New York City, sits a little phone booth who’s feeling rather neglected, what with all the cell phones he sees rushing by. But, could he find new life once an electrical storm renders the cell phone towers defunct? This story has a retro feel and rallies support for the little booth as city officials threaten to haul it off to the dump. The pairing of Peter Ackerman’s delightful prose with Max Dalton’s illustrations is a smart one. Ackerman, a playwright who wrote Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight,imbues an obvious love for New York City and the symbols of its glory (ballerinas, businessmen, racing cabs, skyscrapers) and Dalton, Argentinian-based illustrator extraordinaire has long been a favorite ever since he designed a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Board Game.” Put these two together and you’ve got a winning combination that will have children cheering for the booth. And you’ll recall with warm memories when you used to close that folding door behind you and call home collect.
How thrilled was I to see a clothesline hung in my local children’s bookstore…strewn with multi-colored underpants. The occasion for such tighty whitey hi-jinx? The release of the latest in Dav Pikley’s beloved series, Captain Underpants! In stores next week, Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers, promises to surprise, delight and depants not only avid fans of the series, but newbies to the genre. (I promise a lengthy review once I can get my grubby little hands on it!) So, hang on to your boxers, briefs and (in some cases) granny panties. The Captain has returned!