I Want My Hat Back

Perhaps I am just a sucker for bemused looking animals, but Jon Klassen’s book I Want My Hat Back is one of my new all-time favorites. I mean, seriously. Just look at that bear’s face. It’s irresistibly droll.  The book offers a simple story, really. No bells and whistles here. But for anyone with a slightly bent sense of humor and a great appreciation for clever writing, this is the book for you. Simply told, bear’s hat is missing. And he’s not too thrilled with the situation. Using the age-old repetitive trope of such classics as The Gingerbread Man and The Little Red Hen, the creatures of the forest encounter the peeved bear one by one, offering little-to-no guidance on his chapeau search. That is, until a graceful deer triggers a faint memory in the bear’s fuzzy brain. And with that, the true mystery of the hat takes off on little furry feet. And don’t even ask me what happens to the bunny. I’m not telling. You’ll just have to immediately go out and buy this adorably naughty book and find out for yourself.


Who Was George Washington?

For anyone who has  not yet encountered the wonderfulness of the “Who Was….” series of biographical children’s books, it’s never too late to get your kids addicted to them. These books, with subjects ranging from Jim Henson to Albert Einstein, make history fun for your little ones. They’re well-written, easy to read chapter books with fascinating and entertaining information on every page. And in honor of the upcoming President’s Day weekend, I thought I’d send a special shout-out to our dear ole George. Roberta Edwards’ biography of our first President includes all of the pertinent information history buffs require with a lot of extra fun facts that your kids will eat up. They’re great for every day reading, and FABULOUS for book reports…Start a collection today – your kids will thank you for it!

A Sweetheart for Valentine

To prove the point that love is out there for everyone, I’d like everyone to sit down right this instant and read my favorite Valentine’s Day book of all time, A Sweetheart for Valentine. I grew up absolutely loving this book, published in 1979, and have continued my love affair with it to this day. In the tiny village of St. Valentine, a great and howling noise wakes the residents – and they come to find a giant baby girl deposited on the steps of the village hall. A kind and generous village, the people decide right then and there to adopt this rather large child and raise her the best they can – feeding her enormous amounts of food, making her clothes from whatever they can find to fit and loving her collectively with tenderness and understanding as to her big-boned frame. But when sweet Valentine is old enough to marry, can they find a suitably-sized suitor? Lorna Balian’s sweet book is a testament to finding love in the least likely of places and a wonderful tale to share with your loved ones on Valentine’s Day. (Plus, Balian’s illustrations of Valentine’s giant pink fanny are sure to elicit a few giggles. )

The Missing Piece

So, basically, Shel Silverstein can do no wrong. From The Giving Tree  (which, incidentally I starred in as the tree in my 4th grade assembly) to Where the Sidewalk Ends and every line of verse in between, Silverstein is the best children’s authors can be. He’s fun, irreverent, brilliant, a little bit naughty and every bit a genius. And today I want to recommend one of my favorite Silverstein books, The Missing Piece not only because it is beautifully written and illustrated in that completely signature Silverstein way, but because it offers one of the most valuable lessons a child (or adult for that matter) can learn in one’s lifetime – that fulfillment, completion and self-worth are entirely within our own hearts. And somehow, that deep philosophical notion is made abundantly clear in a few simple line drawings of a circle with a chunk missing from it. It’s amazing what children’s books can do. And even more amazing what Silverstein can accomplish with his pen. Need more Silverstein in your day? Take a peek at his wonderful web site..www.shelsilverstein.com.

Monday: A is for Abigail

Happy Women’s History Month, everyone! To celebrate, I’d like everyone to raise a glass or sippy cup as the case may be and toast all of the remarkable women who have contributed to the proud progress of our country. And what better way to celebrate that with this fabulous alphabet book, A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women. By utilizing the alphabet as a springboard, this book catalogs the achievements and success of a bevy of groundbreaking women – from Abigail Adams to Sandra Day O’Connor to Emily Dickinson to Nellie Bly. It’s a treasure trove of information all brought to you by none other than Lynne Cheney. Yes, that Lynne Cheney (with whom I worked in my younger, more impressionable days) – and whether you like her (or her husband) or not is irrelevant in the presence of this wonderful little book. Robin Preiss Glasser provides much-appreciated whimsy and delight with her illustrations. Overall, a great book to check out this month to teach all of our little ones just how fabulous we gals can be.

