Monday, July 9, 2007

Pumpkinpie's Picks

My daughter, Pumpkinpie, chooses her books for storytime every night. We regularly bring home an armload from the library, read those a lot for a few nights, and then return to choosing from the large piles that grace our living room. Sometimes the "new" books make the cut, sometimes they reach the bottom of the heap in a hurry. But this made me think that while I can talk a lot about books that I like, and while I bring home books that I think she will like, it's ultimately up to the kids, isn't it? So maybe my three-year-old can help you find some things that your young one would like, too. Welcome to the first installment of Pumpkinpie's Picks, a new occasional feature here at Pick of the Litter.

A Beautiful Girl, by Amy Schwartz

I have not, generally, been a huge fan of Amy Schwartz, but this newest book is a fun one. In it, a girl encounters various animals, who tell her that she is, for example, a silly robin with a silly beak. She corrects them, explaining that it is a mouth, and they compare what they use their beaks and mouths for. It's a little bit silly, a little bit sweet, and offers lots of opportunity for kids to show off their knowledge, which they always enjoy.

Jessica, by Kevin Henkes

I may have mentioned before the absurd degree to which I adore Kevin Henkes? Well, apparently my girl's taste is just as good, because she has really enjoyed Chester's Way, Wemberley Worried, and now, Jessica. Ruthie is a girl with an imaginary friend, Jessica, who goes everywhere with her, despite her parents' protests. Even to kindergarten, where, to Ruthie's great surprise and delight, she meets a new - and even better - Jessica.

various Curious George books, by H.A. Rey

Pumpkinpie is fully on the Curious George bandwagon, where books are concerned. We don't watch the TV show, though, curiously enough. But about the books... The older ones are quite lengthy, and definitely require a chid who enjoys sitting for a longer story, but they have a nice depth to them. The newer ones - the ones that say they are illustrated "in the style of" are spinoffs that I must say, are insanely formulaic. Pumpkinpie enjoys them anyhow, and it at least gives me some greater variety, so I set aside my snobbery for this and go ahead and read the one about the puppies for the thousandth time because you know, she looooves puppies. Just so you know what you're getting into! You can make your own call on which ones you are willing to put up with. But I do have a question - why all the focus on the man's yellow hat, when the yellow suit is much, much weirder?

Red Is Best, by Kathy Stinson, ill. Robin Baird Lewis

This is classic Canadian children's fare, and it has in no way lost its appeal over the years. In this book, a mom tries to convince her daughter that items of different colours are better for various practical reasons ("Your white stockings look better with that dress."), while Kelly only wants red things because "red is best." The thing that I love best about it is the way it so perfectly captures a young child. The drawings are spot on, showing that rounded, chubby, clumsiness that is a child, and posing her in just the kind of attitudes you're likely seeing at home yourself. The feelings about her favourite clothes and objects, too, are perfection. "The red paint puts singing in my head." Could you say this any better?

Effie, by Beverley Allinson, ill. Barbara Reid

Pumpkinpie was having some issues with ants at the beginning of this summer. Reassurance and gentle cajoling was not helping. What to do? Finally we thought, "What about a nice story about a nice ant?" Oh yes, books for everything, that's what I say. And you know? It helped. But this is a great story in its own right. It's about Effie, the tiny ant with the thunderclap of a voice, who scares off everyone she tries to befriend around the tiny insect world. One day, though, she saves them all by warning an elephant not to step on them. And the elephant, of course, isn't bothered at all by her voice, and soon they become great friends. Barbara Reid's lovely plasticene illustrations make this a charmer, and turn the first line into one of my favourites: "Effie came from a long line of ants." (illustrated with a column of ants on the march. Funny, dry, perfect.)

The Elves and the Shoemaker

This is one of the gentler among classic fairy tales, and bears strong resemblance to the lovely Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter. In it, a shoemaker at the end of his funds suddenly finds himself on the receiving end of some help, decides to return the favour once he finds out the source, and has his fortune made. The copy we have is a simple Ladybird one, but as with any old tale, different versions abound.

Warner, Don't Forget, by Lynn Seligman and Geraldine Mabin, ill. Linda Hendry

This book is not my favourite, but she finds it pretty funny. Warner's mother is seriously afflicted with helicopteritis, and is always reminding and warning. When he goes on a class field trip, she can't take it, and finds a way to continue to hover and warn throughout the day, as we discover at the end. It is pretty silly, so she likes it. And, because I can't help myself if I can't get lost in a story, I do use it to point out the repeating words in Warner's speech bubbles, and to talk about how Warner's teacher will help him remember many of those things and how Warner is getting big enough to remember some things himself. Hey, storytime is a great springboard for discussion! Don't tell me you don't do these things, too...

Rolie Polie Olie, by William Joyce

This is an early example of computer illustration, yet retains Joyce's signature retro-futuristic feel to a tee. It is the origin of the TV show, which we do watch, and is full of wild, nonsensical fun. Just like we like it...

Find these and other great storytime treats at your local library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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