Thursday, October 10, 2019

Ten Monstrously Great Kid Books!

Halloween has never been my favorite holiday. I don't like creepy costumes, or haunted houses, or spooky stories or candy corn. But since becoming a parent, I'm starting to enjoy Halloween more and more. I've found that costumes can be cute instead of creepy and the decorations can be fun instead of spooky. And books! There are so many great cute-not scary Halloween picture books out there, too many for just one list. This is a list of our favorite picture books about monsters, which are great for Halloween or year-round!

1. The Monster's Monster by Patrick McDonald. Grouch, Grump and Gloom 'n Doom are three little monsters with attitude! They each want to be the biggest, baddest monster around. One day, they decide to combine their forces and create the biggest, baddest monster EVER! When their creation is complete, they can't wait for Monster to terrorize the village. But Monster doesn't care about being the biggest, baddest monster. He is just happy to be alive and teaches his little friends to have a little less attitude and a little more gratitude with two important words: "DANK YOU!"

2. Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberly. This classic peek-hole book has been delighting kids for almost three decades. Kids love watching the monster appear with each page turn...first his yellow eyes, then the bluish-greenish nose, then the sharp white teeth. But the best part is when they get to tell the monster to "go away!" one piece at a time. This a great book for empowering kids to face their fears.

3. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems. My book lists just can't be complete without at least one Mo Willems book! Leonardo is a little monster who can't seem to scare anyone, no matter how hard he tries. He does some research and finds the most scaredy-cat kid in the world: Sam. Leonardo can't wait to scare the tuna salad out of him! But when he goes to scare Sam, Leonardo decides that maybe being a good friend is more important than being the scariest monster.

4. Fright Club by Ethan Long. Only the scariest monsters are allowed to join the Fright Club. So when a cute little bunny asks to join the club before Halloween, the monsters shut the door in his face. The monsters learn that you don't have to be big or have fangs to make good monster! This book has a great message of inclusion and I love illustrations with the cute big-eyed monsters!

5. Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere. "Do you ever wonder if somewhere, not too far away, there are monsters? Because just supposing there are monsters, do you think that this monster might be licking his lips and thinking" When my son was two, we checked this book out from the library and he kept looking at me nervously and saying, "He's not coming to our house, right mom? He's not really coming, right?" But when we got to the end and found out that the monster just wanted a bedtime kiss, he loved the book and wanted to read it over and over again. This book has just the right touch of scary mixed with a heavy dose of silly!

6. Love Monster by Rachel Bright. All the other creatures in Cutesville are cute and cuddly, and everyone loves cute and cuddly things. No one loves a strange-looking, googly-eyed monster. Will Monster find someone who loves him just as he is? This is another monster book that is more sweet than scary, and I love the bold ink-print illustrations!

7. Crankenstein by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Dan Santat. Beware of Crankenstein! You might find him on wet, rainy days or when it's way too hot, even for popsicles. You'll definitely see him when it's time for bed. But will Crankenstein stay cranky forever? This book is tons of fun to read aloud with all the monster "mehhhr" noises, and I absolutely love Dan Santat's distinctive illustrations.

8. The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone. No monster book list would be complete without this classic! This was one of my childhood favorites, and now I love reading it to my kids. They can't help but giggle with delight when Grover explicitly tells them to "stop turning pages!" and they keep doing it anyway...even knocking down a brick wall. This is one monster book that will never get old!

9. Nibbles: The Book Monster by Emma Yarlett. Nibbles the monster loves to chomp everything but especially books! When he chews his way out of his own book and into other stories, hilarity ensues! Emma Yarlett's detailed illustrations are stellar and the flaps and peek-holes in this book make it extra fun!

10. Ginny Goblin Is Not Allowed to Open this Box by David Goodner, illustrated by Louis Thomas. Ginny Goblin has a box, but she is not allowed to open it until dinnertime. But she is determined to open that box, even if it's on the highest shelf in the tallest tower. Nothing will stop Ginny Goblin! This adorable story about persistence will pique kids' curiosity and hold their attention until the very end as they wonder, "What is in that box?!"

What are your favorite Halloween picture books?

Friday, September 13, 2019

Our Favorite Dinosaur Picture Books

I always encourage my kids to help choose books when we go to the library. I want them to feel some ownership in picking out their own books, and I also want them to get familiar with how the books are organized. Juvenile fiction is traditionally organized in alphabetical order by the author's last name, but at our library, the first two shelves are sorted by topic, which makes it so easy for my kids to find books they are interested in. My four-year-old makes a bee-line for the dinosaur books every. single. week. Consequently, we have read pretty much every dino book on the shelf. If you are looking for great picture books about dinosaurs, I've gotcha covered. Here are our favorites broken down into age groups and fiction/non-fiction.

