Category Archives: children’s

Picture books in our hands

I experienced something new last week: The online library system said I couldn’t reserve any more books because I’d reached my (25-book) limit.

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(That reminds me … I wasn’t quite able to reserve all I’d wanted to when I hit that limit, but since we just picked up holds, there’s room. Lemme go rectify that … Done.)

We’ve been working our way through the SLJ’s Top 100 Picture Books, and I reserved the next chunk of them that are available at our library. We’re more than half way through that list, and I’ve added a few other lists to what I’m keeping track of, in terms of picture books. Let’s see, I’m tracking Caldecotts and 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up.

My son was SO. EXCITED. to pick up this huge stack of books (there were a few for me there, too)! Whenever we get new library books, they’re the most interesting thing in the world to him. I anticipate I’ll be reading aloud most of the day today, as long as my voice can hold out. (I’ve got a cold of some kind.)

Have you read any of these picture books? What are yours, or your children’s, favorite picture books? Have you worked through book lists like this? How do you decide what books to bring home?

Picture Books, round one

Last week I asked for recommendations for picture books with excellent writing (read: non-annoying when read aloud 2,763 times per day, every day). I started by asking about the Caldecott (which is an award for picture books, but actually for illustration of said picture books). And then just for recommendations. And they rolled in.

I had a couple being pulled for me at the library, so I had to go pick them up. While I was there, I browsed, with my head full of titles and authors I’d been hearing about (and looking up) all week. I came home with a big stack, and we’ve been reading them all weekend. Here’s the low down.

Freight Train by Donald Crews (author and illustrator) (Caldecott honor book)
A good transitional book, on the way up from board books. Very few words. Nice graphic illustrations. Bold colors. Although it’s been eclipsed the past two days by the newest train book to enter the house (which I’ll hopefully get around to telling you about reasonably soon).

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney (author and illustrator)
I picked this one up because A’s already familiar with this character from a few board books. I think we’ve only read it once so far.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems (author and illustrator) (Caldecott honor book)
I’ve heard so many great things about Willems’s books. This one for sure didn’t disappoint. Again, very few words. Images are black and white photographs overlaid with cartoonish people. My guy laughs at the baby talk [not someone talking to a baby in what is usually called baby talk, but the verbalizations of a pre-talking kiddo].

We Are in a Book!, an Elephant and Piggie book, by Mo Willems (author and illustrator)
I laughed and laughed on the first read-through. A very self-aware book. The illustrations are straightforward and clear. I think it might (the humor at least) be a bit over my kiddo’s head, though.

The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
The rhyme and rhythm are fantastic, the story is grand. More words per page than A’s used to, but he’s bringing it to me repeatedly. Really a beautiful book. So much to see on every page, too.

Clifford’s First Snow Day by Norman Bridwell
Not annoying, but not particularly enchanting to this mama or toddler, either. I don’t think, when we’ve read this one, that A has ever asked to read it again right away once yet.

The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett (author and illustrator) (This my library had in both board book and picture book format)
Lots of people highly recommended Jan Brett’s books. I’m not sure I understand the fandom, though (at least not yet). This is the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, except Goldilocks is now Aloo-ki, who lives in an igloo, and the bears are now polar bears.

A Good Day by Kevin Henkes (author and illustrator)
Quite simplistic. A likes the squirrel and the dog, though. One of those books that don’t have much of a plot. Very few words per page, and a short page count, too. Not annoying, though.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Caldecott honor book)
Enchanting. The narrative doesn’t have the rhyme and meter some of the others do, but the story is sweet and illustrations are adorable (especially if you’re a yarn lover, but even if you’re not).

So, the winners this round are:

  • Freight Train (although it’s a bit dull and repetitive for me)
  • Knuffle Bunny
  • The Snail and the Whale (a bit longer, though)
  • Extra Yarn

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Do you have any (more) recommendations for us?

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Board Book of the Week: Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton

Books can be hard to talk about. And children’s books — especially ones with less than 20 pages — can be particularly tough, at least for me, so far. But I think I found a way to make this work.

I finally started taking A to the library. And when you go once, there’s a pretty strong pull to go back — the books have to be returned at some point, and the drive through drop box seems almost cruel when there’s so much fun to be had inside (there’s some seriously great play areas set up, let alone all the books).