Thursday: Ira Sleeps Over

Last night at dinner, we were talking about my son’s impending slumber party and the excitement inherent in such an adventure. Pizza! Movies! Cake with store-bought frosting! And I remembered my own delight at the prospect of slumber parties growing up – playing “light as a feather stiff as a board”, my friend Damara’s mother reading Edgar Allen Poe stories to us in our sleeping bags (the coolest mom ever!)…And my husband remembered, all those years ago, reading a book about sleeping over at someone’s house, but couldn’t quite remember the name of it, but it had a little boy and a teddy bear. Fast forward to a trip to Barnes and Noble and a walk down memory lane, and you’ve got Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber. How could I have ever forgotten this little gem of a book? In it, a little boy named Ira is excited beyond belief for an upcoming sleepover at his friend Reggie’s house. But when his older sister asksif he’ll be taking his teddy bear, Tah Tah, to Reggie’s house, Ira starts to wonder what his friend’s reaction could be to this. Will Reggie make fun of him? Will he want to be friends anymore? Ira decides to leave Tah Tah at home, only to find that Reggie has a little secret of his own…and the two friends share a wonderful, touching moment together. Written in 1975, Waber’s book not only stands the test of time for any child today – but it lingers in the memories of nostalgic grown-ups too…

Wednesday: When I Grow Up

When I say the words “Weird Al Yankovic” what do you think of? “Eat it”? “Like a Surgeon”? The image of him, dressed in his Pennsylvania Dutch finest in the video for “Amish Paradise”? Or, for you really hard core Weird Al fans (who, me?) the inimitable lyrics of “One More Minute” in which he tells his ex-girlfriend that he’s stranded “all alone in the gas station of love”? Well, no matter the image, Weird Al has his rightful place in American culture – for farces, song parodies and really awesome accordion playing. And now, amazingly enough, he can add children’s book writer to that laundry list of accomplishments. His newly released book, When I Grow Up, is a charming, well-written story of a little 8 year old boy who can’t quite decide what he wants to be as an adult, but he must think of something in time for today’s show-and-tell. When he fantasizes of different occupations (giraffe milker, gorilla masseuse, deodorant sniffing inspector) you can feel the real Weird Al coming through in all the right ways. His sense of humor remains intact, even with the pediatric set – and I’m glad he’s made this first foray into the world of children’s lit. I hope it won’t be his last.

Monday: Love is Walking Hand in Hand

For me, Charles Schulz is just the bee’s knees. I started my love affair with him years ago, reading my dad’s vintage Peanuts books while eating cereal before school. I even wrote my college essay on spending the day with Charlie Brown. So, you can just imagine that my favorite book about love comes from this wonderful gentleman. Love is Walking Hand in Hand was originally published in 1965 with an unmissable black and orange cover. And this simple little book, with its drawings of Snoopy and the rest of the gang, is one of the best and most eloquent treatises on love I’ve seen…..like “Love is mussing up someone’s hair”..and “Love is wondering what he’s doing right now this very moment” (and who hasn’t felt THAT?!?!)…I adore this little, romantic book like no other..and you will, too…

Wednesday: In Daddy’s Arms I am Tall

In celebration of Black History Month, I wanted to be sure to recommend one of the most beautiful books I’ve seen in some time. “In Daddy’s Arms I am Tall” is a compelling and stunning collection of poems paying tribute to African American fathers from a wide variety of writers, new and old. Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, this book is a treasure trove of words and collage pictures from Javaka Steptoe that will resonate with every family, no matter the color.  From the introductory Ashanti proverb: “When you follow in the path of your father, you learn to walk like him”, to the poems of Folami Abiade and Sonia Sanchez, this collection is a true testament to the power and beauty of fathers everywhere.