For the toddler/preschool crowd:

1. Tyrannosaurus Wrecks! by Sudipta Bardan-Qualan, illustrated by Zachariah O'Hora. All the little dinosaurs are happily playing and learning...until Tyrannosaurus wrecks! Can the other dinosaurs help teach him Tyrannosaurus to play nicely? I love a good play on words, and the clever title together with the the snappy rhymes and bold colors made me instantly fall in love with this book!

2. Dinosaur Kisses by David Ezra Stein. A newly hatched T-Rex wants to try out every new thing she sees. She tries a stomp, then a whomp, and then she sees a kiss and wants to try that next! But it turns out little T-Rexes aren't very good kissers and she accidentally stomps and whomps everything she tries to kiss. The spare text, simple illustrations, and slapstick humor give this book tons of little-kid appeal! (This one had my four-year-old absolutely ROLLING.)

3. Dinosaur vs Bedtime by Bob Shea. Little dinosaur conquers every foe he meets, from a big pile of leaves to talking grownups. But can he defeat bedtime? Little kids can't resist this one, especially with all the "Roar, Roar, ROAR!"

4. Roar! A Dinosaur Tour by Michael Paul. This book is a great non-fiction introduction to dinosaurs for young readers. The text is informative yet brief and the colorful illustrations are eye-catching. It's hard to find non-fiction books that are simple enough for young kids but not mind-numbing for parents to read over and over. Roar! A Dinosaur Tour finds that perfect balance. Highly recommend!

5. Bigger Than You! by Hyewon Kyung. As little dinosaurs of different sizes play on a see-saw, each one taunts the smaller one saying, "I'm bigger than you!" No one is having much fun until they find a better way to all play together. I loved how this simple story gets kids thinking about problem solving. I also love the ink-print illustrations and the informational pages at the end that teach the names of the dinosaurs as well as the different types of simple machines.

6. How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. All the books in this series are great, but this one is my favorite. It captures toddler's manners (or lack of) perfectly and will have both kids and parents smiling!

For older kids: Fiction

1. Tea Rex by Molly Idle. Yes, the title is another dinosaur pun, and I love it for that reason alone. But Tea Rex is a gem of a book in every possible way. It's adorable, clever, and funny. And the illustrations are full of detail and are really what tell the story. If you just read the text without the pictures, the book would simply be a step-by-step guide to hosting the perfect tea party. No mention of dinosaurs at all. Which is why it's so dang funny! For example, the text says simply, "Lead your guest through to the parlor" while the illustration shows a little girl and her brother tugging with all their might to pull a bow-tie wearing T-Rex through the too-small doorway. Tea Rex is one of those beautifully crafted picture books that will never get old and never fail to make me smile!

2. We Don't Eat our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins. Penelope Rex is nervous about starting school and wonders what her classmates will be like. She is more than a little surprised when she gets to school and all her classmates are children! So she eats them. (Because children are delicious.) This book is an absolute RIOT. It's a great one to read with kids before the first day of school. Not only will it get them laughing but they can feel comforted knowing that whatever happens on the first day, at least no one will eat each other! ;) And even though it's wildly funny, We Don't Eat Our Classmates, is a great way to start a discussion about making friends and treating others the way we want to be treated. Also, Penelope is the most adorable T-Rex I've ever seen.

3. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems. Mo Willems plus dinosaurs equals mixed-up fairy tale magic. I think it may be my favorite book of Mo's, and that's saying something! (Click here for a list of my favorite fractured fairy tales.)

4. The Three Triceratops Tough by Steve Shasken. Another fabulous fairy tale featuring a cast of dinos! Shaskan's illustrations are simple yet engaging and I love how he gives each of the Triceratops brothers a distinct personality. I love reading this one aloud and and giving each character a different voice, especially the deep, menacing growl of the Tyrannosaurus Rex!