I brought home a stack of books this week, as you do. Seven books last time, nine this time. Most I considered quickly but somewhat carefully, and a few I added to the pile after A pulled them off the shelves.

Some books I like, but he either doesn’t get or doesn’t have the patience for, or something. And others he insistently brings me over and over, but they make me want to gouge my eyes out. You know how it is.

This post highlights A’s hand’s down favorite, which is one I really appreciate, too. (Which is not to say *I’m* saying “again, again,” once he tires of it, but still.)

red truck

Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton, illustrated by Valeria Petrone (2008, Viking Penguin, board book) is a delightful book.

A likes:
• Pointing at all the trucks and making truck sounds.
• Also the “Vrooom,” “Sploosh,” and “Zoom” exclamations usually elicit big smiles.

Mama likes:
• The writing is clear and engaging, the perfect balance of fun and educational, no wording is awkward or annoying. There are rhymes, but it’s not over the top. There are just the right amount of words, too. I never have to read/recite at break-neck speeds to get all the words in before he turns the page.
• The illustrations are whimsical and clear, cheerful. The background recedes and yet remains fun. The colors are bright and mostly primary without being overtly so. The tow truck driver looks enough like a cross between Mario and Luigi to make me smile but still unique enough to be his own character.
• I like the text treatment, too. Colors and sizes vary some, but it’s still completely legible. And it’s not all caps. Also, there aren’t exclamation points on every. single. page. (Ahem.)

Maybe it’s just the perfect timing in terms of his attention span and vehicle fascination, but this book certainly hits the spot. I’ve enjoyed Hamilton’s YA books in the past (Tyger Tyger (my review) and In the Forests of the Night — ooh, looks like book 3 of that Goblin Wars series is out this week: When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears) and I’ll definitely be looking for more of her children’s books now too.

For more on children’s books this week, check out Booking Mama’s Kid Konnection.

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15 months

In the tunnel

In the tunnel

His hair is the color of corn silk. So soft and shiny, and with colors ranging from white to gold to strawberry. And he has a lot of it. It’s getting long in back, but it’s still not nearly covering his forehead. He has his daddy’s widow’s peak.

He understands so much of what we say! It’s awesome watching him act on what I’ve said and begin to communicate in ways I can understand, too.

He says Dad, dog, water, food, yeah, and book (and also the EC form of pee/potty), and there/that/this (and maybe Up?). He signs all of those (except potty) plus please, cat, milk, all done, and bed / lay down. He also waves goodbye.

When asked for a kiss, he’ll lean in to *be kissed* on the forehead. He also leans in to be hugged.

Looking in the toy box

Looking in the toy box

He gets very excited when he sees an animal (including a high-pitched squeal), but he often signs the wrong cat/dog for what he’s seeing (sometimes he even signs cat for Maisie) and basically every kind of animal will be in one of these categories (the bear in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is usually a dog, for example, and a gosling in some other book was a cat, I believe, as was the daddy long legs in The Fathers Are Coming Home).

He’s started to act out the books as I read them to him, sometimes — in Old Bear he did the climbing on each other and the jumping on the bed. In Llama Llama Hoppity-Hop he’s done several of the actions (clap, thump (which is really stomp), stretch, and he mimes jumping).

Early-morning-watching-the-ducks

When I say it’s time to change his diaper, he usually heads to the nursery to get it done, and he’ll go to his high chair when he’s hungry or when I tell him it’s time for lunch.

For the past few weeks he’s been insisting on being read to CONSTANTLY. The same book over and over, but also tons of different books. Even with a trip to the library and a few newly purchased books, I feel like my brain is melting. And not just from all the repetitious reading, but also because this means he’s requiring my attention basically ALL DAY, rather than happily playing by himself for quite a chunk of the day. He especially wants to be read to while nursing. And I’ve spent 20 minutes of him on the potty chair reading. He does pretty good with book handling these days — at least he’s not chewing on them or ripping the pages. We still mostly read board books, though. He does still get them bent backward at the spine or creased in cover or page.

He has successfully told me he needed to use the potty chair *and then actually gone* twice, once #2 and once #1. He asks other times, but we’re not catching anything those times (either we’re too slow or he’s telling us after he’s already gone or asking is just a ploy to get more concentrated reading time).

