As the boys and I prepare for our Thanksgiving trip to New Jersey, we are anxiously awaiting a fun family day in Manhattan. Brunch with friends, a Broadway play in the afternoon, a drink at the Harvard Club…Heaven. And with the devastation caused by Sandy and the reminder to us all just how incredible and impermeable the spirit of that city is, what better way to celebrate this gorgeous metropolis than by reading Miroslav Sasek’s beautiful book, “This is New York”…one in a series of books dedicated to introducing young children to the most wonderful cities in the world. Originally published in 1960, Sasek’s inimitable illustrations of New York and the brilliant and irreverent way in which he shares the history of Manhattan are what make this book a must-have for any family. It’s a literal treasure-trove of all the best New York has to offer and, even today, could serve as a tourist map of must-see attractions. Find a copy, treat yourself to a one-way ticket there and give the New York Public Library Lions a pat on the head from me.
Goodness gracious, how I ADORE this book. Sparkle and Spin: A Book About Words could potentially be my new favorite book. Not new in the sense of just-published, since this treasure of a tome was first published in the late 1950’s, but new in that I just discovered it and am seriously kicking myself for not finding it earlier. Having grown up with Dutch author and illustrator Dick Bruna’s books, I’ve always been a complete sucker for strong graphic visuals in children’s books. How could I have missed Ann and Paul Rand? It’s like Dick Bruna and Lane Smith had a child and created this book. In it, the Rands create a world of words – a delicious cacophony of syllables and sentences. With phrases like “what are words? words are how what you think inside comes out, and how you remember what you might forget about,” this delightful book captures all that is wonderful about language and does it in a way that is amazingly approachable and entertaining for children of all ages. You should purchase this book, republished by Chronicle Books, not only for your children to read but as a keepsake…a treasure to pass down through the generations of readers and lovers of words. This is a children’s coffee table book and should be relished and read aloud until the words are faint on the page.
If that isn’t the best children’s book title ever devised, I’ll eat my hat. Mo Willems has done it again – this time with a naked mole rat. If your kids adore the penguin who wants to drive the bus, and just can’t get enough of elephant and piggie, then this will most certainly be their new favorite book. In it, Wilbur (said naked mole rat) rebels against his community’s dress code of nothing and dons space suits, tuxedos…to the horror of his fellow naked mole rats. But when the leader of the bunch, Grand-pah, is called in to mediate, they’re soon surprised to find that maybe clothes aren’t such a social taboo after all. Mo Willems can do no wrong, in my opinion. And everything…EVERYTHING…about this book is right.
As the mother of an incoming third grader, it was with great excitement that I heard of Rachel Vail’s new book Justin Case: School, Drool and Other Daily Disasters. Chronicling, in diary style, the life of Justin Krzeszewski (a last name completely bungled by everyone), Vail’s book is as charming as it is heartbreaking as it details every disastrously awkward moment of Justin’s life. Dropping the ball at baseball practice…bungling his violin recital…a play date with a girl? Little Justin K faces each new obstacle with a humorous self-deprecation that most adults could learn from. From dinosaur reports to school elections, Justin’s repeated attempts at fitting in and making his way through third grade are spot-on, particularly for any child (like me) who ever felt a bit on the edges. Example? In the third grade, among Cyndi Laupers, robots and superheroes, I famously dressed up as Betsy Ross for Halloween complete with bonnet and bloomers. Just about sums it up doesn’t it? So, for me, Justin feels like home and will touch the minds and hearts of any child who might be struggling with finding their way in school, friendships and self-confidence. In a market currently overrun with diary-format books, Justin Case stands out as a smart, witty and perhaps more innocent version of Wimpy Kid. It feels authentic in its voice and will no doubt bring a little bit of comfort to children, like mine, who get stomachaches at the thought of cursive writing.
Meet Mr. Al Foxword, salesman extraordinaire. Al could sell an umbrella to a fish, an icebox to a penguin, a vacuum to a mole. (Wait, he did! Amazing!) And now Al wants YOU to buy his top-of-the-line, utterly fantastic, flying-off-the-shelves book. Not convinced? Consider other books available to children. “Sleeping Beauty” might put you to sleep. Cookbooks just leave a bad taste in your mouth. But with Al Foxword’s new book, you’ll be the talk of the town and the envy of your neighbors. Buy within the next ten seconds and you’ll be the lucky recipient of a bookmark! Melanie Watt’s delightfully quirky book takes every ridiculous sales pitch ever heard and turns it into an uproarious infomercial for kids. It’s like Guy Smiley and that Sham-Wow guy got together and created a book character. And that Al is amazingly persuasive. I mean, he almost had me calling the 1-800 number when he offered me two for the price of one! Not sure how to use that second book? Al offers a few suggestions, including my favorite, a unique hat. The end of the book will make even the most stoic parent giggle. A truly enjoyable, utterly endearing and supremely marketable tale.