5. Stegothesaurus by Bridget Heos, illustrated by T. L. McBeth. Stegothesaurus is a bit different than his two brothers. When they see a mountain, his brothers say "Big." Stegothesaurus says, "Gargantuan, gigantic, Goliath!" When they eat some shrubs his brothers say, "Yummy." Stegothesaurus says, "Savory, succulent, scrumptious!" When they meet an Allosaurus, his brothers say, "Scary!" and run away. But what will Stegothesaurus do? Stegothesaurus is smart and funny and the surprise ending is just great. I also loved the duo-chromatic illustrations. Be sure to check this one out. It's superb/stellar/stupendous! (See what I did there??) ;)

For older kids: Non-fiction

1. National Geographic's Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs by Catherine D. Hughes and illustrated by Franco Tepesta. I love these National Geographic "Big Books." The pictures are vivid and colorful, the headings are big and bold, they are organized in a way that makes sense, and they are packed with information. I especially love this one for two other reasons. One, it has all the dinosaur pronunciations (Can you pronounce micropachcephalosaurus? Because I can thanks to this book.) It has the dinosaurs listed by size with the categories being small, big, giant, and GIGANTIC) and each page has a sillouhette of a kid standing next to the dinosaur, which I think is a great way for kids to visualize how big the dinosaurs actually were. This book is waaayy too long for a typical read-aloud, but I'll tell you my secret for non-fiction books like this with an excess of information: just read the headings and one or maybe two captions per each page. And just skip all the rest. Your kid will never know! Until they become an independent reader in which case, you can tell them to read it themselves. ;)

2. Who Would Win? Tyrannosaurus vs Velociraptor by Jerry Pallotta and Rob Bolster. This is another awesome non-fiction series. Even though they are geared towards the 8-12-year-old crowd, my four-year-old is obsessed with these books! In this one, the author matches a Tyrannosaurus Rex against a Velociraptor, comparing each of their strength and weaknesses and asking the reader to predict who would win. It ends with an imaginary battle and kids love seeing if their prediction was correct!

3. Did Dinosaurs Eat People? And Other Questions Kids Have About Dinosaurs by Donna H. Bowman. This book take questions submitted by actual kids and gives them a simple, succinct answer. Any questions kids have about dinosaurs, silly or serious, are likely to be answered in this book!

4. You Can be a Paleontologist! Discovering Dinosaurs with Dr. Scott. If you've ever seen Dinosaur Train on PBS, Dr. Scott is the paleontologist from the show. In this book, he tells kids everything they need to do to become a paleontologist when they grow up...and what they can start doing now!

What are your favorite dino-stories?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Author Highlight: Ame Dykeman

Ame Dyckman is one of my very favorite children's book authors. I love her fresh ideas, crisp writing style, and quirky sense of humor...not one of her books has failed to make me smile! Here is a list of our favorites.

1. Boy + Bot illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. Boy + Bot was the first book I read by Dyckman, and it is still one of my all-time favorite picture books. It's about a boy who meets a robot and they play together...until the robot's switch turns off. The boy thinks Bot must be sick and tries everything he can think of to help him feel better including feeding him applesauce, reading him a story, and tucking him in. Then the boy falls asleep. When Bot's switch gets bumped back on, Bot sees the boy sleeping and thinks he must be malfunctioning! So Bot takes Boy to his house and tries to "fix" him by giving him some oil, reading him an instruction manual, and getting him a spare battery. :) It's such a short and sweet story, but it teaches a powerful lesson about true friendship and treating others the way we want to be treated.

2. Wolfie the Bunny, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora. Mama and Papa Bunny are delighted when a baby wolf shows up on their front porch. "He's adorable" they say. But big sister Dot isn't so sure a wolf in the family is such a good idea. In fact, Dot is convinced Wolfie is "going to eat us all up!" Wolfie the Bunny is a wonderfully funny story with a sweet message about loving and accepting those who are different.

3. Horrible Bear, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora. A girl is flying her kite when the string snaps and the kite lands sleeping bear's cave. When the girl goes to retrieve it, the bear rolls over and crunches her kite. "Horrible Bear!" the girl shouts! She stomps home where she grumbles and rages and blames...until she breaks one of her toys. Then the girl suddenly realizes that accidents happen. And that maybe the bear wasn't so horrible. And that maybe she owes him an apology. Horrible Bear has such a great message about forgiveness and not being quick to judge others.

4. Read the Book Lemmings! again illustrated by Zachariah Ohora. It turns out lemmings don't jump off cliffs. It says so right in Foxy's book. But the lemmings can't read, so... "Geronimo!" This one is quirky and silly and just pure fun. And I really love Ohora's distinct illustrations.