He was diagnosed with seasonal allergies last week. And he’s been working on his 2-year molars for more than a month now — although they’re still a long ways from coming in, as far as I can tell. Otherwise, he’s only lacking one eye tooth.

He still nurses at lot, although we’ve night weaned (so he doesn’t breastfeed once we’ve gone to sleep until ~6 a.m.).

He opened the lever door at the chiropractor’s office (handle there lower than the one at home). When he has keys, he uses them at a closed door to try to open it (doesn’t get it in the keyhole yet).

He’s definitely begun asserting his independence/will and will shove things/people out of his way and scream (to the extent of folded in half, face on the floor) when he doesn’t get his way.

He’s discovered a love for dipping his food.

He usually cries when Daddy leaves for work.

He loves being outside.

He has a few different car/truck noises, including vvvvvvvvvvv and ththththththththththththth. I’m pretty sure he also has some kind of barking noise, but it’s not completely clear yet.

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Today in bookish thoughts

I finished my first Henning Mankell book a day or two ago (A Treacherous Paradise), and I’m still not sure what I think or feel about it. Has anyone else read it (and/or other work of his)? I’d love to chat about it!

I might be starting a book club soon. Where do I start? I’ve never done this before, so any and all help is greatly appreciated.

A is lately ignoring his toys all day every day (with very few exceptions) and instead insisting on being read to NONSTOP. We bought some more books, we went to the library and borrowed some new books, and the variety is a small improvement, but … my brain feels like it is melting. I don’t think it’s completely true that, at least in this situation, having good, new books will cure my read-aloud woes, as Julie Danielson claims at Kirkus. But, if you have some recommendations for me, I’ll take ’em. (He’s 15 months. We regularly make it all the way through We’re Going on a Bear Hunt — sometimes even 10 times in a row — but Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is usually too long, although he does like it.) Is he too young to appreciate I Spy books?

Some day I really do think I’ll get around to writing and posting reviews, or at least mini reviews or thoughts of some kind on the books I’ve been reading. But that day is apparently not today.

Happy Sunday!

How do you read aloud?

What does reading to a baby/todder look like? Or what should it look like? Usually when I read to my son, it consists of me reading (or reciting) the words on the pages. Sometimes I turn the pages, sometimes he turns the pages. But I really don’t explain the pictures that accompany the words (I don’t have much use for wordless books; kind of hard to read them.) I still appreciate books with good illustration, but for me, they’re not much part of the actual reading-to. He’s not able to read the words yet, but he can look at the pictures, which is what you do with them.

This is basically completely opposite the way my mom reads to them. She loves the wordless books, and she kind of makes up her own narration as she goes, pointing at each picture, naming the animal/object, and explaining the sound it makes or the function it serves. She clears up any fallacies, too: If the book has bunnies with eggs, she’ll explain that bunnies don’t lay eggs, chickens lay eggs. Silly book.

Is there a right and a wrong way? Should I be spending more time on each page, pointing and naming, explaining? Even if there isn’t a right or wrong approach, how do you read to a little one?

(This blog post brought to you by rocking a fussy baby to sleep.)

At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald

At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald (public domain in the USA, 1871) 220 pages

Available free on Project Gutenberg.

Summary
At the Back of the North Wind centers around a young boy, Diamond, and his interactions (and adventures) with the North Wind, who, when she’s with Diamond, generally takes the form of a beautiful woman (with extremely long hair).

Thoughts
Set in Victorian London, this is an enchanting children’s story (great bedtime reading!).

Ideas MacDonald addresses in this book: social justice, death, love and forgiveness.

This was not a fast read. Part of that, surely, is the fault of the crummy edition I bought (see note below), but it’s content-rich. A charming tale.

Another book I read in preparation for Hutchmoot. (Which is starts tomorrow, yay!)

Note: The edition of this book matters. I purchased a very inexpensive edition (I knew what I was likely getting myself into, but chose that anyway.) and the words are crammed into the book. Plus: It was poorly proofread. The version I linked to above is the one I *wanted* to buy. Some editions are illustrated, which could be cool.

About the author
George MacDonald (1824-1905) was a Scottish author, poet and pastor. He’s said to have influenced many great authors, including J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle.

Other reviews
Across the Page

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

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