5. You Don't Want a Unicorn! illustrated by Liz Climo. Sure, a unicorn SOUNDS like an awesome pet. But you probably didn't know that unicorns shed. And scratch. And are impossible to house-train. And worst of all, unicorns never come alone. You have been warned. You Don't Want a Unicorn! is sure to make unicorn-loving kids laugh out loud!

6. Misunderstood Shark! illustrated by Scott Magoon. Bob the Jellyfish is the host of the live TV show "Underwater World" and today's guest is Shark! Shark insists he is just misunderstood...he wasn't going to eat the fish, he was just showing off his new tooth! And he wasn't going to eat the baby seal, he was just helping her find her parents! And he definitely won't eat any people...right? Filled with fun shark facts and packed with humor, Misunderstood Shark is currently one of my four-year-old's favorite books.

7. Dandy illustrated by Charles Santoso. When Daddy Lion wages ward on the dandelion in his perfect yard, he's ready with every weapon in his arsenal. But the dandelion has the one defense Daddy isn't prepared for---his daughter, Sweetie. Will Daddy be able to rid his lawn of the yellow weed flower without Sweetie noticing? Dandy is equal parts hilarious and heartwarming, and my whole family loves this one!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Loose Tooth Books

Kids love books they can relate to. (So do adults for that matter!) When kids can see their own lives mirrored in the characters or settings of the book they are reading, it instantly draws them in. (Which is why multicultural picture books are SO important. All kids deserve to read stories about kids like them!) My daughter Anna is six, and like most six-year olds, she is losing teeth left and right. I had forgotten what a big deal losing teeth is for kids, but when she lost that first tooth, it quickly came back to me...the excitement of looking under your pillow in the morning to see what the Tooth Fairy left behind, the pride of showing off your gap-tooth grin to your's a childhood rite of passage for sure! Picture book authors clearly recognize this because there are quite a few books out there about losing teeth. Here is a list of our favorites!

1. Anna and the Tooth Fairy by Maureen Wright, illustrated by Anna Chernyshova. Anna has her first loose tooth and is so excited for the Tooth Fairy to visit...until she begins to suspect that her baby sister might actually be a Tooth Fairy in training! It only makes sense...Sophie is up all night, wears pink frilly dresses, and has a rattle that looks like a wand! But if Sophie becomes the Tooth Fairy, will Anna ever see her again? Maybe Anna doesn't want to lose any teeth after all! This was a really sweet story about a big sister's love, and the illustrations are really cute. My daughter loved this one, especially because her name is also Anna!

2. Arthur's Tooth by Marc Brown. This was a favorite of mine as a kid. Poor Arthur is the only one in his class who still has all his baby teeth. All his friends give him tips to help his wiggly tooth fall out sooner, but nothing seems to work. Will he be stuck with all his baby teeth forever? This is a great one for kids who are late joining the lost-tooth club and may feel left out.

3 The Tooth Mouse by Susan Hood, illustrated by Janice Nadeau. Did you know that in France, a Tooth Mouse visits kids instead of a Tooth Fairy? I sure didn't until reading this book! The Tooth Mouse tells the story of Sophie, a little mouse in France who dreams of one day becoming the Tooth Mouse. When the old Tooth Mouse announces she is retiring and must find a successor, Sophie must complete three difficult and dangerous tasks to prove she is worthy of the job. I loved the soft watercolor illustrations and the French words incorporated throughout. I also like the list at the end of different countries' tooth traditions. Apparently in Botswana, the Moon takes your tooth and in India, it's a sparrow!

4. I Lost my Tooth in Africa by Penda Diakite and Baba Wague Diakite. This story is inspired by the actual experience of the author's sister. Amina is a girl from America who visits her father's family in Mali for the summer.  When she loses her tooth there, she places it beneath a gourde in the hopes that the African Tooth Fairy will bring her a chicken! This was another fun glimpse into another country's tooth-losing traditions.

5. Silverlicious by Victoria Kann. When Pinkilicious steals her brother's cookie and bites into it, her tooth falls out. Unfortunately, it's her sweet tooth and she can no longer taste anything sweet! She writes a note to the Tooth Fairy to help her, but the Tooth Fairy is very busy and sends several other visitors including Cupid and the Easter Bunny to help instead. When nothing seems to work, Pinkilicious learns that the sweetness must come from within. While I didn't enjoy this book quite as well as Kann's Pinkilicious, it was still a fun read, and I liked the message about being kind.

6. Fancy Nancy and the Too Loose Tooth by Jane O' Conner. In this early reader story, Nancy has a very loose tooth but it absolutely MUST fall out at school so she can get a fancy tooth necklace from the school nurse! She wiggles it furiously each day at school and then refuses to talk or chew at home in fear the tooth might not hang on until school the next day. We love Fancy Nancy at our house, and Anna read this one on repeat for weeks. (Anna found out her school also has tooth necklaces and she really wanted one so she could be just like Nancy! She had a tooth that was seriously hanging by a thread the last two weeks of kindergarten, but it hung on until school was out, and she didn't get her necklace. "But maybe next year!" she said.)

7. The Tooth Fairy Wars by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Jake Parker. Most kids are excited to get money from the Tooth Fairy but not Nathan. He wants to keep his teeth! Nathan wages war on the Tooth Fairy and hides his teeth in increasingly clever places, but the Tooth Fairy always finds them. Will Nathan be able to outsmart the Tooth Fairy in the end? This was a really fun story with a unique perspective on teeth-losing. My kids were definitely rooting for Nathan! And I wouldn't mind if Anna takes a leaf out of this book and decides to hide her tooth from the Tooth Fairy the next time around. ;)

8. I Lost My Tooth! by Mo Willems. Willems' new Unlimited Squirrel books are just as fun as the Piggie and Gerald series! When Zoom Squirrel loses his tooth, he can't wait to tell his friends. When his friends hear the news, they mistakenly believe the tooth is literally lost and they valiantly prepare to find and rescue Zoom Squirrels poor lost tooth! This one is sure to draw endless giggles from your tooth-losing kid!

What other childhood milestones would you like to read more books about? I think I'll compile a list of first-time-riding-a-bike books next...

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11

I rarely buy books I haven't read before. I love owning books, but books are expensive, and I want to make sure I am only spending money on titles that I really love. (Which is why I love checking books out from the's like a free trial!) But I somehow missed the memo that it was the 50th anniversary of the moon landing until last week! I wanted to find a book to share with my kids, so I quickly researched picture books about the moon landing. Moonshot: the Flight of Apollo 11 was recommended by two of my favorite book reviewers, and has an almost 4.5 rating on Goodreads. When I couldn't find a copy at our library, I went ahead an trusted the reviews and bought a copy on Amazon. And the reviewers were right. This book is a keeper for sure!

The cover drew me in right off the bat; it is striking with a black background and the word "Moonshot" in large block letters. The inside is just as visually appealing with lots of white space and beautiful ink/watercolor illustrations. I read the book silently to myself first, and I noticed and liked how the author chose to tell the story in present-tense as if it was actually happening right now. But it wasn't until I read it out loud to my kids that I realized how poetic and evocative Floca's writing truly is. I felt anticipation as the rocket took off, suspense as the Eagle ran low on fuel before finding a clear landing site, and triumphant as Armstrong and Aldren took their first steps on the moon while everyone on earth watched and cheered. I really did feel as if I was there! 

Moonshot: the Flight of Apollo 11 is definitely worth a check-out from your local library. Or if you want to take a risk like I did and trust my review, go ahead and buy a copy for yourself. It is out of this world! ;)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Blue Sky, White Stars

Happy Fourth of July! I'm always on the lookout for great holiday-themed books to share with my kids to teach them a little about the holiday. We stumbled across Blue Sky, White Stars earlier this year, and I knew it would be my new go-to for Independence Day. (It would also be perfect for Flag Day, but I never seem to remember that holiday until it's already over!)

Blue Sky, White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus and illustrated by Kadir Nelson draws beautiful parallels between the American flag and our country's history.  It begins with a picture of the Statue of Liberty against the starry night sky with the four words, "Blue Sky, White Stars." The next page repeats the words, "Blue Sky, White Stars" but shows the white stars and blue background of the American flag. My favorite page is a picture of Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag with the words "Sew together, won nation." And then the next page is a picture of diverse Americans with the words, "So together, one nation." The words are few but POWERFUL. And the illustrations are just GORGEOUS and equally powerful. It is also a great way to introduce or review American history with your kids as it depicts everything from the pioneer crossing to the civil rights movement to the moon landing. I love absolutely everything about this book, and it's rare for me to say that. (Because I'm picky, remember?) Blue Sky, White Stars gets five (white) stars from me!

What are your favorite holiday-themed books?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Best Baby Board Books (that you can read over and over without going crazy!)

My baby boy is 8 months old and really starting to show an interest in books (mostly in chewing them, but I think he likes when I read to him too)! I read to him as part of his nap/bedtime routine. It only takes a couple of minutes, and yet I know those two or three minutes are so essential to fostering a lifetime love of reading.

Whoever came up with the idea to make books out of sturdy board material for babies was a genius!  The trouble is, maybe I'm just picky, but it is so hard to find good board books! I can't stand "my first word" books. Or most ABC/Number books. Or most cutesy "I love you" books. Or those board book editions of classic children's books like Dr. Seuss that cut/change parts of the story and totally ruin the book! (Ok, I'm definitely picky.)

Here are some things I look for in a great baby board book:
1.) It is short. I'm talking two minutes tops.
2.) It has engaging illustrations, preferably with lots of white space and/or bright, contrasting colors.
3.) It has repetitive and/or rhythmic language.
4.) It invites fingerplay, sound effects, or other interactions.
5.) It is enjoyable to read over and over and over and over. :)

So, without further ado, here are 15 of my very favorite board books to read to babies!

1. Freight Train by Donald Crews. Like many on this list, Freight Train was not originally published as a board book. Thankfully, someone besides me realized how perfect it was for babies Freight Train comes in a compact board book edition. The text is brief, and the illustrations are bold...I love how the colorful train stands out from the white and gray background. Freight Train also gives a natural opportunity for fingerplay as you move your finger with the train "through tunnels" and "by cities." And, of course, adding in chugging and choo-chooing sound effects is a must while reading this book!

2. Hello Baby! by Mem Fox, illustrated by Steve Jenkins. All my babies have loved this book. The pairing of Mem Fox's lyrical rhymes with Steve Jenkins' incredible, lifelike illustrations is pure magic. I love how this book branches out from the familiar dog, cat, horse, etc and instead features wild animals including an eagle, jaguar, and gecko. (Side note: I like to make different animal noises as I read this book, and when my daughter was a baby she would respond to "What does a gecko say?" by sticking her tongue out like I did while reading Hello Baby! It was adorable.)

3. Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli. The playful illustrations of the cute big-headed baby together with the short, repetitive text make Leslie Patricelli's board books ideal for the littlest readers. Yummy Yucky is our very favorite of hers because it's just so darn funny! I love how each of the yummy/yucky examples share something in common and yet are very opposite in their palatability. "Blueberries are yummy. Blue crayons are yucky." "Apple pie is yummy. Mud pie is yucky." And so on. My older kids think its hilarious and love to read this one to their baby brother!

4. Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear by Emily Gravett. This cleverly simple book uses the same four words in different (and surprising!) combinations. The sparse text and generous white space make this fun book great for babies!

5. Piggies by Audrey and Don Wood. Adorable and imaginative, Piggies is probably my personal favorite on this list. The illustrations are a little more detailed then what I typically look for in a baby board book, but because the book lends itself SO well to fingerplay, it always keeps my babies' attention. My baby boy loves to put his hands on top of the illustrated hands in the book, and with the board book edition, his hands are almost the exact same size!

6. Rhymoceros by Janik Coat. One bright blue rhinoceros and one word per page makes this rhyming book very accessible for babies. Some of the pages even incorporate different textures making it extra fun for little hands. I love Rhymoceros uses uncommon examples, so instead of "cat/bat and house/mouse" you get "wilted/tilted and "mossy/glossy." (Also check out Hippopposites and Llamaphones by the same author!)

8. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. This classic children's book has sold over 50 million copies and for good reason! The bright illustrations, repetitive text, and the chance to turn your finger into a squirmy caterpillar make this book awesome for babies.

9. Moo! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. This hilarious story of a cow and a car was the first book I remember making my now 4-year-old laugh out loud when he was a baby. Except for the very last page, the entire text of this book is the word "moo." It's like a challenge for me to see how many different voice inflections I can use to change the meaning of a single word!

10. Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow. The bouncy rhyme, obvious opportunity for fingerplay, and the funny twist at the end is sure to make both parents and babies smile!

11. Egg by Kevin Henkes. This funny and sweet story about four eggs is a family favorite. We already have a hardcover copy of this book, but I'm really tempted to buy the board book version too because it is just great for babies...single word captions, simple and bright illustrations, and plenty of white space!

12. The Go series by Steve Light (Trains Go, Trucks Go, Planes Go, and Cars Go). My babies and I love the onomatopoeia and bold primary colors in these extra-long board books.

13. Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle. This timeless color concept book with its gentle cadence and vivid colors is an instant favorite of babies.

14. Train! by Judi Abbot. This cute story about an elephant who loves trains is geared more toward toddlers, but I think it's great for babies too. I especially love the bright illustrations and the almost song-like repetition in this book. "Train-plane-digger-digger-train-plane-car!"

15. Anything written by Sandra Boyton. The colorful illustrations and brief text make Boynton board books perfect for babies...and the quirky humor makes them lots of fun for parents, too. Some of our favorites are Opposites, Moo, Baa, La, La, La! and Blue Hat, Green Hat.

I hope this list helps you find some new favorites to share with your baby! It's never too early to introduce kids to great books...even if they currently make better teething toys than reading material. ;)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

School's First Day of School

My daughter (my oldest!) started kindergarten this year. In the weeks leading up to her first day, we checked out several "first day of school" books from the library.  We enjoyed them all, but our favorite was School's First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson.

As indicated by the title, this story is about a brand new school, nervously anticipating the first day of being a school. The fresh perspective was definitely what made this book stand out from the other "first day" books. I loved Rex's storytelling style and the voice he gives to the school. It was fun for my daughter to wonder about how a school might feel on its first day. And for kids who are a little nervous about their first day, the idea of the school itself being nervous would be comforting to imagine. My favorite part was when School "accidentally has a fire drill" and feels so embarrassed, as if it's something it couldn't help, like having a potty accident. But when everyone is nice about it, School doesn't feel so bad anymore. It is such a genius way to address one of the many fears a kid may have about starting school!

I also thought the author did a wonderful job of accurately capturing a typical first day of school.  Like when the kids in a class introduce themselves and two boys are named Aiden and one named Caiden. And when a boy laughs so hard at a joke during lunch that milk comes out his nose. And how a little freckled girl is so scared to start Kindergarten that her mom has to carry her in...but at the end of the day, she chooses to draw a glittery picture of the school and her teacher hangs it on the bulletin board.

Christian Robinson's illustrations are a mix of collage and acrylic paint, with bright colors and ample white space. The childlike, whimsical style perfectly fits the theme of the book. Altogether, I don't think there's a single thing I would change about this book. It's fresh, authentic, and imaginative with just the right balance of seriousness and humor. This will definitely be my go-to picture book to share with my kids and students on the first day of school!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Florette by Anna Walker

The children's librarians at our little hometown library do a fabulous job of selecting wonderful books to feature on the display shelves. When I don't have time before our weekly library trip to put books on hold, I will simply walk up and down the aisles and choose books from those on display; nine times out of ten, I will come home with a new favorite. Florette by Anna Walker was this week's winner!

Published just this year, Florette is a heartwarming little story about a girl named Mae who moves from the countryside to a busy urban neighborhood. To her disappointment, Mae discovers that her new home has no garden, no winding paths, and no leafy hiding spots. Mae is a resourceful little girl, however, and she attempts to bring nature into the city by drawing butterflies on the sidewalk and apple trees on the empty moving boxes. Sadly, the butterflies get washed away and the apple trees fall over. Then one day, to her delight, Mae discovers a "forest" (a greenhouse) in the city! Inspired, Mae brings a little sprout from the "forest" back to her apartment and begins growing her own urban garden, sharing her love of nature with everyone around her.

This is the first book I've read by Anna Walker, and I'm already in love with her storytelling style. Her text and illustrations work together beautifully, like different harmonies to a song. Either one could tell the story on its own, but together, they add depth and detail that would be missing without the other. The text moves along in perfect rhythm with the illustrations; when Mae walks through the city, the words dance across the page following the path she walks. And the soft watercolor illustrations are just beautiful. I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by this talented author/illustrator!

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Princess and the Pig

I wanted to include this book with my fractured fairy tale post, but it didn't quite fit. The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene cleverly references several classic fairy tales, but it is definitely an original story!

Princess and the Pig tells the tale of Pigmella the pig and Priscilla the princess who accidentally get swapped as babies. Both the king and queen and the farmer and his wife believe it to be the work of fairies...after all, it's the sort of thing that happens all the time in books! Without a second thought, Priscilla the princess becomes the farmer's daughter, and Pigmella the pig becomes the royal princess. Priscilla grows up happily with the farmer and his wife, but poor Pigmella has a much harder time adjusting to life as a princess! My kids were busting up at the pictures of the pig wearing dresses and make-up, and the unexpected ending had us all laughing. Full of humor and wit, this fresh fairy tale is a new favorite of ours!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Fractured Fairy Tales

I've been a fan of fractured fairy tales ever since our class did a unit on them in 3rd or 4th grade and our teacher challenged us to write our own. (I wrote a version of The Little Red Hen where the hen is really the lazy one and makes the other animals do all the work but still eats the bread herself. Haha!) I love how authors can take stories that have been around for generations and give them a fresh and modern feel, making these classic stories more accessible to today's generation of kids. There are tons out there, but here are six of my favorites.

1. The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat

Image result for the three ninja pigs

In this version of the classic story, the three pigs take martial arts classes so they can defend themselves against the Big Bad Wolf. It's written in catchy rhyming verse with several lines that make my kids laugh out loud (like when the first pig tells the wolf to "Get out of my hut, or I'll kick your big butt!") Despite it's lighthearted feel, The Three Ninja Pigs teaches a valuable lesson...hard work and tenacity will always pay off. Be sure to also check out Ninja Red Riding Hood by the same author/illustrator team.

2. Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Susan Guevara

This book is a such a gem. I love how it intermixes Spanish words with the English in a way that kids who don't know Spanish but know the story will have no problem understanding the foreign words. I also love Guevara's bright illustrations and their depiction of modern Latino culture. This would be a great read-aloud for younger grades, especially for classes with mixed language speakers. I can see Spanish-speaking kids' faces lighting up at hearing a fairy tale that incorporates their own language and culture!

3. The Three Triceratops Tuff by Steven Shaskan

The story of  The Three Billy Goats Gruff always puzzled me a bit. It doesn't teach any kind of moral, and I always wondered why the biggest goat didn't just cross the bridge first and make quick work of the troll. But while this version doesn't answer those questions either, it's automatically better than the original because, well, DINOSAURS. Way more fun than some goats and an ugly troll!  Other than the character and setting swaps, Three Triceratops Tuff stays pretty true to the original story. Shaskan's illustrations are simple yet engaging; I like how he gives each of the Triceratops brothers a distinct personality. I love reading this one aloud and giving each character a different voice, especially the deep, menacing growl of the Tyrannosaurus Rex!

4. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems

My family loves Mo Willems (who doesn't?), but this book might be my personal favorite of his. Like the rest of his books, it's hilarious. However, unlike Willem's Pigeon series where the humor targets young kids, a lot of the humor in this book goes right over my preschoolers' heads...but my husband and I laugh our heads off! Just to give you an idea, it starts out with, "Once upon a time there were three dinosaurs. Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur...and some other dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway." It kills me! And even though my kids don't always get why it's funny, they still laugh with me and want to read this book over and over again. And again, dinosaurs just make everything better. :)

5. Waynetta and the Cornstalk: A Texas Fairy Tale by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Diane Greenseid

As you might guess from the title, Waynetta and the Cornstalk is Jack and the Beanstalk, but with a female protagonist and a Southwestern flair. This book is SO much fun. With phrases like, "purty as a bluebonnet" and "you must be chuckle-headed girl!" it is almost impossible to read without breaking into a Texan drawl. It is also hilarious...I laughed out loud when instead of a hen that golden eggs, the giant has a longhorn cow that drops golden cowpatties! The illustrator's use of warm colors and thick brush strokes add to the Southwestern charm of the story. But my favorite part of this story is that Waynetta (unlike Jack in the original) is hardworking and honest. The giant was the actually the one who stole the longhorn, lasso, and bucket from Waynetta's ma in the first place, making him the thief and not Waynetta. And rather than living a life of luxury on the gold and magic, Waynetta and her ma use the golden cowpats to buy more cattle and then work hard to rebuild their ranch. And if you love Waynetta and the Cornstalk, Helen Ketteman has a whole slew of Texas fractured fairy tales, including Armadilly Chili (The Little Red Hen), The Three Little Gators (The Three Little Pigs), and Bubba, the Cowboy Prince (Cinderella). They are all great!

6.  Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt

Space. Spunky heroine. Superb illustrations. There were so many things I liked about this book! In this version of the story, Cinderella is a spaceship mechanic who catches the eye of the prince by fixing his space ship. When he invites her to the space ball, instead of a glass slipper, she leaves behind her magic socket wrench. Interstellar Cinderella is written in rhyming verse, which I liked for the most part, except it did seem to skip ahead in a couple places. But since almost everyone is familiar with the story of Cinderella, I can forgive the minor gaps in the story line...especially when everything else about the book is fantastic.

When sharing these books with my kids, I like to first read the classic version and then introduce a fractured version. They immediately begin comparing and contrasting the two stories, which is a key comprehension skill. I love when learning happens naturally!

What are your favorite fractured fairy tales to share with your kids?

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